Saturday, December 3, 2011

Patrice O'Neal tribute on SiriusXM

I haven’t covered the programming on SiriusXM satellite radio very much – it’s an exclusive service and I don’t know how many readers get it, but I recently added it to my media diet (after cutting the cord from Time Warner cable, but that’s another column. Or two.) .

But I want to make note of something exclusive that was just available there this week. Comedian Patrice O’Neal’s death at 41 inspired a lot of tributes and memories being recalled online on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, but the only place to hear volumes of O’Neal’s appearances was on the Opie & Anthony Channel on SiriusXM. The station replayed his appearances on the O&A show and SiriusXM’s “Unmasked” show, and O&A gathered an all-star roster of comedians to share memories of him Wednesday, including Louis C.K., Amy Schumer, Jim Florentine, Robert Kelly, Colin Quinn, Bill Burr, and Jim Norton.

O’Neal hadn’t quite broken through to the level of Dane Cook before his passing, but he was definitely still on the rise, and deserves the tributes. SiriusXM and Opie & Anthony should be commended for doing what ought to be done on even broader outlets.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lewis Black: The Prophet

Due to time constraints, this won't be a full review, but it's worth noting that Comedy Central is releasing "The Prophet," an album of a stand-up performance by Lewis Black from 1990, on Sept. 27. The recording is a bit lo-fi, not quite up to modern standards of sound quality, but in it, you can hear the beginnings of all of Black's familiar rhythms and screams. The material is out of a time capsule -- politics of the day, just like Lewis does now, but the Bush he's talking about here is the elder one, who was in office at that time.

There are a few bits and pieces that became staples of Black's act for awhile, like "I Get A Cold," which touted the virtues of Nyquil, and "Christmas." A highlight, however, has got to be "Dan Quayle," where Black reports, dissects and annihilates the former vice president's verbal mistakes.

There are also a few portions of this performance and album where Black still used a more conventional type of stand-up delivery. It's interesting to hear what amounts to the "pilot" version of Black's personality as a performer, covering political subjects from before the time where he became prominent and known for what he would cover in the political parts of his performances.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jester's Blog: Conan's 12:30 successor

In this Huffington Post story on the cancellation of the George Lopez show, the writer gives takes on 16 comedians who could fill the spot on TBS, if that network does so. Of these performers, I think the best match to follow Conan O'Brien would be Marc Maron, bringing something like what he does with the WTF podcast to TV.

Kevin Smith or Paul F. Tompkins would be interesting choices as well. Tompkins would bring the possibility of edgy sketch comedy in the 12:30 spot, and Smith could play the raconteur role he has on his college speaking tours, only on the air, and has shown from his own podcasts and podcast appearances that he would be a good interviewer.

The writer also cites the Daily Show's John Oliver and Wyatt Cenac as possibilities, but I don't know if they're strong enough to carry a whole hour and I'd certainly miss what they do on the Daily Show. Also, I don't think Lisa Lampanelli or Lizz Winstead would command a big enough audience, and they don't seem to have the ties to Conan that Maron or others might.

There is one outcome to this slightly more subdued late night shuffling (compared to the Leno-Conan fight) that I do fear though -- and that's one name on the Huffington Post list: Reggie Watts. See this review. The fandom he gets from Brooklyn hipsters and others really baffles me. As I wrote in that review in May 2010, Watts performs an unfocused and ADD-addled combination of rap, beatboxing, odd stories and flat one-liners. Somehow, Watts is tight with Conan, who had him open on his 2010 summer tour. Watts is the one name on the list that might have an inside track just because of that, and if Conan's influence rules the day on who will follow him at 12:30, he will be making a mistake that will dent his reputation if he hands the spot to Watts.

Friday, July 15, 2011

This is a few months old now, but I saw it only recently. Great stuff...

From Jester interviewee April Brucker, a new character, enjoy:

Monday, June 6, 2011

This is cute and entertaining. It's the S.F. Giants eccentric star reliever, Brian Wilson, and teammate Cody Ross, appearing in a fundraising video for the child who they lip sync with.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Apple Sisters go a-podcasting

The Apple Sisters, once interviewed on Jester (see here), have debuted a podcast that can be found here. Just wanted to call your attention to it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories

Jester correspondent Bethany Trottier has reviewed Faye Lane's "Beauty Shop Stories" which continues its run at the Soho Playhouse in New York today and next Sunday, May 29. Because I am out of town and unable to access the site's mechanics, the review didn't make it to the main site in advance of today's performance. Here it is, and it will appear on the main site this week.
Go and see this show all you jaded souls! That’s it, that’s my review. Ok, let me add to this. If I ever wanted someone to write and sing the story of my life, Faye Lane would be that person. She conveys her story in a way that is both genuine and amusing. Even though this show is super-polished, it is still very spontaneous and alive. This woman could write lyrics about anything, and it would be funny and clever.

Lane sings and chats her way from her childhood years through her early 20s as she grows up in her mama’s beauty shop in Texas. Throughout the journey, she recalls the personalities and anecdotes of her mother’s clientele, all lined up under the dryers, her first (albeit captive) audience and her dreams of being a star.

The moment she hit the stage, Faye was off and running and the audience was right there with her. We got to hear about her first starring role in “Peter Rabbit,” the musical. She had the part of a green bean in the garden, which she made all her own by going nuts with a bedazzler on her costume and declaring herself the “Green Bean Queen!” (This girl really likes sparkles, come to find out. I believe it’s a Texas thing.)

She is relentlessly teased for being fat, all the kids joining in singing “fatty fatty two by four, can’t fit through the bathroom door!” Lane does the voice of one of her mama’s customers saying “honey, you ain’t fat you are vo-LUMPT-uous, like me.” Another lady keeps moonpies in the bottom of her purse especially for Fay. Right next to her gun. Which may or may not have the safety on.

Apparently, each and every one of those ladies was a would-be beauty queen. Lane presents great songs about the various crazy ways they got robbed of their crowns. Somehow this leads to one of the funniest bits of the show, a Civil War reenactment story told with sock puppets – both with googly eyes, and one with a quite a jaunty mustache.

Lane’s voice is great both for singing and story telling – and she convincingly channels the personalities in the show. She can see the charm in everything -- a rare talent. The whole show is so well-crafted. It’s obvious that Lane’s piano accompanist has worked with her for some time, making the music seamless, but still leaving room to be spontaneous and improvise within their script, since they are on the same wavelength. Her producer and lighting manager – one person handling both roles -- also adds to the polished quality of the show. Now off you go!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pandora Adds Comedy

As reported in today's New York Times, the Pandora web radio service announced that it will add a comedy station. If you don't know, Pandora allows users to make customized music stations, starting by filling out lists of their favorite artists, or importing those lists already made on Facebook profiles, and then further customizing the stations as the listener gives thumbs up or thumbs down to tracks that come up.

From the initial data, and the continually added data about a listener's likes and dislikes, Pandora determines and adds in other music the user/listener might like. With the new service, Pandora intends to do the same with comedy. According to the Times story, Pandora picked 100 traits common to jokes to make a "genomic composite" to generate suggestions just as with music. However, I think it's questionable whether artifical intelligence like this can really understand comedy, because what people find funny is often such a matter of taste. Are Chris Rock and Bill Hicks really exactly the same comedically, as Pandora might say?

Other questions also arise with this development. Will it be a boon to the comedy business or not? The Times piece says that the most successful comedy album right now is Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me (reviewed here), with just 3,400 in sales. That figure isn't that far off the amount of paid attendees for live shows by Demetri Martin, a comedian at a similar level of success -- Martin told Adam Carolla on a recent podcast that he gets between 800 to 1,200 audience members per show, which at a ticket price no doubt higher than an album, is probably a comparable income, if not better than what Birbiglia may see from such a successful album. Martin also is getting this for every show he does, while the album is a single product.

The point of all this comparison is that if Pandora's new service ends up boosting comedians' album sales, it could indeed bring huge benefits to comedy performers. Someone like Demetri Martin might end up attracting even more fans to those lucrative live shows, when promoted by Pandora's online airplay.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Landlord Eviction [week 8]

This video is really funny -- the company, Orabrush, talked about their marketing on a panel at SES NY last week, and I found this very entertaining:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sheen's Magical Mystery Tour

Just in the back of my mind, with the seeming success of Charlie Sheen's plans to tour with an as-yet-undefined show, taking a page right out Conan O'Brien's playbook after NBC dumped him, will this tour prove to be a genius move or will we see that the warlock has no clothes?

If the whispers are true, that CBS is considering rehiring Sheen after seeing how much interest and advance ticket sales he's getting for his tour, it could end up that Sheen will be seen as crazy like a fox, especially if he actually commands a still higher salary to return to "Two & A Half Men."

But I can't help but suspect that with no real idea what Sheen may be doing in the performances, it could blow up in his face. A 90-minute or more live show of incoherent ramblings and no real plan for entertaining an audience would be a far cry from Conan O'Brien's tour that had a clear set list of songs, video clips, skits and other written pieces. One or two train wreck shows on the first couple stops of the tour could scuttle the rest of the tour, especially if dissatisfied audiences start demanding refunds.

Which way do you think the tour will end up? I'd be curious to hear. Let's see who's right.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ECNY awards

Enjoyed attending the ECNY Awards show last night, although by the end it was a bit of an endurance test (show ran almost 3 hours?) To me the highlights were the videos made by comedy collective "The Moon" to introduce nominees in each category. These were quite creative. For instance, for best website, two members of the group played a boss and employee, with the employee covering up his computer screen every time the boss looked in on him -- each time with a nominee's name on the screen.

And, as I tweeted during the show last night, among the performance highlights during the show (which featured performances of 4 of the 5 nominated musical comedy acts), was Adira Amram's showstopping rendition of her comedic song "Tiny Vagina," in which she sang the title over and over again, with more and more emphasis, in front of a colorful riot of two aerobics-gear-clad dancers and several black-colored bodysuit-clad chorus members and dancers -- one of whom did somersaults mid-crescendo.

Also, in a lower key, nominee Ben Lerman performed his comedic number, "Multiple Orgasm Pam," a more folkie-styled piece, that also charmed, in a completely different way.

In some ways, another star of the night was Kurt Braunohler, who reaped the most ECNY awards, and also scrambled up once or twice to accept on behalf of winners who weren't present. Braunohler got more casual with each acceptance, on one just noting, "hey I have a tiny glass of beer too," holding up a sampler from the venue's bar (the 92Y Tribeca).

Later this week, Jester will compile reviews of nominees and winners for your reference.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mistakes Were Made

I wish I had written this entry early in this show's run, instead of at the end of it, as I am now. In "Mistakes Were Made," playing through Sunday, Feb. 27 at the Barrow Street Theatre, Michael Shannon rips into the character of a beleaguered theater producer with gusto -- channeling Lewis Black and Archie Bunker with a just a hint of Woody Allen in the wordiness of his rants.

But to all of this, Shannon adds muscular comedy at times, which makes the play worth mentioning on a comedy website. In what is essentially a one-man show, Shannon heaves his whole bulk around the stage, throwing his whole weight into his voice as he yells at people on the phone.

And it's moments such as when he compares a recalcitrant playwright's agent to a "retarded farmgirl" right before you know he will blow another gasket, that have the audience ready to roar in laughter, as I was.