Saturday, May 31, 2014

Comedy Books Roundup

Each year, the Blog drops into BookExpo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s annual trade show, to keep an eye out for books about or related to comedy.

A few better known personalities have books coming out in the fall, that were already being promoted to booksellers at the show, namely Norman Lear, Neil Patrick Harris and B.J. Novak. Norman Lear, the creator of “All In The Family” (which the Blog has been enjoying recently, catching episodes never seen or remembered…), now 91 years old, will be publishing “Even This I Get to Experience,” an autobiography that will include accounts of how he created that and other classic TV sitcoms.
Neil Patrick Harris of “How I Met Your Mother” and myriad awards show hosting jobs, was on hand to promote “Choose Your Own Autobiography,” also planned for October, in which he will have fun with the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” format books to tell his own life story.

In addition, B.J. Novak of “The Office” was on hand promoting “The Book with No Pictures,” a children’s book that is a follow-up to One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories,” his collection of short fictional comedic stories, published back in February, in the style of Woody Allen or Albert Brooks.
But celebrities aren’t the only authors of note, of course. Rainbow Rowell, an author previously unfamiliar to the Blog, had attracted a long line of attendees to her signing of her next novel, “Landline.” Her novels, while dramatic, are laced through with comedic aspects.

Also of interest for coming months, and spotted at the show, was “Best to Laugh,” by Lorna Landvik, a comedic Hollywood novel that is populated with quirky characters similar to those created by Janet Evanovich in the mystery genre.
You may order or pre-order any of the titles noted above on Amazon through the links on the titles.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

High Points and the Overlooked

I don’t always get to everything that I might review on Jester, or want to review. Certainly, there have been some great hours of stand-up released as albums, as HBO specials, or otherwise, that for lack of time over the past year or more, I haven’t highlighted on Jester.

Thinking about what was missed that may or did rise to the level of Aziz Ansari’s 2010special, “Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening,” or further back, to Dave Attell’s now-classic album “Skanks for the Memories” from 2003, a few specials come to mind. In the past year, Sarah Silverman’s “We Are Miracles” special (for HBO) was an especially good piece of work that had previously escaped my attention. Aside from new plays on acting innocent or na├»ve while saying very transgressive things, Silverman closes the special with a greatly outrageous song, that would have been passed around underground in the days before online media proliferation.

Stretching back even further, over the past five years or more, there have been some HBO hours that have stood the test of time so far as being great. Ricky Gervais’ “Out of England,” from 2008, is one of these, from its delightfully ridiculous opening where Gervais takes the stage to a bombastic Queen song with big lights spelling out “RICKY” behind him on the stag, to the piece where he reads verbatim suggestions from a 1980s public service postcard encouraging gay men to practice safe sex, all couched as “Why not …” try this or that ridiculous action, like coming out an open window.

Also, looking back over specials that I have reviewed in the past year or more, certain ones stand out as having had great work in them, or especially memorable and quotable moments. Liam McEneaney’s “Comedian” has too many of these to start quoting or choosing any single one, but his story of an inept friend trying to rob a bank in the South Bronx certainly is a stand-out. Smaller classic moments include Pete Holmes’ bit about delight with homophones (soundalike words), “Pierce!!!/Juan!!!” in his special “Nice Try, The Devil,” and Kyle Kinane’s story in his “Whiskey Icarus” special about sitting next to a guy on a flight next to him who had brought a trash bag full of pancakes to eat on the journey.

I just bring all of these up, both previously reviewed and un-reviewed, as examples of what I would want to say if asked what stand-up specials I really thought were the cream of the crop in recent years.