I love watching standup comedy. I’ve always thought that good standup is 50% content and 50% delivery. Some people are great at delivery (Sam Kinison, Aziz, Michael Richards) and some people have great content (Patton Oswalt), some are just pretty good at both (Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Tosh), while the legends are great at both (Chris Rock, Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle).
It had been a while since I’d seen Jerry Seinfeld do standup, but I recently went and saw him that the Buell Theater in Denver. Let me tell you, he killed it. I was crying for most of the show. He’s still got it. Here’s a clip of some of his new stuff that he did on Jimmy Fallon:
I also listed to him on Howard Stern where he did a really long interview. He goes deep into his process of creating a joke and while he’s still doing comedy. I love long interviews like this.
Talks about how bad network TV execs are about being able to determine what is funny. What they are good at is finding funny people, but the more involvement
He was offered over $100 million to do another season of Seinfeld show
He has a strong sense that timing is everything. He knows how great his TV show was, he’s loath to do another one, he knows it could never be as good. As he says, you can love a comedian at an hour and 10 minutes and hate him at an hour and 30 and that’s why he had to end the show. He said that the audience would turn on him if they did another season.
He thought that Martin Short could have played the Kramer character
He saw no need to put women and blacks on “Seinfeld,” but after ten episodes Colin Quinn told him he was gonna get in trouble for it, and he did.
I felt differently though. I found it to be brutally honest and to go for uneasy truths over quick payoffs. And this is the way comedy seems to be headed now. The film feels less like “Knocked Up” and more like a 2.5 hour episode of “Louie.”
“I’d like to think that we’re part of a comedy movement right now that’s moving away from observational comedy and into something that’s more personal and real. But it’s just one person’s opinion — it’s what I prefer because I feel like it has more heart to it. It’s got more teeth. And I feel like in some ways it’s a response to the Seinfeldian era of comedy, which was observational to a point of brilliance. I mean, Seinfeld did it so well, and there were so many mimeographs of that style, and then at a certain point, those mimeographs became so boring … It’s actually more difficult to just tell your story, and tell it honestly, and admit that you’re wrong about things in a way that’s entertaining.”
I can definitely see this happening. It’s in the Louis CK specials and in Lena Dunham‘s “Girls.” It’s a cool trend and I like where we’re headed.
I recently listened to an interesting podcast interview of Chris Rock. One phrase he mentioned was that George W. Bush was the first “Cable-Channel President.” What he meant by this is that you used to have candidates and presidents that attempted to appeal to the entire country – similar to Network television – but now you have presidents and candidates that try to appeal only to their audience – like Cable channels – and don’t care about nationwide approval.
This is an interesting concept, because if you try to appeal to everyone – like a Network show – you tend to appear successful or correct only a fraction of the time to most voters, but if you focus on a niche, you’ll be loved by some and strongly disliked by everyone else. The highs are higher but the lows are lower.
You can definitely see this play out in American politics today. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone and find a middle ground, candidates simply talk to their niche and alienate everyone else. In most categories such as music, film, education, etc. I love this as it allows me to find exactly what resonates with me, but when you’re trying to run a country, i don’t think it works.
Yesterday, Leslie Nielson died at the age of 84. He was a very unique comedian. He’s undoubtably best remembered for his Airplane! and Naked Guns roles. He used that fame to do a bunch of other films but nothing beat Lt. Frank Drebin from Police Squad. His performance in the first Naked Gun was probably my earliest memory of laughing uncontrollably in a movie theater. I was unable to contain myself.
There’s a good story of when Leslie hosted SNL back in 1989. I’ll quote NPR who wrote about it:
In the monologue, Leslie explained that he didn’t understand why he had been asked to host a comedy show, because he was neither a comedian nor a comic. A comedian, he explained, was someone who says funny things. A comic was someone who says things in a funny way.
Nielsen, on the other hand, was someone who said unfunny things in an unfunny way, and for some reason, people laughed. To demonstrate this, he delivered an innocuous line – something along the lines of “Mr. Jones, sit down, I’d like to talk to you about your son” – twice. The first time, he said it as though he were in a drama, and the response was muted.
Then he told us that he was going to say the exact same unfunny line as Lt. Frank Drebin, in an unfunny way, and he did exactly that, and the audience exploded. It wasn’t just indulging him as prompted, either. Without actually tilting his delivery in that direction, Nielsen made it genuinely funny.
I couldn’t find the YouTube clip for this but it shows exactly why he’s a master at what he does and it makes you appreciate his craft. Saying unfunny things in an unfunny manner and magically having the result be funny is an incredibly hard trick. And nobody ever did it better.
Traditional Late Night TV has become a joke to me lately. Even though i love Conan, he wasn’t that funny at the new slot. . Leno just doesn’t do it for me either. That said, this clip is fantastic. More of this and i might be adjusting the ol’ Tivo.
I’m now seeing that this has over 1.5 million views so maybe i’m late to the party. Oh well, still worth a post:
I got Steve Martin’s new book Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life for Christmas and plowed through it in 2 days. It is a good quick read about Steve Martin’s early life and standup career. The most interesting part for me was hearing about how hard he worked at developing his craft. He did a routine 4 times a day, 5 days a week while also attending college. He is a very smart guy and spent every waking minute from age 18-30 working on his material and trying to get better. While doing this, he became known in the industry and used those connections to eventually “make it.” Performing on stage (magic and comedy) was a passion for him and he consumed it wholeheartedly. It’s no wonder he became successful. It’s the same with any profession. If you live it and breathe it and work intelligently on it, you’ll be successful and this book is just another example of that.
I never knew Steve Martin during his standup days, but apparently he was incredibly popular – selling out arenas of 40,000 people at his peak. I was exposed to him only after he had moved on to movies (The Jerk, Father of the Bride, etc.). Towards the end of his standup career, he described how the success was bittersweet, isolating and resulted a less enjoyable life. It’s too bad that this is often the case for the uber-famous. It sounds exhausting. For better or worse, i’ll never have this problem but i can certainly sympathize with him as it does sound like a big pain in the ass. He does write, “Many celebrities are ridiculed for wanted fame only when it is convenient for them and not any other time. This is absolutely true.”
It’s a good book and recommend it to anyone who likes Steve Martin or standup.
Here are the top phrases – some ironic, some funny, and some just great in the way that your grandfather is great. Not because he’s cool, just because he is.
A tie with “Double-True” and “I’m dropping Hamiltons like my name is Aaron Burr” from the best video of 2006, SNL’s Lazy Sunday. Which just goes to show that the internet is where it’s at. Remember these guys began on the internet doing funny stuff on thelonelyIsland.com, then got hired by SNL and made a kickass video which showed on TV where nobody watched it and then it only became famous when it want BACK on the internet. They came full-circle.
“It was very hot, I think that was the only explanation for the water. Or maybe it was because the beer I had last night.” -Floyd Landis in Cycling News which reminds me of another great quote: “Son, when you participate in sporting events, it’s not whether you win or lose: It’s how drunk you get.” – Homer Simpson
“Keep in mind Brian McBride is playing with titanium plates in his face.” John Harkes discussing McBride’s condition while the states were playing World Cup champion Italy. McBride broke his face in the first game when the US lost a shocker to Poland and then with a lot of grit and heart they tied the eventual champs 1-1.
“Join Bode” from a huge marketing campaign from Nike for the 2006 Olympics. It fell flat on its face when Bode fell flat on his ass and didn’t win any metals.
“I think it’s better to buy real estate than say, a yellow and purple Corvette or an elephant that can speak sign language. My parents help me out a lot with that stuff. They don’t want to see me when I’m 30, dead broke, selling bootleg tapes of my snowboard movies on the side of the freeway.” — Olympic gold medalist Shaun White on how he spends his endorsement money. Unlike Bode, he won a few. My take on Snowboarding in the Olympics is here although this is helping me possibly change my mind.
“I enjoy Cocaine because it’s a fun thing to do.” – Representative Robert Wexler. Said on the Colbert Report in mid-July by the Boca Raton representative, who was running unopposed for reelection. He played along with Colbert’s “Say Anything, You Can’t Lose” game and jokingly expressed his fondness for cocaine, and it was genuinely hilarious. Colbert then came under attack from the morning shows and responds in typical Colbert fashion
“I’m sick and tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane” said by Samuel L in Snakes on a Plane one of the most anticipated and ironic movies to come out in a long, long time.
“Little 8 lb 6 oz baby jesus, i’d like to thank you for….” – Ricky Bobby saying grace before dinner.
“I had one margarita (and) was starving because I had not eaten all day. Maybe I was speeding a little bit and I got pulled over. I was just really hungry and I wanted to have an In-N-Out Burger.” – Paris Hilton, establishing herself as a professional name-dropper.