Comedy Bang Bang

Web of Laughs: Absurdist Comedy

Monty Python There are very few movies that I can remember the exact moment I watched them for the first time, or exactly how I felt when I watched it for the first time. One of the very few, if not the most engrained in my memory, is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I don’t remember how old I was exactly, somewhere south of 11, I think, and I was at my dad’s house and he specifically wanted to show me his favorite movie. I settled in to watch it, and while I’m sure my 11-year-old brain did not really comprehend the jokes (I’m not even sure if my 25-year-old brain can catch them all to this day), I remember laughing the hardest I have probably ever laughed before. The next few months of my life were spent re-watching and over-quoting “It’s just a flesh wound.” Its thick, heavy-handed absurdity was really the first of its kind that I had seen.

Absurdist comedy, while rooted in the same reality as dark comedy, has no qualms in abandoning that same reality after only briefly establishing it. Absurdist comedy takes casual situations and then relies on zero logic, which is what makes it so fun to watch. It’s not bound to one specific style, and as seen in The Holy Grail, can switch between subtitled footnotes, a typical medieval comedy, and then a cartoon. Because of the frequent stylistic choices and changes, the general plot line throughout these comedies tends to remain simple. Essentially, The Holy Grail is just the story of King Arthur and his knights in search for the Holy Grail.

The Holy Grail was certainly an original for its time, but going back to the silent era, you can see its influences from films such as The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup. The Holy Grail also had a lot of contemporaries around its time, in the midst of what seemed like the golden age of absurdist comedy. Five years after The Holy Grail, Airplane! came around and brought the same level of absurdity, as well as an alarming amount of jokes packed into one movie. While re-watching Airplane!, that’s always what stands out to me the most, the sheer amount of jokes per minute that are packed in. Side note: there was even a study conducted by a movie subscription service back in 2012 that found that Airplane! had the most laughs per minute of the top 10 comedies they selected, clocking in at 3 lpm (laughs per minute). The fast-paced jokes in Airplane! make it endlessly re-watchable, because there’s always a new joke to unpack or something you may have missed.

While there have been some notable, modern absurdist comedy films in recent years, the style has really found its home right now on TV. Maybe it’s harder to apply the absurdist formula to longer forms of entertainment successfully, but when applying it in 30-minute increments, it may be more accessible and easier to sustain over a longer period of time. The rapid-fire style of Airplane! has lent itself to similar modern mainstream TV comedies such as Arrested Development and 30 Rock. While less mainstream and accessible, the TV show version of Comedy Bang! Bang! also successfully blurs the realism line with its post-modern/absurd talk show format.

Personally, absurdist comedy is one of my favorite forms. There are no limits to the amount of weird allowable. A lot of comedy (and life?) seems to be bound by rules and constructs that you’re supposed to follow to get the finished product, but with absurdist humor, there are no rules. Sure, you can put that unicorn on a spaceship and make him the president, why not? It creatively opens up any possibilities and allows the audience to enjoy something that, more than likely, they would have never thought of or expected. It leads the audience into a weird universe that can only exist within this piece of entertainment they’re partaking in at that moment, and that’s such a wonderful, inspiring thing. As my life mantra/favorite quote from the ultra-absurd 1990’s kid’s show Eerie, Indiana goes, “Better weird, than dead.”

Jessica Dorrell is a graduate of the DCH improv program, and is currently enrolled in the sketch writing program. Her one wish is that some day she can have a Mogwai as a pet. You can see her perform every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in the current Ewing show.

What We're Loving: Comedy Canons, Televison History, Self-Loathing Doctors, Classical Open Mics

image (3)Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison laughs in his cubicle, Ashley Bright runs for her notepad, Ryan Callahan sees a reflection of himself, and Amanda Hahn finds hidden treasure. Time_Bobby

It’s the best week of the year!  If you’re asking why, then you’re most likely not familiar with Comedy Bang Bang’s yearly triumph known as “Time Bobby.” AND THAT MAKES YOU DUMB.  Comedy Bang Bang is a free weekly podcast on which host Scott Aukerman invites guests both real and fake to join him in conversation.  Each installment of the show is different,  save for some recurring characters and, occasionally, recurring episodes.  Monday, May 12th saw the release of the third “Time Bobby,” a fan favorite episode which pits a Bobby Moynihan voiced orphan child named Fourvel (One less than Fievel) against Paul F. Tompkins’ Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.  PFT appears often on Comedy Bang Bang because of his quick wit, character range, and phenomenal rapport with Aukerman.  But even though we get to enjoy about fifteen appearances a year of Tompkins on the broadcast, he’s always at his best when he’s paired with Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan.  Most of the time that PFT joins in on an episode, he and Aukerman are against each other, so it’s a blast to listen to them band together against the Moynihan’s orphan boy.

I’d recommend taking a listen if you enjoy any of the following:

  • Mnemonic Devices
  • Knives
  • STARLIGHT EXPRESS (Note: I bought a sweet Starlight Express poster this week.  Jealous?)
  • Holding back laughter as you listen to podcasts in cubicles

Please remember that there have been previous episodes of “Time Bobby,” so if you’ve been unaware of the franchise until today, YOU HAVEN’T EARNED THE RIGHT TO LISTEN TO EPISODE THREE, SO DON’T ACT LIKE YOU CAN JUST WALTZ INTO YOUR PODCAST APP AND LISTEN TO THE LATEST ITERATION LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE.  You need to be aware of canon.  The original was released on 3/26/12 (Episode 150), followed by the second on 4/22/13 (Episode 215).  Also, there was an appearance of both characters on season two of the Comedy Bang Bang television show, but Fourvel and Andrew Lloyd Webber were not on the same episode so THE TV SHOW IS NOT CANON.  Listen to them all and you’ll know what to do the next time you’re with a group of people and someone yells K.N.I.F.E. G.R.A.B.! - David Allison

urlThis week I watched America in Primetime on Netflix, a four-part documentary that originally aired on PBS.  The show is broken up into four episodes based on different character archetypes of television: "Man of the House," "Independent Woman," "The Misfit,"and "The Crusader."  Show creators, writers, and actors are interviewed, and most have the opinion that television is the greatest medium because the audience truly gets to connect with the character. (Except for David Chase, who created The Sopranos, who has a particularly sassy and refreshing opinion that 2 hours is plenty of time to get to know a character.)

In the first episode, "Man of the House," Norman Lear, the creator of All in the Family, said something that made me hit pause and run for my notepad: "I take life seriously.  I see the comedy in it.  I see the foolishness of the human condition.  I delight in it and I've used it."  Full disclosure: I ran for my notebook because the closed captioning said "abused" and I loved that, but after reviewing the tape, he definitely says "used."  I still love the quote enough to tell you about it, but I may not have ran so quickly for "used."  Each writer and creator has a similar sort of take on their creation.  They were writing human beings, fully dimensional human beings.  Carl Reiner talks about unintentionally pushing boundaries with The Dick Van Dyke Show because he wrote a character who actually respected his wife.

I'm going to presume that if you reading this on the DCH website that you have some interest in comedy as an art form.  If so, I recommend watching this series.  It's a real peak inside the minds of some of the greatest storytellers of the last 50 years.  It's a testimonial to the fact that character is more important than plot, which you may have heard from time to time in your comedy journey.  Note: DO NOT watch "The Crusader" episode, if you haven't yet watched The Wire.  David Simon lays down some beautiful truth bombs, but there are spoilers galore. - Ashley Bright

house-md-1024x768Recently I resumed an old, bad habit from my college days: falling asleep to TV shows. Instead of reading a book, or letting the stillness of the night watch over me, I've been drowning out my constant inner monologue with the scripted television's aggressive noise. After burning through the first season of Brooklyn 99 and catching up on Parks and Rec and Community, I needed something new to sooth my soul, something comfortable, something familiar, something like House, MD.  I've always been a huge fan of procedurals. They satisfy my inherent need for structure and closure. I loved the show when it first began, ten years ago, but stopped watching somewhere around season four, either because life got in the way or the show's formula (House gets it wrong three times before discovering a secret the patient has kept from him and nailing the diagnosis on the fourth try) grew stale.

Having never watched the final seasons, and wondering how it all ended, I decided to pick the show back up. Naturally, because I have a terrible fear of not knowing things, I started from season one. It's been ten years since I've watched these episodes, ten eventful years in my life. House is still a compelling show, (in fact, so compelling that's costing me sleep. I can always watch one more episode) but compelling for different reasons. When I first watched, I thought House was the coolest character on TV, a total bad ass, the smartest guy in the room playing by his own rules, destroying people with withering  sarcasm while getting high the whole time. Now I see the sadness. The way he pushes people away. The way his selfish actions harm the people who love him most. The way he takes out his self-loathing on everyone who comes into his orbit. Where once I saw so much comedy, now I see tragedy. And I see an accurate portrayal of an addict. The sarcasm is still funny, thanks to Hugh Laurie's delivery and timing. There are times when I see him cut someone down, or deflect a question with a joke and I think, "I should act more like that." Then I remember I did act like that. And it was really lonely. - Ryan Callahan

 

dariusOn Tuesday night, I needed to find a place to work. With my eyelids getting heavier by the minute and my bed seeming closer and closer by the second, I knew staying home was hazardous to my productivity. Around 10:00 pm, I decided to head to BuzzBrews Kitchen on Lemmon Avenue. I was hoping to find friendly waiters, endless coffee, and plenty of room to spread out my work. What I found was even better. I found live classical music – totally free. Initially, when I entered BuzzBrews, the first thing I noticed was that it was surprisingly crowded. The second thing I noticed was that it wasn’t filled with college students studying for finals. This was an older crowd of people in their late thirties and early forties. Almost everyone was drinking wine. Many men were wearing sport coats and fedoras. There wasn’t a textbook or computer in sight. The third thing I noticed was that the music playing in the restaurant was very pleasant. Quickly after this realization, I noticed the fourth and most important thing: the beautiful piano piece I was listening to wasn’t a recording. It was live. I didn’t know this before, but every Tuesday night from 8:00 pm until 12:00 am, BuzzBrews hosts an open mic for classical musicians. I’m so happy that I found this that I’m downright angry that I didn’t know about this sooner. The casual atmosphere with a touch of class was exactly what I needed to focus on work but still be relaxed. The music throughout the night ranged from a cappella singers to fiddlers to pianists. Some acts were mediocre, but others were fantastic. These hidden talents of Dallas kept my head bobbing, toes tapping, and heart tranquil as I pounded out all the work I needed to finish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MncemQbYPpQ I know where I’ll start going every Tuesday night. But from now on, I hope to be accompanied by a glass of wine and a few friends, not my computer. - Amanda Hahn

What We're Loving: Movies That Age Well, Adult Contemporary Television, Finding True Love, Chilly McFreeze Audio

imageEach Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison travels to childhood and back again, Ashley Bright cries at work, Amanda Hahn finds her husband, and Ryan Callahan has baffling expectations.  MV5BMTgzNzk3OTg2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMTIyODc5._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_I’m a relatively sentimental person. Whether it’s looking at old Facebook photos or just finding smaller shirts that used to fit, I enjoy looking back at the past. But when it comes to movies, I rarely take the time to revisit films I used to love; I’ve been burned too many times. For example, did you know that Blues Brothers isn’t that good? I know you’ll say that it’s sacrilegious for me to say such a thing on a comedy website, but it’s kind of boring and doesn’t hold up. Hell, most movies don’t hold up because they were made for a certain era that’s now known as bygone. Recently though, I had a breakthrough. I found a film that I loved as a child and I continue to love as an adult. That movie is Drop Dead Gorgeous. Released in 1999, Drop Dead Gorgeous is a dark comedy about a teenage beauty pageant in Minnesota. If you haven’t seen it in a while (Or, heaven forbid, if you’ve never seen it) you probably don’t recall how deep the cast of characters for this film is. I love how many memorable performances there are in such a small movie. I mean, you could probably remember that Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards are battling it out as likeable/unlikeable caricatures. But you need to revisit this film to rediscover the adorable/hilarious trailer park friendship Ellen Barkin/Alison Janney. You need to watch Will Sasso dangle from a car door. You need to watch Adam West host a pageant. You owe it to yourself. - David Allison

MV5BMjExNzA1ODMxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjY4MjQ2OA@@._V1_SY317_CR15,0,214,317_AL_I like some neat things like Japanese metal, Bukowski, and zines. I've drank David Lynch coffee. I like Avon more than Stringer. I've bought speakers from a fella off Craigslist. I need you to remember this when I tell you about what I'm loving this week. It's not underground. You've likely heard of it. It's adult contemporary television on network TV, and I love it. I love the Braverman's. Every week, I sit at my desk and cry at least once while watching (mostly just listening to) Parenthood. This week I teared up three times. Three separate times at my desk. At work. In front of other people. Listen. I'm not ashamed. It's a great show. It's a bit hokey at times and you'll feel things, but it's great. I want to be Camille Braverman when I'm in my twilight years and have a backyard just like that. Lord, bring me a Zeke Braverman to marry when I grow up. You'll laugh when watching it. You'll become invested in the characters. And that's the thing with this show, it's lead by the characters and not the plot. I started watching it as a brain rinse after watching Breaking Bad. I'd watch one or two episodes of each. I got hooked. There's some actors from HBO lining the cast if that gets you going: Peter Krause from Six Feet Under and Wallace from The Wire popped up in a few episodes in season two. Sure, it gets sappy and hits topics like cancer and having a child with autism. But its set in Berkeley and there's some pot smoking, that's cool, right? Most seasons are available on your streaming service of choice. Watch it and let's you and I chit chat about some family drama. - Ashley Bright

WWL HahnEveryone, I’m glad I have your attention. This is a very special “What We’re Loving” post for me. Today, I would like to introduce you all to my future husband, Bridger Winegar. He’s worked as an intern and production assistant for The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and he’s the most consistently funniest person I’ve ever internet-stalked. So…no, I’ve never met him, but I know he is my one true love. Everything he has ever said or posted on any medium has made me laugh. Since it’s no longer 2010, I know it’s strange to still be obsessed with someone’s Twitter feed. But you guys, I’m obsessed with his Twitter feed right down to his bio. It says nothing but “Here we are on our third date,” and it tickles me to my core. If you ever see me spacing out or there is a lull in our conversation, there is a 95% chance that that sentence is running through my head. His weirdness is so creative, and he’s bold with his moves. The strange things you daydream of doing or posting, but never follow through on, he’ll do. His Pinterest boards are a perfect example. They make me cry from laughter. There’s an entire board with nothing but George Lucas’s neck. Another is devoted to pictures of his knee. If you decide to check out any others, be sure to take a peek at his Amazing Vocalists board. He’s goofy, strange, and delightful. I have no idea what he’s currently working on or doing, but he deserves more fame, and I’m making it my life goal to spread the word about him. So if you’re in the mood to meet someone that will make you think, “Wait what why?!” Bridger Winegar is your guy. But back off, ladies. This psycho is mine. - Amanda Hahn

steveaustinshow300x300Recently, a few people who would know recommended the The Steve Austin Show, the podcast with former pro-wrestler and current direct-to-video action star "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Even though "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (henceforth abbreviated as SCSA) was the man who brought me back to the pro-wrestling fold after a long hiatus in the 90's, I hesitated to listen to his podcast for the same reason I hesitate listening to any podcast. Most are bad. They feature people who either pepper each sentence with a string of words such as "um" and "like" and "you know" (the vast majority of wrestling podcasts) or who try so hard to be funny that you can feel the flop sweat drip through your headphones (the vast majority of comedy podcasts). Well, it turns out that SCSA, one of the greatest promo guys in the history of the wrestling business, is really good at talking into a microphone. I have no idea why I expected anything different, except for the fact that I am an idiot. The Steve Austin Show is an entertaining listen, and not only during the interview portion when SCSA talks with guests like Paul Heyman and Dave Meltzer and William Regal about the wrestling business, but also during the opening section, when SCSA talks about what's going on in his life and what's going on in his head. Traditionally, this is the section of the podcast I skip. But not on this show. SCSA has the most important quality any entertainer can have: sincerity. I'll put up with a lot of things: self-pity, ignorance, foolishness. But if I think you're being disengenuous, if I think I'm being fed a line, I'll tune out. When SCSA speaks I believe he means what he says. Which probably makes me a mark. But at least I'm a mark with something to listen to when I'm driving. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Kid Detectives, Inspirational Humans, Dead Men Fighting, British Conversations

CommunityEvery Friday, DCH performers, teachers and students offer their recommendations for things to watch, read, see, hear or experience. This week David Allison suggests a tip to Hulu, Sarah Wyatt spreads the gospel, Ryan Callahan finds stories that keep him up at night, and Nick Scott has his  preconceptions shattered. Thursday night, NBC will air Donald Glover’s last episode of Community. Cue crying montageEven though he’s just thirty years old, Glover has an incredibly diverse career that many comedy fans may not fully be aware of. He’s showed off his ability to rap on Community and under the moniker Childish Gambino. He’s written for 30 Rock, (and provided the occasional cameo). And, along with the Derrick Comedy members DC Peirson and Dominic Dierkes, created a series of fantastic sketches that tackle issues like werewolves in radio stations and Bro Rape.

Mystery TeamI’m going to assume that everyone is watching Community, so my recommendation this week is a great movie called Mystery Team. After hitting it “Internet big” a number of years ago, Derrick Comedy took a step back, pooled their resources and decided to make a movie.  The film follows the story of  three kid detectives that have grown into high schoolers, but refuse to give up their investigative hobby. I love their ability to play the dumbest characters (Peirson plays a trivia braniac, Dierkes a strong man and Glover a master of disguise) in very real situations. Also, it has some great support lent by Jon Daly (Rafflecast and Kroll Show) and Bobby Moynihan (SNL). Moynihan steals every scene he's in. The entire film is fantastic and necessary viewing for comedy fans, especially because it’s free on Hulu. - David Allison

Andy DalyAndy Daly is the funniest guy I know. We’ve never met but I feel like he would be cool with me saying that. You probably know him best from his stint on MADtv back in the day, but he is so much more than that. Andy Daly is killing it in the comedy game. He is everything I aspire to be as an improviser, comedian and human being. He is a great listener, he always follows the fun of a scene, his characters are off the hook and he just seems like a genuinely great person. He has a new show, Review, set to debut on Comedy Central this spring, one day after my birthday. He also has a new podcast, The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, debuting in February that promises to be truly amazing. This podcast came about because of his amazing characters on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast. Cactus Tony, Chip Gardner and Don Dimello are just a few of his creations that I urge you to do yourself a favor and listen to immediately. I have never laughed so hard by myself than I did while listening to the Cactus Tony episode of Comedy Bang Bang. Daly is also wonderful and underrated as Principal Cutler on Eastbound & Down. I hope this post reaches every corner of the globe because people need to know the comedic gold that is Andy Daly, and I am happy to spread that gospel. Daly is about to blow up, and he would totally be OK with me saying that. - Sarah Wyatt 

McSweeney's 45McSweeney's Quarterly Concern Volume 45: Hitchcock and Bradbury Fight in Heaven is catnip for short-story lovers like me. Inspired by two anthologies—one edited by Alfred Hitchcock, one by Ray Bradbury—which McSweeney's Editor Dave Eggers found at used-book sales, this collection features a fine mix of old sci-fi and mystery/suspense stories, from the obscure but brilliant (Julian May's Dune Roller) to the often-anthologized and brilliant (John Cheever's The Enormous Radio) to the simply brilliant (Franz Kafka's In The Penal Colony). With the exception of new stories from Brian Evenson, China Melville, Benjamin Percy and E. Lily Lu, everything  in this issue was pulled from anthologies edited by Bradbury or Hitchcock in the 1930's, 40's or 50's. Also included, and of particular delight, are the original introductions. Hitchcock's introduction is predictably brief and droll and familiar in tone to his TV intros, while Bradbury's is a hidden little gem, a paean to the revitalizing powers of stories, which offer the reader "that sense of living on the margin of impossibility." Once I opened this compendium of classic tales, I found it nigh impossible to put down, and I continued reading and reading late into the night, repeatedly convincing myself that I could read one more story before bed, just one more. - Ryan Callahan

the_trip_poster01Watching two moderately known British actor/comedians eat a series of meals throughout the English countryside doesn't seem like that great of a concept for a TV show or movie. At least that's what I thought until I saw The Trip. Originally a television mini-series on the BBC, in 2010 it was re-edited into a single feature-length movie for American audiences. The movie stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as exagerrated versions of themselves, hired to travel to multiple fancy restaurants throughout northern England. The two spend most of the meals doing their excellent celebrity impressions and riffing on pop culture, but the movie also explores Coogan's character's inflated sense of self and struggle to be a good father, as well as Brydon's desire to be at home with his family rather than out doing celebrity things. But it's the chemistry between the two that makes the movie/show work.

Outside of perhaps remembering his part as the Director in Tropic Thunder or as the lead role in Hamlet 2, some of you may be hearing of Steve Coogan for the first time recently, as he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Philomena in this year's Academy Awards. In my list of comedic heroes, Coogan is pretty high up there. I've watched just about everything he's done, including some unfortunate movie choices. Anything featuring his Alan Partridge character is a must watch. All of his talents are on display in The Trip, and it's interesting to see him, even fictionally, comment on his career. Brydon I was only familiar with thanks to Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (also starring Coogan and directed by Michael Winterbottom, who also directed The Trip), but all it took was watching him share one meal with Coogan and I was on board. I would say more about the movie, but it would it would be as entertaining as having someone describe someone's impression or joke later. Better to just watch. And if you can, I highly recommend finding the original BBC show, as much was cut out before releasing it as a film for American audiences. RUNNER UP PICK: The 9/11 Commission Report - Nick Scott