TV

"10 Reasons You Still Watch Criminal Minds Even Though It Stopped Being Good Three Seasons Ago" by Emily Ball

  1. Penelope Garcia is really sad since Derek Morgan left and you need to be there for her since the two of you are best friends.

  2. Thomas Gibson was fired during season 12 for an abrasive interaction with a producer even though he is sometimes photographed smiling on set. How is the team going to handle things without Hotch? They need you there.

  3. The show is unwaveringly topical. “Creepy clown sightings? Creepy clown MURDER. Trans rights activism? Trans rights activism MURDER.” Not a lot of A-to-C thinking but by god they are trying.

  4. The show has burned through all logical possibilities of sick ways to kill, so the plot of each new episode feels like a blood-and-guts patchwork doll of all the pieces of previous episodes that got any kind of a rise out of the audience. “What if the unsub’s a pedophile AND HE EATS HANDS?!?” “What if the unsub kills sex workers BUT IS ALSO A SEX WORKER?!?”

  5. It’s fun to say the word “unsub.”

  6. J.J. is in such damn good shape and by god the five sit-ups and three-to-four push-ups you do during the duration of this episode will give you her abs and long blonde hair.

  7. What kind of spouse would you be if you left your charming husband, Spencer Reed, all alone to handle the emotional turmoil of his mother’s worsening Alzheimer’s?

  8. You really love serial killers and you would forgive almost anything to see more of them on your TV.

  9. Maybe you knew a real “c-word” who had an irrational fear of being killed by a serial killer and also tried to get you kicked out of Christian college by claiming that you had sex with her boyfriend, when really, you hadn't even kissed him and you wouldn't even have sex with anybody until like two years later, and maybe every time you watch Criminal Minds you think about how she’s too much of a pansy ass bitch to handle watching the show, and about how she probably deserves to be killed by a serial killer because she’s a GARBAGE CAN PERSON with NO TITS and NO PERSONALITY and REALLY BAD HAIR.

  10. The theme music is delightful.

Emily Ball is an improviser, bartender, and stand-up comedian based out of Dallas, Texas. In her free time, she likes to moderate arguments between her cat, Debbie, and her dog, Tucker.

Better Call It Drama

Better Call Saul People who can make me laugh are my absolute favorite. Obviously, if laughing wasn’t my thing, I wouldn’t be at Dallas Comedy House learning improv. It’s through said learning, though, that is making it more evident to me just how talented, and multi-faceted, comedians are. And maybe most importantly, I’m learning that it’s not always just about the joke or the laugh.

I love Better Call Saul. I really love Better Call Saul. Maybe it’s a bit obsessive how much I love it, but I have a tendency to become a smidge obsessed with things like TV shows, films, music, podcasts – all of it. Via social media, I communicate primarily in gifs from my favorite aspects of pop culture due to said obsessions, if that helps you paint a more accurate picture of my infatuation with all things arts and entertainment.

The second season of the AMC show just started on February 15 and follows everyone’s favorite “morally-flexible” lawyer, Saul Goodman’s, transformation from Slippin’ Jimmy to his character in the wildly successful and beloved Breaking Bad. But, if I’m being honest, I love Better Call Saul because of Bob Odenkirk.  

Comedy fans will know Bob from Mr. Show, a sketch show also featuring David Cross that aired on HBO in the mid to late 1990s. Odenkirk also served as a writer on Saturday Night Live (SNL) for many years following his time at The Second City Chicago, writing sketches for Chris Farley (Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker, anyone?) and working alongside Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel. In more recent years, Bob and David released a four-episode sketch show for Netflix, W/ Bob & David, that followed a similar structure as Mr. Show but, as both comedians suggest, is completely different.

With such a background in comedy, it’s impressive to watch Odenkirk in Better Call Saul because it’s such a dramatic role featuring such a complex character. I’m not by any means suggesting that comedic characters can’t also be complex but Jimmy McGill, as well as many of the other Saul characters, really dives headfirst into the deep end. Sure, Better Call Saul will make you laugh but I don’t think the show can exactly be classified a comedy.

While it was mentioned following the first episode of the season during Talking Saul (Yes, like, Talking Dead but about Better Call Saul, also hosted by Chris Hardwick), watching Better Call Saul really makes me think about how many comedians are able to step into very dramatic roles and completely nail it. Maybe this doesn’t quite seem out of the ordinary but how many dramatic actors are able to be really, really funny? A few, but not as many.

What About Bob

Comedians make the jump often and they make it memorable. Bill Murray, a household name in comedy, known for roles in classics like Caddyshack, multiple Wes Anderson films, and my personal favorite since I was a kid (I have no idea why), What About Bob? It was with Lost in Translation that we really got to see Murray’s versatility and ability to do something, and be someone, completely different. Kristen Wiig, another SNL favorite who, thank goddess, brought us Bridesmaids, shines in Welcome to Me and The Skeleton Twins. You can Google this very topic and find list after list of comedians who kill sans jokes, but I can’t bear to leave out Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Steve Carell in, well, take your pick, Foxcatcher, The Big Short, just to name a few.

Kristen Wiig Skeleton Twins

It’s undeniably exciting to watch a person, a person who inspires you yourself to be funny, no matter who that may be, a person who makes you laugh and is, at times, ridiculously silly, make you also angry, cry, cry happy tears or even be afraid, for them or of them. Or, at least, it’s exciting to me.

So, if anyone needs me for the next several Monday evenings, you can find me glued to my TV, rooting for Jimmy and Kim, watching him become Saul, drinking wine, and unintelligibly live-tweeting Better Call Saul like, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh #BetterCallSaul!!! 39 minutes in and I'm already losing my sh*t. So good. @mrbobodenkirk is the best.”* 

*Actual (censored) tweet from my actual (uncensored) Twitter account.

Megan Radke is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Puppet Walk Into a Bar…

Avenue Q “Everyone’s a little bit racist. It’s true. But, everyone is just about as racist as you.”

If you haven’t seen the hit musical Avenue Q by now (Geez, we’ve had like a dozen local productions lately), I’ll give you a quick rundown. It portrays the world in which puppets and humans live side by side. Like Sesame Street, but decidedly more realistic and adult. It features songs like the aforementioned “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want When You’re Making Love,” and “What Do You Do With a BA in English?”

The basic plot is a young puppet, recently graduated from college, is trying to make his way in New York City. But not in the entertainment industry. He has a BA in English - hence the song - and just wants to find steady employment. In search of a cheap apartment, he finds himself on the titular street where he rents a small efficiency unit from one of the few human characters, Gary Coleman. Yes, that Gary Coleman. Usually played by a woman.

Arguably, if this were just a human story, it wouldn’t be as good. Sure, it aims for biting satire of modern society, but there’s something about the fact that most of the cast is puppets that allow them to approach delicate subjects that humans find to be more of a minefield. Subjects like race and sexuality are handled in hilarious - yet cathartically educational - songs. And themes like trying to find one’s purpose in life, that usually come off as hokey, are called out for their ridiculousness without seeming cruel and heartless. And it’s all okay because the characters involved are puppets. Hence, they’re not real.

Greg the BunnyThis is hardly the only example. Another instance of puppets and humans sharing the world came in the form of Greg the Bunny, the IFC hit that eventually became a short-lived and vastly under-appreciated sitcom on Fox in 2002. That show is all on YouTube now, so I’ll wait here while you go watch it real quick. Back? Funny, right?

In the Fox version of Greg the Bunny, featuring Eugene Levy, Seth Green (more on him in a sec), and Sarah Silverman in human roles, the puppets actually are in the entertainment business as characters on a children’s TV show that also stars Bob Gunton and Dina Waters in more human roles. Gunton is especially great. But, once again, by making a majority of the characters non-human, they’re able to approach sensitive subjects like racism, interracial relationships, addiction, etc. with a deft comic flare.

The Simpsons BookAnd there are so many more examples. The Simpsons is the Godfather of animated or non-human comedy at this point. There are entire academic books written about its greatness. Really. Then, Family Guy picked up the torch and later gave birth to two lesser shows. The Simpsons actually gave birth to a - in my opinion - superior show in Futurama.

Then, there’s the entire phenomenon that is Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block that features/featured Sea Lab, Harvey Birdman, The Venture Brothers, Rick and Morty, and Green’s dark, stop-motion cultural commentary, Robot Chicken. And, then there’s FXX’s Archer, another favorite of mine.

All of these shows feature adult content in one way or another. But one thing that stays pretty consistent is that these shows have approached subjects - with varying degrees of comedy/seriousness - that are, at the very least, much more difficult needles to thread with human characters.

So, why? I’m not the first person to notice and write about this, but it’s still a subject that isn’t talked about much. It should be, though. I think there’s something to learn in this. Why is it so easy for puppets to have a scene about racism, but when humans do it on a sitcom, it becomes a “very special episode”?

It’s all about, like, reality, man. Puppets and cartoons, no matter how close to humans they look, aren’t real. So, that distance somehow makes it more okay to talk about why we still harbor some less than OK stereotypes about other people. As Avenue Q teaches us, we all do it.

How do we talk about it in a comedic sense, then? It’s a tough nut to crack. Amy Schumer recently came under fire for how she talked about race in her jokes. This, naturally, was in the context of her sleeping with black guys. Still, though, people took offense at how casually she seemed to play with stereotypes. Even a very talented comic like her couldn’t get out of it unscathed.

But, besides not real, puppets are also silly. They’re absurd. So are the cartoons, but let’s focus on the puppet examples. Now, humans can’t help but be human. Even in a big costume, they’re still human, and we all know it. So, we can’t attain the unreality of “Fabricated-Americans” (to borrow a term from Greg the Bunny), but we can use absurdity.

A sketch I admittedly keep coming back to - because it really is genius on so many levels - aired during the last episode of Key & Peele. The “Negrotown” sketch is a perfect application of absurdity to talk about a serious issue, the disparate targeting of young African-American men by mostly white police forces. Instead of making the passively racist police officer the butt of the joke, the comedy duo went in a completely fantastical direction, as Peele’s homeless onlooker transformed into a garishly suited “magical negro” - an old stereotype that still enjoys a robust life in modern cinema in the guise of Morgan Freeman, and a great example of how we white people are, at the very least, still passively racist - that transports the recently arrested Key off to a magical world full of only black people. The residents of this magical Negrotown then sing a song about how they can wear hoodies without getting shot, qualify for bank loans, and their culture won’t get re-appropriated by white people.

Basically, it cranks the conversation up to 11. No room for subtlety. Just pure fantastical absurdity.

So, does this have any application to comedy, and more specifically, improv? I think it can.

I’ve seen people try to broach sensitive cultural subjects in improv. Many time, it relies on the unspoken agreement that we’re all on the same side, and that by making jokes about these issues we’re taking power away from them. But that results in subtle digs that are easily misunderstood. So, take it to an unrealistic place.

Another good tip is to always turn the lens on yourself. Be the absurd version of your own character.

Of course, the natural reaction is to say, why don’t we just avoid sensitive subjects and stay with safe stuff? Well, because it’s not as funny. As I’ve written before, the funniest jokes are the ones that push the boundaries and poke those uncomfortable places. And the comics who figure out the right balance are the famous ones like Pryor, Carlin, Murphy, CK, Schumer, Key & Peele, Jeselnik, etc.

So, next time you’re doing a scene, try a hyper-unrealistic caricature. Be a puppet, essentially, and try to approach those weird places we don’t like to talk about with a new, fuzzier, perspective.

My Top 5 comedies featuring non-human characters:

  • Futurama
  • Avenue Q
  • Greg the Bunny
  • Robot Chicken
  • Rick and Morty
  • Archer

So, sue me. I get to change the rules of my own lists. Have a good week.

Kris Noteboom is a Level 2 student at DCH. He is working on his PhD, with a focus comedy. He went on a mini tour this summer performing his comedic one-man show, And Then I Woke Up.

Comedians in Bars Drinking Alcohol

This weekly blog series features interviews taking place at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) open mic with me and some of the funniest stand-up comedians in the area, most of whom just happen to be my best friends! Read to learn about your favorite local funny people and about the curious emotional makeup of people who like to go onstage alone every night to get laughed at.

Preston Lacy: The Daredevil

Preston Lacy is best known for chasing dwarves, wearing hats full of puke, and other insane, shocking, and often disgusting hijinks he and his gang of merry mayhem-makers created and filmed for MTV's hit series, Jackass. Writing and performing these extreme shenanigans made Lacy and friends stars. Now Lacy tours telling stories of the mechanics behind putting together their insane, hilarious stunts. Lacy headlined the Dallas Comedy Festival, regaling audiences with outrageous tales, like the "Auto-Focus" scenario he was in with his friends and three overweight woman and what it's like to have a horse eat an apple out of your butthole. I sat down with the fearless Lacy and learned about his journey from aspiring actor to Jackass star to stand-up comic. Brought to you by Creww Media, and filmed by the terrific Sean Alexander.

Lauren Davis is an improviser and stand-up comedian from Dallas, Texas. Currently a student at the DCH Training Center, she can be seen weekly performing improv with her troupes LYLAS: Girl on Girl Comedy and Please Like Us, as well as doing her stand-up act at clubs around the area.

Web of Laughs: The Future of Comedy

Broad City Web of Laughs is coming to its end, and we’ve covered a lot of ground in this little column. We’ve looked at silent-era pioneers, as well as the most absurd comedies the big (and small) screen has to offer. What is clear throughout, though, is that each piece of comedy influences another, offering something different and interpreting the original piece a different way. Obviously, comedy isn’t going anywhere. It’s evolving, it’s changing, sometimes not always for the better, but trust that there is good comedy out there, even if you have to seek it out.

Comedy is currently changing along with evolving media platforms, because it has to. Screens have gotten smaller. At one time, you had to go to a movie theater to see a movie, now you can download it on your computer and watch it on your TV, phone, holograph device, Google Glass brain, etc. You no longer are anchored to a big screen to get your media fix, and it’s taken a toll on the media in general. Let’s be honest, though. Netflix is the real game-changer here. Who knew we were all such huge comedy fans before we had the ability to re-watch 30 Rock or Arrested Development for the umpteenth time and then broadcast it over social media? Netflix changed the way we view comedies, especially TV comedies. The ability to binge-watch and re-re-re-re-watch a show seemed to increase the mainstream comedy knowledge, in general. It became such a prevalent use of our time that it only makes sense that more comedy is now coming through TV rather than film. Now, with Netflix producing and creating its own content, it’s only proving how tuned-in it is with comedy fans, first with its revival season of Arrested Development, and now with its revival prequel season for Wet Hot American Summer, aptly called Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.

Not all great comedy content has to come from an alternative platform, though. The No. 1 new-comer to win the TV-shaped part of my heart 200 percent goes to Broad City, which airs on Comedy Central. The plot sounds familiar, two girls and their misadventures in New York, but there is nothing familiar about this show. It manages to take a very contrived and unoriginal premise and attack it from such unique, interesting, bold angles. It’s not about two women in the city and their love lives, and sure, that pops up every once in a while, but it’s done so with a positive, independent tone that is different than its predecessors. The show is really about the two main characters, Abbi and Ilana’s friendship; their beautiful, supportive, very weird friendship. It’s the ultimate in modern female buddy comedy, truly taking a note from 9 to 5, and often times going off the deep end of the absurdity pool and making it work. The writers and stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, bring the female buddy comedy to a generation that really needed it after so many lady-centric comedies that still rely so heavily on love stories moving their lives along.

Even though I’ve talked a lot about comedy on TV becoming a larger part of the grand comedy scope, not every good piece of comedy is on TV. Great comedy films exist, and not every mainstream Hollywood comedy is a piece of garbage. The wonderful thing about comedy is that it’s there for us to laugh at and to make you feel good at the end, regardless of who you are. Every comedy that you enjoy has a history that pulls from another piece of comedy that pulls from another piece of comedy. I encourage following the comedic lineage of your favorite comedies, you may just learn something.

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.

Book Review: "This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection” by Carol Burnett

This Time Together: Laughter and ReflectionThis Christmas, I was given Carol Burnett’s most recent memoir, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection. Holding the partially unwrapped book in my hands on Christmas morning, three thoughts zoomed through my mind: 1) I’ve never seen The Carol Burnett Show, 2) Carol Burnett is one of comedy’s greatest icons—I feel like a sham claiming to be a comedy fan without knowing her work, and 3) I love reading books by female comedians; their making it in a primarily male-dominated industry serves as inspiration and proof that women are funny. With these thoughts in mind and without a clue of what to expect, I decided to give the memoir a go. The first page had me hooked. Burnett’s colloquialisms and charming tone are captivating, and her language had me feeling transported to a different time. For instance, she uses words like “picture show” and “movie house,” and fondly recalls growing up in California during the glittering days of antiquated Hollywood, when movie tickets cost just a dime and the likes of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and Gene Kelly graced the silver screen. Reading Burnett’s recollections of meeting Jimmy Stewart, befriending Cary Grant, and performing with Lucille Ball had me feeling nostalgic for the early days of movies and television; it seems to have been a truly magical time.

The book is comprised of many three-to-four page vignettes that trace Burnett’s life from her childhood in California to her Broadway success in New York to her celebrated TV program and the relationships, personal and professional, that developed as a result of this show. While at times some of her anecdotes are rather serious in nature—she briefly touches on her two divorces and the death of her eldest daughter—many are hilarious, and more than a few stories had me quite literally laughing out loud.

For instance, in “Keeping Up with Pine Valley While in Europe” Burnett tells of a comical misunderstanding that occurred when a concierge delivered to her a telegram containing the plot developments of the soap opera All My Children. “Julie, Mike Nichols, and the Lady in the Elevator” had me doubled over in stitches: it relays the happenings of a prank pulled by Julie Andrews and Burnett that went hysterically wrong. In “Joan Crawford,” Burnett explains how she accidently became a pen pal, and “A Very Bad Hair Day” features her first encounter with the dangers of self-dying your hair with peroxide. The stories were such fun to read that I finished the 266-page book in one sitting, and left both wanting more and feeling like I’d made a new friend.

The only critique I have of This Time Together is that I wish there were more stories. I would have loved to have read more about Burnett’s life after The Carol Burnett Show. Though she briefly touches on her marriage to Brian Miller and the passing of her daughter, Carrie (both events that happened during the 2000s), I’d be interesting in reading about the years between the show and these other life events.

The Carol Burnett Show

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Burnett’s book, and have since rented the entire DVD set of The Carol Burnett Show. Watching the show has kept me laughing constantly—"Went With the Wind" is one of the funniest sketches I’ve ever seen—and has shown me that the voice, warmth, and excitement with which Carol Burnett writes is the very same energy that she pours into her show. I so recommend this book to any lover of comedy and to anyone who yearns to read about the fabulous early days of television.

Chelsea is a graduate of the DCH Training Center. She is obsessed with music of the 60s & 70s and her vices include vanilla lattes and Swedish Fish. You can check out more of Chelsea’s thoughts and ponderings HERE!