truth in comedy

What We're Loving: Man-Phone Love, The 1st Amendment, Self-Fulfillment, Reconfigured Shakespeare, and Eternal Presidents

dch_what we're loving_02_14_2014Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ashley Bright becomes a better person,  David Allison demands that you drop everything, Julia Cotton ponders what it means to be an adult, Nick Scott suggests a new take on a classic play, and Ryan Callahan takes a trip above the 38th parallel.

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I will admit that before I saw Her, the plot did not at all interest me. But with the lure of an afternoon movie with an old friend and the cushion of the name Spike Jonze, I went to see it. And I'm grateful that I did. Some may call it hyperbole to say things like, "it changed me" or "it made me a better person" to describe a movie experience, and maybe it is. But this movie certainly stuck to my ribs. About halfway through watching it, I thought to myself that it was one of my new favorites. I didn't care about the plot or how it ended; it was beautiful and that was enough. Afterward, I was comforted to hear my friend express all of the goofy thoughts that I was having. We were both in great moods and spouting off nutty phrases like how we felt more alive and refreshed. Her made me think about how I experience the world and the people in it. Our encounters make us who we are. If you're not into gorgeous cinematography or all of the hippy dippy mumbo jumbo I threw up above, there's a sassy video game character that'll make you laugh enough to make watching Her worthwhile. - Ashley Bright

imagesThis past week, you might’ve heard about a stunt in LA known as Dumb Starbucks.  Someone went through and created a carbon copy of a Starbucks, complete with the exact same drinks options, sizing, signage, everything.  The only difference?  They put the word “dumb” in front of every word so that they would be protected under the laws of parody.  It was pretty great. When I first heard about it, I just thought it was a fun idea.  Then, news quickly broke that it was perpetrated by Nathan Fielder.  Fielder was the mastermind of Nathan for You, one of my favorite shows of last year and created Dumb Starbucks for a segment we’ll see in season two.  If you haven’t checked out the first season of Nathan for You, then drop everything you have planned this evening (Unless you’re going to a show at the Dallas Comedy House!) and check it out for free on Comedy Central’s website. Nathan For You takes the standard concept of highlighting a struggling small business and bringing in a savior to fix everything, and puts a comedic twist on it.  Fielder’s ideas are the perfect combination of absurd, but still kinda sorta not bad and his commitment to them is astounding. - David Allison

judd-apatow-hints-at-girls-season-3-renewalContrary to what you may read or hear about HBO’s Girls, it is not a show about Lena Dunham walking around naked in the name of “girl power”. To me, it’s a show about four “girls” trying to understand what it means to be an adult. Lena is indeed sometimes naked, but I never found it an effort to tackle the whole body image issue as much as an artistic way to express the raw vulnerability that comes with youth and inexperience. I relate to this show because, I, even as a 32-year-old mother of two, always feel like I’m trying to know how to be a grown up. I’ve never felt like I’ve ever made the full adult transformation. In this series about early-20-somethings, I see a lot of late-20-early-30-something Julia.

In the pilot, we meet 24-year-old Hannah (Lena Dunham) living the life I assumed I would be living right out of college: NYC apartment with best friend. Internship that will surely lead to the dream career. Frequent sex with a dude who could have sex with ANYONE, but chooses to have sex with me. Parties with a cool friend who has a british accent. You know-- being a young adult. It is also in this pilot, however, that Hannah’s parents hit her with the all too familiar phrase of impetus: “We are cutting you off.” That phrase that makes one realize that all of these years you thought you were ascending towards becoming a human being all on your own, you’ve actually been dangling from an invisible umbilical cord yet to be severed. Sure being able to financially support yourself is the most obvious thing we have to deal with, but adulthood cannot be summed up to paying bills. Throughout the series, we watch Hannah and her friends try to understand what life is when you are in charge of yourself for-realzies. Along the way, they irrationally destroy relationships, fumble with career goals, mishandle health issues, “inappropriately” cope with death, and of course, deal with boys. "Another Man’s Trash" (S2) is probably my favorite episode because Hannah gets a look at what she thought adulthood meant only to realize how much her own self fulfillment is important to her.

In the level 5 class I TA at DCH, a student brought up that he was watching shows and realized that there are seasoned performers who sometimes don’t do all of the things that he’s been taught in class. He then rationalized, “... everyone is always learning, I guess.” There is no true adult transformation that happens. You don’t graduate college and *poof* get, maintain and excel at a job. You don’t have a baby and *poof* know all it takes to be a parent. You don’t go through an improv training program, perform in troupes and *poof* never an improv blunder make. This show presents the idea that the real goal is not simply to be an adult, but more to become a complete person, and that that is an ongoing effort. Perhaps understanding that concept... is what makes you an adult. - Julia Cotton

51zhJDXzNXLThis week I started making plans to see one of my top five favorite authors, Christopher Moore, speak on his new book, The Serpent of Venice, when it releases in April. The Serpent of Venice is the sequel to what is generally agreed as Moore's best work, Fool, which I am making my "What We're Loving" pick for this week. Every other book Moore writes is a work of historical fantasy. He famously filled in the lost years of Jesus Christ's life in Lamb and more recently revealed what was "really" happening behind the scenes in the late 1800's French art scene in Sacre Bleu. With Fool, Moore takes readers in the world of King Lear, Shakespeare's famous king that is slowly losing his mind, and tells the story from the perspective of King Lear's court jester, Pocket. The book is incredibly well-researched, and Moore expertly blends in other Shakespeare stories and characters. The book is Moore firing on all cylinders: historical references, literature references, vivid characters, and emotional core (Pocket is a jester because he had a terrible life), and dick jokes. So many dick jokes. Also, there are fuck-stockings, which were turned into a real-life product for purchase on his website. - Nick Scott 

Pyongyang-CoverI moved this week. One of the many joys of moving from one apartment to a slightly larger apartment in the same complex is rediscovering favorite but forgotten books, or books that I couldn't live without but haven't read, or books that I had no idea that I owned. Okay, packing and unpacking the books was the only joy of moving. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is a graphic novel from 2005 by Québécois illustrator Guy Delisle, and one of those favorite but forgotten books. I picked up Pyongyang years ago at Comic-Con, based entirely on its cover and subject matter. I am fascinated by all things North Korean. That that a country that sounds like the home of a supervillian from a rejected Matt Helm script commands so much power on the world stage, that such a county even exists, fills me with a combination of joy and terror. This book came about after Delisle traveled to North Korea to supervise an animation project  for a French television station. From the moment he steps off the plane and into an airport so dark that he can't see his guide's face (there is barely any light in North Korea, and no bulbs over 40 watts,) Delisle is brisked away to "admire" the highest point in the city, a 22 meter bronze statue of Kim il-Sung, Hero of the People, Father of the Nation, and, despite being dead for 20 years,  Eternal President for Life. From there, the absurdities and contradictions pile on for Delisle: the mandatory photos of Kim il-Sung and Kim Jung-il in every room on every floor of every building, the mandatory Kim Il-Sung pins every citizen is required to wear, the inability to go anywhere without a guide or translator, the ban on outsiders taking pictures of garbage, which would damage the image of North Korea as the most beautiful place on Earth. Pyongyang is a perfect example of truth in comedy. Delisle doesn't have to make any wacky choices, or tell silly jokes, or create bizarre situations. He just has to be present and observe.  The book could have easily been preachy or pandering, but Delisle's touch makes the absurdities of life in the most isolated country in the world all the more amusing, and the atrocities and oppression that exist right beneath the surface all the more chilling. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Comedy Legends, Angry Neurotics, Grammy Mistakes, Low Production Values

What We're LovingEach Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Nick Scott praises a comedy legend, Sarah Wyatt celebrates anxiety, David Allison has a problem with the Grammys, and Ryan Callahan revisits an old obsession.

 

Albert+Brooks+Drive+Premiere+2011+Toronto+KM80ZsXRt5plMost of you youngsters probably know Albert Brooks from one of three things: the voice of the title character's dad in Finding Nemo, Paul Rudd's father in This Is Forty, or as the mob boss who soothes Bryan Cranston while murdering him in Drive. Originally I was just going to write about his latest novel, 2030: The True Story of What Happens to America, but I realized this wasn't enough. He has done too much great work that is almost completely overlooked by the current generation of comedians and comedy nerds. Brooks got his start as a stand-up comedian, deftly playing on audience expectations of what they were normally used to seeing from a stand-up set. His "completely improvised joke" bit using audience suggestions is one of my favorite bits of all time. He was hired to make short films for the early years of Saturday Night Live (all of which are worth watching) before moving on to become a filmmaker himself. The first film he wrote and directed, Reel Life, displayed one of his greatest skills: the ability to see trends in society and predict where they will go. Reel Life predicts exactly what television would become in the age of the reality show decades ahead of time. His next film, Modern Romance, is one of my favorite movies about relationships. Lost in America, a movie which has Brooks playing a man who along with his wife attempts to drop out of society and drive across America in an RV, is in my top 10 favorite movies. He's even recently embraced the modern age, as his Twitter account, @AlbertBrooks, is consistently funny. Throw in some great acting performances in Broadcast News, a small part in Taxi Driver, and his voice work as Hank Scorpio on The Simpsons and you've got an incredible body of work that deserves to be more widely appreciated. RUNNER UP PICK: For Colored Girl Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Not Enuf by Ntozake Shange. - Nick Scott

MV5BMTUwMjkxMTI5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTU0NDAwNA@@._V1_SY1200_CR85,0,630,1200_Marc Maron is on one. The polarizing comic is having the most success of his career at an age when most comedians are making terrible romantic comedies or sad stand stand up specials that make you wish they'd stop. Instead, Marc Maron is filming season two of his IFC show, Maron and killing it on his podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. The show follows the troubled and contemplative Marc as he deals with fictionalized situations in his day to day life involving love, addictions, and recording his podcast. On his podcast, Marc interviews comedians, musicians, actors, anyone about the story of their life in a compelling and honest way that you don't normally hear. I learn a life lesson every time I listen to it and so recommend that you subscribe. Many of his famous friends that have appeared on his podcast are featured on Maron. People like Dave Foley and Dennis Leary fuel Marc’s anxiety and neurosis to a frenzied, hilarious peak. This show and this man make me laugh and give me hope that my life won’t end up as pathetic and spinstery as I sometimes imagine it. I often struggle with some of the same thoughts and issues that Marc does on the show. Sometimes it feels like he’s reading my mind. It’s messed up. I love it. I’m not sure if my current obsession with Marc Maron stems from wanting to be with him or wanting to be him. We both have huge hipster glasses, own multiple cats, and find it incredibly difficult to stop making the same mistakes over and over again. I’d like to think he’s reading this right now, thinking about sending me an email but then never following through. Because that’s what I would do if I were him. - Sarah Wyatt

tiglivemockup9-1.jpgThis past week, the Grammy’s made a gigantic mistake.  No, I’m not talking about this mistake.  I’m instead speaking of awarding best comedy album to Kathy Griffin instead of Tig Notaro.  Now, this isn’t going to turn into a piling on of Kathy Griffin, I think she’s underrated in the comedy community and tends to be marginalized as more of a reality star than a great stand up.  She’s very good at what she does.  But Tig Notaro’s album Live one of the most important comedy albums to come out in some time, is in a different league. If you’re not familiar with the legend of this album, it comes from a set she did at Largo in LA on August 3, 2012.  Tig was given the news that she had cancer (Among many other pieces of horrible news) about ten days beforehand and this was her first time going up after hearing the news.  After the show, Louis CK said “[Tig’s] was one of the truly great, masterful stand up sets.”  It was so good that CK released the album days later using his gigantic comedic social network and giving 80% of the gross dollars to Tig/Cancer Research.  This album alone cemented that the success Louis CK experienced wasn’t just a fad.  It also set in stone the idea that the public wanted honesty from their comedians, not just bits.  One thing I love about Live is listening to her apologize over and over again for just not being able to do routines like a bee passing her on the 405.  That’s not to say the set isn’t funny, it’s consistently hilarious. The biggest reason you need to check out this album though is because of the way Tig opened herself up for this show.  Even if you’ve listened to it before, it’s worth revisiting just to show how badly the Grammy’s screwed up.  Live is  streaming on music services like Spotify and Slacker, or you can just buy it for like $5 and support cancer research. - David Allison

The_new_Channel_101_LA_LogoA recent discussion about the improved quality of Community since the return of Dan Harmon led to a discussion of the talents of Dan Harmon which led to a discussion of some of his earlier, pre-Community work which led to a discussion of Channel 101 which led to me going down the Channel 101 rabbit hole, binge-watching old shows until 5 in the morning. For those who don’t know, Channel 101 was a TV-station-on-the-web created by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab in 2003 as a place where writers and directors could bring their work directly to the audience without the interference of TV executives. New pilots, which had to be five minutes or less, were screened each month for a live audience. The top five shows were picked up for another episode and the rest were cancelled, their creators encouraged to submit again. The shows that resulted are some of the funniest, most original, comedy pieces I have ever seen. From the Harmon created Computerman, in which a drop of blood turns a desktop computer into an inquisitive, helpful, kung-fu fighting man-computer played by Jack Black, to The ‘Bu, a pastiche of The Hills from The Lonely Island in their pre-SNL days, to my personal favorite, Yacht Rock, which features the fictionalized exploits of Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and friends, each show abounds with an exuberance, an obvious love of comedy, so often lacking from bigger-budget, made-by-committee efforts. In the mid-00’s, these shows were my obsession. The creators and performers clearly had a blast making these shows, and that enthusiasm comes right through the screen. Do yourself a favor, set aside twenty minutes and dive in. The Wastelander. House of Cosbys. Kicked in the Nuts. You won’t be disappointed. - Ryan Callahan