Above Average, the YouTube channel of Lorne Michaels's production company Broadway Video, just debuted another new web series. Called Approach the Bench, it's a courtroom comedy starring character actor Bob Balaban, a regular in Wes Anderson and Christopher Guest's movies, as a judge. Approach the Bench was created and written by Daily Show writer Zhubin Parang, and this is the first of three episodes, which will hopefully all be about legal professionals obsessed with Danny Aiello.
"When we were writing Portlandia, I once had this idea of doing something with a whole bunch of bass players together, but it was like, 'Oh, well, I guess Spinal Tap already did that with their all-bass band.' And I was like, 'I can’t believe that in 2012 we still have to measure ourselves against Spinal Tap.' But we still do. There are still things that you can’t do because they did it."
- Fred Armisen in an interview he and Portlandia cohort Carrie Brownstein did for The Dissolve, entirely focused on their love of This Is Spinal Tap.
Grantland conducted this hour-plus conversation with Kent Alterman, head of original programming at Comedy Central. Alterman's been at the network for nearly two decades and has plenty of stuff to talk about, from giving a show to the Upright Citizens Brigade in the mid-'90s to working to develop Broad City.
Community's fate is up in the air, with NBC's decision whether to renew the sitcom for a sixth season or not coming soon. Sony Pictures Television, the studio behind the show, has made a series of faux-movie posters featuring Community stars to get buzz about the series going on social media, and they even got former Community actor Donald Glover, who left the show early this past season, to do one.
Check out the Glover poster, a parody of the movie Cast Away featuring his character Troy Barnes, below (via TV Guide): READ MORE
Former Parks and Recreation star Paul Schneider, who played Pawnee city planner Mark Brendanawicz in the show's first two seasons, did an interview with Screencrush shedding some light on his exit from the show and whether he'll ever come back as a guest star as co-creator Mike Schur has suggested.
"That experience was very strange for me," said Schneider reflecting on Parks and Rec. "I signed up for a specific character that was changed in mid-season. And it became a character with a lot less to do. And, all of a sudden, I was kind of confused and kind of having a lot less to do." When asked about Mike Schur suggesting he may return, Schneider replied, "No, I’m not interested in going back. And that’s very generous of him. But I’ve never been contacted about that nor have I any interest in going back."
The entire interview is pretty candid and worth reading, going into both Schneider's desire to leave the entertainment industry for something more fulfilling and his sincere love for America's Funniest Home Videos. (via AV Club)
The seeds of the most popular local TV comedy in the country were planted 25 years ago, outside a Seattle restaurant when two strangers walked up to Chris Cashman’s dad, Pat, and thanked him for his work on Almost Live, a local sketch comedy show similar to Saturday Night Live.
“They didn't even know him,” Chris, now 36, recalls. "That was the neatest thing I'd ever heard of, and I thought, if I could just do that some day…”
But Almost Live was cancelled in 1999, just as Chris became old enough to join it. The show didn’t generate enough profits for the Texas company that bought the station and the new owners had no allegiance to the local talent, despite the show’s having developed stars such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and Joel McHale who is now on Community.
But Chris didn’t give up his dream. Two years ago, he was sitting around with his dad and John Keister, the host of Almost Live, talking about how the business of comedy had changed. Now stars like Louis CK edit their shows on laptops and sell work on the Internet. They didn’t need a network, he told the older men, they could do a show on their own.
The result is The  — named after the Seattle area code — and they run it similar to a small startup: build an audience, hustle for sponsors, and carefully manage costs. READ MORE
VH1 announced today that they've canceled long-running series Best Week Ever for a second time. Best Week Ever originally ran from 2004 to 2009, when it was initially canceled. VH1 rebooted the show in January of 2013, with a new cast and format, featuring comedians Michael Che, Nick Turner, Ali Wong, and more.
"Best Week Ever was a pioneer in pop culture commentary on television when it launched in 2004, delivering its signature blend of comedy and tongue-in-cheek opinions on the most entertaining news and pop culture stories of the previous seven days,” said VH1 in a statement. “The series also served as a national launching pad for many talented creatives and comedians. We thank them, and the viewers who tuned in each week."
When you ask people to think of reasons why someone took an improv class for the first time you get answers like “I wanted to do something fun” or “I’m a huge comedy fan” or “I wanted to be able to think on my feet more for my job.”
(Side note: people often say “wanted to get better at public speaking” but only when they’re guessing why OTHER people might be taking improv classes.)
Improv classes aren’t as silly as you expect. Yes, they’re fun but they’re more like acting classes. Many big comedy fans don’t know what long-form improv is, and they take a class because they’ve memorized the casts of SNL and see that many of them “did improv.” They don’t know what they’re in for.
I don’t really think it improves thinking on your feet. And no one speaks publicly ever, now that we have the internet.
So what practical skills DOES improv give you? These ones. READ MORE
NBC just announced the hosts and musical guests for the final three Saturday Night Live episodes of the season:
May 3rd: Andrew Garfield/Coldplay
May 10th: Charlize Theron/The Black Keys
May 17th: Andy Samberg/St. Vincent
This is the first time hosting for both Garfield and Samberg and the second for Theron, who last hosted in 2000. Samberg left SNL in 2012 after seven years and is currently starring in the critically-acclaimed Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which won him a Golden Globe earlier this year. SNL is a rerun this week but will return new with the May 3rd episode.
Comedy Central announced in a press release today that they've picked up the CC:Studios web series This Is Not Happening, a standup storytelling show hosted by Ari Shaffir, for an eight-episode run on television to premiere this fall. This order marks the network's first pickup of a show developed via its digital initiative CC:Studios. "The only reason we are picking up This Is Not Happening is to prove we can incubate an idea digitally and then have it migrate to the linear channel," said Kent Alterman, president of the network's development and original programming. "And also, it's really funny storytelling with fantastic talent." For more on This Is Not Happening, check out our interview with Shaffir from last year.
Earlier this month, Veep superstar Julia Louis-Dreyfus posed naked on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing nothing but a flubbed Constitution tattoo on her back. But it seems that she's one-upped herself with her newest feature in GQ's comedy issue, which sent her to a nightmarish hellscape for anyone who hates clowns and the unnecessary objectification of funny women, reducing a funny and hugely popular comedic actress to a sexy body in love with Ronald McDonald's creepy cousin — a treatment male comedians never get unless it's done through an ironic gender-bender lens or Kanye West music video parody. The Rolling Stone cover at least had thematic ties with Dreyfus's work on Veep, but the GQ shoot has her meeting a clown, having sex with him while wearing a clown nose, and posing with him for a photo with their new hybrid human/clown baby. To say the least, it's disturbing. But is it exploitative, or is it just another magazine's desperate attempt at controversy? READ MORE
Tomorrow night, Adult Swim is airing Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends, a new half-hour special starring comedian Brett Gelman and directed by Jason Woliner, who co-wrote the script with Gelman. Beginning as a talk show Gelman hosts over a meal with six Hollywood actors a la Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five, Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends quickly takes a turn and descends into an evening of psychological torture. Like Eagleheart, the Adult Swim show Gelman acts on and Woliner is a writer, director, and producer on, Dinner with Friends is fast-paced, funny, and unlike anything else on TV.
I recently talked with Brett Gelman about the special, his past projects with Jason Woliner, and making more stuff with Adult Swim. READ MORE
This Sunday's Simpsons episode "Brick Like Me" will see Homer waking up in a world where all of Springfield has been transformed into LEGO blocks, and it's up to him to figure out how to get back home "before he's stuck in a world of bricks forever." Click through to check out some stills from the episode, which will either disturb you greatly or inspire you to buy the real-life Simpsons LEGO set. (via Comic Book Movie) READ MORE