Featured Posts

Hope Cantwell on Fake Names and Wordplay in Tweets

Hope Cantwell is a legal assistant and teacher living in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s been published in Vice and when I spoke with her recently she told me she welcomes any opportunity to write and is starting a free local paper with friends in Nashville. Cantwell, who tweets under the handle @hopiecan, also shared that she was voted wittiest out of her graduating high school class of 84 students, and she talked to me about three of her tweets, the first people she remembers following, and why she’s drawn to tweeting fake names and wordplay.

Cantwell: Most of the crap I tweet is rooted in my reaction or feelings about an experience (how droll!). With this one, I stopped in a coffee shop I'd never visited before and was feeling out of place and flustered. It's one of those places with just regulars, you know? And they're camped out in their usual spots with their Peter Nappi boots propped up on the table for everyone to see while they switch back and forth between reading The Stranger and The Nashville Scene. It was crowded and I just didn't know where or how to be, so while I was waiting I imagined the sort of person who would enter that environment, deem themselves the least pretentious person in that space, then proceed to call that space a kaffeehaus. And that thought cracked me up. Any time I can tweet the word "haus" I seize the opportunity. READ MORE

Inside the Return of 'Superego' with Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, Mark McConville, and Paul F. Tompkins

On September 1st, the incredibly funny podcast Superego is returning with the debut of its long-awaited fourth season. The semi-improvised sketch show will return from its year-plus hiatus with comedian Paul F. Tompkins, a frequent guest on seasons past, officially joining the group full-time as a regular cast member alongside Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, and Mark McConville. Since its launch in 2006, Superego has grown to become one of the comedy podcast industry's best and most elaborate programs and has attracted a slew of famous person guests like Jason Sudeikis, John Hodgman, and Gillian Jacobs, just to name a few. I recently had the chance to interview Gourley, Carter, McConville, and Tompkins about Superego season four, trying to get David Sedaris to do the show, and the upcoming Shunt McGuppin album. READ MORE

This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Natasha Lyonne Does 'How Was Your Week?'

The comedy podcast universe is ever expanding, not unlike the universe universe. We're here to make it a bit smaller, a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the exceptional, the noteworthy. Each week our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists and especially enthusiastic people will pick their favorites. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.

How Was Your Week? - Natasha Lyonne 

LEIGH: If you are over bonobos as a monkey group, then you're in for a treat with this week's How Was Your Week. Spoiler alert: both host Julie Klausner and guest Natasha Lyonne are also over bonobos. Now that that's settled, we can go full Holocaust, which is how Lyonne prefaces the conversation between her and Klausner about growing up religious where everything was always about Hitler. And if you blame a lot of stuff on him, you're in good company. If you don't, think of this as an opportunity to learn about all the things you can blame him for. And yes, you can relax. They do cover Orange is the New Black. Lyonne talks about what overlap between her own past and her character's backstory, even veering into territory she categorizes as "Things I'd rather not talk about." Also, if you've got an opinion on the Ice Bucket Challenge, which, of course you do, we all do, be sure to listen to the monologue upfront to hear Klausner articulate so wonderfully exactly what's going on with that. So, as we learn in the episode, we can blame Hitler for a lot of things. But not listening to this episode? That one's on you. READ MORE

Is 'Modern Family' Really the Best-Directed Comedy on TV?

On Monday night, Gail Mancuso took home the Emmy for “Outstanding Direction for a Comedy Series” for her work the Modern Family season five episode “Las Vegas.” This was Mancuso’s second win in a row and the show’s fourth win in a row in this category. This year, Mancuso beat out Comedy Film School favorites Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham as well as seasoned film directors Jodie Foster (for Orange is the New Black) and Mike Judge (for Silicon Valley). Looking even further back, the last time a network show director, in which directing is historically more like house-painting than Picasso, lost to a cable director is in 2004, when Curb Your Enthusiasm took home the prize for HBO (however I will not besmirch the Emmy voters’ 2004 selection of Barry Sonnenfeld's Pushing Daisies pilot for ABC, which is one of the most visually inventive and exciting pieces of television I have ever seen). This all begs the question of what are Emmy voters looking for in comedy directing, and why, year after year, as television directing gets more and more interesting and “filmic”, are the voters rewarding merely proficient directing over shows with more artful or at least with the most directing? READ MORE

How to Succeed at Edinburgh Fringe with Alex Edelman

Alex Edelman has had an excellent August. The American comic headed to the Edinburgh Fringe with his debut show, Millennial, and on Saturday, he walked away with the coveted Best Newcomer Award at the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Past winners include stars like The Mighty Boosh, Tim Minchin, and Sarah Millican, and it means the eye of the British comedy industry has turned to the 25-year-old New Yorker. I caught up with him after his win in Edinburgh to talk about previewing his show in London, his American style, and being transatlantic.

So why did you decide to come to Edinburgh this year?

I had sort of been invited by accident in 2012. I got cast in a play here, and so I was sort of revealed to this world of thousands of comedy shows. In New York, there's lot of stage time but it's hard to get on, and here, I was getting on seven or eight times a day for 15 minutes and making some money from it, and so why wouldn't you come to this thing? And so I came back last year and ran one of those shows, where you can get 15 minutes, and I did 25 minutes at the end of it, and around the end of the run, I started to realize that I had the makings of a show. And this producer for the BBC spotted me last year, and they put me on one of their showcases, and after that I had a bunch of offers for management, and so I signed with someone who I really liked and who was gonna bring me back the next year, and pay for the run, because the run can be quite expensive. They were tremendous producers, and the show was in good shape, and so the Pleasance was on board, and I guess everyone sort of lined up — venue, PR, producer, performer — and so it seemed sort of like the perfect storm of being able to do an hour of standup every day.

And I ran that compilation show again, and so I've been able to do a couple of shows a day at least. I haven't had a single day where I've done less than five shows, and they're different kinds of comedic muscles that you can't really flex at home. Like, there's “Set List”, which is something that I love doing here, and there's different kinds of improv games than you'd find at even the most wild of indie improv nights, like there's a show called “Voices in Your Head”, where someone directs your improv from the back. All these different octaves of the comedy piano seem like irresistible to me, and so I really wanted to come back. And also, there are a lot of comedians here, and it's sort of a chance to test your mettle. So that's why. READ MORE

This Week In Web Videos: 'Fruiting 101'

I'm not one of those people that thinks sex is inherently funny. In fact, I hate those people. Sex, comedically speaking, is easy. It gets a laugh in the most low-brow of rooms, amongst folks who couldn't give a goddamn about the craft but love hearing the word "pussy" repeated ad infinitum. To make sex truly funny, the bar should be set higher. In order for sex jokes to hit they need to be innovative, new, driven by some goal other than shock. Inspired by Auntie Angel's unintentionally hilarious guide to putting a grapefruit on your man's dick, Lily Du and David Craig created a pitch perfect Internet parody called Fruiting 101. Its intentionally reaching treatment of dick jokes as a comedy cure-all is what makes it meta and great, and its very modest production value should be an inspiration to every comedy creator reading this column. All you need is a funny idea and a camera! And, depending on your situation, some hollowed out foods to put on your man's dick.

Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.

Watch Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert Sing "The Obvious Song" at Second City in 1993

Welcome to The Second City Archives, in which we post an exclusive clip each week of some of comedy's biggest superstars performing early in their careers on the legendary Chicago stage. Second City has generously given us a glimpse into their extensive archive of live performances, and over the coming weeks we'll be sharing some rare and retro comedy never before seen on the web.

This week we're debuting a newly unearthed clip from Second City's 1993 revue Take Me Out to the Balkans featuring ensemble performers Fran Adams, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, David Razowsky, Ruth Rudnick, and Amy Sedaris. In the above clip, Carell, Colbert (who doubled as Carell's understudy), Dinello, and Razowsky perform a catchy tune called "The Obvious Song" that's as funny as it is harmonious. This took place less than ten years before both Carell and Colbert hit it big on television with The Dana Carvey Show, The Daily Show, and in the case of Colbert, Dinello, and Sedaris, Exit 57 and Strangers with Candy. Little did they know that 20 years later Carell would be crossing over into big-screen drama while Colbert would be chosen as the heir to the Late Show throne.

Daniel Sloss and the Art of Telling Critics to Piss Off

At only 23, Daniel Sloss has become one of the biggest draws at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Scottish comic played to packed houses during his fun in a 400-seat lecture hall in Edinburgh, and he's about to take his show "Really?!" on tour throughout the UK. He's also got his eye on the US, having appeared three times on Conan in the last year. I caught up with him in Edinburgh to talk about being famous in his hometown, not letting reviewers into his show, and his first attempt at pilot season in the US.

I feel like a lot of Americans don’t quite understand Edinburgh. What’s the appeal of the Fringe to you?

People go, "But isn't it just you guys getting drunk?" You go, "Yeah. Like, why is that not cool?" Yeah, but also, the reason I do it so much is how much you improve as a comic, consistently. I think doing a show here for a month is the equivalent of doing two years on the circuit, because you don't have anyone before you, you don't have anyone after you. It's just you doing an hour and you learn so much about just everything. I'll do it every year just for the C.K. reason — a new hour every year. When C.K. came out and said, "I'm gonna write a new hour every year because Carlin did," I think every comedian just kind of went, "Oh, well I guess we all have to do that now, because if any of us want to be that good, that's clearly how it's done."

I wish there were more Americans who came over and took advantage of the festival.

I was talking to [Anthony] Jeselnik last week, we were at the Vodafone Comedy Festival in Dublin — I'm a big, big fan of his — and he was saying how he wanted to do it, but his agents were like, "It's not worth the money. You don't really make much." For a lot of comics, it's flushing six grand down the drain, but if you want to be the best that you can be, you kind of have to. I'm lucky enough that I'm Scottish so people come out and see me. It's the support-their-own sort of thing. And my agent's amazing, and my flyers and marketing team, so I have quite an easy run of the festival, which I'm very grateful for. READ MORE

Saturday Night's Children: Alan Zweibel (1979-1980)

Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 38 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member every other week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.

There are many paths to getting hired on Saturday Night Live, but Alan Zweibel — who served as an original writer in 1975 and spent a portion of the fifth season credited as a featured player — had one all his own. Zweibel struggled as a young joke-seller before finding the perfect comedy collaborators on SNL, giving way to some of the most memorable characters of the show's early years, from the absurd physical comedy of John Belushi's Samurai to the fragile brilliance of Gilda Radner's Weekend Update regulars Emily Litella and Roseanne Roseannadanna. Zweibel went on to enjoy a steady career as a writer and producer of the stage, screen, and page, but it all began with his contributions to SNL and "platonic love affair" with the great Gilda "Bunny Bunny" Radner. READ MORE

A Profile of Acting Legend John C. Reilly, by Blythe Roberson

I’m assigned to write a profile of acting legend John C. Reilly. It’s an assignment of a lifetime. Wait. In a lifetime. It’s an assignment in my lifetime. In preparation, I decide to watch his films to study his technique. There’s just one problem: I still can’t figure out Netflix.

The day of the interview, I ride my skateboard 7 miles from my apartment to meet him at a restaurant that turns out to be next door to my apartment. So that’s why I suggested that deli, I realize after 3.5 miles.

I walk through the door to see acting legend John C. Reilly already waiting. I look at him and think, He’s the kind of guy who played Mr. Collins in a high school production of Pride and Prejudice. I pull out my journal to write down the thought in case I want to use it in something I write someday.

The man sitting across from me, drinking a mug of some hot brown liquid that smells coffee-y, is different than I imagined. In person, he looks like a man out of a Will Ferrell movie. Like Will Ferrell. Or maybe John C. Reilly.


The Many One-Season Sitcom and News Parodies of Comedy Central

On this installment of The Good, The Bad, and the Deeply Strange, I’ll be expanding my examination Comedy Central’s large quantity of television parodies. Having previously tackled their multitude of short-lived reality parodies and sketch shows, this time it’s all comedy versions of news and warped versions of sitcoms. First up: Sitcoms. READ MORE

Keeping Your Childlike Enthusiasm Alive with Janet Varney

Janet Varney's positive and generous attitude might be best exemplified by her Nerdist podcast The JV Club; in it the actress, producer, and writer interviews women in entertainment (and this summer, men) about their experiences growing up and how their formative teenage years influence their work and who they are today. In her often funny and sometimes emotional conversations Varney exudes warmth and an earnest curiosity to understand and share her guest's stories with her audience.

As a comedic actress Varney has made a variety of guest appearances in shows and movies like Kroll Show, How I Met Your Mother, and Key and Peele, but she might be best known to alt comedy fans for her work on Burning Love, in which she played the disinterested lesbian love interest of Ken Marino's pompous bachelor.

Varney also founded SF SketchFest with Owen David and Cole Stratton. The festival celebrated its thirteenth year in February with shows at nearly two dozen Bay Area venues.

This summer Varney has appeared on the relationship comedy You're the Worst and stars in the animated adventure series The Legend of Korra, which released its third season finale online on Friday.

I recently talked with Varney about The JV Club, Korra, SF SketchFest, and interacting with fans. READ MORE

Inside Siobhan Thompson's Twitter and Tweeting What's In Your Brain

Originally from Britain and now located in New York, Siobhan Thompson performs and writes for the UCBNY Maude team Alamo, hosts and writes for BBC Ameria’s Anglophenia web series, and has appeared on various TV shows. On Twitter, Thompson goes by the handle @vornietom and has built up a delightful feed that ranges from flippant responses to trotted-out political conversations, adaptations of poems from elementary school, and well-constructed emoji landscapes. I recently asked Thompson to share three of her favorite tweets, and we talked about topical vs. standalone tweets, beauty tips for everyone, and where diving beyond people’s consciousness for a joke can go right or wrong.

Thompson: My general rule when talking about Twitter is "don't talk about a tweet for longer than the actual tweet", so this is very off my meticulously constructed personal brand. Like all very cool people, I take personal branding very seriously. Wait. No. Not my personal brand. Myself. I take myself very seriously. Gosh, there goes my silly little lady head getting all confused.

This is about as serious as I can get on the "are women funny" debate, because it's such a patently silly pseudoconversation that clickbait-driven hacks love to write about. It's so dumb. I also very much enjoy writing in the style of a 1970's faux Indian meditation guru, and do so whenever possible. Also also, I go through, like, so many hair ties. Where do they go? Is somebody taking them? It's impossible to know. I would read a blog post about missing hair ties in a heartbeat. It'd be much more relevant to my life than a thinkpiece on how Sarah Silverman's poop jokes are off-putting and unattractive. READ MORE

Dissecting Young Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane's Awful, Awful Sitcom

The Paley Center for Media, which has locations in both New York and LA, dedicates itself to the preservation of television and radio history. Inside their vast archives of more than 150,000 television shows, commercials, and radio programs, there are thousands of important and funny programs waiting to be rediscovered by comedy nerds like you and me. Each week, this column will highlight a new gem waiting for you at the Paley Library to quietly laugh at. (Seriously, it’s a library, so keep it down.)

Take a seat and I'm going to tell you about a sitcom that aired in 1982 that came and went. In the lead, we have the late Mickey Rooney, once the number one movie star in the world, then 62, mustached, and while he was still much older than you're average sitcom anchor, still a very capable performer. As his grandson we have Dana Carvey, still a few years away from his big break on Saturday Night Live, with a weird, blonde bowl cut, but still ready to break out into a Mr. Rogers impression for a quick laugh. And as Dana's roommate we have a young Nathan Lane, in his TV series debut. Why didn't this series run for years and years with talent like that?

Because it was horrible. READ MORE