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Veronica Osorio (@vaov) on People-Watching and Reading Tweets Out Loud

Veronica Osorio is a comedian, writer, and actress raised in Venezuela and living in New York City. She performs regularly at the UCB Theater in New York with her Maude team (212), and she’s made and starred in a variety of web series and videos that you can find on her Youtube channel. On Twitter, Osorio writes under the handle @vaov. I recently spoke with Osorio about three of her favorite tweets plus capitalizing on trends, reading tweets out loud in a person's voice, and naps.

Osorio: Well, I tried everything to get my boyfriend to look away from this game in which he is a band of bugs swarming around or some crap, and he wouldn't. I showed him my best sexy dances and made little noises and bigger noises… nothing! Eventually, I thought if he was ignoring me so I feel like I got a free pass to tweet about it. He saw it later and I think he thought it was funny and got the message… not that he applies it. READ MORE

How Adam McKay Directs at the Top of His Intelligence

Adam McKay’s path to becoming a director began as a notoriously mischievous improvisor under the tutelage of guru Del Close in Chicago, then joining SNL as a writer, eventually ascending to head writer in the mid-nineties. It was there he began his collaboration with Will Ferrell that would come to define his feature directing career. The two have collaborated on Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, establishing a formula of highly designed and actively structured plays on genre that have shaped the modern comedy landscape beyond their work alone.

Since Judd Apatow has become somewhat of a control to whom I have compared most other directors I’ve written about in this space (and even though this was not done on purpose I actually think it is instructive both because of his omnipotence in the comedy filmmaking landscape and his very easily explained visual technique), let’s indulge that process once more in regards to McKay. Here is where the two are similar: both directors rely heavily on improv in their films, both shoot massive amounts of footage to end up with their final product. McKay even shot enough footage on Anchorman to be able to cut together an entire second film, released as Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie. However, the similarities end there, because the way they use improvisation to serve their goals as directors trend in opposite directions. READ MORE

This Week In Web Videos: 'Todd Halloween'

Originality is as crucial as it is difficult to achieve. That's true of any pursuit, not just comedy. The thing is: if you're unoriginal in heart surgery or tax preparation or landscaping, it's not a bad thing. "This person gets it," your clients might say about you and, while you're not breaking new ground, you're…stalwart. But in the arts, innovation is key. Derivativeness is only tolerable in the smallest of doses, as a stepping stone for the non-creatives in your audience, a relatable touchpoint that level sets them before descending into maddening newness. Ben Seeder's short Todd Halloween, directed by Andy DeYoung, is decidedly in the "fuck touchpoints" camp. Many people will not understand why this is brilliant. For those who do, it's an inspiration to reach beyond the temptation to put a "twist" on what's familiar. It's a reminder that, in an industry full of strivers, the best way to be remembered is to blow the doors off "comfortable."

How did you get your start in comedy?

Ben Seeder: I’m originally from Chicago and I started performing at iO years ago when I was 19. I did a bunch of shows at iO and Annoyance and did the whole Second City conservatory program. I did a whole bunch of shows all over town. I moved to LA with a sketch partner of mine based off a show that we did. I’ve been here for about six years now. I went to DePaul University so I was lucky because I got to get a start at doing improv early because I was already there as opposed to having to wait until after college. I was in the thick of it.

And you were in We Bought a Zoo.

Yeah, that was great. I had shot a bunch of commercials while I was here and had been on hold for a couple of shows that didn’t really go anywhere so that was kind of a great boost of confidence to be picked by Cameron. He’s a great guy and I just learned so much from him being on set. He’s someone where I really lucked out on because he’s in that select group of directors like Apatow, Lorne Michaels, and Christopher Guest who get to call the shots a little bit more than a regular director would. READ MORE

Watch Bob Odenkirk and David Pasquesi Face off in a Heated Political Debate at Second City

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.

With Election Day right around the corner and Bob Odenkirk now on a nationwide book tour, there's no better time to unearth this clip from Second City's 1990 revue Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only or Censorama featuring ensemble performers Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Bob Odenkirk, Jill Talley, Tim O'Malley, David Pasquesi, and Holly Wortell. In the above sketch "Debate," Odenkirk and Pasquesi face off as two political candidates who try to one-up each other with public confessions. Odenkirk went on to create and star in Mr. Show with David Cross just a few years later, where they aired a "Debate" sketch of their own starring Odenkirk, Jerry Minor, and Paul F. Tompkins.

Finding Joy in the Saddest Depths of Capitalism with Kasper Hauser

The San Francisco comedy group Kasper Hauser has a knack for the absurd. For instance, their name is derived from that of a mysterious 19th century feral child from Germany. But beyond the far flung fringes of the unusual exists a sharp grasp of the delicate balance between comedy and tragedy. Since 2000, Kasper Hauser's four members — Dan Klein, James Reichmuth, John Reichmuth and Rob Baedeker — have been writing and performing comedy that adequately represents where they are existentially, both as a group and as individuals. They have just released SkyMaul2: Where America Buys His Stuff, their second parody of the popular SkyMall airline catalog. I talked to James Reichmuth and Rob Baedecker about the new book, the group's history and the significance of bowling a 298. READ MORE

The Weird and Wonderful World of Maria Bamford

Back in August, the web series Modern Comedian debuted an episode featuring standup Maria Bamford wherein she candidly breaks down her struggles with bipolar disorder and delivers a hilarious walkthrough of her favorite website Crazymeds.us. Lit by nothing but the glow of her computer screen, Bamford reads a panic attack-inducing list of side effects for one of her meds — including "instant old age," inability to drink alcohol, tooth loss, confusion, baldness, and dry skin — before bursting into laughter then telling the camera: "I don't mind losing a little hair. And, again, the tradeoff is pretty awesome."

In this little moment lies the true magic of Bamford. Whether she's starring in her own standup special or bringing her uniquely lovable oddball brand to shows like The Comedians of Comedy, Louie, Arrested Development, or her newest role on USA's Benched, Bamford has mastered the art of remaining a fearless yet vulnerable performer who knows how to draw the funny out of life's bitter side effects. Ahead of the premiere of Benched tonight, I asked Bamford about her latest television role, the emotional pain of Bridezillas, the difference between sitcom work and standup, and what her own ultimate dream TV show would look like. READ MORE

Amy Poehler's 'Yes Please' Is the Best Non-Self-Help Self-Help Book Ever

Before I can start my thoughts on Amy Poehler’s Yes Please (Dey Street Press, out today), I have to put aside Professional Writer Voice and make a confession: I love self-help books. I’m not talking about the ones that promise if you just think positively piles of money will magically appear. I mean the ones that urge us to be better people, that gently tell us it’s slowly inch-by-inch going to be okay and that it helps our hearts to be kinder to others and to ourselves. I have an entire shelf of them. If there’s a Brene Brown book to be had, I own a dog-eared, heavily-underlined copy, and I’ve kept lists of self-help books quoted by other self-help books. All of them are by Pema Chodron.

I mention this because Poehler’s Yes Please reads like a self-help book, and I mean that very much as a compliment. Actually, Yes Please is better, because it’s funny and lacks self-helpy cheesiness. Throughout, Poehler reflects on her life, gives advice through the lessons she’s learned (particularly those learned through improv), and delivers enough comedic nonsense to keep it entertaining. I want to hug this book, and not just because Poehler also suggests reading Pema Chodron. This isn’t to suggest she gives advice the whole time, but that in describing her experiences, it’s easy to see how much further cultivating healthy habits and relationships can take us.

With section titles like “Say whatever you want,” and “Be whoever you are,” Yes Please is even structured like a self-help book, and throughout, Poehler offers stand alone pages of wisdom like, “Nobody looks stupid when they are having fun,” and “forget the facts and remember the feelings.” But it’s sharing her experience of the world that makes Yes Please relatable. In “Plain girl vs. the demon,” she describes her own difficulties with self criticism, i.e. the demon that resides in her brain, and offers a smart way of countering it. “When the demon starts to… say bad shit about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey, cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do.” READ MORE

Would You Like to Buy a Sack of Bees? by Brian Agler

I know you’re here at the farmers market to buy apples, cucumbers, and various produce—but why don’t you come check out what I have to offer.

Yes, just step over the border of the high-school parking lot, where the rules and regulations of the farmers market don’t apply. I promise you, it will be worth it.

What I’m selling is organic, locally sourced, and better than anything you’ll find in your normal supermarket.

It’s a sack of bees! Angry, excitable bees that you can take home, today! No no, don’t go! Don’t worry, I tied the sack up real tight. The bees won’t get out.

I’m sorry, I think you’re misunderstanding. These sacks aren’t filled with honey, or beeswax. They are filled to the brim with bees. Actual bees.

Do you hear the buzzing? That’s the bees.


'Friends of the People': A New Sketch Show Finds Its Voice

Since truTV greenlighted Friends of the People, their new sketch comedy show set to anchor the network’s crossover into original comedic programming, the storyline that’s occasionally popped up is that the series’ inception came to fruition after the In Living Color reboot ultimately did not reboot. However, FOTP is not a revised version of the scrapped ILC series.

The grain of truth in that narrative is that three of FOTP’s cast members, Jermaine Fowler, Jennifer Bartels, and Lil Rel Howery, were set to star in the ILC revival and that’s where they met. That’s it. What did happen is Fowler, Bartels, and Rel realized they had chemistry and that they would be stupid to not move forward together while bringing several of their hilarious and talented young friends on board. 3 Arts Entertainment, who already managed Fowler and Bartels, also realized the potential they’d seen in the pilot and helped assemble the rest of the cast.

Fowler knew the Lucas Bros. from the standup scene, Josh Rabinowitz had also worked with the Lucas Bros. on their Comedy Central Series The Super Late Morning Show, and with Jermaine on several digital shorts. Kevin Barnett knew Jermaine from their time at MTV together, but it was “Homo Thugs,” their three part semi-viral web series that introduced fans to the duo’s on screen chemistry and original voice as writers (Huffington Post called it hysterically funny and the first episode garnered over 675,000 YouTube hits).

The central commonality shared by every member of the cast is that they are relatively unknown to the average network sitcom viewer. Fowler, Rel, and Bartels together with 3 Arts continued to assemble what would become the FOTP cast — Kevin Barnett, Josh Rabinowitz, and Kenny and Keith Lucas were added — all well known in the New York underground scene, all had already made waves at Montreal and done some TV work, but no truly household names just yet. Which is why truTV makes sense. Under the leadership of new president and head of programming, Chris Linn, the network began an ambitious overhaul, looking to create a slate of new original programming right as 3 Arts started shopping the FOTP pilot. READ MORE

'SNL' Review: Jim Carrey Dances Like Everybody's Watching

When Jim Carrey last hosted SNL in 2011 (the first episode I reviewed for this site), I worried the 1990s comedy icon best known for playing manic cartoons from In Living Color, three comedy blockbusters in 1994, and a well regarded SNL stint, would fail to connect with the show's modern lineup. Thankfully, Carrey proved me wrong, blending nicely with Fred Armisen's eccentric subtlety and showing us how much fun a (then) fresh-faced Taran Killam could be to watch. Carrey's performance was a testament to the fact that while SNL may evolve, with increasingly eye-popping production value and an emerging struggle to make its live multicam elements work, some things will always just make us laugh. And Jim Carrey is one of them.

This episode was largely the antithesis of that notion. Once again, the night played to Carrey's strengths, with an abundance of live sketches giving him plenty of freedom to take the reigns. But this time, the actor struggled to produce the same chemistry with today's cast members (the exception being Taran Killam, who has become even more of a Carrey-esque alpha performer over the years). Depending on your outlook on the show, that may be a matter of a subpar cast failing to keep pace with a true comedy genius, or an example of a comedian from a bygone era relying on over-the-top schtick that doesn't quite resonate with 2014 audiences.

Whatever the reason, this episode lacked the redeeming charm that makes a comedy powerhouse like Jim Carrey an enduring star. Rather, the effect was that of a beloved cartoon being transported into the real world… without anyone knowing quite what to do with him. READ MORE

@ZachBroussard on Teasing Tweets, Releasing Them as Singles, and More

Zach Broussard is an actor and stand-up comedian living in Los Angeles. In the past, Broussard's performed both stand-up and sketch regularly at the UCB Theater in New York and has created and appeared in several web series. This week I talked to Broussard about topical jokes, collaborating on Twitter, and two of his tweets that he turned into relatively grand presentations. Stay tuned for a good Borat joke, too!

Broussard: I came up with this one a few weeks before 4/20 landed on Easter. But since the amount of topical jokes can get overwhelming, I wanted to give mine a leg up. So, for about 10 days, I teased the tweet, wrote dramatic Facebook posts, and hosted a make-shift AMA about the tweet. I constantly reminded people that tweets are free, so it didn't cost them anything to check it out on Twitter.com. It was completely shameless (and pointless) but people got into it! We even reached 420 retweets, a goal I just sort of made up at some point. READ MORE

Looking Back at 'The Building,' Bonnie Hunt's First TV Creation

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.)

The very funny Bonnie Hunt has had a lot of TV shows. Her first starring role came in 1990 in the soap opera satire Grand. From there she starred in five more, including three with some variation of the name Bonnie in the title. Today we’re going back to the third one she starred in, but the first that she wrote and produced. The result is a sitcom with a cast of strong comedic performers, and a breezy, improvisational tone that, like many of the shows we see in From the Archives, was gone too soon. 1993’s The Building was Bonnie Hunt in its purest form.

Bonnie Hunt was born in Chicago and went on to perform for years at her hometown’s famous Second City. Chicago is a big part of The Building. The main set on the show, Bonnie’s apartment, is right outside Wrigley Field, the friendly confines of the Chicago Cubs. In fact, the first thing we see in The Building is the theme song (Remember, it’s 1993 so there’s actually time to show a theme song) which serves as a lovely tour of the town as we see the cast out and about, on location in Illinois. In addition to serving as a love letter to the midwest, it also sets the tone perfectly for the show we’re about to see. The theme song itself is sung by a chorus who sing enthusiastically, and with pep, “In this windy city, / Toddlin’ town, / I looked all over, / Finally found, / A kindly place, / A comfy space, / In… the building.” My favorite part of this is that once the cast introductions start, Bonnie Hunt’s name appears on screen, but we only see a blonde woman stumbling through the wind, her face completely covered by her wind-swept hair. Immediately we are introduced to the star of a sitcom who is far more focused on making us laugh than worrying about seeming glamorous in her own show. READ MORE

Wyatt Cenac: Standup, Writer, Puppet Aficionado

Wyatt Cenac is best known as being a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as well as writing for King of The Hill. He’s also been in films such as Sleepwalk With Me and Darren Grodsky’s independent film Growing Up (and Other Lies). Working more on his own projects these days, the New York comic wrote and directed his new one-hour standup special on Netflix, Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn. He’s currently traveling for his tour "Wyatt Cenac Live in Brooklyn in ___(insert city name here)___", and I caught up with him to talk to him about his plans for doing more of his own projects. Hint: they involve puppets.

I know the AV Club’s review of your special talked about your “thoughtful mind.” Would you agree with that? Are you an introspective person?

Umm… I guess so. I feel like anyone who does standup is. It causes you to be a little introspective. You’re putting your perspective out there and as a result you kind of need to both see the world and also look at yourself as you’re seeing the world. So I’d say on some level, I’m a bit introspective. I don’t know if I would’ve been a philosopher centuries ago, but yeah, I’ll say I’m introspective, sure. This has turned into me filling out an OK Cupid profile.

Yep, and do you like dogs or cats? That’s the next questions.


Is the Future of Comedy the Comedy/Drama Hybrid?

In a recent Salon interview, Bob Odenkirk warns aspiring writers to “get out of comedy, because it’s about to collapse.” Sketch comedy, he says, is having its time in the sun now — what with YouTube, Comedy Central’s burgeoning lineup and the legions of theater sketch teams popping up all over — but the market is becoming saturated. What’s next then? He suggests that once the market tires of short sketches, it may turn to more long-form, dramatic material. “I do think that after sketch comes story,” he speculates.

And when you look at the TV landscape, that makes sense. (Plus, Odenkirk’s been ahead of the game for years. Why wouldn’t you listen to him now?) Louie and Girls, two shows that are nominally considered comedies but regularly flirt with drama within their svelte 30-minute timeframes, are setting the tone for many of the new comedies cropping up everywhere. Some of that influence manifests itself in different ways, whether it’s other series copping their surface premise (Maron), their intimate, semi-vérité style (Broad City, Looking) or their personal, insular subject matter (Transparent, Hello Ladies).

But regardless of exactly how each show borrows, the bottom line is that all these series are following Louie and Girls’ lead by digging beneath the obvious elements of comedy to explore the uncomfortable or painful issues that lie beneath any good punchline. In short, they’re acting more like dramas.  So that begs the question: are we entering some new era dominated by that nebulous thing known as the “comedy-drama”? READ MORE