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What Does it Mean to Direct an Adam Sandler Movie?

The Adam Sandler assembly line began production in 1995 with Billy Madison and has since churned out over 20 films under the Happy Madison Productions outfit starring Sandler in his well-versed comic persona of the well-meaning, flawed, likable, schlub. Sandler’s brand is a veritable cottage industry, almost operating like a mini-studio, attaching him and his team of writers and producers to his projects and the smaller projects of his friends. Yet, despite the films orbiting around Sandler and having massive control over their image and tone, Sandler himself has never had a director credit on his own project or any other for that matter. That distinction has been credited to a revolving door of recurring directors throughout his career. Despite this, there is a consistency to the way Sandler’s films look and feel. It is almost as if Happy Madison operates like Sandler’s career is just one continuous television program and directors-for-hire are brought in to maintain consistency.

So then what does it mean to direct an Adam Sandler film? Most of the works in his filmography are categorized by by some range of Sandler’s character in the center, surrounded by wackier characters, a chaotic environment, and an ingenue who has her heart won by Sandler’s schlubby goof. In this formula, often written and/or produced by Sandler himself, he needs to stand out in the center as the object around which the world of the film orbits. The judgement of every other character is seen through the worldview of Sandler’s character. In Happy Gilmore, despite his anger issues, Happy sticks it to the uptight, overly competitive golf world by bringing in some working-class flare. The uptight other golfers, particularly Shooter McGavin, come off toolish and stiff in comparison, making Happy’s flaws seem likeable and appealing. This same formula of characterization holds true in Billy Madison, Big Daddy, The Waterboy, Mr. Deeds, Little Nicky, etc. The job of a Sandler director, therefore, is to manage the world around Sandler so Sandler’s comedy can stand out in contrast most clearly. The role of the Happy Madison director is to be a yes man. READ MORE

How FX's 'You’re the Worst' Has Quietly Become the Best New Comedy on Television

The summer television season used to be reserved for the ignoble combination of network miscalculations and obligatory burn offs as the Big Four reserved their more acclaimed pilots for the prestigious fall season. Luckily, the television landscape is slowly evolving. While the upcoming spate of new network sitcoms suggest that the low end of the dial may be clinging to the cozy confines of the familiar, FX’s freshman series You’re the Worst has embraced the allure of the unknown and, in the process, has quietly delivered the most entertaining comedy of the year.

Described as a "dark twist on the romantic comedy genre,” You’re the Worst follows the budding relationship between two professionals in the field of self-destruction: Jimmy, a misanthropic novelist, and Gretchen, a recreationally dishonest music publicist — both of whom, as you may have gleaned from the title, are somewhere near the vicinity of the worst.

YTW debuted this summer with a promising pilot, but fearlessly strutted into “double take” territory soon there after as the series began to exude a quality rarely seen in a rookie sitcom: poise. The series radiates confidence with an unflinching comprehension of its own unique point of view while defiantly refusing to pander to anything other than its own ethos. Sitcom chemistry may not be an exact science, but creator Stephen Falk and the casting department went straight up Louis Pasteur mode on You’re the Worst. READ MORE

This Week in Web Videos: A Model Young Republican

People who go to Harvard are very funny. Always. 100 percent of the time. Whether they mean to be (Lampoon) or not (pastels most of the Western world struggles to classify). Tyler Hall means to be, but he has a great appreciation for those who don't, folks who put together GOP propaganda pieces like this. And like any good Harvard comedy man, he knows how to do two things: 1. recognize the delightfully absurd bits of everyday life and 2. turn those into a really incisive piece that checks both the entertainment and social commentary boxes. He also probably knows how to make a group of people aware that he went to Harvard in super casual ways like: "The weather's much better here than it is in Cambridge, Mass" and "I never liked the color crimson until college, at Harvard" and "Just so ya'll idiots know, I went to Harvard. Cool?" Our editorial team is still investigating the last one. All Harvard jokes aside, this is one of the funniest things I've seen on the Internet in a while. Just goes to show you that, when it comes to producing quality comedy, there really is no substitute for a smarty pants.

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

Watch Scott Adsit, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and More in the 1997 Second City Sketch "Grandma's Records"

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's clip comes from Second City's 82nd revue called Paradigm Lost, which took place in February 1997 and starred ensemble performers Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit, Kevin Dorff, Jenna Jolovitz, and Jim Zulevic. In the sketch "Grandma's Records," Adsit goes through some of the recently deceased Mother Superior's records to play at her memorial, only to discover that she had a secret stash of some very sinful music. Costarring Dratch and Jolovitz as a pair of nuns and Fey, Dorff, and Zulevic providing the tunes, "Grandma's Records" is a close call-filled look at these Second City stars before they hit it big; Tina Fey joined the writing staff of SNL the same year. For more vintage Dratch and Fey, check out the full video of their Second City show Dratch & Fey from two years later.

Finding Business Lessons in the World of Improv

In his book Funny Business, Bill Connolly explores the connection between business and comedy. With interviews from Boston’s powerhouse standup Gary Gulman to the owners of Boston’s Improv Asylum, Connolly explores how his ten comedic principles, if applied, can better any boardroom or office.

For several years Connolly performed at the Improv Asylum in Boston and worked as a marketing analyst. He couldn’t deny the benefit his professional life received from his comedic one, and it inspired him to research the correlation.The result? His book and a new career.

Connolly currently travels for the ad agency iCrossing teaching improv to all its US employees. I caught up with him while he was on the road, and we talked improv, business, and how the concepts of comedy can change everything.

Tell me about Funny Business. What would you like to see written about it that you haven’t yet?

It has been written about a little bit almost as a novelty in the business world.  What I think is particularly interesting about it is the comedy side because I have not seen that written about. What I’ve learned from my research and from experience is that there are a lot of business people who are also comedians.

It’s not just like, “Hey lets take some basic ideas of comedy and make a business.” There are actually people who are working comics outside of the workplace. They have jobs and careers. I think taking a substantial look from the comedy side of it is interesting. READ MORE

Getting Weird in Toronto with Tim Gilbert

Tim Gilbert has been a fixture on Toronto’s alternative comedy scene for almost a decade, and is one of the most consistently funny comedians in the city. He’s a member of Laugh Sabbath, a group that boasts alumni like Nathan Fielder. Tim released his first album, Please Help Me I Am Very Sick, as a pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp. I spoke to him about the album, his wide range of work, and how his blend of horror and comedy has led him to wear a Crypt Keeper costume on stage. READ MORE

11 Standup Comedians Who Became 'SNL' Cast Members

In addition to the recent hiring of standup Michael Che as co-anchor of Weekend Update, yesterday SNL revealed some surprising hiring news with the announcement that young standup Pete Davidson has been added to the cast as a featured player. SNL has an unpredictable history with hiring standup comedians, and while many seamlessly stepped into the impersonation, sketch acting, and recurring character mold — see Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, and Darrell Hammond, to name a few — most of the show's standups-turned-players stayed true to their roots, often appearing on Weekend Update and finding ways to make sketch characters take on their own standup sensibilities to varying degrees of success. Here's a look at 11 of them: READ MORE

Exploring the Hidden Racist Past of the Looney Toons

I have an uncomfortable confession to make: I have never liked the Looney Tunes. Despite the cultural pervasiveness of these characters, and a lifelong love of animation on my part, they’ve always struck me as annoying, repetitive, and boring — for all the pandemonium that Bugs Bunny and his ilk ostensibly represent, their chaos is bland, their destruction is predictable, and their lineage is corporate.

To be fair, my exposure to Looney Tunes at the time bore that out pretty well: I grew up in the age of Space Jam and the slew of jerseys, sneakers, McDonald’s toys, pogs, and cookie jars that film spawned. Today is no better, with the Roadrunner and Foghorn Leghorn perhaps most recognizable as shills for companies like Time Warner and GEICO.

Yet this was not always the case, as demonstrated by the excellent Chuck Jones exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Entitled “What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones”, this retrospective illuminates the originality and charm of Jones in particular and the Looney Tunes in general. I learned that Bugs Bunny’s smart-alecky attitude and cigar-like carrot were based on Groucho Marx, and Wile E Coyote’s design was inspired by Mark Twain’s description of the coyote as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton…with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face…The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want.”

I was also surprised to discover how topical these cartoons were — as a kid watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, I didn’t catch many of the forty-year-old references. Yet Looney Tunes was a definite forerunner to the adult animation of today, poking fun at contemporary politics and pop culture. These cartoons were far from the squeaky-clean version of today: they were vibrant, innovative, and often subversive. While this certainly makes these shorts more interesting, it also means that some of the uglier elements of the time are on full display.

Such elements are abundantly clear in the Censored Eleven, shorts from the Warner Bros catalogue that were withheld from syndication due to racially offensive content. These cartoons have not been broadcast since 1968, though they are available online. I present them below, not to glamorize them but to shed some light on an occasionally fascinating — and often appalling — corner of an American institution. READ MORE

This Candlelight Vigil Is In Full Effect!, by Django Gold

Alright! Yeah! Now that's what I'm talking about! Ladies and gentlemen, I heard this candlelight vigil was going to be off the chain, but even I didn't see this one coming. It looks like just about everyone in Bloomdale came out tonight, and I know all you crazy party animals have only got one thing on your minds: finding Caitlin Ashfield and bringing her home safe and sound! Woo!

You know, when I first learned that one of our own had been reported missing, I knew what we had to do for our beloved daughter, sister, friend, and Bloomdale High School classmate: throw the wildest, rowdiest, most ass-kicking candlelight vigil the world has ever seen — and you people did not disappoint! Because if there's one thing we do in this town, it's support each other in times of need, and that means raising the roof! Am I right? You know I am! So let's make some noise! Let me hear you scream if you're pumped about finding Cait-linnnnn!

Woo! Now let's see those candles, people! Light 'em up, light 'em up! Yeah, it's like a big ol' Christmas tree out there. Here in Bloomdale, we do CVs the right way; here, it's go big or go home. You know what they say: Ain't no vigil like a Bloomdale vigil, 'cause a Bloomdale vigil don't stop! Until we have our Caitlin back, that is. READ MORE

How Bill Cosby Helped Launch Joan Rivers' Comedy Career

By the time she died, Joan Rivers had such an engraved image as an outrageous, foul-mouthed comedian that it’s hard to believe that she started out intending to be a dramatic stage actress. In the late fifties, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College with a degree in English lit and anthropology, she even played the then-daring part of lesbian in a play called “Driftwood” that had a six-week run in a 40-seat attic theater on West 49th Street. (Her lover was another still undiscovered young actress by the name of Barbra Streisand.) By the early sixties, however, Rivers wasn’t getting much theater work, so she accepted an offer from Fred Weintraub, the owner of The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, to join two other down-on-their luck entertainers name Jake Holmes and Jim Connell in a new act called “Jim, Jake and Joan.”

Last year’s sleeper Coen Brothers hit Inside Llewyn Davis offered a reminder, but it’s impossible to exaggerate how what a buzzing hive of talent, creativity and ambition Greenwich Village was in those days. In the music world, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul and Mary were shaking up the folk scene at Gerde’s Folk City and the Gaslight Café. At The Village Gate and the Half Note, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus were pushing the boundaries of jazz. At the Café Cinno, Off-Off-Broadway was being born. And at The Bitter End, Weintraub was proving that he could pack the house not just with musical acts like The Big 3, featuring the young Mama Cass, but a new generation of cerebral, confessional comedians that included Woody Allen and Bill Cosby. READ MORE

On the Road with Gary Gulman

Gary Gulman is on tour right now in support of his upcoming third standup special, It’s About Time. Like his jokes, the title has several layers and meanings. But you could add one more: it’s about time Gulman is recognized as one of the best standup comedians working today.

Now 20 years in, Gulman is one of the most consistent performers around in the vaunted New York comedy scene. He’s done specials for all the major comedy networks and is one of the few comedians who can boast of appearances on all seven late night talk shows. His joke writing is legendary, and he’s got an uncanny ability to come up with hysterical bits no matter how minute the subject matter.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Gulman about his new tour, working with Louis C.K., therapy, and some of his unproduced sitcoms. READ MORE

Why Chris Rock's 1991 Debut Standup Album Is as Relevant Today as Ever

Chris Rock’s first standup album, Born Suspect, was recorded in 1991, but it seems like it could have been recorded last month. Sure, comics are always kind of mining the same big issues in the human condition and that’s why we get lots of “black people are like this, white people are like this” “women vs. men” jokes. But seriously, both in overall tone and specific cultural references, this album is like…you know…relevant and stuff.

Background: Born Suspect was recorded in Atlanta in 1991 and came out I think only on cassette, although the internet kind of makes all that irrelevant. It was recorded in a black comedy club in Atlanta, which I mention only because this was during Rock’s tenure at SNL, where he was doing characters like Nat X, who he referred to in a 2008 interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine as “a watered down Eddie Murphy bit” and “cute.” This was his real shit. Standup in a comedy club with glasses clinking and a low ceiling and the kind of hoarse voice you get from doing shows every night before you’re a rich guy who drinks honey tea all the time and lives in Connecticut.

The first thing that makes you double check when this was recorded is just the topics he talks about. Minimum wage (“you know what they’re saying when they pay you minimum wage? They’re saying ‘I would pay you less, but it’s illegal.’”), the Washington Redskins’ racist name (“That’s like the New York Ni**ers or the Denver Dykes”), white kids’ entitlement (“Allowance? I was ‘allowed’ to go outside.”), and how the old men in the Supreme Court fuck over women (“I wouldn’t want a bunch of women voting on my balls or nothing.”) READ MORE

Joan Rivers Reflects on Legacies, Death, and Bathing in a Sink

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.)

As you know, last week we lost legend Joan Rivers. One of the hardest working people in the business, her absence is felt very strongly in the comedy community. In 1991 she sat down with fellow comedian Alan King on his show Inside the Comedy Mind for an interview that is equal parts funny, illuminating and candid. In it she reflected on her career to that point, her struggles and how she got there.

At this point in her career, Joan was entering uncharted tragedy. Three years ago she had faced one of the most tragic and turbulent moments of her life. The late night show that she had hosted, which inadvertently severed her relationship with long-time mentor and friend Johnny Carson, was canceled after six months on the air, which led to the suicide of her husband Edgar. Slowly she reentered the comedy world as a standup and went on to host a daytime talk show that would run for five years and win a Daytime Emmy award. It was in the midst of the resurgence that Joan was interviewed on Alan King's show. READ MORE

This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Rob Corddry Makes It Weird

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.

You Made It Weird - Rob Corddry

SCOTT: Rob Corddry (Children’s Hospital, Hot Tub Time Machine) makes it weird with Pete Holmes this week on a lot of levels. Out of the gate, one of the first major topics is the time Corddry’s mom asked him to come home for Father’s Day so she could come out of the closet as a lesbian. Almost an hour of talk about therapy, overloving mothers, and the magical story of how Corddry met his wife, they realized they never got very far into the lesbian mom story. Or any story for that matter. Oh well. Holmes just came from therapy and he’s going with the flow. There’s very little talk of comedy or career here, with the two men preferring to drift into the depths of discussions about the nature of reality, freudian egos, and the afterlife. But while there’s plenty of weird to go around, the weirdest thing of all is Holmes referencing an episode of YMIW that is apparently all about him hooking his brain up to a machine that controls his DVD player – an episode he insists will have come out by the time we’re listening to this one. Let’s hope that’s just a scheduling mishap and not a reference to another episode doomed to wander the podcast plains, un-listened-to, like the oft-mentioned but never-heard Janeane Garofalo episode. READ MORE