Featured Posts

Watching Rare Early Comedy from Jay Leno and Freddie Prinze

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.)

When one thinks about the standup comedy boom of the 1980s you probably think about comedians with household names like Seinfeld, Ellen, and Ray Romano. You probably remember shows like Live at the Apollo, and An Evening at the Improv. And you probably think of hacky premises like airline food, the DMV, and observations about the differences between black people versus white people. Well all of those things have a connection back to Budd Friedman's Improv theaters in New York and LA. Today we look back at one of if not the first specials recorded inside this storied theater, and HBO's first ever comedy special: On Location: Freddie Prinze and Friends.

Now if you're a child of the nineties, you might think that I stopped typing Freddie Prinze Jr.'s name too soon, but today we're going back to 1976 when troubled comedian Freddie Prinze recorded the only footage of himself performing in front of a nightclub audience, creating a unique snapshot of the world of standup comedy in LA during this time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Prinze's work, he started in New York after dropping out of high school during his senior year to pursue standup. In 1973, at the age of 19, he performed a star making set on Carson's Tonight Show and became the first guest to be called over to the couch during their first appearance. The following year he was cast in the title role of the NBC sitcom Chico and the Man. Unfortunately by January of 1977 he had fallen deeply into drugs, and committed suicide at the age of 22, ending an all-too-short career. READ MORE

This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Amy Schumer Visits 'The Joe Rogan Experience'

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. Also, we'll keep you posted on the offerings from our very own podcast network. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.

The Joe Rogan Experience – Amy Schumer

LEIGH: Joe Rogan couldn't have been more accurate in this episode when he said that now is a nice time to be a comedy fan. And listening to Amy Schumer on this episode of The Joe Rogan Experience is proof of why. Rogan and Schumer cover the important things on everyone's mind like ballerinas, piranhas, rap battles and Eddie Izzard's marathon running. But it was only a matter of time before "Is it hard to be a woman in comedy?" came up. This time, however, we hear about it from a different angle – in response to Jerry Seinfeld's response to criticism over the lack of diversity in his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It's hard to ignore the fact that the conversation gets tense at points, but that tension only works to make this episode that much more entertaining. READ MORE

The Comedy Sequel and Reboot Tolerability Scale

It seems like there's an announcement about a new sequel or remake every day, with pretty much every successful movie you can think of at one point being developed as a potential franchise. In just the past two weeks alone, news about sequels to Mrs. Doubtfire and Goonies and reboots of Police Academy and Gremlins has hit the internet. With comedy, sequels and reboots are especially tricky, and you can count the number of good ones on one hand, but that doesn't stop studios from buying them in bulk.

Since updates about sequels and reboots to beloved (and non-beloved) comedies trickling in nonstop, it can be hard to keep track of all of them. We gathered them all up for our Comedy Sequel and Reboot Tolerability Scale, ranking everything in the categorizes Good Ideas, Sure Why Not?, If You Must, Don't Do That, and Nightmares: READ MORE

Does FX's 'Fargo' Keep the Original's Darkness While Losing the Comedy?

Many words have been written this week about Tuesday’s premiere of the FX eponymous miniseries adaptation of Fargo, particularly in regards to its faithfulness to the classic and nearly universally adored Coen Brothers original. Critics seem to agree that the show, with the Coen Brothers blessing represented in the form of an Executive Producer credit, is faithful in setting and in certain character similarities to the film, but it is mostly not attempting to be an adaptation at all. Rather, it is its own set of stories that take place in the same snow-covered, “you betcha” oeuvre and the various criminals — hapless to exacting — that inhabit and pass through. I should say from the jump that I quite enjoyed the pilot episode, which flashed tremendous story and character potential to be fleshed out as the world builds and expands over its ten hour run. However, judging from the pilot, it seems the show will fall more into the realm of dark male violence that has defined prestige television for the last decade rather than the misanthropic dark comedy typical of my favorite Coen films. In other words, Fargo the series may have kept the dark and lost the comedy.

Just looking at the opening shots of the two projects, there are strong indicators of the mood the creators are trying to set. Both shots begin with titles on screen, the frame covered in the white Minnesota winter. In the distance, a beat up car drives towards the frame, and that is where the similarities end. In the film, as the car gets closer we see it drive through the frame towing another car behind it, an actively unusual scene. We later learn that the driver of that car is William H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard, the hapless sleaze whose choice to have his wife kidnapped in an effort to collect the ransom sets the films plot in motion. In the show, the car belongs to Billy Bob Thornton's Lorne Malvo who drives through the night, hits a deer, swerves off the road, and lets loose a man in his underwear who was held captive in his trunk. In leading with Malvo, who through the pilot is the shows most ruthless and capable character, a darker, more precise tone is set. Malvo is a confident killer in the vein of the No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh.

The difference in these two opening shots is important in an overall stylistic choice by the creators of the TV project that shifts the tone further away from comedy. Perhaps symptomatic of a large TV budget or even just advances in technology, FX’s Fargo simply looks much better, cleaner, and crisper than its source material. The deeper blacks and more shadowy lighting set ups, variations in depth of field, work to give the show a heavier, more serious look. It is a look we can associate with murder stories. What works so well in the film is that the darkness in the characters and plot is juxtaposed against all the homey midwestern effect of the production design. Macy’s tacky office, his suit that is practically eating him alive, the cars he sells, the way the whole thing is very flatly lit, all have a light, somewhat dirty, drab quality to them that gives the film and very particular quirk. READ MORE

This Week In Web Videos: 'The Actress', Season 3

I told myself I’d never cover the same series twice, but when I made that promise, I hadn’t conceived of a couple like Ann Carr and Warren Holstein — the hearts and brains behind one of the web’s longest running and consistently excellent series, The Actress. In a digital environment saturated with folks making shameless grabs at quasi-fame and fleeting HuffPo notoriety and then trying something new if they don’t get instantly huge, this series stands out not only because it’s quality, but also because its creators are so apparently committed to putting the time in, nurturing The Actress in its native state to make it the absolute best it can be for them, not for a development executive who may be scrolling through this site.

Tell me about how you each got into comedy and what the beginnings of this series were? 

Ann Carr: Everything really started with this one-person show I did at UCB probably about 4 years ago. It was called “Use It”; it was just a bunch of different vignettes of different experiences from my day job and auditions. Then after that stage show was done, it ran about a year, I was kind of at a loss. I was really missing it and wanted to do more. I felt like one of my vignettes from my show would make a good episode so I put it online and we sort of started from there.

Warren Holstein: Me and Anne have been together for twelve years. I don’t really do a lot of acting, but I do do standup and writing so even when she was doing the stage show I would help her with punching it up. Just putting jokes in it. About four of the episodes come from the one woman show that Ann did and it’s kind of strange because in the show the characters were all played by Ann but for the web series we had to cast people to play these characters Ann had played in the show. We would get into arguments about what should happen in episodes because we both were so invested in it and the compromises we ended up making ended up making the episodes even better. By the second season the arguing became less, it didn’t become as heated, and we both got into this process where either Ann or I would write the first draft and then we would go back and forth between the two of us. Eight times. This is probably the most regimented that we’ve done it, this season. Like this season, “The Dermatologist,” is based on my real dermatologist that I recommended to Ann. We did exaggerate but that scene where he’s squeezing her face, that guy really did that to her, he really squeezed Ann’s face. READ MORE

The Multi-Talented Maya Rudolph's Finest Musical Moments

Yesterday, NBC announced that The Maya Rudolph Show, a new variety show special from the comedic actress of the same name, will premiere on May 19th. The Lorne Michaels-produced one-off special, which features guests like Craig Robinson, Andy Samberg, and Janelle Monáe, will serve as a pilot for a Rudolph-fronted variety show for the network.

Rudolph hosting a variety show is no surprise as she's had dual passions for music and comedy for decades now. The daughter of soul singer Minnie Ripperton, Rudolph worked as a keyboardist and backup singer for the band The Rentals before landing at SNL. On SNL and Up All Night, Rudolph sang frequently, goofing on talented pop stars and horrendously untalented singers with equal precision. In 2012, she launched a female Prince cover band called Princess with friend Gretchen Lieberum, a college friend who's an LA-based jazz singer-songwriter, and the group has found acclaim online.

To give you an idea of what to expect from The Maya Rudolph Show's musical segments, here's a collection of her best musical moments, both comedic and sincere: READ MORE

Looking at the Planned 2008 Version of 'Beverly Hills Cop IV'

"The Script Pile" is a biweekly column on Splitsider that takes a look at the screenplays for high-profile movie and TV comedies that never made it to the screen.

Eddie Murphy has been trying to get a fourth Beverly Hills Cop movie made since the late '90s, and it's something he and director Brett Ratner are still currently working on. Beverly Hills Cop IV was briefly called off last year as plans to shift the franchise towards a CBS series called Beverly Hills Cop starring Axel Foley's son, Aaron Foley (played by Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder) with Murphy producing and playing a recurring role, but when the network passed on the pilot, plans to get another Beverly Hills Cop movie going again were put into motion, with Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy returning to the project.

The script I'm reviewing today is not the current draft of Beverly Hills Cop IV that's in development, but rather a 2008 draft for a sequel that could have been, called Beverly Hills Cop 2009. Both Murphy and director Brett Ratner were attached to the script, which was written by action movie duo Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma, creators of Chicago Fire). READ MORE

16 of Conan O'Brien's Most Memorable Remote Segments

Since Conan O'Brien made his late-night host debut on Late Night in 1993, he's never shied away from taking his work out of the studio and onto the streets, whether that be New York City during his NBC days, the Los Angeles area during his current run on TBS, and beyond — from small town America to across the pond. O'Brien has led countless unforgettable remote segments over the past 20 years, and after his recent weeklong visit to Dallas and turn hosting the MTV Movie Awards this past weekend, here's a look at some of his best and most ridiculous out-of-studio visits from the past two decades, from the time he played old-timey baseball to the time he bonded with his custom-made American Girl doll Agnes. READ MORE

Looking at 'Rick and Morty's Meticulously-Crafted First Season

The inaugural season of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s runaway Cronenbergian monster of a hit, Rick and Morty, wrapped last night, ending a nearly flawless season of ambitious animated television. The scope and complexity of Rick and Morty should be no surprise considering that Harmon is no stranger to ambitious, meticulously-constructed television on his other series, Community. What’s especially worth noting in Harmon and Roiland's collaboration this time around is that Rick and Morty is essentially your only hope to standing up against the unforgiving universe(s) and all of its bleakness.

It’s also a very, very funny show. READ MORE

What's on TV This Week: 'Community' and 'Rick and Morty's Season Finales

It's a week full of season finales as network and cable shows alike are wrapping up for a little while. Both of Dan Harmon's TV shows, Rick and Morty and Community, are airing season finales this week, with Chris Elliott guest starring on the Community finale, the second half of a two-parter. Workaholics, Mom, and The Crazy Ones are also wrapping up their seasons.

Jim Rash's Sundance interview series The Writers' Room returns for its second season, and FX's dark comedy-drama Fargo will air its 90-minute premiere. The show features comedy people like Bob Odenkirk, Martin Freeman, Glenn Howerton, and Key & Peele.

Things are looking pretty slow in the late night world this week in the wake of last week's Late Show with Stephen Colbert announcement. SNLDaily Show, Colbert Report, Letterman, FallonKimmel, Meyers, Letterman, @midnight, and Arsenio are all showing reruns this week.

Check out the week's full listing of comedy shows below:

How to Develop a Thicker Skin, by Andi Sharavsky

As social creatures, we human beings are met with constant criticism and ridicule from friends, enemies, relatives, bosses, strangers, vague acquaintances, everyone at the gym, and, most often, ourselves. The common solution offered to combat these daily emotional digs is to “develop a thicker skin.”

While that’s all well and good metaphorically, it’s also, you know, not a real thing that humans can do. Our hands and feet form calluses after enough time and wear, but we are not equipped with a go-go-gadget feelings fortress to build up our resistance and shut the world out. Plus, if watchingPacific Rim while high taught me anything, it's that when science does eventually develop a robo-somatic addition to make people stronger, we'll all just get a lot of nosebleeds and then die fighting sea-aliens. Therefore, I have made it my personal goal to find the perfect material or method for becoming impermeable to the negativity of others forever. Here are my results: READ MORE

Talking to Cartoonist Rich Stevens About His Comic Strip, 'Diesel Sweeties'

Rich Stevens’s comic strip Diesel Sweeties is an odd creation. An online strip with pixelated artwork, it features a strange cast of characters including an emotional robot, an ex-pornstar, and various humans, cats, and mechanical devices. He’s also the man behind merchandise including a “Fuck This” ice scraper and a mug “What Do We Want? Coffee. When Do We Want It? I’ll Fucking Cut You!”

Since 2000, he’s been making daily comics for the web about veganism, music, technology, and celebrating and eviscerating hipsters before the term was widely used. He has a new book just out, Bacon is a Vegetable; Coffee is a Vitamin, and I caught up with him recently about what exactly it is that he does. READ MORE

'SNL' Review: Seth Rogen Half-Baked

While watching Seth Rogen host SNL for the third time last weekend, I was reminded of two other three-peat hosts from earlier this season: Paul Rudd in December and Jonah Hill in January. Rudd's episode felt like extended promo for Anchorman 2, with the host failing to capture that lightning in the bottle with cast members that made his previous stints so memorable. Hill, however, seemed to enjoy himself every bit as much as he did his first two appearances.

Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill are, of course, hugely successful alumni from Team Judd Apatow, but their careers have taken diverging trajectories. Rogen and Rudd have stuck closely to studio comedies and rom-coms, while Hill has attempted to carve out a larger niche for himself, pursuing meatier roles in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, and earning Oscar nominations in the process. I have to wonder if Hill's breaking from the pack gave him an edge in his return to SNL; he possessed the calm under pressure of an actor accustomed to playing opposite heavyweights like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Meanwhile, Rudd and Rogen both looked like dudes wondering what happened to their old frat buddies – Hader, Samberg, Wiig… you know, the guys! — struggling to recreate the magic with the new cast and clinging to A-list guest stars whenever possible. Rudd and Rogen's pack mentality does them little good if they don't yet accept the new SNL kids as part of that pack.

To be fair, Seth Rogen's episode was a vast improvement from Rudd's, falling right in between that and Jonah Hill's. Yes, Rogen was too often cast as the passive, flustered straight man SNL relegates to weaker hosts, but the episode also gave us one of the most interesting lineups we've seen in a while, with some creatively daring premises, fiery performances, and a few pleasant reminders that Nasim Pedrad and Cecily Strong can still take care of business in sketches. Then again, only half of those daring premises actually paid off, resulting in an episode that felt — forgive me — a little half-baked. READ MORE

Follow Friday: @JenaFriedman

A lot of Twitter users take to the platform to test out their latest jokes and quips, but certain people truly excel at making us laugh with the available characters and constraints. With the Internet being such a big place, it can be difficult to find the comedians most worthy of your RTs and favs. Each Friday we feature one person whose consistent short-form online humor deserves your attention and to be on your Twitter feed.

This week, we're recommending the Twitter feed of Jena Friedman. The New York standup is a former Letterman writer and current field producer for The Daily Show. She wrote 2007's The Refugee Girls Revue, a satirical play inspired by the American Girl dolls and is also the creator of the web series Ted and Gracie, a parody of The New York Times wedding videos. Check out a collection of her best tweets below: