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The Right Man For the Job, by Django Gold

To the Glendale High School Class of 2015:

As you well know, this coming Saturday marks that most cherished of high school traditions, the senior prom, during which you, our soon-to-be-graduated Glendale Badgers, will gather at the fabulous DeVille Hotel for an evening of dancing and wonderment you'll not soon forget. The prom is a special moment in one's life, and so, in hopes of presiding over the glitz and glamour that mark this most magical of nights, I hereby submit my candidacy for prom king.

Just as in past years, my credentials for this lofty office speak for themselves. Moreover, unlike the pimply amateurs who have repeatedly besmirched the crown with their ill-fitted rental tuxedos and seething hormonal agony, I alone possess the life experience necessary to do justice to this position. Frankly, at the advanced but still capable age of 34, I feel that I've been patient enough for my turn at holding court over the Glendale High student body. This Saturday is my time to shine, and, just as surely as there exists a Creator in the sky and a Demon in the earth, I will not be denied again.

Go Badgers! READ MORE

Translating Travel to the Stage with Bert Kreischer

You may know Bert Kreischer as a famous party animal who gained notoriety in a late '90s Rolling Stone article. Now it's nearly twenty years later and this comedian has a wife and two kids, a book detailing his party lifestyle, a successful podcast and standup career. He is the host of Trip Flip, a television show where he finds random people on the street and surprising them with a free trip full of adrenaline-filled adventure.

I recently spoke with Bert about finding comedy in fear, storytelling without bragging and using his podcast to make new friends.

Are you achieving your comedy goals?

Jesus Christ, you have no idea you are hitting that nail on the head at the exact moment where I am questioning what the fuck I'm doing in life! I've just gotten to a place where I'm saying, "What is the goal?" Here is my fear: I always feel everything in comedy is fleeting. You get to a point where you are making real money and your wife is like, "Hell yeah!" and in a weird way you feel like everything is fleeting. Obviously in a much bigger scale guys like Dane Cook who was selling arenas and is now going back to clubs. What the fuck am I doing? Am I on the right path, and taking that path correctly by respecting it? Am I writing enough? I am also cutting this feeling by spending half the year or more doing TV. But it's not like I'm doing network sitcoms that translate into people wanting to see me do standup. I am doing a travel show where I am having amazing, life-fulfilling adventures: but am I telling people about these insane adventures by being this conduit of comedy and travel or am I that guy talking about blowjobs? I cannot talk about blowjobs. When I was young — and this is much more than you looked for in this answer — I could go, "What's up with blowjobs?" and run with it. Now I want to talk about the cultural differences between Japanese and Vietnamese people and what it is like to travel abroad but I wonder if I sound arrogant. But people come out to see me drink beers, tell party stories, talk about the machine or fighting a bear. I'm really at this crossroads at how I'm going to translate these life experiences onstage. I am probably two specials behind in my tapings and have about two hours I want to get rid of. I've been telling this machine story that I am proud of and people like it but when have I been telling it too long? When am I going to grow as an artist? So to answer your question in short — I'm at a crossroads, I have no fucking clue. READ MORE

'SNL' Review: Pulling Punches with Scarlett Johansson

SNL may have lost the revolutionary spirit fans claim it embraced in the 1970s, but this season has proven the show can still pack a punch of satire when it wants to. From a father tearfully handing off his teenage daughter to ISIS, to a Fault in our Stars parody that infected the characters with Ebola, to a gutsy takedown of Scientology, many of Season 40's more resonant moments have witnessed SNL reconnecting with its counter-cultural roots. This episode's "Blazer" sketch, which featured an old-school supercop targeting black men, was one of the more boldly retro forms of comedy we've seen on the show in a while.

But these rare glimmers of lawlessness come at odds with the overall trend of satire on SNL, where a big tent mindset has made it difficult for the writers to take a stand on any issue. Too often in recent seasons has the joke of a sketch been, "Isn't it hard to avoid offending people these days?" — a somewhat pandering refrain that makes for interesting comedy ("The Dudleys," "Asian American Doll"), but one that puts the show on the defensive, rather than lashing out at the absurdities of the world. To be fair, the show was dealt a tricky hand this week, with uncomfortable news events like the Baltimore riots, and many viewers lured away by a titanic Mayweather-Pacquiao fight that SNL wouldn't know the results of until nearly the end of the broadcast. But rather than embracing these challenges, the episode often hid behind political correctness and half-measures of satire… a safe approach foretold by a full 60 seconds of excuses that scrolled at the top of the episode.

That's not to say the episode wasn't funny. Scarlett Johansson showed a far broader comedic range than her unmemorable 2010 appearance led us to believe, and Taran Killam was in top form, along with a not-seen-enough Jay Pharoah. When it comes down to it, SNL doesn't need to completely eviscerate the Baltimore police or Marvel studio execs. With people like John Oliver around to fight the good fight, SNL in 2015 just wants to make us laugh. And sometimes that means pulling its punches. READ MORE

Finding the Balance with Nate Bargatze

12 years into his comedy career, Nate Bargatze has found himself at a crossroads. He's been on The Tonight Show, Conan and WTF with Marc Maron. He's performed at Bonnaroo, SXSW and the Montreal Comedy Festival. This Saturday night, his new one-hour special, Full Time Magic, premieres on Comedy Central. But where will he go from here? As Bargatze puts it, “You get into comedy because you don't want anyone telling you what to do and then after you're in it for a while, you're like, 'God, I wish someone would tell me what to do.'”

Bargatze took a break from his busy schedule in L.A. to talk about the new special, balancing work and family life, and how 'learn how to bomb' is some of the best advice he's ever received. READ MORE

Drew Koshgarian (@MostlyPregnant) on Social Media and Jokes Being Thoughts

Drew Koshgarian is a writer and baker living in Los Angeles. She supplies pastries at UCB Sunset's Inner Sanctum Cafe. You can find Koshgarian's work online at The Impolite, a collection of comic writing from LA comedians that she edited with Matt Ingebretson and Bridger Winegar, as well as on Dick Pics, her podcast with Julia Prescott, and on her Tumblr. She likes her family.

This week Koshgarian spoke with me about three of her favorite tweets, and about handling social media in general, expanding or explaining tweets, and how Twitter helps her examine her attitude.

Koshgarian: There is just no chance the guy in question saw this or knew this was about him. We barely know each other. The only thing I know about him is that he fingered my friend, and where he works. READ MORE

He’s Not the Last Man on Earth Anymore and the Show Needs to Act Like It

I have watched every episode of The Last Man on Earth, and I could not tell you why Melissa Shart (January Jones) is so, so angry at Phil Miller. This is a problem, but mostly because I can’t know if this is because she’s the most poorly drawn character on the show, or the only one who behaves like a real, complex human being.

The Last Man on Earth stopped being that some time ago. By the end of the first episode our Last Man, Phil Miller (Will Forte), was joined by a Last Woman, Carol Pilbasion (Kristen Schaal). The pair have since been joined by other characters, starting with Extremely Hot Woman (Jones) and Notably Obese Man (Mel Rodriguez). Eventually the show included such diverse survivors as Extremely Hot and Sexual Older Woman (Mary Steenburgen*), Extremely Hot, Black, Australian Woman (Cleopatra Coleman) and finally, Extremely Hot Man Who Also Happens to Be Named Phil Miller What Are the Odds? (Boris Kodjo). The show might now better be called Maybe The Last Group of People on Earth but Let’s Face It, Probably Not.

While the show has, week after week, added characters, it hasn’t added much in the way of character traits. On most sitcoms, you can boil your favorite characters down to some unchanging adjectives: Ron Swanson is libertarian and no-nonsense, Michael Scott is clueless but well-meaning, Liz Lemon is overworked and hungry for sandwiches. This how sitcoms work — if Monica Geller was suddenly messy without warning, we wouldn’t recognize our Friends. But there’s been a trend lately of shows that, beyond one or two main characters, operate on a New Yorker cartoon level of characterization. It works well on shows like Man Seeking Woman or Louie, where you know you will never have to see Josh Greenberg’s literal troll of a blind date again, or the smug 24-year-old store owner who speaks truth to Big Louie and makes him feel old. In these worlds, we’re following one hapless but ultimately likable character through a confusing and terrifying heightened reality where nothing ever goes their way. Sure, those guys make mistakes and treat people badly, but when you’re up against actual Hitler, who can blame you?

The premise of The Last Man on Earth is a classic New Yorker Cartoon. What if there was only one man left on earth? And what if, in his solitude, he became boorish and chaotic and talked to balls (the inflatable sports kind, not his own)? But twist! What if there was a Last Woman on Earth and she was conservative, shrill and nagging? READ MORE

Watch Tina Fey, Scott Adsit, Rachel Dratch, and More Prove How Everything Is Connected

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.

Netflix is known for being very secretive about viewer ratings, but yesterday they revealed that some of their new series, including Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, brought in even more viewers than Netflix mainstay hit House of Cards, which premiered to 6.5% of subscribers compared to Unbreakable's 7.3%. So, what better excuse to unearth an old clip of Tina Fey improvising on the Second City stage? This week's clip comes from the 1996 mainstage revue Citizen Gates featuring Scott Adsit, Scott Allman, Kevin Dorff, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and Jenna Jolovitz. In the clip, the performers play a game called "Connections," in which they take audience suggestions for an everyday item and historical event (blenders and the Spanish Inquisition) and prove how the two have been forever connected. It's a long, complicated story involving bagels, SpaghettiOs, wooden teeth, heroin, and Keith Richards, but rest assured these guys have done their research.

Bathroom Emergencies and the Human Condition with Doug Mand

Doug Mand is a successful TV writer (The Comedians, How I Met Your Mother, NTSF:SD:SUV::). But he's also the host of Doodie Calls, a podcast where comedians, which have included past guests Lauren Lapkus, Bob Saget, and Jon Daly, confess their embarrassing bathroom stories. The through line connecting these two roles is a lifelong struggle with anxiety that both directly inspires and hinders his creativity. With Doodie Calls celebrating its 100th episode at UCB Franklin on April 29th, I talked to Doug about how anxiety affects the writing process, pooping's connection with the human condition, and how love is strengthened during life's most embarrassing moments.

Your podcast Doodie Calls is centered on comedians telling their most embarrassing bathroom stories. What is it about these situations that made you want to start a show devoted entirely to that topic?

I’m someone who’s had what my parents call a nervous stomach since I was seven. If I ever was in a position where I couldn't use the bathroom, that's when I'd have to go. In a friend's parent's car or a bar mitzvah. Any place you're not supposed to stand up in the middle of and leave, that's when I would have to go and it's happened my whole life. So I have a ton of those stories and I've always loved hearing other people's stories because it makes me feel less crappy about myself.

Was there a particular incident in your adolescence that scarred you?

When I was 13, I went to Milwaukee with my really good friend to visit his grandparents. And they were really wealthy and in the upper crest of Milwaukee. One day they were like, "Do you wanna go to the All-Star Game?" Because they were friends with [MLB Commissioner] Bud Selig. And we were like, "Yeah, of course." So we went to the game on a private jet with Bud Selig and there were seven people in this jet. Around halfway into the flight, I had to go. But there wasn't a real bathroom, there was a jump seat that was also the toilet. And it wasn't covered fully, it just had a curtain. Basically it was there if you had to pee. So I had to get up and shit in a private jet with Bud Selig probably seven feet from me. And the whole plane stunk to the point where his grandparents were actually mad at me. And on the way back, they plugged me full of Imodium because that could never happen again. I felt so much shame that I was with the one person who the All-Star Game couldn't have happened without and he spent 45 minutes smelling my shit. READ MORE

How 'Family Guy's Counter-Intuitive Bottle Episode Completely Defied Expectations

‘Genie in a Bottle’ is a recurring feature where each week a different bottle episode (an episode set entirely in one location, often designed to save money) from a comedy series is examined

“What would I do if you weren’t here? Life would be unbearable.”

Family Guy has certainly become a polarizing sitcom. You’d almost forget that it was the unusual, groundbreaking little-show-that-could that got canceled all those years ago before the masses demanded that it was brought back to life. Now, a show that has almost become a parody of itself (but then again, it’s hard for a show not to once its put thirteen seasons under its belt), it’s hardly heralded with the same enthusiasm that it originally was. Still, the show’s lasting power is certainly a testament to something, and the program was the first brick in Seth MacFarlane’s monopoly to take over Sunday nights on Fox. To the show’s credit, there is still an energy behind it that makes it capable of producing powerful, meaningful episodes of television. Family Guy took their 150th episode as such an occasion to make something different, using the bottle episode construct as the frame to contain it all.

What the show does here is get Brian and Stewie locked in a bank vault together for the entire episode. It’s a very basic premise, but it’s one that allows these two characters just to riff off each other for the episode, shifting conversation topics as they see fit. The episode is very conscious about making Stewie and Brian the focus here. Not only are they the only characters, but the episode is also without a score of any kind and even goes as far as featuring no cutaway gags, which are the show’s bread and butter. It all works very well here and it would almost defeat the purpose of doing a bottle episode if you’re allowed to pop out of that bottle every so often to cater to a cutaway. Here there is no luxury of escape, and the proximity that Brian and Stewie are being forced into is simultaneously felt by the audience.

Brian and Stewie’s relationship has always been the growing core of the series. What began as a humble bond between Brian and Peter (who is the only Griffin who isn’t mentioned in the episode), shifted to these two weird members of the family. Increasingly they’d be paired up, with their antics being what audiences seemed to want more than anything else. Therefore it makes a lot of sense for this episode to be all about dissecting their relationship, finally getting to the truth behind it all and dealing with it. It’s almost like a therapy session for the characters. We see them ping pong between deep animosity and hatred for each other to utter love and devotion for one another. They need one another, ultimately, more than they need anyone else. What follows too is a deeply considerate, respectful ode to who these two are and what their relationship really is. READ MORE

How Improv Helps Television's Best Comedy Writers

The best comedy lives in the moment, and improvisation is as in-the-moment as it gets. Improv proves you can create great comedy on the spot by listening, taking big chances, and working alongside a team, which is probably why the writing staffs of most television comedies today count at least a few experienced improvisers among their ranks. Similar to standups, writers of scripted comedy are tasked with conceiving, writing, reworking, and redrafting funny moments that, when at their most successful, land so naturally that an audience can't help but wonder: "Was this scripted or improvised?"

But true improvisation, Whose Line aside, rarely exists on television. Most of today's shows — even the live format of SNL — are meticulously blocked and rehearsed ahead of time, leaving little opportunity to go off-script. "What we do here is so nailed down that there's very little improvisation," Lorne Michaels told Vulture last year. "Every line, every bit of dialogue has a camera cut attached to it. If you're not where you're supposed to be, then they're going to miss the shot." So why, then, have improv institutions like the Upright Citizens Brigade, Second City, iO, Annoyance, and The Groundlings become the predominant training ground for television writers, and what skills from the stage best carry over to the writers' room? We reached out to writers with extensive improv backgrounds from Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and more to find out. READ MORE

Diving Into Late Night Head-First with Saurin Choksi

As a kid growing up in Texas, Saurin Choksi always loved comedy. After graduating college and moving to Detroit to take a job working for Ford, Choksi decided to do something about that love: he started taking classes at Second City. He worked his way up the improv school's chain before making a shift to standup. “Standup felt like a better fit for me.” Choksi later moved to Chicago and spent six years carving out a spot as a successful player in the Windy City's comedy scene. Over the last few years, he has performed at numerous festivals including SF Sketchfest, The Onion's 26th Annual Comedy Fest, Funny or Die's Oddball Festival Side Stage and The 2014 Boston Comedy Festival, where he tied for 1st Place.

Now based in New York, Choksi can be seen co-hosting the White Guy Talk Show on Fuse with fellow comedian Grace Parra. Just from the title alone, it's easy to decipher that WGTS isn't concerned with following the traditional mold used by the majority of late-night talk shows. The result is a loose, high energy show aimed at millennials who require a healthy dose of diversity in their entertainment choices.

I talked to Choksi about WGTS, starting over in a new city and the constant mental battle to stay positive. READ MORE

Auctioneering School Courses, by Alonso Cisneros

Gentleman in the Back 101. Introductory course to the gentleman in the back. The class will culminate in learning the name of this man, his alma mater's fight song, and the top 10 ghost stories he has ever heard.

Gentleman in the Back 102. Get a closer look at the gentleman in the back. Who is he? What’s his financial situation like? What life decisions led him to attend an auction alone on a Saturday afternoon? Does he regret them?

Gentleman in the Back 103. Now that you know about the gentleman in the back, it’s time to finally meet him. Upon enrollment, you will be given his address and car's license plate number. He is not expecting you, so your visit will probably frighten him. Instructions will be provided on how to subdue him.

Laaady in the Red Dress (a Feminism Study) Up until recent times, ladies weren’t allowed to bid at auctions. They also weren’t allowed to wear dresses or the color red until one woman dared to and no one seemed to mind either way. Learn more about the lady and her red dress, and how she has managed to attend every single auction on the planet. Also, don’t refer to her as "lady." Refer to her as a woman in a red dress. That's more like it. READ MORE

How Tom Green Uses the Internet to Find His Audience

Like the entire crew of Jackass shoved into a suit and a late-night show format, Tom Green has zero problem taking people into weird, disgusting, and uncomfortable territory. From public access to MTV to the ill-fated Freddy Got Fingered, Green has stuck to his own brand of Canadian lunacy for two decades.

It’s this writer’s opinion that Green was ahead of his time, and continues to be in a small respect. And having seen him recently, I can tell you with absolute confidence that he puts on one hell of a show.

I recently spoke to Green via phone about his latest efforts with touring as a standup and his "Webovision" online talk show. READ MORE

@LollyAdefope on Extroversion, Selfies, and Tweets That 'Say Something'

Lolly Adefope is a 24-year-old comedian, writer, and actor from London. She performs around London several times a week, and is performing her debut hour at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. You can hear some of her characters here and here. This week I spoke with Adefope about three of her favorite tweets, and we talked about extroversion, unattractive selfies, and tweeting in series.

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