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Alan Tudyk and the Joy of Playing Idiots

Alan Tudyk is one of the more recognizable faces acting today, even if his name and voice hide behind his characters. Tudyk has been on Broadway, starred in a beloved TV show, and has done voice-over work for animated hits including Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, and Disney’supcoming feature Big Hero 6. He was also Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Tudyk once attempted standup, but after facing a threatening heckler, he joined an improv troupe, learning a skill that has aided his acting career.

He most recently signed on as the new host of Newsreaders as it begins its second season Thursday night at midnight on Adult Swim. He plays Regan Biscayne, a character Tudyk calls “an idiot.” READ MORE

Is He Marriage Material, or Is He a Herman Miller Aeron Chair? by Thomas Scott

Is there anything worse than spending time with a guy who at the end of the day just isn’t interested in a serious commitment? Actually, there is: dating a guy who isn’t interested in existing with you on any real plane of consciousness, because he’s a luxury brand office chair. Here are some helpful pointers to make sure you don’t make that mistake!

Tip #1: Google his name.

Before you even go out on date, do a quick search. A name alone can sometimes give you an idea of his character. If his name is Herman, be a little cautious. If his given name is Miller, that’s okay,  but if it’s his surname be a little wary. If his name is Herman Miller Aeron Chair, cancel the date immediately, because he’s a chair.

Tip #2: Touch him.

When you first meet, be sure to grab a feel. It doesn’t have to be creepy. A handshake will suffice. Try to grab a feel near the torso. The point is to ensure that you are going on a date with a man, and not a Herman Miller Aeron Chair with a polo shirt pulled over it.


Getting Personal with Jonathan Katz

Interviewing Jonathan Katz is an interesting experience, especially when doing so over the phone. After all, most of us know him from the animated sitcom he created, wrote and voiced in the 90’s, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the series and is being celebrated with the release of a new album, Dr. Katz Live. Speaking to Katz over the phone was like talking to the Doctor himself. In fact, at times I caught myself opening up to him as if I were in an actual therapy session. Perhaps this is from his inquisitive nature and because he was genuinely interested in learning more about me as well.

As mentioned on his website, Katz’s comedy is not for everybody. It took him time to find his audience, but once he did, he established himself as a brilliant (and very dry) comedian. I recorded my conversation with him as I always do with interviews, to make sure I didn’t miss anything and in listening back on our conversation, I realized that I initially missed out on some of his humor. There were many moments, that that I never “got” until the second listening. Like the rest of the world, it took some time, but while I was a fan of the show before, now I’m an even bigger fan of the real guy. After you read our conversation, come back and read it again. I promise you’ll appreciate him even more the second time. READ MORE

Talking to @RachelHastings about Teenagers, Turning Tweets Into Sketches, and Her Mom

Rachel Hastings is a writer living in Los Angeles, where she writes for the Bob's Burgers comic (the third issue of which comes out October 29th from Dynamite Comics), works in the production department for Bob's Burgers the TV show, and is a writer on the UCB LA Maude team Tut. This week I asked Hastings to tell me about some of her favorite tweets she's made. She talked to me about creating sketches out of those tweets, the funniest thing she's ever seen on Twitter, and her mom's role in all this. Check out some of her tweets below, and follow @RachelHastings for more.

Hastings: This is just something I really hope has happened in real life. I know I'm assuming a lot, for instance, that the song "Come on Eileen" was written about a real woman named Eileen, and that this real woman does not have nor will ever have anything else going on in her life, but again, I hope she's out there and that this conversation has taken place. Additionally, when I tweeted this, my friend Lauren immediately replied "Sketch," and I later wrote it into a sketch that was performed by my UCB LA Maude team, Tut. So my dream did come true on some level. READ MORE

'South Central': A Sitcom 20 Years Before Its Time

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.)

This summer, with the events of Ferguson, Missouri making headlines around the world, a lot of people were talking about California in the early 1990s. There were the famous 1992 riots, frequent clashes with the LAPD, and just, in general, a really bad time for racial politics in America. And what was happening this summer didn’t make us feel like we had progressed all that far in the twenty years in between. Emerging from this landscape, in 1994 Fox began airing a sitcom called South Central, named for the neighborhood in Los Angeles where the aforementioned riots began, and one with incredibly high rates of gang violence, crime, and poverty.

South Central is a comedy. It’s a comedy with a lot of drama, but it was indeed a 1990s comedy, which generally meant there would be a living room set, three cameras to shoot it, and a live studio audience to watch it being shot. However, what was happening on this living room set, and the issues that were being addressed, made it incredibly different from any other show on TV. South Central follows the Lifford family, which is comprised of Tina, the mother, and single parent of Andre, her teenage son, Tasha, her middle school-aged daughter, and Deion, her toddler foster child. The Cosby Show, which at this point was the last major sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast had ended its run two years earlier and painted a much different picture with two parents, a doctor and a lawyer, raising their family comfortably in a massive brownstone. The opening shot of the pilot episode of South Central lets you know that you’re in for a much different experience. READ MORE

What a _________ Job: How Mad Libs Are Written

“There’s a very small number of people on this planet who have this very specific job.” That’s how Mad Libs editor Laura Marchesani describes her work, and the exact thought that made me curious about a game I hadn’t played in decades.

Mad Libs have been a household name since their first release by publisher Price Stern Sloan (now a division of Penguin) in 1958. The game has a sophisticated origin story, told years ago by its inventor Leonard Stern: Stern’s friend Roger Price, whom he’d met when they were writing for The Tonight Show, had come over to polish a humor book they’d written together called What Not to Name the Baby. But Stern was working on a script for The Honeymooners, struggling to describe a character’s nose. Stern asked for an adjective, but before he could finish Price interrupted with “clumsy and naked,” and the two became fascinated with the satisfying combinations: “A clumsy nose indicated nature had failed or there had been a genetic mix-up,” writes Stern, “and an alliterative naked nose had the sound of a best-selling mystery novel.” Stern and Price convinced Steve Allen to introduce guests on his variety show using words called out by the audience, and they immediately started selling out of the first Mad Libs book.

Over fifty years later, in the notoriously fast-aging genre of humor, Mad Libs has stayed popular, with no serious competitor in print or online. Penguin puts out about twenty of the books each year, many tied to major properties like Star Wars, Hello Kitty, Lego, and Adventure Time, with over 220 titles published so far. Cumulative sales are well over 100 million, and the five-year-old Mad Libs iOS app has over 5.5 million downloads. This takes more than coasting on previous success.

The point of Mad Libs is that it enables anyone to make a funny story, even children, who are the worst joke-tellers. That makes the template seem easy. But it takes certain skills and extensive research to write a good book of Mad Libs. And all of the 15 to 20 writers working on Mad Libs for Penguin at any given time had to learn this. READ MORE

The Rebirth of Dane Cook

It's tough to introduce a standup like Dane Cook. He's explosively popular, famously polarizing, and his many comedy accomplishments — including a double platinum album and sold out Madison Square Garden show — only fuel the flames of disdain he's received from critics and the comedy nerd/cool kids' club. It's been over a decade since his debut album Harmful If Swallowed, and during that time Cook has experienced everything from record-breaking success to personal tragedy and very public feuds with other comedians. Cook's mixed bag of life experience gets put to work in his latest standup special Troublemaker (which he also directed and produced), and I recently got the chance to ask him how his standup has evolved over the years, his thoughts on joke theft allegations, and what he thinks of the "comedy purists" who love to hate him. READ MORE

How the Birthday Boys Found Their Footing in Their Second Season

Watching The Birthday Boys feels strangely candid. Their antics and self-described "stupidity" are immersed in a sort of all-inclusive comradery that dates back 10 years, to their time together at Ithaca College. Since moving to LA, the troupe has performed out of UCB LA alongside sketch troupe A Kiss From Daddy, produced numerous shorts for Funny or Die, and performed at the Montreal's Just for Laughs.

In 2013, none other than Bob Odenkirk agreed to collaborate with the troupe (consisting of Mike Hanford, Matt Kowalick, Jefferson Dutton, Tim Kalpakis, Chris VanArtsdalen, Mike Mitchell, and Dave Ferguson), to produce their show for IFC, The Birthday Boys.

After a successful first season, the boys have been hard at work developing sketches for the next season, which promises to include the likes of Tony Hale, Dana Carvey, Fabio, Jack Black, Tim & Eric (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim), Scott Aukerman, Carmen Electra, Chris Elliott, Horatio Sanz, and Paul Scheer.

Coming down off the whirlwind of preparation and promotion of the next season (premiering Friday), I had the chance to chat with Tim Kalpakis, Jeff Dutton, and Mike Hanford about their thoughts on the upcoming season and the delicacies of Upstate New York. READ MORE

Scott Aukerman and the Evolution of 'Comedy Bang! Bang!'

The critically acclaimed Comedy Bang! Bang! returns to television this Friday. Creator, executive producer and host Scott Aukerman, continues to prove this talk show is more than just an interview. Aukerman questions celebrity guests accompanied by bandleader Reggie Watts; packed with sketches, character cameos and story interwoven, the show riffs in a surreal world.

He is the co-creator, producer and director (and recent Emmy winner) of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, co-creator of the podcasting network Earwolf and creator/host of the weekly Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast.

I spoke to Scott while he was in New York City about finally getting celebrities on the show, cultivating new talent and of course — the weather report. READ MORE

This Week In Web Videos: 'Roomsies'

Writing lines down in Final Draft does not a screenwriter make. That kind of writing requires training, an understanding of story structure, an ability to re-write until you want to curl up in a ball and go to law school like the rest of your friends (JK, Steve — I love you, dawg!) and then re-write some more. Jenny Donheiser and Meagan Kensil have respect for the process and have decided to devote their lives to it. Their goal isn’t just to “become writers,” it’s to become better and with this as a starting point, it’s safe to say they’ve got some very green, LSAT-free pastures ahead. READ MORE

Watch Bill Murray's Very First Performance as Nick the Lounge Singer

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 the news that Bill Murray plans to sing us Christmas carols in a Sofia Coppola-directed TV special this year, what better time to celebrate Murray's most memorable singing character ever, Nick the Lounge Singer? In this week's unearthed Second City clip, Murray performs as Nick to a live audience for the very first time on the Chicago stage. There's no better way to celebrate Murray's return to our TV screens than an old clip of him singing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" while schmoozing and delighting the audience with plenty of Chicago references.

The TV Networks' Comedy Depth Charts

How committed are your favorite TV networks to making you laugh? While some networks are happy to stick with a tried and true formula, others are being forced to experiment this season. What’s going on with the rise of the romantic sitcom? Who’s doubling down on family fare? Where should you look for your favorite canceled shows? We’ve examined the comedies the networks and cable have to offer this 2014-2015 TV season to see which network offers the most in quantity, which offers the most in quality, and who’s taking the biggest risks. READ MORE

The Free-Wheeling Todd Glass

Of all the memorable episodes of Marc Maron’s influential WTF Podcast, maybe none was more so than the Todd Glass interview from two years ago, when the long-time and well-respected comic announced he was gay.

Glass, who’s been performing for 30 years and is often mentioned as one of the funniest guys around by nearly everyone in the comedy community, said he decided to make the announcement because he couldn't take the hiding anymore and because he wanted to take a stand against the growing number of suicides committed by gay youths.

It’s a riveting interview that explains a lot about personal freedoms as key to performance.

It’s not accurate to say Glass’s career hasn’t taken off since the announcement — he’s always been a great comic — but it gave him a new kind of exposure. He wrote a best-selling book, The Todd Glass Situation, and got to be a guest on The Daily Show.

I recently had the chance to talk to Glass about his book, his hilarious podcast, life on the road, and why nothing should be outlawed in comedy. READ MORE

The Dead Dog Farm Upstate, by Luke Pohjala

You’ve probably been told it before, sometime in your childhood: “Buster (or any other dumb, thoughtless dog name) had to go to a farm upstate. Don’t cry. He’ll have plenty of room to run around in the fresh air. He’s in a better place now.” By now you’ve realized that was a lie. This probably made you question lots of things your parents told you. Will you really grow big and strong if you eat your vegetables? Do they actually love you? Will we really get there when we get there? The truth is that anything your parents told you was, in some way, a lie.

But I’m here to tell you they weren’t completely lying when they said Buster was sent to a farm upstate. He actually was sent to a farm. I know this because I own that farm. The part they lied about is that your dog is still alive. I can assure you your dog is dead, but is still being put to good use.

You may ask why I accept all these dogs. That’s a very good question. Pat yourself on the head for that one. Who’s a good boy? You are! READ MORE