“You know I ain’t lyin!”
“America, I tell the truth you can’t say!”
“Bust his head til the white meat shows!”
Bernie Mac was already an up-and-coming comedian when he starred in Spike Lee’s Original Kings of Comedy in 2000. Having risen through the ranks by way of Chicago, Mac made a name for himself during the Def Jam comedy years, as one of the funniest and most unflappable comedians on the tour. So by the time he was introduced in Spike Lee’s film, his confidence and persona was on full display.
From word one, he owns the crowd, making light of everything from his sex drive to the disappearance of grandmother figures to why he has no problem telling the truth about children. It’s in this last bit that a new avenue really opened up. Mac talks of how his sister has recently been arrested and imprisoned for drug use and how he has become the legal guardian of her three children. He then begins to go down a path which in today’s culture might be deemed offensive but in his hands is mined for humor: Children are evil and in need of a heavy hand with discipline, heavy enough to show the white meat. Within this routine, the seeds were planted for The Bernie Mac Show.
As told to The Champs podcast, series creator Larry Wilmore, himself a TV veteran, had the idea for the show from watching the movie and thought Mac’s story on raising his sister’s children was fascinating. At the same time, he had been mulling the idea of spoofing the still young but soon to be omnipresent reality-TV craze. By marrying the two ideas together, the general framework for The Bernie Mac Show was born. Mac would star and it would depict him struggling to raise children while at various times breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the camera in a sort of tell-all confessional. This framework in part laid the groundwork for what would eventually become an en vogue comedy style: the TV mockumentary.
The show, which debuted in 2001, came during a dry period for the single camera style in comedy. The top comedies of that time were all multi-cams, Friends, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, Will and Grace. All extremely well done, funny shows but all still playing more or less within the common framework of the multi-camera setup. The lone exceptions were Fox’s Malcolm In The Middle, itself breaking new ground with it’s own 4th wall breaking and shows from other countries, chiefly, the UK’s The Office which would rapidly become the template for future shows. READ MORE
It's not all bad news for new television comedies this year. Deadline reports that new multi-cam comedy and surprise hit Cristela starring standup Cristela Alonzo has been given a nine-episode pickup by ABC, bringing its debut season order from 13 episodes to a full 22-episode season. Cristela joins Black-ish as the only ABC comedy to earn a full order this season. Over at NBC, David Caspe's new comedy Marry Me also got an additional five-episode order from the network, but it's uncertain yet whether the series will eventually expand from 18 to 22 episodes.
Bob Odenkirk may be busier than ever, starring in the upcoming Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, but that doesn't mean he's put comedy on the back burner. If anything, he's amped up his comedic output as of late. Odenkirk released his first book A Load of Hooey last month, he's producing and writing for the IFC sketch show The Birthday Boys (currently in its second season), he just got back from a book reading/live comedy tour, and his debut standup album, Amateur Hour, comes out today. Recorded this summer at LA's Nerdist Theater and released by A Special Thing Records, Amateur Hour consists of a standup performance by Odenkirk, as well as a set from his opening act Brandon Wardell and a handful of tracks of Odenkirk as his character Lev Gravier, a vaudeville era talent manager dispensing his advice on comedy.
I recently chatted with Odenkirk over the phone about how Amateur Hour came together, how he got his first-ever comedy job as a Saturday Night Live writer, and a potential Mr. Show 20th anniversary reunion special on HBO next year. READ MORE
After angering North Korea, making some big edits, and getting a later premiere date, Seth Rogen and James Franco's latest film The Interview now has a final trailer. Unlike the previous sneak peeks, this time around there seems to be a lot less anti-Kim Jong-un sentiment and a lot more — direct quote — "I think he's not a bad guy!" Hopefully the real Kim Jong-un keeps his promise and watches the movie when it's out — not for the catchy Katy Perry songs but to watch "the desperation of the US government and American society" play out onscreen.
Here's a clip from Late Show regular Amy Sedaris's visit with Letterman last night, in which she grills the late night host about his recent decision to get a second dog and updates him on her destructive rabbit Tina, who is apparently about the size of "an Italian meatloaf or maybe a small roasting chicken."
Aasif Mandvi was a guest on last night's Late Night, where he told Seth Meyers about some of the more stereotypically Indian roles he's auditioned for (a bunch of doctors and a snake charmer) as well as what his parents thought when he was hired as Daily Show's "Senior Muslim Correspondent." Watch more from the interview below: READ MORE