April 29th, 2015

Bathroom Emergencies and the Human Condition with Doug Mand

dougmandDoug 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

Zach Woods, Andy Richter, and Conan O'Brien Play "Give Me Back My Son"

During his visit to last night's Conan, Zach Woods taught O'Brien and Andy Richter about a great improv game he's played to warm up before shows called "Give Me Back My Son" based off Mel Gibson's amazing rage scene in Ransom. It's hard to say who won here, but all three men do a valiant job desperately screaming at each other. Watch some more clips from Woods's interview below: READ MORE

John Cleese Looks Back on Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" Sketch on 'Late Night'

John Cleese was a guest on last night's Late Night, where he looked back at Monty Python's reunion shows at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend as well as the classic Python "Dead Parrot" sketch that Seth and his brother performed at their high school talent show. Watch another clip from Cleese's interview below: READ MORE


New Parents Scarlett Johansson and Kenan Thompson Promise to Party in These 'SNL' Promos

Scarlett Johansson returns to SNL this weekend for her fourth hosting stint with musical guest Wiz Khalifa, and NBC just released the first of promos. Joined by cast member and fellow new parent Kenan Thompson, Johansson promises that she'll still party hard and try not to let her baby change who she is, but it looks like that might be a promise she can't keep.


Comedy Central Orders a Jack Black-Produced Women's Basketball League Comedy

The team behind Yahoo's hit 2013 web series Ghost Ghirls have a new show in the works at Comedy Central. According to Deadline, the network has ordered a half-hour series created by and starring Amanda Lund, Maria Blasucci, and Angela Trimbur about "a group of misfit women in LA who find new leases on life through their less-than-stellar all-girls basketball team." Ghost Ghirls and Drunk History co-creator Jeremy Konner will direct, and Jack Black will serve as a co-executive producer.

Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone's 'Michelle Darnell' Adds Cecily Strong

Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone's upcoming film Michelle Darnell just added another new cast member: 2015's White House Correspondents' Dinner guest comedian. Deadline reports that SNL's Cecily Strong has joined the cast of the film, which centers on McCarthy as as "a titan of industry who is sent to prison after she’s caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to re-brand herself as America’s latest sweetheart with the help of a former assistant, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget." No details on Strong's character have been revealed, but she joins recently announced cast members Annie Mumolo, Kristen Schaal, Kathy Bates, Kristen Bell, and Peter Dinklage. The film hits theaters on April 8, 2016.


ADHD's 'Golan the Insatiable' Is Headed to Primetime Fox Next Month

One of Fox's Animated Domination High-Def series just got a primetime promotion. According to Deadline, Golan the Insatiable — which started out as a quarter-hour series on Fox's late night animated block — will debut a new season of half-hour episodes on Sunday, May 31st at 9:30pm on Fox. The half-hour version will feature an all-new voice cast including Rob Riggle, Aubrey Plaza, Ken Marino, John DiMaggio, Maria Bamford, Rachel Butera, and Nick Rutherford. The show centers on "a mighty godlord (Riggle) from an alternate dimension who arrives in Oak Grove, MN, where his only friend is a macabre, nine-year-old girl named Dylan (Plaza), who constantly urges him to wreak havoc on her town." Golan the Insatiable makes the first ADHD series to move to primetime.

Watch the trailer for the original series below: READ MORE

Tim Heidecker Is Very Unhappy with JASH's New Changes

Comedy collective JASH recently decided to make some very minimal changes to their company logo, but as you can see in their latest video, Tim Heidecker is having none of it. Hopefully Sarah Silverman, Eric Wareheim, Reggie Watts, and Michael Cera aka "The Four Horsemen" can find some way to mend the rift here, but unless it involves returning to the single-circle JASH design, it looks like the creative differences might be too much for Heidecker to come back.

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

brianandstewie‘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

Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer Turn into Garbage Monsters in 'Pursuit of Sexiness'

Here's the latest episode of Sasheer Zamata and Nicole Byer's Above Average web series Pursuit of Sexiness, which sheds some light on Zamata and Byer's extremely different financial situations. It turns out that Byer doesn't just have a habit of borrowing friends' money — she also borrows creative terms like "garbage monster." Check out more episodes here.

How Improv Helps Television's Best Comedy Writers

office_improv1The 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

IFC Orders David Krumholtz's 'Gigi's Bucket List' to Series

David Krumholtz has been developing a new comedy for IFC since November, and today the network announced that it's headed to TV soon with an eight-episode first season. Titled Gigi's Bucket List, the half-hour series centers on Krumholtz as a Jewish grandmother named Gertrude Rotblum aka Gigi, who "just lost her beloved husband Harold, but has gained a new lease on life with the help of an unknown bank account discovered in his will." Zach & Miri Make a Porno's Ricky Mabe will play Gigi's "trusty male nurse sidekick," and production begins in Los Angeles this June. "This character has been living inside me since birth. Friends have often accused me of acting like a grandma," Krumholtz said on the news. "It's an absolute privilege to be bringing Gigi to life for IFC, known for their irreverent brand of comedy and willingness to explore depth of character." Gigi's Bucket List will premiere on IFC later this year.

Diving Into Late Night Head-First with Saurin Choksi

saurin_choksiAs 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

Colin Quinn Drops by 'The Nightly Show' as Pinocchio

Last night's Nightly Show took a closer look at Bruce Jenner's coming-out interview with Diane Sawyer, so during the show Wilmore invited Pinocchio to the desk to give some perspective as a man who once made a very public transition of his own. Pinocchio comes out as a strong supporter of Jenner: "Before we begin, Bruce, you're a hero. Good on you. The puppet-to-real boy community supports you."