Splitsider

November 24th, 2014

Inside A Special Thing and 'Never Not Funny' with Matt Belknap

pardo-belknapMatt Belknap has had many aspirations. As a teenager he hoped to make it in Hollywood after reading a Spike Lee book on screenwriting. After attempting to make films, he carved his own path by starting A Special Thing message board, originally designed as a place where Tenacious D fans could congregate. But AST morphed into an alternative comedy hub where fans and comedians alike could post and discuss comedy. Belknap soon started A Special Thing Podcast and since 2006, Belknap has been cohosting the weekly podcast, Never Not Funny, with one of his favorite comedians, Jimmy Pardo.

Along with his cohosting duties, Belknap cofounded A Special Thing Records, which produces artists including Marc Maron, Scott Aukerman, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jonah Ray. Belknap also began running See You Next Tuesday at UCB in 2005.

On Friday, Belknap and Pardo will be hosting Pardcast-a-thon '14, a podcast/telethon that runs from noon-midnight and has previously welcomed guests including Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Sarah Silverman, and Andy Richter.

I spoke with Belknap about trying standup, meeting Conan O’ Brien, and the benefits of procrastination. READ MORE

TV

FX and FXX Set Premiere Dates for 'It's Always Sunny,' 'Archer,' and 'Man Seeking Woman'

FX and FXX's new and returning comedies now have official premiere dates. HitFix reports that the sixth season of Archer will premiere on FX Thursday, January 8th at 10:00pm, while It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia will kick off its tenth season on FXX Wednesday, January 14th at 10:00pm. Following the It's Always Sunny premiere is the series premiere of Simon Rich's new show Man Seeking Woman starring Jay Baruchel, Eric Andre, Britt Lower, and Maya Erskine.

Check out some sneak peeks of the new seasons of Archer and It's Always Sunny below: READ MORE

Sketch Anatomy: Matt Besser on His Favorite Andy Kaufman Late Night Appearances

Welcome to our column Sketch Anatomy, where we ask some of our favorite comedy writers to choose any sketch — one they personally wrote or one from history they find particularly hilarious, notable, or underappreciated — to learn from a writer's perspective what separates a successful sketch from the rest.

For this week's installment of Sketch Anatomy we spoke with Matt Besser, co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade and host of the Earwolf podcast improv4humans who most recently appeared on Drunk History, The Birthday Boys, Comedy Bang! Bang! and the Adult Swim infomercial "In Search of Miracle Man." Besser chose to take a look back at some of the early '80s late night appearances of Andy Kaufman, including a 1980 guest spot on The David Letterman Show, his public apology during a 1981 episode of Fridays, and the 1982 episode of SNL that called on viewers to vote Kaufman off the show forever. READ MORE

'SNL' Review: A Step Back with Cameron Diaz

camerondiazsnlWell, that didn't last long.

Just one week after seemingly proclaiming its transitional era to be over, SNL reaffirmed viewers' perennial skepticism with an episode that made Woody Harrelson's excellent outing look like that much more of a fluke. Cameron Diaz's hosting gig wasn't quite the disaster the show is capable of, but it exhibited all the symptoms of a bland episode that no one will remember by the end of the season: a game-for-anything host that the writers didn't know what to do with (despite this being her fourth time), a dependence on watered-down recurring bits that the actors seem to love more than audiences do, and a general miscalculation by producers on how to use the show's various strengths to create a cohesive night of exciting sketch comedy.

Yes, inconsistency has been an issue throughout every one of the show's 40 seasons — even the ones we remember as being perfect. I still believe SNL possesses all the ingredients it needs to win us over again — a well rounded cast, vibrant writers, an excellent film unit — but Lorne Michaels is still figuring out the recipe (to borrow his metaphor). Whereas last week witnessed a show that clearly understood its strengths and strode confidently from sketch to sketch, this week felt like a series of nervous dice rolls that settled into a sad parade of stock characters that don't contain anywhere near the stamina that previous generations' crutches did.

Still, some of those dice rolls paid off. Still in transition or not, this SNL is at least willing to experiment. And that's something to be thankful for. READ MORE

James Corden Talks 'Late Late Show' with David Letterman

Next year's new host of The Late Late Show James Corden was a guest on Friday's Late Show, where he told Letterman all about how it felt to get the gig and what his father thought once he told him about its 12:30am time slot. Watch more from the interview below: READ MORE

'Last Week Tonight' Calls for an End to Turkey Pardoning

HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is on hiatus until February, but that didn't stop Oliver and crew from uploading the above Thanksgiving-themed web exclusive all about America's strange tradition of presidential turkey pardoning: "Let's be honest here: Every single turkey is guilty. Specifically, guilty of having delicious bird parts that should be serving time in the prison of my mouth."

This Week in Comedy: Some Cancellations, Some New Shows Born

themillers-CBS canceled The Millers, AMC passed on its first comedy pilot We Hate Paul Revere, and TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland will end after season six.

-SNL had its best episode of the season so far with host Woody Harrelson, and we broke down the show’s best sketches.

-On WTF this week John Mulaney and Marc Maron talked SNL, standup, and Mulaney.

-Austin Rodrigues thought a lot about bits.

-Rob Riggle will star in the adaptation of German sitcom Braunschlag that Fox is developing, Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner’s Difficult People was ordered to series by Hulu, American Dad! was renewed by TBS for a 12th season, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore premieres on Comedy Central January 19th, Nick Stoller is writing a Tinkerbell comedy to star Melissa McCarthy, and Will Forte’s Last Man on Earth premieres on Fox on March 1st. READ MORE

Tina Fey\'s Show \'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt\' Is Moving from NBC to Netflix

Great news for Tina Fey fans: While Fox passed on Fey's show Cabot College, her NBC show starring Ellie Kemper is making a move to streaming. Deadline reports that the Fey and Robert Carlock-created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (previously titled Tooken) has now moved from NBC to Netflix with a two-season commitment. The first season will premiere on the streaming network in March 2015. Here's what NBC exec Robert Greenblatt said on the announcement:

"When the opportunity arose for Tina Fey and Robert Carlock to premiere their new show on Netflix with a two-season commitment, we decided this was the best possible scenario to launch this captivating new series. While it was originally developed for NBC, we have a very drama-heavy mid-season schedule so we’re thrilled about this Netflix opportunity; it’s an instant win-win for everyone, including Tina, Robert, and Universal Television. We’re already talking to these extraordinary creators about new development for NBC, but meanwhile, everyone here from Universal Television will do everything possible to see that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt becomes a long-running hit on Netflix."

TV

Adam Pally Is Leaving 'The Mindy Project' Early Next Year

Fox's The Mindy Project is losing a series regular. TV Line reports that Adam Pally is set to leave the show in early 2015. Pally has been a regular Mindy Project star since he debuted as Dr. Peter Prentice in season 2. While he will likely make "occasional guest appearances" after his contract ends next year, he has plenty of other projects in the works between his development deal with ABC Studios and upcoming film roles in Search Party, Night Owls, and Bad Boys Crazy Girls.

Learn About New York City's Many Accents with Fred Armisen

Accent master Fred Armisen performed at a charity benefit Wednesday night, and as part of his routine he devoted nearly five minutes to speaking in different NYC accents suggested by the audience. Covered in this clip alone is Washington Heights, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, West Village, East Village, Bronx, Astoria, Brooklyn, Rockaway, and Long Island, where Armisen spent most of his childhood years: "If you wanna do Long Island, the way to think of it is like, they're already being defensive about being made fun of."

Spike TV Orders 'Lip Sync Battle' Series from Jimmy Fallon, John Krasinski, and Stephen Merchant

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog isn't the only late night bit to get its own television show. THR reports that Spike TV has ordered a series called Lip Sync Battle based on the hit recurring segment on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The series is executive produced by Fallon, John Krasinski, and Stephen Merchant — who are also set to perform — and will begin taping in New York in January with a premiere date set for April 2, 2015. No host has been announced yet.

Click through for one of the best "Lip Sync Battle" segments ever featuring Paul Rudd performing "Don't Stop Me Now": READ MORE

Talking to @Carl_Bnntt About Simple Tweets with Human Elements

Carl_Bnntt photo
Carl Bennett, known on Twitter as @Carl_Bnntt, uses the platform to address a lot of different topics. For instance, he shares his knowledge of fine art, opines about the world's obsession with sports, and never shies away from addressing mortality. When asked for information for a bio, Bennett simply responded he “has no family (deceased) to speak of and distributes Storage Wars revisionist literature.” Bennett also showed me three of his favorite tweets and told me a bit more about them, and we talked about the kinds of people he interacts with on Twitter and how tweeting can serve as a reminder of human error.

Bennett: It took almost 24 years to write this but I feel that it efficiently pays tribute to all the wonderful memories I have of my dead cousin. He was more than just an arm sticking out of a leaf pile; he was my cousin, and he had a name. READ MORE

Public Access Producer Smith Took Over 'The Chris Gethard Show' This Week

Last month, an incident occurred on The Chris Gethard Show with a public access producer known only as Smith (played by comedian Brett Davis) who interrupted the show with complaints about TCGS and some personal digs at Gethard. For this week's show, Gethard's time slot on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network was overtaken by Smith for the debut episode of his own stuffy conspiracy show Truth or Myth with Smith, and the result is a hilarious hourlong look into Smith's twisted mind. I'm not sure which part is my favorite — the intense panel debate about 9/11, an overabundance of references to zinc, Smith singing "Brown Eyed Girl" with his band from college, or the terrifying twist ending — but in any case, Truth or Myth with Smith is the ultimate example of committing to a joke. (Check out Davis and Gethard's blog posts for more on the episode.)

Video Game Comedy Is Hard, But it's Getting Easier

stanleyparableRecently, I revisited one of my favorite games from last year, The Stanley Parable. Developed by Davey Wreden and released for Steam, it’s a bit difficult to describe the game in brief (particularly since half the fun is just diving into it), but basically, it’s structured like a choose-your-own-adventure story. You assume the role of Stanley, a faceless drone who leaves his office one day to discover all his co-workers have gone missing.

As you move through the office to investigate, the Narrator, brilliantly played by Kevan Brighting, comments on your actions and surroundings and, crucially, speculates on your next move. For instance, when you come to two open doors, he says you’ll move through the door on the left. You can choose to follow the narrator’s instructions, or you can choose to ignore him and go your own way — each of the several choices the game presents offers its own branching path, each with a different ending.

The Stanley Parable succeeds in accomplishing a lot of things, and one of those is to be frequently, uniquely hilarious. All dry, scathing wit, the Narrator becomes befuddled and combative when you disobey him, scrambling to lure you back into his story and play the game he’s so lovingly laid out for you. In other words, the game finds its humor by reacting to your choices and movements.

If that doesn’t sound so remarkable to you, it’s because it sounds so obvious. Of course a game would get laughs by reacting to what you do. After all, doing things and making choices is how games work. But that’s just it. Something like this is enormously difficult to pull off, since the thing that makes games such a difficult medium for comedy is also the thing that distinguishes it from other media: interactivity. READ MORE