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September 29th, 2014

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What's on TV This Week: 'Mulaney' Debuts and New Episodes Aplenty

mulaneyAnna Faris and Allison Janney kick start the week with the season two premiere of Mom tonight on CBS. The week is packed with new episodes from favorites like Key and Peele, Modern Family, The Mindy Project, and so many more.  Gabriel Iglesias Presents Standup Revolution Friday night on HBO and Sarah Silverman hosts SNL's second show of the season. You can catch John Mulaney on The Tonight Show and Late Night as he promotes Mulaney, which premieres Sunday night on Fox.

Also in late night, Dane Cook is on Fallon, John Oliver and Simon Amstell are on Letterman, and Martin Short and Tim Allen are on Kimmel.  Seth Meyers has guests Michael Che, Weird Al Yankovic , and Sarah Silverman while Ferguson has Jim Gaffigan, Don Rickles, and Daniel Sloss.

Check out this week’s full comedy listings below: READ MORE

Here's the Trailer for Chelsea Handler's Netflix Standup Special

Chelsea Handler's Netflix talk show doesn't premiere on the streaming network until 2016, but in the meantime you can check out her latest standup special Uganda Be Kidding Me Live, which premieres on Netflix October 10th. If you're offended by jokes at the expense of Alaskans, Ugandans, or PETA supporters, then the above trailer is full of offensive material for you to enjoy.

Paul F. Tompkins and John Mulaney Talk 'SNL,' Shirtless Commercial Auditions, and More

While you're waiting for the series premiere of Mulaney this Sunday, here's the newest installment of Paul F. Tompkins's web series Speakeasy with special guest John Mulaney, who talks with Tompkins about his attempts at "adult talk" as a child, his time as an SNL writer, the power of the phrase "my wife," the pressure of creating and starring in a show called Mulaney, his shirtless Starburst commercial audition, and much more.

Check Out Don Hertzfeldt's Trippy 'Simpsons' Couch Gag

More interesting than the character killed off on last night's Simpsons premiere was the delightfully creepy couch gag by animator Don Hertzfeldt, which reimagines the Simpsons — or the Sampsons — in the very distant future. Be warned that this couch gag may cause nightmares and disturbing revelations about how television will utilize our exo-skulls in the years to come.

I Apologize For Your Negative Hotel Experience, by Jon Wolper

Dear Ms. Winters,

Thank you for your letter. Hopefully I can help resolve some of the issues you experienced while staying at our hotel.

As you wrote, your troubles began at night, when you found that our ice machine was empty. Our apologies. We try to run a tight ship, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. I promise to be more vigilant about the ice machine in the future.

After you went back to your room, you began to hear incessant banging coming from the walls and ceiling. Our building is very old, and the walls are thin, so the noises made by other guests were heard clearly. Thank you for your concern; we’re currently in the process of soundproofing the room.

Then, objects began to rattle, seemingly of their own volition. At one point, the 36-inch flat screen TV that had been mounted on the wall detached itself from the mount and crashed to the floor. A vase hovered in the air for several seconds before launching itself across the room and hitting the wall just inches from your head. All the while, a low drone filled the room.

Our apologies. That noise is, in fact, the cry of a restless spirit that has haunted the room for nine decades. His name was Gerritt Richards, and he was a hospitality mogul poisoned by his wife when she discovered his infidelity. We call him Gerry. READ MORE

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Humiliate a Reporter on Live TV

Local Denver news reporter Chris Parente is probably used to pretending he's seen certain movies for his job, and at the top of his recent interview with The Skeleton Twins stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader he seems more than confident that his complete lack of knowledge about their new movie will have no bearing on the segment to come. After Parente blows his cover by asking Wiig if she has "advice for going nude," the SNL alums descend on him without mercy, and the result is both cringeworthy and entertaining. (via Death and Taxes)

The Passion of Kathy Griffin

kathy_griffin_roastThere are few people working in standup that are more divisive than Kathy Griffin. It doesn’t stem from controversial remarks, like many other comedians in her peer group, so much as taste. People who love her think that she is tremendous. People who don’t like her think that she's a talentless hack. There is very little middle ground, and even though she recently become only the third woman ever to win the Grammy for Best Comedy Album, she typically does not get respect from the mainstream.

Griffin’s career has often been compared to that of the late-great Joan Rivers, however their styles of comedy are actually like fire and water. Rivers was an old-school comic, rattling off joke after joke, firing punch lines into the audience with the speed of a gatling gun. Griffin’s sets are usually devoid of punchlines, or setups, or anything that serves as a comfortable guidepost when watching comedy. She tells stories, often about celebrities and pop culture, and you're either in it with her or you're totally lost. The one thing their careers have had in common is the ebb and flow. They have both been down before, under the radar for years before popping up on a TV show or news story that catches the eye of the public again.

Griffin has been in a moderate upswing for the last few years, in the spotlight thanks to her near-constant release of specials and CDs (like Rivers she also never turns down a job as long as it meets her fee), and highly publicized TV specials, such as New Years Eve with Anderson Cooper. She's been in the news most recently when she went on record as saying she was told by a CBS executive that they were “not considering females at this time” when she inquired about putting her name in the running to take over when Craig Ferguson left the Late Late Show. According to her she responded to those allegations by telling the executive that the lack of females in late night was “embarrassing,” and that “women who represent half the population should hold half of such jobs.” The executive responded by telling her that women already had their own show: The Talk. CBS, of course, dismissed her claims as false.

These allegations, and Griffin’s public reporting of them, are nothing new. Late night TV has always been a man’s game, and Kathy Griffin has always been a whistle blower of sorts for the entertainment industry. She does this humorously in her standup act; often when she is given a list of words or topics she is not allowed to discuss by the venue or client, she responds by reading said list on stage. In the case of the CBS executive she’s clearly taking a more serious stand, even though she is more well known for making crude off-the-cuff remarks. Many of her detractors point to this as a reason that they can’t abide: she has something to say about everything, it’s not always “ha-ha” funny, and she doesn’t know when to shut up. What gets lost in this critique is that her inability to shut up also provides us an important glimpse about what goes on behind the scenes, and how censorship and misogyny influence the way we engage with media. READ MORE

Lena Dunham Isn't Paying the Warm-Up Acts on Her Book Tour

Despite running a hit HBO show and landing a staggering $3.7M advance for her book Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham apparently doesn't have enough cash to pay the warm-up acts featured on her book tour. According to The New York Times, around 600 people responded to Dunham's open call for fans with "singular talents" to perform as opening acts at several stops on her Not That Kind of Tour, and by "Not That Kind of Tour" Dunham means not the kind of tour that pays its performers. From NYT:

Last month, the writer, actor and producer Lena Dunham started an ambitious project. Nearly 600 people responded to an open call for video auditions on her website, including a sand artist, a ukulele player, a cappella singers, gymnasts, performance artists and stand-up comics, even some exceptionally charismatic babies.

The seven who made the final cut won't be making cameos in Girls, Ms. Dunham's HBO show about Brooklyn 20-somethings. Instead, they'll be the warm-up acts —performing free of charge — on an elaborately produced, 11-city tour to promote Ms. Dunham's new book, Not That Kind of Girl.

Dunham has yet to respond to this news, but yesterday she did tweet "I'm not a businesswoman. I'm a business, woman. So let me do my business, k?"

UPDATE: Dunham has responded to this news on Twitter and says she has decided to compensate the performers set to open for her on tour: READ MORE

Al Jean Calls the 'Simpsons' Season Premiere Character Death "Over-Hyped"

The Simpsons aired its 26th season premiere last night, and after nearly a year of anticipation around which character would be killed off, the result was decidedly non-climactic. While many speculated that Krusty would be the one to go during last night's episode "Clown in the Dumps," it was — and here comes the big spoiler — Krusty's father Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, voiced by Jackie Mason, who died and went to "Jewish Heaven." Last year Al Jean hinted that the character's voice actor won an Emmy for the role, which Mason did in 1992.

Speaking to THR, showrunner Al Jean reflected on what he called an "over-hyped" lead-up to the death reveal, which he says was more about making "an emotional episode about someone losing their dad" than hyping up a recurring character death: "It was something that we did not plan in any way as a possible event. I had suggested that we do an episode where Krusty's father passes away and the last word he says to Krusty is, 'eh.' I thought it would be funny and sad to deal with that being the last thing your father says to you." Jean also said it's been funny to watch "the way that people took something that was not intended to be a brainteaser and completely tied themselves into a knot and then wouldn't believe it when someone told them the truth."

'SNL' Review: A New Hope with Chris Pratt

The seasons have certainly changed at Saturday Night Live. The show's 40th season began with an episode that hardly resembled a season premiere, with little pomp or circumstance over SNL's impressive four-decade lifespan, and in its place a straightforward night of comedy that reflected a show well adjusted to its new lineup. Nerves did occasionally get the better of the performers — especially first-time host Chris Pratt, who coasted on his signature goofy charm, flashing that Andy Dwyer "oops" face a few times – but overall the episode charged forward with a leaner (and more colorful) cast, and a greater confidence in its sense of humor.

We aren't out of the woods just yet, though. SNL's live sketches suffer from the same issues that plagued them last season: those low-hanging fruit gags, punchlines overwhelming the premise, the tendency for characters to randomly walk out of a scene without the sketch actually ending, etc. Also, the show has yet to reclaim its satirical edge, and with John Oliver so thoroughly setting us straight on Sunday nights, it's doubtful progressive America will look to SNL for its comedy any time soon.

But for the first time in a while, we have reasons to look forward to the future. Pete Davidson's masterful Weekend Update set gave SNL the newcomer starpower it seemed unable to locate last season. Michael Che and Leslie Jones' frequent on-camera appearances suggest the show might actually try to embrace its diversity, rather than use it as a quota. And a few clever sketch setups found their way into the set list, giving us hope that SNL can still do comedy outside of the format of a talk show parody.

If those little "40"s in the opening credits and interstitials become the only on-air milestone celebrations we see on the show over the next months, Season 40 may be a year SNL steps proudly into the next generation, rather than again be overshadowed by its glorious past. READ MORE

'Last Week Tonight' Covers America's Mysterious Drone Program

Here's a clip from last night's Last Week Tonight, in which John Oliver breaks down American drone strikes, the US's definition of an "imminent threat," the way the CIA counts civilian casualties, and US officials' ultimate lack of knowledge about who or how many innocent people they've killed through the drone program. If you like to start your week off with a dose of terrifying reality, this clip will definitely do the trick.

This Week in Comedy: The Return of 'Key and Peele,' 'SNL,' 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' and More

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-Chicago comedy and theater great Sheldon Patinkin died at 79.

-We broke down the economics of internet comedy videos.

-We debated whether all standup comics should write their own jokes.

-You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman is a book that takes a look at Hartman’s enduring legacy.

-Tymberlee Hill gave us an inside look at Marry Me, Hotwives, and Drunk History.

-Sam Morril shared what it’s like living the standup life.

-Chelsea Peretti talked with us about the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, writing for SNL, and her new Netflix special.

-We broke down what you can expect from SNL in Season 40.

-This week The Chris Gethard Show returned to public access.

-We looked at the dark and absurd sci-fi comedy Space Station 76.

-Saturday Night’s Children examined Chevy Chase’s short career on SNL.

-This week's Second City Archives unearthed a clip of Steve Carell and Amy Sedaris talking insomnia in a 1993 sketch.

- We explored the origins of David Letterman's Top Ten List.

READ MORE

Jonah Ray Launches Comedy/Music Label Literally Figurative Records

Meltdown and Nerdist cohost Jonah Ray just launched his own imprint label through AST Records called Literally Figurative. Through the label, Ray will release a series of 7-inch records called The Mutual Appreciation Society that will feature "a comic on one side and band they are friends with on the other." Comic/band combinations will include Wil Wheaton/Nerf Herder, Rhea Butcher/G.S. Schray, Matt Mira/Jenny Owen Youngs, and Jonah Ray/Mikal Cronin. Also set for a release via Literally Figurative are Nick Youssef's debut album Stop Not Owning This, Matt Dwyer's debut LP, and a 7-inch from comedian Paige Weldon. For more information, head over to Ray's blog.