April 16th, 2014

A Look at the Unlikely Career Path of 'Late Night' Writer Bryan Donaldson

Bryan Donaldson — or as he's known on Twitter, @TheNardvark — is profiled on Vulture today, and it's worth a read if you like stories of unlikely comedy world hires. After working as an IT guy in Illinois for 20 years, Donaldson rose the Twitter ranks until he landed a writing gig on Late Night with Seth Meyers last year, which started with a direct message from head writer Alex Baze. "I wasn't going to consider uprooting my family at age 40 and starting a new career in New York, where I'd never been before," Donaldson said. "But my wife basically said I'd be an idiot if I didn't give this a shot, because it's such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Read the rest of the profile over at Vulture.

Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly to Re-Team for 'Border Guards'

After their successful collaborations on Step Brothers and Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are currently in talks to star in Border Guards, Deadline reports. The film will be written by Jesse Armstrong (In the Loop, Peep Show) and follows Ferrell and Reilly as "two hapless but earnest friends who decide to give purpose to their lives by protecting America’s borders from illegal immigrants. In the process they find themselves accidentally stranded in Mexico without identification and must sneak back into the U.S." McKay has been reportedly eyeing to direct the film, but the trio's attachment has not yet been made official. McKay and Ferrell's Gary Sanchez Productions is also behind the project.

Watch Dan Soder Do Standup on 'Conan'

Here's Dan Soder's standup set from last night's Conan, which covers lost cell phones, Soder's 86-year-old grandmother, his "creepily deep" voice, and the difference between old people and babies reacting to today's technology.

Today's Funniest Tweets

How 'Adventure Time' Came To Be

Adventure Time is a smash hit cartoon aimed primarily at kids age six to eleven. It’s also a deeply serious work of moral philosophy, a rip-roaring comic masterpiece, and a meditation on gender politics and love in the modern world. It is rich with moments of tenderness and confusion, and real terror and grief even; moments sometimes more resonant and elementally powerful than you experience in a good novel, though much of Adventure Time’s emotional force is visually evoked—conveyed through a language of seeing and feeling rather than words.

The heroes of Adventure Time—a boy in a white helmet named Finn, and his shape-shifting mutant dog/adopted brother, Jake—spend their days fighting evil, playing games, saving (and, sometimes, dating) princesses, learning secrets, and exploring their half-ruined home world of Ooo, as well as other worlds and dimensions. They possess a blind optimism that is as clueless as it is comforting: Whether they are fighting a swamp giant, trapped in a garbage-strewn cave or testing the super-spicy instant bath serum in the palace of Princess Bubblegum, they are (almost always) brave and kind; they want to have fun and they mean no harm. Finn and Jake are also full of a magical quality that real children have—of resilience, and of seeing the world as if for the first time.

These heroes are as fallible as can be—they’re quite capable of displaying selfishness, impatience and thick-headedness—but their essential good nature always wins out, if not their wisdom or their power to set things right. They mess up a lot, in fact, and their errors and imperfections aren’t magically erased at the end of each episode. At one point they accidentally create the conditions whereby a monster is able to extinguish all life in the universe with a wish; this idea scared me halfway out of my wits and into a curled-up ball under the covers. But it all blindly, clumsily gets set halfway-right again, leaving a host of potentially terrible consequences in the uncertain future: The show often produces a relieved, tender and half-frightened sensation, along with shock, pleasure and laughter.

Adventure Time’s dozens of characters are complex in a way that is rarely seen on television for adults, let alone children; each seems to inhabit his own world. In E.M. Forster’s memorable phrase, they are round characters, “capable of surprising in a convincing way.” Lumpy Space Princess is a lovable but ghastly teenager, tediously obsessed with her old boyfriend, the unprepossessing Brad; she treats her well-meaning parents very shabbily. Marceline the Vampire Queen’s father is present just enough to make it impossible for her to ignore or forget his cruelty and selfishness—qualities she has inherited, to some degree. Princess Bubblegum is afflicted with intellectual arrogance and an inability to anticipate the dangerous consequences of her scientific experiments.

The Ice King is a tragic figure—to my mind, the hero—of Adventure Time. He is a danger to himself and everyone else, subject to unpredictable rages and fits of violence, but he will break your heart. He is forever trying to marry a princess or make a friend, but it never, ever works out, he can only push the thing he desires out of reach by the very force of his longing. Despite being a furious half-crazy blue cartoon villain, he is entirely human; he is ridiculous, needy and sad; he is oneself.

“I identify with him more than any other character,” said Adventure Time's creator Pendleton Ward, chatting offhandedly in the writers’ room at the studio in Burbank, where we had gathered with the show’s key writers and producers.

“But not in terms of, like, trying to capture women….” said Adam Muto, the show's co-executive producer.

“Oh, yes!” Ward said stoutly. Then, after the laughter subsided: “No, no, no, I mean… not capture, literally kidnapping women…. Just like, living alone and having to talk to your pet.”

Read the rest at this story's permanent home: The Hole Near The Center Of The World.

"Mr. Seinfeld, more than most, could use his show to give a platform to comics needing discovery. Instead, he packs it with fellow stars. They reminisce together about the days when they were nobodies and given glorious breaks, and seem almost unaware that there are nobodies today who could benefit from breaks of that very kind."

- The New York Times in a new piece comparing the "everyman scrutiny" of Seinfeld to the comedian's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which has drawn criticism for its lack of guest diversity.

Pre-Order 'Poking a Dead Frog,' Mike Sacks's Follow-Up to 'And Here's the Kicker'

Mike Sacks has written a sequel to his hit 2009 book And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft. The new series of interviews — called Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers — includes new insights from Amy Poehler, Patton Oswalt, Mel Brooks, Adam McKay, George Saunders, and more and is now available for pre-order on Amazon ahead of its June 24th release. Order it now for extra comedy nerd credit.

(Full disclosure: Our Managing Editor Bradford Evans contributed to the book.)

'The Maya Rudolph Show' Will Premiere on NBC May 19th

Maya Rudolph is returning to NBC next month. Her new one-hour special, entitled The Maya Rudolph Show, is set to premiere Monday, May 19th, at 10pm, EW reports. The one-off variety show special will double as a pilot for a potential series.

Guests for the show will include Kristen Bell, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Craig Robinson, Sean Hayes, and Chris Parnell, with Janelle Monáe as musical guest and Raphael Saaddiq as bandleader. Lorne Michaels, who worked with Rudolph as a producer on SNL and Up All Night, is also serving as a producer on The Maya Rudolph Show.

Right around this time last year when Up All Night was falling apart, Maya Rudolph turned down five sitcom offers to instead develop her own variety show. NBC, ABC, and Fox were all interested, but NBC won out and got the potential series. The daughter of soul singer Minnie Riperton, Rudolph is a musician in addition to being an actress/comedian. Before SNL, she was a studio backing singer and was briefly the keyboardist for the band The Rentals. She currently performs with Princess, the Prince cover band she formed with Gretchen Lieberum.

CBS Denies That They're in Talks with Chelsea Handler to Take Over 'Late Late Show'

Despite the rumors, CBS is not in talks to have Chelsea Handler take over The Late Late Show for Craig Ferguson. Last week, The Wrap reported that Handler has been in negotiations for the job and last night, Handler posted a photo to Instagram of herself with a stack of papers with the CBS logo on one with the caption "Business meeting." CBS told Splitsider in a statement, "There are no discussions with Chelsea Handler regarding the network’s 12:30 late night broadcast. Her meeting with CBS yesterday was a general meeting with our syndication group."

Handler announced last month that she's leaving her long-running E! late night show Chelsea Lately at the end of the year. A few days later, David Letterman announced he was retiring from CBS and Stephen Colbert was subsequently named his replacement. There's no word on whether Craig Ferguson is staying at his post at The Late Late Show once his contract is up this year, but it's possible that he and CBS will part ways timed to the Letterman/Colbert transition.

Watch the Trailer for the Jenny Slate Movie 'Obvious Child'

Here's the trailer for Obvious Child, a new comedy starring Jenny Slate as a Brooklyn standup who gets dumped, fired, and pregnant back to back to back. The independent movie, written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, premiered to rave reviews at Sundance earlier this year, and it hits theaters on June 6th.

Stephen Colbert Is a Guest on 'Late Show with David Letterman' Next Week

CBS announced today that next Tuesday, April 22nd, Stephen Colbert will be paying a visit to David Letterman at Late Show for the first time since the network announced Colbert would be replacing Letterman as Late Show host in 2015. Click through to watch Colbert's last visit to the Letterman desk from December. READ MORE

Aziz Ansari, Jason Woliner, and Eric Wareheim Present 'Food Club'

Here's a new video from JASH of a food and culture show called "Food Club" that was created by and stars Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, and Jason Woliner, with Parks and Rec writer Alan Yang as Swab Yang. Wearing silly-looking captains' hats, the three comedians travel from restaurant to restaurant, deciding whether the eateries are plaque-worthy or not.

Ansari, Wareheim, and Woliner started their Food Club years ago, before this video, as Ansari told The AV Club in 2010: READ MORE

16 of Conan O'Brien's Most Memorable Remote Segments

Since Conan O'Brien made his late-night host debut on Late Night in 1993, he's never shied away from taking his work out of the studio and onto the streets, whether that be New York City during his NBC days, the Los Angeles area during his current run on TBS, and beyond — from small town America to across the pond. O'Brien has led countless unforgettable remote segments over the past 20 years, and after his recent weeklong visit to Dallas and turn hosting the MTV Movie Awards this past weekend, here's a look at some of his best and most ridiculous out-of-studio visits from the past two decades, from the time he played old-timey baseball to the time he bonded with his custom-made American Girl doll Agnes. READ MORE

Tom Scharpling Directed Another Great Music Video for Real Estate

Comedian Tom Scharpling has been making awe-inspiring music videos for cool bands for years now, and his latest, the above video Scharpling wrote and directed for the Real Estate song "Crime," might be his best yet. Andy Daly's Tom Scharpling character totally gives Jon Hamm's Tom Scharpling a run for his money.

Check out the latest video Scharpling wrote and directed for Real Estate, "Days" from 2010," below: READ MORE