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The Funny Man: The Perils of Comedic Stardom

The titular character in John Warner’s debut novel, The Funny Man (out tomorrow on Soho Press), just wants to make people laugh. Everyone can relate to that.

Yes, he’s narcissistic, irresponsible, drug-addled and a bad father, but all that is a byproduct of his intense desire to elicit laughter from everyone he encounters. He’s just more committed than the rest of us, loses focus elsewhere, and eventually becomes a victim of his own success.

It’s clear after reading The Funny Man that Warner is an author who spends a lot of time reflecting about comedy and its place in our culture. That’s self-evident to those familiar with Warner’s previous [...]

Bridesmaids: A Great Comedy, No Qualifiers Necessary

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about what kind of comedy Bridesmaids is — who it’s for, what it’s trying to do. Most of the buzz I’ve heard revolves around the comedy non-revelation that, holy shit, girls can be funny too, and look at these funny girls who are already millionaires for being funny be so funny even though girls are never funny. It’s ridiculous. And although I understand why comparisons will be drawn, over and over, to the “guy versions” of Bridesmaids, I really wish they didn’t have to be. Because Bridesmaids is, objectively, a fucking terrific comedy, independent of the gender discussions that people who [...]

This Is a Review of This Is a Book by Demetri Martin

This is a review of a book entitled This is a Book by Demetri Martin. The book was written by Demetri Martin, of course. The title is not the only reason, however, why it could not have possibly been written by anyone else.

There has always been a matter-of-fact post-modernism to the way Demetri Martin packages himself, and his literary debut is a remarkable translation of that unique aesthetic into book form. (That the author designed the jacket and cover artwork himself suggests that this process was a labor of love.) Several self-aware touches adorn the book, poking fun at the medium: a sly mock-tutorial, “How to read [...]

Norm MacDonald's Triumphant Return to the Fake News Anchor Desk

If you enjoyed Norm MacDonald’s perpetually-grinning, surprisingly-understated stint on SNL’s Weekend Update in the mid-90’s, it's a safe bet that you’ll love Sports Show with Norm MacDonald. In his recent interview with A.V. Club, MacDonald commented on his time in that anchor chair this way: So on Update, the only real original thing was trying to take away the cleverness of the punchline and make it as blunt as possible. And then I tried to make the punchline as close to the setup as I could. And I thought that was the perfect thing. If I could make the setup and the punchline identical to each other, I would [...]

Paul: The Art of Not Selling Out

Good news comedy nerds (and just nerds): Paul is funny! Don’t be fooled by the marketing campaign and weak trailers; this is not simply a buddy comedy with wacky CGI’d aliens and weed jokes. It’s a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movie through and through. Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Frost co-wrote a script that embraces, not mocks, the genre film.

Parody movies rarely work, and thanks to the sometimes alarming rate in which they’re churned out (Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Date Movie, etc.), quality seems to suffer. But there are a few very noteworth exceptions. Christopher Guest has mastered the mockumentary, and [...]

Childrens Hospital's Triumphant Return

The 15-minute absurdist Adult Swim comedy Childrens Hospital had its third season premiere last night, delving back into the world of solemn medical dramas to mine for more humor. Season 3’s first episode picked up right where the show left off, delivering everything fans have come to expect from Childrens Hospital: big-name cameos, rapid-fire meta-jokes, and a complete disregard for plot, continuity, and basic standards of good taste. Also, Rob Huebel’s bare ass.

Donald Glover Gets Confident on His IAMDONALD Tour

Donald Glover is at a point in his career where he can basically do whatever he wants. The comedy community loves him, thanks to 30 Rock, Community, and Derrick Comedy; he’s attractive enough that fashion companies, like the Gap, want him to appear in their ads; he's nerd-approved, which is how the rumor of Donald Glover as Spider-Man got started; and influential music critics have come around to his rap, where he rhymes under the Wu Tang-generated Childish Gambino moniker.

In an already impressive career, that last one is probably the most notable. When an actor or, especially, a comedian releases a music album, it’s often an ego-driven move, [...]

The Paul Reiser Show: Despite Its Best Efforts, Not Curb Your Enthusiasm

"Everything you'd think from the commercials and promotional videos about the Paul Reiser Show is true. Curb-lite call it, less taste, less filling. Reiser is still Paul Reiser. He's lost a step though. It’s not that hard to see why NBC kept this thing on the shelf for so long."

That was the first paragraph of notes I had upon watching the Paul Reiser Show, before the name Larry David seemed to be the centerpiece of the episode's plot. But David's appearance, in an extremely Curb-ian scene taking place in a café — “In the Valley!” — takes Paul Reiser's newfound meta-factor to the Nth degree, with David literally [...]

Why Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop premiered at this year’s SXSW in the 1200-seat Paramount Theater to a capacity crowd who hung on every quip and sarcastic remark that flowed from O’Brien. From its first moments, when Conan shouts out his car window at an L.A. celebrity homes tour, the crowd immediately roared and never looked back, with their laughter sometimes drowning out the following dialogue in the Rodman Flender-directed tour doc. From beginning to end, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a portrait of the backstage Conan, whose offhand jibes work just as well as his jokes on our TV screens, albeit with a lot more bite.

A longtime friend of O’Brien’s [...]

Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason: The Intersection of Fantasy and Harsh Reality

“Like blurbs, an author’s choice of title is very important… Take Gravity’s Rainbow. That is a terrific title. Why? Because it tells you what the book is about.”

Those words, written by aspiring author Rhon Penny (silent h) in an audacious solicitation letter to novelist Thomas Pynchon, are obviously not true. But coming from Penny, a man who insinuates himself into the lives and careers of authors to whom he considers himself an equal, the statement is typical. Rhon is one of the many blithely delusional protagonists in Mike Sacks’ new humor collection, Your Wildest Dreams Within Reason, out today from Tin House Books. So much so that [...]

The Sad Familiarity of The Hangover Part II

From front to back, The Hangover Part II is one big calculation. It seems to have run every single aspect of the first movie through a series of algorithms to determine just how much different — and how very, very, similar — the sequel should be to retain a target audience with no patience for new material, no taste for a new adventure and no desire to see a different movie than the one they paid to see in 2009.

Want a new plot that’s exactly the same? No problem. The guys are at Ed Helms’ wedding this time. Looking for a slightly more interesting location than Vegas? Boom, [...]

The Trip: a Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Scallop

What a pleasure it is watch a movie with virtually no plot at all. Don’t get me wrong; director Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, shown at the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend, is packed with emotion and honesty and the gradual unveiling of the characters' rich inner lives. In terms of action, however, the film depicts exactly what would happen if you and an old colleague spent a week traveling Northern England on a restaurant tour: almost nothing.

Edited together from a 2010 miniseries of the same name and combined with new footage to make a feature length film, The Trip follows the fictionalized versions of British comedic actors [...]

Happy Endings Review: Night of a Thousand Comebacks

Happy Endings had its two-episode premiere last night, and the best, brightest sign that it's shaping up to be a good show was how much better the second episode was from the first. An upward trajectory: not as easy as you might think! While the premise dominated the first half hour, by the second its superior writing and great cast chemistry was already shining through. I have a big Friends-shaped hole in my heart. I'm not saying Happy Endings filled it, but if things keep going this well, I think I can mash it around in there until it's approximately the same shape and size.

The series begins when [...]

Pee-Wee's Familiar Adventure

I can distinctly remember watching Batman Returns as an 11-year old kid and being confused by the fact that Pee-wee Herman was throwing a baby into the Gotham City sewage system. The brief role of the Penguin’s father at the beginning of the film was played by Paul Reubens and not his grey suit-wearing alter ego. But, for my money, there was no difference. I was aware of the fact that Pee-wee wasn’t a real person. But it still didn’t make sense to see Reubens as anything other than the eternal man-child that made him famous.

After springing into worldwide fame in 1981 with the premier of HBO’s [...]