Bob Odenkirk on Being an Amateur Standup and the Inevitable Decline of Improv

bob-odenkirkBob Odenkirk may be busier than ever, starring in the upcoming Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, but that doesn't mean he's put comedy on the back burner. If anything, he's amped up his comedic output as of late. Odenkirk released his first book A Load of Hooey last month, he's producing and writing for the IFC sketch show The Birthday Boys (currently in its second season), he just got back from a book reading/live comedy tour, and his debut standup album, Amateur Hour, comes out today. Recorded this summer at LA's Nerdist Theater and released by A Special Thing Records, Amateur Hour consists of a standup performance by Odenkirk, as well as a set from his opening act Brandon Wardell and a handful of tracks of Odenkirk as his character Lev Gravier, a vaudeville era talent manager dispensing his advice on comedy.

I recently chatted with Odenkirk over the phone about how Amateur Hour came together, how he got his first-ever comedy job as a Saturday Night Live writer, and a potential Mr. Show 20th anniversary reunion special on HBO next year. READ MORE


Inside the Return of 'Superego' with Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, Mark McConville, and Paul F. Tompkins

superego season 4
On September 1st, the incredibly funny podcast Superego is returning with the debut of its long-awaited fourth season. The semi-improvised sketch show will return from its year-plus hiatus with comedian Paul F. Tompkins, a frequent guest on seasons past, officially joining the group full-time as a regular cast member alongside Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, and Mark McConville. Since its launch in 2006, Superego has grown to become one of the comedy podcast industry's best and most elaborate programs and has attracted a slew of famous person guests like Jason Sudeikis, John Hodgman, and Gillian Jacobs, just to name a few. I recently had the chance to interview Gourley, Carter, McConville, and Tompkins about Superego season four, trying to get David Sedaris to do the show, and the upcoming Shunt McGuppin album. READ MORE


Inside 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' with Matt Albie

matt-albieThis fall, the long-running NBS sketch show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is set to enter its 29th season, and no one has been a larger part of the program's success than its head writer and executive producer Matt Albie, who has been a major creative force behind the show since he was first hired in 1997.

I was fortunate to be granted a rare interview with Albie, who contacted me via his Twitter account to set things up during his summer break from S60. Albie and I discussed the show's legacy, Emmy chances, and his tips for young comedy writers. READ MORE


Inside Whiplash, 'Review,' and 'SNL' with Leo Allen

leo-allenTwo decades into his comedy career, Leo Allen is both the host of one of New York's most popular standup shows (Whiplash) and a busy writer who's worked for shows like Saturday Night Live, Jon Benjamin Has a Van (which he co-created), Comedy Bang! Bang!, and most recently, Andy Daly's Comedy Central series Review. Allen recently directed A Night at Whiplash, a concert movie version of his long-running standup showcase Whiplash, which was produced by Splitsider and features appearances from Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Mirman, Michael Che, and more. I recently interviewed Leo Allen about the right way to run a standup show, his stint on SNL, and the John McEnroe '80s comedy he's writing with longtime partner Eric Slovin. READ MORE


Inside 'Nathan For You' with Co-Creator Michael Koman

_IGP3265Michael Koman is the co-creator of two of the best comedies on TV — Nathan For You and Eagleheart — and he's about to add a third to his roster. Koman is gearing up for production on an yet-to-be-titled Adult Swim sitcom that pairs Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Jack McBrayer, which Koman co-created with Robert Smigel and David Feldman. After spending seven years on the writing staff of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Koman left the late night world, and he's since become some sort of anti-Chuck Lorre, responsible for multiple TV shows that are some of the most original and funny things currently happening on TV. Nathan For You, the critically-acclaimed Comedy Central series that Koman co-created with its star Nathan Fielder, is currently in the midst of its second season. The show's "Dumb Starbucks" episode — in which they turned a coffee shop into a Starbucks ripoff called "Dumb Starbucks" to test the limits of parody law and attracted a ton of unexpected media attention in the process — is set to air tonight.

I recently interviewed Koman about struggling to hide his laughter during a surprising moment with a gas station owner on Nathan For You, a mysterious international episode that Comedy Central deemed too expensive, and whether or not there will be a follow-up to Eagleheart's excellent third season.

Is it difficult not laughing on set while shooting Nathan For You?

Oh yeah. It’s really important that the crew is not laughing while we’re making the show. When something like that happens, I’m not on camera, so I can go outside. But you do get good at it. Weirdly, it’s like method acting where I’ll just think about something sad while we’re shooting.

That’s the main way you deal with it? Thinking of sad stuff?

I tell myself “This isn’t funny.” I’m just watching a serious conversation, and I try not to imagine that there’s anything comical about what’s happening. Usually, if you really can’t stop yourself from laughing, it ends up being good on the show. In the gas station episode, when the owner talked about drinking his grandson’s pee, I had lost all control. I was behind racks of candy in this gas station. I was shuddering. It was really, really powerful.

But that was something where it seemed funny in the moment and as soon as it was over, it felt like that would never be part of the show. It was just too insane. It was so out of nowhere. Once we were editing, we realized how incredible it was. Because the people the night before were all talking about how comfortable they would be drinking urine. We thought to mention it to the gas station owner because maybe he would just have a small funny reaction that would be good near the ending. It was just the most amazing thing, that you meet what seem like the only three people on earth who will openly talk about drinking urine and you mention it to a fourth person and he would react that way. I still can’t believe it happened. READ MORE


Sheng Wang on New York and San Francisco's Standup Scenes

Whiplash Comedy - UCB TheaterOver a decade into his standup career, Sheng Wang has amassed a list of credits that includes Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, and his own Comedy Central Presents special. Wang, who came up via San Francisco's comedy scene, currently resides in New York, where he plays both alt rooms and clubs. Wang is one of several comedians, alongside Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Mirman, and Michael Che, featured in A Night at Whiplash, a Splitsider-produced standup concert movie based on Leo Allen's long-running live standup showcase Whiplash. I recently had the chance to talk to Sheng Wang about his beginnings in comedy, when he knew he would actually have a career as a standup, and performing in both San Francisco and New York. READ MORE


Today Is My Last Day as a Person Who Works at Splitsider.com

leno_goodbyeHey gang,

A couple weeks ago, I put in my two weeks notice as Managing Editor at Splitsider.com because I have other stuff I've gotta go do. Today is my last day. I've been working here full-time for nearly two years now and it's been a blast and a super enjoyable job, but it's time for me to move on and go do some vague other stuff. I leave you in Adam and Megh's absurdly capable hands and am excited to see where they take the site in the future. Don't cry or whatever; these aren't the last words I am writing for Splitsider. I have a handful of interviews I've done that will be running over the next few weeks and I'll maybe pop my head in every now and then, or not. Who knows?


Tim & Eric and Dr. Steve Brule Made a Crazy Video for Their Upcoming Tour

Comedy duo Tim & Eric announced earlier this week that they're going on a big North American tour with Dr. Steve Brule (John C. Reilly) starting this September. Here's a crazy video Tim, Eric, and Brule made to promote said tour, and yes, the tour will feature a one-on-one between Brule and President Baranga Obrama.


Jim Gaffigan in Talks to Turn His CBS Pilot Into a Series at TV Land

jim gaffiganIn May, CBS passed on ordering comedian Jim Gaffigan's family sitcom pilot Gaffigan to series, but it looks like the show may be finding new life on another network. Deadline reports that TV Land has been in talks with Sony TV, the studio that produced the pilot, for the last month or so and that TV Land is "well down the road of trying to make the show work there." Deadline says TV Land is trying to get the actors' rates down for a lower budget.

Gaffigan, a single-camera comedy co-created by Jim Gaffigan and Peter Tolan (Rescue Me),  stars the titular comedian as a fictionalized version of himself raising his five kids with his wife in a two-bedroom NYC apartment. The show was originally developed at CBS in 2013, but the network passed on it and rolled it over to the 2014 season, producing another pilot before rejecting the series again. The 2014 pilot starred Gaffigan, Ashley Williams, Tongayi Chririsa, Adam Goldberg, and Michael Ian Black.


Watch a Trailer for 'Black Jesus,' a New Comedy from the Creator of 'The Boondocks'

Adult Swim announced today that Black Jesus, a new live-action comedy created by Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) will be premiering on August 7th, and here's the trailer for the show. Black Jesus stars TV newcomer Gerald "Slink" Johnson (Grand Theft Auto V) as Jesus Christ, living in modern day Compton. Charlie Murphy, Corey Holcomb, and John Witherspoon play supporting roles. Aaron McGruder recently signed a first-look deal to develop and create new shows for Adult Swim and is currently writing a pilot called Hooligan Squad for the network.

Check out an extended version of the Black Jesus trailer below: READ MORE


'Superego' Season 4 Is Coming; Paul F. Tompkins to Join Group Full-Time

superego season 4The popular improvised sketch podcast Superego hasn't released a new episode since the spring of 2013, but the group behind the show is finally bringing the show back. A fourth season of Superego is set to debut September 1st, with frequent guest Paul F. Tompkins joining the group full-time as a regular member alongside Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, and Mark McConville. Superego Season 4 will also feature Neko Case as a guest star, plus returning guests Andy Daly, Tom Lennon, Colin Hanks, and more.

Launched in 2006, Superego has attracted some of the biggest names in comedy, including Patton Oswalt, Jason Sudeikis, John Hodgman, and more. During the show's year-plus hiatus, the group has been releasing animated versions of old sketches via Nerdist, and they put out a country-rock comedy album, Mount Us More, last year under the guise of their fake band The Journeymen.


Jim Norton Is Getting a Late Night Show on VICE.com

Jim Norton Color 1VICE announced today that they're giving a late night web show to comedian Jim Norton. The Jim Norton Show will debut on VICE.com on Wednesday, July 23rd. The program will have a loose, unstructured feel and it will feature a monologue, in-depth interviews, and standup performances, all shot in front of a live audience. Mike Tyson, Dana White, and drug dealer Freeway Rick Ross are lined up to be guests. "I wanted to do a talk show that reminded me of the old school ones I loved as a kid, without all the fake enthusiasm and sound bite-driven conversations," Norton said. "I also wanted to do a monologue that represented my standup sensibilities and not have to worry about it being 'family friendly.' Because I’m not family friendly."


Here's Elaine Stritch Yelling at Her Pool Boy David Letterman in a Classic Clip

In honor of the passing of Broadway great Elaine Stritch, CBS's Late Show uploaded these super funny segments from a 1996 episode in which Stritch sporadically interrupted the show to scream at her pool boy, David Letterman.


CBS Exec Says New Craig Ferguson Replacement Might Not Be a Talk Show

craig ferguson late late showIt's been three months since Craig Ferguson announced he's leaving CBS's The Late Late Show in December, and the network has yet to say who his replacement will be. CBS entertainment chief  Nina Tassler, in a Q&A with TV critics today said that the network's new 12:35am program might not even be a talk show. Here's what she had to say:

"There’s certainly a knee-jerk reaction to go for a more traditional, behind-the-desk interview format, but who knows? This is an opportunity us look at all kinds of hosts — not only from the comic world, but maybe the political world. Right now, we’re doing our homework and having a lot of meetings and talking. We want to make the right decision."

Tassler added, "But who knows? … It might not [be a comedy talk show], but it also might be.” CBS has had The Late Late Show, in various incarnations, in the post-Letterman slot since 1995, with hosts Tom Snyder and Craig Kilborn preceding Ferguson, so potentially dumping the long-running but not-super-popular franchise would be a pretty monumental change in the late night world.