Talking to Vernon Chatman About 'Wonder Showzen,' His Standup Beginnings, and His New Book 'Mindsploitation'

If there’s a comedy equivalent of Rick Rubin, it’s Vernon Chatman.

Just as Rubin has become known for producing some of the music industry’s most seminal albums, Chatman has become known as a go-to behind-the-scenes guy for some of television’s most critically-acclaimed comedies. The list of shows he’s written for and produced includes The Chris Rock Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Louie, and South Park. He’s also a founding member of PFFR, the production company behind Adult Swim’s Delocated and the hilariously demented Xavier: Renegade Angel, as well as MTV’s Wonder Showzen, which he co-created.

As gonzo as some of his PFFR shows are, they are nothing compared to Chatman’s personal projects, including his new book, Mindsploitation: Asinine Assignments for the Online Homework Cheating Industry. The book is a collection of real essays and other assignments Chatman hired/exploited several online essay-writing companies to pen for him, including a slogan for a 16-foot party chicken nugget and an essay ranking the Top 8 major races (Asian, Latin, European, Native, Eastern European, Black African, East Australian, and Other) in order from greatest to worst.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Chatman about his hysterical new book, his standup roots, and why he doesn’t think he can ever do Wonder Showzen again. READ MORE


Talking to Kurt Metzger About Starting Out in Comedy, Patrice O'Neal, and Standup Controversies

If you’re a person who believes that comedy has any sort of social mission, Kurt Metzger probably isn’t the comic for you. But if you’re a fan of funny for funny’s sake without any punches pulled, he’s your guy.

Metzger is a veteran NYC comic who in recent months has found himself at the center of some of the stand-up world’s prevailing controversies. He publicly called bullshit on the Upright Citizens Bridgade Theater’s practice of not paying comics for shows that charge admission, which sparked some heated philosophical debate about the business of comedy that went viral and eventually drew a response from the UCB’s founders. He also waded in the more recently publicized dispute about rape jokes vs. artistic freedom by sparring with a feminist writer on Facebook and inviting her to debate him on stage. (Metzger is a bit of a shit-starter on Facebook and frequently authors posts that draw hundreds of comments. Definitely worth following).

When he isn’t coming up with new material via his Facebook rants, Metzger, who grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and was an ordained minister, is an accomplished comic and writer. He’s a regular at the New York’s famed Comedy Cellar and has written for several TV shows, including Inside Amy Schumer and Chappelle’s Show.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Metzger about his start in comedy as well as the rape joke and UCB controversies. READ MORE


Talking to Todd Barry About His New Podcast, 'Delocated,' and Doing an Hour of Pure Crowd Work

This podcasting thing must be here to stay because Todd Barry has one now. And Todd Barry is no Johnny-come-lately who’s going to fall for the latest fad. He’s far too much of an amazing and highly regarded comedian for that.

Barry launched The Todd Barry Podcast last month on the Feral Audio network. The format is nothing new – it’s essentially Barry interviewing his comedian friends in his New York apartment – but it’s great to hear him be sincere for a moment and break character from the Todd Barry World Famous Comedian he plays on his must-follow Twitter feed.

Barry has long been a staple of the NYC comedy scene known for his dry sarcasm. He’s released four albums, done three Comedy Central Specials, and appeared in several films and TV shows, including The Wrestler and Louie. I recently had the chance to chat with Barry about his podcast, his role in The Wrestler, and his recent crowd work tour. READ MORE


Talking to Eric Wareheim About JASH and 'Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories'

Tim and Eric’s new YouTube channel JASH may not have the same amazing ring to it as Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, but fans of the TV show will be happy to know JASH has a lot of the same sensibilities.

And it would be one thing if JASH was exclusively a venture between Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, but the channel has comedic heavyweights Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, and Michael Cera as partners as well.

Together, they're producing short films, music videos, web series, and other projects for JASH, which Wareheim describes as a “place of good.” Since Tim and Eric went off Adult Swim three years ago, the duo has been busy. They made their first feature film, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, and, in the case of Heidecker, have been popping up in movies in both supporting (Bridesmaids) and leading roles (The Comedy). Wareheim has also done some acting, but is spending more time behind the camera, making a name for himself as a go-to music video director (Check out this insane video he directed for Beach House’s “Wishes”).

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Wareheim about the origins of JASH, making Billion Dollar Movie, and why doing mainstream comedy doesn’t interest him. READ MORE


Talking to Jen Kirkman About Stand-Up, Misogyny on Twitter, and Her New Book

Jen Kirkman isn’t asking you to agree with her decision to not have kids. Just quit grilling her about it.

That’s the main point she’s trying to get across in her very funny new book: I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids.

The book is a first for Kirkman, an LA-based comic best known for her Funny or Die Drunk History sketches and, most recently, as a writer and panelist on Chelsea Lately. Like her popular standup act, whose die-hard fans include Paul F. Tompkins, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself includes hilarious perspectives and anecdotes about the confrontations she’s had with people because babies aren’t her thing.

I recently had the chance to chat with Kirkman about the new book, taking a break from Twitter, and getting back out on the road. READ MORE


Talking to Eli Braden About Howard Stern, Parody Music, and Twitter

Comedian Eli Braden has an impressive 58,000 Twitter followers, but that’s nothing compared to the 6 million SiriusXM subscribers who routinely hear his parody songs.

Fans of the Howard Stern Show know Braden (@elibraden) as the comedian/musician who regularly provides the show’s raunchy parody songs introducing Robin Quivers, Stern’s well-endowed news anchor. (Sample “Robin’s Double G’s” sung to the tune of “Up on Cripple Creek.”)

Though Braden’s songs are admittedly lowbrow, the jokes in his popular Twitter feed are often extremely clever and have drawn such fans as “Weird Al” Yankovic and Molly McNearney, Jimmy Kimmel Live’s head writer who gave Braden a tryout writing on the show. He now makes his living writing for several TV shows, in addition to performing live.

I recently chatted with Braden about his start in comedy, touring with the Stern Show staffers, and writing for television. READ MORE


So Long, 'Delocated'

"It's not a silly comedy anymore. It's a silly drama."

As Delocated star and creator Jon Glaser points out, you can’t really describe his show any better than Sergei’s line in the first episode of the show’s second season. So it makes sense that Delocated, which ended its three seasons with a half-hour finale last night, went out in dramatic fashion.

(Spoilers ahead!)

It didn’t start out that way; at least it didn’t seem to start out that way. Season 1 was more light-hearted and goofy for goofy’s sake. Though Delocated has always been about a Russian mob target in the witness protection program who moves to New York City to become a reality star, the Russian mob threat never felt all that particularly grave. Probably because Yvgeny, the assassin assigned to take out “Jon,” was an incompetent man-child whose true passions were stand-up comedy and vodka. (Props to Eugene Mirman for so deftly portraying a mild-mannered simpleton born into a crime family but not cut out for the dirty work.) “Jon’s” presence in the witness protection program was the show’s backbone, but the humor came in absurd, secondary storylines, like “Jon” throwing a Ska-Mitzvah for his son, or this sublime scene from Season 1’s finale where “Jon” meets a drifter played by Michael Shannon and asks him to don the ski mask and assume “Jon’s” identity because he can’t take the pressure of having his life under a microscope. READ MORE


Talking to Jon Glaser About 'Parks and Rec,' 'Girls,' and the 'Delocated' Finale

It's probably going to be a while 'til we see another show like Delocated.

The Adult Swim live-action series comes to an end tonight after three seasons of somehow making accessible a show about a Russian mob target in the witness protection program who moves to New York City to become a reality star. Delocated seamlessly blends avant-garde with lowbrow – the perfect middle ground between a network sitcom and Tim and Eric.

At the center of the absurdity is “Jon,” a suburban tool who wears a ski mask at all times to protect his identity. Based on a character by series creator and star Jon Glaser, “Jon” put his and his family’s lives in danger just so he could move into a sweet penthouse. Everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, whether it’s intentional or not.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Glaser about his favorite Delocated episodes, what we can expect from tonight's finale, and what the future holds for “Jon.”

Is the final episode going to be a half-hour?

It's a half-hour, correct.

Is there any hint you can give us?

We wanted it to be an hour, but flying the whole crew to Russia for a machine gun battle in Red Square was too much money. READ MORE


Talking to Mike Scully About Writing for Poehler and Fey at the Golden Globes, 'The Simpsons,' and 'Parks and Rec'

Mike Scully is living proof that if you just spend your childhood watching TV and have no college degree or any other marketable skills, you can always fall back on show business.

[Full disclosure: the preceding line was Scully’s invention. Hey, sometimes you take an assist from a professional comedy writer, especially one as accomplished as he is.]

Scully is a television writer and producer perhaps best known as the showrunner for The Simpsons Seasons 9 through 12. Since then he’s had stints producing and writing for shows including Everybody Loves Raymond, Parks and Recreation, and The New Normal, where he’s currently a co-executive producer.

Scully’s won 6 Emmys, was a recipient of WGA's Lifetime Achievement in Animation Writing Award, and was one of the 11 writers who worked on all 166 drafts of The Simpsons Movie. Not bad for a guy who started out writing jokes for Yakov Smirnoff at 25 bucks a pop.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Scully about writing jokes for Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, his time at The Simpsons, and advice he has for aspiring television writers. READ MORE


Talking to Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer About Their New MTV Late Night Show 'Nikki and Sara Live'

MTV has provided plenty of laughs over the last 10 or so years, but rarely have they been intentional. Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer are about to change that.

Tonight at 11 EST the duo will debut Nikki & Sara Live, a weekly half-hour comedy show set in front of a live studio audience. It's MTV’s first late-night talk show since The Jon Stewart Show went off the air in 1995.

Glaser and Schaefer are both accomplished stand-up comics and writers. Glaser has appeared on Conan and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and is a regular performer at The Comedy Cellar in New York. Schaefer has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and won two Emmys for her work blogging for that show. The two met a few years ago and together started hosting the popular You Had to Be There podcast, where they bring in comedian friends as guests and rarely hold back when discussing their personal lives. The chemistry they display on the podcast is part of the reason MTV decided to give them a shot co-hosting a television show. READ MORE


Talking to Ted Alexandro About Standup and Why Comedy Shouldn't Be a Competition

Sometimes it’s difficult to think of people we associate with telling dick jokes to drunken tourists as “artists,” but that’s not the case with Ted Alexandro.

And that’s not to say that Alexandro, one of New York’s top comics, avoids salacious material. It’s just that he brings a certain romanticism to his profession that it’s hard to think of him as anything but an artist.

Named earlier this year one of TimeOut New York’s “21 New York Comedy Scene Linchpins”, Alexandro is a comic you can find almost any night of the week performing at New York’s best comedy clubs, including the world-famous Comedy Cellar, where he’s a regular. He’s performed on nearly every late night talk show, opened for Louis C.K. at Carnegie Hall, and is someone his peers look up to for his work negotiating higher pay for New York’s club comics.

I recently had the chance to talk to Alexandro about his start, the comedian’s coalition he co-founded, and his upcoming web series. READ MORE


Talking to Chris Hardwick About Comedy Stuff and Nerd Stuff

Chris Hardwick might be the most popular nerd in America, which makes you wonder if that even qualifies him as a nerd anymore. Oh well, that’s a philosophical debate for another time.

As the creator and impresario behind Nerdist Industries, Hardwick lords over a digital nerd kingdom that began as a website, but has since expanded to a successful podcast network, YouTube channel, and production house, among other endeavors. He’s also an actor, writer, and television host extraordinaire, beginning with his run on MTV’s Singled Out to his current gig hosting Talking Dead on AMC. But first and foremost, Hardwick is a stand-up comic, and earlier this month his hour-long special, Chris Hardwick: Mandroid, premiered on Comedy Central.

I recently had the chance to talk to Hardwick about his stand-up, how “nerd” has become redefined, and how he gets all those high-profile guests on his podcast.

What do identify as most these days? You’ve got stand-up, you host a TV show, you’re sort of a business magnate with the Nerdist Network. I was just wondering how you view yourself?

Whenever I explain what I do, it always sounds like I’m making it up. Like, “Well, I do a YouTube Channel, and then I do some podcasts and stand-up.” But I’m a stand-up comic. That’s what I’d like to be known as. READ MORE


Talking to New Onion News Network Head Writer Andy Miara

Last year’s news of the Onion’s relocation from New York to Chicago and the resulting loss of staff brought with it several questions about the comedy institution’s future and whether it would be able to maintain its exceptionally high standards.

I think most fans would agree any fears they might have harbored have been allayed as the paper continues to churn out some of the funniest, biting social satire available anywhere. Onion, Inc. is still transitioning to a new staff at the Onion News Network, but if the first crop of videos and background of new head writer Andy Miara are any indication, relax, you’re in good hands.

Miara comes to the ONN job with years of experience writing and directing sketch comedy around New York and Chicago. His sketch group, My Mans, which includes new Saturday Night Live featured player Tim Robinson, sold a pilot to Comedy Central and he’s a faculty member at The Second City in Chicago.

I met up with Miara last month to talk about his sketch group, working with Bob Odenkirk, and what we can expect from ONN with him at the helm. READ MORE


Talking to Rory Scovel About Standup, Characters, Alt Rooms vs. Clubs and All Sorts of Other Stuff

You’re forgiven if you don’t know who stand-up comic Rory Scovel is, because it’s pretty hard to keep track. Sometimes he’s a German dude, sometimes he’s a down-on-his-luck former high school coach with three DUIs, sometimes he’s a confused Southern guy. You just never know.

Take note, however, because you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of him. Named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch 2012, the South Carolina native has been busy this year, appearing in a Nissan commercial, performing on Conan and other television programs, and headlining at some of the most prestigious comedy festivals, including last month’s Montreal Just for Laughs Festival.

Scovel’s appeal is his improv-heavy act and the characters he channels on stage, meaning you’re unlikely to see anything close to resembling the same set twice. He’s a comic who toys with conventions and audiences’ presumptions of what a comedy show should be – like the time he performed part of his set in a hotel lobby elevator (see video below). He’s also a thoughtful guy, and has a lot to say about comedy.

I had the chance to sit down with Scovel in Montreal last month to talk about his start in comedy, his acting aspirations, and the genuine, freewheeling style of stand-up he’s constantly striving toward. READ MORE