All posts tagged: comedy

Why the Kids in the Hall of Today Are Better Than Ever

In the late ’90s when I finally convinced my mom I was too old for a babysitter, she left me home with my best friend, the television. In those days, daytime TV was broken down into two major categories: trashy talk shows and reruns. These were the glory days of Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake (the eternal paternity-tester Maury Povich was actually the more innocuous of the bunch), so my interest quickly waned. Fortunately, we’d just gotten an expanded cable TV package that included one channel that was, far and away, the cool kid channel. If you didn’t watch Comedy Central, or at least South Park, when I in sixth grade, you were a huge loser. So, what started as the Eternal Acceptance Quest that’s been passed down from kid-generation to kid-generation soon sparked a near obsession with the station’s daytime programming. An oasis from the mundane soap operas and Montell! What I discovered during those summers at home without parental supervision has probably shaped (or, some would say, warped) my sense humor more than anything else. And that blame …

Archer-thumb

Popdose Conceptual Theater: Archer

I have distinctly mixed feelings about the Adult Swim-ization of TV comedy. Not quite a genre, less than a movement, born of Cartoon Network’s late-night bloc but now found in animation and live action and animated shows across networks, often characterized reductively by fans and detractors alike as “stoner humor,” it’s a shared sensibility that partakes of a complex brew of influences. The recent viral sensation “Too Many Cooks” epitomizes the approach; it’s smart, but it aims its hardest punches at soft targets — usually at the trashy pop culture it both loves and despises. If there is a guiding credo, it is this: There’s no such thing as going too far for the joke. Over the top is where it starts, and it is unshakable in its conviction that excess — of sex, of bloodshed, of fluids and secretions of all kinds — is inherently funny. It’s an approach, in other words, that puts the fine line between clever and stupid up for grabs, and the results don’t always fall down on the right …

ramis

In Memoriam: Harold Ramis (1944-2014)

If you were one of the many (and there were many) who found yourself delving into a list of actor-writer-director Harold Ramis‘ achievements upon hearing of his sudden death yesterday at the age of 69, you may be wondering where all that time went. One minute you were probably minding your own business, the next you were realizing that this seemingly unassuming, nerdy-looking Chicagoan had a hand in at least 10 of the most influential comedic institutions of the last half century. As if we could hold one over the other. Was Ramis best known as a writer, who cut his teeth in the pages of The National Lampoon and on the staff of SCTV before writing or co-writing the likes of National Lampoon’s Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back to School, Groundhog Day and Analyze This? Was he most accomplished as the director of Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day or Multiplicity? Would he be immortalized for his acting work, whether Russell Zinsky, the withering straight man to Bill Murray’s off-kilter John Winger …

stevemartin-600

DVD Review: “Steve Martin: The Television Stuff”

The target audience for the new Steve Martin box set will remember a time when “on-demand” meant tuning into a television program at the scheduled time, or buying tickets to go see a particular event. As the internet talking heads love to tell you, there was no Youtube and there weren’t convenient portable iPod-like devices that could store hours of video or thousands of albums in a format that you could carry around in your pocket. Life was indeed hard, looking at the above amenities that we were forced to live without, so thank goodness we had a guy like Steve Martin around to make everything all better. In a world so jaded by a box set and super deluxe edition for nearly everything you could possibly think of, Steve Martin: The Television Stuff is still pretty unbelievable. Like a lot of things that Shout! Factory releases, this box set feels a little bit too good to be true. The contents collected within the three DVD set bring together a treasure trove of Martin’s classic …

Mindy Kaling and Rachel Dratch

Mindy Kaling, Rachel Dratch in print: Funny in a good sense

We pop-culture watchers have an annoying habit of letting ourselves believe women have it better in the entertainment biz than they actually do. Lilith Fair? Great! Now all the doors are open for women! Well, they were, for a couple of years. Now rock radio is full of fifth-generation Eddie Vedder knockoffs while engaging women (other than Adele) can only manage cult followings. Men can strut around on stage until they quite literally drop dead, but Madonna is considered icky now that she’s past 50. Women in Hollywood were summed up by the sage of our times, Stewie Griffin, when he lamented, “Chris, whatever happened to Geena Davis? She used to be in movies, but she’s not in movies anymore. She’s attractive enough but when she smiles you see too much gum.” (Family Guy is, of course, remarkably catty toward plenty of women — Renee Zellweger, Helen Hunt, Minnie Driver, Cybill Shepherd, Sarah Jessica Parker, etc., etc. All perfectly attractive women in the real world but not in Seth MacFarlane’s, apparently.) Fortunately, the “women in …

Rob PILOT

TV Review: ¡Rob!: Pilot

On its face, CBS’s new sitcom ¡Rob! doesn’t have a terrible premise. Executed properly, it could actually be pretty endearing. It’s the story of an American man who unwittingly marries into a big, Mexican family and gives it his all to fit in for the sake of the woman he loves. Sure, that in itself is a minefield of potential schlock, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be terrible. And for the record, ¡Rob! isn’t terrible. It’s not good, either, but not in a way that’s especially offensive or grating. All the reasons ¡Rob! should be awful don’t really come into play in the pilot. It may seem like a strange and unwarranted thing to give star Rob Schneider a vehicle, especially after years of risible feature films that come off like bad cartoons made flesh. Schneider isn’t playing the part of the hack here, though. Rather, he’s nestling into the role so many comedians have before him. He’s the awkward schlub who somehow managed to bag a gorgeous, infinitely forgiving woman, resulting in a lifetime of being baffled at …

Groucho Marx copy

Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: Groucho’s Greatest Bits

For more than 75 years, Kirkus Reviews has served as the industry bible for bookstore buyers, librarians, and ordinary readers alike. Now Popdose has joined the Kirkus Book Bloggers Network, taking to the virtual pages of Kirkus Reviews Online to dish on the best — and sometimes the worst — in pop-culture and celebrity books. This week, we consider a legend of film comedy in a different light — as an heir to the tradition of literary humorist… As is traditional in our house, New Year’s Eve was an occasion for Chinese takeout in paper cartons and classic comedy on TV, including a marathon of Marx Brothers movies on the TCM cable network. The essence of comedy is misunderstanding, and a couple of hours of watching the Brothers in action brings home how brilliantly conceived and executed was their crooked, triangular group dynamic. Chico’s shaky mastery of language leaves him easily misled by the hyperverbal Groucho, but he shares a rapport with Harpo; in turn, Harpo — mute but expressive — is locked in a …

The-Looney-Tunes-Show-Episode-1-Best-Friends

TV on DVD Review: “MAD” and “The Looney Tunes Show”

I’m not breaking any new ground by telling you our world’s pop-cultural landscape is liberally littered with remakes, reboots and other works that pay homage to the past. It’s one thing to feel that way about programming for adults, but what does this mean for the children of today? We may groan at Nickelodeon trying to beat the Disney Channel at the pre-fab pop star game with shows like Big Time Rush and Victorious, but it wasn’t that long ago that the generation raised on MTV caught reruns ofThe Monkees. Entertainment is a wildly cyclical thing, and it’s certainly fun to look at how variations on a familiar theme play themselves out over the stretches of time. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at two shows on Cartoon Network that, while obviously geared toward kids, possess a large enough cultural cache to make you and your friends stop and think for a second. The station’s MAD and The Looney Tunes Show, both recently released to DVD, take two of Warner Bros.’ most consistent avatars of comedy and gussy them up …

Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: Simon Pegg, “Nerd Do Well”

Popdose has teamed with Kirkus Reviews — the industry bible for bookstore buyers, librarians, and discriminating readers — to bring you the best (and sometimes the worst) in pop-culture and celebrity books. This week we look behind the painted smile of a beloved clown and discover that… well, that he’s a pretty happy guy, to be honest, and his memoir is one of the year’s sweetest and most entertaining reads … In his new memoir Nerd Do Well, British comedian and actor Simon Pegg — best known to American audiences for the feature films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul, all of which he co-wrote—comes off pretty much as you’d expect, based on his screen persona — basically a nice guy, maybe a little too smart for his own good, improvising his way out of tight corners that are occasionally of his own making. That’s key to the success of Nerd Do Well. Though the particulars of Pegg’s life — a dreamy childhood, the performer’s usual scrounging for work, a fraught relationship with …

Film Review: “Jennifer’s Body”

To Hollywood’s credit, there’ve been a lot of female-focused thriller/horror films coming out lately. It’s almost as if production studios in La-La Land have suddenly realized there’s a feminine demographic they could cater to/exploit. Unfortunately for the ladies, studios still think that they can just throw anything at audiences and get away with it, which is why so many of the recent “girl power”-type films have been lousy. The new horror/comedy Jennifer’s Body, written by Diablo Cody (instantly famous for penning the brilliant Juno) and directed by Karyn Kusama (AEon Flux and Girlfight, the latter of which bestowed upon the world the dubious gift of Michelle Rodriguez) is without a doubt the best of the bunch to come along thus far, although given its surprisingly uneven narrative, that’s not saying much. First off, for those of you who are wondering: yes, Kusama kept in the scene where the two leads Jennifer (Megan Fox) and her oddly named best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) share a “controversial” lesbian kiss. It’s in close-up, it’s almost two minutes long, …