Thursday, October 14, 2010

Darwinfish 2 Presents...

I’ve always loved standup comedy, probably stemming from the first time I ever heard a Bill Cosby record.  I remember when I was 4 and I got my tonsils out, my parents got me one of his records that had a long bit about tonsillectomies.  I used to laugh my little butt off, even if I didn’t quite get all the jokes.  I still have fond memories of all those old, old Cosby routines… Fat Albert, playing football against Hofstra, Kindergarten, seeing scary movies, the Chicken Heart, Noah and God, and the Great Go-Kart race down Dead Man’s Hill.  Classics all.

As cable TV grew and developed, and the premium channels like HBO and Showtime became the new home for standup comedy, standup began to permeate the medium.  Most of the time, I was too poor to be able to afford HBO, so my dad used to be the gatekeeper.  He’d monitor the comedy specials and record anything that looked promising.  Then he’d either show it to us when we visited or he’d dub off copies to distribute to his impoverished children.

Aside from the George Carlin specials, that we all knew were going to be golden, he always kept an eye out for new talent.  HBO’s Young Comedian series was always good for that, plus the Rodney Dangerfield specials.

One of his biggest finds was Sam Kinison, from 9th Young Comedians special.  Sam was a game changer.  There was so much anticipation surrounding his first album and then his first solo HBO special.  We must have watched and listened to those a zillion times.  And as you may remember, I got to tell Sam that myself when he did an in-store appearance at one of our record stores.

Sam led to Andrew “Dice” Clay, who had a much shorter shelf life.  I mentioned the late Robert Schimmel, back when he died last month, but he was another find.  The late Richard Jeni was also hilarious.

One of my favorite Dad “finds” was the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly.  He was a huge star in Europe but completely unknown here.  Whoopee Goldberg did an HBO special where she did the first half hour and then “presented” Connolly to do the last half.

Honest to God, we still quote lines from that special when we get together.  I know a lot of comics do this, but he did a bit on flying that to me is the gold standard.  Part of it is in this clip below:


I swear, I watered my eyes laughing playing this clip just now.  Trust me… play it.  You won’t be sorry.  (Unless you’re at work, in which case it could get you fired.  If you like this bit, you can dig up the rest of the act on YouTube; just look for Billy Connolly 1990, in 4 parts.)

For a short time, I was able to afford Showtime, so I could also be on the lookout for new acts.  Showtime was trying to compete with HBO so they, too, had “new comedian” specials.  Bobby Slayton, the “Pitbull of Comedy” was one good find.  Another was Tim Allen, who unveiled his “Men are Pigs” shtick that eventually landed him his sitcom “Home Improvement.” 

My biggest “find” was probably Denis Leary.  I had never heard of him, but my boss (when I worked for the home office of my music store company) got this promotional video of Denis doing these 30-second promo bits for MTV.  Picture a half dozen guys crowned around a 19-inch TV in a glass-walled office, screaming with laughter, and that was us.  Most of the bits from that promo reel were included in Leary’s breakout work, the concert movie “No Cure for Cancer.”  I couldn’t wait to get a copy of that to Dad. 

Denis Leary on “Drugs and NyQuil”
“The box says ‘may cause drowsiness.’  It should say don’t make any fuckin’ plans…”

OK, I know I’m taking the long way around, but I’m now approaching my main point.

Comedy is meant to be shared.  It’s one thing to laugh your head off alone, but to me it just doesn’t count until you can get someone else in on the joke.  We need people to laugh with us, to get the full effect.

I’ve been reading a particular blog for a while and it is hands down, the most consistently funny blog I’ve ever read.  Each new post leaves my cheeks wet and my stomach hurting because it’s that funny.  You may already read it, you may already have it on your blogroll like I do, hell, you may have been the one that led me to it.  I don’t know the writer and she doesn’t need me to promote her blog.  She gets more comments on one post than I do in an entire year.  But laughing alone is no fun; laughter needs to be shared.

I’m talking about Hyperbole and a Half, written by Allie Brosh. 

For the most part, Allie tells stories from her childhood using her own computer illustrations.  It’s like “The Wonder Years” on peyote.  While she clearly has the ability to make very good, detailed pictures, her style is intentionally primitive… kind of like when South Park first started.  The primitiveness is part of the charm.  This is how she draws her young self:

It’s kind of like a thumb in a pink turtleneck dress, googly eyes and a blond shark-fin for a ponytail.

She posted yesterday about how she was a cake-eating sugar fiend when she was 4.

The prior post was about trying to convince her mom to let her go to a friend’s birthday party, immediately after major dental surgery.  She figured if she could run across the park, she’d be fit to go.  Sadly, with all the Novocain, she couldn’t get her mom to understand what she wanted to go the park.

Both of these posts had me laughing out loud.  Between the drawings that are so expressive, and the understated prose, and the unbelievable stories, it’s simply comedy at its most pure.  And I have to make sure that everyone I know has a chance to get a couple of bellylaughs out of it.

If you like these two posts, check out her “Best of” posts on the right side of her page.  Her story about “How a Fish Almost Destroyed my Childhood,” is one of my favorites.

Lastly, because I’m now a full-fledged Twitterer, I saw a tweet from Allie, saying that she made a video.  It was also hilarious.  It’s nothing like the blog stories.  In fact, it’s just her on camera, alone with a coat.  (The “Cautionary Interludes” are brilliant!)
So, not only does she write and draw, she’s a master at physical comedy.

Ladies and gentlemen, please take the time to discover the beautiful genius of Allie Brosh and “Hyperbole and a Half.”

16 comments:

  1. I LOVE her blog. I LOVE her cartoons. I LOVE her humor. And the video??? How did I ever miss out on it? How was that ever possible? Please send me your answers... And those cautionary interludes? Awesome!

    p.s. I really like your blog btw... my problem is I'm getting old and my eyes hurt on your black background. *sigh* how I wish your background was old lady friendly... If you change it I'll put up another picture of me in a bathing suit on my blog... ;o) heh heh heh
    p.p.s. do you listen to Howard Stern? You're totally into the same stand-up acts he's into, I need an internet friend to do some Stern chat with...

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  2. Oh my gosh. You and The Guy would be BFF.

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  3. Are you familiar with Bill Hicks? He had some CRAZY stuff (many things of which Dennis Leary supposedly pinched).

    At any rate, I'm also a big fan of stand up and really love seeing it live. One of my favorite contemporary comediennes is Brian Regan. If you haven't seen him, he's worth checking out. Especially his airline bit.

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  4. OMG!!!I now must change my pants!! Thanks, Bluz...

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  5. I love Denis Leary and Billy Connolly! So funny! Thanks for sharing this stuff. You're right - laughter is meant to be shared. :)

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  6. I think my first comedy "album" was a cassette tape of routines by Flip Wilson. I have no idea why. It just was.

    My, is God hard on the comedians. Kinnison, Bruce, Hicks, Prinze, Belushi, Farley, Hartman, Hedberg, Kaufman, Bernie Mac, Schimmel, and now Greg Geraldo... all gone far too young. It's weird.

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  7. Miss Nikki,
    Yeah, she slays me too… it’s funny how something so crudely drawn can depict her life so vividly.

    The video… I follow her on Twitter and over the weekend, she sent out a tweet that said she made a video and provided the link. Otherwise, there hasn’t been mention of it. Obviously, Allie has gifts beyond the written word and drawn picture.

    If she wasn’t young enough to be my daughter, I’d probably be on my way to Montana to try to pry her away from her boyfriend.

    The layout is a problem? I always thought it was easy on the eyes… Changing it would be a problem for me because black and gold are the colors of my sports teams, upon whom I dole out a lot of attention. I’ll tell what I can do: if you send me your email address, (to TNcave40 at hotmail dot come) I’ll put you on my automatic blog post emailing list. That way, whenever I post, you’ll get an email containing the entire post, with plain old black writing on a white background. The downside is that you get the “first draft;” I usually do some tweaking immediately after I hit “post”, so you’ll have to overlook the occasional typos or graphic problems. Also, I’d lose you from my hits count, but for you, I could live with it. (So with this compromise, do we still get your bikini shot? Or are you counting the one of you as a kid? Which is no-fair.)

    Lastly, I don’t have satellite radio so I don’t listen to Stern. I used to when I lived in upstate New York and he was on regular syndicated radio.

    Bachelor Girl,
    Of course… we both appreciate good standup comedy and a certain Bachelor Girl.

    Jessica R,
    Yes, I’m familiar with Bill Hicks. I haven’t seen that much of his work, just one bit he did on a Young Comedians special, and then his own special.

    My favorite was when he was talking about playing in Enid, Oklahoma:
    ”I dialed 9 to get an outside line and reached the Elmer Dinkley residence.

    ‘This is Elmer Dinkley; you called my house.’ (Breaks into Stupid Yokel expression.)”


    You can’t miss hearing about Hicks because on ever Denis Leary video ever posted, an argument breaks out in comments about the degree to which Leary did or did not steal his act from Hicks.

    I think they’re both brilliant. Well, Hicks, I should say, was brilliant, because he died a good number of years ago.

    Judie,
    Yes, by all means. One mustn’t become all squishy on one’s seat.

    Cristy,
    Glad you appreciate. But you can really tell how old these bits are, when Billy Connolly refers to smoking in the airplane. But still, he was spot-on with the rest.

    “Put on the life jacket over your head!

    And because of Leary, I can never look at NyQuil the same way again.

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  8. Bagger,
    Right you are. I wonder if there's something in a comedian's makeup that makes them prone to an early demise.

    I already miss Greg Giraldo. He was always killer on the Comedy Central roasts. One of my favorite lines of his was at the Joan Rivers roast, when he said she looked like what would come from Steven Tyler fucking a life raft.

    I remember Flip Wilson... my dad had one of his records too. We always watched his TV show.

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  9. Often dreamed of a making a living by stand-up comedy. And I lived it peripherally--a very short time--by dating a stand-up comic. (Won't name him, but he made Johnny Carson and Comedy Central.) But probably couldn't handle the on-stage stress. Much prefer to hide behind my written words. Much easier to handle hecklers this way.

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  10. Sherry,
    I've had the same dream. But I always see it ending with a room full of drunks shouting down everything I had to say, because after all, they were the real stars of the show.

    I actually went so far as to begin writing my standup act, back in the early 90's, before realizing there were no open mic nights anywhere near me.

    Sadly, the material, while funny, is now incredibly dated.

    Writing is so much better, because no one can interrupt, other than by diverting their own attention.

    Ooh ooh, I know... "Blogs on Tape!"

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  11. Thanks for the laughs! I especially love Dennis Leary. I've been trying to find his stand up "Lock & Load" on DVD forever. He's the one I stole the Drunken Midgets bit from. He totally rocks!

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  12. So many classic lines from "No Cure..."

    "I'm just not happy?? Happiness comes in small doses, folks. It's a cigarette, a cookie, or a 5-second orgasm.

    You come, you smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, then get up and go the fuck to work! End of fuckin' list!"

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  13. Hey, my comment from last week got eaten!

    I had made a point about Richard Jeni, whom my husband loved and can freely quote. (He also has numerous Bill Cosby albums, and by albums, I mean VINYL.) He said, after Jeni had committed suicide, something about how standup comedians all had very dark sides. Or something like that.

    anyhoo: LOVE Allie Brosh. That video had me biting my hand so I wasn't LOL'ing in my cube. My coworkers already think I'm nuts. You gotta share that on Twitter, dude.

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  14. RPM,
    Sorry about your disappearing comment. I never saw it, I swear!

    Richard Jeni was hilarious. I was most upset at his untimely passing. Cosby was brilliant. Anyone that can make people from 4 to 104 laugh, must have a real talent. I have my parents old Cosby albums… I used to tease them about the scratched up condition they were in. They’d say, “And how do you think they GOT in that condition??”

    Allie’s video slayed me… who knew she was such a gifted physical comedian? She Twittered the video… you should follow her in case she does more.

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  15. All I have to say is that I'm jealous you got to me Sam. That guy could say things most people would think no one should say and everyone would laugh. He was great.

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  16. Christy,
    Sam was a great guy, and very cool to be around. I tell you, through his records, specials and concerts, he watered my eyes more that Bausch and Lomb.

    You can read more about my meeting Bad Sam in this post: http://darwinfish2.blogspot.com/2010/03/brushes-part-4.html

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