July 2010

Comedy has gotten much more democratic over the years: It’s no longer limited to guys in clubs or major-network TV shows. With a bit of free time and minimal iMovie know-how, everyone from budding young comics to name-brand stars can carve out some Internet space for their sense of humor. At the same time, traditional outlets like comedy CDs and DVDs are growing in breadth with the artform itself. It’s a great time to be a comedy fan, and Laugh Track, The A.V. Club’s monthly column, will round it all up—new and noteworthy stand-up, sketch, and online video, much of it courtesy of under-the-radar comedians with a little too much time on their hands.

Internet: Chris Gethard
The Upright Citizens Brigade is best known for the fantastic foursome (though didja know Horatio Sanz was an original member in Chicago?), but it’s also enjoyed great success with its two theaters, one each in New York and Los Angeles. Legions of malleable young comics can now subscribe to the UCB philosophy, which pushes fast and funny, down-and-dirty improv and sketch comedy. Gethard is a child of the New York theater, and he’s used its former-strip-club confines to refine his bizarre sensibilities. He performs weekly with improv team The Stepfathers, occasionally with celebrity-studded ASSSSCAT, and has put on shows aboard buses and featuring boxing bouts. He’s also the force behind The Chris Gethard Show, a monthly late-night talk show featuring Gethard and his comic pals pulling odd stunts. In one, he auctions off the chance to have a sleepover at his parents’ house; at another point he forces two straight male comics to go on a date. He recently took his renegade sensibilities to Comedy Central as the host of Portable Lounge, a transient talk show that kicked off in a bowling alley with Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan. Gethard is set to star in Comedy Central’s Big Lake sitcom in August, alongside Sanz and Chris Parnell, but for now it’s nice to see an underdog get his due.

Here’s that date video, which is pretty great:

He’s also attempted to contact Diddy via, well, you’ll see:

His friends pull pranks on him, sometimes:


CD: Lewis Black, Stark Raving Black
Lewis Black has officially become an “applause comic.” After years of refining his outsider-looking-in, hot-tempered act, Black’s audience can see where jokes are going—and they like it. The smallest proclamations about bad politicians making bad judgments get huge applause breaks—and given that Black plays almost exclusively large theaters now, that sporadic applause is a hiccup in the comic’s momentum. But Black wisely plays against expectations, sticking by premises that are more personal and refined in this, his eighth album. He tackles his age (just over 60), then transitions into stories about his parents that reveal a) where he got his disturbing sense of humor and b) just how disturbing they still are, well into their nineties. There’s also talk of the financial meltdown, but Black spins these well-worn topics to reveal the aspects that personally insult him the most, like how one bank exec spent $1.5 million just to redecorate his office. And, of course, his random angry snipes are a delight for their furor alone: At one point, apropos of nothing, he yells, “And if you’re Twittering, fuck you.”

Here’s his latest “Back In Black” from The Daily Show:


Internet: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
There’s something sweetly tragic about all of Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ videos. Characters look like fools, take themselves way too seriously, and generally wallow in humiliation. Thus the comedy, even in a few short minutes, is heartbreaking and gut-busting, nuanced and uproarious. His new series, Memoirs Of A Manchild (starring Thomas Middleditch), speaks for all twentysomethings still unhealthily fixated on Legos and Star Wars toys. And he completed a darkly comic short film, Successful Alcoholics, which recently appeared at the Independent Midwest Film Festival and the Just For Laughs Chicago fest. It stars TJ Miller and Lizzy Caplan as barely functional boozehounds who all but destroy each other’s lives, but Vogt-Roberts manages to milk the situation for some levity. And when Vogt-Roberts brazenly embraces his silly side, the results turn heads. When Miller auditioned for the Yogi Bear movie and hadn’t heard back, he worked with Vogt-Roberts to shoot a mock audition video in which Miller interacts with a live bear; the short landed Miller a role. Vogt-Roberts has also created unusual “mash-up” videos—blending two words, like dub and subtitles into “dubtitles,” then demonstrating the word cinematically—and they’ll feature prominently in a forthcoming Comedy Central special directed by Vogt-Roberts, featuring Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Hannibal Buress, Matt Braunger, and Kyle Kinane. All these videos are available on his website (the Memoirs ones are “The Lemonade Stand,” “Mint In Box,” and “Ages 4 And Up”), but here’s a treat from the archives, with most of his comedy pals in tow:


Internet: Fake It Til You Make It
It’s nice to see Jaleel “Urkel” White has a sense of humor about himself. His new web series, Fake It Til You Make It, has him starring as former child star Reggie Culkin (heh) who’s now working as an “image consultant” for aspiring young Hollywood types. Watch episode one as the other characters trip over their words in a flailing attempt to ignore the elephant in the room: Their secret desire to quote Culkin’s former catch phrase back to him. This must happen all the time in Urkel’s world, right?

(Hat tip: TV.com)


Internet: Ben Gleib
Armed with a microphone, camera, and an air of affable sincerity, comedian Ben Gleib descended upon the recent première of Twilight: Eclipse to question attendees and, you know, rib them a little for their obsession. “Everybody, these movies are a little ridiculous, can we admit that?” he shouts to stunned, silent teenage girls at one point. Gleib ingratiates himself with the fans before pulling the rug out from under them, but it’s all meant in good fun, his work reminiscent of some of the better clips from The Daily Show. This latest stunt isn’t the first for Gleib, who conducted plenty of these segments as host of the popular National Lampoon series The Gleib Show (which also featured some oddball characters like Zoran Zoran, “The World’s Fastest Hypnotist”). Many of the archived videos are available on his site.

First, here’s the recent Twilight piece:

He also visited the RNC last year, and got this gem:


Internet: Kid Farm!
Front Page Films, featuring past Laugh Track hall-of-famers Pete Holmes and Matt McCarthy, is one of the most prolific comedy video makers out there. Which is great, because nearly everything the group does is twisted, original, and packs plenty of surprises. The latest is Kid Farm!, a spoof of those TLC shows where parents have a bajillion babies. Check out the first episode, which features fellow comics Nate Fernald (of Team Submarine) and Jamie Lee, previously seen on Last Comic Standing.

Now, enjoy some deleted scenes:

(Hat tip: The Comic’s Comic)


Bonus: Harvard Sailing Team: Lazy-cool New York sketch troupe Harvard Sailing Team received some good news last week: It won $10,000 from the Friars Club to develop a film for the vaunted club’s upcoming festival in September. Given the caliber of the group’s giddy and straightforward online video collection, it’s going to be worth getting excited about. Tide yourself over with some favorites from the Harvard Sailing Team vault; everything is on the group’s site, but pay special attention to “Duck Tales,” “Kickball,” and the two-parter “Boys Will Be Girls” and “Girls Will Be Boys.”

(Hat tip: The Apiary)


Another bonus: OK Go, Muppets, and Zach Galifianakis: You’re welcome.

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