March 5, 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. It’s a great time to be a comedy fan, and Laugh Track, a new monthly column, will round 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: The Ed Hardy Boyz 
Before Jersey Shore invaded our consciousness with its cries of “no disrespect,” Nick Kroll teamed up with Jon Daly for The Ed Hardy Boyz, which delivers on the promise of its title: Bobby Bottleservice and Peter Paparazzo solve mysteries for Ed Hardy honcho Christian Audigier, using faux-clusive Los Angeles club events to catch the guy who stole this “really sick belt buckle.” Kroll has spun his Bobby Bottleservice character off for a series of webcam videos, addressing Jersey Shore directly with “Bobby Bottleservice’s Jersey Shore Audition Tape” and “Bobby Bottleservice’s T-Shirt Ideas For Jersey Shore.” Even though it’s a parody of what’s essentially a parody already, Kroll’s work is silly enough to stand on its own, and smart enough to comment on the trend without resorting to obviousness. Check out the new entry in the series, “The Case Of When That Hot Filipina Girl Lost Her Tramp Stamp At Mini-Golf.” Its grander ambitions pay off, and it gets Pauly Shore, Fred Durst, and the real Christian Audigier in on the joke.


TV: Pete Holmes
It’s a joy to watch the bubbly, comically angry Pete Holmes: His absurd ideas about relationships and adulthood address well-worn topics in a fresh way. (Oh, and those silly E-Trade commercials during the Super Bowl? Holmes’ voice.)
 It’s all there on his killer new Comedy Central half-hour special, which premièred February 26: his spot-on impression of every 10-year-old ever (think Napoleon Dynamite); his assertion of adulthood by renting a car, shitting in the front seat, then silencing naysayers with “I will punch you in the heart.” And Holmes’ frantic energy and warm banter sells every bit. It’s impressive for an inaugural TV special, though certainly not surprising given his substantial previous work producing and starring in web videos, mostly with Front Page Films. His goofball sensibility shines through on “New Flavor Pitch,” a series of mock Doritos ads created in conjunction with a contest the company was throwing. (Hilarious deleted scenes with commentary can be found here.) But it best extends to a short series called “Hotel,” in which Holmes plays the bellhop: 

Check out more clips from Holmes on his Comedy Central site.


Sketch: BriTANick
 
BriTANick members Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney come from the schools of acting and film directing, respectively, and they’ve managed to craft compelling, cerebral, and silly work in both media. They toured comedy festivals two years ago with a critically acclaimed time-travel-themed show; the actors met past and future versions of themselves, accomplished by perfectly synching the show with pre-recorded video segments. This year, the group’s videos are starting to heat up. Their short film “Eagles Are Turning People Into Horses,” a send-up of disaster movies, recently appeared at the Slamdance Film Festival, and the two are currently working on a TV pitch to shop around. There’s also a hefty collection on the group’s site, dating back to the guys’ first collaboration in 2004—all wonderfully surreal and precise. And unlike with most sketch groups, nearly all their videos are funny.

Here’s the trailer for “Eagles Are Turning People Into Horses,” which plays at SXSW March 12:


Film: Thomas Middleditch
As a live performer, Thomas Middleditch is always surprising—pulling highbrow literary references and compelling, lanky physicality out of nowhere in his improv, and exuding total confidence in his oddball sketch and stand-up concepts, like the time he read lines from popular films as Daniel Plainview. It’s hard not to be drawn into his performances. Expect the same unexpectedness in his feature debut Splinterheads, an indie flick released on DVD two weeks ago. The film stars Middleditch as an aimless slacker who falls head-over-heels for a female con artist he meets at a carnival. (Also appearing: Christopher McDonald and Dean Winters, who plays Dennis on 30 Rock.) Middleditch’s deadpan comic timing is present throughout, as are a few outbursts of the weirdness he’s cultivated onstage for years. Check out the film’s trailer, along with this selection of Middleditch highlights:

This commercial he shot in Chicago with a friend was later was turned into an actual McDonald’s ad:

Directed by short filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, this clip also stars Cloverfield’s T.J. Miller, and shows him gettin’ silly with Middleditch:


CD: Kyle Kinane
 
Armed with a droll wit, boisterous delivery, and an impressive beard, Kyle Kinane—recently seen touring with Patton Oswalt—makes even the most depressing stories funny. “Hey, anybody ever get so lonely that you sleep on your couch instead of in your own bed, ’cause at least that way it feels like you’re lying next to somebody?” he barks near the top of his new CD, Death Of The Party. And sure, it’s bleak stuff, with bits about friends who are afraid to let Kinane hold their babies, waking up at 8 a.m. to a digital alarm clock that looks like it’s flashing the word “boo,” and what Kinane describes as being “a stripped-bare toothless cog spinning freely and ineffectually in the working machine of society.” (By the way, he’s “selling gourmet cake decorations over the phone to strangers.”) But the material rarely drags; the depths of Kinane’s inventiveness is astounding, like his conspiracy theories about Trader Joe’s and the inane quandaries that contribute to his insomnia. Kinane’s Twitter feed—compiled on the appropriately titled “Shooting For Third“—offers a taste of his dark sensibilities.

Here he is on Last Call With Carson Daly, back before the late-night universe imploded:


TV: Jimmy Carr
Britain started the art of stand-up comedy and currently plays host to a bajillion more comics than the States, but this week, British comedy borrows from American comedy culture with the country’s first-ever televised roasts. As reported by the British comedy blog Chortle, the first victims are Sharon Osbourne, Chris Tarrant, and Bruce Forsythe, all via specials being shot this week to air on BBC Channel 4 this spring. The roasts have found the perfect MC in Jimmy Carr, a brutally honest comic who picks on his subjects with persnickety detail, tracking successful bits on a clipboard he brings with him onstage. He’s found success on British TV, but only briefly appeared in the U.S. a handful of times, including appearances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and a hosting stint on the Comedy Central show Distracted. (He released a DVD, Telling Jokes, only a few months ago.) But given how British comedy has a way of appearing on the Internet, it’s worth boning up on this whip-sharp comic before the roasts trickle on over. Here’s this week’s episode of 8 Out Of 10 Cats—a panel show he hosts that’s like Family Feud meets Chelsea Handler, in a really good way. (All four parts are on YouTube.)

Plus, check out his special from a few years back, taped at the Apollo. It’s still a hoot:


Internet: Ellie Kemper
This season of The Office has been a big one for occasional Onion contributor Ellie Kemper. Erin, the show’s smiley new receptionist, has been upgraded to a regular character, and her uncomfortable/adorable flirtation with Ed Helms’ Andy Bernard has been a season highlight. This hasn’t slowed Kemper’s habit of appearing in more Internet videos than Auto-Tune. (And that without even counting her superb showing in “Subtle Sexuality.”) Here’s a selection of her work as comedy’s go-to utility player:

Below is a new video from comedy group Serious Lunch, co-starring a familiar face from 30 Rock:

Here’s a surprisingly fresh Missed Connections spoof from Chubby Skinny Kids:

One more: It’s an oldie but goodie, and as unsettling as it looks from the top. Featuring Dan Bakkedahl, former Daily Show contributor:

This is the video that first got her some attention, made by Mystery Team’s Derrick Comedy troupe:


Bonus
Speaking of The Office, it turns out the origin of “That’s what she said” is Megan Mullally, with some help from Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon:

Filed Under: TV

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