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Monday, May 31, 2010

VHS Vault: Dane Cook

Well, look what we have here. It's a youngish Dane Cook performing at the Just For Laughs gala. This is about the time I first saw him and I liked him at the time. As you can see here, he had potential. Sure, he played the nostalgia card pretty heavily, but there were jokes there. I still laugh when I hear his mom explaining the cat noises.

I read an interview with David Cross in pitchfork.com today and he had some comments on Cook that I think are bang-on accurate:
I don't have any rivalry with Dane Cook. I've been on record as saying I don't think he's nearly as bad at stand-up as everybody says. He doesn't suck. What I find distasteful is his constant self-promotion, which just smacks of a wounded little kid, like: "Look at me! You guys think I'm funny, right? Hey, I've got a million Facebook friends! That makes me good, right?" That's what I don't like. And he steals material. He's just that guy right now. Ten years ago it was Carrot Top. Ten years before that it was Andrew Dice Clay. There'll always be a very successful comic who you're like, "Really guys?" But to say that he's not funny or a bad comic is disingenuous.
Take a look at this era of Dane Cook and you can see what he had going for him. It would still be a few years before he really hit it with mainstream audiences, but you can see why he was popular.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30: Kevin Foxx & Damonde Tschritter

We're back to live guests in studio tonight. And two of them! In our first year or so, we used to regularly have two guests. For some reason, we don't much anymore. I think because there's a finite guest list so I don't want to use them up any faster than I have to.

Anyhoo, our guests tonight are old friends Kevin Foxx and Damonde Tschritter. These two wily veterans have recently opened up a new room in Kits at the Cabin Eatery (formerly Tatlow's) every Thursday night. So tonight they're going to talk about that and tell us why this room will last, unlike so many others. I've been two of the four weeks it's been running and I can attest to its quality. But certainly that won't be all we talk about.

So tune in at 11 pm to CFRO 102.7 FM in Vancouver or livestream it at coopradio.org. It's the least you could do.

Meanwhile, have you all checked out the Doug Stanhope clip I posted yesterday? If not, scroll down. It's right below this post. It's a clip you won't see anywhere else.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

VHS Vault: Young Doug Stanhope

Look what I found traipsing through ye olde video vault. It's a young(er) long-haired Doug Stanhope, complete with heavier Boston accent. But it's still the same Doug that we've grown to know and love. Still in-your-face funny. Not sure of the exact time-line, but it's most likely late 1990s or 2000. The recording quality isn't the best, but it's good enough. I had to clip the beginning and end and one extended bit of laughter in the middle to get it down to size to fit here, but you don't miss any of the words. Methinks you'll enjoy:

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Four new episodes (#187ish-191ish)

While every other podcast drops new episodes one at a time and with more regularity, we like to keep you on your toes. We post 'em when we get around to it, which is what keeps What's So Funny? a ratings leader (in Bizarro World, anyway). Here are four relatively recent shows you may find to your liking. As always, listen here (this blog), there (Comedy Couch), or everywhere (iTunes):

From May 16, 2010, this is Phil Hanley's third appearance on the show, and his best. If you heard his second appearance, you know that was pretty damn funny, too. There's just something about the guy that makes it easy to rib him. There's also the added element of a new drinking game you can play while listening. Phil unwittingly unveils a new catchphrase. If you take a drink everytime he says it, you'll enjoy the show even more.
What's So Funny? featuring Phil Hanley

From May 2, 2010, this is Sugar Sammy's fourth appearance on the show. We did one in his hotel room, two in studio, and this one at a hotel bar. Sammy's a great guy and always opens up a bit more on our show than you'll see elsewhere. And he's everywhere.
What's So Funny? featuring Sugar Sammy

From May 9, 2010, Lars Callieou makes his third "appearance" with us. I use quotation marks because we didn't see him. He called in from his home base of Edmonton. Lars talks about his recent trip to Iraq. As an added bonus, I play a clip from an interview I did with Brian Regan that's well worth the price of admission.
What's So Funny? featuring Lars Callieou

And finally, from April 25, 2010, Vince Flueck makes his second appearance, and first solo appearance. Vince regales us with tales from Europe, where he's been living from the past couple of years, and recounts the story of his night being an imposter at a movie awards show.
What's So Funny? featuring Vince Flueck

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Comedy Mix

In preparing for my interview with Tom Segura tonight, I took a look at his upcoming schedule. Damned if he isn't playing right here in Vancouver at The Comedy Mix soon. Where? That's the name of the club that used to be Yuk Yuk's in the Century Plaza Hotel on Burrard St. They re-open as the Comedy Mix on June 1st with a Pro-Am show.

Looks like the folks at there are doing a good job of booking shows so far. Of course, it makes me wonder why I didn't just wait a few weeks to talk to Tom in person. But we'll discuss that tonight. Meanwhile, check out their line-up:

May 23: Tom Segura

American stand-up Tom Segura is our guest tonight. Tom's got a new album out, as you can see by the graphic. I've always felt he's had more than a passing resemblance to Jacko.

This is Tom's second appearance on the show, and like the first time, it'll be a partial appearance. The first time, we spoke for about half an hour outside the old Yuk Yuk's club on Burrard street between shows. Tonight, we'll be chatting via satellite (phones use satellites, right?) from his home in Los Angeles for about 20 minutes and playing a couple of tracks off Thrilled. Once you hear those tracks, you're going to want to do what I did and rush over to iTunes to purchase the album. He's a very funny dude and the album is great. Once we feel Tom has reached the requisite level, we'll have him on for the whole hour. But he's just not ready yet.

The rest of the show, we'll bring you some other top-notch comedy tracks, including from Paul F. Tompkins' Freak Wharf CD. Tompkins is in negotiations to play Vancouver now that more than 300 people have petitioned him to do so.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

VHS Vault: Jerry Seinfeld

With the news that Jerry Seinfeld is coming to town in August, I thought I'd treat you to a little vintage Seinfeld. This is pre-Seinfeld Seinfeld. The sitcom started in 1989; this appearance by Jerry on Seattle's Almost Live! was probably 1984. Ross Shafer was still hosting the show he created and the format was still typical talk show before it became primarily a sketch show under the leadership of John Keister. Shafer went on to national fame (for about a season, anyway) when he became the last host of Fox TV's The Late Show in 1988. But this is classic Seinfeld, doing some of his early bits sitting down on the panel. I used to love his Robert Hughes material, which you can see here. It still holds up.

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Eddie Izzard Stripped

I interviewed Eddie Izzard a few weeks ago. He was in Toronto at the start of his cross-Canada tour. The last time we spoke was ten years ago. Both times he was an engaging interview, which is surprising because he does tons of press. But maybe that isn't so surprising. Professionals like him who spend hours and hours with the media answering the same questions over and over treat it like a job. But not a job they hate. They actually try to connect to the interviewer. Makes sense if your goal is to sell tickets. Give a lousy interview and who knows how the writer will interpret it in the story.

When we first spoke ten years ago, I wasn't what you'd call an Izzard fan. I saw his show, though, and quite liked it. Then he came through town a few years ago (I can't keep the names of the tours straight) and I really disliked him again. Then this time his show charmed me. So I'm hot and cold with him.

The feature story on him I wrote is at the Georgia Straight website and you can read it here. I decided not to mention anything about his clothing. (Izzard, as we all know, is a transvestite.) I just thought, why bother? It has nothing to do with his comedy and we all know about it anyway. A note I got from an editor suggested adding a reference to it. I told them that would have to be an editorial decision. I didn't really care all that much, but I explained my reasoning. And to their great credit, they left it out. Does it matter? Not really. But it's interesting noting that in all the preview pieces I read about his Canadian tour, all the writers asked him about it and dutifully reported that he'd be in "boy mode". Well, at the show on Friday, and from what I've read about other shows in Canada and the States, he wore jeans, T-shirt, jacket with tails, lipstick and eye shadow, red nail polish and pumps.

Cut to: Row 3 of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I'm sitting there scribbling notes in the dark. I do this with my notebook at or below my knees, with my left thumb moving down to guide the pen so I don't come back to a garbled mess. I don't look down when writing. No point since it's dark and I can't see anyway. The guy sitting to my right was writing on his iPhone, with his head down the whole time. I figured he was either blogging, tweeting or reviewing. When he finally stopped writing and looked up, it was 10 p.m. so I concluded he must have been on deadline with the dailies. Since the Province doesn't run on Saturdays, I therefore concluded he wrote for the Sun. I should have been a detective. I found a review there by music writer Graeme McRanor, who told us "he's not in drag for this one". Well, he wasn't wearing a dress, but I'd say he was definitely in "girl mode". Did he just read all the previews where Izzard said he was in boy mode and repeat it? And then he ended his review with, "Although, to be perfectly honest, he's sexier in heels." If he had lifted his nose from his electronic gadget once, he would have seen Izzard was in heels. Still, I give him full marks for writing a full review on deadline with his thumbs. I wouldn't want to do that.

My review is in and will be posted at straight.com no later than Tuesday. Once it's up, I'll link to it here. I'll also get the full transcript of the interview I did up on Comedy Couch sometime. There's also a Brian Regan one coming your way very soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

VHS Vault: Kevin Rooney

Dipping into the old VHS Vault™ again, here's another blast from the past. Stand-up comic Kevin Rooney used to do Johnny Carson's Tonight Show all the time. That show gets a lot of credit for breaking so many top comics, but people forget there were dozens of others who were regulars on the show who are pretty much forgotten. Bobby Kelton anyone? Maureen Murphy? Kelly Monteith? Will Shriner? Those comics were regulars with Johnny and where are they now?

I don't know what Rooney is up to these days. Presumably doing comedy somewhere. But here he was in his prime:

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vancouver TheatreSports League's new digs

I was at the grand opening of the new VTSL venue on Tuesday night. What a great space. This one, at 176 seats, is a tad more intimate than the old space but each seat comes with its own cup holder, so that's gotta count for something, right? And the lay-out is theatre-style, so no giant heads will impede your view. There are also about a dozen tables down on the floor. This is a place they can call their own, too, now that the feds have ponied up almost half a mil towards its completion. What's doubly great is the bar and and patio, making a night out to see a show that much better. And the location, I think, is even better than the old Arts Club New Revue Stage. The new Improv Centre is right at the entrance of Granville Island beside Sammy J Pepper's, making it a bit more visible to the gazillions of tourists who visit the island every freakin' day.

Conservative politician and minister of something-or-other, James Moore, spoke at the shindig. My prediction: that guy will be the leader of his party one day. He's young, speaks extremely well, seems smart and has a fantastic sense of humour. He's really funny. And if he ever changes parties, I'd even consider voting for him. He had us all believing the Conservatives care about the arts. That's how good he is.

After the speeches, the enchanting Ellie Harvie came out to lead a stellar cast through some improv games. Randy Schooley, Denise Jones, Pearce Visser, Ted Cole, and Ken Lawson were as great as always and the capacity crowd ate it up. It would only have been better if Ellie had joined in the scenes instead of staying as ring master. But what are you gonna do?

Memo to Mark Breslin: Maybe you should approach the government for help getting a venue for Yuk Yuk's in Vancouver. There's a precedent!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

VHS Vault: Viewer Mail

Who knows why I used to record what I recorded? Not I. But it's fun looking back. Most of what I recorded back in the day were comedians or comedy performances, but there are random clips of things like Phil Donohue and Morton Downey, Jr. I'll leave out the newsy clips and stick to comedy here.

This next clip is of David Letterman's old weekly Viewer Mail segment. Nothing special about it, although it's funny. As happens a lot with my recordings, the end is cut off. So it is what it is. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

VHS Vault: Dennis Miller

Back to the VHS vault I go. This next clip is of Dennis Miller on the old Late Night with David Letterman show. Miller was then in his third season on Saturday Night Live. Miller takes a lot of flack these days for his politics. And deservedly so, in my opinion. There was a time I thought he had lost it comedically because his politics got in the way. But I've seen enough of him since then to appreciate his joke writing ability. At his stand-up shows, he's political for maybe ten minutes and the rest is just vintage Miller – arcane references and spot-on analogies delivered in his unique style. Granted, some people hated his style even before he became a spin doctor for the right. But I was a fan. And still am. It's really hard to say that because I disagree with his politics so strongly, but you gotta separate the man from his act.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 16: Phil Hanley

The lovely and talented Phil Hanley will be our guest tonight. You've seen him around town for years*, you've seen him on The Tonight Show (if you didn't blink)**, you've seen him on his very own Comedy Now TV special***, you've watched the Hollywood feature film he wrote, Air Buddies****, now everyone's favourite stay-at-home son will make his return engagement on What's So Funny?. Phil has always had a Charles Grodin-like presence on the show so it's a lot of fun for me. No doubt we'll have a good spar.

Hanley lives in New York City now. He just happened to come home briefly to take full advantage of Canada's superior medical system and will be heading back to the Grande Pomme in about a week. So you won't want to miss tonight's episode.

* if you go out to live comedy in Vancouver, B.C.

** it was a taped joke they aired from the Just For Laughs festival. Several comics gave their best joke but Phil's received the only applause break from the studio audience in Burbank

*** I'm guessing here. Just about every comic in Canada has done one

**** but probably not, unless you have a little kid, let's be serious

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early Chris Rock

Well, look what I figured out. Not sure I'll be able to duplicate it but for the time being I managed to get some private video added. I think it'll be a good addition to the blog.

I've been going through my VHS collection. Man, I used to tape a lot of comedy (and other stuff) off the TV, some of it good, some of it bad, some of it boring. But over time, everything seems fascinating. I thought I'd share some of what I find here. Seems as good a place as any.

Here's an early appearance by Chris Rock on the Arsenio Hall show. I haven't seen this on YouTube so maybe this is the only place to find it. I know there was a mini-documentary on Rock from the same era floating out there now but this wasn't part of it. I love the old references. Let's just say you won't hear to many Miles Davis jokes these days. Stick around to the end when Arsenio has to move along very quickly from Rock talking about Johnny Carson. Classic.



Jerry!

Just got word that Jerry Seinfeld will be playing the Queen E Theatre here in Vancouver on August 20. Two shows, 7:00 and 9:30. It's been six years since he was here last and he put on a masterful show. Seinfeld's style of comedy may be on the outs, but I think that's more a case of the pale imitators than his work. He's always been a top notch joke writer. And his observations are only obvious after the fact. That is, as soon as he broaches a subject you immediately recognize it as being true without ever having thought of it yourself. Ticket prices are $79, $99 and $125. Yowza. Not sure anyone's worth that much, but if anyone is, it's Seinfeld. Tickets go on sale on Monday, May 17 at 10 a.m.

If he holds to form, he won't be doing any interviews but rest assured I'll be doing my utmost in bugging the good folks at Just For Laughs, who are bringing him to town, to get one. I won't hold my breath but you never know.

Which brings me to a problem I've been having with this blogger page. Recently I've been going through old VHS tapes I have and converting some of them to DVD. But for some reason I can't post any videos to this blog. Don't know why. One of the clips I was going to post, and would be perfect here, is a very old appearance of Seinfeld on the Ross Shafer version of Almost Live! Jerry does panel only and goes through some of his classic bits, my favourite being the Robert Hughes (aka World's Fattest Man) material. If anyone has any tips on posting video to this clunker of a site, let me know. I've done it before but can't do it anymore.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9: Lars Callieou

I'm sitting in the shitty Los Angeles airport which doesn't even have free Wi-Fi, if you can believe it (I've latched on to Air France's weak signal), after a week in Disneyland. But I'll be back in time for the show tonight. It really is a small world afterall. Just as an aside, Disneyland is as awesome as ever. The only drawback I can find is that as soon as you get "It's a Small World" out of your head, it's quickly replaced with "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. But that's a small price to pay.

Tonight we have Edmonton comic Lars Callieou joining us by phone from northern Alberta. See, I told you it was a small world. Lars just got back from a tour of duty, so to speak, in Iraq, entertaining somebody's troops. Not sure whose. I don't think we have any there, do we? I guess we'll find out tonight. And if he was entertaining the American troops, just what side would he be on if a war broke out between Canada and the U.S.?

Lars has come a long way since his first visit to our studio back in 2006. He was essentially a glorified amateur then. Now he's quit his day job and makes his living telling jokes both north and south of the border.

Also tonight, I'm going to play a clip of an interview I did with Brian Regan. I posted the transcript of said clip a while back so you can follow along at home. I just loved the way Regan told of his nightmarish gala at Just For Laughs. And we'll see if Lars has had any similarly nightmarish gigs in his young career.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Burrard and beyond

Now that the Yuk Yuk's at the Century Plaza Hotel on Burrard St. has closed down, is club comedy dead in the city until they open their new location at an undisclosed time and place later this year? Not at all.

The former Yuk Yuk's will re-open on June 1 as The Comedy MIX, according to co-owner Mario Cocchia. They're just three days into the transition and a media blitz will happen shortly, but in the meantime, Cocchia tells me, "We'll continue to provide a ProAm show Tuesday aimed at developing local comics. Wednesdays we'll showcase local professional comics and Thursday through Saturday we will be featuring the best comics from North America and beyond."

I gotta say, as a comedy consumer, I love it! I know each spot – Yuks and the MIX – will want to bury the other one, but I think competition is great for the market. In the past, when a new kid on the block has tried to go up against Yuks, they've always failed because they don't have the deep pockets of the national chain, or the infrastructure. And it's always tough getting the word out and getting people to go somewhere new. But in this situation, the old Yuks will be the new MIX. People are already used to going to the Century Plaza Hotel for comedy. If the new club manages to bring in good acts, put on a good show and provide a decent entertainment option for folks, they should be able to keep a good portion of the clientele who have been going there for years already. And Yuk Yuk's has the money and clout to get fans to their new location, wherever it may be. They'll do a big media splash, take out regular ads, and put on promotions, and soon people will find them. They have the advantage of a brand name, too, so when tourists are looking for a night out for comedy, they'll look up "Yuk Yuk's".

So conceivably two clubs in the city can, and should, work. It works in Edmonton and Calgary so why not here? Let's get ready to rumble!

Episode 187ish

The Steve Patterson episode has been up at iTunes for a few days now. I'm just getting around to telling you. I'm sure you've already got it downloaded and listened to it. But in the off-chance you haven't yet, get on it. Steve is a funny guy, both as a comic and a person. And that ain't always the case. Puzzling, that. Some hilarious comics are rather dry or not particularly funny off stage, and some less than hilarious comics are really naturally funny off stage. There's no rhyme or reason. But Patterson is one who's funny on-stage and off. You know him, of course, as the host of The Debaters on CBC-1. But he's more than that. He's also a former ad copy writer. You can tell in our chat because soon into it he comes up with a killer slogan for our province just off the cuff.

I'm still not able to put the show right here on the blog (the internet seems to be crumbling), but here's a link to the show on iTunes. And, as always, you can listen on the Comedy Couch.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 2: Sugar Sammy (Sam Khullar)

No national/international comedian has been a greater friend to What's So Funny? than Sugar Sammy. Tonight marks his fourth appearance on the show. The first was recorded in his room at a dinghy New West hotel; his third and fourth spots were done live in our studio; and this one was recorded last month at the bar of the Pan Pacific Hotel. While munching on mixed nuts and sipping drinks, we talked about Indian women, taking stereotype roles in Hollywood, his opinion of Peter Sellers playing one of his people in the film The Party, Harry Doupe's Statelessness of the Industry shots at him, Quebec politics, his throwback tastes in music and women, and we find out which Vancouver comic is one of his favourites.

***

I took a trip in the wayback machine last night going to 1960s Las Vegas. It felt like it anyway. Actually, it was just Coquitlam and the Red Robinson Show Theatre. The evening started with Vancouver-based crooner Kenny Colman and a 14-piece big band. Kenny is one of the great singers, and great hard-luck stories, of Canadian show business. He's had his breaks over the years, doing early Tonight Shows with Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin Shows. He's recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. People like Lou Rawls, Redd Foxx, Johnny Mandel, David Foster and none other than Frank Sinatra have all sung his praises. Yet he's largely unknown. When he came along in the early 1960s, rock was taking over. Now you've got young bucks like Michael Bublé co-opting the style that comes naturally to Kenny – and making way more than guys did in Colman's generation. While his chops aren't what they used to be, they're still pretty good. The guy can swing. And the band swung like a mo-fo, too.

He was a perfect lead-in for Don Rickles. The 83-year-old is a show business legend and while he moves a little slower and a little more hunched over, he's still in full voice. His jokes have never made complete sense and they still don't. You laugh at the attitude more than anything. And his references haven't progressed, so you get mentions of Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, lots of talk of buck-toothed Japanese soldiers and Jimmy Cagney singing I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy. Yes, that's right, hockey puck, the man sings. He employs the same big band and uses it throughout his act, often singing unironically. Despite what you'd imagine, only about 20% of the show is unscripted insults directed at the crowd, if that. But it is what it is. You can't judge it by today's standards. You've just got to get in the right frame of mind, sit back and enjoy.