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Comedy Stray Notes April 11, 2021
On my new sketch, the best comedy movie of 2021, Hunter Biden on WTF and a very short aside about my high school tennis career
• I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of surprise marriage proposal videographers. You really have to get everything just right; the second take isn’t as magical. It’s a one and done kind of deal. With this idea in mind, I wrote a short sketch called “Wedding Proposal Gone Wrong” where the pompous videographer (played with gusto by Sam Zee) can’t get anything right for the happy couple (Anna Paone and...me). At a brisk 1:15, employing montage style, repetition and a few classic comedy sound cues, we ask the important question- will you say yes to watching the sketch? I’m sorry. Couldn’t help myself.
• Here are a few highlights of short/long form comedy found on the web this past week:
- NY comedy power couple Laura High and Dave Columbo have been consistently churning out top of the line comedy quickies on TikTok and Instagram for the entirety of the pandemic but the past few weeks have really found their stride. Although they’ve made innumerable impressive videos, I was especially wowed recently by their swipes at how out of touch we’ve all become. Laura’s “Practicing Being A Human Again” and Dave’s “What Pop Culture Sounds Like To People Over 35 Awards” are two worthy additions to our current malaise as we all reluctantly re-enter society. I’d give these and their TikToks a view while we wait to dip our toes back into normal life.
- As a former tennis player (doubles champion in the Phoenix Union High School District 2005 and 2007, don’t ask about 2006), I have a soft spot for comedy poking fun at the sport and the characters that inhabit the world of the game. This week, while scrolling the ‘Gram, I stopped, turned up the volume and LOL’d at Peter Revello’s pitch perfect “Guy Who Takes Tennis Too Seriously.” It’s all the attitude, competitiveness and sadness that brings out the worst in people played out in just a quick minute. There’s a link in the comments and while you’re there, stick around for “Creepy Uncle at a Wedding.”
- Came across a video from Rizzle’s Stupid Music Videos channel that was so gloriously dumb that I can’t help but share it with the world. The video? A minute-long ode to “Bugs with big fat asses.” The catchy tune, absurd joke and goofy visuals are reminiscent of the best of The Lonely Island and all have been playing on repeat in my head all week. Plus, the blink and you’ll miss it “Mank”/”Minari” bit is the height of comedy for me- a sophisticated and stupid throwaway I’ll never forget. Props to Brian Bahe for putting this on my radar with a retweet. I’m so glad I saw this. Hope you check it out too.
- I’m doing my best to make my way through all the independently produced YouTube specials; there’s a never ending stream of high quality, unique showcases of comics on the verge. This week, I caught Tyler Fischer’s energetic, fast paced “Man Boy Unit.” Using all the tools in his comic toolbox, Fischer shows off accurate and hysterical impressions of Burr, Robin Williams, and Maniscalco, self deprecating height jokes (the best one of all inspired the special’s title), goofy, pointed crowd work off the top and an A+ observation about the twisted logic behind how Netflix subscriptions work. Also, props to the professional camera work by comic Danny Felts. Enough reading about it; the link’s in that comment section.
• Saw a stone cold classic comedy as well as a few middling flicks with troubled production histories this week. Here is my story:
“Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar” (2021): Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are the ultimate peas in a pod in this movie that feels like one of those impossibly wacky yet grounded improv shows you never want to end. Recommended by many, this is already the comedy to beat for best of the year. Off the top, we meet off-kilter villains played by Wiig in bizarro white face (there’s an even stranger backstory inspired by “Powder” to explain this), Reyn Doi (a tween paperboy that’s inexplicably the group’s heavy) and Jamie Dornan of “50 Shades of Grey” flailing to win over the villainous Wiig. The three of them have one goal: destroy Vista Del Mar. Then, we’re taken to a failing furniture superstore and see Barb and Star on the job doing everything but work. The two riff about going into the store on each other’s day off and soon learn they’re going to have a lot of time off. To Vista Del Mar, they go. What follows are spectacular Broadway show resort numbers, dire motels, Vanessa Bayer domineering a “talking club” with the bit part of the year, so dumb they’re great Richard Cheese songs serving as segues into secens, repeated montages that get goofier on rewatch, a mice orchestra (!) and left-field cameos too good to spoil. My only major complaint is the third act was a tad on the nose but I’ll let it slide. For a movie where the characters innocently ask “Is this illegal” when they sneak into a resort pool, it more than gets a pass from me. AMERICA WAS ROBBED WHEN THIS DIDN’T GET A THEATRICAL RELEASE (Streaming on Amazon for $6.99).
“Bad Trip” (2021): In a distant second for best comedy of 2021 comes “Bad Trip.” In this “Borat”/”Jackass” spiritual successor, Eric Andre and Lil Rel (no one plays a best friend better) follow the loosest semblance of a story hijacking Rel’s convict sister’s (Tiffany Haddish) car to travel from Florida to New York so Andre can meet back up with his high school crush. There are the slightest of emotional stakes but that’s not what this movie is about. This movie is about Andre’s clothes being stripped off his body at work or an intimate moment with an ape at a zoo or a mangled hand in a blender at a smoothie shop while unsuspecting, real people stand by and give reactions. Best of all was a flash mob full of talented performers led by an incompetent Andre. He lives for anarchy and this is a pure, unhinged nutso vision. I didn’t laugh out loud a bunch here but YOU HAVE TO APPRECIATE THEIR WILLINGNESS TO GO THERE (Streaming on Netflix).
“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” (2018): I didn’t think the day would ever come that Terry Gilliam would finish this movie. Then, I took three years to see it. Now that I have, I can say, it’s a fascinating, meta, compromise; this feels like a lesser, yet still vital film than the one we would have gotten years ago in the late 90s or early 00s. It’s a movie of contradictions: I was simultaneously charmed and underwhelmed; it’s epic but not as grand as I imagine the original vision is. The narrative kicks off with a self absorbed Adam Driver as a hotshot director who made his bones with a student film about Quixote that deluded his non-actor, cobbler lead (Jonathan Pryce) into believing he actually IS Don and Driver is his Sancho. This serves as a nice commentary on the lengths method actors go to for their roles. It’s not perfect but it is fun and grand in places; I was especially impressed by a sequence at the end with giant ogres and a miniature Driver. I’LL ALWAYS WONDER WHAT GILLIAM’S 2000 VERSION OF THIS MOVIE WOULD BE THOUGH (Streaming on Hulu).
“Fatman” (2020): Mel Gibson playing Santa? Yes, this is problematic. However, this movie had a truly irresistible elevator pitch- “A precocious rich kid with a nasty streak hires a hitman (Walton Goggins) to kill a world weary Santa” and I couldn’t help myself. What starts promisingly with a fleshed out universe that felt as if it had been workshopped for years slowly evolves into a less exciting full-on action movie that forgot it was a comedy. Plus, it simply became a little too mean-spirited for my liking; Marianne Jean-Baptiste playing Ruth Cringle (a nice variation on Mrs. Claus) is the only character with any redeeming qualities here. IT’S A DIFFERENT FLAVOR OF “BAD SANTA” BUT NO CLASSIC (Streaming on Amazon Prime for $3.99).
*I guarantee at one point in time this movie was called “The War on Christmas.” It had to be.
SNL hosted by Carey Mulligan: Just like that, the third consecutive week of live shows is over. Lickety split. They come and go so fast. As a result, we got what I’d call a “B” level SNL with a few instant classics thrown in the mix. To keep it brief, here are some bullet points:
• Kenan is much funnier on SNL than on “Kenan.”
• The Cold Open featuring warring news anchors with varying POVs on the hot button Derek Chauvin case was a nice update on a format they’ve run before; other pleasurable formats they employed again tonight included a monologue where the host introduces a family member, a game show, a pre-taped rap music video, an IBS commercial, Mikey Day corresponding with his disinterested wife by letter from afar and a parody trailer (that feels just like Britanick’s classic “Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer”).
• The show’s intro with 20 cast members feels like it will never end.
• Mumford and Sons jokes would have hit much harder in 2009 (Mulligan’s husband is the one of the Mumfords).
• In a long standing tradition, the show has at least one poop fake ad per season. This episode’s edition was fun, but it’s no “Oops, I crapped my pants.”
• Game show “What’s Wrong With This Picture” always has the oddest images for the actors to riff on; I always wonder if the bits or pictures come first. A true chicken and the egg scenario.
• I’m guilty of stopping paying attention mid-sketch once I feel like I know where the game of the scene is going. That said, the awkward flirting in “Study Buddy” perfectly captured the uncomfortable tension between young teens that felt more alive than anything else the show has done this season. To me, it felt a lot like a tribute to the recently passed original writer Anne Beatts (RIP; she’s a legend behind so many of the show’s classic sketches like Murray and Radner’s “Nerds”). There were also shades of the Nasim Pedrad show “Chad” and “Pen15.”
• Kudos to the loopy, pre-taped “Weird, Little Flute” Redd/Davidson/Kid Cudi/Timothee Chalamet collab; just when I thought the show’s raps were getting stale, SNL ups their game. Instant classic. Definitely going to be on Pete Davidson’s inevitable “Best Of.”
• Weekend Update’s rips into Matt Gaetz’s Venmo, the requisite Mitch McConnell “looks like” gag and three (!) correspondents made for one of the most fun of the season in a season full of great Updates. Come for Redd and Bennett as Obama and Springsteen (Beck even nailed the Boss’ cocked eyebrow), then stay for Punkie Johnson as the stripper from Paul Pierce’s video and finally Bowen Yang as the Titanic’s iceberg. Also, going in Bowen’s “Best Of.”
• Fragile millennials on a “Star Trek” like spaceship made for a perfect sketch.
• The show closed with Mulligan and Aidy as middle aged women inexplicably promoting their pantyhose to a group of teens. At first, it seemed like a lost opportunity as the teens and ladies don’t “yes, and” each other and play the old “let’s point out why that character is weird” before they took on a funnier, more empowered stance. I always say nothing on TV is more full of comic promise than the 5-to-1 and this sketch proved that again this week.
WTF with Hunter Biden: Every Monday morning, I check to see who Maron has on to kick off my week. This felt like a can’t miss. Clicked in, listened to the backstory about how Marc was hesitant to interview the “First son” and become entangled in his messy life story before deciding to grant him a chat in the garage. Turns out the young Biden (on a promotional tour for his memoir) is not so bad. He talks about how his life changed from being a Senator’s son to being a Vice President’s son to finally a President’s son (there’s more security) and how he’s a fan of WTF. Things get heavy when Maron brings up Biden’s checkered past diving into his addiction to crack, childhood trauma surrounding the deaths in his family and an impending lawsuit that he was willing to actually discuss rather than sweep under the table like others of his status certainly would. Not my favorite episode of the show ever but one I won’t forget.
That’s all I got for you today