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Comedy Stray Notes July 11, 2021
On turning 33 and doing comedy stuff, Season Two of "I Think You Should Leave," two very short sketches and a pilot from a decade ago. There's no "and more" here folks- that's it
• Damn. I’m 33 tomorrow. It’s weird because you’re young for what seems like an eternity and then, all of a sudden, you’re sort of, kind of, old. I remember starting standup at 15 and being like, “I’ve got a head start on everyone!” Then, at 18, I started a sketch show in college and was like, “I’ve got a head start on everyone writing comedy!” Then, at 25, I moved to New York and was like, “In three years, I’ll be running this town” (I really did say this smdh).
Now, at 33, I know myself a little better. Getting these headstarts didn’t really do all that much. I wasn’t a great listener and kind of marched to the beat of my own drum for a bit too long. However, as the wise Daniel J. Perafan once said, “People in comedy either make it in three years or 20 years.” There’s no rush. There’s no need to be like, “Aww, shucks, I don’t have Seth Rogen’s career.” This whole choice to try and write jokes and put them out in digital or auditory formats is a completely involuntary decision on the part of the person who wants to do funny stuff in a semi-professional way. This made me realize something especially important. Being in comedy should not even really be about making it; this whole endeavor is about bringing joy to others or yourself. Since writing silly jokes and filming goofy things pumps me up, I’m gonna keep doing it into the mid-30s. I don’t have a head start on anyone anymore but that’s OK. This ain’t no race. It’s a never-ending marathon.
Plus, I’m only 33. That’s not THAT old.
• Got two super short, super funny sketches that need to be seen by the masses to share with y’all this week.
- There’s probably nothing less funny than orphans. Honestly, it kinda makes me sad just thinking about the concept. However, Adam Christopher and Mia Faith Hammond are up for the challenge to make light of kids without parents with their absurdly tubular “Orphan Shopping Network” sketch. The two make an excellent pair with their faux-British accents spouting out gems like “go to www.idontlikewhathappenedtome.com” and “All babies are criminals.” Plus, Steve Martin makes a cameo? Catch this orphan magic.
- I’m going to spoil this next one a bit. I have to. This 0:43 short is a “blackout” sketch which means the big joke is revealed at the end. I won’t share the big punchline but I will set the scene. Here, the quick-witted Dom Leonelli purchases a caricature of himself he loves. He can’t wait to show it off to his friend Brian Kim. Out of respect for the creators and you, the viewer, I recommend you just watch the thing to get the whole effect. You know how. Just give it a little, little view.
• I always feel a bit like there’s no journalistic credibility to how I review TV shows, movies, podcasts and articles here but after thinking about it for about 15 seconds, it makes sense. I am not assigned to watch anything; I choose what I want to see and I’m predisposed to like that stuff. Given that point of view, here’s two things I enjoyed quite a bit that I checked out this week:
“I Think You Should Leave” Season Two (2021): Other than the odd SNL clip, it’s pretty rare that a sketch comedy show a) captures the zeitgeist and b) invents a new comedic language. I’d say “Chappelle’s Show,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Key and Peele” are a few that met and exceeded both of these criteria. Having watched the six episode second season of sketch auteur Tim Robinson’s “I Think You Should Leave” twice now, I believe this show should certainly be added to this conversation now as well.
With each sketch framed around the central premise that someone will act outside of social norms to the point that those around them really think they should leave, the show excels at never feeling repetitive even when every sketch is essentially built around this same premise. Although the second season isn’t quite as electric as Season One (If you haven’t seen the Will Forte on the plane sketch, you haven’t lived; my wife Anna Paone is partial to “TC Tuggers”), this sadder and louder batch is littered with sketches that are instant classics in their own right. I’m particularly fond of the “Burger” sketch starring older actor Paul McDuff Wilson of “This Is Us.” Wilson plays a professor who relatably didn’t order the right thing while out with star pupils of his from years past. As the sketch progresses, Wilson’s character inhabits all of our basest instincts to get what he wants but in the weirdest, funniest way imaginable.
Back to comparing S1 to S2, I would argue that this season lives in a more meditative state than in the debut season’s more manic craziness. In fact, a few pieces like “Calico Cut Pants,” “I’m Never Going To Say My Lines Faster Than Jamie Taco” and “Claire’s” are reminiscent of sweet tone poem short films gassed with mellow synth music typically relegated to more serious fare and longer runtimes that allow for real narrative arcs and less true heightening. To defend this year’s style a bit more, I would add that a lesser program would have had the aforementioned Jamie Taco sketch be a simple act of one-upmanship; not in “ITYSL” though. Here, it turns into a beautiful yet bizarre ode to a man’s wife. So good and so singularly Tim Robinson (even if he’s not even in this sketch). IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE COMEDY LITERATI ARE TALKING ABOUT, THIS IS WHERE IT’S AT (Streaming on Netflix).
“Zach Stone is Going To Be Famous” Pilot (2013): With all the Bo Burnham hoopla (what the comedy literati was watching last month), I figured it was time to do a deep dive. I loved “Eighth Grade,” I loved the specials Bo directed for Jerrod Carmichael and Chris Rock and I figured I had one glaring omission in my Burnhamography. Much to my surprise, the pilot for Burnham’s one season wonder sitcom is available on YouTube and holds up quite nicely almost a decade later. Centered around the fame chasing, attention starved, fresh out of high school Zach Stone (Burnham) who forgoes college to film a reality show about his small-town life, the show is a perfect meta pilot that essentially mocks attention hungry influencers before that was even a viable career choice. This A-story heavy pilot zippily introduces us to Zach, his family, his best friend, his crush and the girl that’s right for him all while plans are set in motion to help out with a funeral that Zach is led to believe he’ll “headline.”
Although I’ve only seen this pilot, it’s a true downer that this show didn’t last more than one season; otherwise, we may have had another peek ten years into influencer culture’s future.
Plus, there’s one truly sublime joke where Zach a) stalks his crush on Facebook, b) uses the details from her account to woo her and c) goes way too far with how much he knows about her. Structurally, I give that bit alone an A+.
If this felt short, that was intentional. I would have written a bit more BUT my family is going to Hawaii tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM.
I’ll be reporting live from Maui next week (maybe)