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Aspen Stories: Anthony Jeselnik

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Anthony Jeselnik hits the stage with an arrogance that's almost unfathomable, but hey, it works. It turns out that the LA-based comic is a pretty good guy, though, once you get him off the stage. We debriefed him about his experience performing at the HBO Aspen Comedy Arts Festival:

Had you been before? What did you expect it to be like? What surprised ! you about it when you got there?

No, I’d never been to Aspen before. In fact, this was my first festival. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I drew from the experiences of friends who have been in the past. They all told me to just treat the whole thing like a vacation, interrupted by a few shows. People wh! o go into Aspen hoping to get the big deal just make themselves miserable. I was surprised by how much fun I had, to the point that having to perform almost every night was annoying. Also, I was caught off guard by the sheer number of times I heard everyone, and I mean everyone, using the word “buzz” in casual conversation.

What was the audience like for your shows?

My group kept talking about how we were very lucky with the audiences for our shows. For the most part, I experienced wonde! rful crowds. One show, in which we saw our worst crowd by far, was a late night show in a big auditorium. One guy was sleeping in the front row, occasionally waking up to come to the stage and interrupt whoever was performing to show off a pen. In his defense, though, it was one of those pens with a pretty lady with disappearing clothes when turned upside down. I heard horror stories of some groups getting heckled or, even worse, ignored. Aspen audiences, for the most part, were terrible. There aren’t a lot of comedy fans who make the trip out there. It’s mostly industry and wealthy friends of industry. Lots of drunk wives. People like that go to four comedy shows a day and things are going to get rough.

What was the best social event you attended? Why?

There were some fantastic “social events” in Aspen. The “Best Week Ever” party was great, but anything with an open bar qualifies as great for me. I’d have to say the UCB/3 Arts/Collegehumor.com House was the greatest. They had this huge place and hosted parties throughout t! he week. One night all the local girls showed up and the fucking place went nuts. Amazing night.

What was the best show you saw that wasn't your own?

Brian Finklestein’s one man show, First Day Off in a Long Time, was amazing. It was his account of working the overnight shift at a suicide hotline. Not a lot of jokes, but fucking powerful. I felt terrible for the show following! him all week. The whole audience is practically in tears, taking personal stock of their lives and, suddenly, two guys come running out, energy coming out of their pores, yelling about true love and personal choice. Jarring.
Also, The Whitest Kids U Know had fantastic shows. They ran away with the Best Sketch award. Very cool guys. Lots of buzz.

What was the strangest social interaction you had while there?

There were a lot of those. I’ll run down the three most memorable, in no particular order: 1. I introduced myself to one of the founders of collegehumor.com and his started doing a character or something, saying “Oh YEAH!” and dancing in response to everything. That went on for five minutes and was incredibly uncomfortable. 2, An older woman working with the festival came up to me after one of my shows and said “I loved all your jokes, except for the one about cancer”. But I thought she said “I loved all your jokes, ESPECIALLY the one about cancer”. I laughed and thanked her, saying only stupid people get of! fended by that joke. Then she clasped her hands to her chest and, on the verge of crying, said “I said EXCEPT the cancer joke! Except! I just lost my mom!” and walked away. 3. Finally, on the last night (when I was crippled by what I later discovered was the flu) a man came up to me out of nowhere and said “You’d be so much funnier if you did everything deadpan.” I said, thanks for the unsolicited advice and tried to leave. The man then took my arm and said “You should listen to me, because I know a thing or two about comedy. If you did your whole act deadpan, people would shit their pants.” I said “Well, what brings you out to the festival?” He said “I’m here with some friends for the skiing. I’m a proctologist.”

Would you recommend it to others?

Yes, of course. It’s an honor to be invited, incredible fun and only an absolute idiot would refuse the opportunity.

Dead-Frog v. Wonder Showzen

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Todd over at Dead-Frog has a fascinating interview with the unpredictable creators of Wonder Showzen. Vernon and John will be on The Sound this weekend.

Children are the magical glue that keeps our society hurtling towards guaranteed destruction. Every morning we force feverish miscreants (selves) to huff that glue, before we translate their death spasms into morse code, and then into English. We lay it out into script format and shoot. Children’s assholes have almost nothing to do with it. What Matt and Trey were probably trying to say was that they are so rich, they can afford to shit from children.

Link

Previously on the TSOYA blog: Change the Channel for Kids, Good Shows, Bad People

Some bad, bad Developments.

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Mitch Hurwitz, Arrested Development's creator and showrunner, has decided to quit, despite a deal on the table from Showtime. That's pretty much the death-knell for the series. Star Jason Bateman's comments:

"I'm so proud of it and so like it as a TV fan that I'm happy we're not going to get a chance to screw it up," he said, in the deadpan style of his character, Michael Bluth, about the only sane member of the dysfunctional Bluth clan. "Our luck wouldn't have held. There would have been cast fighting. We would have messed it up."

Link to the article by long-time AD supporter Tim Goodman of the SF Chronicle.

Watch out, Possums: Dame Edna's in LA

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The inimitable Dame Edna, Australia's spectacular Housewife-Megastar, is hitting LA for two weeks of shows at the Ahmanson Theater. The show opens tonight and runs until April ninth, so get your tickets now, if you're in LA.

There are some discount tickets available, but you have to act quickly to get those. The Dame only rarely hits US shores, she's usually too busy being featured on Australian postage stamps.

If you've never seen Dame Edna, you really owe it to yourself.

”Genius! Hasten to the theatre and sit at the feet of a star. What bliss!” – Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Dame Edna is the official Housewife-Megastar of The New Sincerity.

Link
Dame Edna on The Sound of Young America (real audio)

Jim Gaffigan, Uncut

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One of my guests on this week's Sound of Young America broadcast will be Jim Gaffigan, who is one of America's most popular standup comics. We talked for about half an hour, and I'm only going to use about half of that, but I know Jim has a lot of fans out there, so I thought I'd share it with you uncut.

Download the Jim Gaffigan interview (MP3)

Listen to this week's show online:

The Naked Trucker & T-Bone Coming to Comedy Central

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The Naked Trucker & T-Bones show was given the go-ahead for six episodes by Comedy Central. Dave "Gruber" Allen (The Naked Trucker) and Dave Koechner (T-Bones) have been performing this show on stages in LA and elswhere for quite a long time, now, and it's a hilarious show. I guess the idea here is that they can tap into both the "Comedians of Comedy" hipster audience and the Blue Collar Comedy audience, and I have no reason to believe they won't succeed, especially with Koechner's increased profile in film. Here's the release:

NEW YORK, March 27, 2006 -- Dave Koechner as Gerald “T-Bones” Tibbons and Dave “Gruber” Allen as the “Naked Trucker” are hitting America’s highways and collecting stories from the road. COMEDY CENTRAL has given a series pick-up to the "Naked Trucker and T-Bones," a half-hour variety show, it was announced today by Lauren Corrao, executive vice president, original programming and development, COMEDY CENTRAL. The network has ordered six episodes of the series and is set to premiere in late summer.

Developed at the COMEDY CENTRAL Stage in Los Angeles, “Naked Trucker” takes place at a truck stop featuring a naked trucker and his ne’er-do-well sidekick, Gerald “T-Bones” Tibbons, who are backed by a hell-raising band. Each week they will join viewers from a truck stop in middle America to re-fuel and tell their story of being on the road in pursuit of the American dream. The pilot was executive produced by Allen (“Freaks and Geeks”), Koechner (“Anchorman”), Norm Hiscock (“King of the Hill”) and J.P. Williams (“The Blue Collar Comedy Tour”).

"’The Naked Trucker’ has been a favorite stage show for comedy lovers in Los Angeles for years,” said Corrao. "I’m so pleased to be able to introduce these two iconic characters to the television viewing audience. Koechner and Allen are a force to be reckoned with and we look forward to hearing their outrageous stories from the road.”

“We are happy to feed COMEDY CENTRAL’s and, indeed, America’s insatiable appetite for hobos, hillbillies, intellectuals, political non-conformists, free thinkers, free ballers and truckers,” said Koechner and Allen.

The Naked Trucker & T-Bones Show
Naked Trucker on Real Time With Bill Maher
Naked Trucker on Conan

NPR: Live in Concert

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Since late last year, NPR has been curating a library of live concerts on NPR.org. They must hav eput some interns in charge of booking, because it's full of acts like The New Pornographers, Colin Meloy, the White Stripes, and the like. Also, inexplicably, James Brown. Well, I guess the explanation is that James Brown requires no explanation. My favorite part of the whole thing is probably the explanation on the NPR site: "Hear a mix of smart pop, new folk, country-rock, ambient dream pop and more."

No kiddin', NPR? I've been looking for a place to hear live concert streams of ambient dream pop, but I'd been having a really tought time. And you're telling me you offer MORE than just ambient dream pop? I mean, I would have been happy with just ambient dream pop, but I can expect maybe some Agro-Dreamcore or Slumber-gaze in addition? DELIGHTFUL.

The NPR Live Concert Series

TSOYA: "Storytellers" with Colin Meloy and Harvey Pekar (MP3 Link)

Aspen Stories: Sherry Sirof

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Comedienne Sherry Sirof is one half of San Francisco's Sirof Comedy Family, often performing in clubs with her husband, fellow up-and-comer Jacob Sirof. Her sweet stage manner is betrayed by cutting humor, and her hipster persona is occaisionally undercut by mentions of her baby, which, with two pro-comic parents, is sure to become some sort of uber-comedian.

Had you been before? What did you expect it to be like? What surprised you about it when you got there?

I had never been to Aspen before. I expected it would be expensive, it was. I was surprised how mild the weather was, that would soon change however. I wore the wrong shoes!

What was the audience like for your shows?

It seemed like everyone was blaming the audience. I didn't think they were that bad, they were just white, well not so much white, as leather. The audience was a mixture of rich locals, rich tourist, and rich industry folks.

What was the best social event you attended? Why?

The UCB house was cool, I felt like I was at a high school party, but there were famous people there.

What was the best show you saw that wasn't your own?

The ONLY show I got to see was the Jim Norton, Louis CK show, I loved it, Ryan Stout hosted. I couldn't take in any of the shows (I really wanted to see some sketch: Walsh Bros. Whitest Kids U Know etc.) 'cuz I brought my baby. I also got kicked out of the HBO hospitality lounge on account of my baby. The industry doesn't like babies all up in their business, I don't blame them, but I can't help but resent them.

What was the strangest social interaction you had while there?

Getting kicked out of the HBO FREE smorgasbord the first day, that sucked. I went to the hotel room, I was to pick up my free gift and lunch, on HBO. Jacob (my husband and fellow comic), Emilee (the nanny), Wynter (the baby) and I got the OK at the front to come in. We spent a good amount of time soaking up the atmosphere and dining on the gourmet spread. The baby started to crack about an hour in to our stay, so I went to the bathroom to breastfeed, I figured I was fine because the hotel room had two potties. Unfortunately that wasn't the case, a lot of folks had to pee. While Jacob was outside the door telling everyone I was breastfeeding, our nanny was getting the boot for not having credentials. HBO's story: I was only allowed one guest. Babyists, filthy babyist, I hope their kids marry babies. And yes, I got kicked out of the HBO hospitality twice, I'm t! enacious.

Would you recommend it to others?

I would highly recommend the festival to everyone. It's great exposure, and you get to meet a lot of great comics from all over the country, and they blog about you, and that ups you googleability tenfold.

Still to come: Ryan Stout, Anthony Jeselnik & Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere

A Manifesto for The New Sincerity

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Word came down from America's commentary class around September 13th, 2001. Irony was dead. In what would come to be called "The Post 9-11 World," there would be no room for that particularly distasteful form of discourse. It was to be replaced by soft, sweet sincerity. Somewhere, an eagle shed a single tear.

Of course, reports of irony's death were greatly exaggerated. A few weeks after the tragedy, irony made a heroic, if modest, resurgence. Great exemplars of the form like The Onion and Jon Stewart went back to their grindstones. Hipsters in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn slapped on their Roos and drowned what was left of their trauma in Pabst Blue Ribbon. Within two years, America was watching The Simple Life and basking in contempt.

The great irony of all this is that the pundits and prognosticators who declared irony dead three years ago were absolutely right. Irony is dead. Their account of it's death, however, was greatly flawed. Irony died not in a fiery explosion, but slowly, quietly, of old age. And it wasn't replaced by a return of the old guard. This time around, there�s a new cultural paradigm, itching to get in the ballgame.

This radical new ethos has a name. It's called: The New Sincerity.

What is The New Sincerity? Think of it as irony and sincerity combined like Voltron, to form a new movement of astonishing power. Or think of it as the absence of irony and sincerity, where less is (obviously) more. If those strain the brain, just think of Evel Knievel.

Let's be frank. There's no way to appreciate Evel Knievel literally. Evel is the kind of man who defies even fiction, because the reality is too over the top. Here is a man in a red-white-and-blue leather jumpsuit, driving some kind of rocket car. A man who achieved fame and fortune jumping over things. Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind.

But by the same token, he isn't to be taken ironically, either. The fact of the matter is that Evel is, in a word, awesome. His jumpsuit looks great. His stunts were amazing. As he once said of his own life: "I've had every airplane, every ship, every yacht, every racehorse, every diamond, and probably, with the exception of two or three, every woman I wanted in my lifetime. I've lived a better life than any king or prince or president." And as patently ridiculous as those words are, they're pretty much true.

So now, dear reader, you're in on the Next Big Thing. Something more Hedwig than Rocky Horror; more Princess Bride than Last Unicorn; more Bruce Lee than Chuck Norris. Something new, and beautiful. So join us.

Our greeting: a double thumbs-up. Our credo: "Be More Awesome." Our lifestyle: "Maximum Fun." Throw caution to the wind, friend, and live The New Sincerity.

Is Karl Pilkington Real?

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Debate has been raging on the internet over the authenticity of Karl Pilkington, the Ricky Gervais Show co-host whose idiotic ramblings are fodder for the scorn of Gervais and Steven Merchant.

Matt (aka Sasquatch) over at ASpecialThing breaks it down, and quite reasonably, I think:

No one's saying he's completely oblivious to the fact that people find his idiotic ramblings funny -- obviously he's smart enough to know that if the way he's acting and talking makes a world-famous comedian laugh and want to keep talking to him, then he should keep it up. That's not even smarts, that's human nature: when you crave attention (as every human does to some degree) and a certain behavior results in you getting attention, you will keep up that behavior and even amplify it (kids and bad comics do this all the time, which is why they're annoying).

Does he really believe every bit of Monkey News? No. But he believes some of it, and believed a lot of it at some point I bet -- now it's a segment they have to fill, and he understands his role is to read the stuff as if he thinks it's real. Is that "doing a character?" If it is, then every person is doing a character at some point in his life, whenever he has to tell a white lie to spare someone's feelings or pretend to be excited by a project at work that is, in fact, total crap. That said, some people are inconceivably gullible and believe everything they read until someone points out the inconsistencies. I think Karl could be one of those people. Above all, he WANTS to believe stupid urban myths and conspiracy theories.

Bottom line: he is self-aware and understands his place on the show, so he gives Gervais, Merchant and the audience what he knows they all want, even if it's an exaggeration of his personality. Even if it means taking the abuse he's given for his views without complaint.

Character or not, Pilkington is a hoot, and the Ricky Gervais Show is very, very funny.

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