Nineties TV Weekend (Is It Sunny Out?)

For some reason, in between bouts of sitting on the roof playing Scrabble in the sun, it’s been a bit of a nineties TV weekend. We’ve had too much sun the last two weekends anyhow…

First up has been American Gothic – a Twin Peaks-esque horror/supernatural series from the mid-90s that starred Gary Cole as the excellently ambiguous Sheriff Buck. A great character study in how people deal with someone who’s obviously the embodiment of evil, yet who’s consistently nice and helpful to everyone, of course always to his own ends. The DVD transfer’s not great, the series sometimes looks dated, and the really strange thing is that the episodes are on the discs in the wrong order (see wikipedia for the correct order), but even with all that it’s still held up really well 15 years later. As people said, it was ahead of its time and these days would likely have been an HBO series rather than CBS. Such is life.

On a slightly lighter note, Channel 4 on demand now has the hilariously surreal Mr Don & Mr George available for your viewing pleasure. Again, the order is slightly out, no idea why, but all six wonderful, bizarre and charming episodes are there to enjoy. Trailing the exploits of two men called McDiarmid, but not related, this is another series that was arguably way ahead of his time – an offshoot of the also excellent Absolutely (also available on Channel 4 right now).

“Oh, the squirrel-manity!”

There’s one thing you can guarantee about an Eddie Izzard gig… that there will be a wide selection of animals exclaiming about some issue affecting their lives, oh and a healthy dose of history. Guess what – he still delivers all that, and much more, but what’s missing is his usual choice of sparkly clothing. For some reason, Mr Izzard is now cutting a suave figure in jeans, white shirt and a long backed jacket for his Stripped tour in London. This shouldn’t come as such a surprise, since last time we saw him in Montreal he was wearing much the same, but tonight was a much, much better show. Tighter, more laughs, and more cute animals complaining about over-crowding on the ark.

Stripped is standard Eddie fare, ramblingly hilarious discursions on how the world can be put to rights, how cool iPhones are and how giraffes hide. What’s good to see is that after so long punting the LA stand-up scene, he seems very happy to be back on home ground. The jokes seem more relevant to a UK audience, although at times the American references passed most of the audience by. That said, the audience didn’t seem to mind – and that audience included random celebrity attendees Lenny Henry & Dawn French.

So another big thanks to Mr Izzard for another splendid night, and to those of you who don’t have tickets – get your arses down to the returns queue like we did and keep your fingers crossed! It’s worth the wait.

Stolicht da Mighty Boosh! Gript!

Through a random sequence of events (thanks Kate) I found out that The Mighty Boosh were doing their last ‘pre-tour’ show at Riverside Studios tonight. And through an even happier sequence of events I managed to get a ticket. This combination of events means that I’ve now, finally and very happily, seen The Mighty Boosh live – and not only live, but in a relative intimate, few hundred people venue. Huzah!

As you can imagine I’m pretty darn happy right now, high on the buzz of seeing Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett, as well as their talented accomplices, execute some fine Boosh magic live and unleashed. The show was a little bit on the haphazard side, as this is their pre-tour previews where they get to iron out the glitches, but then with the Boosh you feel that the glitches and subsequent recoveries are all part of the general mishmash of comic wonder. And wonder it is. There’s something simultaneously childish and childlike in the Boosh, and it’s good to see it brought across in the live show – even in this embryonic form.

Ahead be spoilers… be ye warned…

For those of you planning to attend the relatively sold out tour this year – expect to see some, if not all, of the following as the fine fellows refine and condense their mayhem; Future Sailors performed live (with the added bonus for us of ‘False Howard’ being in the audience watching), Bob Fossil leading a sing-a-long ‘I Can’t Go For That’, Tony Harrison’s genius chat show – complete with badly constructed, only partially Noel hiding, chair and special guests including Rudi with a blistering guitar solo, Bolo with David Attenborough and the genius of Rich Fulcher’s Eastern European taxi driver who does his act without English – Grip!, the crack fox, plenty of new songs and the culmination of the show with Howard’s genius post-apocalyptic epic play about how a failure to recycle will destroy us all (with notes from Chris Martin and an extra-extendary performance from the Fulcher tin man that you won’t forget – believe me I’m trying). Phew! I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten to mention, but by the time you see it some or all of it will have changed and, most likely, the chaps won’t be working pretty much directly off their scripts the whole time (to oft hilarious effect) so you can expect more audience interaction and banter as they get comfortable.

Thanks to The Mighty Boosh for an epic night. As always.

Cultural Dissonance – Candian Radio Style

If you happen to have a spare half hour on Sundays, at 1pm EST, you can listen to WiretapCBC Radio One Toronto‘s wonderfully off-beat monologue/comic phone call show. A darker version of Garrison Keller, Wiretap is spoken and hosted by Jonathan Goldstein amongst others. It’s a great way to smile off your Saturday night hangover.

Jimmy Carr @ Just for Laughs

Jimmy Carr @ Just for Laughs

Just saw Jimmy Carr in his last night playing at this year’s Just for Laughs festival. Highlights included – nice small venue, good drunken crowd and a fine selection of highly inappropriate jokes. I would repeat some of the jokes here, but I suspect my blog would get banned from everywhere in the world. Suffice it to say he is hilarious and highly recommended. In fact I enjoyed his show more than Eddie’s, which is surprising, although maybe I was expecting more from Mr Izzard. Just don’t sit in the first few rows unless you can handle being picked on.

Anyways, that’s it for this year’s Just for Laughs. The confetti is being swept off St Denis, the drunks are causing their last havoc at Couche Tard (the Quebec equivalent of 7-11) and everyone is either heading home or having a last dance on the streets. Until next year, thanks to all.

Bob Odenkirk & David Cross in Montreal

Last night we went to see The Line Up, part of this year’s Just for Laughs festival. The format was to showcase up and coming sketch comedy groups, presented by Bob Odenkirk & David Cross – who used to team up for the wonderful Mr Show.

The show was in a cramped, most likely over capacity, Kola Note which could have done with a bit more air conditioning. Luckily the comedy kept us awake for the most part. David & Bob opened the show with Bob introducing a fake ‘David Cross’ before the real David came in from the audience to reclaim his rightful place after an amazing dance off. That man sure can bust a move. They then carried out a short re-enactment of Bob’s attempt to buy coffee in a Montreal cafe, where David Cross stole the show completely with his over the top ‘Qwebetoise’ accent.

After this intro the other acts began, with Kurt & Kristen’s inspired double act of randomness. Their re-enactment of the real first ever telephone call was genius, as was our amazement at how sore Kurt’s throat must have been after his singing finale.

Next up was Hot Sauce, a trio of lads also from New York (there was a bit of NYC bias in this show). Again, very enjoyable with some planned heckling and excessive destruction of eggs before our very eyes. Without stunt doubles, amazing.

Bob & David came out for a brief interlude prior to intermission. After which they returned with David’s ‘French speaking mime’ called ‘Est le petit bonbon’, dressed as a clown and holding balloons. The sketch again revolved around Cross’ frantic movements – leaving Odenkirk mildly stunned. All this physical comedy was a great starter to the main course that was Karla, a female duo from LA with a great line in cerebral comedy. Karla was probably our favourite act all night, offering something that stood out as hilariously different and interesting, in a lineup that often seemed a bit in the same groove of east coast stylings. Go check them out if you get the chance, if just for their glove puppet morality tale.

Finally we had the Buffoons, another New York based male trio, this time with a much more physical approach to their comedy. There were some inspired moments of chicanery in their act, but for me it didn’t quite gel, although Miette loved it. They might have suffered at this point of being right at the end of a long show.

Thanks to Bob & David for a splendid evening, hope you had fun up in Montreal. Please come back soon with your own show!

Oh, and as a minor ‘celebrity’ bonus wandered past Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood (of Whose Line Is It Anyway fame) on the way out. Mr Proops looking very dapper as he grabbed a quick pre-show cigarette outside.

Hugh Laurie in American Accent Shock

For us Brits there is no surprise that Hugh Laurie is such a big success with his Fox series ‘House’, he’s a talented actor that we’ve enjoyed for many years. However there is some level of amazement that Hugh is doing a series with an American accent, and one that is apparently very good. Well he’s been doing it for years, as you can see from this early ‘rap’ video he did for ‘A Little Bit of Fry & Laurie’

My Night With Stephen Colbert

Those of you who have spoken to me recently may have noted that I was going to see a filming of The Colbert Report tonight… well it’s true, and very splendid it was too. The audience is pretty small, about 100 odd folk, and the studio is very intimate. Colbert is amazing to watch in action, practicing his lines to himself and, off camera, telling John Stewart he only has another five days left to finish his imminent book. The only downside of the whole night was that the guest was a country & western singer so probably about the most uninteresting guest I could ever hope to see. Ah well.

My Colbert Ticket

For those of you thinking of heading down to see The Colbert Report here’s some background; you can sign up online for free tickets here – although they regularly stop taking requests so you have to keep an eye out. Also, once you’ve been given a date by email they need you to confirm your tickets a week or so before the date you’re given – this is a bit strange, as you need to email them back but they don’t confirm they got your mail. Alternatively you can just come down to the standby line outside the door (on W 54th St between 10th/11th Aves) before 5.15pm on the day of filming. They recommend you get down early, at least 1 1/2 hours before this, so I got down at 3pm at which point I was 32nd in the ticket line – there were about 10 people in the standby line and I think a lot of them got in.

The line itself is pretty comfortable – it’s covered over which was very handy in today’s intense sun. You’re not allowed to take food or drinks into the actual studio, but you can take them into the waiting room so it’s worth bringing some along. About 5.15pm they give you a number and you go through security into the waiting room, where you get to hang around a bit more until around 6pm. Once they’re ready to let you in, you will go in in the order of the numbers you were given – so don’t worry about being near the studio door.

When you go through the studio door you tell the crew member there how many people are in your party and they direct you to where you need to sit. Since it was only me in my group I got put in the second row to fill up some space in the section of audience opposite Colbert’s desk. If you want to be in the audience near the interview area, which is generally more visible in shots, then you probably want to be further down the line but it’s a bit of a crap shoot. Also note that if you’re in the front row Colbert will high five you before the show – bless.

Once everyone’s inside the warm-up comedian does his stuff, and the stage manager gives you some background. Then Stephen Colbert himself comes out – huzah! Today we got to sit in and watch the ‘toss’ between Jon Stewart at The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Then Stephen went backstage again and the warmup guy carried on. Shortly Stephen came back out and took some questions from people in the audience – favourite moment; some guy asking Colbert about Jane Goodall… he actually meant Jane Fonda, referring to his infamous kiss & cuddle session, but the mistake was hilarious. I didn’t get the nerve up to ask a question, although I thought of a good one when leaving the studio – guess that will wait for next time.

Questions over, Colbert takes the stage and rules the show. He ran through the show tonight with only one slight hiccup which was pretty amazing. One thing I noticed was how pale he looks in his TV friendly makeup, he also never really stops smiling and moving, often tapping & singing along to the indie rock songs that play between shooting to keep the energy up. ‘Keeping the energy up’ is a key part of being in the Colbert audience; you need to be ready to laugh and clap loudly, so my throat is pretty sore right now.

Have fun if you go, it’s well worth the effort. Although in my case this meant flying down from Montreal so maybe that was a tad excessive.

Stephen Colbert on Stephen Colbert (on Charlie Rose)

This older interview from the Charlie Rose show featuring Stephen Colbert is wonderful. Colbert is actually himself rather than his character ‘Stephen Colbert’ and there are some moving insights into the show as well as his own history, parts of which are very sad indeed. All of this has gotten me even more fired up for next Monday, when I’m going to go see him do his show in person. Woo! Yeah! Etc!

On a related note: this means that when I bumped into Charlie Rose at Heathrow airport over Christmas, he has already met Colbert – so guess I should have thanked him even more effusively than I did.

Ricky Gervais @ Tribeca Performing Arts #2

Ricky Gervais @ Tribeca Performing Arts #2

Just got back from seeing Ricky Gervais’ first warm up gig at Tribeca Performing Arts, prior to his big shows at Madison Square this weekend. Splendid stuff indeed.

This is the first time I’ve seen Gervais live and he was fabulous. Easy banter and subtle expressions translate into high comedy under his expert guidance. My only gripe was that the show was very short, clocking in under 50 minutes. Plus if you’re easily offended this is not a show for you – British humour can be pretty blunt sometimes, well past the point of political correctness and Gervais is adept at making you squirm while you laugh out loud. There’s also something in his manner that reminded me of Eddie Izzard, who is playing at the Just for Laughs festival this year by the way, but this is definately Gervais’ own unique style of humour. Classic.

Oh, and if a venue says ‘No flash photography’ and for some reason you can’t turn your flash off, then hows about you don’t take photographs almost constantly for the last 15 minutes of a show? Now there’s a thought for the idiot who sat in seat G111. Cheers mate.

More pics.