4 Comedy Specials to Watch: Seasoned Stand-Ups Making D…

JASON ZINOMAN Judah Friedlander “America Is the Greatest Country in the United States” (Netflix) A trailer for “Judah Friedlander: America Is The Greatest Country in the United States.” Video by Netflix Judah Friedlander, who has been performing regularly since 1989 without putting out an album or special, uses more than a dozen punch lines in the first two minutes of his new special, a pace he sustains for more than two hours. If comedy were measured by volume, an argument could be made that no one offers a better dealRead More

In the World of Comedy, Improv May Now Be More Importan…

JASON ZINOMAN Wasson cinematically dashes from era to era, from the Broadway success of Nichols and May to the emergence of the original “Saturday Night Live” cast to the golden age of Chicago improvisation when Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey were all cutting their teeth. What mars this book, however, is not its overreaching claims or narrative ambition, but its fuzzy conceptual framework. It’s like a lively scene with great jokes but no direction. Improv comedy is not merely comics making things up on the spot,Read More

Comedy Is Booming. I Can’t Wait for the Bust.

JASON ZINOMAN As with every other culture industry, the internet democratized the scene, diminishing the power of gatekeepers, opening up avenues for success, and serving audiences that had been mostly overlooked. A former improviser like Grace Helbig found a large young female fan base on YouTube, and comics like Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams turned their live show into a podcast, 2 Dope Queens, that led to a deal with HBO. There are so many options now — not just internet channels but also cable players like IFC and AdultRead More

Chance the Rapper to Bring His Comedy Chops to

Fans watching this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” could see an extra special treat from host Chance the Rapper. The Chicago hip-hop star revealed on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon Thursday that he came prepared for his big hosting gig with five sketches written. Three of those sketches, one with the help of Donald Glover, have made it to the show’s dress rehearsal. “I wrote three sketches that will make it into the show,” he said. “Well, they’ll make it to dress rehearsal, so they could get pulled, Lorne [Michaels]Read More

Jon Stewart and Robert Smigel Craft a Comedy Benefit at…

DAVE ITZKOFF When did you two first meet? JON STEWART Hebrew school. ROBERT SMIGEL Summer camp. We were in “Godspell” together. I think I met you at an “S.N.L.” party. STEWART Those were always the parties that you’d walk outside and go, it’s light again. SMIGEL The first benefit my wife, Michelle, and I did for NBC was in 2003. Everybody who does the show, they’re happy to help and I’m very grateful. Jon was really curious, and when I told him why this exists, it was because my sonRead More

‘Vice Principals’ Earns Comedy Diploma

JERE HESTER HBO’s “Vice Principals,” originally conceived as a movie, easily could have become the next “Horrible Bosses” with its almost cartoon-like comedy-of-escalation approach. But fortunately the tale of warring high school administrators got fleshed out into a TV series that grew darker and deeper with every episode. The show, whose title characters burned and pillaged their way past the point of no return by Episode 2, ends its second and final season Sunday. The finale promises a raucous capper to a program that proved high school never ends. TheRead More

Review: In a Double Bill of Physical Comedy, Laughter I…

JESSE GREEN At stake, apparently, is some sort of license, perhaps to continue performing or maybe merely to live. In trying to master his tasks, Marcel is repeatedly undone by the failures of his body; he has trouble even stepping onto the ramp. Sometimes he discovers workarounds — a trampoline comes into play — but just as often the intensifying gravity of age gets the better of him. That ramp is slippery in both directions. Continue reading the main story This is not, in précis, funny. Sometimes not in practice,Read More

Heard the One About Asia’s Comedy Scene? First, You’ll …

CHARLOTTE GRAHAM The Chinese government requires him to submit scripts in advance of his commercial performances — that gets him a permit to tell jokes. He also has to provide video of someone reading the comedy lines aloud. Government censors have told him to remove jokes not for political content, but for being too rude. “They’ll decline you if it’s too obscene or dirty; you can’t swear on stage,” he said. When Mr. Xu travels to Hong Kong to perform, he can put the swear words back into the script.Read More

Watch the Evolution of Cringe Comedy in 9 Clips

JASON ZINOMAN ‘The Office’ (2001-2003) Most Awkward Interview Ever – David Brent – The Office – BBC Video by BBCWorldwide “The Office,” like all of modern comedy, has a prehistory. Ricky Gervais has cited “The Larry Sanders Show” as an influence. And Steve Coogan’s portrait of the talk-show host Alan Partridge in “Knowing Me, Knowing You” seems to have helped inspire Mr. Gervais’s character. Yet the groundbreaking BBC series about a soul-deadening paper company, which went on to spawn an equally brilliant American version, found its own comic language. TheRead More

Writing Lines for Obama, Mixing Comedy and Hope

R. ERIC THOMAS If this conflict has an antagonist, it is the specter of misplaced hope, personified by the imagined voice of Sarah Palin that exists in Litt’s head. In a storytelling flourish that is too cute by half, Litt outsources the central question to a fictionalized Palin (“How’s that whole hopey, changey thing workin’ out for ya?”), whom he likens to “a fairy godmother who hates me.” Photo But “Thanks, Obama” is not about Sarah Palin. Perhaps surprisingly, it is also not about Barack Obama. The Obama presidency figuresRead More