Sometime toward the end of 2009 I caught the first latent strains of my new found comedy obsession. I’m planning on incorporating this love on the blog too. I’m not sure how that will manifest itself. I’ll most certainly get around to reviewing comedy albums or specials, but there aren’t airings or releases on the horizon that interest me. For the moment, a catch-all type of faux-periodic collection of random comedic happenings or thoughts on comedy seems to be the best bet. Every few weeks or so when I’ve compiled enough videos and opinions to comprise a few hundred words worth your time, I’ll unload another column. Let’s see how this goes…

Conan (weeknights on TBS):
Conan O’Brien’s return to late night television is probably less significant than his dramatic departure last fall, especially with the late night talk show landscape expanding almost beyond recognition since O’Brien broke in on Late Night 17-years ago. However, Conan’s shenanigans were one of the only outlets for goofy and ironic comedy in the network late night schedules. Now that adult swim and Comedy Central have carved into Conan’s natural audience, and he’s on basic cable (TBS), his influence and scope has been sheered, but O’Brien’s excitement during his new show’s opening week was palpable. And he’s already shown a willingness to reach out to left-of-center elements in contemporary comedy. The show’s third episode (“Dead Men Don’t Wear Spanx“) featured Paper Heart lead and co-writer Charlyne Yi for no other reason than apparently she makes Conan laugh.
O’Brien’s also made a mark by featuring two very conceptual and strange comedians in his first two weeks. The much buzzed-about and Comedy Central-launded stylings of Reggie Watts on Tuesday night. Watts once again proved that his mediocre CD cannot begin to do justice to the afro’d comics nearly excessive eccentricities, his Andy Kaufman-esque performance art cannot be neatly pigeon-holed, but the five and a half minutes of insanity Watts is allowed to indulge in is unlike almost any other set you’re bound to see on late night television.
However, O’Brien’s first stand up guest was Jon Dore, a little known Canadian comic. Both Dore’s set and the behind the scenes video below bode well for what Conan could be for upcoming comedians who need a platform to realize an only slightly sterilized version of their stand up. This and the show’s wonderful online presence are great signs for late night talk shows and comedy in general.

Topic A with James Urbaniak:
James Urbaniak, best known for voicing Dr. Venture on The Venture Bros., just launched a new web series: Topic A with James Urbaniak. The show appears to be modeled after a mix of low-budget public access shows and the under designed sets of PBS talk shows from the 80’s. The first episode features Urbaniak interviewing Jeff Breederman (Dave Allen who played Mr. Russo on Freaks and Geeks), the writer of the Happy Days episode in which Arthur “Fonzi” Fonzarelli jumps a shark.
Like the shows from which it draws inspiration, Topic A is quiet and the jokes are small, many are pretty sly. Even the “big,” awkward punchline at the end is delivered with a quiet, desperate civility one may find on Charlie Rose.

Todd Barry:
Todd Barry shouldn’t be a new name for even peripheral fans of comedy. Barry’s list of appearances, as a stand up and an actor is lengthy and varied, it’s almost a challenge to have missed him over the past few years. And the monotone, dead-pan comic is bringing his laid back, nerdy comedy to the Midwest. Barry’s hitting up both my current and former homes in December and I couldn’t be more excited to hype one of my favorite comics in two of my favorite cities.
To all my friends still in Iowa City, especially, seeing a comedian in the IC is rare enough, to see one as good and seasoned as Barry for under $10 without drink limits and all the bull shit associated with comedy clubs is an extreme privilege. Love it.

12/9: Chicago – The Congress Theater – w. Jon Fisch & Ted Alexandro
12/12: Iowa City – The Mill Restaraunt


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