It's all about bouncing back

Friday, August 29, 2008

David Mitchell Interview on TSOYA

Since I seem to have made an annoying habit of providing you with every tiny speck of "Peep Show" news I come across, I feel I should mention that there is a great interview with David Mitchell buried in the Sound of Young America archives which you should really just listen to immediately.

You can find it here or, if I'm really lucky today, then an audio link will appear below. Here's hoping:

The Sound of Young America: David Mitchell

Yes! Awesome! Enjoy!

Matthews and Olbermann --- the funniest comedy duo on U.S. television

I have been fairly glued to U.S. political news this week -- not only because Rabbits are good citizens, but also because MSNBC currently hosts its coverage with the most humorous comedy duo currently working on U.S. television -- straight man Chris "Tweety Bird" Matthews and master of the political one-liner, Keith Olbermann.

I'm glad to the see that the Daily Show has finally milked this team's amazing evening banter for its full comedic worth:

Bonus Chris Matthews fun: Check out this great story Mike Birbiglia posted recently about Matthews' attempted heckling at a comedy roast. Once again, Tweety ends up as the straight man; but frankly, he deserves it. Who would throw a bottle at anyone as sweet and cuddly as Birbiglia? Unbelievable.

Robert Popper -- "Look Around You"

Robert Popper is responsible for many of your best Britcom laughs. He has produced multiple episodes of "Peep Show" (including the amazing "Wedding" episode) -- he appeared in "Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz" AND "Spaced". That should really be enough, shouldn't it?

Oh, but there's so much more. This week's Sound of Young America podcast features an interview with Robert Popper that discusses his series "Look Around You" -- a brilliant poke at the educational films of our youth -- and his wonderful book "The Timewaster Letters" (written under the nom de plume of Robert Cooper). If you like the lovely "Look Around You" clip from episode one below, then do listen to the podcast of Jesse's interview with him and Popper's interesting analysis of how he developed the show. As Jesse notes, the whole approach is somewhat different from how the same genre has been mocked in the U.S. and I think that's part of what makes it interesting for me. Also: funny.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Soon to Be Classic Quips from Mitch Hedberg's "Do You Believe in Gosh?"

I had the recent honor of listening to an advance copy of Comedy Central's soon to be released Mitch Hedberg performance CD "Do You Believe in Gosh?"

In my review, though, I didn't have a chance to include some of my favorite jokes from the CD. Here is just a sampling of the many that I think will soon become oft-quoted Herberg classics:

"I'm drinking Nyquil on the rocks -- for when you're feeling sick, but sociable."

"I'm done with the soup of the day. I want to know what the soup will be from now on."

"If I had a dollar for every time I said that, I would be making money in a really weird way."

"Every Improv has the name of the club spelled out on the brick wall behind the stage. If you have a bad set and come back the next night, they add an "e" on to the end."

"I'm working for 50% of the door tonight; and 50% of the door tomorrow night. By Sunday, I will have a complete door."

"The easiest way to collect stamps is to stop mailing shit."

"The sign on the record store said 'Hard to Find Records and Tapes.' Nothing in the store was alphabetized."

If you like these, you will definitely enjoy the dozens of additional gems that grace "Do You Believe in Gosh?" The CD will be released on Sept. 9th by Comedy Central Records.

Classic Clips from the 2008 Comedy.if Champ: David O'Doherty -- Superpowers and FAQ

For all of us who didn't make it to Edinburgh this year, here are a few clips from this year's comedy.if winner, David O'Doherty (awesome additional funny from Russell Brand in the first clip):

Monday, August 25, 2008

Steve Coogan Developing Pilot for HBO?

Steve Coogan has told the LA Times that he is in talks with HBO to develop a pilot with Justin Theroux who co-wrote "Tropic Thunder."

Obviously, the Rabbit approves. American television audiences need more Coogan and they need him now. HBO is also the perfect home for his work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Maron v. Seder EVERY DAY!!

So Marc Maron and Sam Seder re-launched their video podcast program last week with a Big Announcement: They will be posting a new show every day between now and the election! They have also been offered a new show on Air America -- working as a team -- that Maron has promised will included a number of creative humor elements as well as straight political commentary. Maron may even bring back some of his classic team from the late great Morning Sedition!

Through the end of this coming week, however, watch Sam's site for detailed daily Seder v. Maron coverage of the DNC Convention in Denver. (Well, with Seder in Denver and Marc -- of course -- in his kitchen in L.A. It's just like old times! The comedy of daily life mixed with politics served just the way I like it. Plum pudding perfect [minus a few technical challenges, natch]).

Now if only I could convince Keith Olbermann to broadcast Countdown from his kitchen whilst still wearing his pajamas. No? Please?

I am very, very happy. It's like Christmas, Easter, my birthday and election day all rolled into one easy to download delight!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

BBC1 Considering A New "Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin"

Chortle is reporting that BBC1 is planning to make a new version of the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

Reignald Perrin without Leonard Rossiter? Heresy!

To the venerable heads of the Beeb, I must say, "Don't Mess with Perfection."

Okay - yes - I confess -- I'll watch!

But it's still wrong.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sound of Young America Announces Bumbershoot Guests

I already know you are going to see The Sound of Young America each day at Bumbershoot. But you're still pondering: Who will Jesse interview on these shows?

Rabbit has the answers!

Lifted from the Maximum Fun forums:

Interview Guests:
Janeane Garofolo
Adrian Tomine
Chip Kidd

Comedy Guests:
Human Giant
Tig Notaro
Greg Behrendt

Music Guests:
Jonathan Coulton


I recommend that you show up early to get seats for these sweet shows.

Also: bring carrots and alfalfa for the Rabbit!

Bookmark this on Delicious

Maron v. Seder Returns Today

Maron v. Seder will return to the podcast universe today at 3pm Eastern, Noon Pacific.

There are also rumors that they will be podcasting during the DNC convention next week (with Seder in Denver and Marc -- in his kitchen!) They're back, baby!

I can't wait!! You can connect to the SammyCam here during broadcast.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hear Clips from Mitch Hedberg's "Do You Believe in Gosh?"

Punchline has posted a link to the site where you can hear some pre-release clips from "Do You Believe in Gosh?" -- the new Mitch Hedberg CD that Comedy Central Records will release on Sept. 9th.

Bookmark this on Delicious

Daily Show Twin Cities Billboard Welcomes the RNC

Stunning. Very excited to see what they post in Denver for the Dems.

5th Season of Ricky Gervais Show available Sept. 16 at iTunes

As per Chortle, the fifth season of the Ricky Gervais Show (which is Always Awesome) will be available on iTunes starting Sept. 16 and will run you about £2.99 to download.

With the current exchange rate, I think that's roughly $412.

(Ed. note: Actually, about $6 and Totally Worth It).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Early Review of Mitch Hedberg's "Do You Believe in Gosh?"

Watching Mitch Hedberg perform was always a creative delight. I loved his pithy beatnik style, the imaginative spin he put on each premise and the unexpected twists he delivered that the audience never saw coming. The heart of his charm, however, was his warm, happy and playful stage presence. No bitterness or anger -- when Mitch was performing, the evening was warm, gleeful and fun.

So, like all of you, I miss him. And I was happy to hear that I might be able to enjoy a few more magical Hedberg moments through the upcoming release of "Do You Believe in Gosh?" on Septemeber 9th. "Gosh" will feature a performance recorded nearly two months before Hedberg passed away in 2005. It includes material that he was developing for what would have been his third CD. When I was offered a chance to give the performance an early listen, I was thrilled; though I'll admit I was also initially a tad bit nervous about peeking at a work that the artist tragically hadn't been able to finalize in every detail.

Those concerns, however, melted away by the end of the first track. I adored "Do You Believe in Gosh?" - and I think other Hedberg fans will too. Everything we all loved is here -- the concise observations, the whimsical digressions, the simple love of fun. The performance is almost entirely new material. (Out of forty minutes, I only counted three brief jokes that I had heard before). Even better, the vast majority of the new material is polished and effective. Yes, a few jokes were still in development; but Hedberg dismisses them quickly with his signature giggle and almost seems to relish labeling them "retarded" and moving on.

Frankly, the mix of new, classic and still-under-development material is a surprising part of the performance's appeal. It's actually a treat to hear someone so creative and professional in the process of developing new gems. The recording feels intimate and even includes some audience work and improvised bits, which add to the cozy nightclub atmosphere.

Yes, if you were a dedicated Mitch fan, there is a small chance that you'll shed a tear by the end (or maybe that was just me), but I also predict that many new bits on this CD will become oft-quoted fan favorites. One of my top choices: "I had a piece of Carefree sugarless gum and I was still worried. It never kicked in." That is classic Mitch.

Maron doing Bumershoot warm up gigs at Comedy Cellar in NYC?

Lots of posts this morning from folks who were lucky enough to catch Marc Maron recently at the Comedy Cellar in NYC where he seems to be prepping some political material -- perhaps to get ready for his Satiristas gig at Bumbershoot; but also, I suspect, just because it's so much fun to do during an election year. (Hopeful rumors also abound that Maron will be doing some Seder v. Maron shows with Sam during the DNC convention. I would *love* that).

Awesome. Labor Day weekend cannot arrive soon enough for me . . . so excited for the festival, and especially for Satiristas.

Edited to add in a fun recent clip from the Maron/Proops Experiment which -- as I have told you many times before -- is a treat. You should never miss a chance to go -- if only to check out what is happening at this point with their increasingly strange middle-aged hair styles. Seriously -- is that a small porcupine above Proops' forehead? Why does it flutter in the non-existent wind?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Great Derangement

I don't usually cover written humor in the Rabbit, but as a diehard fan of politically-focused chuckles, I have to make a small exception to provide a high hop election-year endorsement for Matt Taibbi's most recent work "The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire".

Taibbi is the current national affairs editor at Rolling Stone. The downside to holding this golden post is that readers will always quietly compare him to Hunter S. Thompson and P. J. O'Rourke. On the upside, Taibbi's insight and humor stand up favorably in the comparison. He continues the gonzo tradition of inserting himself directly into stories that exemplify the nation's current political and cultural tableau; but he does so in a manner that is somewhat less snide or superior. He is confident, but certainly more self-effacing than his predecessors. He's also simply a masterful wordsmith who brings a wry perspective to our nation's current state of cultural retardation.

But don't let my reference to his own modesty and general decency lead you to believe that fans of political snark (I count myself amongst them) won't find plenty to love. Taibbi sets out to throw himself into the middle of the country and find out what has gone so terribly wrong that we find growing extremes of ridiculousness on both the left and the right. To find kinship with the Right, he spends time living in Texas with a group of evangelical Christians; and to reach the far left he joins a group of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. His key thesis is that the groups are far too similar in their willingness to disengage from the rest of the nation. "Abandoned by the political center, both groups ascribed unblinkingly to a militant, us-against-them worldview, where only their own could be trusted. What made them distincly American was that, while actually the victims of an obvious, unhidden conspiracy of corrupt political power, they chose to battle bugbears that were completely idiotic, fanciful and imaginary."

My favorite quote in the book comes from when Taibbi first sets out on his quest: "I decided to pick a spot on the map, go there, and get retarded. If the country was going to flip out, I didn't want to be left behind." Certainly you can hear the echos of Rolling Stone editors past in that quote. But Taibbi does maintain his own voice -- particularly when expressing true compassion for the individual Americans he meets during the journey. For that reason, even (especially) long-time Thompson and O'Rourke fans should absolutely give it a read.

Serious blast from your comedy nerd past

Recent Tony Clifton appearance in Chicago. AV Club has the full story.

Bumbershoot Day 3 -- Human Giant

Okay -- I've spent hours trying to sort this -- but I think the highest and best use of your third and final Bumbershoot comedy pass would be to see Human Giant & Friends.

I don't know who will be appearing with the MTV gang, but I'm curious to see how a group that usually depends fairly heavily on taped bits will function with an audience. Also, after a serious political evening with the Satiristas, I'm just expecting to feel the need for silly:

Appearance schedule:

* Saturday, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Charlotte Martin Theatre
* Sunday, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Charlotte Martin Theatre
* Monday, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Charlotte Martin Theatre

Monday, August 18, 2008

Possible Bill Hicks Bio Pic

Joyful Monday for the Rabbit as I find another item that I can file away in the folder marked "Mixing Two Things I Love." In this case, a truly unlikely combo, but I am deeply excited nevertheless:

Russell Crowe in talks to play Bill Hicks in a possible bio-pic.

Yes please.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Funniest School in America

Few experiences shape our mind, character and opinions more than school. Something happened yesterday which caused me to ponder how much my choice of university has influenced my taste in comedy (or perhaps it's the other way around?) I was flipping through some alumni materials recently and found that, much to my extreme delight, Lewis Black, John Hodgman and Dmitri Martin all went to my college! (Okay -- I knew about Hodgman since he mentions it in his book), but the others were a wonderful surprise.

That particular set of comedic talents shares such a strong intelligence and subtle wit that I admire them almost as much or more than the tremendous set of traditional scholars that the place has produced. So thanks to each of them for doing the ol' alma mater proud.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Plans for your Bumbershoot Comedy Pass, Part 2: Satiristas

Okay -- so let's say that on day two of the festival you grab a comedy pass for Comedy Stage South, the Charlotte Martin Theatre. What's the don't miss show on that stage? Tough call.

Of course I'm a big fan of The Sound of Young America -- but that's the first show each day on that stage -- 2:45 pm. So there may be a chance that you can catch it without need of a priority pass. Risky, but it might be worth a try.

If you can manage it, then my pass pick would be the Satiristas show put together by Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, Tom Rhodes and Rep. Richard Martin. Here's the show summary:

"Satiristas target political hypocrisy and media distortion. Satiristas are gladiators who slash with the sword of knowledge, block with the shield of truth, and kill with the stab of humor. Their stand-up spectacle leaves audiences enlightened by spasms of uncontrollable laughter. Stars include Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Rep. Richard (Dick) Martin and Tom Rhodes."

Which has to leave you wondering: Is Congressman Martin going to do stand-up? I'm a serious fan of political comedy, but it is probably best left to the professionals, right? And how does he find the time to get away from managing Ohio Petroleum and Synthetics? I expect that takes most of his time.

More importantly, though, a bit of research on the Satirista moniker makes me ponder how I've missed this project in its prior incarnations. The comedians who have been performing under the Satirista banner apparently include Maron, Garofalo, Greg Proops, Patton Oswalt and Dana Gould -- a fragrant bouquet of long-time favorites. So what rock have I been living under? And why isn't Paul Provenza planning to attend? Didn't he write the book on the subject? He's certainly part of the team:

Janeane Garofalo and the Satiristas - Secret Stand-Up

I have so many questions! Must check it out.


* Saturday, 6:15 PM - 7:15 PM
Charlotte Martin Theatre
* Sunday, 6:15 PM - 7:15 PM
Charlotte Martin Theatre
* Monday, 6:15 PM - 7:15 PM
Charlotte Martin Theatre

Planning Your Comedy Pass for Bumbershoot

Okay Puget Sound peeps - just another two weeks til Bumbershoot! With so many comedy shows to catch over three days -- how do you decide? Rabbit can help. Listen up.

The first thing to do each day will be to pick up your Comedy Pass at the Comedy Pass Distribution Booth (northwest corner of Center House) -- 11am sharp. That pass, however, will only get you into one venue for that day -- no stage hopping.

So let's say it's day one and you are starting out with checking the Intiman Theater. When do you want to be there and what don't you want to miss?
My first suggestion would be to catch the joint show put together by Jessi Klein, TJ Miller and Nick Thune.

For those of you who don't know them all, here are some select clips and notes you can use to determine whether they are your cup of tea -- and whether catching their show might be worth waiting on line for hours upon hours in the steamy August sun.

First up: Nick Thune

And then, ladies and gentlemen, TJ Miller:

Note re: Miller: Saw a rumor that he just missed the D.C. Comedy Fest because he is auditioning for SNL. So I suppose there is a small chance that, if he succeeds in said quest, he may not actually visit Seattle. Oh, the excitement and mystery of audition season!

And finally the lovely Jessi Klein.

Nick Thune, TJ Miller and Jessi Klein will be appearing every day at Bumbershoot -- here's the schedule:

Saturday -- 3:45 pm @ Intiman Theater; Sunday -- 5:30 pm @ Intiman; Monday @ 2pm Intiman.

Save a seat for the Rabbit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peep Show Contest -- Win Season 1 on Region 1 DVD

Due to an odd set of bizarre gifting circumstances (see clip below to view a similar situation), I now have multiple copies of "Peep Show" Season 1 on Region 1 DVD.

So I thought I would give away the extras to any blog reader with sufficient interest in the show to merit the postage. I have three copies (yes, I know). So, in case more than three of you are game to check it out, I thought I'd make it interesting with a contest.

Answer this extraordinarily simple Britcom question and email your response to And then I will mail the three DVDs to the individual readers I like best. (Just kidding -- first three right answers win. I promise).

Query: The stars of "Peep Show" -- David Mitchell and Robert Webb -- met through the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club. Name the year that club was founded and three other past members.

Told you it was easy. That's because I like you.

Love, Rabbit.

See "The Line" online -- and watch the quality of web video evolve

Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, backed by much of the SNL crew (including Seth Meyers [directing] and Simon Rich [writing]), have just posted the last episode in a cute web series about the nerdy joys of a goofy summer pastime unique to our generation: waiting on line, for days on end, to see your favorite new sci-fi feature.

The series is called "The Line" and there is a lot to love about these little gems. From battles with costumed uber-fans to the risk of overhearing spoilers, they capture that happy summer feeling of having too much time on your hands (combined, of course, with the two other key secrets to happiness: an all-consuming nerdy passion and a good friend to share it with). The films are also clean and nice looking -- reasonably high caliber for a simple web video. And the high production value and the star power of this series got me thinking about the level of professional comedy currently being created for direct-to-web distribution. Yes, there are lots of other folks out there trying it; but it has been a bumpy road so far. For whatever reason, though, I think that the effort has made a great leap forward over the past year. The writer's strike is certainly partly to credit (this series was started during that time, as was Dr. Horrible), but I wonder whether many writers haven't enjoyed having the opportunity to create these little low cost, low risk side projects which provide them the freedom you just can't get when operating on network (or sometimes even cable) television. And, if they have, does that mean that we can hope to see more inventive future content that provides us an alternative to the more bland material on the tube?

Answer: maybe. This series had the tremendous advantage of being backed by Lorne Michaels' production company, "Broadway Video." As per the NYT profile of the video series: "The ability of “The Line” to attract name-brand talent reflects the increasing number of writers and actors who are showing interest in original Web video. “The Line” was the first straight-to-Internet series to be produced and financed by Broadway Video, the production company founded by the “SNL” executive producer, Lorne Michaels. But it won’t be its last: the company says it will produce other Web series created by and starring “SNL” cast members, and Mr. Michaels also intends to produce Web performances by Jimmy Fallon this fall, as that former “SNL” cast member prepares to replace Conan O’Brien on “Late Night” next year."

There are seven episodes in the series -- and here is number one:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac, RIP

I'm very sad to report that Bernie Mac passed away yesterday evening from complications associated with pneumonia. He will be greatly missed in our home.

Perhaps this news has some connection to Cedric the Entertainer's decision to cancel his Seattle show; perhaps not. I realize that Cedric is a professional, but I can't imagine wanting to entertain a crowd so soon after the loss of a friend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Bob Odenkirk will be your Brother!

For a price.

How much would you pay?!

Cedric the Entertainer Cancels Upcoming Seattle Show

Just got an email that Ticketmaster will be refunding me the cost of my tickets to see Cedric the Entertainer. He was going to be at the WaMu Theater in Seattle on August 17th.

Anyone have the word on why? I am majorly, seriously bummed. Would have been my first chance to see him live.

Mike Birbiglia on This American Life

Mike Birbiglia fans are in for a treat -- he will be heard on this weekend's "This American Life" episode (radio, not television) which is entitled "Fear of Sleep."

Birbiglia and Glass together? If you are turned on by smooth, smart, low-key humor, this show may be the sensual highlight of your weekend.

Updated to add: Birbigs did an excellent job telling a story about the challenges he has faced in dealing with a strange sleep disorder that has left him in some very silly, annoying and downright frightening situations. With his own calming Birbiblia style, though, he makes even the dangerous and disturbing seem understandable and entertaining, rather than overwhelming. Every time I hear or see him, his storytelling powers have increased.

If you were at all curious about his upcoming off-Broadway show and tour -- The Sleeping While Standing Tour -- this performance gives you a taste of it. (You really have to hope that he wears the cute pajamas on stage, right?)

You can download the episode for free all this week at the This American Life website. While you are there, feel free to contribute to support one of the finest shows on American radio. Thanks.

But How Will Gay Marriage Impact My Commute?

Um, not at all.

Ladies and gentlemen, Geoff Tate:

Michael Ian Black and Rabbit Bites

"Rabbit Bites" is an internet video show hosted by two live bunnies and techno voiceovers. Buns and Chou Chou interview a variety of internet celebrities and, from time to time, comedians. The interviews are frequently via video conference and very deadpan (um, not terribly funny) -- hence they sport a deliberate "Space Ghost" feel. (Just to be clear, I *love* "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" -- but I think it is rather difficult to emulate effectively).

I'm not necessarily endorsing this; but given that I host a comedy site with a rabbit logo and name, I feel obligated to mention "Rabbit Bites" (though I don't know why).

If you are interested in checking it out, here is a brief interview that the buns did with Micheal Ian Black.

Again: I'm not saying this is right; I just felt you should know.

Lewis Black -- "Anticipation" -- Review

This may be my favorite Lewis Black CD yet.

I've always admired Black's energetic and angry style. He molds and directs his frustration with daily life in a direct and precise manner that stays well away from personal bitterness and focuses instead on classic "why does the world have to be this way?" bafflement. This isn't Bill Hicks anger -- it's the simple rage of the every man -- but packaged with clear writing and strong timing.

But I will admit that, much as I love his style, I was hoping that he was going to try some variations this time around. (Hey -- I love the finger pointing thing as much as anyone -- I lost my head laughing at it live -- but I always suspected he could do more). And I was not disappointed. "Anticipation" definitely allows Black to recognize that life isn't all frustration and disappointment. There are some really great moments. Unfortunately, most of those flashes of joy and hope occur just before the big events in our life -- not during. (Hence the title).

Black explores how exciting life can feel when you are looking forward to the possibility of happiness -- without dwelling too much on the disappointment that all too frequently ensues. And that leads to some very funny material (which I won't ruin for you by quoting it here. Go buy the thing -- I'm sure Black would like to retire someday).

Above all, I really enjoyed "Anticipation" because it shows Black trying to reach out beyond just seeking laughs from his projected anger. He even ends the show by explicitly saying that he wants his audience to leave laughing and happy -- not laughing but sad about the state of our world. And to facilitate that he ends the show with sincere silliness -- which suits him surprisingly well. Who knew that there was a happy, goofy Lewis Black? It's truly wonderful to see.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Edinburgh Fringe Festival -- Wish-You-Were-There Coverage

So the Fringe is well underway and you're stuck at home?

No need to fret. There are plenty of great sources for up-to-the-minute coverage and pretend-you-are-on-the-Royal-Mile fun.

Here are are few of my favorites:

Chortle (video updates daily)
The Laughter Track: Provides fairly detailed reports from one or two clubs each night.
Guardian Live at the Gilded Balloon: Comedians, performers and Guardian critics, recorded live every day at the Gilded Balloon.
Daily BBC notes and highlights.

Of course what I would like to see is a daily update on very cool 1st annual "comedy only" section of the fest!

But I haven't found that yet. If you see such a blog or podcast, please send it my way!!

And don't feel too badly about staying home. As ever, many folks think the comedy there is losing its edge anyway.

xoxo, Rabbit

Peep Show Season 5 -- Guardian Review and Interview; Peep Show Contest Coming Soon!

I know. You're tired of hearing about Peep Show already! But I can't stop. I'm just constantly amazed and impressed by this show. The Guardian has this review of Season 5 which I thought I would share with those of you who are still non-believers. (They describe the show's joys far more effectively and intelligently than I ever could).

How will I convince you - the reader -- that this show is the television masterpiece of the decade? Coming to this space soon: Resilient Rabbit will be hosting a contest and the winners will receive a copy of the first season of Peep Show on Region 1 DVD. You just have to see it for yourself. And if BBC America won't help you out there, then I will.

Born to lose

Fractious flatmates Mark and Jez are back, still going nowhere fast in a fifth series of the darkly hilarious Peep Show. Ben Marshall joins our favourite no-hopers on set, jumping for Jesus...

Saturday April 26, 2008
The Guardian

Oscar Wilde is often misquoted, in reference to his novel The Picture Of Dorian Gray, as saying, "People say I am Lord Henry, I wish to be Dorian but I am Basil."

This is only worth mentioning because standing in a muddy field on the set of the new, fifth series of Peep Show, watching the three main actors chat with one another, something similar occurs to me. It should occur to anyone who has watched the show. Or, at any rate, any man who has watched the show. People in general think men are Jez, Peep Show's shallow self-styled libertine; men themselves wish they were Super Hans - tall, confident, elegantly wasted, utterly amoral; but men are really Mark, a highly moral, but sexually repressed conservative whose idea of a good date movie is the four-hour German submarine epic, Das Boot.

Jesse Armstrong, who together with Sam Bain writes Peep Show, laughs. "We all wanna be Super Hans," he agrees with a mischievous smile, "but the fact is that most of us are, as you point out, just pathetic old Mark." It's depressing little realisations such as these that help to make Peep Show the most immaculately realised, hard-hitting and painfully funny sitcom of the last decade. Not that there is much that is original about the actual premise of the show.
The two main protagonists, Mark (played David Mitchell) and Jeremy, or Jez, (Robert Webb) are locked in a purgatorial, can't-live-with-him-can't-live-without-him, relationship. Mark, a tweedy, fogeyish loans manager shares his Croydon flat with Jez, a self consciously cool, wannabe musician. So far, so normal. This sort of destructive male dynamic has been a staple of sitcoms for the past 50 odd years. But there are several things that distinguish Peep Show from all that has come before it.

To begin with there are the internal monologues, filmed in such a way as to allow the audience to not just see, but hear what the characters are going through. The thoughts of Mark and Jez are often savagely and hilariously at odds with their actions. By the end of series four Mark had abandoned the woman he purported to love after their wedding at a lovely country church, as Jez, full of cheap lager, was forced to piss against the side of the church. "Richard Dawkins can talk the talk, but does he walk the walk?" he pondered triumphantly.

Both characters can look touchingly, almost heartbreakingly, sincere while harbouring the most excruciatingly self-serving of feelings. This may be why Peep Show worries so many women. Girls simply don't want to know what men might really be thinking. "Fucking hell," says Jesse Armstrong, "We think way worse things than that." It's a very Jez moment. There's a perfect example of this in the forthcoming series (which they're filming today) where Mark, Jez and Super Hans, attend a Christian rock festival. Jez is seen wandering through fields while beatific-faced Christians discuss imminent salvation.

"Look at how happy they all are," he muses, smiling back at the youthful believers. "I could be as happy as that if I only believed in a load of old shit." Jez then quickly agrees to a full body submersion in order to become born again. Not, you understand, because he has enjoyed any sort of epiphany. Jez is just a very modern sort of pragmatist. He won't allow his innate atheism to prevent him from screwing a pretty young evangelical. Cynical? Yes. Accurate? Horribly so.

Fruitless genital gratification, the endless consumption of narcotics (mostly by Jez and Super Hans) and ignorance as bliss; these are just some of the very contemporary themes Peep Show explores. Occasionally, at its very best, it comes over like Eliot's The Wasteland rewritten as slapstick.

It is to the enormous credit of writers Armstrong and Bain that the show's contempt for modernity is coupled with a near-forensic understanding of contemporary culture. Otherwise, Peep Show could resemble a particularly bitter Daily Mail editorial. That said, there is plenty in Peep Show that would infuriate Middle England. For example, when I admire Matt King's trainers, the actor who plays Jez's drug buddy, Super Hans, he replies: "Yeah, good aren't they? I think Super Hans won them after giving the Orgazoid (a techno DJ) a blowjob."

There is a good deal of very unpleasant and extremely cynical sex in Peep Show. In one episode Jez asks a desperately shy girl how many men she has slept with. "Six," she replies coyly."Fucking hell," thinks Jez, "I've slept with more than that, and I'm not even gay."

At its heart though Peep Show, despite its extraordinary innovations and its alarming familiarity with modern mores, is a deeply conservative show. Christopher Hitchens once coined the term "reactionary modernism" in order to describe the work of Evelyn Waugh, TS Eliot and Ezra Pound. The phrase might just as well apply to Peep Show. Jesse Armstrong grins, apparently delighted that a show that has incurred some controversy, should be compared to Eliot and the Daily Mail. "I think we get a lot of different views in Peep Show. But if you are talking solely about Mark, then yes he does seem to come from that perspective. He also shares that prurient, but moralising curiosity about what other people are doing with their own lives and particularly about what others might be doing together in bed."

David Mitchell, who plays Mark and who the Mail On Sunday once described as "a posh ex-public schoolboy and a natural-born conservative" agrees that he and his character share a certain well-founded horror of the new. "I do think Mark and I have certain things in common. But hopefully I am a less worried, less angry and less upset person overall. I entirely agree that the show itself exhibits a horror of the modern world. My own personal knee jerk reaction is that novelty, which everyone else seems to embrace unquestioningly, should be at least questioned. One of the all-embracing themes of the show is that Jeremy utterly and unquestioningly embraces novelty. And Mark, perhaps equally as unquestioningly, rejects novelty. Neither is absolutely right, but I certainly feel more affinity with Mark than with Jez. You see, we live in a society where no one is allowed to say that change is bad. Now maybe it's a waste of breath to say that. But I think it's pretty important. For instance, the internet seriously threatens the media. Now there's not really much that can be done about it. No one can actually stop it, no matter how desirable that might be. So the fact that the dross on YouTube may kill off established channels does not make it a good thing simply because it's new."

So is Mark Peep Show's moral centre? David laughs: "When you see what he gets up to in series five, I think you'll seriously doubt that."

"That's the thing about Mark," says Webb. "People assume he is moral because he's always worried about things. But in fact he's just a moral coward, someone who simply doesn't have the courage to behave like Jez and Super Hans."

Matt King concurs: "Both Jez and Mark are cowards to differing degrees. Super Hans is just a nihilist. And when you believe in nothing it's actually very simple to be self-contained, to be at ease with yourself, to be happy in fact. Super Hans is the only character who is pretty much free of moral neurosis, because he doesn't actually give a shit about anything. He is a very, very modern man."

So everyone does want to be Super Hans? David Mitchell shakes his head. "It comes back to what I said about YouTube. There is nothing that really can be done about it. However does that really necessitate all the CEOs in broadcasting gleefully declaring that they are desperately excited by all the new challenges presented?

"What transparent nonsense! Why shouldn't they, and the rest of us, just scream in rage, 'Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.'" Which, in a sense, brings us back to Lord Henry, Dorian, Basil and Peep Show. Mark it is then. Mark we are.

· Peep Show, Fri, 10.30pm, C4

Please stay exactly as I remember you: David Mitchell edition

As part of my diligent efforts to follow the national and international comedy news, I recently ran into a random article in the Brit tabloids which noted that charming British comedic performer David Mitchell had lost a great deal of weight. It caught my eye because at the height of my Peep Show obsession, I really fell for Mitchell. Annoyingly so. My husband grew especially bored of it, but he has learned to adapt.

So here's the odd thing: I took a quick peek at the snap of the new, thinner Mitchell and I find him totally unattractive now. How odd is that? I don't think I've ever previously thought that I preferred someone's appearance when they were actually a bit less angular; but apparently, in this case, I'm not alone. As I started poking about a bit more, I found that the British tabloids and TV forums seemed to be chock full of previously adoring female comedy fans who were bemoaning the loss of the old Mitchell with his fuller and clearly sexier stature.

As Mitchell's Peep Show character Marc would say: "Change isn't always for the best."

Ah, well. Here's hoping he's healthier and happier.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More Bob and David?? Yes, please!!

Bob Odenkirk just posted an update about the sitcom-ish pilot he and David Cross just completed for HBO called "David's Situation". Apparently, it went very, very well -- tremendous energy, awesome audience response. The super sexy duo don't seem thrilled at the idea of pursuing this particular show because they felt that "the sitcom framework really felt like a drag on our energy and sensibility", but the tremendous response has them thinking of continuing to work with HBO to do something that is more "free form."

Free form, huh? Maybe more like -- um -- what was that awesome crazy sketch show from the 90s that I loved? The one that these two guys filmed in that little L.A. cafe? I think they once did a sketch where Jack Black sang the lead in a Jesus Christ Superstar parody. Oh! and then another time everyone sang and ate Hippy Pie -- that was great. Even the ads made me laugh because one time they ran this strange promotion for a cockring warehouse close-out sale . . . oh, darn, it'll come to me . . .

I'm so excited!! If you share my insane joy at this great news, then I suppose that makes all of us "fantastic, amazing, wondrificul comedy nerdles." I couldn't bear a prouder title.

xoxo, Rabbit

Robert Smigel and Triumph the Insult Dog at Comicon

Dead-Frog has another fun analysis piece today. Through a series of short clips, you can see the process Robert Smigel uses to create a short Triumph the Insult Comic Dog remote for Conan. In this bit, Triumph visits Comicon -- which is a perfect situs for Triumph's shtick. So we are already off to a great start.

Todd's post gives us a rare behind-the-scenes trip through the process. We see Triumph's initial conversations with the convention nerds and get to observe how tidily Smigel prepares ahead for each interaction (I thought Triumph's remotes were too spiffy to be 100% ad lib). We also have an opportunity to compare the initial interaction to the final edited piece and see how well Smigel can remain focused on his true audience -- the Conan viewers -- without worrying at all about the fact that Triumph's line aren't always playing that well to the Comicon folks.

It's totally fun and fascinating.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stephen Merchant doing stand up

I'll agree with nearly any random assertion that Ricky Gervais is something of a genius. Until he struck out alone and started doing stand up, however, he bolstered his laughs-per-minute rather hardily by working closely with a few very talented folks -- most notably his long-time writing partner and fellow podcast host, Stephen Merchant.

I've always thought that the towering and very clever Merchant was greatly under-appreciated. Fully half of the best laughs in "Extras" came during the simple seated banter bits in Darren's office. The celebrity scenes were fun; but the audience could never have fully appreciated Andy Millman's frustration and desperation were it not for those golden discussions between "actor" and "agent". And since that very desperation is the key to understanding how confused and misguided Millman's actions become, I actually believe Merchant's character is even more central to the story than Jensen's Maggie.

Merchant provided the same high level of wit and support to the many seasons of "the world's most popular podcast" -- The Ricky Gervais Show. Sure Pilkington is a dream straight man; but you can't beat the power of having two great minds there to tag team his denigration.

So I was especially happy to learn recently that Merchant has started trying his hand at stand up. Yes he is suffering the pain of starting out at small clubs (the "Amused Moose"?! ouch) and I don't think he (yet) has all of the natural stage presence and charisma that Gervais has been nurturing for years, but he certainly has the comedic intelligence and I could see his awkward goofy style working to his favor if he sticks with it. I hope he does.

Monday, August 4, 2008

23/6 wants to Get Your War On

The good folks over at 23/6 have created original animation of the cartoon strip "Get Your War On." It is not to be missed. I've posted the first two episodes here, just to grab your interest; but definitely check out the whole series. They will be posting new pieces weekly.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield

From the inspired site, Garfield Minus Garfield:

"Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb."


According to the site, the artist who created the original cartoon is intrigued: "Garfield creator Jim Davis was intrigued by—and pleased with—the concept. “I think it’s an inspired thing to do,” Davis said. “I want to thank Dan for enabling me to see another side of Garfield. Some of the strips he chose were slappers: ‘Oh, I could have left that out.’ It would have been funnier.”

Lewis Black Answers My Question About Anger

How fun is this? As a promotion for his new live performance CD, Anticipation, Comedy Central asked fans of Lewis Black to write in questions for the comedian on their blog and promised that he would answer a subset of them via video on their website. Surprisingly, he answered mine!

It's a fun idea for a promotion -- I really enjoyed it! Here's the clip -- answer to my question is at around 1:55:

His new CD is out on Tuesday, but you can pre-order it if the anticipation is all too much for you . . .

TV's Frank of Cinematic Titanic on "What Superman Could Have Done if He Really Cared"

So Comicon is over now and Frank Conniff (TV's Frank) of Cinematic Titanic has been blogging nostalgic about the experience. He noted wryly that it seemed odd to find true comic book fans in the San Diego crowd and talks about the paper comic favorites of his youth.

(Image is of Frank, playing "himself" (?) on Invader Zim).

The best part of the piece, however, is a series of letters that he drafts between Superman and past world leaders. These raise some wonderful questions that I think have occurred to all of us at one time, but only Frank has the skill, humor and style to ask. They are beautiful. I have quoted a few below, but you should go read the whole post as well.

Sometimes I forget that Joel Hodgson could only have become the sexiest man alive because he was backed by genius like this. God bless you, Frank.


"Another thing that I loved, and still love to this day, was the fact that even though Superman was a “strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men,” and even though he could literally do anything with his superpowers, he spent all of his time pursuing petty, two-bit criminals in the city of Metropolis. I often wondered why the major political figures of that time didn’t write Superman urgent letters, begging him to raise his superhero game just a few notches. So before I sign off, here are a few of those letters, recently unearthed by the Library of Congress:

Dear Superman,

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but our country and the Soviet Union are currently engaged in a dangerous nuclear arms race. Since you profess to stand for “truth, justice, and the American way,” it might behoove you to take a few minutes to fly over to Russia and destroy their nuclear arsenal. It wouldn’t take you no more than a few minutes to accomplish this and it would result in a triumph for democracy and our way of life that would benefit future generations. Please consider this and try and get back to me as soon as you can.

Dwight David Eisenhower
President of the United States
Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. President,

I received your message and the urgency of the situation was not lost on me. However, there has been a rash of Armored Car Robberies in Metropolis lately, and the gang that pulled off these capers has kidnapped Lois Lane. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot attend to your nuclear arms race thing anytime in the foreseeable future. Thank you for interest and please accept the enclosed eight-by-ten autographed picture of myself as a token of my esteem.

Yours Truly,
Care of the Daily Planet (But I’m not Clark Kent)
Metropolis, U.S.A.

Dear Superman,

Recently it has come to my attention that if you were so inclined, you could shoot a beam out of your eyes that could burn and destroy every single weapon in the world, and that it wouldn’t take you more than twenty minutes to do this. I don’t know if you are aware of the crusade for world peace that I have embarked upon but the destruction of every weapon in the world would go a long way towards making my goal of a completely non-violent world a reality. I hope you can find a half-hour somewhere in your schedule to help me with this cause.

Mahatma Gandhi
New Delhi, India

Dear Mr. Gandhi,

I am a great supporter of all your good works, and I would love to be of some assistance to you, but unfortunately I already promised Inspector Henderson that I would help him smash a ring of jewel thieves that have made off with hundreds of dollars in stolen loot. So until I crack this case, and rescue Jimmy Olsen, who has been kidnapped by the gang, I will not be available for any activities that involve the bringing about of world peace. But I am a big fan of your work and I hope that one day we can work on a project together.

Yours Truly,

Dear Superman,

I am sure that you are aware that because of your x-ray vision, you have the ability to see into the innermost recesses of the human body, as well as all of nature and the entire universe as well. Thus, if you took just a few moments of your time, you could impart to us knowledge and insight that could very well result in the end of all human disease. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, the scientific community would greatly appreciate your participation in an endeavor that could very well bring mankind to the next evolutionary stage.

Albert Schweitzer
Lambaréné, Gabon

Dear Dr. Schweitzer,

All I can say is: wow! It would be truly amazing to pull that off. But the thing is, I am currently on the trail of a crooked Wrestling Promoter who has been giving he city of Metropolis a bad name. And on top of that, the thugs who have been behind his crooked scheme have kidnapped both Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. So I think you can understand why curing all human disease is not something I can focus on right now. But I totally support what you are doing and I’m going to get my good friend Clark Kent to write a paragraph about you in the Sunday Calendar Section of the Daily Planet. Thanks for keeping in touch and keep up the good work!

Yours Truly,