Tag Archives: Sarah Silverman

The glory of SXSW Comedy and the promise of Moontower!

Thanks to the wonder of the annual behemoth of entertainment we Austinites call SXSW, this past weekend provided an amazing mash-up of insane comedy talent from all over the U.S. And it’s not done yet!

The creators of JASH

The creators of JASH

Sarah Silverman and Reggie Watts did sets at the IFC Crossroads House opening party, promoting their new online venture JASH. Eddie Pepitone was singing lounge music as the host of the CleftClips stand-up showcase at the North Door. And, yep, that’s the beautiful Ken Marino weirding out on the audience at Esther’s Follies.

Even frickin’ Rachel Maddow showed up for some killer comedy from W. Kamau Bell at the Totally Biased showcase. (It was honestly a SXSW highlight knowing how much that woman was laughing.)

I wish everyone had access to these shows. Literally every show you stumble in to is just jam-packed with stars and promising up-and-comers that know how to deliver a good show. There’s just a cool vibe about these out-of-towners giving up their weekends for a performer badge and a trip out to Austin.

So big ups to the comedians who made their way out to Austin to enjoy our thunderstorms and our food trailers (sometimes at the same time) and to the SXSW organizers and volunteers who wrangled them all together into one spot. Kudos, dudes.

James Adomian

James Adomian

Seeing all this live comedy also gets me really excited about all the shows that are coming up in April. Not everyone can afford a SX badge or get away from work.  So if you missed Watts or Kyle Kinane or James Adomian, don’t even worry about it! You’ll get to see them at Moontower!

What?? Yep, there are some SXSW comedians who are coming back in April to entertain you. That’s because we work together with SXSW to ensure that a number of comics play both festivals, joining up with some other big dogs like Jim Gaffigan, Brian Posehn, Bill Hader, Maria Bamford and Marc Maron! It’s like a big stew that combines all these amazing flavors that taste great together.

The first goal of any fest should be to put the comedians first, of course. But as a festival, we also want to achieve the goal of providing fresh, innovative programming that sets each festival apart, giving you the most comedy possible in your home town! It’s why Austin is building such an awesome reputation as a bonafide destination for comedy!

Plus, you’ll also get to see a whole shit ton of our local standup talent in April, showing off their Austin-honed skills in a big festival setting, alongside their standup peers and heroes. (I’m still waiting for the Reggie Watts/Chris Cubas showdown to take place here in Austin…!) It’s this type of collaborative  relationship that allows the comedy scene to keep growing in Austin and beyond, which is something everyone wants to see happen!

Just as important as the comedians are the beautiful Austin audiences that really know how to appreciate comedy. I’m excited to share all the big names and the rising stars with the good people of Texas who get to experience a festival 100% devoted to effin’ comedy!

So party on, SXSWers! Get your sleep and your food when and where you can. Then we’ll see you at the after party. And then the after after party…

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In Praise of “The Occasional” – Funny or Die’s Nearly Unbelievably Great Digital Magazine.

They were different times way back not-quite-a-fortnight-ago on July 25, 2012, when Bob Odenkirk floated his sixth ever tweet. As of this writing, he’s up to eight. But this one read, “I have a short film in this issue of the online magazine “The Occasional” check it out— its [sic] called ‘Read My Screenplay.’” Tabling an editorial style argument against the need for [sic]’ing tweets (especially in light of that I will eventually commit the Great sin of paraphrasing a comedian, and third-party no less), this bit of info gently registered as something pleasant but orbited on my periphery as being sort of foreign for now. “Cool,” was my exact first thought but then it resigned to something in the vein of  “but I’m not made of MUBI money.”

Perhaps DVR’ing, Kindles, Koozies, NOOKs and Crannies are all old hat for you, but The Occasional is in fact an iPad magazine and although I have no allusions about my steering passenger status, I’m not keen to quickly out myself as a veritable hardware Oliver Twist in this respect. I mean, there’s always been a digital divide for content’s journey from A to Me, well analog in the case of affording a Home Box Office subscription and being able to catch Mr. Odenkirk’s work on Mr. Show with Bob and David and The Larry Sanders Show at the time, or at least historically a digits divide as to whether or not folks had the nickel and/or proximity to get their mitts on the newsy, paper-based Barreled Cheese Gazette and the like. Yet it is not with nostalgia but a sense of adjustment that the third issue of Funny or Die’s brilliantly hilarious The Occasional has already placed itself in the hallowed tradition of Mad, National Lampoon, Spy, and The Onion (the latter of which has curiously disappeared in the Twin Cities market and is now locally published by the Austin American Statesman).

In his recent Just For Laughs Keynote address, the always cogent and comical Patton Oswalt spoke about the abundance of choice in this freeing new media milieu and “post-Louie world” where “content is king.” Oswalt held up an iPhone as the key that has unlocked comedians from the tether of “the gatekeepers.” And indeed, The Occasional is also available on the iPhone. And not to sound like I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth, neigh, I mean “Nay!” but I’m one of those people who have been more excited about the prospect of a cell “phone” and/or service provider that could deliver landline reliability (eyes on you AT&T) before rolling out all the bells and whistles and my new favorite funny e-zine. But ready or not is moot, and it’s just on us whether we can bask in a glorious left field gem and eschew that whole “Internet use disorder” deal. But dammit, however The Occasional might show up on a brainpan-n-scan, I’m such a fan!

With a creative team lead by editor-in-chief Dan Abramson and art director Nate Maggio, the roster of contributors for the July/August issue is a bastion of marquee comedic talent matched with a wonderfully imaginative and satiric visual layout. With photographs by Robyn Von Swank, the “A Day in the Life of Sarah Silverman” cover story by Silverman and Dan Abramson plays like an audio tour guide/slide show for her fans to follow along on her day being very famous and successful. Silverman narrates as a chime lets you know when to swipe to the next picture. Along with spot on fake ads for ABC Family programming and McTavish’s blended pure apple juice, Simon Rich’s “Moon Landing Transcript” is an LOL triumph of brevity with a bickering Buzz Aldrin. Other features, to name a few, include:  “A Bunch of Shit We Didn’t Know What To Do With,” “5 Questions by Jenny Slate,” “Tyler Perry’s House of Tyler Perry, “ “How To Fight A Trashcan by Heather Anne Campbell,” a Q&A or rather a “K&A with Jackée Harry by Julie Klausner,” movie lessons learned in “Film School by Kumail Nanjiani” and the “Prince magazine” within a magazine by Jake Fogelnest (chandeliers, anyone?).

In an utterly inspired and sustained bit, “Woody Allen’s Answering Machine” has Tim Heidecker voicing 27 unreturned messages left by the actor Tony Roberts who gets increasingly anxious, aging, and plucky. I don’t know what kind of awards go to audio portions of digital magazines, but it’s a bravura performance.

And then to ensure that this is an embarrassment of riches, Bob Odenkirk’s film “Read My Screenplay” is a fantastically pitch black humored short that involves novice screenwriting limo drivers and is scored to the Yo La Tengo song “Sudden Organ” (dig the “Two To Tango” screenplay title nod). The film stars D.V. DeVincentis as “Constipated Writer” and features John Ennis. Writer/director/producer/actor Bob Odenkirk (who some may first recognize as attorney Saul Goodman on AMC’s Breaking Bad) is an exemplar of this “post-Louie” paradigm where an artist is deserving of an endeavor with total artistic control.

Here’s to hoping that The Occasional continues to showcase such a deep bench of magnificent contributors. In his “Letter from the Editor,” Dan Abramson writes, “We really hope you enjoy this issue as it’s our third and we feel we’re starting to get a hang of this magazine thing. I want to look back at this issue as `The One Where We Figure It Out.’ Though that sounds like the name of a Friends episode. I hate that I know that…” Well, Abramson & Company have figured it out and Godspeed for the rest of us to catch up.

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Spotlight on Mary Lynn Rajskub

Comedian/actress Mary Lynn Rajskub (pronounced “Rice-Cub”) may be best known as a star of the silver and small screen, but she cut her teeth in stand-up, beginning at the San Francisco Art Institute before relocating to the nascent alt comedy scene in Los Angeles where her awesomely awkward, expressive, and decontextualizing style found a receptive home. She was a cast member on two of the most critically acclaimed TV comedies of the ‘90s, HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David and The Larry Sanders Show. She also played Chloe on a little program called 24. She’s also quite adept with canvas (as a talented painter and not as the oft-rumored Mexican wrestling star Dulce Maria Garcia Rivas). Rajskub is a prolific performer, who has created a myriad of one-woman shows, the recent web series Dickie, and who will appear in the upcoming web series Dirty Work and the film Safety Not Guaranteed, not to mention her pantheon of cameos. Being a new mom with her first husband Matthew Rolph (c’mon, I kid) had kept Rajskub from clocking in a ton of stage time but this uniquely talented comedian seems to be positively luminous from a new perspective and for the great fortune of stand-up fans, Mary Lynn Rajskub is bringing her insight, POV, and shtick to Austin as part of the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. I recently spoke to the exceedingly gracious Rajskub, who called from a rather unusual local in Southern California and who, like myself, was fairly tickled by the absurdity of the situation.

Steve Birmingham: With your busy performance schedule and your recent calendar activity, it seems that you’re doing stand-up with gusto of late, and that’s a wonderful thing. And we’re certainly thrilled that you’ll be performing here at the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. What is the impetus for you regularly rocking the mic now?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: That’s where I came from.

SB: Absolutely.

MLR: Those are my roots and I actually started out in performance art when I was in art school and performance art sort of turned into people laughing at me and me making fun of myself. Don’t ask me which one came first. But then I met comedians and I was attracted to them years ago, just for their ability to explore their own personas and their own point of view onstage in a monologue form while engaging an audience. It sounds so silly saying it like that but that’s what was exciting to me. So I always did acting but most of my best jobs and best work kind of spring from me doing that. And that’s kind of the way it always was.

SB: And I understand that you performed stand-up throughout the run of 24. I guess to me, it just seems like maybe you’re performing a little more than I had been aware of. That just might be my own ignorance.

MLR: No, you’re absolutely right and I didn’t even answer that part of the question yet. I sort of went off on a little tangent there. Lately I’ve been sort of focusing in on [stand-up] because my life is so different now because I have a family, a son and a husband, which I never planned on having or expected to have. So I have this new excitement about exploring that material and it’s just a really good time for me because most people recognize me from 24 and [I’m] sort of coming off 24 and reading all these pilots, and I’ve been doing a bunch of different little projects and then it just occurred to me that you this is the time now for me to explore my own material. Time to get back to what I always did. That’s what I’m putting together is sort of the point of view, embracing my life as it is right now and it’s been really fun.   Continue reading

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