Entries in Comedy (6)

Thursday
Jan192012

Whitney Cummings is Right

REVIEWING THE NEWS: We may not love her sitcom, but we do applaud Whitney's provocative and insightful blog post in defense of SNL casualty Lana Del Rey.

 

By Kenny Herzog

We assume this was Whitney's reaction to reading Del Rey criticism. (Credit: Chris Haston/NBC)

 

When we posted our op-ed regarding Gawker founder Dick Denton and Editor-in-Chief A.J. Daulerio's mishandling (read: reprehensible fumbling) of the Brian Williams/Lana Del Rey private e-mail fiasco, we failed to acknowledge one important repercussion: Their actions not only alienated Williams' confidence and belied any basic journalistic ethos, but also further defamed Del Rey, who'd been plenty humiliated already by bloggers whose explicit goal was to publicly shame her.

It's a mean, mean world we live in, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Whitney Cummings, an often-scorned female entertainer in her own right, can relate to being smothered with ill will. Early this morning, the comedian/actress published an open letter in Del Rey's defense. It's a surprisingly candid, sensitive and absolutely spot-on plea for consumers and critics of pop culture to—in paraphrased Real World-ian parlance—stop being hurtful and start getting real.

Cummings admits she's neither objective nor qualified enough to comment on the veracity of peoples' horror at Del Rey's actual SNL performance. By the same token, we're far from pre-inclined toward solidarity with Whitney, and have been among the voices expressing dismay at her eponymous sitcom and 2 Broke Girls. But what her letter tries to emphasize—and it's a point of view we fully support—is that Del Rey's supposed "Video Games" debacle (which wasn't actually that bad) seems to have opened up a permissive space for simmering discrimination against and regressive attitudes about women in pop culture. 

Maybe it was late at night, and Cummings had just polished off a bottle of wine and was feeling sentimental enough to convey how she's "protective of girls, especially young performers, because they live a hard, emotionally challenging, often physically challenging life" and avow that, "Other peoples success doesn’t fuck up our lives and other people [sic] failures should not brighten them." Perhaps all the Del Rey venom hit close to home, but with enough distance for her to comment on it comfortably. Whatever the impetus, and without dismissing Whitney's opinion on the basis of disregard for her television alter-ego, her ballsy testimony is the kind of outspokenness that deserves encouragement and support. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: You go, girls.

WHITNEY RATING: 2/10

WHITNEY RATING: 10/10

INEVITABLE, INSECURE BACKLASH TO WHITNEY'S REMARKS: Mean People Suck/10

 

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Monday
Jan022012

Here's Why Katy Perry and Russell Brand Split Up

REVIEWING THE NEW YEAR'S FIRST NO-BRAINER CELEBRITY DIVORCE NEWS: We've got the real reason behind the pop singer and comedic actor's rapid separation.

By Kenny Herzog

Katy Perry: We think she'll bounce back. Get it? Cause she has huge boobs. 

 

Katy Perry and Russell Brand have shocked and awed the world with the announcement of their divorce, which is in process as we speak. And on an especially slow post-New Year's news day, it's been all the global media can talk about. Hell, the Today show even dedicated a bizarrely somber and extensive package to the stars and their failed marriage, lamenting its spiral from "fairy tale" to "Hollywood casualty." Yes, it is truly the Black Dahlia of inter-medium celebrity splits. 

But only REVIEWniverse has the true scoop. Rumor has it that Perry and Brand met-cute, found each other nice and attractive enough, and figured marriage would commonly ground their mutually demanding careers and act as a postitive bonding agent between she, the fallen evangelical Christian, and him, the constantly reforming bad boy. But eventually, the pair's differences became irreconcilable, and even their practical and earnest commitment wasn't enough to overcome their lack of lasting chemistry or time and willingness to make marriage itself their most important responsibility, allowing everything else to fall into place.

Scandal!

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Who cares? (Us!)

KATY AND RUSSELL DIVORCE-PREDICTABILITY RATING: 15 Months/10

AT LEAST IT LASTED LONGER THAN 15 DAYS RATING: Sinead O'Connor/10

MARRIAGE CAN BE BORING. PEOPLE DON'T BECOME FAMOUS TO BE BORING RATING: It Ain't Always About "Me" Babe/10

 


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Tuesday
Dec202011

HBO Cancels Three Fun Comedies, Keeps Awful, Unbearable 'Enlightened'; Ugh

 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: Bored to Death, Hung and How to Make It in America get the axe, while the pretentious, inane, low-rated Enlightened gets a second season. HBO, thou hast betrayed us.

By Kenny Herzog

Ugh, another season of dealing with TV's least likeable lead character. (Credit: Prashant Gupta/HBO)

It was inevitable that Bored to Death would be canceled. It was more shocking that HBO gave the always refreshing noir-buddy-comedy three full seasons. I'd made my peace with it, and the recent finale felt adequate for both its fall- and series-runs. Hung and How to Make It in America were harder to see coming. (Full disclosure: I'd reviewed How to Make It this past season for another outlet.) Enterting their potential fourth and third seasons, respectively, both had made tremendous creative strides and found their voice. The dips in ratings were all but a sure thing (both shows are low-key and have a steady but modest audience), so it's unclear why the network even allowed them to carry on through 2011 if the chopping block were looming. 

Meanwhile, Enlightened, which I'd shared my disappointment with several weeks ago, and which failed to impress me as it went along or surpass any of the aforementioned three comedies in the Nielsens, has been granted another shot in 2012. Not that I expect the world's foremost premium-cable provider to accomodate my subjective viewing habits, but this decision reeks less of commercial imperative than a decision to move back toward "prestige" programming.

Bored to Death is perhaps exceptional in all this. One of its stars (Ted Danson) has moved on to a full-time gig with CSI, another (Zach Galifianakis) is now a bankable film lead and, objectively, the original premise and characters' chemistry could only be stretched so thin without feeling dull. Hung and How to Make It, on the other hand, were just fomenting, but were also the source of presumptuous ridicule from network subscribers and critics who seemed intent on abolishing the airwaves of two shows that, god forbid, aimed to entertain the mainstream with something light and timely. Both series, at their essence, were comedies about friendship, trust and making the best out of bad times. Not, as naysayers would protest, just big dicks and fashion.

The first 10 half-hours of Enlightened, Laura Dern and Mike White's overly earnest meditation on the everyday fuck-up's pursuit of Zen happiness, were more explicit about their search for some kind of mushy, inspiring meaning to the big whatever. The price of admission? Shadowing Dern's deeply unpleasant, shallow, emotionally retarded airhead Amy as she vapidly crusaded and tritely voice-overed her way from stepped-on corporate drone to New Age savior of the environment, her strung out ex-husband (Luke Wilson) and her own intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy. 

Sound fun? Not really. But with Showtime and AMC nipping at HBO's heels for an air of legitimacy in original programming, and a new wave of Home Box Office's own dramas (Luck et al) around the corner, Enlightened suits a certain elite image more aptly than dicks and fashion. Even if most of us would rather watch 30 minutes of the latter than endure one more second of Amy and Enlightened's precious, humorless existential masterbation. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: It's most definitely not TV, HBO.

BYE BYE TO BORED TO DEATH, HUNG AND HOW TO MAKE IT IN AMERICA: 2/10

ENLIGHTENED'S RETURN MEANING ONE LESS SHOW WE NEED TO DVR: Bright Side/10

WHEN'S TRUE BLOOD BACK AGAIN? Critic-Proof/10

 

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Sunday
Dec182011

Death of Kim Jong Il Puts New '30 Rock' Season in Awkward Spot

REVIEWING THE NEWS: A day after 30 Rock unveiled its extended Season 6 trailer, featuring their continuing, satirical Kim Jong Il storyline, the North Korean leader died of a reported heart attack. Will the sitcom still air all eps as planned? And will there be international backlash?

By Kenny Herzog

Hard to say if Jong Il's passing is cause for 30 Rock to pop champagne. (Credit: Art Streibler/NBC)

 

North Korea's pretty shut off from American pop culture, so it's not very likely that NBC's sometimes-political comedy of the absurd, 30 Rock, has been a major topic of interest for its citizens or government. Even if a good portion of Season 5 focused on network head Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) efforts to rescue his girlfriend, political reporter Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), who was being held hostage and forced into marriage by Kim Jong Il (who was played with cross-dressed hilarity by Margaret Cho).

Speaking of Jong Il, the longtime North Korean leader and constant nuclear threat died Saturday of what his country's state-run media are saying was a heart attack, brought on by the rigors of "dedicating his life to the people." Man, he must have hated the people.

This brings us back to 30 Rock, which premiered a lengthy teaser this past Friday for its Jan. 12 premiere. Naturally, the clip (viewable below) features new snippets from the ongoing Jong Il spoof. And they are, of course, hilarious. But its fortuitious timing could lead to unwanted attention or protest from overseas toward Tina Fey and co.'s gentle sending up of the late Communist militant. And without having seen the episodes in context, it's tough to say if their satire will appear a bit mean-spirited or simply timely. 

 

But hey, South Park creators Trey Parker and Stone took their shots at Jong Il during the early years of his leadership and were even more on the nose. By the time Jan. 12 rolls around, it's doubtful American audiences or critics will dwell on the connection, nor should they feel particulatly conflicted (Jong Il wasn't exactly a defensible sort). And as suggested above, the jokes will probably just land more effectively. But some of the folks over at 30 Rock, if only to avoid a PR- and logistical-nightmare, have to be crossing their fingers, hoping that Kim Jong-un isn't a Hulu subscriber.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: This could be the best or worst thing to happen to 30 Rock, but will probably just amount to a surreal twist.

KIM JONG IL IS DEAD RATING: Why Can't All Evil Dictators Just Die of Heart Attacks in Their 60s?/10

30 ROCK'S RETURNING! RATING: Yay!/10

THE CRAZY TIMING OF SEASON 6'S TRAILER RATING: Never a Dull Moment/10

 

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Tuesday
Nov292011

Patrice O'Neal Deserved a Better Final Goodbye than 'Roast of Charlie Sheen'

 

REVIEWING THE NEWS: Extraordinarily funny standup comedian/actor Patrice O'Neal passed away after complications from a stroke, and it's just too bad we last saw him being teased about his diabetes on Comedy Central's Roast of Charlie Sheen.

By Kenny Herzog

A funny, funny man. (Credit: Comedy Central)

 

I saw Patrice O'Neal do standup live several years ago. He was an underdog on a bill with unlikely contemporaries including anti-comic's comic Neil Hamburger and Mr. Show cult favorite David Cross. It was a predominately white, 20-something audience, in a venue better known for hosting rock shows. And O'Neal killed it. Nearly a decade later, his act that night remains on a short list of sets by the late Robert Schimmel and a handful of others that had me laughing with such joy and release. 

O'Neal, sadly, passed away today at just 41 years old, following a prolonged stay in the hospital after suffering a diabetes-related stroke in October. That is the real news, and the real tragedy. Of lesser relevance, but still regrettable, is that O'Neal's final major TV appearance was during Comedy Central's Roast of Charlie Sheen. As is customary for the increasingly rote broadcasts, O'Neal was ribbed by his peers, mostly because he struggled with weight gain and diabetes. At the time, O'Neal was a good sport, and playfully jabbed his fellow humorists back for their callousness. 

Chances are, O'Neal, ever the working comic's comic, was merely grinning and bearing his way through a paycheck. But in retrospect, it's truly sad that his unofficial comedy sendoff amounted to a public shaming by individuals less funny and affable than himself, as part of the network's opportunistic celebration of Charlie Sheen, a man who gleefully wastes his good health and fortune. 

Below is just one great example of where O'Neal's talent truly lied: On a stage, with an audience waiting to laugh with him. 

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Rest in peace, and thanks for many funny nights.

PATRICE O'NEAL'S DEATH HOPEFULLY BRINGING ATTENTION TO HIS WARM HUMOR AND TRAGIC ILLNESS RATING: 9/10

FUCKING CHARLIE SHEEN RATING: Ugh/10

 

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