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Jeremy Hardy is really funny

The highlight of my podcast week is the Friday nights when the BBC Friday Night Comedy podcast includes an episode of The News Quiz (as it does this week: MP3), and the highlight of the News Quiz is always Jeremy Hardy, who makes me laugh so hard with his incredible deadpan delivery and quick wit that I'm often in danger of wetting myself.

I just bought a full seven seasons' worth of Hardy's radio show, Jeremy Hardy Speaks the Nation from AudioGo (which sells them without DRM as MP3s!), and spent a solid week in comedy heaven. If you like fast, funny, lefty comedy that acerbic, smart and unrelenting, this is just about your best entertainment buy.

Above, an episode of Robert Llewellyn's Carpool show, wherein he gives people a drive and interviews them with cameras all around his car.

Fundraiser: Campaign to name street for George Carlin vs Catholic church Carlin attended as a boy

The campaign to rename West 121st St in NYC for George Carlin has nearly succeeded, but is being blocked by a single vote -- and faces opposition from his boyhood Catholic church and school. A fundraiser at the Gotham Comedy Club tomorrow night will feature an all-star standup cast to raise money to support the cause. (via Reddit) Cory 2

Cheech and Chong podcast interview

The July 27 episode of the WTF podcast has an excellent hour-and-a-half interview with Cheech and Chong. It turns out they had very interesting lives before they got together to form the incredibly successful comedy duo. Tommy Chong was the guitar player in a Motown-label rhythm and blues band, and Cheech Marin was a music journalist and Vietnam war protester. I imagine both of them are close to 70 years old now, but they sound exactly the same as I remember them on their LP records from the early 1970s. This was a delightful interview.

WTF Episode 401 - Cheech and Chong

Hey honey, we got a new phone book

By Michael Thomas. [Thumbnail courtesy of Shutterstock]

Short documentary on Patton Oswalt: "To Be Loved & Understood"

Julien Nitzberg's short (10 minute) documentary on comedian Patton Oswalt is out today, via Thrash Lab. Ashton Kutcher executive produced, but don't worry, it's still great. I've written previously about Nitzberg's film, "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia," which I thought was a terrific film.

The very excellent Megan Ganz has left Community to write for Modern Family

One of Community's most notable and popular writers, Megan Ganz, has announced in a Reddit post that she's taken a position at ABC's Modern Family. While it's sad to see her go, it's hard to blame her for leaving when there is constantly a question about Community's future. But at least we'll get to see two more episodes in Season 4 that were written by Ganz, and she'll be staying on to oversee the editing of those two episodes ("Paranormal Parentage" and the season finale, "Advanced Introduction to Finality"). Said the scribe:

We filmed the bottle episode in chronological order so this was the first line that we shot and I remember sitting at the monitors at 7am on the first day thinking, "If they call action and no one runs in here screaming 'stop the TV-equivalent of presses,' then I will have written a line that will appear on a television show. I'll be a television writer." And the director did call action–as they do–and so I was. Just like that. ...

This isn't the end of me and Greendale. Community was my world for four seasons and my job for three, and has hold of my whole heart like a bad-news high school boyfriend. I'll never really get away. The chemistry is too perfect and the writing room couches aren't really that uncomfortable to sleep on and I just can't stop writing for Britta. Plus I still have to do my editing pass on the finale. I think I left a box in my office, too. Bobrow probably misses me. Better stop by on my way home.

Ganz's voice on Community will definitely be missed, but I prefer to see her gainfully employed rather than suddenly silenced or underutilized. I will probably also really, truly have to start watching Modern Family now.

(via Splitsider)

Photo of Megan Ganz and Annie's Boobs via Community Wiki

Headline of the day: The Lonely Island loves dog turds

As part of its first comedy issue -- or as I like to call it, "The Sexiest Humans Alive" issue -- Vanity Fair has featured a photo shoot and (unembeddable) interview with the lads of The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone. They provide exactly zero information on their future plans and talk about fake cookbooks instead, and I'm okay with that. (via Vanity Fair)

Portlandia holiday preview video: "Vagina Pillows"

(Video link) In this preview of IFC's Portlandia holiday special, Candace and Toni, the persons who run feminist bookstore Women & Women First (Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein), have been surprised with a last-minute babysitting request from Candace's son, played by Bobby Moynihan, who can no longer be bribed with free vagina pillows. Alas, another victim of the patriarchy. "Winter in Portlandia" will air Friday, December 14 at 10:30 PM EST on IFC. In addition to Moynihan, Jim Gaffigan and Matt Lucas will be stopping by! (via IFC)

Modern Seinfeld Twitter account pitches episodes for the Facebook age

What's the deal with texting? Are you being sarcastic? Are you mad at me? Are you typing this while on the toilet? I don't wanna be a meme! Did you ever stop to think about how incredibly perfect Seinfeld would be in today's social media-crazed world? Thanks to the newly formed Modern Seinfeld Twitter account, you can get a 140-character (or less) idea at what a current episode of the "Show About Nothing" would cover. And when you consider all the "nothing" we do all day and how much awkward human behavior it causes, Seinfeld could probably find enough material to last twenty years. (via Twitter)

Omnishambles is word of the year

The Oxford English Dictionary has determined that "omnishambles", referring to situations shambolic in all possible respects, is word of the year. Coined by Armando Iannucci for BBC political comedy The Thick Of It, it has since been used in Britain's real-life parliament to refer to real-life omnishambles. [BBC] Rob

James Urbaniak's "My Bastard Son"

In this web series pilot, actor James Urbaniak documents his new life with his estranged adult son. Co-starring Griffin Newman and Renie Rivas. Directed by David Avallone.

Tig Notaro's "Cancer Set" at Largo now a downloadable album, via Louis C.K.

Comedian and writer Tig Notaro was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. On the Oct. 2 "Professor Blastoff" podcast, she announced that she has undergone a double mastectomy, and there is currently no known cancer in her body. She also spoke about her experience on "Fresh Air" this week.

I note that a number of news outlets are reporting about her post-treatment (?) phase as "cured," or "cancer-free," and wince at that language because the disease is never that simple, and those terms imply something that we hope for but cannot guarantee. But it sounds like her course of treatment was successful and that she is in an excellent place.

Via fellow funnyman Louis C.K., who has had great success with direct-to-fan commerce, Tig's now-legendary set at Largo about her cancer diagnosis is now available for download.

I am not glad Notaro has cancer. But I am glad people with cancer now have someone like Tig to point to all that is laughable, and all that is darkly humorous, about the experience of being a person with cancer.

Telephone management skills, 1957 edition: Stephen Potter

From the wonderful blog "Vintage Scans," a page from Lifemanship lesson from Stephen Potter, 1957 (11th impression). Potter was a British writer known for dry, mocking, self-help books, and the TV and film projects they inspired.

New Sifl and Olly episodes from Liam Lynch

[Video Link]

Oh, happy day. Genius weirdo video auteur Liam Lynch (@lynchland on Twitter) is making new episodes of "Sifl and Olly." The show originally ran on MTV from 1997-1999.

Now, the Machinima YouTube channel is publishing a new version of the show, "Sifl & Olly Video Game Reviews." Twisted Junk has an interview with Liam about the reboot, and Chris Hardwick's NERDIST has a Q&A with him here.

The September 16 recent episode (above) included a bit about pandas (around 3:05 in), and then, just like magic, a baby panda is born at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. This is a sign that all is right with the universe.

* Some DVDs of the old MTV originals are available on Amazon.

Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin

I've always admired Steve Martin. He's smart, funny, and avoids engaging in the kind of behavior that ends up in celebrity tabloids. (He's also a terrific banjo player.) I recently read his autobiography, Born Standing Up, and now I admire him even more.

This short book is about Steve Martin's career as a stand-up comic, which lasted about 20 years and ended abruptly (by his decision) in the 1980s. Martin starts with his childhood, which is full of wonderful anecdotes about working in the magic trick store at Disneyland as a young teenager, and doing magic and comedy routines at Knott's Berry Farm. Martin highly praises the old vaudevillians and magicians he worked with at the theme parks. These stage show veterans took Martin under their wings and mentored him in the art of timing, patter, trick presentation, and joke delivery. Fortunately for Martin, the Orange County high school he attended didn't assign homework, so he was able to spend every waking minute outside of school at the theme parks, learning his craft. (If he had been required to do as much homework as a student does today, he may very well have ended up working alongside his dad as a real estate agent, albeit a funny one.)

Martin goes on to describe how he went on the road, spending years developing his unique style of stand-up. As he describes it, he was not doing stand-up. Instead, he played the role of a foolish comic doing stand-up. In the 1960s, he experimented with his routines in the small clubs of San Francisco's North Beach, sometimes to a completely empty room, save a bartender.

Martin's rise to fame was gradual. But that all changed in the late 1970s when his brand of quirky humor caught on in a big way (thanks in large part to his frequent appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show). Martin went from filling 100 seaters to 1000-seaters. His success begat more success. In a period of months, his audience grew to arenas filled with 20,000, then 40,000, then 60,000 people. His brand of physical humor was impossible for most people in a mega-sized venue to appreciate. Martin was just a white dot on the stage.

The resulting fame, while not entirely unwelcome, was often a drag for Martin. An admittedly shy and private man, Martin said he felt uncomfortable when people on the street would excitedly recite his jokes back to him and expect him to be a wild and huh-razy guy."

Martin rode the wave for a few more years, but when he realized that he was no longer doing stand-up, but instead had become a kind of party host for giant throngs of people who wanted to hear him deliver the same stuff over and over again, he called it quits and never did another stand up show. Martin says that until he wrote this book, he rarely gave a thought to the stand-up up career that had made him famous.

I think the best way to read Born Standing Up is to listen to the audiobook, read by Steve Martin himself. That way, you get to hear the way he says his stock lines ("Excuuuuse meeee!") and you get to hear his emotions when he talks about his father (a cold-hearted man who wrote a negative review of Steve Martin's movie The Jerk first appearance on Saturday Night Live, in the company real estate newsletter he produced).

I hope Martin writes a follow-up book that covers his movie and music career, too.

[Update] commenter Petzl says:

Speaking of Martin's self-effacing manner, for years he's been (quietly) famous for handing out these cards.

They're brilliant: he doesn't have to give his personalized signature (which must get old after the first 1000 or so); he gives his fan something uniquely Steve Martin to take away, as well as giving them a "funny story"; it allows him to exit cleanly and quickly.

Born Standing Up