David Letterman takes the stage of the Amsterdam Campus of the City College of New York in My Next Guest Needs No Introduction looking more biblical than his CBS days. Letterman comfortably sits opposite President Barack Obama. In a format more intimate than Late Night, Letterman seems at ease in this new role. Still, some things feel familiar from his light comedic tone to bringing on Paul Shaffer as the composer of this series. Continue reading
Fred Armisen’s Standup For Drummers is the personification of your hometown “DRUMMERS IN THE [Area code]” Facebook Group without all the ads for local gigs or bands in need of a gig. Armisen isn’t particularly funny; it seems like his only knowledge of standup comedy comes from movies and TV. He isn’t really interesting either. It’s full of in-jokes that can’t really provoke laughter. The boneheaded drummer who’s unintentionally funny is one of the easiest tropes, but Fred Armisen is a hyper intelligent musician who can’t come up with a decent joke. Continue reading
It’s not surprising that a biopic about National Lampoon founder Doug Kenney (played by Will Forte) would come out right now. With Netflix’s dedication to weekly comedy specials, the importance of SNL, and the evolution of social-media to share comedy, of course, it’s timely to release a movie about one of the most influential forces in comedy. A Futile and Stupid Gesture is both hilarious and dramatic, bringing to life both the excitement and burden of living in the comedy world. While easily watchable and very entertaining, there are certain aspects that leave the audience a little confused and unsure of how they’re supposed to feel.
When Black Mirror began airing in 2011, it inevitably drew comparisons to The Twilight Zone. The hyperbolic narratives served as warnings of our technological advancements the same way Rod Serling chided its viewers’ morality. Creator Charlie Brooker also tended to take the page from Serling’s book of leaving an ominous cliffhanger ending. When Netflix released the third season though, the series had undergone a number of changes: flamboyant colors, American accents, and a few happy endings. “San Junipero” is one of the most widely beloved episodes to come from Black Mirror, and it has a remarkably positive ending. Even the ending of the film-length “Hated in the Nation” leaves a viewer with a sense of pride. The fourth season takes the satisfying ending and runs with it, more often for the better.
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Only Marc Maron could get away with telling the same joke twice in a row. It’s easy to be sick of Maron’s rote display of emotional honesty, because he’s been in comedy for decades, and he brings one of the best podcasts to listeners twice a week. He’s been bringing listeners a manic energy regularly for years now, and Too Real is a perfect culmination of all the best aspects of Maron. Continue reading
Casting JonBenet (Dir. Kitty Green), the highly anticipated meta-documentary released as a Netflix-exclusive film about the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was met with mixed reactions- mostly because the idea of making a film about the actual brutal murder of an actual child didn’t sit well with many people. 1996 wasn’t that long ago. Is it exploitative? Probably. But by that logic, every film about or based on a real-life tragedy is exploitative. I am willing to defend this film’s existence despite its tendency to insert some black humor, as it doesn’t set out to minimize the seriousness of the crime. Unlike other crime documentaries, it is less focused on solving the mystery at hand and more focused on reactions to what we know about the murder and the inevitable biases that come with it. Continue reading
It is somewhat unclear who Dave Chappelle’s new comedy specials are for. There’s definitely a point to direct it to old fans of Chappelle’s Show: not only was Chappelle a game-changer of a comic, but there’s also nostalgic value in aiming it at this audience. There’s also an aim for fans who weren’t around when Chappelle was in his prime. As cliché as it is, Chappelle pokes fun at a 24 year-old in the audience. The content of Chappelle’s jokes vary from the self-aware, topical humor, and material about people that would seem irrelevant had it not been for recent events bringing them into prominence (i.e. O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby). Both of Chappelle’s new specials find a pleasing middle ground that sets him both as an older comic trying to reach a new audience and someone acting as if he never left. Continue reading
Especially now, jokes are one of the most important things we’ve got. Whether the jokes come from a place of brutal honesty like Marc Maron or evil fiction like Anthony Jeselnik, it’s important to laugh. Mike Birbiglia’s new Thank God for Jokes discusses how important it is to make jokes with Birbiglia’s emotive honesty and deep thought. Birbiglia doesn’t fail to make you laugh, but there are moments that this special lags at a predictable pace.