Tag: Make ‘Em Laugh

A slightly lighter than usual end of week movie news dump

Well, at least I hope can get this done nice and quick because I’m really looking forward to making a Manhattan very soon. Forgive me if I miss something huge.

* As per Nikki Finke, the early box office returns for “Inception” are looking good.

* Though I was a big fan of “The West Wing” while he worked on it, my one complaint with Aaron Sorkin’s abandoned TV classic was that it was a bit rosy in how it viewed politics and politicians. Currently flying high as the screenwriter of the upcoming docudramas, “The Social Network” and “Moneyball,” he was almost the Gene Roddenberry of political drama in imagining a relatively ideal world that could be, but probably never would be. I don’t think excess positivity is going to be an issue in his movie directorial debut, as he’ll be covering the John Edwards mega-debacle. To think I contemplated voting for/volunteering for the egocentric jerkwad who, had he succeeded, would have sunk a party and a nation on the altar of his ego.


* I don’t think I’ll really know what I think of Ryan Reynolds’ CGI-aided Green Lantern costume until I see it in the movie.

* Things have been hopping over at our sister site, Bullz-Eye.com. Earlier in the week Will Harris, with a little assistance from one or two other people who will remain nameless, took a look at 25 cinematic swan songs from film acting greats. Very cool (except for seven of them, which I’m unable to judge). Also, today, Will had a chat with his friend and rising young star, Dileep Rao, currently being seen in “Inception.”

* There may be no justice in the world, but Roman Polanski’s next movie is already being prepped, and it sounds good. It’s the film version of the London/Broadway hit play “God of Carnage.” Being as it’s a dark comedy/drama, it sounds right up Polanski’s alley. Also, Polanski’s 1994 film version of Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” was one of the most seamless stage-to-film translations I’ve ever seen.

* My high school history teacher, who was also a saxophone playing jazz fan on the side, always used to say that of all the rock music figures, the one he was sure wouldn’t last beyond another couple of decades in terms of popularity was Janis Joplin. Her super-gritty style was just too of the late sixties moment, he theorized. Indeed, she seems to be one of the less popular of the rock superstars of that era today. Well, director Fernando Meirelles of “City of God” and Amy Adams — a top-flight actress who is way cute to be playing the weather-worn Joplin  — will be hoping to disprove that theory with a new biopic.

* Okay, so we’ve got “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” so why not Cain and Abel with Vampires (and Will Smith)?

* I like the sound of this: Stanley Tucci, who obviously gets along very well with Meryl Streep, will direct her and Tina Fey in a mother daughter comedy.

* The Playlist apparently wants to make me happy. First, they report that the long-awaited DVD of the pre-prepared exploitation double-bill, “Grindhouse,” as it was originally presented in theaters is coming this October. Second, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is apparently planning to appear in some kind of a musical. Interesting.

I’m just annoyed that I missed his rendition of the Donald O’Connor “Make ‘Em Laugh” number from “Singin’ in the Rain” on SNL last year and it’s gone from Hulu for some reason. Moment of rank and utterly baseless speculation here: Could a team-up with fellow three-namer Neil Patrick Harris be in the cards? “Dr. Horrible and Dr. Horribler” perhaps? Forget I said that.

A Quick Chat with Joan Rivers

There’s little question that one of the most lively panels during the early days of the TCA tour was the one dedicated to Joan Rivers’ new TV Land series, “How’d You Get So Rich?” Or, if you read my coverage of the panel, you may be more familiar with it as “How’d You Get So Fucking Rich?” But, y’know, that’s Joan for you. You can learn just about anything you need to know about the concept of the series by checking out the link to my panel coverage that I just offered up (though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s a new episode of the series airing tonight at 10 PM EST / PST), but after she held court before the crowd of critics, a few of us actually had a chance to speak to her one on one for a few minutes each.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that, were it a contest to see who got the best pull quotes out of Joan, Joel Keller of TV Squad – who preceded me in speaking with her – would have taken the victory (she hadn’t been aware that David Tutera was scheduled to have his own TCA panel, but when he brought it up, she let fly with her thoughts on him in her usual forthright manner), but I still managed to get a couple of good lines from Ms. Rivers about “Z Rock,” “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and “Rabbit Test,” and the closing moments of our conversation will live in my memory forever.

Bullz-Eye: It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Joan Rivers: And it’s a pleasure to…well, we’ll see.

BE: (Laughs) I’ve got only got a couple of minutes, but I’ll do my best.

JR: Ask whatever you want.

Continue reading »

Make ’em Laugh: The Funny Business of America

Simply put, the three-DVD set of PBS’ six-part special on comedy in America is a must-have for any fan of comedy. Hosted by Billy Crystal and narrated by Amy Sedaris, “Make ’em Laugh” traces the origins of the wiseguy, the oddball, the breadwinner, the satirist, the pratfaller, and the groundbreaker in incredible detail, combining footage of the masters at work (both movies and TV) with interviews of dozens of comedians, writers and producers. (Holy cow, was Jack Benny’s writing staff an All-Star lineup of funny.) It’s all very informative, but if the set has one flaw, it’s in each show’s tendency to stop the timeline around 1989, which results in the omission of several prominent modern-day comedians (Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman, to name a few). That will happen, of course, when trying to condense 80 years of comedy into six hours. Each disc also contains extended interviews with dozens of comedians, and a couple bits of guys telling their favorite jokes. Great stuff, across the board.

Click to buy Make ’em Laugh: The Funny Business of America

TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America”

Dying is easy, and comedy is hard, but if you really want hard, try putting together a six-hour documentary about comedy in motion pictures and on television without having someone complain about what’s been left out. Can’t be done…and hasn’t been done, if I’m to be perfectly honest. There’s just too much comedy out there. But with that said, PBS’s effort, “Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of Comedy,” is a damned good attempt at accomplishing the feat, and more importantly, the show’s executive producer, Michael Kantor, is fully willing to concede the impossibility of covering everything.

“Max Welk, who was one of our consultants, is maybe 90 years old, kept saying the two funniest people he ever saw were Jack Benny, who could walk on stage and say nothing and an audience would laugh, and Wheeler and Woosley,” said Kantor. “Jeff Abraham lobbied for the Ritz Brothers. So it was very difficult. Rather than tell the kind of…not standard story, but natural story of, okay, here were the different studios that sprang up and we’ll march chronologically through the silent film era, we decided that a comedy series needs to be surprising and the audience, the viewer, would enjoy it more if they were a little taken aback by the next story, perhaps Paul Lynde following Redd Foxx. It’s surprising, ‘Well, where are we going?’ So we tried to hue to the framework that way rather than comparing, you know, Charley Chase with Harold Lloyd with Buster Keaton. I almost interviewed Rudy Ray Moore, who lived — just died, actually — lived in Vegas. He created Dolemite. And I kept thinking, ‘God, this is an amazing story. It deserves its own AMERICAN MASTER special.’ But it kind of didn’t fit into the six different episodes we created.”

As for the narrator of “Make ‘Em Laugh,” Amy Sedaris made a point of noting that Buddy Hackett didn’t end up making the final cut, either. (There is, however, a quick cut to a shot of Jerri Blank, from “Strangers with Candy,” which made her happy.) Kantor seemed apologetic about the omission, but he explained, “The goal was, once, with a team of consultants, we’d figured out that these six categories or archetypes or – call them what you want — genres that reflected different aspects of American culture were the ones we were sticking with, we wanted to tell the best story we could. And that’s why poor Buddy Hackett didn’t make it.”

Kantor said it was also an issue when it came to trying to figure out what classic clips would fit into the proceedings without feeling shoehorned in.

“There were a couple of sitcoms that we really wanted to include, but we just didn’t have time for,” he said. “One was ‘The Odd Couple.’ We reference it in passing. You see someone talk about it and yet it seemed to so clearly speak to a moment in time where divorces were happening in America and yet we couldn’t give it as much weight, as maybe if we had 72 minutes in an hour, we would have wanted. And Richard Pryor had the ill-fated ‘Richard Pryor Show,’ he only did four of five episodes, and he does this great speech where he’s a black President,” said Kantor. “And it felt like, ‘Boy, wouldn’t that be interesting to sneak in?’ Robin Williams is standing in the back. But that wasn’t for cost or any other reason. It was just the arc of the Richard Pryor story; it didn’t hold. My job as a documentary filmmaker is how to tell the best overall story. Maybe like a baseball manager: you might have a great hitter, but he doesn’t fit in perfectly, so you’ve got to trade him.”

Despite Buddy’s omission, Sedaris enjoyed working on the special and acknowledged that it proved to be an educational experience for her.

“I was never a big Charlie Chaplin fan – I liked Buster Keaton – and it made me appreciate him a little bit more,” she said. “Phyllis Diller, I loved. She made her own clothes, dragged her kids along with her. She really magnified the fact she was unattractive, and I love that. And Mae West. I was never a big fan of Mae West, but I didn’t realize she wrote all that stuff, and I didn’t know about all the problems that she had. And that made me appreciate her. And Jonathan Winters, I love that whole section because he…it seemed like he had a mental disorder and yet embraced it, because his humor came from his characters, and that’s what I always find funny: the characters.”

“Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America” begins airing on January 14th and continues on Jan. 21 and 28.

© 2022 Premium Hollywood

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑