Category Archives: comedy

Playing House: I Love When Shows Post Bloopers

If you have not checked out the new USA Network comedy, Playing House, you are missing out. Here’s a snippet from the series’ official bio page: “Childhood best friends Maggie Caruso (Lennon Parham, Best Friends Forever) and Emma Crawford (Jessica St. Clair, Best Friends Forever) have shared countless adventures growing up together in the charming town of Pinebrook, CT. Now, Maggie and Emma are in store for one of their biggest adventures—raising a baby.”

Mark Cohen on His New Allan Sherman Biography

Overweight Sensation: The Life & Comedy of Allan Sherman
Overweight Sensation: The Life & Comedy of Allan Sherman

This year marks the 50th anniversary of American comedy writer and entertainer Allan Sherman’s hit, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!  For years, Sherman had been someone that had fascinated Mark Cohen, enough that he had researched Sherman a great deal. But with the anniversary fast approaching, Cohen realized he wanted to write a Sherman biography, Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman. To mark the release of his book, I conducted an email interview with Cohen about Sherman. Enjoy.

Tim O’Shea: The timing of this book was perfect in at least one way, given that the book benefited from your extensive interviews with Sherman’s ex-wife, Dolores “Dee” Golden–who sadly passed away in 2012. Was she reticent to talk to you at first?

Mark Cohen: Just the opposite. I heard from the Sherman children, Robert and Nancy, that their mother was eager to talk with me. I perhaps foolishly delayed calling her because I wanted to make sure I was fully educated from other interviews before we spoke. And when we did speak we found we had a rapport and enjoyed each other. I interviewed Dee almost every day for a month, and we had sporadic conversations after that initial in-depth period. Her contribution was crucially important. There were only a few things she did not want me to print and I honored her wishes. The story was complete without them, anyway, and no biography is ever truly comprehensive. You can only include the scraps of the life you gather up from what’s left over after decades have passed. There are always things you never find out.

Continue reading Mark Cohen on His New Allan Sherman Biography

The Key to A Good Comedy Sketch

For years, I have wondered why some Saturday Night Live sketches (frequently after 12:30 AM in the last half hour of the show) die horrible unfunny deaths. Watching this old sketch from the 1989-1995 series, A Bit of Fry & Laurie (starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie), I realized the way good comedy writers turn a sketch around.

Too often the sketches run out of steam, or beat a dead horse. The great thing about this sketch–which for the most part has Laurie singing an absurd American jingoistic parody–was just as you thought it ran out of steam, Fry enters the sketch and punches Laurie in the throat.

Ending a sketch can be a challenge (as any writing, of course), but this struck me as a great lesson in Sketch Writing 101.

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong on Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

Former Entertainment Weekly writer Jennifer Keishin Armstrong has a new book–Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted–detailing the creation of the classic TV series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The show, which originally ran from 1970 to 1977, is still front and center in many people’s minds. In this year alone, it was ranked fourth in EW’s top shows of all time, and the Writers Guild of America named it #6 in its 101 Best Written TV Series List. To make the release of the book, she agreed to an email interview.

Once you have enjoyed the interview, be sure to visit the publisher’s site for a preview read and for links to a variety of ways to buy the book. It is a great read–and I cannot wait to see what she does examining Seinfeld (her next book which she mentions briefly in the interview).

Tim O’Shea: Consider how you viewed the cast and crew before writing the book and then after, was there any particular actor or crew member that you came out of the process for a greater appreciation of them?

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong: Almost all of them, really! I loved the women who wrote for the show, and hearing their life stories gave me a broader appreciation of not just their work on the show as much as what they had to do to hack it in such a male-dominated world at a time when women’s lib was just starting to make inroads. And Valerie Harper, who’d always been a role model to me, was even better in person — and it was clear to me how much her motherly instincts helped glue the backstage family together.

Continue reading Jennifer Keishin Armstrong on Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted

Must See TV: American Masters on Mel Brooks

There are so many highlights to this PBS American Masters documentary, Mel Brooks: Make a Noise. To name a few of them: Brooks recounts when he realized the full measure of what Hitler did to the Jews; how he used comedy to belittle Hitler; and finally, The Producers (the musical) director/choreographer, Susan Stroman, recounting how Brooks’ humor helped her cope with the death of her husband, Mike Ockrent.

Watch Mel Brooks: Make a Noise on PBS. See more from American Masters.

Here’s The Thing: Alec Baldwin Interviews Judd Apatow

This interview of Judd Apatow by Alec Baldwin (on his WNYC show, Here’s The Thing) blindsided me for Apatow’s utter admiration for James L. Brooks and Albert Brooks.

Consider this snippet from the interview transcript:

“I met him [Albert Brooks] in the early ‘90s when I was working at ‘The Larry Sanders Show.’ I had dinner with him a couple times with Garry and I was just in awe to be around him because his ‘Saturday Night Live’ movies were a really big influence on everything we did at ‘The Ben Stiller Show’ and obviously ‘Defending Your Life’ and ‘Modern Romance’ and ‘Real Life’…”

Garry Shandling Recalling Gilda Radner’s Appearance on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show

Garry Shandling is a fellow always seemingly ready with a laugh. But in this video excerpt where he recalls Gilda Radner’s appearance on his show, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, there’s a vulnerability about him.

As he notes, Radner was dying of cancer. Radner was also a longtime, close friend of the show’s co-creator, Alan Zweibel.

Aw man: ABC, Fox Cancels Two of My Favorite Tuesday Shows

So it’s been a tough week for Tuesday sitcoms I like.

First up, James Van Der Beek made this announcement regarding ABC’s Don’t Trust the B—- in APT23:

 

Then I learned today that Fox had pulled the plug on the quirky as heck Ben & Kate.

In the case of ABC, there has been a great deal of buzz that the show would be considered far more successful if On Demand and streaming (aka metrics other than traditional TV ratings) were considered.

Here’s hoping this is the last season that shows are cancelled without all forms of ratings are properly considered.

And I also hope Van Der Beek is interested in doing more sitcom work in the future.