Author: Sean L. McCarthy

Caroline Rhea balances TV with stand-up

Caroline Rhea has fond memories of Arizona. The Montreal native’s father lives in Tucson, and Rhea spent some of her proverbial formative years there attending the University of Arizona in the mid-1980s. She had yet to learn about "those giant cardboard sunglasses you put in the front of the car," and she emerged from her car a little, well, sticky. "I looked like I had the Franklin Mint tattooed on my thigh," Rhea said. By then, she already knew she was going to become a comedian. Heck, she knew that when she was 6 or 7. "I’d watch Carol Burnett and say, ‘I want to be her,’ " Rhea said. Rhea has since established her own TV presence — after several years as Aunt Hilda on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, many appearances on Hollywood Squares and now in her first year hosting daytime talker The Caroline Rhea Show. And she’s managed to meet her idol, Burnett, more than a few times. "Each time, I freak out and tell her how much I worship her," Rhea said. When Rhea hits the stand-up circuit these days, she now has her own set of fans to freak her out. Her act is not all that different from when she started in 1989. She might have new things to talk about. Her upcoming wedding already provides plenty of fodder for skits on her...

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Jerry Seinfeld, at the Dodge Theatre

Two things might have caught the eye of patrons to comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s show Friday night at the new Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz. On a nearby sidewalk, people were scalping tickets (Seinfeld has two more sold-out shows tonight, four in all) while country station KNIX-FM (102.5) was broadcasting live outside the theater in downtown Phoenix. At least the scalping made sense. Once inside, Seinfeld’s graceful onstage style won over the crowd, even one in as cavernous as the indoor amphitheater that is Dodge Theatre. People in the balcony probably wished the Dodge had video screens so they could identify him. Seinfeld began his act with morsels of topical humor before delving into the meat, focusing on the evolution of relationships, including his own. On dating: "Twenty-six years of dating. Do you realize how much pretending to act fascinated that is?" On big weddings: "Nobody cares about your wedding. Why is it necessary to ruin the day of 150 of your friends?" On babies: "Let us make no mistake about why these babies are here. They have come to replace us." He stepped back onstage for a brief question and answer period, hearing the usual requests for his favorite episode from his show (they’re all his favorites) and favorite TV moments ("stealing the rye bread from the old lady") to his love of cars and the chances for a...

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Doug Stanhope, on embracing outrageousness

When the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival put together a "Sick & Twisted" show for its annual gathering this month in Aspen, Colo., there really was only one stand-up comedian who could headline the gig: Doug Stanhope. This is a guy who was planning his birthday bash earlier this week with a comedy show in Las Vegas, followed by marriage to his girlfriend, Renee Morrison, with scheduled performances by Extreme Elvis and other debauchery. "We are considering running a pool on what time Renee’s grandmother walks out in horror," he wrote on his Web site (www.dougstanhope.com), which is not for children or the easily offended. Stanhope first tried his hand at comedy at an open mike in Vegas, but his career began in Phoenix at the now-defunct Comedy Cove as the house emcee in the early 1990s. He hit the road, and has barely stopped moving since. He won the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition in 1995 and made multiple appearances at the comedy world’s biggest festivals, Just for Laughs in Montreal and the Aspen shindig. No, you’re not likely to see a sitcom anytime soon revolve around a guy who is known for heavy drinking, public nudity and bits that include a troublesome encounter with a transvestite prostitute in Phoenix. Too many comics think raunchy material makes them funnier. But Stanhope transcends the mediocrity that pervades much stand-up, as...

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Marc Maron and his Jerusalem Syndrome

"People always criticize one-man shows for being self-indulgent," comedian Marc Maron says during a phone interview from his home in New York City. "So I took it to a level of grandiosity never before seen." That’s Maron for you. The cultural critic, storyteller and frequent guest of Late Night With Conan O’Brien brings his one-man show, The Jerusalem Syndrome, on the road. While many in and around the stand-up comedy circuit wondered how to be funny in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Maron simply took his wit and comedic barbs to another level. "My comedy has become very entrenched in politics, reaction, fear, in addressing what’s going on," he says. "Onstage, it’s very hands-on and exciting, for very horrible reasons." But as a cultural critic, that’s his job — to make us aware of the crazy world we live in. "What else am I going to do?" he asks. Well, for one thing, Maron has decided to perform The Jerusalem Syndrome for the first time in about a year. His one-night-only show in Tempe, Ariz., benefits Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Maricopa County’s leading provider of behavior health services and programs for victims of child abuse and domestic violence. Credit Maron’s brother, who works for the group, for getting him to take another look at his one-man show. The title refers to a psychological phenomenon that...

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The end of the road — Night 6

After five straight nights of traveling, joke-telling and ego bruising, many of the comics are ready for this week to end. It is fitting that the first round should end in a casino. For this is a mighty big gamble. The winner of this competition gets $3,000. But there is no money — I repeat, no money — for you if you don’t make it out of the first round. You may get applause. You may even pick up some fans along the way. But you get no other compensation for your week on the road. It might actually cost you a pretty penny to compete in this thing. Thus, the pressure mounts. Some of the comics still in the running have begun to second-guess their material. They add new jokes or try anything different to make a final attempt at the top five. Those of us who have been mathematically eliminated from advancing have a different view of the last day. A couple of people snap. Chris Maltby spends his final minutes of stage time explaining how the judges and audiences hated him for being gay. Scott Meyer decides to take this night to explain his madness to the other comics. Of course, this meant nothing to the audience. The crowd was unnecessarily tought tonight. Considering how little they paid for the show — the casino actually paid...

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