Author: Sean L. McCarthy

John Mayer at the Comedy Cellar

So I finally got to witness Grammy-winning rock star John Mayer perform stand-up, as he dropped in at the Comedy Cellar late Saturday night (well, 1:39 a.m. Sunday) and did an eight-minute set. What’s to say? The guy is a rock star. Which means he already has command of the stage and is comfortable putting himself out there — that’s more than half the battle for any aspiring stand-up. As for the material, it’s not bad. You cannot hang around guys like Sherrod Small and James Smith and not learn a thing or two about writing a joke. Mayer got a few big genuine laughs from the surprised crowd. The one line I distinctly remember was one of Mayer’s first quips, about catching flack for dating celebrities. "It’s f*cking people from work. That’s what it is." Stand-up comedians will tell you that a great set feels as close as they can get to being rock stars. And you can find more than a few comedians who have performed in bands themselves. Heck, Todd Barry just played drums with Yo La Tengo last week. Many actors similarly have attempted success as musicians. Who’s to begrudge a guy like Mayer for trying to be a comedian? Especially if he’s coming at it from a sincere and honest place. Trying to earn his laughs. Just like any other comedian. I’ll give him...

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Review/Interview: George Carlin “It’s Bad For Ya”

George Carlin’s latest HBO special, "It’s Bad For Ya," debuted live Saturday night on HBO. For repeat viewings, it’s On Demand and also airing multiple times, including 12:10 a.m. Monday on HBO2 (consult the HBO master schedule here). If your DVR acted like mine, it cut out early. Ah, the beauty of live TV and its incompatibility with DVR technology. Here are Carlin’s closing minutes, in case you missed them the first time around, as I did this morning. Note: Obviously NSFW due to language. The hourplus essentially is the finished product of material I’d seen brand-new a year ago in Aspen at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Carlin refined the best parts and cut out the filler, going after the BS that we buy into as a culture and a nation, and how we’ve forgotten to question the BS or teach our children to, either. Religion and child-worship really come into his crosshairs. There’s a section in the middle about boring people and their boring conversations that doesn’t really fit, at least thematically, but it’s a stronger and certainly more accessible set than his previous special about death. And that’s even with Carlin talking at length about being old and his friends dying off in the first 10 minutes! Here, though, he turns it into a discussion about what to do with your dead friends and their...

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SNL with Ellen Page, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani

SNL’s second new episode of 2008 began much as the first one had, with an extra-long pro-Hillary cold open focusing on the Democratic presidential debate — 10 1/2 minutes! — that included an "editorial response" from the real Sen. Hillary Clinton. If you thought last week’s SNL was pro-Hillary, this one managed to top that. Do you suppose Lorne Michaels and Co. are really pro-Hillary, or do you think they’re merely acting in their own self-interest, because they don’t have a winnable Obama in Fred Armisen? Food for proverbial thought. Darrell Hammond did manage to provide the best impersonation in that opening sketch with his Tim Russert, overshadowing Will Forte’s Brian Williams and that Law & Order cameo from Vincent D’Onofrio. I think I’ve figured out why SNL’s political jokes just haven’t been working in recent years: They’re more interested in making the point than they seem to be in getting the laugh. The best sketch of tonight’s episode had to have been The Dakota Fanning Show, with Amy Poehler once again showing that she’s the star of this current cast. Also the biggest request out of host Ellen Page on this night (they didn’t really ask her for much, did they?) to portray Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. It included a taped bit in which Poehler as Fanning went out on the streets to ask actual kids about current socio-political...

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Where they are now: Baratunde, Erin Judge

Two years ago, I got a spread in the Boston Herald to devote to a few of the local comedians that I thought deserved more press. Two of them are back in the spotlight this weekend. Baratunde Thurston has become the Web editor at The Onion, recently appeared on a CNN panel with the Rev. Jesse Jackson talking Obama and the campaign, and tonight he leads a special version of Laughing Liberally for the Black Comedy Experiment at The Tank in Tribeca. Erin Judge will get a TV credit next weekend when she tapes Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham. This Sunday (March 2), she’s throwing a comedy benefit at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., "Warming Up the Crowd: A Comedy Benefit for Heating Assistance." Ticket info here. The show features Shane Mauss, Kelly MacFarland, Tim McIntire, Corey Manning, Myq Kaplan, Bethany Van Delft, Josh Gondelman and more. Proceeds go to Joe Kennedy’s heating assistance...

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