Author: Sean L. McCarthy

Book Review: “Born Standing Up”

As you can see on my home page, I already highly recommend you buy and read Steve Martin’s new memoir, "Born Standing Up," if you have any inclination at all in learning what it takes and what it means to be a stand-up comedian. The back cover of my copy carries a blurb from Jerry Seinfeld calling Martin’s memoir "one of the best books about comedy and being a comedian ever written." But the quote from November’s issue of GQ continues if you read the Seinfeld interview, in which he compares Martin’s book to his 2002 documentary Comedian — which I also highly suggest for anyone looking to get an accurate picture of the mind of a stand-up comedian. Here’s what Seinfeld continued to say about Martin: "The thing I have to write to him and tell him is, people always thought it was a triumph of silly? To me, it was a triumph of intelligence. There was tremendous intelligence in everything he did. It was only packaged in this silly veneer. But that’s what was funny about it. Inside, it was very smart and thought-out. It’s a wonderful document of this profession, which seems to be dying." Whoa…what? The profession seems to be dying??? I wish I’d had the chance to ask Seinfeld about that last part. In the meantime, let’s get back to Steve Martin and this...

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Eddie Izzard gigs Vegas, Vegas digs him

The last time many American audiences saw Eddie Izzard perform stand-up, he was wearing a dress and makeup. Ah, the life of a cross-dressing straight transvestite. Or is that redundant? Well, at least we know it’s not drag, as Izzard explained to reporters before his sold-out performance Saturday night at Caesars Palace for The Comedy Festival. Drag, he said, is the province of gay men. "I’m expressing a feminine side of myself. I’m wearing a dress," Izzard said. "I’m trying to sell straight transvestism to an American audience — that’s strange." For him or for them? "I could wear an elephant suit — it doesn’t matter." Tis true: No matter. Izzard kept on his jacket, facial hair and jeans for this performance, which got huge roars of approval even befrore the show itself, as Izzard took over the pre-show announcement and riffed about each and every element of it. He told me beforehand that as he’s worked out this hour of material in Los Angeles, he hasn’t noticed audiences treating him any differently since his wicked performances on FX’s The Riches. "But maybe some people have come up to me and said, ‘Oh, I love you on The Riches and I heard you do stand-up.’" Izzard opened his set by riffing some more — as is his wont, don’t you know that he loves flying by the seat of...

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Tim Minchin’s proper American debut

After electrifying the Las Vegas audience with his extended introductory performance of "So F–king Rock," Tim Minchin said this was his first time in America. Well. Not quite. I’d seen Minchin earlier this year when he wowed the crowds in Aspen. "Aspen’s not America, really," Minchin told me backstage after rocking the socks off the audience for an hour-plus. "They just plop you down on the mountain and then pick you back up." "I didn’t have America as an intention," he said. "The opportunity came to me." Winning the Perrier Award for best newcomer to Edinburgh in 2005 led to an invite to Montreal in 2006, which in turn led to Aspen in February of 2007, where he received more industry kudos. "But after Aspen, I said, ‘Hold on, wait a second…" So here he is, or was, for three shows in New York City last week at Ars Nova — "Ars Nova is the most wonderful small theater I’ve perhaps ever been in," he told me — then Saturday night in Las Vegas for The Comedy Festival (organized by the same HBO folks who recruited him to Aspen), then two nights earlier this week in Los Angeles. Minchin said he hopes to come back in 2008 with something proper and new. "I’d like to sit for six weeks and write a new season in New York," he said....

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The 2007 Andy Kaufman Award finals

Through methods not entirely spelled out — although, really, anything associated with the late Andy Kaufman should go without any easy explanations — eight comedians from across America got invites to Las Vegas to perform in front of Kaufman’s dad, Stanley, and his manager, George Shapiro, for the coveted award named for the eccentric performer. This was the contest’s first visit to Vegas, having been conducted the first three years in New York City. How would it play in a ballroom of Caesars Palace during The Comedy Festival? Well…you can watch the video submissions of all eight finalists here… Past winners Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts co-hosted the affair with their usual pluck and delight. Chad Fogland chose a clowning mime striptease for his act, disrobing 12 pairs of pants, three pairs of boxers and a pair of briefs to reveal…another pair of briefs. Impressive enough, but far from extraordinary. Mary Mack made her case with a washboard that she plays in her day job as a one-woman Eagles cover band. "This is where the show really amps up," she said. Certainly off the beaten path. Nick Gibbons used a lie detector during his act that prompted him to change his answers repeatedly, almost exactly like an improv game my old troupe used to perform with bells and buzzers. Even Gibbons said on his blog later that the bit...

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Chris Rock, at the TCF

I had the chance to watch Chris Rock try out new material twice in recent months in the intimate environment of the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village, so imagine my delight and surprise (not to mention the 4,000-plus people at Caesars Palace) to hear him deliver even newer riffs Friday night as part of his first theater show in four years during The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. After the show, he said "it felt good…still need to shake off a little rust, but it felt good," adding: "It’s a good room. I haven’t done this in so long. I had to get used to the sound…sometimes the laughs go up high to the balcony." Highlights from the show after the jump. Oh, right. The show. Rock opened by acknowledging Britney Spears and her child-rearing skills, then deftly turning to Michael Vick and dog fighting, comparing him favorably to Don King and pointing out how Americans treat dogs differently than other animals. "If Michael Vick had killed 100 deer, he’d be free. And Atlanta would be 6-2 right now." That got a big laugh. Rock, of course, likes to keep pushing, so he then wondered about the comparison between 100 abortions and seven dog deaths. Rock’s views on the election prove he ain’t voting for Clinton. "I think America is ready, but does it have to be that woman?!"...

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