Author: Sean L. McCarthy

Bill Burr’s DVD taping

Hundreds of thousands of people have seen the YouTube video of Bill Burr telling off a booing crowd in Philadelphia during last summer’s Opie and Anthony comedy tour. It’s certainly a sight to behold. But you really should make time to catch Burr onstage in a regular stand-up gig. He has come a long way since Emotionally Unavailable, his CD of material that dates back to 2002 and only recently became available last month in stores via What Are Records. Last weekend, he taped his first DVD special at the Skirball center at NYU and tore the roof off the place. I saw him steal the show last fall in Boston at an Emerson College gala that included performances by Steven Wright, Denis Leary, Tom Shillue, Anthony Clark and Eddie Brill. Here, alone, he proved that there are few working stand-ups who can steal the show from him. Why? Burr, like Louis CK, has reached a level of honesty and depth that makes his punchlines so much more potent than most observational comics. Take his opening bit on pedophiles, for instance. You can find plenty of stand-ups in any city right now making a "To Catch a Predator" reference. Burr, however, cuts to the emotional core and reveals how much differently we all relate to children because of it. He similarly takes a joke about the relentlessness of women...

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Artie Lange and friends, at Town Hall

Artie Lange told me just a couple of weeks ago how happy he is doing comedy since he joined the Howard Stern show. I wish I could say the same about attempting to watch him perform in front of a Town Hall crowd full of Stern listeners. Imagine hundreds of hecklers, shouting insults and catchphrases throughout the show. The entire show. Unbearable. As for Lange, he’s not as sharp as I remember him from a few years ago. He’s out of shape in more ways than one. Perhaps it’s from coming to terms with the Stern factor, knowing that most shows will attract these hecklers and fans who just want to hear him talk about things that have happened on the radio program. But this show wasn’t all about Lange. In fact, he came out first and acted as the host of the evening, delivering a half-hour of jokes and inside Stern stuff before bringing out three of his favorite comedians: Joe Matarese, Jim Florentine and Nick DiPaolo. With his 20 minutes, Matarese made a big effort to make himself known and remembered by the Stern crowd. Florentine, who just started dating longtime Stern sidekick Robin Quivers, knew his limitations. "I played a retard on TV. What’d you expect out of me? Did you think I was going to be highbrow?" He walked the entire row in front of...

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Louis CK, at Town Hall

Back in August, I said that Louis CK had developed an even funnier hour of stand-up than he’d displayed in his most recent HBO special, Shameless. Anyone who saw CK perform Thursday night at Town Hall witnessed it firsthand. CK told me in August that developing the new hour has been "really fun after 22 years of doing stand-up. It’s very renewing." The same could be said for his audiences. I’m not sure I can think of another comedian who can open by repeatedly saying three offensive words and then thoughtfully and hilariously explain why he says them. As he points out, any word is only offensive depending upon the person saying it and the person hearing it. And he aptly notes that the media should be considered offensive for its overuse of "the n-word" and manages a callback, too. "It puts the word in my head. Why don’t you say it?! Don’t hide behind the word like an annoying fa&&ot." He then goes on to explain why gay men "should be respected and not judged" because they perform something he could never do and most women don’t want to do, even though it’s a guy’s favorite thing. Some may find CK to be too profane — he does have a 9/11 masturbation joke, after all — but when it comes down to it, this 40-year-old married man with...

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Charlie Murphy writes jokes while driving

Charlie Murphy started doing stand-up comedy about 20 years after his younger brother, Eddie. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Eddie tasted superstardom success at an early age. For older brother Charlie, now 48, he’s just getting his taste of it, post-Chappelle’s Show (Murphy performs Friday-Saturday at Carolines as part of the New York Comedy Festival). And he thinks he’s the better for it. "Definitely. I’m in love with the game of standup. I’ve got an audience of people listening to me. That’s the best job in the world," he told me over the phone while driving on Interstate 80. "When you’re younger, you got less repsonsibility, and you’re more subject to peril, if you don’t have a strong support group around you. Because there’s wovles out there. When you’re older, you see all this s–t going down but you’re too old to participate. You don’t have the recovery time!…Patron and s–t. No, man I can’t do that." He’s more than happy to participate in this week’s festival, considering what Caroline Hirsch and company have done to help him out. "Carolines has given me a lot of love over the years, so I’ve got to give some love back," he said. "Whatever they want from Charlie Murphy, they can have it. They even let me go onstage when I had no act." No act? Really? What was that like?"Very nervewracking,"...

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Damon Wayans, on stand-up, online comedy

Damon Wayans always seems to be getting back into the game, and this week is no different. The native New Yorker popped in to the Comedy Cellar on Wednesday night for a surprise half-hour set, telling me afterward: "I’ve got to get ready for the big show." That big show is Friday night at Beacon Theatre as part of the New York Comedy Festival. When we spoke over the phone last week, I asked him about an upcoming Comedy Central special, and somewhere in between that and Last Comic Standing, we got talking about comedians being ready for primetime. "I’m not a primetime guy, not in stand-up," Wayans said. "You don’t want to be. If you don’t express yourself — if you can be primetime you’re not expressing yourself." How do you look at comedy differently now after more than two decades onstage? "I’m a little more seasoned right now. I’m definitely a lot less afraid now. I think I enjoy it more because I realize I’m not going to be as physical now. It’s time. I’m 47 years old. That youth when I used to bound onstage, now I’m a little more like Cosby, looking forward to sitting down on a couch." But he still remembers his first time onstage, when he wrote all of his jokes down so he wouldn’t forget them. "I put the paper in...

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