In case you missed it, John Hodgman moderated a highly amusing panel and performance last night at the 92YTribeca by the folks at VH1's newly revamped Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins, including not only PFT but also Doug Benson, Chuck Nice, executive producer Sean Johnson and writer/producer Caissie St. Onge.
Hodgman and Tompkins have begun an equally compelling comedy sideshow in 2009 on Twitter, where the two comedians carry on a continuous conversation as @Hodgman and @Twitterkins — in between moments of online oneupsmanship, they managed to pose for a photo, which they naturally posted last night on TwitPic. PFT told me after the show that Hodgman turned him onto the 140-characters-or-less mode of communication with friends and fans, and that he realizes that their "private" dialogue is, in essence, another type of performance. But you clicked on this post looking for details, details, details about Best Week Ever, didn't you? Alrighty then. Let's do this thing.
Before that, actually, this side note of news for PFT fans. Mr. Tompkins said he'll be recording his next comedy disc on March 14 at the Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago, so if you'd like to bear witness to that, you shall plan your Ides of March Eve accordingly. Tompkins and Janeane Garofalo also will host a monthly comedy showcase at the 92YTribeca in NYC. OK. Now to matters concerning the network formerly known as Video Hits One.
Hodgman and Tompkins had a running joke last night in which they continued to introduce each other onstage. Cute. Acknowledging his look (as seen in the above photo), Tompkins said at one point, " I thought it'd be appropriate tonight to dress up as Indiana Jones's dad." Before the panel began in earnest silliness, Tompkins, Nice and Benson each did about 10-15 minutes of stand-up, and then they showed a highlight reel of moments that had gotten cut from VH1, as Tompkins said, "because it was too hot to handle…or it was too long!" Among the unaired clips, a bizarre Outside the Actors Studio sketch filmed on the street between PFT and Andy Richter, a recap of the CSI: Miami episode that revolved around a "Doug Benson" (though that did air, as I recall), and PFT's "Yes We Can" music video set to Lindsay Lohan's ill-fitting leggings.
For the panel itself, Hodgman was kind enough to acknowledge and ask questions of the two behind-the-scenes members first. Johnson explained that Mondays and Tuesdays are generally more relaxed days in the office, as they only begin shooting segments on Wednesdays. St. Onge, who coincidentally grew up with Hodgman's cousins, said that she got into comedy through an internship as David Letterman's assistant, pretending to write jokes as Letterman in replying to his fan mail. She also revealed that PFT doesn't know quite how to behave in an office environment. For example: "Paul likes to stand on the file cabinets and yell, 'Beards!'" PFT acknowledged that he does that, and added: "I forget there are other people there that don't work with me." Johnson said the BWE crew does seem to operate within its own little bubble within VH1 until Fridays roll around and they have to deal with the network's standards and practices staff. Which led to this exchange. Hodgman: "Do you feel like you're held to different standards than Tool Academy?" Nice: "Just look at the network!" They then joked about how, in a clip shown during the highlight reel, they were told PFT couldn't crack wise that a kissing moment in a Gossip Girl sexual assault clip was "rapemantic." And St. Onge said that Nice is perhaps too agreeable of a performer, to the point where writers and producers have made it a game to see what outlandish things they can con Nice into doing next week. He has previously drank perfume and stuck his head into a garbage bag filled with cottage cheese, among other things.
During the audience Q-and-A, the audience "ooohed" when one fan asked how BWE competes with The Soup over on E! PFT gamely took the question. "I don't watch it, because I don't want that to be in my brain when we put the show together," he said, though he did acknowledge that of course the shows will cover the same territory from time to time. How could they not both make quips about Obama's inauguration last week? Also, he added: "So far, The Soup is ahead, but I'd like to crush it…in a gentlemanly way."
On the format switch. Johnson said BWE has evolved over the past five years, and "over the years, those sketches became our favorite parts of the show," so they decided to make the half-hour more about written setpieces than the free-for-all snark riffs by comedians. Johnson also had sent out a memo last year asking everyone to adopt a different attitude about the show, in essence making it more of a celebration of moments that amaze and amuse them on TV, and less about just ripping into shows. They all love Mad Men and have a difficult time getting moments from it onto the show. PFT said for other shows they love, such as Lost, sometimes it's not so much about taking the show down than observing and commenting upon an odd moment that happened in that week's episode. To mollify Hodgman, perhaps, PFT brought up Battlestar Galactica, though the audience almost hissed with Hodgman asked how they felt about knowing who the fifth Cylon was — that revelation happened 10 days ago, people. How is that a spoiler? Anyhow. Moving on. It's Wednesday, which means the comedians and the crew have a long day ahead of them preparing a new half-hour to entertain you.