Barry Sobel talks about his new 3 Minute Talk Show with Fred Willard & Ben Lee, produced by Tom Hanks

Perhaps you've noticed the new 3 Minute Talk Show that popped up this year online?

It's from L Studio, the original online webseries arm of Lexus that also distributes Lisa Kudrow's Web Therapy. What makes 3 Minute Talk Show different, aside from the obvious time-limit inherent in its name, is the talent behind it: veteran stand-up Barry Sobel hosts, with Fred Willard as his sidekick, Ben Lee providing the house band, and production coming from Tom Hanks' Playtone house. Hanks even served as the first guest to kick off the online talk show last month. Other guests so far have included Bryan Cranston and Cedric the Entertainer.

Today's guest is The Jonas Brothers, or at least Joe Jonas. Is he the cute one? Roll the clip to get yourself caught up, and then on the flip side, The Comic's Comic has the first interview with Barry Sobel to explain himself!


Here's what Barry Sobel had to tell me about this week's episode: "My favorite episode is the one you are breaking… our guests are “The Jonas Brothers”… Well that’s what I thought ‘til Fred breaks the news that because of budget reasons, we could only afford one Jonas. The joy of the entire show is to sit next to Fred Willard and “play comedy.” I leaned in a second before Joe Jonas walked out and said, “I am going to say you were in a band with Ringo, and I want you to say, yeah but not THAT Ringo..” Take a look at the master Fred Willard at work. This was the very first thing we taped in the entire project. The Joe Jonas interview."

Barry, are you trying to lampoon the idea of a talk show? "Lampoon? More like Spinal Tap it.. I wanted to get the sights, the sounds, and smell of a real Late Night Talk Show, and we got that… But we got a little bit more. 

"Tom (Hanks) really wanted to make sure every element was completely original, like nothing else on any talk show. He told me that on day one, about five minutes before we started shooting. I told him we have a Top Ten-like "Number One Reason,‚Äù A tribute to Johnny‚Äôs ‚ÄúCarnac‚Äù called, ‚ÄúThe Great Lanzini,‚Äù ‚ÄúFunny News,‚Äù Tom‚Äôs counter: no pre-interviews with the guests. It was wild. Me and Fred (Willard), making it all up on the spot, with A-list celebrities in the middle of us. They didn't stand a chance. But, every star was there to play, so each interview is its own little gem. Completely no pressure on anyone… ‚Äòcept me.

In the debut episode, Tom Hanks acknowledges that you and he go all the way back to the movie Punchline. How have you guys managed to stay friends this long?  "Tom has taken me to hockey games for years. On his 50th birthday he took me, along with Ron Howard and Dennis Miller, on a rock 'n roll tour bus across the country, on a seven-day, seven-city tour of the greatest baseball stadiums. It was the funnest time of my life. Then when it was over, he invited me to go back with him on his plane, to NYC to see yet another game at Yankee Stadium. I can't take ME that much… But I think Tom sees something in me, I don't see in myself. He is the producer of this show and on the first day of production one of my spies overheard some guy ask him why he is making this show, he was behind the monitor and he yelled, "I always thought this guy was ‚Äòeffing funny." Tom is the greatest friend I have ever had."

So Hanks wants you to live out your talk-show dreams now, too? "While in development of my cartoon at Playtone called ‚ÄúCartoon03,‚Äù Gary Goetzman, Tom‚Äôs partner and a genius, remembered my love for talk shows. I had also just had another talk show pilot over at VH1, that I hosted called ‚ÄúOld School.‚Äù We bring back everyone in the history of entertainment and treat them with the respect and reverence they deserve. Wrong Network. So Tom and Gary, created with an environment where stars can drop by, eat great food, hang out, promote their projects, and have a blast, all in a few minutes‚Ķ literally., who is in the business of only groundbreaking content became our perfect home. This is an original world, a real talk show, we created completely for the a.d.d generation of the Web."

Ben Lee provides your band and performs the theme song as well as walk-on music. How did you hook up with him, and how much input did you have in the songs? 

"Years ago I went to Benway Music in Venice Beach, my record store, to see Ben Lee who was doing an "IN-Store" performance. Afterward he autographed his new C.D., "to the kid on 227." So, last year I had been doing a weekly stand-up show in L.A, and I had my friend Margaret Cho on it. She was doing a record, produced by Ben Lee who, I don‚Äôt want to brag, but was already one of my Facebook friends. I ‚Äúreached out to him‚Äù on The Facebook, and I told him I wanted him to be my Paul Shaffer. We met at my office and it was awesome.  I said we should do some sort of theme song like, "It's a 3 minute show, you know one of those.. Its three, four, five minutes… You know how it goes." Explaining, this way, in our opening we would be telling people although it‚Äôs a 3 minute show there is no time limit. You know how it goes!.. A few days he was in Ireland, he sent me the song. It was perfect. It set the tone. Words and music by Sobel and Lee. The only other song I am credited with is the smash rap hit, from Revenge of the Nerds II: "NO ON 15."

"Then I asked him if he could do some sample music for the guests. Playing me the tracks from Ireland, I listened, while I was driving in the car on the 405 to a gig. They were all so amazing and funny, it was the first time in the production process I started to realize, just how special this project was going to be. I owe a lot to Ben. Ben is golden."

Did you know that among comedy fans and comedians, that movie, Punchline, can draw some fairly strong opinions out of them, either for loving what it did for stand-up comedy or hating how it portrayed the business. How do you think it stacks up now? "First let me mention before you even say the words "lockers," that Punchline was not a documentary. If we look back now, I think Punchline, might have been ahead of its time. Isn't the focal point of the movie about a "comedy contest on TV, that's completely exploitive, where the most talented people lose?‚Äù Maybe it is a documentary."

It sounds as though you shot these talk shows in a warehouse. Was there a real studio audience? "Sean, please hold all compliments to the end… A warehouse?!  Closer to a Fish Market. Let's say for argument sake, the Santa Monica Fish Market. As the show is "Live from Planet Earth," I cannot disclose the whereabouts of the location we shot it at. Yes of course there were ‚Äòreal‚Äô people in the audience…Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, the Playtone family, The Playtone Galaxy of Stars. My two writers, Shawn and Rob, who laugh. My assistant Kevin, who likes comedy… Oh, it was real Sean!"

You said Tokyo Police Club got bumped from the first show. Is that a running gag, or did they really get bumped? "This was an idea from the beginning. The show is speedy quick, and of course the comedy causality, is that people will be bumped. And every bump is super-fun as each star gets to decide how they want to play it. Tokyo Police Club you will see "sent in" their bump, and filmed it on their own. So they were bumped from Canada. TPC are so cool, they shot a separate song that ends with me cutting them off with the drummer Greg, practically crying. They really came through for me.

"As did my idol and friend, Robin, who I asked if he could shoot something where he Robin Williams‚Äô it up, joke after joke and eventually we run out of time and have to cut him off. It really blew me away Robin did that for me. So generous. My best buddy, Jimmy Fallon, sent in something very cool. More friends came through for me than I knew I had. Ironically I did what is everyone's favorite expression, ‚Äòreach out to people.‚Äô So I made up a piece "Reaching Out to Us." The computer 'rings,' and someone appears, as if they need my help for time on my Internet Show, to promote their work. Ben Lee sings, ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre reaching out to us and that‚Äôs a long way to reach.‚Äù

You hinted earlier that in the theme song, you're not exactly reined in by a three-minute limit? ‚ÄúThe 3 Minute Talk Show with Barry Sobel,‚Äù is the title of the show. It‚Äôs just the title, but the show we feel runs like a locomotive, and you never want it to end. It feels like it's three minutes. That‚Äôs what we hope we achieved. To me every moment is precious. I learned from Johnny Carson that the guest is the star of the show. Now, that I got my own, I try to go one better, the show is the star.

What funny things happened during the tapings that were too funny to make it into the show? "Some of my monologue jokes…and who can I see about that? Especially these favorites: ‚ÄúHow bout that cash for gold? Am I right? You can really make a lot of money with that, the only problem is… You need GOLD!!! How ‚Äòbout that Obama, am I right? They made fun of him because he didn‚Äôt know who Snooki was, because he didn't watch the Jersey Shore. Hey, he didn't even watch the Louisiana Shore! How ‚Äòbout that Rahm Emanuel, am I right? He quit as Chief of Staff, fulfilling a boyhood dream. You see ever since he was a kid he dreamed that one day there would be a black President, and that he would fail him. Actually we will be on iTunes and those might make it back in. Let‚Äôs call this, I am hoping, a preview."

How many more episodes are there? "An entire season, 15 total. Plus, the two-part season finale cliffhanger. And of course there is a Christmas Special, ‚ÄúThe Reunion Episode,‚Äù ‚ÄúThe Live Episode‚Äù, ‚ÄúThe Best Of,‚Äù ‚ÄúThe Best of the Music from The 3 Minute Talk Show with Barry Sobel,‚Äù and a very special one hour ‚ÄúEverything Fred‚Äù‚Ķ So how many is that?"

You close by saying: "This is your show. Fight for it!" Elaborate, please? "Well all I can say to anyone reading this.. This IS your show.. Fight for it!"

Barry Sobel in Concert 2010What‚Äôs next for Barry Sobel? "I am going on a worldwide stand-up tour. ‚ÄúI CANT DO NO MORE TOUR 2011,‚Äù For booking info please contact Rob Juarez at Thanks Sean, this is your interview, fight for it!"

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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