Tuesday, July 31, 2012

'About Face'

"Getting old isn’t for sissies.” Betty Davis

With the popularity of plastic surgery among movie stars, singers and models alike, one could surmise, given Betty's belief,  our pop icons are a bunch of wimpy sissies. In an effort to stave off quiet phones, lack of work, and the competition of younger, sexier nobodies coming up behind them, they have a little Botox here, some filler there, holding up their famous faces long enough until the turkey neck and jowls start to wiggle and the big knife is employed to slash away the years imprinted on their face. 

They see the grim reaper coming down the hill, but when all is said, done and healed, they end up looking like the crypt keeper rather than a younger version of themselves.

There is irony to this, as beautifully revealed in last night's HBO premiere of About Face, a fascinating look into some of the most ravishing models of our time, who've bypassed the nip and tuck, and embraced their maturity. Produced by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, this documentary features some of  the original super models:  Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Kim Alexis, Beverly Johnson, Carol Alt, Marisa Berenson to name a few. As their experiences are told in remembrances of parties, rock stars, cocaine use, exploitation and bad self images, they discuss overcoming the trappings of fame, professional adversity due to race, and how age has finally made them more comfortable in their own skin.

This isn't just a profile on the modeling profession as we know it. It's an insider look at the history of modelling. China Machado recalls her days on the runway in the 50's when fashion shows were all business, filled with buyers, magazines and ladies who lunched, as she walked the catwalk without a smile. It wasn't about mystique. It was about the clothes. Being one of the first Asian models in the field, Richard Avedon adored her, but once said she'd never be in demand because of her race. Beverly Johnson, the first African American model to grace the cover of Vogue, speaks of the hardships of breaking through when a model wasn't a magazine editor's concept of the ideal. 

There isn't a model in the bunch who doesn't have a gnarly story. They were exploited and starved until family members couldn't recognize them. Their perfect body parts were dissected and judged by editors, photographers and agents right within earshot. Some model's pretty noses snorted the finest cocaine. Others lived on pills, booze, Studio 54, rock stars, the high life of Paris, Milan, New York, London, Paris, and parties, parties, parties.. But, as these lovelies left their 20's and entered their 30's, the new wave of up and coming young ones began to phase them out. Isabella Rosalini, once the face of Lancome and an A-lister at the chicest of chic parties, speaks frankly and with great humor about how, when she approached 40, the cosmetic company decided to go younger, despite the target market was of the same age. The reason? They aren't selling Lancome products to middle aged women, they are selling the concept of youth.

It would have been nice to have seen some of the famous British models who emulated the swinging 60's  such as Patti Boyd, Twiggy or Jean Shrimpton (who didn't even answer Greenfield-Sanders calls). As a George Harrison fan, I've always admired Boyd's ability to be fresh faced and adorable as she maintained the fashion image of the British invasion while being in the inner sanctum (and bed) of Rock and Roll royalty.

Although the models featured, mostly untouched by the surgeon's hand, have admitted they'd have some work done when the time comes, it's refreshing to hear these women, once known as a visual sexy presence rather than a vocal one, now wives and mothers, speak their strength today.  Some of them, such as the stunning, elegant Dell Orefice (pictured above), another model I've admired, are still in demand, extolling the concept of elegant, grace, and beauty of age.

About Face is currently airing on HBO. View your listings for available times.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Comic Con Nugget

The cast of NTSF:SD:SVU and Childrens' Hospital at Comic Con with an audience of devotees. And a dummy in the middle.

Jerry Lewis Sings Dylan

The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival is in full swing, and my thoughts turn to the funny people from Canada who've given us supreme comedy over the years.

Thanks to Brian Stack, writer and performer on Conan, who posted this hilarious old video taped gem from SCTV on Facebook today.

Here is Martin Short as Jerry Lewis singing Bob Dylan's greatest hits.

Enjoy Your New Paul Rudd Screensaver

Perfect for your home office or at work! (Well, with the sound off. It's verbally NTSF.)

And sorry. The preceding commercial is not part of the screensaver. Disappointing, I know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jon Hamm Goes Back in Time

Image Credit: Darren Michaels
Jon Hamm will re-appear in the upcoming season of the Emmy nominated Childrens' Hospital as an old timey man of the 1930's. The episode, according to EW,  involves Dr. Downs (Rob Corddry) and Dr. Maestro traveling back in time to uncover the identity of  hospital P.A. announcer Sal Viscuso (voice over performed by Michael Cera).

Hamm has already appeared on the Adult Swim series as Derek Childrens, the illegitimate son of the hospital's founder, who in an absurd way, exists undercover as Dr. Valerie Flame, played by Malin Akerman. Yes, the lady is really a dude.

Childrens' Hospital premieres on August 9th at Midnight, followed by the season premiere of NTSF:SD:SVU.

Also, check out Childrens' Hospital Season 3 on DVD - just released and available on Amazon. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Belle & Bernice: Livin' in the City - New Restaurant

The latest funny web short series. From Sue Galloway (30 Rock) and Neil Casey, two of my favorite people from the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC, have created something very weird. Belle & Bernice are two sisters in the Big Apple, ready to go out on the town...with some cajoling.

Subscribe to see future episodes.

Thought Bubble...on 'The Mindy Kaling Project' and Funny Ladies

The Television Critics Association (TCA) summer conference is in full swing, and plenty of interesting tweets are emerging from the scrum of press and critics alike. Fox held their panel today, with a Q&A featuring head programming executive Kevin Reilly to talk about the state of his network and the upcoming season at hand. Of course, there was chatter over American Idol bringing on Mariah Carey and the various programming issues they face as the other networks muscle up with comparable programming that could threaten their ratings.

One interesting tidbit came through the Twitter feed from Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan (@moryan) whose insightful views on television and the events that promote them have always been among my daily "must-reads". It was an incredulous reaction to a moment that went down like a lead balloon, and made me wish I could be there to feel the heavy air. She discussed it in her column, which can be read by clicking this link.

When Reilly was asked about the lack of women in television, he was stumped.

"I'm not certain how to answer your question," he said. "I've never really had that issue put to me before."

Although studios don't hire production staff and show runners, it doesn't excuse the fact that as an executive, he could have answered the question with some sense of understanding. Although there are some women who handle producer and writing credits, we are always in need of more Shonda Rhimes, Mary Tyler Moores, Tina Feys, Darlene Hunts and  Elizabeth Meriwethers in the TV (and film) world.

However, I was surprised to find that Mindy Kaling, who will be seen this coming Fall in her own single camera comedy, The Mindy Project, has mostly employed dudes to write words for the show. There's apparently only one women on the writing staff. Now, of course male comedy writers are people too. In fact, I really dig them. But if Kaling, a female comedy writer who got her break very young, had paid back the universe for putting Greg Daniels in the room at the right time, plus encouraged the producers to include more ladies in the mix, perhaps I wouldn't be so pissed. After all, if Conan's boys club of writers are needed in order to capture his male voice, why can't more ladies be hired on that staff  for Mindy? If we are going to be watching a smart, intelligent doctor by day, fall to pieces as a head case with boyfriend issues, wouldn't it be better coming from a think tank of funny females? Or does she need to be surrounded by a roomful of boys thinking of ways to make her adorably tragic?

Yes, there is a boom on funny ladies lately.  New Girl, Two Broke Girls, BFFs, and Mindy's show. But the playing field is still unbalanced, and the showrunners who can propel prime time comedy are mostly handled by men. Can't we change that a bit?  Sadly, we women who want to write comedy and don't, may be the problem. And we struggle with this. Believe me. Regrets, I've had a few....dozen.

The reality might be that many female writers and potential producers don't step up to the plate because they cancel themselves out before they've even begun. I heard this at The Del Close Marathon last month, and I've heard it from legends like Merrill Markoe and Liz Winstead. Men do want to see more women in the comedy work force. UCB founders Matt Besser and Ian Roberts, themselves writers and producers of comedy, would love to see more women out there, but they aren't out there in droves.  Men out-number women in comedy writers rooms because women feel the odds are stacked against them, so they don't step up and show the powers that be what they've got.

You don't see as many ladies in improv Harold teams as you do men, because why bother when it's a boys club?  Women who write jokes and create comedy packets for the late night shows keep it to themselves rather than submit it to that producer on The Daily Show because it will get lost in the fray. It will be thrown in a pile marked "Not Ivy League School Graduate". In fact, so many talented ladies who could have been the next Tina Fey sit at their computers, write blogs and slog away at a day job thinking: "Why bother? Not only is there a boys club who won't read my material, there are actually women who might not give another lady a chance." Plus, theres's that one big magilla of fear: "Maybe I'm not that funny?"

Diversity programs at the WGAWest, NBC Universal and Warner Bros were created to allow a way for those of various race, sexual orientation or gender a step up in getting a chance to fill a spot on the writing staff of a prime time show. The competition is fierce, but then again, the whole process of even getting noticed by a producer is filled with banging your head against walls, and having your foot slammed by closing doors.

What is the point of this thought bubble of a blog post? Frustration. Frustration in myself. Frustration in not being able to write anymore. Frustration in that I'm not writing well anymore. (This posting might be an example). Frustration that I should have plugged away at writing that spec script and compiling work for a writing package years ago by not worrying about what the boys say.  It's not to say my brand of comedy writing would have really stood out, but who knows? It's possible I am one of the many women who could have made a difference in the television landscape if I didn't say "screw it".

For those of us who've held ourselves back - imagine: We might not be discussing the lack of female writers and arguing the case of women not being funny, brought up by certain men who are not funny.  Kevin Reilly wouldn't have been stumped by a question that reflects a major conversation going on in entertainment right now. I wouldn't be moaning about Mindy Kaling's lack of lady writers on her staff, or the fact I don't think she's written a funny thing since The Office, season two "The Injury" episode.

Imagine if we had the nerve, if we just believed in ourselves enough to make someone else believe in us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Comic Con Spawned Some Panels: Adult Swim Favorites

Comic Con is over. I didn't go. In fact, I'll probably never be able to attend since tickets get sold early in the year before I can even think of SDCC, and the idea of being committed to hotel bookings so far in advance is nuts to me. But if you were there and missed the cast of Childrens' Hospital, Adult Swim provides.  The new season of Childrens' premieres on August 9th at midnight.  The cast took the stage for some Q&A during the conference. 

NSTF:SD:SVU, the hard hitting, gut busting answer to all procedural cop dramas will return on the same night, same channel after Childrens' Hospital. Here's the NTSF cast at SDCC.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tom Davis

Tom Davis passed away today at the age of 59. He was one half of the legendary SNL comedy duo 'Franken and Davis'. I was unaware that he was suffering from tonsorial squamous cell carcinoma. In other words, he had head and neck cancer.

As Al Franken became a political pundit and Senator from Minneapolis, Davis remained in the background, helping out with the Ghostbusters III script and working on a book. However, drug addiction was his nemesis, and Davis spent three years in rehab.

He posted his feelings about his illness last month online, eloquently musing on his life and own death.

Rest in peace, Mr. Davis. You gave this child of the 70's something to stay up way past her bedtime for.

Source: NYTimes.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hey Girl...Whatcha Doing?

Getting psyched for the return of Fox's New Girl. Season two premeires September 25th.

Monday, July 16, 2012

If Saul Goodman's Comb Over Could Speak...

...what would it say? Would it speak of how this dastardly attorney got into the game of ambulance chaser who promises legal aid to tax dodgers, bail runners, parking ticket violators and pimply drug dealers? What made him such a sleaze bucket? And how about the meth head underlings of the Mexican drug cartel? What secrets have they shared in return for favors Saul has used to get Walt out of a tight spot? We could find out if  Breaking Bad's Saul Goodman, the snakey lawyer from Hades, gets his own spin off.

Saul is so slithery, corrupt and crooked, he leaves a visable oil stain from Albuquerque to Juarez. He's also, in a very dark way, hilarious. Comedian Bob Odenkirk has created one of the most enjoyable and lovable weasels, sparked by the brain of Breaking Bad's mastermind (and showrunner) Vince Gilligan.

According to EW, Gilligan is only in the thinking stage of this possible new show. Here's a quote from their website.

“I would love to see a Saul Goodman spin-off show when it’s all said and done,” Gilligan tells EW. “I think that would present itself pretty nicely, storywise. While Breaking Bad is by design a show that is finite and limited in its scope — it’s a story of transformation that cannot go on forever — I think a Saul Goodman show could have great legs. I love the idea of a lawyer who will do anything to avoid going to court. He’s always going to settle on the courthouse steps.” Gilligan cautions that the Saul spin-off is just in the idea stage at this point. And he issues an all-important caveat, given that the writers are currently constructing the second half of the last season: “No viewer should breathe a sigh of relief that Saul won’t expire by the end of Breaking Bad,” he says. “Everything is on the table… Who knows where Breaking Bad will take us?” (Asked about the possibility of a Saul-centric series, Odenkirk seconds: “Saul has got to survive this show first.” He adds with a quip: “And if he doesn’t, then maybe it can be done as a prequel.”)

Let's hope this happens! It would make saying goodbye to Breaking Bad a little easier when Walt shuffles off in the second half of the final season, due to air next summer.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

'Breaking Bad' Season 5 Premieres Tonight

Photo by Ursula Coyote/AMC
Sunday nights are going to be exhilarating again. Jaws will drop and hearts will race.  Breaking Bad, the fifth and final season (stretched out over two seasons, really) begins tonight on AMC at 10pm ET.

With Gus Fring dead, and Walter White's transformation into the mythical Heisenberg complete, it could be a case of "heavy is the head that wears the crown" for this new drug Kingpin. Walt still has Hank on prowl. His wife Skyler now fears him. Jessie's own ambition and fight for survival could come into play.  We've seen Walt outsmart the most cunning, evil mastermind of the drug cartel. In order for him to survive, he'll have to be five steps ahead of those who are out to get him, while living the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Unless Cancer kills him first.

Here's a sneak peek at what we can expect:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'Sleepwalk with Me'

When I was in college, one of my roommates was a sleepwalker. She'd awake from a nap at four the in afternoon to answer a call, have a full blown conversation with her friend Phyllis about going out that night,  hang up, fall back asleep, and not remember the discussion at all when Phyllis came by to pick her up.

Once, late a night, I was in our living room watching Letterman. My roomie came down the stairs with her beloved ET beach towel, walked pass me wordlessly, ignored my question "Are you gonna watch Letterman?", went straight to the coat closet, opened the sliding door and draped the towel over our hung coats, as if to display the beauty that was Spielberg's and Michael Jackson's favorite space alien. She patted and primped the towel just right, revealing the beloved creature and his glowing finger. Then, she turned around, walked passed me and went right back upstairs leaving the closet door open to view the product of this weird encounter. I don't remember if I didn't care, or my interest in what I was watching distracted me, but I shrugged and went back to watching television.

Ten minutes passed, and I could hear her once again, trundling back down the stairs, but this time when she arrived in the living room, she was alert and talkative.  

"Hey! Watching Dave? Whose on?" said my roomie.

Now, I was confused. The previous ET towel closet unveiling and her dead demeanor while doing it was already out of mind. But her 180 degree turn in disposition threw me. And that damn giant ET was hung like a R.E.M poster.

"Why did you come down here and put your ET beach towel over there?"  I said pointing over at the closet.

"What? What do you mean?" 

As I began to tell her about the ET encounter, she knew what happened. She was in the midst of  another round of zombie sleepwalking. As more episodes occurred, my other roommates and I became wise to it, and tried to protect her when we saw the signs. If she was tying her Culture Club cassettes to her feet to use them as ice skates - she was sleepwalking. If she was washing laundry in her bedroom (the laundry room was down the street - the nearest sink - in the bathroom), she was sleepwalking.  As long as we were there, she was safe. We also came to the conclusion that sleepwalking with friends to safeguard you was better than accidentally spraying oneself in the eyes with bug spray - which she did - more than once.

Comedian Mike Birbiglia appeared on Ira Glass' This American Life a few years ago to talk about his epic battle with sleepwalking. At the time, his one man show Sleepwalk With Me was an off-Broadway hit at the Bleecker Street Theater, and his book Sleepwalk with Me & Other Painfully True Stories debuted at 29 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. He spoke of the intensity of this disorder, how it would make him do life threatening things, walk anywhere, do anything, until one night, he actually hurt himself. As you can imagine, as a comedian with a sleep disorder, these experiences created terrific storytelling.

And...also the narrative for a film.  Directed by and starring Mike Birbiglia,  Sleepwalk With Me is an autobiographic pic that loosely illustrates Mike's life (in the guise of character Matt Pandamiglio) in his twenties, stressed out and worried about whether or not he should marry his longtime girlfriend. This anxiety is worked out through his sleepwalking episodes and through reality itself. It's produced by Ira Glass and co-stars Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane with appearances by Marc Maron, Kirstin Schaal, Wyatt Cynac and David Wain. The film won the Best of Next Audience Award at Sundance, and screened at SXSW. IFC has picked up theatrical distribution rights as well.

I'm not one of the lucky ones who have seen this film yet, but just looking at the trailer makes one hope this becomes a late summer sleeper hit.  It looks charming, funny and fascinating.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Todd Barry "Super Crazy"

If you've ever watched Bored to Death, Flight of the Conchords ("I play the bongos") or the FX hit Louie, you've seen Todd Barry. Deadpan and dry, with a soft spoken deamanor, Barry's band of humor is unique with a burn that feels right. In fact, he so lovably strange, he played himself in Adult Swim's Delocated during scenes involving the Russian mafia's most hilarious and violently weird moments.

Todd Barry is bringing his brand of bizarre this month with the release of his new DVD Super Crazy, to be released July 24th.  Performed at New York's Gramercy Theater, Todd will contemplate travel tips, spaghetti and his aversion to germs ( which I hope puts Howie Mandel to shame because his case of germophobia which promotes fist bumps is getting tired). As a preamble to the release, Comedy Central will air the Super Crazy July 21st at 11pm.

Watch it! Pre-order the DVD!  And check out Todd's website for tour dates and other details of his life at www.toddbarry.comhttp://www.toddbarry.com/.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mister Rogers Goes to Washington

Recently, PBS Digital produced an auto tuned version of the wisdom of Fred Rogers called The Garden of Your Mind. It was produced by John D. Boswell, (aka Melodysheep) and went viral within days, re-creating moments from Mister Rogers' Neighbohood, when he talked about being afraid, how we are all different, and how healthy curiosity fertilizes one's imagination. Food for thought is important, after all.

If you grew up watching this friendly neighbor and his land of 'Make Believe', the strangeness of auto tunes forming his voice into a melodic, breezy song might be a bit eerie. As a child who grew up with Mister Rogers and adored him, I found it refreshing, and a reminder of the important work he did through the medium of television. Mister Rogers was a kid's therapist, an un-intimidating grown up who worked with a child one on one, through the camera, to gently explain that they were special, that he liked them for who they were, no matter how different or scared they might be in this world.

What would it have been like if Mister Rogers never existed, or if Sesame Street never made it past its first few years or teaching? What if The Electric Company never happened? Or Barney and Clifford were never born? These sad notions could have been a very real reality today if Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian Pastor, father of two boys, and student of child psychology in broadcasting had not raised his voice to the powers that be, and helped paved the way for PBS' brand of children's programming to continue to grow.

Back in 1969 a $20 million dollar grant proposed by former President Lyndon Johnson for the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was in peril. President Nixon wanted funding cut in half, which would have effected PBS' education output. Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications to plead the cast for Public Broadcasting. Like a cool, collected Jimmy Stewart, he sat within the formidable marbled walls of the Senate as no-nonsense Senator Pastore (D) chaired the hearing. With grace, calm and straight forwardness, he almost made Pastore break down in tears.

Needless to say, Mr. Rogers won the day, and the CPB received the funding to produce important childrens programming, including Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, for generations to come.

When Fred Rogers passed away in 2003, he left an indelible legacy. How wonderful to leave having made such a difference in this world.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July! 'Big Ange' Is Coming!

July 4th might be a day of celebration, but in my house July 8th is cause for drinking and lighting sparklers. For that day marks the premiere of Big Ange on VH1.

If you've ever watched Mob Wives, you know about its biggest (and I mean biggest) breakout star 'Big Ange' Raiola. This lady is hilarious, genuine, loyal to friends and wiseguys alike. But most of all, Ange, manager of Staten Island's The Drunken Monkey, loves to party!

The pick up of Ange's show is not a surprise. The multiple hits this blog has received when discussing the lady proves there are fans-a-plenty fascinated by this outrageous and hilarious wiseguy companion. Why? Ange has a checkered past, but harbors no ill will, no judgement and holds lots of love for life and the people around her. And yeah, she has a look that is incredible to believe. What I'm trying to say is - she has big boobs and looks that makes one pause for double takes. She's awesome pulled up in a GGGG bra. Go Ange!

Big Ange premieres on VH1 July 8th. Check it out!

July 15th: Get Ready

Breaking Bad premieres July 15th at 10pm.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Del Close Marathon: "Yes, And..." Saturday

Saturday was a blur of Improv teams continuing the Del Close love by yes-and-ing and creating beats at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Hudson Guild, and Urban Stages. Over at the new UCBEast, among a massive line up of more teams, Matt Besser brought his show Improv4Humans from the podcast waves to the new stage in Alphabet City.

But as the day turned to night, I found myself back at the SVA Theater for Gravid Water - one of the most popular and incredible regular shows at The Upright Citizens Brigade in both New York and Los Angeles. The show couples improvisors with actors, and it goes like this:  The actor has memorized a legit play, and the improvisor, who hasn't seen the script or the play, will react to the scripted lines with improvised dialogue. It's a unique way of using "the game" to create a whole new level of improv. Plus, it can get absolutely insane.

Saturday's line up included Adam Pally and Julie Sharbutt who worked off the play Jailbait. Michael O'Brien and Tami Sagher did Sister of the Winter Madrigal. Jonathan Kaplan and John Lutz performed Painting X's on the Moon. Finally, Matt Walsh and Sandy Rustin enacted a scene from I Used to Write on Walls. Brilliant moments from Pally and Cross as their clueless off-the-cuff reaction to written dialogue propelled the action on stage in moments of genius.

With not much else to do but say "screw it" and wait on the long line at UCB, I headed over to the main place and eventually got in for the pre-midnight shows. This meant, that with the 12:00 Midnight theatre cleaning, where everyone gets kicked out and made to wait back on the long, long, line  outside. Leaving at midnight to face a mile long wait meant that I wasn't getting into The Benson Interruption, Match Game 76, and Sex In the City for Dudes. Oh well. The sadness is - the holy grail of DCM is Match Game; however, with  no Jack McBrayer again this year being degraded in hilarious good sportsmanship as the contestant all the faux celebrities love to hate, it's just not the same.

So, as mentioned, I made it in time for pre-midnight improv. Within that time block I saw the amazing NYC team The Chairman ...

...and ended my night with Ben Schwartz and his team Snowpants, a second performance for the weekend that was indeed a "sausage fest" but with the best sausages around: Schwartz, Walsh, Besser, Roberts, Adam Pally and Gil Ozeri.
The Del Close Marathon of 2012 ended for me that evening. Sunday was a busy day filled with catching up with friends and family before I headed back to Los Angeles. There were so many teams I would loved to have seen from around the nation and the globe. I didn't get to attend the regular shows Death by Roo Roo, Law Firm, The Stepfathers, The NY Mets Monoscene or Wicked Fuckin' Queeyah. I even missed Amy Poehler in ASSSSCAT.  But there will be new line ups, new teams and new scenes next year. And The Upright Citizens Brigade puts on the best shows in the world all year 'round.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Del Close Marathon 14 Weekend: Friday - "Spread the Love of Improv"

The 14th Annual Del Close Marathon happened this weekend in hot, sticky NYC at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. What would a 72 hour, non-stop cavalcade of improv groups from around the country and beyond, locked underground in a dark, leaky theater be without the temperature rising to 90 degrees and humidity clinging to your lungs? It might be uncomfortable waiting in the sun for hours just to watch Del Close's technique of The Harold unfold in that dank space, but it's worth the wait when you get into the theater and funny magic occurs.

As much as I admire the UCB, lack of time and the worry of heat stroke meant that I could only attend some shows - mostly the performances that were off site at the School of Visual Arts Theater a few blocks away. Here's an overview of some of the hilarity I encountered during the weekend starting with...

 Friday, June 29th: Press Conference: "Andy Dick is a Force of Nature"

The marathon kicked off at the Friday press conference with co-founders Matt Besser,  Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts greeting bloggers and journalists with an interactive audience discussion regarding how many people have been hit on by Andy Dick. Now, I've been in a few ASSSSCAT audiences where the guys kick off this survey - both in New York and L.A. - and in one given group of people, no matter on what side of America I've been, there are always at least 10 random attendees who've been sexually harassed by Mr. Dick.  Second in line in the pantheon of shag predator is funnily enough - Jeff Goldblum, a virtual dark horse in this race - who has come up from behind, as another celebrity whose strange encounters with regular humans are so prevelent, that in one given space, at least three people have a "Jeff Goldblum Hit on Me" story.

The DCM already started off on a different foot when the event itself was held earlier in the year than usual. Always a late July - August perennial, there was speculation among the bloggers and media present that June was an amiable time for the L.A. UCBers who are unable to attend due to late summer production schedules. Not so, as per Besser, Roberts and Walsh. It turns out that various venues, such as FIT, where other improv shows are held, were simply not available later this summer, hence the early dates. Even co-founder Amy Poehler, who hasn't attended the DCM press conference since I've been going, was unable to attend most of the weekend despite the early dates, since she is currently filming a movie. She did, however, participate in the ASSSSCAT show at FIT on Sunday, and also joined the other founders to record commentary for the upcoming season three DVD of their cult TV show Upright Citizens Brigade due to be released this Fall.

The conference continued and ladies in comedy was discussed. The usual questions were asked, spurned by the many controversial commentaries of late, on how men out number women in comedy.  Besser mentioned that women are always welcome in comedy, it's just that more men then women pursue it. (However, cries of "Sausage Fest!" hit the Instagram and Twitter feeds during Ben Schwartz's all boys show Snowpants.)
Also mentioned were how podcasts are killing it on the internet now, with members and friends of the UCB creating off the cuff, Improv shows that are going from streaming to television such as Comedy Bang Bang. Yet, as Besser, Walsh and Roberts mentioned, the beauty of the podcast is its outreach. Comedy fans who don't live in L.A. or New York are able to share the experience.

The nitty gritty of Improv was dissected as they discussed what "Working on the top of your intelligence means", what truly is "the game" and how a new wave of ironic detachment has swept the internet where impassive viewing of people doing dumb things for laughs is seeping into the comedy culture. Del would shed tears in his grave if he knew.

When Del was on his last few days on earth, Poehler, Besser, Walsh and Roberts were in the midst of filming Upright Citizens Brigade for Comedy Central. As he lay dieing in hospital room, Close decided to invite all his friends and students in one big goodbye party. They UCB Four asked their film crew to come along and document the event. It was here where he told them to "spread the love of improvisation".

Del Close is the Hare Krishna of comedy. He's the Guru of modern day, unhacky, intelligent and even super dumb laughs. For every SNL sketch, every funny movie, every single camera sitcom that has succeeded and made you snort- from John Belushi to Mike Meyers, from Gilda Radner to Tina Fey, from Will Farrell to Andy Sandberg - Del Close's technique of "Yes And...", "Follow the Fear" and every technique that unleashes organic, unforced comedy seen in humor today is linked to him. That is why his life is celebrated. If you love today's comedy, you have Del Close to thank.

Post Press Conference: And the Fun Begins: 

The weekend officially opened with Bangarang, one of the greatest super groups of Improv at UCB Los Angeles.  Now, there are no stars in Improv. It's an equal opportunity comedy show. Everyone helps to create a scene, heighten it, and then support each other so nothing falls through the cracks. But two words...BETSY SODARO!  This lady is a hilarious, odd, lovely funny lady who is a show stopper.

Doppleganger. Now, here's something you don't see very often in comedy. Three African American woman in an Improv group. This is pure bliss. These ladies are refreshing, hilarious, talented, brilliant women who are just as tight, foul mouthed and amazing as any dude out there. They should be given their own comedy show on Adult Swim or IFC. NOW!

I missed the hilarious team Stepfathers. Everyone was buzzing
on how their set was mind blowing. Their Improv was based on the suggestion "Rewind". They proceeded to create scenes that in turn went backwards to the beginning.  Ugh! That sounds amazing! Drats! However, I did see 30 Rock stars Scott Adsit and John Lutz perform their Improv act at SVA which was a mix of hilarity and heart. (Leave it to Adsit to provide those lovely emotional pauses, and Lutz to provide a zinger.)

The Chris Gethard Show is a public Manhattan access cable show originally performed at the UCB.  Gethard's weird gathering of odd people boarding on circus freaks is always interesting. I've enjoyed the program as it streams on the web Wednesday nights, but Friday night's show felt like a mixture of surreal wonder and a line up of camp activities at a Chuck e Cheese for Improv hipsters.  I've seen playgrounds more mellow than this show. But, there were balloons for all, and I didn't get hit by one of the exercise balls contestants threw at Gethard's crotch while he stood atop two garbage bins. WIN!

And as the glow-in-the-dark neck hoops, thrown from Gethard's nutty parade of weirdos,  faded out,  so did my Friday night.

Phew!  I need a breather. Next up, my Saturday!