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Talking To Paul F. Tompkins

2014 has been a busy year for Paul F. Tompkins so far. He's starring in an ABC sitcom pilot opposite Molly Shannon and hosting the web chat series Speakeasy, Fusion's political puppet show No, You Shut Up!, the podcast/live show Dead Authors, and his Largo live show Varietopia. I recently caught up with Tompkins on the set of Speakeasy to talk about the plethora of projects he has going, being hoodwinked by an Ice-T impersonator, and Mr. Show's upcoming 20th anniversary.

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The Beginner's Guide To 'Trailer Park Boys'

Last month, Netflix announced that the Canadian comedy series Trailer Park Boys is returning for an eighth and ninth season on the streaming network after a seven-year hiatus. While the show became a big hit in Canada, it has yet to gain the same level of superfandom down in the States, but that might be about to change with the arrival of new seasons and, as of yesterday, the availability seasons 1-7 on Netflix Instant. Whether you're unfamiliar with the series or a diehard TPB fan, here's a brief guide to Mike Clattenburg's misfit Canadian world of the ex-cons, weed-growers, and kitty lovers of Sunnyvale.

For the uninitiated, [...]

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Talking with Hannibal Buress About 'Broad City,' Preparing for Onscreen Roles, and His New Standup Special

Hannibal Buress has come a long way from being a writer for SNL and 30 Rock and sometimes a crazy homeless man, enjoying a steady rise to success as both a popular standup and hilarious supporting television player on The Eric Andre Show and more recently Comedy Central's Broad City. His newest Comedy Central project, an hourlong standup special Hannibal Buress: Live From Chicago, airs on the network tomorrow night at midnight, so ahead of its premiere I talked to Buress about how his standup has evolved, his experience acting on Broad City and Seth Rogen's Neighbors, his Comedy Central pilot, the power of "Hannibal's Hands," and how [...]

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Matt Walsh Talks 'Veep' And Stuff

One of the founders of the UCB Theatre and a friendly face in the comedy ecosystem, Matt Walsh returns to TV April 6th when Veep premieres its third season on HBO. In addition to Veep, Walsh has a number of other interesting projects up his sleeve including a role in the found-footage tornado film Into the Storm and David Cross’s directorial debut Hits. Most recently, Walsh turned to Indiegogo to crowdfund A Better You, an improvised film (the writer-director’s second, after High Road in 2011) starring co-writer Brian Huskey as a hypnotherapist in the midst [...]

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Talking to 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Co-Creator Dan Goor

Network TV's best new sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, sure has had a successful first season. In its inaugural year, Brooklyn won two Golden Globes, received an early renewal for a second season, and got to air an episode in the coveted post-Super Bowl slot.

I recently chatted with Brooklyn Nine-Nine's co-creator and showrunner, Dan Goor, who got his start working on The Daily Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien before becoming one of Parks and Recreation's key writers and eventually co-creating Brooklyn Nine-Nine with Parks mastermind Mike Schur. Goor and I discussed the future of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, what makes a good sitcom pilot, and having your [...]

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Billy Eichner's Early Days

Comedian Billy Eichner's hilarious pop culture game show Billy on the Street debuted its third season on cable network Fuse last week, and the show is more popular than ever. The man-on-the-street segments that inspired the show began as YouTube videos that came from a popular live late night show called Creation Nation that Eichner hosted for years in New York. In an interview with us promoting last season of Billy on the Street, Eichner said, "There were lots of other segments on the show that weren't man on the street that people like just as much. This is like the first thing that caught on. I love [...]

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Talking With Jackie Kashian About The Comedy Renaissance

Comedian Jackie Kashian is a little bit of everything in This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux, her hour standup special now out through Al Madrigal and Bill Burr's All Things Comedy. It's Kashian's first and chronicles everything from being a tough but terrified standup in Iraq to a book nerd with a love for grammar jokes and literary references to a video game designer's wife to a comedian who has worked the road for nearly 20 years. She's also fronted the best dork-centric podcast for eight years, opened many times for her friend Maria Bamford, and appeared on Comedy Central Presents, Last Comic Standing, and [...]

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Talking To Thomas Middleditch About 'Silicon Valley'

You're about to see a lot more of Thomas Middleditch in movies and TV. Middleditch got his start as an improviser and sketch actor in Chicago, where he performed at iO, Second City, and was a founding member of The Improvised Shakespeare Company, before moving to New York and then Los Angeles, where he's performed frequently at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. This year, he has both his first lead TV role  (Mike Judge's new HBO series Silicon Valley, which premiered last night) and his first lead role in a major movie (the upcoming Search Party, which he stars in alongside T.J. Miller and Adam Pally).

I recently had [...]

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The Science Of How Comedy Works

Writing about comedy has become a cottage industry in recent years as the swelling popularity of live and online humor has birthed a new audience for comedy journalism, whether it's Jason Zinoman's New York Times pieces or Splitsider's own blow-by-blow reporting on the industry.

But outside of the standup, sketch, and podcast worlds, there's also been a larger, centuries-long search to understand the fundamental nature of humor. It's the sort of quest that electrifies certain comedy nerds while making others wince at the idea of slicing open something as mysterious and subjective as laughter. It also begat E.B. White's famous 1941 quote: "Humor can be dissected, as a frog [...]

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Talking With Fred Armisen

Whenever it seems like Fred Armisen has more than enough projects on his plate, he goes ahead and becomes the new Late Night band curator, or he lands another show on IFC, or he decides to release his fake band songs from SNL through a string of 7" singles. But that advanced level of multitasking is really the secret to Armisen's success, as his spontaneous zen-like approach to his work has led to some of his finest comedic creations, from making web videos with Carrie Brownstein under the moniker ThunderAnt to his commitment to even the most inconsequential gigs, such as dressing up as Penny [...]

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Talking to Todd Barry About His New 'Crowd Work' Special

Todd Barry has a new crowd work standup special coming out on Louis C.K.’s website.

That’s the narrative we’ll be hearing over the next few weeks. Louie and Todd are friends, Louie thinks Todd is funny and offered to produce his special, Louie holds a lot of sway in the comedy world.

Just keep in mind Barry’s special isn’t some run-of-the-mill comedy special C.K. is producing as a favor.

A standup special consisting entirely of audience interactions hasn’t been done before, and Barry is definitely a master of the skill. This is going to be worth checking out.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Barry briefly about [...]

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The Rise Of Local Satire

The following web headlines received hundreds of thousands of views and shut down local Internet servers:

1) “Emirates to Introduce Shisha Lounges Onboard A380 Fleet” in Dubai;

2) “Man Takes Viagra, Wears Sweatpants for TSA Pat Down” in Washington DC;

3) “The Assassination of [London Mayor] Boris Johnson” in London.

Each of them was fake. But none of them was from The Onion, Private Eye or the Harvard Lampoon, some of the famous names in satire writing.

Fake news sites proliferate now, from Mexico’s El Deforma to India’s Unreal Times; from the rural Texas Cockroach to the UK’s popular Daily Mash. Fake news, like regular news, has even become a [...]

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Talking to Morgan Murphy About Comedy

It’s easy to be funny in private. Standup, however, is an entirely different thing. After watching Morgan Murphy effortlessly kill at a packed room at Laugh Factory, it became clear to me why she has been responsible (at least partially) for so much TV comedy. Murphy currently writes and produces the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Before that, she wrote for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (where she was part of the original writing staff), and Crank Yankers and consulted on Human Giant. After over a decade in comedy, Murphy released her first standup special, Irish Goodbye, earlier this year, and I recently chatted with her about [...]

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Chris Elliott's Lost Multi-Camera CBS Family Sitcom

" Playing the father on a CBS multi-camera family sitcom is probably the last thing you'd expect to find Chris Elliott doing, but the beloved comedian gave more conventional TV stardom a shot nearly a decade ago in a failed pilot called You've Reached the Elliotts, which I'll be reviewing in this week's column.

Co-created by Elliott and Rob DesHotel (a writer for That '70s Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other things), the script to You've Reached the Elliotts was written solo by DesHotel, and it was ordered to a pilot for the 2006-07 TV season by CBS. The pilot stars Chris Elliott as "Chris Elliott," a [...]

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Talking To Amy Schumer About Season Two Of 'Inside Amy Schumer'

There were a lot of changes on the writing staff this year. How did that influence the upcoming season? 

We lost two and we gained three and a half-ish. So we still have the same head writer and we did have a bunch of returning writers so it’s one of those things that we have the same energy but with new brains in the room. But everything has to pass through through my sensibility and what makes sense for our show. I don’t think that anyone will notice a drastic shift but I think it’s really strong.

I’ve seen the first three episodes that were screened for critics, [...]

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Talking To Rachael Harris About The Space Between Comedy And Drama

Rachael Harris's most recent appearance in Jason Bateman’s first foray into directing, Bad Words, was brief. Nevertheless, her time on screen occupied some of the funniest moments of the movie. She is largely known for her acerbic, caustic roles in comedy (like as Ed Helms's mean girlfriend in The Hangover) , yet she has also proven herself to be a talented actress in a wide range of roles (like earning awards attention and acclaim as the lead in 2011's Natural Selection, where she played a soon-to-be widowed, sheltered, Christian housewife, whose life is rocked by the news that her dying husband had an illegitimate son living in Florida).

Harris [...]

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Talking to Billy Eichner About the New Season of 'Billy on the Street'

The groundbreaking comedy game show, Funny or Die's Billy on the Street, recently made its bombastic return to Fuse TV and Season 3 is set to be the most memorable yet. The show's growing popularity has allowed its host, Billy Eichner, to recruit celebrity guests like Lena Dunham, Seth Meyers and Lindsay Lohan as participants in his frantic pop-culture challenges, like "Cash Cow," where the loser has to milk a live cow in the middle of downtown New York City. I recently talked to Billy about his Billy on the Street persona, the return of Elena, and, of course, Meryl Streep and Madonna.

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A Guide to Your Favorite Late Night and Sketch TV Writers on Twitter

There are tons of great late night and sketch comedy shows on television these days, and behind each one is a staff of writers hard at work to ensure their respective late night host or starring cast puts on the funniest and most finely tuned performance possible. We're in the midst of a rerun week for shows like Conan, SNL, and The Daily Show, so with that in mind, here's a complete writing staff breakdown of some of the best sketch and late night shows on TV, including a handy guide to whose Twitter feeds you can invade to get your minute-by-minute comedy fix.

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Kevin Smith, Auteur

In the early '90s American Indie boom, auteurs like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh emerged into the zeitgeist with personal, low-budget projects that ultimately  came to inform a larger body of work that made them the important film personalities they are today. In this same Sundance-fueled era, a 24-year-old Kevin Smith premiered his first film, Clerks. With the industry support of Harvey Weinstein and the critical support of the New York Times and Janet Maslin, Kevin Smith bullied his way into the rising star director conversation. His follow up films, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma led to the creation of a connected Kevin Smith universe, or, the "View-Askewniverse" as [...]

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Hari Kondabolu Talks About His New Album And 'Totally Biased'

Hari Kondabolu was not really supposed to become a professional standup. The otherworldly circumstances that brought him from a career as an immigrant rights organizer to the present-day release of his first album, Waiting for 2042 (named for the alleged year in which white Americans will be in the statistical minority), could have easily taken him on another professional trajectory.

This path is probably part of why he is extremely humble. Despite an extremely productive career that included regional fame in the Seattle comedy world, a writing and presenting slot on FX’s now-defunct Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, a well-regarded podcast and live show with his brother [...]