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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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The Collected Wisdom of Bill Murray

Arguably one of the most beloved living comedians, Bill Murray is four decades deep into a prolific career in the comedy industry. In the '70s, he bounced from comedy institution to comedy institution (Second City, National Lampoon, SNL) before becoming a major movie star in the '80s (CaddyshackStripes, Ghostbusters), and settling into a quieter phase of his career as a revered comedy veteran in the late '90s, popping up in smaller parts in an eclectic array of movies and genres (Zombieland, Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom). Throughout it all, Murray has maintained a healthy contempt for the phoniness of the showbiz world around him and has always [...]

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Harold Ramis' 'SCTV' Legacy

In his obituary, published yesterday by his hometown paper The Chicago Tribune, Harold Ramis was described as leaving behind "a reputation as a mensch and all-around good guy." There's really not much more one could ask for when your life is being summed up. But as it turns out, Ramis was a lot more than that. He was a comedy pioneer, a trailblazer, and a visionary. Without Ramis, Ghostbusters would have been about "ghost smashers" that travel through time with magic wands. Without Ramis, we might not have the "serious" phase of Bill Murray's career that we're all enjoying now. The man co-wrote Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, and [...]

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Talking To New 'Daily Show' Head Writer Elliott Kalan

Over the last decade, comedy writer Elliott Kalan has risen up the Daily Show ranks, starting as an intern before becoming a production assistant then a segment producer then a writer until, last month, being made the show's head writer. Kalan took over for Tim Carvell, who left to be the showrunner for John Oliver's new HBO show, Last Week Tonight. I recently had the chance to talk to Kalan about what the new job entails, how The Daily Show's writers' room works, and doing standup.

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Talking to Colin Quinn

SNL veteran Colin Quinn, who sarcastically hails himself as “one of the great writers in the entertainment industry,” will host the 66th annual Writers Guild Awards in New York Saturday. Quinn is currently touring his one-man show Colin Quinn: Unconstitutional (nicknamed “The Toosh”) and appearing on Girls as Alex Karpovsky’s bespectacled, coffee-shop-owning mentor. He’s also working with old friends Jim Norton, Nick DiPaolo and Tom Papa on a very meta Jerry Seinfeld-produced cop show about making a cop show. It’s called Cop Show.

I recently had a chance to talk to Quinn about his thoughts on the New York standup scene, the sheer vitriol he faces [...]

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Meet New 'Weekend Update' Co-Anchor Colin Jost

Earlier today, Saturday Night Live announced that one of the show's head writers, Colin Jost, will be joining the cast in March and taking Seth Meyers's place as "Weekend Update" co-anchor alongside Cecily Strong. Jost, a Harvard graduate and former president of the Harvard Lampoon, has been working on SNL for years. He started as a writer in 2005 and was promoted to being one of the show's head writers in 2012. Jost is also a busy standup. He's opened for Seth Meyers frequently and has done standup on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show. Jost also recently wrote his [...]

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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 [...]

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Joe Mande Talks Twitter

Joe Mande always seems one step ahead.

Whether it’s his Twitter stunts, multimedia shows, or stories about attending a live taping of The Mike Huckabee Show really high, the LA-based comedian and writer has a knack for getting out in front of trends.

It makes sense then that Mande’s latest project is a comedy mixtape he’s releasing in place of a traditional album, complete with DJ drops and comedy skits. The mixtape, which drops today, is called Bitchface and it's being released on former Das Racist frontman Heem’s record label, Greedhead.

I recently caught up with Mande to talk about the mixtape, writing for Parks [...]

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Talking To 'Daily Show' Correspondent Jessica Williams

In only a couple of years, Jessica Williams has become a vital member of one the most influential comedy shows on television. She joined The Daily Show in 2012 at the age of 22, making her the show's youngest correspondent ever. Since then, she's become an integral part of the Daily Show team, often reporting as the show's "Senior Youth Correspondent." I got the chance to talk to her about leaving college to join the show and the scariest part of her job.

You were so young when you started at The Daily Show. Did you have any background in political comedy or satire?

I didn’t have a lot [...]

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Harold Ramis, 1944-2014

Influential comedy writer, actor, and director Harold Ramis passed away today at the age of 69, The Chicago Tribune reports. Ramis, who wrote, directed, and acted in countless hit comedies, died from complications related to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease involving the swelling of blood vessels. Ramis's serious health problems began in 2010, but he kept quiet about his illness publicly. Prior to his death, he was visited by frequent collaborators Brian Doyle-Murray and Bill Murray, having been estranged from the latter for years. Ramis is survived by wife Erica Mann Ramis, daughter Violet Stiel, sons Julian and Daniel Ramis and two grandchildren. A private service is being set [...]

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Have You Appreciated The Freakshow That Is "Eagleheart"?

Where would Jaws be without its malfunctioning mecha-shark? Or Apocalypse Now and its malfunctioning mecha-Brando? The unintentional influence of circumstance can lead to some unpredictable and wonderful things, and that is certainly the case with the most recent season of Adult Swim’s Eagleheart (entirely available online).

The Jason Woliner-helmed project, starring Chris Elliott, Maria Thayer and Brett Gelman and co-written by Woliner, Michael Koman and Andrew Weinberg, has always flown under the radar on Adult Swim, despite an impressive list of guest stars (Conan O'Brien, Dean Norris, Ben Stiller, Mickey Rooney, and most recently, Joe Estevez) and a steady output of bizarre scenarios. The show recently wrapped up [...]

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Talking to Beth Stelling About Gender in the Standup World and Getting Her Start in Comedy

Beth Stelling has been making people laugh for almost seven years with her signature quirky, laid-back style. Having moved from Chicago to LA a few years ago, Stelling has since appeared on Conan, @midnight, and all over the LA standup scene. She released her debut album, Sweet Beth, in the fall of 2012 via Rooftop Comedy. I recently caught up with Beth Stelling to discuss her first open mic, the advantages and disadvantages of being a female in the standup world, and the highs and lows of comedy.

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Talking to Matt Piedmont About 'The Spoils of Babylon' and 'Saturday Night Live'

What began as a joke Matt Piedmont thought of in a bookstore became the IFC miniseries The Spoils of Babylon, which he co-created and co-wrote with Andrew Steele. Inspired by the epic miniseries of the ‘80s, Spoils has an equally epic cast to match, with Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Tobey Maguire, Val Kilmer, Haley Joel Osment, and a Carey Mulligan-voiced-mannequin. I recently got the chance to talk to Piedmont about his inspiration for The Spoils of Babylon, directing material he wrote, and writing for Saturday Night Live.

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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 New "Onion" Editor Cole Bolton

It’s a story as old as time itself: man dislikes his job, decides to pursue a career in comedy, sends a bunch of unsolicited work into The Onion, and eventually becomes editor of the world’s most popular satirical news site. Well, maybe it’s not that conventional, but it is the general career outline of newly-appointed Onion editor Cole Bolton. A former associate economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and research associate at Harvard Business School, Bolton’s comedy experience was practically nonexistent before he joined The Onion as a contributing writer in 2006. But despite never once being a member of a college improv troupe, Bolton’s passion and [...]

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Talking to Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter About Their Podcast 'Topics' and Other Stuff

In the increasingly competitive world of comedic podcasting, earning the title of "must-listen" can be quite challenging. With an abundance of engaging options available to occupy your 9-5, a discerning ear is essential to remain up-to-date on the very best in audio entertainment. Earwolf, arguably the industry’s leading tastemaker in comedy podcasts, recently added the sophisticated humor of frequent collaborators Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter to their all-star roster by agreeing to host their previously independent podcast, Topics. A comedy podcast set in the non-traditional world of intellectual debate, Topics eschews a number of traditional podcasting norms to create a droll, uniquely entertaining experience certainly worthy of [...]

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When Edward R. Murrow Visited Caesar's Place

Last week, as I'm sure you're already well aware, we lost one of the greats. Sid Caesar passed away at the age of 91. This week Mel Brooks went on Conan to pay tribute to his old boss and friend, and much has been written about Caesar's illustrious career within the confines of this column alone (here and here). Today we look once again at the legend, but not as a superstar of the world of comedy. Instead, we attempt to see him as just a man.

But let's jump away from Sid for just one second. In the 1950s, there was no television journalist more [...]

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A Guide To 2014's Network Comedy Pilots

We're in the midst of pilot season again, the time of year when the big four networks cast and shoot pilot episodes of potential shows for the 2014-15 TV seasons. One big change this year is that Fox — and to a lesser extent, NBC — are attempting to do away with pilot season and handing out straight-to-series orders or developing shows year-round like cable networks do instead. Fox is still ordering pilots for its comedies to test cast chemistry, but they're greenlighting pilots with more serious ambitions to turn them into comedies this season. Five new shows from Tina Fey, John Mulaney, Craig Robinson, and more have [...]

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The Funniest Comedian Most Americans Don't Know

Although he's been a wildly popular comedian in the UK for over 20 years now, Steve Coogan has yet to become a household name in the States. Nevertheless, 2014 is may just be the year he finally breaks through here. With a bevy of high-profile projects set to make their US debuts, Coogan may finally become someone who has American fans who aren't just comedy nerds. Coogan recently earned his first two Oscar nominations for producing and co-writing the drama Philomena, which he stars in with Judi Dench, and he's starring in the comedies Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and The Trip to Italy, which are both set for a US [...]