Posts Tagged ‘Comedy Central’

I’m not saying Drunk History should pack it’s bags and wish us well, but the most recent episode of the hilarious show where comedians drunkenly recall historical events that are later reenacted, flubs and all, felt like an unspoken completion of whatever weird journey Derek Waters and company started not so long ago.

If you’ll recall, in the long-long-ago of 2007, Drunk History began as roughly five minute shorts for the website Funny or Die. The first of those shorts featured actor Mark Gagliardi drunkenly recounting the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Reenacting this masterfully inebriated tale were Michael Cera as Hamilton, Jake Johnson as Burr, and Ashley Johnson as Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton.

 

 

The video was charming and hilarious at the time and remains so, but it really highlights how far Drunk History has come since its web series/YouTube days. The camera quality, set design, and the costuming are the epitome of a home movie production. Most likely this was out of necessity, though one could argue strongly for the intentional use of a low budget aesthetic simply because it’s funnier. Regardless, the videos became popular and because of the viral nature of the internet it became clear to the decision-making people at Comedy Central that there was something in Drunk History worth developing.86133-8

Fast forward almost a decade and Drunk History has now devoted an entire episode to Alexander Hamilton as recalled by the adorkable writer, lyricist, and former lead of the Tony award winning Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Recorded while Miranda was performing in the show (his hair is still long), the episode spans Hamilton’s life and eventual death in the infamous duel. There are a few new tidbits of information such as the ship bringing Hamilton to America catching fire, which gave me my favorite quote of the episode (“Sick ass Hamilton on a flaming ship!”), but for anyone familiar with the musical and its additional material it’s a very by-the-book half an hour of television. The draw of the episode is, obviously, drunk Lin-Manuel Miranda and the reenactment.

I can say, without question, that Alia Shawkat and Audrey Plaza killed it as Hamilton and Burr respectively. Both play up the arrogance and swagger of their historical analogs, but the hilarity comes from how much fun they’re having miming Miranda’s stories for the camera. Filling out the cast are Bokeem Woodbine as George Washington, Tony Hale as James Monroe, David Wain as Thomas Jefferson, and Dave Grohl as a guy who happens to be there. Hey, Dave Grohl!

 

 

Again, it’s a staggering comparison between the original video and the show as it is now; full on battlefield engagements filmed like mini-movies, sets that look like they might have attempted filming in Independence Hall, and costumes that come from a bigger budget and production value rather than a Halloween costume store. I did like that they made a callback to the first video by mirroring the exchange of letters between Hamilton and Burr, but overall the episode is bigger, brighter, bolder, and other b-word adjectives!

Lin-Manuel Miranda has been having a banner couple of years and the future only seems to be getting brighter for him. The core of his character, however, remains genuinely sincere, passionate, and extremely humble. He’s also adorkable to the nth degree, which makes him and the episode that much more endearing to watch. The special appearances by the Roots’ Questlove and Chris Jackson (original George Washington in Hamilton) on FaceTime, including a West Wing quote from Miranda to Jackson, speak to the man’s indefatigable joy and unrelenting humor. The affection he has for his friends, music, and the stories he’s become custodian to make the boozy interview yet another bullet point on the “List of Reasons Lin-Manuel and I Would Be Best Friends” we’ve all been making in our heads…or writing on random notepads with little hearts, stars, and Lisa Frank stickers everywhere.

 

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Intro and Outro music: “Doctor Who Theme” by the Doubleclicks

Check out Jackie’s latest album, This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux

Sixteen years never felt so short, but it’s with a heavy heart that we say so long and farewell to Jon Stewart as he sits behind the desk as The Daily Show‘s host one last time on Thursday August 6th, 2015. It’s bittersweet, for many reasons, chief among them the notion that though Stewart will no doubt go forth and create something of substance we’ll flock back to, but the familiarity and seeming ubiquitousness of The Daily Show with Jon at the helm will be sorely missed. Even when Jon took personal time jon stewartaway from the program, whether it was vacation or to direct a film (go see Rosewater!), and one of the correspondents took over hosting duties there was still this “gentleman’s agreement” between the audience and the show that Jon was coming back. We got to see the proto-hosting abilities of Stephen Colbert and John Oliver emerge but there was always this sense that The Daily Show wasn’t really The Daily Show until Jon returned.

Of course that wasn’t always the case.

While we see The Daily Show as a satirical powerhouse, the original concept of the show was much more in line with Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update – news with punchlines – combined with a Tonight Show celebrity interview segment. Even when Jon took over hosting duties from Craig Kilborn in 1999, The Daily Show didn’t carve out its place as cable’s most trusted news show until the clusterfuck that was the 2000 Presidential Election. The insane yet hilarious coverage and commentary provided by Jon and his team of correspondents featuring Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Vance DeGeneres, Nancy Walls, and Mo Rocca set the new tone for the show and propelled it into the politically-apathetic hearts and mind of a new generation of high school and college students in need of their own Walter Cronkite.

jon stephen star warsThat’s not me being hyperbolic, by the way. Jon Stewart is to my generation what Walter Cronkite was to my parents’ generation. It would have been so easy for Jon to treat the hosting gig as just that and keep it in line with most comedy shows, but whether through his own desires or the demands of an audience in need of an iota of honesty, he and the show’s writers and producers turned it into something more. As the political and media landscape turned dark and ugly, Jon was there to offer a comedic palate cleanser that didn’t resort to condescension or fear-mongering to manipulate the audience. Jon did something news channels like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC didn’t – he treated us like we were intelligent, he respected the viewers as people and respected his position as the jester poking fun at royalty.

I was in high school when Jon started hosting The Daily Show and I can say without any hesitation that, to this day, he’s still my most trusted source for objective discussion of the news and media. Yes, he has his own agenda and his own biases but what I’ve always respected about Jon is his desire for discourse. Some news outlets bring people on their shows to yell at them and attempt to dominate the conversation; Jon Stewart brought people on to talk to them. For him it was about looking at both sides and finding common ground or, at the very least, understand where the other side was coming from. His friendly olive branch, dailyshow_middlehowever, didn’t stop him from turning it into a sharpened spear when certain guests underestimated his intellect and his ability to work the room in his favor.

The three most notorious cases were his appearance on the how defunct Crossfire and guests of The Daily Show Jim Cramer, host of the also defunct Mad Money, and Betsy “Death Panels” McCaughey. In the case of Crossfire and Mad Money, both shows took huge dives in ratings after Jon conversed with their respective hosts. And by “converse” I mean “ran circles around them intellectually”, though it became very obvious by the end of his “discussion” with Cramer that Jon was taking very little joy in using clips from the man’s show against him to make his point. Towards the end, Cramer physically sighs after yet another order from Jon to show footage. Betsy McCaughey’s appearance was one of those rare moments in television, other than watching audition tapes for American Idol, where I started to feel sorry for the guest. Brought on the show to talk about the language in the early draft of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that supposedly mentioned “death panels”, McCaughey brought a large binder containing the bill, but neglected to mark where the language could be found. As she attempted to find it, Jon talked with her but McCaughey tried to ham it up for the audience by diminishing the importance of appearing on a comedy show to talk about an issue concerning the federal government. The audience wasn’t buying it, but Jon showed patience as she continued to thumb through the bill. Eventually, he had to go to commercial and when they returned, McCaughey still hadn’t found the statement that justified her coining the term. Instead, the two talked around the bill as if she’d come on the show prepared for a real discussion.

jon wavingIn all three example, Jon Stewart was underestimated by the “other side” and in all three examples he showed just how much he shouldn’t be underestimated. Yes, he still maintains that his job is about putting comedy first, and there are certainly plenty of moments that prove him right, but the audience is in on the joke. We know where his passion is because he’s not particularly good at hiding his emotions when it comes to certain topics and people. It’s because of Jon Stewart that we’ve been introduced to so many amazing comedic voices. It’s because of Jon Stewart that more veterans have access to medical care. It’s because of Jon Stewart that Jason Jones went to Tehran to talk to the real people of Iran, not just the religious fundamentalists most news outlets were showing as the only representation of the country. It’s because of Jon Stewart that we had at least one place to go where we trusted someone not to lie and manipulate us for the sake of ratings.

When Jon Stewart steps down on Thursday, there’s no telling what the future of The Daily Show will be. We’ve been asked to give incoming host Trevor Noah a fair shot and I’m sure many of us will continue to tune in if only to see how well he fares. That doesn’t mean Jon’s shadow won’t linger. For nearly twenty years he was ours, so getting over his absence might take a while.

But here’s to you, Jon! Looking forward to the next adventure!

And now, your moment of Zen.

A good laugh can get you through a whole day. A maniacal laugh lets you siphon off all those “crazy” plans stewing in your brain and gives those around you a slight pause to consider just how far they’re willing to push you.

So, start wringing those hands and grinning like a Maniac and belt it out!

It’s important to work on your maniacal laugh, but don’t work too hard. I think the guys at Workaholics have it figured out.