Friday, February 3, 2012

Women ARE Funny...As Shit!

I have heard it said, far too many times, that women aren't funny, or female comedians tend not to be authentic. I couldn't disagree more. I see hilarious female comics all the time. Let me tell you about two of America's hottest comics--in more ways then one!

Bobbie Oliver
is one of the most commanding presences on stage I've ever seen. From the moment she walks on stage, she OWNS it. Her material is always sharp and funny, but most importantly, it comes from a deep, personal and real place. Bobbie is unafraid to share any thought, feeling or insecurity she has with her audience.

Growing up dirt poor in a trailer park in Georgia provides Bobbie with a rich well of material. Her account of growing up with seven people in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom trailer is hilarious. "When my brother went to prison, he wrote me a letter and said 'Dear Bobbie, this place is a palace! They only got two guys to a room. They eat three times a day. I want to stay here forever!'" "Everyone in my family thinks there is a family curse," she says. "I'm like, y'all, we're not the Kennedys. We just make really bad decisions."

The racist tendencies in her family also offer many opportunities for Bobbie to be painfully honest. When her sister complains about "the Orientals," Bobbie says "I thought she was being attacked by a rug." When her brother brags that "We don't got no colored people on my street," Bobbie corrects him: "It's we don't have any colored people on my street. He's SO ignorant!" Addiction is also a recurring theme in her family. Even her aunt was arrested, because "she was on 22 prescriptions at one time, all of which she had written herself, because she stole her doctor's pad. The pharmacist got suspicious when the prescriptions just started saying 'downers.' Or 'something to take the edge off.'"

When Bobbie's sister became incapable of taking care of her kids, they ended up in Bobbie's care. "Oh, she's not dead or anything," she explains. "She's just a loser." Raising two teenagers provided Bobbie with another source of material. "When you have teenagers you have to talk about drugs...One day, they sat me down and said 'Bobbie, you're too old to smoke pot.'"

Of course, Bobbie's own battles with depression and addiction are also a frequent topic in her comedy. "You know why I'm not addicted to crack?" she asks. "Because I've never tried crack!" On her lifelong depression, she says "I've always hated myself. When I was a baby, they caught me in my crib trying to cut my wrists with a pacifier. My first words were 'I can't take it any more.'" Bobbie recalls the time she spent in a mental hospital for alcoholism and depression in the eleventh grade as the happiest part of her high school experience. "I was very popular in the mental institution. I was voted Most Likely to suicide attempts."

And she doesn't stop there. She has a great bit about her own sexual frustration, as her libido outstretches that of her husband. She complains about her husband, who has established "sex rules" ("Because evidently, I'm a pest."): "We can only have sex once a day. So because I got breakfast, I don't get dinner."

Bobbie just released her first album, Finally!, an hour of non-stop powerhouse comedy. You can download it from her website for free (or for a $5 donation).

Another favorite comic of mine is Sally Mullins. Sally is so comfortable on stage, you forget you're even watching a show. She just seems like she's doing what she would be doing anyway, she just happens to be standing on a stage with a microphone doing it. And like Bobbie, Sally is brutally honest. She talks about aging (and shopping at her favorite store, Forever 38). "No work done here," she says. "I tell guys 'This is me. Accept me as I am or pay for me to look different.'"

Sally is particularly funny when she gets on the subject of sex. On internet sex, she complains that "Guys don't even want to talk to you online until you send them a picture. I just want to say 'It's 4:00 am, for what you want I'm fine.'" On dating frustrations, she asks "Don't you hate it when you throw a guy a piece of ass, and he throws it back...unopened?" Another favorite topic is her notoriously bad taste in men. When a guy her friend was seeing turns out to be involved in an amber alert, her only response is "Woah! He has a car?"

Back in the day, jazz pianists would often engage in "cutting contests," competitive performances where they would try to outperform each other. I'd like to propose that any guy who thinks "women aren't funny" try to "cut" Bobbie or Sally and see how far they get. Let's take this to the stage!

Bobbie and Sally are currently playing gigs together as the Cougars of Comedy Tour. It's a night of hilarious and sexy comedy! Bobbie and Sally are raw, hysterical and on the prowl. Lock up your sons!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Goofin' On The Presidents

I find it pretty interesting that the best stuff SNL has done in years has been the political material of the last year, specifically Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's respective portrayals of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. Actually, it's not really political material, in the sense of what Jon Stewart or Bill Maher do. It's character material. And that's why it works so much better than most of the lousy sketches SNL churns out: these are fully formed characters, as brought to life by Poehler and Fey, as were Will Ferrell's George W. Bush, Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush, and Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford. And being able to crack those characters, as these actors have done, is the key to making them funny. Carvey's Bush didn't really bear much resemblance to the real thing, but it was a complete, funny character. I find it interesting that Carvey, who I don't even think is particularly funny, was able to crack that character, while in eight years, nobody really succeeded in doing much with either Reagan or Clinton, both much funnier presidents than Bush 41. Which leads me to an interesting topic for discussion: who was a funnier president, Nixon or W? Nixon just plain looked and sounded funny, but Bush seems more like a complete comedy character--you almost couldn't write a more perfect character to put into a comedy situation. What do you think?

Night Gallery: Make Me Laugh

Thanks to John Fontaine for sending this along. "His aspiration is to collect funny bones and hang them on the walls of his life to cover up the cracked plaster and yellowing wallpaper that is part of the of the interior decoration of failure." Man, Serling's got comedians nailed.

Very Old Jokes

Like, older than Henny Youngman jokes. Archeologists have dug up an ancient Greek jokebook dating from the 4th Century. It's called Philogelos: The Laugh Addict. So if you hear Carlos Mencia doing Spartan jokes, you know where he got them. A sample: A misogynist is attending to the burial of his wife, who has just died, when someone asks: "Who is it who rests in peace here?". He answers: "Me, now that I'm rid of her!" Boy, comedy sure has evolved over the last 1500 years!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Ranters

The comedian's act sounded very familiar. Then I realized that the comedian right before him had done the exact same act.

It's not unusual to hear the same jokes from different comedians. There are a lot of hacks out there. What made this so annoying is that there weren't any jokes. Both comics had just yelled at the audience about the same things--health food, Starbucks, Oprah, metrosexuals...I think iPhones might have been in there, too. I see these guys more and more lately, all white men, most of them young, yelling about the same things. They've watched a lot of Bill Hicks, but didn't understand anything about what made him funny. Dennis Leary, Sam Kinison and late-era George Carlin seem to be influences as well, but they seem not to have noticed that all those comics include jokes in their acts.

One phrase that turns up a lot in these rants is "the pussification of America," or "the pussification of the American male." These guys are obsessed with the idea that masculinity is slipping away from the world, that we're all turning into sissies. Because of Starbucks and health food. Does anyone even say "health food" anymore? They seem intent on proving that you don't have to be a Republican to live in constant fear of insufficient masculinity. As it happens, there's an excerpt from Dennis Leary's new book in the current issue of Playboy. And wouldn't you know it, in the first paragraph he uses the phrase "responsible for the pussification of America." In reference to Starbucks.

In fairness to Dennis Leary, when he started ranting about Starbucks, it was still funny. But let's be real--to complain about Starbucks now is like complaining about everyone riding around in those new-fangled driving machines. How long are we going to have to hear the same litany of sins? Everythings fancy! They have funny foreign words for "large" and "medium"! They act bitchy! It costs more than a cup of shitty 7-11 coffee! Leary says he resarches the subject "once or twice a week when I stand in line there and listen as some limp-wristed, yellow-Lance-Armstrong-bracelet-wearing, metrosexual-hair-goo-sporting, Hillary-Clinton's-tired-old-ass-worshipping puke spends 12 minutes trying to decide between the Orange Cranberry Vagina Muffin or the Punpkin Cream Tampon Cake while fingering a Save The Rain Forest Compilation CD..." oh, Jesus, shut the fuck up! If the fucker doesn't like Starbucks, if he just wants a real, manly cup of plain ol' coffee, why doesn't he go to 7-11? It's not like he'd have any trouble finding a fucking 7-11 in L.A. They're the one establishment more common than Starbucks. The answer, of course, is that Dennis Leary goes to Starbucks because he likes the Vente Mocha Half-Caf Latte and the Vanilla Mint Faggot Scone, but he hates himself for loving it. Oh, the torment! (Man, I really didn't mean to make this about Dennis Leary. I guess I hate the guy more than I realized.)

If there's anything dumber than ranting about Starbucks, it's ranting about metrosexuals. Guys who dress well and shave! What is the world coming to? What ever happened to real men like Cary Grant, Clark Gable, or Sean Connery, who used to show up at their premiers in pizza-stained wifebeaters? What's with these fags who comb their hair? Don't they know that taking a shower shrinks your balls?

Still, listening to a hack like Leary is like relaxing on the beach compared to the Abu Grahib of sitting through some of these ranters. I imagine they think their comedy is "pure" and "raw" and "unfiltered," as if comedy were diluted by the inclusion of comedy. So instead of a funny argument against health fads, you get something like "I dated this one girl who was into health food. HEALTH FOOD? What the fuck is this bullshit? When did America start giving a fuck about health food, you stupid cunt? Fuck you! And all you stupid health food faggots out there--fuck you and your fucking health food!"

I suppose I'll be sitting through more and more of these rants in the coming years, as the economy gets worse and more people turn to standup comedy as an affordable alternative to anger management therapy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Great Big Poofter Devils"

Censorship is a bitch for comics. In America, it can mean you don't get booked on Letterman, but sometimes it can also mean a bust on obscenity charges or an FCC violation. In Italy, it can apparantly mean up to 5 years in jail for insulting the Pope.

Comedian Sabina Guzzanti was arrested for telling jokes about Pope Benedict. OK, they weren't exactly mild, good-natured jabs. [A]fter warning everyone that within 20 years Italian teachers would be vetted and chosen by the Vatican, she got to the punchline: "But then, within 20 years the Pope will be where he ought to be — in Hell, tormented by great big poofter devils, and very active ones, not passive ones." I like this woman already. There's a good deal of footage of her on YouTube, but it's all in Italian, so I can't really tell if she's funny or not. Any fluent Italian speakers want to weigh in? [EDIT: hattip to Pandagon for this one]

George Orwell wrote that in an oppressive society, "every joke is a tiny revolution." It's amazing to think that, even today, in progressive Europe, making a joke about the Pope (or a cartoon about Mohammed) can still get you into a lot of trouble. Tyrants understand that humor is a powerful weapon. There's a great documentary about humor in the communist bloc that I would reccomend called Hammer & Tickle, which documents that as many as 100,000 people found themselves shipped off to the Gulag because the secret police overheard them telling jokes about the Communist rulers. Hammer & Tickle doesn't seem to be available on DVD yet, but it does show occassionally on The Sundance Channel. In fact it's on October 12 and again October 20. Set your TiVo! You can see some bits of the film on YouTube, as well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chris Rock vs. Steven Wright

Here's Chris Rock and Steven Wright doing each other's jokes on Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars. For comedy geeks, this is a fun chance to watch two great comics "jamming" on each other's material, but it's also interesting how these jokes just don't work as well in the other comic's style. A comic's personality is an impoortant part of the joke. Worried about other comics stealing your material? Just write jokes that nobody besides you could tell.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Comedy Albums On The Web

Hop over to Egg City Radio to download a rare Steve Allen album for kids, How to Think--a bit of instruction that many people could benefit from these days.

And then you can download two classic albums from old school blue comedienne Rusty Warren (including her hit song "Bounce Your Boobies") from The Tuna Melt--or better yet, order the CD's from her website! On a related note, there's an interview with Rusty in the current issue of Bachelor Pad Magazine. Get it at your local newsstand--and if they don't have it, ask them why the hell not!

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Own Religion

The first piece from our newest constributor, Chris Zapatier. You can read his musings regularly at

The first piece from our newest constributor, Chris Zapatier. You can read his musings regularly at

I've decided to start my own religion. Not some fly-by-night cult, but my very own religion. Although my own cult - complete with psychotropic drugs and a harem of teenage wives - sounds incredibly cool, I'm hoping to establish something more long term, something that could still be around 2000 years from now. I‘ve even come up with a nifty name for my faith: Christianity, after yours truly.

Just between you and me, what I really want is power, and lots of it. I realize that the quickest way to come to power is to conquer my fellow Americans and rule them with an iron hand, but I do not currently have an army at my disposal. Besides, I don't want to build my empire on conquered subjects thirsting for revolution; I want the kind of fanatical devotion that only religion can garner.

Right about now you're probably wondering, "Who the heck is gonna subscribe to your religion and why?" I'll tell you who, the lost, lonely and down-on-their-luck, simple folk with simple minds, and those whose lives have been unexpectedly touched by the Grim Reaper in some way. And I'll tell you why, ‘cause I'm going to prey on the fear of death, mankind's Achilles' heel. Consider that throughout the ages, the "meaning of life" has been pondered and debated more than any other subject and is still no closer to being known than the first time it was discussed. If I profess to have the answer to this mystery, I will become more than a king among men, I'll become a king of kings among men. And that is exactly what I am going to do. I am going to convince people that they need not question the meaning of life any longer, for life is but a journey to an eternal paradise. If I make people believe that there is a sanctuary from pain and suffering where residents are reunited with long dead loved ones they will gladly devote themselves to lifelong servitude to secure lodging. The best part about this empty paradise promise is that I never have to worry about my dissatisfied customers exposing me as a fraud, by the time they find out they've been had, it's too late! But for this free will extortion scheme to work there has to be commensurate repercussions for failure to practice my faith. There has to be a place equally as bad as my Utopian hereafter is good where those who choose not to embrace Christian dogma will be condemned to spend infinity. I asked five people what they would consider the worst way to spend eternity, and four of them said perpetual burning, so burning it is.

Now let me tell you about Christianity's supplemental literature. Since I dislike writing anything besides humor I slapped together a few Aesop-style fables, plagiarized a handful of stories from ancient religious texts, then wrote myself into some actual historical events to make it read like I was responsible for their occurrence. This book is gonna sell like hotcakes, I won't be happy ‘til there is one copy collecting dust on every Christian's bookshelf. Then I'm gonna turn it into a TV show on Sunday morning - mo' money, mo' money, mo' money'!

Now I must address some of the negatives of spiritual imperialism. My deistic status will no doubt come with a substantial measure of accountability. When puppies get run over, babies are born hare lipped and grannies succumb to cancer, my people will come crying to me wondering why I didn't protect them from Mother Nature's Darwinian standard operating procedures. I've come up with two preemptive, foolproof solutions for this inevitable problem: 1) I'm toying with the idea of a nemesis, an archenemy that exists only to thwart my benevolent agenda, someone or something who revels in perpetuating sorrow, evil, etc. And whenever my followers find themselves waist high in shit luck, they'll know who to blame. 2) Faith. Like the proverbial carrot always dangling a few feet in front of the mule, faith will keep my people working towards their goal of a ceaselessly sublime afterlife. Any questions I cannot answer I'll answer "Have faith." When a member of my congregation wonders why I watch bombs drop on children in the Middle East, or why I don't simply wave my omnipotent hand and feed the multitudes of starving people on this planet, my followers will assure them that there is some divine purpose to my apathy and their suffering. "Have faith," my flock of sheep will baa, "Chris works in mysterious ways." And when I am long gone and my followers begin to fear they've been abandoned, my book will ease their fears with assurances that my return to absolute power is just around the corner, just have "faith."

Undoubtedly, there are going to be certain brainy types who will insist on using science, archaeology, paleontology, and just plain common sense to point out inconsistencies in my book and conundrums in my doctrines. I'm not too worried about them though; I'm going to make them out to be "lost souls" rather than smart skeptics. Besides, I intend to make my people so obdurate to reason that if there is a real God, even he won't be able to undo their brainwashing.

I have big plans for Christianity. If things work as well in practice as they do on paper, my divine brainchild will be global by this time next year. I know how farfetched the idea sounds, but something tells me it just might work.

-Chris Zapatier

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Comedy on the Web Roundup 3/4/08

Some good reading on comedy from across the blogosphere:

Kliph Nesteroff has published a piece on the WFMU blog on burlesque comedy legend Tubby Boots. Kliph frequently posts about lesser-known comedians of yesteryear--look through the archives and you'll find some fascinating stuff!

Clarence Beaks at has a great review up of George Carlin's latest HBO special, It's Bad For You. Nailing the mentality of a comic perhaps a little too well: "Stand-up comedy attracts the young, but it only suffers the bitter. Even the comics who seem well-adjusted harbor a bubbling hatred of their fellow man; it just so happens that it sometimes manifests itself in the smashing of watermelons or wisecracks from a woozle named Peanut. But there's nothing anodyne in their efforts to amuse you. They're doing it for your fleeting approval. And once the laughter's dissipated, they're back to lamenting your existence."

Finally, from Jim Emmerson's Scanners blog, a lengthy, multi-sourced essay/survey on Black Humor from Steppin Fetchit to Richard Pryor to Tyler Perry. Quoting third hand from Good Times writer Bob Peete: "There is a real difference between black humor and white humor. The chief distinction is that black humor is more attitudinal; it's not what one says, but how one says it." Read the whole thing. There are some fascinating insights, and links to several other pieces on the topic.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Review: Dane Cook - Vicious Circle

This review was originally published on the now-defunct movie blog The Fake Life. Due to overwhelming demand, we are reprising it here.

By Bobbie Oliver

There is a lot right with modern standup comedy, but Dane Cook represents none of it. You know how if you love onions, you can’t imagine anyone not liking them? Or if you hate onions, you can’t imagine anyone not hating them? Well, I hate onions, but I would rather eat an onion for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the rest of my life than ever watch another Dane Cook DVD. But, 1,651,838 MySpacers disagree. And so do the 18,000 rabid fans that filled Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden to watch 132 minutes (yes, that’s two hours and twelve minutes) of Dane Cook’s Vicious Circle, the Dane-gerous Edition (I swear I didn’t make that up). Countless others, ok somebody counted but I refuse to look it up, have made the self-proclaimed “Superstar Comedian” Dane Cook’s comedy album, Retaliation, a top seller for 71 weeks.

Celine Dion will always sell more albums than They Might Be Giants. Dane Cook will always sell more albums than Patton Oswalt. Let’s face it, hack sells. But, then, how would the cool kids distinguish themselves from the posers if every talented artist made millions? Who said 1,651,838 MySpacers can be wrong? I do.

To be fair, I’m not the best audience for Vicious Circle. As a standup comic for the last 20 years, I’ve seen A LOT of comedy. I’ve heard a lot of jokes. I’m probably a lot like the judges on American Idol who want to slit the throat of the next ten year old girl who sings “Tomorrow” from Annie or kick the shit out the fifteen thousandth person they heard perform “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” My favorite comedy is smart comedy. I like jokes you have to get. Hell, I’m a sucker for a joke period. Please, Dane, just one joke. Dane Cook wouldn’t know a decent set up/punch if it literally punched him in the face, which is exactly what I plan to do if I ever see him out in the clubs in LA. He owes me for 132 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

There are four types of comedians. There is the poor guy that no one thinks is funny. There’s the guy that comics love, but audiences don’t get. There’s the guy that audiences love, but other comics hate. And there’s the comic we all strive to be, that audiences love and other comics respect. Dane Cook is the third guy. Audiences love him, especially jocks and frat boys and the kinds of girls that can’t wait to pull up their tops for a “Girls Gone Wild” video. I am none of those.

But, there were 18,000 of them loving every minute of watching Dane perform in the round on Vicious Circle. I actually think doing standup comedy in the round is a great idea, but this was more of a stunt than the craft that is standup. During his set, three groups of people approach the stage. The drunken jock was handled pretty well, I think. Dane acknowledged him, picked on him a little, and then sent him away. The two sets of girls that approached the stage were told to “show us your boobs,” which they did, and “make out with each other” which they did. Can you imagine this happening in any other standup act? Ok, stop imagining two girls making out and pay attention.

Comics are usually a well-balanced combination of low self-esteem and cocky shit head. Dane Cook does not have a low self-esteem. Comics are usually people whose mother didn’t love them (us). Dane Cook’s mother probably told him everyday that he was the funniest, smartest, most talented kid on Earth. So did William Hung’s mom. It seems obvious to me while watching him perform that Dane Cook had a happy childhood, and frankly, I resent him for it.

Vicious Circle begins with Dane Cook coming out like a rock star with his spiky hair and tight jeans. Hell, even the picture of him on the cover is a cocky shot with him arrogantly pointing at the camera with an overconfident, smart aleck look on his face. I would like to believe that audiences look for something different in their comedians than they do their movie stars, rock stars, and supermodels. In those people, we want cool perfection. But, in our comics, we want to see ourselves. We want vulnerability. We want to know that we are not the only one who feels this way or does stupid shit. But, you’ll get none of that from Vicious Circle. No humility, no vulnerability.

The most important skill you can have as a comic is the ability to self-edit. Dane Cook has never edited one thing he’s written (or the bits he has stolen from the likes of the very funny Louis CK). Vicious Circle is 132 minutes of one long pointless rant, going on tangent after tangent and never delivering the punch. It’s a big shaggy dog joke that needs to be trimmed. Granted, Dane Cook is a good performer, I’ll give him that. But, a wordsmith he is not. He doesn’t craft his jokes; he doesn’t choose every word carefully and lay them out in a poetic melody like Shakespeare writing in iambic pentameter.

He is more Three Stooges than Richard Pryor, which is fine unless you are selling your comedy as standup. All throughout this DVD, he hops around the stage like a little animated bunny, punctuating every thought with a wacky face or funny sound effect. It’s like standup comedy for deaf people without the closed-captioning. It’s comedy for people with no sense of humor.

He’s basically saying, “look at me, look at me…just don’t really look at me.” I didn’t feel like I knew anything more about Dane Cook after watching this performance than I did beforehand. He does not let himself be known. Doing pure standup comedy is like jumping out of an airplane naked and skinless. But, Dane jumps fully-clothed with 10 parachutes from the 2nd floor of a very short building. Zero risk.

I watched this DVD with my 22 year old nephew who would be the ideal audience for it (you know, if his IQ were lower); someone who laughed whenever Dane said “blowjob” or made jokes about Halle Berry taking a shit. But, even he got up and left me after an hour, laughing at me for being obligated to sit it out to write this review. I have sat through many movies that were three hours long and never once looked at my watch. After five minutes of Vicious Circle, I was counting down the time like a prisoner waiting for freedom, swearing to never commit this offense again.

Then there’s the 10- minute encore of some horrible song he played on a guitar that the fans all seemed to know (he said it was on his website). Like the other 122 minutes, it was self- indulgent and self- important crap. And, might I also point out that his little “Su-Fi” hand symbol is clearly ripped off from Fishbone? If you ever see anyone make this symbol that is not wearing a Fishbone t-shirt, run away very quickly.

To put it simply, Dane Cook is not my cup of tea. But, hey, if you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, then you’ll probably love Dane Cook’s Vicious Circle. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go eat a raw onion and get this bad taste out of my mouth.

Friday, February 29, 2008

It's Bad For Ya: Carlin on HBO Saturday Night

George Carlin used to be hilarious. His 70's stuff puts him, in my eyes, right up there with Richard Pryor as one of the great comics of all time. Starting in the mid-80's, his stuff became more hit-and-miss, and I can't say I find his cranky old man character much funnier than the cranky old men I know in real life. In fact, the last time he really cracked me up was about 12 years ago, with a routine that started out about creative ways to execute murderers and ended up proposing a reality show based on turning the midwest into a penal colony or something. Anyway, his latest HBO special premiers tomorrow, and you never know, he might be funny this time.

I figure everyone's seen the Seven Words You Can't Say on TV and A Place For My Stuff, so here's something from a little later, probably my favorite routine from the Grumpy Old Man era: