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Time to Get Cross

Categories: Comedians,Latest News
Posted: March 14, 2013
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I’ve written about my friend David Yazbek and his monthly gig at the downtown 92Y. Now it’s time to write about a show at the uptown version. Comedian/Actor/Writer David Cross will be in conversation with his Arrested Development co-star Michael Cera on Wednesday, March 20th.
 
David Cross
 
Cross (above) got his start as a writer on the quickly defunct, but beloved The Ben Stiller Show that won an Emmy after it was canceled. He is probably best known as Portia de Rossi’s bumbling husband Tobias on the groundbreaking comedy Arrested Development, which has a second life. New episodes of the series are set for Netflix this summer in advance of a movie. The wild, woolly show, though low-rated in its original run, was a hit with critics and had a certain devoted audience. Rightly so. The show was outrageous and brilliant. And I cannot wait to see it back. On whatever platform it airs.
 
Cross also appeared in some of the best movies of the past 15 years: Ghost World (with a now barely recognizable Scarlett Johansson), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and comedy classic Waiting for Guffman. Since Cera is moderating the affair, I expect Arrested Development to be a hot topic, and who doesn’t want to learn more about what’s going to happen to Tobias and the Bluth clan?
 
Just another reason to love the Big Apple, and the creativity the city champions.



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The Funniest Mothers…

Categories: Comedians
Posted: May 10, 2012
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The most important holiday on the calendar is this Sunday — Mother’s Day. Not to offend anyone of a particular religious persuasion — Christmas, Yom Kippur and so many other holidays are important, but we wouldn’t celebrate any of them if we hadn’t been born.
 
And when it comes to comedy, our mothers help us develop our senses of humor and laughter. From the time we are born, we follow our mothers’ cues, listening to their suggestions and watching their verbal and physical tics to understand the world. What is funny. What to eat. What to avoid (hot oven). Moms seriously get us to laugh, play and have fun.
 
Granted some mothers are funnier than others. Anne Meara, mother of Ben Stiller, is one of my favorites. Whether on TV shows Rhoda, The Paul Lynde Show, ALF or even Sex and The City as Steve’s mom, she always brings a heartbreaking sense of comedy — that fine line between sadness and humor. I absolutely loved her in the 1996 film The Daytrippers as the gung ho mom who helps her daughter spy on her supposedly cheating husband. A great film to watch with your mom on the special day.
 
Anne Meara
 
I’d like to also give a shout out to Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg, Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy, and the late, great Lucille Ball for pulling double duty — entertaining the masses and being moms. Whoopi took home the Academy Award for her comic turn in the weepy movie Ghost, which has just opened as a musical on Broadway. She is also known for her comedy specials, hosting The View and for her eponymous TV show. She infuses her roles with verve and spontaneity. Who can forget when her Ghost character — Oda Mae Brown — must part with a very large check that she’s obtained with the help of Patrick Swayze’s dead character — a ghost who has come back to warn his fiancee she’s in danger? Whoopi uses every ounce of aching regret and pouts as she signs the large sum over to a group of nuns.
 
Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze in Ghost
 
As a former Groundlings member, Melissa first came to my attention as the cook on Gilmore Girls. She was always a breath of fresh air on the the lovely, yet mannered Connecticut-set show. McCarthy, though, really proved her comic muscle in Bridesmaids, which was one of my favorite films of 2011. As the super butch friend, she stole many scenes and the videotape that rolls during the credits further solidifies her comic chops. Her comic foil in the film is her real life husband and father of her two children — Ben Falcome. It’s worth another viewing.
 
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
 
It’s hard to imagine where or what sitcoms would be without Lucille Ball. An innovator and honestly comic genius, she created a persona — Lucy — that still reverberates through modern shows. Slightly ditzy, well meaning, yet guileless, Lucy was always utterly watchable and funny. She was able to find joy in the silliest domestic situations. And for that I am grateful. Her kids were often featured in her shows.
 
Lucille Ball
 
Mother’s Day is only a few days away so don’t forget to get your mom a present — card, flowers, candies, tickets to a show — or take her to the movies, to dinner or out dancing. Or better yet, get your Mom laughing. Comedy shows like mine (Ted Greenberg’s The Complete Performer) are a terrific way to lighten the mood and show mom just how much you love her.



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Comedians I Love: Richard Pryor

Categories: Comedians,Comedy Shows
Posted: May 3, 2012
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I’m going to profile my favorite comedians — the men and women who inspired me to start my career as a 15-year-old and continue to influence me — from time to time. I’m starting this series with the one, the only Richard Pryor. Before he passed away in 2005, he created a vast body of work in stand up, on TV, in films and on albums. I’ve already written glowingly about his ‘bromance’ with Gene Wilder, my second favorite in movie history.
 
Seeing Pryor play off his opposite — at least on the outside — in the very pale skinned, wild haired Gene Wilder was comic magic. Through much of his work, he challenged and underscored racial tension, ideals and stereotypes, finding humor where few before him were brave enough to tread.
 
His short-lived The Richard Pryor Show starred Robin Williams, John Witherspoon, Tim Reid and Sandra Bernhardt among others. Lasting only four episodes, it produced the prescient clip below. Playing the first African-American President 31 years before Barack Obama was elected to the White House, Pryor answers political questions with a wound-tight deadpan that unravels with each passing query. Whether championing the merits of sending black people to space or naming Huey P. Newton director of the FBI, Pryor exposes how different the United States might be under African-American leadership.
 
My favorite moment may be when the reporter from the Mississippi Herald identifies himself before posing a question, and Pryor demands, “Sit down.” He has no intention of dealing with someone from a state known for its lynchings and charged racial atmosphere. The joke is so simple and well-timed, you cannot help but laugh. The clip is even more powerful in retrospect. Just imagine Pryor as the 40th President instead of Ronald Reagan. They could not be further apart.
 

 
Richard Pryor was also known for his racy language — as evidenced in the NSFW clip below — but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who was better at telling a joke. He was a masterful storyteller with a rapid-fire delivery and live-wire body before he was slowed by multiple sclerosis. Look at how much he’s worked up a sweat in this clip. He put everything he had into the bit about boxing — whether lamenting going up against Muhammad Ali or “boxing them dudes who look like they just killed their parents.” Try not to laugh as he hits the microphone against his forehand. It’s impossible.
 

 
Or take this sweet clip about kids lying. It’s reminiscent of Bill Cosby, but there’s something even more cutting in Pryor’s delivery. He’s charming as a small child trying to lie his way out of getting in trouble. The running part is genius — something we’ve all done as kids while trying to skirt the truth.
 

 
In his special, Richard Pryor: Live on the Comic Strip, he recounts going to the Arizona state penitentiary to shoot Stir Crazy. He explains, “It’s strange. It’s about 80% black people. And what’s strange about that is that there are no black people in Arizona.” Watch the NSFW clip and learn about Triple Mike. And how Gene Wilder liked to befriend the men in the pen.
 

 
Richard Pryor left a wonderfully comic legacy. An Emmy and multiple Grammy Award winner, he received the first ever Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor. In addition to the clips, check out his films, particularly Silver Streak, California Suite, Lady Sings the Blues, Stir Crazy and Bustin’ Loose. Or listen to one of his dozen albums. You cannot go wrong.
 
About a year ago, I was honored that Richard Pryor, Jr., son of the legendary comedian, was in the audience at my weekly comedy show — Ted Greenberg’s The Complete Performer. It was an privilege to meet him since my respect for his father’s gifts could not be any bigger.



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Top Jewish Comics

Categories: Latest News
Posted: April 5, 2012
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A few weeks ago, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by giving a shout out to my four favorite Irish comics. With Passover upon us, it’s time to hail four Jewish comics I’m grateful for. Thank goodness for that lamb’s blood, and the plagues and all of that. From such a tragic situation came a quartet of daring, no holds barred comedians. With a nod to greats Jackie Mason and Woody Allen, I’ve opted to recognize four other working comics.
 
 
4. Amy Schumer. A fast-rising star, Amy has appeared on numerous TV shows — “Curb Your Enthusiam”, “30 Rock” and “Delocated” and is slated to star alongside Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in the film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Watch how she handles a heckler in this NSFW video.
 

 

3. Danny Cohen. Whether making his outrageous, weird, helium-infused short films or performing stand up, Cohen delivers. Check out this vintage video from Comedy Central.
 

2. Judy Gold. Judy has parlayed her outsized comic abilities into two successful Off Broadway shows (The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother), appearances on TRU TV Presents World’s Dumbest and stand up special on Comedy Central. She was a breath of fresh air on an episode of the underrated TV show The Glades last season.
 

 

1. Jessica Kirson. She’s a national headliner, a familiar face as a late night TV guest and measured in convulsive laughs. The best club comic in the business. See why she’s so funny in this clip.
 



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