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Maya Rudolph Variety Show Finally Set to Air

Thursday April 17, 2014

Maya RudolphLast November, I reported that NBC was giving former Saturday Night Live cast member Maya Rudolph her own variety show, set to premiere during the Winter Olympics. Well, the Olympics have come and gone and Rudolph's show never made it on the air.

Now it appears that NBC is finally ready to air the show. The AV Club reports that The Maya Rudolph Show will take its bow Monday, May 19 at 9 p.m. CST. Not quite the high-profile premiere the network had promised, but at least it's getting on the air at all.

Guest on the special -- once believed to be a pilot for a regular variety series -- will include fellow former SNL cast members Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, plus Kristin Bell, Craig Robinson and Sean Hayes. The musical guest for the show is Janelle Monae, but I'm sure Rudolph will be doing a number or two of her own.

Is the variety show format still viable? I guess that depends on how much of the special is devoted to comedy (since we can technically call SNL a "variety show") and how much of it is reminiscent of something the Mandrell Sisters put on TV in the early '80s. I'll tell you what -- if we somehow find out that Rudolph's partner Paul Thomas Anderson directed any of it, I'll DVR it and watch it every day.

(Via AV Club)

Photo courtesy NBC

R.I.P. Otto Petersen

Thursday April 17, 2014

Otto and GeorgeComedian and ventriloquist Otto Petersen died in his sleep earlier this week. He was 53 years old.

Petersen was half (technically all) of Otto and George, a ventriloquist act best known for being X-rated. Born in 1960 and raised in Staten Island, New York, Petersen began performing with his dummy in the 1970s and was still doing comedy as of his passing. He was a regular guest of the Opie & Anthony Show on SIRIUS/XM satellite radio and gave a memorable performance in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats.

He was hospitalized last year with bacterial meningitis, but as of now there is no word as to whether or not it contributed to his death.

Petersen is one of several notable comedians to pass away already in 2014. So far this year we've lost Sid Caesar, David Brenner, John Pinette and now Otto and George.

Best wishes to any family or loved ones Petersen leaves behind.

Photo by Getty Images

Saturday Night Live Recap: Seth Rogen/Ed Sheeran

Sunday April 13, 2014

Seth Rogen hosts SNLSeth Rogen hosted Saturday Night Live for the third time this week in what can best be described as a "placeholder" episode; it wasn't a a particularly strong episode, but it wasn't a memorable trainwreck either. If anything, I'll remember this episode for being slightly experimental in a throwback way; more than one sketch was reminiscent of the kind of thing the sketch show used to do in the early days of its run. That's probably not going to matter to the average viewer who tuned in to see Rogen be, like, Green Hornet funny, but for an SNL nerd like me that kind of thing matters.

Because we're closing in on the season finale (before the show enters its 40th[!!] season next fall), the trickle of guest stars has already begun. Rogen's friend James Franco dropping by to make some jokes about an Instagram "controversy" this week makes sense; Taylor Swift and Zooey Deschanel appearing during the monologue less so. It's too bad they couldn't have shown up in a sketch or two throughout the night, as it might have added a jolt of...something during a couple of the rough patches. (Read the full Seth Rogen/Ed Sheeran recap)

Photo courtesy NBC

Chelsea Handler Leaving Chelsea Lately

Saturday April 12, 2014

Chelsea HandlerWith all the talk of Stephen Colbert taking over as the host of The Late Show when David Letterman retires next year, it seems like the fact that Chelsea Handler is leaving her long-running E! talk show Chelsea Lately when her contract expires.

The news is over a week old at this point, but it seems odd that it wasn't a bigger story. Handler has hosted the show for eight years and has built a sizable audience, with a huge audience of young and female viewers. She's the only female host in late night and has made a huge name for herself, yet isn't really part of the conversation. Handler herself has recently expressed frustration with the way she feels she is marginalized as a female in late night.

Her point seems to have been proven by the choice of Colbert as Letterman's replacement. For the record, I love Colbert and think he'll do a terrific job -- he is deserving of the opportunity (even though I'm sad The Colbert Report will be ending). And it's not like Handler should have gotten the job just because she's a woman. But she's a proven success in late night, building a relevant show on a network not known for late night programming, so it seems strange that she wasn't part of a conversation that pretty quickly settled on another white man to host a late night show.

Handler has burned most of her bridges at E! in the last month, complaining about the network on talk show appearances and being vocally contemptuous with the way things were running around there. Her announcement that she's through with E! just a few weeks later was hardly a surprise. When the Letterman announcement was made, it seemed like great timing.

Maybe Handler already has plans for what she'll do next; maybe she had no interest in going over to CBS. Whatever she does, I'm sure she'll succeed. But her departure deserves attention, because eight years of a talk show is nothing to sneeze at. Even if it was on E!.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

New Shows from Tracy Morgan, Aisha Tyler

Saturday April 12, 2014

Tracy MorganComedians Aisha Tyler and Tracy Morgan are the two latest comedians to get sitcom deals -- one of which is going right to series.

Tracy Morgan just signed a deal with FXX for a show that's guaranteed a 13-episode run, courtesy of a development deal with Rob McElhenny, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day (the stars of the network's long-running It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). According to LaughSpin, the actors came up with the series with Morgan in mind and FXX is so high on the idea that the show is skipping the pilot phase entirely.

Morgan already shot a pilot for FX called Death Pact. While that show never received an official pass, it seems unlikely that Morgan is going to be two shows at FX.

In the non-cable TV realm, CBS has optioned Aisha Tyler's second book Self Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation for a possible half-hour sitcom which she will executive produce.

No word on whether or not Tyler will star, but that seems unlikely. She's a busy lady these days; in addition to writing memoirs and performing stand-up, Tyler is a co-host on the CBS daytime talk show The Talk, the host of the revived Whose Line Is It Anyway? and a voice on the animated FX comedy series Archer. While I think Tyler definitely has the makings of being a sitcom star (who could forget her turn on Friends, where she wasn't allowed to be funny at all?), she's got too many other cool projects in which she's involved to give them up. Well, some of them are cool. Ok, Archer is cool.

Tracy Morgan's last regular TV gig was on 30 Rock, which ran for seven seasons. His next stand-up special, Bona Fide, premieres on Comedy Central on April 20th.

(via LaughSpin)

Photo courtesy HBO

R.I.P. John Pinette

Sunday April 6, 2014

John PinetteComedian John Pinette was found dead of natural causes in a Pennsylvania hotel room on Saturday. He was 50 years old.

The Massachusetts-born comic got his start in the 1980s, where he built a name for himself as a club comic and worked as the opening act for Frank Sinatra. Pinette continued to work clubs for the entirety of his career, eventually getting into television and movies. He had a regular role on the '90s FOX sitcom Parker Lewis Can't Lose and acted in films like Dear God and The Punisher.

In 1999, Pinette was named Funniest Male Stand-up at the American Comedy Awards. His latest hour-long special, John Pinette: Still Hungry, debuted on Comedy Central in 2011.

I was lucky enough to see Pinette perform stand-up during the "Let Freedom Hum" show at the 2009 Just for Laughs Chicago festival. I had been aware of him as a stand-up for two decades, but had unfairly written him off as a club comic in whom I had little interest. Seeing him kill at Chicago's Vic Theater, I immediately understood how he had built such a long and successful career. The guy was a really good stand-up. May he rest in peace.

Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images

SNL Recap: Anna Kendrick/Pharrell Williams

Sunday April 6, 2014

Anna Kendrick hosts SNLActress and sometimes singer Anna Kendrick hosted Saturday Night Live this week where she acted and sometimes sang. She sang quite a bit, actually, from her opening monologue to her last sketch. Sometimes, like in the Little Mermaid sketch (pictured), the singing was the whole point -- Kendrick savaged the annoying baby voices of current pop stars. Sometimes, the singing was there either because Kendrick can sing or because the writers didn't know what else to do. The episode was mixed as a whole, with some disappointing repeat sketches mixed in with really good video pieces (seriously, all three were great this week), but its greatest sin was failing to make better use of Kendrick. I suspect she has the potential to be one of those hosts that gets brought back once a season like Jon Hamm and Melissa McCarthy, but we'll never know it on the basis of this episode. (Read the full SNL Anna Kendrick/Pharrell Williams recap)

Photo courtesy NBC

New Comedy Central App Offers Hundreds of Free Episodes

Sunday April 6, 2014

Comedy Central logoThis week, Comedy Central announced the launch of a new app that will allow users to view almost 200 of the network's shows including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, South Park and the Chris Hardwick-hosted @midnight the day after new episodes air.

The Comedy Central app is the first time the network has made this much content available for mobile devices (including the full series of Chappelle's Show), so it's nice of them to catch up to 2014. The downside to the Comedy Central app is that it is available on iOS devices in full only to anyone with a paid subscription to participating providers, meaning some Dish Network customers won't be able to view all 200 Comedy Central shows. Whether this is only a temporary measure that will someday be ironed out I cannot say.

Comedy Central is reportedly going to launch a version of the app for Android later this year.

SNL Recap: Louis C.K./Sam Smith

Sunday March 30, 2014

Louis CK on Saturday Night LiveLouis C.K. is among my favorite stand-up comics working today, so it's always interesting (and by "always" I mean "for the second time in two years") to see a comedian I love hosting the show I love. And I do love Saturday Night Live, even when it doesn't always love me back.

The thing about C.K. is that while he's a brilliant stand-up and director, he's not exactly a sketch performer. There is a fascinating tension between the way that he is traditionally funny and what he's asked to do on Saturday Night Live, which is why he can crush the monologue (which was just his own stand-up) but be on less secure footing during the sketches. He always commits and never acts like he's above the material, but also never quite disappears into his characters. The two things don't mesh as well as I would usually like, but I don't always mind it with C.K. Episodes like this week's aren't great (which has less to do with the host than with the writing), but at least they're flawed in interesting ways. (Read the full Louis C.K. SNL recap)

Photo courtesy NBC

Dave Chappelle to Perform for One Night Only in NYC

Saturday March 29, 2014

Dave ChappelleFresh off his headlining gig on last summer's Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Tour, comedian and notorious recluse Dave Chappelle announced this week that he will perform a special one-night-only engagement at New York's Radio City Musical Hall on June 18. The performance marks the first time Chappelle will perform in the Big Apple since the filming of his 2005 concert film Dave Chappelle's Block Party.

Chappelle stand-up gigs have been a rare sight since he abandoned Chappelle's Show in 2005 following his now-famous sojourn to Africa. He popped up infrequently at clubs, sometimes performing record-breaking six hour sets like the one he did in 2007. But aside from last summer's tour, this is probably the biggest and most publicized opportunity to see one of the best stand-up comics of the last 30 years do his thing. Just make sure you don't heckle him, because he will walk.

Tickets for the Radio City gig go on sale April 4.

(Via AV Club)

Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

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