From the archive: Bill Simmons talks to comedian Louis C.K. about his stand-up special Live at the Beacon Theater, the history and business of stand-up comedy, the process of making Louie, and viewers' response to the controversial Dane Cook episode.
First, a couple of Florida reps flamed Jay-Z and "the diva Beyoncé" for their trip to Cuba. Then Hova responded with "Open Letter" ("Politicians never did shit for me except lie to me, distort history, wanna give me jail time and a fine Obama said, 'Chill, you gonna get me impeached. You don't need this shit anyway, chill with me on the beach'"). And then things got really good: Press Secretary Jay Carney found himself in the strange position of explaining to a press conference that (a) it was a song, y'all, and (b) "I guess nothing rhymes with treasury." Sure, there are some near rhymes (wild celery, feathery, telephone directory), but they really do lack punch. I'd beg someone out there to remix this video, perhaps adding AutoTune or launching an entire web series devoted to White House press events dissecting Snoop Lion's stance on same-sex marriage or the political relevance of "Hey Porsche," but I'm sure there's a mastermind already at work.
Since SNL announced that it will occasionally be crowd-sourcing host and musical guest suggestions — and since the first Host of the People (if you don’t count the Betty White campaign), Louis CK, had such a good turn — I’ve been brainstorming my short list of candidates for 2013. Jamie Foxx will host next week with Ne-Yo, and Martin Short and Paul McCartney are up on the 15th; after that, it’s up to America (well, sometimes). And I don’t trust America. America is too hung up on ska right now, and I see a lone wolf in the pack of commenters calling out for Eric Dane to host. What if that person has a high Klout score? I’m afraid of Americans. I’m afraid of the world. Trust no one. Except me. Trust me. Here is my SNL host/musical guest omakase:
Last night’s breathtaking episode of Louie also served as a remarkable change of pace. Not only did it pick up the events of last week’s wonderful “Daddy’s Girlfriend” — a surprising blast of continuity for the famously shaggy show — it also provided a brilliant showcase for the talents of Parker Posey, the onetime “Queen of the Indies." As Liz (née Tape Recorder), Louis C.K.’s bookish, possibly bananas date, Posey was a revelation, leading our hero like a schlubby Dante through the vibrant underworld that is New York City.
Alternately tender and terrifying, “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2” was both a creative breakthrough for an already excellent show and a long-needed turn in the spotlight for Posey, one of the most gifted actors alive at revealing the brittle cracks hiding behind every smile. Speaking to me via cell phone from Los Angeles, where the longtime Manhattanite was taking meetings and “dodging grass cutters,” Posey was funny, engaging, and breathless. When I ended the call by complimenting her again on her performance, she replied like the working actor she is. “Thank you,” she laughed. “Hopefully someone will see it. And give me a job.”
At 5:40 a.m. this morning on the West Coast, Jimmy Kimmel (in pajamas) and Kerry Washington (in need of coffee) made a lot of English people very, very happy. Downton Abbey — freed from the shackles of its bizarre “miniseries” designation — not only was free to play with the big boys in the 64th Emmy Awards, but to now dominate them with 16 nominations (for those reading in London, that’s about nine quid). The rest of the nominations followed recent trends, a smooth mix of populist favorites (Jim Parsons, Melissa McCarthy) and critical validation (Lena Dunham! Louis C.K.! Gus Fring!). For those looking for axes to grind, the usual snubs were apparent (Community, Nick Offerman, the veterinarians of Luck). But the truth is, compared to its geriatric sister award shows, the Emmys continually come the closest to actually recognizing excellence.
As for those merely looking for axes, you can rest easy: Game of Thrones snagged 11 nominations of its own. (A full list of the nominees can be found here.)
It was renowned (and recently deceased) film critic Andrew Sarris who popularized the “auteur theory” in American cinema. In extreme shorthand, it’s the belief that films are best viewed as the aesthetic extension of one human — the director — whose top-down decisions affect every aspect of what we see onscreen. In recent years, those of us who cover television for a living have come to apply the auteur theory to the idiot box as well, considering the best shows as ongoing art projects propagated by a single visionary showrunner: Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad, Kurt Sutter on Sons of Anarchy, Whitney Cummings on Whitney.
Our “Postracial All Stars” are politicians, personalities, artists, athletes, etc. who are best at helping us deal with where we are on race relations today. They keep it real, when others can’t. A Barack, a Jon Stewart/Daily Show, a Chris Rock, a South Park, a Lorne Michaels, a Modern Family, a Louis CK (mentioned below), as past and current examples, don’t ignore the “race” elephant in the room. Nor are they cornered by it. They show us old racial profiles in new contexts (i.e. rappers using the n-word, who are young white females). Or a new wrinkle in the current conversation (NBA millionaires premised as "plantation workers"). They are actively engaging, often embracing the nuanced scenarios of today. And making it fun for us to keep tabs along with them.
See, now you get it! This week in order to kick off 2012 proper we’re honoring some of the new blood: herewith, a lineup of Postracial All Stars from 2011.
First, it's time for another losing Thursday night football pick! I'm grabbing Jacksonville +12.5 points in Atlanta for the simple reason that the 2011 Falcons shouldn't be favored by that many points over anyone except the Rams and the Indianapolis Orlovskys.
OK, so last night was a big for the BS Report studio: the great Louis C.K. stopped by for a lively chat about his new comedy special ("Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater"), his superb FX comedy Louie, the story behind the famous Dane Cook episode, the ups and downs of his standup career, his creative process, and topics like "Why does Hollywood try to meddle so much with creative people?", "Can Chris Rock become a serious actor some day?" and "Is it OK to want to beat up kids in your daughter's school without actually beating them up?" Somehow we babbled on for two parts without ever mentioning Boston (he grew up there), the Celtics (he loves them) or boxing (his favorite sport). Maybe next time.
The best thing on the Internet this Saturday was Louis CK's $5-per-download middleman-eliminating standup special Live at the Beacon, the "In Rainbows" of standup specials featuring jokes about babies with big dicks. The best thing on the Internet today is CK's equally un-middlemanned Reddit Q&A, in which he discusses retaining creative control by making his TV show for a too-low-to-quote price ("the budget for the first season was cough dollars and the second season was sneeze"), the possibility that he'll self-finance a movie if his next crazy DIY experiment "tears an asshole into the money monster who then shits dollars into my mouth (oh my god what's wrong with me)", and whether or not his Afghanistan episode "Duckling" was actually filmed on location in the Graveyard of Empires ("it [was] filmed in Santa Clarita California which is not technically in afghanistan.") It's all amazing and inspiring, because Louis CK is a monster who poops "amazing and inspiring" into the mouth of the culture every goddamn day. But we particularly enjoyed this exchange from early in the chat, in which some authentically touching how-to-be-a-dad advice is couched within an anecdote about comedy groupies.
How are television’s favorite angry white males of a certain age feeling put-upon and impotent this week? Let us count the ways.
3. Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Predicament: Big drama for the Greenes as their beloved German shepherd, Oscar, has to be put down just before they move to New York for three months. Larry and Jeff are suffering from low blood sugar, so they wind up eating Oscar’s last supper of Pinkberry — a perfect crime they would have gotten away with if it weren’t for that meddling Vance, currently observing a vow of silence as recommended by his spiritual adviser, shattering said vow by ratting them out after Larry left a nasty note on his windshield lambasting his double-parking habits.
Meanwhile, Larry declines TV director Tessler’s invitation to come volunteer at a one-day camp for disabled kids by claiming he’s going to New York to work on a show with Seinfeld. As the camp’s date changes, so, amazingly, do Larry’s travel plans, but not his insistence on avoiding it — or Tessler’s persistence in asking, going so far as to call Larry’s bluff by offering him a three-month sublet in Manhattan. So, for anyone wondering what the narrative conceit that would send Season 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm to New York would be, there you go: It’s to follow-through on an elaborate lie devised to avoid helping the helpless.
How are television’s favorite angry white males of a certain age feeling powerless and put-upon this week? Let us count the ways.
3. Louis CK (Last week: 1)
Predicament: When Louie has Jane and Lily, he tends to want to teach them some valuable lesson, and this time it’s in the form of a road trip. They’re driving to Pennsylvania to see his great aunt Ellen, who lives alone at age 97. He wants the girls to hear firsthand what life was like in a different age, before television, before cars, while there’s still the opportunity, which, of course triggers some brief mortality anxiety. Lily keeps chanting that she’s “Bored, bored, bored, bored,” and Louie’s incredulous — their brains have barely begun to develop, it’s a miracle they’re even alive, they haven’t earned the right to be bored. He does his part to keep things interesting by blasting and singing along to pretty much the entirety of “Who Are You?” — hey, if you’re gonna bust the budget clearing a music license, you might as well get your money’s worth. (Think the final omelet-making scene in Big Night: Once you realize you’re seeing the whole thing, the pace is weirdly engrossing and, in this case, hilarious, if only to see Louie experiencing the closest thing we’ll see to unbridled joy.)