Sometimes it feels like every hour or so another NY/LA-based comedian releases his/her own web show, usually featuring his/her name in the title, along with the word “show” or some derivative thereof. There’s the Maria Bamford Show on Superdeluxe, of course, David Wain’s Stella-like, Wainy Days exclusive to MyDamnChannel, Andrea Rosen’s self-described “intimate and somewhat creepy Web series,” Standrea, also on SuperDeluxe, just to name a few.
And not only are the titles of these series getting more creative, but the shows themselves are mostly enjoyable, with clever, offbeat writing, lots of deadpan humor, all in short web-friendly spurts. So it appears that the recent scramble for comic talent by sites like Superdeluxe, MyDamnChannel, Crackle, and FunnyorDie, is proving mutually beneficial – comics get a relatively hassle-free space to experiment with sitcom forms perhaps not yet ready for Adult Swim or Comedy Central, while these sites get quality shows with recognizable names to feature on their homepages.
Today, I thought I’d discuss a super-niche subsection of this welcome phenomenon: the NY-based-comedian fake-talk-show, particularly Chelsea Paretti’s new All My Exes, and Michael Showalter’s The Michael Showalter Showalter, both of which represent inexpensive and creative twists on the sitcom, that seem at home on the web.
### The conceit of Chelsea Peretti’s new SuperDeluxe exclusive mock-talk-show is pretty simple: the comedian plays herself (or probably a heightened version of herself, but it’s not entirely clear) and she interviews her ex-boyfriends, mostly explaining to them why she broke it off. Conversations are painfully civilized, and much of the humor is in the subtext that oozes out awkwardly here and there in such passive-aggressive quips as when Peretti greets her first guest, Jean Michel, by saying, “Thank you for being here on time.”
A lot of people, including the New York Observer, like to compare Chelsea Paretti to Sarah Silverman, probably because they’re both youngish, successful comedians, who both happen to be women and tend to say things in their acts that “the public” might not expect a woman to say, I guess.
And although Peretti’s new web show can’t touch Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program in terms of viewership or production value, one perk about not being on cable is that Peretti can say much dirtier and/or racially-insensitive things…and she says them, for sure. Don’t believe me? When introducing her African-American ex-boyfriend, Jean, she explains: “He filled a hole in me I’ve never had filled before, and certainly not to that extent.” Take that Comedy Central.
As she recently explained in that Observer article, “The comedians I personally like to watch are the ones who actually say something real about their experience as a person.” Hopefully, she’ll allow for these brief moments once in a while on her show, (and they should be brief) when the framework breaks down, revealing just a little bit more of character, messiness and all.
The Michael Showalter Showalter, exclusive to College Humor, released monthly and running about 5 minutes long, is to the Charlie Rose Show, what Larry Sanders was to the Tonight Show. Showalter interviews fellow comedians and friends, surrounded by a dramatic black backdrop, and throws them mostly-silly questions such as asking Andy Samberg to play The Hanukah Song. My favorite so far is his conversation with Paul Rudd, check it out:
Showalter gives viewers a lot of what I found lacking in “All My Exes” – a window into what goes on backstage and between takes. And it’s these little snippets of chitchat woven into interviews that are usually the funniest parts of episodes. For example, there’s a running joke on the series involving Showalter having quasi-serious conversations with his guests, who are assured that they’re “off the record,” yet the cameras never stop rolling, such as when David Wain spills his guts about his explosive stomach problems. And his breakdown during the Paul Rudd interview is pretty classic as well.
And by breaking up the interview, and differentiating between “on-the-job Showalter” and “between-takes Showalter,” we’re able to learn a little more about his character, which, even in a fake-talk-show that’s only five minutes long, makes the series more fulfilling and enjoyable.
We learn that Showalter’s “character” is sort of cheap, so in one episode, when the camera stops rolling, guest Zach Galifianakis keeps asking Showalter if he’s serious about collecting gas money because Showalter apparently drove him two miles somewhere three years ago. And in another between-take, Showalter awkwardly asks Michael Ian Black for a $5000 loan. Seeing Showalter and his guests in uncomfortable situations makes the viewer feel uncomfortable too, but they also make us laugh.
So let’s hope both of these mock-talk-show-sitcom hybrids continue, as they allow comedians and their funny friends to cheaply collaborate in a web-friendly format. And as more and more show up, and competition grows, they’ll hopefully only get better.