comedy

Need a good laugh? Try Chicago.

The Humor Research Lab at the Leeds School of Business at University of Colorado Boulder (and doesn't that sound like it was created by The Onion?) concocted an algorithm to rate America's funniest cities.

Humor researchers calculated factors like the number of working comics and comedy clubs per capita, funny local tweeters and visits to funny websites. They asked people to assess what they called their "need for levity."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Scientists say the papyrus that mentions a wife of Jesus is not a forgery. Stephen Colbert will take over when Letterman leaves. I'm not saying the two things are connected, but maybe our weekly culture roundtable The Nose will find a common thread.

It might seem like a small thing - the departure of Stephen Colbert from his late night role in which he depicts a strutting, preening, right-wing media star. In the last analysis, who cares who takes over the Letterman show?

Breaking news on CBS-TV's Twitter feed:

"Stephen Colbert to be next host of 'The Late Show'...press release coming"

Future Atlas / Flickr Creative Commons

Today on The Scramble, we'll talk about a system run by the Navy that keeps track of, among other things, parking tickets and field information cards filled out by police, even when no crime has occurred - is this data collection crossing a line?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

President Obama has consistently refused to be a panelist on The Nose, but his appearance this week on "Between Two Ferns" with Zach Galifianakis has given us new hope!

"My mouse pad broke, and I had to get my great-aunt some diabetes shoes."

That's how comedian Zach Galifianakis begins his segment with President Obama in an episode of the online interview show Between Two Ferns that was posted Tuesday. It was an interview unlike any other for a sitting U.S. president, as Galifianakis probed the commander in chief's views with a range of oddball questions.

Opening nights of new incarnations of late-night TV talk shows are good, mostly, for first impressions — or, in the case of Jay Leno, sometimes a second impression. It's not fair to make strong judgments on the content alone, because a first show always is top-heavy with ideas, special guests and nervousness. But it is fair game to judge the set, the environment, the overall mood, and how well the host fits into the history of late-night television.

The new guy's getting pretty good reviews.

Jimmy Fallon took over NBC's The Tonight Show on Monday night, saying he just wants "to do the best I can ... make you laugh and put a smile on your face."

As part of a new series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click and people leap forward into their careers.

For about a decade, Bobby Moynihan lived a double life. By day, Moynihan says, he tended bar at a Pizzeria Uno in New York. By night, he performed improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

But he says he always had one dream: to join the cast of Saturday Night Live.

Chion Wolf

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. But, why is comedy so hard, especially on the stage, and what makes something funny?

The premise for a famously funny plot could easily sound like a tragedy.  An out of work actor is so desperate for employment that he dresses up like a woman and then falls in love with a beautiful co-star whom he deceives and betrays on several levels. That doesn't sound that hilarious. 

This week the long-running comedy show Saturday Night Live hired Sasheer Zamata as a new cast member. The show had come under criticism for its lack of diversity, especially its lack of black women; Zamata will be the show's first female African-American cast member in six years.

It may seem, now that Saturday Night Live has hired a black female cast member and two black female writers, that the conversation about diversity on TV's most influential comedy show is over.

But it's just getting started.

This interview was originally broadcast on Nov. 20, 2013.

This interview was originally broadcast on June 18, 2013.

Mike Lavoie.

There aren't that many jokes in the US Constitution. Either that, or there are too many, and they're all on us. Comedian Colin Quinn says most of you have never even read it. Who's gonna read something four pages long in this day and age?

Sarah Silverman is funny — sweet, bawdy, innocent, outrageous, Emmy-winning, milk-through-your-nose funny. And her new comedy special, We are Miracles, debuts tonight on HBO.

Performing in front of a live audience, the comedian takes on religion, pornography, childhood, politics and stereotypes, and no one's left standing. (No really: One punchline involves Hitler being assigned "Heil Marys" as penance.)

Silverman tells NPR's Scott Simon that she thinks good comedy comes from "some kind of childhood humiliation or darkness."

Losing It On The Air

Oct 18, 2013
Pulse12, Flickr Creative Commons

I don't know why we love it so much when anyone in front of a live audience loses their composure and bursts out into laughter. Maybe because it shows them for what they really are - human. It's so fascinating to witness a spontaneous surrender to, well, giddiness, and because of good ol' fashioned empathy, we can't help but laugh along. 

Chion Wolf

A popular video this week was a highlight reel of Stephen Colbert being unable to stay in character as a pompous, self-pleased right wing blowhard. Instead, Colbert is swept up in the hilarity of the material. One of his adorable tricks is to hide the lower half of his face behind something, allowing us to see only his laughing eyes.

Kudumomo / Creative Commons

The plan to transfer all female prisoners out of the Danbury federal facility is back in effect today, although it remains to be seen whether the government shutdown will slow transfers. While we wait to see what happens next, The Wheelhouse Digest is making a pit stop in New London, where a German website has taken an interest in development news. Also a must-see: the "Saturday Night Live" send-up of a square white Connecticut mom who checks out Grand Theft Auto 5, and ended up playing it all week.

http://hannibalburess.com/

Standup is not an easy thing to do. You might think you're funny, but funny takes on a new definition when you're stranded on stage with just a microphone, a spotlight, and a judgmental audience. Today we talked comedy with Jason Zinoman, first-ever comedy critic for The New York Times. While researching the show, I watched a lot of comedy (what a job I have!) so I thought it would be fun to provide you with a sampling of a few of my favorite performers. Caution: some of these sketches may contain NSFW language so, you know, don't blast it at your desk.

Wikipedia

"Saturday Night Live" returned for a new season on last weekend. There are six new "featured players," the biggest cast turnover in recent memory. Five white men and one white woman. 

I brought up SNL with Eric Deggans on a recent show, and before the question was all the way out of my mouth he was planting his palm on his face and moaning, "I know what you're going to say."

Wikimedia Commons

You could say that most of the live comedy done by young performers in cities around the United States is just one big feeder system for Saturday Night Live, which launched a new season this weekend.

Chion Wolf

Come on, you must be outraged about something! These are the headlines: "Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World." "Dave Chappelle's Hate-On For Hartford Called 'Sad,' 'Asinine.'" "No Exception For Newington Veteran Being Evicted For Smoking." 

Chion Wolf

We have in the works, for next week, a show about J.D. Salinger, the American writer most at odds with his own greatness. 

Little did we suspect that Dave Chappelle, the comedian most at odds with his own greatness, would come to Hartford and have peculiar and very contrary experience with the audience here and create a national stir by his refusal to perform for them.

Exit Stage Right

Aug 30, 2013
Matias3000 (Flickr Creative Commons)

Hartford's Comcast Theatre seemed like an odd venue for the Oddball Comedy Tour.

Well, the night ended oddly enough when David Chappelle walked off after a few minutes. Unfortunately for him, audiences now obsess with recording everything (see this NSFW Louis CK bit), and there is lots of crummy cell-phone footage circulating from the performance.

Compared to some of the other stories in the world right now, this isn't a big deal. But it got us talking about something other than the VMAs.

Baseball All-Star Game Special: Abby and Costello

Jul 3, 2013
CPBN Media Lab

Just in time for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game festivities, the CPBN Media Lab Radio Theatre proudly presents Erin "Abby" Connolly and Tyler "Costello" Salomon in this homage to the great Abbott & Costelllo and their classic Who's on First?

Follow along below with this transcript courtesy of the Baseball-Almanac.com

Chion Wolf

Chion Wolf

Some time in the late 1980s, when my main job was writing allegedly funny newspapers and magazine pieces and books  I was visiting a friend who worked in the offices of "Late Night with David Letterman." I think she was an assistant to Dave's assistant or something. Anyway, she introduced me to the show's head writer Steve O'Donnell and she must have mentioned me before because he said, "Oh yes. The humorist."

Flickr Creative Commons, Free Grunge Textures

Today, in order to watch a Lenny Bruce monologue on YouTube, I had to sit through a Starbucks commercial. This feels like proof that some kind of fundamental battle has been lost, right? The Internet is free, but not really.

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