Friday, February 10, 2006

Out of touch with the funny

When good comedians go bad
Remember when Steve Martin, Albert Brooks and Woody Allen were funny? What on earth happened to our favorite funnymen?
By Stephanie Zacharek [2006-02-10]

This has been one of my ongoing peeves with comedians-made-big: they cease to be funny the moment that they're co-opted into the machine.

Eddie Murphy? Not funny since Raw.

Chris Rock? Increasingly nonfunny, and now he has a TV series (that he literally gets to phone in).

Steve Martin? Denis Leary? Ray Romano? Kevin James? Brett Butler? Roseanne? The list goes on.

They all have one thing in common: the moment that they hit it big they stopped performing in front of live audiences.

Not one of them has had to adapt his act for changing times and changing tastes from the moment that they acheived "success". Thus they cease to be relevant and daring and risky and breathtaking, and dammit, funny.

Get back on the road for a few months out of every few years, guys. Remember the funny, then bring it back to your movies and TV shows. Stop coasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago, when I lived in LA, I got a traffic ticket and opted to go to traffic school at the Improv comedy club. We basically ate pizza, watched Red Asphalt Lite, and in the end got two free tickets to an evening's standup.

On the first day, our instructor let us into a secret: Robin Williams would be appearing unuannounced that evening, working up material for the Oscars a couple nights later, when he'd be a presenter. He let us have our free tickets early so we could go see him.

Turns out it was Williams and the guy who did the voice of Roger Rabbit. And it was one of the most impressive acts of sheer genius -- not just genius comedy, I'm talking genius brainpower -- I've ever witnessed. Things like them challenging each other: "OK, now do Marlon Brando's character in On The Waterfront, if Jimmy Stewart had been cast instead of Brando, except it's Daffy Duck instead of Stewart." And then pulling it off. Remembering, I can't even remember how they did that, I just remember hearing Robin Williams do Daffy Duck as Jimmy Stewart impersonating Marlon Brando, and nailing it.

And they did, indeed, use the routines they'd improvised that night at the Oscars. The tamest of them, anyway.

I've always appreciated Williams since then.

February 20, 2006 1:34 PM  

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