The Light from the TV Shows: David Steinberg Gets “Inside Comedy” on Showtime

David Steinberg began his career in comedy with Chicago’s Second City, quickly gaining fame as a stand-up through his appearances on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” while also courting controversy by performing comedic “sermons” on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” In 1981, Steinberg began to shift his focus from performing to directing, starting with the Burt Reynolds film “Paternity,” and has gone on to become one of the more prolific sitcom directors in the business, but he recently stepped back in front of the camera to host the new Showtime series, Inside Comedy,” which airs Thursdays at 11 PM. Steinberg spoke with Bullz-Eye about his new gig, detailing the trials and tribulations of securing classic clips to accompany his interviews, while also discussing some of his past efforts as an actor, director, and stand-up comedian.

[NOTE: All photos appear courtesy of TheDavidSteinberg.com.]

Bullz-Eye: This is certainly not your first time hosting a show where you interview comedians: you also brought us Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg. Not that there isn’t still plenty of material yet to mine, but what inspired you to take another crack at it?

David Steinberg: I felt that I hadn’t really done it the way I wanted to. That’s why we first started this as a film. Starting it as a film was really good, because then you get so much material, and it’s sort of looser or whatever. And then I settled on this notion of putting two people together and how they connect, but not in any specific ways. They just go together by what they’re talking about. And once I arrived at that, I thought, “This is gonna be good!” [Laughs.] Of course, making it that good…it was time consuming, but it was great, great fun. I worked with some incredible editors, and there was a lot of archival stuff that we talk about that…well, they know that they’re talking to another comedian. That’s the bottom line. And then, archivally, I didn’t just do the clichéd version. I handpicked the clips that I wanted and then begged people to let me use them. [Laughs.] Archival stuff takes so long to get people to sign off on.

BE: Was there anything you wanted to use that, even with all of your pleading, you still couldn’t get?

DS: Yeah, for Jonathan Winters, I had a clip of him in an old Dean Martin roast where he’s roasting (Ronald) Reagan, and in it there’s a wide shot where you could see Dean Martin, Reagan, (Don) Rickles, Phyllis Diller, and… [Sighs.] You know, it’s generally not the original inheritors of the celebrity estates that are the problem. It’s the grandchildren, who don’t even know or understand what it means to be celebrating Jonathan Winters. They asked for so much money everywhere that we couldn’t use it. I ended up having to go with just a tight shot of Jonathan instead. So, y’know, just stuff like that drove me nuts. For the most part, though, I got everything I wanted. Some were just so exorbitant that I just couldn’t do it. But I’m happy with it.

BE: Speaking of Jonathan Winters on Showtime, he also appeared on The Green Room with Paul Provenza not so terribly long ago. It’s great to see people as yourself and Paul continuing to give him the props he deserves.

DS: That’s right, yeah. I will say that the younger comedians tend to look after the older ones. Richard Lewis goes out to Santa Barbara and spends time with him, and Sarah Silverman has done that with Phyllis Diller. It’s very interesting, the comedy community. It’s more surprising and tight-knit than you would imagine.

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A Chat with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (from Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele”)

Although it ran for 14 seasons and 31 episodes, Fox’s “Mad TV” never delivered the kind of instant name recognition that the alumni of its Saturday night competition on NBC tend to get, but dedicated viewers will no doubt recall the faces of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from such recurring sketches as “Coach Hines,” “Funkenstein,” “The Superstitious Knights,” and more. Now, the duo are reuniting for their own sketch comedy series on Comedy Central, and thanks to advance clips from the show going viral, the buzz about “Key & Peele” is tremendous. Bullz-Eye talked to Key and Peele about how they met, the origins of their comedic collaboration, what and viewers can expect from the first season of their series.

Jordan Peele: We’ve done a couple of these so far, Will, and I’ll just go ahead and pre-empt your request to have us announce our names…

Bullz-Eye: I don’t know what you’re talking about. It never would’ve occurred to me to ask you to identify yourselves before speaking.

JP: [Laughs.] Well, this is Jordan speaking, and…I guess I’m the one that sounds more like Bert. And he’s the one that sounds more like Ernie.

BE: I’ll try to remember that during transcription.

Keegan-Michael Key: [Laughs.] Yeah, just put B for one, E for the other. That shouldn’t be too confusing.

BE: Yeah, especially not when “BE” is the abbreviation for Bullz-Eye.

JP: [Laughs.] Well, just to be safe, we’ll keep announcing ourselves, anyway. You can also identify me as the tired one. I’m Jordan.

BE: Right. If someone’s slurring, it’s probably Jordan.

KMK: He’s Eeyore, I’m Piglet.

JP: Piglet? Oh, come on. You’re Tigger.

KMK: Oh, God, what am I talking about? Of course I’m Tigger. [Laughs.]

BE: So you guys obviously worked together for many years on “Mad TV,” but did you know each other at all prior to that series?

KMK: We did. Yeah, we met in Chicago when Jordan was at Boom Chicago, which is an improv theater in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. [Laughs.] As opposed to Amsterdam in New Mexico or something, right?

JP: Hey, there’s also an Amsterdam in New York.

KMK: All right, all right. [Laughs.] Anyway, I was at The Second City, and our casts had a swap. There’s two theaters at the Second City, so one of our casts went to Amsterdam, and Jordan’s cast from Boom Chicago – which is just a really incredible theater – they came to Chicago. So they flipped, and that’s where we met: I was performing on the second stage at Second City, and Jordan’s cast had come in to visit us for a week.

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A Chat with Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”)

Although Jon Heder has rarely been without work since making his cinematic breakthrough in 2004, it would be fair to say that, no matter how many films or television appearances he may have made, people’s first thought when they see him remains “Napoleon Dynamite.” And, really, why wouldn’t it be? Even Heder himself admits that the distance between himself and Mr. Dynamite isn’t exactly the longest trek in the world. Still, if you thought he’d be hesitant to reprise his role for Fox’s upcoming series based on the the character and his adventures, you would be wrong. Heder doesn’t consider Napoleon to be an albatross around his neck. To the contrary, in fact, he’s loving every minute of his prime-time experience, which begins this Sunday evening with two episodes: one at 7:30 PM, one at 8:30 PM.

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Bullz-Eye: So this is a pretty sweet gig you’ve got here.

Jon Heder: Uh…doing all these interviews? [Laughs.]

BE: Well, not necessarily that. I really meant you’ve got a gig where you don’t even necessarily have to wear pants.

JH: Oh, right! Which is appropriate, since Napoleon hardly ever wears pants on the show, either. [Laughs.] But, no, you’re right: this is a sweet gig. And I’m hoping that it continues and finds success. That’d be awesome.

BE: Well, I watched the first two episodes, and they were fun.

JH: I mean, it could possibly be the best job ever, because I love the work, I love the material, it’s, not, like, “Oh, all right.” I love “Napoleon.” And you’re going in, you’re recording, it’s easy scheduling…it could be the best job ever.

BE: Obviously you know the character pretty well. How much in terms of voice acting did you learn from doing films like “Surf’s Up” and “Monster House”?

JH: I’ve learned a lot, but…I don’t know if they necessarily prepped me for this, because…I was trying to create new, different voices and things for “Surf’s Up” and “Monster House.” This was a character I already knew and I knew what I was doing. I suppose doing all of those days of ADR on those films helped.

BE: Was it any trouble to find the Napoleon voice again?

JH: It took maybe five seconds. [Laughs.] It wasn’t too bad. I mean, at first, I definitely felt like one of the many college students who’ve done impersonations that I’ve seen on YouTube or whatever. Or just heard. Like, “Eat your freaking tots!” And as soon as I said it, it was, like, “Oh, uh…” And then I went, “No, no, no, I can own this. I mean, this is me! I am him!” [Laughs.] So it wasn’t too bad.

BE: How many horrible impressions of Napoleon have you heard over the years?

JH: Well, I was telling my wife the other day, “Is this horrible to say?” And it must be because it’s me, because it’s my voice, but…they’re all horrible. [Laughs.] I mean, it’s funny, but if you’re talking in terms of how good they are, none of them come close. And I would know, because it’s me! [Laughs.] But if I tried to take a more objective point of view, then, yes, I’ve probably heard a lot of good ones, too.

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A Chat with John Landis (“¡Three Amigos!”)

There’s no point in writing an intro for our conversation with John Landis when we’ve already given a perfectly serviceable synopsis of the man’s life and times on his page within Bullz-Eye’s Directors Hall of Fame – which you can find right here – but we will say that we’ve been looking forward to chatting with Landis for quite some time. Although his publicist regretfully informed us that he didn’t have time to talk when we were pulling together the Hall of Fame, we’d kept our fingers crossed that we’d get an opportunity to talk to him one of these days, and at last that time has come, courtesy of the Blu-ray release of “¡Three Amigos!,” which hits shelves on Nov. 22nd.

Bullz-Eye: First of all, in case you haven’t heard, I should let you know that we put you into our Director’s Hall of Fame last year.

John Landis: Oh, thank you very much!

BE: Our pleasure. After all, we’re a guy-centric site, and it would be fair to say that you’ve made a few movies that have been appreciated by many a man over the years…including, of course, “¡Three Amigos!”

JL: [Laughs.] So did you get a chance to watch the Blu-ray, then?

BE: I did. It looks fantastic.

JL: Yeah, I was able to restore it to the way it’s supposed to be seen. I’m very pleased with the way it looks.

BE: I was actually going to ask you about that process. I presume there’s at least a little bit of difference when it comes to restoring a comedy for Blu-ray versus, say, a full-on special effects extravaganza.

JL: Actually, no. [Laughs.] That would be an untrue presumption. I mean, every picture’s individual, and it depends on the look you were going for with that particular movie. When they made the Blu-ray for “Animal House,” I was upset. I thought they made it much too bright and clean. “Animal House” is supposed to look dirty and funky. [Laughs.] I remember the technician, when I had to check it, he kept writing on his chart, “Image degraded per director.” But every movie you make, you try – or at least I do, anyway – for a different kind of look. On “¡Three Amigos!” I was really trying to go for those beautiful westerns that Hollywood used to make in the ‘50s. The Technicolor pictures. We wanted the colors to be incredibly vibrant. You know, the old DVD wasn’t even the correct aspect ratio. So I’m happy that I got the chance to restore it.

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Friday Video – Juggalowest common denominator

This is by nature a fun column, designed to get people pumped up for whatever weekend festivities they may have planned. Sometimes, though, something comes up that is just begging for some kind of commentary. This is one of those times.

This weekend (starting yesterday, actually), deep in the heart of southern Illinois, the twelfth (!) annual Gathering of the Juggalos is taking place. Now, we’ve seen the word ‘Juggalo’ pop up here and there in the news cycle – usually near the word ‘Gallagher’ – but we were quick to dismiss it because Juggalos are fans of the Detroit hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse, who hit their commercial peak in the late ’90s and were perhaps best known for a feud with fellow Motowner Eminem. Are there really enough of these Juggalos to merit their own festival?

One of our friends set us straight. He said, “You have to see this video. Wow. Just…wow.” The song: “Miracles,” by Insane Clown Posse, currently sporting just under 7.8 million hits on YouTube.

Now, the back story to this song is that the two guys in the band (we will not bother mentioning them by name, because it just doesn’t matter) liked the wide-eyed wonder with which they viewed the world as kids, and resented finding out that there is a logical, scientific explanation for everything. Fine, we’ll buy that, but they weren’t content to write a song about these small wonders of the world that says, “Look at this stuff. Isn’t it cool?” No, instead they turned it into an anti-intellectual battle cry. We won’t break the song down line by line, but here are some of our favorite lines:

“Water, fire, air and dirt / Fucking magnets, how do they work?”
“I fed a fish to a pelican at Frisco Bay / He tried to eat my cell phone, he ran away”
“Fucking rainbows after it rains…”
“Magic everywhere in this bitch…”
“And I don’t want to talk to a scientist / Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed”

So, to summarize, pelicans eating your cell phone is a miracle, as are fucking magnets and fucking rainbows. Scientists, however, are filthy, filthy liars. Got it. Enjoy your life of aggressive ignorance, guys.

So, back to “SNL.” They’ve been running fake ads for Under Underground Records for two years now, and until we saw the three minute-trailer for this year’s Juggalos gathering, we didn’t get the joke. Then at once, it all came together. Bad voiceovers, blond girl with pigtails, ridiculous graphics, check, check, checkmate. They even lampooned “Miracles,” which, to be fair, wasn’t terribly difficult. What the fuck is a clock?

Ass Dan, you will be missed. But not for the reasons you might think.

The lineup of bands playing this year’s event is frankly shocking. It’s mostly old school hip hop guys and other assorted clowns (namely, Charlie Sheen and Flavor Flav), but they also got George Clinton and Ice Cube, who I’m sure got an earful from his agent before signing on. “I’m going to have a hard time spinning this to Disney, Ice.” The one that stood out to us, though, was Lil Jon, since we never miss an opportunity to share this hilariously obscene mash-up of Lil Jon with the Icelandic kids show “LazyTown.” You’ll never look at cake the same way again. Booooo, muthafucka!

Lil Jon – Cooking by the Book

  

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