Get to Know A Comedian

Get to Know A Comedian

Norm Macdonald

I know it is getting a little depressing to keep posting comedians who died tragically before reaching the full potential of their talent. Wait, what’s that? Norm Macdonald isn’t dead? What the H? *(kudos to anyone who got that reference to Macdonald’s short-lived The Sports Show) Yes, Macdonald is very much alive and continues to excel at his chosen profession despite the American public not giving him the love he deserves.

Most of the comedians posted here have fallen into the category of observational comedy. Bill Hicks and Greg Giraldo both used a lot of dark humor in their acts. Macdonald uses both of these elements, but also adds something that none of our previous comedians have, surreal comedy.

Surreal comedy or comedy of the absurd focuses on breaking all logic in comedy. It sets-up a joke to the point where we expect a certain punchline and then are delivered a completely illogical one out of the blue. It involves a lot of bizarre juxtapositions, non-sequiturs, irrational and absurd situations, and expressions of non-sense. Absurdist comedians keep the audience on its toes and the humor comes from the strange journey these comedians travel, more than the actual jokes. If you told a friend you saw  a great comedian last night and then tried to repeat the jokes, your friend might come to the conclusion that you’re taking a dangerous level of drugs. Only a select few can pull this style of humor and Macdonald is atop my list.

Macdonald turned his stand-up success into a stint on Comedy U – Saturday Night Live. SNL has bred so many comedic geniuses over it’s nearly 40 years on the air. It is a special honor to be part of any SNL cast. However, an even greater honor is Weekend Update anchor or co-anchor. Over the 38 seasons of the show, only 13 cast members have anchored or co-anchored Weekend Update. Note, from 1981-85 Dick Ebersol produced the show and was not allowed to use the name Weekend Update. When Lorne Michaels returned to the show, the segment returned with him.

Macdonald served as solo anchor for three and half seasons from 1994-97. Chevy Chase, the original host, calls him “the other guy who did it funny.” Chevy, always so humble. Macdonald’s absurdist style meshed well with the mocking of news stories. He approached the job as if he were a real news anchor and let the dichotomy add to the humor.

Unfortunately, Macdonald was fired in the middle of the 23rd season by NBC producer, Don Ohlmeyer, who claimed that he was not funny. Many believed the real reason was the quantity and quality of jokes he told about Ohlmeyer’s good friend, OJ Simpson.

It was a big loss for the Weekend Update desk, but a great opportunity for Macdonald and he delivered with Dirty Works.

This movie should be remembered for more than being Chris Farley’s last screen appearance. As far as I’m concerned it is in the pantheon of classics with Animal House, Caddyshack, Anchorman, and others. It should have cemented Macdonald’s status as a big screen comedy star, but America just could not get on board. It did lead to a gig hosting the ESPYs and this terrific monologue that would blow up twitter had it happened today.

I may never understand why enough people don’t love Macdonald to make him one of the biggest comedic stars of all time, but it doesn’t matter. Nowadays, with all the different sources that stream content comedians that have been pushed to the fringe can still be found on podcasts, strange websites, or one of the 500 hundred available cable channels. And Macdonald continues to produce fabulous, comedic material for all his fans to enjoy.

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Get to Know A Comedian

John Mulaney

Chances are many of you are already fans of John Mulaney, or at least his work, without even knowing it. Mulaney was a writer on Saturday Night Live for the past five years and co-wrote the famous Stefon character from Weekend Update with Bill Hader. A big part of Stefon’s popularity is how Hader always loses it at some point and breaks character. The main reason this happens every time is that Mulaney would add a joke or line into the skit between rehearsal and the main show without telling him. Check out this video courtesy of our friends at Grantland, where Hader describes the process of creating Stefon.

As great as his work on SNL has been, it is time to appreciate Mulaney for his phenomenal stand-up ability. He is a natural on stage. Like Michael Jordan on a basketball court, Hemmingway at a typewriter, or Lindsay Lohan in rehab, it is fun to watch someone completely in his element..

Mulaney is a master at irrelevant, observational humor. Many critics compare him to Jerry Seinfeld, an apt comparison as he employs a similar style, but it is unfair to limit him to a comparison. He adds great subtlety to his jokes that make them easy to watch or listen to repeatedly. Watch these clips that demonstrate Mulaney’s ease on stage and clever writing ability.

Beyond his witty observational humor, Mulaney is also an excellent storyteller. His captivating manner draws the audience into the story even as he goes through minute details. It doesn’t matter cause the journey is so much fun.

Full disclosure, I have extreme bias towards Mulaney. He grew up in Chicago, the easiest way for me to like anyone, attended a Jesuit high school, Society of Jesus Pride, and not only has the style of comedy I strive to succeed at, but also has had a career that fills me with more envy than Cooper Manning at family reunions. Plus, just like yours truly, Mulaney is a walking encyclopedia of pop culture.

Everyone needs to get on board the Mulaney bandwagon and quickly. He has a sitcom currently in production, produced by Universal Television, shameless plug. The show is still awaiting an air date from Fox. I fear for the joy of all humanity that Fox is going to end up burying the show on Friday nights with back-to-back episodes over three weeks. We cannot let this happen, America. The Millennial Man is starting a wave of support so strong that Fox will have no choice but to promote this show more than it does Joe Buck. Suck it, Buck. 

I know the traditional sitcom seems outdated to us millennials, but if there is any man I trust to do it right it is John Mulaney. It would be fun to have a Seinfeld for our generation. Someone to observe our society, then make well structured, hilarious episodes about all he sees. The Millennial Man will be sure to keep everyone abreast as to the progress of the sitcom, but for now make sure to check out Mulaney’s two stand up records, The Top Part and New In Town, for barrels of laughs. Yes, I just used the phrase barrels of laughs, deal with it. 

P.S. John Mulaney, if you read this, hire me to write on your show when it becomes a smashing success.

Get to Know A Comedian

Bill Hicks bill hicks

Pain and comedy go hand-in-hand, just like milk and cookies, Wall St. and cocaine, or Alex Rodriguez and a total lack of humanity. Comedy is the release of pain, the best humor strikes at our fears, worries, and heartbreak, then allows us to move past it, nothing is more profound than comedy.

Stand-up comedians are the masters of comedy. If your tooth aches you go to the dentist, if you need to laugh go to a comedian. Comedians live by the mantra that no topic is taboo, which many people find offensive, but a comedian realizes that humor in cuts through pain.

A comedian is more than a joke teller, he or she is a psychiatrist, philosopher, soothsayer, poet, friend, doctor, etc. Stand-up comedy is the best form of art and each Thursday on this site we will highlight a new comedian. We will look at past comedians that have been forgotten, up-and-comers that everyone should be aware of, and of course honor the legends of the profession who can never get enough praise.

Our first comedian was never afraid to talk about the difficult and dark problems that plague this world. He would often anger his audience and always make them uncomfortable. But he understood that it is impossible to do an act everyone enjoys and the only way to be loved as an artist is to be equally hated. His name is Bill Hicks.

Hicks is a bit of forgotten man in the history of comedy, but if you ever run into a fan of his they will gladly talk your ear off about his greatness. He was an anti-establishment comedian who wanted people to start thinking for themselves rather than just following blindly along, like sheep. His material dealt with subjects that people were either afraid to discuss.

The JFK Assassination is not a typically deep mine for comedy, nor is telling advertisers and marketers to kill themselves a Groucho Marx-esque one-liner. But it exemplifies the no holds barred material that defined Hicks’ career.

Hicks was not one to let things go. When something angered him he would shout about till his voice went horse. His anger is what drove his comedic creativity, but it was also what kept him from reaching levels of fame of some of his fellow comedians. To be fair, though, Hicks had no interest in fame, despite his immense talent, as this rant against Jay Leno demonstrates.

He was the Posterboy for the comedians’ comedian and has influenced many that have followed, such as David Cross, Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, and Louis C.K., although some people were a little more influenced than others.

He’s the only comedian to come close to touching George Carlin in taking on the establishment and diving into all the bullshit that encompasses this world. Hicks was on crusade for truth, love, justice, and logic. A battle even he probably knew he couldn’t win, but he took so much pleasure in fighting it.

Sadly Hicks died on February 26, 1994 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. The world has missed out on 20 years of Hicks’ material and we can only imagine what that material would’ve been as not much of what angered him back then has changed, sadly.

In fact, many things have only gotten worse, he would have had a field day with the Wall St bailouts, Iraq War, and would make Jon Stewart seem like the biggest Fox News supporter. I do not buy into everything that Hicks’ was selling and his anger could knock him off a path that lead to any kind of humor, but I do respect him immensely.

Carlin is my all-time favorite and while I do not find him as funny, Hicks was the only man who could carry on the torch his torch, which makes it sad that Carlin outlived him by 14 years. There is no dearth of profound and hilarious comedians who push the envelope, but nobody who does it with the vitriol of a Carlin and Hicks.

Post Written By Tom Demetrio, Co-founder of Millennial Man