Al Franken is a comedian, New York Times bestselling author, radio host, political activist and, perhaps most notably, former United States Senator — where he served on the Judiciary, Energy and Indian Affairs committees.
Franken was also one of the original writers for “Saturday Night Live,” where he scored 15 Emmy nominations [winning five] as both writer and producer.
Now, four years removed from his position as Senator of Minnesota — and noncommittal when it comes to the idea of another possible run — Franken is on the road with his stand-up comedy show, “Al Franken: The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour.”
His show promises to feature unique satire, candid conversation about what’s going on in the world, and stories about his time in the Senate.
I recently spoke with him on the phone about his upcoming appearance at ArtsQuest’s Musikfest Cafe (8 p.m. Feb 18) and more.
James Wood for The Morning Call: How would you describe your style of comedy?
Franken: It’s satire to some degree and a lot of it is about politics. I was a big fan of guys like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and all the other comedians who’ve talked about satirical comedy and commentary. It has a point of view, but the emphasis is really on laughs.
What else can fans expect from your appearance at SteelStacks?
I do about an hour and a half of standup and really enjoy the craft. I used to have a partner, Tom Davis, who would go out on the road with me. He and I were two of the original “SNL” writers.
It’s a little different now going out single. For this tour, I started working up a show at the Comedy Cellar and talk a lot about what’s going on right now and about my experience in politics. I also talk about running for the Senate and having everything I’ve ever said as a comedian, ironically or satirically, used against me and put through the de-humorizor [laughs].
The show is a lot of fun for the audience and for me. I originally did a run of 15 cities, and we’ve just added 16 more.
Comedian Bill Maher has set the boundaries for humor and political talk.
First on the widely popular “Politically Incorrect,” which ran on ABC from 1993-2002, and for the last 19 years as host of his acclaimed HBO series, “Real Time” — where his combination of honesty and laughter has garnered more than 40 Emmy nominations.
On the show, Maher interviews some of the world’s most influential people while taking swings at both republicans and democrats alike. His criticism of people like Donald Trump is nearly equivalent to his concern about the over-extension of wokeism.
While taking a break from “Real Time,” Maher is currently out on the road performing stand-up. The comedian will make a stop at the Wind Creek Event Center, in Bethlehem on Sunday, Oct. 24.
I recently spoke with Maher about his upcoming Lehigh Valley performance and more.
James Wood: What can fans expect from your show at the Wind Creek Event Center?
Bill Maher: They can expect to laugh their ass off. That’s what stand-up comedy is supposed to be. If they’re people who watch “Real Time” then they’re familiar with the general things I’m interested in, which are not the trivialities of life.
I’ve always been interested in the big subjects going on in the world like politics, but I also like talking about my personal life too. Something that’s consequential and has nutrition in it. The bottom line though is people are hungry to laugh again and to laugh hard. That’s what I’m going to make them do.
How are you able to separate the format of “Real Time” from your stand-up comedy?
The great thing about stand-up is that it’s free form. What I’ve seen recently is an encouraging embrace of the point of view I’ve been putting across on my show. The greatest threat right now is from the right. We’re playing with fire with the Republican Party where they don’t believe elections are real. That’s a dangerous place to be and that has to be called out. But I also talk about what I think are the excesses of the woke and how wokeism is not really liberalism.
You may not agree with everything I say but most people can appreciate that I’m trying to be an honest broker and that’s a hard thing to do these days in America.
Heather Land’s smart-alecky wit and her filter-faced “I Ain’t Doin It” videos have become a worldwide sensation, garnering more than 300 million views. That was enough to make the one-time administrative professional and worship leader change roles and dive headfirst into comedy.
Land now performs shows across the country, regaling audiences with her humor on such real-world topics as failed diets, raising teenagers and holidays — as well as referencing her “I Ain’t Doin’ It” videos. Her specialty is finding the funny in the frustrating and reminding everyone that it’s ok to laugh at themselves.
Land is currently on the road with her “Age Gap Tour,” which makes a stop in Bethlehem at ArtsQuest’s Musikfest Cafe at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct 17.
I recently spoke with Land about her upcoming performance and more.
James Wood for The Morning Call: How would you describe your brand of comedy?
Land: I’m definitely a storyteller. True stories I elaborate on along with a lot of self-depreciation. If we can’t laugh at ourselves then good grief, what are we even doing?
What else can fans look forward to with your performance in Bethlehem?
Most know me from “I Ain’t Doin It,” so there will be obvious references to that. People often ask how I can do it without the filter face but I’m there to make them laugh. A lot of times I’ll do music at my shows as well. It’s great to be back out and seeing people again.
Comedy wasn’t your original career goal, was it?
My original career goal was leading worship in church. I went to bible college and that’s where I landed for a long time. I thought that would be it but then I went through a divorce after a long marriage and had to switch gears. I started doing administrative work and making videos. All of a sudden, the videos started going viral and I suddenly found myself becoming a comedian.
Comedy wasn’t something I set out to do but I’m really glad I took the risk.
Legend Rita Rudner has pretty much done it all. Not only has the versatile comedian performed all over the world, including a record 13-year residency in Las Vegas (the longest running solo comedy show in Las Vegas history) as well as dates at Carnegie Hall and sold out tours of Australia and England, but her first solo HBO special ‘One Night Stand’ was nominated for multiple awards, as were her BBC and A&E specials.
An accomplished dancer and singer, Rudner is also the author of several fiction and non-fiction books and multiple Hollywood scripts. Rudner, along with husband, Martin, are also planning to stage a new musical in New York this summer.
On Saturday, April 27, Rita Rudner will bring her unique and insatiable brand of comedy to The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA for two shows — ne at 6 p.m. and the other at 9 p.m. I recently spoke with her about the upcoming performances in Sellersville, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.
What can fans expect from your upcoming shows at The Sellersville Theater?
Rita Rudner: Lots of jokes in a row and a gown that doesn’t wrinkle [laughs]. That’s what I deliver every time.
How would you describe your brand of comedy?
I like to do things that everybody can relate to. In this time when everybody’s being so torn apart I like to figure out commonalities we all share. It makes for a fun evening, and there’s no politics in my act whatsoever.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
It’s always from personal experiences but there’s no one way to be creative. Sometimes I might hear a word somebody says, or see something somebody does, or I’ll say a word accidentally out of the blue. I like to stay attentive.
Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment?
Yes, but originally only as a dancer. I was a professional dancer until I was about 30 and then switched to comedy.
What made you decide to make the change?
It was the numbers. There were too many dancers and not enough comedians. I realized there was very little chance I was going to be Gwen Verdon or Barbara Streisand — because I was a singer too — but there was a chance I could be George Burns [laughs].
With more than two dozen appearances on late-night television to coincide with sold out standup performances and riding along with Jerry Seinfeld on an episode of his hit Netflix show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”, it’s safe to say that Kathleen Madigan is the quintessential comedian.
The bawdy, warm-hearted Madigan is currently riding the wave of success from her sixth album, “Bothering Jesus,” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Comedy Charts in 2016 and is taken from the Netflix special of the same name.
Madigan is currently on the road in support of her coast to coast, 32-date, “Boxed Wine & Bigfoot” tour. AXS recently spoke with her about her new tour, her career and more in this new interview.
AXS: What can fans expect from your “Boxed Wine & Bigfoot” Tour?
Kathleen Madigan: More of what I’ve been doing for the past thirty years. It’s different material, but the same subjects. Things that make for a big bar conversation I have with myself.
AXS: How would you describe your brand of comedy?
KM: It’s very conversational, or as Lewis Black would say, “A lady with a lot of opinions and very deep facts.” [laughs].
AXS: Where do you draw inspiration for your material?
KM: It comes from everyday life but also current events and what’s in the news. For example, it’s hard for me to believe that an airplane with 239 people on it can go missing, and everyone is kind of cool with it. It’s crazy to say that we’ve lost our planes. That’s an acceptable statement to make about a boat in 1492, but not in today’s world.
Another thing is UFOs. I recently read an article online where two American Airlines pilots; another plane and the control tower all said they saw a UFO flying above them. Every bit of it is online, including the conversations from the control tower. What I don’t understand is why that’s not the lead story on the news. Stormy Daniels is a porn star on Earth. These people are saying that there are people who aren’t from Earth ON Earth! [laughs].
AXS: What would you say is the biggest challenge of doing standup comedy these days?
KM: Current events and politics. It was never really a problem until Donald [Trump] came along. I’m not a political person, and I still have my Bush and Obama jokes. But, for some reason, Trump has divided the teams so clearly that each side feels so passionate it’s almost personal. I could talk about Mitt Romney all day long, but no one would ever come to his defense to the point where they’d be willing to throw their life on the line. Whether you’re left, right or somewhere in the middle, it’s never conjured up this level of craziness.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Kathleen Madigan by Clicking Here!
He’s sold more than 14 million albums (both solo and with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour) with all four of them charting at #1 on Billboard. He’s one of the top grossing stand-up comedians in America today and has already earned himself two Grammy nominations.
Make that three.
Comedian Ron White has recently received a third Grammy nomination for his RIAA Platinum-certified Comedy Special, “A Little Unprofessional”.
Filmed in Austin, TX at the legendary Paramount Theatre, ‘A Little Unprofessional’ shows White’s comedic nature on full display. He takes us on a journey from the airport at LAX to a vacation retreat in the French Riviera and along the way, discusses adventures from his youth, sports, music and of course, his own sexual prowess. Whether he’s casually taking a sip of his scotch or lighting up a cigar be warned: no one is immune to White’s hilarious anecdotes.
In addition to the full “A Little Unprofessional” special, the DVD also contains the entire first season of White’s popular “Rontourage” fan program, which features behind the scenes footage of White and his troops traveling across America. Through these shorts, we’re able to get a first-hand glimpse of what it’s like for the entertainer backstage, on the tour bus and interacting with his fans at meet and greet events.
One of the biggest hidden treasures of “A Little Unprofessional” has got to be the bonus feature live performances of White’s amazing wife, Margo Rey. Although Rey herself is not spared from White’s stand-up material, she showcases her awe-inspiring vocals in a hybrid mixture of pop, jazz and R&B that can only be described as Organica.
The thing that sets Ron White apart from all other stand-up performers today is his unique ability to impose empathy on his audience. Sure, you laugh hysterically at his stories and facial expressions, and may even at times feel a little bit sorry for him. But deep down, the real reason we enjoy him so much is because there’s a little bit of Ron White in each of us. Somehow, we can all relate to everything he talks about during his routine.
White’s performances don’t just make us laugh with him, they make us laugh at ourselves. And in times like these, that’s certainly a good thing.
For more on Ron White, check out his official website by Clicking Here.
Somewhere amid all of the glitz and glamour of the Los Angeles scene lies the somewhat bizarre world of Frutron and Kimmy Kim. It’s a world where wedgies are doled out as freely as candy, Fruity Pebbles are used at bath salts and cheeseburgers replace silicon implants.
Collectively, they are known as Hollywood is Hard, an alternate reality web show about two girls who navigate through the cartoon world of Hollywood.
With nearly one million views on You Tube, these ladies really know how to tickle the funny bone. And although their subject matter sometimes crosses the line between the risqué and the extreme, you’d be hard pressed to find two women who are as funny and open about their “pseudo-lives” as Frutron and Kimmy Kim.
I sat down (with my underwear facing away from her or course) with Frutron and got the inside scoop on these wedgie giving, wiener lovin’, Fruity Pebble bathing beauties as she share the secrets behind Hollywood is Hard. During the course of our conversation, Frutron (the nerdy one who refuses to reveal her real name) informed me that there has been talk of the wedgie videos going away, much to the chagrin of this reporter. This would be a tragedy of epic proportions.
What’s your story?
FT: I would like to say that I was homeless and sleeping in my car and ran into all of this success but none of that’s true. The truth is, I went to high school in San Francisco and went to art school at the same time. Originally, I thought I wanted to draw comic books, but a year into that I began thinking that comic books just weren’t cool and that I’d never make money drawing (of course, now comic books ARE cool). And although I didn’t pursue drawing, I can storyboard really well which helps with our production.
What brought you to LA?
FT: I wanted to become an actor and was doing commercials; going back and forth between San Francisco and LA. for auditions. A few years ago, I decided to leave my safety net and move here.
I’ve never been a person who was passionate about being a “SERIOUS” actor, but always loved comedy and dreamed of being on Saturday Night Live or MAD TV.
How did you meet Kimmy Kim?
FT: Kimmy Kim and I would see each other in passing while going on auditions. At certain points in our lives, we both had similar looks and knew each other from acting jobs. I always thought she was funny but never thought I’d actually be working with her.
One night, we ended up being at a writing session together that one of our mutual friends had set up. We were both at a point in our careers where we wanted to do something where we were in control. I’m not sure how it is for men, but as a lady you really risk a lot by doing movies that turn out to not be the type of movie you thought it was going to be. You don’t want to have to say, “Oh, GREAT! Now I’m a Sci-fi lesbian space alien in a shit movie!” [laughs]
The other thing is, we both wanted to do something for our career instead of waiting around for some asshole who’s going to want a blow job to give us a part in some shitty movie. Honestly dude, I’m horrible at giving them so it wouldn’t get me a movie part anyway. I’m terrible in the sack so I don’t have that going for me. [laughs]
Our really good friend, Andrew Bentler, who’s the most amazingly talented editor actually knew both of us separately. He was the one who suggested that Kimmy Kim and I should do something together. And once she and I got together, we both found out we were on the same page.
Wedgie of Death
FT: I have to tell you, ‘Wieners’ is my favorite episode. When I watch it, it’s not even like watching us.
Fruity Pebbles Bath Time
How do you come up with ideas?
FT: It’s all about what goes on in our daily lives. For instance, one day Kimmy Kim texted me and said (jokingly) “Frutron? I want to get a boob job.” And then I said, “You should stuff cheeseburgers in your bra!” And that would become an episode.
Kimmy Kim Gets Boobs
That’s how it usually starts. We start off with an idea and then everyone puts in stuff. We’ll all write together and then Andrew is just fantastic about taking those ideas and turning them into a story. Basically, we take shit that happens in our lives and then horrifically exaggerate what actually happens.
For more on Frutron, Kimmy Kim and Hollywood is Hard Click Here
A few nights ago SNL and Thirty Rock star Tracy Morgan appeared at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to do a stand up performance. This was a show that patrons had to pay to get in to. Apparently, some weren’t prepared for the remarks that awaited them.
At on point during his routine Mr. Morgan proceeded to go on vicious rant about homosexuality. Even at one point stating he would kill his own son if he came home one day and told him he was gay. To me, it’s definitely pushing the envelope to say you’d murder you own son but I also took into account that this is a comedy show and he can say what ever he wants. A lot of other people didn’t think so and have called for his head.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with what Mr. Morgan said or did. I also have nothing against being gay. And I’ve heard plenty of jokes that put me down for things I am or was. People can say what they want. If Mr. Morgan really feels that way about the gay lifestyle then soon enough he’ll get what’s coming to him. But I can’t call for his execution for what he says in a stand up comedy show.
Thing is, if you don’t like him, don’t watch his show or buy his DVDs. But please don’t stand there and raise holy hell that he apologize for a show in which he created and that people paid money to see.
What people don’t seem to understand is that the envelope is pushed every single day. Comedians, film makers and even musicians for that matter couldn’t survive without pushing it. Most do it all the time and no body bats an eye. But every so often it seems someone needs to be sacrificed to the people with the pitch forks and torches and appease them for the next few years. It’s now Mr. Morgan’s turn.
So why all the hub-bub? Especially since we are such a hypocritical society.
Look no further than your late night television. Remember how saying bad words was taboo? Not any more. Even Mr. Twilight himself Robert Pattison dropped the “F” bomb during the MTV Movie Awards last week. Live television and the censors missed it. Everyone kind of just of blows that one off. But tell me, how many eight to sixteen year old Twilight loving girls were watching him talk about what he did to Reese Witherspoon in Water For Elephants?
I think we should call for an apology. He should also do public service announcements on the benefits of safe sex. But most importantly, they should immediately cancel the release of any more Twilight movies. Much to my dismay though, they won’t. Especially the part about cancelling future movies.
We all know how artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ke$ha like to use sex to push the envelope to kids. And how hard core rappers and death metal bands rant about doing drugs and killing everything and anyone. At least for them there’s some element of restriction. The infamous “Parental Advisory” sticker that most parents simply ignore anyway. But what about those places where it’s just one big free for all?
Take a good look at the Kidz Bop website. There are lots of children posting videos of themselves covering Bruno Mars’ single, Grenade. Good song actually, but do you really think it’s appropriate that Kidz Bop would let kids post videos of them singing how they’d “take a bullet straight through my brain”?
Where’s the outrage?
I remember watching an episode of MASH thirty years ago when Hawkeye Pierce called a North Korean torturer a “son of a bitch”. It was the perfect line to say in the context of the show and my mouth dropped when I heard it. I even thought my Dad was going to wash my mouth out with soap just for hearing it. That was pushing the envelope then. It’s way past the female dog stage now.
Now a days, I think a hairy ass, a boob and the word “shit” are all allowable. But not until after 9PM. Or maybe it’s no left boob until after 10PM. Well, you get my point.
Only time will tell if Tracy Morgan can survive this little episode. He’s already apologized for his own comedy show. I’m just not sure if that’s going to be enough.
But if you ask me, I’d much rather see the big wigs from movies, music and television apologize for what they’re doing to our children.