HBO's 'Talking Funny': Are you having a laugh?
I’m finding it hard to think of a better way to spend the 9-10 p.m. Friday night hour than watching four comedians shoot the s— about what it means to be funny. God, I really need to get a life! But seriously: Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. just lulled me into prime yay-weekend mode with their stream-of-consciousness ridiculata — and intelligent discussion, too. I only wish this were a weekly series instead of a one-time special. Even a podcast would work. Just get everyone on the phone — we don’t care about sound quality!
My favorite thing about the special was that these four guys have very different approaches to comedy. They clearly all respect each other, but there was a definite rift between Seinfeld and the other three — due to both his refusal to swear onstage and his unabashed confidence and elitism about his career. When the group debated whether the comedian played the part of the underdog during a live show, only Jerry disagreed. “You’re the only one in the room talking! You’re above them. Period.” Louis C.K. summed it up: “It’s totally different with Jerry. You’re a singular comedian,” he said. Gervais pointed out, “He is the purest observational comedian of all of us.” (I wondered if they were all in agreement on that.)
Some other highlights:
On having a niche: “I haven’t got a thing,” said Gervais. “Chris has got ‘black,’ but he’s educated.” Rock’s response: “Boy, did I luck out with that.”
Rock to C.K.: “You are the n—-rist f—ing white man I have ever seen.”
Seinfeld on Rock’s black porn vs. white porn bit: “I think about that bit, honestly, once a month. It was the first time I realized, Oh, black people live in a different world than white people. Their Playboy is different from ours, and they’re not that thrilled with it!”
Gervais completely losing it after C.K. reminisced about watching another comedian getting huge laughs by simply playing a guitar and singing — to the tune of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” — the words “Sitting on a c— ’cause I’m gay.” C.K. genuinely enjoyed this joke, but Gervais could not stop cracking up at how it was only funny because of the irony of the context. “You shouldn’t go out with a guitar and sing ‘Sitting on a c— ’cause I’m gay!'” he cried — and at this point he was about two octaves higher than usual, in that Ricky Gervais zone that’s just peals of melodic laughter. I don’t know how other viewers felt, but this was easily my favorite part of the special, just watching the spectacle of Gervais beside himself with laughter. I’ve had the same experience listening to his podcasts — once he starts, you as a viewer/listener can’t stop. There doesn’t even need to be a joke after a certain point; just watching him wriggle around is hilarious.
On how performing stand-up mirrors a relationship: “You assume she loves you, because she’s there every day. But you still have to work on it every day,” said Rock.
Did you catch Talking Funny? Who, besides Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, who might join Gervais for another installment, would you want to see? How about some LADIES? Ladies!