By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
4:26 PM PST, January 25, 2014
One nice thing about the contemporary world of comedy is its abundance of small gifts. You can thank the Internet for this; it may have destroyed bookstores and record stores and much else I hold/held dear, but it created the video version of the occasional, even random comic essay (what S.J. Perelman, borrowing from the French, called his feuilletons, "little leaves"). Television, sometimes distinct from the Web, but sometimes in concert with it, has picked up on some of these rhythms; but in the new media egg-basket, and in the minds of your children, America, it is all pretty much the same thing anyway.
Here are three very short comedies, made for different reasons and in different forms, but all good.
Every so often, Adam Scott, from "Parks and Recreation" and "Party Down,," in concert with wife, Naomi Scott, puts together something he calls "The Greatest Event in Television History," almost as if to underscore its weightlessness, and to justify his bothering you with it. The fourth and supposedly final installment arrived Thursday at midnight on Adult Swim.
Just what would constitute the first "The Greatest Event in Television History" was kept tightly under wraps before its premiere in October 2012. What it turned out to be was a shot-for-shot remake of the opening credits to the 1980s detective series "Simon and Simon," with Scott and Jon Hamm standing in for Jameson Parker and Gerald McRaney, preceded by a portentous countdown, hosted by Jeff Probst, and a fictitious "making-of" documentary to fill out the quarter-hour. Subsequent editions, following the same pattern, had their way with the credits to "Hart to Hart" (1979-1984), with Scott, Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz as Lionel Stander, and "Too Close for Comfort" (1980-1983), with Scott, Jon Glaser, Catherine O'Hara, Chelsea Peretti and Kathryn Hahn.
The fourth, therefore, was only a surprise as to the identity of the targeted series, which was leaked beforehand in any case: "Bosom Buddies," with Scott as Peter Scolari and Paul Rudd as Tom Hanks. (Rudd, as "himself," also fictionally directed the first "The Greatest Event"; Scott and Lance Bangs are the actual directors.) It was exactly as pointless and wonderful as its predecessors, a fine example of what can happen when a little money and a little talent attaches itself to a throwaway idea. The making-of segment, in what can be seen as a comment on the whole crazy enterprise, has Rudd living his part to extremes. Watch for cameos. (You can see all four episodes here.)
B.J. Novak, who wrote for and played Ryan Howard on "The Office" and is an executive producer of Mindy Kaling's "The Mindy Project," this Thursday posted a "book trailer" (below) for his forthcoming volume of short fiction, "One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories" (Knopf), which is also a comedy sketch in which he and Kaling play themselves in a sort of New Wave film, dubbed in French and subtitled in English. "Does the world need more books?" asks Kaling, whom Novak is trying to impress, when he shows her his. "Ecclesiastes: 'Of the making of books there is no end.'" Novak: "Yes and what is Ecclesiastes but a book? A book ruing its own kind -- perhaps this is the ultimate literary joke." (The title of Kaling's own book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" is translated here as "Is It Existentially Possible That the World Hangs Out in My Absence?") There is also this Francophone "Office" joke. She, regarding a story in his book: "Ceci est très long." He: "C'est ce qu'elle a dit."
Music videos are still a thing, or a thing again, thanks once more to the Internet, and to the form's compatibly small claim on your time. North Carolina's Superchunk, heroes of heartfelt punk for upwards of two decades -- they can still lick any band in the room -- also belong to a kind of comedy-indie-rock complex that may exist mainly in my head, and also would include Hoboken's Yo La Tengo, who have performed sitcoms onstage. David Cross and actress Janeane Garofalo appeared in the clip for the band's "Watery Hands," back in 2006.
Set in a club in a building that's condemned "only on weekdays," the video for "Void," from the band's most recent album, "I Hate Music," was directed by Scott Jacobson (a writer for "The Daily Show" and "Bob's Burger's"). The clip, in which the band members play people too old to be attending their own show -- which is to say, people their own age -- features, as ardent middle-aged fans, H. Jon Benjamin (Bob on "Bob's Burgers," the voice of "Archer," and so much more), Jon Glaser (Councilman Jamm on "Parks and Recreation" and, as above, a participant in "The Greatest Event in Television History" No. 3), writer-comic-Twitter-star Ted Travelstead and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, who himself has a sideline in comedy and comedy writing. (Until recently he was partnered with writer-comic-video-director Tom Scharpling ("Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!") on WFMU's "The Best Show." (Tweets from Scharpling suggest a possible revival in another venue.)
It's funny and exciting and a little moving as well -- everything I want in a rock video, really, or a comedy short.
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