Keeping Your Childlike Enthusiasm Alive with Janet Varney

Janet Varney’s positive and generous attitude might be best exemplified by her Nerdist podcast The JV Club; in it the actress, producer, and writer interviews women in entertainment (and this summer, men) about their experiences growing up and how their formative teenage years influence their work and who they are today. In her often funny and sometimes emotional conversations Varney exudes warmth and an earnest curiosity to understand and share her guest’s stories with her audience.

As a comedic actress Varney has made a variety of guest appearances in shows and movies like Kroll Show, How I Met Your Mother, and Key and Peele, but she might be best known to alt comedy fans for her work on Burning Love, in which she played the disinterested lesbian love interest of Ken Marino’s pompous bachelor.

Varney also founded SF SketchFest with Owen David and Cole Stratton. The festival celebrated its thirteenth year in February with shows at nearly two dozen Bay Area venues.

This summer Varney has appeared on the relationship comedy You’re the Worst and stars in the animated adventure series The Legend of Korra, which released its third season finale online on Friday.

I recently talked with Varney about The JV Club, Korra, SF SketchFest, and interacting with fans.

How the Legal Marijuana Industry Is Helping Grow Denver’s Comedy Scene

Comedians like Doug Benson and Stephen Colbert have been getting a lot of joke-mileage out of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana last January. Though after Maureen Dowd wrote about being “curled up in a hallucinatory state for eight hours” in a Denver hotel room after carelessly ingesting too much edible cannabis, Bill Maher editorialized that Colorado “must realize that they are the Jackie Robinson of marijuana legislation,” and that residents “have to get this right, or else you’ll ruin it for everybody.”

The definition of what “getting this right” means is being played out in the Denver comedy scene, where marijuana has become more than just a cultural glue between comics and comedy fans, but an economic steroid that has propelled the burgeoning standup community to new levels of ambition and national attention.

Talking to Thomas Middleditch About HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’

You’re about to see a lot more of Thomas Middleditch in movies and TV. Middleditch got his start as an improviser and sketch actor in Chicago, where he performed at iO, Second City, and was a founding member of The Improvised Shakespeare Company, before moving to New York and then Los Angeles, where he’s performed frequently at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. This year, he has both his first lead TV role  (Mike Judge’s new HBO series Silicon Valley, which premiered last night) and his first lead role in a major movie (the upcoming Search Party, which he stars in alongside T.J. Miller and Adam Pally).

I recently had the chance to talk with Middleditch about his experience on Silicon Valley, the joy of working with his friends, and what we can expect from him in the future.

The Collected Wisdom of Tina Fey

It’s obvious Tina Fey is one of the most talented, hard working, and successful people in comedy history. She was the head writer for Saturday Night Live, host of Weekend Update, eight-time Emmy winner, author of The New York Times best seller Bossypants, writer of Mean Girls, star of films like Baby Mama and Date Night, and the creator and star of 30 Rock, not to mention a mother of two. Although 30 Rock ended its seven season run early this year, Fey is by no means taking a break. She created a new show — tentatively titled Tooken — that stars The Office‘s Ellie Kemper and received an early 13 episode order from NBC, in addition to developing a comedy for Foxanother one at NBC, working on a Mean Girls musical, starring in more movies, and prepping to host the next two Golden Globes with Amy Poehler.

To celebrate Fey’s impressive career, intelligence, and wit, here’s a collection of her wisest and funniest quotes.

Finally, a Video Game That Lets You Experience the Bleak Life of a Struggling Comic

There are very few artistic depictions of what it’s like to be a standup comedian. 

Sure, there are an abundance of explanations — celebrities churn out autobiographies, and everybody seems to have a podcast — but there is a comparative dearth of fictional works where comedy is the central theme. There are no widely read novels about standup comedy, for example, and there have been very few motion pictures on the subject. When you look at the numbers, it is clear why.

Judd Apatow’s Funny People came right after his two massive commercial hits, and it starred Adam Sandler. It should have been huge, but it lost the studio 4 million dollars. Man on the Moon starred Jim Carrey in the late 1990’s — the sort of movie which should have delivered Universal Pictures enough profit to buy a small island nation. It lost almost 40 million dollars.

The reason audiences don’t want depictions of standup comedians may perhaps be found in the exception that proves the rule: Seinfeld. While comedians in life are notoriously depressed and cynical, Seinfeld is (as well as being a postmodern depiction of a world without morals) undeniably cheery. Fundamentally, Seinfeld isn’t a show about doing stand up comedy – it’s a show that happens to have some stand up comedy in it. Actual shows about comedians tend to be a downer (see: Louie).

It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that a major video game studio hasn’t gotten around to making a game about being a comic. Never fear: an independent game developer has done it anyway. Comedy Quest is a new, and to my knowledge the only, video game that lets you play as a standup comedian.

Announcing Splitsider’s New Standup Film, ‘A Night at Whiplash’

I’m very happy to announce Splitsider Presents’ second release, a new standup film called A Night at Whiplash.

Whiplash is a weekly standup show at the UCB Theatre in New York. Every Monday night at 11pm, people have a chance to see some of the best standups in the world today performing ten- to twenty-minute sets, all for free. Hosted by Leo Allen, Whiplash has become one of NYC’s premiere standup shows. A Night at Whiplash chronicles one such show, and features sets by Sheng Wang, Carmen Lynch, Eugene Mirman, Janeane Garofalo, Jared Logan, Michael Che, and Sean Patton.

Talking to ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Co-Creator Dan Goor

Network TV’s best new sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, sure has had a successful first season. In its inaugural year, Brooklyn won two Golden Globes, received an early renewal for a second season, and got to air an episode in the coveted post-Super Bowl slot.

I recently chatted with Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s co-creator and showrunner, Dan Goor, who got his start working on The Daily Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien before becoming one of Parks and Recreation‘s key writers and eventually co-creating Brooklyn Nine-Nine with Parks mastermind Mike Schur. Goor and I discussed the future of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, what makes a good sitcom pilot, and having your material mercilessly made fun of by Conan O’Brien.

Five Years a Comedian’s Assistant: What It’s Like Working for the Most Neurotic Bosses Around

Hi, I’m Stephie, and I’m a recovering assistant-aholic. For the past five-plus years, I’ve had the incredible fortune of working for a whole slew of professional funny people.

Many of my jobs were in film/TV production: as a personal assistant, production assistant, writer’s assistant, associate producer, and script supervisor, multiple times over in each capacity. But my absolute favorite gigs — the ones where I really cut my care-of-comedians teeth — were as road manager on three cross-country tours. If there’s one place to get to know a comedian (or anyone) in a profound way, it’s inside a compact rental car with a faulty GPS, desperately trying to find the highway out of Flint, Michigan.

First of All, I’m Mom

This was Surprise #1. I first thought I’d been hired to be almost invisible — to do simple stuff my bosses didn’t have time for, but without leaving any trace of my existence. Like Santa Claus, if Santa left organized filing systems and updated calendars under the tree instead of toys.

As time progressed and my bosses entrusted me with more personal responsibilities beyond easy errands, I unwittingly began to assume Mom Role. Mom thinks twelve steps ahead. She strives to make life easier for her kids, and is so on point with her mom-ness that she’s clearly the envy of all the other neighborhood moms. Or, put another way: I became my own mom.

The Collected Wisdom of Stephen Colbert

After a career in comedy that’s lasted for more than two decades, Stephen Colbert was named David Letterman’s replacement as host of CBS’s 11:35 pm program Late Show last month. Colbert has both been a part of revered comedy institutions (Second City Chicago, The Daily Show, a brief stint as an SNL writer) and helped to create idiosyncratic works of his own (Exit 57, Strangers with Candy, The Colbert Report), and with next year’s transition to network late night, he could end up helping to solidify CBS’s Late Show into as prestigious a late night franchise as NBC’s Tonight Show, if not moreso. Started in 1993 and having had only one host prior to Colbert, Late Show is a relatively new program in the grand scheme of late night history, but the show is being passed off from one of the most influential late night hosts ever to one of the sharpest, most versatile hosts ever, which will likely create quite a legacy and leave some intimidatingly big shoes to fill when it’s time to pick the show’s third host someday.

Stephen Colbert has been playing the character “Stephen Colbert” on The Colbert Report and in the bulk of his public appearances over the last decade, only occasionally lapsing to for the occasional interview with Oprah, Larry King, and the like. Nevertheless, we dug up a whole bunch of funny and/or insightful quotes from the real, sincere, non-fake pundit Stephen Colbert and collected them below.

What It’s Like When Comedy Central Buys Your Pilot

Last night, it was announced that Comedy Central has ordered a pilot of the long-running and much-beloved Chris Gethard Show. The pilot will be produced by Funny or Die, with executive producers Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Owen Burke, and Adam McKay alongside Gethard. Gethard made the announcement on the latest episode of his show, a special edition which was devoted to big announcements. Wearing a homemade t-shirt with the slogan “Find a Way,” Gethard welcomed a parade of recurring cast members and characters, each of whom had their own major announcement to make, ultimately culminating in Gethard’s big news for TCGS.

The Chris Gethard Show began as a stage show in November 2009 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. For the last two and half years, it’s aired live on Wednesday nights on Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public access channel in New York. For the uninitiated, check out our primer on the show from back in 2011 and have a look at some of Gethard’s favorite moments from the first 100 episodes. Because we got the news a little early, I got the chance to talk to Gethard a couple days ago about moving the show onto a real set, potentially being the redheaded stepchild of Comedy Central’s late night, and why he thinks his show will surprise a lot of people.

How are you feeling?

We’re all obviously super thrilled about that. It feels pretty good. It feels like we pulled off something that we weren’t supposed to be able to pull off, or that maybe even we were feeling like the boat had passed us by. So I’m really psyched to see it happen and hopefully it goes well and we can bring this weird thing we’ve been doing to the next level.