Schomp Family History, by Blythe Roberson

The Schomp family is the most affluent of the Boston Brahmins. The Cushings? Peasants. The Parkmans? Hippie street dwellers. The Lawrences? Don’t get distracted, we’re talking about the Schomps.

It all started in 1640 when John Schomp woke up with a light bulb over his head: get a bunch of free land in America and make cash. First he put the whole light bulb invention in a time capsule — you’re welcome, future. Next he created an Italian alter ego, so no one would figure out he moved to the colonies and steal his idea. Decades later people figured out “Giovanni Schompero” was just a pumpkin and some pillows under a blanket the entire time. An emergency election had to be held to fill his seat in Parliament.

Talking to Jenny Slate About What She’s Working on Next

While most professional comedians keep busy by involving themselves in many different projects, it seems like Jenny Slate has a lot going on even compared to her most diligent peers. In addition to recurring roles on Parks and Recreation, House of Lies, and Kroll Show, Slate is writing the new Looney Tunes movie for Warner Brothers and, as she reveals in the following interview, co-writing an independent movie based on her hit viral video, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” On top of all of that, she has a new web series, Catherine, which debuted on the YouTube comedy channel JASH last month. Slate stars in Catherine as the title character and also co-writes the series with her husband, Dean Fleischer-Camp, who directs. Three new episodes of Catherine are set to debut today, and I had the chance to talk to Slate about the series, why she’s turning Marcel the Shell into a movie, and the sitcom pilot she starred in with Kristen Schaal and June Diane Raphael that ABC bafflingly didn’t pick up.

An English Comedian in Paris

I do standup because I love comedy. Yes, I enjoy making people laugh and nothing beats the rush of being on stage in front of a great audience, however the real reason that I do comedy is just that it interests me so much, I’m willing to do anything to be a part of it. Ultimately, I’m just a fan that got way too involved. Now, I don’t know to what extent this is true for other comics; I’m sure some do it just because they crave attention or even use stand-up as a free (or even profitable) alternative to therapy. I’m not saying that this is wrong or in any way worse than doing it purely out of appreciation for the medium, I simply believe that someone’s motivation to write and perform comedy will be the main factor in affecting the end result.

Anyway, given my current situation, being a part of what we all appreciate as comedy is somewhat difficult. I’m living in Paris, France, a city that doesn’t instantly scream out light, low-brow and sometimes crude entertainment. But, as always, in order to do what you love, you make it work. Believe it or not, there is an English-speaking standup comedy scene in Paris.

Talking to Bo Burnham About His New MTV Show, Working with Judd Apatow, and Playing an Unrelatable Character

After becoming one of the first people to rise to fame via YouTube as a teen writing funny songs from his bedroom in 2006, comedian/musician Bo Burnham is making the big jump to TV this week. He’s starring in Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, a new comedy he co-created that premieres this Thursday at 10:30pm on MTV. A mockumentary about a fame-obsessed high school grad who foregoes college so that he can stay in his hometown and hire a camera crew to follow him around, Zach Stone is Burnham’s first-ever starring role. I had the chance to talk with Burnham this week in advance of the premiere of his show, discussing how he is similar and different to the narcissist he plays on TV, how he’s using technology to expand his stand-up act, and being mentored by Judd Apatow.

Talking to Fred Armisen About ‘SNL’, ‘Portlandia’, And Being Part of A Comedy Collective

After 11 years of creating some of the oddest and most memorable characters on Saturday Night Live, Fred Armisen left the legendary sketch show at the end of this past season to focus on his other soon-to-be legendary sketch show. Portlandia, which he and co-star Carrie Brownstein created with director Jonathan Krisel, has be picked up for two more seasons on IFC. He will also been seen in the upcoming film Justice for Al, from Bad Santa director Terry Zwigoff. I caught up with Armisen over the phone from Portland to talk about great sketch shows and how Game of Thrones influenced Portlandia.

So it is official now that you’ve left SNL?

I think it’s clear. I didn’t do any kind of official announcement, but I really felt like it was obvious. An ending that was a love letter to all the music I grew up with, and also to my friends and to SNL and to Lorne [Michaels] and to the cast. There was a lot of emotion attached to it, but it was a very positive emotion.

And how do you feel, having left? Does it feel weird?

It feels very natural, because I love SNL. I love Saturday Night Live, and I really feel like people who have left before me have always stayed with the show. They never really quite left, which is nice. Everyone kind of stays close. For example, like when Kristen [Wiig] left, we saw her again. And Andy [Samberg] and Tina [Fey] and Amy Poehler and Maya [Rudolph]. On one level, we stay in each other’s lives, but also the show. I feel like people don’t really just leave in a cold way. I think people stay around in their own way.

Why did you decide to leave the show now?

It was really just strange, in that it felt very natural. It felt like a very healthy good time to do it. I was really enjoying and it just felt—it’s almost hard to define. Bill [Hader] was leaving, and Kristen and Andy had left. It just felt like I was very happy, maybe this is like a good time to do it. And then the other thing that really was eclipsing it was Portlandia. Portlandia started to pull me away more and more, schedule-wise, and I just felt like it’d be nice to focus on it a little more and go into the fall a bit more with shooting. So it was because of that. And also it was just a feeling.

Talking to Kurt Metzger About Paying Comics and More

If you’re a person who believes that comedy has any sort of social mission, Kurt Metzger probably isn’t the comic for you. But if you’re a fan of funny for funny’s sake without any punches pulled, he’s your guy.

Metzger is a veteran NYC comic who in recent months has found himself at the center of some of the stand-up world’s prevailing controversies. He publicly called bullshit on the Upright Citizens Bridgade Theater’s practice of not paying comics for shows that charge admission, which sparked some heated philosophical debate about the business of comedy that went viral and eventually drew a response from the UCB’s founders. He also waded in the more recently publicized dispute about rape jokes vs. artistic freedom by sparring with a feminist writer on Facebook and inviting her to debate him on stage. (Metzger is a bit of a shit-starter on Facebook and frequently authors posts that draw hundreds of comments. Definitely worth following).

When he isn’t coming up with new material via his Facebook rants, Metzger, who grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and was an ordained minister, is an accomplished comic and writer. He’s a regular at the New York’s famed Comedy Cellar and has written for several TV shows, including Inside Amy Schumer and Chappelle’s Show.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Metzger about his start in comedy as well as the rape joke and UCB controversies.

John Mulaney’s Career Will Be Fine Without NBC

Late Friday afternoon, NBC announced that it has declined to pick up John Mulaney’s sitcom, Mulaney. It was a surprising move, given that the highly anticipated and already buzzy show had Lorne Michaels as a producer and an incredible cast. Having seen a version of the script, and based on Brad’s on-the-scene reporting, I can say that it was a good pilot and that the series had enormous potential. It’s a shame that it won’t be on NBC’s schedule this fall. But in the long run, what NBC will really regret is not just picking up the show Mulaney, but adding John Mulaney to its primetime ranks.

There are no surefire bets in comedy or television, but I stand by this as a truism: Lorne Michaels picks winners. Regardless of the near-constant din about the quality of Saturday Night Live‘s writing that has lingered for decades, it’s impossible to dispute his eye for talent. The list of major stars who got their first exposure from Michaels is thoroughly impressive, with everyone from Bill Murray to Kristen Wiig owing huge debts of success to their SNL breaks. The most amazing rags-to-riches (or awkward-to-megastar) story will always be Conan O’Brien — not many people saw what Michaels did in the early of years of Late Night with Conan O’Brien (as the ratings proved). Now it’s impossible to imagine the modern day comedy scene without Conan’s influence. And remember the reaction when Jimmy Fallon was announced as his late night successor? That guy? Who wants to watch him giggle for an hour every night? And yet, it was the now-68-year-old Michaels who saw Fallon’s potential to build a light-hearted late night show that appeals to the young audience rapidly deserting the format.

Talking to Erica Oyama, Creator of ‘Burning Love’

Since debuting last year, the Yahoo web series Burning Love has quickly grown into not just one of the best comedies on the internet but one of the best comedies anywhere – web, movies, TV. Centered on a reality dating show, Burning Love masterfully mocks all the vapid, fame-hungry weirdos who populate America’s reality shows, while also expertly satirizing the reality shows themselves.

Burning Love was created by Erica Oyama, a comedy writer who’s previously penned scripts for Childrens Hospital and David Wain’s web series Wainy Days, and directed by Oyama’s husband, Ken Marino of The State and Party Down fame. With Burning Love‘s third season having just kicked off, I had the chance to talk with Erica Oyama about why Season 3 is “the dumbest season yet,” adapting the profane childrens’ book Go the Fuck to Sleep into a movie, and why so many people on the internet mistake Burning Love for a real reality show.

Big and Glossy and Wonderful: The Birth of the ‘National Lampoon’ Magazine

The first issue of the National Lampoon appeared in April 1970 and sold fewer than half of the five hundred thousand copies printed. Some readers may have thought they were buying yet another Harvard Lampoon magazine parody, understandably confused by a cover that was a variation on their recent Time parody; a dimly lit model in revealing costume posed against a muddy brown background with the caption “Sexy Cover Issue.” Less predictably, next to the model was a grinning cartoon duck — a Doug Kenney idea. “Henry would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do an interview with [legendary New Yorker humorist] S. J. Perelman,’ and Doug would say, ‘We gotta get a duck for a mascot.’ Doug would go on and on about jokes with this duck and more naked girls,” said Michael Frith, who was a little disturbed by the less mature aspects of Kenney’s omnivorous cultural appetite. Kenney got his duck and with it the art directors he wanted to be in charge of the magazine’s visual aspects — a victory he would later regret.

The look of the new magazine had been a source of strife. Keeping newsstand appeal in mind, Simmons wanted the national version to be slick like Cheetah, but his editors had other ideas. “Doug and Henry, mostly Doug, had this idea the magazine would be rough, in an underground vein,” Rick Meyerowitz recalled. Glossy was just not cool.

Talking to The Lonely Island About Why They Work So Well Together

Within months of The Lonely Island joining Saturday Night Live back in 2005, the trio – made up of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone – marked a new era in the show’s history with the viral hit Lazy Sunday, kicking off a run of Digital Shorts that would include Emmy-winning Dick in a Box and Grammy-nominated I’m on a Boat.

All three have since left the show, working independently on their own big-name projects. Samberg has starred in films like That’s My Boy and Celeste and Jesse Forever, and will be seen in the up-coming Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Schaffer directed the group’s first film, cult favorite Hot Rod, and 2012′s The Watch. Taccone directed the SNL-spinoff MacGruber and played the loathsome Booth Jonathan on the HBO show Girls.

The group’s third record, The Wack Album, comes out tomorrow; the trio, who have known each other since middle school, have been promoting the album by releasing videos and tracks each week on Wack Wednesdays. I met up with them recently in the glittery conference room of Cash Money Records to talk about emulating Kanye and why they still work so well together.

Ardie Fuqua’s Comedy Career Has Been Rough

Ardie Fuqua is worried that he’s been too funny. “I didn’t get too many laughs, did I?” he asks, sliding into a seat next to me in the back row.

He has just finished a 25-minute set at Caroline’s on Broadway, the argyle-patterned comedy club steps from Times Square, where he is opening Tracy Morgan’s lineup of Thanksgiving Weekend shows. The sound of applause is still ringing throughout the 300-seat club, and Ardie is visibly out of breath, his forehead drenched in sweat from the heat of the spotlights.

It’s easy to understand why overshadowing Tracy would not be on Ardie’s to do list. This is one of their first performances together, and as the opening act, it’s an unspoken rule that one does not outshine the headliner. Ardie, the seasoned hype man, is aware of his place in the pecking order. “I’m just here to make the crowd happy,” he says.

Throughout the night, Ardie dutifully plays the role of right-hand-man, chatting animatedly with Tracy, laughing at his jokes and flashing big, sycophantic smiles his way. But when Tracy is out of earshot, Ardie deflates, as if the animating force that propels him so jubilantly across the stage had been snuffed out. I ask if he’s excited about the show, and he shrugs me off, as he often does when questioned: “I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a show.” And then, later, as we vacate the green room to make way for Tracy and his entourage: “Not one person is here to see me.”

The Annotated Wisdom of Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon has a lot of stuff in his head, stuff that he used to create and run three seasons of Community as well as found Channel 101 and create a new method for understanding story structure. In these projects as well as in older ones like The Sarah Silverman Program, his failed pilot Heat Vision and Jack, and his current live show and podcast (also the subject of an upcoming documentary) Harmontown, Harmon has made himself known for being both brilliant and hard to work with.

Fortunately for us Harmon won’t stop creating any time soon, with an animated film written by Charlie Kaufman currently in progress as well as an Adult Swim cartoon and sitcoms (including at least one multi-cam) in development at Fox and CBS.

We’ve collected bits of his wisdom from interviews, podcasts, blog posts, and more, so that you, too, can put a lot of stuff in your head and think about it.