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30 Rock was many things, but above all it was jokes. Jokes jokes jokes. Seven seasons crammed with running jokes, visual gags, catchphrases, bad sketch comedy jokes, women in the workplace jokes, republican v. dem jokes, smart jokes, dumb jokes, smart-dumb jokes, racist jokes, racial jokes, NBC jokes, young jokes, old jokes, and every other kind of joke you can possibly imagine.
For the six and a half years 30 Rock has been on the air, it has delivered some of the best jokes in prime time network television. It’s mere existence has flown in the face of what a traditional network sitcom is supposed to be. It had heart, but it was always biting, and it had story, but it usually seemed like a vessel to mainline more jokes. And that’s something you rarely see in a non-cable sitcom anymore.
As a comedy nerd since way back turned comedy writer since slightly less way back, I have come to worship the joke. I’ll never forget the dismay I felt being in a writers room recently and hearing a note come through the speaker on a conference call: “Guuuuys, there’s, um, A LOT of jokes.” The note was delivered like it was a bad thing, like jokes were getting in the way of the story, which I couldn’t believe. My argument was always “it’s a comedy! People want jokes! For example, 30 Rock is ALL jokes!” Of course, this was before I realized that 30 Rock has been a consistently low rated show for years. It won handfuls of awards, but none of them were for breaking Nielsen records or selling the most washing machines.
A large part of the population does not want a joke machine delivered to them every week. They want heart and story and characters you can root for, and I guess it can be hard sometimes to root for/care about implied highlanders who transcend all time, or women who wear chip clips for hair ties, or actresses who have a habit of getting sold into sex slavery or having increasingly dangerous sex with Mickey Rourke. Well, to those people I have to say, you blew it. You missed out on a show with a shocking amount of heart. No matter how out and out silly it ever got, 30 Rock always surprised with genuine emotion. You missed a show about coworkers who love each other, lunatics who love their spouses, bosses who love their jobs even when they’re conflicted about them, pages/janitors who love television more than anyone should, and a mentor and men-tee who cared about each other a lot more than they ever let on. And Fart Robot. You missed Fart Robot.
Thanks for seven seasons, you big weird wonderful piece of television.
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(Becky, a woman who used to fool around with Sam, has just learned he’s dating Diane)
BECKY: I must say, I will miss the fun we used to have.
SAM: Well, I’ve got something better than fun. I’ve got good, solid pleasantness.
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I have a bone to pick with the show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve seen the original Toddlers and Tiaras episode she was on and I loved that little weirdo. She was great. Her name is Alana, and at one point in her talking head interview she refers to SOMEONE ELSE as “Honey Boo Boo Child,” like it’s her version of “giiiiirl” or something. But then she gets her own show and the title is “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child.” Now, to me, the implication is that we’re supposed to think that’s her name. But it’s not. No one on that Todz & ‘iaras (that’s my abbrev, don’t steal it) episode calls her that. It’s just a thing she says. I know it probably felt like the perfect title in that lazy development meeting, but it was constructed on a house of cards so flimsy that it would topple over on a WINDLESS day. TLC, don’t think you got away with this. You have not. You. Have. Not.
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Is your name really Tape Recorder?
This week’s episode of Louie was pretty spectacular, and this moment reminded me of a similar conversation I had with a similar girl. In this scene, Parker Posey tells Louis that her name is Tape Recorder, and she’s clearly fucking with him, but she’s so intense and manic that she sells the bit until he believes it, only to undercut him when he seems to be sympathetic about it. Now, she had JUST told him a harrowing true story of a childhood illness, so he was pretty much on the hook to believe anything she told him. When he realizes that she’s pulling his leg, it brought back such a vivid memory for me.
I was a junior in college, hanging out with my friend Bree. She was the most unpredictable person I’d ever met. She’d lie, steal, play pranks, and she was the funniest people at my school. She also had uncharacteristic moments of honesty that she’d let slip out, and if you were privy to them, you felt like the luckiest person in the world. And she was just adorable enough to get away with anything.
One day, Bree started a rumor that she was actually a seventeen year old genius and former competitive figure skating phenom. She cooked up an elaborate story about how she’d advanced through high school on some accelerated program or something. I’m sure the exact details are more clever than the broad strokes, but my memory is failing me. All I remember is that she convinced a few friends of ours about this, and I was so enamored with the story when I found out.
After I’d heard that she’d fooled a mutual friend, she and I were sitting on my bed in my dorm room. I remember having some long conversation with her and slipping in at some point that I knew she had fooled this guy. I told her, “that’s pretty hilarious that he believed you, by the way.” She stopped and turned to me, not in shock, but with slight confusion. “Believed me about what?” She genuinely looked like she didn’t know what I was talking about. “You know, the figure skating thing,” I replied.
Now, at this point, I wish I had video of the conversation. She blinked a few times and got pretty quiet. “What are- wait what did he tell you?” She really seemed concerned about this, and didn’t indicate that she was kidding. “Come on,” I protested. “I know you started that rumor that you were some sort of skating genius and that you’re like four years younger than you are. I can’t believe you convinced him. It’s fucking impressive.”
After that she just started to slowly lose it. “No, no, no. I didn’t want-” She trailed off and tears were starting to form at the corners of her eyes. Real deal, shameful tears. I couldn’t believe it. This girl is such a bullshit artist. There’s no way… And that’s when she collapsed on my bed and started sobbing. Big, deep sobs. Her back started to heave. Had I really struck a nerve? This girl was one of my closest friends at school and I felt instantly like I’d betrayed her trust somehow. I was so confused, but overcome with the desire to protect my friend. I put my hand on her back to comfort her, and that’s when her sobs turned into huge, hysterical belly laughs.
She sat up quickly and pointed at me, her cheeks wet with fake tears. “AAAAH HAHAHAHA! YOU IDIOT!” I had to admit, she got me, and I should never have believed her in the first place. But I wanted to, so I did.
I know how you feel, Louis.
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Tonight: Please Watch ABC At Nine Thirty(!)
Hello friends. Even though I probably seem like the poster child for unemployment, I do work from time to time, and my most recent job was as a staff writer for Don’t Trust The B- In Apartment 23. It’s premiering TONIGHT at 9:30 on ABC. It’s a fun show, and I got to work on it with my writing partner, Marisa. Also, completely coincidentally, my best bud and longtime comedy cohort Michael Blaiklock costars on it! And if that wasn’t enough, LA comedy scene hero/crazy person Eric Andre is on it too! So, if you know me, or like sketch/improv/stand-up comedy in Los Angeles, those are three reasons to feel compelled to watch the show.
If you don’t know me, and those names mean nothing to you (yet), it’s also got an amazing cast of funny, amazing people like Krysten Ritten, Dreama Walker, and James Van Der Beek, playing himself! I’m clearly biased, but I happen to think that this show is very funny, and the creators/producers were the nicest people I’ve ever worked for. If you are hiding a Nielsen Box behind your wireless router, watch this show. If you like jokes, watch this show. If you like the idea of a blonde person living with a brown haired person, watch this show. If you like yourself, watch this show.
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A CHARACTER WALKS AROUND THE HAUNTED MURDER GHOST HOUSE
CHARACTER: Oh hey, scuse me guys? I don’t mean to be a bother, but we’ve got some ghosts over here… MURDER GHOSTS. You see, those ghosts were murdered, and now those ghosts murdered some other ghosts. And I KNOW that sounds like the end, but there’s MORE. See… there are some people that were here earlier, do you remember? RIGHT! Those people! Well, I don’t want to alarm you, but those weren’t people… they were GHOSTS! These jerks just won’t take a hike! It’s like EVERYONE was murdered here! And those murders were committed by OTHER ghosts! And don’t get me started on who killed THOSE ghosts!
OTHER CHARACTER: You can’t kill a ghost!
CHARACTER: Um, someone’s clearly never heard of double ghosts! Ghosts that get murdered just become 2X Ghosts! There’s tons of double ghosts all over this place! It’s crawling with them! And that’s just in the house! Don’t get me started on the neighbors! And the people hiding NEAR the house! And anyone who has ever walked by the house. They are the ghostiest bunch of bloody murder faces you’ll ever see! Look here is the bottom line: SHIT. IS. GOING. DOWN. IN. THIS……HOUSEEEEEE!!!!!!
OTHER CHARACTER IS REVEALED TO HAVE BEEN BORED TO SLEEP, OR IS HE????!!
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Studio 60 - Give me HALF a season of the actual Studio 60 sketch show with the real sketches (Nicholas Cage Talk Show! Dolphin Girl!) and guests (STING!!!!), and then a 6 hour mini-series about terrorists taking over the studio.
Ned And Stacy - Give me a Haden Church/Messing reunion in the form of a Broadway musical (or give me death).
Outsourced: The College Years - One of the Outsourced guys goes to get his Masters degree in a stuffy Massachusetts town where that white guy from the show lives! Reverse fish out of water!
Arli$$: Lockout Special - What is sports agent Arli$$ going to do during the NBA lockout? Oh, gee, I don’t know, GET INTO HIJINX?
Fish Police - Just give me more Fish Police.