Kovacs Award Recipient Harry Shearer Talks Richard Nixon, Spinal Tap and Smart Comedy

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Photos by Danny Gallagher

The great comedians know that they don't have to create fiction, they simply have to pluck out the insane bits of a world trying to wrestle with its sanity and present it in the way a carnival barker would just before he pulls back the curtain to reveal some horrid mistake of human nature.

Actor and comedian Harry Shearer is one such performer, obsessed with presenting the raw, naked truth of politics and media whether it's the invasiveness of reality TV when he helped write director Albert Brooks' first movie Real Life or the inefficient preparation and inhumane response that led to massive flooding in New Orleans with his documentary The Big Uneasy. Even This is Spinal Tap, the seminal rock comedy movie that launched the mockumentary genre, sprang from real moments.

"We didn't make anything up in that movie," Shearer says atAMS Pictures headquarters in Dallas. "It was stuff that either happened to us or people we knew. Editing reality to get the good part is sort the ideal version of my job."

The Spinal Tap and Simpsons star recently turned his sharp eye for the satirical to one of American history's characters who always seemed to good to be real, former President Richard M. Nixon, for a new web series for My Damn Channel called Nixon's the One. He'll premiere the series tonight at the Angelika Film Center as part of the Dallas VideoFest where he'll receive the festival's Ernie Kovacs Award.

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Comedian Tig Notaro Brings Her Heart of Gold to Dallas This October

Categories: Comedy

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Ruthie Wyatt
Tig's coming to town!

By Sarah Wyatt

"Once you're on track that is really and truly YOUR track, you can't help but make inspired choices in life," writes Tig Notaro in our email conversation -the Caps Lock hers.

Tig Notaro is a good person, a good friend, an honest person, and a very talented comedian. Notaro is very open about her career, life, and general quirks. She's the kind of person that has an entire section of her website dedicated to sharing secrets about her life. Her latest secret? "I love porridge with sliced bananas on top."

And she's coming to Dallas October 17.

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Oddball Festival's Impressive Lineup Bolstered By Most Reverent Audience in Comedy History

Categories: Comedy

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Last Friday's Oddball Curiosity and Comedy Festival at the Gexa Energy Pavilion wasn't as memorable as the first time Funny or Die brought a comedy showcase to our town. That's not to say it wasn't good. For a lot of comedy nerds in attendance, it will be one of the best and most formative live comedy experiences of their lifetime. It was a glorious collection of the most inventive and creative comedy minds of our time but it won't stick as hard in our minds as last year's strange derailment.

Blame our brains for leaving such a lasting impression. Studies show that we're more likely to remember the details and stories from the negative moments of our history than the positive ones and while both were good shows overall, last year's ended on an appropriately "odd" note.


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Aziz Ansari Brought a Relatable Force of Funny to Dallas Saturday Night

Categories: Comedy

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Sarah Wyatt

By Sarah Wyatt

Aziz Ansari is a man built for an arena act, a master of crowd control.

The night's opening act was a Michael Jackson impersonator with his own backing applause soundtrack. It seemed fitting with the ego and presence that Ansari puts out to the public as a celebrity. You can almost hear him joking about it with his friends, "MJ but with an applause track. Like a laugh track for musicians." But then he followed through with it because when you're a stand-up comedian capable of filling the American Airlines Center, why not?

So of course there was a Bad-era Michael Jackson impersonator opening for Aziz. And of course he was good. He came equipped with everything you would want -but didn't know you wanted - from a Michael Jackson impersonator before an Aziz Ansari show: flashing lights, smoke, good dancing on stage, bad dancing off.


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Comedian Laurie Kilmartin On the Challenges, Lessons of Telling Jokes About Her Dead Dad

Categories: Comedy

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Most critics of comedians who love to take their audiences to dark places usually have a single criticism in mind when they prepare to launch their arsenal of self-righteous indignation.

"The dark, sad things you're trying to make people laugh about wouldn't seem so funny if they happened to you," a heckler might shout from the darkened recesses of a comedy club.

Comedian and Conan writer Laurie Kilmartin who is known for not steering clear of tough subjects in her comedy faced just such a moment when her father Ron was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to suffer through it until his final days earlier this year. She didn't just do what a good comic would do in the difficult, but inevitable situation. She did what any sane person would do.

She tried to keep her sense of humor and find ways to joke about it.

"Even during the sickness, I was making jokes about it," she says. "I was used to tackling it. It was a little tougher to turn it into the past tense but I've been a comic for 27 years. I'm really used to going at a subject and doing a take-down of it. That's the way my brain works. I organize my emotions and thoughts in joke form and talk to them on stage. It wasn't any more difficult to talk about than being a mother or anything like that."

She amassed a long list of jokes and updates on her Twitter account through her father and her family's painful ordeal. Kilmartin's tweets went viral and they attracted heartfelt messages of hope and peace for her father and her family from all around the world. She's turned those jokes and the experience into a very personal comedy show called 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad, which she'll perform at 8 and 10 p.m. this Saturday at the Dallas Comedy House.

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Dallas Native Comedian Chris Tellez Wants to Tell You a Story at Dallas Comedy House

Categories: Comedy

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One of the first shows that comedian Chris Tellez organized sounds like the nightmare scenario of any aspiring comic.

He started a regular monthly stand-up show called "Pillow Talk" at a dive bar in Oak Cliff that didn't have working air conditioning. The place was packed with sweaty people trying to drink away the heat of a drought-stricken Texas. Tellez was pounding back the drinks but he wasn't just battling the heat. He was also battling his own nerves.

"I was not as experienced as I am now," he said. "So I just was so nervous that I got really drunk before the show and I was really trashed and it was such a weird thing. Some guy was crowdsurfing during my comedy set. I don't think anyone else had someone crowdsurf during their jokes. It was really fun."

That was just under five years ago. These days, he works the crowds and the clubs of Austin's comedy community but he still comes back to his proving ground for shows like the one he's doing at 10:30 p.m. Friday at the Dallas Comedy House with Austin comedians Ryan Cownie and Mac Blake.

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Win the Lottery to See Aziz Ansari this Weekend

Categories: Comedy

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Lucas Michael
Hey, Ladies!

This weekend, one of the country's funniest foodies stops in at the American Airlines Center. Aziz Ansari brings his latest comedy tour, Modern Romance, to town at 8 p.m. Saturday night and according to him it's so dope, he wants to give the tickets away.

"I think this is my best tour I've done with my strongest and most interesting material," Ansari says. "I got really insane stage/video screen display done so people in the back could see."

He's set up a lottery to give tickets and other stuff away.


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Local Comics to Perform at Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival

Categories: Comedy

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Photos courtesy of Darden, Johnson and Werth

At the biggest comedy event in Dallas/Fort Worth this year, three names on the bill are a little bit more local than the rest. Stand-up comedians Christopher Darden, Josh Johnson and Clint Werth have been touring the local clubs, bars and any other places that will let them set up a microphone for an audience and now they've been invited to open the comedy portion of the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival on Friday, Sept. 19 at the Gexa Energy Pavilion. They will perform on the second stage with comedian and star of the Comedy Central series Enjoy It!

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Brew-HaHa Comedy Series Pairs Craft Breweries with Live Comics

Categories: Comedy

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Paul Varghese is among the local comics kicking off the Brew-Haha series at local craft breweries.
Drinking and comedy have always gone together like peanut butter, jelly and soft, white bread with the crusts carefully removed. Comedy club drinks, however, aren't the tastiest or most reasonably priced concoctions. It's part and parcel for the business and not just for the club's bottom line. Sometimes all it takes is the right amount of alcohol to turn the least talented joke slinger into someone who might have a shot of not getting kicked out of a Last Comic Standing audition.

Most times, however, you want a drink that actually tastes as good as the buzz it can create. The upcoming Brew-HaHa Comedy Series pairs local comedians with local breweries for a series of shows designed to leave you laughing no matter how much you've had to drink.

The series kicks off on September 18 with a live show starring Paul Varghese, Mama Michelle and Michael O'Donnell along with a beer tasting at the Community Beer Co. in downtown Dallas. Future performances will take place across the area at the Franconia Brewing Co. in McKinney, Rabbit Hole Brewing in Justin and the Lakewood Brewing Co. in Garland with live performances by Dave Little, CJ Starr, Clint Werth and Daryl Felsberg. The complete schedule and tickets are available on the Brew-HaHa Comedy Series' website.

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Garfunkel and Oates' Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome on Making Funny and Beautiful Music Together

Categories: Comedy

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Darren Michaels/IFC
Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome make up the musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates.

Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, the comedians who make up the musical comedy powerhouse of Garfunkel and Oates, are living the dream of every guitar-ukulele musical comedy duo.

They have three top-selling raunchy comedy duets. They have their own TV show on IFC that Lindhome describes as a "millennial Laverne & Shirley." Most important, they have a huge base of fans to drive the energy of a national tour that lands in Dallas at 8 p.m. tonight at the House of Blues.

"I feel like we've kind of reached it," Lindhome says.

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