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Comedy On And Off The Radar

How the Wild West of late night cable and internet comedy is changing the world of American humor.

A screenshot from "The Maria Bamford Show. (YouTube)

A screenshot from “The Maria Bamford Show. (YouTube)

American comedy once had two big rivers:  late night and stand-up.  The network giants – Leno and Letterman on down.  The stand-up giants – George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers and all that.

Now, it’s a whole new picture.  TV has a zillion channels on cable, and new comedy all over there.  And the internet has unleashed a flood of funny guy and gal podcasters catering to a million stripes of humor.

It doesn’t have to make everybody laugh anymore.  Just you.

This hour, On Point: how the new Wild West of comedy is changing American humor.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Emily Nussbaum, television critic for The New Yorker.  Author of the recent article “Small Wonders” on niche comedy on cable and the internet.

Maria Bamford, comedian, voice actor, writer.

W. Kamau Bell, comedian, host of the FX late-night talk show “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker “You have to head online to find the true Wild West, where pioneers have cobbled together quasi-organized Deadwood-like comedy encampments, shooting off viral videos like pistols, and scratching together a subsistence economy using Kickstarter and PayPal. The best sketches from “Portlandia” and “Key & Peele” are passed virally, friend to friend; Web sites like Funny or Die and College Humor operate as loosely run studios, producing material that viewers vote up and down. Standups saturate Twitter, devising new comedy forms within a hundred and forty characters.”

The New York Times “The premiere was Comedy Central’s biggest series debut in years, drawing 2.1 million viewers and dominating the young male demographic. “I think the network was thinking, ‘Fingers crossed, this could reawaken the “Chappelle’s Show” audience,’ ” Mr. Peele said. “But in our audiences, we see every single race, every single age, sitting together.””

 

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