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


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.””


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 24, 2015
This photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 shows fuel tanks  hit during the attack of Russian warplanes in Syria. Russian warplanes on Monday attacked oil extraction, transport and refinement facilities in areas controlled by Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

ISIS, Inc. The terrorist organization is raking in billions –from oil, grain, antiquities, and taxes. We look at how to break the ISIS bank. Plus, Turkey downs a Russian plane. We’ll have the latest.

Nov 24, 2015
An archival image of a McKinley - Hobart Presidential Campaign Poster from 1896. (Public Domain / WikiCommons)

Republican political strategist Karl Rove is thinking about the McKinley 1896 campaign and the GOP field right now. Karl Rove is with us.

Nov 23, 2015
(Clockwise From Top Left) Filmmaker Lindsay Catherine Harris, Ko Smith, Kailya Warren and Bryant Koger in still images from Harris' "Evoking the Mulatto" multimedia project. (Courtesy the Filmmaker)

Mixed-race America in the time of Black Lives Matter and demographic change. We’ll talk race, identity and the film project “Evoking the Mulatto”.

Nov 23, 2015
In this file photo released May 14, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of the Islamic State group's vice police known as "Hisba," right, reads a verdict handed down by an Islamic court sentencing many they accused of adultery to lashing, in Raqqa City, Syria. (AP)

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen says the US needs to step up in the fight against ISIS. But there’s a caution flag, too. We’ll dive in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »
On Point Favorites For Your Holiday Travel
Friday, Nov 20, 2015

A few On Point staff favorites for your upcoming holiday travel listening pleasure.

More »