90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
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.””

 

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 1, 2014
Pro-democracy protesters hold umbrellas under heavy rain in a main street near the government headquarters in Hong Kong late Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. The protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them on Tuesday and threatened wider actions if he did not, after he said China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub. (AP)

China, democracy and Hong Kong. They’re in the streets in Hong Kong with their “Umbrella Revolution.” What now?

Oct 1, 2014
Actress Eva Longoria, center, Henry R. Munoz III, co-founder of the Latino Victory Project, left, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, are seated at an event launching The Latino Victory Project, a Latino political action committee, at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, May 5, 2014. (AP)

Latino America. It is very large and growing very fast. How will it move the country?

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 30, 2014
In this Jan. 15, 2013, photo, Rosser Pryor, Co-owner and President of Factory Automation Systems, examines a new high-performance industrial robot at the company's Atlanta facility.  (AP)

Nicholas Carr says automation, all over, is turning us into zombies. Out of touch with the world. He’s with us.

 
Sep 30, 2014
St. Louis county police officers advance on protestors trying to shut down Interstate 70 in Berkeley, Mo. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 near the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. where Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year old was shot and killed by a white police officer on Aug. 9. (AP)

Police shootings, cop culture, body cameras. And the big debate over how to protect the public and the police.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Transcript: Peter Thiel Wants Us All To Go From ‘Zero To One’
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel on innovation, technological failure and humanity’s uncertain future.

More »
Comment
 
Transcript: Sexual Violence Under ISIS Control
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

A transcript from our September 25, 2014 conversation on the Islamic State and sexual violence.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: September 26, 2014
Friday, Sep 26, 2014

All of you love to listen to old broadcasts when we play them, and Taylor Swift loves the Internet.

More »
Comment