Television show created by Jim Jefferies and Peter O’Fallon
Clearly, video streaming services have discovered the popularity of stand-up comedy and that they can make money off the seemingly inexpensive cost of producing an endless profusion of performances. It’s the Comedy Channel model writ 24/7.
If you didn’t have cable before video streaming proved practical and you wanted to see what stand-up was all about, you had to find An Evening at the Improv on the television dial once it moved into syndication. Besides, these were likely the sitcom stars of tomorrow. That was the other thing- network television executives kept raiding the stock of touring comedians for those who could carry a weekly situation comedy. Freddie Prinze and Robin Williams did great, so clearly the executives had found a potential gold mine. Forty years onward, IFC and Netflix have appropriated the model while also letting the comedians have a bigger hand in shaping the shows themselves.
I probably would have noticed Jim Jefferies’ routines. I tend to give new faces about ten minutes to hold my interest. That is the equivalent of the book scan at a B&N (and hasn’t that fallen by the wayside?). I caught one of his early specials. He told a long, involved confessional that concluded in hilarious fashion with a few moments of self-realization. That’s awfully hard to do in such an entertaining fashion, especially since the story involved moments that passed beyond cringe-worthy into you-don’t-really-need-to-share-that.
I noticed (after catching up on his available specials) that Jefferies had a television show. It kept in that mode of “beyond cringe-worthy into you-don’t-really-need-to-share-that.” Yet, it was funny and filled with characters that you don’t get to see on television. I don’t mean the sort of characters that seem ground-breaking. I mean people that come to the gym when I’m there. You know, some folks need a little extra help as well as other people who probably need a lesson in sharing the planet.
You don’t watch a comedy if it isn’t funny. So let’s be clear- the show worked because of a fantastic cast willing to do a lot that would have to give anyone pause. Of course, a lot of moments should give us pause, but our better angels kick in, hopefully.
I know there are a lot of television shows out there that portray the nitty gritty of life. They also have that nice through line that gives us all three acts. They provide a backstory that makes everything a little more palatable. Everyone finds resolution- maybe not a happy ending, but you can look back at the story after its over and draw a nice line about how things happened.
Every now and then, it’s important to be reminded that life is basically mess without a straight line anywhere. Art struggles with such a portrait because most of our art is defined by boundaries. The challenge, as an audience, is sometimes letting the art overflow those lines and not move in a particular direction.
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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 99 more to go.
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