If you're looking for the perfect gag gift to round out your Christmas shopping, you might want to think twice before putting Ben Palmer's book, "Stock Photos with Captions," on your list. With its mix of idiotic, politically-incorrect, creepster captions, his compilation of mundane stock photos culled from the Internet puts a new twist on the meaning of "stocking stuffer."
"I wonder how long it takes him to get hard," reads one above a photo of a middle-aged woman and grey-haired man harmlessly collaborating in a corporate setting. Then there's the photo of televangelist Benny Hinn, arm outstretched while cradling the Bible, with a caption that reads: "Fall over dammit I'm healing you."
That sardonic sense of humor, paired with his penchant for pranks, pretty much sums up Palmer's comedic approach. Since moving to Atlanta two and a half years ago, the Ohio native has become a staple in the local comedy scene, with regular appearances at Uptown Comedy Club, Laughing Skull Lounge, Punchline, Hole in the Wall, and elsewhere.
But his preferred stage might be his Facebook page. He uses social media the way traditional standups use a hot mic. And his posts run the gamut, from seriously depressing screeds on his personal quest for meaning to totally inane comments left on Fortune 500 companies' sponsored pages.
"That's what I love to do, just get high and try to make people laugh on the Internet," he says.
I caught up with Palmer offline this week to talk about the differences between black and white crowds, the money he's earned from running TV court scams with friends on "Judge Joe Brown" and "Judge Alex," and the reason why his dad blocked him on Facebook.
I just want to tell you that I will not be giving anyone your book for Christmas because I'm scared of what they'd think of me as a result.
Ben Palmer: What? C'mon, they'll love it man. I just wouldn't show it to any kids.
So what was the inspiration for "Stock Photos with Captions"?
As expected, the building the group has called home since 1995 will be redeveloped as part of a mixed-use complex.
According to a press release, Dad's thinks it's unlikely the organization will be able to stick around in Inman Park but is "committed to staying as close to home as possible."
"We have narrowed the search down to a few serious prospects and plan on making a decision very soon," the statement says. "That said, just like any 18 year-old, we like to keep our options open. So, if anyone has 15,000 sq. feet of space in the city with ample parking on the cheap - we'd love to hear about it."
However, Dad's officials are "optimistic" that they can finish the remainder of the season - shows include Apnea, Improv with Colin Mochrie, and the numerous other shows it hosts each week - in the Inman Park space before making the move a few blocks to Little Five Points.
Once there, they'll likely launch a capital campaign to help raise funds to build their new home. In the meantime, the nonprofit is kindly asking people to continue putting their butts in the seats and lend a hand with moving by donating (or providing at low cost) needed materials. Those include storage space, moving supplies, and meeting or office space. Send 'em a line if you can assist.
Also, Dad's has promised a proper farewell to the longtime performance space. More details on that as they become available.
NOTE: The post has been altered to clarify that Dad's Garage anticipates starting a fundraising campaign after moving to 7 Stages.
Ever since Dave Chappelle walked away from his hit Comedy Central show in 2005, apparently leaving $50 million on the table, fans have been clamoring for a show that generates consistent laughs, makes keen social observations, delivers sharp satire, and launches hilarious catch phrases.
That show has arrived: "Key and Peele", a sketch comedy show on Comedy Central stars "MADtv" alumni Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
Whereas "Chappelle's Show" was brash and in-your-face, a look into the comic's conflicted, scathing, twisted psyche, "Key and Peele" are served well by a wealth of sketch experience developed on "MADtv." Their sketch concepts are more refined, their production value is sharper, and their rapport is reminiscent of some of the greatest comedy duos from Farley & Spade to Cheech & Chong to Martin & Lewis to the Smothers Brothers to Laurel & Hardy to Abbot & Costello.
They tackle issues with aplomb—pushing boundaries, but never losing sight of the comedy nuggets to be mined from the material. Here, they handle the media trope of the "Magical Negro":
Here's sample of some of K&P's best sketches taking aim at a wide swath of issues:
Even great stand-up comedy doesn’t always hold up to repeat listening. An Emmy-winning comedy album may not be worth frequent revisits once the punch lines have sunk in. That’s not the case with Randy and Jason Sklar, better known as The Sklar Brothers. Performing tonight through Sunday at The Punchline in their first-ever visit to Atlanta, the identical twin comics frequently seize on ridiculous topics and volley them back and forth. Their overlapping delivery attains the rhythm and musicality of jazz, even when their riffing on subjects like “Hoarders” or the children’s book Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.
Although they dress and groom themselves differently (Randy has facial hair, Jason wears glasses), the Sklars seem to embrace their similarities on albums and podcasts, rather than take pains to vocally distinguish each other. When they build up a head of steam, they toss ideas back and forth, interrupting each other or finishishing each other’s thoughts, as if they’re on exactly the same wavelength. At times they’ll lapse into characters who volley off each other, like two employees of a racist hat company brainstorming ideas, or the publishers of the Brothers Grimm who have a logical objection to the line “Fee fi fo fum.”
How did “The Black Nerd Show” originate?
Robin and I both wrote scripts for Sketchworks, and have been friends for a long time. Robin has been writing scripts for Tyler Perry Studios and started doing the stand-up at the beginning of this year. I’d already been performing for six years now. Our sensibilities were not remotely like stereotypical, urban black comedy. We met Taj Turner, another new comedian who started in the past year, who had the same sensibility. We’re all black comedians from suburban backgrounds. Once we were talking about our big, nerdy, sci-fi/fantasy obsessions — specifically “Game of Thrones,” I think — and one of us joked 'We should do a show, 'The Black Nerds,’ and someone else said “Let’s do it.”
Will it be a stand-up comedy show?
It’s more of a variety show. We’ll do our stand-up acts on various topics, have music from Noah Pine, a white guy who sings bluesy music, and have some sketch videos apart from the standard stand-up. Based on how the first one goes, we’ll do may do it as a recurring show.
Held the fourth Wednesday of every month, Syllabus began in June and features rules slightly more complicated than Write Club's rowdy variation on debate. Each month has a different "major" or overall theme, and the six professors deliver rigidly-timed, seven-minute lectures on specific topics within the theme. The evening is divided into two "semesters" of three courses each, and the winning professors of the three courses face off at the end of the evening with a one-minute "thesis defense." All unfolds in a freewheeling spirit of infotainment.
Last night's major was "Fairy Tales" and Jo Howarth Noonan, as acting headmaster for the evening, gave an introductory speech that wittily tied the theme to the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same. Lee went first to deliver his lecture on "villains" and was dressed for the part, with a chin-beard, monkish robes and amusingly intense stare. Even better, he played up the wicked concept to the hilt, posing questions to the class and deducting hundreds of points for incorrect answers.
What makes the remount a "Special Edition?"
In the grand tradition of Ridley Scott and George Lucas, we just couldn't resist the urge to go back and screw with a successful hit for no good reason. We added unnecessary "CGI" character, some new dialog, a deleted scene or two as well as an alternate ending. Our cast remains the same except we have a few understudy performances with Whitney Milsap taking Gina Rickiki's role for a couple of nights and co-writer/assistant director Jon Carr stepping in for Tom Rittenhouse toward the end of the run.
For the first two seasons of Louis CK's cult hit sit-com "Louie," the comic-turned-auteur has created an off-kilter and slightly surreal world where a date-gone-bad ends with his companion fleeing via helicopter, where a homeless man on a park bench is kidnapped by Men In Black, and replaced with a duplicate, or where an insane bum runs headlong into traffic and is decapitated.
On the whole, CK's Manhattan city-scape is less confrontational than Larry David's L.A. battlefield in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Whereas David finds himself throwing gasoline onto fires, escalating each episode into an ever more hostile comic climax, CK is a put-upon foil making his way through a shifting, uncertain, whimsical, and sometimes absurdist Manhattan landscape like a fusion of Woody Allen's mystical Oedipus Wrecks, Alice, and Curse of the Jade Scorpion crossed with the structured choreography of a Hal Hartley film...with an occasional stick-up or mugging.
CK's world is unique, and decidedly awkward.
It is uncomfortable and unpredictable.
In the season three premiere of "Louie," the comic introduces a character heretofore only mentioned, inferred or implied: the ex-wife. After two seasons off screen—just was we began to figure this was going to be a Vera Peterson thing—in typical CK fashion, he both underplays the moment, and punctuates it with a double-take by casting African American actress Susan Kelechi Watson as the mother of his girls.
In the Vulture Blog recap of the episode, Zach Dionne reflects on the big moment:
Aziz Ansari's performance last night at Tabernacle may have been the best way to tee up Hari Kondabolu's four night stint at The Laughing Skull, June 21-24. Now, I'm totally not saying that the two comics are alike, just because both were born in America and have Indian backgrounds. The coincidence of their visits to Atlanta could help draw attention to Kondabolu, a rising comic whose addresses racial stereotypes and self-consciousness more directly than Ansari typically does.
Kondabolu opens his stint on John Oliver's New York Stand-Up by pointing out that when people ask him, "Where are you from?", that's basically code for "Why aren't you white?"He can get laughs by questioning whether some kind of bigotry drove the invention of white chocolate: "Are you worried about having brown chocolate around your teenage daughter?" Kondabolu lays out his attitudes towards race and comedy in the subtle but devastating short film, "Manoj," about a hacky, probably fictional and highly plausible Indian comic whose act reinforces his audience's racial stereotypes. At one point a comedy club owner encourages Manoj to "get out there and Indian it up!" while his white fans compare him to seeing Apu in real life. It's like a small-scale Andy Kaufman prank for the 21st century.
Finalists from April 12: Mike Haun, Steve Mills, Laura Austin, Wellington Juku, Evan Fowler
Finalists from April 15: Blake Wilson, Mr. D, Rob Haze, Remi Treuer, Greg Behrens
Finalists from April 22: Dulce Sloan, Ben Owen, Bo McMichael, Cynthia Johnson, Viet Huynh
In general, the April 26 show should provide an excellent showcase for the quality and diversity of the young performers on Atlanta's comedy scene. Here's a few things I learned as a judge:
1. Judging requires a great deal of focus and snap decisions. The 18 comics of each night had five-minute sets, and in the interim between one leaving the stage and one taking it, we'd jot down our rankings based on five categories (stage persona, joke-writing, likability, etc.). The time passed surprisingly quickly.
2. The shows were structured so at the mid-point, a non-competing "featured comic" would perform a set so the judges had a chance to go to the bathroom. The hosts and featured comics I saw were Jay Revis, Prime-Time Steve and Michael Dowe, who all did good work.
3. Two comedians amusingly mined their roles as stay-at-home dads. Finalist Bo McMichael performed nearly his entire set as a sleep-deprived, stresssed-out dad at an emotional breaking point.
4. One female comedian spoke at length about vampires, and another spoke at length about zombies. Is there a connection between women, comedy and monsters? Or were they catering their jokes to the nerd demographic?
5. Tip for competitors: Don't mess with the judges unless you have something really funny to say. I tried to be as fair and attentive as possible, but if you make the judges feel self-conscious or awkward, they won't laugh, and if they're not laughing, they probably won't vote for you.
6. Tip for young comedians: If you're tempted to make a joke about abortion, you should really resist that temptation. Unless it's the greatest joke in the world, it risks turning a significant portion of the audience against you.
7. I used to compile the Top 5 Tweets from ATL Comics This Week, and this was the first time I saw some of the most dedicated tweeters. They all proved quite entertaining in person, including Dowe, Carlos Valencia and Evan Fowler (who killed in his set).
Carlos Campos as Chief Turd Polisher. That's just depressing.
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