By The Funny People, For The Funny People
Scenes of labor from end-stage capitalist comedy, and other news of the week
Usually I send out the weekly comedy news dispatch on Mondays, but so much happened this Monday that I just had to wait so I could share it all. Alas, we’ll have to keep waiting for decent footage from last weekend’s ceremony at The Kennedy Center honoring Adam Sandler with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor — the truncated televised event will air at 8 p.m. Eastern this coming Sunday on CNN.
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Much of the week’s big news involves workers rights, but let’s start things off with something so strange-but-true it can only involve one late, great comedy legend…
Andy Kaufman: Hall of Fame Wrestler!
World Wrestling Entertainment announced Monday that comedian Andy Kaufman will join Rey Mysterio and The Great Muta in the WWE Hall of Fame, Class of 2023, during an induction ceremony March 31, streaming on Peacock. For anyone who needs a refresher on how Kaufman helped pro wrestling enter mainstream pop culture, here’s his infamous appearance with Jerry Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman in 1982. This was The Slap.
Maximum Fun Becoming A Worker-Owned Co-Op
Yes, that’s Jesse Thorn, the founding owner of podcast network Maximum Fun, announcing on Monday that he’s going to become one of many employee-owners of the network moving forward. The video includes several of Thorn’s current employees endorsing the shift.
MaxFun podcasts include Adam Ruins Everything, Baby Geniuses, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, Go Fact Yourself, The Jackie and Laurie Show, Jesse Jordan Go!, Judge John Hodgman, and My Brother My Brother & Me, among many others.
As Thorn explains on the company’s website:
Maximum Fun has always operated under the principle that doing what is right is more important than doing what is most profitable, and that the company should grow responsibly, for the long term. At first, that was a natural consequence of the fact that the company was Jesse’s life’s work. He wanted it to embody the things he cared about, and he wanted it to last.
Owning one’s work is also a tradition of the company, starting with the fact that creators on the network own their shows.
The employees of Maximum Fun will now be entrusted with upholding these values, as they come to own their own work too. Worker-ownership is a natural next step for a company that has always defined itself by what it means to people, rather than how much money it makes.
But at the same time, it feels incredibly important that we are taking this next step now, at a time when the podcasting industry is chaotic, and frankly scary. The last several years have seen an influx of investment into podcasting — literally billions of dollars. The last several months have seen the natural consequence of those speculative investments, when the market turned and prospects for a financial return faded: show cancellations, and layoffs.
We have operated MaxFun to survive boom-bust business cycles, and we have been through two so far. We avoid hype cycles and letdowns by focusing on what we do best: producing and partnering with shows that matter to our audience, and asking our audience to support those shows, so that they can continue to exist.
Operating as a cooperative will ensure that we continue our mission of bringing good things into the world, and that we do so in an equitable, ethical way. By supporting MaxFun now, you’re not only uplifting the shows that you love; you’re also supporting a business model that cares.
Writers Guild Begins Negotiations To Avoid Strike
The Writers Guild of America last went on strike in November 2007, and narrowly avoided a repeat 10 years later. So much has changed in how we produce and consume entertainment even just in the past three years, thanks to the proliferation of streaming platforms and corporate mergers resulting in business plans wiping shows and movies completely out of the picture. But I’m an outsider to all of these machinations. The insiders — the WGA committee negotiating for a new contract in 2023 with the producers (AMPTP) — is co-chaired by David A. Goodman (a writer/producer for several Seth MacFarlane shows, and showrunner on The Orville) and includes comedy writers Kay Cannon, Robb Chavis, Adam Conover, Hallie Haglund, Greg Iwinski, Luvh Rakhe, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, Tom Schulman, Mike Schur, and Patric M. Verrone.
Here’s a video from Cannon explaining what to expect over the next few weeks:
Tentative Agreement For SNL Film Editors
The editors who do all of the post-production work on Saturday Night Live’s pre-taped shorts had authorized a strike for April 1 — the next upcoming air-date for SNL — but NBC appears to have reached an agreement with Local 700 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE). The proposed contract would increase pay 60 percent over three years, plus offer healthcare benefits, paid meals, transportation and accommodations to cover long shifts.
“We are thrilled to have reached this tentative deal,” said Cathy Repola, National Executive Director of Motion Picture Editors Guild. “Thanks to the tremendous resolve of the crew, we reached a deal that represents real achievement in each of the areas our members identified as key, including dramatic improvements in wages. We’ll defer detailed public discussion of the terms until after our negotiators have had a chance to meet with the full crew to review the deal and hold a ratification vote.”
So a fully live SNL will not be happening anytime soon.
R.I.P. Keith Johnstone
Improv comedy legend Keith Johnstone, who wrote the seminal book on improv, “Impro,” and founded Theatresports, died March 11, 2023. He was 90.
Per Keith’s request, a festive “wake” will be held in his honor at a future date. When information is available, it will be posted on his website.
R.I.P. Sean Lampkin
Also, a belated shout-out for Sean Lampkin, the right-hand man for Martin Lawrence who played Nipsey the bartender on Martin, and had small roles in Lawrence’s films Life, Bad Boys II, Big Momma’s House and Big Momma’s House 2. He was only 54.
Industry News and Notes
What else is new?
The cast of Ted Lasso visited the White House on Monday and took over the daily press briefing to talk about mental health. Shouldn’t that be reserved for Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein’s other Apple TV+ show, Shrinking????
Longtime YouTubers Rhett & Link have launched Mythical 24/7, a new Roku channel offering up a curated feed of the duo’s shows and specials.
Peter Kim, a 2021 New Face and regular on Amazon’s Fairfax, has a deal at FOX to develop No. 1 Supreme Citizen of America, about an immigrant obsessed with becoming a true American, with Jim Margolis attached as showrunner.
Peacock is getting the Monk gang back together for Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.
Michelle Buteau will host this year’s Audie Awards for audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment, happening March 28 in NYC.
Tim Dillon nabbed a part in Eli Roth’s next horror flick, Thanksgiving, making a reality out of the fake trailer seen during Grindhouse.
Mary Beth Barone will star and EP an erotic thriller, Good Girl, with Lauren Garroni directing from a script by Garroni and Bree Essirig about a woman who finds out her Sugar Daddy’s offer uncovers plenty of dark secrets.
Wendi McClendon-Covey has eyes on her post-Goldbergs career, scoring the lead in the NBC pilot for single-cam, St. Denis Medical — it’s a mockumentary format from Justin Spitzer and Eric Ledgin set in “an underfunded, understaffed Oregon hospital.”
Terry Crews will star in the CBS pilot adaptation of the “JumpStart” comic strip.
Colin Davis is leaving Roku, where he led scripted originals, to become Sony’s new EVP for TV comedy development.
It may seem like Cecily Strong replaced her fellow former SNL star Kate McKinnon as Verizon Wireless spokeswoman in the blink of an eye — but McKinnon has her next project lined up, as star of the feature film In The Blink of An Eye. Andrew Stanton is attached to direct from a Colby Day script.
Ronny Chieng won’t get to pretend to be GM of the Brooklyn Nets, after all. At least not for Hulu, which passed on Chieng’s pilot. The project may be shopped around, or it may free Chieng up if Paramount Global decides to tap him for one of its late-night vacancies at CBS or Comedy Central.
Last Week’s Specials
New on Netflix
Bert Kreischer: Razzle Dazzle (my review in Decider)
New on Moment
New on YouTube
Ossia Dwyer: Knockout (via Four by Three)
Jaye McBride: Daddy’s Girl (via The Laugh Button)
also released last week: old specials from Andy Matthews and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall; Axel Blake
New on Amazon (for rent/purchase)
New on Locals Only
THIS WEEK: 12 (Previous subtotal: 114) Running total for 2023: 126 comedy specials!
Fun Things To Do In NYC
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