If there’s a line in comedy, both Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher crossed it this month. Both comedians have made a career out of being politically incorrect –but given the reaction to their antics, Griffin’s photo shoot of a bloodied pumpkin head made to look like Donald Trump, and Maher’s casual use of the “n” word on his “Real Time” series, both took it a step too far.
But where’s the bar in comedy, when being offensive is often part of what it means to be a comedian? Back in January, long before the Griffin/Maher uproar, IndieWire’s Turn It On podcast spoke with Jim Carrey about how comedy has changed as standups have become more scrutinized by their every word.
Carrey and fellow executive producers Michael Aguilar and Dave Flebotte reflected on the state of comedy while promoting “I’m Dying Up Here,” their new Showtime series about the 1970s comedy scene in Los Angeles – which wound up being a golden, and fondly remembered, time. Listen below!
Carrey first moved to Los Angeles at the end of the 1970s to make it big in standup. Some things haven’t changed, but Carrey noted that there have been “fluctuations in what you can and can’t see. The collective ego like to exercise their muscle whenever someone says a bad word.”
At clubs, patrons now record routines with their smart phones, and are ready to upload that video and pounce whenever something controversial happens. But comedians are also concerned about their acts being leaked, which can ruin the experience for audiences who realize they’ve heard the jokes. “It’s gotten a little bit difficult to be creative,” Carrey said.
But some things don’t change: Entering the competitive world of stand-up comedy remains a difficult one. “You’re walking into a hornet’s nest,” Carrey said. “There’s love in it too. When there wasn’t, there were fists on the parking lot.”
“I’m Dying Up Here” began as a non-fiction book chronicling the world of 1970 standup, a fruitful time for comedians who formed bonds but also competed in the cut throat world of nightclubs and Johnny Carson. Carrey eventually optioned the book to turn it into a series.
Dave Flebotte adapted the project and wrote the pilot, which stars Melissa Leo as a tough-as-nails comedy club owner. The comedians looking for their big break include Andrew Santino, Al Madrigal, RJ Cyler, Erik Griffin, Clark Duke, Jake Lacy and Ari Graynor.
Also in this episode: We live in a time of Peak TV, so it would only make sense that there be festivals devoted to this new golden age. Many film festivals have added a TV component in recent years, and other TV events have popped up. But Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson pretty much did it first. They launched the ATX television festival in 2011 and it has become a must-attend event for producers, executives, fans of TV and the media that covers Hollywood. McFarland and Gipson took time to share how things have grown.
The ATX festival takes place this year from June 8 to 11 in Austin.
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now in TV – no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.