Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Ricky Gervais Dissect the Craft of Comedy (NSFW)

Record­ed and aired last year, HBO’s Talk­ing Fun­ny is an hour long, unscript­ed sit-down with four of the biggest names in comedy—Ricky Ger­vais, Jer­ry Sein­feld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.. If you’re famil­iar with the work of any or all of these guys, you know you’re in for a lit­tle pro­fun­di­ty and a lot of pro­fan­i­ty. This is def­i­nite­ly, I repeat, not safe for work, and not safe for any­one who takes offense eas­i­ly. They go to some pret­ty nervy places, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from these four. Well, three actu­al­ly. Sein­feld comes in for some good-natured rib­bing for an entire career of work­ing “clean,” drop­ping an f‑bomb maybe once or twice in his act, ever.

So, if you can take the strong lan­guage that pops up occasionally–albeit in very reflec­tive and hilar­i­ous ways that I argue dif­fuse ten­sion and aren’t in the least bit mean-spirited–then you will be reward­ed by a con­ver­sa­tion between four high­ly accom­plished actors and come­di­ans who love to talk about their craft, com­pare war sto­ries, decon­struct their com­ic per­son­ae, and express gen­uine appre­ci­a­tion for each other’s work. But as soon as the con­ver­sa­tion seems to get too heady or sen­ti­men­tal, it’s back to sick humor and insults. There’s some­thing of the inse­cure ten-year old boy in each of these guys, who tend to use com­e­dy as a defen­sive weapon to fend off pain and sad­ness with­out run­ning away from either one; it works dif­fer­ent­ly in each com­ic, and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to watch.

Ger­vais is espe­cial­ly thought­ful about his respon­si­bil­i­ty to the audi­ence (after some ini­tial brava­do), which comes as some sur­prise con­sid­er­ing his usu­al role as an obliv­i­ous ass. Sein­feld, the elder states­man, gets some def­er­ence from the oth­ers, but even at 57 is still boy­ish and slight­ly corny. Rock and C.K. are two of the smartest comics of their gen­er­a­tion and also two of the most pro­fane, but again, I think they pull it off because they are also two of the most hon­est and least threat­en­ing men to ever grace a stage—C.K. the self-dep­re­cat­ing sad sack and Rock the diminu­tive class clown with a per­pet­u­al imp­ish grin. Make up your own mind about the touchy sub­jects, or avoid them alto­geth­er, but over­all, I think each of these come­di­ans comes across as lov­able pre­cise­ly because they’re will­ing to be them­selves, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, child­ish insults, sweaty male ids, and all. They might make it look easy, but this is work for pro­fes­sion­als.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Great George Car­lin Showed Louis CK the Way to Suc­cess (NSFW)

“Learn Eng­lish With Ricky Ger­vais,” A New Pod­cast Debuts (NSFW)

Come­di­ans in Cars Get­ting Cof­fee: Jer­ry Seinfeld’s News Series Debuts on the Web

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.