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Filling a Chappelle-Shaped Hole

Every since Dave Chappelle apparently lost his mind and ran away to South Africa (or, depending on your point of view, came to his senses and ran away to South Africa), Comedy Central seems to be under a lot of pressure. I’m not saying that Mind of Mencia, Too Late with Adam Carolla, and D.L. Hughley’s Weekends on the D.L. were all conceived as desperate replacements for Chappelle. I’m sure at least one of them was just an attempt at copying Dave Chappelle’s success while he was still on the air.

Unfortunately (and inevitably), while the new shows get the “controversial” and “race-baiting” elements, they’re a little light on the — what’s it called? Oh, yeah — humor. Take Adam Carolla’s show — please! Sorry about that. I just thought it might be interesting to revisit the golden age of comedy, when comedians told jokes. These days, you’ve got people doing “rants”. And not the entertaining kind of rant, where you froth at the mouth and end up twitching on the floor; these are just long monologues where Carolla occasionally pauses, hoping to hear laughter. And, frankly, he doesn’t hear much, even from the studio audience.

For example, a few days ago, I watched Too Late (see? I do research for these things!), and he was going on about the trail mix they serve on airplanes. It’s basically the same thing as the old don’t-you-hate-the-peanuts-you-get-on-flights bit. And that’s not even a bit! That’s just an example of hack comickry! It’s like he’s purposely doing the worst job he can possibly think of. Except that would be kind of entertaining.

Carolla’s guests vacillate between his buddies (Sarah Silverman, now that Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t need her to guest every other week on his show) and the absolute bottom of the barrel (Matthew Lesko, that annoying book author in the Riddler suit). And no one really cares what Adam Carolla has to say to either his friends or random guys who happen to be desperate for publicity. Although I do like the fact that on my next trip to Los Angeles, I could probably talk my way onto his show. He’d be delighted to see me; at least I’ve heard of him, unlike the Yin-Yang Twins.

Now, I don’t hate Adam Carolla. He seems like somebody who’d probably pretty funny in a writers’ room (which would explain why Bill Simmons loves him so damned much), but his material isn’t working. It could be that he’s running out of things to say. It seems to me that he works best when someone throws him a topic and he does four or five reasonably funny off-the-cuff minutes on it. That was his job on Loveline, where some kid with a weird problem would call in, Adam would do a few minutes of schtick, and then Dr. Drew would get around to answering the question. Actually, did you know that show’s still on? I guess that’s because he’s good at it.

The problem is, he’s dying on the show. Dying. And he’s getting punchy. I think it’s getting to him, because he’s used to either riffing in the Kimmel writers’ room or doing The Man Show in front of a crowd that’s heavily beered up. Even on Loveline, he’s got Dr. Drew, who seems to enjoy him. But here, even his good bits die. And then when he does something that doesn’t work (like this “wheel of stereotypes” thing, which I can’t describe because I don’t think I fully understand it, and I’m not convinced Adam did either), he’s like a deer in the headlights. I mean, he’s still kind of likeable, but he’s just not bringing the funny.

I think that might be the key to his success (and I’d put sarcasm quotes around that, but let’s face it: he’s got a show and I don’t): people want to like Adam Carolla. It’s my theory that on The Man Show, he was along to soften the Kimmel Factor. But when his show isn’t funny, it doesn’t result in people laughing; it results in people shaking their heads sadly and feeling bad for him.

So that’s Too Late with Adam Carolla. As you can see, I don’t think it’s a very good show, but at least I watched it a few times. In fact, I can’t guarantee I won’t watch it a few more times before giving up. I have trouble even getting through a single episode of Mind of Mencia. Carlos Mencia relies way too much on saying “shocking” things. This time, you’ll note, I went for the sarcasm quotes, because he doesn’t succeed in creating actual shock. And that makes his show feel really oddly paced, since he spends at least half his time doing the “Yeah, I said it!” style of reveling in the alleged gasps of his audience.

It just doesn’t work when the comedian on stage is saying, “Oh, Carlos! You can’t say that!” if the audience doesn’t care. Also, I don’t think “Beaner” is used as a vicious insult that much once you get away from the US-Mexico border, so his attempts to “reclaim” it just come off as weird. In much of the country, it’s not used, so it’s not going to elicit that reaction he needs.

Next up on the presumptive Chappelle-replacement list is an actual black man, D.L. Hughley, with Weekends on the D.L. Now, that name makes me think of two things: either the time on America’s Next Top Model that Tyra Banks claimed she’d been singing “on the Down-Low” (and we all saw how well that went) or this Oprah I saw where they explored “the world of the D.L.”, which turns out to be married guys who sneak out at night for gay sex but claim they’re not gay. It was a little confusing. And that’s what I’ve got in my head when D.L. Hughley’s show is mentioned.

At this point, I should theoretically go on to talk about Mr. Hughley’s show. It starts with a monologue so unfunny, it could go directly to Jay Leno. And Hughley laughs at his own jokes more than, um, some other terrible talk show host. I’d come up with a joke here, but I’m watching D.L. right now, and it’s so bad that it’s actually sucking the funny directly out of my brain. I’m positive I’d be funnier in this paragraph if D.L. Hughley weren’t here, filling my bedroom with crap.

Aside from the monologue, it’s basically a straightforward sucking-up-to-celebrities (or at least sucking-up-to-people-who-will-return-D.L.-Hughley’s-calls) deal. If you’re hungry to see Tracy Morgan or John Salley sitting on a couch while D.L. Hughley convulses in extremely generous laughter, this is the show for you. Until another guest comes on, and it’s basically just E-Level Celebrities (because I’m pretty sure that even Kathy Griffin is too big to appear on this) convulsing at each others’ “wit”. The only good things I can say for it are:

a) At least the audience is applauding and laughing, making it less uncomfortable to watch than Carolla’s thing. Even though I don’t agree with their assessment, it’s nice to see that at least someone’s willing to pretend to like it.

b) There isn’t much D.L. Hughley. That means that if the Random Guest Generator comes up “Louis C.K.” there’s a chance of some comedy slipping through. Although not much, because a man named Earthquake was sitting next to him staring in blank astonishment at the things Louis was saying.

Let’s see. There’s also Stella, which I should like but can’t get into. It’s not really a Chappelle Replacement, though, since it doesn’t rely on “Oh, no, he di’in’t say that!” Really, it seems to rely on “Huh? What did he just say? What’s going on now?” I like the actors, I just don’t dig what they’re doing.

Anyway, it won’t be too long before The Colbert Report shows up. I know it won’t be as good as The Daily Show; I just hope it’s not as bad as what they’re showing now.


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