Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. let their guards down in an intimate, unscripted conversation about what it means to be a comedian.

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Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. let their guards down in an intimate, unscripted conversation about what it means to be a comedian.

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20 April 2011 (USA)  »

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Quotes

Louis C.K.: No, I am, the stuff I laugh, I laugh at the dumbest things, I laugh at the du- Years and years ago I saw a comic, uh, in some horrible club, bombing with the guitar, and he sang, uh, "Sittin' on a cock 'cause I'm gay."
Ricky Gervais: Yeah but...
Louis C.K.: and it still, I will, I'm in the shower "sittin'" and I just, and I just can't not laugh.
Ricky Gervais: but you're laughing ironically
Louis C.K.: It's the funniest thing I ever heard in my life.
Ricky Gervais: but you're laughing ironically.
Jerry Seinfeld: No, no that's
Louis C.K.: NO!
Chris Rock: that's, it's a, it's a...
Ricky Gervais: Well I did, I laughed ...
[...]
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Featured in Nostalgia Critic: Did Seinfeld Lie to Us? (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

"Does he do the whistle?"
21 August 2011 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

Comics share a language that sounds much like our own but is somehow heightened to a more sophisticated level of communicative release. It's smart that this one-off special opens by fading up as these four contemporary comedy giants---left to right, Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Louis C.K.---are already talking. Just lounging, talking about nothing important. Then Seinfeld poses a question to Louis, who earnestly answers. Seinfeld elaborates, then Rock interjects.

They effortlessly tackle subjects inimitably true to a stand-up comedian's life. Are you more likely to sustain an audience by doing your signature bits, or by constantly churning out new material? What first drew them each to the microphone and why did they keep coming back to it? Is it a professional comedian's inherent responsibility to keep the public's standards for comedy high, or is it OK to get a few cheap laughs? Does one's style of humor necessarily dictate one's sense of humor? We begin to see the many fine lines these guys have to walk in order to be as funny, successful and memorable as they each are.

It's fascinating watching them argue with each other from experience, and see the distinctions and associations between them. Gervais initially seems like an inquisitive moderator, which informs his subsequent intellectualizing on the nature of comedy, artistic integrity and one's audience, while the other three draw upon decades of history. The selection of these four high-fliers is clever in that it inevitably brings out contrasts, such as Rock and Louis' raunchy envelope-pushing as opposed to Seinfeld's old-school joke-telling and the overall polish of his and Gervais' routines. That difference likely involves what socioeconomic backgrounds they do or don't have in common, which in turn is intriguingly elucidated in how they interact. The quintessential distillation of this element is in Louis' priceless reflection on Seinfeld's analogy for the F-word in comedy.

Little has felt more candid and charming recently than Seinfeld doing one of Louis' lines, and we realize that he's instinctively taken Louis' stream-of-consciousness and made it a well-packaged, bona fide joke. Or when he riffs on Rock's old bit about the difference between black and white porn, taking a gag all about black and white stereotypes and sponging out Jewish ones. Yet still distinctions come purely from their innate styles: Seinfeld and Louis work with a dry, unadorned wit, while Rock and Gervais present erudite ideas in intricately crafted routines and on-stage personas.

A crucial conversational thread that weaves its way through the four-way exchange is the debunking of the myth that "anybody can do it." Early on, they recall childhood when they had friends who were much funnier than them, who led average lives while they became comedy superstars. Why did one kid become a comedy legend while another kid, very funny, didn't? The answer is in various points, as when Rock highlights the importance of premise in comedy, which not every young stand-up on TV knows much about, and not many of them we see much again. Or when Louis recalls old Seinfeld advice on handling laughter and keeping it going without losing focus, by using whatever mood got the laugh and holding onto it, or as he put it: "Stay in the bit." Discussing cheap laughs, Louis recalls one. Gervais believes it's ironically funny. Seinfeld admits it's viscerally funny. Gervais makes a valid case, but all Seinfeld has to do is give one off-the-cuff retort to this cheapie gag to crack the room up. And he does it with pure form. There's no explanation for why it's funny. It just is. And like a pro, he proves it. Even still, it's impressive to see Gervais, who's been doing stand-up for the shortest time of the four, hold his own in debates on fundamental comedy trade principles with Seinfeld, by far the group's veteran.

There's something equally valuable to glean from each guy. Though they may disagree on approach or principle, their individual thoughts on those subjects are what makes them each singular performers. Louis devotees, myself included, return to him to be surprised by curveballs he hurls with wry, down-to-earth talk. So, as he explains, he always opens with the end of his last act in order to force himself to churn out a new hour. Seinfeld admires this greatly, but we love Seinfeld because we know his jokes already and love to hear them. So, as we learn, he essentially evolves and does variations on the same basic act. Talking Funny is a rare chance to see present-day talents who've nailed down how individually to be effective, self-sustaining personas in their vocation. And to see four great comedians getting weak at each other.


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