Every night somebody's talking about something real
September 17, 2013 7:22 AM   Subscribe

"2013 has brought an unprecedented wave of new late night shows, some more formally innovative than others. But years before The Colbert Report, another topical show occupied its coveted post-Daily Show spot. A mix of the roundtable debates of Politically Incorrect and the unpredictability of live standup, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn was possibly the purest form of comedy ever on television."
posted by Potomac Avenue (52 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Plenty of great examples on Youtube. This episode (especially its opening) is one of the best.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:24 AM on September 17, 2013

I feel like I missed out on this because I can't look at Colin Quinn for any length of time.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

I feel like I missed out because that show made me think less of comedians due to their inane and often offensive banter.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:37 AM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Not to threadshit too early, but having watched a bit of Tough Crowd when it was on TV, I didn't find it that funny. Perhaps it's just an excess of antipathy for Colin Quinn and his style, but I found it a complete non-entity at the best of times, and just annoying most of the rest of the time.
posted by X-Himy at 7:38 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

For absolutely no reason, I kind of feel warm fuzzies on seeing Arsenio return after all this time. Hope he does well.
posted by Melismata at 7:40 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Colin Quinn had some great jokes but tended to stumble on the delivery.
posted by anifinder at 7:49 AM on September 17, 2013

Colin Quinn and most of his guests always seemed to be more on the Tosh/Jim Norton end of comedy so the show never really clicked for me.
posted by kmz at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was a Colin Quinn fan and I was psyched for that show, so when I tell you it sucked, know that comes from a place of love. It was Comedy Central's jump-the-shark moment. Tough Crowd wasn't about comedy, it was about cronyism. Colin Quinn blew the opportunity to do something real, for the short-term reward of throwing his hack buddies some easy paychecks. And thus it was the beginning of the story of how we ended up with crap like Tosh.0.
posted by cribcage at 7:57 AM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Well, the purest form of faux-redneck self-satisfied smug reactionary comedy this side of Larry the Cable Guy, perhaps.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:57 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've got pretty much zero ability to sit through Nick DiPaolo's entitled whining so I could never really click with this show.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Whoa. Tough crowd today.
posted by Mister_A at 7:59 AM on September 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

Whoa- nasal adonial stuttering and spitting -tough crowd today.
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 AM on September 17, 2013

One thing I think was interesting about the failure of Tough Crowd to catch on is that the comics Colin was friends with and brought on the show were all self-educated lower class guys and women. The best moments were all about quick wits, and breaking a complicated subject down to its most basic elements, cutting through a lot of overthinking to make a joke that is both easy but also enlightening. Like Pat Cooper yelling "Who cares about the fetus! I'm sick of the fetus!" about abortion. Brilliant, but not for everyone.

I also think it was one of the last places where people of opposing opinions could be seen on TV battling good-naturedly, where making your point was secondary to making a great joke. It could be crazy crazy offensive, but it was at least a level playing field.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:12 AM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

jason_steakums: I've got pretty much zero ability to sit through Nick DiPaolo's entitled whining so I could never really click with this show.

posted by Rock Steady at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2013

lots of daytime talk shows, too. Cheap to produce, and they can shill for movies, other tv shows, and lots of crap products.
posted by theora55 at 8:21 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always thought it blew.

It always seemed very post-9/11 reactionary to me - and I don't necessarily mean in a political sense, but in a cultural "what you reading for" kind of way - that I also saw a lot of at that time as a college student.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2013

I used to watch this show with my brother. A lot of horrifying behavior and generally offensive material, but Greg Giraldo was amazing every time.

I can't find the specific clips, but a few of the best I can remember were:

1) Norton & Co. got on some weirdly anti-semetic rant and Giraldo said, "That's weird, this doesn't look like a 1930s German beer hall."

2) Giraldo (who is hispanic) was clearly uncomfortable with a discussion about the border that was descending into simply mocking hispanics. He said with a straight face and serious tone, "The only logical solution I see here is landmines and coyotes with AIDS, anything else shows weakness."

God I miss him........
posted by lattiboy at 8:28 AM on September 17, 2013 [14 favorites]

At the heart of it, Colin Quinn just doesn't seem like a kind person. Stewart and Colbert really like people. Quinn comes off as a misanthrope which gets old fast.
posted by readery at 8:29 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding lattiboy on the Giraldo love -- the episodes with him were great; those without him were dire. He raised the level of discourse in the room.

How can their be justice in the world when Giraldo and Patrice O'Neal are dead yet Colin Quinn & Jim Norton still walk the Earth?
posted by modernserf at 8:36 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jim Norton is weird. Yes, he's incredibly annoying, willfully offensive, and I can't stand to watch much of his stuff. However, he is the only person I've ever seen who honestly has no shame.

Just try to get through his appearance on WTF with Marc Maron. It is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious. Not to mention impossibly cringey throughout. It made me re-evaluate him and I'm glad. Skip to 52 minutes for his parts.

Also, Janeane Garofalo and Dom Irrera remain the least funny comedians with the longest shelf life. I have no idea who goes to see them or why.
posted by lattiboy at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Greg Giraldo was far and away the best thing about the show. Watch him make mincemeat of reactionary idiot Denis Leary.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:45 AM on September 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

The issue with Norton, Giraldo, Di Paolo, etc wasn't their backgrounds. (If we can take seriously any aspersions cast about Giraldo's background...) Roseanne Barr came from a working-class background, too. Those guys' ticket to renown was having friends, which I suppose is okay if you can back it up, but they couldn't and didn't.

Yeah, the show's tenor was good-natured. No surprise, considering why they were in those chairs. And yes, it could be crazy-offensive, and I have no problem whatsoever with offensive comedy, but it's gotta be funny. Tough Crowd wasn't. So now Colin Quinn is that guy you see when you go back to the old neighborhood bar and you think to yourself, "OMG he's still sitting there?", and I think that's too bad but oh well.
posted by cribcage at 8:47 AM on September 17, 2013

Thanks Atom Eyes! I was just about to link to him eviscerating Denis Leary! That really sealed my love for the man, as I always considered Leary a somehow less funny Adam Sandler.
posted by lattiboy at 8:47 AM on September 17, 2013

Colin Quinn peaked in 1987 with Remote Control.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:48 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, there were people on Tough Crowd who were not friends with Colin Quinn. Whatever else you want to say, you cannot say the lineup was based on giving friends a paycheck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:52 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I will fist fight anyone who maligns Janeane Garofalo in my presence. She, along with Michael Moore, Olbermann and Maher took the brunt of the jingoistic post-9/11 fascist backlash for speaking truth to power while the rest of you were hiding in your undisclosed locations. To this days she is still personally confronted for it. For that she gets a lifetime pass in my book. She's always been hilariously dead on in her criticisms.
posted by any major dude at 8:56 AM on September 17, 2013 [13 favorites]

Embittered, acrimonious partisans who unfailingly sacrifice humor to ideology may be morally unimpeachable, but that doesn't mean they're funny. The instinct to resort to violence in defense of their comedic skill is telling.
posted by perhapsolutely at 9:38 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless my memory is wrong, Tough Crowd was the first place I ever saw Greg Proops, who was also excellent at eviscerating the comics on the other side.

Jim Norton is a mystery. I only find a small percentage of his stuff funny, but lots of comedians I like (Louis C.K., e.g.) seem to really like him as a person, so I have a suspicion that he must be an okay guy, or those people wouldn't hang out with him.
posted by wittgenstein at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I never watched Tough Crowd because I was a huge fan of SNL in the 1990s, despite Colin Quinn. His Weekend Update was the absolute worst thing that has ever been on SNL. (And that's saying something.) All he had to do was read off cue cards, and he couldn't even do that. How he got that job in the first place is anyone's guess; any job he's had since is even more of a mystery.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I worked on this show. AMA.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:45 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

i fucking love garofalo. "if you will" was hilarious and jaw dropping and amazing. it's corny to say, but her comedy (and her just being) was pretty helpful to me in the 90s. it was glad to revisit her once we both grew up and learned some shit.
posted by nadawi at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2013

How heavily cut was it to make people snappier?
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2013

I though it was live?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:48 AM on September 17, 2013

navelgazer: The obvious question to me is: during commercials or after a show did any of these folks genuinely hate each other? I'm really unclear as to how someone with half a brain could argue with Nick DiPaolo and still want to pal around with him once the cameras are off. Especially if you're not white or a woman.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2013

It wasn't live, nor was it super heavily cut. It was cut about as much as The Daily Show or Colbert, perhaps with a little extra riffing so that whole chunks that weren't working could be lost, but in general it was pretty real.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:50 AM on September 17, 2013

Potomac Avenue: that's a little tougher because I didn't know all the talent personally, but Colin is an insanely nice guy to know and work with, and has a hell of a lot of friends in the industry as a result. Sometimes people he didn't know would be considered for spots, and he would allow that, but it took some "special case" consideration each time as to whether the person was actually funny, would get along with everybody, etc. Generally I'd say it was a group who knew and for the most part respected one another, tearing into each other because that's what the show was, and if you weren't best buddies afterwards, well, you were still friends-of-friends, you know?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:53 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did you see most of the tapings? Did anyone ever cross the line offensiveness-wise? Did someone say something so awful that it just had to be deleted? Who and what did they say? :p

Also, of the non-regulars and non-standups who sometimes appeared like Matt Walsh and Jeff Garlin, did anyone really kick ass? I think one of the weaknesses of the show was that, if a regular went on a tear, nobody else could get any jokes in at all, unless they really stepped up their game.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:55 AM on September 17, 2013

I remember Stephen Colbert (pre-Colbert Report) doing a pretty bang-up job during his only(?) appearance on the show. (Video)
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:18 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wit is not a substitute for intelligent consideration, no matter how witty you are.
And at some level I think they forgot that. Tough Crowd. But everyone on those kinds of shows really, on t.v. or otherwise.
Having a pithy comment or an incisive insight doesn't validate your opinion.

I think that's what I liked (and like) about Garofalo, she's serious as hell and you can see her switching from 'entertainment' to 'thinking' and it's often to her detriment. Lots of credit to her for that and though she and I probably don't see eye to eye on some things, I too think she's awesome (although she'd be one of those folks who hates me of course).

Indeed, part of the problem here is that anyone who isn't playing for laughs or going for the witty comment score is going to lose. Anyone not a comedian or a public speaker experienced in dealing with hecklers - not just a good debater but someone who can do that insult/still friends/crowd on my side expertise - and staying in those bounds, is going to be at a serious disadvantage.

So it's geared toward one trick ponies (ideologues) who can verbally go to dukes, be abrasive and provocative and appear to remain passive. Norton as an example. As though verbal attack and humiliation were perfectly acceptable in discourse, but getting angry about it is threatening and taking a subject seriously is naive.

I think that's what bugged me most. They are not plugged in. The humor there was more to express the superiority of a certain perspective in an aggressive way disguised as good natured ribbing.
I like comedians (in this case on Tough Crowd like Nick DiPaolo, but people on t.v. in general as well) who distance themselves fully from the subject. The whole "hey, I'm just a comedian talkin' about it. I'll be in Poughkeepsie this weekend. Tip your bartenders...."
Leary in particular, but some others, strike me with this whole "we" thing, like "we" gotta invade North Korea or "we" should kick "x's" ass, etc. etc. Really? We? Like you're doing, what, there comedy boy?
My cousin mentioned after 9/11 that Steve Buscemi had volunteered to work with his old engine company to dig for firefighters. I said I hadn't heard anything on the news about it.
He said "exactly." My esteem for that guy - for guys like that - went through the roof.
So many people with so many platitudes and talking about how THEY felt that day and what WE should think or be feeling. Guys like that just rolled up their sleeves.
And other guys just focused on entertainment and entertained. Whether they felt up to it or not. Jon Stewart's speech (a short apology for the redundancy) was followed by humorous clips. Gilbert Gottfried (as immortalized in "The Aristocrats") just went ahead and did his job and tried to make people laugh regardless of the weight of the events.

I think Tough Crowd (et.al.) fell into that aggressive, chip on the shoulder camp where it's humor but not really. All the get tough sort of ascerbic fucked with the wrong guy (cartoons abound) sort of thing - (which makes me wonder what, e.g. Leary or Dennis Miller would look like in a country with a small military like Iceland or Liechtenstein "WE, (meaning our four guys) have to go over there and kick Saddam's ass!") - versus the actual humor.
First time I laughed after 9/11 was The Onion's cover "American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie" (money quote from the article: "In the movies, when the president says, 'It's war,' that usually means the good part is just about to begin," said hardware-store owner Thom Garner of Cedar Rapids, IA. "Why doesn't it feel that way now? ")
I think some people did feel the "good part" was about to happen. Nothing particularly wrong with feeling that. Everyone has a dark streak somewhere. But the pretense that the aggression should be universal, and somehow you're less for not being on board with that (typically unstated, less patriotic, less manly, less caring about victims, etc. etc) tends to suborn actual discourse and other forms of humor. (.PDF)

posted by Smedleyman at 10:24 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tough Crowd was a balm for my wounded soul during its run. I just watched an episode with George Wallace trying to find the episode where he makes the best yo momma joke of all time. In the episode I linked, very few of the jokes are landing, but that's the the thing about Tough Crowd: When it worked, even bombing was funny.

If there's one criticism I could give of that episode, and the show in general really, it's that the skits are pretty uniformly terrible.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:30 AM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Leary in particular, but some others, strike me with this whole "we" thing, like "we" gotta invade North Korea or "we" should kick "x's" ass, etc. etc. Really? We? Like you're doing, what, there comedy boy? [...] All the get tough sort of ascerbic fucked with the wrong guy (cartoons abound) sort of thing [...] I think some people did feel the "good part" was about to happen. Nothing particularly wrong with feeling that. Everyone has a dark streak somewhere.

It's that tired old Rugged Red-Blooded Lone Wolf chestnut. The unearned "bad boy"/"take THAT, status quo!" image (which is really on the "take THAT, vegetarians!" level of rebelliousness in practice) is lazy, lazy shtick that's such an easy sell because you're selling the fiction that no, you're not being a loudmouth idiot picking easy targets, you're rebelliously challenging society.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:05 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Careful, if CNN can revive Crossfire, Comedy Central could bring back Tough Crowd at any moment (with or without Colin Quinn... who COULD or WANT TO replace him?) Or maybe CNN could bring it back...
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:31 AM on September 17, 2013

> How he got that job in the first place is anyone's guess

Funny story — one day, a guy named Don Ohlmeyer called up Norm Macdonald with some bad news…
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:54 AM on September 17, 2013

I can accept that a show that I rarely even caught a glimpse of probably had its high points, but I think we've reached Peak Oral History Of Random Defunct TV Show.

Also, Janeane Garofalo fans: sorry. Loved her in Mystery Men.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:02 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw a number of tapings (enough to feel confident in my previous answer re: editing) but I was generally in the office. I don't recall anything being cut for being too offensive - it was a show that regularly featured Nick DiPaulo and Patrice O'Neal, plus producer Laurie Kilmartin was - or I felt this way at the time at least - very concerned about screwing up her place in the comedy "boy's club" and I think would have had a pretty unreachable bar for what they would have cut for content.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

so she supported something scientology linked once 7 years ago? she seems like the type to try everything out. it's not surprising to me that she might have made a stop through scientology.
posted by nadawi at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

And more and more (I was thinking about this last night) Tough Crowd seems like a nightly podcast from before there were podcasts. Seriously, this thing would kill as an audio download if done properly today.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:33 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

What kind of numbers could it do as an audio-download podcast, versus what kind of ratings and revenue was Comedy Central looking to yield from that time slot?
posted by cribcage at 4:27 PM on September 17, 2013

I'd guess that at the time, Comedy Central was realistically hoping for a 10-30%drop-off from The Daily Show and Tough Crowd couldn't bring that, and now with Colbert their expectations are different all around, but that's purely based on my guessing right now.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:40 PM on September 17, 2013

If you're turned off by the right-wing politics of most of the Tough Crowd gang, you might still enjoy the late Patrice O'Neal. He was part of the show and came from the same working class New York-Boston background, so he was on their level in a lot of ways, but was a black man, so obviously his views were not always the same as Quinn's or DiPaolo's. His family raised him with a lot of '70s black nationalism (his first name was taken from the leader of DR Congo, and his middle name is Malcolm) and that sort of comes through a lot when he argues with those guys or the also very right-wing Anthony on Opie & Anthony.

Here's his 2011 Comedy Central special Elephant in the Room.

He also had a lot of great moments on the Opie & Anthony. Here's a Youtube channel that has clips of his appearances, and here is a channel that uploaded full episodes of his appearances. I tried to listen to O&A when it's the two of them and Jim Norton and found it wasn't my thing, but when Patrice was on it was a whole different thing. Like, he could dominate the show with how quick he was with the jokes and basically made Opie and Anthony his sidekicks.

There's a lot of great stuff in those two Youtube accounts. The absolute best is when he told the story of when he was sent to jail for 60 days for having consensual sex with a 15 year old when he was 16. She was a white girl and this was Boston, so that'll tell you why he was locked up.

O'Neal passed away in 2011, but like Tupac, that hasn't stopped him from releasing albums.
posted by riruro at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My suggestion for a 2014 Reboot of this show on TV.

Host: Matt Besser
Great improv presence, politically involved, well-connected, able to shut up and let people duke it out (sometimes).

Regulars: Brandon Walsh, Kevin Hart, Jen Kirkman, Todd Glass, and Doug Stanhope.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:54 PM on September 18, 2013

« Older Cats love to attack paper. Today, paper fights...   |   This isn't a joke... IS A MIRACLE!!! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments