5 Embarrassing Early Works Of Brilliantly Funny People
Creative people know that behind every successful TV show, movie, album, or book is hundreds and hundreds of hours of rough material. Behind the most clever jokes in history is a graveyard of armpit farts. So the following should be a lesson to you if you ever want to do anything creative in your life: your first time is gonna suck. However, everyone has to start somewhere, including the most famous comedians in the world today. What's surprising, though, is how some of their early roles foreshadowed the brilliance that was to come. These are five people on the Mt. Rushmore of comedy that hinted at where they'd be today through the misery they experienced yesterday.
Stephen Colbert Hosted One Awkward Segment On Good Morning America And He Hated Every Second
The Celeb You Know:
Stephen Colbert, and the character he played who was also coincidentally named Stephen Colbert, is best known for his role as a correspondent on The Daily Show, for his biting satire on his own spinoff show, The Colbert Report, and for diving head-first into the current Network Late-Night No Man's Land that your parents watch when they're trying to fall asleep. If it weren't for Facebook friends sharing his clips, you might forget he was still on the air.
Can't spell millennial without CBS.
The Work You Don't:
Colbert actually cut his chops on Good Morning America -- you know, that show your parents watch when they're trying to wake up.
This wasn't even the fun type of morning show, where lifestyle news-buddies talk over each other and cook some shit in front of a street-level window. No, this was Musty Anchor Man, sitting in a comfy chair in a mansion while the reporters made asses of themselves on his fake TV.
The story goes that one day in 1997, ABC needed a funny guy to punch up their field report about a Rube Goldberg machine contest at Purdue University, and Colbert was desperate and available. It's pretty strange to see Colbert hosting what is essentially a news magazine puff piece, especially since his later "character" lampooned the very idea of a vapid news pundit, and he looks like he hates every second of it. He looks like he's about to melt in a puddle of his own loathing. It doesn't help that he's completely out of his element here, other than the fact that he apparently doesn't age as us mortals do.
After explaining who Rube Goldberg was, he interviews the first student who awkwardly and perhaps incorrectly explains how his device works. First the "this shit" hits the "this thing" and then a toaster puts a CD in the stereo. Sure, that was it.
"Did I leave the stove on? How much time do we have? Should I get that mole checked out?"
The machine whirrs along with Colbert attempting some small talk, but the gizmo ultimately fails to do the one task it was literally built to do. This puts Colbert and the students in an uncomfortable position, since this was the entire point of the broadcast and it would've taken 20 minutes to put all that crap back together and refilm it. Colbert simply comments that "the laughter has turned to tears," and both the kid and Steve wonder what crime they had committed in another life for Good Morning America to have done this to them.
"'One take will be fine.' they said."
After showing off one more machine (which actually works!), Steve starts making a couple jokes, and you can juuust make out a hint of the character to come if you squint hard enough. However, the momentum is killed immediately when the GMA host asks him how many entries there were, and Colbert responds sheepishly with "I believe there were five." He forgot the second part of the sentence, which was "and also I'd rather be literally anywhere else on Earth right now."
"Now, Clown Man, please stand under that comically-oversized anvil for the good people at home."
Of the two segments that were filmed, this was the only one that ever aired, presumably because immediately after the second one, Colbert burned the tape and got his revenge by making fun of this guy's entire industry for almost two decades.
Zach Galifianakis Had A (Real) Short-Lived Talk Show With Celebrity Interviews
The Celeb You Know:
Zach Galafan ... Gulific ... Galifranopolis is the living embodiment of the word wacky. He's the only reason the Hangover movies are a trilogy, and was chosen by President Obama to be his millennial bullhorn as he gave us all STDs or whatever Obamacare is.
Luckily, we now have Obamacare to pay for treatment.
The Work You Don't:
Now we know Zach G. for his parody web series, Between Two Ferns, but he actually hosted a real, little-seen nightly show on VH1 in the early aughts, called Late World With Zach, (mostly) without his beard.
You've probably already seen the old picture of Zach without his trademark face pubes and recoiled in horror. That's because sometimes actors so fully embody an archetype that it's almost impossible to separate the two. It's why it seems like the creators of Iron Man knew that someday in the future, Robert Downey Jr. would be born. So knowing what we know now about Zach makes everything about this show feel completely unnatural and slightly obscene.
His last name didn't even fit on the sign.
Sure, the show had some silly bits, like when Zach did his monologue from a preschool and kept making fun of VH1 for cancelling him, but at its core, it was your typical opening celeb jokes, followed by a fluff interview in front of a live audience. Zach did try to make it his own by playing his piano, but you can tell that cracking zingers about Liza Minnelli's fourth marriage was just not playing to his strength. I'm assuming VH1 forced this format, because watching it is like watching a bear try to put on a vest. I mean, technically, he can wear the vest, but you can tell that he just wants to tear through it and bask in his furry glory.
They couldn't even afford an entire desk for him.
Thankfully, this thing only ran for two months before VH1 pulled the plug due to low ratings. I say thankfully, because as hip as he is, there's no way Obama would've come on this show.
Wayne from "Wayne's World" Was A Mike Myers Character He Did For A Short-Lived Canadian Variety Show
The Celeb You Know:
"Wayne's World" was Mike Myers' and Dana Carvey's masterpiece SNL sketch about two local access metalheads, which spawned countless catchphrases and two movies. If you were in school in the early '90's, chances are you started saying "Excellent!" and "Not!" because of these guys.
The Work You Don't:
The first appearance of Wayne however, was actually a one-off on a Canadian show called It's Only Rock 'N Roll, that itself only aired for a bit in 1987. Myers hosted a segment called "Wayne's Power Minute", which featured the host Wayne Campbell, who apparently lived in a tour van, poking fun at some aspect of rock culture.
Bits included riveting tales on the history of the word "party" and discussions of why other instruments don't have "air" versions (probably because Air Clarinet looks like someone trying to perform foreplay on an eclair). In one segment, Wayne points out how weird it is that a lot of '80's hair metal bands spell words wrong. It's an OK observation, and the studio audience shows their support by being vengefully silent throughout the entire damn thing.
"What's next? MIICE? Nu-uh!"
"Wayne's Power Minute" was brought back regularly on the show, but all of it's kinda rough. The hair isn't quite right, and the catchphrases aren't fully there yet. If you didn't know it was actually Mike Myers, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was someone doing a cheap impression of Wayne while wearing a Spirit Halloween costume of "TV Rock Man." Amazingly, the character goes back even further, to when Myers was on a show called City Limits. If "Wayne's Power Minute" was an off-brand knockoff, this was "I made this outfit in my garage this morning."
Later, the addition of Dana Carvey's Garth, whom he modelled after his older brother, solidified the character, but it's still pretty interesting to see a rough draft of what you could argue was Myers' best work. (Except, of course, for Shrek and The Love Guru.) That's right, kids, your best ideas will only take about 10 years before they become something worth having.
Even his other most famous character, Austin Powers, was only created because he kept yelling swinger catchphrases jokingly at his wife ("Do I make you horny, baby?") and was annoying her so much that she made him sit down and write it into a movie. See, wives? The reason we keep repeating those dumb jokes is because we're trying to work out how to turn them into multi-million dollar comedy franchises.
David Letterman Didn't Take Any Of His TV Jobs Seriously ... Which Got Him A TV Job
The Celeb You Know:
David Letterman was the people's prince of late-night. Ok, no one's ever called him that. But although today's young people might think he was just some old hack, he was actually an edgy guy. He was never afraid to poke fun at people he didn't like, and he used his position to peel away the veneer of importance from vapid pop icons like Justin Bieber and Paris Hilton ("Have your friends treated you differently since you've been out of the slammer?"). He refused to dip into even the slightest of bullshits, getting into legitimate political spats with blowhards like Bill O'Reilly. Compare that to the way Jimmy Fallon lovingly tousled Trump's hair, and you realize why Letterman was such an influential figure, personal problems aside.
The Work You Don't:
Before becoming a late night star, Letterman had a number of gigs in TV and radio, and each time he clearly thought he was above everything that was going on.
First, he was let go from a classical radio job because he wasn't respecting the music they were playing -- while tasked with writing bios for composers, he kept making fun of them.
"Top 10 Classical Composer Nicknames. Number 10: Motz-Fart. Number 9: Not-Great-hoven. Number 8 ..."
Later, he was a news anchor and weatherman and would always incorporate unnecessary asides into the real weather casts, like the time he congratulated a tropical storm for completing its transition into a hurricane or made fun of one of the station's satellite maps for forgetting to draw a border between Indiana and Ohio.
He even did a field piece at the Indy 500, and during what was supposed to be a serious interview with one of the racers, asked why the traffic on the track was so bad (to the racer's utter bewilderment). If David Letterman was your doctor, he would have made fun of you for being sick and then written out your prescription sarcastically.
"Well you know, folks, there is a tried and true method to find out if it's raining out.
Simply stick your hand out the window and see if it's wet."
Of course, this is pretty much the exact persona he later "played" on his late night show -- the dry humor and the pseudo dismissal of what was happening on the show as being below him were staples of his performances. So amazingly, Letterman was able to turn all of the times he didn't take his TV jobs seriously into one of the most lucrative TV jobs you could get. Not giving a shit accidentally became his trademark, which is really unfortunate for the rest of us lazy people.
Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn Starred In A Terrible Sitcom About "Nerds"
The Celebs You Know:
Although he may be a little more famous now for being a world-class Twitter troll, Patton Oswalt is an Emmy winning stand-up comedian and was a well-known supporting actor on the sitcom The King Of Queens. Brian Posehn is a lesser known, though still successful, stand-up himself. Basically, if Patton is King of The Internet Nerds, Brian Posehn is his court wizard.
The Work You Don't:
Which makes it all the more shocking that the two of 'em starred in a pilot from 2000 called Super Nerds, which followed their adventures as comic book store employees while they ... made a mockery of the very thing they each became known for.
You can bet that if there was a size bigger than "Big Gulp" those TV execs would have made Brian Posehn hold it.
Most of the stuff I've talked about so far isn't necessarily bad, as it is just an early version of something you're already familiar with. They were required steps to get to the things we all love. Super Nerds is different. It is genuinely awful and shouldn't have been made. Imagine if The Big Bang Theory was somehow less funny, and every character was Sheldon but with more social disorders. That's Super Nerds.
Seriously, the very first joke involves making fat puns about costumed Star Wars characters. They show "Fat Vader" eating glazed donuts off his lightsaber and then play the laugh track. Super Nerds is what someone currently wiping their ass with an issue of Uncanny X-Men thinks both nerds and comedy are.
"Congratulations, you got the part! You'll be playing Princess Leia Or-Fat-A. You have no lines."
The boys are flummoxed by good looking women walking through the door (one is played by Sarah Silverman, who I hope was paid decently for this). Everything is a Wolverine or a Dungeons And Dragons joke, because the creators cannot fathom any loser actually liking these things. At one point, Brian calls the greasy owner of the store gay, and he responds by telling Brian that he should go ... rape a school? I've watched this three times, and I'm uncomfortably sure that's what he's saying. Overall, Super Nerds is hideous, lazy, and could be credibly called offensive to straight white men.
This show was made right as the idea of being a nerd began transitioning from something you called other people to seem cool, to something you called yourself for the same reason. It's like Hollywood was trying to squeeze out every last ounce of this joke by pointing a camera at two schlubby guys and telling them to say Star Trek over and over. Except the two schlubs happened to be ironically playing themselves.
Luckily for them, the show never aired, and Oswalt and Posehn got to go do totally un-nerdy things like writing comic books and making a living penning jokes about sci-fi movies.
Eat shit, Super Nerds. Sorry, I just needed to get that out there one more time.
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