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Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend — “John Cleese”
“If someone had told me at any point in my life that I would be talking to you about comedy I would have said: ‘you’re an idiot’ and then shot myself.” — Conan O’ Brien
Two very tall comedians gathered (virtually of course) this week to talk about murder, torturing small animals, and the keys to creativity. Though all three of those topics were discussed by host Conan O’Brien and comedy legend John Cleese, only one was the focus of the latter’s new book.
Cleese’s new book, Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide, explores how creativity is a skill that can be improved and when discussing the topic with O’Brien, the host and guest realized they both had similar creative processes (easily getting distracted and wanting to procrastinate instead of writing), similar comedic sensibilities (emphasizing silliness over sincerity), and using their tall frames for physical comedy.
O’Brien then brought up that when he had writer’s block in his thirties he would murder people. “This was all part of the process.” For Cleese it was “torturing small animals.”
It’s likely that many fans of Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend already enjoy the work of the Monty Python co-founder, but if you’ve never heard of Cleese before (is that possible?) then the interview provides great creative insights (it’s okay to end a day with blank pages) and a lot of ridiculous tangents (O’Brien going more into murdering people) for the aspiring writer.
Spanish Aquí Presents — “Harvey Guillén Out Of The Shadows”
Hosts Raiza Licea, Oscar Montoya, Tony Rodriguez, and Carlos Santos, delved into their comedic roots this week. They started by asking one another which comedians and shows inspired them most growing up. Rodriguez mentioned The Carol Burnett Show, saying he always gravitated toward liking female comedians. “Men have to work hard to make me laugh.” For Licea, it was In Living Color because of Jim Carrey. She was also inspired by and emulated Eddie Murphy. Licea was told, being the only woman on the team, she had the “most masculine energy of all four of us.”
The episode featured an interview with Harvey Guillén, who plays Guillermo on What We Do in the Shadows. It’s hard not to be inspired listening to Guillén discuss the chance encounter that landed him a role on the show. His friend invited him to a party where he met someone who was so impressed with him that she texted him the next day asking him to audition for her “fiance’s new show,” which was What We Do in the Shadows. They had already cast everyone else, but couldn’t find a Guillermo. He auditioned, was told there was going to be a test, then got a call from show creators Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititia who told him there was no test. They saw his tape and said: “you are the mate.”
In addition to his dream job story, Guillén offered some words of advice for listeners who might feel they have too many strikes against them to succeed. “For me, it was like growing up being Latino, being a gordito, being queer,” Guillén said. “I had to realize that all the things that were my strikes against me were all my special talents and abilities that no one else could bring. That was a formula only I could bring. If I’m not everyone’s cup of tea that’s okay. But I’m somebody’s piping hot cup of tea so drink it up.”
Culture Kings “Paul Don’t Fall with Paul F. Tompkins”
This week’s episode served as one of Culture Kings’ most surprising episodes, and not just because we learn the real age of the always youthful-looking Paul F. Tompkins.
Hosts Edgar Momplaisir and Jacquis Neal brought on Tompkins to talk on various subjects including dressing down from his signature suited style during the pandemic and if he would join Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton in publicly taking the Covid vaccine. He’d up for it if he got to be the closer.
The conversation delved into the tough role that entertainers have played during the pandemic and the toll it takes to be “on” so often. “One thing that a lot of people don’t ever realize about entertainers in general,” Neal said. “Is man, we be some sad motherfuckers sometimes.”
Neal said people in the entertainment field always have to be “on” and it’s hard to see them when they’re off or low. “So many people don’t know how many times we are bringing you high, on content when we are very low.”
The conversation shifted into what to do when you’re bored with the work you’re doing and Tompkins brought up how he learned he can always change what he called: “the tyranny of the template.” But at his age, there are still things he can’t get over.
“I’m fucking 52 years old and this still bothers me that this person said that thing or I didn’t get this job or whatever. What do I care? Why do I care?” he said.
The hosts, after learning Tompkins’ age immediately went in for a compliment. “They say black don’t crack, but Paul don’t fall.” Neal said, simultaneously creating the episode title.
The ending might come as a surprise to listeners as Momplaisir revealed this episode would be his final show. Momplaisir gave a heartfelt tribute to Neal and explained how he saw the show blossom into something “amazing” and praised Neal for being such a great host. “Getting to do this alongside you for three, almost four years has been a dream,”Momplaisir said. “I’m gonna miss it.” Neal assured fans this was likely not the final episode, but that if it did come back, the show would be different.
The episode had a touching final quote from Neal: “If this is the end of the show…we’ve done so much cool shit on this show…that I am comfortable with it ending.”
— Ian Goldstein