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It's Worth Eavesdropping on David Steinberg's 'Inside Comedy' Conversations
January 26, 2012  | By David Bianculli

As host of the new Showtime series Inside Comedy, David Steinberg doesn't get much respect from Don Rickles in the opening show -- and that's funny. But he does get lots of respect, with equally amusing results, from Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Steve Carell, Jane Lynch, Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Brad Garrett and Larry David. And that's just in the first five installments of this very welcome, very entertaining, arguably important 10-part TV show...


Inside Comedy premieres Thursday night at 11 ET on Showtime, and differs from Steinberg's last talk show with fellow comics, TV Land's Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg, in one significant respect: this time, there's no studio audience.

That doesn't mean the comics don't reach for time-tested stories or easy laughs, and often you can hear the TV crew, and what must have been a very small quorum of friends and associates, laughing uproariously at what Steinberg brings out of his guests. But it's the chemistry, between subject and questioner, that makes all of this possible.

When Chris Rock, for example, talks of testing new comedy material by going to Palm Beach and performing it before an elderly Jewish audience, Steinberg understands instantly that Rock does it because if it works there, it'll be smash once Rock gets before a younger, more ethnically diverse audience. And it's that understanding that prompts Rock to follow up with a delightful, sports-related simile:

"It's like swinging two bats in the on-deck circle," he tells Steinberg. They both laugh -- and chances are, at home, you will too.

These are conversations, not interviews, and are better because of it.

Steinberg's comedy career began at Second City, and his impish comic "sermonettes" proved one of the factors in CBS firing the Smothers Brothers in the late Sixties. When Seinfeld, on the premiere show, talks about why he thinks of Don Rickles as a pure entertainer with an amazing amount of energy, Steinberg not only gets it, but amplifies upon it.

Similarly, when Martin Short talks about fellow SCTV cast member John Candy, Steinberg recalls directing Candy in the movie whose eventual title was Going Berserk.


And with Larry David, whom Steinberg has directed in many episodes of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, the stories -- and the honest comments -- Steinberg gets out of Larry David are laugh-out-loud funny. Even David himself laughs out loud at some of them, not quite believing what he's saying or admitting.

Larry David's mom made him take a postal worker's exam just in case his standup comedy career didn't work. And that was after he graduated from college.

Steinberg and Steve Carell are two of the executive producers of Inside Comedy, and their approach is brilliantly simple -- and simply brilliant. Just two comics at a time, sitting around talking -- about their comedy influences, their biggest on-stage mistakes, and, when applicable, playing in front of U.S. Presidents.

I've seen the first half of this season's outings of Inside Comedy, and can't wait to see the rest. Coming up: Mel Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Tim Conway, Kathy Griffin and others.

As a guest list, that's no laughing matter. But in Steinberg's hands, and as shown on Inside Comedy, it is.


Madeleine Begun Kane said:

Thanks for that interesting review. I've been a longtime fan of David Steinberg, dating back to his Bugga-Bugga days. And this sure sounds like a great show.

[It is. Enjoy! - DB]

Comment posted on February 5, 2012 2:19 AM

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