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Episode 65 — Computer Strength

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Charlie Sanders, John Gemberling, and Colton Dunn join Matt Besser for another edition of Case Closed on today’s improv4humans! They have a discussion with a listener about what is considered too soon, finding a scene from the Gun Control episode to be in poor taste, and the importance of tackling recent issues. This episode is also filled with airplane babies, loud theatre goers, and robot pizza commercials. Be sure to pick up an improv4humans shirt from the Earwolf Store and follow @MattBesser on Twitter to send in your improv suggestions. Music by Bobby Matthews and Dragoon. You can also now get Matt Besser’s new comedy album “The Six Most Important Sets in the History of Standup” at mattbesser.com!

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"A lot of Star Wars fans come here because of half of the title"

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That ad for the Earwolf store -- where the ad copy is abandoned and the group eventually comes to a consensus that Earwolf calendars are overpriced and unnecessary -- is probably the greatest advertisement in the history of ad-sponsored entertainment.

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The couple at the the theater sketch was insanely good. The whole episode is eligible for another 'Best of' podcast. But man, the couple having their own conversation layered over the two stage actors trying to carry on with the play, it reached this great effect of what actually happens when someone is being loud in a theater: You're trying really hard to hear the play (or movie), but you're catching everything the loud person is saying.

 

Roll that all into the fact that it is an improv sketch, and that Matt as the wife just gets to talk about whatever she wants and comment on the things happening in the play, while the two guys playing the actors on stage are MAKING UP A PLAY as they go along, the whole thing just blew me away.

 

"Who's your favorite black guy, ever?"

"Ahhh, umm... Yaphet Kotto! He was from Alien."

 

Holy shit, you guys.

 

Also, it came from an AMAZING sampling of already super-entertaining stories about being bad guests, misbehaving at social/family functions and weddings. The whole thing was just... well, perfect.

 

UPDATE: Go Big Blue~

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This was probably the most interesting Viewer Spotlight/Confrontation Corner/Case Closed yet for me. I could understand the caller's point of view, even though I don't understand why it made him express his opinion in the way he did.

 

Different kinds of artists all have different tools with which to explore social issues. Asking comedians not to access their specific tools in tackling tough issues, especially hugely visible events like the ones at Newtown, indeed seems like a form of censorship as Matt pointed out.

 

That someone could have a strong reaction to a satiric exploration of gun violence so soon after a mass shooting is, again, understandable, but I'm not sure what else he expected when he downloaded the episode. How else could a comedian be expected to look at it and still produce anything recognizable as comedy?

 

Are they supposed to mine for wacky elements of the tragedy and joke about those? Or just rant about what a "crazy motherfucker" Adam Lanza was, a la Katt Williams? Neither of those seem like better (let alone more tasteful) alternatives.

 

Earlier discussions of the "too soon" issue on the show seemed to make the best point about it: offense is a risk one takes when engaging in society, and if you think maybe an episode of a comedy show dealing with gun control in the wake of a mass shooting might offend you, perhaps it's best to not invite that unpleasantness into your life. What may be bad for you isn't bad for everyone.

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The couple at the the theater sketch was insanely good. The whole episode is eligible for another 'Best of' podcast. But man, the couple having their own conversation layered over the two stage actors trying to carry on with the play, it reached this great effect of what actually happens when someone is being loud in a theater: You're trying really hard to hear the play (or movie), but you're catching everything the loud person is saying.

 

Roll that all into the fact that it is an improv sketch, and that Matt as the wife just gets to talk about whatever she wants and comment on the things happening in the play, while the two guys playing the actors on stage are MAKING UP A PLAY as they go along, the whole thing just blew me away.

 

"Who's your favorite black guy, ever?"

"Ahhh, umm... Yaphet Kotto! He was from Alien."

 

Holy shit, you guys.

 

Also, it came from an AMAZING sampling of already super-entertaining stories about being bad guests, misbehaving at social/family functions and weddings. The whole thing was just... well, perfect.

 

Totally agree! I haven't laughed that hard in a while.

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Great Case Closed. In my mind what makes comedy offensive or not is the perspective not the subject matter or when it was said. For instance, when Gilbert Gottfried was making jokes about the tsunami in Japan, I thought that was fucked up, because he was making fun of the victims, and I just don't see the merit or humor of sitting at home making light of a tragedy that didn't affect you. To me that's just callous, and I don't think the jokes are any funnier now that time has passed because the perspective of the jokes is belittling the pain, hardship and death that actual people have experienced. It's not the topic I find distatesful, but what he's saying about the topic. Matt Besser on the other hand, what you do is great, because you're making comedy that stands up for the victims and goes after the scum, and I think it's important to be able to do that. And like you say it makes no sense to wait til the topic is no longer hot and people don't care anymore. I don't know why people want to exclude comedians from addressing a topic when EVERYONE else is free to talk about it ad nauseam. I always feel like people who think comedy shouldn't tackle a subject have respect for comedy or any idea of how important comedy can be.

 

Matt Besser you're awesome, keep up the good work. You don't need that new year's resolution because this has been the best podcast in the universe since the first episode.

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Regarding "Case Closed," I don't generally agree with caller's post, especially him making a judgement about the performers'on moral value, which is beyond ridiculous. Having said that, I think there were some statements made by some of the performers that confused me.

 

I don't understand Matt's point when he said "If I was a writer for SNL, I might say 'too soon' [to the sketch]." If "too soon bugs the crap out of [Matt]" and "is dangerous," how can that be said? That doesn't jive with me. Does that mean that, for wider audiences, "too soon" makes sense? I honestly don't understand that. I would like to hear Matt clarify that point.

 

Another thing I didn't understand and don't agree with on their face value were the statements:

 

• "Why not just say 'Hey, I didn't like the scene' and keep it to yourself?"

• "It's not like you bought a ticket that you were forced to stay in. It was free, you saw the title...I don't know. You don't have much of a leg to stand on."

 

I suppose that these statements would make sense if it was clear that the show is not open to feedback or discussion, but the show literally has a forum for each episode. If you have a forum, I think you should expect people to use it; hopefully in a respectful manner. Although the caller was a bit out of bounds with some of his comments, I don't think he was so crazily unreasonable that he should just shut up and keep it to himself. And the second point seems to suggest that one can only express a contrary opinion when they have paid money for the entertainmnet, which doesn't make sense to me, since a forum is being provided for feedback.

 

Anyhoo, those are my much anticipated two cents. Your welcome.

 

I enjoy the show and I respect Matt's willingness to talk about this stuff (although, as he acknowleges, it's not always the most balanced, though I don't know how balanced I would be if someone told me I lacked moral value).

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Just once I wish someone on case closed would be as abrasive as they were in the forum post/tweet. Everyone seems to try to play down what they actually said.

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I don't understand Matt's point when he said "If I was a writer for SNL, I might say 'too soon' [to the sketch]." If "too soon bugs the crap out of [Matt]" and "is dangerous," how can that be said? That doesn't jive with me. Does that mean that, for wider audiences, "too soon" makes sense? I honestly don't understand that. I would like to hear Matt clarify that point.

 

I'm not Matt but the way I took that point was that it was less about SNL having a wide audience and more about the difference between the mediums of television and podcasting. It's possible to just turn on your TV and have something that offends you being in front of you through no fault of your own. With podcasting there are so many steps you have to go through before you are listening.You are seeking out a podcast that you know is a comedy podcast, seeing the description, then proceeding to download and listen. It would be damn near impossible for someone to just happen upon it. It's just an inherently different medium than network television.

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Anyone else assume the girl Matt was dating in the wedding story was Amy Poehler? It probably wasn't, but I know they dated, and it's easy for me to imagine her mocking those fireworks.

 

(I tried to post this earlier, but since it's not on here, I don't know if it didn't post due to a technical problem or if it was removed for some reason by the admins. Like maybe it's not something Matt wants posted, even if it's not true. So I'm reposting, In case it was a technical problem, but if it gets removed, I understand. )

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I'm not Matt but the way I took that point was that it was less about SNL having a wide audience and more about the difference between the mediums of television and podcasting. It's possible to just turn on your TV and have something that offends you being in front of you through no fault of your own. With podcasting there are so many steps you have to go through before you are listening.You are seeking out a podcast that you know is a comedy podcast, seeing the description, then proceeding to download and listen. It would be damn near impossible for someone to just happen upon it. It's just an inherently different medium than network television.

 

Yes this was my point exactly. When you open it up to a national audience the more abstract the sketch the more likely you are too offend. As a head writer I would want to make it super clear that we were not somehow making fun of the victims.

We had a sketch on UCB about a kid who tries to massacre his school cafeteria with throwing stars. I wrote this scene right after the shootings in Jonesboro, Ark. Never heard of it? It happened before Columbine at a school. 5 people died. I was struck how these killers seem to always think that they are really cool like cowboys or vigilantes or trench coat mafia or the Joker. So our sketch was an attempt to both make fun of the loser killers who think they are cool and the bullies who push them to the brink. Right after we filmed the sketch Columbine happened. Comedy Central made us radically edit the scene and we agreed because many of the lines of dialogue seemed like it was taking Columbine lightly.

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I don't understand Matt's point when he said "If I was a writer for SNL, I might say 'too soon' [to the sketch]." If "too soon bugs the crap out of [Matt]" and "is dangerous," how can that be said? That doesn't jive with me. Does that mean that, for wider audiences, "too soon" makes sense? I honestly don't understand that. I would like to hear Matt clarify that point.

 

personally, i think the fact that it's all improv has something to do with it. the school scene was based on asking children invasive questions, and then it went somewhere else like improv scenes do. my feeling is you gotta allow improv to go wherever their spontaneous thoughts go. but maybe someone wouldn't necessarily make the same choices if they had a pre-written sketch that they knew was going to air on saturday night to millions of people (another point I think matt was getting at. SNL aired the next night).

 

the guy was offended at the choices made in that scene, almost as if it were pre-written. i don't know, i find that weird.

 

edit: oh i see matt already responded

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Fuck em, Matt. You know you're funny, your fans know you're funny. Rock on. Also, whenever I hear you and John together I can't help but think about the mc chris album skits. You should have him on as a guest improviser sometime! Best podcast in the universe!!!!

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Yes this was my point exactly. When you open it up to a national audience the more abstract the sketch the more likely you are too offend. As a head writer I would want to make it super clear that we were not somehow making fun of the victims.

We had a sketch on UCB about a kid who tries to massacre his school cafeteria with throwing stars. I wrote this scene right after the shootings in Jonesboro, Ark. Never heard of it? It happened before Columbine at a school. 5 people died. I was struck how these killers seem to always think that they are really cool like cowboys or vigilantes or trench coat mafia or the Joker. So our sketch was an attempt to both make fun of the loser killers who think they are cool and the bullies who push them to the brink. Right after we filmed the sketch Columbine happened. Comedy Central made us radically edit the scene and we agreed because many of the lines of dialogue seemed like it was taking Columbine lightly.

 

Thanks Matt and Andy for the reply. So, I guess it's just a matter of making it super clear what you're saying and that may not be possible on a show with a huge audience and five minute segments? That makes sense. So, it's not so much that it would be too soon for SNL, but it would be near impossible for the format to support what needs to be said in order to be reasonably sensitive.

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I've yet to listen to the podcast

 

Another thing I didn't understand and don't agree with on their face value were the statements:

 

• "Why not just say 'Hey, I didn't like the scene' and keep it to yourself?"

• "It's not like you bought a ticket that you were forced to stay in. It was free, you saw the title...I don't know. You don't have much of a leg to stand on."

 

I suppose that these statements would make sense if it was clear that the show is not open to feedback or discussion, but the show literally has a forum for each episode. If you have a forum, I think you should expect people to use it;... the second point seems to suggest that one can only express a contrary opinion when they have paid money for the entertainmnet, which doesn't make sense to me, since a forum is being provided for feedback.

 

I couldn't agree more. it always bugs me when people on podcasts, and even worse when other forum members say it, that because its free entertainment then you shouldn't voice an opinion if its critical of content.

 

 

 

I enjoy the show and I respect Matt's willingness to talk about this stuff ...

 

Again couldn't agree more except to say I flat out LOVE the show. I've listened to every episode, all but two of them several times over. I tell anyone I think would be interested about it, UCB, and Matt Besser.

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I felt the exact opposite of the caller when that episode first aired. In fact, I commend Besser for doing something so "soon" and having it relate directly to the tragic events. I just remember a LOT of people/comedians saying things like "in respect for the tragedy and grieving families, we're not going to put out our comedy" or something very similar, and the kicker was that their comedy had nothing to do with the tragedy or could be perceived as even remotely insensitive, but the act and claim seemed just as insensitive to me. It upset me (now I sound like a jerk) that people were acting like the only response was to grieve, to set aside comedy, when really that's when we needed to laugh the most. For i4h to do it so soon (recorded the day after) and to deal directly around the events as some sort of... catharsis, was absolutely spectacular and I felt that episode to be in particularly good taste.

 

I like your willingness to bring people on the show, and I would love to be on just to spitball or share discourse, but holy shit do I not want to take the path that would actually lead me to being on the show because I would have to piss Besser off or make a fool of myself. Fuck that press.

 

Great episode this week, and though it may seem like the "Case Closed" segment may have overshadowed much of the show, I love that you immediately jumped into a scene after hanging up with the dude and ending on a hell of a funny, positive and high note.

 

 

I've listened to every episode, all but two of them several times over. .

 

That sounds oddly specific, "all but two." Which 2 episodes are you referring to? Is one of them this one considering you said you hadn't listened to it yet?

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In my mind what makes comedy offensive or not is the perspective not the subject matter or when it was said. For instance, when Gilbert Gottfried was making jokes about the tsunami in Japan, I thought that was fucked up, because he was making fun of the victims, and I just don't see the merit or humor of sitting at home making light of a tragedy that didn't affect you.

 

He didn't really make fun of anything specific. All of those tweets could've been changed from Japan to New Orleans and they would've been the same... Whether the jokes were funny or not based on being jokes, that's up to you and your sense of humor.

 

Regardless of being funny or not, that was blown way out of proportion and not was not worth being fired over. I mean, Aflac fires him, gets headlines, and then went out and hired an impersonator to be the duck. They must've really cared about their character since they hired a cheap imitation! Aflac couldn't give a fuck about the Tsunami, they just wanted to be seen as righteous, grab headlines, and save money by paying a fraction of Gottfried's salary to some other guy.

 

I don't understand Matt's point when he said "If I was a writer for SNL, I might say 'too soon' [to the sketch]." If "too soon bugs the crap out of [Matt]" and "is dangerous," how can that be said? That doesn't jive with me. Does that mean that, for wider audiences, "too soon" makes sense? I honestly don't understand that. I would like to hear Matt clarify that point.

 

Even though Matt addressed this I still want to chime in.

 

SNL thing boils down to two main things in my opinion.

 

1. The audience. A nationally broadcast, live, network show, with a reputation, can be seen by anyone with a tv. Anybody that happens to go past NBC could see the thing, whether they are comedy fans or not. A lot more people could see it and misinterpret what was being said. That would lead to a lot of negative feedback and loss in revenue for a show that doesn't really push boundaries anymore. A podcast's listeners are going to be hardcore comedy fans, or fans of the performers... Plus the odds are that they share many of the same viewpoints, or would give the benefit of the doubt to someone they're a fan of.

 

2. It's a lot tougher to express a complex topic in a condensed sketch form, which makes it easier to misinterpret. Doing an improv scene on a podcast where a kid has a gun in a school (I don't even think that was in the Gold Star skit, but I don't remember) is a lot easier to pull off than actually having to SHOW a kid with a gun in a school. It's the audio of someone mentioning they have a gun versus the image of an actor brandishing a gun around. That would vastly change people's opinion and become a lightning rod, whether or not it was in jest. The visual is important. A podcast is in your mind and a skit is in front of your face. Totally different mediums.

 

---

 

Matt, that was really cool information about the Throwing Star Killing Spree skit. Thanks for sharing that. I'd love to see the original cut because the 'toned down' one is still edgier than a sketch show would want to put out right now.

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Great episode.

 

 

The forum posts in question went down while I was gone so I just wanted to give a thank you and shout out to Pongo for keeping things on topic, and telling people to post in the appropriate threads. It warms my moderator heart.

 

 

 

Just once I wish someone on case closed would be as abrasive as they were in the forum post/tweet. Everyone seems to try to play down what they actually said.

 

Totes. I also wish I had Matt's confidence to keep going in a confrontation like this. During the whole segment I just kept thinking about how if it were me the moment the caller started to agree I probably would have said "oh yeah no no no totally yeah I'm sorry like nevermind it's totally cool yeah sorry sorry"

 

Honestly, the segment makes me hella uncomfortable but even with a warning I still listen because it's SO interesting but I'm also a huge chicken and they make me want to run away from my own ears.

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Great Case Closed. In my mind what makes comedy offensive or not is the perspective not the subject matter or when it was said. For instance, when Gilbert Gottfried was making jokes about the tsunami in Japan, I thought that was fucked up, because he was making fun of the victims, and I just don't see the merit or humor of sitting at home making light of a tragedy that didn't affect you. To me that's just callous, and I don't think the jokes are any funnier now that time has passed because the perspective of the jokes is belittling the pain, hardship and death that actual people have experienced. It's not the topic I find distatesful, but what he's saying about the topic.

 

He didn't really make fun of anything specific. All of those tweets could've been changed from Japan to New Orleans and they would've been the same... Whether the jokes were funny or not based on being jokes, that's up to you and your sense of humor.

 

Regardless of being funny or not, that was blown way out of proportion and not was not worth being fired over. I mean, Aflac fires him, gets headlines, and then went out and hired an impersonator to be the duck. They must've really cared about their character since they hired a cheap imitation! Aflac couldn't give a fuck about the Tsunami, they just wanted to be seen as righteous, grab headlines, and save money by paying a fraction of Gottfried's salary to some other guy.

 

 

I pretty much agree with thestray on this topic. I think Gottfried's joke made fun of the victims of the tragedy in a really callous way, and it would have been the same if he'd been making fun of Katrina victims. Just as I don't think we should say that comedy about a tough subject is "too soon" just because it's comedy, I also don't think you should hide behind the banner that "it's just comedy" when you're being so callous about the victims of a tragedy. In one case the comedy is making fun of the people who promote a culture of gun-worship and people who take advantage of children's grief; in the other case the comedy is making fun of victims. I think that's the difference - not the timing, and certainly not the issue of whether it's a straightforward opinion, a story, or comedy.

 

As to the firing, I didn't (and wouldn't have) called for it, and his joke really doesn't affect whether I would buy Aflac. I do think there's a censorship element to going after the job of anyone who says something you find offensive. But I don't think that just talking about why I don't like the joke and find it malicious is the same thing.

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