Review: Showtime’s ‘Inside Comedy’ is a functional look at a wholly dysfunctional art

After watching three episodes of Showtime’s new behind-the-curtain series, Inside Comedy, any rational entertainment goer will conclude, whether you like the series or not, that documentarian Ken Burns doesn’t need to do a series called Comedy. The show features in-depth interviews conducted by veteran comedian, writer and director David Steinberg with the most established names in comedy such as Don Rickles, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Robin Williams (pictured above). And don’t worry; those trademark slideshows and clips in between and over soundbites – all Burns style – are there. Above all Inside Comedy, premiering Jan. 26 at 11 pm ET on Showtime, is that it’s nothing like the network’s other “comedians-on-comedians” show, The Green Room with Paul Provenza. By the way: there’s no word yet on whether that show is coming back to the network.

Unlike the Green Room or even Marc Maron’s podcast WTF, Inside Comedy aims to have much more of a “coffee table book” feel to their show. Steinberg has actually done a show exactly like this called Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg for TV Land a few years ago, which is why this show is as slick and well-packaged as it is.

With the aforementioned list of guests, and more like them — Steinberg even interviews the executive producer of the show, Steve Carell (you probably know him) – the show’s subjects are not the ever-burgeoning comedians and personalities, those important to the future of comedy that Provenza or Maron usually try to highlight.

Also, as some obsessive comedy nerds will note, the setting for the interviews is much cleaner—the furniture and framing is just perfect. There’s great clips and stills to cut to and scan and pan on, while, Provenza’s Green Room is tight and huddled in, to better capture comedians unfiltered amongst other unlfiltered comedians. On the other hand, Inside Comedy is one of the most pristine explorations of the craft of comedy (a wholly un-pristine endeavor).

Presumably in an attempt to set the show apart from others like it, Steinberg delves into deep history with several of his guests. After all, Steinberg has lived much of the comedy history his subjects recollect. For instance, Steinberg brings up Rickles’ performance for President Ronald Reagan, sparking the veteran insult comedian to tell a great story about he got roped into the gig. What follows is a clip from that performance. So, Inside Comedy brings out intriguing stories that might not be presented anywhere else on television.

Steinberg does laugh through a majority of the interviews and the inclusion of the crew laughter is slightly distracting, but the show is another step for the art of comedy to be better represented and paid tribute to in world of entertainment.

You can get more info on Inside Comedy at the official Showtime page.

Jake Kroeger

Jake Kroeger has dedicated his life, for better or probably worse, to comedy. Starting and continually running the Comedy Bureau, a voice for LA comedy, by himself, he also writes and performs stand-up comedy in LA and watches more live comedy than is probably humanly tolerable. He's been a daily contributor to Punchline Magazine, now because he loves and believes in comedy so much. Said of Kroeger, "...without his dangerously insane, unhealthy work ethic, certain comics would not have any press at all."

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