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Droll life on the bus

'The Comedians of Comedy' subtly reveals character as it rides along with comics venturing out on tour.

November 11, 2005|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

"The Comedians of Comedy," debuting at 11 tonight, features four comics -- Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and Zach Galifianakis -- on the road, touring the East Coast in a bus.

They're L.A. comedian-friends, pop-culture inhaler/ironists and veterans of the same festivals and alternative comedy nights and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" appearances, not to mention half-hour specials on Comedy Central.

The six-episode series is carved up into half-hour films that are at once droll and subtly revealing of character; in fact, compared with NBC's low-rent contrivance "Last Comic Standing" (comics in a house, competing for, I don't know, best comedian in a house), "The Comedians of Comedy" is practically "Jules et Jim."

None of them appears to be "on." In fact they're closer to "off" (which could be a form of being "on"). Oswalt, whose last CD was called "Feelin' Kinda Patton" and who is a regular on the CBS sitcom "King of Queens," is the ringleader here.

We get snippets of their performances ("At what age do you tell a highway it was adopted?" goes one of Galifianakis' setups), but more than this the show captures life away from the sitcom wars in L.A. -- the phone-in to the local radio station (wherein the DJ tries to goad Oswalt into telling him Seinfeld's a jerk), the stop-off at a monument (the Lincoln Memorial, where Galifianakis recalls how when a Johnny Carson joke about Lincoln would bomb, "The Tonight Show" host would say, "Too soon"), the musing about what you just ate ("My dinner was delicious. The CPK in D.C. is the best I've ever been to," the morose-sounding Posehn reads from his journal).

Like Comedy Central's "Insomniac With Dave Attell," Attell's amusing booze-soaked tour of after-hours America, "The Comedians of Comedy" is a kind of hybrid of documentary and sitcom that gets the viewer closer to how comedians live and breathe, but only so close.

Oswalt and Posehn, comic-book nerds, spend quality time on the bus sheathing copies of "Invincible" in plastic, which segues into Oswalt onstage, discussing the similarity between comic-book zealotry and religious fundamentalism. Bamford seems to enjoy swimming pools, while Galifianakis, who according to the press materials splits time between Venice, Calif., and his farm in North Carolina, glides along in his own world, coming alive during a group therapy session in New York City, where he accuses Posehn of chronic lateness. They all sound, finally, like roommates.

*

'The Comedians of Comedy'

Where: Comedy Central

When: 11 tonight

Ratings: TV-14-L (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with an advisory for coarse language)

Patton Oswalt...Himself

Brian Posehn...Himself

Maria Bamford...Herself

Zach Galifianakis...Himself

Executive producers Patton Oswalt, Dave Rath and D.J. Paul.

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