A Beacon in the Smog: Comedy Benefit for Grist.org

A Beacon in the Smog: Comedy Benefit for Grist.org

Eugene Mirman

Eugene Mirman is a comedian, actor and hero who lives in Brooklyn, NY. He voices “Gene” on Fox’s Emmy Award winning animated series Bob’s Burgers. He was on Flight of the Conchords, Adult Swim’s Delocated, and has had two comedy specials on Comedy Central. His latest comedy special is available on Netflix. He is a frequent co-host of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s science show Star Talk. His fifth comedy album, I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome), being released by Sub Pop Records, will be available in multiple formats as a 9 Volume Digital Set, 7LPs, a Chair, a Robe on October 30th, 2015.

Wyatt Cenac

Emmy and WGA Award winner Wyatt Cenac is a NY-based stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer. Armed with an “attentive, inquisitive perspective” (AV Club) and an “hilariously understated style” (Paste Magazine), he has become a favorite of audiences and critics alike. Wyatt’s second hour standup special, Brooklyn, which he also directed, premiered on Netflix in October 2014 and was also released as a limited edition vinyl-only album of the same title on Other Music. The hour was listed as one of the “11 Best Standup Specials of 2014” by Vulture and was praised as “some of his best, funniest insights” by The AV Club. Wyatt’s first hour special Comedy Person premiered on Comedy Central in May 2011, earning him a spot on Paste Magazine’s “Best Comedians” list of that year. The album of the special was named one of the “Best Comedy Albums of 2011” by Huffington Post.

From 2008 to 2012, Wyatt was a writer and popular correspondent on the hit latenight Comedy Central series The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where he earned 3 Emmy Awards and one WGA award. He also spent three seasons writing for FOX’s King of the Hill. On the big screen, Wyatt has appeared in Mike Birbiglia’s acclaimed film Sleepwalk With Me, David Cross’ feature Hits, Darren Grodsky’s independent film Growing Up (and Other Lies) and Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy, which was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards. He also served as Executive Producer alongside Jay-Z on the feature An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, which screened at Sundance in 2012 to rave reviews, with The New York Times describing the film as “a most lovely and meticulously handmade hodgepodge of art and feeling.”

Wyatt has appeared on IFC’s popular TV series Maron, Adult Swim’s cult favorite The Eric Andre Show, and Comedy Central’s John Oliver’s New York Standup Show. This year he will also be Executive Producing a topical comedy series for Pivot. He is a latenight favorite, with appearances on Conan, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Last Call with Carson Daly. Wyatt performs standup to sold-out crowds nationally and internationally, and he has been featured as a performer at Bumbershoot, South By Southwest, The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Bonnaroo, and the prestigious Montreal Comedy Festival.

VIP GUEST: David Cross

David Cross began his professional television career as a writer on "The Ben Stiller Show." It was there that he first met Bob Odenkirk, with whom he would later co-create the award-winning HBO sketch comedy series, "Mr. Show with Bob and Dave." Cross has since starred as Tobias Fünke in "Arrested Development" and has appeared in numerous films including "Men in Black," "Ghost World," 'Scary Movie 2" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Cross also maintains a notable stand-up career and has released two comedy CDs on SubPop Records: the Grammy-nominated "Shut Up You Fucking Baby!" and "It's Not Funny." In addition to his larger roles, Cross has made cameo appearances on "Just Shoot Me," "The Drew Carey Show," "NewsRadio," "Strangers with Candy" and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." Cross also provided voices for the Xbox game "Halo 2" and appeared on Adult Swim's "Tom Goes to the Mayor" (for which Bob Odenkirk is executive producer).

Eleanor Friedberger

At a time when most female singer-songwriters perform as alter egos, Eleanor Friedberger is simply, refreshingly herself. And that's just the way her fans like it. Having spent the last decade fronting the indie-rock institution The Fiery Furnaces (currently on hiatus) with her brother Matthew, in 2011 she emerged as a formidable solo artist with Last Summer, a thoughtfully crafted tale of memory and place couched in the organic pop of her '70s idols. Instantly, Friedberger established herself as a modern-day heir to the tradition of Donovan, Todd Rundgren, Ronnie Lane, and their ilk: Warm, nuanced, timeless songs. No gimmicks necessary.
The title of Friedberger's sophomore album is Personal Record, and it is, in a sense. Personal, that is. But not personal in the way of, say, a coming-of-age record, or a diary about the past, which Last Summer was. Many of the songs seem to be about love, or love lost, but whether any of the experience is hers or someone else's, she isn't saying. "It's not as specific a narrative this time," she says. "There's a universality to it." So incisive are the lyrics, in fact, that Friedberger's bassist incorrectly assumed that two of the songs were about him. "I loved that," she says. "I want him to feel like the songs are about him. I want you to feel like the songs are about you."
The term "personal record" also refers to an athlete's best, and the double entendre is apt. An intense decade-plus of touring and recording has burnished Friedberger's voice and imbued her songwriting with newfound depth; there's a maturity and mellifluousness to this outing that feels downright epic. It was always the Eleanor-penned songs that gave the Furnaces' albums their most poignant and graceful moments, especially in later work like I'm Going Away. Last Summer took that promise into full flower; Personal Record "is part of the same growth process," she says. Faced with a six-month gap between the completion of Last Summer and its release and accompanying tour, Friedberger holed up at home in Brooklyn; by the time the tour started, she had twelve new songs to road-test. Though most bands work this way, the Furnaces didn't. For Friedberger, touring with the unreleased material allowed her to flesh out a more rollicking, full sound from the get-go. "By the time I came home," she says, "I knew exactly what I wanted the songs to sound like."
She reunited with Last Summer producer Eric Broucek (the DFA-trained emerging talent whose clients include !!!, Hercules and Love Affair, and Jonny Pierce) to expand upon the warm, textured atmosphere of their first collaboration. Tracking began in fall 2012 with a week at Plantain Studios, the West Village home of DFA. To Friedberger's favored electric pianos and classic-rock guitars, they added a menagerie including an upright bass, an alto flute, a bass clarinet, and even a portative organ. (It's a device made of several recorders and a bellows in a frame that looks like a wooden castle. Or, actually, like Howl's Moving Castle.)
Production then resumed at Broucek's home studio in the Los Angeles hills, where the rest of the record was completed in just ten days. As the songs filled out, Friedberger went full-out in immersing herself in her romantic vision of that city. "I was just listening to Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young, driving around in a borrowed Prius," she says. "Walking along Point Dume, playing tennis at Griffith Park.... I ate hippie food every day. Lots of lentils."
The sun-warmed languor of the West Coast and its golden age of rock 'n' roll shines through in Personal Record. It's the aural equivalent of an afternoon jaunt up the PCH in an orange BMW 2002, fist pumping into the wind. "When I Knew" and "Stare at the Sun" rock out like the Furnaces' finest, but with that unmistakable Eleanor gracefulness. "Echo or Encore" is a lilting love ballad underlaid with with a bossa nova beat. "I Am the Past" evokes the mystical side of the Me Decade with meandering bass clarinet and a balls-out flute solo (seriously). Though Friedberger may harbor a bit of a '70s fetish, there's an idiosyncrasy and intimacy to her music that's undeniably modern. Above all, it's pretty. "It's such a romantic album to me," Friedberger says. "But more so than love for another person, it's really about a love of music."

Kurt Braunohler

Kurt Braunohler was featured in Variety’s annual prestigious “10 Comics To Watch” list, named in Time Out New York's list of 50 Funniest New Yorkers and Backstage Magazine’s “5 Comics To Watch,” "Comic to Watch" by Comedy Central, the New York Comedy Festival and Time Out NY, as well as “Best Male Stand-Up” by the ECNY and “Best Unscripted Host” by the New York Television Festival.

On TV, Kurt can been seen (or heard) on Bob's Burgers, Chelsea Lately, John Oliver Stand Up, Delocated, @midnight, Comedy Central Presents, Drunk History, Getting Doug with High, Adam Devine's House Party, Jon Benjamin Has a Van, Assy McGee, The Heart She Holler, Human Giant and as host of IFC’s comedy game show Bunk!. He has also performed standup sets on CONAN and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Kurt's pilot “Gettin' Some Strange with Kurt Braunohler,” a late-night talk show where Kurt covers the strangest stories of the day, revealing our beautifully insane world, is in development for Comedy Central. He can also be heard on the radio on This American Life telling a story which he is currently developing for film.

In Spring 2014, Kurt announced “Roustabout,” his seven city water tour/mission to send 500 goats and 1,000 chickens to families in need in Africa. The adventure was filmed for a Comedy Central webseries which will launch in 2015.

Kurt’s chart-topping debut album How Do I Land?, recorded live at packed rock clubs, was the first comedy release for venerable indie label Kill Rock Stars and was included in several Best Of 2013 lists The album’s title comes from Kurt’s “Cloud Project” in which he raised $6k on Kickstarter and hired a pilot to write the words “How Do I Land?” across the LA sky. The resulting skywriting images went viral.

Called "a prolific stand-up comedian" by the Los Angeles Times, Kurt has performed his whip-smart comedy on stages across the world including Outside Lands, SXSW, Moontower, All Tomorrow's Parties, Bonnaroo, Just for Laughs in Montreal and Chicago, SF Sketchfest and IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! Live. Oh, and he once performed at Radio City Music Hall.

Kurt co-created and co-hosted the continuously sold-out NYC variety show “Hot Tub” for 7 years with comedy writing partner Kristen Schaal. The duo moved the show to LA in Jan 2013 where it was hailed “the hottest new comedy show” by Los Angeles Magazine. Kurt and Kristen continue to host and perform Hot Tub to a packed house every Monday night.

Kurt’s popular podcast “The K Ohle with Kurt Braunohler” features some not-so-standard segments featuring Kurt and guests including Paul F Tompkins, Matt Braunger, Jon Daly, Kumail Nanjiani, Steve Agee and Nick Thorburn (from Islands/Unicorns who also wrote the theme song). Episodes are available on the Nerdist Network.

“Braunohler is very funny” – USA Today

“Do you like wunderkinds? Then you will LOVE KURT!” – BrooklynVegan

“There are wild and wondrous impulses in the brain of Kurt Braunohler” – Comedians
to Watch 2014, Time Out LA


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Hosted by Eugene Mirman With Wyatt Cenac, David Cross, musical guest Eleanor Friedberger and special guests.

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