HBO's "Talking Funny" aired last week, featuring Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK discussing the craft they've come to define within our generation – and making each other squeal with laughter in the process. Reaching beyond die-hard comedy fans, the special offers both star power, shock value and a positively magnetic offstage look at the personas and intermingling relationships among the comics.
More akin to a coffeehouse conversation than an entertainment production, "Talking Funny" finds the four pros' conflicting styles and easy rapport making for a fascinating study in the various species of comedy on the circuit. Louis C.K.'s genuinely relatable tales of misery, portrayed through a hilarious absurdist lens that doesn't focus at all on punchline, is in sharp contrast to Seinfeld's "What is it with ridged potato chips???" set-em-up, knock-em-down schtick.
The process of deconstructing the mechanics of a comedian's act demands a certain reverence for the subject, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone you'd want to interact with who wasn't a fan of one of these four rib-crackers.
Check out a promo clip, which captures the energy of the special well – particularly the many, many backhanded jabs the comedians take at one another:
The most interesting exchanges involve Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, ranging from topics covering when to retire all or part of your act, how "good bits get in your head" and whether comics ought to feel guilty about a cheap laugh. Ricky Gervais is a massive success, but he's the least-accomplished standup of the bunch. So it's fascinating to witness him take such strong positions, particularly in contrast to someone as seasoned and specifically structured as Seinfeld.
If you missed it, HBO is notorious for airing repeats of their original content ad nauseum, so you'll have plenty of opportunities for another viewing. Fans who enjoyed the special will find delight in hearing that more "Talking Funny" shows are in the early stages of planning now.