Goldie the star-maker
The original Showtime series “I’m Dying Up Here” premiered on June 4, and the first episode is free to view on the Showtime website. It’s the 1970s and the action centers around a Hollywood comedy club, Goldie’s, which is modeled a great deal after the Los Angeles Comedy Store, which was founded by Mitzi Shore, 86, who is the mother of comedian Pauly Shore, 49.
Like Shore, Goldie (Melissa Leo) rules her club with an iron fist. She pays comics literally nothing, but has a great eye for talent and brings comics along, from telling jokes in her cellar to the club’s main stage when she thinks they’re ready. The payoff for the comedian is experience and Goldie’s sway with talent bookers — bookers who can turn an unknown into a star overnight with the right TV booking (especially “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson).
We learn early on that Goldie, whose last name is Herschlag, is Jewish; she mentions a relative is a Holocaust survivor and translates a Yiddish record for a young comedian. Two Jewish comedians are prominent characters: Eddie Zeidel, a comic from Boston (Michael Angarano) and Cassie Feder (Ari Graynor, 34), a funny Jewish woman from a small Texas town. Her character is largely modeled after comedian Elayne Boosler, 64. I think Graynor is a great talent who may have finally found the right vehicle to turn her into a star. By the way, the comedians hang out at Canter’s Deli, a Los Angeles institution — Jewish, showbiz and otherwise — for decades.
More TV catch-up
On June 13, Netflix began streaming a recorded version of the stage play “Oh, Hello on Broadway.” It stars comedians Nick Kroll, 39, and John Mulaney as two strange, elderly, Upper West Siders, and there is a lot of improvising as they often go off the already loose script. Kroll and Mulaney have been playing these characters for more than a decade, introducing them in “Comedy Central” sketches and then showcasing them to packed houses in an “Oh, Hello” tour in 2015. That acclaim propelled “Oh, Hello” into a Broadway theater last fall. The duo did a bit of comic shtick at the recent Tonys.
On Friday, June 23, Netflix will begin streaming “Glow,” a new series. It stars Alison Brie, 34, as Ruth, an out-of-work actress who seeks stardom by entering the glitz-and-spandex world of women’s professional wrestling in the 1980s. Ruth and 11 other Hollywood misfits are managed by a washed-up Hollywood B-movie director (Marc Maron, 53).
Comedian T.J. Miller, 36, has had a huge career boost in the last few years: He co-starred as Weasel in the mega-hit “Deadpool” and he got rave reviews for his performance as the wacky tech entrepreneur Erlich Bachman in “Silicon Valley” on HBO. His first HBO stand-up special, titled “Meticulously Ridiculous,” began airing on June 17.
Miller shocked “Silicon Valley” fans when he announced last month he would not be returning for season five next year; the final episode of season four will air on Sunday, June 25. His reasons were vague, such as it’s his choice and that it’s just the right time to go. He wasn’t written out of the show.
At the movies
“Rough Night,” which opened June 16, is a black comedy in which things go badly for five old girlfriends at a rowdy bachelorette party when one of them accidentally kills a male stripper. The friends are played by Scarlett Johansson, 32, Zoe Kravitz, 28, Ilana Glazer, 30, Jillian Bell and Kate McKinnon. Glazer is the co-creator and co-star of “Broad City” on Comedy Central.
“The Little Hours,” a comic romp co-starring the busy Alison Brie and Dave Franco, 32, opens in limited theater release on June 30. In a medieval nunnery, Brie plays a nun who is very bored and looking for irreligious fun, while Franco plays a hot, new groundskeeper who pretends to be deaf. “Hours” got good reviews at Sundance. Brie wed Franco, a Palo Alto native and the brother of James Franco, 39, last March.
Ansel Elgort, 23, stars in “Baby Driver” as a talented getaway driver for bank robbers. He meets the girl of his dreams and sees a chance to get out of his criminal life, but his dream is threatened by a very nasty crime boss (Kevin Spacey). Jon Bernthal, 40, plays a bank robber in the film which opens Wednesday, June 28.
Elgort’s paternal grandfather was a Russian Jew, and his paternal grandmother might have been Jewish, too. The actor’s non-Jewish mother’s family deserves mention: His Norwegian grandmother was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for smuggling Jewish children into Sweden.