Michael Ian Black, Jenny Mollen Biggs
TV's biggest night will get a whole lot funnier on Sunday— and not just because of whatever legendary things host Neil Patrick Harris has planned for the Primetime Emmy Awards.
TVGuide.com has once again partnered with WitStream to create "Watch with WitStream," a real-time ticker of the best jokes from a group of premier comedians, comedy writers and all-around funny people during the Emmys. In other words: WitStream will find the funniest curated commentary so you don't have to search the web to find it.
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WitStream was founded in 2009 by media executive Lisa Cohen, who reached out to bunch of comedians to join her venture for a streamlined one-stop shop for jokes. One of the first she approached was Michael Ian Black. "I said, 'Sure, I'd love to do it,'" Black tells TVGuide.com. "I like that it's pure comedy. If you want a quick ha-ha moment in your day, it's just good curated comedy.
"Unlike Twitter, where you are subjected to everything — thoughts on the weather, thoughts on your lunch, thoughts on business, inspirational quotes you don't like — this is a place just for comedy," he continues. "And we've assembled probably the greatest collection of social media personalities in terms of comedy that exists. They're active, they're engaged and they're hilarious."
Actress Jenny Mollen Biggs, who will be one of Sunday's writers, says "you know what you're going to get." "That's what I love about WitStream," she says. "It's like, when you want to watch porn, you go to a porn site. If you want jokes, you go to WitStream."
While WitStream culls hilarious commentary on the news of the day, it's arguably best suited for live, flashy events like awards shows, which bring out the snark in viewers like no other. Ten years ago, you would have to wait for late-night monologues to get funny commentary. Now, WitStream delivers it in real time. "It's perfect for awards shows," former Saturday Night Live writer Doug Abeles says. "For so many of us, this is how we watch not just awards shows but television now — we want that added level of commentary and see what funny people are saying about it. Aside from watching it in a room full of comedians, this is the next best thing."
But what is it about awards shows that make for such great fodder? "I guess it's that combination of self-importance of these shows — the huge egos," Abeles says. "Yet at the same time, everyone has to pretend that they don't care about things. ... It's that crazy confluence of ego and false humility. It ends up being a hilarious target. You throw in some big production numbers and the devices that are familiar to us now — the In Memoriam segment — they're easy to rag on."
Adds Black: "Any pompous event is going to be great for comedy and nothing is more self-serving and self-congratulatory than awards shows. As many balloons as they can float up there that we can pop, the better off we are as comedians. And awards shows are certainly balloons filled with hot air."
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Black, who co-stars on Fox's midseason comedy Us & Them, admits that he does not like anything about awards shows themselves, except for the social media aspect. "Now that social media and WitStream are around, I do like those kind of events because they are perfect for cracking jokes," he says. "That is fun, but to sit there and watch it sincerely and be invested in it and engaged, I can't see myself doing that."
Abeles and Mollen Biggs, however, suspect that, deep down, everyone secretly loves them. Because who doesn't want to dress up, schmooze with the rich and famous and win a gold statue? "You vicariously live through these moments," Mollen Biggs, whom Black recruited for WitStream, says. "On one hand, we're all watching from home and we're not nominated. It's like, 'F--- you guys!' It's easy to make fun of situations like that, but I think people want to be part of it and awards shows can be fun."
Operative word being "can." Mollen Biggs, who's married to Jason Biggs, cites James Franco and Anne Hathaway's infamous Oscars co-hosting stint as the worst awards ceremony she's seen ("[Hathaway is] just unbearable in general. She tries so hard and her false modesty just kills me, and I felt like James Franco thought he was watching the Oscars from home, but really he was on stage"), while Abeles names the unmitigated disaster that was the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards five years ago, when the reality host nominees awkwardly emceed.
"I attended and ... it really proved why you need good writers to be prepared and put a lot of work into it," he says. "I have to believe that they were actually that cocky that they felt like they were believing their own press or something and they felt like they could pull this off and they could ad-lib an opening. I remember sitting in the audience and just cringing and feeling a little embarrassed that I work in television. ... [WitStream] would've had a lot of fun with that."
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Though terrible productions obviously make awards shows ripe for jokes, Abeles says he never wants them to be bad. "There's a huge weight that we attach to all this that makes it funny," he says. "Train wrecks can be funny, but I don't think that's why I watch them. I'm not hoping for a train wreck. The spontaneous moments are so much fun. You never know what someone will say in their acceptance speech."
So what are they hoping to see on Sunday's show? Another killer job by Harris, for one. "I just think he's so f---ing talented," Mollen Biggs says. "Being in New York right now, I'm seeing more of that strain of actor than I see in L.A. You see those people and you're like, 'What the f---?' This guy can do everything. I'm sure he'll be great. He can do it all. It's annoying!"
Black, on the other hand, has "zero" expectations, but you can expect him to clog up your WitStream feed. "When you're actively up there writing jokes and you know there are 100 other comedians writing jokes about the same thing, you definitely feel pressure to be funny. What I do is I make up for it with quantity," he quips. "I figure if I write a lot of stuff, that would make up for something being terrible. So get ready for that. ... I don't pre-plan though. That would be cheating."
The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards airs Sunday at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on CBS. Check back here then to see the funniest comedians do their thing on WitStream.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)