This rousing 2004 track by the Aussie alt-rock band TISM delivers a message of "Drop your pretentious airs and start keeping it real" ("Listen, motherfucker, let me make this clear/I've had your fucking poetry up to here... If I wanted Chekhov, I'd have worn my polo neck"), so it's the perfect theme music for a frank and uncensored Showtime stand-up comic panel show that's the anti-Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen.
In other words, the stand-ups are required to have an actual conversation with each other, instead of pretending they're having a conversation when what they're really doing is just reciting their routines. Moderator Paul Provenza's anti-Comics Unleashed format has resulted in lively and thought-provoking discussions like the one Provenza, Bill Burr, Lizz Winstead, Russell Peters, Colin Quinn, Caroline Rhea and Tony Clifton (!) had about Tracy Morgan's apologies for his homophobic jokes during a recent episode that took place at Montreal's Just for Laughs festival. (Also in that same episode, Peters, an Indian Canadian comic, gives the funniest description of what porn flicks are like in a country where its movie stars can't even kiss onscreen. I can't do Peters' Indian porn joke any justice if I attempt to repeat it, so I won't attempt to.)
During an interview to promote The Green Room, Provenza said one of the purposes of his show is to get stand-ups who are always "on" to leave behind their one-liner comfort zones or stage personas and just be themselves. The frequent archness of the present-day stand-up world is a trend he dislikes:
Many comedians these days "take on characters. It's a lot of winking and nodding. Some comedians almost even apologize for the fact that they're working in the form of comedy, and they make fun of the form as they're doing it. That's the overriding trend. So what you get is people who are not actually talking from the heart. They're always putting some layer of detachment from their real, you know, emotional and intellectual passions."In other words, he wants them to pull no punches, whether it's onstage or on The Green Room. Somebody start a fight or something.
2. "Yalili Ya Aini" by Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart (The Smartest Man in the World)
I first heard this hypnotic 1994 track by former Public Image Ltd bassist Jah Wobble, his band Invaders of the Heart and singer Natacha Atlas (Allmusic calls it "one of the best bits of sexy, North African lurch that Wobble and [guitarist Justin] Adams have ever set to tape") while tuning in to SomaFM's Secret Agent, which has it on constant rotation. So when it wound up as the theme music for comedian Greg Proops' stream-of-consciousness podcast The Smartest Man in the World, I thought, "Sweet! It's that Arabian-sounding chillout joint from Secret Agent with the title that always escapes me."
"Yalili Ya Aini" perfectly establishes the nocturnal and international feel of The Smartest Man, which is recorded in front of a live audience, either at The Smartest Man's homebase, West Hollywood's Bar Lubitsch, or whatever venue Proops is performing at that night, whether it's in his old home turf of San Francisco or Melbourne. Unlike most comedy podcasts, The Smartest Man doesn't follow an interview format.
"I knew I didn't want to do that [interview format] because other people were doing it and doing better. Marc [Maron] and Jimmy [Pardo] and everybody just murdering it," said Proops to Laughspin.
What listeners are getting in each Proopcast is essentially an extra 60-to-70-minute stand-up set by Proops. But instead of joke-after-joke-after-joke, Proops delivers not-always-jokey but always interesting ruminations on current events, music, film history, baseball history (he's particularly fond of the San Francisco Giants and the achievements of the Negro Leagues, so he's joked that no Proopcast is complete without him mentioning Satchel Paige) and politics (he's progressive, so President Obama, who has been to progressives what the Green Lantern movie is to nerds, irks him as much as the Tea Party does).
The Smartest Man is where I got my first exposure to British punk poet John Cooper Clarke's "Evidently Chickentown," which Proops once recited to thunderous applause. I've become a new fan of "Evidently Chickentown"--and I don't even like spoken word (here's how much I understand the appeal of spoken word: whenever there's a slam poet on TV, I'm like, "Okay, when's the DJ gonna show up and drop the beat?").
Basically, The Smartest Man is like Craig Ferguson's freewheeling monologue but much more political and not as Scottish. And a little trancey, thanks to "Yalili Ya Aini."