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'Ugly' is Comedy Central’s new Funny

Beyond South Park and Dr. Katz, not much has stuck to Comedy Central’s cartoon wall. Drawn Together came close with three seasons. Lil’ Bush vanished with Bush II’s presidency, TV Funhouse came and went awfully fast back in Y2K – and anybody even remember Shorties Watching Shorties or Kid Notorious? Well, next month Comedy Central tries one more time with Ugly Americans, a higher-than high concept show that just might stick around for a bit.

Ugly is Comedy Central’s new Funny

“Comedy is not pretty.”

- Steve Martin, 1979

Beyond South Park and Dr. Katz, not much has stuck to Comedy Central’s cartoon wall. Drawn Together came close with three seasons – but then drew apart when creators Dave Jeser and Matt Silverstein split for the greener pastures of 20th C-Fox TV. Lil’ Bush vanished with Bush II’s presidency, TV Funhouse (a spin-off from the SNL feature) came and went awfully fast back in Y2K – and anybody even remember Shorties Watching Shorties or Kid Notorious?

Well, here they go again: next month Comedy Central tries one more time with Ugly Americans, a higher-than high concept show that just might stick around for a bit. The high concept: various monsters, aliens and mutants exist out in the open and a government agency – the “Department of Integration” – tries to help them fit into human society. Of course the agency’s staff is almost as weird as its clients: an alcoholic wizard, a demon with a chip on his shoulder, a monster-hating head of security – and nice human guy Mark trying to cope with it all, including a zombie roommate and a demonic girlfriend who also happens to be his boss.

Where better to get a little NYC buzz going for a NYC-set show than a NYC comedy club, especially when a passel of its voice actors are regulars in the NY stand-up scene? Thus on Feb 22nd Comedy Central took over the Upright Citizen’s Brigade basement club for a preview evening of show clips and comedy from said voices.

Two of the voices, Randy Pearlstein (the soused wizard) and Matt Oberg (Mark) gave good behind-the-scenes, then went into a nifty, clip-studded salute to famous voice actors of the past: Mel Blanc (centered on an icky down-his-throat YouTube video of his vocal chords at work – see for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxaKUyiqZEw),

frog-faced Arnold Stang (although they didn’t mention his voicing Top Cat or Herman, the sadistic mouse who inspired The Simpsons’ Itchy), Don Messick, man of 1,001 voices including a dog with a speech impediment (“he had so much money he could afford to go crazy”), James Avery (bragging in a YouTube clip that voicing Turtles villain Shredder bestowed him with immortality) and ‘Scatman’ Crothers (that’s why there’s that crazy vocal riff in the middle of Hong Kong Phooey’s theme song – he was indulging in a bit of old-school jazz scat singing.)

After a bit of ragging on Balto-voicing Kevin Bacon, the pair introduced Larry Murphy, supposedly performing his first ever stand-up gig. Murphy’s Andy Kaufmanish meta-shtick: pretending to be a terminally self-conscious wannabe mumbling insult jokes out of a composition notebook. (Turns out he’s the gruff voice behind monster-hating security head Frank Grimes, the name either a tip of the hat to that one-shot Simpsons character or a mere co-inkydink.)

Natasha Leggero, voice of Mark’s demonic gf Callie Maggotbone, appeared on video in mid-massage, revealing she really is a demon, really, by killing her masseuse. (Off camera, but still…) Show creator Devin Clark and exec producer Dan Powell were next, with Devin sharing his subway doodles and sketches that eventually mutated into Ugly American’s bizarro characters. The pair revealed behind the scenes show trivia that you’ll have to wait for the DVD commentary track to hear, then screened clips (including a bloodily supernatural Gangs of New York spoof and a Criss “Mindfreak” Angel parody voiced by a celebrity whose name must not be mentioned – at least not until the show premieres).

Clark and Powell mentioned the show will be animated by Wonder Showzen and Superjail veteran Aaron Augenblick, which elicited applause from the audience. (Just me actually, but I’m used to funny looks by now.) You’ve been warned; you now have until March 17th to prepare for Ugly Americans’ housebroken werewolves, crapping from the sky birdmen and a two-headed freak in search of a ‘double-assed toilet.’ (Do I detect a theme here?)  It’s premiering in the sweet spot right after South Park, and if only from being too lazy to look for the remote, I’ll be checking it out.

The show's website can be found at http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/ugly_americans/index.jhtml.

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