Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Lisa Kudrow Binge

"I don't need to see that."
This week I accidentally binged on Lisa Kudrow.

I've usually enjoyed her comic movie roles (especially in the Don Roos films The Opposite of Sex and Happy Endings) though I was a little unnerved by what seemed to be an encroaching bitterness in her comic persona the last time couple of times we visited (Kabluey and Easy A). I was starting to miss "Phoebe"'s sunniness on early seasons of Friends.

But I had somehow never seen The Comeback (2005) which I watched this week (two episodes left... maybe I should save them). Its very brilliance probably doomed it as it's an exceedingly uncomfortable showbiz comedy. Its comic impulses have satiric bite... one might call it comedy with real fangs. I was squirming even while laughing loudly. Immediately after watching those I tried a few episodes of Web Therapy, which I am also super late to -- hey, I'm too busy with the movies-- and now I'm fully back on Team Kudrow which I had somehow slipped away from. I got so nostalgic for past Kudrow glory that I even ended up looking up what Jennifer Aniston & Courtney Cox were up to, which I assure you I have never purposefully done before, though I do watch and enjoy Cougar Town on occasion.

Kurdow laughing at Streep's guest
role antics on Web Therapy
It's fascinating that Kudrow's big fame began with such a naive neo-Bohemian persona as Phoebe Buffay and now she so eagerly conquers these self-lacerating or unlikeable characters... It's almost like she's been morphing over the year's from Phoebe to Phoebe's misanthropic twin Ursula. Remember her?

My point is this: Lisa Kudrow is talented and underappreciated, even if she's not exactly underrewarded - hello gazillion$ in Friends residuals. She's probably only less of a mainstream presence now because her preferred style of comedy is of the take-no-prisoners variety.

Here's the first of the three most recent episodes of Web Therapy (episode #46) which starred Meryl Streep (as "therapist" Camilla Bowner) who is doing reparative therapy on Fiona Wallice's (Lisa Kudrow's) gay husband. Wickedly subtle humor courses under the less subtle verbal gags ... it's all in their nuanced line deliveries, reactive beats and funny expressions.

Are you now or have you ever been on Team Kudrow?

Related Reading:
Signatures: Lisa Kudrow
Monologue: "Michelle's Miracle Glue"


Ryan T. said...

Thanks for reminding me about the latest season of Web Therapy which I've put off watching even though I blogged about the upcoming first episode w/ Meryl Streep a few weeks ago. Strange.

I've only seen a handful of episodes of The Comeback, but I loved what I saw. I should take the time to see the whole thing. Love Lisa Kudrow. My favorite Friends actor bar none.

Michaek said...

I love Lisa Kudrow, and she's by far one of the most *painfully* funny people working today. And I do mean painfully - she makes you hurt so hard you have to laugh.

Michael said...

My name should have been spelled "Michael" -- embarrassing!

Fernando Moss said...

I've ALWAYS been on Team Kudrow...

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Oh I LOVE that you did an article about her.

I've said it many, many times before: Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow should have the kind of fame Jennifer Aniston and yes, Courteney Cox, have.

It's so unfair.

CHANDLER and PHOEBE were such uniquely interesting characters on Friends because of the actors who played them.

Such versatility, such comedic wit, such good judgement calls in certain situations. And amazing line reading.

Kudrow, in particular, is an outstanding comedienne when it comes to line-reading. Always spot-on.

And I have to admit I loved THE COMEBACK, too and now I love WEB THERAPY.

It's so fantastic to see Lisa Kudrow in a bitchy mood, so uptight and uncomfortable with herself. It's so unlike her Phoebe.

And those three episodes with Meryl Streep are pure genius. Their spark was extraordinary.

And so full of memorable quotes. The one I particularly adore is this exchange of dialogue:

[Fiona/Kudrow]: "The Lord called you... on the phone... to act as a sexual surrogate?"

[Camilla/Streep]: ‎"God touches me down there. I feel a little tingly... and he taps me there for His work."

[Fiona/Kudrow]: ‎"How interesting that he touches you there when a shoulder is so available".


Caden said...

Team Kudrow. Btw, I think Cougar Town is great and so underappreciated.

AnthonyDC said...

Robbed of a nomination for "The Opposite of Sex." Not sure who I'd kick out, though... Brenda Blethyn? Supporting Actress was noticeably British and stuffy that year.

Anonymous said...

@Nathaniel -- You need to get on the Cougar Town train yesterday. Seriously! It's my favorite comedy after 30 Rock.

Ramification said...

The Comeback is one of the best things ever, her performance is so nuanced, all the little ticks and line deliveries. Team Kudrow all the way!

cal roth said...

People still talk about Friends. I'll never get it. Still, Kudrow was the most interesting actor of the show. I like her the same way I liked Joan Cusack in the 90's, a perfect comic presence in a romcom megastar vehicle.

I could even see an Oscar nomination for Kudrow, let's say, if she kills in a role like Rachel MacAdams' older friend in a hit romcom.

She is fine.


Jorge -- if i had to pick a favorite exchange that would be right up there.

and it's improv'ed. holy hell. Streep & Kudrow are both so great at improv. not all the episodes are that funny but i'm beginnign to see the improv tics after watching several.

zach said...

'the comeback' is GENIUS. she is so subtle and heartbreaking. the show is loaded with laughs, but the quiet moments, where she really reflects on her career and her costars is where kudrow makes magic. its a shame the show didn't make it past one season, but i force everyone i know to watch it, so its legacy lives on. aunt sassy will never die! youtube her performance of 'i will survive'. you're welcome.

Ryan T. said...

@Jorge - Great points regarding Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow. I said Kudrow was "my favorite Friends actor bar none" but Matthew Perry is actually a very close second.

@Caden - Cougar Town and Cox are also totally underrated! I agree!

To be honest, I never got why Aniston became the most famous Friends actor. Relationship w/ Brad? Slightly better traction in films? More conventionally "pretty"? Whatever. I much preferred the two other actresses/characters.


ryan t -- the weird thing is that Jennifer Aniston's Rachel was totally my favorite of the Friends but afterwards I only really cared about Kudrow.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

@Ryan T, @Nathaniel:

I like Rachel Green but I really don't think Aniston is on the same level as Perry or Kudrow.

Which explains her total lack of charisma outside of the small box.

My favorite FRIEND is Chandler. But that is also because he's VERY, VERY similar to me. VERY. It's uncanny. We use the same expressions. I also do that thing that he does when he stops in the middle of a sentence, like "I SO do not DO that."

About Web Therapy: You're right Nathaniel, they improvise a lot. And I read somewhere an interview with Kudrow about working with Meryl and she said that she was encouraged by her to improvise the conversation as much as she'd like.

Camilla Bowner is such a piece of work.

And yes you're right, there are some episodes which weren't that funnier. For example I didn't find the episodes with Courteney Cox to be all that entertaining.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

And I also agree with you all, COUGAR TOWN deserved more appreciation.

I honestly think Busy Philips is great in her role.

And I can't stand the Emmys for snubbing Cox AGAIN. Zero nominations in 11 years of interesting work? Oy.

Cluster Funk said...

Kudrow was ah-mazing in The Comeback, although, honestly, its concept seemed to have a limited shelf-life (like Samantha Who) despite getting axed unceremoniously. I gotta give Michael Patrick King credit for fearlessness, too, since his SATC work is so milquetoast in comparison.

Broooooooke said...

Always have and always will love Lisa Kudrow. Watching re-runs od friends, she still never fails to make me laugh.

The Comeback was brilliant. I wish it had gotten bigger, it kinda reminded me of british humour in a way. I remeber spaying my drink out of my nose when she started talking about Mary J. 'Bilge'

Also love Cougar Town, but Aniston hasn't done anything I've liked since The Good Girl.

Jay S said...

Lisa Kudrow is one of my all-time favorite actresses. While it's easy to miss her sunny nineties Phoebe, her current sardonicism is soo delicious, I can't help but eat up every bite.

Web Therapy is the best thing she's ever done. As great as it is that she has total freedom because of the internet, I wish it was on TV so she could start racking up much deserved awards.

She needs another run at Oscar, like The Opposite of Sex hinted at and Happy Endings should have hinted at. She's a true talent.

I also found her to be the next best thing in Easy A after Emma Stone. Bitter work, indeed, but it's so layered despite maybe a total five minutes of screen time.

Jay S said...

I would also like to say, and even though Streep was great, Kudrow acts circles around her in that Web Therapy arc. But then again, that's KUDROW'S SHOW, her bread and butter. Brilliant, brilliant work.

Ryan said...

after reading that post i guess i'm gonna have to vod THE COMEBACK.

i too miss the old Kudrow. I mean, she was *flawless* in THE OPPOSITE OF SEX (cheers to Nick Davis and the NYFCC for honoring her as Best Supporting Actress that year)

Luke said...

I am a forever and for always Kudrow fanatic. I will eat anything she and Don Roos do together up. (She definitely would've made my shortlist for Best Actress in 2005.) And Web Therapy is a nice little burst of what television is sorely missing of her comedic timing. (And thanks for reminding me I haven't watched that latest Meryl Streep outing yet!)

James T said...

I love all the Friends and it was really great watching Meryl with Lisa!

dinasztie said...

I'm in Team Kudrow. She's my favorite Friends character along with Rachel.

MissBella1622 said...

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Glenn Dunks said...

I have The Comeback on DVD (bought it just the other week for super cheap), but have yet to watch it as I had all 5 seasons of Daria to get through and then at Christmas I got Cougar Town season one, which is by far the funniest show on television. Utterly hysterical.

Paul D said...

Kudrow in an interview about working with Streep, said "it was heaven in every way, shape and form...{Streep} came in with the character. She is so nimble, so smart, really funny and hilariously improvising." As the outtakes indicate it must have been a lot of fun making those episodes.

Ryan T. said...

Just a heads up to you all, Streep and Kudrow are both Vassar College alums and served together on its board of trustees for a few years. It's crazy to think they had this personal connection and yet Web Therapy was the first time they collaborated professionally.

George P. said...

I've always liked Kudrow, and always thought that out of all the Friends cast, she had the best shot at getting an Oscar nomination. She's amazing in both comedy (Romy & Michele's High School Reunion) and drama (The Opposite of Sex and Wonderland), and I always wondered when she'd land her awards-worthy leading role. Lately, her film roles have been subjected to supporting/witty characters (P.S. I Love You, Bandslam), and while those were small, she pretty much nailed them.

I haven't checked out The Comeback or Web Therapy but I will soon!