Expect to see plenty of sparks fly on ‘The Green Room With Paul Provenza’ when the Showtime show hits the tube June 10. Among the verbal dustups filmed for the series are a heated political argument between Tommy Smothers and Penn Jillette, and a no-holds-barred conversational melee involving race with Rain Pryor, Bobby Slayton (Richard Pryor’s one-time writing partner), Paul Mooney and Australian comic Jim Jeffries.
‘Nobody is selling a DVD. It really, truly is like comedy jazz’with these greats riffing off each other,’ Provenza wants us to know. The idea for the show grew out of onstage gatherings of comics held by Provenza at the Edinburgh and Montreal comedy festivals. Putting such groups together for the cameras seemed like a natural — but not easy — idea.
‘I was very fortunate. I called a lot of people I knew personally and they came in. If you try to explain a show like this, it’s hard to believe it’s as raw as it is,’ says the long-time stand-up. Knowing his peers as well as he does, he was able to orchestrate likely combinations for interesting exchanges.
‘I knew Tommy Smothers and Penn Jillette would get into a political ideological back-and-forth,’ he says. ‘Some of these people know each other. Some were meeting for first time. I knew that Roseanne Barr was a big fan of Patrice O’Neal’s. Roseanne and Sandra Bernhard are old friends. Their segment turned into, like, a therapy session. I knew that Bob Saget would try to do jokes as much as possible and Patrice wouldn’t let him,’ Provenza goes on.
There are also encounters between old school and new school improvisational wizards Jonathan Winters and Rick Overton. Plus Robert Klein, Eddie Izzard, Drew Care, Dana Gould and more.
‘The thing is, with these people, by the nature of who they are,’ Provenza says, ‘no matter what they’re talking about, it gets funny.’