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'Inside Comedy' review: Picking brains with funny bone

David Steinberg and Louis CK in "Inside Comedy."

David Steinberg and Louis CK in "Inside Comedy." (Season 2, Episode 1) Credit: Showtime

SERIES "Inside Comedy"

WHEN | WHERE Season 2 starts Monday night at 11 on Showtime

REASON TO WATCH If it's possible to deconstruct how comedy works -- while you're still busy laughing -- host David Steinberg nails it.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Two comic brains sit down with Steinberg, the standup-director whose career spans 40-some years of funny. It's simple, really -- Steinberg and his guest, on location, in chairs, talking, joking.

So it's smart, really -- Steinberg guides them separately through their careers and comic attitudes, then intercuts chat strands to weave humor revelation.

Monday's second-season premiere pairs deadpan '60s arrival Bob Newhart, the overnight-sensation standup turned long-running TV star, and current king Louis CK, a long-running standup turned tube sensation in FX's "Louie."

Next week, it's current comedy writers -- Syosset native Judd Apatow, whose TV work ("Freaks and Geeks") led to movies, and Tina Fey, whose Second City improv led her to TV's "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock."

All get great clips, too, of both their work and their influences. (Future weeks range from Steve Martin-Lily Tomlin to Will Ferrell-Betty White.)

MY SAY You should see my screening notes. I only typed what was funny and/or enlightening, so it's pretty much a transcript. Plus the odd observation: Steinberg is serenity personified, while Louis CK is a fidgety mess. Newhart, not so much. Yet he's the one who allows "fear is a friend" when you hit the stage.

Louie, too, is counterintuitive, succeeding in failure. "If you're afraid to be bad, you won't develop," he says. "I realized, I have to invite the awful."

Through judicious cutting, Steinberg strikes a deft balance between drilled-down-to insight and offhand confession. (Apatow on casting the same actors in so many movies: "It's a way to pretend that the shows weren't canceled. In my head, these are all just elaborate 'Freaks & Geeks' episodes.")

BOTTOM LINE So much fun, a half-hour seems too short. Which means it's precisely the right length.


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