Kristen Schaal’s Great Anti-Comedy Prank

On Monday night – at midnight for those on the East and West Coasts of America – Comedy Central aired Kristen Schaal‘s first ever stand up special, Live at the Fillmore. Meanwhile, Kristen was using Twitter to tell her followers not to watch.

I’m on @jayleno at the same time as my terrible Comedy Central special tonight. So just watch me on the Tonight Show.

And it’s true – she was.

Further to this, Vulture published an interview with Schaal earlier in the day, in which she said:

[The special] definitely didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. Because it went badly. I just can’t even believe they’re going to air it… . It’s like every morning I wake up and I think, How can I live my own life? How do I make a name for myself? And that’s what I think this special I tried to do, but without you, it just didn’t turn out so great.

You probably know Schaal from Flight of the Conchords or 30 Rock, but she was a voice in Toy Story 3, pops up in The Muppets, has had some successful web series. It’s probably fair to say she’s not a huge name, however. Still, had every one of her 370-thousand plus Twitter followers actually tuned into the special, it would have been a pretty solid result for Comedy Central.

And if they all took her advice and didn’t watch? Then I expect they’d feel the pinch.

So, what happened? How did it go so “wrong”?

Well, here’s the one clip that somebody has uploaded to YouTube. This comes after thirty minutes of pretty smooth sailing.

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Following this, and I wish I had the clip to show you, things took another twist… and if there had actually been any doubt at all, now Schaal’s real modus operandi became clear.

See, this special was airing, in the Central time zone at least, on April 1st.

And the Vulture interview was conducted by Schaal’s friend and collaborator, Kurt Braunholer – who actually appears during the special.

But the final thing that really should have convinced everybody watching that this whole thing was a prank, or a joke, or whatever you’d want to call it, is what happened after Schaal came back on stage.

A young girl in the audience was shown heckling Schaal, but the stand up had a ready comeback: I’d like to see you do better.

So the girl took the stage and delivered three minutes of tight, fast, straight-down-the-middle laughs. It was the ten year old actress Chloe Noelle, who also appears in True Blood. Any pretence of naturalism went right out the window.

I’m amazed that anybody was left confused after this, but my Twitter feed suggested plenty of people were. I guess it’s because the middle stretch played the discomfort long and hard and left the audience pretty much hanging for a while. Personally, though, it was this bit I found the most amusing.

Schaal feigning disappointment when a joke flops because it was her grandmother’s? That’s brilliant. An inability to pronounce airplane? Really? I was wide-eyed at all of this stuff. Maybe the obviously fake cut-aways to supposedly appalled audience members let the air out, just a little bit, but there’s a good five minutes of this special that is amongst the wriggliest, most curious comedy I’ve seen in a very long time.

And the rest really wasn’t too bad either.

For those who have seen Schaal’s stand up before, there weren’t too many surprises here. Some of the material – the Kristen Schaal is a Horse bit, for example – is pretty well known amongst comedy buffs. But she knew that Comedy Central was going to play to a new audience, people who really only know her as a face from Muppets, Conchords, 30 Rock or wherever else she’s been called on to do other people’s material. This was her best shot at pulling something like this off, and I think she did a pretty good job.

If you missed it, Kristen Schaal Live at the Fillmore is available on DVD. Something to lend to friends without warning them, I think.