Less than a year old, Pivot is a fascinating cable channel. It keeps trying fresh, creative things, including a free-form rap comedy special that will air Saturday. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
This could be an actor’s nightmare -- standing onstage with no
words, no plans, no expectations.
What’s that like? “It feels like freedom,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“Especially when you’ve done a long-running show, eight times a week, saying
the same lines.” He’s known those opposite worlds, with:
“Freestyle Love Supreme,” an improvised rap show
that has a cable special Saturday on Pivot.
“In the Heights,” a Tony-winning musical that
had a three-year Broadway run.
Miranda created “Heights” and starred for the first year;
some people stayed for all 1,184 performances.
Unlike that show, “Freestyle” changes completely each night.
“Anything that comes into my head, I’m allowed to say,” Miranda said. “There’s
no time to censor yourself.”
Well, the special can be edited. It will be trimmed from a
show Miranda and friends did at Joe’s Pub in New York, two days earlier. “We
have certain elements we can cherry-pick,” said director Thomas Kail.
That includes the centerpiece: A random person comes
onstage, to be questioned by Anthony Veneziale about his or her life. Veneziale
seeks offbeat elements to pounce on. (“I’m a little like a comedy shark,” he
said. “I find blood in the water.”) Then Miranda and others do a rap piece
about the person’s day.
The idea started at Wesleyan University in Connecticut,
where Veneziale was doing improvisational comedy. “We were just starting to joke
around and have fun,” he said.
More students were added, including Miranda with his raps.
He was also creating “Heights,” which captures three days in a
Dominican-American neighborhood. “I’d been writing it since I was 19.”
Miranda kept rewriting it after college. He was 28 when “Heights”
opened on Broadway, with Kail directing; it won Tony awards for best musical
and for its score, choreography and orchestration. When Manuel accepted the
score trophy, his comments -- done in rap, half of it improvised on the spot --
remain one of the highlights of acceptance-speech history.
In the five years since then, these men have been busy. Kail
directed “Lombardi” and “Magic/Bird” for Broadway. Veneziale produced five
off-Broadway shows and started a West Coast variation on “Freestyle.” Miranda
acted, including two key “House” episodes and a regular role in “Do No Harm”; he
wrote two songs for a “Working” revival and the Spanish words for a “West Side
Still, they get back together for “Freestyle,” which could
become a series. Miranda keeps trying unplanned, uncensored things. “He’s like
a rhyming dictionary,” Veneziale said.
That can be handy, when you’re working a pub or accepting an
“Freestyle Love Supreme,” 10 p.m. ET Saturday,
Pivot; repeating at 11:45 p.m. and 1 a.m.
More reruns: Sunday night at midnight, Tuesday
at 11:30 p.m., Wednesday at 11 p.m., more.
The Saturday shows are surrounded by reruns of
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “HitRECord.” Pivot has a youthful focus to its talk show,
documentaries, movies, imports and reruns – “Buffy,” “Veronica Mars,” “Farscape”
and “Friday Night Lights.”