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Shooting The Messenger

Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead sends up morning shows in weekly live production.

Winstead in character as "Hope Jean Paul."

As she did creating and appearing in the early years of The Daily Show, Lizz Winstead is creating a show that sends up facets of television news with an undercurrent of personality-based comedy underneath, in her live theatrical morning show parody, “Wake Up World With Hope and Davis,” part of her regular Monday night show called “Shoot The Messenger” now at The Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street.

Playing “Hope Jean Paul,” a brassy co-host, Winstead exaggerates all the worst aspects of light morning newscast show patter. Along with her role, castmates offer both a satire of CNN Headline News (as delivered by Darbi Worley as Emily Rackcheck) and backstage machinations over sponsorship of the show (as played out by Barry Lank as the network’s executive).

In fact, some of the best moments of “Wake Up World” came through the offstage activity -- with an executive complaining to Lank that “The View” was doing far better at promoting incontinence products because it had dancers in costume as those products -- not to mention that incontinence could be a good thing for television because it would keep viewers on their couches, not venturing out. Also, Worley’s character got in a lot of the quickest clever quips.

“Wake Up World” serves as the longer first half of “Shoot The Messenger,” and it’s the product of a large group of writers and performers who play guests, correspondents and even staff of the fictional morning show, so it may tend to sprawl a bit and could use some tightening. Still, “Wake Up World” could easily be translated to cable television, ideally on Comedy Central, if it isn’t already on its way to a network. Winstead is already developing some material for the BBC, Fuse and Lifetime.

The second half of “Shoot The Messenger” allows Winstead to step out of character and interview a real guest simply as herself, and the show gets well-known personalities, featuring Ed Begley Jr. in its February 18 edition. For those who are really into comedy, Winstead could perhaps have asked Begley more about his role as a follicle-challenged rival to the family on “Arrested Development,” but had to focus on his current work, a book about his environmentally friendly lifestyle. For a downtown New York audience, this is very much like preaching to the converted, but that’s more a function of the guest than the host.

Still, “Shoot The Messenger” and its “Wake Up World” spinoff do provide a great deal of entertainment, running well over two hours and making that feel like much less than that most of the time.

  

   

     

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