Vooza's intelligent pokes

Article at solidsmack with some good words about our Vooza show:

Silicon Valley is definitely worth a watch…If HBO isn’t your thing however and you still want to have some laughs at the expense of start up culture, the collection of shorts over at Vooza intelligently pokes fun at everything from crowdfunding concepts to product pitches and business card exchanges to product launch videos.


See the videos at Vooza.com.

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I don't like musical comedy

A reader writes: "I think you should do a blog post on musical comedy. Even if it's about how you think it sucks. I want to hear your opinion. Because I respect it."

I did think Flight of the Concords were pretty great. But mostly, I don't like musical comedy. The dickish way to say why: I think it's mostly done by people who are not good enough at comedy to succeed as comedians and not good enough at music to succeed as musicians. But they mix the two and deliver an inferior version of both things as a sort of magic trick that audiences like in the same way audiences like prop comedy and guys dressed in drag.

Look, I love music and I love comedy. I just don't get off on them being mixed. Probably because I'm very binary and take a purist approach to things. (Overall, this is an unnecessary and unhelpful way to live life but c'est la vie.)

Also, I think music hits people on some sort of reptilian wavelength and then makes anything that goes along with it easier to swallow. Think about how stupid most song lyrics are. Or the painful in-between song stage banter of most musicians. People let it go because, hey, music!

But, y'know, do your thing. It takes a village and all that. And anything can be done artfully and worth watching.

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Sam Mendes: 25 Ways to Be a Better Director

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Closet businessman

"I’m really a closet businessman. I think the happiest artists generally are." From Who Are The Happiest Artists?

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How Stephen Colbert defined his character slowly

I’m Happy for Colbert, But Let’s Be Clear: We’re Losing One of TV’s Greatest Characters:

The formation of a sitcom character is like a sculptor laboriously chipping away at marble; what Colbert did was more akin to a rock slowly being smoothed by the motions of the tide. 150 nights a year, Colbert defined the character slowly but surely, segment by segment.


What Colbert did on his show is/was amazing. To carry the entire show every night (Stewart has others that help out on-camera, Colbert does it all on his own) and to do it in character is something else. I understand why he wants to shift into being himself. But I'm gonna miss how vicious and mean "Stephen Colbert" could be. Like here...



"Reality has a well-known liberal bias." I got a feeling the real Stephen Colbert will be nice and uplifting and the kind of guy we can root for. But we've got plenty of those already. The truthiness of "Stephen Colbert" was a special thing in the ocean of Upworthiness and it's gonna be missed. See this related tweet.

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Sontag and Hedberg on photography and time

Susan Sontag in "On Photography":

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.


Or, as Mitch Hedberg put it:

One time, this guy handed me a picture of him, he said,"Here's a picture of me when I was younger." Every picture is of you when you were younger. "Here's a picture of me when I'm older." "You son-of-a-bitch! How'd you pull that off? Lemme see that camera...what's it look like?"


Btw, Buzzfeed posted A Complete Ranking Of (Almost) Every Single Mitch Hedberg Joke.

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Vooza tackles Kickstarter and projectors

Some recent Vooza fun...

The Honest Kickstarter Campaign
This video shows what’d happen if people told the truth about their Kickstarter campaigns.



Hooking Up The Projector
No one ever seems to know how to hook up the projector. Maybe it’s a missing dongle. Or maybe it’s haunted by evil spirits.



More at Vooza.com.

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Spinal Tap's "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare"

This 1979 short, spoofing The Midnight Special, was the seed that turned into This Is Spinal Tap. Love the beer bottle!

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Hashtag activist vs. selfie revolutionary

Hashtag activist, eh? Starting a hashtag is to activism what Like-ing a baby photo is to raising a child. All you did was type a couple of words and hit Send. If you want to be a real activist, do something difficult. Volunteer for a cause. Go to a city council meeting and speak up. Take some action that involves more than 3 seconds of effort. Otherwise, you’re not really an activist. You’re just a heckler.

Plus, I'm worried about what's coming next if "hashtag activist" becomes a real thing...

Selfie revolutionary - “if you photobomb, I drop real bombs”
Groupon militant - “30% off lipomassage or we storm the gates”
Retweet jihadist - “I detonate an IED of Upworthy and Buzzfeed all over your Twitter”
Yelp extremist - “We showed up with 20 people and we want a table NOW or else”
Snapchat warrior - “my willingness to fight for this cause will disappear in 10 seconds”

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Getting the references doesn't really matter

A good parody is one where ya still think it's funny even if you don't know the original that's being mocked. Fred Armisen talks about this at Splitsider in response to a question about the obscure references on Portlandia:

I just think of my memories watching Saturday Night Live as a kid, I didn't know who the hell they were talking about. There were jokes on Weekend Update that I would laugh at but I didn't know what they were talking about. So I think it doesn't matter — references don't really matter. Even Bugs Bunny is that way, they throw in some jokes for adults and sometimes you just laugh at the way it's being done. That's something that is a lucky break — we get to have Jello Biafra in a sketch, and if you know who he is great, and if you don't it's still a sketch.


Full interview.

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Winning the first minute

Non-comedy article on ageism in tech had this quote I found interesting: “There are people in a room whose talent is to win the first minute. Mine is to win the thirtieth or the sixtieth.” Seems like it can work that way in comedy too. The guys who have the best TV set or tight 5 aren't always the ones you wanna watch for 45mins. Alas, you often don't get to the 45 unless you can nail the 5. And so it goes.

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What networks/advertisers really want (aka why our entire society winds up held hostage by the most naive among us)

Just read that advertisers, whose main target is the 18-34 year old demographic, are starting to skew even younger (12-34). I remember being in the heart of that age range and feeling good about that: “We’re the ones who get it. We’re still alive. Move outta the way, old man!” But now that I’m becoming that old man, I’m starting to think everything on TV is aimed at people in that age range because they’re the only ones dumb enough to actually believe advertising.

That athletes eat Subway. That Coors is made from fresh Rocky Mountain water. That being an NBA player is like working for State Farm. That ladies flock to a dude who sprays Axe on his crotch.

What networks/advertisers really want is to capture the attention of the most gullible and easily manipulated segment of the population. Because that’s who can be twisted and fooled into wanting whiter teeth or whatever. And the end result is that our entire society winds up held hostage by the most naive among us as we’re all force-fed a steady stream of schlocky, dumbed-down entertainment for pawns. [This post sponsored by Samsung!]

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Plane vs. ocean

I don't think the story is about the missing plane. It's about the ocean and how tiny we are compared to it. We think we're always being watched and that satellites know it all and technology rules everything around us. But then the ocean goes and swallows a hunk of metal. And all our cell towers, radars, and navy ships ain't shit compared to this 2/3-of-the-planet-covering pit of mystery and darkness. Part of me likes to think the ocean is saying, "Here's how lost you can get when you dance with me." But actually, the ocean doesn't give a fuck. I hope we never find that damn plane.

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Just another basement show until...

So this happened last night.

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Neuroscientist explains why unhappy people are funnier

Cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems thinks humor is worthy of serious academic study and writes about in his new book “Ha!” He explains why unhappy people are funnier.

Yet in tests measuring the ability to write cartoon captions, people who were more neurotic, assertive, manipulative and dogmatic were actually funnier. As the old saw holds, many of the best comics really are miserable.

Perhaps, Dr. Weems writes, unhappy people are “more likely than others to speak out in awkward or socially unacceptable ways to make a good joke.” Or, as people from Aristotle to Gertrude Stein have pointed out, unhappiness can breed creativity, and the best jokes require both intellectual gymnastics and astute observation of human nature.


Related: Nick Griffin on trying to make depression come out joyful

Club Scale is coming soon

Unless you are a model, Tiesto, or Leonardo DiCaprio, our doormen probably won't let you in." VERY excited to learn more about this hot club that's coming to NYC. Also excited: Dan Soder and Joe List. Spend 30secs at ClubScale.com and you'll see what I mean...

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3 of NYC's best pregame their Comedy Central sets at HOT SOUP

Tonight (3/18): Watch three of NYC's top comedians run extended sets of their best stuff which they'll be taping next week for their Comedy Central Half-Hours.

Lineup:
Michael Che (Letterman, SNL writer)
Chris Distefano (Guy Code)
Mark Normand (Conan)
Special guest: Louis Katz (Comedy Central)

I'm hosting. Full show details at Facebook.

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How genre signifiers build a scene in a single shot

Why do video parodies work so well? You immediately understand the scene so the action can speak for itself. From How Director Peter Atencio Acts as the Unsung, Essential Third Member of 'Key and Peele':

Many of the most popular K&P sketches are genre parodies, which play on our collective cultural understandings of the signifiers of a particular genre. In perhaps their most famous sketch, the East/West College Bowl, part of what makes us laugh immediately is the recognition of the codes of the sketch. Giving the viewer this comfort of recognition then allows them to play within the genre. As the names and characters get more and more ridiculous, much of what works about the joke is that it's still rooted in an extremely familiar framework. Atencio’s ability to appropriate semiotic codes as a way to build a frame for a sketch sets up K&P’s writing and performance perfectly.

What genre signifiers can do is build a scene in a single shot, before a word is spoken. No words need be wasted on setting a scene or tone because that work is done in advance by the director. All K&P need to do is inhabit the scene and build their characters and jokes. We've all seen many beginning level improv scenes fail because the actors spend too much time talking about where they are and what they are doing before they work to find what is unusual. Atencio gives K&P the ability to immediately go for what is unusual through creating authentic and real-feeling genre beats. Seemingly counterintuitively, because of Peter Atencio’s thoroughness in his direction and the creation of the aforementioned cinematic look, the performance is able to be the most tangible element in a scene because it's the element that feels the most uncomfortable or unusual to a viewer. If it looks like a horror film, and sounds like a horror film, then it’s funny when people don’t act like they are in a horror film.


We've seen something similar in our Vooza videos. When you're working within an understood framework, the jokes have that much more zing/surprise to 'em (see this Radimparency video). It's like the setup is already there for you.

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Advice from Comedy Central’s Head Of Talent

5 Things You Can Learn From Comedy Central’s Head Of Talent On Ari Shaffir’s Podcast:

Larsen explains that advertising sales are ultimately what runs a TV network and that “controversy is not a good thing to sell advertising.” This means if you want to get on TV, being unnecessarily blue or racy will hurt your chances...

[Ari] said Louis CK told him that if he was all of a sudden not allowed to do any of his old jokes, that he wouldn’t stop being a comedian – he’d just write new stuff. He used that mindset as motivation to keep his nose to the grindstone and keep working on new material until he came up with 15 minute chunks he was proud of.


Lots more interesting posts/advice for comedians over at Connected Comedy too.

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The surprising rhythm of Bill Murray

Splitsider's The Collected Wisdom of Bill Murray is a fun read. One of the excerpts is from GQ's Bill Murray Is Ready To See You Now.

But you asked how you get the comic pitch. Well, obviously a lot of it is rhythm. And as often as not, it's the surprising rhythm. In life and in movies, you can usually guess what someone is going to say—you can actually hear it—before they say it. But if you undercut that just a little, it can make you fall off your chair. It's small and simple like that. You're always trying to get your distractions out of the way and be as calm as you can be [breathes in and out slowly], and emotion will just drive the machine. It will go through the machine without being interrupted, and it comes out in a rhythm that's naturally funny. And that funny rhythm is either humorous or touching. It can be either one. But it's always a surprise. I really don't know what's going to come out of my mouth.


I'm fascinated by how/when jokes stop working. I think this surprising rhythm thing has a lot to do with it. When you first tell a joke, you're not sure where the laughs are, what to emphasize, etc. And that can create some real magic. Words pop into your head and you're surpised so the audience is surprised. But once you hone it into a polished bit, you often smooth over those rough edges. And that can take away the surprise. And that can kill the laughs. And then you gotta figure out a way to make it seem like the first time all over again.

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Comedy that takes down the powerful

Interesting piece by Kyle Smith: "Where’s their nerve? Today’s comics mock poop, not the powerful."

’70s comedy ruled from an anti-throne of contempt for authority in all shapes. College deans, student body presidents, Army sergeants and officers, country-club swells, snooty professors and the EPA: Anyone who made it his life’s work to lord it over others got taken down with wit.

When the smoke bombs cleared and the anarchy died, comedy turned inward and became domesticated. It also became smaller.

“The Cosby Show” and Jerry Seinfeld didn’t seek to ridicule those in power. Instead they gave us comfy couch comedy — riffs on family and etiquette and people’s odd little habits.

Now, in the Judd Apatow era, comedy is increasingly marked by two worrying trends: One is a knee-jerk belief, held even by many of the most brilliant comedy writers, that coming up with the biggest, most outlandish gross-out gags is their highest calling.

...

Today’s comics have abdicated their responsibility to take down the powerful. They tiptoe around President Obama, but comedy has to be fearless.

These days they’re more at ease mocking their social inferiors than going after the high and mighty. Comfortably ensconced inside the castle that Richard Pryor and George Carlin tried to burn down, they drop water balloons on the unspeakable middle-America drones of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.”

...

Even comics who present themselves as the loyal opposition to the political leadership, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, expend most of their effort simply repackaging Democratic Party talking points as jokes. The ’70s hang-’em-all anarchist spirit lives on only in the margins, in a few brave outposts like “South Park.”


Interesting points though I think one could argue that dramatic movies and TV shows have devolved in a similar way too. I think you need to consider the context of the times too. The 70s were responding to the 60s and Watergate which was a very different vibe than the Reagan era stew that Cosby and Seinfeld emerged from. That said, it'd be cool to see more "stick it to the man" comedy.

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Stephen Tobolowsky on Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis, and why you should expect the horrible

Stephen Tobolowsky — Groundhog Day’s Ned Ryerson — on What He Learned From Harold Ramis:

When the scene called for Bill to punch me out on the corner, I went to Harold and asked if there was anything he wanted me to do. He leaned in and whispered with that half-smile, “Do whatever you want. I’m setting the camera up wide. No close-ups. Comedy only happens when there is a relationship. We’ll see both you and Bill at the same time. Comedy lives in the two shot.”


Tobolowsky talks more about Groundhog Day in The Tobolowsky Files podcast episode 29.

And he's got a blog too. The post "Why Acting Is So Horrible" talks about crisis management as a key skill for performers: "You never have the right circumstances to do your job. The horrible isn’t the exception. It is the rule...Don’t look at calamities as a wall between you and your work. Think of them as little surprises life is giving you to keep it fresh."

I’m sick of finance guys

I’m sick of finance guys. They call others “takers,” yet they make nothing. They deride "welfare queens" yet demand bailouts. They slander politicians for being “socialist” yet line up to suckle on the government teat. They preach “personal accountability” and then claim to be too big to fail. They break the law yet never face prosecution. They destroy the economy and reward themselves with massive bonuses. They bribe our government and then complain about any hint of regulation. They praise economists while paying academics hush money that corrupts the study of economics itself. They make dumb bets yet never lose a thing. They rig the game yet act like they genuinely earned their spoils. They’re self-described “risk takers” who take no actual risks. And we let them get away with it. How it works in this country: If you steal $5,000, you go to jail. But if you steal $50 billion, you get to shake the President’s hand.

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Vooza on Branding



More at Vooza.com.

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Why Harold Ramis "stopped being the zany"

Animal House. Stripes. Meatballs. Ghostbusters. Caddyshack. Vacation. Groundhog Day. Helluva run. This Harold Ramis obit talks about a realization he had after a performance at Second City in 1972.

“The moment I knew I wouldn't be any huge comedy star was when I got on stage with John Belushi for the first time," he said in a 1999 Tribune interview. "When I saw how far he was willing to go to get a laugh or to make a point on stage, the language he would use, how physical he was, throwing himself literally off the stage, taking big falls, strangling other actors, I thought: I'm never going to be this big. How could I ever get enough attention on a stage with guys like this?

"I stopped being the zany. I let John be the zany. I learned that my thing was lobbing in great lines here and there, which would score big and keep me there on the stage."


Related: The spiritual lessons of Groundhog Day

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How mean and vulnerable need each other

Funny = Money is a look at comedy manager Peter Principato. He says, “You have to get yourself out there. You have to make your little YouTube videos. You have to write things yourself instead of waiting for a real Hollywood writer to come along and write you a vehicle.”

One interesting bit from it is the talk about All in the Family. According to Principato, what made Archie Bunker work was his vulnerability/humanity. That's why he could "go there" on race and other stuff the way no one else on TV had up to that point.

In the show, [Rob] Riggle aims to play a Bill O’Reilly-like newscaster, a conservative blowhard with a tremendous ego in the vein of Ted Baxter, from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Principato said the network was concerned about the central character’s likability. He didn’t seem vulnerable enough. Riggle was ready to adapt, but worried about overcompromising. “I think we need to defend a little,” he said. “You know, you could always count on Sam Malone, Woody and Norm from ‘Cheers’ to be themselves. You could always count on Coach to be Coach. You could always count on those characters. Frank Burns was always going to be Frank Burns. . . . ”

Principato interrupted. “But Frank Burns wasn’t the lead in the show.” He cited Archie Bunker, from “All in the Family.” Bunker was a chauvinistic, racist, irascible bully, but his comeuppances were so severe and so frequent, you were always reminded of his frailties.

Riggle’s eyes got a bit misty. “Remember when he got locked in the basement with Meathead and he told the ‘Shoe-Booty’ story?”

Principato laughed. The story was about how poor Bunker had been as a kid — he had to wear one shoe and one boot to school, and the other kids teased him: Shoe-Booty.

Riggle continued. “I cried — I was a kid then, but — that was good stuff.”

Principato pressed his point. “Yeah. So . . . it had the humanity. I think that’s what it was. And I don’t think Hardaway — we didn’t show enough of his humanity. You know what I mean?”


If you want to be dark/mean/edgy/etc, ya better also get it back in some way that makes you seem vulnerable too.

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How the Beatles used jokes to go viral

How the Beatles Went Viral talks about how the group went from unknowns to the biggest pop stars in the USA in just six weeks. Their humor was a key part of it. For example, an early gig in front of the Royal Family...

Famously, Lennon introduced the band's finale that evening, "Twist and Shout," with the quip, "Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry." It was a display of cheekiness that heretofore one simply didn't exhibit before the Royal Family.. And yet, by narrowing the distance between the monarchy and the working-class foursome onstage, Lennon brought down the house-and in the process managed to make the band all the more beloved in an England where notions of one's proper place were evolving rapidly. Even the Queen Mother came away a fan, calling the Beatles "so young, fresh and vital"...

At 1:20 p.m. on Feb. 7, the Beatles arrived stateside on Pan Am flight 101, greeted by the high-pitched squeals of approximately 4,000 teenagers, plus more than 200 reporters and photographers and 100 police officers. The crowd was larger and louder than that which Sullivan had chanced upon three months earlier at London Airport. At the famous press conference conducted inside the airport, defying the low expectations journalists had of rock'n'rollers in that era, the Beatles' charisma and wit wowed the skeptical crowd. If anything, it was the reporters who appeared to be the dullards, asking banal questions-"What do you think of Beethoven?"-which the Beatles fielded with their patented cheekiness-"Great," Ringo Starr replied. "Especially his poems."


Nothing like a good zinger to get folks on your side.

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Jealousy, bitterness, and life after the Half Hour

Two recent thoughtful pieces by comics reflecting on standup:

What Jealousy And Bitterness Can Do For Your Comedy Career by Andy Sandford.

There is very little value in everyone knowing what level you deserve to be on as soon as you have reached that level. You shouldn’t want to get seen by industry people just because you “can” hold your own with the big dogs…it is much better to get as good as you possibly can under the radar so that when you do get seen, you blow everyone’s mind and are more than ready for whatever big break that might come your way. No one owes you anything for your hard work. The only benefit of your hard work is how good it has made you. This is why “years” in stand up almost means nothing. People progress at different rates, and sometimes someone has a breakthrough many years in; or maybe it just took a while for people to be able to appreciate their style. If you have the time to make a note of every thing that some undeserving peer got, then you have the time to put a little more effort into your act, which is the only thing that speaks for you, or should speak for you.


And Ben Kronberg wrote this Facebook post about the year he's had following his Comedy Central Half Hour.

I did a Half Hour last year and am agent-less and manager-less. I booked less colleges this year than I ever have. The guy at the St. Louis funny bone won't return my emails along with a slew of other bookers and gatekeepers who seem to only want to deal with agents or at least not me. I feel the disparity between the singular success and the longevity it should be contributing to. It's like getting married, having a great wedding with lots of love and hugs and gifts, but you get home and you still have all your flaws and insecurities, and the constant nag of that thing that should make it all right, but doesn't...But it's really just the thoughts that sting. The reality is beautiful. I got to perform in Korea and am recording my first album and my mom got to watch me perform the other night. I've used Facebook to correspond and get gigs I never would have known about or thought possible. I'm a comedian. I'm a fucking comedian. I am a lucky fuck to even be able to do this ridiculous thing. WE are lucky fucks. Wake up everyday and look at yourself and say: "I am a lucky fuck." Cuz you are.


Both are solid pieces worth a read.

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Bill De Blasio vs. tall Al in Naked Gun


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An analysis of "breaking"

An analysis of "breaking" character in comedy, from SNL to this Dean Martin/Bob Newhart sketch:



"More Cowbell" is the one that always comes to mind for me. According to the piece, the conventional wisdom on breaking: You might get a laugh, but it's a cheap one. However: “You’re allowed to break if the audience would never expect you to break.” Also interesting: It's known as corpsing in Britain.

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HOT SOUP tonight (Tue) with Soder, Glaser, and more

Fun lineup at HOT SOUP tonight:

Dan Soder (MTV's Guy Code)
Nikki Glaser (MTV, Conan)
Louis Katz (Comedy Central)
Greg Warren (Comedy Central)
Mike Drucker (Fallon)
Kevin Barnett (Comedy Central)
Matt Ruby (MTV)
Gary Vider (AXS TV)

Full event info here. We can't always reveal entire lineup but surprise guests in recent weeks included Aziz Ansari, Nick Kroll, Wyatt Cenac, and Judah Friedlander.

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Candor as bond between artist and audience

Lena Dunham profile in Vogue. Get past the pics hubbub and it's an interesting piece for Girls fans.

She came to regard candor as a powerful inventive tool: one that offered the energetic release of an uncorked bottle but also created a bond between artist and audience...

She thinks about an observation Antonoff made one day when she was feeling low.. “He’s like, ‘You know what’s hard? People want the person who wants to share it all.. But they want the person who wants to share it all minus foibles and mistakes and fuckups.. They want cute mistakes.. They don’t want real mistakes.’ If I placed that many censors on myself, I wouldn’t be able to continue to make the kinds of things that I make.. And so I just sort of know there are going to be moments where I take it one step too far.”


The candor-as-bond thing reminds me of Howard Stern's approach ("the secret to my show is honesty") and how he's gotten his legions of admirers.

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Bill Burr on Jerry Seinfeld

Bill Burr goes onstage at a charity event right before Seinfeld. Burr apologizes for cursing so much to Jerry. Jerry couldn't care less...



Burr on Seinfeld's act: "There's not a line of fat." [Thx MN]

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This just in: Comedians are kinda crazy

In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed comedians and found they score higher than normal people on traits like being impulsive, anti-social behavior, and a tendency to avoid intimacy.

"The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis - both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford's department of experimental psychology, who led the study...

"Although schizophrenic psychosis itself can be detrimental to humor, in its lesser form it can increase people's ability to associate odd or unusual things or to think 'outside the box'," he said.

"Equally, manic thinking - which is common in people with bipolar disorder - may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections."


So basically: If you want to be funny, it's good to be schizophrenic but not TOO schizophrenic.

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Vooza: Power Pose and The 5 Whys

A couple of recent Vooza videos:





And we were featured on the front page of Metafilter recently too.

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George Burns on Johnny Carson: “When it comes to saving a bad line, he is the master”

Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale is a fascinating 1978 profile of Johnny Carson. In it, director Billy Wilder gives this eloquent explanation of why Carson was so good.

“By the simple law of survival, Carson is the best,” he said.. “He enchants the invalids and the insomniacs as well as the people who have to get up at dawn. He is the Valium and the Nembutal of a nation.. No matter what kind of dead-asses are on the show, he has to make them funny and exciting. He has to be their nurse and their surgeon.. He has no conceit.. He does his work and he comes prepared. If he’s talking to an author, he has read the book.. Even his rehearsed routines sound improvised.. He’s the cream of middle-class elegance, yet he’s not a mannequin. He has captivated the American bourgeoisie without ever offending the highbrows, and he has never said anything that wasn’t liberal or progressive. Every night, in front of millions of people, he has to do the salto mortale”—circus parlance for an aerial somersault performed on the tightrope. “What’s more”—and here Wilder leaned forward, tapping my knee for emphasis—”he does it without a net. No rewrites. No retakes. The jokes must work tonight.”


The author also talks about Carson's great way with savers. He could dig himself out of any hole.

The unexpected impromptus with which he rescues himself from gags that bomb, thereby plucking triumph from disaster, are also part of the expected pleasure. “When it comes to saving a bad line, he is the master”—to quote a tribute paid in my presence by George Burns. Carson registers a gag’s impact with instant, seismographical finesse. If the laugh is five per cent less than he counted on, he notes the failure and reacts to it (“Did they clear the hall? Did they have a drill?”) before any critic could, usually garnering a double-strength guffaw as reward. Whatever spoils a line—ambiguous phrasing, botched timing, faulty enunciation—he is the first to expose it. Nobody spots flaws in his own work more swiftly than Carson, or capitalizes on them more effectively.


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Seinfeld, the Heckle Therapist

How does Seinfeld handle hecklers? He turns into the Heckle Therapist:

Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist.. So that when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger.. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before.. Some of my comedian friends used to call me - what did they say? - that I would counsel the heckler instead of fighting them.. Instead of fighting them, I would say "You seem so upset, and I know that's not what you wanted to have happen tonight.. Let's talk about your problem" and the audience would find it funny and it would really discombobulate the heckler too, because I wouldn't go against them, I would take their side.


Reminds me of Paul F. Tompkins' advice on dealing with hecklers: "It's worth talking to hecklers to see if they are just goons who are trying to ruin your set or if they are just enthusiastic folks who want to get in on the fun."

Seinfeld's quote is from his recent AMA at Reddit. Another interesting bit is how he claims the show Seinfeld wasn't actually about nothing.

Yeah, I'm always annoyed by people who describe Seinfeld as a show about nothing.. Even in the later years when you guys strayed from the "how a comedian gets his material" formula, it was still about social faux pas and ridiculous social customs.

Seinfeld: FINALLY I have met someone that understands the show.. Thank you for your rare and perceptive analysis.
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Here's a good summary of other interesting bits from it.

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Big guests tonight (Tue) at HOT SOUP

TWO huge guests tonight (Tue) at HOT SOUP. These guys normally sell out theaters so we can't name names but there are hints here.

Lineup:
TWO "HE'S SO BIG WE CAN'T ANNOUNCE IT" SPECIAL GUESTS FROM MOVIES/TV
Wyatt Cenac (Daily Show)
Michael Che (SNL)
Christian Finnegan (Conan)
Nikki Glaser (MTV)
Will Miles (Chicago)
Mark Normand (Conan)
Matt Ruby (MTV)
...and more!

Facebook event has more info.

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Why Seinfeld works clean

Jerry Seinfeld on how to be funny without sex and swearing:

Keeping his act sex- and swear-free, the way he sees it, is part of this athletic challenge, since it denies him the easiest laughs: "A person who can defend themselves with a gun is just not very interesting.. But a person who defends themselves through aikido or tai chi? Very interesting." Likewise his focus on minutiae.. "It's so much easier when you're talking about something that really is important.. You've already got a better foundation than someone who's bringing up something that does not need to be discussed." Such as? "I do a lot of material about the chair.. I find the chair very funny.. That excites me.. No one's really interested in that – but I'm going to get you interested! That, to me, is just a fun game to play.. And it's the entire basis of my career."


Interesting perspective. Not sure I agree with the idea that it's easier to talk about important things. So it's easier for Carlin or Stanhope than it is for Seinfeld? Important stuff gets people tense and stiff. Observational stuff doesn't do that. And no one walks out on your set because they disagree with your opinion on chairs.

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SF shows this weekend

I'll be out in SF doing shows this weekend in case you/someone ya know wants to come out:

Sat, December 21 - 8:00pm - Cynic Cave @ Lost Weekend Video
Sat, December 21 - 9:30pm - San Francisco Punchline (with Ali Wong) - Tickets
Sun, December 22 - 8:00pm - San Francisco Punchline

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Merlin Mann: “People like you because of this, but you’re mad because it’s not this other thing.”

Merlin Mann (speaker, podcaster, tech guy) interview. Interesting thought on what to focus on...

It can be very frustrating to keep sucking at something without realizing that it’s not the thing you should be trying to get better at. It’s like when our parents used to tell us as kids, “There is something that you don’t even realize you’re good at,” or, “People like you because of this, but you’re mad because it’s not this other thing.” Part of successfully growing up is letting go of unrealistic ideas that stop us from recognizing something else we’re good at and might enjoy more than what we’re doing now. There could be something 10 times greater than what you’re doing, but you don’t realize it because you’re fixated on the thing you feel like you should be doing.


Fixation is good. Until it blocks out your vision of the bigger picture and alternate paths.

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