The "One L" of comedy?

Concept for the blog: a mix of show recaps, audio of performances, jokes, etc.

ever read "One L" by Scott Turow? it's about his first year at law school. i'm thinking this could be a sorta "One L" for comedy.

p.s. roller coaster show last nite. i wound up doing 12 mins at end. some rough but some good. crowd had been devastated before me by some really bad comics.

Yeah, I loved one L and referred to it all the time my first year of law school (I went to Fordham Law, at night--graduated but never practiced.) One great thing about Turow's book is he constantly portrayed his own inadequacy and feeling that he was not up to the task.

Glad your set was good. Daniella said you killed...

[next day] I did the open mic last night, went up with nothing and found some absolutely great stuff. Actually thought of it as I was walking to club, but didnt work on it, just spit it out and it was really centered and coming from just the right place. Great thing to do for me. I think I rely too much on the writing, and can get buried in it, instead of being free. Going up with nothing gets me past that, ends up helping my delivery on the prepared material too.

Stage time is the key. I'm so much more comfortable now after doing just a few sets in front of people. I know my strongest material that I can use as go to stuff and then I play around with new stuff. I think the key is to combine off the cuff style with written stuff so it seems natural. It all depends on what you're going for though...Steven Wright sticks to straight written stuff and it's great, ya know?

I agree with you about Steven Wright and Demetri Martin too. Mitch Hedberg as well. I guess I am going for a more personal, less purely observational thing, because I think that's where my more original thoughts lie, you know. I tend to do better by realizing the ways that I am ridiculous as opposed to the ways the world is rediculous, if that makes sense. You seem able to stand back and comment on the world in a natural way. Maybe it's because I spend so much of my day creating imaginary exterior worlds and characters, that I am finding the sort of more internal thing more exciting at this moment. b/t/w/ this sort of back and forth would be good for the blog/book I think. Do you?

yes, def good to include these emails and kinds of thoughts in the blog. plus the conversational style of emails translates well to the web.

I think the personal style works well for you. people relate to that easily too. i'd say stick with what feels natural for ya.

I'm still trying to figure out my angles...i'm seeing that some of my material is winding up in that the hedberg/wright absurb style (e.g. i'm opening up an inconvenience store...it's only open sundays from 5-6am and everything's out of stock), while other stuff is a more bill maher/hicks observational style (gay pride parade, etc.). makes for a strange mix but i think there's a way to blend 'em both together and have it work.


The name says it all

"Nanny Hunt Can Be a 'Slap in the Face' for Blacks" (NY Times) talks about how it's tough for black people to find nannies. This part cracked me up...

"We have problems getting people to certain areas because of logistics," said Barbara Kline, the owner of White House Nannies, which Ms. Jackson contacted.

My advice to black people who want to hire a nanny: Avoid companies with overtly racist names, like, say, WHITE HOUSE NANNIES.

"I'm trying to deal with the hand I've been dealt."

Venue: Stand Up NY
Date: 12/27/06
Length: 12 minutes
Crowd: 15 people
Listen to this performance

Last night I "headlined" at Stand Up NY. I remember when the idea of headlining something used to sound impressive to me. Now I realize it just means you go last.

These "New Talent" shows are a strange mix of comedians. Some comics are on the bill because they bring people. Bring 5 people (or whatever) and you get stage time. They often suck. Others are on the bill because they're funny comics working on new material. So you get this really strange roller coaster ride of a show. Some people are hilarious and then some are just painful. Like really painful. Like a car crash mixed with a trainwreck and topped off with an incest survivor painful.

The night started off really funny. First comedian was Rob Cantrell who was on point. Anyone who makes jokes about taking shrooms in on a good path for me. Victor Varnado did a nice bit about a chick bench pressing him while giving him a blow job. Tough to explain, ya know? Some other funny comics followed. Small crowd but they were friendly and digging it.

Then shit took a turn. There was a little kid comic, like 14 years old or something. Funny for a kid I guess. Which means not really funny. And then creepy, weird ass, negative comics started taking over. Just one is a blow to a show but when there's three or four in a row you can just feel the air get sucked out of the room. Just be funny or get off the stage. These people were being negative and weird. There's a difference between being edgy and just saying shit about race or chicks that makes everyone uncomfortable. On the plus side, the whole thing started to feel like a performance art spectacle. It was like a bizarre game show to see who could say the most inappropriate thing.

Also, all the comics kept trying to do crowd work but there was only 20-30 people in the room. Eventually people get tired of being picked on. Especially by chumps who aren't funny. Chatting with the table of Australians is funny the first time. The eighth time = not so much.

By the end of the night I was just dying to get on stage. At least I knew I wouldn't make people feel as awkward as the previous comics. I kinda rambled. I was a bit drunk. I didn't rely on prepared material. I brought out some totally inappropriate stuff just to give it a go. A lot flopped. But some people definitely dug it. Some quick "in flow" comebacks worked really well. (Note to self: Start with real material and then turn to crowd interaction. I was kinda shaky coming out of the gate but built momentum once I got to the material.) Turns out I went 12 minutes. Wow, I had no idea. The time just flew by. I could've been funnier but it almost seemed like a bad idea to be good in that situation. Once the strange ship leaves the port, you might as well keep sailing.

10 things: Utah Jazz?

I think it's weird that there's a basketball team called the Utah Jazz because there's nowhere you're less likely to hear jazz music than in Utah. They should be forced to play teams with equally inappropriate nicknames, like the Missipi Tolerance. Or the West Virginia Intellectuals.

What the fuck is nougut? Does it exist anywhere other than candy bars? Can you go to a restaurant and get a steak with a side of nougot? (And how the fuck do you spell nougit? Hopefully one of those ways was right.)

Bands are always putting up stickers in bathrooms. I'm too lazy to do all that stickering though. So I named my band "Employees Must Wash Hands." My side project is called "Gentlemen."

Did you know that Eskimos have over 50 ways to say, "Fuck, I wish I lived somewhere warmer."

Before you take a trip there's always that one guy who says, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do." The weird thing is it's always the biggest fuckwad you know. "Dude, I've seen you go rock climbing on acid with midget hookers." If I limited myself to things he wouldn't do, there would be nothing left.


First time caller, long time listener

Venue: Stand Up NY
Date: 12/18/06
Length: 9 minutes
Crowd: 50 people
Listen to this performance

"I won't tell that joke because there's black people in the audience," says the comedian onstage.

A hush falls over the room. I hadn't even been paying attention. I was checking over my notes for my upcoming set. But now the guy onstage was taking all the air out of the room and everyone could sense it.

"Ha, at least the white chick with all the black people digs me," he says and points at a table near the stage. "Is that your boyfriend?" "Yeah." "You're dating a black guy, eh? That's cool."

Grumbling. It's funny how the energy of a room is actually palpable. You feel the tension. It settles down like a thick fog.

One of the black women at the table starts mouthing off to the guy onstage: "Move on." He offers her the mic and says, "You think you can do better?" "I'm not the comedian."

Grrrrreat. Just the kind of act you wanna follow. He tries to get the room back but it's too late. He does a couple more jokes, admits that "nothing I'm gonna say will be funny now," and then, to the relief of the audience, leaves the stage. We were flirting with Michael Richards territory there for a bit.

How'd I get here? Well, I'm taking a stand up class now at Manhattan Comedy School and I've done open mics before. That's how I got this gig. I was offered a slot after I performed at the open mic at Stand Up NY. But this is the first time people have ever paid to see me tell jokes.

Stand Up NY is a small place on the Upper West Side. There's about 100 people in the audience. Lots of college kids. One table of old folks. Seems like lots of friends of the comics (it was a "bringer" show for some of the comics meaning they had to bring people in order to get on the bill).

Thankfully, my set goes really well. People laugh. The room comes back to life.

I single out one guy at the old folks table who has a white beard and ask the crowd to give it up for Kenny Rogers. I'm realizing that people really dig it when you call the room and point out something like that. There's an improv vibe to it and it helps tear down the fourth wall. You become more relatable.

My bit about the religious right and gays, which killed at an open mic downtown, doesn't go that well. Maybe too edgy for this crowd? Or maybe I butchered the premise a bit by going it through it too superficially. Gotta watch that.

After I'm done, I get some props from the host and the MC. Good validation. But I knew I done good already. One thing I really like about comedy is there's an obvious, objective measurement of success: laughter. It's the nice thing about stand up: You always know exactly where you stand.

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...