The image of death

Venue: Caroline's
Date: 1/20/07
Length: 5 minutes
Crowd: 70 people



BRIAN
I was actually happy with my set, b/c all I cared about was that first bit (posted above). I had thought it would really work, and now I know it can. I think it's the first actual proper bit I have written. Did it work for you sittiing there?

MATT
Overall comments on your progression: I think you're doing a really good job of getting comfortable and natural on stage. You seem more honest and natural each time i see you. You're not hitting a lot of big punch lines yet but i think that'll come.

Did you check out that book i mentioned a while back, Judy Carter's comedy bible? It's totally cheesy at times but has a LOT of really good analysis in there on starting each joke with a defined attitude/premise, using act-outs to get laughs, incorporating mixes, etc. it's been really helpful for me.

She really emphasizes brevity and conciseness too. One thing she says that I think is really good: "If it's not part of the joke, it's part of the problem." I think tightening up your jokes would help a lot. Taking too long to get to the laughs sometimes.

Comments on your set:

* 1st bit had a real nice rhythm to it, almost musical in the way you went back and forth between NYC and LA parts. Would like to see you get to a punchline earlier in the bit though. "Invite you to twice as many parties" gets big laughs...maybe go even further with it?..."invite you to some really raunchy parties." Def a good start though.

* You could extend this topic even further. Do more comparison of blue collar NYC types vs. plastic LA types. Like what Chris Rock does in his "Commitment vs. New Pussy" bit. There's fertile ground here.

* Don't step on your laughs. At least once you started telling a joke before they were done laughing at the last one. Wait till the laughs start to recede and then keep going.

* I'm not crazy about the Neil Diamond joke but maybe it's cuz I actually like Neil Diamond. ; ) Fwiw, Heather mentioned she thinks Death looks a lot like Barry Manilow these days after his gazillion plastic surgeries.

BRIAN
Watched it. Actually, the hollywood and neil diamond things got a lot of laughs. which is how I remembered it, but then I thought you were saying they didn't and i figured I remembered it wrong. the rest of it was just disorganized and jumbled and I wasnt concentrating.

MATT
Oh yeah, you def got some laughs. Was just trying to offer some constructive criticism cuz I think that's more helpful than merely saying "you did swell."

BRIAN
I've been sitting here thinking about the whole punch line thing. And I've decided not to push. I'm not going to do the judy carter book or any book or joke forms or any of that. I'm totally prepared to spend a year not getting consistent laughs in order to find my material in a more natural, unconscious way. Even the jokes I have that always get big laughs, like the subway joke, are too stock, not original or specific enough to really define anything. So I'm basically dropping them from the act. I dig the hollywood thing because of how it came to me, because it is essentially true, because it is representative of where I find myself and because it takes the audience on a journey. I think that the reason the audience was there for the end of that bit is that they were interested in where it was gonna go, even if they weren't laughing, they were listening. And if I can keep them interested and listening, then I feel like in the end, in a month from now, or in a year or two years, I can get them listening and laughing. Or, you know, maybe I'll just give the whole thing up after tonight...

MATT
Yeah, I totally get where you're coming from and I think your reasoning makes sense. Actually, she makes a lot of the same points in the book. About finding your authentic voice, finding subjects you feel passionate about, etc. The structures are really just tools you use to shape the jokes.

Depends on whether you want to follow a map or just navigate your own path. If you choose the latter, the journey might take longer. But you also might wind up somewhere more interesting.

Personally, I get a kick out of knowing the rules, at least at first. It makes it that much more fun when you break 'em.

Joke structures (like premise -> act-out -> mix) remind me of the underlying structures you find in other creative outlets, like grids in graphic design or scales in music. Helpful tools but ones that should def be used as a foundation, not a crutch.

COMMENTS FROM LINDA ON THE SET
I specifically liked the Hollywood/New York bit. It immediately establishes your stage persona, but it needs to be tighter which will allow you to carry that attitude through your whole performance. The death bit is a great premise. It's original and fresh, but I felt it fell a bit flat. I would like to see you develop it more. Punch it up and run with it.

You are obviously a great writer and that showed in the material. Your performance chops will come from stage time, stage time, stage time. Overall you did a nice job. Keep tweaking your material and keep showing up.

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