Hey. I’m Matt Ruby (firstname.lastname@example.org). I live in Brooklyn and I'm a standup comedian and the creator of Vooza, a video comic strip about the tech world. This is Sandpaper Suit, a comedy blog about standup, filmmaking, and whatever else I feel like talking about. Established 2006. Phew, that's a while.
Everyone in NYC is so obsessed with themselves. All they want to talk about is themselves. It's tough for me to talk with people like that because I know I'm so much more interesting than they are. Don't they realize we should be talking about my life!? How can these people not realize that? Silly.
People who've lived in NYC their whole lives are the craziest. They're always nostalgic for a time when the city was a complete hellhole. "Sure, there were homeless people everywhere, junkies in the park, and whores in Times Square, but the city had a real energy back then!" Um, energy is overrated. 'Cuz you know where has a real energy right now? Darfur. The place is hopping. If you love energy so much, go there. Fuck Virginia, Darfur is for lovers.
I used to live in the East Village (aka hipster central). Hipsters always wear the same shit. Because, you know, the best way to express that you're a creative, individual thinker is by dressing exactly like everyone around you. My favorite hipster accessory: the leather wristband. Because you know, these 112 lb. guys are fucking gladiators. Vegan warriors. No one messes with the Fine Arts Program at Bard College, NO ONE! They'll slice you with their asymmetrical haircuts, crush you with PBR cans, and then use your blood to make street art.
You say hey... Jason: yo Jason: you say Hey Jason: You say hey, I say yo Matt: i am currently waving my arms in the air as if i don't care. Jason: perfect Jason: you know the drill Jason: you are in the club Matt: truth = if i really don't care, i usually don't wave my arms in the air. Matt: i just sit. like normal. Matt: cuz i don't care.
LIterally Matt: thought of you today when i read this: Matt: Q&A with Sarah Jessica Parker Matt: "I have to be involved literally down to splitting the atoms," says the actress about her clothing label, Bitten. Tim: wow. she can split atoms Matt: for fashion! Tim: well thats why they usually do it. for fashion Matt: spliiting atoms is very in vogue right now. Tim: i literally crapped my pants when i read that
Dating tip: If you're single, never go on the show Blind Date. They only set up people who have ZERO chance of liking each other:
[Announcer:] "Let's meet our daters. Tiffany is a 23-year old aerobics instructor who loves hanging out at the beach. She's looking for an athletic stud who likes to do body shots. And here's her date...Schlomo is a 68-year old Rabbi from Riverdale whose interests include studying the Torah and philosophical debates about Nietschze. Therapist Joe says they're an unlikely couple."
I love Mel Gibson and these other people who go into rehab because alcohol is the cause of their anti-semitism, pedophilia, or whatever. Sorry guys, alcohol doesn't make you do random things, it makes you do what you actually want to do. No one ever gets really shitfaced and then does something altruistic. You never hear, "Dude, I did 14 shots of Jack last night and then I went and volunteered at a soup kitchen." No one says, "We're gonna kill this keg and then we're gonna Teach for fucking America!"
And I think people who need drinking games are pussies. Beer pong? Fuck you. I have a fun drinking game: It's called Beer. You take a drink each time you get thirsty. Easy!
Show some respect for booze. Other drugs don't need games. There's no Heroin Sudoku. No one's playing Crossword Puzzle Crack. "I need 23 across...NOW!"
The other night I saw a commercial for Sam Adams where the owner of the company brags that his whole staff, including the legal team, are "beer geeks." I think that's a great euphemism for alcoholic. Also, Sam Adams sounds like a great company to sue.
I saw a big name comic drop the facade last night. I'll leave him nameless to keep him off of Google. (As if I've got sooooo much Google juice. Anyway...)
He went up at the end of the show on Monday at Comedy Village. A couple of really hack bringers went up before him. Maybe that led to his ultra-confessional set. He sat at a stool and laid it all out there.
He said he's miserable. He doesn't want to do comedy any more. And this is someone who's made it. Comedy Central special, Leno, Letterman, etc. 10+ years of comedy.
He said he felt like it was all a waste. His jokes are about little things. Observational stuff. And he said that shit just doesn't matter. The world is crumbling and he's joking about food. How can he do that when there's a criminal in the White House and the ice caps are melting?
He said he made lots of money. He got lots of attention. He did better than 99% of comics who get on stage. But he can't face himself in the mirror. He raced to sell out and now he wishes he hadn't. He wished he had rocked the boat. He said he should've talked about things that actually matter to him.
He wanted to make money and be loved and he got that. But now he lives in a fancy building and looks down and wonders if there's a spot he can jump from where he won't hit anyone when he falls.
He wants to quit standup and teach high school kids instead. Why not start rocking the boat now? "It's too late."
His advice to a newer comic friend of his: "Stop trying to get everybody to love you. Talk about what really matters to you." Because what really matters is all that really matters.
It was a pretty naked moment. Was he 100% serious? I don't know. The tough thing with great comics is they always seem like they're joking. He'd talk about how worthless he is and people would laugh. Will he actually quit? He seemed serious but I still think he'll change his mind. Tough to just walk away from that level of success. Regardless, there was definitely more than a grain of truth in his words.
From a comic viewpoint, it was the kind of thing that made you want to race home and write more. Write something personal, important, and meaningful. It's better to fail with shit that means something to you than succeed with material you don't care about.
Oddly enough, moving in with my girlfriend has turned me gay.
First step: Bedding. Chicks dig sheets, pillows, and thread count. I used to be fine with just two pillows. Now that I moved in with my gf, guess how many pillows there are on my bed. 4? No. 6? Nope. 97. There are 97 pillows on my bed. I have to sleep on the floor in order to make room for all the pillows on the bed. My pillows have pillows. "Nah, pillow. You've had a hard day. Kick back, yo."
I also have to buy a "loveseat." I'm convinced shopping for a loveseat is the gayest thing you can do. I'd rather just buy two gay men who are fucking to sit on. "Ricky, Raoul, keep it steady. I'm trying to watch The Daily Show."
You could be listening to the Pet Shop Boys while watching Grey's Anatomy and it wouldn't be as gay as shopping for a loveseat. Actually, you could be listening to the Pet Shop Boys while watching Grey's Anatomy and anally penetrating another man and it wouldn't be as gay as shopping for a loveseat.
To top it off, my girl's dad is this supercarpenter dude who came in and built all this shelving for our place. He brings in his table saw and a nail gun and something called a pancake compressor and starts building shit. I know how this works...I watch Extreme Home Makeover...So I pull out a megaphone and start yelling at him "Move that Bus!" Then I start crying.
See, I'm Jewish. We don't do carpentry. We gave that stuff up after Jesus. (It didn't work out so well for him, y'know?) While her dad's building all this stuff, the only thing I can think to say, "Is there anything I can sue? My people are good at that."
The in-flow set is when you're just riffing. It's the opposite of a typical set you see on tv, where everything's super-rehearsed. You're in the moment, calling the room, doing crowdwork, working in something that happened today, saying whatever's on your mind, barely relying on established material at all. You're just so funny that you can make it up as you go along. The audience guides you with their response.
Two of the best I've seen at this: Greg Giraldo (tornado energy) and Todd Barry (hypnotic delivery). One reason you see these guys do sets at small places like UCB or Rififi, for free/cheap, is because that environment is where they can really go for flow.
Flow riffing comes with extra bite. When you're doing written material, your brain is in the back. When you're improvising, your brain comes to the front. You're applied. The audience senses that. They give you extra points for pulling off the dance. Plus, it's easier to say something surprising. After all, you're surprising yourself. Surprising = funny.
Some pro comics are so good at weaving in and out of written material that you don't know which parts they've done before and which ones are just coming to 'em on the spot. They make the transition seamless. That's why it's interesting to see the same comic multiple times in a short stretch. You see when they drop anchor and when they sail.
Flow sets are great because they're fun to do, especially if you perform all the time. Doing the same jokes every night for months on end is lame. If you can pull off the in-flow set, you keep yourself amused. Plus, you get to discover all the time. When you hit on something that kills, you can save it and bring it in to your foundation set, the one you might use on tv or whatever.
Flow sets are when you jam. Foundation sets are when you play your songs.
The church is the only place that can get away with institutionalized rape. (Well, the church and prison.) Can you imagine if thousands of 12-year old boys were getting raped at Kinko's? Kinko's would be shut the fuck down! No one would accept the excuses the church uses: "Oh that was Charlie, the night manager. We transferred him to the uptown branch so there's no problem, really. Stay quiet about it and we'll give you two years of unlimited free copies."
Had an interesting chat with Donnell Rawlings (standup who's done Chappelle Show and lots more) the other night outside Comedy Village about rhythm and comedy. The topic of John Mayer doing standup came up (supposedly he's not bad). Donnell said he met him through Chappelle Show and wasn't surprised that he'd be good at standup. "Anyone who's good at making observations and is used to being onstage talking in front of a lot of people will probably make for a good standup."
Being a musician/comic, I mentioned that I think rhythm has a lot to do with it too. (Note: I'm not a big Mayer fan — shoot me if I ever write something even remotely as pussyfied as "Your Body is a Wonderland — but whatever, he's got musical chops.) Good musicians recognize the power of rhythm, the difference between accenting the 3 instead of the 2, etc. Seemingly subtle differences like can have a huge impact (turn a punk song into a reggae track, for example).
Similarly, pause length and timing can make or break a joke. That's part of why you can tell a joke with the same words yet get completely different reactions. Some comics record and transcribe jokes that work and include every pause and "um" in an attempt to capture the flavor of the original kill.
There's a great scene in Chappelle's Block Party movie where Dave talks about how much musicians and comics have in common. That so much of comedy is timing. You see him playing bongos and "jamming" with The Roots and other musicians and you totally get the similarity between the two worlds. Donnell also said the between (and during) song banter on "Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall" has some of the best interaction between performer and audience he's ever heard.
More similarities between music/standup: Comics have to listen to an audience the way band members have to listen to each other. That's how you know when to pause and when to fill. You also have to be doing one thing while thinking about what you're going to do next. And you have to deal with fuckups and just keep going (tip: the audience almost never notices anyway).
How do they differ? Standup is rawer. In a band performance, it's a lot easier to hide. You've got your bandmates up there with you, you've got volume so you can bully people into listening, you've got an instrument so you've got something physical to do, etc. With standup, you're naked. It's just you and your words. You know right then, on the spot, whether something is working or not. Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide.
Dead Law and Order star Jerry Orbach appears in a NYC subway ad that says "his greatest role was that of an eye donor."
Sorry Jerry. Detective Lennie Briscoe? Mediocre. Dr. Jake Houseman in Dirty Dancing? Meh. Giving away your eyes? Your career-defining performance.
This all brings up some questions though: Is there really a huge eye shortage out there? Am I missing this army of people walking around with eye patches on?
And does this mean there might be some girl walking around NYC who has Jerry Orbach's eyes? The idea of making love to a woman while gazing longingly into Jerry Orbach's eyes is strangely arousing. Come on, I know you feel it too.
Most curious of all: In an interview with the Daily News, his widow said she "cannot remember a day that went by where [Jerry] didn't say, 'I want to donate my eyes.''
Every day!? Damn. I'm gonna go out on a limb here: Jerry Orbach was NOT a fun guy to hang out with: "Hey Jerry, want to go get a burrito?...Aw man, no, I do not want to hear about your eye donation AGAIN!"
Is there any way that talking every day about donating your eyes is acceptable social behavior? Maybe the grandkids dug it. "Hey, Grandpa Jerry, tell us how they're going to rip the eyes out of your body and sew them into someone else's sockets again. That's our favorite bedtime story!"
How many lame segueways did he have to get into talking about his eyes? "This song sounds good. You know what else sounds good? Donating my eyes after I die."..."Jelly donut? Oh, I thought you said shall we donate our eyes after we die? To which my answer is definitely yes."..."Nobody puts baby in a corner? Well, nobody puts my eyes in a casket, nobody."
That's a Dirty Dancing reference. Don't act like you didn't get it, tough guy. Also featured in Dirty Dancing: "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen. Replace with the following lyrics and sing along!
Orbach eyes I've been meaning to tell you I've got this feelin that wont subside I look at you and I fantasize You are mine tonight Now I've got you in my sights
With those Orbach eyes One look at you and you cant disguise You've got Orbach eyes I feel the magic between you and I
I want to hold you so hear me out I want to show you what loves all about Darlin tonight Now I've got you in my sights
With those Orbach eyes One look at you and you cant disguise You've got Orbach eyes I feel the magic between you and I And You've got Orbach eyes Now I've got you in my sights With those Orbach eyes Now did I take you by surprise
I need you to see This love was meant to be
You've got Orbach eyes One look at you and you cant disguise You've got Orbach eyes I feel the magic between you and I You've got Orbach eyes Now I've got you in my sights With those Orbach eyes Oh you took me by surprise With those Orbach eyes
Investigate: I can't get enough of serious investigative journalism. That's why I so enjoy "Kickin' it with Byron Allen."
Political: I'm usually not a fan of music with a political message but I think that last Shakira record is great.
Wristbands: Cool hipster guys often wear leather wristbands. You know, 'cuz they're fucking gladiators. No one messes with the vegan alumni of Bard College's Fine Arts program...NO ONE.
Bahamavention: I'm pretty sure a friend of mine needs a Bahamavention. He's addicted to the Bahamas. If he doesn't limbo for more than 12 hours, he starts shaking uncontrollably. And he won't stop braiding his hair either.
Geography: One thing I've noticed from watching "Bad Boys of Comedy" is that a lot of black comics are bad at geography. They often come out and shout to the crowd, "Brooklyn, where you at?" Dude, the show is being taped in Brooklyn! How can you not know where Brooklyn is at when you are in Brooklyn? MapQuest that shit, yo.
Drop: I was just talking with my good buddy Ethan Hawke about how much we hate people who name drop.
Legally blind: Some people are legally blind. Does that mean other people are illegally blind? "Hey, arrest that motherfucker...he is blind without permission!" Luckily for the cops, it'd be easy to chase this particular set of criminals down.
VS: Victoria's Secret should open up a branch in Iran. It could sell the MiracleBirka ("makes you look 30% more virtuous than you actually are.") And the WonderVeil ("your eyes will look twice as forlorn!")
Tofurkey: I consider Tofurkey and Fake'n the tribute bands of the food world. "Rocking with nearly as much flavor as real beef: Not Dogs!"
Reality: Someone should make a reality tv show about a bunch of washed up reality tv show producers forced to live together.
Monkeys: Is a barrel of monkeys really that fun? Not for the monkeys, I bet. And what kind of asshole gets off watching monkeys squirm in a barrel anyway? "Ooh, animals stuffed into a small container! Bring out the mug full of squirrels next!"
Zen: I like to write Zen proverbs for depressed people. "What's the sound of one man napping?" "Every single journey begins with the longest step." "If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around to hear it, it just goes to show life is meaningless and we're all going to die eventually...sad and alone."