The best of Sandpaper Suit for 2008

Here are some posts from the past year that were especially popular or that I liked a lot:

The "best of" category includes some more top posts from '08 and earlier too.

While we're looking back, I also want to say thanks to all you regular readers out there. It's been great to read your comments and hear your feedback when I see you out in person. It's humbling to me that people actually read this thing and find it enjoyable. So thanks again and happy new year!


Upcoming: Ochi's, Jersey City, and We're All Friends Here

Shows I'll be doing...

Tue Dec 30 @ 7pm
Eric I's Comedy Showdown
Ochi's @ Comix
353 West 14th Street (@ 9th Avenue)

Tuesday, January 6th, 9:00 pm
BabyHole @ The Lamp Post
Hosted by Melissa Surach
382 2nd Street
Jersey City, NJ

Sat Jan 10 @ 8pm
The comedy chat show with boundary issues
Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand
The Creek in Long Island City
10-93 Jackson Ave at 49th Ave
Featuring: Katina Corrao, Luke Cunningham, Sean Donnelly, and MC Napkins

Fri Jan 16 @ 7:30pm
Too Cool for School @ Coco 66
Nick Turner and Cassidy Henehan host
66 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY


Get Sandpaper Suit in your email inbox every day

Regular visitor here? If so, consider getting Sandpaper Suit delivered by email. It'll show up in your inbox once a day. And the email includes links from "The Pocket" too. (That's the white box in the sidebar where I post interesting comedy links from around the web.) Easy as pie. Though come to think of it, pie is pretty difficult. As is pi. Anyway...


Let's put the X in Xmas! (That was a KISS song I think)

Attention Pagans, Jews, NYers, stragglers, or other misfits: With Chesley and Sean, the Kabin Louisiana boys, out of town, Matt Ruby and Mark Normand are guest hosting the Thursday (Xmas night) "Comedy as a Second Language" show. Also appearing: Cassidy Henehan, Danny Solomon, and more.

Thursday at the East Village's own...
Kabin Bar & Lounge! 92 2nd Ave (btw 5th/6th Sts)
$2 cans of PBR

P.S. If you're outta town, you can catch Matt and Mark at the next We're All Friends Here on 1/10 at The Creek in LIC.

Sham and Wham

I went to a vegetarian restaurant that had "Sham" on the menu. Impressive. You're just coming right out and telling me you're trying to deceive me with an inferior product. "I'd like the Rib Off please...and some Chili Con...how do you pronounce that? Ah, Con Artist."

Vegetarians even have a product called "Wham" which is fake Spam. As if that's the problem with being a vegetarian. "You know what I miss? Meat that I couldn't identify in the first place." A vegetarian who misses Spam? Wow. That's like talking to a guy who moves to a foreign country and having this conversation...Q: What do you miss most about America? A: Jersey!


The ol' set list on the hand

Set list on hand

Sometimes I'll write a few notes on my hand that I fear might slip my memory in the HEAT of BATTLE. With the right glance, it can be a wee bit subtler than looking at a piece of paper. This photo is from a set I did months (years?) ago. Don't even remember some of these bits actually.

The king of this technique: Rick Shapiro. There's barely any skin showing on his hands by the time he's done writing notes on them.


Urinary tract infections and cranberry juice

It's strange that urinary tract infections are cured by cranberry juice. Sounds like something a doctor who lost his license would come up with. "You know that burning feeling you're having...Well, I can't write you a prescription, but I've got the perfect cure: Ocean Spray!" Question: Does it have to be 100% pure cran or can you get away with just cran cocktail?

Also, it's surprising that cranberry juice, which usually stains everything it touches, is what cleans out your urinary tract. Using that reverse logic, I have a theory: Club soda is what actually causes the problem in the first place. Someone start researching that.


Recent Twitter posts

Follow me on Twitter for quickies like these:

I'm tired of backlashes. Those have totally jumped the shark. And I've just about had it up to here with people who have had it up to here.

Things I don't get: karaoke, guitar hero, rock band. Reason: I actually LIKE music.

The king of ending jokes with some sorta singsongy melody: Patton Oswalt. Always gets a laugh though.

Just watched a tape of a recent set where I said "oh boy" in between jokes 5+ times (as a filler while I think). Need to watch that.

Act outs that give voice to animals are always funny. Norm opens with one here...Seinfeld does it a lot too.

Restaurants of New York: You can just assume that I want tap and not bottled water from here on out.

NYC problem: The word "mixologist" is used way too much. "Bartender" was working just fine.

Saw Tropic Thunder last week. So bad. I don't get 99% of what goes for funny in movies today.

I would love to have a microphone like Gene Rayburn used on Match Game: photo

Music theft didn't start with MP3s. People jacked BMG Music Club for tons of CDs when I was in college. Top signup name used: C.D. Stealy.

Misprounced words = funny. E.g. Zach G w/ "characters" (pronouncing the ch- like in charades) or Greg Proops saying "Stipaul" for St. Paul.

myq on naked show: "it's weirder for the audience...not that i'm trying to sell you. do what you like. be clothes-minded." nice dad pun!

"The impressed applause break" = when a crowd applauds because of performance, not funniness. Ways to get it: long lists, big act-outs, etc.

People who live in glass houses...spend a lot on curtains. Huuuuge heating bills otherwise.


Video debut of The Hip Hop Pirate: East coast! West Coast! Barbary Coast!

Music and words by Matt Ruby, video shot and edited by Matt Lament.

Also, the HHP asked me to deliver this special message to y'all. Please forgive his salty tongue.


The Funky B.U.C. in the house. Spitting maritime knowledge and nautical know-how. Droppin' hit records like I drop anchor, son. You other pirates can't fuck with this.

Where my wenches at? Damn girl, I got a plank you can walk right here, baby. Aw shit. I ain't saying she a golddigger, but she ain't sailing on no merchant ship.

Let me get serious up in here. I got a message you all need to hear: George Bush does not care about pirates!

And know this: Captain Morgan is a weak ass bitch. Suck a dick, Morgan! O captain, my captain, you a bitch captain when it comes to rappin'. You actin' rough, but you about as tough actin' as Tinactin, Captain. That's athlete's foot medicine. You as tough as athlete's foot medicine. Which, in the big scheme of things, is not very tough. Fool. You better pray you don't sail up next to me or I'm gonna pop a cannon in yo ass.

Don't hate the saila', hate the seas. Now watch my video bitches. Peace.

Wow. Who knew he could even type with that hook on his hand? Impressive.


Wear your best for your execution

A list of Nicholas Taleb's rules for living includes this one:

Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

Kinda applies to dealing with shitty crowds, hecklers, bombing, etc. You can't control what happens, but you can control the way you handle the situation.

I hate when a comic's having a bad set and then turns on the audience (e.g. "You guys suck" or "Look at my fucking bicep!"). If you're gonna bitch at 'em, at least try to be funny about it or make a point. If not, suck it up, try to learn from it, and move on.


Audio: Corralling multiple hecklers, including a pro-Gandhi one

More fun in the "people yelling out how they disagree with me in the middle of a joke" department (see "Video: A gay heckler yells 'fuck you' to me" for more).

This time: Rowdy crowd at "Art Star" mic the other night. I went up first which didn't help matters. Needed some corralling but we got there in the end...

Watch out Gandhi fans, I'm coming for ya.

Time Out New York "Joke of the year" nominees: Louis CK, Todd Barry, and Matt Ruby

TONYTime Out New York just posted the nine nominees for Joke of the year and lookie there, I'm one of 'em. Thanks TONY.

I'd greatly appreciate your vote. Takes just a moment.

Some reasons to vote for me: 1) My joke is pretty funny (and uses less words than almost all the other jokes). 2) My photo is the only one that includes a tiger. 3) Mike Drucker's joke means he's probably going to hell. 4) If Todd Barry, Louis CK, or Hannibal Buress wins, he won't use this as one of his credits. I, on the other hand, most certainly will.

Here are the nominees and here's where ya vote. Thanks guys!


"You're in the subway so obviously you understand cost-benefit analysis"

You understand cost-benefit analysis

Yeah, riding the subway means you understand cost-benefit analysis. That's totally what I think when I see the homeless guy across the car from me eating his shoe. This is like saying, "You're on death row for shooting three people so obviously you understand the laws of physics."


"We are alway trying so hard to find material and it's right there"

Email exchange with Mark Normand about yesterday's post on hanging out with other comics...


That's funny stuff. See, we are always trying so hard to find material and it's right there. I love when you just get mean and be yourself. It's hilarious. We're writing jokes about cats and shit when that's the stuff you should be talking about. That's you!! Its real, its truthful, a little cranky but it's you. I feel like this is what CK is saying, you gotta do shit that really eats you up.

Now I'm getting worked up...Even if that stuff rubs some people the wrong way- it still is nice for the people who go through shit like that and I think that's your audience.


Yeah, I totally agree with ya. I notice that sometimes I'm writing and it just GOES. I'm not trying to be clever or use wordplay. I'm just saying what I really think. And it's usually bitching about something. In fact, the more I'm using the word "fucking," the better it is. Because that means it's coming from somewhere deeper.

Mark pushes me sometimes on material that he thinks is in my voice and I appreciate it. "That's so you" is almost as good a thing to hear about a bit-in-progress as "that's so funny."

I wrestle sometimes with being a total grouch and ranting all the time yet I do feel like it might be my "natural voice" (or close to it). The tough part for me is figuring out how to go negative yet still making people laugh and feel comfortable about it.

Kinda related: I really liked this piece songwriter Jeffrey Lewis wrote about why he likes to err on the side of discomfort.

For me it’s in the too-personal that I often find my writing strength and my most powerful artistic ingredients...On one hand I think that if an artist is creative enough it should be possible to make great art without having to resort to self-immolation. I don’t know of any songs by Woody Guthrie or Jackson C. Frank that make reference to their own immense personal tragedies, but this didn’t stop these artists from making songs of the greatest emotional power. On the other hand I strongly believe that it’s important to use art and songs to push the boundaries of public communication beyond the usual, and thus maybe bring both the artist and the audience a bit of catharsis by trying to shine a light into a dark place.

Lewis writes that seeing Jonathan Richman perform his recent “As My Mother Lay Dying” was "about as personal and painful as an audience-artist interaction can get — and as emotionally redemptive." Here's the song, which is pretty fucking great:


The problem with hanging out with other comics

I really enjoy hanging out with a lot of comics. But man, you get a bunch of 'em together and it sure gets annoying.

First of all, so much handshaking. What are we, businessmen? Politicians working a rope line? I see you at shows three times a week. Do we really need to go through this formality? I've gotta bring a bottle of Purell with me anytime I go to a mic. A nod and a "hey" is plenty.

And then everyone's always trying to one-up each other on funny lines. How about just having a normal conversation? You know, with sentences that don't end with a plea for laughter/approval. You don't have to act like there's constantly an invisible mic in your hand.

And they're so gossipy. "Did ya hear that so and so sent so and so a text message that said..." No, I didn't. And I don't care.

And why are so many comedians so socially awkward? Half the time I feel like I'm hanging out with a bunch of sixth graders at a middle school dance. Sorry, I don't really feel like talking about the latest issue of "Wolverine" or some trailer for a Sci-Fi movie that comes out in 2014 or Xbox vs. PlayStation or the plotline of "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" (didn't the Muppets already take Manhattan?).

There's a whole world outside of comic books, movies, TV, video games, Facebook, and comedy shows...but you wouldn't know it from half the conversations these guys have. I really don't ever want to hear about "Lost" or "The Dark Knight" again.

I wind up feeling like William Shatner in that Star Trek convention skit on SNL (video):

Shatner: You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having received all your letters over the years, and I've spoken to many of you, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

[ a crowd of shocked and dismayed Trekkies.... ]

I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves?

[ to "Ears" ] You, you must be almost 30... have you ever kissed a girl?

[ "Ears" hangs his head ]

I didn't think so! There's a whole world out there! When I was your age, I didn't watch television! I LIVED! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP! I mean, it's just a TV show dammit, IT'S JUST A TV SHOW!

Charlie: Are- are you saying then that we should pay more attention to the movies?


And so I sit silently in the corner, wait for my set, smile and try to be polite, and then get the fuck out of there.

Some comics are constantly hustling to do multiple spots in a a night. I get that and do it myself sometimes. But I wonder if these guys might be better off taking a few nights off, going out into the normal world and interacting with civilians. Living a life. You know, that thing you're supposed to talk about onstage.

[FYI: Yes, I realize how ridic it is to be a BLOGGER telling others to get a life.]

Anyway, I'm going back to my cave. (Good thing I'm not socially awkward at all, eh?) Hmm, maybe now you can see why you don't find me on a lot of other comics' MySpace "Top Friends" lists.


Big auditions happening this week in NYC

So I've got a big audition this week: I'm trying out for the "Just for Awkward Silences" festival that's held in Saskatoon every year. That's Saskatchewan. Home of the Roughriders CFL team. Interesting fact: There are eight CFL teams and five of them are nicknamed Roughriders...and the other three are all called Argonauts. Silly Canadians!

But seriously, a bunch of NYC comics are auditioning for the Just for Laughs fest in Montreal this week which is kinda a big deal. Dozens of comics will be performing at different shows around town. The judges will then decide who makes the cut.

The hope is to get a breakout set there, like Sean Patton did over the summer. After that, you'll get a management deal, late night spots, passed at all the big clubs...or at least that's the dream.

I didn't get an invite. I'm annoyed but since most of the people I know who got a spot deserve it, I can't complain too much. There's apparently a system where you have to be vouched for by a couple of industry types or comics who've made the fest in the past or something. I haven't really had any shows in front of industry types (at least not that I know of) and I'm pretty bad at hobnobbing with other comics so I can see why I didn't get the call.

Or maybe I'm just not funny enough. That couldn't possibly be the reason though, right? Right!? Gulp.

Anyway, it's been interesting to watch the different approaches auditioning comics are taking while getting ready. Some are going to mics and practicing every line trying to find that perfect tag or word to use in a joke.

Others are fearful of sounding over rehearsed and are holding back from doing their audition sets. They think keeping it fresh is a better idea than practicing the same lines over and over.

I tend to side with the former group. These are only six minute sets. Ya figure you're doing proven material that you've done a bunch so you should know it pretty well already. For me, doing good material in a shitty room takes the wind out of my sails.

Then again, it's not something I have to worry about. But yeah, I'm totally not bitter or anything.


Your mom doesn't work here

I had a job where the office manager wanted employees to clean up more. She put up a sign in the kitchen that said, "Your mom doesn't work here." I wrote in, "That's because she's dead." And then I left dishes all over the place.


The Ear, high degree of difficulty dives, crankiness, etc.

"The Ear" is an LA Times column where David Steinberg interviews comedians. In his Q&A with Larry David, Steinberg explains the meaning of "The Ear":

Stand-up comedians need someone to bounce their stuff off of. It’s usually a close friend, because you have to say what’s funny out loud to someone you trust before you perform in front of an audience. Any comic with a brain has an Ear or two he entrusts with his comedic life—-in other words, his material. The Ear is a sounding board. He gets to know a comedian’s cadence, his point of view, his mind. Most stand-ups never step onstage without going through the routine with their Ear. I have had the opportunity to be the Ear for some of the greatest comedy minds in the business. One example is Larry David, my friend and colleague for more than 20 years.

Steinberg asks David about the Curb where he gets his wife’s pubic hair stuck in his throat.

Did you ever think for one second people would think that’s crossing the line?
No, no, no. I think that’s right on the line. If you take the dive that has a high degree of difficulty and you land it, you get more points from the judges. But if you take the easy dive, you don’t get anywhere. You have to take some of these things and see if you can thread the needle.

If you take the easy dive, you don't get anywhere. Man, that's good.

In the Seinfeld interview, Jerry says, "All comedy starts with anger."

Crankiness is at the essence of all comedy...all comedy starts with anger. You get angry, and it’s never for a good reason, right? You know it’s not a good reason. And then you try and work it from there.

At the end, Jerry talks about the influence of The Abbott and Costello Show (YouTube clips) on "Seinfeld":

Yeah, that show was about comedy. There was no explanation of anyone’s life. Nothing made sense. There were always a lot of inexplicably evil people on that show, and we took that right on to ours: The garage attendant who tells you, “We can’t get your car out. We just can’t."

I love to play straight. Bud Abbott is really funnier to me than Lou Costello, because a really good straight man keeps bringing thae logic back. In stand-up, it’s all about this rigorous logic.

Jerry also mentions that he'd been doing comedy for only three and a half years when he got his first Tonight Show appearance.

In Jon Stewart's interview, he explains how he got started closing shows at The Comedy Cellar:

I was working as the day bartender at a Mexican restaurant on MacDougal Street--which, by the way, if you're ever looking to live the dream, the day bartender makes nothing. But there was a club right down the street called the Comedy Cellar. And there was a guy there named Bill Grundfest. He did the best thing for me ever, which was: "I'll tell you what I'll do; I'm not gonna pay you, but I'm gonna let you go on every night as the last guy." And so I went on for two years at the Comedy Cellar at 2:30 or 3 a.m. as the last guy. It was me and the waitstaff and a table of drunken Dutch sailors. And in that place, I learned how to be myself. It was the thing that made me want to be good. You begin to develop an internal barometer that doesn't include the audience. And that was a really big thing to learn: not to fall in love with the audience.

[Man, this post is chock full of Jews.]

Found the Seinfeld Q&A link via The Comic's Comic, who asks, "What year was this? Oh, this year. 2008. Really? Really. All of the talk about filming Comedian and pharmaceutical side effects and 'anal leakage' threw me off, too."

Actually, I think these interviews are all transcribed from "Sit Down Comedy," Steinberg's TV Land show from a few years back where he interviews comics. Pretty sure I remember hearing some or all of this stuff before. You can watch episodes of "Sit Down Comedy" online.


Applause breaks are analytical, laughter is primal

What's the pinnacle you can get as a comedian...a really hard laugh or an applause break? I'll take the hard laugh.

Applause breaks tend to be more analytical. People give them to you when they think something's really clever or they want to show you they liked something. There's an inherent pause there. People decide to applaud.

Laughter is primal though. A real, deep laugh = there's no choice about it. Laughing like that is a body release, like crying, sneezing, or orgasming. (Feel free to insert your own joke about experiencing all of those at once...actually I think Big Jay already has one.) That seems like a more soulful goal to aspire to.

But yeah, either one will do just fine.


Recent Twitter posts

Follow me on Twitter and ya can catch stuff like this:

I love listening to Howard Stern interviews. He likes to say, "You make a good point." Keeps the interviewee talking and feeling positive.

Why aren't there more stores that sell hotcakes?

Wallace Stevens: "Sometimes you must go too far to see what would suffice."

The germaphobe's worst fear: the office bathroom key. It's like a portable cesspool.

Suggestion to Hallmark for an anti-romantic card: "You're like a diamond, but without the dead Africans."

Hoping to use this phrase soon: "Don't paint stripes on a horse and tell me it's a zebra!"

Abandoned a lame mic last night. Sometimes sanity is better than stage time.

The problem with the movie "Comedian" = Orny Adams. Is it even possible to be more unlikable than that guy? Ugh.

Search queries from yesterday that led people to my blog: "tyra banks as a dinosaur" and "menudo Halloween Show in New England"

Shakespeare plots are curiously similar to the plots of Three's Company episodes. Someone overhears something wrong and then hijinx ensue.

There are too many comics out there doing card tricks. And not enough making the statue of liberty disappear.

You get the idea.

Eye level in Jersey City

Did an odd show in Jersey City last week in a bar with no stage. Weird to be eye level and two feet away from people while doing comedy. Here's what it looked like (that's Jared Logan performing):

Eye Level in Jersey City

Sometimes you'd do crowd work and the people within five feet of ya would totally be laughing and the people in the back would be like, "What the fuck is he talking about?"


I'll be in Chicago this week

Shows I'll be doing...

TUE Dec 2 (9:30PM) Chicago Underground Comedy @ Beat Kitchen

With Nick Morgan, CJ Sullivan, Prescott Tolk, Chad Briggs, Matt Ruby (Special guest in from NYC!), Jeb Cadwell (Lincoln Lodge!)

THU Dec 4 (9PM) Lincoln Lodge Comedy Show
FRI Dec 5 (9PM) Lincoln Lodge Comedy Show

Your host ALLISON LEBER steers a lineup guaranteed to dispel those holiday blues as we feature a debut by MIKE SCHMACK (thurs. only) ,the Lodge's own fresh faced ELIOT RAHAL and the master of the oblique one-liner MIKE SHEEHAN! We're also glad to host a rare Chicago performance from the Big Apple's MATT RUBY (MTV) and the first official live full headlining appearance by former Lodge host Steve O. Harvey's latest musical buzz-building project THE BAND OF A THOUSAND NAMES!


Malcolm Gladwell on what makes a great performer: 10,000 hours

"A gift or hard graft?" is an extract from "Outliers: The Story Of Success," the new book by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, he says it's hard work that sets great performers apart from the pack.

The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That's it. What's more, the people at the very top don't just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

This idea - that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice - surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.

"In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals," writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin, "this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years... No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

No wonder Jerry Seinfeld says to "just work." If you want to be a master, you've got to do it over and over.

For comedy, number of times on stage might be a better measure than number of hours. Something like you need to perform on stage at least 1,000 times before you can be a great comic. (And even that might be on the low side.)

The excerpt also features this interesting bit on The Beatles:

John Lennon, in an interview after the Beatles disbanded, talking about the band's performances at a Hamburg strip club called the Indra: "We got better and got more confidence. We couldn't help it with all the experience playing all night long. It was handy them being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over. In Liverpool, we'd only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing."

...All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times, which is extraordinary. Most bands today don't perform 1,200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart.

This struck a chord: "It was handy them being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over." You could say the same thing about shitty shows or open mics. To get over at these gigs, you really have to bring something. You've got to be energetic or in the moment or have a really strong bit. In front of a packed house, on the other hand, you can get away with slacking a bit more. The crowd will provide the juice.

In fact, I sometimes wonder about comics who get a break and wind up doing packed gigs or touring right out of the gate. Like maybe they miss out on the foundation you get when you spend years doing crappy gigs and winning over iffy crowds.


Miller High Life is the champagne of beers?

Miller High Life claims to be "the champagne of beers."


The champagne of beers!?

"Excuse me sir, between the various beers on your menu, which one would most remind me of...a completely different beverage?...Oh, excellent. One more question: Between the Slim Jims and the Beef Jerky, which would you say is most like the caviar of dried meats?"

Have you seen the guys who drink High Life? I've never looked at one and thought, "Wow, I bet he's a huge fan of the French."


The Benson Interruption w/ Tompkins, Mirman, etc.

The Benson Interruption was a blast last night. A lot more fun than the previous one I saw at UCB (which featured all improvisers). Doug was drunk (and stoned) from the get go and was on the whole night. It was a hot room and everyone had fun sets.

It's interesting to watch how the different comics handle him. Arj Barker had Doug interrupting him left and right while Eugene Mirman managed to keep Doug pretty quiet for the most part. Tony Camin, Doug's comrade in The Marijuana-logues, mostly just bantered with Doug the whole time.

Anthony Jeselnik — he just scored a gig as a writer for Jimmy Fallon's new show, something Doug may not have been supposed to reveal — tried to deadpan his way through Doug's interruptions without breaking a smile. And he tried to "punch up" a few of Doug's bits which was made even funnier by the fact that Doug wouldn't let him get through any of them. Also, Jeselnik, when he gives attitude, sounds a bit like Kanicki in Grease.

No big surprise that the highlight was Paul F. Tompkins. I sure hope he gets out of his Best Week Ever cage to do more spots in NYC because it's just a delight (yes, a delight!) to watch him go. Him and Doug really seemed to have a blast with each other. It's part of what makes the show so enjoyable: The comics seem to be having as much fun as the audience.

At one point Doug interrupted Paul's bit on New Yorkers for a couple of minutes and then told him to go back into the bit. Paul refused, saying, "You know they can hear us, right? We have microphones." Paul ended with his bit about his mom's wake and it was neat to hear how it's evolved since he played Comix a few months back (a recap of that show).

Btw, AST has podcasts of a previous TBI in LA and The Paul F. Tompkins Interruption which happened when Doug missed a show. Fun stuff.


Why do white people smell like wet dogs?

Fun racial fact from Saturday night's We're All Friends Here show: White people smell like wet dogs! Didn't you know? There's even a book about it. But why? This message board comment from "watitdos little cousin" gives the answer.

when the white people were living in the cabes of Europe 4000 thousand years ago... they lived the life of a beast... walking stooped over on all fours... eating raw meat... and killing their newborn by smashing their heads against the cave walls.

the wild dog was a animal animal that they tamed and used to help them hunt and track... and also they were used as watch dogs.

now... when the cavemen went out to hunt... they took some dogs with them and left the other dogs there at the caves to watch out for the young caveys and the women.

now everybody knows that the white woman is a natural freak... she started having sex with these dogs.

after 2000 years of the sperm of the dog entwining with the flesh of the woman... now today when white people get wet or sweat... they smell just like a dog.

that is why you are quick to see white people with dogs... especially white women that have those little ones... is because they smell like dog and they can pass it off on the real dog that they are holding under their arms.

some white people odor is not as strong as others... but if they get wet or sweat you will smell it.

they cannot help it.

and i am NOT making fun of them... it is just the truth.

"Everybody knows that the white woman is a natural freak." Classic. Btw, some guy named "Satan Slayin Mike" concurs...

Teach brutha, teach.

Smell a White person fresh out of a summer rainstorm at around 95 degrees on a extremely humid day.




Latest We're All Friends Here podcast plus Saturday at The Creek

The comedy chat show with boundary issues

Matt McCarthy (Comedy Central)
Reese Waters (Winner of NYC Emerging Comics Contest)
Greg Johnson (Greg Johnson Show)
Ross Hyzer (County Fair)

Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand

Saturday, November 22
8:00pm @ The Creek
10-93 Jackson Ave at 49th Ave
Long Island City, NY
Just one subway stop from Brooklyn and Manhattan

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Jim Gaffigan's "inner voice"

Jim Gaffigan's "inner voice" schtick is brilliant. He's a great jokewriter already but that voice really sets his act apart from the pack. He gets it both ways: He fires rapid-style one-liners in an old school kinda way yet simultaneously deconstructs his own act/persona along the way.

Why it's cool (other than being funny): The voice shows he's already thought about how each bit is being perceived by the audience. So it's clear he's got total control of the stage and the room. Also, it totally disarms anyone who might get offended by any of his bits (he's pretty clean generally but there are a few jokes he does that toe the line). I feel like it's Gaffigan subliminally saying, "I get why you might find this joke stupid or offensive, but you don't wanna be the real-life version of this lame character I'm doing, do ya?"

In this interview, he explains how he came up with it:

It was a character that I did that was always part of my personality. And I still will do it in everyday life. If I'm late to meet my wife, I'll be like… [Inner voice.] "I can't believe you're late." I used to do it at this place Surf Reality on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But during my Comedy Central Presents, I made a point of not doing it, which seems kind of odd, but it is something that certain audiences wouldn't get. But it's something to keep the material fresh. I remember being in DC and hanging out with Dave Attell—he was the headliner and I was middling—and me just going crazy with the inside voice, 'cause there is an improvisational kind of side to it. And it just really clicked. Attell was like, "Ah, you found your gimmick."

I think it's fascinating to watch how many angles he can take on a single topic too. Comics like Chris Rock, CK, or Paul F. Tompkins are great at wringing a topic dry. But I don't know if anyone attacks a subject with as many quick jokes as Gaffigan does. Just one-liner after one-liner. He builds a rhythm and then keeps hitting for minutes, even after you figure he must have exhausted every angle on the topic.

That's why watching him do, say, a whole Letterman spot on bacon is so fun. Or his classic Hot Pockets routine:

That much material from such a silly topic is a whole joke in its own way.

He stopped in at a show at Ochi's Lounge last week. His latest target: Dunkin Donuts. He's got good stuff brewing on that topic too. Also fun to see that he keeps all his jokes in a couple of binders that he carries around in a backpack.


Behind the joke: Cliché sex moves

The story behind this bit: It started from a real conversation with another comic. I remember at the time thinking it was a ridiculous thing to say. Mentioned it later to someone else and saw potential for a bit.

So thought about it more and why I thought it was so silly. It occurred to me that orgasms are extremely cliché too...but that doesn't seem to bother anyone. So that's where the whole "it's ok to play the hits" thing came from.

Then I started to think about what the opposite of a cliché sex move would be and came up with "avant-garde blowjob"...which is both a funny concept and a funny sounding phrase. Then it was just a question of getting to an act-out that fleshes out what that kind of blow job would be like...I figured a girl just staring at a dick for 20 minutes was a good start. Got laughs with that and then kept adding to it with other artsy terms. I stretched it too far (there used to be another line) but realized it was taking away from the laughs if there were too many examples. Sometimes I get greedy adding too many tags. The laughs die down if ya go too far though.

Later, I went back to the setup part and added in the "Hotel California" and overproduced lines. Not my fave lines, but once you've got some momentum, might as well milk it.

And speaking of stretching too far, I used to use a callback to another sex-themed joke I have at the end of this whole bit, but it felt like I was trying too hard to get a callback in there. So I cut that out and now I just try to really punch the words "not cliché" at the end. It brings it back to the original setup and puts a nice bow on the whole thing. I'd like to use more callbacks, but, when I do, they often feel a bit forced to me. Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive though.


Shot clock

One weird underlying thing in relationships: When it comes to having kids, women have a shot clock — until they're 35 or 40. But men can wait. It's like a basketball team where half the team thinks it has 24 seconds to shoot and the other half is like, "Yeah, I'm just gonna hold the ball...until I'm 52." Meanwhile, that other half of the team is like, "Pass me the damn ball, my uterus is open!"


To punch the clock or not?

I know a couple of struggling comics who have quit their day jobs in order to focus 100% on comedy. I don't really get this. Sure, if you're getting TV spots and working the road and can make a living, then go for it. But if you're not at that level, what's the point? It's not like there are daytime shows you can do. Are you really going to sit around and write jokes from 9-5 every day?

"Making it" in comedy is really out of your hands in a lot of ways. You can keep getting better, but you can't put a shot clock on getting paid. Quitting your job isn't really likely to speed up the process in any significant way. But it will make you a lot more anxious and take some of the joy out of it.

If you can't work at a job you love, maybe the best idea is to seek out a crappy job. Something that puts some cash in your pocket but that you don't want to stick with forever. Temping seems to be a popular route for a lot of comics.

I recall some Jay Leno interview where he mentioned how if he had a good job, he'd never have made it as a comic. He'd have been too complacent. Shitty jobs are the reason he stuck at it. (Then again, Leno is a freak about cash what with that whole "I never spend my Tonight Show money" thing.)

I also remember an interview where The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne talked about working for 11 years as a fry cook at Long John Silver's. He said he never minded it because it was completely mindless. His body was just a vessel moving objects around, but his mind was free to wander and roam anywhere. And that's why he stuck with it for so long.

Kinda related links:
Creating Our Own Happiness by Wayne Coyne [NPR]
Best Days Jobs for Indie Musicians [Thick Specs]


Getting it on at Little Caesar's

A friend of mine worked at a Little Caesar's restaurant, showed up for work early one morning, and walked in on the manager of the restaurant fucking a woman...made out of PIZZA DOUGH.

A woman made out of pizza dough...because, as we all know, the worst part of sex with a real woman: You can't BAKE her afterwards.

I mean this guy is an innovator. He's like the MacGyver of masturbation: "See this penis pump? I made it out of a paper clip, some baking soda, and a dugout canoe."

Does he have a real girlfriend? Maybe he gets confused sometimes. She's all: "Honey, you're acting weird in bed lately. You sprinkle flour all over the sheets. You keep tossing me up in the air. And why were you so happy when I got a yeast infection?!"

I bet he sticks with this trend in other ways too. Like when he has a birthday party where a woman jumps out of a cake, it's actually a woman made out of cake.

Upcoming shows: Comix, We're All Friends Here (back at The Creek), and Chicago

I'll be at Ochi's Lounge at Comix this weekend performing at Late Night Substantial on Friday at 11pm and The Lil Seany Boy show on Friday at 7pm.

Next week, We're All Friends Here returns to The Creek. Details:

The comedy chat show with boundary issues!

Matt McCarthy (Comedy Central)
Reese Waters (Winner of NYC Emerging Comics Contest)
Greg Johnson (Host of The Greg Johnson Show)
Ross Hyzer (Host of County Fair)

Saturday, November 22
8:00pm @ The Creek
10-93 Jackson Ave at 49th Ave
Long Island City, NY
Map (it's just one subway stop from Brooklyn and Manhattan)
Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand
Listen to the We're All Friends Here podcast

Also, I'll be in Chicago soon and doing some fun shows there:
Nov 17 (8PM) Zanie's
Dec 2 (9PM) Chicago Underground Comedy @ Beat Kitchen
Dec 4 (9PM) Lincoln Lodge Comedy Show
Dec 5 (9PM) Lincoln Lodge Comedy Show


"Nirvana: It's about time"

The label of this water bottle says, "Nirvana: It's about time."

Nirvana (It's about time)

Wow, that pretty much sums up our culture perfectly.

"Yeah, Nirvana...that state of mind free from oblivion, pain, and worry...you're like TEN minutes late. ANNOYING! Hurry it up, would ya?"
-United States of America

Shit-eating grin?

What is the phrase "shit-eating grin" about? What are you so happy about? Oh, you're eating shit. Well then that makes perfect sense! I mean, if ya can't smile when you've got a mouthful of feces...


"Great site from a great comedian"

Comic Neil Constantine links up this site and has some kind words:


Thanks Neil!

Video: A gay heckler yells "fuck you" to me

Did a gig at Princeton last weekend for a bunch of grad students there. Smarty pants audience. It was kinda weird to do a show where the smarter the joke was, the more it got laughs. Usually the opposite, ya know?

The flip side of that: They were pretty touchy about anything to do with race, gender, etc. Smart + liberal = always fearful of anything that might be construed as offensive (even if it's not really). Wrote about this before here: "White audiences and comedy about race."

Anyway, I went into my bit about the gay pride parade. I know it's a touchy subject so I usually start off by going after the religious right and explaining how I do support gay rights. Still, some dude in the crowd, presumably gay, wasn't having it. Here's what happened:

It actually turned out great. I believe in the joke and the point being made in it so I wasn't really phased. And his interruption took a planned bit and made it seem like a riff (ya always get more laughs on something if the crowd thinks ya just came up with it off the top of your head). Plus, the tension made the laughs that much deeper when the bubble burst. I should hire this guy to come to every gig.


How a routine can help you find your voice

Comic Ophira Eisenberg emailed me in response to my post ("Go for the killer set or churn out new material?") that mentioned her thoughts on perfecting a routine. Here's what she wrote:

Through the magic of google alerts I came to your page and I think you bring up a really valid point and it evoked some thoughts in my mind that I thought I would throw out there – maybe it’s useful. I suffered for a long time from doing too much new material and not working on the same material over and over to perfect it.

Maybe I’m someone who takes longer to grasp things than other people, but once I moved to New York I was given advice by a few people to “really work on my 7 minutes” for the sake of a tape or to have a polished audition set. I resisted it for a while, but once I started doing it, in addition to getting out of NY to perform in front of other audiences, it helped so much - and for a lot of the reasons you stated – building confidence, finding new tags, better economy of words, stronger punches – but the biggest for me – it taught me how to make the timing, rhythm and therefore delivery the joke as consistent as possible.

With that in mind, it made it a lot easier to try new material because I had honed my delivery or voice creating a more consistent act all round.

Really good point I think. Doing the same stuff over and over really does help you determine what your voice is and whether other material fits in.

That said, I still worry that it can lead to autopilot syndrome where you lose spontaneity and just turn into a drone. But I think there's a balance to be had...just a question of finding that sweet spot.

Oh, and one more thing that's nice about telling the same jokes over and over. You know how good they are. When an audience doesn't laugh at a joke that you know is funny, you can just shrug it off. Makes it easier to keep your confidence up.


"Rather be an atheist than a rapeist"

Bathroom graffiti spotted at Sound Fix in Williamsburg:

W'burg graffiti

"Rather be an atheist than a rapeist." Ummm...that's not really a choice you have to make. Well, I don't really want to rape you...but then again, I DO believe in God...so here goes!!


I don't care if your email is "Sent from my iPhone"

I don't get people who sign their emails "Sent from my iPhone." How is that information valuable to me in any way? Am I supposed to go: "Oooh...you sent it from your iPhone...well stop the fucking presses! Erase my entire inbox, I just received an email from an IPHONE."

It's usually a completely worthless email too. "Cool, see you then. Sent from my iPhone." Pointless. You know when you should sign your emails this way? When you're trapped somewhere. "The proposal looks good...Sent from the bottom of a mine shaft." Now that's something I should know. He's in the bottom of a mine shaft. I should send help. Now I know. Way to keep me informed.

Do these guys do this all the time? When they leave a voicemail, do they say, "OK, call me when you get this. Bye...I'm calling from my iPhone." When they give you a ride home, do they drop you off and say, "You just rode in my Cadillac."

And people who end their emails with a signature that has a philosophical quote should also calm down. "Be the change you want to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi. Yeah, that's the perfect way to conclude that "10 Ways to tell Santa is a Computer Nerd" email you just sent me.


Talk show guests who really try

I admire people who make it a point to be great talk show guests. They don't just half-ass it, they try to make their appearance an actual moment.

Old school guys who were great at this: Charles Grodin and Super Dave (both relied on fake animosity with the host that was a great change of pace from typical interviews). Norm Macdonald is always terrific.

And Adam Carolla is another guy who always comes out swinging. Here's a fun clip of him on "Talkshow with Spike Feresten."

Totally sounds like a conversation you'd hear at We're All Friends Here.

Obama's oratory

Here's how I feel about Obama getting elected: It's like someone just cleaned my bathroom for me. I'm very grateful. And happy I don't have to look at that shit anymore.

One good thing about Obama for comedians: It will be nice to have a president who can actually speak. Someone who respects words (and knows how to pronounce "nuclear").

Reminds me that Chris Rock has an iPod where he keeps solely comedy performances and political speeches. I've never really studied great speeches this way, but I can see how a comic could learn a bunch from doing so. With Obama, it's been interesting to listen to the rhythm of how he speaks, the way he uses taglines as callbacks (e.g. "Yes we can"), how he rotates in fresh material, etc.


Can low energy comics be good hosts?

Someone asked me last night: "If you're a low energy person, what's the best way to host a comedy show?" The honest answer is maybe it's best not to host. When you're MCing, it's different than just doing standup. Your job is to make people feel comfortable and keep the energy level in the room high. Steven Wright is a fantastic comic, but would be a shitty host.

My advice to this person was to let someone else host and then do a spot during the show. Or find a cohost who's a bit more amped. Or do as little time as possible and just keep the show moving (there's nothing worse than a lame host who keeps bringing the vibe down after each comic by doing too much time). Or make funny videos you can show instead of trying to force yourself into something that's not you.

Hosting a show is like hosting a party. You need to make sure everyone's having fun. A regular set can be more selfish, awkward, or low energy. When you host, it's not nearly as much about you. It's about setting a fun vibe/tone for the room and making the crowd feel like a cohesive unit.

Halloween cotton


This is the house across the street from me. If aliens were to come down and visit us during Halloween, they'd be convinced that we're deathly afraid of cotton when it's stretched out.

One thing I do like about Halloween night: "What are you supposed to be?" is the way I'd like to start just about every conversation, every day.


Go for the killer set or churn out new material?

For a while, I was constantly churning through new material. Why? 1) I get bored doing the same jokes over and over. 2) I didn't like the idea of other comics seeing me do the same joke multiple times. 3) I wanted to do fresh material at each Flying Carpet show (which happened once a month). 4) I figured the best way to learn about creating funny was to try to keep making it from scratch. 5) I was also working on characters like DJ Underground or The White Collar Comedian which would sidetrack me from my "normal" bits.

So I was always writing and trying new stuff, rarely saving a joke for longer than a couple of months. But one night this summer, my attitude changed. I showed up to do a set and it was (surprisingly) a great crowd. And they were filming the whole show too. I got up and was doing really well for the first four minutes. And then I kinda fell apart. Nothing terrible but a chance at a great tape slipped through my hands.

I got offstage and was really pissed off at myself. I decided to take a different approach. So for the past few months I've been working a lot more on honing jokes and trying to wittle my best stuff into a killer 7-10 minute set...even if that means repeating jokes that I've been doing for a while.

In this interview, comic Ophira Eisenberg — I've never seen her but I think this quote is interesting — says you have to work on seven minutes for a year to make it perfect.

I do my material four times and I'm bored with it. But, I've learned that I can't do that. When I was pursuing Premium Blend, I learned you really have to work on seven minutes for a year to make it perfect. You have to be able to say, 'I know how this works and you can count on it.' Then they'll say, 'Of course!' I used to try something new every second day and that was great. But I never honed stuff. Jim MacAleese, a comic from Canada, once told me, 'It's called a routine for a reason.'

I think there are lots of comics who take this approach. I just dislike the idea of intentionally viewing your act as being "routine." That feels overly stiff to me. There's gotta be a middle ground here, right?

Lately, I've been taking a two tier approach. I've got my A material. If there's a decent crowd, I go for it and try to have the set of the night. If there are comics in the back who have heard all those jokes before, oh well.

Then I've got my "undertow." A constantly changing series of bits that I try at open mics or shows with meager audiences. In those places, I often throw in some more personal stuff, talk about the room, etc. Sometimes I intentionally go into stuff that is unformed just to see if I can riff into some gold. (At the very least, this keeps me conversational...which I've found to be the best approach in a dead room.)

Some benefits to going back to the same jokes over and over: You get an air of confidence. When you know a joke works, the audience can sense it. Also, you start seeing ways to stretch jokes. You add in a new tag or figure out a way to fold a good joke into an existing bit. Or you keep going deeper and deeper on a subject (one good technique: keep asking "Why?"). Sometimes it's the 20th time you tell a joke that the perfect callback or end line comes to mind. And thankfully, that one extra line or change of wording can make telling an old bit feel fresh again.


"You can't just go around calling people Nazis!"

Mark Normand and I have begun IM'ing. Watch out world!

MN: you can't just go around calling people nazis!
MR: i think i know a nazi when i see one. you see this tattoo on my forearm...you see those numbers...those are the lottery numbers i play every day. so i think that gives me the right.
MN: Well, you're the one with the shaved head here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MR: that's a skinhead...totally diff than nazis...i kinda like skinheads. cuz they're so silly. and already in prison.
MN: how are they silly?
MR: how intimidated can you be by people whose claim to fame is matching haircuts? it didn't work for Bon Jovi.
MN: well, they hate blacks too.
MR: hating blacks didn't work for Bon Jovi either!
MN: are you kidding? he was on ally mcbeal!! that's my new catch phrase: "i think he was on Ally mcbeal"


Guest post about being "edgy" over at Dead Frog

I've got a guest post up over at Todd Jackson's Dead-Frog.com: Making Fun of the Zebras isn’t Edgy. Excerpt:

If you want to be edgy, don’t come into the lion’s den and make fun of the zebras. Come into the lion’s den and make fun of the lion. That takes real balls.

If you're a Dead Frog reader here for the first time, welcome aboard. You can learn about me in the sidebar to the right. Here's info on tonight's "We're All Friends Here" show and here's a link to the WAFH podcast.

Butterflies, dolphins, tattoos, and rockets

Here's an example of visiting the junkyard. I put this butterfly/tattoo joke to bed a while ago. Then I thought of a fun tag (the dolphin thing) and brought it back. Then a couple of weeks later the teardrop thing occurred to me. Now it's a fuller bit and feels more substantial than it was as a one-liner.

An analogy for where I'm focusing my joke telling energy these days: I used to spend time trying to shoot lots of rockets into the clouds. Now I'm spending more time trying to get rockets that made the clouds into outer space.


Video: Compilation of acts from Schtick or Treat

Highlights from Schtick or Treat (no Rodney though). Jason Saenz did a great job putting this together. Fyi, we've got more video too but haven't gone through it yet.

Grim reaper comedy

Grim reaper comedy

Monday night I performed at a comedy show where, due to Halloween decorations, a motorized grim reaper circled directly above the comedians' heads. Above, Vince Averill "kills" as the reaper flies overhead.


Rodney Dangerfield, king of LPM (laughs per minute)

My tribute set the other night at Schtick or Treat was Rodney Dangerfield. Man, amazing how many punchlines per minute he gets. You think Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg tell short jokes, but Rodney's the king.

Here's the set I did, cherry picked from different parts of his great "No Respect" album.

No respect at all. When I was a baby I was breastfed by my father.

I tell ya, I can't relax, ya know? The other night I felt like having a few drinks. I went over to the bartender and I said, "Surprise me." He showed me a naked picture of my wife.

My wife, I got no sex life either. She cut me down to once a month. Oh, I'm lucky. Two guys I know she cut out completely. I met one of the guys and i told him "Who told you you could fool around with my wife?" He told me, "Everybody." My wife, last night she told me she wants to have sex in the backseat of the car...and she wants me to drive. For crying out loud.

My sex life is nothing anyway. I told a girl from Allstate what I want to put in your hands, you'll never sell me insurance! What a sex life. The only reason I get any girls at all is because of who I am...a rapist. The other night I caught a peeping tom booing me.

I'm getting old. At my age, I want two girls at once so if I fall asleep they got each other to talk to. Are you kidding?

I tell you my trouble, I got the wrong doctor. You know my doctor, Dr. Vinnie Boombatz. I saw him last week. I told him, "Doc, everyday I wake up and I look in the mirror, I wanna throw up. What's wrong with me?" He said, "I don't know but your eyesight is perfect!" One time I called him, I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. He told me to have a few drinks and get some rest. I never had any luck with doctors. My psychiatrist told me I was going crazy. I said if you don't mind, I'd like a second opinion. He said, "Alright, you're ugly too!"

I never got girls. I was making love to one girl and she started to cry. I said, "You'll hate yourself in the morning?" She said, "I hate myself now." This girl was no bargain either. Showed up, she had pigtails under her arms. This girl was fat and ugly. Ooh was she ugly. How ugly? She was known as a "two bagger." That's a girl who's so ugly, when you go out with her you put a bag on your head in case the bag over her head breaks. She was ugly! I bent down to pet her cat, it was the hair on her legs. Ugly chick. I took her to the top of the Empire State Building, airplanes started to attack her. I mean ugly. When two guys broke in her apartment, she yelled, "Rape!" They yelled "No!"

So fucking good. There's not a single extra word in there. And the rhythm of his delivery is great too. The last paragraph just builds and builds, rapid-fire. It's like a fighter landing jab after jab. It really elevates the one-liner style to a whole new plane when you can build one joke on top of another like that. Although they're not one liner guys, you see people like Daniel Tosh and Greg Giraldo use a similar sorta pile-on style.

I also inserted a lot of the little asides he uses. Funny how just these lines can become hilarious when used to fill in the cracks between jokes.

What a crowd...Classy crowd...What d'ya wanna fight now? It's a funny line, don't give me that BS. I've been through enough in my life...Are you kidding?...I tell ya...For crying out loud...etc.

Definitely a learning experience to actually write down a great comic's material and study their rhythm and delivery this way.

The Comic's Comic recaps Schtick or Treat

Sean McCarthy on Schtick or Treat:

It was the most fun I've seen out of this community since the last time so many of them had gathered at The Creek in early January for "50 First Jokes." And by this community, I mean I'm not sure how to classify this sub-group of the New York comedy scene. They're not the alt-alt comics. They're not underground comics. They're not the AA ball or junior circuit. So who are they? Do I even need to find a word to categorize them?

"Alt-alt comics" might work because then then it could just be called AA. Are you kidding me? Count me out though...I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. (Viva Groucho!)

Schtick or TreatPhoto from Schtick or Treat: Woody Allen, Janeane Garafolo, and Mitch Hedberg (aka Gilad Foss, Mara Herron, and Chelsea White).


THU = The Manhattan debut of WE'RE ALL FRIENDS HERE

The Manhattan debut of...
Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand
The Slipper Room
Thursday, Oct. 30 - $5
Doors at 7PM, Showtime at 8PM (sharp!)
167 Orchard St. (between Stanton and Rivington)

The most inappropriate comedy chat show/podcast around makes its Manhattan debut! The past couple of shows were standing room only at The Creek so we're excited to bring it from LIC to the LES. This show will feature:

Victor Varnado (Conan)
Myq Kaplan (Live at Gotham)
Brooke Van Poppelen (UCB)
Mike Lawrence

...and lots of boundary issues. Afterwards, there's a burlesque show that's FREE for all WAFH attendees.

Listen to the podcast.

WAFH Flyer

From high to low

Ah, funny how fickle this standup thing is. Saturday night we're opening up a show to an overstuffed house, the next night I'm standing on a box in the back of Beauty Bar trying to be louder than the DJ in the front who likes to drown out the comics. The audience is four people (three of whom are Irish) and a few comics in the back. And it's like trying to lift something way too fucking heavy.

One lesson learned: If your audience is mostly foreigners, X out your jokes that have pop culture references for punchlines before you get onstage. I started two jokes only to realize that 3/4 of the audience was gonna have no idea what I was talking about when I got to the end. Whoops.

And I realized afterwards I actually had a great bit to pull out in that situation (my Scott Baio vs. Brits thing). Always painful when you get offstage and then realize exactly what joke you shoulda told.

Back when I was doing more club shows, I prob woulda handled it better. You get used to tourists in clubs. Actually, that's a real problem with doing mostly alternative rooms: Ya get accustomed to completely homogeneous audiences. Can be a dangerous thing if you want to be funny to all kinds of people.

It's one problem I have with shows in, say, Williamsburg. They're often well attended but you're usually performing for exclusively W'burg hipsters. That's fine and all but I'd rather have a wider cross-section in the audience. Manhattan is a hub so shows there get a better mix of people from uptown, Brooklyn, Queens, the 'burbs, etc.


Schtick or Treat was amazing!

Schtick or Treat last night was great. Maybe the funnest comedy show I've seen in NYC. I'm biased but ask anyone else who was there. It was a great vibe, the laughs were nonstop, and the place was packed (people were squeezed into the hallway outside the theater trying to catch a glimpse).

All the seats were filled with civilians, while all the comics stood in the back (nearly every comic stuck around for the entire 2 1/2 hour show too). And it was the rare night where the comics in the back of the room laughed harder than the real audience members in front. The audience seemed to be playing catch up (they didn't instantly recognize all the comics) but they still were having a great time.

I did my set as Rodney Dangerfield and had a blast.

I'm getting old. At my age, I want two girls at once so if I fall asleep they got each other to talk to. Are you kidding?

Standout sets came in two flavors: those who were accurate and those who brought their own flavor. Dan Soder's Dave Chappelle was pitch perfect. Gilad Foss' Woody Allen also was dead on. Sven Wechsler's Yakov Smirnoff had a delightful Russkieness. And Cheslee Calloway's Tom McCaffrey was pretty sweet...right? And McCaffrey (who did Louis CK) was even in the room to enjoy it, the only comic to both perform and be imitated.

As far as bringing their own flavor, I thought Ross Hyzer's Chris Rock was great. He went up pretending he didn't understand the concept and thought he was just going to show a clip of a bit he liked (even I bought it and yelled out, "You don't have to go.") He said he'd perform it anyway and then way into Rock's infamous n*****s vs. black people bit and meekly started explaining why he hates n*****s. Afterwards, he told me he's been waiting years to be able to pull off that idea. My cohost Mark Normand's Paula Poundstone was also great. Immense shoulder pads and lots of sprawling over a chair made the whole thing way funnier than the actual Poundstone.

Afterwards, a couple who had been in the audience came up to me and asked, "Who was the girl who told the joke about the banana? The one where it's red?" I realized she meant Mitch Hedberg (whom Chelsea White had performed). The woman asked me to write down both Mitch's name and Chelsea's name because she wanted to hear Mitch and also see Chelsea perform again sometime. That seems like the perfect outcome: audience members being introduced to both a legend and a local up and comer.

Overall, it was great to see the whole scene come together like that. It had a really pleasant, positive vibe and someone even commented, "If every show had this much positivity with comics getting along and having fun, a lot more people would come out to comedy shows in New York." I don't know about all that but it definitely felt like a cool, "you had to be there" moment. And you can bet we'll be schticking again in a year.


Schtick or Treat (Sat) is Time Out NY Critic's pick

Time Out NY on Schtick or Treat: "Following the lead of tribute bands, more than 30 local comedians perform as their favorite stand-ups in this Halloween special. Tom McCaffrey as Louis C.K., Dan St. Germain as Monique, etc. There's no way this won't be fun."

Quick jokes or longer bits?

Did a two-minute audition spot for a standup competition this week. Was able to squeeze in three bits. Afterwards I wondered if I shoulda gone for more one-liners. Get more mileage that way.

Talked about it with the comic who went before me and he said though he normally prefers to do bits, in situations like that he tries to get four quick setup/punch jokes in and then tell one bit at the end. His explanation was something like this: "Look at who gets 'Live at Gotham' and those other shows...It's the guys who tell jokey jokes, not long bits."

Then last night at Kabin, I walked out feeling almost the opposite. Had a fun set but the quick jokes I did felt flatter than the longer bits. Maybe it was my delivery. They still worked, just had to fight to get 'em over. As soon as I got into some longer bits and more personal stuff, I felt more relaxed and the crowd started to get into it more. It really all depends on time/place/crowd/mood...so many moving parts. Part of what makes standup so fascinating.

Btw, that Kabin show is really killing it, def one of the best shows going downtown right now. Everyone had a great set at it last night. And man, Dan St. Germaine had a breakout spot at the end. The crowd just loved his long act outs, which get very theatrical and keep going. He even got a standing ovation from a couple of people there. Always fun to watch people you know have a "next level" set like that.


The problem with fitting in

Was thinking about that "When Standup Stood Out" movie recently. In it, all the Boston comics were jealous of the breakout success of Steven Wright and Bobcat Goldthwait.

But when you look back, the distinctiveness of their acts set them miles apart from the rest of the pack. All the other guys blurred into a faceless mob of angry, Irish, working class dudes who tell the same kind of jokes. (Imagine the guys who work the docks in season two of The Wire, just Irish instead of Polish and comics instead of dock workers.) No wonder Carson's booker went for the weirdos instead.

More evidence why it's good to develop a unique voice — that includes material, delivery, look, etc. — that stands out from the pack. If you fit in seamlessly with all the other comics in your crew, you're just a face in the crowd.

Upcoming shows at Kabin, Chelsea Market, etc.

Shows I'll be on in the next week...
10/23 THU 9PM: Comedy as a Second Language @ Kabin
10/24 FRI 9PM: [Not comedy] Rare live performance by my band Ruby Lament (at loft party in Williamsburg, email me for details)
10/25 SAT 8PM: Shtick or Treat @ The Creek
10/26 SUN 9PM: Vince & Jesse's show @ Beauty Bar
10/27 MON 7:30PM: Comedy Night @ The Chelsea Market
10/27 MON 9PM: Comedy Dungeon @ Jazz on the Park
10/30 THU 8PM: We’re All Friends Here @ The Slipper Room


Doing 30 and visiting the junkyard

So I did a 30 minute set on Friday. That's a lot more room to stretch out than the 7-10 min sets you typically get in NYC. It was nice to be able to go deeper into some personal stuff (e.g. talking about my parents) that maybe doesn't have as many punchlines-per-minute but has more of a narrative. I also dusted off some golden oldies (a few of which proved themselves worthy of a comeback).

Actually, that's something I've been doing a lot more in the past few months: revisiting old jokes and retooling them. I used to constantly plow ahead with writing fresh material. I figured the best way to learn about creating funny was to try to keep making it from scratch.

But now that I've got more experience under my belt, it's fun to go back to the old stuff and see if there's any gold there. A lot of times there's a good premise that I didn't milk enough or didn't know how to maximize back then. (Dan refers to his old jokes as a "junkyard" that he dives into occasionally to find gems, a good analogy methinks.) It's funny how just one new tag or a slight changing to the wording can breathe new life into a bit that seemed stale.


"We're All Friends Here" podcast: play, subscribe, or share

As of November '09, the new We're All Friends Here podcast is available on BreakThru Radio, an online radio station.


BTR Episodes:

  • BTR episode 8/21/2012: Andy Hendrickson, Michelle Wolf, and Nimesh Patel
  • BTR episode 7/26/2012: Jermaine Fowler, Adam Conover, and Jessica Watkins
  • BTR episode 6/19/2012: Nate Fridson, Rojo Perez, and Taylor Ketchum
  • BTR episode 3/20/2012: Greg Stone, Tim Warner, and Luis Gomez
  • BTR episode 1/17/2012: Matt Ruby and Mark Normand interview each other (with guest co-host Neal Stastny)
  • BTR episode 12/20/2011: Adam Newman, Justy Dodge, and Chris Distefano
  • BTR episode 11/15/2011: (Encore) Tom Sibley, Calise Hawkins, and Jonathan Powley
  • BTR episode 10/18/2011: Jessimae Peluso, Andy Sandford, and Amber Nelson
  • BTR episode 09/20/2011: (Best of) Damien Lemon, Dan Carroll, and Jason Saenz
  • BTR episode 08/16/2011: Tim Dimond, Nore Davis, and Jeff Wesselschmidt
  • BTR episode 07/19/2011: (Best of) James Adomian, Michael Che, and Tom Sibley
  • BTR episode 06/21/2011: Jason Good, Rae Sanni, Thomas Dale
  • BTR episode 05/17/2011: Yannis Pappas, Jesse Popp, and Dan Soder
  • BTR episode 04/19/2011: Zach Broussard, George Gordon, and Harrison Greenbaum
  • BTR episode 03/15/2011: Nick Maritato, Phoebe Robinson, and Morgan Venticinque
  • BTR episode 02/15/2011: Michael Che, Zach Sims, and Erin Judge
  • BTR episode 01/18/2011: Damien Lemon, Selena Coppock, Chris Laker
  • BTR episode 12/21/2010: Nate Bargatze, Dan Carroll, James Adomian
  • BTR episode 11/16/2010: (Best of) Kevin Barnett, Mike Lawrence, and Ray Combs Jr.
  • BTR episode 10/19/2010: Jason Saenz, Doug Smith, and Anthony Devito
  • BTR episode 09/21/2010: Tom Sibley, Calise Hawkins, and Jonathan Powley
  • BTR episode 08/17/2010: Sarah Maywalt, Trey Galyon, and Kevin Barnett
  • BTR episode 06/15/2010: Two Year Anniversary Show with Ali Wong, Erik Bergstrom, and Brooke Van Poppelen
  • BTR episode 05/18/2010: John F. O'Donnell, Yannis Pappas, and Ray Combs Jr.
  • BTR episode 04/20/2010: Mike Lawrence, Josh Comers, and Mara Herron
  • BTR episode 03/16/2010: (Couples show) Sean O'Connor/Nicolia Demas, Luke Thayer/Abbi Crutchfield, and John/Molly Knefel
  • BTR episode 02/16/2010: Sam Morril, Mike Recine, and Mick Diflo
  • BTR episode 01/20/2010: Joe List, Nick Turner, and Neil Constantine
  • BTR episode 12/29/2009: Erik Bergstrom, Robert Dean, and Blaine Perry
  • BTR episode 11/24/2009: Roger Hailes, Giulia Rozzi, Leo Allen, and Jesse Geller

Or subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed. (Note: It will show up in your iTunes under the title "Breakthru Radio.")

How to subscribe to the show FREE on iTunes:

1. Open iTunes
2. In the top menu, click "Advanced"
3. Select "Subscribe to Podcast"
4. Copy and paste this address into the pop-up window: http://feeds.feedburner.com/wafh
5. In your "Podcasts" page, to the left side of the podcast title (the title is "Breakthru Radio Podcast"), click the little arrow to expand the contents. (Make sure you're viewing the page in "List Form." Click "View" at the top and select "as List")
6. Then click the little "Get All" button on the right of the title to download every episode of We're All Friends Here. Enjoy!

(Thanks to Citizen Radio for the iTunes instructions.)

Older episodes of We're All Friends Here: For older episodes (from June '08 to Sept. '09), you can listen via the player below, via iTunes, or RSS feed.

About the show: We're All Friends Here is a comedy chat show with boundary issues hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand. The live show, which began in May '08, occurs once a month at The Creek in Long Island City, Queens (just one subway stop from Brooklyn and Manhattan). Each show is also recorded and published as a podcast too.

The format: Matt and Mark host NYC comics who do a quick set and then sit down to talk about taboo issues from their lives (sex, drugs, religion, race, etc.) Things can get a bit hairy but it's a safe place — we're all friends here.

We're All Friends Here

Smell this weed?

How come when people have really good weed they always want you to smell it first? That's not how you do that drug. It's like saying, "Man, this cocaine is amazing...you've got to listen to it!"

Schtick or Treat is this Saturday

Schtick or Treat Flyer

See the full lineup and details.


Tight ship at the Cellar

The Comedy Cellar is the best room in town (maybe the country?). Consistently good lineups and lots of big name drop ins (Rock, Chappelle, CK, etc.).

But it's interesting how they work with new comics. From what I've gathered, comics there (at least new ones anyway) need to do the exact same set each time. Throw in a new joke and the guys who run the place will ask you about it. The reason: They want you to do only A material. Want to try something new? Then do it somewhere else. Also, they give you lots of notes before and after your sets (even up to which jokes you should tell and the order to do them in).

Seems a bit controlling but they do have a great thing going so you can't really knock 'em that much. And you've gotta admire the hands on approach compared to the lackadaisical attitude at a lot of other clubs (where the people who run the place don't seem to give a shit about the actual quality of the performances).

It's good for audiences and the club but, I imagine, not the funnest situation for comics. You can see why lots of the guys who work there enjoy getting to perform in alternative rooms where experimenting is encouraged.

FYI, the Cellar's site offers free passes for Sunday to Thursday (2 item min still applies though).


My first 30

I'll be performing for 30 minutes tonight at The First Half Hour show at The Creek. Opening up: Melissa Surach and David Cope. Looking forward to stretching out.

Joe Powers benefit show on Nov. 20

Tickets now available for "The Joe Powers Healing Blowout" at Gotham Comedy Club on Thurs, Nov 20th @ 7:30pm. Ted Alexandro and Arj Barker on the bill and all proceeds go to Joe's fund. Big ups to the comics participating and Becky Donahue, Mara Herron, Meg Cupernall, JoAnn Grigioni, and everyone else who's helping to put this together.

The purity of people who can't stop themselves

Larry Charles (writer/director of Seinfeld, Curb, Borat, Religulous, etc.) on his mentor Larry David:

He is a savant. [Savants] have to do what they do. They don't have any choice. They can't make adjustments. This is what they do. This is their vision. If you accept it, great. If you don't accept it, it's not gonna change. This is what they do.

If they're sitting on a bench at a bus stop, they'll be saying the same things as they will on stage. That is who they are. They're very true to themselves. They completely trust their instincts.

And that's how Bill [Maher] is too. Bill trusts his instincts. He's willing to even alienate people that like him in order to speak the truth. And there's just very few people out there who have that kind of vision.

Who doesn't love Larry David? Maher is kinda a condescending, smug prick. But I still enjoy listening to him. He may be a prick, but he's also usually right (and impressively brave too).

It's interesting how both these "savants" come off as completely unlikable in a lot of ways yet still attract devoted audiences. Being funny obviously helps but I also think it's about what Charles mentions.

There's a compelling purity to someone who can't stop themselves. Like CK talking about wiping shit out of his daughters vagina. It's terrible and disgusting. But beautiful in its honesty. When someone's totally honest, direct, and unyielding, it's tough to turn away. Even if it's something you disagree with or hate, you respect them for being out there and willing to say it.

I think that's a big part of why audiences turn to performers: to say and do things they can't in their own lives. It's a kind of wish fulfillment. People love the idea of rock stars because they can't shoot heroin, throw TVs off of balconies, and bang groupies in their own lives. With comedy, audiences love to hear a comic say that offensive or unpopular thing that they've secretly thought all along but would never dare say aloud.

FYI, the quote above is from Charlie Rose's interview with Charles and Maher (clip below, quote is 21:36 in).

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