Labels: about standup
Turns out she likes Limp Bizkit. I ask her if it's the lyrics or Fred Durst's charm she likes. She also likes Linkin Park. And Nickelback. I told her that made sense. If you like the smell of shit, you'll love the smell of farts. I then ponder if she's a teenage boy who likes to lift weights. Here's the audio:
I dove right in because I was happy to have something in the moment to riff on. It was the sort of room where written stuff wasn't gonna fly very well anyway. So I chose to view her talking as a gift, not an insult.
She kept talking throughout the night and someone else yelled at her hard later. It got applause but I don't think that's the way to go. I think anger usually equals fear. They smell the same to me. The calmer you are when handling a talker/heckler, the more you seem like a pro.
Besides, she fucking likes Limp Bizkit and Nickelback. Life has been tough enough on her already.
Paul F. Tompkins on dealing with hecklers:
When I first started, I had enormous difficulty dealing with hecklers. Any time anyone in the audience said anything, I instantly went on the attack, and in a rather inelegant fashion. I just tried to shut people down with insults. What took me forever to learn was that you have to give these people enough rope to either hang themselves or show that they are not actually a threat.
Bill Burr's take is to just say whatever you're thinking:
I would just say when you’re getting heckled, just really go with what you’re thinking, because even if it isn’t funny, it’s going to be something hateful. If you just really tapped into how sad that person was making you, you could turn it into something. There’s no formula for it. I would just go with what the hell you’re thinking.
Carson was such a master. So much to love here: When Ed Ames goes to get the tomahawk, Johnny grabs him as if to say, "Oh no ya don't. This is what I live for." Then he milks the laughs some more. Then he starts sharpening the blades on his tomahawks — metaphorically and literally. And then bursts the bubble with the absolutely perfect line. So good.
Do you get more laughs with a clean cut hair cut or with a sloppy mop up top? like if i get too close of a haircut and tell a slightly racist joke, i might get booed off the stage, keep it long and it'll probably fly. is it mean or is too clean cut not funny. like why is this comic's shirt tucked in?
Yeah, I do feel like there's a slightly different vibe onstage now that my head's shaved. But I think it'd be pretty weak to blame a joke not going over on my haircut. My cut may be military-like but I think my delivery and material usually do a good job of indicating who I actually am.
Also, it depends on what kind of comic you are. Someone like Zach Galifianakis or Matt McCarthy cultivate a zany look and it works because they are zany comics. People like Brent Weinbach or Jim Norton or Patton Oswalt keep it tight and that works fine for them.
As for dress, most comics look like slobs. I think that's lame. I like it when performers look like performers. I like when Paul F. or Steve Martin wear a suit. It shows me they respect the stage.
When I see a comic dressed in jeans and a hoodie, some part of me expects them to be generic. If you're a sheep in how you dress, the odds go up that you're gonna be a sheep in the jokes you tell. And don't even get me started on the lameness of cargo shorts onstage (or anywhere for that matter). Of course, plenty of successful comics dress this way so it's not a 100% thing in any direction.
My take: Yes, this stuff matters somewhat. But if a joke depends on your haircut or your outfit in order to work, it probably wasn't that great a joke. If your look is true to your personal style and onstage voice, you'll do fine.
Got a question ya want to ask? Post it as a comment.
1. County Fair hosted by Ross Hyzer
Mon 8/25 - 8:00pm
Pianos: 158 Ludlow Street (between Stanton and Rivington)
Claudia Cogan (ECNY Nominee, Best Female Standup)
Ben Kissel (the bizarro me - or am I the bizarro him?)
Joe Mande (Best Week Ever)
Matt Ruby (the MTV)
Lisa Delarios (Live at Gotham)
and Baron Vaughn (Aspen Comedy Festival)
2. Substantial Stand Up hosted by Dan Fontaine
Tues 8/26 - 8:00pm
TenEleven: 171 Ave. C
Dan St. Germaine
I once heard Howard Stern say that if he felt like he shouldn't talk about something on the air then he knew that's exactly what he should talk about. We're using that as a guiding principle of "We're All Friends Here." And I think it's a big part of why the show's so fun.
Then on Saturday, I debuted The Hip Hop Pirate at the Delusions of Spandex show at Parkside Lounge. You will be hearing more from the funky buccaneer shortly. And a video is in the works too. Stay tuned.
Then headed over to Comix to catch the John Mulaney/Nick Kroll late show. They killed it. Mulaney is on such a tear. His Comedy Central Presents tapings is this week (ticket info) and I imagine that's the set we heard. It's going to be the shit. Def some Paul F. and Birbigs influence going on in how his newer bits are interesting stories that still manage to deliver lots of funny along the way.
My fave part of the show was seeing Kroll and Mulaney bring the "Oh, Hello" boys back to life. Just cool to see that level of agreement and unity when characters are totally ridiculous. Plus, they seemed to be entertaining each other a ton too. You def pick up the vibe when two performers have known each other for years and genuinely like each other.
I'm a big Kroll fan too. Fabrice Fabrice live is like nothing else. And the act-outs in his standup are so over the top. Really brings an actorly vibe to stuff which can take bits to a whole new level (Baron Vaughn does this really well too).
Related: I was kinda surprised that Mulaney is writing for SNL now. Is it really a step up to go from a CCP to an SNL writing gig? Hmm. I gotta think he's angling to be on the show in the future. I think he'd make a great news guy (Tina Fey and Seth Meyers both took the writer > news route). Would be cool to see SNL pull in Kroll eventually too. Could totally see "Oh, hello" guys and Fabrice as SNL characters.
And finally, on a serious note, best wishes to Joe Powers. Funny comic, sweet guy, and friend of mine who was injured in some sort of freak roof/balcony accident this weekend. Got this Facebook message about it: "Fellow comedian and friend Joe Powers survived a serious accident this weekend and is currently at Bellevue Hospital in stable but very serious condition in the intensive care unit. While the injuries he sustained are serious, he is doing well." Here's to a speedy recovery.
Labels: about standup
And now he's getting almost Kaufman-esque with this awkwardly gentle roast of Bob Saget:
Some more Norm greatness in case you've never seen: Here's Norm, Conan, and Courtney Thorne-Whatever discussing Carrot Top. The fun starts around 1:40 in. Legendary.
I love how Conan nearly falls off his chair at the end.
I always loved this line Norm did about Joe Camel:
This is what I've noticed. He doesn't even look like a fucking camel. He looks so much like a cock, because you know how it's usually subliminal, where you have to find the cock? Right? This character, you have to find the goddamn camel!
He used the same bit on The Daily Show once too. It was two days after crocodile hunter Steve Irwin died. When Norm starts in on the Irwin thing, Jon Stewart goes, "Please don't do this anymore."
Episode 3: Rob Cantrell, Kumail Ali, Jacqueline Novak, and Dan St. Germain
Topics covered: dating a heroin addict, menstruation, terrorism, Pakistanis vs. Indians vs. Jews vs. Arabs, weed arrests, marriage, and more. More episodes here.
And come check out the next "We're All Friends Here" show on Friday featuring Jesse Popp, Sean O'Connor, Neal Statsny, and Jena Friedman.
We're All Friends Here
Aug 22 @ The Creek
Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand
10-93 Jackson Ave at 49th Ave
Long Island City, Queens
Subway: 7 to Vernon/Jackson, G to 21 St/Van Alst, E or V to 23 St/Ely Ave.
Sweet outdoor patio for hanging out after the show too. Come on out.
With the kid in the room, I realized how not clean my act is. Tons of cursing, talking about sex and blow jobs, etc. Even when I tried to do a clean joke, I realized it ended with fuck and motherfucker in the punchline. And that's not to mention all the miscellaneous fuck and shits I throw in as asides.
A few comics I know have been doing camp shows this summer for 12 year-olds. I don't think I'm cut out for that. I guess I could just come up with different bits for that audience but I don't think it's worth it. Sure, stage time is stage time. But I really don't care what a bunch of fifth graders think about my act. If I did, I'd just go do another set at Nick's Comedy Stop. [Hi-yo!]
As for the foreigners, that's a show at a youth hostel uptown. Done it twice now. Makes me realize how many of my jokes are about American or language-specific things. Stuff that's funny to natives but not necessarily to people from around the world.
I tried to single out the universal stuff beforehand but it's tough to tell what's gonna fly. What works best there is crowd work stuff or anything in-the-moment.
Another comic told me his approach was to just tell his jokes and they either get it or they don't. Admirable in a way but I think you've got to listen to the audience and calibrate at least somewhat. Or that's what I like doing at least.
But like I said, the best reactions were to in-the-moment stuff. For example: It's a silly basement room at a youth hostel so there was a guy on a laptop, another guy texting, and a girl filing her nails. She was in the front row so I called her out on it and explained that filing your nails is the universal symbol for being bored. Audio below.
Now I just need to work on my witty comeback for when someone's clipping their nails in the front row.
This week's FNMTV will feature the Solange Knowles and Gym Class Heroes videos I mentioned along with whichever comments of mine they choose to use (airs every day in the AM).
Speaking of Curb/improv, I think Jeff Garlin's manager character on the show is a near-perfect example of "Yes, and..." No matter what ridiculous scheme Larry concocts, Jeff is right there in agreement and ready to be an enabler. You want to steal a golf club out of a dead guy's casket? Sure, I'll help you do that.
Here's a great Curb scene where Larry and his wife pretend to be Republican WASPs in order to get into a country club:
Labels: about standup
I bring this up because comments are now open here. Earlier today I posted a joke and an anonymous commenter left a message that said, "Crickets." I presume that was this person's way of telling me the joke wasn't funny.
Slight problem there though: The joke is funny. To some people at least. I've told it a few times and it does surprisingly well. Here's a clip of it from a set I did in Boston:
I'm not saying it's the greatest joke in the world but it works. And one thing I like about telling it is people start to get it at different points in the joke. It reminds me of a bit in Steve Martin's book (some excerpts) where he talks about how he doesn't like punchlines because he likes jokes where audience members have to decide for themselves when to laugh. He explains that style of joke creates a deeper connection than straight setup/punch jokes because the person decides on their own when to laugh.
Anyway, back to the point: "Anonymous" is certainly entitled to think the joke sucks (or just isn't funny in written form). And do feel free to leave comments here if ya think a joke sucks. I actually enjoy negative feedback when it's thoughtful. Just keep in mind that written jokes aren't the ideal format. (Not to mention a lot of the things I post here are untested ideas. I'd argue that new jokes are like baseball at-bats: A 30% success rate means you're doing pretty well.)
And I'd respect "Anonymous" more if he/she left their name. Anonymous, negative comments are lame. Here's the way I tend to picture anonymous online commenters:
So I went over to his house to start learning but he just started showing me karate moves. And I'm like, um, ok. But then for three days straight he had me doing nothing but karate moves. Finally, I was like, "Listen dude. I came hear to learn how to paint fences and scrub decks and wax cars, not do your karate for you!"
Anyone not see where this is going yet? I can continue if I have to. I can enter a car waxing competition against the evil car waxers from the other side of town. "Sweep the wrist, Johnny! Sweep the wrist!" There can be a sequel to this where I start scrubbing decks in Okinawa. Alas, I think that's enough though.
Of course, the fact that he's subtle makes it tougher to work certain crowds, like a venue full of Opie and Anthony fans [via The Comic's Comic]:
Ouch. No wonder he's moving to doing theater shows. I can't recall him ever using the word "motherfucker" before. Even when he tries his money joke ("a rapist wouldn't have a bed like that..."), he rushes through it and gets little reaction from the crowd.
(I've noticed in my own stuff that there's a direct correlation between confidence and timing. When shit's on, timing seems to just take care of itself. When it's rough, I start rushing through jokes thinking that I need to get to the punch as fast as possible. But then I lose inflection and wind up sounding like a robot.)
Re: the O&A crowd, I've heard similar stories about the crowds at Artie Lange shows and saw it firsthand when I caught Joe Rogan at Caroline's. Crowd was a bunch of mooks who watch Fear Factor and Ultimate Fighting. It sucked because I've heard Rogan interviewed and he's very soulful and intelligent. He wasn't that night though. It was more like watching a guy step into the ring.
Labels: about standup
How often do you see people on TV reading from a piece of paper? That's because no one wants to see it.
Labels: about standup
Here's my beef with you guys: I don't get the logic sometimes. A veggie freak I know told me: "You shouldn't drink milk because humans are the only species that drinks the milk of another animal." Yeah, but maybe that's because we're the only species that could figure out how to do it. It's not like there's a gang of salmon working on pasteurization. Roosters don't milk cows...that could be a moral choice, or it could be that they don't have hands.
Are we really only supposed to do what other animals do? "You know what we should get rid of? Medicine. It's just so unnatural. Ya never see other species curing illnesses. Let's stay authentic, like animals. You know what else is a real stinker? Fire. Ya don't see any other species using fire...why should we be different? And to hell with concrete, we should all live in nests!"
I say we've got opposable thumbs and big brains...let's ride this train and see where it takes us.
I also don't get when these guys claim they actually prefer the taste of vegetarian food over meat. You know this is BS because when you go to a vegetarian restaurant, the menu is filled with fake meat products: tofurkey, fake'n, and sham. These are the tribute bands of the food world. "Tonight, playing all the hits of real beef...it's Not Dogs!" (Not to mention the fact that these puns are laaaame.)
You can't hate the real thing but like its impostor. That's like saying, "I can't stand Vegas but Branson, Missouri is the bomb." Or "Heineken sucks. But O'Douls rules!" If ya love 'em so much, just let vegetables be vegetables.
Permalink | 8/12/2008
Feels similar to when Howard Stern got divorced. A huge part of why those guys could talk the way they did was because you knew (or felt like you knew) that deep down they were actually loving family guys.
The guy who goes home to his wife and kids can get away with slamming them onstage and still have it be endearing in a way. The guy who's no longer with his wife and kids and tells nasty jokes comes off sounding a lot different. Will be interesting to see how this impacts his standup.
Update: CK says he'll no longer talk about his wife in his act. Also, he's got custody of his kids for half of each week so it seems like that will still be a big part of his comedy. He addresses the divorce issue in some recent interviews...
In "Interview: Louis C.K., 'Chewed Up'" [Dead Frog], he says, "Divorce is not death. People treat it like it’s death. And it’s not. It’s another life."
But what divorce has done to me as a person and a father it’s a huge. It’s another avenue that’s unexplored. And in a good way. I tried to say this on stage once but it didn’t come out funny. But these are all doors that you can’t look through before you walk through them. There’s no peephole on the children door and on the divorce door.
I think just like when I was on the other side with other parents and saying how it feels for real for parents who are raising their kids and putting the work in. That was a cathartic thing for me and for my audience. And I think the same can be the same thing here, because, Jesus, more than half the people are divorced now.
In an interview on The Sound of Young America, he says, “No good marriages end in divorce.”
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 8/12/2008
Well answered, Peach! (Why am I researching pirates? Stay tuned.)
Permalink | 8/11/2008
Jokes are dumb but man does he rip it. Gets in rhythm and owns the fucking place. Love the crowd reactions. And those pants. At what point in your life are you like, "You know what would look good on my pants? An airbrushed portrait of my face!" RIP Bernie.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 8/11/2008
So maybe I'll start posting some more riffs here. First up is from a set a couple weeks back. A comic before me was talking about "Keith Ledger." He then realized that wasn't right. Someone yelled out, "Heath Ledger." He replied, "No, the guy who plays The Joker." I went on a few minutes later and commented on that.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 8/07/2008
how was the naked show?
it was pretty cool
the PIT was full and the audience was generally really good
you ever do it or think about it?
it's good stagetime, for sure
i haven't done it because i don't want anyone to see my giant pussy. but yeah, i hear they always pack the place.
it's definitely great to do if you have a huge dick like me
if you Are a huge dick like me
i mean have
Permalink | 8/07/2008
Poor idea there for sure. But why might he have thought it was ok to discuss race and ethnicity in public this way? Perhaps it was because, for his entire life, he had been called Jimmy THE GREEK. Maybe that's the point when you stop being super-sensitive to racial topics, when people refer to you as [Your name] the [Your ethnicity].
And I love that people who thought it was fine to call him Jimmy The Greek were outraged by what he said. Imagine if instead of Jimmy The Greek, he was Raoul The Mexican . Would people have still been shocked? "You know who just said something insensitive? Raoul the Mexican! I just can't believe that Raoul the Mexican could be so culturally insensitive! It's too bad Raoul The Mexican isn't as enlightened about race as I am. I'm really disappointed in you, Raoul The Mexican."
The funny thing is his name wasn't even actually Jimmy, it was Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos. He was Greek after all. I can see the tech guys in the booth trying to type out his name out and being like: "D-i-m...oh, hell no. Jimmy. That fucker's Jimmy. Jimmy what? Uh, where's he from? Alright, good enough!"
Brent Musberger even used to call him just "Greek" on air. "Who do you have in this game, Greek?" I don't think this would've flown with other ethnic groups. You wouldn't hear: "Bengals-Lions: Who's gonna win, Jew?"
Permalink | 8/06/2008
The Comedy Studio
On Thursday, I did Myq and Micah's (final?) show at The Comedy Studio in Boston. What a great room. Rick Jenkins, the guy who runs it, gives the place a fun, intimate vibe. You can tell he really cares about taking care of the performers and the crowd. And that's pretty rare for comedy clubs.
Myq and Micah are both super comics (and soon to be full time NYC-ers). They had their work cut out for them as hosts: Some dude in the crowd wouldn't stop yelling shit out. They told him to shut up several times but he kept talking to the comics until he got a warning from the owner that he'd get the boot. Then things settled down.
Mark Normand, who went up there with me, had a great set. I had a good one too though my last joke, an old one where I make fun of the gay pride parade, fell flat. I wanted to tell one more but then I couldn't think of a quick one and the light was already on and I said fuck it and ended my set there.
I remember thinking it was super awkward and that I paused for like 10 seconds but when I watched the tape it wasn't bad at all. Still, I woke up at 6am the next morning thinking about it and couldn't get back to sleep. Being sensitive to even little mistakes is a double-edged sword: It keeps you on the track to getting better, but it can be tough to judge a set objectively when you fixate on the little things that went wrong instead of the good things that went right. But anyway, lesson learned: I'll now remember to have a quick one-liner ready to go if my last joke doesn't hit the way I want.
Nick's Comedy Stop
The next night I did a guest spot at Nick's Comedy Stop. This is a "real" club. Over 100 people there. The guy who hooked me up with the spot advised me to "be dumb, be dirty, and don't tell 'em you're from New York." I tried my best. Did a quick five minutes that started out well but tapered off at the end. I ended with my joke about "avant garde blowjobs," which has been killing, and it got hardly anything. I actually don't think they knew what avant garde meant.
Also, my Jerry Orbach joke didn't fly all that well. I'd say maybe he's only a fun topic to New Yorkers, but I've done well with that joke in Chicago too. Maybe I'm just not feeling it anymore. Crowds can smell that.
But man, you shoulda seen the jokes the other comics were hitting with. The crowd loved when they made fun of people from Revere or Somerville (boy, are they dumb!), dick jokes, and some over-the-top racist jokes about Asians. In fact, one comic put pantyhose over his head to pull his eyebrows back and then did his William Hung impersonation. I shit you not. That may be the precise moment when I realized I don't really want to become a club comic. Not if it's anything like that.
On Saturday night, we went back to catch the early show at The Comedy Studio. (By the way, one thing I noticed about the Boston comics I saw: They didn't veer from the plan much. Not a lot of riffing, crowdwork, or commenting on what's happening. It was almost exclusively setup/punch and then move along.)
Then, I did a late night set at ImprovBoston, a bit like the UCB of Boston. I was the only comic on the show and then there was a video and a sketch group. It was a cold open — the hosts announced the show and then brought me up without any warmup. Still, I had a really fun, longer set. Solid all the way through and got to branch out and tell some of my more storyish jokes. Great crowd who got it and played along nicely. Compared to the previous night, it was a real pleasure.
It all got me thinking. Funny is funny and I want to be able to make people laugh anywhere. And I know you're not supposed to blame the audience (Chris Rock and Louis CK always say that). But man, I'll take places like The Comedy Studio or a theater crowd like ImprovBoston's over a papered (free admission) audience that just wants to hear dick jokes and monosyllabic words. This weekend was a good A-B comparison of that.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 8/05/2008
Permalink | 8/04/2008
There's nothing that makes it easier. They have this comedy convention in Las Vegas. They have the agents and the managers and the talent scouts from the shows and they have these seminars and they have discussion groups. And I would like to be in charge of that thing. I would get rid of all those people and I would bring all the comedians into a big room and I'd have a huge banner come down that says, "Just work!" And I'd send everyone home.
Everyone wants to know if there's some way of getting around all the work and I'm here to tell you: "No." If you want to walk the tightrope, that's what it takes. That's why so few people make it. And that's why it is the profession that it is.
Mike Birbiglia calls this Seinfeld Q&A "the perfect instructions for developing a comedy act" and likes to mention it in interviews.
There's a great interview in the On Comedy series on Laugh.com where they interview Jerry Seinfeld, which is a world of insight into stand up. Seinfeld talks about stand up as being a scene and the audience as your scene partner. They're responding, you're listening and then responding back. They're not responding verbally but with their laughter and applause.
It's a conversation, not a monologue. They'll tell you where to go if ya listen.
Permalink | 8/01/2008