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.
"And that was a really big thing to learn: not to fall in love with the audience."
I'm working on it!
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