Part 4 of "I Need Laughs: One week in the trenches of the New York underground comedy scene." Some painful shows. Do you give up? Riff? Plow ahead with material? And some post-show deconstruction with other comics.
More of "I Need Laughs" (and details about it) here.
Well you know where there's a real "energy" right now? Darfur. It's the country that never sleeps! It's 'cuz they're terrified, but still.
I wonder if there's some guy in Darfur who's like: "Sure, we've got to deal with the constant threat of rape and murder...but the arts scene here is THRIVING! You should see the collage Bahar hung in his hut — right before the Janjaweed slaughtered him. It's very deconstructionist."
If these people think NYC in the 80's was so great they should just go live at the Port Authority. It's still 1985 there. Do you like the smell of urine? Do you like hanging out with transients? Do you like people who play the BUCKETS? Then have I got the place for you!
SNL is as mainstream as you can get. It has to be broad. It needs to be funny to 15-year olds and 50-year olds. To people in Nebraska and on the coasts. A lot of what flies at an alt show in Brooklyn or at UCB would never be "got" by this kind of huge, mainstream audience.
It's strange when you live in NYC and see these people perform elsewhere. The improv at ASSCAT is often way funnier than what you see on SNL skits. Two of the funniest standups around (Mulaney and Hannibal) write for SNL, yet hardly anything on the show is as funny as their standup. My take on why that's so: Being funny to 200 people in the same room is way different than being funny to 30 million people all over the country.
Hipster-cool and cutting edge isn't a possibility in that context. (Maybe the original SNL achieved that, but the landscape's changed a lot since then.) So SNL consciously shoots for skating the line between mildly subversive and acceptable to the mainstream.
Like I said, I get where the disappointment comes from. I don't really laugh when I watch the show. But I also get that it's not targeted at me. And I respect the difficulty of the dive being attempted.
So next time someone bitches about the lame job Lorne Michaels does, think about the mission he's trying to accomplish. It ain't an easy one.
As for Slategate: Who the fuck cares?
Labels: about standup
Too Cool for School on Friday, September 25 at 8:00pm at Coco 66 in Greenpoint.
Pete Holmes (VH1's Best Week Ever, CC's Premium Blend))
Kevin Allison (MTV's The State, Reno 911: Miami)
Stuckey & Murray (E!, MTV, VH1, NBC, Fuse, G4)
Hari Kondabolu (CBS' Late Late Show, CC's Live at Gotham)
Matt Ruby (MTV, SXSW Festival)
BOF (ECNY Award nominee, Sketchfest NYC)
Hosted by Nick Turner
Too Cool for School
(66 Greenpoint Ave, take the G train to Greenpoint Ave stop)
The MacGyver Show (featuring COLIN QUINN) on Tuesday, September 29 at 9:00pm at Legion Bar in W'burg.
We're All Friends Here on Friday, October 2 at 8:00pm at The Creek in LIC (with guests Leo Allen, Giulia Rozzi, and Roger Hailes).
Rest of my upcoming shows.
Most fascinating set was Aziz Ansari's though. With Parks and Rec and Funny People, dude is really a celeb now. And it's odd to see how that impacts a standup set. He handled it well, but still...it was a real obstacle.
First off, people kept taking flash photos. To the point of distraction. And finally Aziz asked them all to take photos at once and then stop. He even offered to do a funny pose of him lashing out at an audience member so they'd have something fun to shoot. Photos continued after that, but not as bad.
Then someone yelled out "Raaaaaaaandy!" at him. He told 'em that he wasn't going to do any Raaaaaaaandy stuff though. Then he followed it up with some fun bits about mistakenly thinking he was being recognized as a celebrity when it was actually 1) someone spotting a friend named "Rodney" and 2) two girls wanting him to take their photo, not be in it. Well played again.
At the end he asked, "What do you want to hear about?" And someone yelled out, "Kanye." So Aziz went into a 5-minute bit about Kanye's recent outburst and how he got to hang with Kanye and Jay Z at club in LA and then performed standup at Kanye's home for a group of 20. Tough to make "hanging with famous people" stuff funny, but it was genuinely really funny and the crowd ate it up.
I remember Aziz doing Monday night Crash Tests at UCB in front of a few dozen people not that long ago. So seeing him get the full-on star treatment from a crowd was kinda crazy. I'm not saying he's at Steve-Martin-playing-arenas mode but it was a real thing.
And you can see how that response from a crowd can be destructive if what you really love to do is standup. I think Aziz handled it great, but I can also see how that sorta response would start to kill one's enjoyment of standup after a while.
Reminded me of going to see Joe Rogan perform at Caroline's a while back. It was not all that fun since crowd had a lot of mooks constantly shouting out stuff about UFC and Fear Factor. Rogan can be a thougtful guy. But that night, he had to be a babysitter more than anything else.
Labels: about standup
Part 3 of "I Need Laughs: One week in the trenches of the New York underground comedy scene." In this clip, I riff at some good/bad shows, explain why I wear suits onstage, discuss coming up with material with Mark, etc.
More of "I Need Laughs" (and details about it) here.
how do you get work at colleges?
one, you can cold call colleges and offer your services. you can do some research to see what schools have comedy series, and offer to be a part of it, as an opening act maybe, or if you have a show you want to bring to the school, by yourself or with others, etc. call lots of schools, have DVDs or other promo to send, have a good website, etc.
two, you can get an agent.
how do you get an agent?
one, you can just do comedy long enough and get good enough that agencies start asking you to work with them
two, you can submit yourself to them. most college agencies that exist will generally just work with you when you have a good hour that you can do at colleges, so if you don't have that, then that's the first step. just keep doing comedy (and maybe along the way, number one will happen) until you feel you're ready and then come back and read this again. basically, this answer is similar to the "how do you get work at colleges" one above, wherein you just need to get your act on a DVD and get it to the agencies (some will want to see the full hour, some might want only a shorter amount of time, you can find out who wants what with professional-style inquiries, emails, phone calls, etc.). in my experience, a lot of agencies will look to expand their rosters in the spring, because early summer is when the first NACA submission dates are.
how do i get a NACA showcase? do i need an agent? what's NACA?
one, that's three questions, but i'll take them all at once. NACA is an organization that brings together school bookers and comedians (as well as magicians, musicians, and other things that don't start with "m" and end in "icians").
two, you don't need an agent but it can be costly without it. if you have the money to lay out to join NACA and get a booth, go for it. there are definitely some comics that have done this successfully. check out NACA's website for that information.
three, having an agent can be helpful because they pay most of the money, and potentially lend some legitimacy to your submission. here's the thing, they DO watch a portion of every tape they receive, and having credits doesn't necessarily translate into success in this market, so everyone's got a shot. everyone sends in a tape of 3 minutes of performance. i believe they watch 1.5 minutes, and then for some people who make the cut, they watch the rest of it, and that's how they decide who gets the 15-minute showcase spot, which then determines which schools will book who to come to perform for an hour. so again, i'll reiterate, it's best to undertake this process when you HAVE an hour that you'd be confident performing at colleges (because sure, you can get in with a killer 3 minutes, impress them with a good 15 minutes, but if you don't have the hour once you get to the school, that will hurt you more in the long run than the short-term financial benefits will be able to handle, i imagine).
so, in conclusion, to get college work, you can call colleges and offer to work there, submit yourself to NACA without an agent, or get an agent to do that and more, all starting from the baseline of having an hour-long worthwhile product to provide these people and places.
do college gigs or getting in through NACA pay enough to quit a day job?
you can do a NACA showcase and get a lot of work from it. you can do a NACA showcase and get no work from it. and even if you have an agent, that doesn't guarantee that you'll get a showcase (though good agencies will certainly do their best to get work for you regardless of whether you get showcases, but those showcases are the best shot at getting a lot of work booked at once). thus, if you book a lot of schools at a particular NACA or multiple showcases, then you've got a great shot at paying your bills from comedy and not needing a day job (depending on how extravagant your lifestyle is, which i assume is "very," if you're the average caviar-loving, yacht-traveling comic i've come to know). i personally stopped needing a day job a short time after my first big NACA showcase. but i might not be average (being vegan, i only eat soy caviar substitutes and travel on tofu yachts which cost less).
Question: Every morning I make coffee and take it to work. However, this morning I bought a large coffee from a well know drive thru restaurant because they advertise that their coffee will wake you up to a good morning. Well, neither has it woken me up or is it a good morning. Do you think I could sue them for false advertising?
Answer: I think you could sue them. I don't think you'd win though. See, it's kinda tough to prove whether or not something has woken you up or given you a good morning. Especially in a court of law. It's not like there's some DUI-type measurement device that will report back "This guy is .14 tired still. Give him money!" Maybe you should lay off the caffeine anyway. Get some sleep. And stop trying to sue people all the time. Actually, I'd sue you if I could. We should not be friends. Unless you have a dog. I was just in the park and they let people take their dogs "off leash" after 9pm. So all the dogs can run around and sniff each other. You know they can tell a lot about each other just by sniffing each other's bums! Too bad humans can't do that. Well, maybe we can but we just don't try. So if you had a dog and maybe I'd take him to the park once in a while then I suppose we could hang out. But don't sue me if some other dog bites your dog or something. I can't be responsible for that. Do you watch Dog Whisperer? You probably should. Cesar Milan is pretty great. Wisest man on the TV if you ask me. So to answer your question: Exercise, discipline, and then affection!
And stick around to see the fantastic Sean Patton doing a 30 min. set following us. Ya can listen to Sean's recent appearance at We're All Friends Here on this podcast.
On Feb 22, 2009, at 10:32 PM, [redacted] wrote:
Saw you tonight at Three of Cups... doesn't matter if you're Jewish... Holocaust jokes are never cool. They're just not. Add it to your Feng Shui list...
On Feb 23, 2009, at 1:27 AM, Matt Ruby wrote:
Hmm, too soon still ya think? Or do you think the fact that I'm pro-holocaust shows through in the joke?
Did you know that Roberto Benigni made a whole movie about the holocaust and it's a comedy? Totally uncool. You should contact him too! Even worse, he won an Oscar for that movie! That never would have happened if Jews had some influence in Hollywood. Don't you agree? The whole thing is clearly mashugana.
Thanks for taking the time to express your disappointment in me and give me a guilt trip. You really are a good Jew.
On Feb 23, 2009, at 9:43 AM, [redacted] wrote:
"Life is Beautiful' is so not a comedy.
I don't care if you talk about the Holocaust... but trying to get laughs with ovens and gas is really just tasteless. Evidence... no one laughed. Consider your audience. This is New York, not Oklahoma. I bet at least 1/4 of the room last night was Jewish.
AND... even if you were someplace with no Jewish population and the audience found your heinous 'jokes' funny... at best you'd just be an ignorance-perpetuating material-starved mercenary. Trivializing people's personal tragedies is one of the lowest forms of comedy. And no, I'm not a survivor (clearly) but my grandfather was and the rest of his family WASN'T. So haha, ovens and gas, that's really hilarious. And for those who don't have a personal connection to the Holocaust... how dare you make them think it's something to be made light of.
On Feb 23, 2009, at 3:40 PM, Matt Ruby wrote:
Sandy, I'm sorry you're so ferklempt about this. But actually, some people (maybe even Jews!?) did laugh at the joke. In fact, a few even applauded at the end of it. The chutzpah of these people for having a sense of humor. They're clearly kakameyme.
I get you didn't think it was funny. But you don't get to make the rules for everyone else. Unless you're some kinda fascist dictator. And we know how you feel about those.
Anyway, you're right that personal tragedy is nothing to base comedy on. Everyone knows the best comedians focus on topics that we can ALL agree are safe, tasteful, and inoffensive. On that note, I'm off to work on a joke about how crazy the flavors of Dentyne Ice are. Arctic Chill!? C'mon, that's not even a real thing to taste like! It's like having gum that's flavored "Ice Cube." GOLD I tell ya!!!
Part 2 of "I Need Laughs: One week in the trenches of the New York underground comedy scene." In this clip, a woman objects to my making a joke that's making fun of people who use Hitler as a reference point.
More of "I Need Laughs" (and details about it) here.
- Unannounced visits (don’t show up because “you’re in the neighborhood.” We have work that might even be promotion for YOUR show! Make an appointment, and be ready to tell us SPECIFICS for your show. Anything that needs to be talked out usually should take 20 minutes tops.)
- Showing up late or last minute for your scheduled spot
- Lazy comics: those who never work new material
- Having no way to contact you (you should have an e-mail and phone that work!)
- Blowing the light
- Venting on stage rather than entertaining (this includes attacking the audience in ANY way, or commenting on the size of the room. As soon as you say the crowd is small, people immediately stop having fun!)
- Calls and e-mails to the point of harassment
- Flexibility for the spot in the lineup (If you’re asked to go first, just do it)
- Overbooking your show
- Entourages in the green room
- Large, last minute comp lists.
- Long E-mails (get to the point!)
- Network with people that have the ear of the booker.
- Don’t monopolize someone’s time in conversation while they’re running a show or working at the club.
- Work with management when they’re trying to pay you (also be nice to everyone on wait staff and the techies. They are all on your side.)
- Recognize that each club has different policies. Don’t assume what works for one place, holds true for us. Ask.
- If you get rejected from a club, you should cherish it. It means you’re either not the right fit, or you need to try something different.
And there's big news on the podcast front too: Breakthru Radio, a very cool online radio station, digs the 'casts so much that they're going to start broadcasting them (starting with the next show). And they're even going to pay us. We like that. More details when the first episode goes live.
Here's info on Friday's show:
WE'RE ALL FRIENDS HERE
The comedy chat show with boundary issues
Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand
Featuring Dan Soder, Jessie Geller, and Matt Maragno
Friday, Sept 18
8pm @ The Creek
10-93 Jackson Ave at 49th Ave
Long Island City, NY
Just one subway stop from Brooklyn and Manhattan
Most of my life I've watched comedy. I've lived in comedy places. And it's gotten to the point where if I close my eyes, I can't tell the fucking difference between comics. They don't have a point of view. They don't take any chances. Most of it is just clever, detached, smug humor.
All of them are doing a version of Attell or Hedberg and a Todd Barry here or there. But their delivery system is half-hijacked from somebody else...I can't tell where they're coming from. I don't know who the hell they are.
And then Dice shows up just to do a drop in set and gets up onstage, and within five minutes I was so happy to be in the hands of a professional. A guy with real gravitas, a guy who has a point of view. Despite whatever you have to say about that guy, he INVENTED that guy. No one else did that guy.
He is definitely an American original...He's got a very specific point of view and it's not necessarily mysoginistic, it's not wrong, it's almost poetic. He has an original way of seeing the world. And it was a pleasure to watch him for 40 minutes.
Maron's not the type of comic you expect to hear sticking up for Dice so I thought it was really interesting. Def makes me feel I should think harder about what I'm inventing onstage vs. the things I'm saying that could also come out of another comic's mouth.
Some other Maron Stuff: The Comic's Comic posted a video of a great set he did at UCB LA about a month ago. Also, you know how comedian bios always suck? I think the one at Maron's site is prob the best/most honest one I've read.
Thu 9/10 8:30pm The Carly Simon Comedy Hour @ Jazz On The Park Hostel
Fri 9/11 8:30pm Bobby Tisdale's WARDS OF MERKIN @ Word Bookstore (Greenpoint)
Friday, September 11th 8:30pm
WARDS OF MERKIN Post-hiatus Show!
with host Bobby Tisdale
@ Word Bookstore
126 Franklin Street (on the corner of Milton)
Greenpoint, Brooklyn 11222
21 and up, 10 bucks
FREE WINE, FREE BEER
Those who wish to attend, please RSVP by emailing your name plus number of guests to: BobbyTisdalesMerkin:at:gmail:dot:com
Sat 9/12 8:00pm Going Steady @ Hugs (Williamsburg)
Fri 9/18 8:00pm WE’RE ALL FRIENDS HERE @ THE CREEK (LIC)
List of all my upcoming shows.
The point? Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian" is a great documentary. But the idea that it shows how tough it is to be a comic is, well, comical. When Jerry is roughing it, he's still going up at the best clubs in NYC in front of sizable crowds. I wanted to show what it's like when you're doing a real mix of shows, some decent and some where ya feel like a little piece of you is dying.
You can play all videos at YouTube and if you want to embed the whole thing, there's a link to do that via this playlist.
Here's the doc in individual episodes w/ descriptions:
Part 1. An overview of what's to come with scenes from We're All Friends Here show (and backstage recap), working on new material, taking a real life funny thing to the stage, etc.
Part 2. A woman objects to my making a joke that's making fun of people who use Hitler as a reference point.
Part 3. I riff at some good/bad shows, explain why I wear suits onstage, discuss coming up with material with Mark, etc.
Part 4. Some painful shows. Do you give up? Riff? Plow ahead with material? And some post-show deconstruction with other comics.
Part 5. After the shitty show I did in Part 4, I head to another show...with even fewer people at it. So I decide to just chat with the room and stumble across some interesting stuff. Then we discuss it afterwards in a cab on the way to another show.
Part 6. No booked shows means open mic'ing. This clip has me trying out some new bits and talking with other comics about mics. And I drop by the Cellar for a minute too. Funny thing: Josh Comers, the guy who makes the "paying your dues" joke, is now a writer for Conan.
Part 7. Wrapping up with some sex talk, more jokes, a random dude on the street who likes my tie, and the credits.
If there's a real crowd, I think even pulling out a set list is a bit iffy. But big pages that you shuffle through trying to remember your set? Lame. This person is "on TV" so I guess there's the whole "working out new material" excuse. But it just struck me as being rude to the audience.
It's one of the things I dislike about alt shows. They give comics an excuse to be lazy. You can be unprepared and half-ass things and use "it's an alternative show" as the reason why. And since the crowds are polite, they don't call you on it.
You'd never see that at a club. At clubs, comics know they need to bring it. If they don't, the crowd tunes out and starts talking amongst themselves. Or goes to the manager and says, "I paid $20 for this?"
The experimentation you get at alt shows is great. But that "anything goes" attitude can also be a crutch for comics who aren't willing/able to bring A game.
8:00pm Laugh Riot at the Hyatt @ Hyatt Regency Bethesday Hotel (2 for 1 coupon)
10:30pm Stand-Up Comedy at the Old Arlington Grill @ Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
Last night's Topaz show was super hot crowd. Some really funny, experienced comics on it but they even put up some newbies and one person who had NEVER before performed standup too. I just sat there thinking about how nice it must be to start somewhere that's not NYC. Getting exposed to a crowd like that requires a heck of a lot more "dues paying" in the Big Apple.
But how about a six word joke? Here's one I came up with (inspired by a recent Twitter post):
McCartney! Re: love. We get it.
Got a six word joke? Post it in the comments.
“Actually, I think when you’re younger, anger and comedy mesh together very, very well,” Oswalt answers, “because there are things that you feel like, ‘Am I the only person seeing this?’ But then, as you get older, I don’t think anger and comedy mesh at all. I remember Chris Rock telling me, ‘Don’t get mad, get funnier.’ Getting mad doesn’t help you as a comedian. Anger eventually cancels out comedy. I think what you have to do is find the things that delight you, and if you really push the things that delight you, then the things or people that piss you off, it just makes them angry. If people you don’t like or people that you disagree with, if they see you on stage pissed off and angry, that’s actually kind of reassuring. Because they’re like, ‘I’m getting to that guy.’ But if you’re on stage, and instead of cursing what you hate, you’re celebrating the alternative and making that seem better, that’s what drives your enemies bugfuck. That’s what just drives them into the red.”
“Pointing out that stuff sucks is not edgy or dangerous anymore,” he says. “Everyone knows what sucks. What’s better is to find the stuff that’s amazing and hold it up. Even something like the KFC bowl, in a weird way, I love it. I love that we’ve gotten to the point where [there’s] an actual manifestation of the problem and we actually have it in bowl form. Before, it was scattered amongst 50 different fast-food chains, and it was so hard to make your argument. People would go, ‘Yeah, but there’s salads, and…’ Now I’m just like, ‘Here is the top-selling fast food item.’ Thank you, KFC!”
“[The KFC Famous Bowl bit] was also from sheer exasperation,” he says. “Like, finally, what I’ve been talking about all along about what is wrong with us. And also, ultimately, what’s wrong with me, you know? I need to lose weight because I eat a lot of crappy food. I think the best anger is the stuff that you are pointing at yourself, rather than, ‘Everything sucks and I’m here to point out why.’“
Here's another example: Oswalt on the wonder of Cheetos from a 2004 bootleg.
So I get that anger directed at yourself is great fodder for standup (like CK's making fun of himself in "Everything's amazing, nobody's happy").
But I'm surprised to read someone argue that being angry/mad is bad for comedy. Especially someone who has done great bits shitting all over George Lucas, his hometown, people who celebrate birthdays, those who advocate natural births, George Bush, etc. Even his "Big Fan" director Rob Siegel called Oswalt's comedy "hateful, misanthropic, and dark" in an interview (he meant it in a good way).
In general, it feels like people talking about what they love just isn't as funny as people talking about what they hate. Maybe more pleasant and positive energy and all that, but not as funny.
I've heard it said before that every joke has a target — there's someone or something being made fun of. And I often notice how true that is. Tough to reconcile that idea with this love business.
As for "find the stuff that’s amazing and hold it up"...is the KFC Bowl really something Oswalt loves? Seems like more of a love/hate thing. Maybe that's the sweet spot, something you love but also hate at the same time. Keeps the passion in there but ya also get the mockery that gives it a juicy twist.
Any other examples out there of funny bits that discuss something the comic really loves?
Anyway, always fun to listen to Patton talk about standup. He's one of the most eloquent out there when it comes to discussing the craft. Check out this "Comedy And Everything Else" interview with him if ya haven't already.
Labels: about standup
Fletch: "Give each other 20 dollars and put it on the Underhill bill."
Waiter: "Ahhh muchas gracias!"
Fletch: "Tierra del fuego."
This one not bad either:
Mrs Stanwyck: "I'm surprised to see you, what are you doing here?"
Fletch: "I ordered some lunch."
Mrs Stanwyck: "You ordered it here?"
Fletch: "Well I knew this was where my mouth would be."
Mrs Stanwyck: "Ha.... I really should change..."
Fletch: "No... I think you should stay the same wonderful person you are today."
Mrs Stanwyck: "I mean put clothes on!"