Back in a bit & some podcasts to check out

Sandpaper Suit is going on hiatus for a couple of weeks. Back in 2011 so don't get yer knickers in a twist.

Meanwhile, I recommend you check out Norm Macdonald on Greg Fitzsimmons podcast. Fuck is he funny. Just so so good.

Norm Macdonald comes to Greg’s garage for possibly the funniest podcast in the history of mankind. Norm gives his thoughts on Oprah, he announces women are not throwing, and have never thrown themselves at him, and tells what happens when Alan King mouthed off to Don Rickles. Norm gives comedy lessons with the help of Steve Allen, Greg premieres the new game Talk Your Way Out of It, they play Liar’s Poker, and they write a joke for Greg’s Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance.

And over at AST, ericluxury compiled a comprehensive list of podcasts (with links) in which Paul F Tompkins has appeared. PFT might be my fave podguest around. Those links will show you why.

If you need some reading material, see if you missed any of the "Best Of" posts here or check out "The Pocket" links over at Delicious (that's all the comedy posts I link up in the sidebar).

OK, I hope your stocking is not filled with coal. Although come to think of it, that would certainly be comedic. Give it a go!


Dunkin' Donuts drag and the Ziploc finger

One last thing about that Seinfeld/Conan post, specifically this idea that "Jews do not celebrate martyrdom." Um, tell that to my Grandma. If complaining was an Olympic event*, that woman woulda been its Michael Phelps.

The poor lady considered herself the victim of, well, pretty much everyone/everything in the world. Even when watching TV. I still have vivid memories of being a kid and being amazed by her disgusted reactions to two commercials.

Whenever these commercials came on the air, she would go, "Oish, oish, oish. It's disgusting. How can they do this to me?" As if there was a boardroom somewhere with the goal of trying to outrage her elderly Jewish sensibilities.

And I'm still not so sure what was so offensive to her about them. Here's one. It's with the Dunkin' Donuts guy dressed up in drag:

I guess maybe the drag element of the donut dude was the problem? Or the way he fails to hide his mustache? Whatever it was, she was not having it.

The other featured a talking finger plugging Ziploc bags:

I don't even know what's up with the finger thing. Why is that offensive? Is there something sexual about a talking finger? I truly have no idea what the problem was.

Anyway, she also smoked More cigarettes, made a mean babaganoush, and bragged about stealing ashtrays from hotels around the world. Go figure.

* Speaking of strange Olympic events, I was talking to an Indian friend the other day. I asked what sports they're good at in India. He said, "None, really. But if spiritual enlightenment was an Olympic event, they'd win every year." Hmm, turning enlightenment into a sporting event might be slightly missing the point.

But let's go with it. First we need a name for this enlightenment competition. Instead of March Madness, I suggest March Mindfulness. To measure the winner, I'm thinking a "yo mamma" type contest between competitors. The twist: You win by complimenting your opponent's mother instead of insulting her. Bonus aura points if you get extra Zen with it. "Yo momma is so thin that when she sits around the house, she moves quietly and gently from one room to another — leaving no trace, like the path of birds in the sky."


Friday's Hot Soup lineup

FRI (12/17): HOT SOUP
8pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Keith Alberstadt
Jeffrey Joseph
Dan Soder
Jake Young

(Hot Soup is a weekly show produced by David Cope, Andy Haynes, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.)


GhettoMyspace and the world of merch

Dan Goodman is a funny comic. GhettoMyspace is his pet project that explores the underbelly of MySpace. It's pretty hilarious.

GhettoMyspace.net, recently featured on Tosh.0, is a site dedicated to real photos from people’s myspace profiles. On this site you will find kids with guns, drug dealing, ghetto booty, hood funerals, and in general people having a great time. May we all have as much fun as the people in the pictures.

Now he's selling merch that uses images from the site. His room is filled with boxes of GhettoMyspace clothes. I asked him what it's like to go into the merch biz. Here's his answer:

Welcome to the Adult Learning Annex:

Below is a picture of the room I sleep in. It is now full of boxes of GhettoMyspace clothes. There's something really funny about sleeping next to your debt. I think it would be harder to get deep in debt if you actually had to sleep next to large heavy boxes. Like for every thousand bucks you owe the credit card company they would send you a giant box full of weights. Every time you send in a payment you would send it in with a proportionate amount of weight. That's actually where I'm at living with these boxes of clothes. Every shirt I sell gives me more room.

This all started innocently enough. Like everyone else I'm trying to figure out how to make money off the internet. After GhettoMyspace.net started to get some national attention (Tosh.0, Bossip, Death and Taxes Mag), I asked around and everyone else who I knew making internet money was doing it with merchandise.

Here's where my own business failings step in. I get it in my head, I don't just want to make crappy promo merch, I want to make nice clothes. Great idea, but nice clothes are expensive, and I know nothing about starting a fashion line. The whole thing cost me way more than I thought in my obsession to get it just how I wanted it. If I sell all those these clothes I can do another run where I'll actually make money. Until then I am selling clothes just to get out of the hole and make room in my apartment. The attached picture is how I wake up, in sheer terror. The only saving grace is the clothes are awesome.

My whole time in comedy has been spent trying to be successful doing only what I think is funny. When I finally made a compromise I still fucked it up. I decided to get crazy high standards for something nobody has standards for, after show merchandise. I don't know how it's going to turnout, but at least my name with be on something really funny which is worth more than a couple grand.

Buy a GhettoMyspace shirt and support a hairbrained scheme. If we all supported more clueless dreamers and their goofy ideas the world would be a lot less dull. Besides where else are you gonna get a tshirt that has a baby with a gun on it.


Performing wired

Another interesting bit from that Bill Simmons podcast with "The War for Late Night" author Bill Carter I mentioned the other day: Carter mentions Letterman is totally wired when he hosts his show.

First he drinks incredible amounts of coffee. So he's really wildly stimulated. Then he sits down and right before he starts the show, he unwraps four Hershey bars and he breaks the squares up and he builds a tower, a huge tower of Hershey bars, and then he wolfs them down one by one right before he goes on the air. And so when he hits the air, the guy is flying on sugar. Absolutely flying on sugar. Maybe this is why he had a heart problem. Occasionally when he's on the air, he will say, "There's nothing better than a Hershey bar."

Never seen Letterman live but I mentioned this to someone and he told me that Letterman can't even sit down between guests and paces around when the cameras are off.

And speaking of getting amped up for the stage, I've seen Kindler down Red Bulls before going onstage. And a NYC comic you may know, in a revealing "In The Tank" interview a while back, discussed doing blow before performing.


Tortoise/hare paths to creativity

What if you're someone who's been working at comedy for years and nothing ever happens? When is it time to quit? I asked that a while back. Couple of articles I read recently reminded me of the topic.

Stephen King argues you need to know when to give up as a writer.

The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn't get paid. If you're not talented, you won't succeed. And if you're not succeeding, you should know when to quit.

When is that? I don't know. It's different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty. But after six hundred? Maybe. After six thousand? My friend, after six thousand pinks, it's time you tried painting or computer programming.

Further, almost every aspiring writer knows when he is getting warmer - you start getting little jotted notes on your rejection slips, or personal letters . . . maybe a commiserating phone call. It's lonely out there in the cold, but there are encouraging voices ... unless there is nothing in your words which warrants encouragement. I think you owe it to yourself to skip as much of the self-illusion as possible. If your eyes are open, you'll know which way to go ... or when to turn back.

Then again, economist David Galenson has studied creative output and found there are different paths for successful artists. If you judge by the current value of their artwork, some artists burn bright early and then fade away (Andy Warhol peaked at 33, Frank Stella at 24, Jasper Johns at 27), while others grow over the long-term and do their best work later in life (Willem de Kooning at 43, Mark Rothko at 54, Robert Motherwell at 72). The same split is seen in writers too.

Conceptual poets like T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Plath, each of whom made sudden breaks from convention and emphasized abstract ideas over visual observations, were early achievers. Eliot wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at 23 and “The Wasteland” at 34. Pound published five volumes of poetry before he turned 30. On the other hand, experimental poets like Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams, whose work is grounded in concrete images and everyday language, took years to mature. For example, both Pound and Frost lived into their eighties. But by the time Pound turned 40, he had essentially exhausted his creative output. Of his anthologized poems, 85 percent are from his twenties and thirties. By comparison, Frost got a late start. He has more poems in anthologies than any other American poet, but he wrote 92 percent of them after his 40th birthday.

On and on it goes. Conceptualist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby – light on character development, heavy on symbolism – when he was 29. Experimentalist Mark Twain frobbed around with different writing styles and formats and wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at 50. Conceptualist Maya Lin redefined our notion of national monuments while still a college student; experimentalist Frank Lloyd Wright created Fallingwater when he was 70...

We should also leave room for those of us who have, er, avoided peaking too early, whose most innovative days may lie ahead. Nobody would have heard of Jackson Pollock had he died at 31. But the same would be true had Pollock given up at 31. He didn’t. He kept at it. We need to look at that more halting, less certain fellow and perhaps not write him off too early, give him a chance to ride the upward curve of middle age.

So even if you suck now, maybe you're a comedy Rothko who will bloom later in life. Maybe.


Obama riffs on his lip

Ah, the ol' verbal miscue into funny riff. Ya don't always see it from the prez, though.


Why Seinfeld took Leno's side over Conan

In The B.S. Report: 11/10 (a podcast), Bill Simmons has a revealing talk with "The War for Late Night" author Bill Carter about Conan, Leno, and Letterman.

Carter says Seinfeld took Leno's side because he felt "[Conan's] youth movement thing was against the old time comics." He summarizes Seinfeld's view this way:

You don't take the #1 guy off the air. You don't do it. I took myself off the air. That's one thing. You don't go to a guy who is #1 and tell him: "That's it. You're off the air." Who does that?

We're in show business. This is what we do. We're supposed to look for the best jobs. We're supposed to get them. We're supposed to pursue them. It's not right for Jay to walk off the stage and say, "It's all yours Conan, take it." You just don't do that in show business.

Here's the Google Books excerpt where Seinfeld gives his .02. Basically, he feels The Tonight Show is a meaningless concept since people never say "I'm doing The Tonight Show" and instead say "I'm doing Jay; I'm doing Dave; I'm doing Conan."

Carter ends the section by describing Seinfeld's frame of reference this way: "Jews do not celebrate martyrdom."


Fri = Hot Soup with Kaplan and Wong

FRI (12/10): HOT SOUP
8pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Myq Kaplan
Ali Wong
Greg Barris
Sara Schaefer

Normand is hosting and I'm doing a spot.

(Hot Soup is a weekly show produced by David Cope, Andy Haynes, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.)


Conversational CK-ness

I liked what Sean said about it at The Comic's Comic:

Louis CK, still so great. Even when he's clearly doing material, because the way Louis CK does material is so conversational already.

Sometimes people ask me "What do you talk about when you do standup?" The real answer I'd like to give: the same things I talk about when I'm not doing standup. I'm not all the way there but that to me is the pinnacle — to talk about the same things onstage that I talk about when offstage, when I'm hanging out with a friend or someone who I find interesting. If those things are what I talk about with someone I like and respect, but then I go and talk about meaningless bullshit in front of an audience it shows either 1) I don't respect the audience or 2) I'm not good enough to get laughs out of the stuff I truly want to talk about. Either way = kinda shitty.

Also, I think hitting that level of conversationality (?) comes from how you write. When you manufacture jokes like they're math problems, they come out sounding like jokey jokes. When you go onstage with an idea and just talk it out and find the laughs organically, it winds up sounding like a real conversation.

Or, when a bit is based off a real conversation with someone, that has a similar effect. Sometimes I find the best way to write material is to go get drunk with a friend I think is smart/interesting and carry along a notebook for anything standup-ish that pops up.


Spellchecking Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Burn that midnight oil! That phrase is about Hanukkah, right? Or is it a quote from that bald Australian dude who is worried about our beds burning? I can never remember.

(Have you ever tried to spellcheck Hanukkah? I just did and my Mac responded with "whatever"...hmm.)

Hanukkah is a weird holiday because it kinda reinforces some negative stereotypes about Jews. What shape do we like our chocolate? In the shape of gold coins! If only I could have all my food shaped like cash. And waiter, bring me a slice of that cake that's in the shape of controlling the media.

Also, the whole holiday is based on the idea that we got a great deal. We paid for one night of oil yet it lasted for eight nights. What a value. It's like Uncle Morty going, "These slacks? I got them for 70% off at a Macy's. A real bargain. We should turn this into a holiday!"

Speaking of relatives, did you know my dad used to inspect my hands before I could eat dinner every night? True story. He would smell them in order to make sure I had washed them. That's a father's way of saying, "I've got this problem. And now I'm passing it on to you."

Needless to say, I now wash my hands all the time. And I have issues with grabbing that pole on the subway. Have you ever seen someone do that and then bite their nails? Blech. I'd rather lick a SARS popsicle.

Anyway, back to Jew stuff: I remember the first time I heard the word "jewed" used as a verb. I was in college and it was said by a guy from Iowa who had a mullet and drove a lowrider and whose nickname was "The Duder." That was on his license plate too. Also, everyone would go to his dorm room every day to watch him feed a mouse to his snake.

I consider this the perfect person to deliver the word "jewed" for the first time. See, people talk a lot about who they lose their virginity to, but who you lose your slurginity to can be just as important. Like the first time you hear the n-word, it should be from a guy wearing a Celtics jersey. Preferably one named Sully who has strong opinions about which House of Pain album is the best one.


Hot Soup Hanukkah Show!

Y'know how much you think you'll laugh? It will actually be 8x as much laughter as that.

8pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Josh Gondelman
Jared Logan
Calise Hawkins
Sean Donnelly

I'm hosting and Normand is doing a spot. Last chance this year to see me at the Soup, I think.

FYI, Hot Soup is a FREE weekly standup comedy showcase every Friday. It's produced by David Cope, Andy Haynes, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.

Other upcoming shows I'm doing:
Thursday, 12/2 - 8:00pm - Time to Kill @ The Creek
Saturday, 12/4 - 8:00pm - Lil' Seany Boy Show @ Triple Crown
Sunday, 12/5 - 8:00pm - Buns and Puns @ Arlo & Esme
Friday, 12/17 - 9:00pm - Sack Lunch @ Cafe Vivaldi


More Giraldo clips (Insomniac tour, Bonnaroo 2010, and Conan 2003)

Was talking with another comic last week about how he didn't appreciate how good Giraldo was until after he died and he started seeing more of his stuff online. For example, he mentioned how much Giraldo killed it on Attell's Insomniac special on Comedy Central. Here's that.

The beginning of the set is at the end of this clip.

And here's Giraldo at Bonnaroo 2010.

And here's a pre-arm-tattoo Giraldo on Conan in 2003. Love his opening jab at Jake Gyllenhal's Craig Bierko's shirt. The warlord joke is great too.


Some good newish sites about standup

Some new sites on the scene that are worth checking out:

Premise PUNCH Tag is a blog that is mainly concerned with discussing stand-up theory. It's from Toronto comic Joel Buxton. Sample post: When Comics Fail: How I Learned to Love the Bomb Part 2.

When you bomb, it is the ultimate gift from an audience. They are saying loud and clear: “This shit ain’t funny.” And by doing so, they are helping you to discover what is. The audience is an unpaid writing partner, your personal humour adviser. It helps me to think of bombing not as a judgement of me as a person, but more of a brainstorming session that didn’t go well.

Splitsider is a website about comedy and the people who create it. It's run by writer and performer Adam Frucci under the umbrella of The Awl. Sample post: Jerry Seinfeld Crashed My Comedy Show.

As comedy code dictates, you don’t issue an APB when established comics swing by to experiment. You let them work in as normal an environment as can be created to get as honest a reaction as can be expected. But Jerry Seinfeld, as you may know, is a comedian with whom a great deal of people have a great deal of familiarity. Our show, as you can’t possibly know, rarely draws the tens of thousands of people it deserves, or more than 80. Using the former to draw people to the latter would have been a desirable arrangement. We were told not to do so. We wanted Jerry Seinfeld to come to our show. We obeyed.

Ask me about comedy is a Q&A site from Dylan Gadino, the founder and editor of Punchline Magazine. Sample Q&A: Do you think stand-up will ever become more acknowledged by the entertainment world in the near future?

There's a lot of overhead that goes into a film or television show. There's much less overhead, in general, for stand-up comedy and therefore more room for taking true risks. And true risks mean the status-quo will never embrace the art form the same way it has more "traditional" forms of live entertainment. Stand-up comedy is the punk rock of the entertainment world-- moreso, these days, than punk rock is the "punk rock" of the music world.

Take a guy like Philip Seymour Hoffman. I think we could all agree that the man owns some edge, takes chances and doesn't conform to what Hollywood looks like. And still, he's one of the industry's most respected members.

But he's no Doug Stanhope. As unfiltered and unfettered as Hoffman is compared to the rest of his contemporaries, he's not onstage telling a room full of strangers that he has herpes or that he once got a blowjob from a dude on accident or that a fan of his postponed committing suicide -- and eventually followed through -- because he had tickets to see him perform. But Stanhope does those things, because that's who he is and he answers to no one. And, from an economic standpoint, he can afford to do that, since the cost of producing comedy shows is negligible compared to the cost of mainstream entertainment productions.

Also, NYC comic Brooke Van Poppelen is helming truTV's Dumb as a Blog. It's not about standup but it is about the dumbest stuff people do so that's kinda close.


Standup: "Just one stop"

I did the show Midnight Run on Saturday at The Creek in Long Island City. That's just one subway stop outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn. But sometimes it's tough to convince people that it's actually pretty close.


Thanksgiving editions of We're All Friends Here and Hot Soup

It's a special Thanksgiving We're All Friends Here show! There will be a big deep fried turkey dinner blowout at The Creek at 5pm and then we'll be roasting some turkeys onstage. I mean not for real. Making fun of comics is kinda what I was getting at. But I can see how you would take that literally. But there will be a turkey dinner at 5. And then our show. Anyway...

7pm showtime
The Creek and the Cave
10-93 Jackson Ave.
Long Island City, NY

James Adomian
Nate Bargatze
Dan Carroll

One's gay, one's from the south, and one's got a drinking problem. It's like we split Tennessee Williams into three people!

And then Hot Soup is on for Friday.

FRI (11/26): HOT SOUP
8pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Sean Patton
Robert Dean
Sam Morrill
James Harris

Cope's hosting and I'm doing a spot.

Hot Soup is a FREE weekly standup comedy showcase every Friday in the East Village. Doors at 7:30pm and showtime at 8pm. It's produced by David Cope, Andy Haynes, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.


Hardwick/PFT on one-liners, clubs, and tangents

Chris Hardwick's Nerdist Podcast #33: Paul F. Tompkins has lots of good stuff.

They talk about the difference between longform and shortform standup. For example, one-liner quick hit jokes can work great for a showcase set or a quick TV spot. But keeping that tempo up for 45-60 minutes is a whole different beast.

Chris Hardwick: I don't know how the two line joke comics survive in an hourlong set. I know they do but I can't write those kinds of jokes so I don't really understand.

Paul F. Tompkins: That's so much stuff that you have to write. You have to fill up 60 minutes of one-liners. That's A LOT of material.

Chris Hardwick: And they're all hit or miss. A two-line joke is hit or miss and that's it. For all the ones you have to write to put together an hour, there's probably 8 times more that you've written.

PFT has moved away from clubs thanks to the Tompkins 300 revolution. He talked about what's wrong with the club system. Basically, comedians are like a human bowl of pretzels.

Paul F. Tompkins: [Clubs] are in the restaurant business. You're the only one who's in the comedy business. You're doing your comedy in somebody's restaurant. You're in the comedy business. They're still in the booze business.

Chris Hardwick: We basically keep people focused so they keep pouring beer in their gullets.

Hardwick also admires PFT's ability to start a bit in one place and end it somewhere completely different. ("Cherry Picking" off Impersonal is a good example of this.)

Chris Hardwick: You have a writing skill with your standup that is incredible to me...Within the body of a bit, you can take a tangent onto some minor detail that almost seems accidental and then all of a sudden you go into that and that becomes the focus of the bit. And then some tangent on that takes you further into the bit. It's like levels in Inception. You're in limbo. But that is a phenomenal way to write and that's not something I see anyone else do.

Paul F. Tompkins: Well thank you. A lot of that I must admit is by accident. I feed a lot off of the energy of the crowd and I like to allow for the possibility of improvisation. I might write one tangent in there but where it goes depends on how people respond to the tangent. If they laugh at this weird thing that I threw in there that's ultimately a thing that I think is funny that I don't know necessarily if the audience is going to think it's funny, but I hope they think is funny.

You know, when you're writing standup, the idea is this is so funny in my head I am reasonably sure that other people will find this funny too. I have to translate it from the language in my head where it's just a thought, just a flash that made me laugh. I have to translate things like that into human speech so that other people who don't speak the language that's in my head will understand. And then I know that if I phrase it this way, this is how I say funny things, people will laugh at that. I'm pretty sure.

Then there's other stuff where I'm like, "I think this is funny but I don't know if anyone else would ever think this is funny." I'm compelled to throw it out there just to see if anybody laughs at that. That's the little tangents. And then if people do laugh at that, then my instinct is always: Let's see how far I can push it. Let's see what I can get out of this...

You keep talking until they stop laughing. And then the next time you talk about the same stuff, you cut out the part where they stop laughing.

Also worth checking out: recent Nerdist podcasts with Birbigs and Gaffigan.


Podcast: We're All Friends Here highlight show

The latest We're All Friends Here podcast is now available. It's a "best of the past year" clip show featuring Kevin Barnett, Mike Lawrence, Ray Combs Jr. and some other stuff.


Hot Soup with James Adomian and more

Friday's (11/19) lineup:
James Adomian
Reese Waters
Harrison Greenbaum
Ross Parsons

Hot Soup!
Every Friday at 8pm
O'Hanlon's (back room)
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave. (map)
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope


Nipples, CK, and Smigel

During his WTF interview, Louis CK talked about the outrageous "Nipples" sketch that launched (and perhaps doomed) The Dana Carvey Show. Here it is:

Robert Smigel explains:

Louis C.K. had that notion. We had a simple sketch where Clinton was just—I thought Dana did a great Clinton, and I wanted to get it out there. Dana had a funny notion about Clinton trying hard not to laugh at the paltry competition that he faced in 1996. And then Louis separately had this funny notion that led to the breast-feeding, but it came out of a more subtle observation about Clinton: that he saw himself as this nurturing president. And at the time, Hillary was incredibly unpopular, so Louis had this idea that Clinton would, you know… It was more of a play on the “I feel your pain” act that Clinton had perfected by 1996. We weren’t all about, “Oh, this is gonna be gross, ha-ha, people are gonna be freaked out.” I took it too far. He had the breast-feeding idea, and then I came up with the multiple nipples and the puppies and kittens, because of my animal obsession that haunts me to this day.

Btw, here's the writing staff of the show. [via HS]


What you think after losing a comedy contest

Really? I didn't make it. I was funnier than that guy. And these other people who are telling me they thought I was gonna make it for sure...are they just being polite? Hmm.

It was that one joke that didn't hit as hard as it usually does. Or maybe I should have closed with that other joke. Maybe it's where I went in the night. Maybe I need to open with something more personal so I'm clearly defined in the audience's eyes right off the bat. Maybe I shouldn't have told that dirty joke. Maybe I need to just tell all my quickest-to-the-punch jokes in a row.

Judging art is silly anyway. Imagine if someone forced you to pick between the Beatles and the Stones.

Plus, comedy has a measurement. Laughs. If you get 'em, you did your job.

Well, there is more to it than that. You can get laughs with dick jokes or by being a kooky character. But I want to say something I care about onstage. One-liner guys do great at these contests. But I don't want to just be clever and that's it. Sure, I appreciate a well-crafted one-liner. But to me, I'd rather have some point of view or emotional content or genuine passion. But getting that across in five minutes is tough. A great comedian comedian is different than a great contest comedian.

But let's be honest. It wasn't all one-liner guys. The guy who won it all killed it. Applause breaks on literally every joke. Snowball down a hill momentum. It was a no-brainer that he should move on. And that's why he won it all.

I guess that's the lesson, if there is one. Just be even funnier. Write even more jokes. Good enough isn't good enough when you're competing against great comics.

Or maybe I just need to compete against myself. Is my contest set better than the last contest set I did? If so, that's success. Just keep getting better. As another comic said to me recently, "Comedy is like golf. It isn't about competing against others. It's about competing against the course." I liked that. Well, except for the fact that golf is, well, totally about competing against others. Hmm.


Hot Soup tonight!

FRI (11/12): HOT SOUP
8:00pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Adrienne Iapalucci
Damien Lemon
Nick Turner
...and more

I'm hosting. Yeehaw.


Science solves Steven Wright

Steven Wright:

For my birthday I got a humidifier and a dehumidifier...I put them in the same room and let them fight it out.

Classic. But which would actually win out? Enter science!

It would depend on the capacity (output) of each machine, but eventually the dehumidifier would win. Humidifiers need a water supply and eventually run dry. The dehumidifier just needs power to keep working.

Glad we got that solved. Now someone tell me what really happens when your apartment is infested with koala bears.


In the Tank's Giraldo tribute is super

Episode 304 | Greg Giraldo Tribute of In the Tank is really cool.

We set up at the Olive Tree Café above the Comedy Cellar and asked people from the Comedy Community to share a few words, a story, a favorite bit of Gregs. We did the same at Comix Comedy Club and finally with Jesse Joyce and Ted Alexandro in Astoria.

It's cool to hear all the guys who knew/worked with Greg talking about why they loved him. Also worth noting how much of the talk was about what a good guy Greg was and how supportive he was of his peers and not just how funny he was onstage.

For example, I loved Jeselnik's tale of having to do a warm up set for the Hasselhoff roast (a thankless task made even worse by the fact that it's a room filled with industry folks). Giraldo, knowing the situation, made sure to give him a standing o when he came out and laughed hard/cheered him on during his set. Jeselnik truly appreciated it. (It was the last time he ever saw him.)

Was actually talking last night about Giraldo with Sam Morril who is/was a huge fan. I thought he had a good point: Some standups go out there and try to prove how smart they are. But Giraldo, clearly a smart dude/grad of Harvard Law, never did that. He never got preachy. He never used a big word when a small one would do. He never tried to go for applause over laughs while making a political point. When you're really smart, you don't need to make a show of it.


The problem with news

Election season! Did you vote for the "I want my mommy" party or the "I want my daddy" party? I just want them to get back together and tell me it wasn't my fault.

I actually watched the TV news to see what happened. Big mistake. I'm realizing the problem with TV news: It spends way too much time asking viewers what we think. Um, we're a bunch of idiots. So you really don't need give us an endless stream of silly poll questions. "Four police officers were shot in Staten Island last night. Do YOU think this happened? 54% of you said no. 31% said Lindsay Lohan. We're not sure why that was an option."

And I love when CNN reads Twitter messages on the news. Yes, that's actually a thing that happens. Because you know, nothing's more newsworthy than random anonymous opinions from the internet. I'm trying to imagine them finding something LOWER on the information totem pole to share. "Coming up after the break: The financial crisis in Europe...What does the bathroom graffiti at Dempsey's pub have to say about it? We'll get to the bottom of it!"

I'm gonna stick to getting my information from a resource I can trust: YouTube video comments.


Friday night: Hot Soup with Murderfist and Vatterott

FRI (11/5): HOT SOUP
8:00pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Nick Vatterott
Raj Desai
Barry Rothbart

Andy's hosting, I'm doing a spot.

My other upcoming shows:
11/7 - 8pm - Sunday Night Standup @ Three of Cups (NYC)
11/8 - 9pm - Boston Comedy Festival Stand Up Comedy Contest @ Hard Rock Café (Boston)

Btw, last week's Hot Soup anniversary was a blast. Thanks to everyone who turned out and packed the house. Jim Gaffigan stopped by to talk about whales — here's a blurry pic of that. (It's like Big Foot! Or is it Bigfoot? Hmm, apparently my knowledge of how to spell that word is a bit blurry. Anyway...)

And do you know about the boo off? We invite "terrible" performers onstage and then encourage the crowd to boo. Here's sketch group Fuckleberry Finn (aka Meatsteak) booing it up at the anniversary show:

You can check out MEATSTEAK IS DEAD at The Creek and The Cave in LIC on Nov 20.


Writing on Norm MacDonald's new sports-themed show

Interesting comments rolling in to yesterday's What goes into a comedy writing packet post. Luke Cunningham is currently writing on a new sports-themed Norm MacDonald show in LA and posted this:

I'm currently writing on the new Sports Show with Norm MacDonald in LA. It's like the Daily Show but about sports.

I was asked to submit a 3 page packet of topical material with a 48-hour turnaround. This was a Friday. It was due Sunday. I had a gig hosting at Helium in Philadelphia that weekend. I would come off-stage and immediately get working on it. What I ended up doing was mixing my best stand-up jokes and lines into topical material.

Now that I'm here and writing, here's how it works:
- Every morning, I get a packet of 9-10 pages of topical stories from the Writers' Assistant. I'm expected to go through the 9-10 pages and write jokes underneath each story in Norm's voice.
- By 2PM, we meet in the Writers' Room and table the jokes. Norm picks what he likes.
- Then we go back and punch up those jokes to be re-tabled at around 5.
- We are also putting together segment ideas through the day which get tabled at the same time as the later meeting.
- It's 12 hours/day and mentally exhausting but I've loved every minute of it.
- I have no idea if every show works this way.

Networks and agents are much more interested in original scripts then spec scripts right now. Though I've been told that the paradigm swings back and forth every few seasons.

Then I asked Luke how they found out about him.

I worked as an assistant on "Important Things with Demetri Martin." Was referred by that producer...They took my packet. I made it to the final 12. Had to go to LA to interview with Norm and the showrunner...Key in those meetings is NOT being on. They think you'll be annoying in the writers' room.

Good life lesson there: Unless you're onstage, don't try too hard to be on. It's just annoying.

Thanks for the details, Luke.


What goes into a comedy writing packet

Even the best standups seem to just scrape by. Then you hear about a guy who got a late night writing gig. Pay's nice. Long hours but hey, it's a gig. Plus it's a credit.

So how do you get on that gravy train? Do you even want to? First you need writing samples ready to go. Kent Haines discusses how Donald Glover got an email from the producer of 30 Rock one night (that happens to you too, right?) and sent over scripts he had ready to go.

As Donald tells it, he just got an email from the producer of 30 Rock asking to see some of his material. So Donald replied that night with two spec scripts and a bunch of his sketches, and he was hired almost immediately.

When I hear that story, it sounds like a classic overnight success, the sort of thing that could happen to anyone. But it couldn’t. Because Donald had two spec scripts just sitting on his hard drive. Two spec scripts that were good enough to impress the best writers on television. Sure, he got a great opportunity. But he only succeeded because he was ready.

And that’s the problem for me. Because I don’t have two spec scripts. I don’t even have one. If I got that email today, I would be absolutely unprepared to impress anyone with my writing skills.

Don't expect to put together a killer packet overnight either. TV writer Dan French talks about what you need to get hired in How Do I Get Your Job? Some excerpts:

So there aren't many jobs. Less than 100 total talk show jobs, maybe another 50 asundry game show jobs...

It's a good question, because, you see, comedy writers write. Every day. Hours on end. They generate piles and piles of useable, polished material. Comedy writers are obsessive about generating new material, with reworking old material. They have big comedy muscles that don't get tired from generating day after day after day, for hours on end...

I constantly get asked about what goes into a writing packet. The useless but most truthful answer is that it doesn’t matter as long as it's great. It can be sketches, top lists, jokes, columns, standup, etc. It doesn't matter so much what it is, just that it shows that you are drop dead, unquestionably, and forever funny...

The honest part of putting together your writing sample is that you have to work on it not over the course of a weekend when someone asks to see your stuff, but every single week over the course of a couple of years. You want every joke to burst off the page. Those types of jokes don't come out in a week. They pop into your head once a month, if you're lucky.

By far the most common mistake I see beginning writers make is to not have great samples ready when asked. Instead, comics try to throw together stuff in a single night, and it comes out a mixed bag of weak jokes and strong jokes. It comes out not good enough to impress...

My writing packet is a result of four years of daily joke writing, all of which I've reworked and rewritten on my own hundreds of times, and which I've also shown to friends and professional writers who have given me suggestions and led me away from bad choices.

Sounds like a haul. And tough odds. But I guess that's true about most things worth doing in life.

Fwiw, The PIT in NYC offers classes on writing for late night shows.

Want to learn how to write for a late-night show like the ones hosted by Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Jimmy Fallon? This class will teach you how. Through easy-to-understand instruction, writing exercises, and constructive feedback you'll learn how to craft monologue jokes, desk pieces, sketches, reality-based comedy segments, and more. This class will give you all the tools you need to put together a strong submission packet for the comedy-variety show of your choice. You'll also pick up skills you can use in writing comedy for game shows, reality shows, and other formats.

I heard someone mention once that you can find sample writing packets online. Anyone got a link?


Mindy Tucker's photos from Schtick or Treat

Mindy Tucker of With Reservation has a great set of photos from Schtick or Treat.

Eddie in red.

Can we talk?


Not receiving respect.

Candy falls out of Louie Anderson's hat.

Hideous monster or Lisa Lampanelli?

Soupy Sales gets pied.

More shots.


I know what it feels like to be a beautiful woman

See, I'm at a bar recently. A bus boy comes out from the back with a pizza. But he doesn't know who ordered it. So he just starts making eye contact with everyone in the room trying to figure out who ordered this pizza. And then he locks eyes with me. And I lock eyes with him. And he looks at his pizza and up at me hopefully. And then I realize what's going on. Uh oh. I don't want pizza. So I just shake my head, look at the ground, and shuffle off to the corner.

And I realize something. That feeling, that moment — that's how beautiful women feel all the time. Like every man in the world is trying to deliver a pizza they didn't order.

I think it's tough for guys to imagine what this is like. Think of it this way fellas: Imagine if every time you made eye contact with someone, they offered you a pizza. At first, you'd be all "Hey, that sounds great. I like pizza!" But that'd fade quickly. Soon you'd be saying, "Look, I'm just trying to get to work. And even if I was hungry, I wouldn't want your homeless man pizza!" Or you go to the club and everyone's pushing their pizza up against you. And some guy says, "Come back to VIP, we got bottles of oregano." And finally you get fed up and shout, "I don't want any pizza!" And a dude in the back goes, "Oh yeah? Then maybe you shouldn't have *dressed* like you wanted pizza!"


It was good

Thanks to everyone who came out and watched or performed at Schtick or Treat. It was a blast.


The arc of a comedy career and the difference between impersonating/being a comedian

Chatted with another comic recently about how family is often considered the best thing to focus on first for material. That's stuff that will always be unique to you, good for TV sets, etc.

Jon Stewart recently sat down with Terry Gross and offered up similar thoughts.

A comedian's first 15 minutes is typically about his life. Your first joke is usually who you are. "I'm a Jew who was raised in New Jersey" joke. And then you work through your family and you basically go through your entire history with them. And you sit and stare at them but they're not doing much. So you have to then spread out.

So your next jokes usually come from where you go on the road. So I've taken my act about being a Jew from New Jersey to Tennessee. Want to hear about Tennessee? And that's your next act. Your next act is about your life as a comedian.

And then when that's exhausted, you tend to turn your vision to the world. And that becomes your tableau for your career.

Of course, if you're an observational comic or do a character or whatever, it's a different path.

Stewart also mentioned what he learned doing the final set at 2am at The Cellar every night:

I learned the difference between impersonating a comedian and being a comedian. And that was my break, learning how to be authentic. Not to the audience, but to myself. I developed a baseline of not only confidence, but insecurity. I knew how bad I was and I knew how good I was.

Reminds me of Woody Allen's idea of being a funny person, not having funny material.


What a week...The 3rd Annual Schtick Or Treat and Hot Soup's 1 Year Anniversary Show!

Two amazing shows this week (Wed/Fri)...

Wednesday (10/27): Schtick or Treat @ Arlene’s Grocery

The 3rd Annual Schtick Or Treat
A pre-Halloween show of comedy “legends”
WED 10/27 @ Arlene’s Grocery
Doors: 7pm, showtime: 7:30pm sharp
Tickets: $8
95 Stanton Street (btwn Ludlow/Orchard), NYC
Facebook invite

Here we go again! The idea: It's a quick turnover night where 30+ NYC comics get two minutes each to do a set as a famous comic. Standing room only two years in a row – def one of the funnest shows to watch.

On the bill this year:
Me as Andrew Dice Clay
Mark Normand as Norm Macdonald
George Gordon as Eddie Murphy
Matt McCarthy as Bill Hicks
Erik Bergstrom as Lisa Lampanelli
Laura Prangley as Joan Rivers
Jared Logan as Soupy Sales
Dan Soder as Rodney Dangerfield
Nick Turner and Ariel Bitran as Tenacious D
...and lots more!

Full lineup and video from last year's show here. And now there's even an LA version of the show.

Friday (10/29): Hot Soup's 1 Year Anniversary Show @ O'Hanlons

Whoa, it's already been a year of Hot Soupness. Crazy how time flies when you're addicted to oxycontin. We're gonna celebrate with a blowout show this Friday at O'Hanlons. Four of the best comics in NYC (really) and all four Hot Soupers will be doing sets too.

Reggie Watts (opened for Conan on his tour, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
Hannibal Burress (30 Rock, SNL, all kinds of TV)
Sean Patton (Comedy Central, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
Jesse Popp (Comedy Central)

Seats will go fast so get there early. I'll be hosting.

Hot Soup
1-Year Anniversary Show!
FRI 10/29 @ O'Hanlons - 8pm
349 E 14th St (btwn 1st and 2nd Ave) in NYC


New episodes of We're All Friends Here on Breakthru Radio

The two latest episodes of We're All Friends Here on Breakthru Radio are now available. View in iTunes.

The first one is 09/21/10 featuring Tom Sibley, Calise Hawkins, and Jonathan Powley. It's antagonistic. The latest is 10/19/10 with Jason Saenz, Doug Smith, and Anthony Devito. That one's scarrific.


Judd Apatow's "most personal moment" on Freaks and Geeks

Marc Maron's been killing it on WTF lately. The Judd Apatow two-parter (one/two) was really interesting since he included clips of a teen Apatow interviewing comics like Seinfeld, Leno, and Shandling. Leno said he'd think of a joke during the day and then go on Letterman's show and do it that night.

This book edited by Apatow sounds interesting: "I Found This Funny: My Favorite Pieces of Humor and Some That May Not Be Funny At All." It's out now.

In another interview (and on WTF), Apatow talks about his "most personal moment" on Freaks and Geeks. (See clip below.)

When I was a kid I used to go home every day and my friends would play sports. While they would have football practice, I would watch the Dinah Shore show and the Mike Douglas show and the early “Love Connection,” and I would make a grilled-cheese sandwich and chocolate cake, and I would watch TV straight through until Letterman was over at 1:30 in the morning. In high school! And I did that way too often. And that’s my most personal moment on the show. There’s a little bit of that everywhere...All the writers contributed these horror stories from their youth, and we put them into the show. Most of it happened to someone on the show.

FYI, here's a clip of Shandling from around that time:

Apatow names Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Terms of Endearment as two of his fave movies. Here's Ebert's review of Terms of Endearment.

The most remarkable achievement of "Terms of Endearment," which is filled with great achievements, is its ability to find the balance between the funny and the sad, between moments of deep truth and other moments of high ridiculousness. A lesser movie would have had trouble moving between the extremes that are visited by this film, but because "Terms of Endearment" understands its characters and loves them, we never have a moment's doubt: What happens next is supposed to happen. because life's like that.

Funny/sad. Because life's like that. Watched it recently. Def seems like it influenced Apatow's Funny People.

Btw, Birbigs namechecks similar folks here when discussing his influences:

The movies of Woody Allen and James Brooks, and recently Cameron Crowe and Judd Apatow, and the books of David Sedaris and David Foster Wallace and Sarah Vowell and the plays of Kenneth Lonergan. So you get inspired by what you get inspired by. In stand-up, Pryor and Seinfeld.


Kombucha, method acting, "Let the River Run," etc.

What have I been posting about at Twitter? I'm glad you asked!

I am really into Rom Coms. Y'know, Romanian Communists.

NY Post headline writer's wet dream: A Buddhist monk caught committing armed robbery. Resulting headline = "Felonious Monk!"

Kombucha is really tasty if you like fruit juice with a nice lil' splash of aftertaste vomit.

Me to real estate agent: "Pardon me, sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?" His reply: "Location, location, location."

Method actor? Pshaw. Be a rhythm method actor: No acting on days 8-19 of each month. After that, act inside whatever you want!

Angelina Jolie is like a crazy cat lady, but with third world babies instead of cats.

Apparently this is a bad thing to say to a friend: "If you need a list of topics you should discuss with your therapist, let me know."

There's never been an accountant with dreadlocks.

Only young people like sweet drinks, like Absolut Raspberry. Old people don't need vodka infused with anything except broken dreams.

Watching "Working Girl." That song "Let the River Run"...is that about menstruation? After all, that is truly the sign of a working girl.

People keep telling me I look like Dexter. I need to stop murdering.

More at twitter.com/mattruby.


Recap of shows from my recent trip out west

Didn't get a chance to recap my recent trip out west yet. Here goes:

Victoria, BC
Started out in Victoria, BC. Great show at a place called Heckler's. A bit worrisome at first since ya walk in and it's a sports bar filled with people eating and big screens on all over the place. But at 9pm the lights go down, the TVs go off, and the place morphs nicely into a venue.

Of course it's a terrible name for a place but I will say they have the best pre-show announcement I've ever heard to get people to shut up and turn off cellphones. It's a pre-recorded bit that explains that even though the name is Heckler's that doesn't mean you should yell shit out. And then it explains what the rest of the crowd will think if ya do (via an act out by a good voiceover guy). The whole thing lays out, in a fun way, that you're a dick if you say anything or let your phone ring. Effective.

Crowd was probably 200-300 strong and they were into it right out of the gate. I opened by riffing on something the MC said and the Hamburger Challenge on the menu (one of those 2 lb. burger "you get a free meal if you agree to have a heart attack" deals). There was a Big Buck Hunter Pro game right next to stage so I moved my bit about that to the front of my set. Always fun when you can take an established bit and make it seem like something that just came to you.

I wound up doing 37 minutes total and it felt great. So nice to be able to do that much time in front a big crowd (in NYC, I rarely get spots longer than 15 mins). A big crowd is a different animal. It starts to feel like a single organism instead of individuals. And the long set means you can actually get a fleshed out identity across (tougher to do that in quick sets). I felt like a real performer that night which is a feeling I don't get in NYC very often.

In NYC, crowd reactions often make it feel like you're trying to take a dog on a walk when he doesn't want to go anywhere. Sure, you can get somewhere if you yank the leash hard enough. But it's a struggle. You can't use pauses and timing the way you can in other places. You need to keep slapping 'em in the face.

This was different. It was a crowd of hundreds who were out to have a good time and excited to be there. I have one joke about my mom being paralyzed in the final years of her life. It can be iffy due to the subject matter, but it got the biggest reaction it's ever gotten that night. I had to wait 10 seconds before I could even go on to the next bit. I just kept saying a single word from the punch ("never") over and over while waiting for the laughs to die down.

Anyway, nights like that make all the heavy lifting and shitty shows in NYC seem worth it.

Vancouver, BC
My next two shows were in Vancouver. Smaller gigs with shorter sets, but still fun. At first one, the comics stood in a paneled box at the front of the room. My opener: "I know you guys like hockey, but I didn't expect to be performing in a penalty box." The next night I followed a gal comic and a dude in the front row yelled out at her "show us your tits." I guess some things transcend borders.

It's interesting to perform in Canada because you have to start thinking about cultural references they may not get. Things I now know: They don't have Luna Bars. They don't know the game Fuck, Marry, Kill. They don't know what an Uncle Tom is. It's not Native Americans, it's First Nations.

And I said 6'8" in one bit and then I'm like, wait, how many centimeters is that? Some guy yells out 203. I continued on but said 203 meters instead. Then I realized that'd be one huge dude. At that point, I just segued into talking about how dumb I feel as an American sometimes.

After that, I took the bus to Seattle. First show there was a benefit show where the charity group forgot to promote it so there were just seven folks in the crowd. One thing about NYC "training": I am SO comfortable performing in front of a group of seven people. A depressing skill to have, in a way, but also nice to not be someone pushing jokes hard to folks who are like "Why is this guy pretending that what's happening isn't actually happening?"

I began with something like: "Comedy is best when the audience is unified as a group on a positive wavelength. You guys definitely feel unified...but it feels more like the unity of a group of people who have been taken hostage. It's a unity that says, 'We're going to get through this together.'" At least it was real.

Next show was a mic. Always surprises me when I do mics in other cities and there are actual audience members there. I went up last but got to do about 20 minutes and talked about some of the other comics who had performed that night (always a fun thing to do at mics since they attract, um, a fringe element).

Then went into material. At mics in NYC, I try new stuff. But there I kept to jokes that work already. It was all new to them and I wanted to make a good impression since there were a bunch of decent comics there too. One good thing about a mic is you get to meet a bunch of comics in that place. Not always doable at regular shows.

Then I did a weekend of guest sets at the Seattle Comedy Underground, four shows in all. The good about that: Shows were packed, esp on Saturday night. The not so good: I was doing quick 5 min sets, all clean, and as the first comic onstage (no host). Still fun but felt rushed. That's a great club though.

And now I've been back in NYC for a bit. Great to be back but it sure is nice to tell jokes elsewhere every once in a while.


Doug Smith added to Saturday's We're All Friends Here

Lineup change! Just added to the show on Sat: Doug Smith (hero who saved damsel in distress/the white scarface)!!!! Show details.

CC Insider on what happened...

Just a few days ago, up and coming New York comedian Doug Smith did something truly heroic. In the 2nd Avenue station, he saw a woman being accosted by a man possibly attempting to sexually assault her. Doug stepped in to help, and the attacker took a box-cutter to his face. Doug now has 25 stitches across his face.

We'll find out all about it.


This week: We're All Friends Here, Hot Soup, Holiday Cocktail Lounge

Free shows I'm doing this week:

WED 10/13 - "Our Amazing Show!" @ Holiday Cocktail Lounge - 7pm
75 St. Mark's Place (btwn 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
Facebook invite

FRI 10/15 - Hot Soup @ O'Hanlons - 8pm
Guests: Rory Scovel, Carmen Lynch, Damien Lemon, Michael Che
I'm hosting, Cope is doing a spot
349 E 14th St (btwn 1st and 2nd Ave) in NYC
Facebook invite

SAT 10/16: We're All Friends Here @ The Creek - 8pm
Guests: Doug Smith, Jason Saenz, Anthony Devito (Damien Lemon on the next show)
10-93 Jackson Ave.
Long Island City, Queens (1 stop from Manhattan/Brooklyn)
Facebook invite


Escape hatches, showing your notebook, and how to craft an act

Chris Hardwick wrote a piece for Wired a few months back called Crafting a Joke: The Arc of an Act. It's a good/quick read with interesting quotes from other comics along the way.

B. J. Novak says comedians naturally gravitate toward the laughs. “Only say what you think is funny,” he says. “Only keep what they think is funny.”

Jim Gaffigan says he and his wife spend hours ripping apart a topic for jokes. “There can even be some that aren’t A’s, but within the context of other jokes they can survive. That’s how George Carlin did things,” Gaffigan says. “It’s about getting all the chicken off the bone.”

Bob Newhart builds “escape hatches,” he says. “If I get past the first bail-out point and the routine is still working, I go to the next.” Paul F. Tompkins says, “I let the actual phrasing of the idea come to me onstage, to keep it as conversational as possible.”

"Escape hatch" = good way to put that. Those extra tags can sing if the crowd's up for it. But if not, you're best off bailing while you still got 'em a little bit. Can totally see how Newhart would need some exit points in his one-sided phone call routines.

Hardwick also advises, "Never analyze comedy in public. It makes you look like a douche." I agree. This whole blog is one giant exercise in me looking like a douche.

Over at his Nerdist.com blog, Hardwick mentions the toughest thing for him about the piece.

The toughest thing for me with this piece was allowing my stand-up notebook to be photographed. A comic’s notebook is half Tome of Spells and half diary, but like a child’s drawing it only makes sense to the artist. I always fear that if I leave it in a hotel room, whoever finds it is going to misinterpret its disparate ramblings as those of a serial killer’s (I have the words “Grandpa Soapy Handjob” sloppily written down. I have no idea what it means.). I would almost rather have had my penis photographed than my notebook. I think the below picture is the comic’s equivalent to that first Playboy shoot for a corn-fed Midwestern girl–I’m allowing the world to see my soul’s tits.

Here's the shot of his notebook:

Here's a page from my current notebook. I usually keep set lists/stuff to try at shows on the left side and random ideas on the right.


Announcing The 3rd Annual Schtick Or Treat (WED 10/27 at Arlene's Grocery)

Matt Ruby And Mark Normand present
The 3rd Annual Schtick Or Treat
A pre-Halloween show of comedy “legends”

Wed Oct 27 - Arlene’s Grocery
Doors: 7pm, showtime: 7:30pm sharp
Tickets: $8
95 Stanton Street (btwn Ludlow/Orchard), NYC
Facebook invite

Here we go again! The idea: It's a quick turnover night where 30+ NYC comics get up to three minutes to do a set as a famous comic...and then it's on to the next performer. Standing room only two years in a row – def one of the funnest shows to watch.

Mark Normand as Norm Macdonald
Matt Ruby as Andrew Dice Clay
RG Daniels as Bill Burr
Matt McCarthy as Bill Hicks
Meg Cuppernall as Brett Butler
Adam Cozens as Brody Stevens
Selena Coppock as Kathy Griffin
Luke Cunningham as Chevy Chase
Chelsea White as David Letterman
John Knefel as David Sedaris
Alex Grubard as Doug Stanhope
George Gordon as Eddie Murphy
Jason Saenz as Freddie Prinze
Dan Cartwright as George Carlin
Ray Marshall as George Lopez
Miguel Dalmau as Hannibal Buress
Dan St Germain as Jake Lamotta
Laura Prangley as Joan Rivers
Rojo Perez as Katt Williams
Luke Thayer as Kyle Cease
Jay Welch as Kyle Kinane
Erik Bergstrom as Lisa Lampanelli
Andy Haynes as Louie Anderson
Josh Guarino as Mitch Hedberg
Sam Morril as Nick DiPaolo
Danny Solomon as Patton Oswalt
James Harris as Paul F. Tompkins
Kara Klenk as Paula Poundstone
Abbi Crutchfield as Robert Schimmel
Dan Soder as Rodney Dangerfield
Sean O'Connor as Russell Brand
Jared Logan as Soupy Sales
Eliot Glazer as Steve Harvey
David Cope as Steven Wright
Nick Turner and Ariel Bitran as Tenacious D
Adam Newman as The Amazing Johnathan
Robert Dean as Tony Clifton
Mike Lawrence as Weird Al Yankovic
Jamie Lee as Wendy Liebman
Zach Broussard as Harland Williams
...and more!

Highlights from last year's Schtick:


A producer's manifesto: "The same way a comedian brings his/her material to life, I bring life to a show"

R.G. Daniels puts on one of my fave shows to do (Sunday Night Standup at Three of Cups). And now he's got a new show called MOTHAF*@%!N' COMEDY. He wrote a kinda producer's manifesto to announce the first one (Oct 26).

I am a producer. I am constantly asked what it is I do. I'll tell you: Much the same way a comedian brings his/her material to life, I bring life to a show. To me, stand-up is about the experience for both performer and audience. It's about somebody who may or may not be familiar with the live comedy experience going to a show and walking out thinking, "That was fuckin' awesome." It's about a comedian getting booked and realizing why he/she decided to get into comedy in the first place. I feel that recently this ideology has gotten away from a lot of people.

The last thing comedy needs are new audiences getting turned off to stand-up based on a negative experience. Expensive admission. Shitty drinks. Disgruntled staff. It's not fair to the audience and it sure as hell isn't fair to the performer to feel as if they don't wanna be there. Conversely, I don't think it's fair to prop up an amp, plug in a mic, and announce to an unsuspecting bar that it's Comedy Night. This is as equally off-putting as the term "alternative comedy".

Related: If show producers told the truth, it'd sound like this...


Hot Soup with Shillue and Derosa on Friday

FRI (10/8): HOT SOUP
8:00pm - Free
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.

Tom Shillue
Joe DeRosa
Nikki Glaser
Brent Sullivan
Noah Berkowitz

Andy's hosting, I'm doing a spot.

Check out who dropped in last week:

Other upcoming shows:
10/16 - We're All Friends Here @ The Creek (LIC)
10/27 - 3rd Annual Schtick or Treat @ Arlene's Grocery (NYC)


Gawker.TV features my "I Need Laughs" documentary

If you've just found this site due to the Gawker.TV piece: Welcome! If ya dig what ya see, subscribe to the site or my email list to stay in touch.

"I Need Laughs," the documentary I made about performing comedy in NYC, is featured at Gawker.TV today.

Filmed in a conspiratorial style, with low contrast, shrouded profiles, and the documentarian's face either obscured by darkness or cut off altogether in many of his solo confessional scenes, I Need Laughs blurs the line of demarcation separating performer and audience. Performance scenes shot from the backs of rooms, flanked by silhouetted audience members or from behind half-empty glasses of booze give the viewer a sense of being let in on a secret.

(Btw, R.G. Daniels once described it to me as the Serpico-ish version of Seinfeld's "Comedian." Sounds about right.)

The post also includes some kind words about this here blog too. Big thanks to Rebecca V. O'Neal for the nice writeup.


Pacific NW: Canucks, Caesars, Greyhound, Paseo, etc.

From my Twitter feed:

Headed to BC, Canada. My hotel better have rose petal turn down or I will crack some Canuck heads!
12:19 PM Sep 24th

Amazing crowd at Hecklers in Victoria BC last night. (yes, they know it's a bad name.) pic of Paul Bea headlining: http://yfrog.com/ne5txisj
5:41 PM Sep 25th

Western Canada, kudos on your Caesar drink. Clamato! Who knew!?
4:22 AM Sep 27th

Bah. Priceline put me at the Ramadan Inn. Now I need to fast for a month!
3:44 PM Sep 27th

Suggested slogan for this Vancouver pub: "To dine by your side, oh the privilege, the pleasure, is mine." http://yfrog.com/j7u62uj
7:15 PM Sep 27th

I find this Vancouver Police Department tagline VERY questionable. Why not "VPD: We are usually unavailable"?! http://yfrog.com/0rjincoj
7:31 PM Sep 27th

Japanese restaurant in Vancouver is playing a bombastic *brass band* version of YMCA. Sounds like some sort of gay national anthem.
10:30 PM Sep 27th

Every single person in Vancouver told me to avoid E. Hastings St. Either it's filled with crackheads or that's where they're killing Jews.
10:36 PM Sep 27th

On the bus to SEA. I get why they call it Greyhound. It's the only dog that's been abused as much as Greyhound passengers.
11:49 AM Sep 28th

At Comedy Underground in Seattle tonight. Here's a shot of last night's show in Vancouver at The Kingston: http://yfrog.com/eiw3tj
8:16 PM Sep 28th

Beer gut? Check. Fanny pack? Check. Stars 'n stripes shorts? Check. America, meet your new Uncle Sam! http://yfrog.com/n8uuzuj
2:03 PM Sep 29th

Seattle Hot Soup reunion! Got introduced to Paseo by @andyhaynesed. Now considering changing name of show to Fish Sandwich.
5:42 PM Sep 29th

Back in NYC. Great time in Seattle last week. Sets all wkend at Comedy Underground. Pic of @drewbarth onstage: http://yfrog.com/4bjnraj
11:21 AM Oct 5th


The two most annoying questions you hear as a comic

1) What is your comedy about?
2) Can you tell me a joke?

I love how Giraldo answers that first one here.

Greg Giraldo - Interview
Big LakeA New Comedy from Will Ferrell and Adam McKayIt's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

As for the "Can you tell me a joke?" question, my usual answer is no. If they insist, I go with: "What did the 0 say to the 8? Nice belt."

The alternative is me explaining why comedy requires an audience and that if I tell a joke here in a 1-on-1 situation it's not going to work because...blah blah blah. And then I go back to the 0/8 thing and just let them think I'm a moron.


The first time I saw Greg Giraldo

One of the greatest standup performances I've ever seen in my life was Greg Giraldo years ago at Crash Test at UCB (before I ever started doing standup).

A lot of the alt guys who performed on Crash Test were alt-y and got by with being clever. Giraldo was on a different plane.

He came out like a tornado. Stalking all over the stage, full of venom. He was really fucking smart. He was talking about important things. It wasn't setup/punch and then setup/punch. You couldn't even tell where one joke ended and another began. It all flowed together seamlessly. He was angry and right and hilarious and didn't give a fuck. It didn't seem preplanned or scripted. The words just seemed to tumble out of his mouth in perfect order. I was a comedy naif at the time, but I remember feeling that it was downright shamanic. He just pummeled the crowd.

This was right after I moved to NYC and I'd only just begun to watch live standup regularly. And that Giraldo set, along with a Patton Oswalt set I saw at Rififi right around the same time, opened my eyes up to the power and magic that live standup can deliver. There was something mystical about it. I was entranced. And that's when I decided I wanted to try it too.

When I think about Greg Giraldo, that set is what I'll always remember. I'm thankful I was in the room that night and grateful for the impact it had on my life.

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