My two fave old school 8x10s at Comedy Store La Jolla

Richard Lewis. Who knew he looked like this?

The Unknown Comic. Who knew he looked like this?


NYC shows this weekend: Hot Soup and We're All Friends Here

FRI (2/26): HOT SOUP
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St at 1st avenue.

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.

This week:
Julian McCullough
Roger Hailes
Tom Shillue
Dan Carroll

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

Wooooeeee! We are back for another show but this time we've got a hell of a theme! Since it's Black History Month and we just had Valentine's Day. We're doing a couples show with one black person!! You thought it got personal before, now it's going to be a couple on stage getting interviewed about all their relationship peccadilloes. Think Jerry Springer of the 'alt' scene.

Here are the couples:
Abbi Crutchfield and Luke Thayer (Nice couple)
Sean O'Connor and Nicolia Demas (Yowsa!)
John and Molly Knefel (what?)

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Great comedians you don't see at UCB

Speaking of comedy cliques, CK submitted his latest film to the Toronto Film Festival. The response, according to CK:

“The guy wrote back something like, ‘I prefer comedians like David Cross.’ It’s like, ‘Hmm, if he’s not wearing horn-rimmed glasses, I’m not into it.’”

Silly. Kinda indicative of what's lame about some alt comedy fans. They wet their pants over anyone who's a regular at UCB or mentioned at Brooklyn Vegan or on AST's top 20 list, but they ignore funnier guys that don't work the alt circle.

If I was making a list of non-alt-sceners who I think are great, I'd start with: Bill Burr, Doug Stanhope, Pat Dixon, Greg Giraldo, Brian Regan, Daniel Tosh, and Nick Griffin.


A lesson in confidence and awareness from freestyle rap battles

A guest post from Mike Lawrence:

I had a big audition recently and was listening to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" (It works) and was fascinated by the whole idea of freestyle rap battles. I started to look some clips up on Youtube and what I saw was pretty amazing. The amount of creativity used by some of the rappers was downright inspiring. The way they'd use everything in the room to take a guy out while still keeping it in a rap structure. It's like in stand-up how you can riff using everything but it still has to be funny.

Here's a good example from one of the most impressive guys I saw, Iron King Solomon-

Solomon clearly wins this battle. He completely dismantles Flamez in every way. He uses all sorts of techniques (Lookalike jokes, jokes about his clothes, even breaking the fourth wall). He's completely aware of everything around him while and most of what he's saying works perfectly in the moment while Flamez' raps are generic and could be used anywhere. Nothing he says is specific at all.

I also like how in freestyle rapping you have to hit hard and keep hitting. It's a competition where if you show any lack of confidence, you're done, which is essentially how Jin beats Hassan in this battle

Hassan started off strong, but just ran out of steam. He wasn't fast enough and whatever he was rapping, he wasn't able to build on, where the truly great rappers will say something and just keep expounding on it.

After watching a lot of these videos I felt excited and recharged to hit the stage and use some of the skills of confidence and awareness when there's a situation I have to address like a sour room or a heckler. Of course I won't actually rap. Leave that to the professionals.


A night of comedy in San Diego

I'm out in San Diego. Did a show in Ocean Beach on Friday night. What happens when I do an out of town show and don't know anybody there? I sit in the back and get drunk while posting messages at In case ya missed, here's the rundown (click photos for larger versions):

6:02 PM Feb 19th
whoever named this hood "Ocean Beach" was not exceptionally creative. It is purty though.

6:31 PM Feb 19th
To borrow the lingo of @robcantrell, I just fucked up a fish taco. Damn good. Mahi!

6:33 PM Feb 19th
This seems like a good neighborhood to get 1) a tattoo or 2) in a fistfight. Esp considering the bouncer is drunkest guy in the bar.

7:57 PM Feb 19th
I'm not sure the name of this place would fly in NYC.

7:59 PM Feb 19th
At show and there's a guy wearing a hoodie and a tie. I really hope he is a comic.

[He was!]

8:12 PM Feb 19th
Biggest laugh of the night so far = some joke about how marines always marry Filipino chicks. Crowd loved it! San Diego, you are adorable.

8:15 PM Feb 19th
Coming up after comedy: Bands who can't u *know* they rock. ...Totalley awesum!

9:31 PM Feb 19th
This room mutated from sour to hot to rowdy drunk. Fun time though. How it looked after 2.5 hrs:

I did Comedy Store in La Jolla last night which was also very fun. Another looooong show though. (What is it with Cali and these three hours shows?)

Other upcoming shows out here and then back in NYC this weekend:

Tue 2/23 9:00pm Comedy Night with Mal Hall @ Lestat's (SD)
Wed 2/24 8:00pm The Comedy Store La Jolla (SD)
Thu 2/25 8:00pm The Comedy Store La Jolla (SD)
Fri 2/26 8:00pm Hot Soup @ O'Hanlon's (NYC)
Sat 2/27 8:00pm We're All Friends Here @ The Creek (NYC)

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Special Saturday edition of HOT SOUP this week

8pm on SAT (2/20) for this week only!
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St at 1st avenue.

Mark's writeup:

This is a very special show! It's David Cope's bday!!!! I know, you thought he didn't age? Me too! But he does and he's celebrating his birthday at O'Hanlons at Hot Soup! Here's the catch because of his bday, we're moving the show to Saturday the 20th!! You gotta come out and poke David's face to see if he's an android. Drinks on Cope!!

This week:
Jared Logan
Dan St. Germain
Brooke Van Poppelen
Phil Hanley

I won't be there but if you're in the San Diego area you can catch me tonight (2/19) at Ocean Beach Comedy at Winston's.

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CK at Sundance: "As long as it feels like a real thought that I can believe in and defend, I go ahead and say it"

Some cool clips of CK doing Q&A at Sundance 2010 (where his new standup movie debuted).

Above is his intro to the movie and some questions afterwards. Good quote from about 3min in:

I don't get scared to say anything anymore. As long as it feels real to me. As long as it feels like a real thought that I can believe in and defend, I go ahead and say it. It doesn't occur to me anymore that it's not a good idea as long as I really do think it.

In this part (at 2:30 in or so), someone asks Louis if he's ever offended by his own jokes. A: Yeah, by jokes that are too easy.

There are bits that I have done that have killed that I stopped doing because I don't like them. They don't feel real. I just used "joke technology"...I hate how easily they work and how predictable they are. So I stopped doing them.

I like that phrase "joke technology." How I interpret it: The way you can get a laugh from a certain structure or misdirection, but it feels hollow because there's no real feeling there.

In this last clip, he ends by doing a bit in progress that wonders if maybe we shouldn't get so mad at kid fuckers. Great. [Thx NC]

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Looking for shows to do in San Diego next week

Hey, kinda last minute but I'm gonna be in San Diego from 2/19 - 2/26. Anyone got a lead for show(s) to do while I'm out there? If so, send me an email: Thanks much.


New We're All Friends Here podcast is up (Morril, Recine, and Diflo)

Latest edition of the podcast is alive over at Breakthru Radio: BTR episode #4: Sam Morril, Mike Recine, and Mick Diflo. Plus you'll get to hear what Mark sounds like after being stuck at JFK for two days.

Listen to previous episodes and subscribe at the podcast page.

Over at AST, Becca writes:

I REALLY REALLY like what I've heard so far of this podcast. I haven't listened to these in order, but rather skipped around and listened to the segments with comedians I know and enjoy.

My tip: Don't be afraid to listen to the comics ya don't know too. Sometimes the best interviews are with people you don't know or wouldn't expect. Those demons pop up in some surpising places.

Next show will be taped live on Sat Feb 27 at The Creek at 8pm. Special COUPLES edition with: Newlyweds Luke Thayer and Abbi Crutchfield, siblings John and Molly Knefel, and everyone's favorite on-again-off-again couple Sean O'Connor and Nicolia Demas! Jesus.

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Worst intro ever?

I was brought up with a staggeringly bad intro at an out of town show recently. Got it on tape, here's the actual transcript of EXACTLY what the host said before bringing me to the stage:

The first rule of comedy is to not dig a hole, when you're the MC, is to not dig a hole for the comic who's coming up. Ya wanna bring it up. But we're all friends, we've all sort of bonded. So I wanna bring it up and everything like that.

I haven't done comedy in a while. I took like six months off. [To show producer in the back] Remember what happened? [Show producer yells out: "Yeah, your friend died."]

Yeah, my buddy, I don't know if you heard about it. Lt. Col. [his name], a good friend of mine, was killed in Afghanistan by an IED and he's the husband of my really good friend [gives her name]. Killed in Afghanistan. [Long pause.]

Coming to the stage now from New York City. [Laughs] Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be awesome? I'm kidding. Stop it. [Looks at me.] He's like, "No, no, no. No!" [Makes stretching sign with hands.]

[Note: He was NOT kidding about the dead friend. He was kidding about bringing me up after saying that. But then he did it anyway!]

This guy's funny. You guys are gonna love him. Matt Ruby.

Couldn't believe it. I got up and felt like I had to say something in response. So I went, "Ah, the old dead friend intro again." Silence.

Trying to think of what could've been a worse intro. Maybe: "I've been thinking a lot lately about how I was molested. And how I love abortions. And you guys see all these spiders too, right? Kill the Jews! Here he is: Matt Ruby!!!"

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Don't vote for me in this online contest

Getting a flood of "vote for me" emails and Facebook groups from comedians lately. Heck, I've even done it before.

But it's starting to feel like this "online comedy voting" thing is the digital equivalent of a bringer show. Like each one of these contests is nothing but a con that promises "exposure" but is really there just to get people to go to the site of whoever is producing it.

Good PR for that site/brand/club/network/whatever, but what's actually being measured by this "contest"? How many online friends a comic has? Or whether they can figure out a way to hack the voting?

Not THAT big a deal but still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Comics are so desperate to get seen that we're easy marks for people who want to use that desperation to their own ends.

But I guess it's like bringer shows. If people go for it, that's their business. Ya can't rape the willing.

(Btw, I used that phrase recently and someone thought I said "can't rape the willies" — which I liked because it made me think that you are specifically NOT allowed to rape Willie Nelson, former Pittsburgh Pirate Willie Stargell, Charles in Charge's Willie Aames, etc.)

Don't even think about it.


Photo: Purging of the set lists

Set lists

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Should you expect comics you book to draw a crowd?

A reader asks:

Many people book performers hoping for them to have a decent draw. For instance, if you book five comedians, you generally expect each to bring around five fans so you can have a nice show with 20 to 30 audience members.

But at some point, a performer's doing a show each night (or even multiple shows), so are they still expected to draw a crowd to every one of their performances? How do you handle this, as both someone who books variety shows and also as someone who performs at many shows?

Are you a club bringing in a big name guy? Then sure, you can expect him to have a decent draw (presumably in proportion to how much ya pay him). But for the kinda shows I do, I think it's the job of the producer to get people in the room. I don't think you should expect comedians you book to draw people (unless you explain that when you ask them to do the show).

Now you can encourage comics to bring friends and ask them to promote the show online or at Facebook. But I don't think you should be upset if they fail to bring anyone out. And that's especially true if that person runs their own show (it's tough enough to promote your own show, much less other people's shows you're on too).

If you can't fill your room consistently, get a smaller room. And if you can't do that, maybe you're better off hosting a mic where you'll (hopefully) get other comics to show up at least.


Snow, Valentine's, and Soup

Are you ready for the blizzard...of comedy we will deliver on Friday night? See what I did there? The 'ol misdirection. You thought I was gonna say something about snow. I mean actual snow. Not cocaine. I think snow is what they call cocaine on Craigslist. Not sure 'cuz I don't use it. Cocaine, I mean. I use Craigslist all the time. How else would I find my missed connections? Like this: "You: Drug dealer supposed to deliver my cocaine..." Ah, jeez. Now I've blown my cover.

But really, I don't use that stuff. I'm very sensitive to speedy things. Coffee at dinner keeps me up all night. One Vodka Red Bull and my heart starts doing weird things and then I wake up the next morning at 6am in a tizzy. And I don't even know what a tizzy is. to the rescue: A tizzy is "a dither." Gee, thanks for the help. So yeah, I wake up in a dither. There ya go.

It's Valentine's Day soon. Fun story: My mom and dad met on a blind date. They were set up by my mom's mom. She met my dad and told him, "You should really meet my daughter. She's learning how to type and she's seeing a therapist." Well. That's what is known as a soft sell. My dad went for it though. Hey, what man doesn't want a woman who's going crazy at 85 words per minute? But it all worked out and that's how ya got me and the rest is Black History Month!

Speaking of history, we're gonna make some this Friday night at the big Hot Soup show. That's Friday 2/12. I'm hosting. Gonna be a fun one. Guests:

Joe Derosa (Comedy Central Presents)
Joe List (Liva at Gotham)
Katie Crown (Toronto, Comedians Of Comedy Tour)
Adam-Clayton Holland (Denver)
Josh Gondelman (Boston)

O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St at 1st avenue. Doors at 7:30pm, showtime at 8pm. If ya don't know, 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.

P.S. Next We're All Friends Here will be Saturday, Feb 27 at The Creek in LIC (8 pm). Special COUPLES EDITION! Stay tuned for details.

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"The deeper a thing is, the more interesting it is"

Physicist Richard Feynman tries to explain to a non-scientist just how difficult it can be to answer certain questions in lay terms. He explains what happens when you keep asking, "Why?"

"The deeper a thing is, the more interesting it is." Love that. Actually, Feynman's answer reminded me of this:

Asking "why?" a lot is also a popular technique in the biz world: 5 Whys is a theory that you should ask why at least five times to find out the root cause of a problem. ("If you don't ask the right questions, you don't get the right answers.)

Toyota has used this approach for years too: "By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear." (Maybe Toyota isn't the best example to use right now as a demonstration of successful problem solving, eh?)

Back to standup: The more you ask "Why?", the deeper and more interesting your bits will be. Why does this matter? Because you want to be interesting on stage. Why? Because then people will pay more attention to you. Why? Because you're offering them something that not a lot of comics give them. Why? Because you're not just talking about silly shit, you're talking about stuff that matters. Why? Because...ah, fuck it.


Clique to continue?

The comment thread at Complaining about other's success is a waste of energy has been buzzing about the fairness of awards, diversity in comedy, alt vs. club comedy, etc. It's kinda all over the place but perhaps worth your while?


HOT SOUP tonight (2/5) w/ Baron Vaughn, Moshe Kasher, and more

Friday, February 5, 2010
O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St at 1st avenue.

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.

this week:

Giulia Rozzi
Baron Vaughn
Ryan Conner
Moshe Kasher

Soup's on!!!

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Complaining about other's success is a waste of energy

Congrats to everyone nominated for ECNY Awards. Bitter ya didn't make the cut? Feelgood Matt says you shouldn't! Too much bitter sniping among comics, I think. If someone you know does well, that's good for you too. Rising tides and boats and all that. Maybe when they break through to whatever the next level is they'll put in a word for ya.

Here's a new agey but kinda true view on all that (by Richard Carlson):

While it can be seductive, or at least habitual, to secretly desire to keep others at your level, it’s absolutely, positively not in your best interest. The way to rise to the top is to wish everyone well, to hope with all your heart that everyone can expand to their greatest potential, to wish that the people you know, and those whom you don’t know can all realize their dreams and achieve greatness.

It’s critical to know that there is plenty of success to go around. In fact, as people achieve their goals, the pie gets even bigger for the rest of us. We don’t want to see one another at our lowest common denominator but at our highest common vision. We can all succeed and each time someone does – anyone - it helps the rest of us.

When you wish someone well, it creates a momentum within you, an inner environment of success.

Alright, I'll stop before he gets to the whole "sprinkling the seeds for a garden of success" crap.


Who says the Jews run the media?

I don't normally read the NY Post. But the other night I was grabbing a slice and it was on the counter so I leafed through it. I was intrigued by this headline: "HAITI'S HERO: ISRAEL." So check this out...


Now I'm a Jew. Dad's from Israel even. So I was curious. Is this an advertisement from some pro-Israel group? Nope, it's "news." Well, I guess that's what you call it, right?

It's from a column by Andrea Peyser. To sum up: She praises the "heroism and selflessness" of Israel which went "above and beyond the call of duty" by sending 250 people to Haiti...they even sent a psychiatrist! Because that's what the Haitians really need right now. "So how did it feel being buried under all that rubble?"

Also, some ultra-Orthodox Jews suspended their silly rules about the Sabbath in order to dig out a bunch of dying people. Let's hope God is ok with this!!

Also, Israel is nothing like those many nations that are anti-Haiti right now. And Israelis never seek out praise either. (Except my grandmother: If she roasts an eggplant for eight hours in order to make that night's baba ghanoush, you damn well hear about it.)

Don't get me wrong. Clearly this is all good stuff these Israelis did. But jeez, isn't this Peyser praise a tad hyperbolic? I like to have at least a little plausible deniability when people claim the Elders of Zion are running the show.

So to my fellow Jews who serve as our media overlords, I have a piece of advice: Keep this shit on the down low.

See, when you run the media, the key is to do it SUBTLY. Just kill an anti-Israel story every once in a while. Choose photos that make Palestinians look bad. But don't just run a blatantly over-the-top piece of pro-Israel propaganda. That's like putting spinning rims on a stolen car.


Get Lost

First two minutes of Lost season six. The guy who posted it got angry emails saying he spoiled the premiere. His rebuttal:

Lost is unspoilable. What you think is happening either didn't happen, won't happen, will happen again, and has nothing to do with with happened previously or afterwards.

I agree! Though I would just change the word "unspoilable" to "unwatchable." Rest of explanation still applies.


How many years in doesn't matter

"I've been doing it X years."

People lean on that too much. Like Patton Oswalt says, how well you've been doing it is a lot more important than how long you've been doing it.

I don't think there's one right way. It depends. Some comics spend hours writing when they'd get more out of being onstage for five minutes. Others can do great crowdwork and host really well but can't write a joke.

Some constantly get up but never learn to listen to the audience. Stagetime is worthless if you can't hear what the crowd's telling you. These guys might as well just be performing in front of a mirror.

Some spend their entire lives hanging around other comics instead of experiencing the real world and how normal people act and relate to each other. On or offstage, it's tough to converse with people when you're an alien to them. A night out with civilians can be a wiser move than an endless routine of getting up.

Some perform at the same mics in front of the same people all the time which means they don't have to deal with getting new people to know and trust them. (It's something I've noticed recently. I get so comfy at certain mics that I forget these people know me already and how that makes it tough to judge the true merit of a joke.)

Some build a tight 5-10 minute set and then stop grinding away on new material. They get by, but they stop growing.

That's why I don't care much how long someone's been doing it. There are plenty of people who have been doing it for years who suck. I care about whether or not someone is funny (and if they're getting better).

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