Thom Yorke dealing with a passed out crowd member

Radiohead concert 2003. Thom Yorke realizes someone in crowd has passed out. Stops the band midsong. Gets security to clear him out. Tells band where to pick it up. 1-2-3-4, back to rock. Very pro. 27:50in (starts there when you hit play). [via BV]


Hot Soup: Miso edition

Friday's (5/28) lineup:
Matt McCarthy
Sheng Wang
John F. O'Donnell
Josh Homer

Cope is hosting, I'm doing a spot. Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation.

Hot Soup!
Every Friday
Showtime at 8pm
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope


JFOD, Yannis, Ray Combs Jr. episode of We're All Friends Here on Breakthru Radio

Listen online to BTR episode #7 with John F. O'Donnell, Yannis Pappas, and Ray Combs Jr. We cover mental asylums, trannies, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and suicide. It's pretty damn epic. Ya can also subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed. (Note: It will show up in your iTunes under the title "Breakthru Radio.")


Hourlong clean set at a high school, eh?

A while back I was asked to do a clean set (1 hr) at a high school for "mostly students and some teachers." They also wanted to know what I would charge for a set like that.

Doing a clean hour, eh? Plus one that works for a bunch of kids. Seemed like a stretch. Should I suggest bringing other comics with me? And how much should I/we charge?

I explained the whole situation to Myq Kaplan to get his .02. Here's what he wrote back.

1) do you have an hour of material?
2) do you have an hour of clean material?
3) do you REALLY?
4) if the answer to those questions are more negative than positive,
i'd definitely recommend something like bringing someone else, either
to open for you, or to offer to bring a three-person show, say, or
even a showcase if you wanted. you could certainly say something like
"my hour of nightclub material might be more appropriate for adults,
but i would gladly and capably offer to bring you a one hour show,
hosted or headlined by me, with several comics that will provide the
perfect atmosphere and show for you."
5) that said, what price should you quote... first, you can always
tell them that there's a broad range that is flexible depending on
various circumstances, and say that you're willing to work with them,
depending what their budget is, and ask what they'd like to pay.
6) as a baseline, doing an hour at a COLLEGE, the lowest
standard rate for something like with would usually be in the
$1000-$1500 range, and there's no reason not
to start there here. for either yourself, or possibly for the whole
show, though if you feel comfortable saying something higher, go for
it. (and this is all speculative on my part, i have other people do my
money stuff for me now and they might say even higher numbers, but
they're pros at this.) if you were going to have three people, say
with yourself hosting, someone headlining, and someone in the middle,
you could break it down like $400-$500 for yourself and the headliner
(or if you're the headliner, maybe a little more and a little less for
the host), and somewhere around half that for the middle act.

again, the proportions of what you "should" ask for might be off here,
is this a rich school? is it a fundraiser? etc.
usually, if people want you, they won't be turned off by asking for a
high number. the first college i ever got for myself headlining, i
asked for $1000, they said "all we have is $750," and i said "fine."

keep in mind this is low and not ideal. at the time, i didn't have an
agent or anyone assisting me, and in hindsight i'm not sure if i
SHOULD have said yes, because to take less than an industry standard
can be harmful to us all in devaluing what it is that we do, and make
it harder for other comedians to potentially be paid what they are
worth in the future... just to play devil's advocate here, and remind
people that sometimes it's best NOT to take a gig when the
circumstances are less than ideal.

all that said, the gig in question here is a high school, not a
college, and who knows what kind of budget they have (not me), what
they might be charging for tickets (do they?), how many audience
members they'll be expecting (all factors that might come into play in
determining a fair price for a particular gig, which is why it can be
good to start by asking them what their budget is, and move forward
from there, especially because my experience with high schools is less
extensive and probably less standard in general than colleges, for

as far as doing it all yourself, i definitely think you should
honestly ask and answer yourself as far as what you are really capable
of doing, to deliver them a good show. if you can do it on your own,
great, and go for it.

I followed his advice. Mentioned a number as a starting point but said it's just a ballpark thing. But I never heard from 'em again. Er, problem "solved." But I figured the advice might be worth sharing so here it is.

P.S. Myq's new album is available. Check it out!


"The more we try to perfect it, the worse it gets"

Recent discussion here about how screw ups are a gift. Here's a related idea from an NPR story on Jack White:

White says he could tell he was swimming against the Nashville way of recording when he swooned over the first take of Jackson's song "Shakin' All Over." The veteran horn players wanted to fix mistakes. He was having none of it.

"The more we try to work on this and perfect it, the worse it gets," he says. "And that's what happens nowadays with people working on computers. They can so easily fix things with their mouse and take out all the, 'Oh, somebody coughed in the background; we need to take that out' — or somebody hit a bad note. Those are all the best moments, and that's where music has taken a left turn and they need to get back on the road."

See also: Wabi Sabi.

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

Imperfection, authenticity, cracks, and crevices — sometimes you're best off leaving 'em in.


A white male guy's viewpoint on race and the industry

Jeesh. The comment thread over at "It's so tough for [insert group here] in standup" is a real doozy. Check it out.

My .02?

Well, let's begin again with the usual caveat: White guys pretty much have it made in our society. When they (even borderline) complain about anything, it seems silly. I get that. ("Unpacking The Knapsack" is a PDF that explains the daily effects of white privilege nicely.)

Also, I host a show that often touches on racial third rail issues so maybe I'm just an insensitive guy. We do invite minorities/gals on the show often though, so at least there's that.

Now that's out of the way, here's my take on the discussion. Maybe I'm missing something but it's tough to know what you don't know. Ya know?

The white drinking buddy game
There were mentions of the white drinking buddy game that rules the standup world in some sort of Elders of Zion type way. Well, allow me to bring you inside the white male drinking buddy comedy clique world that I (on occasion) inhabit.

I've gotten drunk with white comedians a lot. I never hear them say anything negative about black comedians (or black people in general). Sure, there might be jokes about race but it's never "black people suck" or "black people aren't funny" or anything like that.

Many of these guys revere Chris Rock and Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle so much I don't know how they could ever rag on black comics. And I've never heard one mention anything about only putting one black guy on a show. Or any other limit like that. Maybe that happens somewhere else, but I've NEVER heard anyone I hang out with talk like that.

In fact, I have heard these guys talk the opposite way — about wanting more diversity on shows. Doesn't happen a ton, but it does happen. There is a recognition that a show filled only with white dudes can come across as exclusionary.

For the most part, I see a "funny is funny" mentality. Sure, some shows are indeed white male "friends booking friends" chummy...but others def echo Soce's view that he is "more likely to fast track in someone who's diverse or a lady."

Overall, I'd say these guys feel that being a minority actually helps you in standup. They feel TV execs go out of their way to cast minorities. And they see all of the "theme" shows they can't do (urban rooms, gay shows, Latino shows, all gal shows, etc.) and wonder what the complaining is about. It's not necessarily "affirmative action" they see...but they do feel that if there's a minority who's a decent comic, there's no way that's going to go unnoticed — and that person will get breaks faster than a straight white male of similar ability.

Of course, maybe they're not seeing the struggle and overt/embedded discrimination that goes on that makes it tougher for a minority to ever get to that point. I think it's very tough for any white person to really understand what it feels like to be on the other side, ya know?

Like I said in the original post, it feels like everybody is complaining about how tough standup is, white males included. This clique of people doesn't feel like they are running anything. They're jealous of the opportunities others get and are scrambling for a way up to the next level. Sound familiar? I think it's how all standups feel.

The club scene
What about all of Josh Homer's examples of racist tendencies/actions that he's heard about and witnessed? First off, sounds terrible. It'd definitely suck to face that.

I wonder if most (all?) of these things happened in the club scene though. Because the club scene sucked ass for me too.

I'm not saying that what I faced is equivalent to being called a slur or told I can't perform because of the color of my skin. But I have been shit on at so many clubs so many times, I can't even count 'em all. Bookers treating me like I don't even exist. Waitresses yelling at me for no reason. Comics who fuck with me even though they don't know me. A club owner kicking me out for not following some BS "rule" that didn't even matter. I wish that while males just got handed lollipops and stage time for walking in the door at a club, but, in my experience, that ain't happening.

And here's the thing: If I was black, I might assume this constant pattern of treating me like shit is because these people are racist. But I'm a white dude. So I don't think it is racism. I just think the club scene is filled with cockmouths.

Why are clubs like this? They breed a toxic environment. The whole business model at many of these places is based on ripping people off. Note the horrified reactions of a large % of patrons when they see their bill. And then you've got the shitty bachelorette parties and the drunks yelling shit out and the comics who do a whole act just doing hacky, stereotype crowdwork. Blech.

And personally speaking, the comics who hang out there are people I have a tough time talking with or being around. That's why I ran away to the alt scene. Too bad too 'cuz mainstream club crowds can be great to perform in front of. I like that they're filled with real people and not nearly as precious as alt show crowds.

I'm certainly not forgiving anyone for saying/doing racist things. Just saying that performing in the club scene and then complaining about being treated like shit is like going to the rape shack and then complaining about how misogynistic it is there. It's kinda what you sign up for when you go there.

So that's why I got out. If you feel likewise, I suggest coming over to the alt scene where gay liberal vegans serve you tofu and provide unlimited stage time. That's what happens there, right?

(Note: I'm painting with broad strokes here. There are cool clubs. There are cool club comics. There are neat pockets in the club scene. It just wasn't for me.)

Getting on TV
As for the question I posed: "Is it harder or easier to get industry to pay attention to you when you're a minority?" Josh wrote:

Based on the law of averages, if the number of comedians break down to 75% white males and 25% other, then the bookings in the club should reflect this. The TV spots should reflect this. They clearly don't.

First off, are black male comics really underrepresented in the club scene? I go to clubs and often see multiple BMC's on the same show. So not sure I get that from what I've witnessed. And like I said before, I've never known any alt room booker to make a comment about only having one black guy per show or not wanting black comics on a show. If these conversations are going on, I'm missing them.

And the idea that the ECNY awards (also mentioned) or Comedy Central's selections for featured comedians are racist just doesn't add up to me. Myq put it well:

Looking at the first season of Comedy Central Presents, there are eight episodes: five white men and three non (specifically one black woman, one black man, one white woman). This seems like a more than fair percentage.

Premium Blend, as I understand it, always seemed to have two slots for people who were not white men (usually one non-white man and one woman). Also more than fair, given the proportions.

Granted, the most recent season of CCP has 7 out of 24 who are not white men, still more than a quarter, which I imagine fairly represents the numerical proportions of comedians out there. (If you have any numbers or thoughts to the contrary, please share.)

Our season of Live at Gotham, Josh, seems to have 17 out of 48 non white men, which is again a seemingly reasonable proportion.

Even your ECNY example rings false to me--two out of five Best Male Comedian nominees were black. In a world chock full of white men.

I think what happens in the clubs (or shows like we're talking about here) and what happens in TV type showcase is completely different, and I feel like the TV industry often goes out of their way to include MORE of the non white guy category...

Is it perfectly fair? No. Should CC be soliciting more minorities? Don't know.
But I honestly think that, YES, at this level, being a minority CAN benefit someone, if they're just as funny as a white person of the same level...

PPS Here's a link I found while googling "Premium Blend episode list"... It's a sampling of episodes from season 9 of the show:

Four people in each episode, with six episodes listed.
In those 24 people, there's 5 women (one in almost every episode), at least 5 black people (of the names that I recognize), at least one Asian, and several Hispanic folks as well, totaling what appears to be more than half of the comedians listed.

Is anyone disputing these numbers? If not, doesn't this show the percentage of comedians on TV who are minorities or women is greater than the percentage of comedians overall who are minorities or women? And if that's true, doesn't it hold up that the industry is in fact going out of its way to include minorities and women?

Maybe I'm missing something here. I'd love to hear from more racial minorities who feel discriminated against in comedy. I know Josh and like him and respect him as a comic and have booked him before. But when it's just one person complaining, it's easy to dismiss that as the gripes of one individual. Is there a chorus of folks out there who agree with Josh about the industry being racist? Let's hear from ya.

Also, I think the (perhaps) even more interesting conversation that was touched on in that thread is about women in standup. Stay tuned.


Hot Soup: The Tom Yum edition

Lineup on Friday (5/21):

Jared Logan
Ryan Hamilton
Cary Prusa
Vince Averill
Shawn Pearlman

Hot Soup!
Every Friday
Doors at 7:30pm. Showtime at 8pm.
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope


How much should you pay comics?

Reader question:

I've started a show here in Westchester, and i'm trying to gauge whats too much or too little to pay someone to come up here (its only a 35 minute train ride from grand central). I consider it a road gig so i'm happy to pay for gas/train tickets. But whats the right amount to pay each comic? One way to look at it is "well they don't get paid much or anything at all in the city, so they should be happy to receive anything here". but another way is "should i give a percentage or just a flat fee? should it be based on tv credits? how long their sets are? how much money is made at the show?" etc.

I for one have a small budget for my show, so i've been stressing over how much to pay each comic. Is it best to say - i'll distribute $500 amongst them, with the most going to the headliner and the rest being paid evenly? or does everyone get paid differently depending on their credits?

I know my show is considered a "road gig" even though I make the trip into the city pretty much every night and don't get paid for shows, so I want to pay the comics for "leaving the city" (even though it could very well be the same distance from some parts of brooklyn to manhattan) Obviously there are so many factors. I personally just did a road gig in NJ as a host (a friend who was featuring brought me along) and I wasn't paid anything. I wasn't really expecting anything, but I thought there was a chance. Do you think comics do road gigs expecting to be paid every time? I personally am going to pay every comic that does my show, but that's just because I hate that most comics never get paid and I think it's nice to be able to offer that to my fellow comics.

Also, I know some headliners demand certain amounts of money, but what justifies that money if they aren't bringing in any people with their name? My audience is consisted of 95% people who are there to see me. One question I've been wondering is, do headliners feel like they should get paid more for a 45 minute set than for a 20 minute set? or are they just happy to get the extra 25 minutes? Certainly my goal is to run a great show with top-notch comics, so I guess if you have any thoughts on a good pay scale for a venue like this, it would be greatly appreciated.

But whats the right amount to pay each comic?

There's no right amount. Depends on the gig. Colin Quinn gets paid thousands to do a corporate gig. And he shows up at Whiplash to do a set for free. It all depends.

That said, I asked my buddy who is a music booking agent: "What % of the door (or profits) should a promoter give to a band and what % should he keep for himself?" His answer:

Well I dunno about should, but a rule of thumb is the bands get 1/2, the
house gets half (for expenses and profit). So a lazy guess is take the capacity, X ticket price/2 = what a band makes.

So if we assume the same rule applies to comedy, let's say you're getting 60 people to pay $8 each. Do the math and it comes out that you'd split $240 among the comedians. (Note: Rock clubs usually provide sound equipment, soundman, and door guy so the formula could be different depending on if the venue is providing those things.)

should it be based on tv credits? how long their sets are? how much money is made at the show?

Whoever does the longest set should get paid the most. And you should have the funniest person do the longest set. Usually that's the person with the best credits. But not always. And as mentioned above, how much you make at the show should def affect how much you pay the performers.

Do you think comics do road gigs expecting to be paid every time?

Depends on the comic. Established guys will def want to get paid to do a road gig but up and comers will often be happy to get the stage time. (Esp in NYC where it's tough to get paid ever.) If someone's traveling a long way, I'd at least try to get them food/drinks and cover their travel expenses.

Distance matters too: I'll go to Staten Island for a cool show with free food/drinks. I won't travel 4 hours upstate for the same thing though. Not worth it to me. Your show sounds in between those two.

What justifies that money if they aren't bringing in any people with their name?

The quality of performance they deliver. Sure, people may come out to your show because they know you. But they probably won't come back if the show sucks ass. Part of why you pay people is because they deliver a product that's worth paying for. That makes people want to come back and tell their friends.

Do headliners feel like they should get paid more for a 45 minute set than for a 20 minute set? or are they just happy to get the extra 25 minutes?

Yes, I think you should pay a guy more for doing 45 mins than for doing 25. It's more time and more work. And it should be the funniest person doing the longest set.

Overall, it's cool that you're thinking about this stuff and wanting to be fair to the comics. Lots of folks in this biz are worried about a quick buck but setting up long-term relationships with the comics you book and the audience members who pay to come to the show will help you out in the long run.

So that's my (skewed NYC-centric) take. If you've got thoughts on this, chime in at the comments.


Hot Soup: Won Ton edition

Tonight's lineup:
Pat Dixon
Kumail Nanjiani
Anthony Devito
Ophira Eisenberg
Chris Gordon
Andy Blitz

Andy's hosting, Cope's doing a spot. I'll be sitting this one out.

Hot Soup!
Every Friday
Showtime at 8pm
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope


Video: Dealing with Seamus the drunk at show in Jersey City

Went up first at this terrible show. Ambush comedy (i.e. people there hanging out have a show sprung upon them) so no one paying attention. Host only did one joke and then threw me up. People at the bar have their backs turned to stage and most of 'em are playing a trivia game. TVs showing Yankees game. Loud table talking in the middle of room. Drunk guy named Seamus shouting shit out. Jokes impossible...


It's so tough for [insert group here] in standup

Interesting note there. So NBC "prohibits discrimination" based on race and sex. Yet I'm assuming if you're a white male, your odds of getting picked for this are, well, not so hot.

I know, I know. White guys can't complain about not being eligible for shit because we're white guys and things are, overall, pretty damn rosy for us.

But sometimes it feels like EVERYONE in standup complains about how tough it is for their group. White guys feel they need to do something in order to avoid being "just another white guy." Girls say comedy feels like a misogynistic boys club and shows don't like to book multiple gals on one show. Minorities feel underrepresented because there's no diversity at alt shows (and 'cuz there's racism everywhere, including in comedy).

Can everyone be right here? Since everyone's complaining, is that a sign that things are kinda fair? Is it harder or easier to get industry to pay attention to you when you're a minority?


"Crack-your-head-open-and-play-with-your-brains kinda stuff"

Was really an amazing show. Thanks Josh (and everyone else who came out). Next We're All Friends Here: the 2 Year Anniversary Show (!) on Sat, June 5.


Something I wrote about my mom

A while back, ESPN's Bill Simmons penned a touching tribute to his father, who retired after 33 years as a school administrator.

Of course, we never read tributes about someone like my father for obvious reasons. We pay homage to athletes, entertainers and politicians. Real people don't get victory laps. So here's one for Dr. Bill Simmons. Congratulations, Pops. You made it.

That "real people don't get victory laps" sentiment reminded me of something I wrote about my mom — "The story of Ziva" — on the plane ride home from her funeral a few years ago. It's not funny or about comedy but it is pretty interesting. At least I think so. Since Mother's Day is coming up, thought I'd link it up here. It probably explains more than a bit about me too.


Sat night (5/8) We're All Friends Here with JFOD, Yannis, and Ray Combs Jr.

It's almost here. Saturday night. We're All Friends Here @ The Creek. 8pm start time. Free. John F. O'Donnell. Yannis Pappas. Ray Combs Jr. 10-93 Jackson Ave in Long Island City (just one stop from Bklyn and Manhattan). One for the ages!

NY Comedy Examiner (p)review of the show:

Stories on We're All Friends Here (next show 5/8) usually contain heavy drinking, demoralizing sexual activity, illegalities and dark humanizing experiences that are sometimes funny and always captivating. The show has one gimmick that makes the deep and personal New York talk show particularly unique and that is the sailer cap dubbed "the racist hat." Legend goes that while wearing the racist hat one can make any racist remark in context and the New York liberals that attend the show cannot judge.

Hot Soup on Friday too (but I'll be at Lincoln Lodge in Chicago).


The "enjoying it but not laughing" crowd

Laughter is what you're going for onstage. That's the measurement. And when you don't get it, it feels bad.

But there are degrees to a dead room. Sometimes you've just lost them completely; They're talking to each other or tuning out or just think you're plain old bad.

But sometimes there's a non-laughing crowd that's still having a good time. People are on the edge of their seats. They're engaged. They're having fun. They're doing everything but laughing. It ain't ideal, sure. But it's good to be able to recognize that non-laughter doesn't always equal failure.

When shit's going REALLY bad, then you gotta call it and address it or try to riff or do something about it. When they're into it but not laughing, you can plow through.

And sometimes that can lead to surprising results. You'll feel like you did shitty but then you'll have people come up afterward and tell you they thought it was great. Um, why didn't you laugh then? Well, there can be all kinds of reasons for that. A shitty host that doesn't warm 'em up enough, an awkward vibe in the room, or something else. Just saying it's good to recognize the shades of grey that exist between killing and bombing.


Standup as art

Flavorpill recommends Creative Week NYC:

The second-annual Creative Week returns for seven days of inspiration across genres. (Seriously: from spoken word, television, and typeset to photography and music, you'd be hard-pressed not to find a creative aspect covered.)

Hard-pressed, eh? Here are the categories:


Comedy? Not so much. No surprise either. Comedy is near the bottom of the art totem pole.

It's rarely taught in schools. Comedies rarely win Best Picture. You don't see standup in museums. Carlin and Pryor are rarely mentioned among the great thinkers of their time. The NY Times has an architecture critic but you'll never see anyone reviewing comedy in a thoughtful way there. Entertainment Weekly reviews all kinda crap, but not comedy. Other than Time Out NY, it's tough to find any mainstream publication in NYC that truly "covers" comedy. A great photographer is an artist...a great comedian is, well, just a comedian.

I guess when you make fun of things, you don't get taken seriously. It's all just a joke.

But hey, maybe it's good to be an alien in the pretentious, BS-filled art world. And at least it ain't dance. No one respects that.


Chicago shows this week

Great time last night at Hannibal's Knitting Factory show. Crowd spilled out onto the street...

This week, I'll be in Chicago doing shows. And then we've got a big hot mess We're All Friends Here on Saturday. Amazing guests (John F. O'Donnell, Yannis Pappas, and Ray Combs Jr.) and we'll be filming it too. You don't want to miss it.

Tue, May 4 - 9:30pm - Chicago Underground Comedy @ The Beat Kitchen
Wed, May 5 - 8:00pm - Razzmatazz @ Cafe WhaWho? (Chicago)
Fri, May 7 - 9:00pm - Lincoln Lodge (Chicago)
Sat, May 8 - 8:00pm - We're All Friends Here @ The Creek (LIC)

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