How I killed Rue McClanahan

Got roped into playing a few rounds of Fuck/Marry/Kill a few weeks back.

(Trust me, it wasn't my choice. I don't even really get that game. If you marry someone, don't you still get to fuck them? So if you really want to fuck someone a lot, shouldn't you marry them? Anyway...)

In the last round, I was given three options: Betty White, Susan B. Anthony, and Rue McClanahan. I chose to kill Rue McClanahan. So I was pretty shocked to wake up the next morning to this headline: "Rue McClanahan, Actress and ‘Golden Girls’ Star, Has Died." Eerie. (This is all 100% true btw.) So, uh, keep in mind that either 1) I am a wizard who can kill you with my mind or 2) That game is legit and I now have to screw Betty White.

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing was the gal throwing out names didn't realize that Susan B. Anthony was NOT actually one of the actresses on the Golden Girls. Apparently there was some B. vs. Bea confusion.

But I think I like the game more this way, using two current pop culture references and one random historical figure. "Fuck, marry, kill: Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga, Harriet Tubman." Because really, who hasn't wondered what Harriet Tubman was like in the sack? Hey, maybe she even had a sex move called "The Underground Railroad."


Hot Soup with Adomian, Drucker, and more

Hot Soup was incredible last week! Best one yet I dare say. Let's keep it going...

Friday's (7/30) lineup:
James Adomian
George Gordon
Damien Lemon
Greg Stone
Mike Drucker

Cope hosting, I'm doing a spot.

A blurry Tig Notaro killing it at last week's show.

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

My other upcoming shows:
Friday, July 30 - 8:00pm - Chelsea International Hostel (NYC) (Doing a spot here and then headed to Hot Soup)
Saturday, July 31 - 8:00pm - Haven Bar (NYC)
Monday, August 2 - 9:00pm - The Hog Pit (NYC)
Tuesday, August 3 - 9:30pm - The Creek (LIC)
Thursday, August 5 - 8:00pm - Castlebraid (Bklyn)
Friday, August 6 - 8:00pm - Hot Soup @ O'Hanlon's (NYC)
Saturday, August 7 - 9:00pm - We're All Friends Here @ The Creek (LIC)
Tuesday, August 10 - 8:00pm - Crime & Punishment @ Cakeshop (NYC)
Tuesday, August 10 - 9:30pm - Giggles @ Bruar Falls (Bklyn)


Late night comic spots

Sean McCarthy points out Jimmy Kimmel Live is now using a makeshift club stage for comedians who appear on the show. Working in the Bud Light banner is clever but I wonder if another reason they went this tables-in-front route is because the old setup was bad for standup. Unconfirmed rumor I heard about the previous Kimmel set: The whole audience had to turn to face a different, on-the-side stage when a standup came out to perform. So the crowd is kinda far away and turned to the side throughout the comic's set.

Other random stuff about late night spots: I've heard Craig Ferguson films a bunch of standups at once. Then they edit them in to the regular shows over time.

Watching comics on Fallon, it's interesting to watch The Roots since they're right up onstage. Sometimes the band cracks up which is cool. But sometimes they're just stonefaced which has gotta be tough for a comic.

Also, AST lists all upcoming late night comic spots at its "Who's on What This Week" posts. But someone should start a Tumblr blog that's just embedded videos of all those appearances. All this standup is spread out all over the place. You could be like an online Comedy Central if ya just brought all those clips together in one place.


The third guess

Heard a comic mentioning this idea the other day: What's funny is people's third guess.

If what you say is the first or second guess they have in their minds, it's too obvious. That's what they expect. Fourth guess and higher is just too weird and too far out there. The third guess is the sweet spot. (At least that's how I interpreted it, maybe someone's got a better explanation?)

Explains why shows w/ lots of comics in the room are a bad way to judge material. A comic's first guess is like a civilian's third guess.


Finding that killer opening joke

Kent Haines is looking for a strong new opening joke. Ah, aren't we all? Along the way, he posts a clip of an opener from Steve Gerben that he thinks is excellent (I agree).

This is a great opener for several reasons. First of all, it’s funny. But a lot of jokes are funny; this joke goes further. It sets the tone for the rest of Steve’s act. Just from watching this joke, you could guess that Steve is going to tell a series of jokes about awkward social interactions that usually involve some sort of huge embarrassment for him. Which is, in fact, exactly what Steve does.

The joke quickly makes a joke out of someone’s first impression of Steve, a nice trick that cleverly mimics every audience’s initial perception. Lots of veteran comedians tell jokes about their looks. The theory is that you want to acknowledge your appearance so that the crowd a) sees you as self-aware and vulnerable and b) stops being distracted by trying to place which celebrity or movie character you look like. Hence, a lot of hacky jokes about how I look like _____ and _____ had an ugly baby. Honestly, I feel like most of these jokes are a little lazy. But Steve gets to comment on his appearance naturally through the context of a conversation he actually had, which makes it feel more honest and interesting.

I started to think of my favorite opening jokes and one that comes to mind is in this video of a Louis CK club set. He starts off complaining about being so broke that the bank charges him money for not having enough money.

It's one of my fave bits and I think it's a great opener for the reasons Kent mentions (it’s funny and sets the tone for the rest of his act). Plus it's personal, relatable, everyman-ish, and shows him making fun of himself. All those qualities are gold in an opener — and anywhere else for that matter.

Another great one is the joke that opens Brian Regan Live. He starts with a mission statement of sorts: "I'm just trying to go through life without looking stupid. It's not working." And then goes into his whole "you too" bit. It sets the stage for his whole act perfectly.

What do you think is an amazing opening joke?


Hot Soup with Tig Notaro

Friday's (7/23) "New Faces" fiesta:

Tig Notaro
Alex Koll
Jesse Case
Karl Hess
Chris Locke
Jon Fisch

Andy will be hosting.

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


Thoughts on podcasts, acting, and auditions

The comment thread at All the other stuff comics "should" be doing besides standup (Part 2) evolved into a discussion on podcasts. Some questions posed by ECN:

a) Will there ever be a point when a comedian can gain a following based solely on his/her podcast?

b) Is there a way to make a living off a podcast -- via some combination of subscriptions, advertising sales, etc.? If so, how many listeners do you need, and how many podcasts can reliably support that number of listeners?

c) Follow-up question to the previous: is the potential profit from a podcast large enough that the industry is going to get involved? I mean, it's one thing to say "I can make $1000 a week off this podcast, and hey, it probably boosts my stand-up career too. It's another thing entirely if companies can say "hey, if we market this podcast correctly, we can make millions off it." Because let's face it, the industry is not interested in getting a cut of the former guy's $50,000 a year.

d) Is there going to be a backlash? Remember 2007... a host of studio-funded start-ups shoehorning people into Internet videos, thousands of wannabe sketch comics flooding Youtube, and everyone in the world basically getting sick of the whole form at the same time.

The rest of ECN's comment and the responses are worth reading.

Also, Kiki Kapral offered an industry perspective to the entire discussion (and some acting audition tips for comedians):

Casting directors love stand-up, sketch and improve people. Actually, one of the main reasons I was hired at my current position was because I was tapped into that scene, and my boss felt that she was missing out on an entire talent pool. I can say, at least at my office, we are always rooting for the person auditioning to do their best, and we’ll work with actors in the room until they get it right. I know that’s not the case at most offices but, I feel really lucky to work with a team that really cares about the creative community and developing talent. There have been several instances over the past year or so when we’ve brought in a comic and it has been literally their first audition ever. It’s really interesting to see how different comics have reacted to such a situation. Some are extremely nervous and have a lot of trouble, and others just instinctively nail it on the first time. No matter what happens, they way I like to think about it, and the way I would encourage others to think about it, is as a learning experience. Just as each time you do a set, even if you bomb, there are still positive things that you can take away from the experience. Even just knowing where the building is, what happens in an audition room, how each office operates differently. Also learning the difference between how to read for a multi-cam sit-com as apposed to a single-cam sitcom, or knowing how a JJ Abrams or David E. Kelly script would read as apposed to a Jerry Bruckheimer script. These are all things that you can take away from an audition and use as tools for the next time.

I would also suggest to any comics that are interested in anything involving acting to sign up to be a reader at casting offices. For those who aren’t familiar, a reader is the person who sits in the audition room and reads the lines with the person auditioning. It doesn’t pay anything, but it’s a great way to see the behind the scenes process, see the difference between good and bad auditions, get to know the casting directors, and practice your performance skills. On the side, it’s also a great way to get auditions, we end up giving a lot of auditions to our readers. We are always looking for readers in our office, so if anyone would be interested in something like that, just let me know.

Other thoughtful comments there and at Part 1 too. (Just leave any comments at Part 2 so they don't wind up even further all over the place.)


The worst feeling I ever had onstage

I've bombed plenty of times. But the worst feeling I ever had onstage was during a set at a show about a year ago. I went up last and had a few drinks before going up onstage. It was a small room, loose set. I decided to abandon my set list and wander.

Was going ok when I decided to go into a longer, personal bit I have. Got to the end and told the big payoff line, a callback to a joke I did earlier in the night. I leaned into the punch and waited for the laughs.


Then I realized something. I never told the other joke earlier in the night. I was doing a callback to a joke this crowd had never heard. Whoops. Tried to come right out and explain the gaffe. "That joke works a lot better when I tell the earlier joke that..." Just dug a bigger hole. I escaped alright but felt like a schmuck inside.

I usually try not to drink too much before sets and shit like that is why. I also vowed to be more vigilant about callbacks after that. My sets change so much that I don't do a ton of 'em. But now I always try to make sure I get the "establishing" joke in early.

(One benefit to that: I've noticed there's a sweet spot for callbacks. If the original joke and the callback are too close together, they don't get as big a laugh. The audience needs to forget about the line for a bit so it's more of an a-ha moment when you bring the line back.)



Cat whiskers automatically grow to the width of the cat. When faced with a small opening, the whiskers tell the cat if there's enough room to fit its whole body.

I like that. Someday I dream of being really fat. Like so fat that I can't fit through some doorways.

When that day arrives, I will grow a handlebar mustache* that is as wide as my body is fat. And I will stick my giant handlebar mustache into doorways in order to see if the rest of me will fit. Nature!

* I guess it doesn't have to be a handlebar mustache. But it just seems like the classy way to go.


Tonight: HOT SOUP w/ Boulger, Sims, and more

Tonight's (7/16) lineup:
Dan Boulger
Zach Sims
Rob O'Reilly
Drew Michael

Cope hosting, I'm spotting. Wait, that didn't sound right.

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

David Mamet on why you should never ask, "What do you do for a living?"

Video of David Mamet explaining why you should never ask someone "What do you do for a living?"

Feels like the premise to a bit almost. And it's an interesting concept that bringing sectarian politics to the stage is "burdening" the audience. Plus, I love how he has no prob taking it to Charlie.

For kicks, here's some classic Mamet/Baldwin action:


BTR episode #8 of We're All Friends Here is live

BTR episode #8 (06/15/2010): Two Year Anniversary Show with Ali Wong, Erik Bergstrom, and Brooke Van Poppelen.

Here's the description from Breakthru Radio:

It’s the comedy chat show with boundary issues! Join hosts Mark Normand and Matt Ruby as they bring New York City’s best comedians onstage to open up about their personal lives, sex, drugs, religion, race, and more. This episode brings us Ali Wong who tells us the weirdest blowjob story I've ever heard, Erik Bergstrom's battles with the lead singer of Angel Spit, and Brooke Van Poppelin's wild and wooly nights out on the town!

You can also subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed. (Note: It will show up in your iTunes under the title "Breakthru Radio.")


Doug Stanhope: "You learn everything from experience"

Doug Stanhope explains why he hates people who teach stand-up comedy classes. It's riveting.

I'll tell you exactly what [industry guys] are looking for - people who are getting the most attention from other industry. They wander like blind coyotes in packs and jump on whatever seems to be creating the most noise. They have no insight and scramble around whatever apple is the shiniest like cartoon drunks in a scrum around Mardi Gras titties...

I was once in my early years of comedy and semi-popular in the ranks of the open mics in Phoenix when a comic higher-up in the ranks - Joey Scazzola - caught me giving advice to a new guy.

He said "Never give anyone advice because you're only telling them how to be more like you." Every time I've erred and given someone advice, I remembered that.

If you want advice, you most likely just want someone to reassure you of what you already know. If they tell you otherwise, you'll either discount it or you'll take their advice and no longer be following the instincts that got you in this to begin with. So either way, you didn't need the advice...

Should you take my advice? Fuck no. I would have told Dan Whitney to dump that silly "Larry the Cable Guy," that he'd never make a dime with that goofiness. I would have told Daniel Tosh that his show would never work, that he was just interrupting good Youtube footage like a latter-day Bob Saget. I would have been wrong on many occasions.

My best advice doesn't even work for me. I thought going on stage on mushrooms for New years Eve would make for exceptional comic insight. I've convinced myself that 2900 dollars in the bank is "fuck-you" money. I was sure that making fun of a tragic burn victim in a room nearly empty would be hilarious - especially to the burn victim. Oops.

You learn everything from experience. You could get a doctorate in listening to someone else's road and not get shit from it.

I like the inherent contradiction of someone giving advice that you should never listen to advice. Provides a nice lil' feedback loop.

My .02: I don't think ALL advice is bad. I mean, I post advice from others and give my own preferences here. Personally, I think it's nice to have input from others. Can help save you time/mistakes.

The key is being willing to ignore that advice and trust your instincts instead. What's right for someone else could be a terrible idea for you. The bits of conventional wisdom you reject are what make you unique. I just see it as more of a balancing act than the all-or-nothing scenario Stanhope paints.

But that's not nearly as interesting as Stanhope's rage so I'll give him that. With so much faux dangerous "edgy" comedy out there, it's fun to see someone really put himself out there consistently in an "I don't give a fuck" way like Stanhope does.


All the other stuff comics "should" be doing besides standup (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1, this is an email convo I had with Myq Kaplan. Tonight at 9pm (EST) on NBC, Last Comic Standing airs a show with the 10 finalists. Myq is one of them. And ya can even vote for him (watch show for details).


If you just want to be a standup, focus on becoming the best standup that you can be.

I guess this is the part I wonder about. Let's say you just want to be a standup. It STILL seems like to really get to the upper ranks you need to do something else to get exposure to fill seats (and make money). Patton Oswalt on "King of Queens," Mulaney on SNL, Jeselnik/Morgan Murphy writing for Fallon, etc. Why did/do they go this route instead of doing the "pure" standup route? Wouldn't almost everybody prefer to do a just standup total control thing if they could?

I've heard tales of management sitting down with a prospective client and saying, "You need to give me scripts. You need to go out on auditions. What else do you have? Etc." Can you just tell 'em that you only want to do standup and that's fine? Or will they walkaway cuz there's no real $ in that end of things for them.

Maybe it's ok if you're a guy that's just so outstanding like Bill Burr...but even for him it's taken, what, 15 years?

I like the idea of focusing purely on standup and doing nothing else. But sometimes I wonder if that's being naive. That even if you only want to do standup that you need to be doing other comedy stuff along the way. Or just be alright with being a road dog who scrapes by for years until the public finally realizes your brilliance which will totally happen eventually. Right?! Er.

Reminds me of Hedberg's old bit:

When you're in Hollywood and you're a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things. All right, you're a stand-up comedian, can you write us a script? That's not fair. That's like if I worked hard to become a cook, and I'm a really good cook, they'd say, "OK, you're a cook. Can you farm?"


I guess this is the part I wonder about. Let's say you just want to be a standup. It STILL seems like to really get to the upper ranks you need to do something else to get exposure to fill seats (and make money). Patton Oswalt on "King of Queens," Mulaney on SNL, Jeselnik/Morgan Murphy writing for Fallon, etc. Why did/do they go this route instead of doing the "pure" standup route? Wouldn't almost everybody prefer to do a just standup total control thing if they could?

What about Jake Johannsen and Brian Regan? I'm sure they've done things other than just standup, but for the most part, isn't that what they're known for? Same with a number of other people, I imagine... Gaffigan might have done some acting, but is that what raised his standup profile? I feel like he's most famous for doing what he does on stage. Same with Todd Barry--sure, he does voiceover work and acting, but I feel like a lot of that came from how successful he was with standup, and not the reverse. You bring up Hedberg, and he's another great example of a guy who got bigger and bigger pretty much just from his standup. What about Dom Irrera, Greg Giraldo, Maria Bamford, Ted Alexandro, Stanhope (though he did the Man Show, I'm pretty sure his main fan base was built mainly despite that)... again, I don't know all about all their careers, just that I know them all for doing mainly standup. And let's not forget Dane Cook... (Just saying, it seems a lot of people may have reached the upper echelons with mostly just standup. Or if not the upper echelons, echelons that are high enough.)

As for Anthony Jeselnik writing for Fallon, as I understand it, it was initially because he really wanted a job writing jokes all day so it was perfect, and that eventually he experienced a longing to have his time free again to do standup, so I don't think it was a choice that he was making to have a stepping stone. I think he was doing what he wanted to do with each decision regarding that job.

I definitely don't think EVERYONE would prefer to just do standup. There are some people who enjoy not having to travel and leave a family maybe, having a steady job or a ritual, having health benefits, working with people, all kinds of things... As for all the others you mentioned, I don't know what's in most of those people's heads individually, but I do know that I'M mostly interested in just doing standup, and even I would certainly be happy to write for a late night show for some period of time, to see what it's like, to get some more diverse comedic experience, etc. I'd be happy to do it, but I don't feel like I NEED to do it.

I mean, if the choice were magically mine (as opposed to mine in combination with the universe's circumstances) where I got to determine exactly how much I worked and exactly what kind of work I did, would I choose to have a 9-5 writing every day waking up in the morning to go work for someone else, vs. being able to just perform shows at night for audiences that came to see me? Almost certainly the latter.

I've heard tales of management sitting down with a prospective client and saying, "You need to give me scripts. You need to go out on auditions. What else do you have? Etc." Can you just tell 'em that you only want to do standup and that's fine? Or will they walkaway cuz there's no real $ in that end of things for them. Maybe it's ok if you're a guy that's just so outstanding like Bill Burr...but even for him it's taken, what, 15 years?

Well, you're talking about what it takes to get to the upper ranks, and what it almost always takes no matter what is time, talent, and work. 15 years, that's the time. Talent, you can't control. Work, that's what we're talking about. It all depends on what kind of work you WANT to do, and what kind of career you WANT to have.

And there's the additional factor of luck. Which you have no control over. Some people can make it to the upper ranks with a couple youtube videos that get millions of hits, but that can't be controlled for. I think it would be foolish to just start making videos HOPING that will happen, because it's so out of the ordinary. It's not foolish to make videos if you enjoy making videos. Or even if you just want to have them in your portfolio, to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded creator to potential industry whose attention you might seek.

Yes, of course, I agree that being a multi-talented artist can be more attractive to someone trying to sell you, because you have more places you can be sold. Here's the thing though--if you're not interested in doing anything but standup NOW also doesn't mean you'll always feel that way. And a manager-client relationship in comedy is usually a long-haul one, ideally. If a manager is sitting down with you AT ALL, it means they like what they've seen you do, and if all you've done is standup, then that's what they like. If you don't have any scripts right now, no interest in going on auditions right now, maybe that could be a deal-breaker for some representation. But I know for certain that there are managers who work with people who are just doing standup. It happens. It exists.

I like the idea of focusing purely on standup and doing nothing else. But sometimes I wonder if that's being naive. That even if you only want to do standup that you need to be doing other comedy stuff along the way. Or just be alright with being a road dog who scrapes by for years until the public finally realizes your brilliance which will totally happen eventually. Right?! Er.

Maybe you are being naive in thinking that doing other comedy stuff in addition to standup will necessarily lead to where you want to be. Because I'm not clear on where you want to be. If you love doing standup, do standup. If you love doing other things, do other things. If you want a lot of money, go to med school. Or law school. Or other rich person school.

There are plenty of brilliant comedians who will never be widely recognized. Some of them will make a great living on the road, or on cruise ships, or doing corporates, or colleges. Some of them might be writing pitches and selling screenplays. Some of them will be sad and hungry and poor.

Obviously all of life is a gamble. We all want to enjoy ourselves now AND try to ensure that we'll be enjoying ourselves later--emotionally, physically, financially. We have to make some sacrifices in the now in the hopes that it will pay off in the later. And we never know what's going to happen. It's all playing the odds. So sure, it can increase your odds of being more marketable later if you work on lots of avenues of comedic expression now, yes. But if you don't really enjoy doing those things now, is that sacrifice worthwhile? You don't know how things will work out, so it's impossible to say with any certainty. That's why I support the idea of doing as much of what you enjoy in the now, because the now is really the only thing that exists with any certainty.

PS One last-minute addition, just under deadline... stop the presses! Or stop the pressing of whatever key posts the blog, less dramatic.

Sorry to make this long-windedness even windier, but this occurred to me--I think it's notable that as time marches forward, the things that a comedian can/should do change with the times, with technology. For example, 20 years ago, for a lot of great comedians, all you needed was your act, and when you got to Montreal, you got a development deal. Recently, I was told by a literary agent that a spec scripts of a show on the air is not necessarily as desirable a writing sample as an original script, which as I understand it is a change (again, keep in mind this is hearsay and the thoughts of only one or two people, maybe not universal). Today, there are podcasts where ten years ago there were none. And they are GIGANTIC for comedians who do them well. And they do a great job to harness a following that might have already existed in the clubs, but amplified by the power of the internet.

Marc Maron's WTF is probably the prime example, it's been the number one comedy podcast I believe since it debuted last year, and its fans are rabid; they come out to shows all around the world; they do the amazing feat of making Maron think positively of himself and his career. For a couple decades, he's been proud of the work he's doing and sad about not filling clubs like some people could. What was he doing wrong? He did radio shows, TV pilots, movie parts, he wrote, acted, sang, danced, always being true to himself, rarely if ever compromising, he was on Conan forty-something times, and by his own admission, he wasn't a name. No one who didn't know who he was knew who he was. Until WTF. No one could have said to him ten years ago, "What you need to do is wait for technology to provide you with the perfect platform to reach all the misfits who will love you around the globe, once iTunes is a thing." But now that this possibility exists, he's soaring, and well-deservedly.

Bill Burr's podcast has similar effects, I believe, and Never Not Funny has a massive following (I just listened to the very first episodes for the first time, and it seems like Mr. Pardo is begrudgingly getting into podcasting because, paraphrasing, "it seems like it's the thing to do now as a comedian," not to get left behind.)

We all know people who have podcasts, and maybe they are the next useful tool for a comedian who just wants to do comedy, because it's yours, it's easy to produce, you can be yourself, you can do whatever you want, audio video interviews sketches whatever. All that is to say, who knows what the future holds in creating opportunities for comedians to do comedy. But every opportunity that exists in technology now exists for everybody, not just comedians. Youtube phenomenon flukes are getting the equivalent of development deals today, and there's really no predicting it all, which is why it brings me back to this: do what you enjoy doing, and do things that will lead towards what you want to do in the future (and hopefully in so doing, enjoy those things as well). Figure out who you are and what you want, do the work, and hopefully the rest will follow. Figure, work, hope. I could have just said that (but it might have required more context to understand, and I understand, maybe a happy medium could have been reached, so feel free to cut and paste in your mind or when sharing with others).


Hot Soup: Stacked lineup tonight

Friday's (7/9) lineup: ali wong, david angelo, rob cantrell, dan goodman and nikki glaser!

I'll be "bringing it" too.

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

My other upcoming shows...

Monday, July 12 - 8:00pm - Not Friday Show @ Aces and Eights
Tuesday, July 13 - 8:00pm - Anecdotal Evidence @ Legion Bar
Friday, July 16 - 8:00pm - Hot Soup @ O'Hanlon's
Sunday, July 18 - 9:30pm - Ditch Comedy Sunday @ Bar Four
Tuesday, July 20 - 9:30pm - Savage Practice @ The Creek

Note: We're All Friends Here is off for July (no show this Saturday). We'll be back on Aug. 7.


All the other stuff comics "should" be doing besides standup (Part 1)

Another Q&A with Myq Kaplan.


So was talking with another comic last night about the other stuff you "should" have ready to go, other than standup skills, once you get some buzz. This comic's view: You only get the heat of Gotham/Montreal for a limited time and you should be ready to strike while the iron is hot. Scripts, treatments, show ideas, book ideas, etc.

Is this something that comics should think about? What if you just want to do standup? Should you still work on other things in order to diversify? Is it tough to get management if all you want to do is standup? Do managers want you to work on this stuff? Do they make suggestions on what route is best to take? Is it unwise to shoot for, say, Montreal if you don't have any of this stuff ready to go?


I will answer this question, and maybe I am already doing it (depending if you want to include this as part of the answer). However, I will add a disclaimer or two:

1) I do not know if I am the ideal person to BE answering this question. That is to say, I only have my experience. I am not a manager or an industry whoever, so I certainly don't know what they all think.

2) Even though I have my own experience, I only have it up until this point, and I don't know what will happen in the rest of my life and career, as far as learning whether I've made horrible mistakes or used the information I had all wrong.

3) This is all coming from a person who mainly wants to do standup. Standup is what I know and love doing. Sure, if I was offered a job writing monologue jokes for a late night show, I certainly would be happy to do so, and I have in fact created packets to submit for such jobs, but it's not my main focus. I spend most of my creative energies writing and performing standup, because that's what I enjoy most and know how to do.

Disclaimers out of the way. Still reading? All right.

I will continue by saying that there are very few "shoulds" about this business. I mean, you SHOULD do the amount of time you're booked to do, you SHOULD not do other people's material, and you MAYBE should come up with a third example for situations like this because 3's are funny (also K's, and 3 K's equals the KKK, which is super funny). See?

That said, I think the real answer depends on what your goals are, and how much you enjoy doing things that are not your goals. Certainly, writing spec scripts or monologue jokes or screenplay treatments can be beneficial if you want to be a writer. And taking improv or acting workshops or audition classes and building up that kind of resume can be beneficial if you want to be an actor. And shooting videos or making internet clips or some third relevant thing (see, should have had something here) can be beneficial as well.

ALSO, all of those things can be beneficial to your standup career as well, if you're doing them in addition to doing the work of a standup. If you become a better actor, your standup can improve. If you get more experience writing different kinds of jokes or sketches or scenes or bits, your standup can improve. So certainly, there's no real downside to such endeavors.

Unless you don't enjoy them. Or if they take up too much time or creative energy such that it detracts from your standup (if your standup is something you don't want detracted from). I know people who have written for late night shows who have felt the need to put their standup on the back burner. But that's after they GOT the job, so maybe I'm getting off topic. Or maybe it is still on topic, in that if you can get burnt out doing that kind of work for a paycheck, imagine doing that much work on spec, before you've even GOTTEN the job. If imagining that doesn't bother you, then do it. Or even if it does bother you, maybe do it anyway. Sometimes things will be hard and take work.

So, is a standup who has these other things in their back pocket more desirable to a manager or the industry than one who doesn't, all other things being equal? Seems like that would be the case. But if you're talented and passionate about what you do, and all you do is standup, but you're amazing at it, there are certainly people out there who can and will want to respond to that. Will some managers want you to work on certain things? Sure. Is that good or bad? Sure. If a manager is telling you to do things you aren't interested in doing, that's no good. If they're encouraging you to work on things that you think will help you, that's yes good.

I really believe that an individual's route to success depends heavily on what that individual personally considers success to be. If it's just a boatload of money from whatever? Then sure, diversify as much as possible. Work on everything you can that can lead to that boat. Join the Navy. Whatever. If your goal is to create a certain kind of art, create that art.

Sincerely (and I don't know how helpful or profound this may be), you should do what you want to do, or what you think you might want to do later. Certainly, if you want to write books, then start writing. If you want to be a TV writer, start writing the kinds of things you will want to be writing later. If you just want to be a standup, focus on becoming the best standup that you can be. And if you have extra time, it certainly couldn't hurt to do any of the other stuff we're talking about here. Or other things, like a blog about comedy.

PS I honestly don't think it can be "too late" to capitalize on having created something. Sure, if you have something ready to go when your heat or buzz hits, that's all to your advantage. But, there are plenty of people who continue to create, develop, pitch, and work on projects after that first wave of success hits. Maybe you don't hear about everyone and everything they're doing, but I don't believe that it's an all-or-nothing issue of timing. If you are working hard on whatever you're doing, whenever you're doing it, I think that's key. Do what you like, do what you want to do, and try to get what you're doing out in front of people that you want to get it in front of.

Continued in Part 2.


NYC shows to catch for good newer comics

BTR's comedy guru Marcus Parks gave this advice on Facebook to a friend about NYC shows you can find good newer comics at:

You oughta start going to shows like Comedy as a Second Language at Kabin on Thursdays, Too Cool for School at Coco 66 every other Friday, Hot Soup at O'Hanlon's on Fridays, Dog Shit (my favorite) at Legion Bar the first Thursday of every month, The MacGyver Show again at Legion the first and fourth Thursday of every month, Little Seany Boy at Ochi's on Saturdays, and many, many more.

Def a good lineup of shows to check out if you wanna see the next wave. Also, they're all free.


The "south"

I heard this convo the other night:

1: Are you from the south?
2: Yeah.
1: Where?
2: Florida.
1: Oh, northern Florida?
2: No. Near Miami.
1: Well that doesn't really count.

Florida's a weird place like that. The northern part of the state, the panhandle and Jacksonville and all that, feels like Alabama – like the deep south (grits, bibles, etc.). But the southern part of the state has Miami and Boca and Cubans and is not at all like what we typically consider "the south."

So the northern part of the state is more like "the south" than the southern part of the state. Which means that if you live in, say, Palm Beach, and someone asks you, "What's the south like?" You'd have to answer, "You need to go north to know what the south is like."

Which, in a way, is always the truth.


Hot Soup with Logan and Patton

FRI 7/2: HOT SOUP!!! Sachi's Bday Edition!!!!!!! (for real this time). (Sachi is the booker for the show and does a great job and thank ya Sachi and happy bday!)

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.

These are the jews we got this week:

Jared Logan
Sean Patton
Scott Moran
Dan St. Germain

and Sach-bag is doing the boo off!!!

Soups on....

I'm outta town but it'll be grand.

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...