Hey. I’m Matt Ruby (email@example.com). I live in Brooklyn and I'm a standup comedian and the creator of Vooza, a video comic strip about the tech world. This is Sandpaper Suit, a comedy blog about standup, filmmaking, and whatever else I feel like talking about. Established 2006. Phew, that's a while.
Bachelorette parties are the natural enemy of comedy. (Well, if you're a club comic anyway.) Here's an excerpt from a Greg Giraldo interview:
How do you feel about bachelorette parties in general invading a comedy show? I love bachelorette parties. I think they're just always about sitting there quietly and enjoying the show, and they're never in any way interested in the attention all being on them, and they're never just a bunch of cackling fucking hens that won't shut up during the whole show. So, you could imagine how I feel about them.
How do you handle the situation when there's a bachelorette party in the audience? Normally by ignoring them as much as possible and not making it about them, because that's really what they're there for. And then also by feeling my insides die a little at the thought that I'm really just a glorified fucking circus puppet of some sort.
I wonder if this bit Giraldo has about bachelorette parties was originally developed as a way of shutting down some noisy gals at one of his shows:
I don't usually face 'em at the shows I do so it was almost enjoyable having a bachelorette party from Wisconsin at a recent spot in Chicago. The host spotted 'em immediately and just kept going "shhhhhhh!" over and over to 'em in a funny way. Didn't quite shut 'em down, but helped at least. And they were pretty well behaved during my set so I can't complain too much. Still, I can imagine it gets old real fast if you're in the clubs all the time.
I just started screaming at the guy. Screaming. I don’t even know what I was screaming, although the gist was, “How dare you compare Hitler to this president or any president? How dare you equate what he did with Obama is doing? Do you have any idea how insulting that is? Do you know anything about history? Do you have any idea what Hitler did? He killed six million of my people, which is six million more than Obama has killed. You’re a fucking idiot. You’re a fucking moron. You’re the fucking problem with this country. You and your reflexive retardation. You’re a fucking this-and-that…” and then I just basically started yelling “fuck” a lot at the guy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
His rethinking on the exchange (from "it felt great" to "it was a mistake") is interesting to read.
Before this happened, I was thinking about developing a long piece about the nature of being offended. What does it mean to say "I'm offended?" Why are people so offended all the time? This incident made me think I should try to figure that piece out because I think there's something worth talking about there.
Interesting to me since I too like to discuss people who get offended. See, I don't understand being offended. At least not by words. If someone says something that rubs you the wrong way, there are two possibilities:
1) That person is wrong. If so, they are stupid. You should pity that person, not be offended.
2) That person is telling the truth. Even if it is unpleasant or not something you like hearing, it's still the truth. Deal with it. If you find the truth offensive, you're destined to lead a miserable existence.
I'm not saying you should sit back and take it when someone says something you find obnoxious. By all means, respond. But the idea that you'd get OFFENDED seems very childish. (Then again, I lack the capacity for many of the emotions normal human beings feel so that could also be part of the problem here.)
When you feel offended, you're practicing judgment. You judge someone else to be stupid, insensitive, rude, arrogant, inconsiderate, or foolish, and then you find yourself upset and offended by their conduct. What you may not realize is that when you judge another person, you do not define them. You define yourself as someone who needs to judge others.
My prescription for people who like to get offended: Try apathy! It's a real miracle cure for so much in life.
It was my first time doing that room in Chicago and it was a really nice setup. Crowd filled with real people too which is always nice. Whenever I do a room like that it reminds me how homogeneous the crowds at NYC alt shows are. This room had older couples, muscledudes, gals dressed up for a night on the town, and even people who aren't white!
Refreshing that. Educational too. Shows you which jokes are your real "works for everyone" material. That clever bit that makes hipsters laugh can seem awfully weak when told to a bachelorette party from Wisconsin.
(Note to whoever made this spellcheck: There is a world of difference between bachelorette and baccalaureate.)
I was at a strange bar in Williamsburg the other night. Hip crowd there. It was the kinda place where I couldn't tell if people were having fun or making fun of having fun.
There was a woman knitting in the corner. Cuz that's a fun thing to do at a bar? She was sitting with a guy who was rolling his own cigarettes. Which makes them pretty much the perfect couple. Just imagine the pickup: "Well hello. Do you like wasting time doing things science solved centuries ago?" "Do I ever! Here's a tin can and a string. Give me a call!"
And next to them was a guy talking all about being a vegan and an animal rights activist. But then he got up to play a game of Big Buck Hunter Pro. So he hates killing animals, but his favorite game involves blowing up Bambis with a plastic rifle!?
Pretty hypocritical. Say what you want about rednecks, at least they genuinely hate the things they hate. It's not like there's a bar in rural Mississippi where some guy is all "I hate queers! But let's play a game of Gay Pride Parade Pro! It's the best. Ya grab this giant dildo and then you shoot rainbows at Judy Garland impostors. Last night I almost made the Liberace Level! Yeehaw!" Don't think that's happening.
So, um, give it up for...genuine hatred!? Hmm, that's a strange thing to be in favor of, but, well, there ya go.
When time is running out and you know that it's running out. With fear and anxiety and if you're threatened, for me, I immediately go to humor. It's a way to survive. It's a way to make sense...
There's something about the voice of comedy that clarifies things. It's a laser-like sense of truth, if it's true. If you touch truth, it will inevitably be so either refreshing or astounding, people will start to laugh.
Stewart's response: "That may be the most eloquent description of the use of comedy as an expression of catharsis or feeling that I have ever heard." And then he points out that strippers are the only ones below comedians on the professional ladder.
Spot a potential troublemaker during an earlier comic's set? Eye 'em up and down for something to attack. Then if they decide to keep it up during your set, you'll have a shutdown line ready to go.
Example: At show last night. Host goes up and lady in front of room keeps shouting stuff out. Not heckling per se. Just commenting on everything that's going on. I noticed her outfit was a bit weird but didn't really think about it.
I go up next. After my second joke, she makes a loud groaning noise. The kinda thing you hear in old cartoons when someone falls down.
I go, "Was that the woman in the zebra striped tank top?" Laughter and a meek "yes" in response. "Um, you're not supposed to yell shit out at a comedian if you're wearing something completely ridiculous."
On Friday, I'll be hosting HOT SOUP at 8pm at O'Hanlons. The lineup this week:
Leo Allen Erik Bergstrom Streeter Seidell John Roberts Julian McCullough
Hot Soup! Every Friday Showtime at 8pm FREE SHOW O'Hanlon's 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
And on Saturday, I will be upstate opening for fireworks. I'm doing comedy before The Marshall Tucker Band hits the stage at this: Fireworks Over Utica.
Mark your calendars - Saturday, August 14, is the second annual "Fireworks Over Utica" celebration, which will take place at Hanna Park outside of Utica's City Hall.
Last year, at the inaugural event, the 70's rock band "Blue Oyster Cult" performed, and Mayor Roefaro announced on Monday that 70's rock band, "The Marshall Tucker Band" will take the stage this year...
"The people love it, especially in a time when people can't travel as much as they used to," Mayor Roefaro said. "Here, we give them something to do, right here in Utica, New York, that they can enjoy and come to. And these are the quality of life things we like to portray here in Utica."
Local bands will be performing starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday August 14 at Hanna Park. Among the local bands scheduled - Slug, The Watch and Three Inch Fury.
The local bands will be followed by The Marshall Tucker Band.
All ages crowd, outdoor stage, performing between rock bands and before fireworks...sounds like the perfect environment for comedy! Too bad I have to stay clean. Otherwise my opener would totally be about how I'm mad at Three Inch Fury for stealing my penis' nickname.
Btw, the MTB sounds fun but I'm even more psyched for Three Inch Fury which is "Central New York's EXCLUSIVE 80's METAL Band!!!" You can hear their version of "Unskinny Bop LIVE" at the band's Myspace page.
Is my excitement to see 'em ironic or sincere? I have no idea! But if they play "Love Song" by Tesla, I might lose my shit. LOVE IS KNOCKIN' OUTSIDE YOUR DO-OH-WHOA-OH-OR!
The Not Friday Show is a fun show that's usually packed out. A few weeks back, I asked the producers (James Harris, Adam Pateman, and John Szeluga) if they had any secrets. Adam mentioned that using chalk on the sidewalk (see pic above) has helped.
So we started trying it at Hot Soup the past few weeks. And I'll be damned, it actually does pull in a few people at each show.
Native Americans. Boy, we really did a number on them, huh? Yet now America names all its military weapons after them. Tomahawk cruise missile, Apache helicopter, Blackhawk helicopter, etc.
There's gotta be some Native American guy who's pissed off about this: "Why don't you name your weapons after the stuff you actually used against us? Have some Blankets with Smallpox Bombs. Send in some Broken Treaty Helicopters."
Even weirder: Whitey murdered all these Indians and stole their land, yet every Saturday in the fall 80,000 white folks go to a football stadium in Florida and cheer on a team called the Seminoles. They put war paint on and those hats with the feathers and sing an Indian war chant while doing the Tomahawk Chop (demonstrated admirably in this photo).
That's some fucked up shit. Like imagine if the Germans had won WWII. Then, a few years later, there's a stadium in Munich where thousands of Germans go to cheer on a soccer team called The Fighting Rabbis. And all these Germans are wearing yarmulkes and have those long curls. And every time a goal is scored they sing Hava Nagila while doing that chopping motion. (Yeah, they'd still do the chop — but now it'd be the Circumcision Chop.)
I'm not sure people would be ok with that, even if there were Jewish casinos everywhere.
Girls love a guy with a sense of humor. But supposedly it doesn't work the opposite way. From what I've heard, guys seem to be intimidated by funny ladies. Well, someone nicknamed The Champ offers up four reasons why "funny girls finish last."
(most) women have never had to spend decades learning how to disarm men to help convince us to sleep with them. basically, while possessing the ability to ease the tension and make people laugh is a bonus for a typical woman, its a must have quality for any normal non-millionaire man who doesn’t want perpetual desert d*ck.
i’m not saying that women can’t be funny, but the fact that you don’t need to be in order to procreate makes it a bit of a male-centric trait, and, in the eyes of many (but not all) men, aggressively funny women tend to give off the air that they’re a little less feminine than the average chick.
I was emailing with Abbi Crutchfield and she offers up this response to the article:
Somehow The Champ makes the leap from observing that funny women have trouble dating to wondering whether humor is a gender-specific trait. If you can grasp the concept of "funny women" not getting asked out then you've already answered your own question of whether women can be funny. For the record the topic for debate should never be, "Why women are not funny", it should be, "Why women are PERCEIVED as not funny". But he's not dissecting that. He's talking about the unlikelihood of a witty, outgoing woman getting booty.
The dating impediment is applied TO the girl; it does not come FROM her. In other words the girl isn't unlikeable--the guy is uncapable of liking her. So why? The Champ argues that men are threatened by funny women. He has me on his first three points 1. tradition (guys have always been the ones whose humor is applauded) 2. ego (no one likes to be out-done) 3. necessity (guys have had to learn to be outgoing to survive)
But he loses me at point 4. not allowed. "Some jokes just sound harsh coming from a woman". He uses his own homemade quote full of anti-women expletives and implies that ANY guy who shouts that is hilarious, whereas if it came from a woman it would be off-putting. Firstly, I would be turned off if a white guy shouted it, because it involves the n-word. Secondly, I would be turned off if a non-established comic shouted it because it sounds hacky. If anything, hearing a woman (meek or bold) shout the same line might take me by surprise and be funnier. Most of getting someone to laugh involves surprise. Not scrotums.
He's clutching preconceived notions wrapped in misogyny cloaked in history. Just because something has always been a certain way doesn't make it right. Funniness is no more inherent in a gender than intelligence is in a race or culinary skills are in a culture. The author isn't even sure his observation can be applied as general fact--he has to ask his readers whether funny women have more difficulty dating. He should try asking himself who the women in his life were that helped shape his sense of humor, and whether they had to pretend not to be funny in order to procreate.
Btw, Abbi and Jen Dziura are starting a new lady-friendly show called Ladybits. (The kickoff show is Wednesday, August 11 at Cornelia St. Cafe.) Here's the booking policy. There is a token guy spot on each show, but you've got to bake everyone cookies. No, really.
When Jen and Abbi considered the possibility of allowing a maximum of one male comic per show, Jen said, “Wouldn’t it be funny to call him the ‘token male,’ and then just introduce him by his gender and by saying he’s cute, while forgetting his actual credits, kind of like what happens when you finally get a weekend at the West Lubbockville Laff Hutt?” And Abbi said, “If you do that, you’ll still get twice as many emails for that one spot as you get for the five actual lady-spots.” And Jen said, “Why don’t we make them bring cookies?”
Wonder what the reaction would be if this went the opposite way. Like an all guy show w/ a token female spot...but she'd have to change a tire on a car first.
Attitude is at least half of a comic's act. Attitude, in the comedy circles I ran in, was more often called "persona". A comic is giving a little play to the audience he's performing for, so he assumes the mantle of a character. As all writers and actors know, the best characters are consistent. A stand-up act should be the same way: as a comic, when you're on stage, you should have material that seems to come from one person's vision. Of course, the trick is that all of your jokes really do come from one person's vision: yours.
But you'll find, if you write stand-up, that sometimes you'll write a joke that just doesn't seem quite right, doesn't fit in with the other jokes you do, the way you like to perform, the way you use words on stage and so on. An extreme example would be Andrew Dice Clay going on an extended bit about how much he loves his wife. His whole act is misogyny, misogyny, misogyny so if he plugs in a five minute bit where he's Mr. Sensitive, it simply isn't going to work. So his attitude, the persona of misogyny that he has crafted, definitely steers his act...
Think of just about any comic and their persona is in perfect accord with their material:
-Carlin does jokes about oddities and stupidities and his persona is exasperated (if you're the only one who sees the stupidity, you'd naturally be exasperated by it). -Brian Regan does slice of life, very clean material, so he seems like a normal everyday, very personable guy. -Bill Hicks is confrontational and seeks to destroy preconceptions so he's very emotional in his delivery and uses cursing and expressive body movements, like a crazy prophet. -Steven Wright looks at everything very literally, so he has what appears to be an absence of persona/attitude - he simply says "this is the way the world is" and engages in no hyperbole or "extras" because his vision is so stark and bare.
Ya constantly hear comics talk about finding their voice. Lately I've been thinking how a big part of that is what you say no to. How the jokes you don't tell are just as important to your voice as the ones you do tell. Telling a joke that gets fewer laughs but fits your persona can be a smarter move than telling one that hits hard but seems out of character. Or maybe you have two different "styles" you can work in (one-liners vs. longer bits, angry guy vs. crowd pleasing guy, high status character vs. low status) but you're better off dropping one so your whole act feels more consistent.
Tangent: I recall hearing Birbigs in an interview talk about the challenges he faced moving to theater shows. One of the things he said was toughest was throwing out jokes that he knows will get a laugh. His director made him get rid of anything that didn't move the story foward. The narrative was more important than laughs per minute.
What I like about the album -- and about Mulaney in general -- is that he doesn't have an obvious "hook." He hasn't gone to great lengths to create some comedic persona or be known as the "fill-in-the-blank" guy. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a voice (something I've harped on other comics for in the past). He sees the world with a bit of amused detachment, and is simply funny in an unassuming way. Sometimes, funny is enough.
There isn't really an easy way to sum up Mulaney's persona. Maybe he gets away with that 'cuz he's such a damn good writer? Hmm.