Ray Combs, Jr. makes mics interesting

That was Saturday at the Woodshed mic. Yes, Ray showed his dick. Also, he dropped the n-word repeatedly. Yelled at the only audience members too. Called people gay and bad comics and (mock) hit on girls too. Did big chunks of time between comics. Got choked after the show by a black guy who didn't like the n-word stuff. Yes, choked. Also, he made it almost impossible for any comic to actually do material.

Just a normal mic hosting session by Ray Combs, Jr. Say what you want about his technique, but he manages to do something really hard: He makes NYC open mics fun. Mean as shit, but fun.

He doesn't give a fuck about "making it." He's trying to get to something real instead of honing a tight 5 or trying to get on TV (there's a little self-sabotage at work too). The twist is how he takes that attitude and then challenges all the comedians in the room too. On Saturday, he said something like: "You all say you like Louis CK so much but then you get up here and you do the same stupid jokes that are nothing at all like what Louis CK does."

After Ray does his thing, telling little, clever jokes seems like a cop out. He creates an environment where you have to bring something real or authentic or honest or else you're doomed. It's a shitty place to try out certain kinds of jokes. But it's a good way to try to get to something more genuine in your act. There are so many comics who are just really unfunny when doing jokes. But when they drop that bullshit and start just talking it's at least interesting — and usually winds up funnier anyway. For me, that's the real magic of what Ray does at mics.

Portrait of a Comedian Episode 28 with Ray is a good look at his style and why he is that way. So is the episode of We're All Friends Here that he was on. And he sometimes hosts the mic at The Village Lantern on Wednedays. Really, it's something you need to see live to appreciate.

FYI, since he sometimes talks about his dad in his act, it's interesting to see Ray Sr. doing his act on Carson:


myq said...

"He makes NYC open mics fun."
"He made it almost impossible for any comic to actually do material."

Quick question--can't you have fun without doing material just about anywhere?

Go watch a movie. Or a play. Or a comedy show. Those can all be fun.

I understand that what you're saying is, you like that people have to be genuine.

What about the fact that most comedians who end up doing great, genuine stuff, actually started out telling less substantial jokes? Jokes that arguably enabled them to learn the craft and hone their skills and ultimately then turn to creating the wonderful genuine art that you know them for...

Shouldn't an open mic be a place where people can do whatever they want, genuine or not, jokes or not?

I haven't seen Ray host an open mic, and from your description, I'm sure I would be interested to watch. But like I said, there are interesting things to watch all over the place. If you're going to an open mic, usually you want it to be somewhat conducive to doing what you want to do, no?

(Just to play devil's advocate, for a moment. Or perhaps in this case, angel's advocate.)

Josh Homer said...

He's not stopping anyone from doing whatever they want, genuine or not, jokes or not.

I wish I was there. I might have choked him too, but probably not. I like what he does.

myq said...

I wasn't there either, and was just going by Matt's report (that it was "almost impossible...to do material").

Not that challenges aren't useful and all. And not that weird situations aren't fun. And not that seeing a dick isn't some such.

I'm sure I would have enjoyed watching it as well, but I just wanted to make the point that that still doesn't mean it's the most conducive situation to do comedy in. (Which I would say SHOULD be a priority of someone hosting an open mic. Most of the time. In general.)

Mike Lawrence said...

Not every open mic should be the same and I think there are certain skills that are essential to being a good comedian that get ignored at most open mics. Combs creates a situation in which people have to riff. Some people excelled, some survived, and some were gobbled up. I don't think the mic should be like that every week, but switching it up keeps it from being monotonous.

myq said...

I agree not every open mic need be the same.
I am also anti-monotony.

I was just going by Matt's assessment, and responding to things like...

"Yelled at the only audience members"
"Called people bad comics"
"Did big chunks of time between comics"

And again, I wasn't there, so I don't have the context.

I understand that Ray is being himself and doing his thing, as it should be. I'm excited to see it sometime.

Just wanted to provide a counterpoint--if you're serious about doing comedy, you will eventually be in front of plenty of adverse circumstances that you'll have to overcome. There's no need to seek them out necessarily, they'll find you.

Jake Little said...

I couldn't disagree more. He's a little boy working out his issues by dragging everyone in the room into his personal therapy session. And he does so by using the tactics of a bully. There's nothing worse than someone who uses "honesty" as an excuse to act like an asshole.

Matt Ruby said...

Jake, he's also interesting and funny. In comedy, that can make up for a lot of other stuff.

Myq, there's also something to be said for a host who can make sitting through a mic tolerable. When Ray hosts, I actually enjoy mics as an audience member. That almost never happens otherwise.

myq said...

Matt--a couple quick questions (and I'm sincerely curious to the answers, not just trying to be a jerk for theoretical purposes):

You said there actually were real audience members there, and that Ray yelled at them. Were they enjoying being yelled at? Did they enjoy the show in general (including or excluding Ray)? Did they stay for the whole show?

I only ask because sometimes comedians find things enjoyable that more typical audiences do not.

This all reflects back on the difference between the NY/LA open mic (typically populated heavily by comics) and the open mics of many other cities, which often run more like showcases with a combination of newer comics, more experienced comics trying things out, and actual audiences at times.

What's more important; comics having fun at a mic, or entertaining the audience that's there?
(Not that the answer can't or shouldn't be "both," but if the choice is antagonizing an audience to the point of not enjoying the show vs. not doing that...)

That's why I ask.

Jake Little said...

Matt, he is funny sometimes. But he's more often interesting than he is funny. And for every time he's funny, there's 0.7 times that he's an uncomfortable aggressive host.

Also, I don't think the division of audience/comic is applicable here... there are plenty of comics that don't enjoy his antics. To be fair, those are the ones (like me) that simply don't go back to mics when they know he's hosting.

Josh Homer said...

Can you show your work on how you came up with the 0.7 times he is funny? I'd like to book Ray as a host, but I want it to be on of those times. So if I keep track of his hosting and how well he does, and I play the law of averages, I can ensure that I book him on a time when he is going to be funny.

Is Jake Little your real name? I tried google to find "Jake Little Comedy" but nothing came up, not even a FaceBook page.

Ray Combs Jr. said...

I think the .7 number is far to kind. In my defense I hate me too.

There is a great irony here because I was booked on 09/11 and given the impression I was to "do what I do". I was under the impression that it was to be some sort of ball busting salute to freedom and all that jazz.

As for the two audience members there was actual only one. She was the friend of a female comic who had come to just check out the room. I got her on the show despite her not being on the list. I also walked them out when they left after seeing nearly all of the three hour show.

The true me is a person that prefers staying home and hoarding animals to doing comedy. I am not trying to make it nor am I trying to make it harder on anyone else.

Do I have beliefs about comedy? Sure. But the truth is funny is funny and I have done the same crazy shit a million times and had people come right after me at my most insane and seen them crush with material.

Two things have consistently been said to me over the years regarding my style of hosting open mics: "I am mean" and "I scare people".

Trust me if you are funny and have artistic integrity there isn't shit I could ever say that would hurt your art.

Love You,


Dennis Perrin said...

I knew and worked with Ray Sr. (some of my material is in that Carson set), and I know and have worked with Ray Jr. The son has eclipsed the father. Ray is the best comic there is: honest. He could be huge if he wanted to be. But he's holding out for something better. Gotta like that.

David Hill said...

i can appreciate what people are saying about ray getting comics off their material and getting them to be interesting and real. and if it takes making them uncomfortable or if it means being antagonistic then i suppose there is some method to the madness.

what i think is being skirted over in this discussion is that racism occupies a totally different space and isn't necessary to accomplish any of that. when subhah reminded ray that he called her a nigger last time they met he immediately started using the N word and making racist jokes about indians. this totally opened up a couple of other comics to also use the N word when they got up. i don't think they would have felt comfortable if ray hadn't set the bar there and made it seem like you needed to be as shocking as you could to avoid getting ridiculed.

i was on my way out when danny solomon got up and said something about it and asked people to cut it out. i was happy to hear that, but still opted to bail. i'm sorry to hear that in the end the racism offended someone to the point of attacking ray. but i'm not at all surprised, and somehow i don't think he probably was either.

that mic proved a lot more than just that when the host forces comics to go off their material they can be funnier. it also proved that one person being racist and getting laughs will open up the floodgates for lots more of it. the folks that frequent this mic and run this mic should consider how it reflects on the whole group when there's that much ugly stuff going on and in the end all people will remember is that a guy whipped out his cock.

Mike Lawrence said...

Dave, I do run the mic, and the idea of the guest hosts is to mix up every week, create a different atmosphere that's hopefully challenging but also fun to be a part of.

I had Ray host once in April and I brought him back last week because I like what he does. Does his act reflect the mic? Not any more than any other guest host. I also advertise the host on my facebook page the day before so if you don't like a host, you don't have to go that day. I've had comics of all kinds host the mic, and if it takes on a different atmosphere for that day, I'm fine with it. I've learned after years of going to mics and after a year of running one myself that an open mic, regardless of what you do with it A. is going to start to peter out after the first hour and B. is going to be mostly people doing new and untested material. Different hosts at least keep it somewhat interesting.

And Is it true that other comics used the "n" word that day? Yes. But did the word itself ever get a laugh from anyone but Ray? No. The room policed itself and when someone bombed with it they were booed and made fun of. Ray is a force and some people are going to fight against him and others will try to imitate him. The audience will judge what they like and be vocal. And I can tell you for a fact, that after Danny and myself addressed the use of the word, no other comics used it.

To think one host or two other comics are indicative of the mic itself week in and week out, does the mic, and the other comics that go, a great disservice

Josh Homer said...

Jake Little,
Can you do the calculations and tell us what percentage of times do the different host at the Woodshed mic make the atmosphere challenging AND fun? I'm thinking it's about .732, but I'd like your comedy calculations to be 100% sure so I can go on a good day.

Thanks Jake!

Jake Little said...

Josh Homer,
It seems kind of beside the point for me to explain what I wrote when you didn't even read it right.

Thanks Josh!

Josh Homer said...

Jake Little,
It is besides your point, as your point was to come here and be a troll; to put Ray down in the form of a backhanded compliment. You compounded this idiocy by adding a quantifiable element to it (".7" - did you pull that out a hat or just out your ass?)

As many open mic lists I receive on a weekly basis, I've never seen a Jake Little. Even google doesn't know you, and he knows everyone.

Thanks "Jake"

PS - as it says on Ruby's comment section "Good things to do: Be thoughtful. Don't be a dick. Leave your name (anonymous comments are lame). Thanks."

Jake Little said...

I said he was a hostile bully. That seems pretty front of hand to me.

A troll is someone who doesn't actually hold the opinion they claim to have, speaks up for others when they are perfectly capable of defending themselves (and have already done so), and is unable to respond to what other people actually write, whether through willful misreading or a lack of comprehension skills.

Who's the troll again?

myq said...

Technically, I think the main salient feature of a troll is that they are anonymous. (The online ones, not the ones who live under bridges, though there might be some overlap.)

Also they usually say negative things, I believe it is feasible that they believe those negative things.

Are people still reading?


PS Trolls make blogs interesting?

Lil Whodie said...

Ray Combs a great comic......

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