Hey. I’m Matt Ruby (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
Was talking with another comic last week about how he didn't appreciate how good Giraldo was until after he died and he started seeing more of his stuff online. For example, he mentioned how much Giraldo killed it on Attell's Insomniac special on Comedy Central. Here's that.
The beginning of the set is at the end of this clip.
And here's Giraldo at Bonnaroo 2010.
And here's a pre-arm-tattoo Giraldo on Conan in 2003. Love his opening jab at Jake Gyllenhal's Craig Bierko's shirt. The warlord joke is great too.
When you bomb, it is the ultimate gift from an audience. They are saying loud and clear: “This shit ain’t funny.” And by doing so, they are helping you to discover what is. The audience is an unpaid writing partner, your personal humour adviser. It helps me to think of bombing not as a judgement of me as a person, but more of a brainstorming session that didn’t go well.
As comedy code dictates, you don’t issue an APB when established comics swing by to experiment. You let them work in as normal an environment as can be created to get as honest a reaction as can be expected. But Jerry Seinfeld, as you may know, is a comedian with whom a great deal of people have a great deal of familiarity. Our show, as you can’t possibly know, rarely draws the tens of thousands of people it deserves, or more than 80. Using the former to draw people to the latter would have been a desirable arrangement. We were told not to do so. We wanted Jerry Seinfeld to come to our show. We obeyed.
There's a lot of overhead that goes into a film or television show. There's much less overhead, in general, for stand-up comedy and therefore more room for taking true risks. And true risks mean the status-quo will never embrace the art form the same way it has more "traditional" forms of live entertainment. Stand-up comedy is the punk rock of the entertainment world-- moreso, these days, than punk rock is the "punk rock" of the music world.
Take a guy like Philip Seymour Hoffman. I think we could all agree that the man owns some edge, takes chances and doesn't conform to what Hollywood looks like. And still, he's one of the industry's most respected members.
But he's no Doug Stanhope. As unfiltered and unfettered as Hoffman is compared to the rest of his contemporaries, he's not onstage telling a room full of strangers that he has herpes or that he once got a blowjob from a dude on accident or that a fan of his postponed committing suicide -- and eventually followed through -- because he had tickets to see him perform. But Stanhope does those things, because that's who he is and he answers to no one. And, from an economic standpoint, he can afford to do that, since the cost of producing comedy shows is negligible compared to the cost of mainstream entertainment productions.
Also, NYC comic Brooke Van Poppelen is helming truTV's Dumb as a Blog. It's not about standup but it is about the dumbest stuff people do so that's kinda close.
I did the show Midnight Run on Saturday at The Creek in Long Island City. That's just one subway stop outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn. But sometimes it's tough to convince people that it's actually pretty close.
It's a special Thanksgiving We're All Friends Here show! There will be a big deep fried turkey dinner blowout at The Creek at 5pm and then we'll be roasting some turkeys onstage. I mean not for real. Making fun of comics is kinda what I was getting at. But I can see how you would take that literally. But there will be a turkey dinner at 5. And then our show. Anyway...
THU (11/25): WE'RE ALL FRIENDS HERE 7pm showtime The Creek and the Cave 10-93 Jackson Ave. Long Island City, NY
Lineup: James Adomian Nate Bargatze Dan Carroll
One's gay, one's from the south, and one's got a drinking problem. It's like we split Tennessee Williams into three people!
And then Hot Soup is on for Friday.
FRI (11/26): HOT SOUP 8pm - Free O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Lineup: Sean Patton Robert Dean Sam Morrill James Harris
Cope's hosting and I'm doing a spot.
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.
They talk about the difference between longform and shortform standup. For example, one-liner quick hit jokes can work great for a showcase set or a quick TV spot. But keeping that tempo up for 45-60 minutes is a whole different beast.
Chris Hardwick: I don't know how the two line joke comics survive in an hourlong set. I know they do but I can't write those kinds of jokes so I don't really understand.
Paul F. Tompkins: That's so much stuff that you have to write. You have to fill up 60 minutes of one-liners. That's A LOT of material.
Chris Hardwick: And they're all hit or miss. A two-line joke is hit or miss and that's it. For all the ones you have to write to put together an hour, there's probably 8 times more that you've written.
PFT has moved away from clubs thanks to the Tompkins 300 revolution. He talked about what's wrong with the club system. Basically, comedians are like a human bowl of pretzels.
Paul F. Tompkins: [Clubs] are in the restaurant business. You're the only one who's in the comedy business. You're doing your comedy in somebody's restaurant. You're in the comedy business. They're still in the booze business.
Chris Hardwick: We basically keep people focused so they keep pouring beer in their gullets.
Hardwick also admires PFT's ability to start a bit in one place and end it somewhere completely different. ("Cherry Picking" off Impersonal is a good example of this.)
Chris Hardwick: You have a writing skill with your standup that is incredible to me...Within the body of a bit, you can take a tangent onto some minor detail that almost seems accidental and then all of a sudden you go into that and that becomes the focus of the bit. And then some tangent on that takes you further into the bit. It's like levels in Inception. You're in limbo. But that is a phenomenal way to write and that's not something I see anyone else do.
Paul F. Tompkins: Well thank you. A lot of that I must admit is by accident. I feed a lot off of the energy of the crowd and I like to allow for the possibility of improvisation. I might write one tangent in there but where it goes depends on how people respond to the tangent. If they laugh at this weird thing that I threw in there that's ultimately a thing that I think is funny that I don't know necessarily if the audience is going to think it's funny, but I hope they think is funny.
You know, when you're writing standup, the idea is this is so funny in my head I am reasonably sure that other people will find this funny too. I have to translate it from the language in my head where it's just a thought, just a flash that made me laugh. I have to translate things like that into human speech so that other people who don't speak the language that's in my head will understand. And then I know that if I phrase it this way, this is how I say funny things, people will laugh at that. I'm pretty sure.
Then there's other stuff where I'm like, "I think this is funny but I don't know if anyone else would ever think this is funny." I'm compelled to throw it out there just to see if anybody laughs at that. That's the little tangents. And then if people do laugh at that, then my instinct is always: Let's see how far I can push it. Let's see what I can get out of this...
You keep talking until they stop laughing. And then the next time you talk about the same stuff, you cut out the part where they stop laughing.
Louis C.K. had that notion. We had a simple sketch where Clinton was just—I thought Dana did a great Clinton, and I wanted to get it out there. Dana had a funny notion about Clinton trying hard not to laugh at the paltry competition that he faced in 1996. And then Louis separately had this funny notion that led to the breast-feeding, but it came out of a more subtle observation about Clinton: that he saw himself as this nurturing president. And at the time, Hillary was incredibly unpopular, so Louis had this idea that Clinton would, you know… It was more of a play on the “I feel your pain” act that Clinton had perfected by 1996. We weren’t all about, “Oh, this is gonna be gross, ha-ha, people are gonna be freaked out.” I took it too far. He had the breast-feeding idea, and then I came up with the multiple nipples and the puppies and kittens, because of my animal obsession that haunts me to this day.
Btw, here's the writing staff of the show. [via HS]
Really? I didn't make it. I was funnier than that guy. And these other people who are telling me they thought I was gonna make it for sure...are they just being polite? Hmm.
It was that one joke that didn't hit as hard as it usually does. Or maybe I should have closed with that other joke. Maybe it's where I went in the night. Maybe I need to open with something more personal so I'm clearly defined in the audience's eyes right off the bat. Maybe I shouldn't have told that dirty joke. Maybe I need to just tell all my quickest-to-the-punch jokes in a row.
Judging art is silly anyway. Imagine if someone forced you to pick between the Beatles and the Stones.
Plus, comedy has a measurement. Laughs. If you get 'em, you did your job.
Well, there is more to it than that. You can get laughs with dick jokes or by being a kooky character. But I want to say something I care about onstage. One-liner guys do great at these contests. But I don't want to just be clever and that's it. Sure, I appreciate a well-crafted one-liner. But to me, I'd rather have some point of view or emotional content or genuine passion. But getting that across in five minutes is tough. A great comedian comedian is different than a great contest comedian.
But let's be honest. It wasn't all one-liner guys. The guy who won it all killed it. Applause breaks on literally every joke. Snowball down a hill momentum. It was a no-brainer that he should move on. And that's why he won it all.
I guess that's the lesson, if there is one. Just be even funnier. Write even more jokes. Good enough isn't good enough when you're competing against great comics.
Or maybe I just need to compete against myself. Is my contest set better than the last contest set I did? If so, that's success. Just keep getting better. As another comic said to me recently, "Comedy is like golf. It isn't about competing against others. It's about competing against the course." I liked that. Well, except for the fact that golf is, well, totally about competing against others. Hmm.
It would depend on the capacity (output) of each machine, but eventually the dehumidifier would win. Humidifiers need a water supply and eventually run dry. The dehumidifier just needs power to keep working.
Glad we got that solved. Now someone tell me what really happens when your apartment is infested with koala bears.
We set up at the Olive Tree Café above the Comedy Cellar and asked people from the Comedy Community to share a few words, a story, a favorite bit of Gregs. We did the same at Comix Comedy Club and finally with Jesse Joyce and Ted Alexandro in Astoria.
It's cool to hear all the guys who knew/worked with Greg talking about why they loved him. Also worth noting how much of the talk was about what a good guy Greg was and how supportive he was of his peers and not just how funny he was onstage.
For example, I loved Jeselnik's tale of having to do a warm up set for the Hasselhoff roast (a thankless task made even worse by the fact that it's a room filled with industry folks). Giraldo, knowing the situation, made sure to give him a standing o when he came out and laughed hard/cheered him on during his set. Jeselnik truly appreciated it. (It was the last time he ever saw him.)
Was actually talking last night about Giraldo with Sam Morril who is/was a huge fan. I thought he had a good point: Some standups go out there and try to prove how smart they are. But Giraldo, clearly a smart dude/grad of Harvard Law, never did that. He never got preachy. He never used a big word when a small one would do. He never tried to go for applause over laughs while making a political point. When you're really smart, you don't need to make a show of it.
Election season! Did you vote for the "I want my mommy" party or the "I want my daddy" party? I just want them to get back together and tell me it wasn't my fault.
I actually watched the TV news to see what happened. Big mistake. I'm realizing the problem with TV news: It spends way too much time asking viewers what we think. Um, we're a bunch of idiots. So you really don't need give us an endless stream of silly poll questions. "Four police officers were shot in Staten Island last night. Do YOU think this happened? 54% of you said no. 31% said Lindsay Lohan. We're not sure why that was an option."
And I love when CNN reads Twitter messages on the news. Yes, that's actually a thing that happens. Because you know, nothing's more newsworthy than random anonymous opinions from the internet. I'm trying to imagine them finding something LOWER on the information totem pole to share. "Coming up after the break: The financial crisis in Europe...What does the bathroom graffiti at Dempsey's pub have to say about it? We'll get to the bottom of it!"
I'm gonna stick to getting my information from a resource I can trust: YouTube video comments.
FRI (11/5): HOT SOUP 8:00pm - Free O'Hanlon's Bar - 349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Nick Vatterott Murderfist Raj Desai Barry Rothbart
Andy's hosting, I'm doing a spot.
My other upcoming shows: 11/7 - 8pm - Sunday Night Standup @ Three of Cups (NYC) 11/8 - 9pm - Boston Comedy Festival Stand Up Comedy Contest @ Hard Rock Café (Boston)
Btw, last week's Hot Soup anniversary was a blast. Thanks to everyone who turned out and packed the house. Jim Gaffigan stopped by to talk about whales — here's a blurry pic of that. (It's like Big Foot! Or is it Bigfoot? Hmm, apparently my knowledge of how to spell that word is a bit blurry. Anyway...)
And do you know about the boo off? We invite "terrible" performers onstage and then encourage the crowd to boo. Here's sketch group Fuckleberry Finn (aka Meatsteak) booing it up at the anniversary show:
I'm currently writing on the new Sports Show with Norm MacDonald in LA. It's like the Daily Show but about sports.
I was asked to submit a 3 page packet of topical material with a 48-hour turnaround. This was a Friday. It was due Sunday. I had a gig hosting at Helium in Philadelphia that weekend. I would come off-stage and immediately get working on it. What I ended up doing was mixing my best stand-up jokes and lines into topical material.
Now that I'm here and writing, here's how it works: - Every morning, I get a packet of 9-10 pages of topical stories from the Writers' Assistant. I'm expected to go through the 9-10 pages and write jokes underneath each story in Norm's voice. - By 2PM, we meet in the Writers' Room and table the jokes. Norm picks what he likes. - Then we go back and punch up those jokes to be re-tabled at around 5. - We are also putting together segment ideas through the day which get tabled at the same time as the later meeting. - It's 12 hours/day and mentally exhausting but I've loved every minute of it. - I have no idea if every show works this way.
Networks and agents are much more interested in original scripts then spec scripts right now. Though I've been told that the paradigm swings back and forth every few seasons.
Then I asked Luke how they found out about him.
I worked as an assistant on "Important Things with Demetri Martin." Was referred by that producer...They took my packet. I made it to the final 12. Had to go to LA to interview with Norm and the showrunner...Key in those meetings is NOT being on. They think you'll be annoying in the writers' room.
Good life lesson there: Unless you're onstage, don't try too hard to be on. It's just annoying.
Even the best standups seem to just scrape by. Then you hear about a guy who got a late night writing gig. Pay's nice. Long hours but hey, it's a gig. Plus it's a credit.
So how do you get on that gravy train? Do you even want to? First you need writing samples ready to go. Kent Haines discusses how Donald Glover got an email from the producer of 30 Rock one night (that happens to you too, right?) and sent over scripts he had ready to go.
As Donald tells it, he just got an email from the producer of 30 Rock asking to see some of his material. So Donald replied that night with two spec scripts and a bunch of his sketches, and he was hired almost immediately.
When I hear that story, it sounds like a classic overnight success, the sort of thing that could happen to anyone. But it couldn’t. Because Donald had two spec scripts just sitting on his hard drive. Two spec scripts that were good enough to impress the best writers on television. Sure, he got a great opportunity. But he only succeeded because he was ready.
And that’s the problem for me. Because I don’t have two spec scripts. I don’t even have one. If I got that email today, I would be absolutely unprepared to impress anyone with my writing skills.
Don't expect to put together a killer packet overnight either. TV writer Dan French talks about what you need to get hired in How Do I Get Your Job? Some excerpts:
So there aren't many jobs. Less than 100 total talk show jobs, maybe another 50 asundry game show jobs...
It's a good question, because, you see, comedy writers write. Every day. Hours on end. They generate piles and piles of useable, polished material. Comedy writers are obsessive about generating new material, with reworking old material. They have big comedy muscles that don't get tired from generating day after day after day, for hours on end...
I constantly get asked about what goes into a writing packet. The useless but most truthful answer is that it doesn’t matter as long as it's great. It can be sketches, top lists, jokes, columns, standup, etc. It doesn't matter so much what it is, just that it shows that you are drop dead, unquestionably, and forever funny...
The honest part of putting together your writing sample is that you have to work on it not over the course of a weekend when someone asks to see your stuff, but every single week over the course of a couple of years. You want every joke to burst off the page. Those types of jokes don't come out in a week. They pop into your head once a month, if you're lucky.
By far the most common mistake I see beginning writers make is to not have great samples ready when asked. Instead, comics try to throw together stuff in a single night, and it comes out a mixed bag of weak jokes and strong jokes. It comes out not good enough to impress...
My writing packet is a result of four years of daily joke writing, all of which I've reworked and rewritten on my own hundreds of times, and which I've also shown to friends and professional writers who have given me suggestions and led me away from bad choices.
Sounds like a haul. And tough odds. But I guess that's true about most things worth doing in life.
Fwiw, The PIT in NYC offers classes on writing for late night shows.
Want to learn how to write for a late-night show like the ones hosted by Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Jimmy Fallon? This class will teach you how. Through easy-to-understand instruction, writing exercises, and constructive feedback you'll learn how to craft monologue jokes, desk pieces, sketches, reality-based comedy segments, and more. This class will give you all the tools you need to put together a strong submission packet for the comedy-variety show of your choice. You'll also pick up skills you can use in writing comedy for game shows, reality shows, and other formats.
I heard someone mention once that you can find sample writing packets online. Anyone got a link?