Listen to the We're All Friends Here special couples show on BreakThru Radio

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BTR episode #5 (03/16/2010): Special COUPLES edition with everyone's favorite on-again-off-again couple Sean O'Connor and Nicolia Demas, newlyweds Luke Thayer and Abbi Crutchfield, and siblings John and Molly Knefel.

Subscribe to the podcast or listen to earlier episodes.

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The 2nd annual Sandpaper Suit "next wave of NYC comedy" winners

No industry BS. Networking ability = doesn't matter. Below are my picks for the best comics in NYC who do NOT have any of the following:

1. A TV credit (doing standup)
2. An appearance at the Just for Laughs Festival
3. A nomination for an ECNY standup award

I'll go by alphabetical order for the rest, but the top dog deserves a special shoutout:

Yannis Pappas


You can see Pappas headline tonight at Comix. He also does a weekly marathon show Sundays at Bar Four in Park Slope that is a hot mess — it's sloppy, drunk, goes on forever, and is more fun than just about any other comedy show in the city. This guy is the real deal.

Here's the rest (with whatever video clip I could find for 'em)...

David Angelo


Sean Donnelly


Andy Haynes


Sam Morrill


Mike Recine


Nick Vatterott


Last year's winners.

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Mean Gene



One of the most underrated straight men of all time: Mean Gene Okerlund.

"Ease up with that snake, please. I'm a little upset by the fact that we're in a shower. You're a sick man, Roberts."

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The lifecycle of a bit

You'd think that a joke just slowly gets stronger. But I've noticed a lot of times a bit will fly at first and then die a slow death.



Maybe it's cuz I'm excited or it doesn't seem so rote or something during those first few stabs at it. But once I settle into the bit, it often starts to feel less funny. More like I'm going through the motions.

That's when it's either make or break time. Push through that downturn and it's a keeper. Other times, it just fades away. Sometimes I'll put it to bed for a couple of months and then come back to it. The fact that something about the bit sticks in my craw is a sign that it's worth paying attention to again.

Also, it's mostly about content the first few times I tell a bit. After 10+ times, that's when I start to really think closely about the finer points of my delivery — adding some physicalness to it (not my strong suit admittedly), the rhythm and pauses of what I'm saying, changes in tone/volume, etc. Before that, I'm more worried about the words I'm saying and if it's even worth keeping.

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Big and Tall?

A friend of mine is 6'8". He's always complaining that he can't find clothes in his size. I told him he should go to a Big and Tall store. He said he's tried that but Big and Tall stores don't actually carry clothing for tall people.

Apparently the word "tall" is there just to make big people feel better – because no one wants to shop at "The Big Store."

It's kind of a brilliant move, actually. Maybe more businesses should throw in a feel good BS thing at the end of their name. Like Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Gym.

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Shows this week: Comix, Hot Soup, We're All Friends Here

Got three fun shows this week.

1) TONIGHT (WED)
What Happened? @ Comix
Wed 3/24 at 7pm
356 West 14th Street btwn 8th and 9th Ave.
Nicest club in the city!
$8 ticket. No drink minimums.
Tix: http://www.comixny.com/event.aspx?eid=606&sid=2610

I've got a few free comp spots to the show. First two people to send me an email can get in for free +1. Giddyup.

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

This week features a super fun lineup:
Sean O'Connor
Sam Morrill
Robert Dean
Mike Recine

3) SATURDAY
We're All Friends Here @ The Creek
Sat 3/27 at 9pm - FREE
Featuring Mara Herron, Mike Lawrence, and Josh Comers
This show will be a therapist's wet dream.
10-93 Jackson Ave in Long Island City (just one stop from Bklyn and Manhattan)
Directions

That's it.

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George Carlin joke becomes reality

"It is time to reclaim the golf courses from the wealthy and turn them over to the homeless." That's what George Carlin said in 1992 (relevant bit starts at 2:38 in):



In the news yesterday: Tent City at a Golf Club Dramatizes Haiti’s Limbo.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — When Mimrose Marson fled her devastated neighborhood for the Pétionville Club, she never dreamed that her family would sink roots on its nine-hole golf course. The club had a history of land disputes with its neighbors, and the sign on its gate said “Members Only” in English.

Yet more than two months after the earthquake, Ms. Marson, a former garment worker, was still there, hanging embroidered drapes at her tent’s entrance while her grandson decorated a sign that read “Our House” in Creole.


Not bad. So what's next on the list of Carlin fixes? Major League Baseball ratings keep falling. Maybe it's time for randomly placed landmines in the outfield?

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Threading the necklace

Just heard about this term: Threading the necklace.

I was telling another comic about the material I've been working on lately. In the past couple of weeks I haven't been generating new stuff as much as I've been linking up and refining older bits.

See, I don't like doing one liners or quickie jokes and then just moving on. I like going deeper on a topic and feeling like I'm building momentum. Otherwise, it feels like I'm just starting from scratch every time.

So I've got a bunch of stuff that's worked but that I don't really do a lot because I don't know where to fit it in.

But sometimes one joke will spark a link to others. And that's what happened when I did a joke about being at a bar in Williamsburg where I couldn't tell whether people were having fun or making fun of having fun. Good line, gets a laugh. But not worth it to me as just a one-liner.

But then I thought about other jokes I have. I talk about a girl knitting on the subway in one bit but realized that she could be knitting at this bar.

And I've got a joke about people who play Big Buck Hunter Pro. This bar could also have that game.

And recently I heard a girl say, "You've got a body built for burlesque." A compliment or not? Reminded me of an old bit I have on burlesque. Maybe I put those girls in the bar too? And then there's other abandoned bits I have that could also work in.

All these were short bits on their own. They were fine (some better than others) but that quick hit style isn't really where I want to be going.

But by linking them up, I get a bit more narrative. There's a flow. I set a scene and get to paint a picture. All these little "gems" link up into something bigger. And that's threading the necklace.

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Pro podcasts to listen to

One cool thing about the whole podcasting thing is that you get to hear actual pro comics doing interviews. Gives a whole different color to things than the typical journalist/comedian interview. Three of my fave podcasts to listen to are:

  • WTF with Marc Maron: The funnest part is Marc being forced to apologize to every guest for having wronged them somehow in the past (in some way he doesn't recall). The one with him, Stanhope, and Garafolo is real good.

  • In the Tank with Jon Fisch: Great talks with comics in the local NYC scene. Eddie Brill's talk was fascinating. Ted Alexandro's good too.

  • Kevin Pollak's Chat Show: In depth convos that last 1-2 hours. Lots of non-comedy stuff but check out the PFT and Nick Kroll episodes.

All these shows have been doing some great interviews lately. My suggestion: Subscribe in iTunes and then just listen to the episodes where you know/like the guests.

Also, people keep telling me Bill Burr's podcast is great. He just goes off on a monologue each Monday. I've only heard a couple but it's pretty crazy to just go stream of consciousness like that and have it be compelling.

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Hot Soup: Split Pea edition

Guests for Friday 3/19:
Derick Lengwenus (Montreal)
Bing Stanhope (Philadelphia)
Kevin McCaffrey (NYC)
Matt Goldich (Letterman writer)

I'm hosting so don't dilly dally.

HOT SOUP!
Every Friday
Showtime at 8pm
FREE SHOW
O'Hanlon's
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope

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If I go there will be trouble and if I stay it will be double

I'd rather not do mics at all. But until I'm at a point where I can get stage time on booked shows every night, well...what else am I gonna do? I know some comics who, despite not getting booked all the time, prefer to just avoid mics. But I still feel like I get something from the workout, despite the negatives.

Thinking of all this because Abbi Crutchfield suggested this as a guest post:

Open mics are an essential component of getting stage time, especially for less established comedians who do not have immediate access to being booked on shows. In addition to being an opportunity to grow as a comedian, they are a chance to get to know fellow performers, learn about new or existing shows, or get excellent accounting advice.

Nothing hurts your chances of establishing professional relationships more like leaving early. Even bombing on stage can be forgiven if you showed respect off stage. It follows the same bleeding heart logic robotically announced to you at the top of the night, "Do for others what you would appreciate when you're on stage." Sure there's no heckling, no writing, no staring open-mouthed, nostrils flared which are always appreciated, but seeing people duck out immediately after their set is a signal. To the host it sends the message that you had a horrible time and can't wait to leave, to the comics it sends the message that you think you're better than them or don't care what they have to say. I don't even want to imagine the hurtful message you're sending the chairs.

If you need to leave early, let the host know ahead of time. If you receive an unexpected text that takes you away, or if you have a two-hour commute back to your parent's house, live your life. But be mindful of the conversation it creates in your absence, the one that represents the positive feedback you could have received about your set or better yet--the chance to do less open mics and get on a booked show.


Slight problem. I often leave mics early. So my response:

interesting. i'm guilty of that sometimes.

why do i do it? i find mics to be insufferable. like they really drive me crazy. they sap my will to live. but i need stage time. so what do i do? do i stop going to mics? do i sit there and pout and fill the room with negative energy? or do i just force myself to smile and pretend i don't hate something that i hate?

i try to stick around for at least a few comics after i go up. i agree it's the polite thing to do. but overall, i figure it's the luck of the draw. if i go up late and a lot of people have left, i understand and figure it'll work out by me going up early another time.


Abbi replied:

Why do you hate it so much? I'm not being naive; I'm asking. I used to hate mics that were interminable, had hosts who would pick on any real audience there, or producers who would hog the stage. Not only was I getting home late, but I was spending hours being miserable. The unfunny comedian issue wasn't that big a deal for me. At the very least, the inanity is entertaining. But that's a bad mic. How awful can it be to stick around a good mic and glean ideas / laugh at buddies / impress producers of other shows? (By "good mic" I mean conveniently close to where you live or lasts short enough for you to enjoy home life, features people at your level or genuninely working to hone the craft, has an attentive crowd or draws a civilian audience, friendly, respectful vibe).

As host of a mic, I see younger, inexperienced comics who are so self-interested or embarrassed about bombing that they bolt after their set. One guy in particular would leave immediately after his set so often I had to put him up towards the middle or end so as not to spook the other young comics and create a domino effect. There's never a good reason to stick around a bad mic, just a little hope in staying and getting something out of a good mic.


Me:

Most comics at open mics are bad. And I hate bad comedy. It pains me. It's like going to a concert where a bunch of people are playing instruments that are out of tune. It's like nails on a chalkboard except the chalkboard is my brain. If I sit through too much of it, it takes away my love of standup.

And maybe the thing that pains me the most: A lot of these people are interesting. At least in some way. I just wish they'd go up onstage and talk. But instead they write these silly jokes that mean nothing and aren't really funny. At least if these people said what was actually going on in their minds or in their lives, it'd be somewhat compelling. Instead, it's just ten more jokes about the phrase "no homo."


Abbi:

Most GOOD comics at open mics are bad! All early ideas are weak because they're undeveloped. People try to write in joke format in an effort to make sure whatever their idea is will be funny. Your problem is with content. Are they REALLY that annoyed with unicorns? Or are they just referencing unicorns because they feel it makes them absurdist?

The real life stuff--yeah, I think there's more humor in truth, but if that's delivered from a hand holding a shaking piece of paper you couldn't care less about it anyway. The mic isn't bad. The people on it aren't lost causes. It's the bad attitudes that kill it. The funk creeps in like The Blob. The kind of mic hopelessly dreadful folks should be on is the one at Gotham that requires you to offer constructive feedback to each other. Because then someone who wraps themselves in mic chords is told "don't wrap yourself with the mic chord." For the record, I am told I have an unusually high tolerance for bad comedy.

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"You're funny for a Jew"

"You're funny for a Jew." That's what one girl shouted out at me during a recent show in San Diego.

Let's backtrack. There's a table of chatty drunk girls in the front. Very drunk. Shouting stuff out at comics all night. Said something to the black host about him being black. Apparently shouted out something about Mexicans at some point too.

Then it's my turn to go out on stage. Knew they'd be trouble but tried to disarm 'em up top by commenting on it. Still they kept yelling things out. One of them had her legs up on the chair in front of her and so I made some comment about how relaxed she looked. She said, "You make me feel at home." I replied, "I don't believe that. When you're at home, do you feel like people really dislike you? Oh, you probably do." Laughs/applause from the rest of the crowd (who pretty much hated 'em).

A few minutes pass and I'm back into my set and then the chatting starts again. So I go after 'em again. One yells out, "But we like you. You're funny for a Jew." Rest of audience gives one of those whoa-groans. I repeat what she said so everyone knows it.

I told her that actually that's one of the things us Jews have figured out, ya know? It's kinda like saying, "You're pretty good at basketball...for a BLACK guy." Get your stereotypes straight, sister!

But hey, maybe she thinks Seinfeld was Mexican: "¿Cuál es el trato con gorditas?"

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Talking about a comedy contest with short sets

Mark went to March Madness the other night. I haven't been.

Me: Is there a secret to doing a good 1min set?

Mark: Yes, short jokes that give the audience a sense of who you are. They want to figure you out in one minute. One woman saying, "I have a kid etc." That's the way to go. Another guy did the "broken family" thing.

Me: Prob good advice for the first minute of any set, eh?

Mark: Yeah, I guess so. Cuz some ppl went up and did observational stuff and it wasn't enough. They wanted a character, the schtickier the better.

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Hot Soup: Lentil edition

Guests at Hot Soup tonight (Fri):

Jesse Popp
Billy Wayne Davis
Gilad Foss
Danny Solomon

Details.

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A shitty room is an opportunity to take a chance

Don't get me wrong, performing a killer set in front of a hot crowd is great. But sometimes a weak show with a small crowd can be the most fun to perform at. There's less pressure. You don't have to go entirely with stuff that works. You can play. You can experiment. You can be conversational. You can stumble into things.

I did a show a few weeks back in the East Village. Not much of a crowd. Maybe ten civilians and five comics? And they were all spread out throughout a big room. I went up fourth. Things were pretty mellow. No one really killing but no one eating it too bad.

Just doing a rote set of established material would have felt like a lie. Like I was ignoring the state of the room. When there's that little energy in the room, I'd rather take a gamble on hitting a spark from riffing or trying something new. Plus, I view it as a chance to stretch and learn and get better as a comic. Just doing bits that always work doesn't really teach you much.

It's a strange thing when you start winging it with the audience. You're not giving them your best performance. But you're showing them respect, in a way. You're trusting them to go with you a bit. And maybe you can connect on something fresh and in the moment and really go somewhere with it.

So that's what I tried to do, while weaving in and out of jokes along the way. I riffed on the previous comic, I talked about the room, I did some newer bits and tried new tags, I went off on unplanned tangents. I'd get some laughs, then I'd lose 'em, then I'd go back into a bit, and then I'd go off on a tangent again, etc.

I actually recorded the set and — while stranded in the airport recently with nothing to do — decided to do a breakdown of it. Graphics!



The more I winged it, the less I got laughs...




If this was a big show or a place where I wanted to really impress, the ratios would be pretty much the opposite. I'd do almost all written stuff that I know works and then just riff a little bit here and there if it felt right. The laughs would be bigger and more consistent.

But this way was more fun for me. At least that night. And I think for the crowd too. I felt like I "had them." When something off the cuff did hit, it felt a little magical.

There's a tradeoff with winging it. You lose consistency, but you can hit highs you'd never reach otherwise. And at least every once in a while, it's worth walking that tightrope to see what happens.

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Going up first

A guest post from RG Daniels, producer of Sunday Night Standup at Three of Cups:

A lot of young comedians seem to believe there is a stigma attached to going up 1st on a show. I've heard everything about the 1st spot from being the "weakest link" to "taking a bullet". Truth is, it's a spot and it should be treated as such an opportunity.

As a producer of a weekly show I can honestly say the 1st spot is generally reserved for a younger comedian to prove him/herself or for a more established act to shake the room up right away (this of course, barring any circumstance where a comedian needs to leave early). Good producing requires you to consider every spot and to trust the performer to do their job. The momentum of a show is only as good as it's lineup and if your lineup is incomplete the show will suffer.

Some producers will purposely put a comic up 1st to get their spot out of the way. That is bad producing. If you care about the show, then you will consider each performer's act and know where to place them. If the energy of the room has not been established up top, that falls on the MC, in which case even more motivation for the 1st comic to "own" that spot.

Sure, the middle/close of a show is more desirable. But if your act is funny and your jokes are proven then there are no excuses. You are the comedian. You are a reflection of yourself, ultimately, and NOT a reflection of the entire show (that's the producer).

The next time you are upset about being asked to go up 1st consider the thousands of other comedians who would love to have that spot.

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Who are you wearing?

Joan Rivers is head cop on E! Entertainment’s “Fashion Police.” How did we get to a place where the person who judges other people's appearances is Joan Rivers?

"Hmm, how does this dress look?" "Let's ask this robot mask made out of stretched skin. She clearly knows what looks good!"



Just saying: People who live in glass faces shouldn't throw stones.

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The B-52s, Lost, Haiti, pilgrims, pirates, and Mariah

You can follow me at Twitter: twitter.com/mattruby.

You'll get to read stuff like this:

Whenever I hear the B-52's, I start to think, "Hey, these guys aren't that bad." And then Fred Schneider starts singing.

My fave episode of LOST: The one where the writers have no idea what the story arc is for the entire series and cover it up w/ flashbacks!

Ah jeez. Can't afford $10 for Haiti text I sent. Spent it on an iPhone app where I pretend to deliver bags of rice to Haitian refugees.

Did you hear about the new Korean band that sounds just like Hanson? Their hit song is "BibiMMMbop."

[Screw you, I like that one.]

Just took a cross country flight that did NOT show an episode of "Two and a Half Men." I didn't realize that was possible.

It's pretty great that we now pretend like Mariah Carey was never crazy.

Don't get the words epitaph and epithet confused. Unfortunate gravestones will ensue.

I've noticed the less likely a girl is to sleep with you, the more likely she is to ask you to watch her purse.

Late night E train is a real humdinger. Got on it last night and I felt bad for NOT being homeless.

I don't get fancy glass bongs. Last thing I want is something really expensive, really fragile, and that I use EXCLUSIVELY when I'm on drugs.

Her: "I hooked up with [name of celeb]." Me: "I don't know who that is." Her [disappointed]: "Oh."

The only difference between the pilgrims and pirates is motive.

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Paul F. Tompkins: "You provide the audience, I’ll provide the show"

Want to bring Paul F. Tompkins to New York City? Sign up for this Facebook group. If 300 people sign up, he'll book a show here. That would be fun since he's hilarious.



He's already done this "Tompkins 300" approach in a few other places. PFT explains how it all began:

“You get three hundred people to say they’ll come see me in Toronto and I’ll go to Toronto.”

So this enterprising young man, comedian Bob Kerr, started a Facebook group pithily entitled, “Bring Paul F. Tompkins to Toronto!” He asked for people to join the group if they were committed to seeing me perform. He asked that folks not join for “support,” that they not join just because they like joining groups, but that they only join if they were serious about wanting to come see me live in Toronto. Bob said, “You should only join if you’re actually going to be there.”

Within a few weeks, the group’s ranks had swelled to 305. I checked it out. It seemed legit! I booked a show.

A couple months later, I was in Toronto, performing two sold out shows on a Sunday night for two smart, respectful, appreciative audiences. These people didn’t come to “party.” They came to see a show. It was a magical night for me.

And it tasted like more.

I’ve become fed up with the comedy club system for reasons that would cause you to self-murder should I elaborate. I don’t want that to happen. I have long thought, There’s got to be a better way than this. But I had no idea what that way could be until my experience in Toronto.

So here it is: you provide the audience, I’ll provide the show.


Pretty great idea.

Gotta imagine the crowds at these shows will be really enthusiastic too. I think part of what made that CK at Comix show last year so great was that it was announced at the last minute so the crowd was filled with people who follow him on Twitter. Get a room full of superfans together and you're set up for a fun time.

Maybe this is how everyone will do it in the future? (Well, everyone who's already managed to get thousands of fans in the first place.)

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Soupy

This Friday night (3/5) we've got:
Nick Vatterot
Joe Mande
Barry Rothbart
Danny Lobell

HOT SOUP!
Every Friday
Doors at 7:30pm and showtime at 8pm
FREE SHOW
O'Hanlon's
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope

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Video: "Emergency Contact"

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The "right" way to get booked

"He got booked on it the right way." That's what Mark said about a friend of ours getting a spot on a hot show which typically has a tight booking policy.

What he meant by it: This comic performed at another show with one of the producers of the hot show. He had a great set and the producer offered him a spot a few weeks later. That's the "right" way to get booked — someone sees you do well and invites you to perform.

The annoying thing about that: It relies a lot on luck. A certain person needs to be in a certain room at a certain time. So you can wind up waiting months or even years to get on a show.

So what's the wrong way? To hassle the producer(s) of a show you want to do. To keep bugging them via email. To see 'em out and say, "Why haven't you booked me yet?" To keep showing up at the show and expecting that to mean you'll get booked. To assume that if you book 'em on your show, they'll automatically book you on theirs. Etc.

That's not to say you can't ever do any of those "wrong way" things. I think it's just the expectation thing. Don't be upset if it doesn't happen. Like sometimes I'll send an email expressing interest in doing a show. That's a bit "wrong way." But I'll send one and then that's it. I feel like that's ok. Just expressing interest and getting my name in the mix. But I'm not upset if it doesn't happen.

OK, I'm a little upset. But I realize that sometimes these things take time. In the meanwhile, I'll just keep getting better. Then when I do get it, I'll be even more ready to kick ass on that show.

Sure, it can be frustrating when you're not getting the stage time ya want. But when ya start to feel like people owe you something or you get offended when stuff doesn't happen, it's a bad path.

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