Sandpaper Suit Podcast Episode 2 - The Hip Touch

Drunk comedians talk about when to touch the hips, what girls want, and how to flirt. Featuring Tom Sibley, Kara Klenk, Jared Logan, Laura Prangley, Selena Coppock, and Jason Burke.

Some choice quotes: "If you touch a girl on the hips, I think that's an instant sign you're going to fuck later." "If a guy touches my hip the first time I meet him, I'm not talking to him again." "I don't know what this is for, but I give good head." Who said what? Listen up...

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Big thanks to radio/tech/sound guru Marcus Parks for his magic fingers. He can touch my hips anytime.


Upcoming shows: DC area, Hot Soup, and WAFH

Hot Soup
Friday's (4/1) lineup:

Nate Bargatze
Alex Koll
Josh DiDinato
Erik Bergstrom
Emily Heller
David Cope
Matt Ruby (hosting)

Hot Soup!
Every Friday at 8pm
O'Hanlon's (back room)
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave. (map)
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope

More upcoming shows
Wed 3/30 - 8pm - Ha Ha @ Ri Ra (Arlington, VA)
Thu 3/31 - 11am - Chesapeake College (students only)
Wed 4/06 - 10pm - We're All Friends Here @ The Creek (LIC)
Mon 4/11 - 7:30pm - Case of the Mondays @ Manchester Pub (NYC)


Chunking keeps you in fifth gear

New topic. Joke. Stop. New topic. Joke. Stop. New topic...

Each time you go to a new topic, it's like going from fifth gear back to first. It's why tagging existing bits helps so much. Or finding a new angle on the same topic. The momentum from each previous joke adds to the next one.

Gaffigan is a master at it. In fact, he discussed that aspect of his approach in this Nerdist interview a while back. The reason he sticks to one topic (e.g. bacon, hot pockets, hotels, etc.) is because he feels like changing topics is a huge mental chore for the audience.

It's an interesting way to think about it. Every time you start in on a new topic, you're asking the audience to press reset and lock in on a new target. That requires effort. And it makes your job that much harder.

For me, having chunks helps with set flow too. Remembering a bunch of one liners or quick jokes is annoying to my brain. I'd much rather have three topics that have a bunch of jokes embedded in 'em. Then it feels more natural and effortless as opposed to a series of stop-start jokes.

It can be tough to take this approach in NYC though. Here, it feels like you constantly need to be generating new material. But in my experience, tagging bits and expanding them is a slow process that comes over time — and from repetition. Heck, I've been doing one joke for almost a year and I just came up with a new tag for it a couple of weeks ago. When you're constantly turning over new material, you don't give bits that kind of chance to grow over time.



Comedy, shelf life, and pop culture references

Over at Salon, a writer — looking at The Simpsons, Glee, and Community — asks if comedy based on pop culture references is destined to go sour quickly.

To varying degrees, all these shows have given me joy, and no, I don't think self-aware comedy is an inherently less worthy form than any other. But there's a downside: a lack of durability. Some of the most buzz-worthy TV comedies of the last 25 years have proved as sturdy as tissue paper. Even the great ones from the '90s ("The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld") are starting to seem as era-specific as high-top fades and Koosh balls. "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Cheers" and other pre-'90s sitcoms didn't start to seem dated or irrelevant for decades, probably because they kept the pop culture references to a bare minimum; the more recent hit comedies are starting to exude that expired fish stench while they're still on the air. Can a show still call itself a comedy if you have to explain why it's funny?

After lots of rebuttals, there was a followup piece: Should comedy worry about its shelf life?

Comedy writers needn't feel obligated to make every joke and every episode a monument to the eternal verities; sometimes the audience is just looking to unwind after a long day, and a Britney Spears impression or a Charlie Sheen joke is all they want or need, and that's fine. And pop culture references are not an inherently bad thing, of course, and I said that in the piece. And yes, it's true, all entertainment -- all art -- dates eventually. We don't look at a Rembrandt painting or listen to a Miles Davis record and assume they were made last week.

But hopefully there's something about the work that transcends the time in which it was created, otherwise it's ephemeral, disposable. I probably singled out "The Simpsons" because it's considered a pantheon series, a great and presumably lasting work. And during the first half of its run, it did have certain timeless qualities. The pop culture references were dense and sometimes deep, but there also frequent references to mythology, ancient history, biblical scripture, opera, Broadway musicals, painting and literature: Shakespeare, Vincent van Gogh, Gilbert and Sullivan, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, you name it. And the best episodes weren't just a bunch of riffs strung together. There was a coherent, often scathingly funny vision of American life at the core of the series, as well as an intuitive, honest portrait of family and community and human nature; the gags were just wonderful embroidery. But in the last decade, the embroidery has taken over "The Simpsons" -- and just about every other TV comedy of any profile that came after it.

My .02: Almost all comedy sours quickly, even "substantial" comedy. Would Mort Sahl going through the paper and riffing off the news surprise anyone today? Does anyone find Lenny Bruce edgy now? Even Bill Hicks seems dated and he wasn't that long ago. How often does anyone put on a comedy album from the 80s today and crack up?

Sometimes the only comedy that feels truly timeless is absurdist stuff like Steve Martin's 70s output or Steven Wright's one-liners. Maybe Cosby's family material or Chris Rock's bit on relationships also falls under the timeless umbrella. Certain "human condition" topics never go away. But otherwise, it seems like all comedy is a balloon that is slowly leaking relevance. If shelf life is what you care about, comedy is a poor bet.

That said, I do think pop culture references are a pretty lame way to get laughs. In fact, I've written before that I think jokes about pop culture are for passive and sluggish comics (and audiences). Also I've said my least favorite thing to hear onstage is "I've been watching a lot of TV lately and..."

Do jokes like these and you are regurgitating, not originating. It's like when someone tries to have a conversation about the weather. It feels like a pandering, desperate attempt to find something in common to talk about instead of opening up about what one genuinely cares about. ("What if pop culture is what I genuinely care about?" Well then that's kinda sad.)

That doesn't mean I think there's no place for pop culture references in an act. I certainly have jokes that sprinkle 'em in. But I guess I feel the same way about them as I do puns: If the whole reason for the joke is to make a pun or pop culture reference, that's lame. But if it's a tool that you use along the way as a metaphor or fun wordplay while making another point, that's a whole different animal.

For example, Greg Giraldo drops in lines about Barbra Streisand, Justin Timberlake, and Ben Affleck in this chunk. But the point of the whole thing (i.e. all religions are insane) is much bigger than just slamming celebs. That's the difference between being Kathy Griffin and being Giraldo.

Greg Giraldo - All Religions are Insane
Greg Giraldo Stand-UpGreg Giraldo JokesHasselhoff Roast Videos

Of course, anything is possible if done artfully. For example, it's tough to find fault with Greg Proops' operatic takedown of Jessica "Six Flags over stupid" Simpson:


Catching up with We're All Friends Here on Breakthru Radio

Listen online to We're All Friends Here on Breakthru Radio with Michael Che, Zach Sims, and Erin Judge.

00:00 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby Intro
01:17 Michael Che
17:24 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby
18:19 Zach Sims
38:24 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby
39:32 Erin Judge
73:24 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby
73:44 Finish

And here's the latest episode with Nick Maritato, Phoebe Robinson, and Morgan Venticinque.

00:00 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby Intro
01:10 Nick Maritato
26:43 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby
28:01 Phoebe Robinson
62:07 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby
63:39 Morgan Venticinque
82:55 Mark Normand and Matt Ruby
83:32 Finish

Previous episodes. Subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed. (Note: It will show up in your iTunes under the title "Breakthru Radio.")


Punching the Clown

Just watched Punching the Clown over the weekend. Great film. I liked the way the radio station interviews worked as a framing device, how Henry Phillips' performance footage is mixed in to the story (a bit like Louie), and the smart/funny writing throughout.

There's a scene at the end, where he's walking on a beach and explaining why he keeps performing, that really nails the rabbit hole that is performing comedy. Check it out.


Loose change

Woman hides heroin, money, loose change in herself [via SL]:

After searching her for weapons, Officer Baumann found three bags of heroin in Ms. Mackaliunas' jacket...

Ms. Mackaliunas asked to speak with Sergeant Michael Mayer and told him she had hidden more heroin in her vagina.

A search of Ms. Mackaliunas by a doctor at Community Medical Center turned up 54 bags of heroin, 31 empty bags used to package heroin, 8.5 prescription pills and $51.22.

My first reaction: Loose change! I can't believe she was carrying 22 cents in her vagina.

My second reaction: Wait a minute. Why is she carrying cash at all in her vagina? It's legal to carry cash.

My third reaction: Maybe she was just showing off. 'Cuz this almost sounds like an infomercial for this woman's steamer trunk-sized vagina. "54 bags of heroin...but wait, that's not all!"

Also, I love that she had three bags of heroin left over and she was like, "Well, might as well just put these in my jacket."


Howard Stern interview: "The secret to my show is honesty"

Howard's on the interview circuit again these days but here's him with O'Reilly a few years ago. "The secret to my show is honesty," he says.


Upcoming shows: Hot Soup, Piano's, Beauty Bar, etc.

Hot Soup
Friday's (3/18) Hot Soup lineup:
Joe Machi
Kevin Barnett
Adam Pateman
Adrienne Iapalucci
Matt Ruby
Cope is hosting.

Hot Soup!
Every Friday at 8pm
O'Hanlon's (back room)
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave. (map)
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope

More upcoming shows
Thu 3/17 - 8pm - Mish Mosh @ Birch Coffee
Sun 3/20 - 7pm - It Is It @ Piano's
Sun 3/20 - 9pm - Beauty Bar Comedy Show
Mon 3/21 - 8pm - Recess @ King's Cross
Tue 3/22 - 8pm - See You Next Tuesday @ Simply Fondue
Wed 3/23 - 9pm - Everyday Dirt @ Royal Oak


The FIRST Sandpaper Suit Podcast with guest Patrice O'Neal

I'm tired of podcasts that are just comics sitting down with other comics to talk about comedy. So I'm taking a different approach with my new Sandpaper Suit podcast. I'm going to talk about guys and girls and, y'know, just solve that whole thing.

I will talk with comedians and regular people too. And both genders will have their say. And I will tape in different locations. I'll put out a new one about every two weeks. You will want more than that. I will refuse to give it to you. Boundaries!

Btw, I've been prepping for all this relationship talk by watching The Bachelor. So I want you to know that I'm "here for the right reasons." Also, when I have a feeling, I will "own it."

So here we go. It's the new Sandpaper Suit podcast. The first guest is one of my favorite comedians, Patrice O'Neal. We go there.

Patrice O'Neal discusses cheating, monogamy, commitment, threeways, his relationship with his mom, gender roles, harems, the pros and cons of pimping, how to keep relationships fresh, and more. He says, "When people listen to this shit, I'm going to be an asshole to most people. But I'm not saying anything that's wrong. The truth hurts."

You can also listen or subscribe to the podcast at iTunes:
iTunes: Sandpaper Suit with Matt Ruby Podcast

Or you can subscribe to the podcast's RSS Feed. If ya like what you hear, leave a nice comment at iTunes so the rest of the world knows to check it out too. Also, thanks to radio/tech/sound guru Marcus Parks for helping put it together. And stay tuned for the next episode. It will be "the most dramatic" podcast yet.


The second smile

I really dug this interview with Anthony Jeselnik at Splitsider. It's got some smart questions about his onstage persona and evolution.

In the interview, he talks about the joke...

My girlfriend loves to eat chocolate. She's always eating chocolate, and she likes to joke she's got a chocolate addiction... So, I put her in a car and I drove her downtown, and I pointed out a crack addict, and I said, 'Do you see that, honey? Why can't you be that skinny?'

...that first turned him on to "the second smile":

One night I was at an open mic and I did this joke for the first time, one about my girlfriend being addicted to chocolate. And there’s such a mean twist to it. And the audience reaction was like “ohhhhhh!” It was more than a laugh. It was what [the original head writer for Saturday Night Live] Michael O’Donoghue talks about as the "second smile." Where the audience is laughing but then you cut their throats at the same time. It’s so sharp that they don’t know what the fuck to do. I thought, “That’s it. It’s got to have this mean twist to it.” And then my persona formed around that. I started thinking, “Who do I have to be to pull this off?”...

I think anyone can do it. I think it’s just about the surprise and the revelation. It can be personal or it could be a story. Anything that’s going to suck someone in and then cut their legs out. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with one-liners or non-personal jokes.

The groan/laugh combo is always an interesting one. I forget the bit, but there's one Todd Barry album (From Heaven?) where he tells a joke that receives a mixed reaction from the crowd. He then voices the audience's thought process: "You heard me laughing, didn't you?...You heard me groaning, didn't you?" Sometimes they want it both ways.


Show this weekend including special SUNDAY We're All Friends Here

Tonight and tomorrow (3/11-3/12) I'm at Red Bar Comedy Club in Chicago. Tickets available here. Also tonight (3/11), there's a fun Hot Soup at O'Hanlons. And Sunday there's a special edition of We're All Friends Here at 10pm at The Creek.

10pm - Free
The Creek and the Cave
10-93 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City

Phoebe Robinson
Morgan Venticinque
Nick Maritato


Gays and lesbians in comedy

A (gay male) research psychologist examines the over-representation of lesbians in comedy for Scientific American.

Researchers who study homosexuality have discovered that the brains of many lesbians were over-exposed to male hormones during prenatal development, influencing not only their adult sexual orientation, but also masculinizing other behavioral and cognitive traits in which there exist innate sex differences. This is not true of all lesbians, but it is especially true for those who exhibit male-typed profiles. So it is not implausible that some lesbians’ courtship strategies would largely mimic opposite-sex-typed patterns, including a differentiated capacity for humor production that attracts female attention. This would not be a conscious strategy, it must be emphasized, and indeed this is what many critics of evolutionary psychology repeatedly fail to realize. So, for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake this as me saying that lesbian comics go on stage just to score chicks. Gene replication is simply a mechanistic means to an end; if it works, it works. Many evolutionary psychologists, including Miller, believe that our minds are often just epiphenomenal interpreters.

Ah, academics. I wish I could go onstage and start ideas with "it is not implausible that..."

Anyway, interesting theory about why lesbians want to be comics. I think a big part of the story is audiences too and how they respond differently to straight/gay female comics. It takes two to tango and the audience (i.e. society) is half the equation in standup.

This guy also mentions he can only come up with the name of a single gay male stand-up (Ant). But rumor is there are at least several big-name gay male comics out there who just choose to keep it under wraps for Spacey-like reasons.

And he also fails to mention there's a new crop of gay male comics coming up. Guys who talk about being gay but don't rely on the usual stereotypes about homosexuality to get laughs (e.g. Brent Sullivan, Gabe Liedman, etc.). There's a great feature article waiting to happen about that. Get on it New York Magazine.

Anyway, I found the orig story via Mandy Bardsley, who posted this about it on Facebook:

Wow. What scientists (who aren't also historians) say about (homo)sexuality in general is the dumbest shit I've ever read. If only this guy knew that he was repeating some ancient garbage from the turn of the century, like before we found out that women and men both have estrogen and testosterone. I gave the author a list of reading materials.

Ok, so women and men both have estrogen and testosterone. Why does that prove this guy's an idiot? I'm all for a good sexuality-related fight so feel free to post links to any of these relevant reading materials in the comments.


Kevin Meaney, Todd Glass, and "rake bits" in standup

Matteson asked, "Curious if you can think of any stand up bits that could be considered a "rake bit". There must be some. Would take some real balls to power through the middle sections without laughs."

On his WTF (at 34:00 into the podcast), Todd Glass called funny-then not funny-then funny again bits "Kevin Meaney funny." Here's why:

Glass then talks about how David Cross bet him $2,000 when they were on tour together. The bet? That Glass couldn't drag out his Sham-Wow bit, where he lists various uses for a rag, for two and a half minutes. When Glass did it, he says it went great.

They lost me and then they came back...There's a point where they're all thinking, "Yeah, we get the joke. We get it. It's up and down. And you're gonna keep doing it. And we're gonna laugh more. And we're not. We've been through our cycle."

And then if you do it, they go, "Alright." You break them down.

Some other rake bit suggestions in the comments of that post here last week.


Upcoming shows: Kabin tonight, Hot Soup on Friday, and Chicago next week

My upcoming shows (including Chicago next week):

Thu 3/3 - 9pm - CSL @ Kabin
Fri 3/4 - 8pm - Hot Soup @ O'Hanlon's
Sat 3/5 - 8pm - Comedy Show @ The Cove
Sun 3/6 - 9pm - Entertaining Julia @ Town Hall Pub (Chicago)
Mon 3/7 - 9pm - Hug City Presents: Free Show @ Racine Plumbing Bar & Grill (Chicago)
Tue 3/8 - 9:30pm - Chicago Underground Comedy @ Beat Kitchen (Chicago)
Wed 3/9 - 9pm - CYSK @ Timothy O'Toole's (Chicago)
Thu 3/10 - 9:30pm - Riot @ Chicago Joes (Chicago)
Thu 3/10 - 10pm - Rotten Comedy @ Oakwood Bar and Grill (Chicago)
Fri 3/11 - 10pm - Red Bar @ Ontourage (Chicago)
Sat 3/12 - 8pm - Red Bar @ Ontourage (Chicago)
Sat 3/12 - 10pm - Red Bar @ Ontourage (Chicago)
Thu 3/17 - 8pm - Mish Mosh @ Birch Coffee
Fri 3/18 - 8pm - Hot Soup @ O'Hanlon's
Sat 3/19 - 8pm - We're All Friends Here @ The Creek

Hot Soup
Friday's (3/4) Hot Soup lineup:

Neal Brennan (co-creator of Chappelle Show)
Jeffrey Joseph
Dave McDonough
Eli Olsberg
David Cope
Mark Normand

I'm hosting.

Hot Soup!
Every Friday at 8pm
O'Hanlon's (back room)
349 E 14th St between 1st and 2nd Ave. (map)
Produced by Matt Ruby, Mark Normand, Andy Haynes, and David Cope


The Rake Bit and other jargon

Kung Fu Monkey lists jargon learned while apprenticing in LA writing rooms.

For many, many situations, there was a shorthand to help codify and communicate a problem in the script that was often tantalizingly just out of reach, just at the edge of your writer's "something's ... off" radar.

Never knew there was a name for what's called "The Rake Bit."

"The Rake Bit": Something that's funny, goes on too long so it's not funny, then goes on so long that it becomes INCREDIBLY funny.

Goes under a couple different names, but of writers my age, this seems to be the most prevalent. Based on The Simpsons ep that was a Cape Fear riff. Sideshow Bob climbs out from under a car and steps on a rake. It smacks him. He mutters. He then steps three feet away ... onto another rake. He mutters. ad-near-infinitum.


The bad of cursing and the good of being conversational

I have a joke that used to end with "turn the fuck around." I remember the day I decided to drop the fuck from it. When it worked without the fuck, it felt good. To me, it proved the joke was actually funny and didn't need the shock value laugh-add I got from cursing.

Thought about that while listening to this Saturn Scene podcast, which might be my fave interview with PFT ever.

In this two-part conversation we discuss dissecting details, Lennon vs. McCartney, a wharf full of freaks, bad behavior, good reading, and a life-changing relationship.

Here's what PFT says about cursing onstage:

Even if people are laughing at something, I know when I could have done it better. An example is when I start a new bit, when I'm working on a new thing and it's the first time I'm doing it in front of an audience, I will tend to swear more than I ever do onstage because I'm filling in the idea very conversationally and I swear occasionally in life when I'm talking to people. But it's also there's a survival instinct that kicks in from my earliest standup days that cursing gets laughs.

People will laugh at the f-word. It adds a bite to certain things. But I have always felt that it's a crutch. I know that it is. To me, any time I'm using that word onstage and people laugh at it, I think that's the only reason they're laughing. And if that word wasn't there, they wouldn't find this funny. So I have to figure out how do I get a laugh without using that word and have it be just as big a laugh or bigger than if I was swearing.

Cursing (and sex stuff too) gets laughs because it's a "naughty" thing to do. So it triggers a nervous laughter in people. Sure, they laugh when you say dick, shit, fuck, pussy, or cock. But they also laugh if tickled. Both ways are a bit third gradery. Plus, you can't do it at a clean show (or, if you're at that stage, on TV).

Anyway, the rest of the interview is worth checking out too. Lots of astrology mumbo jumbo facts along the way but the interviewer really knows PFT's career and gets him to talk seriously about comedy in an in-depth way I've never heard before.

Here's what he says about being conversational with his material:

Being able to make it conversationally funny – it's dressed up a little bit for the stage – but I try to keep it as much like I would talk about it in life as possible. If you have a funny story that you tell, even if you're just hanging out with your friends, you're trying...It's the way you're sharing something with a friend of yours, you're not trying to impress your friend. You're coming at it from a point of view that's 'Wait until you hear this. This is what happened to me.' You're not approaching your friend like they are an audience. There's an intimacy there where you're saying, 'Hey, you're going to appreciate this.' That's the feeling that I'm trying to get to onstage always that we're all hanging out and I'm telling these stories.

I think the audience gets a different kind of connection from a conversational performance. It's more intimate. They get to leave feeling like they actually know you as a person instead of some mask that spits out jokes.

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