Holidaze

Jews love watching a movie and eating Chinese food on Xmas Eve. But I'm a self-loathing Jew, so I watched Passion of the Christ and ate Pork Fried Rice.

Ah, good times. Merry Xmas. Happy Hannukah. Blah blah blah. There are no Hot Soup shows tonight or on New Year's Day. We return on Jan 8. And I'll be in LA from Jan 14 - 20 doing shows so stay tuned for updates on that.

Also, this blog will be dormant until the New Year. You can handle it.

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The press conferences of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol

Press conferences in the sixties sure were strange. The vibe was less reporter/artist and more zoologist/caged-animal. No wonder that clever subjects decided to handle it by being funny, absurd, and/or combative. For example...

The Beatles:



Bob Dylan:



Andy Warhol:

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Steve Martin: "I never let them know I was bombing"

A computer scientist talks about lessons learned from Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up."

Paying your dues is overrated. Simply putting in the time is not enough. Martin’s story is one of a constant urge to innovate. He was trying to figure out the essence of “funny.” He then yielded these insights to move beyond the static structure of the punchline that dominated performance comedy at the time. This restless urge to understand then innovate led him to be outstanding. Without it, he would have just become another good comedian. Like hundreds of others.


Being Funny is an article where Martin summarizes his comedy philosophy.

What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh...

Now that I had assigned myself to an act without jokes, I gave myself a rule. Never let them know I was bombing: this is funny, you just haven't gotten it yet. If I wasn't offering punch lines, I'd never be standing there with egg on my face. It was essential that I never show doubt about what I was doing. I would move through my act without pausing for the laugh, as though everything were an aside. Eventually, I thought, the laughs would be playing catch-up to what I was doing. Everything would be either delivered in passing, or the opposite, an elaborate presentation that climaxed in pointlessness. Another rule was to make the audience believe that I thought I was fantastic, that my confidence could not be shattered. They had to believe that I didn't care if they laughed at all and that this act was going on with or without them.


Related: Excerpts from "Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life."

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Where's your family from?

With all this Xmas talk and the long beard I've grown, I'm feeling extra Jewy these days. Even got jealous of a friend's conversation I overheard. He's Italian and this is how it went down:

Friend: Are you Italian?
Stranger: Yeah.
Friend: Where's your family from?
Stranger: Sicily?
Friend: [raises fist] Paisan!

And then they high fived. Which all bummed me out. Because as a Jew, you never get to have an exchange like that. With us, it's more like this:

Jew 1: Are you Jewish?
Jew 2: Yeah.
Jew 1: Where's your family from?
Jew 2: Poland.
Jew 1: Oh. Um. Never forget.

Jews! "Never forget" is like our Jingle Bells.

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Christopher Hitchens on the fuel for material

Christopher Hitchens passes away. His views on debauchery reminds me of things I've heard Doug Stanhope say too; That basically, living a long life is less important than living an interesting one.

He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. "Writing is what's important to me, and anything that helps me do that - or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation - is worth it to me," he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was "impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle."


Here's a compilation of Hitch's smackdowns on religion. For a counterpoint: "Gotta Serve Somebody" by Bob Dylan.

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Sunday 12/18: Hot Soup with McCarthy, O'Connor, and Angelo

It's the last Hot Soup of the year. And it's Andy's last show before he splits for the west coast. And after the show, Stephen Merchant, co-creator of The Office and Extras, will be performing standup at his own show. So do it.

Hot Soup lineup:

Matt McCarthy (“a Belushi-like mad man” -NY Times)
Sean O'Connor (Conan)
David Angelo (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
Andy Haynes (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
Special holiday guests

I'm hosting.

HOT SOUP! at UCB-East
155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
Every Sunday. Doors at 8:45pm, showtime at 9pm. $5 tickets.
Produced by David Cope, Andy Haynes, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.

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"Comics who are green try to be more blue to appear less yellow"

"Comics who are green try to be more blue to appear less yellow." Andy Sandford quoted that line to me the other night when we were talking about cursing onstage.

It rang true for me. I used to curse onstage a lot when I started. But eventually it started to bug me when I realized a punchline was hitting because I threw a "fuck" in there. If I took the "fuck" out and it didn't get a laugh, I didn't feel like it was actually a funny joke.

Plus, I've had to do clean shows (church show, opening for headliner who wanted me to stay clean, etc.) and it sucked to sit down and have to eliminate jokes. I don't want to have to think about which material I can or can't do at a show. If everything in my arsenal is clean, it's one less thing to worry about. Not to mention, it was disheartening to vet material before a show and realize a big chunk of my stuff relied on talking about sex or cursing.

Anyway, already discussed this a while back but the green/blue/yellow line was clever enough that I thought I'd bring it up one more time.

Btw, here's Stanhope's defense of cursing (“that’s just how I talk”) which I get; Being who you are offstage when you're onstage makes sense. But I'm not a guy who curses all the time in real-life so it feels like doing it onstage a lot would be solely for shock value.

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CK and el Duque

CK answers reader questions at Reddit.

You need to get on stage as much as possible and vary your stage experience as much as possible and not quit and take care of yourself and always question why you say the things you say and enjoy yourself...

i don't know about "Supposed to" I think there's a million ways to do things. there was a pitcher for the Yankees once named Orlando Hernandez or "el Duque" he was a cuban exile. A thing they said about him was he was hard to hit cause he had so many arm angles and release points. a hitter studies a pitcher and watches for the ball so he can time it, but with el duque, you don't even know where the fucker is coming from. Nine o clock? Eleven? And does he let go of it up top or out front? Impossible. I sometimes think of comedy in those terms.


The baseball reference reminded me of his talk about "brushback pitch" jokes a few years back.

And if you don't know already, his new special is avail online for $5.

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Sandpaper Suit Podcast Episode 4 - Myq Kaplan and Josh Gondelman

It's back. Three Jews with beards — Myq Kaplan, Josh Gondelman, and me — share a car ride from NYC to Boston and talk about fame, comedy, philosophy, girls, and more. Listen below or get it at iTunes or download the MP3.

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A special We're All Friends Here with Mark and me in the hot seat

Saturday 12/10: We're All Friends Here
It's been requested for years. Now it's happening! Mark and I sit on the hot seat and answer questions from each other and guest co-host Neal Stastny. It's gonna be intense. Dan Soder does a set to open up.

Saturday, Dec 10 - 8:00pm
FREE
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY

...

Sunday 12/11: Hot Soup
Harrison Greenbaum
Phoebe Robinson
Jessi Klein
Bryson Turner
David Cope

HOT SOUP! at UCB-East
155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
Every Sunday. Doors at 8:45pm, showtime at 9pm. $5 tickets.
Make reservations now
Produced by David Cope, Andy Haynes, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.

Also, check out David Cope's new web series Strung Out, a comedy about playing harp in the big city. Here's the first episode, featuring Reggie Watts.

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Anthony Jeselnik's Dane Cook impression

Soem guys write jokes and stand there and tell 'em. Some guys rely on physicality and act outs to get laughs. Here's what happens when the former impersonates the latter:

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What Comedy Central Records looks for in a comedian

An interview with Comedy Central Records' Founder/Vice President Jack Vaughn [thx OE]. He's asked, "How do you discover talent?"

Ultimately, there are basically two criteria for who we sign to the label:

1. You have to be really funny.
2. You have to have a distinctive voice or point of view.

That’s it. Things like having a strong following or being on TV or in movies is great, but those two criteria are the main things we look for.


And he also discusses the recording process.

One of the quirks of this genre is that the audience tends to be the most important part of the recording, and how the audience reacts can drastically change how the jokes are perceived by the listener. Jokes seem funnier the harder people are laughing at them — this is the reason sitcoms customarily use laugh tracks — which may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised just how important it is.

By the time of the album recording, the comic has gotten so good at doing the material that the differences in delivery among the sets are usually minimal. But the difference between an intelligent, raucous audience in a packed room, and a sober one in a half-empty club is staggering. We’ll re-record shows if the audience isn’t good enough.


I hadn't really realized that CCR almost singlehandedly brought comedy albums, which hadn’t sold much since the late seventies/early eighties, back into vogue.

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Being self-effacing and why male comics obsess about their weight

Why Are These Hip Male Comedians All Talking About Their Weight? is an article that claims "talking about this publicly is their way of pushing the envelope. "

[Marc] Maron’s not the only male comedian who’s been talking about his food issues lately—a topic that’s culturally associated with, well, teenage girls. Louis C.K. talks constantly about his weight...Patton Oswalt talks about his struggles with weight on his latest album, Finest Hour—and on this recent appearance on Conan. Oswalt jokes about getting out of breath when he dances with his toddler daughter—and about joining, then leaving, Weight Watchers, because the meetings didn’t have the same frisson as AA gatherings. “They're very helpful, but all my friends who are drug addicts and drunks, their meetings are awesome—they have all these dark stories: ‘I T-boned a school bus.’” Meanwhile, the stories at Weight Watchers are about being embarrassed in a bathing suit and trying to avoid pie...

It’s still at least somewhat taboo for men to be seen as obsessing about their weight, so talking about this publicly is their way of pushing the envelope. When they were younger, rebelling meant challenging the ruling paradigm or the trappings of middle-class life. “Now the enemy is really ourselves, and the struggle between accepting ourselves or hating ourselves,” Maron said.


Funny to me how this piece describes talking about weight as pushing the envelope. Was it pushing the envelope when Louie Anderson did it decades ago?



(Love this line: "When I go camping, the bears put their food up in the trees.")

I'd argue that "pushing the envelope" and "fighting taboos" is only a tiny part of why comics talk about being fat, single, balding, ugly, or other self-effacing stuff. They do it because 1) it gets laughs since it's the opposite of how people usually present themselves and 2) it disarms an audience.

I think it's tough to underestimate that second reason. I feel like being mean to myself onstage gives me more room to be mean to others too. After all, I'm willing to point the finger at myself so why not at the rest of the world too? Without self-effacing material, you start to seem like a pretentious, know-it-all asshole who thinks he's better than everyone else. Show some flaws and you humanize yourself.

Or, as Eddie Brill put it, get out of "you suck" territory and bring it into "we suck." That helps get an audience on your side. Then you can go wherever you want with them.

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Gary Gulman on when an audience's laughter isn't important

Gary Gulman is asked, "Are there jokes that you do just for you?"

For me at this point I do all the jokes for me, not in a self-indulgent way, but there's nothing I say just to get a laugh. I do a joke because it's funny or clever or meaningful to me.

That hasn't always been the case. For years it was a mixed bag. I did some jokes just because they worked and gave me that oxygen we need. I was looking to get hired, which is a terrible motivator for an artist, but I've evolved, hopefully.

The greatest thing I ever heard related to this was in the Curb Your Enthusiasm pilot. Someone, it may have been Jerry Seinfeld, said that Larry had unwavering convictions as to what he thought was funny. That's essential to becoming unique/original and it's hard to stay true to in an environment where the audience's laughter is (wrongly I feel) considered so important in measuring a performer's talents.


Part of the series Comedy Writing by Mike Bent which looks pretty decent. Below, an excerpt from Everything You Know is Wrong by Bent.

The members of Firesign Theater said it all when they named their 1974 album “Everything You Know is Wrong.” That's the attitude you have to take. You need to question everything around you. You can't just accept things as they are; you need to consistently challenge the status quo. That doesn't mean you have to be an outcast from society; it just means you need to look at things differently.


The full "Comedy Writing" series.

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