I'm everyone on Facebook

Hey! I'm everyone on Facebook. I'm grateful for how amazing this year was. I use a photo of my child as my profile picture. My identity is wrapped up 100% in this other human being and that is totally healthy. Kimye!!!! Gun control!!!!! Jay Z talking to an old lady on the subway!!!! Exclamation points!!!!!!

Here's what I'm listening to on Spotify. I have GOOD TASTE. Did you see that proposal where the guy hired a marching band? I cried! I bet that marriage will last FOREVER because the best way to show you truly love someone is to use them as a prop in your bid to make a video go viral since your improv group didn't really go anywhere. Watch this documentary on animal dictators. We NEED to do something about that issue I just forgot about. I don't understand economics but here's a link to a Paul Krugman editorial.

LOOK AT ME. At a wedding I went to. At a vacation I went on. At dinner. With my girls doing karaoke last night! I heart karaoke because it's like being a performer and people pay attention to you but you don't have to work hard or be talented. Afterward, we all commented on each other's photos: "You look gorgeous." "No, YOU look gorgeous." I just changed my status to IN A RELATIONSHIP. I hope people who rejected me in the past see that and feel bad. I am THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. There is an icon of a heart next to my name now. That is the same as love.

I am OFFENDED by what someone said. Delta airlines lost my bag. I have OPINIONS about the news. This is my good side. Baby photo! Go local sports team! Beyoncé. The Elders of Zion are meeting at the Denver Airport. I just invited you to an event. Breaking Bad!! I find privacy settings confusing. I am a human being desperate for connection. Instagram wants to sell my photos to Al Qaeda.

I am SO grateful to you. I have edited out all the bad stuff from my life and presented the rest here. I am a Disney version of myself. Tag me! LIKE me! LIKE THIS! I'm worthwhile! Validate me, internet! VALIDATE ME! I am TRYING. Happy New Year!!!!!!

COME TO MY SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I forgot to mention: Someone famous DIED recently. I am SAD about this and this is my way of making it ALL ABOUT ME.

P.P.S. Whoops, forgot this too: Please vote for me in this online voting contest for a publication/corporation that is using me as a shill to increase its page views/social media exposure. Also, don't forget to donate to my Kickstarter project where I ask you to support my "art" that no actual consumer is willing to pay for. Thanks! You guyz rock!!!!


Saturday We're All Friends Here, Wednesday Hot Soup

Saturday (12/22): We're All Friends Here
9:30pm at The Creek and The Cave in LIC - FREE

It's the comedy chat show with boundary issues! In the hot seat this time:

Nick Vatterott
Kara Klenk
Charles Gould

Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand.

Listen to the podcast.

Wednesday (12/26): Hot Soup
8:30pm at ELLA LOUNGE - FREE

Twas the night AFTER Xmas and all through the East Village all the creatures were laughing and even a mouse and whatever the rest of that is ANYWAY we have a comedy show that night and it'll be a good way to laugh off that holiday ham. Half-price drinks too!

Michael Che (Letterman)
Sean O'Connor (Conan)
Andy Haynes (Fallon)
...and more!

RSVP to confirm your spot:

Doors: 8pm
Seating: 8:30pm
Show: 9:00pm sharp

Ella Lounge
Downstairs room
9 Avenue A (between First and Second Street)

Produced by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, Gary Vider, and Sachi Ezura.

(Can't make it? Our next show at Ella is Wednesday, Jan 9 at 8:30pm.)


Why Seinfeld still performs all the time

Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up talks about why comics need to get up all the time...

When he can't tinker, he grows anxious. "If I don't do a set in two weeks, I feel it," he said. "I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don't I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop."

...and why he thinks small bits are harder to make...

Seinfeld likens his fine-bore interest in jokes to his longstanding infatuation with Porsches, of which he owns “a few dozen.” “People ask me, Why Porsches? A lot of it is the size, same as with bits. The smaller something is, the harder it is to make, because there’s less room for error.” In high school he took shop classes, even after a counselor told him that collegebound kids didn’t need to, because he wanted to know how machines fit together. “I have this old ’57 Porsche Speedster, and the way the door closes, I’ll just sit there and listen to the sound of the latch going, cluh-CLICK-click,” Seinfeld said. “That door! I live for that door. Whatever the opposite of planned obsolescence is, that’s what I’m into.”

...and how there are different kinds of jokes in a set.

“There’s different kinds of laughs,” he explained. “It’s like a baseball lineup: this guy’s your power hitter, this guy gets on base, this guy works out walks. If everybody does their job, we’re gonna win.”

The baseball analogy reminded me of Louis CK discussing "brushback pitch" jokes.

It's worth checking this accompanying video too. In it, Seinfeld describes the anatomy of a Pop-Tart joke and shows his longhand writing process.


Chris Rock on bullet control

Turns out that US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced a bill in 1993 to the Senate that would have levied a 10,000% tax on hollow-point bullets. The bill would have raised the price from $20 a box to $2,000.

Six years later, Chris Rock offered up a similar idea in this classic bit:

[via Kottke.org and @joffley]


Video: Turning the crowd against a heckler

So the comedy gods gave me a texter/heckler (teckler?) the other night at HOT SOUP at Ella Lounge. She thought I was ugly. I had some fun with that. Then the rest of the crowd shouted at her to leave. Here it is on tape.

BTW, next HOT SOUP will be Wed, Dec 26 at Ella Lounge at 8:30pm. Details.


Chris Rock's real wife vs. his comedy wife

Chris Rock is interviewed by Judd Apatow via email in Vanity Fair. He argues that comics were better when they had to perform in front of all kinds of crowds.

Do I think comedians are better now? Hell fuckin’ no. Show me one guy or woman as funny as Rodney Dangerfield or as good as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, or Joan Rivers. There are a lot of good comics out there, no doubt, but as far as the quality of the comics goes, I think what you have is a bunch of situational comics. What we have now is black comics that work only black crowds, gay comics that do only gay crowds, and southern comics that only work down South, and so on with Asian, Latino, Indian, midgets, etc. The previous generation’s comics were better because they had to make everybody laugh. Richard Pryor could do The Ed Sullivan Show and play the Apollo. Seinfeld can work any crowd. Ellen can work any crowd. Lopez can work any crowd. And a few more, but the rest of them are just situational comics.

He also talks about his real wife vs. his comedy wife.

What isn’t O.K. to say onstage? Any of your family’s personal business. No experience that is just theirs. I don’t really worry about what they are thinking. Anything I say about women, I try to make sure that at least five or six friends of mine are going through a similar situation. That way I’m not picking on my wife. We like to say I have my real wife, who’s a lovely woman, mother to my children. Then I have my comedy wife, who’s a crazy bitch.

Interesting split. Seems like the tricky part would be getting real wife to be ok with comedy wife. [via JH]


PFT and Aziz on observational material vs. more personal bits

Paul F. Tompkins and Aziz Ansari discuss the qualitative difference in the laughs/connection you get from observational material vs. more personal bits. On the latter, PFT says, "There's a deeper connectivity there that's very rewarding."

Neat to see PFT doing a longer interview format. I like when he talks and wish people would pay him to do it more.


A collection of Judd Apatow podcasts, articles, and quotes

It's Judd Apatow podcast season! Apatow seems to hibernate from media until he's got a new flick (this time: This is 40) and then hits the interwaves to plug it and drop comedy knowledge. Good for us since he's a fascinating guy to listen to discuss comedy. For example, I keep thinking about a (paraphrased) line he used in a recent interview: "All great drama has some comedy and all great comedy has some drama."

A rundown of some of his recent appearances:

Adan Carolla Show: Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow's podcast appearances on Earwolf
Fresh Air Weekend: Judd Apatow
Fitzdog Radio: Judd Apatow
Nerdist: Judd Apatow

Making jokes work
He also called this Chicago Tribune piece "a very good article that shows how Leslie and I work together." It's interesting because it feels like he brings lessons learned from honing a standup set to editing a movie.

They had test-screened cuts of the movie the previous evening at a San Fernando Valley multiplex, running two different versions in separate theaters and recording the audiences' reactions throughout. Now White was cueing up versions A and B of a scene in which Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote the Apatow-produced “Bridesmaids” and here plays the best friend of Leslie Mann's lead character, Debbie, describes the after-effects of losing all feeling in a certain lower region of her body.

In one version Mumolo cites two examples of her numbness before a punch line that involves a shower head. In the other version, she offers more and more examples before reaching the payoff. As the editor played back the scenes synced up to the test-screening laugh tracks, it was clear that the audience responded more enthusiastically to version B, the one that took more time to set up the gag.

“We can actually look at the joke when we showed it this week and when we showed it two weeks ago (at an earlier screening) and see if we've either made it work better or actually hurt the joke by surrounding it with different variations of lines and stuff like that,” White said.

Sounds like a familiar process. “I know where to give a pause and let the audience’s laughter die down and not bury the next line,” he once said. Once a standup, always a standup.

There's no sound for drama
That doesn't mean it's all just about getting the funny stuff though. The drama matters more. But it's also trickier for a basic reason: Good drama doesn't make an audience erupt aloud the way comedy does. He explains in this interview:

“We feel the movie's working when it's getting laughs, but that's actually not true,” said Apatow, who turned 45 Thursday. “The audience is actually following the drama, and sometimes we have to think hard and go: ‘It's OK that they're not laughing here because this is a heartfelt moment or a devastating moment.' It's still not my strongest suit understanding all of that. I always say I wish there was a noise people made that let me know that drama was working.”

Don't obsess over likability
He also explained that the audience doesn't need to like a character.

With Mann and Apatow both using the word “crazy” to describe Pete and Debbie's behavior at times, the movie is willing to make its leads unsympathetic in the quest for some greater truth, if not humor.

“I like when people don't try so hard to obsess over likability,” Apatow said. “I wanted it to be balanced. I wanted Pete and Debbie to have an equal amount of good qualities and bad qualities. But it was helpful working with Lena Dunham on ‘Girls' (the HBO series that Apatow executive-produces) while I was working on this, because she doesn't care at all if you like her character. It just doesn't even occur to her that that's part of what you factor in. And so just talking about the script with her — and she's such a great cheerleader of this film — put me in a good frame of mind to not polish things up.”

Talked about something similar here recently, but from a standup perspective: Trying too hard to please the audience. I don't think it's just a "greater truth" that results from this approach. Sometimes when someone doesn't care if they're sympathetic/likable, that just makes them that much more appealing. At least you know you're not being pandered to.

The gods of comedy
As for the neuroses that comes with making funny stuff, he feels the good and bad come together.

There’s a fine line between what’s healthy about being a comedian and what’s really sick and demented about it. And usually both of those things are happening at exactly the same time. When I’m doing good work, there’s a part of me that feels like it’s a positive contribution to society. I’m making people laugh and helping them think about their lives in a positive and life-affirming way. But at the same time, there’s a sick, wounded part of me that’s looking for acceptance, and just wants to know that there’s somebody out there who likes me. I serve both gods simultaneously.

The rest
But wait, there's more! There's a good rundown of his history at Brobible's 45 Unforgettable Moments from Judd Apatow’s Career. And he guest edited Vanity Fair's comedy issue (he did something similar with the book I Found This Funny a while back). And I've written about him previously in these Sandpaper Suit posts:

Judd Apatow on adding stakes
Judd Apatow's "most personal moment" on Freaks and Geeks
The three funniest "in theater" movies Judd Apatow's seen


The HOT SOUP Holiday Spectavaganza Comedy Show – Free at Ella Lounge Dec. 12

Hot Soup returns on Wednesday night with our big holiday show! We're at Ella Lounge, a super venue in the East Village - it's got a downstairs room perfect for comedy, half-off drinks for our audience, and a Bossa Nova band upstairs after the show. And it's all FREE. Come on out and we'll mistle your toe.

Janeane Garafolo (24, SNL, Reality Bites)
James Adomian (Comedy Bang Bang, Last Comic Standing)
Kurt Metzger (Last Comic Standing)
Jared Logan (Comedy Central)
Mark Normand (Comedy Central)
Matt Ruby (MTV, SxSW)

RSVP to confirm your spot:

Doors: 8pm
Seating: 8:30pm
Show: 9:00pm sharp

Ella Lounge
Downstairs room
9 Avenue A (between 1st and 2nd St)

Produced by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, Gary Vider, and Sachi Ezura.

(Can't make it? Our next show at Ella is Wednesday, December 26 at 8:30pm.)


My Joke of the Week in Time Out NY

Joke of the week!

Thanks to the great Mindy Tucker for the swell photo. I told her to use her "soulful eyes" filter.


A screenplay and comedy-centric look at "making it" in the entertainment industry

Here's What People Won't Tell You About How to Make it In the Entertainment Industry But I Will by Mandy Stadtmiller offers up a screenplay and comedy-centric look at "making it."

As for making a splash online, think of something catchy, new, strong, simple, bold, authentic and calling-it-out true — like the viral gold standard “Stuff White People Like” — which is hilarious. Then do a Tumblr and Twitter of the same name and YouTube if you can. Boom, you just created your brand. Think: “Texts From Last Night.” One idea. Stick to that, and see if it’s fun and takes off. Nowadays anyone can become a brand or entrepreneur this way...

You can network your brains out, but if you haven't produced/created/completed/delivered the project -- as in, written the book, started the blog, written the screenplay, shot the video, staged the one-person-show or developed the tight five minutes of material of standup -- you'll get nowhere.

Concentrate on creating something that you are passionate and excited about, and you'll be blown away by what happens. Even if it doesn't land you the exact career you dreamed of, you'll have created something that you love. I know it'd be cooler if it were guaranteed that it would make your career, but creating something you love will change and influence you in ways you never dreamed of...

Podcasting is changing the industry; so is someone like Louis C.K. who is selling direct to fans. So is Twitter. As Seth Godin says: The way the industry is nowadays, no one is going to pick you. Pick yourself instead.

I agree with the idea that making something you think is great comes with some nice side benefits, even if it doesn't rocket you to stardom. Plus, the opposite is even scarier. As I've said before, there's nothing worse than selling out without selling anything.


Podcast: We're All Friends Here with Yannis Pappas

It's another WAFH episode. This time, one of our fave guests Yannis Pappas talks about his transgendered character Mauricia Rodriquez, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and inbreeding. Download at iTunes or listen at Cave Comedy Radio.


"Conviction" by Manolo Blahnik?

Tough to tell whether this is a shot of Lindsay Lohan doing a perp walk or an ad for fancy shoes in Vogue.


Easy vs. hard

Easy: Being cool.
Hard: Being nice.

Easy: Having "something to say."
Hard: Working at your craft.

Easy: Trivia.
Hard: Wisdom.

Easy: Fashion.
Hard: Style.

Easy: Curating.
Hard: Inventing.

Easy: Cynical.
Hard: Romantic.

Easy: 0s and 1s.
Hard: Analog.

Easy: Autotune.
Hard: Billie Holliday.

Easy: Snap to grid.
Hard: Drawn by hand.

Easy: Exciting!
Hard: Interesting.

Easy: Breaking the rules.
Hard: Knowing how to do it right (and then choosing when to do it wrong).

Easy: Texting.
Hard: Talking.

Easy: Internet bandwidth.
Hard: Emotional bandwidth.

Easy: "I have a disorder."
Hard: "It's my fault."

Easy: The part that fits in.
Hard: The part that's like no one else.

Easy: Stream of consciousness.
Hard: Spending time on it.

Easy: Being anonymous.
Hard: Putting your name on it.

Easy: Clever.
Hard: Soulful.

Easy: Making people think.
Hard: Making 'em feel.

Easy: Talking about it.
Hard: Doing it.

Easy: Lists.
Hard: Life.

The Bible vs. internet terms

A while back I talked about "nailed it" jokes. One to add to the list is Pat Dixon on the Bible:

The Bible is like those long disclaimers that you see on the Internet because nobody reads those either. You just scroll to the bottom and click, 'I agree.'

Reminded of it by Myq's podcast with Yannis and Ted Alexandro where they all commented on what a great joke it is.

Related: Pat Dixon on walking the line


Reboot of the We're All Friends Here podcast, first one up: Donald Glover

We've rebooted the We're All Friends Here podcast. It's now on Cave Comedy Radio (with the help of Mr. Marcus Parks). We're digging into the archives, picking out the best interviews, and posting 'em again (this time with just one guest at a time). Plus our iTunes listings give ya full details now so it's easy to listen to the peoples ya want.

It's the comedy chat show with boundary issues! Join hosts Mark Normand and Matt Ruby as they bring New York City's best comedians onstage to open up about their personal lives, sex, drugs, religion, race and more.

Episode 1 features comic/actor/rapper Donald Glover. I hear you mumbling, "So what? I can watch him on Fallon." Well ya won't hear him like this. We discuss why Jews are neurotic, why black people have good teeth, why he doesn't do well with black girls, and how people with AIDS can be assholes. See, different! (And fyi, we were doing this all way before Maron had a podcast.)

If ya never got onboard the WAFH train, now's the time. Other episodes are posted there too and more on the way.

iTunes listen/subscribe.
Listen to WAFH with Donald Glover at Cave Comedy Radio.

If ya dig it, please leave a comment/rating at iTunes. Thanks.


The three funniest "in theater" movies Judd Apatow's seen

This episode of Serious Jibber-Jabber is a great talk between Conan O’Brien and Judd Apatow. Apatow lists the three funniest "this film is destroying" movies he's ever seen in the theater: Airplane, Young Frankenstein, and There's Something About Mary.

He also talks about The Cable Guy and how this beatdown scene...

...created problems since the audience became scared of Jim Carrey's character and couldn't laugh at him afterwards – because they feared he might actually kill someone. According to Apatow, that's why the film plays better the second time you see it.

Which led me to think: It'd be great if there was a podcast/talkshow where film and tv directors talk about flaws in their work. Everyone's always hyping everything. Let's hear about what could have been done better or what went wrong.



Rush Limbaugh and "speaks so well"

Silly Rush Limbaugh said Repubs should get more credit for minorities like Condi Rice, and mentions that she's "well-spoken."

But we're not getting the votes that Obama got last night because we have Condoleeza Rice – and she is a pinnacle of achievement, and intelligent, and well-spoken...

Matt Taibbi comments:

He again asks the "isn't it enough to have Condoleeza Rice" question, and here even supplies an answer – it should be enough, because, get this: she's not just black and a woman, she's WELL-SPOKEN! He actually plays the "well-spoken" card.

Cue Chris Rock's great bit on why saying someone "speaks so well" ain't much of a compliment.


Patrice O'neal's (last?) interview

Jay Mohr and Patrice O'neal wrestle over integrity and getting paid. Pretty fascinating.


We're All Friends Here has a new podcast home and a show on Sat night as part of The New York Comedy Festival

Saturday night show
Got a special blockbuster edition of our We're All Friends Here show (the talk show with boundary issues) coming up as part of The New York Comedy Festival. It's hosted by Mark Normand and yours truly and has this sweet lineup:

Kurt Metzger (Comedy Central)
Jeff Dye (MTV's Money From Strangers)
Myq Kaplan (Last Comic Standing)

We're All Friends Here
Saturday, November 10 - 8:00pm
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue in LIC
$10 - Advance tix are available here

The podcast gets a reboot
And big podcast news, we're rebooting the WAFH podcast on the Cave Comedy Radio Podcast Network.

We've dipped into the archive to bring back some of the best interviews. (We were doing this before WTF was a twinkle in Maron's mustache.) Each episode is just one guest so it's a faster listen and you can cherry pick your faves.

First one is the Donald Glover ep and we discuss AIDS, handicapped people, sex tips, Blacks, Asians, and Jews. We really covered it all! The others have more along those lines. Here's the first four episodes which are up now:

Donald Glover
On this, the first episode of We're All Friends Here on CCR: we travel all the way back to 2009 as Mark Normand and Matt Ruby ask comedy superstar Donald Glover about the most personal and embarrassing moments of his life before the man was famous. More episodes from the archives of famous peeps to come!

Ali Wong
On this WAFH: Ali Wong talks about being a dirty, dirty girl in as many different ways as she can.

Michael Che
On this WAFH: Michael Che sits down to talk about growing up the Lower East Side, how having older siblings shaped his sexual views, and bad vaginas.

Erik Bergstrom
On this WAFH: Erik Bergstrom talks about growing up above a porn store in Minnesota, the time he was dumped for a dude in a band called Angel Spit, and much more.

Listen/subscribe at iTunes or at Cave Comedy Radio.


Schtick was a blast

Gotta be honest. We were worried that Sandy would kill Schtick or Treat's mojo. But the rescheduled version last night at Littlefield was a blast. Great pics from Mindy Tucker coming soon.

Partial lineup of what went down...

Adam Conover - John Mulaney
Adam Newman - Rob Schneider
Bill Stiteler - Seth Galifianakis
Chesley Calloway - Amy Schumer
Gonzalo Cordova - Tig Notaro
Greg Stone - Rodney Bane-gerfield
James Adomian - Louis CK
Jason Saenz - Joey Gladstone
Jay Welch - Redd Foxx
Jeff Wesselschmidt - Martin Lawrence
Jessica Watkins - Lily Tomlin
Jim Van Blaricum - Matt McCarthy
Joe List - Kenny Bannion
Joe Pera & Dan Licata - George Lopez & Pitbull
Josh Gondelman - Todd Barry
Kate Hendricks & Jamie Lee - Chelsea Handler & Kim Kardashian
Katie Hannigan - Ricky Gervais
Mara Herron - Dana Carvey
Mark Normand - Krusty
Matt Maragno & Charles Gould - Joe Rogan & Woody Allen
Matt Wayne - Tim Allen
Matt Ruby - Daniel Tosh
Michelle Wolf - Kathy Griffin
Myq Kaplan - Pete Holmes
Nick Vatterott - Darrel Bluett
Peter Moses - Jim Gaffigan
Reformed Whores - Flight of the Conchords
Robbie Collier - Norm MacDonald
Robert Dean - Mike Birbiglia
Sachi - Weird Al
Selena Coppock - Lisa Lampanelli
Tony Zaret - Steve Harvey
Travis Irvine - Bill Hicks
Zach Broussard - Katt Williams
Abbi Crutchfield - Wanda Sykes

And faux Birbigs (Robert Dean) had a video...


Seth Meyers, steroids, and global warming

Seth Meyers had a great segment on Fallon the other night (the one with no crowd). In it, he made a great analogy between global warming and the steroid era in baseball (at 1:55 in)...

None of the debates did they mention climate change. And I feel like every six months the worst thing that’s ever happend in the world happens weather-wise. And I feel like we’re going to look back on this time the way baseball fans in the 90s were like “No, nobody’s using steroids.” We are in the Steroid Era of storms and yet there are more people in Congress who probably think this is because, like, gays are marrying… Than the fact that the world is just dying.

Maybe that influenced Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, who offered up a baseball analogy in this It's Global Warming, Stupid article.

We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.

Btw, I kinda enjoyed the crowd-less late night shows. Felt more human and less AMPED UP!!!

Schtick or Treat rescheduled to this Sunday!

This is a Schtick up(date)!

Sandy rained us out the first time but we're going for it on Sunday at 8pm at Littlefield.

Showtime: 8:00PM (Doors: 7:30PM)
622 Degraw St (between 3rd and 4th Ave) in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Tickets: $8 advance/$10 at door
Advance tix are available here.
Facebook event


A highbrow justification for telling dick jokes

Louis C.K. and the Rise of the 'Laptop Loners' is an interesting, if perhaps overly smartypants, look at why CK's show succeeds. Warning: Professorial references to Raymond Carver, Fellini, James Joyce, David Lynch, and Thomas Pynchon ahead.

It also includes this rather highbrow justification for telling shit/dick jokes:

Short clips from C.K.’s standup are intercut with these vignettes: C.K. describing his life as a “48 hour cycle of diarrhea,” or the way he “rain[s] sweat” on women during sex, or the woman who committed suicide two years after performing oral sex on him because “that’s the gestation period of suicidal shame that comes from having had my penis in your mouth.” The current season opened with a monologue on needing reading glasses in order to masturbate. If you can stomach the scatology, you’ll see that these jokes are meant to make you laugh, but more so to open a candid investigation into corporeality; into what it’s like to live in a body that disobeys, decays, and will one day cease to exist.

Next time someone criticizes your jerk off joke, explain to them it's merely "a candid investigation into corporeality."


Halloween lovers

Cracks me up when people say, "My favorite holiday is Halloween!" Oh really? Your favorite holiday is the one that's not religious at all, involves wearing masks and sexy outfits, and everyone goes out and gets shitfaced and loses their inhibitions? I'm not exactly shocked ya prefer that to Easter. It's like saying, "My favorite book is getting a massage."


"The Place Where It All Comes From"

In Finding Inspiration in Improvisation, musician David Yazbek talks about "The Place Where It All Comes From, the place that Buddha and Jesus and these days Oprah talk about — The Now."

I’ve known clearly for years that that is where all my best work comes from and that 9/10th of my life is devoted to avoiding getting there. But I also know that when I can stop distracting myself and get there — writing or recording music — I’m a complete version of myself, open to an infinite source of creativity, and I’m happy.

I’m always looking for a ticket to Nowsville. These days what gets me there has something to do with what feels genuine and truthful, art as opposed to artifice. I’m not finding too much of it in modern music: the posturing rock, the stale classical institution, jazz, which mostly has its head way up its own rear, as does most musical theater, which really needs to open some windows and breathe some outside air. Exceptions like Jack White are few and far between, and I’d go anywhere to hear music that thrills me in a genuine way.

Weirdly, TV has been a reliable source of inspiration for me the last several years. Lately, it’s been Louis C.K., whose show is able to elicit sober introspection as easily as explosive laughter. He’s using his deep craft and gut instincts to make these exquisite half-hour movies and he’s almost always creatively in-the-zone...When Louis C.K. smashes us in the face with comedy that isn’t merely distracting, we’re all getting a giant hit of real art. Some of us will go home with that buzz and use it to help tap into our own creativity.

More on Yazbek.


The Financial Times on Vooza

Heh. Vooza, the video comic strip we're making, got The Financial Times to run a headline that says, "It’s like Spotify meets Grindr except for rental cars..." Plus there's a nearly full frontal photo of Nate Fernald (along with Meg Cupernall and Steve O'Brien). Ya can read it online here.


Jay Leno's standup war stories

Leno describes a bunch of hell gigs and also talks about why he still does 160 standup dates a year.

Comics can't go in the basement and write an act. Maybe some can but I can't. The audience gives me another 40 percent. I'll write a joke and then when I get out there in front of an audience I'll say it and suddenly it's tighter and more concise because they're looking at me and I'm just thinking fast. Y'know, when you're writing, you're thinking slow. And when you're onstage, you think fast. And when you think fast, that's when the funniest stuff comes out.

Here he is back in 1976. Helluva hat.


Trying too hard to please the audience

TSJ interviews Gary Gulman:

I think when I first started I was very precious and aware that I could be liked onstage. I cultivated that; I was much sweeter onstage than I needed to be. And I think a lot of comedians try to please the audience when they start.

It's a strange thing to want to be more likable onstage (or offstage for that matter). Trying really hard to be likable is, well, rather unlikable. It seems pandering.

Meanwhile, the guy who doesn't give a shit whether you like him or not comes off as confident. Apathy can be awful sexy.

Sometimes they don't want you to please them. They just want you to be who you are, warts and all. People dig warts.


Wall Street doesn't like Obama's tone!

Just read this: Why Do America’s Super-Rich Feel Victimized by Obama?

So let me get this straight, Wall Street. You got bailed out entirely, no one went to jail, and now you're making more than ever yet you're pissed off about Obama's "divisive, polarizing tone"!?

That takes some balls. "Sure you loaned me $700 billion...but I didn't like your tone while you did it." When someone helps you get away with murder, just say thanks and mosey along.

Man, I so wish there was a group arguing for the other side that didn't involve a people's mic.


Lesser jokes get in the way of really good ones

This Cheers Oral History is a fun read if you're a fan of the show.

In it, David Lee (writer-executive producer), talks about the trap of going for laughs per minute or jokes per page.

On some shows, [the producers] say, “Oh, you gotta have 10 jokes per page.” Glen and Les would go, “You know, it’s better to get rid of the ‘Fifty percenters,’—the jokes that are just chuckles—and be satisfied with the hundred percenters.” If you have enough lesser jokes in the way, you actually start diminishing the value of the really good ones.

Interesting idea that a light laugh actually detracts from the bigger ones.

John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) also explains how he improvised his way into the role.

I'd spent ten years in London, writing and performing my own comedy shows. They gave me the Cheers [scenes], and I thought it was the springboard for chatting about the show, because in England, that's what you do. So I walk in, and I'm looking around, and Jimmy Burrows said, "What are you looking at? You're not here to have a conversation; you're here to audition." At that second, I felt all the blood rush out of my body. I did a horrible job. As I was leaving, the casting director says, "Thank you, John," and my eight-by-ten was already in a wastebasket. But the writer part of me turned around and said, "Do you have a bar know-it-all?" Because in the bars in my neighborhood where my father hung out, there was always a bar know-it-all. Glen said, "What are you talking about?" I just launched into an improvisation of what [became Cliff].

"How's life treating you, Norm?"
"Like it caught me sleeping with its wife."


The 5th Annual SCHTICK OR TREAT will be Nov 4 at Littlefield!

Halloween comedy tribute show
Hosted by Matt Ruby and Mark Normand
2011 ECNY nominee for Best Comedy Event

Sunday, Nov 4 (rescheduled!)
Showtime: 8:00PM (Doors: 7:30PM)
622 Degraw St (between 3rd and 4th Ave) in Park Slope, Brooklyn (map)
Tickets: $8 advance/$10 at door (Buy now)

This show features dozens of NYC's top comedians performing as their favorite comedy legends! Each comic gets up to three minutes to do a set as a famous comic and then it's on to the next performer. It's pretty much the most fun comedy show ever and if you don't believe that, check out the photos/videos below...

Mindy Tucker's great photos from the shows in 2011 and 2010.

Videos from previous editions of the show:

This year's edition will feature FAKE versions of:

Wanda Sykes
Rob Schneider
Seth Galifianakis
Dennis Miller
Tig Notaro
Pete Holmes
Martin Lawrence
Maria Bamford
Chelsea Handler
Ricky Gervais
Dana Carvey
Mark Twain
Reggie Watts
Joe Rogan
Flight of the Conchords
Groucho Marx
Norm MacDonald
Mike Birbiglia
Lisa Lampanelli
Steve Harvey
Katt Williams
...and more!

The art of accounting for artists

This piece on Grizzly Bear looks at the accounting of being in a rock band. Hey, at least comedians don't have to pay for guys to run sound/lights.

The band’s hesitant to talk about money at all. And after I talk to solo artist and former Hold Steady sideman Franz Nicolay about the rigors of his job—constant low-level panic over never having more than a couple of months’ worth of cash, rarely having health insurance, having to tour so often that you can’t take a break to write and record another album to tour for—he sends a quick explanatory e-mail: “I want to make clear,” he says, “because a lot of the response musicians get when they talk about the difficulty of the lifestyle, especially touring lifestyle, is of the ‘oh, boo-hoo’ variety, that I’m not complaining about any of it in any way that anyone wouldn’t grouse about their job. The smart lifer musician goes into it with eyes wide open, assuming it’s going to be a rewarding but difficult way to make a living.” When I go to a Williamsburg bar to meet Frankie Rose, veteran of a string of much-discussed rock bands, she’s just back from touring a solo album—her first stint without a day job—and already talking to the bartender about finding work. “I feel like if you’re in this at all to make money,” she says, “then you’re crazy. Unless you’re Lana Del Rey or something, it’s a moot point. You’d better be doing it for the love of it, because nobody’s making real money.”

If you're in it for the money, well, there are easier ways to make money. Sounds familiar. The article also discusses one musician who decided to escape the grind.

Travis Morrison is one person for whom it ended—an ex–professional musician. From the mid-nineties until 2003, he fronted the D.C. band the Dismemberment Plan, which had a rabid following and briefly signed with a major label; after they split, he embarked on an ill-fated solo career. “I was making absolutely no money,” he says. “It forced my hand into some major life choices, which in retrospect I’m really appreciative of.” He’s now the director of commercial production for the Huffington Post and finds himself enjoying music in ways that vanished when it was his full-time job. “You get popular for a while,” he says, “and then you get kicked out of the game. That’s what happened to me, and if I have reason to complain about it, then so do tens of thousands of people who had some kind of success and then it ended.” As for the money: “You know how some people say, ‘I would really like to make a middle-class living doing the arts; I feel like I deserve that’? Honestly, I never felt that. I never felt like artists deserved a living. I feel like getting a million dollars for my songs is just about the same as getting it from playing a card at 7-Eleven.”

Bands tend to blow up faster than comics do. The downside of that: They can fade a lot faster too.


Carrie Brownstein on Nina Simone

In Great Moments in Inspiration, Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia” offers up this moment:

It’s actually the footage of Nina Simone performing live at Montreux in 1976 - when I watch that, it’s like I never want to sit down again. I never want to do anything that doesn’t involve hunger and ache. You feel like you never want to be complacent or smug or entitled, and you want to ask and demand - not only of yourself but of the audience - to try harder, to feel more, to be bolder, to participate.

Some clips from that (more here):


Seth Meyers vs. groans

Fun to watch Seth Meyers test out jokes in front of a not amped-up/giddy crowd.


How jokes are like magic tricks

The Honor System is a really interesting look at Teller and the thief who tried to steal this trick from him:

The article mentions how Jim Steinmeyer, one of the greatest inventors of magic, compares jokes and tricks in his book Hiding the Elephant.

In it, he writes that the best tricks are a "collection of tiny lies, in words and deeds, that are stacked and arranged ingeniously." Like jokes, tricks should have little plots with a twist at the end that's both implausible and yet logical. You shouldn't see the punchline coming, but when you do see it, it makes sense. The secret to a great trick isn't really its method; the method behind most tricks is ugly and disappointing, something blunt and mechanical...The value of a trick lies mostly in how much it stokes that battle between your head and your heart, and how badly it makes you want for your heart to win.

I like the "implausible yet logical" concept. I often think of a great joke as being the hard-to-find combination of truthful yet surprising.

It was also interesting to hear Teller discuss how hard it is to hone a trick:

The real point of magic, Teller said during those lectures, is "telling a beautiful lie. It lets you see what the world would be like if cause and effect weren't bound by physics." It's the collision between what you know and what you see that provides magic's greatest spark.

So Teller rigged a thread in his home library, and he put Abbott's ancient instructions on a music stand — pages that had been miraculously saved from a trash fire years before — and he went to work on making the impossible seem real. Eventually, he decided that the ball shouldn't float but roll. That would look simpler, but it would be harder. He practiced some more at a mirrored dance studio in Toronto, and at a cabin deep in the woods, and on the empty stage in Penn & Teller's theater. After every show for eighteen months, he would spend at least an hour, by himself, trying to make the Red Ball obey. ("Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect," Teller says.)

"I have to screw around," he told those four audiences, "to sniff the scent of an idea and track it down like a wild boar in the forest.

"It's still the hardest-to-execute piece of magic I've ever tried. In six months or a year, it will start to settle into my bones. In ten years, it'll be perfect.

Telling a beautiful lie, eh? Reminds me of a tweet I wrote a while back: Comedy is the most beautiful way to complain.

Btw, Nate Bargatze talked a lot about how his dad was a magician during his great WTF interview. Here's a clip of Nate's dad performing. Funny guy!

Teller and the magic of surprise
The brotherhood of magic and comedy


Photos from the SF Comedy Contest

I'm back from doing shows in SF. Here's what that looked like:

Marin Center, San Rafael (Taken with Instagram)

Marin Center, San Rafael

Montbleu Casino (Stateline, NV) (Taken with Instagram)

Montbleu Casino (Stateline, NV)

Crow’s Nest (Santa Cruz, CA) (Taken with Instagram)

Crow’s Nest (Santa Cruz, CA)

The Purple Onion (San Francisco, CA) (Taken with Instagram)

The Purple Onion (San Francisco, CA)


New video: Amish Cop Hasidic Cop

Two New York City detectives, one Amish and one Hasidic, lose their partners and are forced to work together to catch a bank robber. Make haste!

Detective Singer - Matt Ruby
Detective Fisher - Mark Normand

Police chief - Dan Soder
Robbery Victim - Victoria Harrington
Gorilla - Robert Dean
Costume shop employee - Erik Bergstrom
Cop #1 - Nick Maritato
Cop #2 - Sean Donnelly

Director - Matt Lawrence
Editor - John Schlirf
Cameraman - Robertino Zambrano


"A few things in common"

Sometimes aspiring comics read this blog and then send me emails about doing standup. Here's an excerpt from one:

I'm writing to you because you seem like a good guy who genuinely would like to help new comedians and I have a few things in common with you. For example, I'm 30 and have already lost a lot of hair, I can't go out in the sun either, because I get a new permanent mole every 15 minutes, and I have a Jewish stepfather. I'm not Jewish and I don't have any jokes about Jews, but I've been racking my brains to think of one.

Nice to know we've got a lot in common! I told him there's no way to make it in standup without jokes about Jews.


Bill Clinton riffs a lot

What Bill Clinton Wrote vs. What Bill Clinton Said looks at Clinton's convention speech and shows how much he went off script (a lot) from his prepared remarks.

Most experienced public speakers know how to deviate and alter and add flourishes to their prepared remarks on the fly, but few do it as well as Clinton. (Even if you disagree with what he's saying.) As you can see below, from a purely rhetorical standpoint nearly all of his changes enhanced the text in some way and brought added emphasis to arguments. Notice his frequent changing of "should vote for Barack Obama" to "must vote." And his even more frequent use of "Now" and "Look" when beginning a point. Many of his best lines — like his "bloodsport" quote — were either ad-libbed or added in back in at the last moment.

The Bill Clinton speech that Louis CK calls "one of the greatest things I ever saw"
How Bill Clinton handled a heckler back in the day


Unfunny success

In a piece on slow comedy, Matt Shafeek relays some advice UCB instructor Michael Delaney once gave him.

“If you create a world with ridiculous characters, you may discover something funny in your scene. But I believe the stronger decision is to play real, grounded characters that are vulnerable and affected by the world around them. You take your time, perform at the top of your intelligence, and react realistically to what happens. Now, this won’t always lead to a hilarious scene. Sometimes you’ll have a scene that won’t be funny at all. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. Sometimes you’ve just made some interesting theater. And if that sounds awful, know that the audience will not hate you like they will if you try to force something funny on them and it falls flat.”

Sometimes as a standup, I feel like laughter is holding me hostage. Like there's stuff I want to be talking about but I can't because it doesn't get laughs that are as big/frequent as stuff that I don't want to talk about. Should I talk about my mom's illness which can get tense or should I talk about sex stuff which hits hard? Your job is to get laughs and things can go south if you try to get to deep so it's tempting to take the path of least resistance.

Finding that balance between "interesting theater" and big laughs is a challenge. I guess it also depends on how you define success. Is it by laughs per minute or is it how engaged an audience is or is it how much they remember what you said afterwards or something else?

The ideal is to have it all. To create funny and interesting stuff that's deep, soulful, or whatever your ideal is. But if you do fail, it feels a lot better to fail talking about what you really want to talk about. There's nothing worse than selling out without ever actually selling anything.


See me at Comics to Watch, CSL, We're All Friends Here, SF/Boston fests, etc.

Comics to Watch
Tonight (Sep 5) I'll be performing at Caroline's on the “Comics to Watch” show.
Tickets are free and available here.

“Comics to Watch” is a live stand-up showcase featuring the very best new talent from across the country, hand selected by Comedy Central and the festival producers. This show was created to launch the careers of the next generation of comedians by putting them in front of industry executives and comedy fans.

Tomorrow (Sep 6) I'll be doing the CSL show at Kabin. Always one of my fave shows to do. Starts 9:30ish.

We're All Friends Here
Then on Saturday (Sep 8), We're All Friends Here returns...

Mad Dog Mattern
Jono Zalay
& Special Guest

Sat, Sep 8 - 8pm
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY

Past episodes of the show available at iTunes.

After that, I'll be at the San Francisco Comedy Contest and Boston Comedy Festival...

9/5 - 8:00pm - Comics to Watch @ Caroline's
9/6 - 9:00pm - CSL @ Kabin
9/8 - 8:00pm - We're All Friends Here @ The Creek
9/8 - 11:59pm - Underground Americana @ UCB Chelsea
9/11 - 7:00pm - New York’s Funniest Stand-up Competition Audition @ Caroline's
9/14 - 8:30pm - Marin Showcase Theatre - San Rafael, CA
9/15 - Time TBA - Montbleu Resort Casino - Stateline, NV
9/16 - 9:00pm - Crows Nest - Santa Cruz, CA
9/17 - 8:00pm - Purple Onion - San Francisco, CA
9/18 - 9:00pm - Boston Comedy Fest @ Davis Sq Theatre - Boston, MA
9/20 - 9:00pm - Fresh Out @ UCB-East

All shows listed here. I also send out updates to my email list if you wanna sign up.


Charlie Kaufman's first speech ever

Really enjoyed this talk: Charlie Kaufman: Screenwriters Lecture.

Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope. It’s done so for me and I have to keep rediscovering it. It has profound importance in my life. Give that to the world, rather than selling something to the world. Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to.

This is from E. E. Cummings: ‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.’ The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind...

I do believe you have a wound too. I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone. I do believe it is the thing about you that must be hidden and protected, it is the thing that must be tap danced over five shows a day, it is the thing that won’t be interesting to other people if revealed. It is the thing that makes you weak and pathetic. It is the thing that truly, truly, truly makes loving you impossible. It is your secret, even from yourself. But it is the thing that wants to live.

If you're a fan of Kaufman's, def check out the whole thing.


Comfort food

At Time, Grame McMillan argues the plots of 2012's blockbusters were increasingly weak and tangential to their movie's appeal.

The secret ingredient, I suspect, is comfort. It may sound counter-intuitive to describe such movies as The Bourne Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers as “comfortable,” exactly — aren’t they all meant to be edge-of-the-seat experiences, after all? — but that’s exactly what they are. The overwhelming majority of successful blockbuster movies are the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, giving us exactly what we both expect and want with the minimum of fuss, and using characters or concepts to which we as an audience already have some form of attachment. Even once you throw out the sequels, prequels and reboots of existing movies, you still have all of the movies based upon toys we played with, comic books we read or television series we watched as children. There’s definitely an argument to be made for this comfort-led approach: The audience gets to know what to expect from their entertainment before they pay for it, and the studios are making less of a gamble with their investment in developing and making the movies, because, hey, known quantity and all that. Less cynically, of course, there’s an opposing argument to be made for the value of pleasant surprises and new ideas, but in almost every clash between culture and commerce, it generally pays to be cynical, sadly.

Reminds me of what "industry" (and certain clubs) look for from comedians too. Comfort food. Someone who's giving the audience a character they already know/get. Minimum of fuss. Unfortunately that leaves the more challenging/intriguing acts with a steeper climb.


The problems that come from civilians retelling jokes

At 4:26 into this video, Patrice O'Neal defends rape jokes:

When the woman tries to recreate Patrice's angry pirate joke, it occurred to me that a big part of the problem with these "I'm offended" conversations is people who aren't comedians trying to explain/retell what they heard a comic say. The source is usually not an actual tape/recording, it's some blogger or other third party recounting what was said onstage. When a civilian who isn't a comic tells you about a joke they heard and tries to retell it, it's almost never funny. It's a bastardized version.

The problem gets bigger when people wind up judging this bastardized version. I'm offended by this woman telling that angry pirate joke. Because when she tells it, it's an awfully delivered joke.

Imagine if you tried to pick apart another artform this way. Imagine if some layman grabbed a guitar, attempted to play an Eddie Van Halen solo, failed miserably, and then said that proved that Eddie Van Halen is offensive and not musical. We'd all reject that argument as silly. All that proves is that THIS dude doesn't know how to play guitar. When people who don't know how to play an instrument try to play it, it sounds offensive.

Similarly, judging a comedian based off what an audience member says that comic said is a silly way to get to the truth of the situation.


Using a spark file to solve the problem with hunches

Author Steven Johnson on the importance of keeping a spark file:

Most good ideas (whether they're ideas for narrative structure, a particular twist in the argument, or a broader topic) come into our minds as hunches: small fragments of a larger idea, hints and intimations. Many of these ideas sit around for months or years before they coalesce into something useful, often by colliding with another hunch. (I wrote a chapter about this phenomenon in my last book, Where Good Ideas Come From.)

The problem with hunches is that it's incredibly easy to forget them, precisely because they're not fully-baked ideas. You're reading an article, and a little spark of an idea pops into your head, but by the time you've finished the article, you're checking your email, or responding to some urgent request from your colleague, and the next thing you know, you've forgotten the hunch for good. And even the ones that you do manage to retain often don't turn out to be useful to you for months or years, which gives you countless opportunities to lose track of them.

This is why for the past eight years or so I've been maintaining a single document where I keep all my hunches: ideas for articles, speeches, software features, startups, ways of framing a chapter I know I'm going to write, even whole books. I now keep it as a Google document so I can update it from wherever I happen to be. There's no organizing principle to it, no taxonomy--just a chronological list of semi-random ideas that I've managed to capture before I forgot them. I call it the spark file.

Now, the spark file itself is not all that unusual: that's why Moleskins or Evernote are so useful to so many people. But the key habit that I've tried to cultivate is this: every three or four months, I go back and re-read the entire spark file. And it's not an inconsequential document: it's almost fifty pages of hunches at this point, the length of several book chapters. But what happens when I re-read the document that I end up seeing new connections that hadn't occurred to me the first (or fifth) time around: the idea I had in 2008 that made almost no sense in 2008, but that turns out to be incredibly useful in 2012, because something has changed in the external world, or because some other idea has supplied the missing piece that turns the hunch into something actionable. Sure, I end up reading over many hunches that never went anywhere, but there are almost always little sparks that I'd forgotten that suddenly seem more promising. And it's always encouraging to see the hunches that turned into fully-realized projects or even entire books.

I keep ideas in notebooks and a notetaking app but probably don't go and review the old stuff as much as I should. There's often good stuff buried in the weeds at the junkyard.


We're All Friends Here tonight (Wed) with Sherman, Benincasa, & Wayne

We're All Friends Here is back tonight with a special Wednesday version. The guests:

Micah Sherman
Sara Benincasa
Matt Wayne

Wed, Aug 15 - 8pm sharp
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY

Past episodes of the show available at iTunes.


Thoughts on the Olympics, metrosexuals, and McCarren Park Pool

I dislike the word tweets. But that's what these are. Follow me @mattruby and you can get stuff like this flung at you on the regular:

Someone should figure out a way to mix the Olympics with advertising.

Men's skeet. Olympic event or Lil Jon song?

Little known Olympic fact: When Jewish athletes get medals, they're actually made out of chocolate.

My big move on the dance floor is texting.

Game show pitch: Lesbian or German?

Can't wait for someone famous to die soon so I can come on Twitter and make it all about me.

If you see me wearing my chewguard, it means either 1) I don't care at all what you think or 2) We are in love.

Public Rest Room Evacuated After Kid Uses It As McCarren Park Pool

I so wish the first rule of Burning Man was "Don't talk about Burning Man."

"Metrosexual" makes it sound like you want to have sex with a city.

Can't tell whether this soy milk has gone bad or just tastes like soy milk.

The not paying attention disease: ADD. The paying too much attention disease: Depression.

My parents really connected over wanting to be left alone.

Watching couple at comedy show debate whether or not to sit in front row. It's like deciding between joining the Marines or Coast Guard.

Drinking white wine and pissing in a trough. Pretty much sums up my life.


Mitch Hedberg on writing and daydreaming

Lynn Shawcroft (Mitch Hedberg's wife) talks about Mitch. Whole thing is great but I especially liked the bit on daydreaming at 2:22in. "He considered hanging out and thinking an extremely valuable way to spend your time."

More videos from this cool series by Scott Moran.


Thursday night = Hot Soup with Joseph, Laker, Gondelman, & Patel

Thursday night. We chow down at Hot Soup. Still an early start time (7:30pm sharp). Reservations recommended. The lineup:

Jeffrey Joseph
Chris Laker
Josh Gondelman
Nimesh Patel

Thursday, Aug 9
155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
Doors at 7:15pm, showtime at 7:30pm. $5 tickets.
Produced by Mark Normand, Sachi Ezura, and Matt Ruby.
Make a reservation.


Tig Notaro: “Thank you, thank you, I have cancer"

Tig Notaro is going through some shit. To sum up: Breast cancer, severe infection, family death, breakup, etc. She discussed it onstage the other night.

It began when Ed Helms welcomed her to the stage and she crossed over, took the microphone, and said “Thank you, thank you, I have cancer, thank you, I have cancer, really, thank you.”


While telling us anecdotes from these personal tragedies, all along the way, she assured the audience “it’s okay, I’m going to be okay.” At one part, when she reached a dark place wherein most of the audience could not find the will to laugh, she said “maybe I’ll just go back to telling jokes about bees. Should I do that?” there were several “NOs” and one insistent loud male voice who cried out


She looked genuinely taken aback, and relieved. She’d managed to make the tragic not only palatable but overwhelmingly engaging. She’d done it.

First off, best wishes to Tig. Sounds heavy.

As for the standup portion of it, CK and Burr were on the show too. They both tweeted about it after. @louisck: "in 27 years doing this, I've seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo." @billburr: "Just saw Tig Notaro at Largo...made me feel like I was an open miker. Absolute genius!" Would love to hear that set.

The power of dark places, even without laughs, is something I've seen at We're All Friends Here. When someone goes dark/sad/truthful, it can get tough to be funny. But it's a different kind of engagement. It's edge of your seat inducing. And when a line does puncture that tension, it's cathartic in a way that clever one-liners or jokes about bees can't be.


Chris Rock on being taped at "the gym"

Chris Rock says people taping shows is ruining standup for the big guys:

Q. You don’t think some kind of threshold has been crossed?

A. When you’re workshopping it, a lot of stuff is bumpy and awkward. Especially when you’re working on the edge, you’re going to offend. A guy like Tosh, he’s at the Laugh Factory. He’s making no money. He’s essentially in the gym. You’re mad at Ray Leonard because he’s not in shape, in the gym? That’s what the gym’s for. The sad thing, with all this taping and stuff, no one’s going to do stand-up. And every big stand-up I talk to says: “How do I work out new material? Where can you go, if I have a half an idea and then it’s on the Internet next week?” Just look at some of my material. You can’t imagine how rough it was and how unfunny and how sexist or racist it might have seemed. “Niggas vs. Black People” probably took me six months to get that thing right. You know how racist that thing was a week in? That’s not to be seen by anybody.

Q. What’s the solution?

A. Honestly, I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to do it. ’Cause the few times I’ve gotten onstage and thought about touring, immediately, stuff’s on the Internet, I’m getting calls, and I’m like, this isn’t worth it. I saw “Dark Knight [Rises]” the other night, and Bruce Wayne’s walking into this party, and he presses a button, and no one’s camera works. If I find a comedy club where no one’s camera works, I’ll go. I’ll go back to comedy clubs when they get a real no-camera policy, the same way they did with smoking. But hey, they used to be the smokiest places in the world.

Totally get where Rock is coming from but I also wonder if this is like music industry execs complaining about people not buying music the same way they used to. Things change. Horse and buggy drivers probably weren't happy about cars. I bet novelists hate Twitter. Journalists are getting screwed by technology too.

I think the real question is what happens next. Maybe albums/specials go away. Maybe what really matters is what happens in that room that night. Maybe people turn over material every month instead of every year.

Does this mean a loss of craftsmanship and depth? Most likely. But that's happening everywhere else in society too. Why should standup be any different?

Also, it seems like it's mostly a problem for big-name standups. Little guys don't have to worry about being taped because no one gives a shit.

Also, how many people are really viewing these sets later? Are TONS of people watching shitty cellphone taped sets of Chris Rock or Louis CK or Daniel Tosh?

I get why it'd be bad if someone captures you saying something that gets blown up by the speech police. But Tosh's whole rape joke thing wasn't even taped. It was just that someone who was at the show wrote about it online. The genie's out of the bottle on this thing. Secrets are tough to keep these days.

I'm not saying taping shows is the right thing to do. Maybe there will be some sort of technology that blocks cellphone use at clubs in the future. (Man, that sounds great.) But if it ain't something that can really be stopped, the next step is to ask, "What are we gonna do about it?"


Springsteen and Van Zandt debate how much to go personal

Bruce Springsteen at Sixty-Two (The New Yorker) has an interesting passage on Bruce's attempt in the late '80s to talk about his real life in his songs.

Springsteen was aware of the comical contradiction: the multimillionaire who, in his theatrical self-presentation, is the voice of the dispossessed. Very occasionally, twinges of discomfort about this have leaked into his lyrics. In the late eighties, Springsteen played “Ain’t Got You,” which appeared on his album “Tunnel of Love,” for Van Zandt. The lyrics tell of a fellow who gets “paid a king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally”—who’s got “the fortunes of heaven” and a “house full of Rembrandt and priceless art”—but lacks the affections of his beloved. Van Zandt recognized the self-mockery but didn’t care. He was aghast.

“We had one of our biggest fights of our lives,” Van Zandt recalled. “I’m, like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ And he’s, like, ‘Well, what do you mean, it’s the truth. It’s just who I am, it’s my life.’ And I’m, like, ‘This is bullshit. People don’t need you talking about your life. Nobody gives a shit about your life. They need you for their lives. That’s your thing. Giving some logic and reason and sympathy and passion to this cold, fragmented, confusing world—that’s your gift. Explaining their lives to them. Their lives, not yours.’ And we fought and fought and fought and fought. He says ‘Fuck you,’ I say ‘Fuck you.’ I think something in what I said probably resonated.”

Reminds me of the argument about doing observational vs. personal comedy. Going personal seems like the right path in many ways but then again, maybe they want to hear about their lives instead of yours. Sometimes dwelling on yourself onstage feels a bit selfish. But other times, the personal seems like the best path to the universal.

There's also an interesting passage about being an isolationist, relationships, and creativity.

It took some doing to get Springsteen, an “isolationist” by nature, to settle into a real marriage, and resist the urge to dwell only in his music and onstage. “Now I see that two of the best days of my life,” he once told a reporter for Rolling Stone, “were the day I picked up the guitar and the day that I learned how to put it down.”

Scialfa smiled at that. “When you are that serious and that creative, and non-trusting on an intimate level, and your art has given you so much, your ability to create something becomes your medicine,” she said. “It’s the only thing that’s given you that stability, that joy, that self-esteem. And so you are, like, ‘This part of me no one is going to touch.’ When you’re young, that works, because it gets you from A to B. When you get older, when you are trying to have a family and children, it doesn’t work. I think that some artists can be prone to protecting the well that they fetched their inspiration from so well that they are actually protecting malignant parts of themselves, too. You begin to see that something is broken. It’s not just a matter of being the mythological lone wolf; something is broken. Bruce is very smart. He wanted a family, he wanted a relationship, and he worked really, really, really hard at it––as hard as he works at his music.”


As Springsteen sees it, the creative talent has always been nurtured by the darker currents of his psyche, and wealth is no guarantee of bliss. “I’m thirty years in analysis!” he said. “Look, you cannot underestimate the fine power of self-loathing in all of this. You think, I don’t like anything I’m seeing, I don’t like anything I’m doing, but I need to change myself, I need to transform myself. I do not know a single artist who does not run on that fuel. If you are extremely pleased with yourself, nobody would be fucking doing it! Brando would not have acted. Dylan wouldn’t have written ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ James Brown wouldn’t have gone ‘Unh!’ He wouldn’t have searched that one-beat down that was so hard. That’s a motivation, that element of ‘I need to remake myself, my town, my audience’—the desire for renewal.”

Live concerts shot in a minimalist way: CK, Cosby, Pryor, and Springsteen [Sandpaper Suit]
Funny comebacks from Tom Petty, Phil Spector, and Elvis Costello [Sandpaper Suit]


We're All Friends Here on Saturday night with Sobel, Hendrickson, and Patel

We're All Friends Here is back tomorrow (Sat) night. This one could get sloppy. The guests:

Barry Sobel
Andy Hendrickson
Nimesh Patel

Sat, Jul 28 - 8pm sharp
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY

Past episodes of the show available at iTunes. The latest three:

  • 7/26/2012: Jermaine Fowler, Adam Conover, and Jessica Watkins
  • 6/19/2012: Nate Fridson, Rojo Perez, and Taylor Ketchum
  • 3/20/2012: Greg Stone, Tim Warner, and Luis Gomez


Fred Armisen's favorite Saturday Night Live sketch: Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer

On a recent Nerdist podcast, Fred Armisen talked about how some SNL sketches will hit harder with the at-home crowd than they do with the live audience. One example he mentioned: Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer, which he calls his favorite SNL sketch of all time. Watch it.


The advice Louis CK and Chris Rock gave to Hannibal Buress

Good piece on Hannibal that includes some advice he's gotten from CK and Rock.

"Louie would tell me not to curse so much," said Hannibal. "He'd say, "Take out the 'fucks,' you're six less 'fucks' away from being a millionaire."" Marquee names in NYC stand-up have crossed the bridge to perform at Hannibal's Knitting Factory show, including C.K., Jim Gaffigan and one of his biggest supporters, Chris Rock. When I asked Hannibal what advice Rock offered for his Gramercy Theatre taping he gave a dubious reply: "He said make sure it's a 'special' and not a 'normal.'"

Other Sandpaper Suit posts that discuss cursing onstage:
"Comics who are green try to be more blue to appear less yellow"
The bad of cursing and the good of being conversational
Stanhope on cursing


George Carlin on euphemisms

The first 2.5 minutes of this isn't really funny. But it's amazing. Reminds me of Orwell in how it shows the power of words to hide the truth.


Teeth grinding

I grind my teeth at night. That's because my brain wants to sleep but my body wants to destroy itself. So I have to wear something called a chewguard that prevents my teeth from touching while I sleep. It pretty much looks like I'm wearing a retainer. So if you see me wearing it, know that means I either 1) completely don't care what you think or 2) we are totally in love. (Luckily, in my brain there is little room for a scenario that is not one or the other of these.)

Also worth noting: I clean the chewguard with denture cleaner. I've found it challenging to explain this to women. "Yes, I have Efferdent. But it's not because I'm old. It's because I'm filled with repressed rage! Don't worry, I can't control it and it only comes out in the bedroom...Wait, where are you going?!"

I'm a bit over-the-top with hand-washing too. I think that's because my father used to inspect my hands before I could eat dinner. He'd actually smell my hands to make sure I had washed them. That's a parent's way of saying, "I've got this problem...and now I'm handing it over to you!" He would also take a bath and a shower every morning. This is a man obsessed with eliminating filth. Which seems to me the filthiest thing of all.

So, uh, yeah: Clean hands, crushed teeth, open mind!


The truth inspires

An author who writes about leadership argues that "nothing inspires people more than the truth."

Most leaders think that telling people the truth makes that leader vulnerable - either to the public or their opponents. They are wrong.

"The most important part of telling the truth is that it actually binds you to people," explains Seidman, "because when you trust people with the truth, they trust you back." Obfuscation from leaders just gives citizens another problem - more haze - to sort through. "Trusting people with the truth is like giving them a solid floor," adds Seidman. "It compels action. When you are anchored in shared truth, you start to solve problems together. It's the beginning of coming up with a better path."

Feels like onstage advice too. That telling the truth will get people to trust you and take your side.


John Cleese on unconcious thought

4 Lessons In Creativity From John Cleese:

“Now I want to explain about getting into tortoise mind. The enemies of tortoise mind are anxiety and interruptions. The moment you get anxious or interrupted you go back into hare brain. What you have to do is give yourself a place where you’re not going to be interrupted for about an hour, because it takes time for your thoughts to settle. You have to create boundaries of space and then you have to create boundaries of time. You need to give yourself the time to let these ideas come up because it deals in the confusion and images and very subtle things.”

The rest is a good read too.


Bee stung lips

I got stung by a bee on Monday night. No big deal you say? This bee flew into my mouth and stung me on the lip. And do you know what happens when you get stung on the lip? It starts inflating like an air mattress. Here, look at this pic. It looks like I had a collagen implant done by Stevie Wonder. Y'know, like the kind Meg Ryan gets. Oh, that's where I cross the line with you? What? You think Meg Ryan looks good these days. C'mon. Let's get real. People, let's just learn to age gracefully. That's what I say when I look at the bags under my eyes each morning. Seriously, they're getting outta hand. I look like the last season of Friends when Joey had those bags under his eyes that were so big I'm convinced an airline woulda made him check them. Look at me talking about celebs! So this is what I've been missing out on. Let's chat about cellulite and beach photos next! Anyway, I'm getting off track here. The good news is that my lip has recovered. The human body is an elastic thing. Phew. Strangely enough, this actually happened to me once before. I was drinking a beer and a bee flew into it as I drank and then stung my lip. Apparently, my lips are delicious to bees. Beelicious? If you own a line of lip gloss, feel free to steal that name.


Thursday: Hot Soup with Dixon, Adomian, Roy, and more

Thursday is another Hot Soup. Note the early start time (7:30pm sharp). Reservations recommended. The lineup:

John Roy (The Tonight Show)
Pat Dixon (Comedy Central)
James Adomian (Comedy Bang Bang)
Team Submarine (NPR, Just for Laughs Fest)
Robert Dean (Bridgetown Comedy Fest)

Thursday, July 12
155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
Doors at 7:15pm, showtime at 7:30pm. $5 tickets.
Produced by Mark Normand, Sachi Ezura, and Matt Ruby.
Make a reservation.

Vile things are the ones that most need defending

Re: Tosh/Tracy/rape/gays/etc...Everyone is a supporter of free speech. Until someone says something disgusting. That's when it gets interesting. Some people bail. But the true believers know vile things are the ones that most need defending. Like when the ACLU argued on behalf of the Nazis who wanted to march in Skokie. When you defend the rights of someone who says stuff you hate, that's when you show you truly believe in freedom of expression.

Saying something is off limits for discussion on a comedy stage is dangerous to the artform. That stage is one of the few remaining public forums in our nanny society where people can still express themselves without a filter and without censorship. And that's what makes it a holy place where the truth often emerges. If you want the garden, accept the weeds. They grow together.


Finding the second right answer

The Second City Way Of Better Brainstorming offers this tip: Find The Second Right Answer.

Despite the old adage, sometimes it is good to beat a dead horse. You may have come to a few cursory conclusions and found some good-enough solutions, but that's not good enough. Early solutions often aren't the strongest--and they've probably been thought of before. Your job is to go deeper. Putzier calls it looking for the second right answer. "It takes a little bit of discipline because we tend to jump on the first, obvious solution to a problem."

Same thing is what often makes a punchline funny. The first right answer can be obvious to an audience. But the second (or 3rd or 200th) is often the one that takes 'em from A to C and sparks laughter.

Also, it's a good reason to stick with bits for longer periods of time. I've been doing that more lately and noticing it's often months down the road that the right punchline or tag will hit me. Of course, you've gotta have something funny enough in there at first to justify doing it over and over again.

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...