Hey. I’m Matt Ruby (email@example.com). I live in Brooklyn and I'm a standup comedian and the creator of Vooza, a video comic strip about the tech world. This is Sandpaper Suit, a comedy blog about standup, filmmaking, and whatever else I feel like talking about. Established 2006. Phew, that's a while.
NYC isn't a very nurturing place. And the comedy scene is pretty heartless too. That's what makes a place like The Creek so special. Rebecca Trent has set up an environment where people feel like they belong as opposed to somewhere that's trying to milk them.
The Creek was the first comedy venue that ever felt like home to me. I was doing shows at clubs in NYC and felt sick of the toxic environment of those places. It felt like everything was based on some hierarchy instead of talent. And the people there seemed more inclined to insult each other than be friends.
When I showed up to perform at Kingdom of Heaven, it felt completely different. It felt like hanging out with friends. I got to see great comics like Sean Patton, Jesse Popp, Nick Turner (who has a great writeup on The Creek too), and lots more take off. And I got to feel like part of a group doing comedy, something I hadn't felt before.
Eventually I wound up starting We're All Friends Here there with Mark and then hanging out there even more. There were Thanksgivings with deep fried turkey for "orphans," Christmas dinners for Jews, Super Bowls (Who Dat!), shows with substances, shows with nearly naked ladies, shows with film crews, JFL auditions, podcasts, burritos, long nights in the basement, fun afternoons on the back patio, and some of the best comedy nights I've ever seen. And also tons of shitty shows too. But the shitty ones were ok because the place encourages comics to experiment and take chances. How many venues in NYC can say that?
Running a comedy venue is a bad way to make money. Rebecca does it because she loves comedy and the scene and the group of people who hang out there all the time. And that's a special thing. People like Rebecca and venues like The Creek are what keep the comedy scene spinning. Rick Jenkins at The Studio in Boston and Mark Geary at The Lincoln Lodge in Chicago have a similar impact. Us comics owe them a lot. We should express our gratitude. So Rebecca: Thanks. You've built something amazing there and it's really helped out the NYC comedy community a ton. It's a special place and people will be talking about it years from now as the Ding Ho of our scene.
Now The Creek wants some help putting up a marquee and advertising the venue so they can put more butts in seats. It's a cause worth supporting. I encourage you to give what you can.
Karaoke is a mutual hostage situation. "I'll let you suck if you let me suck!" But alas, I was coerced into attending a friend's bday Karaoke extravaganza in Koreatown on Sat night. Went ahead and live tweeted it at #koreatownkaraoke. Follow along to experience the pain/wonder of it all. Now let's take these lies and make them true somehow.
The movie is about “the concept you can talk about these things your ashamed of, and more often than not, you find a deeper connection with people,” Birbiglia tells EW. “The one thing you’re most reluctant to tell, that’s where the comedy is.”
Heard Howard Stern say the same thing before too. Howard's version: If he felt like he shouldn't talk about something on the air, then he knew that's exactly what should talk about.
Seaton Smith Brooke Van Poppelen Dan Goodman Matt Ruby ...and more
Sunday, Jan 29 HOT SOUP! at UCB-East 155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A) Doors at 8:45pm, showtime at 9pm. $5 tickets. Produced by David Cope, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.
Note: This will be our last Sunday show at UCB-East. Next one will be Friday, Feb 10 at 9pm.
Montreal JFL Showcase - Tuesday 1/31 I'll be doing a spot at the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival showcase at The Creek. It'll feature comics bringing their A game and should be a really fun show.
Tuesday, Jan 31 - 8pm FREE Montreal JFL Showcase The Creek and The Cave 10-93 Jackson Ave Long Island City, NY
I'm not into drugs any more. I quit completely, and I hate people who are still into it. Well.. I do take one drug now - for fun - and, maybe you've heard of it, it's a new thing, I don't know if you have or not. It's a new thing, it makes you small. [ indicates size with fingers ] About this big. And, you know, I'll be home, sitting with my friends, and, uh.. we'll be sitting around, and somebody will say, "Heeeyyy.. let's get small!" So, you know, we get small, and uh.. the only bad thing is if some tall people come over. You're walking around going, "Ah hahaha..!" Now, I know I shouldn't get small when I'm driving.. but I was driving around the other day, and I said, "What the heck?" You know? So I'm driving like.. [ extends arms high in the air like he's reaching up to a giant steering wheel ] And, uh.. a cop pulls me over. And he makes me get out, he looks at me and he says, "Heyyy.. are you small"? I said, "No-o-o! I'm not!" He said, "Well, I'm gonna have to measure you." They have this little test they give you - they give you a balloon.. and if you can get inside of it, they know you're small.
...Same thing with most of Ellen's early material too.
Sometimes the way you lie is more real than the truth. Or at least more interesting.
Also, it's interesting how well this material holds up over time. I find that Martin album way more listenable than almost anything else from that era. Most comedy ages like cheese in the sun, but these jokes have Happy Meal-esque shelf lives.
It probably gets fatiguing to lie like that all the time though. Perhaps that's why both of these comedians eventually moved away from standup?
I'm back from LA. Great time out there. I think my fave place there was the coffeeshop in Hollywood I camped out at for a bit. There was a woman on phone loudly discussing "teamwork" and using Eddie Murphy/Brett Ratner leaving the Oscars as her example of "loyalty." She left and was replaced by a social media consultant teaching an aspiring actress how to use Twitter. I kept looking for a camera. Some photos...
Shot of Greg Fitzsimmons at packed out Comedy Bang Bang show. Super crowd and great show. Also saw Greg tape his podcast live there a few nights later with Nick Swardson. There's a phone call during it that is phenomenal. Check it when it goes live.
Staring at footprints outside Mann's Chinese Theater. Cheesy but still cool.
Fuzzy Hannibal at Tiger Lily. Did a bunch of shows with him while out there and, man, he destroys everywhere.
DC and Dominic onstage at Magic Bag. Seems like there are lots more cool venues/theaters to choose from out there since space isn't at such a premium like it is in NYC.
The Frolic Show in Little Tokyo.
I know how this dog owner feels. I named my cat "Dirty Slut" and she almost never responds when I call her name.
If it's just clever or loud or has all the right software or something, I'm not that interested. I'm looking always for soul. If I'm not moved at that level, if I'm not feeling at some point that it's possible that this could move me to tears or to dancing or to something where I've slightly surrendered to it – if that doesn't happen, it just stays on the shelf. It's an experiment until then.
As applies to comedy: I think that's what the talk about stakes, emotional risks, authenticity, etc. comes down to. The search for soul. That someone is giving themselves to you a little bit.
As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. And the instructions were these...Never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.
Never lament casually. If you're going to complain, make it beautiful. Part of why I like comedy so much: I think it's the most beautiful way to complain.
Went to a Moth storytelling slam in NYC the other week. Packed! Hundreds of people. So supportive of each other. Felt like a bizarro version of the standup world where everyone is polite and pays attention and is encouraging to each other. I kinda hated it. But it was interesting.
Have some stakes. Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story. A story without stakes is an essay and is best experienced on the page, not the stage.
Start in the action. Have a great first line that sets up the stakes or grabs attention.
No: “So I was thinking about climbing this mountain. But then I watched a little TV and made a snack and took a nap and my mom called and vented about her psoriasis then I did a little laundry (a whites load) (I lost another sock, darn it!) and then I thought about it again and decided I’d climb the mountain the next morning.”
Yes: “The mountain loomed before me. I had my hunting knife, some trail mix and snow boots. I had to make it to the little cabin and start a fire before sundown or freeze to death for sure.”
Here's a sample Moth story from a comic: Colin Quinn - Toast. ("When asked to perform at Robert DeNiro's birthday party, Colin finds himself in over his head.")
I'm in LA this week. Y'know, the life of a west side playa where cowards die and it's all ball, etc. Got a great week of shows lined up. Come on out and say hey.
Sat 1/14 - 8:00pm - Hand Shucked @ Moving Arts Theater (1822 Hyperion Ave) Sat 1/14 - 10:00pm - Magic Bag @ Underground Theater (1308 N Wilton) Sun 1/15 - 8:00pm - French Toast @ Taix (1911 W Sunset Blvd) Mon 1/16 - 8:00pm - What's Up Tiger Lily? @ Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill (6122 Sunset Blvd) Mon 1/16 - 10:30pm - Keep It Clean @ Public House (1739 N. Vermont Ave.) Tue 1/17 - 8:30pm - Comedy Bang Bang @ UCB-LA (5919 Franklin Ave.) Wed 1/18 - 9:00pm - The Frolic Show @ Far Bar (347 E. 1st Street) Thu 1/19 - 8:00pm - Josh and Josh Show @ Bar Lubitsch (7702 Santa Monica Blvd)
Louis CK has jokes because he is ashamed of his body, ashamed of his thoughts, his culture, his whiteness, whatever. Every joke seems to be about shame in some way. Ashamed of the things he doesn’t do that he knows he should. Ashamed of the things that he does do that he knows he shouldn’t. Ashamed of his privilege, and ashamed of how he doesn’t do anything to help others who don’t have it. All of these things are about the way Louis lives his life (or the stories he tells about how he does), but they’re also about the lines we draw, the tension of those meeting points of acceptable, common, and desirable behavior, and when our thoughts or actions only meet a couple of those qualifications. For instance, in his newest special, Louis talks about how mind-numbingly boring it is to play board games with his daughter and how much he wants to yell at her for it. Common impulse? Yes. Desirable? Probably, on a very base level to diffuse frustration. Acceptable? Nope. So, we’re ashamed by the those dark thoughts, and Louis is there to give the shameful inclinations credence through his routine. We laugh because we know, and we hear others laugh, so we can hear how we are not alone. The thought gets aired, so there’s less shame to feel...Someone once asked Allen Ginsberg how one becomes a prophet, and he simply replied, “Tell your secrets”...
Articulating our impulses is dirty business, and maybe this is why Louis’ been able to tread in a territory others haven’t been able to navigate. As Fran Lebowitz said, “If you’re going to tell the truth, you better be funny. Otherwise, they will kill you.”
C.K. describes his approach as “deconstruction to a point where you’re left with a fucking mess of unanswered questions. It can be a bit painful and scary. That’s fun for me.” He doesn’t want to come off like some moralizing gasbag, of course, so he’ll throw in something “totally indefensible.” “I’m fucking around with a lot of big ideas, and I don’t have the authority to seriously talk about them. So when I make a joke about a baby with a tree branch growing out of its head being the same thing as a Chinese baby, I don’t expect you to believe any of this. I’m just being a dick.”
Basic cable channels tend to know their audience and then relentlessly target their programming at that niche (just look at the new Lifetime lineup, for example). Still, we can't help but peruseComedy Central's newly announced 2012 development slate, which features twenty potential series projects and seven stand-up specials, and wonder where all the comediennes are. Only one of those shows (and none of those stand-up specials) stars a woman, the Untitled Amy Schumer Project, and in a cinematic year filled with female-fronted comedies like Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, andYoung Adult, that seems like an out-of-step move for Comedy Central to take. We can't be mad at any network developing shows for Wyatt Cenac, Matt Braunger, and Nick Kroll, but surely there are some comic actresses out there besides Whitney Cummings whom TV shows can be built around?
In the comments, Erin Judge writes, "It's simple. The channels that focus on comedy also focus on advertising to guys. Dudes, specifically." And she points to this article to back up her point.
The bull’s-eye for Comedy Central is the audience of males ages 18 to 34. Any younger, and the beer and car advertisers would be off target. Any older, and there are a dozen other channels advertisers could choose.
I have a new favorite comedy podcast: Pete Holmes' You Made It Weird (iTunes). We all know Pete's a great comedian but I didn't know he'd be such a great interviewer too. He's a self-described comedy nerd and he dives deep with the guests and their approach to doing standup, coming up with a persona, writing, evolving onstage, etc. You can tell he's got a genuine curiosity about standup and loves the whole process of creating laughter.
Also, he seems genuinely close with each interviewee so the conversations feel like old friends catching up. Plus, he always makes a point of discussing two topics with each guest that I find intriguing: 1) how to have a healthy relationship while doing comedy and 2) god/religion. Seriously, each episode I've listened to has been fascinating.
If you're looking for a starting point, I'd suggest the Jim Gaffigan, Neal Brennan, and Kumail episodes. Looking forward to more.
Hicks thinks against society and insists on the importance of this intellectual freedom as a way to inspire others to think for themselves. “To me, the comic is the guy who says ‘Wait a minute’ as the consensus forms,” Hicks told me as we climbed the stairs to his dressing room. “He’s the antithesis of the mob mentality. The comic is a flame—like Shiva the Destroyer, toppling idols no matter what they are. He keeps cutting everything back to the moment.”
All that has a beginning by necessity must have an end. In destruction, truly nothing is destroyed but the illusion of individuality. Thus the power of destruction associated with Lord Shiva has great purifying power, both on a more personal level when problems make us see reality more clearly, as on a more universal level. Destruction opens the path for a new creation of the universe, a new opportunity for the beauty and drama of universal illusion to unfold. As Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram or Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Shiva represents the most essential goodness.
Destruction that purifies. That sounds like a good way to get the new year rolling.