Sandpaper Suit Podcast Episode 5 - Dan Soder, Sam Morrill, and Mark Normand

After a gig in New Haven, Dan Soder, Sam Morrill, Mark Normand, and myself take a train back to the city and drink whiskey out of a paper bag while cops in bulletproof vests stand nearby. Topics covered: performing at The Cellar, some of our favorite bits ever, Bukowski, Patrice, and more. Listen below or get it at iTunes.


Did Richard Pryor hate Eddie Murphy?

A fascinating 1990 conversation between Eddie Murphy and Spike Lee from Spin Magazine. They talk about race, Hollywood, and Eddie's love of Elvis.

Elvis has more presence than any entertainer ever. When he was there he was there...If you look at him he looks like he's totally in control of everything, but beneath that, he's totally out of control. I think that's fascinating.

Eddie also talks about his belief that Richard Pryor hated him.

It's real weird to find out your idol hates you and shit…He thinks I'm the reason why his shit ain't the way it used to be.

Via Anil Dash, who also links up more interesting Eddie articles.


Ophira Eisenberg: "Part of the job is to tell people to sit down and shut up”

Ophira Eisenberg offers some advice on dealing with hecklers:

Never, ever, ever invite anyone from the audience, especially someone heckling, to get out of their seat. If they stand, tell them to sit down. I don’t care if it’s their birthday and they’re having a great time, no one is allowed near that stage except you and the cocktail waitress. I love standup more than anything but often part of the job is to tell people to sit down and shut up.” And on shutting them down verbally she adds, “I know there is pressure to come back with a hilarious line back to a heckler, but you know what works just as well? Directly telling them without apology to ‘Shut up or leave.’ Treat them like a bad child. Why waste time on this person? Get them out of there and get back to your act. Starting the back and forth will only make them want to try to save their ego by heckling back and now you’re in a full dialogue. If you want to do that great, but be prepared for the consequences.

The fascination with hecklers [Sandpaper Suit]
Louis CK tees off on heckler [Sandpaper Suit]


The actor and director from The Artist also make French spy spoofs

Just learned that Jean Dujardin and Michel Hazanavicius, the actor and director from The Artist, previously teamed up for a popular series of French spy spoofs called OSS 117. Looks like a French Austin Powers basically...

...which brings to mind some of Peter Sellers great work in The Pink Panther and The Party...

...which seemed to me like the inspiration (or at least a reference) for the party scene from Ace Ventura.


How Leonard Cohen soothed the savage beasts at the Isle of Wight in 1970

I remember a Patton Oswalt interview where he discussed that he would sometimes deal with a tough crowd by talking quieter and quieter until they paid attention. Came back to my mind while reading "St. Leonard’s Passion." It tells the story of Leonard Cohen coming to the rescue and calming a panicky, unruly music festival crowd on the Isle of Wight in 1970.

Watching the campground catch fire, most artists scrambled for safety and talked feverishly about getting off the island as soon as was possible. Standing not far from the stage, Leonard Cohen turned to Bob Johnston, his producer, and with what Johnston thought was the beginning of a smile said, “Wake me up when it’s time, Bob. I’m going to take a nap over there, by the fire.” A few hours later, one of the festival’s organizers woke him up and asked him to take the stage. Unless someone plays, he said hurriedly, blood will be spilled.

Watching Cohen get dressed, Johnston felt a pulsating fear thudding inside him. He peeked out of the trailer and saw Kristofferson, Joan Baez, and Judy Collins lounging backstage, waiting for their friend to play his set. Cohen, Johnston thought, was nowhere near as tough as Kristofferson, not as determined as Baez, not as well-respected as Collins, and if the three of them were pelted with bottles and booed off stage, what chance did Cohen have? He was 36, nearly a decade older than most of the other performers. With a black T-shirt and a safari jacket, unshaved and unkempt, he looked more like Jim Morrison’s accountant than his peer. He took the stage. It was 2:00 in the morning. His face was blank.

“Greetings,” Cohen said into the microphone, “greetings.” His tone was casual, his voice soft. He continued. “When I was 7 years old,” he said in that same mellow way, “my father used to take me to the circus. He had a black mustache, and a great vest, and a pansy in his lapel, and he liked the circus better than I did.”

Sitting a few feet behind Cohen, Charlie Daniels, a young fiddler Bob Johnston had brought along from Nashville, was amused. Years later, recalling how he felt at that moment, he said he just couldn’t believe Cohen was trying to tell 600,000 people a goddamned bedtime story. But in a near-monotone, Cohen continued.

“There was one thing at the circus that happened that I always used to wait for,” he said. “I don’t want to impose on you, this isn’t like a sing-along … but there was one moment when a man would stand up and say, would everybody light a match so we can locate one another? And could I ask you each person to light a match, so that I could see where you all are? Could each of you light a match, so that you’ll sparkle like fireflies, each at your different heights? I would love to see those matches flare.”

The audience obeyed. For five days, the men and women on stage—organizers, artists, or anarchists—were talking at them. Cohen was talking to them. He seemed like one of them. He seemed to care. Slowly, they took out matchbooks and lighters, and instead of setting things on fire they waved their arms in the air, emitting heat and light. Cohen smiled. “Oh, yeah!” he said softly. “Oh, yeah. Now I know that you know why you’re lighting them.” He strummed a few chords on the guitar and continued his speech, half-singing. “It’s good to be here alone in front of 600,000 people. It’s a large nation but it’s still weak. Still very weak. It needs to get a lot stronger before it can claim a right to land.”

These were heavy words for 2:00 in the morning, but they seemed to permeate. Cohen wasn’t just telling the audience to stop rioting; he was about to give them an alternative. Playing as slowly as he could, Cohen began with one of his most famous songs: “Like … a … bird … on … a … wire …” Whoever was still standing now sat down on the grass and listened.

When the song ended, the audience clapped. Not thunderously, but still. A handful, still hopped up on the adrenaline of the afternoon, booed, but they were soon subdued. The 600,000 wanted to hear what Cohen had to say.

What he had to say was poetry. He had started out as a poet, and his first public performances consisted of reciting verse in smoky, small Montreal coffee houses. He might as well have been in one when he stared into the distance in the way that poets sometimes do when they’re reading out loud and began his soliloquy.

“I wrote this in a peeling room in the Chelsea Hotel, before I was rich and famous and they gave me well-painted rooms,” he said. “I was coming off of amphetamines, and I was pursuing a blonde lady whom I met in a Nazi poster. And I was doing many things to attract her attention. I was lighting wax candles in the form of men and women. I was marrying the smoke of two cones of sandalwood.” Then, he started playing another of his songs, “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong.”

Sometimes the best way to deal with an unruly crowd is by being the calmest person in the place.

Here's video of it:


Humor is top form of self-expression for kids these days

"In the Tastes of Young Men, Humor Is Most Prized, a Survey Finds" reports that comedy trumps music, sports, and style when it comes to how young men view themselves and others.

“We called them Comedy Natives,” said Tanya Giles, the executive vice president for research at Comedy Central’s parent, MTV Networks. “Comedy is so central to who they are, the way they connect with other people, the way they get ahead in the world. One big takeaway is that unlike previous generations, humor, and not music, is their No. 1 form of self-expression"...

Chanon Cook, the top research executive for Comedy Central, said the results also indicated that “irony has been replaced by absurdity.” That is one of many ways she said this generation had separated itself from Generation X, a more dour and cynical group in the Comedy Central analysis, shaped by things like battles over race and class, and growing up as latchkey kids.

Weird to think that humor is overtaking music like that. Though maybe that says more about the state of music today than it does about comedy.


We're All Fr-Lin-ds Here!

That's how you do that, right?

We're All Friends Here is back tomorrow (Fri) night with this fun lineup:

Joe List
Gary Vider
The Lucas Bros

Fri, Feb 17 - 11:30pm
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY

And FYI: Hot Soup is moving to a monthly schedule. We'll now be the second Friday of each month at UCB-East at 9pm. Hot slot! Next one will be Mar 9.


How Bill Murray improvised the Cinderella story monologue from Caddyshack in one take

Great Harold Ramis profile from The New Yorker back in 2004. In it, he talks about how Bill Murray improvised the Cinderella story monologue from Caddyshack in one take.

Bill was a tremendous source of strength and protection. If a scene didn’t work, I’d just say, ‘O.K., let’s start lighting,’ and Bill and I would talk for half an hour, and we’d get something great.” The classic “Cinderella story” speech from “Caddyshack” had been written as an interstitial camera shot: Murray’s character, the greenskeeper, was to be “absently lopping the heads off bedded tulips as he practices his golf swing with a grass whip.” Ramis took Murray aside and said, “When you’re playing sports, do you ever just talk to yourself like you’re the announcer?”

Murray said, “Say no more,” and did his monologue in one take. As he lops the flowers in the finished film, he shyly mutters, “What an incredible Cinderella story—this unknown comes out of nowhere to lead the pack at Augusta… . Tears in his eyes, I guess… . This crowd has gone deathly silent. A Cinderella story, out of nowhere, a former greenskeeper now about to become the Masters champion.” He swings, then follows the flight of the imaginary shot. “It looks like a mirac— It’s in the hole!

Here's another fun Murray story from Ramis:

“One of my favorite Bill Murray stories is one about when he went to Bali. I’d spent three weeks there, mostly in the south, where the tourists are. But Bill rode a motorcycle into the interior until the sun went down and got totally lost. He goes into a village store, where they are very surprised to see an American tourist, and starts talking to them in English, going ‘Wow! Nice hat! Hey, gimme that hat!’ ” Ramis’s eyes were lighting up. “And he took the guy’s hat and started imitating people, entertaining. Word gets around this hamlet that there’s some crazy guy at the grocery, and he ended up doing a dumb show with the whole village sitting around laughing as he grabbed the women and tickled the kids. No worry about getting back to a hotel, no need for language, just his presence, and his charisma, and his courage. When you meet the hero, you sure know it.”

He smiled. “Bill loves to get lost, to throw the map out the window and drive till you have no idea where you are, just to experience something new.”

Reminds ya that a great way to make interesting comedy is to be an interesting person who does interesting things.

And lastly, talk about turning tragedy into funny:

Ramis describes Doug Kenney as the only person he knew who would hit the accelerator if he saw a car crossing his path. When they wrote “Caddyshack” together, along with Bill Murray’s older brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, Kenney was using a lot of cocaine and seemed depressed. In July, 1980, after becoming so hostile at the “Caddyshack” press junket that the film’s publicists asked him to leave, Kenney took a vacation on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and disappeared. When his body was found, under Hanapepe Lookout, a few days later, it was Ramis who delivered the verdict that everyone repeated: “Doug probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump.”

It's in the hole!


Dancing with the absurdity of life

In "9 Books on Reading and Writing," Maria Popova offers up some juicy pullquotes that relate to comedy thinking.

Here's Anne Lamott on why we read and write from "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life."

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

And Steven Pressfield discusses Resistance in "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles."

Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.

Related: Woody Allen describes his writing process and how he wrote 50 jokes a day...while on the subway


Leaping the canyon

In the comments of "Hiding what you really mean," Myq and I discussed telling jokes versus leaping over cliffs (via Jerry Seinfeld) or buses (via Evel Knievel). This "How to be funny" piece from The Telegraph touches on that too.

Jerry Seinfeld compares telling a joke to attempting to leap a metaphorical canyon, taking the audience with him. The set-up is the nearside cliff, and the punchline is the far side. If they're too far apart, the listeners don't make it to the other side. And if they are too close together, the audience just steps across the gap without experiencing any exhilarating leap. The joke-hearer gets far more pleasure from the joke if he or she has to do a little work.

That's part of why testing out a joke in front of a crowd is so fascinating. You're learning whether or not you're asking the audience to do too much/not enough/just the right amount of work. And only they can tell you that.

And to put a nice bow on it: "Evel Knievel's Famous Snake River Canyon Jump."


Think Tank: Best in Breed

Think Tank (our video series for MSN's Postbox) is back. This week we tackle the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden.

<a href='http://postbox.msn.com/?submissionid=34548&videoId=30c99035-58fb-477a-9d4e-7690f4f4cdb5&from=&src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='LAUGH AT: BEST IN BREED' >Video: LAUGH AT: BEST IN BREED</a>


Hot Soup comes to Friday night

I'm hosting a special FRIDAY NIGHT edition of Hot Soup on Feb 10 at 9pm. The lineup:

Jordan Carlos
Jared Logan
Sean Donnelly
Emily Heller
David Cope
Mark Normand

Friday, Feb 10
155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
Doors at 8:45pm, showtime at 9pm. $10 tickets.
Produced by David Cope, Mark Normand, and Matt Ruby.
Make a reservation.


The musicality and rhythm of funny

See this a lot: A newer comic is hosting a show and asks the audience a question or encourages them to applaud. But gets nothing in return. And then he tells the audience they're crappy.

But a lot of times the problem is in the way the request was delivered: the rhythm of how you say it, whether or not you raise your voice, your body language, how/when you pause, etc. Those things are all telling the audience you want a response. Your actual words are just a small part of the equation:

Only a small percentage of communication involves actual words: 7%, to be exact. In fact, 55% of communication is visual (body language, eye contact) and 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice).

The same problem happens with punchlines too. Unless you're going for a deadpan thing or a Steve Martin "they decide when to laugh" approach, you should be "telling" the audience when to laugh with your delivery. There should be an implied rim shot at your punchlines. If not, jokes won't hit hard. And you may mistakenly blame the audience or the joke when, in reality, it was the way you said it.

Anyway, all that's a lead in to this clip where I talk about the musicality and rhythm of funny...

That clip is from my 2011 interview with Erik Michielsen of Capture Your Flag. You can watch the entire interview here. (And the interview we did in 2010 here.)


What would it be like if Don Draper did standup comedy?

Ad legend David Ogilvy's notes on his work habits as a copywriter.

8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.

9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.

10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.

Coming up with a catchy tagline sounds a lot like coming up with a punchline.


Marvin Gaye does some "crowdwork"

Bummer about Don Cornelius (Soul Train founder found dead from gunshot wound). He's the man responsible for this, one of my favorite things to watch ever: Marvin Gaye doing "Let's Get It On" on Soul Train in 1974.

Talk about, um, connecting with an audience. The 2:40-3:05 interview part is pretty fun too.

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