Sat night: We're All Friends Here w/ Fowler, Watkins, and Conover

We're All Friends Here is back tomorrow (Sat) night. Got some real dirt flowing. The guests:

Jermaine Fowler
Jessica Watkins
Adam Conover

Sat, Jun 29 - 8pm sharp
The Creek and The Cave
10-93 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY


Vooza and Radimparency

Vooza is a mobile web app launching soon and its got some really innovative ideas (and familiar faces). For example, here's a clip on Radimparency:

The site's already gotten over 30k views and mentions in NY Times, Vice, Laughing Squid, and lots of tech/geek blogs. Vooza.com has another "explainer" video and an email list signup if you want to get updates.

Short vs. long game

Size matters. In this clip, I use this analogy to explain why a killer tight 5 is so important: "No one's going to publish your novel until you write a great short story."

Also talked about this topic with Myq Kaplan a while back.

Above clip is from an interview I did with Erik Michielsen of Capture Your Flag. You can watch this entire interview. (And the interview we did in 2010 too.)



Bad ad placement

Hey NY Times, this might not be the ideal banner ad to place over this story.


Everyone has a signature

A trailer for Andrew Zuckerman‘s Wisdom project

Here's a quote, around 7:30in, from architect Frank Gehry:

Your best work is expressing yourself. Now you may not be the greatest at it, but when you do it, you're the only expert in it.

When I teach students in architecture, I try to get them to understand that they have a signature. Their body, their hand-eye coordination, their biological makeup, does make them write their name differently than I write my name.

It's why you hear so much the advice that you should go personal. You're the biggest expert in the world when it comes to talking about yourself.


The value of being grotesque

“Perhaps, if one wishes to remain an individual in the midst of the teeming multitudes, one must make oneself grotesque.”
-Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Read that and thought about it in terms of standup. If you're going to stand out amongst the masses of standups, you've got to do/be something grotesque (definition: odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre). Otherwise, you're just another one of the teeming multitudes.


The problem with self-pity

Rob Delaney talks about doing a benefit show and calls it "one of my more instructive stand-up experiences."

I resented that I was asked to wear a suit and tie, so I started my set kind of pouty and feeling sorry for myself, and I’m only admitting that because it could probably be of use to another comedian—that was very wrong of me. I should relish any opportunity to perform and respect the fact that I was asked to do the show, that there were people who came to see it. So I started off my set from a sense of self-pity. If there’s a commandment for comedy, that has got to be at the top: “Don’t you dare.” As such, I got into a hole I had difficulty pulling myself out of. I don’t think the set was the nightmare I felt that it was afterward, but my mindset was unhealthy and not conducive to enjoying myself onstage, which you must if you’re going to deliver a show people like. My main yardstick for if the show went well is, “Did I enjoy myself?” As a steward of this audience, of any audience, you are showing the people what to do, and it should be having a good time...

I’m actually glad it happened. I’m very glad it happened, because it made me re-evaluate how the audience is at least 51 percent of the equation. They are more important than, you, the performer, and they must be respected and loved. They don’t give a donkey shit if you’re wearing a suit and tie or if you’re fucking wearing Saran Wrap—make them laugh, you fucking idiot.

I like this advice: 1) Relish any opportunity to perform. 2) Respect the fact you were asked to do the show and that people came to see it.


6/14 (THU) Hot Soup with Neal Brennan, Barry Rothbart, and more

Hot Soup's back. Early start time again (7:30 sharp). Reservations recommended. The lineup:

Neal Brennan (Chappelle Show co-creator)
Barry Rothbart (MTV's Punk'd)
Calise Hawkins (Last Comic Standing)
Amber Nelson (UCB's Thunder Gulch)
Nato Green (San Francisco)
Mark Normand (Comedy Central)

I'm hosting.

Thursday, June 14
155 E. 3rd Street (at Avenue A)
Doors at 7:15pm, showtime at 7:30pm. $5 tickets.
Produced by Mark Normand and Matt Ruby.
Make a reservation.

Robert Evans on what to do if someone compliments your tie

Wes Anderson interviews producer Robert Evans. I'm not 100% clear what this means, but I still love it.

Check out The Kid Stays in the Picture for Evans' whole story. Super flick.


Have a conversation with a specific person in your life

Couple of thoughtful comments on how acting class can impact a comedian.

Aalap said:

One interesting tip they gave was to speak to a specific person. Commercial acting is unique in that you're often instructed to look into the camera. Which I think is almost exactly the same as looking at a standup audience. Our instructor told us to read the ad copy as if we were having a conversation with a specific person in our lives. This removed a huge block for me during the class because I stopped "acting" and started "talking" to the camera. I think technique is pretty helpful in comedy too, look at audience, not just a glance, look in someone's eyes, make a connection and talk as you would to a human being.

Clean Person said:

I tend to do a lot of act outs and if you watch some of the greats they commit so hard to some of their act outs that sometimes it feels like it transcends the joke or the punchline. Baron Vaughn is a good example of a contemporary comedian who has some amazing act outs. He is a trained actor btw. But then you have someone like Rory Scovel who had no formal acting training, yet he commits so hard to some of the act outs and improvisations he does.

Also I recently moved to LA and met with a manager out here, and she asked me if I had ever taken any acting classes and i told her i actually when to theatre school, then she said, "well you have half the battle won then." So i think it's a plus for agents or managers out here.

Full comments here.


Acting class

Noam Dagan writes in with a question:

I just wanted to ask your opinion on whether a stand up should take any acting classes. Did you take any when you were starting out? If so, did you take more than just a beginner's course, and what was your takeaway from them?

I never took an acting class (cue the "no duh" responses). Any standup out there who has taken acting classes want to chime in? Leave a comment. I'd be curious to know if a certain type of acting class (stage? film/tv?) or instructor is better than others for comedians.


Bill Murray: "You have to die all the time"

Bill Murray on taking chances and saying "No":

Bill: You gotta commit. You've gotta go out there and improvise and you've gotta be completely unafraid to die. You've got to be able to take a chance to die. And you have to die lots. You have to die all the time. You're goin' out there with just a whisper of an idea. The fear will make you clench up. That's the fear of dying. When you start and the first few lines don't grab and people are going like, “What's this? I'm not laughing and I'm not interested,” then you just put your arms out like this and open way up and that allows your stuff to go out. Otherwise it's just stuck inside you.

My pick for most underrated Murray flick:


Chris Rock on D'Angelo, Dave Chappelle, and "the island of What Do We Do with All This Talent?"

GQ has a really interesting article on the disappearance and return of the musician D'Angelo. Chris Rock used to hang out with him in the studio and says his disappearance echoes what happened with Dave Chappelle.

After Brown Sugar went platinum, Rock put D'Angelo on The Chris Rock Show. Later, when D was mixing Voodoo, Rock hung out some in the studio. No surprise, then, that the first thing out of Rock's mouth after "Hello" is a joyful "He's back!" But he adds a sobering downbeat: "D'Angelo. Chris Tucker. Dave Chappelle. Lauryn Hill. They all hang out on the same island. The island of What Do We Do with All This Talent? It frustrates me."

I tell Rock that Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the drummer for the Roots and one of D's closest collaborators, has ticked off much the same list. Questlove has a theory about what happens to black genius—what he calls "a crazy psychological kind of stoppage that prevents them from following through. A sort of self-saboteur disorder." Rock says he understands.

For a black star, Rock says, "there's a lot of pressure just to be responsible for other people's lives—to be the E. F. Hutton of your crew. Everything you say is magnified. I mean, street smarts only help you on the streets. Or maybe occasionally they will help you in the boardroom, but boy, you wish you knew a little bit about accounting." There is pressure to be original but also pressure to be commercial, to make money, to succeed. Sometimes the two run at cross-purposes.

I ask Questlove what he thinks has held D back. He says it's not just the way "Untitled" turned D'Angelo into "the Naked Guy," though of course that didn't help. It's something bigger. "We noticed early that all of the geniuses we admired have had maybe a ten-year run before death or, you know, the Poconos," he says. "That renders D paralyzed. He said he fears the responsibility and the power that comes with it. But I think what he fears most is the isolation"—the kind that fame brings.

Author Amy Wallace also published some outtakes from the piece, including Rock talking about his personal “Hall of Justice.”

Chris Rock: I’m around recording studios lot. I don’t know how to explain it. You know, I got tons of white friends, but as far as guys my age, artistic — there’s less comedians, especially in New York, especially black ones. So, hey, Mos Def is my age and, hey, I’m hanging out with Kanye in the studio. I ended up on the Kanye album. And they’re people you can talk to about this black fame thing.

Me: Right. I know they would all have something to say about it.

Rock: Everybody’s got an opinion. You know, watch the cartoons. The superheroes hang out in the Hall of Justice with the other superheroes. Superman doesn’t just hang in a bar. He hangs out at the League of Justice. When you get too isolated, you can go crazy. But that’s the cool thing about living in New York or L.A. You can be around artists. You can be in the Hall of Justice. And just by being around a bunch of people that are working on shit makes you work on shit. That’s always the question. “What are you working on? Let me hear it.”

If the negative aspects of black-genius-superfame intrigues ya, check out this 1990 conversation between Eddie Murphy and Spike Lee.


Talking about tags and being efficient on stage

Another interview clip talking about doing new jokes vs. refining existing ones and onstage efficiency.

This clip is from an interview I did with Erik Michielsen of Capture Your Flag. You can watch this entire interview. (And the interview we did in 2010 too.)

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