Brass Eye Episode 04 - Sex

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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.

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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.


Phyllis Diller on The Ed Sullivan Show

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Liam Neeson wants to do comedy


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?"


Wired UK and Financial Times interview me?

So I gave interviews to Wired UK and the Financial Times. Or did I? It's all pretty confusing at this point.

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