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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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) Littlefield
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...
This year's edition will feature FAKE versions of:
Flight of the Conchords
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.
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.