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.
If you're like most comics, the word networking makes you want to throw up a little. But then again, I've heard a comic who's good at meeting and greeting say, "The hang time is as important as the stage time." Along those lines: Tech guy Reid Hoffman offers up lessons on "building a truly helpful professional network."
In the next day: Look at your calendar for the past six months and identify the five people you spend the most time with -- are you happy with their influence on you?
In the next week: Introduce two people who do not know each other but ought to. Then think about a challenge you face and ask for an introduction to a connection in your network who could help.
Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the 10 people you'd e-mail for advice? Don't wait -- invest in those relationships now.
In the next month: Identify a weaker tie with whom you'd like to build an alliance. Help him by giving him a small gift -- forward an article or job posting.
Create an "interesting people fund" to which you automatically funnel a certain percentage of your paycheck. Use it to pay for coffees and the occasional plane ticket to meet new people and shore up existing relationships.
I guess if you change the word networking to "making friends" something like that it makes the whole endeavor seem a little less distasteful. Still, plotting out your friendships feels a bit stiff to me. Then again, typing "lol" or "haha" during a text message makes me feel like I'm a prostitute so perhaps I'm not the best person to ask about all this.
5. That didn't happen. Completely defying logic is bad, but something that is on and off the screen so fast that we can get away with it is OK. Example: Robert Stack in ``Airplane!`` yells to Lloyd Bridges, ``He can`t land; they`re on instruments!`` And of course we cut to the cockpit and four of the actors are playing musical instruments. Seconds later, in the next scene, the saxophone and clarinets have disappeared. If it`s done right, no one in the audience will ask where the instruments went...
10. Straw Dummy. A hollow set-up for a joke or when the target is fabricated. Even if the joke hits the target who cares? We had an elaborate sequence written for "Naked Gun 2 and a half" involving Leslie being trapped in an oil barrel processing plant but the jokes all depended on machines we made up ourselves in an elaborate and expensive set. Fortunately, Paramount insisted on deleting the scene, saying they needed the money to pay the lawyers.
Charles Isherwood, the NY Times Theater Critic, examines the Mike Daisey brouhaha. He brings up an interesting perspective: Personal narratives can get away with loose truths more than outward facing social/political stories.
I also heard from a friend who is a performer of first-person comic monologues himself, who admitted that he has tweaked the truth in search of a shapely punch line now and then, and suspects most performers who traffic in the genre do much the same.
His e-mail brought up a point I didn’t have time to make in my earlier response to the controversy, namely that first-person narratives that are exclusively personal are likely to be judged by far looser standards than those that turn their gaze outward to engage with problems of larger social or political import. Would it bother me to discover that some of the stories told by Claudia Shear in her breakthrough solo piece, “Blown Sideways Through Life,” were tinkered with, or that Lisa Kron did not stick strictly to the details of her father’s and mother’s experience in her shows “2.5 Minute Ride” and “Well”? I have to confess not.
I don’t mean to suggest that they did, of course, but the confessional memoir, at least onstage, has been allowed to play by different rules.
I think it's a good point. Goes back to the audience's expectations. If you portray yourself as a documentarian reporting first-hand on a socially important issue, the crowd isn't expecting you to just make up facts. But when an audience sees Richard Pryor describing his heart attack, David Sedaris recounting working as an elf, or Birbigs detailing his sleepwalking, they probably wouldn't be shocked if they found out embellishing was going on.
It is perfectly legitimate in art and theater to exaggerate and fabricate and consolidate facts and events, but only as long as the audience knows that’s what they’re getting. There’s an unspoken contract with the viewer (or listener, or reader) and when that is deliberately misrepresented, there is no way to retroactively change that original perception.
When I tell stories, I always start from the truth. But then I often combine characters, change the order of events, tweak what was actually said, and exaggerate at punchlines. To me, it's the nature of the beast. Then again, I'd never claim these stories to be journalism.
Also, there's a tone thing here. When Daisey gives his monologue, he sounds so goddamn self-important, heavyhanded, and moralistic — like a teacher tsk tsking his pupils. If you put yourself on a high horse like that, ya better not be making it all up. It's like a political comic who invents a "this guy said this offensive thing" premise and then rails against it...lame, lame, lame. Once you start pointing fingers, you raise the bar on how truthful you have to be.
Audience members climbing onstage is about as bad as it gets for a performer. So imagine how James Brown felt while performing in Boston in 1968 on the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and the rest of the country's inner cities were burning and the city of Boston decided to use his concert to try to prevent the same thing happening there by broadcasting it live and then his fans started rushing the stage and cops began roughly shoving them off.
Brown dealt with it by keeping his cool, pushing the cops back, and gently persuading his fans to get down so the show could continue: "You're not being fair to yourselves or me either or your race...Now are we together or we ain't?" Watch below (from "The Night James Brown Saved Boston"):
And btw, this is how you get the title of Hardest Working Man in Show Business (from the T.A.M.I. Show in 1964):
Love the cape routine. According to Wikipedia, Keith Richards claimed that choosing to follow Brown on this show was the biggest mistake in the Stones' career. And Rick Rubin said that when he was visiting Prince's offices, this performance was looped on a lobby television. Rubin says it "may be the single greatest rock & roll performance ever captured on film."
"What is Sketch Comedy?" is a good intro to sketch. Here it offers a look at the difference between premise sketches and character sketches.
The famous “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker” (Van Down by the River) sketch is a classic character sketch.* Chris Farley’s performance is the only reason that sketch is funny. It’s a relatively mundane situation made interesting by the addition of a wacky character. These are a staple of SNL sketches. From John Belushi’s Samurai Tailor to Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella to Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartan Cheerleaders, SNL has made the character sketch its bread and butter. This is a great sketch to have if you have the actors to pull it off. SNL draws from some of the best comedic improvisers and actors in the world, many of whom are looking to show off so they can land better jobs, so character sketches are a natural fit. In general, British shows tend to have few pure character sketches, instead inserting funny characters into premise sketches...
A premise sketch is a sketch in which the situation is funny, rather than one character. Both characters can be totally normal people doing something weird...Sometimes, premise sketches have silly characters, although this is more common in England than the U.S. For example, Monty Python’s “Dirty Fork.” This why sometimes people say the two types of sketches are “one funny person” or “many funny people.”
On the last episode of Real Time, Bill Maher explained why he thinks his calling Palin a cunt is different than Rush Limbaugh's calling Fluke a slut.
It was in my standup act, which I consider the last bastion of free speech. There's a reason people compare me to George Carlin — because we're standup comedians. Rush Limbaugh likes to say he's a comedian. You know what Rush? When you can stand up in front of an audience of 3,000 people all the time like I do and make them spill their fucking guts out and laugh their asses off for 90 minutes, then you're a comedian. But you're not a comedian. And when you do that, my rule is you get a little extra leeway.
I’ve often been asked to share the most surprising thing I’ve learned about Woody Allen after spending two years making “Woody Allen: A Documentary.” My stock answer can be distilled to this: “He’s a fake.”
What I mean is that the public persona we’ve come to know as the “Woody Allen character” is just that — a character. The three N’s so often used to describe the public Allen are nebbishy, nervous and neurotic. But the contrast between the Woody character and the “real” Allen is never more in focus than when he’s on the set, directing.
Because any director must have the confidence to think on his or her feet and answer about 20 questions every minute, it’s hard to imagine that anyone as anxious as “classic” Allen would survive in the midst of all that chaos. But the “real” Allen does more than survive. He displays a remarkable sense of calm when at work, a confidence and security that are the antithesis of his public image, and both the crew and the actors take their cues from him.
Being cool, calm, and collected onstage isn't as funny as being nebbishy, nervous and neurotic though.
Figuring out how "real" to be onstage is a challenge. Being a cartoon is funnier and helps give you a more distinct point of view. But constantly pretending to be something you're not seems like it could get old real fast. And maybe that's why Woody (or Steve Martin or Bobcat Goldthwait) eventually soured on standup and moved on to movies.
Changes afoot in Hot Soup land. We'll now be doing the show the second Friday of each month at UCB-East. First show in the new slot was packed so let's keep it going this Friday. The lineup:
Jerrod Carmichael Dan St Germaine Jeff Wesselschmidt John Flynn Mark Normand Matt Ruby Host: David Cope
Friday, Mar 9 HOT SOUP! at UCB-East 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.
Some other upcoming shows I'm doing: Wed March 7 - 7pm - Final Four @ Caroline's Thu March 8 - 9pm - Pant Hoot @ Lincoln Park Tavern Fri March 9 - 11pm - Village Lantern Sun March 11 - 8pm - Verisign event @ SXSW (Austin, TX) Tue March 13 - 8:30pm - Afterlife @ Sidewalk Cafe More shows at my Calendar.
The most underestimated quality of successful stand-up comedians is how hard-working they are, which became clear as this joke evolved over two months. Stand-up is the rare form that usually requires test driving in public. [He] has since tried variations of his chivalry joke at about 80 performances. Almost every time, he tapes it, studies the results and jots down new ideas. That’s the job, he said, one he can’t imagine ever not doing.
Everyone talks about taping sets. But I'd say only 30% of comedians I see actually tape every set. And I'm guessing only 30% of those ever actually listen to the tapes. (I know when I'm done performing, the last thing I want to do is sit down and listen to myself.) Myq's work ethic to actually review all those performances is probably one of the things that helps him succeed.
Also, it's interesting how distilled the final joke is considering all the work and variations that went into it. It's as if a comedian builds an entire house just so he can present one window.
P.S. Myq is the only comic I know who will pull out his recorder in mid-conversation and speak into it in order to capture an idea. Trying to catch lightning in a bot-, er, recorder.
Wired: How will comedy be different five years from now? Who, or what, is the future of comedy?
Brennan: I don’t know where it will be in five years, though I’m pleased with where it is now. I think the future belongs to the comedic polymath. It belongs to the person who can generate the most good material in the biggest variety of ways, whether it’s sketches or stand-up or songs or tweets or television or films. The audience is a baby. The future belongs to whoever can provide the most material to feed that baby.
Wired: What, for you, is the toughest kind of audience to make laugh?
Brennan: Black audiences are probably the toughest for me to make laugh. I’ve gotten pretty good at performing for them, but it’s still a challenge. The level of performance has to be higher. “Dry” doesn’t really work for them. They demand energy. I do racial material, so it needs to be nuanced and smart and true. And they will eat you up if they smell that you’re nervous.