SF shows this weekend

I'll be out in SF doing shows this weekend in case you/someone ya know wants to come out:

Sat, December 21 - 8:00pm - Cynic Cave @ Lost Weekend Video
Sat, December 21 - 9:30pm - San Francisco Punchline (with Ali Wong) - Tickets
Sun, December 22 - 8:00pm - San Francisco Punchline


Merlin Mann: “People like you because of this, but you’re mad because it’s not this other thing.”

Merlin Mann (speaker, podcaster, tech guy) interview. Interesting thought on what to focus on...

It can be very frustrating to keep sucking at something without realizing that it’s not the thing you should be trying to get better at. It’s like when our parents used to tell us as kids, “There is something that you don’t even realize you’re good at,” or, “People like you because of this, but you’re mad because it’s not this other thing.” Part of successfully growing up is letting go of unrealistic ideas that stop us from recognizing something else we’re good at and might enjoy more than what we’re doing now. There could be something 10 times greater than what you’re doing, but you don’t realize it because you’re fixated on the thing you feel like you should be doing.

Fixation is good. Until it blocks out your vision of the bigger picture and alternate paths.


Last HOT SOUP show of the year

Last HOT SOUP show of the year is Tuesday (Dec 17). We're off for the holidays and then return on Jan 7. The lineup:

Reese Waters (Letterman)
Dan St Germain (Comedy Central)
Nate Fridson (Rooftop)
Chris Laker (JFL)
Taylor Ketchum (Rooftop)
Matt Ruby (MTV)
...and more!



The intersection of art/commerce/PR and making money off what ya do

Smart piece, by the founder of a denim label, on the intersection of art/commerce/PR and making money off what ya do: Ten Lessons from a Maker [via JF].

I) No one knows you exist.

You make a great product. But the world isn’t holding its breath waiting for you. It doesn’t know who you are. It doesn’t know you even exist. Currently, in the pecking order, you are at the bottom. It’s nothing personal. Everyone starts here.

You will have to make your reputation. You have will have to gain peoples attention. You will have to be as good at selling your product as you are making it. It is your job to get people to know you are on the planet.

II) You are not an artist.

You make things. You make things in order to sell them. The difference between you and an artist is you can’t wait years to be discovered.

You have to make what people want to buy. This is commerce. This is not art.

Selling is good. Employing people is good. Having apprentices is good.

Makers are here to make. Makers are here to sell - Van Gogh had to wait till he died before he sold his first painting. You can’t.

Sales after you die don’t count.

III) Make something that people want to buy.

Time is your most valuable resource. Spending your time making something that no one wants is one of the best ways I know to waste your life, and also to kill your business. So before you start, work out what people want. Work out why they will buy your product over your rivals. Work out what sets you apart.

One good way to make sure people want what you have to make is to do it better than anybody else. Another good way is to design it more beautifully than your rival. But the best way, is to do something that no else is doing. And do it so well, they don’t even try to copy you.

I know, I know...you're an artist and you shouldn't have to deal with this stuff. But maybe this is just part of being an artist now?

And speaking of makers, this is a beautiful short about a master woodworker in Eureka, CA. It goes deep. [via JK]


Wings or a gourmet meal?

Mike Birbiglia interview. He's asked, "How does it feel different to you, performing in that more personal style and with a purpose with more at stake?"

I wanted to pick my favorite things about one-person shows and my favorite things about standup comedy and merge them into a thing that is personal and, hopefully, knock on wood, as funny as a regular comedy album, but then also leads up to a point and has like an emotional weight to it in that, in some ways, I’m kind of giving something to the audience...

I always think of it as I like serving a full meal for the audience, as opposed to, like, chicken wings. That’s what I think of jokes — they’re chicken wings or pizza or ice cream or something. I love those things; I’d be the first to line up for all of those foods, but if a chef can deliver you a full meal, that to me is sort of euphoric. And that’s how I want people to feel about it. I want people to feel satiated from it. And I want it to kind of simmer in them. For them to be thinking about it the next day, like, “Oh, remember when we watched that thing?” [Laughs.] That’s really the hope.

I like the wings vs. a full meal analogy. Do you want to give 'em something fast and greasy? Or do you want to give 'em a gourmet meal they'll remember down the road? Both have their pros and cons. Also, it'd be weird if chefs had to prove they could cook wings first before they're allowed to do a gourmet meal. 'Cuz that's what it feels like with standup.


Johnny Cash and how people admire vulnerability

Interesting bit from this review of new book about Johnny Cash's life. It talks about Cash's late career comeback.

“Part of [Rick] Rubin’s genius,” Mr. Hilburn says, “was that he didn’t simply portray Cash as a rebel. He wanted to break through the public image of Cash as a superhero by capturing his human side — the struggle and the pain and the grit. Says Rubin, ‘When I asked artists what they admired about him, that’s what they often mentioned — that vulnerable, hurt aspect, the man who wouldn’t give up.’ ”

Cash persevered through heart surgery, neurological problems, a damaged jaw and failing eyesight and even continued to record music after the death of his beloved June in May 2003. He died four months later; by then, according to one estimate, doctors had him on some 30 medications.

His son, John Carter, later said: “I believe the thing about Dad that people find so easy to relate to is that he was willing to expose his most cumbersome burdens, his most consuming darknesses. He wasn’t afraid to go through the fire and say: ‘I fell down. I’ve made mistakes. I’m weak. I hurt.’ But in doing so, he gained some sort of defining strength. Every moment of darkness enabled him to better see the light.”

Interesting way to look at it: Admitting weakness is displaying strength. People admire that level of honesty – and your ability to overcome struggles.


Slut-shaming, gender essentialism, misandry, normative, gaslighting, etc.

I've figured out what slut-shaming means. But I'm still rather cloudy on a lot of the other terms used at "men are bad" posts I see online. Terms like gender essentialism, misandry, normative, gaslighting, etc.

Part of the goal here is to reach men and change their behavior, right? Because relying so heavily on terms that can only be understood if you took a Women's Studies class at a liberal arts college can't be the most effective way to do that. When a regular dude sees language like this, it's easy for him to think, "I've never even seen that word. This ain't for me. I'm outta here."

Femijargon builds a wall. It creates a we-agree-with-each-other cocoon for women. But it significantly reduces the chance of a teachable moment for men.

The real challenge is to explain gender issues while using simple, clear language that everyone can understand. Do that and guys might actually pay attention and examine their own behavior. And that'd be a healthy thing.





Writing makes you feel better and more alive

Nice summary of some of Anne Lamott’s advice on writing – much of it applies to standup too.

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.


I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway.


My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.

But I also tell [my students] that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. Writing this way is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.


If you give freely, there will always be more. … It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer.


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.

Beautifully said.


Metrics vs. chemistry

A piece on Amazon Video’s new original show: ‘Alpha House.’ Apparently, Amazon's first original web production "was born from a mountain of site data, user input, and focus grouping." Entertainment Weekly review of it says, “I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t coming together. In the end, what kept it from being the next Veep came down to comedic timing and cast chemistry." Oh, you mean building a show based on data, crowdsourcing, and focus groups didn't lead to a lot of chemistry? Shocking that.


The audience can sense if you really care

Screenwriter Brian Koppelman suggestion: Write what fascinates you.

When the story is important to you. When it fascinates you. That passion is tangible. The reader senses it. And, without even knowing why, gives you the benefit of the doubt. You still have to tell the story well, of course, and that still takes an enormous amount of effort and concentration. But: The huge collateral benefit of telling stories that genuinely fascinate you is this: forcing yourself to sit down and actually do the work is much, much easier than when you are merely writing something because you think it is marketable, can sell, is in a genre that’s currently in demand.

I like that read on an audience's ability to, conciously or not, suss out whether or not you really care about something. If they sense you're genuinely fascinated by something, they're gonna want to know why.



Bloomberg and Citibikes

Saw a Citibike rider almost get hit today. Bloomberg's love for that program cracks me up. His attitude: "Let's put a bunch of clueless tourists, who can't even handle being pedestrians without blocking the entire sidewalk, and put 'em on bikes – even though they never ride – and make 'em navigate one of the most dangerous, chaotic, trafficked urban areas in the entire world and no, they won't have helmets or know where the hell they're going but it'll be good for the city!"

"What if they want to drink a 32 oz. soda after the ride?"

"No way, that'd be DANGEROUS!"


John Mulaney's advice for handling a big crowd: "Louder and faster"

John Mulaney interview:

Time Out New York: You were one of Dave Chappelle’s openers at the massive Oddball festival this summer. How does your delivery change for that large a crowd?

John Mulaney: As a rule, with 18,000 people, I’d say: louder and faster. I remembered [Mike] Birbiglia gave me a piece of advice when I was first emceeing that he had been given when he was first emceeing. He did his set, walked off, and the headliner just went, “Louder and faster.”

Related: Birbigs on how to take something personal and make it relatable


A guy with a memory problem walks into a restaurant...

A '77 short written by and starring Steve Martin as "The Absent-Minded Waiter." (via MF)

Reminds me of Mr. Short-Term Memory: "The Blind Date" from SNL (written by Conan O'Brien in '88) except one has a waiter with no memory and the other is a restaurant diner with no memory.


HOT SOUP: From Aziz Ansari (last week) to Ted Alexandro (11/5)

HOT SOUP is steaming lately. Packed houses and we've had some great comics drop in the past few weeks: Aziz Ansari (photo), Judah Friedlander, Todd Barry, Nick Griffin, Gary Gulman, etc.

Great lineup again on Tuesday (11/5). It's at Irish Exit at 8pm.

Ted Alexandro (Letterman, Comedy Central)
Sean Patton (Comedy Central)
Louis Katz (Comedy Central)
Anthony P. DeVito (JFL)
Randy Liedtke (Bone Zone)
...also: Matt Ruby, Gary Vider, and more!

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Wes Anderson on why reviews don't matter

Director Wes Anderson on why he doesn't put any time into studying how people respond to his movies (from 24 Things I Learned While Writing My Book About Wes Anderson by Matt Zoller Seitz).

4. He doesn't find reviews terribly useful, whether they're positive or negative.
"There's one thing you can absolutely, 100 percent rely on," he told me, when we discussed reviews, "which is that if you show five different people the same thing, they're all going to have a different complaint or compliment. Each is going to have a different response, and you'd better know what you're gonna do, otherwise you're going to get confused... [H]ow much good can come from putting any time into studying how people are responding to your movies? The best case scenario is that it makes you feel flattered for a certain period of time, which doesn't really buy you much, in life: and inevitably, it's not going to just be the best-case scenario, so learn to spare yourself that experience, I'd say."

You better know what you're gonna do or else you'll get confused. Interesting to think about that in terms of standup since our "reviews" come instantly, in the form of audience response. What if you did sets where you just ignored people's responses and did only what you want to do? Or maybe that's just a luxury filmmakers get that comedians don't.


Mindy Tucker's Schtick photos are up

Mindy Tucker always takes amazing photographs at Schtick or Treat, the Halloween show where comedians perform in character as their comedy heroes in various degrees of homemade costume. Here's the gallery of this year's photos. And this shot of Mark and me was HuffPo Comedy's "Stolen Moment of the Week."


Patrice O’Neal on people-pleasing and life philosophy

The Comedian Comedians Were Afraid Of is a great profile of Patrice O’Neal. Interesting bits on people-pleasing along the way.

Dane Cook remembers one discussion they had about people-pleasing. Patrice wondered if the desire to be liked onstage might be coming from the need to protect a belief in oneself as a nice guy offstage. What if you weren’t that guy at all?...He had plenty to say about comedians who cared more about being liked than committing to their particular point of view: “Do you have a life philosophy? Do you have anything that says goddamn ethic? Any ethic, you piece of shit? If you don’t, don’t talk to me.”

It's a really well-written piece.


Jesus, heroin, and rock 'n roll

I always dug how Lou Reed used the words Jesus, heroin, and rock 'n roll interchangeably. As if they were the same thing. The thing that can heal the pain. The thing that makes everything alright.

There's a little girl who is bored. Suffocated by her parents and the suburbs. Who wants something more. And then she turns on a New York rock 'n roll station and she can't believe what she hears. She starts dancing. Her life is saved. Her life is saved by rock 'n roll. And after that, it was alright. It was alright. It's alright now.

Cuz if you listen hard enough, rock 'n roll can be your salvation. It can come through speakers and transport you to a different time and place. It can take you away. It can help your find your proper place.


I wish that I was born a thousand years ago
I wish that I'd sail the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship
Going from this land here to that
In a sailor's suit and cap
Away from the big city
Where a man can not be free
Of all of the evils of this town
And of himself, and those around
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know

"Pale Blue Eyes":

Thought of you as my mountain top,
Thought of you as my peak.
Thought of you as everything,
I've had but couldn't keep.

Lou Reed’s favorite 100 singles. Picked by Lou for the Curated Juke Box at the Helsinki Music Club in 2005. Classic Albums: Lou Reed: Transformer is a great look at how Reed and Bowie made that album. And I always loved this slowed down version of I'm Waiting for the Man live in '72.

Ride into the sun, Lou.


The six categories of comedians

Interesting chat with a comic last night who's reading book associated with "MAKE ’EM LAUGH: The Funny Business of America" that ran on PBS. The book/series breaks down comics into six categories. This comic was saying that it forced him to think about which category he belonged to and that realizing that helped him sort out what his voice should be and what he should talk about onstage. FYI, the categories and some reps for each one (from this Make 'Em Laugh page)...

Nerds, Jerks, & Oddballs
"the outsider has been a source of constant amusement"
Harold Lloyd
Bob Hope
Phyllis Diller
Jonathan Winters
Andy Kaufman
Robin Williams
Cheech & Chong
Woody Allen
Steve Martin

Breadwinners and Homemakers
"reflect the ongoing changes at home and in the workplace"
Burns and Allen
The Honeymooners
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Cosby Show
The Simpsons

"physical comedy and slapstick"
Charlie Chaplin
Buster Keaton
Laurel and Hardy
The Three Stooges
Martin and Lewis
The Marx Brothers
Lucille Ball

The Groundbreakers
"invoked freedom of speech to bring the biggest and most dangerous laughs to the American public"
Mae West
Moms Mabley
Lenny Bruce
Richard Pryor
George Carlin

The Wiseguys
"the wiseguy who defies convention by speaking the truth no matter the consequences"
W.C. Fields
Larry David
Groucho Marx
Phil Silvers
Jack Benny
Paul Lynde
Joan Rivers
Redd Foxx
Eddie Murphy
Chris Rock

Satire and Parody
"make fun of the world around them using the slings and arrows of parody and satire"
Will Rogers
Johnny Carson
Jon Stewart
Stephen Colbert
Sid Caesar
Mel Brooks


The 6th Annual SCHTICK OR TREAT is Sunday night (10/27)

Get your tickets for the 6th Annual SCHTICK OR TREAT coming up on Sunday night (Oct 27).

Dozens of NYC comedians perform in character as their favorite comedy legends. It's always one of the funnest shows of the year. Hosted by Mark Normand and me.

Showtime: 8:00PM (Doors: 7:30PM)
622 Degraw St (between 3rd and 4th Ave) in Park Slope
Tickets: $8 advance/$10 at door
Facebook event

Featuring FAKE sets from:
Ellen Degeneres
Robin Williams
Gilbert Gottfried
Carrot Top
Maria Bamford
Joan Rivers
Denis Leary
Dave Attell
…and more!

Film school, New Wave, and directing/editing techniques

This tweet...

...led to me watching The Story of Film: An Odyssey. Great look at the history of film. Check out the European New Wave episode for a taste.

Guided by film historian Mark Cousins, this bold 15-part love letter to the movies begins with the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th century and concludes with the multi-billion dollar globalized digital industry of the 21st.

And speaking of that New Wave style, How Louis CK's Directing Style Helps Him Translate His Standup to the Screen in 'Louie' talks about how CK's been influenced by those filmmakers.

It is ostensibly observational comedy, but filtered through a wholly specific worldview translated to the screen only when he has full control of how the viewer experiences his world. His humor is in the unexplained and the surreal, not typical of TV comedy, where humor is in the reveal. By using a “gritty” filmmaking style inspired by the realism of the films of the '60s and '70s mixed with the dramatic liberties afforded by Surrealism, Louis C.K. is able to successfully translate his standup act rooted in commenting on the deep strangeness he sees in humanity to a uniquely singular visualization of just that on television.

One more film bit that's interesting: The five editing techniques of Vsevolod Pudovkin. Evan Richards uses clips from films like 2001, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Godfather to illustrate Pudovkin's editing techniques.


Nate Bargatze, Nick Turner, and Kevin Barnett open up on We're All Friends Here podcast

New We're All Friends Here podcast comes out every Friday. Listen on iTunes. Kevin Barnett is in the hot seat on latest one. Nate Bargatze and Nick Turner were the eps before that. Turn it on and all the way up.

Next live edition is Sunday, Nov 10 at The Creek at 10pm as part of NY Comedy Festival.


How prison turns you into a Jewish skinhead

Which gang do you affiliate with if you're a Jew who winds up in prison? Sounds like the premise of a standup bit. But it's David Arenberg's real life. (Answer: You team up with skinheads. Best option amongst bad options.) In this piece, he reflects on being a Jew in state prison.

This makes it difficult for me, of course, to fit into the chow hall. Jews, as we all know, are not white but imposters who don white skin and hide inside it for the purpose of polluting and taking over the white race. The skinheads simply can’t allow me to eat with them: that would make them traitors of the worst kind — race traitors! But my milky skin and pasty complexion, characteristic of the Eastern European Ashkenazi, make it impossible for me to eat with other races who don’t understand the subtleties of my treachery and take me for just another wood. So the compromise is that I may sit at certain white tables after all the whites have finished eating. In exchange, I must do free legal work as directed by the heads (Jewish lawyers, even jailhouse lawyers, are hard to come by in prison) and remit to them a portion of the legal fees I collect from everyone else I do legal work for on the yard.

Bold emphasis is mine. Love the sarcasm here. Nothing more Jewish than that!


BestTechie interview about Vooza

Jeff Weisbein interviewed me and wrote up a piece called "Vooza Wants to Steal Your Data and Entertain You At the Same Time" over at BestTechie. We talk about the inspiration for Vooza episodes, how we write/shoot 'em, and some video tips. Here's one of our recent eps, featuring me and Steve O'Brien.


Steve Albini and rock 'n roll philosophy

Steve Albini’s Four-Page In Utero Proposal made the rounds recently. It is a great read. Embodies the DIY attitude and rock 'n roll as a philosophy and not just a kind of music. And it's fun when he writes, "I want to be paid like a plumber."

If ya dig it, check out a couple of Albini things I posted a while ago, especially his piece "The Problem With Music." It's a bit dated since it's about the major label vs. indie war from over a decade ago. But it's also about more than that. It's about commerce vs. art. The business vs. the thing you make. And why you need to understand the business side of things in order to protect yourself from making decisions you'll regret ("Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.").


Gary Gulman at HOT SOUP Tuesday (10/15) night

I'll be hosting this Tue (10/15) lineup at HOT SOUP:

Gary Gulman (Comedy Central)
Baron Vaughn (Comedy Central)
Josh Gondelman (Laughing Skull)
Nimesh Patel (Caroline's)
Amber Nelson (JFL)
Mark Normand (Conan)
Matt Ruby (MTV)

Full show details.
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Gary Gulman, Bill Gates, and income inequality in America

This bit is funny. Also, I think it's the best explanation of the issue of income inequality in America that I've ever heard.

Get More: Jokes,Jokes of the Day,Funny Jokes

I think this is hilarious. I also think the wealth gap in America is one of the most important issues our society faces right now...

"The 400 richest people in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 150 million put together," said Berkeley Professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich...

"Our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth," Nobel Prize-winning Economist and Columbia Professor Joseph Stiglitz wrote in an editorial earlier this year.

"With inequality at its highest level since before the Depression, a robust recovery will be difficult in the short term, and the American dream — a good life in exchange for hard work — is slowly dying."

...so I like the bit on multiple levels. It's communicating something that's important for people to think about.

Now I've got no idea what Gary's goal here was other than to get laughs. But I think this is a great example of how to do political comedy. You don't hit people over the head with your point of view. You don't call the people on the other side fat or cunts or stupid or some other personal attack. You don't go for applause instead of laughs. You make a joke that's really fucking funny. And then you also make a point. And then people go home and think about it. Maybe. And if they don't, that's fine too. If it's a funny joke, it stands on its own as a funny joke. But there's enough of a seed there that maybe someone stops to think about it a few days later and soaks it in on a deeper level.


Screenwriting wisdom via six-second snippets

Brian Koppelman is a writer, director, and funny guy who I'm lucky to know as a friend (we began doing standup together at the same time). He wrote/co-wrote the movies Rounders, Solitary Man, Ocean's 13, and lots of other stuff. And now he's giving screenwriting advice via Vine. Everyday he puts out a new clip of screenwriting how-to that's six seconds or less. Easy to digest and lots of good advice for any creative endeavor in there too. Some of the clips at that link and you can watch the rest by finding him on Vine (username is Brian Koppelman).


What comedians and NFL players have in common: They're madmen who have lost the ability to empathize

Football player Nate Jackson wrote a book about his time in the NFL. Here's an excerpt from "Slow Getting Up."

After morning practice we have a few hours to ourselves. I don’t like to fall asleep between practices. Instead I sit in the locker room and shoot the s— with Domonique Foxworth and Hamza Abdullah and Brandon Marshall. I’m learning to play acoustic guitar. I sit on the floor and strum the only three chords I know. If someone walks through the locker room we make up a song about him. It’s meant to humiliate and cut deeply, in the hopes of unearthing a crippling insecurity. The more distraught our victim, the more aggressively we laugh at him. The longer he stays, the worse it gets, until he finally realizes he is dealing with madmen who have lost the ability to empathize, and he scurries off. I’m not concerned about another man’s feelings. I don’t even have time for my own. This follows me off the field and out into the world, where people’s concerns seem weak and pointless. Pain is a choice.

I don’t realize it at the time, but the ability to relax and be an a—— between practices is a product of becoming a seasoned pro. My early years in the league were fraught with nervous tension. I was in no mood to joke around. How could I? I was on my deathbed. But as the years have gone by, conquering the daily struggle has become ingrained in my psyche.

Silly to compare the "pain" of comedians and football players but I thought it was interesting how much Jackson's description of an NFL locker room sounds like the stories of comedians sitting around the table at The Cellar. Or a roast. That search for the one thing that someone actually feels sensitive about so you can then mock 'em ceaselessly. The probe for weakness. And the ability to both give/take it as a sign of professionalism.

Vaguely related: Sarah Silverman Was Bummed About the Ageism at James Franco's Roast. Wait, people said offensive things at a roast!? "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"


Justin Timberlake, Bob Dylan, and lying to be more real

The Enduring, Multigenerational Appeal of Justin Timberlake talks about JT and Bob Dylan and constructing a performance character.

Which brings us back to his role in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and the Village folk era. Timberlake reveres Dylan, but he also understands Dylan as largely a construction, an artistic projection. “I always bring up Robert Zimmerman. ‘Do you know who Robert Zimmerman is?’ They say, ‘Who’s that?’ Look it up.” Van Ronk, in his memoir, describes the Dylan persona as a kind of freestyle riff on who he thought Woody Guthrie really was. Van Ronk’s memoir describes Dylan as so cosmically full of it that he himself probably had no idea what was true and what wasn’t.

Timberlake takes a different moral from the story of Van Ronk and Dylan. He sees the Dylan persona as “methodical,” and that constructedness, he says, is the very essence of how an artist connects with his audience. It’s called performing, and performing is a noble calling, a kind of greater realness. The authenticity is in the ability to make the connection. “I try to talk to people about how much acting goes into music,” he says. “How much of a character goes into what you put on stage. You ever sit down with Jay? He’s not the guy he is on stage. I’m not the guy I am on stage. I am a performer. It’s an elevated idea.”

Interesting angle: Over-the-top performing is ultra-authentic because it is a kind of "greater realness." Constructing a fake character is the most real thing you can do because it lets people get through to you in a way they wouldn't if you were just yourself onstage. Making the connection is the authentic part, even if you have to lie to get there. Not sure what this means about Dick in a Box, but, well, you know.


The evil of wanting to be liked

The least likeable thing to do is try really hard to be likeable. Yet if your audience doesn't like you somewhat, they're not gonna be with you enough to take 'em anywhere. It can be a wrestling match for comics who want to touch on edgy topics or go places that might turn off large chunks of the crowd.

That's what makes Stanhope and Patrice so amazing. They seem to WANT to walk 20% of the crowd. Because they know that's the way to get others in the room to LOVE them. If no one hates you then no one loves you perhaps? Hmm.

Anyway, Andrew Sullivan's Readers Should Be Ruffled talks about a similar battle that writers face. He quotes novelist and art critic Katie Kitamura:

The desire to be liked is acceptable in real life but very problematic in fiction. Pleasantness is the enemy of good fiction. I try to write on the premise that no one is going to read my work. Because there’s this terrible impulse to grovel before the reader, to make them like you, to write with the reader in mind in that way. It’s a terrible, damaging impulse. I feel it in myself. It prevents you doing work that is ugly or upsetting or difficult. The temptation is to not be true to what you want to write and to be considerate or amusing instead. I’m always trying to fight against the impulse to make my readers like me.

Sullivan adds his own .02: "You don’t want to piss readers off unnecessarily or gratuitously, but you also don’t want to be subtly seduced by the idea of popularity, and fall into the trap of pandering to readers in any way."

Maybe the ideal is to walk that line. The joke that draws both groans and belly laughs. Or the one the room hates at first but slowly comes around on. There's something awful satisfying when you can feel people laughing in spite of themselves.


Comedians on Instagram and some pics from the road (PDX-SEA-BC)

Some comedians on Instagram who are darn good photographers:

Don Stahl
Joe List
Jason Burke
Scott Moran

Anyone else ya recommend? Here are some of my shots from recent road trip out to Pacific NW (and a couple of Vine vids too)...


Videos highlight process tips from Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Ricky Gervais, Judd Apatow, Dave Attell, Judah Friedlander, W. Kamau Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, etc.

Inside Joke is a new series from Grantland that takes ya inside the process of Dave Attell, Judah Friedlander, W. Kamau Bell, and Kumail Nanjiani.

Over the coming weeks, we will be featuring new episodes of Inside Joke, a series that pulls back the curtain and takes you into a stand-up comedian's process. In each episode, we'll follow a different comedian as he prepares and performs his set, develops new material, and reflects on his work.

And IFC posted How to Be Funny: 7 Comedians Give Awesome Advice, featuring clips from Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Ricky Gervais, Judd Apatow, and more.

Being a comedian is hard. Being an aspiring comedian is even harder. To help jump start your career in comedy, we’ve compiled a list of established comics giving advice on how to write, perform, and make it in the funny business. Most of this advice applies to any occupation, so read on and get inspired.

Gervais' story about the teacher who encouraged him to write what you know is a nice one.


Meisner Technique with JoAnna Beckson

Ray Romano. Dave Chappelle. Jim Gaffigan. Dave Attell. Matt Ruby. We've all taken acting classes with JoAnna Beckson. Now you can too.

The Meisner Technique

Acting Foundation Classes With Acclaimed Acting Coach

JoAnna Beckson*
Fall 2013

DATES: October 8 - November 5, 2013
WHEN : Tuesdays and Thursdays
TIME: 6:30pm - 9:30 pm
LOCATION: J. Beckson Studio - Paul Michael's The Network:
located at 242 West 36th Street (between 7th/8th Avenues) on the 3rd floor
COST: $495

I spent the past 8 months or so taking a few Meisner classes with JoAnna and they were fascinating on many levels. Highly recommend her if you're looking to learn some acting basics. Can really help with your standup too. She's a no bullshit teacher who will push you and "gets" comedians. And she doesn't offer classes for newbies very often so...


Billy Crystal looks back on his career

Billy Crystal killed it on The Daily Show the other night:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Fun to watch Jon Stewart get out of the way and just let him roll with it. Some good, heartfelt talk about his early days doing standup, the importance of "leaving a tip" onstage, and how silence is when you know you've REALLY got a crowd.

And here's From Presentation Skills to Masterful Performance: 12 Tips from Billy Crystal by Victoria Labalme.

Variety of Tone - notice the variety in his speaking tone, which ranges from warmth to humor to respect for nominees. In other words, he is not speaking in "one color"...Use the full spectrum of what you have. The audience craves variety. Important note: Keep in mind that tonal shifts must always come from the "inside out." If you force the shift, you will sound inauthentic.


I officiated a wedding and here's what I said to the bride and groom

One year ago, I officiated a friend's wedding. She's muslim, he's not. So they wanted someone who was not religious and also comfortable speaking in front of a crowd and, voila, I landed the gig. They had me say some stuff they had written and then I added my own bit. Not comedy but, well, you know. And I guess I did use the old comedy technique of commenting on the room (or, in this case, the hotel where we were all staying). Here it is:

So I was waiting for the elevator at our hotel yesterday and thinking what advice I could give to the two of you, two of the smartest people I know. And the elevator got me thinking.

For those of you not staying at our hotel, the elevators there don't have buttons. They have sensors. If you just push the button like you normally would, the elevator never comes. The sensor needs to feel your skin pressed against it.

And it occurred to me that maybe that's a lesson for the two of you as you move forward in life. See, smart people tend to rely on logic. In your life, when you face problems with each other, it's going to be tempting to try to solve them with logic. To look for a solution. To press the button.

But sometimes the best answer is to just let the other person feel your touch. To press your cheek against theirs and whisper in their ear, "I love you. No matter what, I love you." And when you do that, the elevator shows up. The doors open wide. And it can take you places that logic never could.

The poet Rumi once wrote:

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.

So on this day I'd like to wish you a lifetime of being drunk, crazy, mischievous, and losing your mind. Remember, those are essential ingredients to any great love story.


How tension and curiosity can help you become a better storyteller

This answer to How does one become a better storyteller? at Quora talks about the importance of tension and curiosity.

What happens next?

The number-one ingredient for a story is the tension of an unsolved mystery. Stories set up a questions and delay answering them. The simplest example is a question in the first sentence with the answer delayed until the second sentence:

"You know who Bob's favorite singer is? Meatloaf!"

That's not a very interesting story, I know, but compare it to this:

"Bob's favorite singer is Meatloaf."

The first version evokes (just a little) tension. The second doesn't.

Now imagine telling the first version but walking out of the room after the first sentence:

"You know who Bob's favorite singer is? ----- "

That agony is what you should strive for. Because the most basic human urge that makes us want to listen to stories is the need to know what happens next.

Interesting how much that relates to the concept of punchlines. "Always end with the funny part" is one of those simple/obvious rules that I wind up needing to constantly re-remind myself of when writing new bits.

There's also a bit on curiosity:

Curiosity is the juggernaut that drives storytelling.

If you immediately tell us what happens next -- or if there is no next ("Bob's favorite singer is Meatloaf") -- then there's no hook.

Practice this simple question-delay-answer structure over and over, in all your communications. I mean in emails, text-messages, Quora posts, and so on. You're not going to become a good storyteller by learning how to go into storytelling mode. Instead, turn yourself into someone who tells stories all the time. Make stories a natural part of the way you communicate.

I don't mean you should start emails with "Once upon a time..." I mean you should always be aware of posing a question, pausing, and then answering.

"You bet I'll come to your party tonight, and I'm going to bring something tasty! My grandma's snickerdoodles!"

"Practice this in all your communications" is good advice. Whatever you want to do onstage, you should do it a little bit all the time. That way, you're not trying to go from zero to 60 the second you hit the stage.

There's more good info at the rest of that piece. Also related to this stuff: Patton Oswalt on pointing fingers and building tension.


Garry Shandling on ego, comedy, and heart

Garry Shandling talks about his journey and ego on The Green Room with Paul Provenza. An excerpt: "We need something in our society that says there's some importance to heart and authenticity and not just money, power, and how are we gonna control the world."

Along these lines, Shandling's WTF appearance is really fascinating too. Also, given the company, it's a ballsy opening salvo by Bo Burnham at 3min in.


I've got PDX-SEA-BC dates coming up

I'll be Pac NW-ing over the next week:

Friday, September 6
Fly Ass @ Brody Theater (Portland, OR)

Saturday, September 7
Mixology @ Curious Comedy Theater (Portland, OR)

Sunday, September 8
Weird and Awesome @ Annex Theater (Seattle)

Monday, September 9
Bogarts Comedy Showcase (Seattle)

Tuesday, September 10
The Grotto - in the basement of the Rendezvous (Seattle)

Thursday, September 12
Level Up! @ The Capitol Club (Seattle)

Friday, September 13
Heckler's (Victoria, BC)

Saturday, September 14
Heckler's (Victoria, BC)

All shows listed here.


Portlandia director on why he wants a guerilla operation

Interview: ‘Portlandia’ writer/director Jonathan Krisel. He talks about the advantages to doing a (relatively) low budget show.

It definitely is a guerilla operation. That’s the way I wanted it; I would not want it any other way. You can change gears easier, since the show is totally improvised. I mean, there are scripts (later described as a loose outline), you can meander and it’s nice to have the ability to go, “Something came up in that last take, let’s maneuver to change the story a little bit”. That’s nice, to have sort of a nimble crew and options available, that we can sort of be inspired in the moment and be able to actually do something about it, as opposed to, “Oh, that would have been great, but we can’t actually do that.”The Portland crew is really essential to that; I felt like the people up there are more interested in making artistic things. There’s a real value in it. There’s not as much value in, “Is this going to come in exactly on budget?” or, “We got the day done!”, it’s like “Well whats the creative… what do you guys really need, what do you want?” and there’s a real satisfaction from everyone when we go, “That was really funny and we got it."

It's part of why I like the run and gun style we use when shooting Vooza. Flexibility gives you more room to be funny. The bigger the budget = the more people want you to stick to exact script and production schedule = it gets tougher to capture those funny moments that just pop up. Guerilla style means you can wing it instead of feeling ball and chained.


Wired UK profiles Vooza: "'Spinal Tap for startups' Vooza uses satire to smuggle advertising"

Wired UK wrote a big piece on Vooza: 'Spinal Tap for startups' Vooza uses satire to smuggle advertising. (Does "smuggle" mean something different in the UK!?)

Ruby admits that Vooza's real journey was not dissimilar to the journey of the very startups it mocks. "Although we make fun of startups, there are a lot of principles we embody: we make something, put it out in the world, see if the audience is there, see if we get traction and then pivot a little," he says, adding, "I can't use these words with a straight face any more."

Here'a a recent episode:


I'm learning about feminism from Jezebel

HOT SOUP tonight (8/27) with Hanley, Branum, and more

HOT SOUP is at Irish Exit again tonight (8/27) and every Tuesday at 8pm. The lineup:

Phil Hanley
John Flynn
Jon Rineman
Guy Branum
Tommy Pope
Gary Vider
Matt Ruby

Full event details at Facebook.


What Jackson Browne taught Glenn Frey about songwriting

Bill Simmons wrote a crazy long piece about The History of the Eagles documentary.

In the doc, Glenn Frey explains how living above Jackson Browne taught him about the hard work required to write a song.

Around nine in the morning. I’d hear Jackson Browne’s teapot going off with this whistle in the distance, and then I’d hear him playing piano. I didn’t really know how to write songs. I knew I wanted to write songs, but I didn’t know exactly, did you just wait around for inspiration, you know, what was the deal? I learned through Jackson’s ceiling and my floor exactly how to write songs, ‘cause Jackson would get up, and he’d play the first verse and first course, and he’d play it 20 times, until he had it just the way he wanted it. And then there’d be silence, and then I’d hear the teapot going off again, and it would be quiet for 20 minutes, and then I’d hear him start to play again … and I’m up there going, so that’s how you do it? Elbow grease. Time. Thought. Persistence.

Sounds like what it takes to put together a great comedy set. Or anything else really. Elbow grease. Time. Thought. Persistence. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Another part of the doc I loved was Frey yelling at the Eagles' bass player for not wanting to sing "Take It to the Limit" in concert.

I confronted him. I said, ‘Randy, there’s thousands of people waiting for you to sing that song. You just can’t say “Fuck ‘em, I don’t feel like it.” Do you think I like singing “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” every night? I’m tired of those songs. But there’s people in the audience who’ve been waiting YEARS to see us do those songs.’ We just got fed up with that. ‘OK, don’t sing it. Why don’t you just quit?’”

I just love the idea of a coked up Frey BITCHING about having to sing songs with laid-back titles like “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and then yelling at his bass player to quit. Talk about unintentional comedy. "You think I like singing Peaceful Easy Fucking Feeling every night!? No, But I goddamn do it! I hope you quit! OK, now I'm gonna sing 'Take It Easy'..." So great.


HOT SOUP comedy with Finnegan/Lawrence/Donnelly/more

Every TUESDAY night at IRISH EXIT, get your fix of HOT SOUP comedy. The show is FREE and there's a great drink special: an OPTIONAL open bar from 8-10pm during the show for only $15.

Michael Lawrence
Ahmed Bharoocha
Sean Donnelly
Christian Finnegan
Jennie Sutton
Mark Normand

Hosted by Matt Ruby

RSVP to confirm your spot:

Seating: 8pm
Show: 8:30pm

Irish Exit @ 978 2nd Ave (at corner of 52nd St)

Produced by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, & Gary Vider

Sign up for Hot Soup email list: http://eepurl.com/sX5j5
"Like" Hot Soup on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hotsoupcomedy

Tips for finding your voice

Comedy folks are always talking about "finding your voice" but it's a fuzzy topic. Connected Comedy offers some interesting advice in this “How do I find my voice?” piece. One of the tips: "Your Voice Needs To Be Consistent."

In order for your voice to really connect with people you need for it to be consistent. You can’t have an anti-establishment outlook on the world in one bit and then suddenly be pro-establishment in the next or else your voice will seem disjointed and nobody will be quite sure what to think of you. For example, if your comedic voice is that of a “nerd,” then it’s unlikely that bits about how you were a cool kid in high school are really going to fit your voice. This is another reason why it’s important when considering what your comedic voice is to choose carefully because it will ultimately impact your material and every other decision you make about your career.

I've learned a similar lesson when doing characters onstage. Play a certain role and it becomes much easier for the audience to know exactly who you are, where you're coming from, and the "filter" that all your jokes go through. The bad part: Being a fully, fleshed out human being with nuanced views doesn't fit this mode that well.

You may be tempted to give an audience all your different sides, but a caricature is easier for 'em to figure out. Especially in a short set.


Gary Vider, Joe List, Thomas Dale, and Andy Sandford on We're All Friends Here podcast

We're All Friends Here podcast has been going strong! (Btw, next live one is Aug 30 at The Creek.) Recent episodes:

Episode: 24
Gary Vider
Comedian Gary Vider is one of Mark and Matt's favorite people--and his father was a con man! Gary lays down all the nutty stories of helping his old man, and what it takes to be a businessman in comedy.

Episode: 23
Joe List
Comedian Joe List is straight from the heart of Boston--so he obviously has an STD or two. Mark and Matt get the backstory from one of America's funniest guys!

Episode: 22
Thomas Dale
Comedian Thomas Dale is having a great year. A writer and featured performer on CHELSEA LATELY, he also crushed it on THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON back in November. Thomas talks to Mark and Matt about the darker, more difficult aspects of growing up gay in a straight society, and how he dealt with his own coming out in a tough, New York family.

Episode: 21
Andy Sandford
Comedian Andy Sandford hails from Atlanta, where apparently you can get held up at a backroom poker game and can live to tell the tale. Andy shares the crazy stories from the dirty south on this week's episode!

Download here via iTunes or stream it at Cave Comedy Radio.


Why I'm ok with more Americans dying from terrorism

Wanted: A petition that says, "I'm ok with the possibility of more deaths from terrorism if it means we stop restricting our lives and liberties." I'd sign it.

I'll take more us dying if it means 1) America stops spying on its own citizens, 2) we don't have secret courts, 3) we never torture people, and 4) we get to hold onto all the other things that make (made?) America better than the people who hate us.

It's such a bummer to see Obama doing the ol' 4pm-on-a-Friday-in-August press conference – the best way to bury news you don't actually want people to talk about – explaining what's up with our internal spying. "Because the safety of the country depends on it...blah blah blah...America’s war on terrorism MAY one day end...blah blah blah."

C'mon. This is a war that will NEVER end because the enemy is a FEELING. We can not defeat terror just as we can not defeat fear as we can not defeat jealousy. Terror will be with us forever. This is a forever war and those are wars you are guaranteed to lose.

Our politicians think they must do anything possible to prevent another attack. And no one ever disagrees. That's on us. We need to stand up and say we're ok with more deaths. Of course people dying sucks. But a country that sacrifices all the liberties that made it great in the first place sucks even more.

And us New Yorkers especially need to stand up on this. Why are people in Utah and Nebraska deciding what we should do about terrorism anyway? Al Qaeda ain't going after 'em. Here's how voting on terrorism issues should go:

Work at embassy abroad = 3 votes
Live in NYC = 2 votes
Live in other major US city = 1 vote
Other = stay out of it

And I loved this headline: "President Obama orders intelligence chief accused of lying to Congress to lead NSA review." Sweet. After that, let's appoint the CEO of Goldman Sachs to lead a review on what's wrong with Wall Street. And after that, we can have a husband appoint his mistress to find out whether or not he's having an affair.

As a nation, we're losing our minds. We're acting like a bunch of hysterical, whiny babies that are scared of everything. When did we become such pussies? This formula is actually being sold to us...

Problem: Terrorists hate us for our freedoms.
Solution: Take away our own freedoms.

…and we're buying it. It'd be hilarious if it wasn't so sad.

For the past 12 years, we've watched what America stands for slowly erode. And all this is EXACTLY what Osama Bin Laden dreamed would happen after 9/11. His plan has worked perfectly. We've invaded a country under false pretenses, gotten American troops mired endlessly in Afghanistan and Iraq (cost: 4,500 American soldiers dead, 32,000, over a trillion dollars), restricted our own liberties, and are now irrationally living lives based on fear. We shouldn't be worried about what happens IF the terrorists win. We should start realizing they've already won.


Woody Allen on the power of the unconscious mind

Woody Allen Interview in Esquire. [via YP] Woody talks about how a good writer surprises himself along the way...

What people who don't write don't understand is that they think you make up the line consciously — but you don't. It proceeds from your unconscious. So it's the same surprise to you when it emerges as it is to the audience when the comic says it. I don't think of the joke and then say it. I say it and then realize what I've said. And I laugh at it, because I'm hearing it for the first time myself.

...and then he says, "The best you can do to get through life is distraction."

It's just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don't have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we're just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone. And everything that you value, whether it's Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There'll be nothing. The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself.

FYI, Blue Jasmine is great. Blanchett is something else in it.


"I didn't even get an audition"/thinking about jealousy

Andy Sandford wrote a nice piece on What Jealousy And Bitterness Can Do For Your Comedy Career.

There is very little value in everyone knowing what level you deserve to be on as soon as you have reached that level. You shouldn’t want to get seen by industry people just because you “can” hold your own with the big dogs…it is much better to get as good as you possibly can under the radar so that when you do get seen, you blow everyone’s mind and are more than ready for whatever big break that might come your way. No one owes you anything for your hard work. The only benefit of your hard work is how good it has made you. This is why “years” in stand up almost means nothing. People progress at different rates, and sometimes someone has a breakthrough many years in; or maybe it just took a while for people to be able to appreciate their style. If you have the time to make a note of every thing that some undeserving peer got, then you have the time to put a little more effort into your act, which is the only thing that speaks for you, or should speak for you.

Well said. I think jealousy is a normal feeling. It's what you do with it that matters. You can bitch about stuff and let it bring you down and turn it into negative energy. Or you can use it as motivational fuel to fight harder. Once you're undeniably good, it'll all work out.


HOT SOUP on 8/6 with Soder/Gethard/Skinner/St. Germaine

Standing room only at HOT SOUP last week! We're back at Irish Exit again on Tuesday (8/6) and every Tuesday. The lineup:

Dan Soder (Comedy Central)
Dan St. Germaine (Conan)
Eliza Skinner (Fashion Police with Joan Rivers)
Chris Gethard (Comedy Central)

I'm hosting. Full event details at Facebook.

Comedian bios always suck but this one doesn't

I enjoyed Joe Zimmerman's bio at the Comedy Central site.

Joe Zimmerman is a comedian who has worked with the likes of every other comedian, including the ones who passed away before he was born. You may have seen Joe on every television show, with the painful exception of Alf, and you may recognize his voice as the stand-in voice-over for Morgan Freeman on National Geographic's March of the Penguins and Sigourney Weaver on the BBC’s Planet Earth.

"Electrifying!" - The Rolling Stone (in reference to a 1994 U2 concert)

"Hilarious!" -Joe Zimmerman, talking about the movie Kung Fu Panda

"Hands down the best live show I've ever seen." -Joe again, on Kung Fu Panda

"Well I don't care if it wasn't live, it FELT live!" -Joe (still talking about Kung Fu Panda)

Well done, Joe.


Oscar Wilde on fashion, etc.

Oscar Wilde quotes. Like this: "And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Or: "Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast." I like people who did standup before standup was a thing.

Related: Thinking like a comic: Fran Lebowitz, Steve Albini, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, etc.


Colin Quinn: "Move around and sell it a bit"

Colin Quinn’s Keynote Address at Montreal’s Just For Laughs 2013.

Everyone is standing there, ironically, not moving. Move around! You're going for your life right now. The only who can pull that off for more than 10 minutes without boring people is Todd Barry. Everybody else needs to fucking move around and sell it a bit. It's not hack to sell the shit you've been writing and slaving over. It's not a hack fucking move!" "One out of every 300 drunken audience members is thinking, 'Hey, he's a good writer.' Just move. Walk. Fucking open up your body. Yell once in a while. Get out there. Look them in the fucking eye. I'm trying to save your god-damned career. You know, I did it for years. I stood there in fucking monotone for 10 years. Oh. All the comedians thought I was amusing, but I was fucking dying every night.

Move it or lose 'em.


7/30 HOT SOUP with Bargatze/Kaplan/Logan (now every TUE night at IRISH EXIT)

Every TUESDAY night at IRISH EXIT, get your fix of HOT SOUP comedy. The show is FREE and there's a great drink special: an OPTIONAL open bar from 8-10pm during the show for only $15.

Nate Bargatze (Conan)
Myq Kaplan (Conan)
Jared Logan (Comedy Central)
Sergio Chicon (Comedy Central)
Gary Vider (Laughing Skull)
Matt Ruby (MTV)

RSVP to confirm your spot:

Seating: 8pm
Show: 8:30pm
Irish Exit @ 978 2nd Ave. at 52nd St.

Produced by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, & Gary Vider

(Yeah, it was Wednesdays previously but now we're in on Tuesday nights.)

Voters re-evaluate a politician who decides to drop the mask

Guy who's usually "ok but not great" takes the stage. But this time something's different. He's pissed off about something in the news and he relates it to his life. He speaks up for something he's passionate about. And the crowd that's never really cared about the guy suddenly pays attention. They re-evaluate him. By going off his usual script and speaking with passion, he finds his voice.

The twist: It's politics, not standup. William C. Thompson Jr., the only black guy in this year’s New York City mayoral contest, rarely talks about race. But on Sunday, he spoke to a mostly black congregation in a storefront church about why he feels stop-and-frisk is racist and similar to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

But, invoking the “dreams of our fathers” and “dreams for our sons,” he said he felt compelled to speak out after the acquittal of Mr. Zimmerman. “When the rules of society — that we call and honor as the law — allow even one of those dreams to be snuffed out in anger and fear without consequence or action, those rules fail us all,” He said.

Inside the church, where the mostly black congregants said they had anticipated a tepid speech from another politician, there was a mixture of surprise and admiration.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Karen Khan, 52, who teaches middle school in Brooklyn, and had never known Mr. Thompson to talk about race. “I thought it was going to be one of those speeches designed to pacify the issue. Sweep it under the rug — O.K., let’s move on.”

Several said in interviews that the speech had compelled them to re-evaluate his candidacy.

“He would get my vote based on the passion in his speech today,” said Khalid Douglas, 33, a structural engineer. “It improved my opinion of him.”

For Mr. Thompson the speech was a departure not just in tone, but in style. He spoke about “a chorus of common dreams” and “the stubborn stain of enduring racism.” He described the emotional experience of watching President Obama discuss the Trayvon Martin verdict, “stripped of that power, not as president, but as the black man he is, I am, and we will always be.” He wondered what moved this “dignified, calm, thoughtful man” to speak, almost sounding as if he could be referring to himself.

Passion is a good way to get votes. Probably equally true for politicians and comedians.

The Bill Clinton speech that Louis CK calls "one of the greatest things I ever saw"
How Bill Clinton handled a heckler back in the day
Bill Clinton riffs a lot
Dissecting MLK's “I Have a Dream” speech
The chain: Barack Obama to Chris Rock to Ice Cube


Vooza is "the right blend of straight faced, satirical, mockumentary style humor that’s in step with popular internet culture"

Pretty detailed look at the history of Vooza show we've been doing: "Vooza satirizes the startup community in their viral mockumentaries" at StartupsFM.

When Vooza launched, their idea was just to make something that would get people talking but which would also be sustainable. No one could have predicted that it would blow up this big, even to the point of attracting VCs’ attention. But that is exactly what startups are paying them to do now. While there are many companies who create their own spoof laden product videos, few can really hit the mark. It takes a professional comedian and self confessed comedy snob to create the right blend of straight faced, satirical, mockumentary style humor that’s in step with popular internet culture. Ruby and his fellow comedians have certainly captured the pulse of the startup community with their videos – here’s to more “Radimparency”!

Read the full piece.

Here's the latest episode about Vooza's office perks:


Shooting for the edit

Wistia offers some good advice on how to minimize editing time by shooting wisely. One good tip (originated by skateboarder videomakers): When you've got a good take, wave your hand in front of the camera so you can quickly go through your footage and find "the keepers" later.


Formats for writing packets and spec scripts?

A reader asks: "I've heard a lot about spec scripts, sketch packets, and late night packets over the years, but I've never been able to find the formats. Can you recommend any sites with this kind of information?"

Sara Schaefer recently wrote this: Things To Consider When Submitting To Write For A Late Night Show!

And I've posted about the topic here before: How to get a job writing for Conan (and Demetri Martin's 2001 submission packet) and What goes into a comedy writing packet.

Anyone got other good links to share? Leave in the comments.


Jack Handey and pure humor vs. topical humor

Jack Handey gets profiled by the NY Times:

This idea — the notion of real jokes and the existence of pure comedy — came up again and again when I asked other writers about Handey. It seemed as if to them Handey is not just writing jokes but trying to achieve some kind of Platonic ideal of the joke form. “There is purity to his comedy,” Semple said. “His references are all grandmas and Martians and cowboys. It’s so completely free from topical references and pop culture that I feel like everyone who’s gonna make a Honey Boo Boo joke should do some penance and read Jack Handey.”

“For a lot of us, he was our favorite writer, and the one we were most in awe of,” said James Downey, who wrote for “S.N.L.” “When I was head writer there, my policy was just to let him do his thing and to make sure that nothing got in the way of him creating.”

“He was the purest writer,” Franken said. “It was pure humor, it wasn’t topical at all. It was Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.”

The humorist Ian Frazier, a friend of Handey’s, told me, “I see Jack as in the tradition of Mark Twain or Will Rogers. He writes jokes that just keep on going. They’re not gonna crash and burn because they’re about Don Johnson, and people forget who Don Johnson was. Jokes are by their nature perishable. If you can write a timeless joke, that’s an incredible thing.”

Take that, Don Johnson. Judging from these quotes, there seems to be a spectrum for jokes that goes from pure to topical. Create something timeless and you've made the "purest" kind of joke there is.

Reminds me of when Louis CK was on Howard Stern and called Howard a "zen master of comedy." I'd put Larry David, Woody Allen, and Norm MacDonald in that category too. People who don't have to TRY to be funny, they just exude funny. They can tell jokes but have moved past it. For them, it's less about jokes than existing in the world in a way that's comedic. And that makes everything around them seem funny too.


Forbes Magazine calls Vooza “viral video done right…an instant hit…comedic genius”

Forbes Magazine calls Vooza (the video comic strip about the tech startup world we've been producing) “viral video done right…an instant hit…comedic genius.” You can check out the videos at Vooza.com. And a big shoutout to the talented folks who make it happen, including Jesse Scaturro, Nate Fernald, Sagar Bhatt, Sarah Tollemache, Zachary Sims, Meg Cupernall, and Steve O'Brien. Here's a recent episode featuring Steve:


We're All Friends Here returns on Sat (7/13) night

We'll be doing a live We're All Friends Here at The Creek in LIC on Saturday night. Guests: Oni Perez, Scotland Green, and Andrew Short. Bang. Event details at Facebook.

Also, the WAFH podcast is still coming at ya with most recent guests Kate Hendricks, Joe Pera, and Jeffrey Joseph. Download here via iTunes.


[New venue!] Tonight (Jul 10) = HOT SOUP at Irish Exit w/ Kurt Metzger

HOT SOUP comedy show is movin' on up(town) to IRISH EXIT. Great venue with a swanky showroom. As always, the show is FREE! We have a great drink special, there will be an OPTIONAL open bar from 8-10 during the show for only $15!!! We'll be there every week on Wed nights.

Kurt Metzger
Adam Newman
Joe List
James Adomian
Gary Vider
Mark Normand
Matt Ruby

RSVP to confirm your spot:

During the show there is an OPTIONAL open bar for 2 hours from 8-10pm for only $15!!!

Seating: 8pm
Show: 8:30pm

Irish Exit @ 978 2nd Ave (at 52nd St)

Produced by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, & Gary Vider

Sign up for Hot Soup email list
"Like" Hot Soup on Facebook


The therapy of making

In How Woody Allen Sees It, Woody gives a pretty nice explanation on the therapeutic effects of making stuff.

“You know in a mental institution they sometimes give a person some clay or some basket weaving?” he said. “It’s the therapy of moviemaking that has been good in my life. If you don’t work, it’s unhealthy—for me, particularly unhealthy. I could sit here suffering from morbid introspection, ruing my mortality, being anxious. But it’s very therapeutic to get up and think, Can I get this actor; does my third act work? All these solvable problems that are delightful puzzles, as opposed to the great puzzles of life that are unsolvable, or that have very bad solutions. So I get pleasure from doing this. It’s my version of basket weaving.”

Also enjoyable is this quote from Marshall Brickman, an old friend and collaborator, on Woody's domestic life: "From what I gather he's a good family man." Might wanna work on your gathering skills there, Marshall. When the list of nice stuff about Woody Allen gets printed up, "good family man" prob won't be cracking the top 10, ya know?


Selling it is part of the art of it

Neat talk from A.J. Jacobs on taking a "fake it till you make it" approach to creating things (title of the talk: "The Importance of Self-Delusion in the Creative Process").

The whole thing's interesting. One part that stuck out: When he talks about reframing the way you think about marketing (about 12:40 in to the video). The takeaway is you should view selling what you make as part of the creative process.

He quotes Jeanne-Claude, who was behind The Gates, when talking about how that project took 20 years to be approved by the government: "We like to see navigating the bureaucracy as part of the artistic process. We like to see the red tape as part of our art." [thx MK]


Podcast: We're All Friends Here with Joe Pera

Fun We're All Friends Here podcast is up with Joe Pera in the hot seat. Lotsa other stellar ones to check out there too. Next live edition of WAFH show is July 13 (Sat) at The Creek at 10pm. Va va boom.


Jerry Seinfeld's critique of Larry David's standup

Howard and Jerry! Mmm. Here's Jerry on Larry:

I loved his act. Standup takes a lot of work, a lot of talent, and an equal measure of temperament. You have to have the right temperament. Onstage, you have to have a resilience and a kind of an engine. He was a little fragile onstage. If it wasn't going well, which most of the time it's not, he fell apart. It's a tough thing.

And Jerry's take on why Seinfeld was given more seasons even though it struggled at first: It had the right demographic. "If you get rich people to watch your show, they'll keep you on the air."

[thx MN]


Single people are the ones who deserve tax breaks and health insurance

So I'm watching all the hubbub about gay marriage. Good for you, gays. BUT if gay people were being discriminated against because they couldn't have the special benefits of getting married then you know who else is getting screwed? Single people.

Our entire society is geared around this Disney fantasy of lifelong monogamy/attachment/wedded bliss and we just blindly ignore the fact that all these laws set up to boost marriage are discriminating against single people. And you know what? Us single people are already sad, lonely, and not getting laid. Aren't we the ones who deserve some love from the government? We sure as hell ain't getting it anywhere else.

Why should being married have ANY impact on insurance, taxes, and the rest of it? Who you bang and for how long should have nothing to do with this stuff.

And if it does, I'd argue single people deserve a break even more than the marrieds. Marrieds already have the joy of holy matrimony. Us single people have the sorrow of OK Cupid hookups. (If I have to trade emails with one more girl who's got a fake mustache photo and lists Amelie as her fave movie, I'm gonna join Al Qaeda.)

Tax benefits? Single people are the ones who need a tax break. You know how much it costs to drink alone at a bar five nights a week while you try to drown out the fact that you're unloveable? A lot. It costs a lot. I mean, that's what I've heard.

Health insurance? Single people are the ones who need to join up for health insurance. You know how much it costs to pay for STD tests every six months? Priced out Plan B pills lately? ("Next Choice" may be slightly cheaper but ya don't really wanna go with the generic option after sleeping with someone who was, well, the generic option.) Just sayin', a little Blue Cross action for singles sure would be nice.

And then there's the maternity/paternity leave thing. Breeders get paid leave to take care of babies while us single types have to just sit there and work straight through our entire (empty) lives. I'll cut you a deal on this one though: You get three months off to baby down BUT all us single people get three months of not having to deal with your lil' vomit machines. For three months, I get to walk on an airplane and kick all the babies off because it's my NON-PATERNITY LEAVE. For three months, I get to ban everyone I know from posting baby photos on Facebook and Instagram. Seriously, I open up that app lately and it looks like a nursery exploded inside my phone. (News flash: Your baby isn't cute because no babies are cute and, in fact, they all look the same and all that baby photo posting really just seems like a way for you to brag about yourself under the cloak of seeming nurturing and selfless. That baby pic is really just a selfie minus the self.)

Why is the government involved in this at all? Could it be that the government-industrial complex thinks marriage (and home ownership too) is a good way to lock people in place and prevents uprisings so it's decided to offer incentives that help convince people to surrender to a cultural norm that involves sacrificing freedom and participating in the charade that lifelong monogamy is natural/desirable while simultaneously ignoring the fact that marriage was actually created centuries ago as a system to bind women to men in order to guarantee paternity. Nah, that couldn't be it.

Anyway, my point: Let's separate love entirely from financial and legal benefits. Us single unlovables are already bitter enough...as you can see from this post.


Go crazy, Lenny

In Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with David Letterman, Dave and Jerry discuss Lenny Schultz. Here's a reel of Lenny doing his wacky thing. According to Dave, he kept working as a PE teacher in NYC the entire time.


A lesson on truth as funny from Charlemagne

Writing jokes is nice and all. But then there's funny that comes from just telling the truth (or at least the truth how you see it).

Check out this video of Charlamagne that Kurt Metzger posted at Facebook. (Everyone follows Kurt, right?) Charlamagne is talking about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber getting involved in the "wrong activities." His advice to 'em: "Don't be a waste of good white skin."

Hilarious. Btw, ratchet pussy explained. (And no, there's nothing whiter than linking to the Urban Dictionary definition of ratchet pussy at your blog.)

Never heard this guy talk before but he sounds pretty brilliant to me. Funny as fuck just from spilling what he really thinks. I don't care about Miley/Bieber but after hearing this, I'd listen to Charlemagne talk about anything. Funny that comes straight from a truthful p.o.v. makes you crave more.


HOT SOUP with McCaff/Vatt tonight (6/19)

HOT SOUP is back EVERY WED NIGHT at Ella Lounge at 8:30pm. Free show + happy hour drink prices.

Tom McCaffrey
Nick Vatterott
Michelle Wolf
Seaton C. Smith
Mark Normand
Matt Ruby

RSVP to confirm your spot:

Full event details at Facebook.


Vooza: Weak Password

We've been busy cranking out new funny tech-related videos at Vooza. The latest deals with passwords and security questions.


80% right now

Funny or Die writer-director Jake Szymanski on the key to topical videos: "Sometimes it's better to do a video at 80% right now than 100% if it takes five days."


Kevin Hart roasting the Cavs in the Lebron era

Kevin Hart jokes around with LeBron James & his Cavs teammates (this is pre-Heat).

"Backstage after Kevin's show in Cleveland...LeBron James, Mo Williams, Delonte West, Danny Green, Sebastian Telfair & Leon Powe comes by and jokes around."


Wed 6/12 - Hot Soup with Shillue/Fowler/more

HOT SOUP is back EVERY WED NIGHT at Ella Lounge at 8:30pm. Free show + happy hour drink prices.

Tom Shillue (Comedy Central)
Jermaine Fowler (In Living Color)
Luke Cunningham (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
Claudia Cogan (New York Magazine top new comedian)
Andy Blitz (Conan)
Mark Normand (Conan)
Matt Ruby (MTV)

RSVP to confirm your spot:

Full event details at Facebook.

Video of my set last week at UCB-LA

Here's me doing a set at UCB-LA last week.


Tom Shillue on where he gets ideas

Tom Shillue's answer to "How do stand-up comedians come up with content/ideas for shows?"

An idea usually starts with having an experience that triggers an emotional response- often anger, frustration, bewilderment, or more rarely, happiness. Then comes the hard part- they set about figuring how to communicate this to an audience of strangers in a funny way.

Sitting waiting for a bus may be boring, but "Waiting for buses sure is boring!" is not a great topic. But "do you think aliens wait for buses?", while not particularly funny, is a start. So, you write it down. Comedians have notebooks filled with things like "do you think aliens wait for buses?" Right now, my instincts tell me the idea is going nowhere, but you never know. 98% of a comedians notes will go unused on stage.

The 98% figure is the key I think. Want to write a great joke? Write 100 of them. One or two will be good. Probably.

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

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