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.
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.
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.
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”!
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.
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?"
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 (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:
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.
RSVP to confirm your spot:
During the show there is an OPTIONAL open bar for 2 hours from 8-10pm for only $15!!!
Irish Exit @ 978 2nd Ave (at 52nd St)
FREE SHOW – RSVP: FREECOMEDYWEDNESDAYS@gmail.com
Produced by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, & Gary Vider
“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?
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]
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.