Making money off of internet videos

The Economics of Internet Comedy Videos (Splitsider) is a good look at making money off of videos. My experience with Vooza echoes this: "Branded content funds more than you think. YouTube revenue funds less than you think. Comedy studios, like everyone else, earn money so they can fund passion projects." If you've got any questions about similar stuff, feel free to shoot me an email about it or post a comment.

Norm: "Now you don't know what the hell to do"


On cops


The internet is a lie

Those Sony hackers aren't actually going to pull off another 9/11. Breaking Bad fanboys aren't actually going to murder Skyler White. Despite his profile, that guy's profession is not actually "Standup Comedian." And no one is actually laughing at loud at his pun. That girl's photos are not actually "gorgeous." And using a hashtag does not actually make someone an activist. Most of our "Friends" on Facebook are actually strangers. No tweet is actually our "Favorite" because when you say everything is your favorite thing then nothing is your favorite thing. And if we're all so "connected," why do we all feel so damn lonely? We need to stop pretending this fantasy world is real life. It's catfish all the way down. OK, hope you "Like" this post!


Another round of Capture Your Flag interviews with me about standup, Vooza, etc.

My 2014 Capture Your Flag interview series is live. It's part of a series where I answer questions every year about my comedy activities. This year, there's lots of talk about Vooza and our process behind the show. There are 19 videos in all. For example:

"How Do You Establish Trust When Building Relationships?"

"How Has Building the Vooza Web Series Opened New Possibilities in Your Comedy Career?"

"What Have You Found to Be the Keys to Creating More Successful Project Collaborations?"

Plenty more where that came from. Here's a YouTube playlist with all the interview videos over the years, including this round. 70 so far. Phew.


Taking your voice higher/lower

Wall Street Journal: How to Train Your Voice to Be More Charismatic.

“My research shows that charismatic leaders of any type in any culture tend to stretch their voice to the lower and higher limits during a public speech, which is the most important and risky context of communication for leadership,” he said.

These leaders adopted an entirely different tone when speaking to other high-ranking politicos or when the subject strayed from political topics. “They stretch their voice less when they speak to other leaders, keeping the vocal pitch very low. They stretch the voice limits even less when they speak about nonpolitical topics,” Dr. Signorello said.

Read that and instantly thought about Bill Burr going up high.


Audio interview that's both in character and out about Vooza

Podcast: Early Investing w/ Matthew Stillman and Matt Ruby

This was fun. Interview that's both in character and out about Vooza. Viva split personality! "On this episode, I interview both Matthew Stillman, the CEO of the fictitious Vooza and Matt Ruby, the standup comedian and tech startup veteran behind Vooza and we try to get to the bottom of all this. This episode might not make you rich, but it will make you laugh."


Chris Rock's approach: "What’s the angle no one’s talking about?"

When Frank Rich asked Chris Rock about how he develops his comedy, he replied, “I’ve always said, ‘okay, what’s the angle no one’s talking about? And what if the thing that everybody’s talking about is wrong?’” Rich asked for an example. Rock responded: “Bullying.” Couple other intriguing clips:

I know that it’s Miller who first introduced you to Robin Williams. What did you make of his tragic end?

Comedians kill themselves. Talk to 100 comedians this week, everybody knows somebody who killed themselves. I mean, we always say ignorance is bliss. Well, if so, what’s the opposite? Some form of misery. Being a comedian, 80 percent of the job is just you notice shit, which is a trait of schizophrenics too. You notice things people don’t notice.


When you’re looking for subjects, do you go with your gut?

You keep notes. You look for the recurring. What’s not going away? Boy, this police-brutality thing—it seems to be lingering. What’s going to happen here? You don’t even have the joke, you just say, “Okay, what’s the new angle that makes me not sound like a preacher?” Forget being a comedian, just act like a reporter. What’s the question that hasn’t been asked? How come white kids don’t get shot? Have you ever watched television and seen some white kid get shot by accident?

And out of that comes comedy.

Comes humor. You laughed right away. I just asked a question that no one had ever asked.

The full interview.


Q&A about Vooza's cast, backstory, ads, and inspiration

A Vooza fan wrote in with questions about the show. Here are my answers.

How many people do you have working at Vooza?

I am the only full time person working on Vooza. (There's actually a parent company called Fort Pelican since we'll be coming out with other shows in the future.) There are about 8 or so members of the cast although that shifts with new people coming on (recent additions: Data Analyst and Support Rep) and others fading out, usually because of actor unavailability (moving to LA, being on the road, etc.) We shoot with a relatively small crew: a director (Jesse Scaturro has directed most of the episodes), a DP, a sound guy, and a makeup artist. I showrun or executive produce or whatever you want to call "standing next to the director and making suggestions every once in a while and making sure lunch is ordered."

Does every employee where all the hats - does everyone write, act, or direct the shorts?

Some of the actors also help write scripts but I do most of the writing. We only have one director. Otherwise, everyone mostly stays in their lane.

Are your shorts written or do you have an idea behind them and allow the actors to improvise and play within the scenes?
Questions from a Vooza fan about how we do the show..

How did you come to start Vooza?

I had worked in the tech world for 10 years (employee #1 at a company called 37signals, best known for creating Basecamp). Along the way, I began doing standup comedy. I was doing shows at night and working during the day and thought there might be a way to combine these things in a fresh way. It also was a Wild West kinda time for online video (still is I think) and seemed like there could be a neat opportunity there. So Vooza was created as an experiment and when it took off out of the gate, we sought out advertisers and tried to turn it into a real business. Now I like to tell people that we are a real startup about a fake startup. Or another line that I use: We're just like a real startup, except we actually make money.

As I mentioned before my friends and I have been writing, acting, and directing some shorts ourselves and I am curious to how you transitioned yours into advertising.

I wanted to make this sustainable so that meant money had to be coming in and advertising seemed like a natural way to do that. I think one of the strengths we had was having a niche audience – people in the tech world. That gave us a natural way in with advertisers who make products for that world. We're not working with Honda, Snickers, or Walmart. We're working with Ustream, Insightly, New Relic, Mailchimp, and companies like that. The people at these places watch/like Vooza – which helps sell what we're doing – and their products are targeted at our audience (entrepreneurs, designers, programmers, etc.) so it's a nice little ecosystem. The Deck ad network (http://decknetwork.net/) was something that inspired this attitude of making something for a certain group of web folks and then selling ads to the kind of companies that want to reach that audience. As for selling ads, we started off approaching brands that we thought would be a good fit. Now, most of our advertisers are fans who come to us. Btw, we also make custom videos for companies who like our videos but want something specific that might not work as a Vooza video.

Where do you get inspiration from? I have watched all your videos and am curious to how you create the idea. Does a company like LinkedIn hire you to create the video you made or was that original? What about "The Perfect Coffee Cup?" Is that advertising anything specific or just a short to illustrate your product?

I get inspiration from the madness of the tech world. Anywhere there are really pretentious people who lack self awareness is ripe for mocking and startups are filled with those types. I follow tech sites and stay in the loop on what's happening in that world and get most of my inspiration that way. When I keep hearing a term like "Big Data" and it seems like everyone knows they're supposed to talk about it but don't have any idea what it actually means, that's when a lightbulb goes off and I think, "We should do an episode on that." The videos that you mentioned were not sponsored by anyone. We just made them because we wanted to. I'd say 1 out of 5 episodes wind up being sponsored ones.

I am afraid I could ask you a million questions regarding Vooza- how it came to be? how you run the company now? What equipment you use to shoot and edit the videos?

More info on the backstory here. And we shoot most of our stuff on Canon 5Ds and edit in Final Cut Pro.

More on Vooza: Watch the videos, follow @VoozaHQ on Twitter, or join the email list. You can also support Vooza via Patreon – pledge and you'll get exclusive access to bonus footage, behind the scenes photos, scripts, etc. At higher levels, you can even get a producer credit or a cameo.


Vooza: Improvisation, what makes something viral, and how to make money off a web series

This interview I did with Mike Hall about Vooza was just transcribed. Below are some excerpts:

So that kinda makes you wonder then, when you do those, “What is LinkedIn?” kind of bit. Are these people just kind of ad-libbing, but they don’t really–?

Yeah, those are episodes where I don’t even tell them what they’re gonna be talking about. We just turn the camera on, and we ask them to explain, you know, skeuomorphic design or something like that, and just hear what answers come out. So that’s the fun thing about working with standups. They’re good improvisers and able to think on their feet. Most of the episodes we do have scripts, but I’d say it’s similar to maybe how Larry David films “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in that we know where the scene’s gonna start and where it’s gonna end, and there might be a couple words or bullet points we wanna hit, but we also wanna give people room to improvise or just make something up on the spot. Because a lot of times, that’s the freshest or funniest part of the episode.


How do you come up with the scripts or at least the gist for an episode?

Sure, I just have a huge notes file or database. Actually, there’s an app called Scrivener that I keep everything in. So there’s a list of 100 different topics that I think might be funny for episodes, whether it’s an article that I read in The Next Web, or TechCrunch, or some publication like that, or if it’s interviews that I see with David Karp where he has funny quotes or something that I think is funny, or anywhere else.

I read an article recently about the toothbrush test, which apparently is something that Google uses when they decide whether to acquire a company or not. The idea of Larry Page talking about the toothbrush test, as soon as I see that, like, “Okay, well, that’s gonna be a Vooza episode. We have to do something on this.” So then I have to learn what that actually means, and then be like, “Okay, how can we make this funny?” And then it’s me generating most of the ideas of the scene, and then I work with other cast members and writers to actually write the scripts.

So sometimes it’ll be me explaining, like, “Hey, here’s this silly thing that happens. How can we incorporate that into the show?” and just throwing out ideas. And again, the cast also definitely has a lot of input into what they think is funny, or even when we’re actually shooting, being like, “Hey, why don’t we try it this way?” or just improvising stuff on the spot. So I think a lot of times it’s just creating that framework of, “Hey, here’s the subject and the topic. Now feel free to play around with it and see where it goes.”...So much of the stuff I see at Tech Blogs or the interviews that I hear or read, I’m like, “Uh, this is almost comedy already.” A lot of times it’s just taking an actual quote from some startup CEO and just making it maybe 10% more absurd, the basis of what’s ridiculous about it. People in the tech world are saying ridiculous things all the time that are almost hilarious, saying it with a straight face, whereas we put a little wink on it to where I think people get the joke.


...So it is pretty loose. It isn’t big, scripted, formulaic, two-camera, “Lucy enters stage left,” and it’s pretty…

I view the script as something to fall back on. The script is a framework where it’s like, hey, “If we’re rushed, or we run out of time, or no one else has any other ideas, then yeah, let’s get that, and bang it out, and move on.” But also, part of what I think is fun about the show is that we have low overhead, we have a small crew, but that, to me, is an advantage in a lot of ways. If you look at a lot of these other sitcoms on major networks, they’ve got crews of dozens of people, and this huge lighting setup, and every second that they’re filming is costing them thousands of dollars. And that puts a ton of pressure, and makes you wanna move really fast, and makes you just bang stuff out, and gives you no room to deviate from the script at all. And I think you can sense that in a lot of those shows. They just have that sort of formulaic feel, whereas I kinda like working cheap, and with a loose crew, and a loose script. I feel like the more you get that playful environment and vibe going on the set and with the cast and crew, that comes out in the final product, that you can feel that it’s people having fun, and there’s something loose about the whole thing.


I’ve watched a couple Vooza episodes where I recall, it wasn’t laugh out loud, it was more of an empathy, sympathetic, like, “Yeah, they got it. I’m not gonna laugh.” It’s kinda like “Dilbert” where maybe it’s not laugh, because you kinda wanna cry a little bit.

No, it’s an interesting point, because I think that also speaks to, what’s your goal when you’re creating online video? I think it’s a little bit different. We still wanna be funny and have it be good, but I think there is, when you talk about that empathy factor, I think that’s also really an important part of why people share stuff. I remember being at 37signals (now Basecamp), and engineers were always sharing “Dilbert” cartoons with each other in our Campfire group chatroom, and I'd be like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” This isn’t always the funniest stuff, but people will be like, “Hey, you’re gonna get this.” I think there’s that, “I wanna share this, because they get this thing, and I get it, and I wanna share it with you, because you’ll get it,” and why people share stuff online I think is an interesting psychological factor.

But yeah, there’s definitely episodes where we’ll sometimes be like, “Okay, this one’s hilarious, and we’ll hit a broad audience.” And then there’s other ones where we’re like, “All right, this one might not be as laugh-out-loud funny, but I think engineers or marketing people are gonna be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I know that person, or, “I’ve heard that phrase, and God, I’m so glad someone’s making fun of this.”

Yeah, the “Hackathon” one, that was good.

I think that episode is an interesting one, because that was generated by a tweet, basically. So we have our @VoozaHQ is our Twitter feed where a couple of times a day we’re posting jokes about the tech world, and then it’s always that sometimes one of those will take off and get retweeted dozens, or hundreds of times, or something like that. And then I’ll be like, “Okay, well that’s clearly hitting some sort of nerve. How can we turn that into an episode?” So I think that’s been an interesting thing too, is sometimes the ideas being fed to us from the response on social media to one-liners that we throw out there.


It’s an interesting advertising model, and I’m just curious about how you came up with it, and how is it working?

Sure, so far so good. I like to tell people we’re just like a real startup, except we actually make money.

I’m like, “Vooza” the show actually makes money.

So from the outset, that was the goal, was to make money off it and to make this sustainable, and I think one inspiration was The Deck, which is an ad network that 37signals and Coudal Partners actually started years ago, which was sort of ads dedicated to what they called creative professionals, you know, designers, or filmmakers, or people who worked on the web in different ways, and then partnering with advertisers like Adobe, or people who make fonts, or things like that, to kind of make ads. “Hey, you can assemble this audience with this network of sites and have ads that are actually appealing to them and have it not be an obstacle, or an intrusion,” or like, “Hey, this is something from Toyota, or Snickers,” or something you don’t care about. Instead have it be like, “Hey, we’re the guys running this ad network. We’re picking all the sites and people who are making this content, and then we’re also finding advertisers who we actually like, and use their product, and think it’s a good fit.” And you can kind of create a whole ecosystem of people who are actually liking what they’re seeing, and it’s advertising, but it doesn’t feel like it’s bugging you. So I think that was interesting to me back when we did that years ago, and then I think you also had just the rise of native advertising and branded content, and that’s sort of taking over content media. Words, and articles, and things like that, you start seeing that more and more and wondering, “Hey, is there a way to do this in video?” And I think also, people sometimes are like, “Oh, this is a very innovative, futuristic way to do advertising,” which to me is kind of funny, because it’s also exactly the way advertising started on TV back in the 50s, or on radio where you’d have… Howard Stern, I’m a huge Howard Stern fan. I always used to stop his show, and do plugs, and I think it works in a couple ways. You got the actors or the people on the show talking about the products. That makes it feel much different than a typical commercial. It happens within an episode...A lot of the branded episodes we do, the product is mentioned within the episode. But we try to do it in a subtle enough way that’s not really annoying. Usually those episodes get to be longer. They’re three minutes instead of a minute-and-a-half. I think there’s a way to look at it, like, “Hey, this advertiser’s helping you get more content than you would otherwise.” And also, we’re working with people who, it’s right for our audience. It’s not just some random brand. It’s people like New Relic, Ustream, or MailChimp, or Insightly, people who, they’re making products that are for the people in our audience, and it’s kind of this mutual and beneficial thing. So the goal is to have it be advertising, but that’s not really obnoxious, and annoying, and in your face...So I think it’s just a new way of doing stuff. It’s interesting because the fact that we’re small and doing it on our own, it’s in some ways a weakness, but it’s also helped us find the right audience who we wanna work with and the right advertisers who wanna reach that audience.

More on Vooza: Watch the videos, follow @VoozaHQ on Twitter, or join the email list. You can also support Vooza via Patreon – pledge and you'll get exclusive access to bonus footage, behind the scenes photos, scripts, etc. At higher levels, you can even get a producer credit or a cameo.

Capitalism is our true religion

Capitalism is our true religion. The Dow Jones is God. NASDAQ is Jesus. The mall is church. The Wall Street Journal is the Bible. “Open your holy book to Marketplace B16 and we’ll read the verse of Monsanto vs. the FDA.” And thus the evil becomes holy. And we all bow down and worship the golden calf/Charging Bull. The old miracle: turning water into wine. The new miracle: turning subprime mortgages into executive bonuses. Hallelujah.


On vaping

Vaping is making pot smokers weirder. Weed used to be a communal thing. Fire was involved. We'd gather in a circle and have a shared experience. Now everyone's got their little glowing LED thingies and they're sneaking off into corners and doing it solo and it takes away the whole "we're in this together" vibe and that's a bummer. Look, if you wanna do drugs and be selfish and sneaky about it, there's already a perfect solution out there for you: Cocaine.

Catcalling vs. Kardashian


Support Vooza

Just launched: We're asking fans of Vooza to help make the show sustainable by supporting Vooza via Patreon. (I know, sounds like something we'd joke about. But this is legit!)

Creating these videos isn't cheap (each shoot costs thousands of dollars to produce). By pledging, you'll be helping us pay the actors, writers, director, sound man, cinematographer, makeup artist, and editors. And you'll also help us rent cameras, lenses, and lights so the videos look great. With your help, we'll be able to produce even better content (including extended episodes) and keep the Vooza train a-rollin'.

For rewards, we're offering a bunch of exclusive content, special access to Vooza's team, a producer credit, and even the chance to appear in a video. There are pledge amounts for individuals (anything you can give is appreciated) and for companies. Click here for details. And thanks for your support!

Interview discussing the origins of Vooza

Ugtastic: "Interview with Vooza founder Matt Ruby"

In the interview we discuss the origins of Vooza, how the show was conceived then how they go about the creative process for the show. Ever wonder whether the cast is a bunch of developers and techies? Is Vooza a real startup (hint: kinda, yeah but not that kind)? Do the characters have names? How does Vooza generate revenue to keep the show going? Watch the interview and all those questions will at least be mentioned if not answered.

A recent episode on "Busy Bragging":


An open letter to bloggers who are offended

Bloggers, we live in a world that has words, and sometimes those words have to be spoken aloud by people with microphones. Who's gonna do it? You, Huffington Post? You, Salon? Comedians have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for those who are offended, and you condemn those of us who tell jokes. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know. That people getting offended, while mildly unfortunate, is a byproduct of truth, experimentation, and laughter. And the words we say, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, make other people laugh. We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to a person who rises and sleeps under the blanket of clickbait headlines, gotcha "journalism," and copy-and-paste-content and then questions the manner in which we put original thoughts out into the world. We would rather you just watched Two and A Half Men and went on your way. Otherwise, we suggest you pick up a microphone, and stand up on a stage and try to make a roomful of strangers come together and erupt in laughter. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think is offensive.

(From my new show: "A Few Good Comedians")


Chris Rock's advice on what to do when a set is going poorly: "Slow it down"

The New Yorker has a piece on Chris Rock: Can Chris Rock make the leap from standup eminence to leading man?. Along the way, it mentions a Q&A he did with Eric Bogosian back in 1997 in the NY Times. Here's that: Chris Rock Has No Time for Your Ignorance.

Eric Bogosian: What's the difference between a black audience and a white audience?

Chris Rock: I'll give it to you in musical terms. When a musical act performs, the black audience goes crazy for all the stuff, the album cuts, everything. White audiences, they're nice and all, but they're not going to lose it until they get the hits. Comedy is the same thing.

Bogosian: How do you know when it is funny? When is the joke finished?

Rock: It's never locked. I mess with it every night. But I really don't improvise that much. I mean, 10 percent of the show is improvised.

Bogosian: What do you do when the audience doesn't get the good stuff?

Rock: I slow down my delivery. The natural thing to do when the show's not going well is to speed it up. Worst thing in the world. Slow it down. Make sure they understand everything you're saying. I'll think, Maybe the abortion bit won't play. But I don't drop that much stuff now.

One other interesting line is when Rock explains why he would listen to MLK, Malcolm X, and JFK: "I just looked at it as kind of the same thing as I was trying to do, but without punch lines. I think anybody in front of a crowd is a comedian."

FYI, I've posted lots of stuff about Rock over the years here. Take a look.




Lena, Ray Rice, Airbnb, Vooza, shows, and the rest of what I'm up to right now

Just sent this to my Matt Ruby email list. If you wanna sign up for it, go here.

I like you for signing up for this list. I'm sorry I haven't been more attentive to this list. Now you know what it is like to date me.

Things to read
Here are some funny or ranty things I've written lately:
This is how I feel pretty
Team Lena
"This fall after Modern Family...it's IS-ish!"
Why we should let Ray Rice keep playing football
Wellsplaining to sick people
People who use Airbnb love to smile. You like smiles!
Upworthy is piousbragging
The college scam

Shows to see
Got a big week of comedy shows coming up. NY Comedy Festival is in town and I'm hosting a couple of shows as part of it:

Wed: Schtick or Treat (7th annual!)
Sun: We're All Friends Here (listen to the podcast)

And on Tuesday, I'll be at HOT SOUP, our weekly standup show in midtown, that's had some great guests lately (Aziz, Hannibal, Gaffigan, Silverman, etc.). FYI, we mail out the lineup every week to our HOT SOUP email list. Also doing a couple other spots at Triple Crown and Karma this week too. You can find all my gigs listed at MattRubyComedy.com.

Videos to watch
And Vooza, our show mocking startups, is still going strong (nearing episode 100!). Solidsmack wrote this about the show: "Silicon Valley is definitely worth a watch…If HBO isn’t your thing however and you still want to have some laughs at the expense of startup culture, the collection of shorts over at Vooza intelligently pokes fun at everything from crowdfunding concepts to product pitches and business card exchanges to product launch videos."

Join the Vooza email list to get a weekly update with our new videos. Some recent episodes I was in: I help the design team, our logo is worse than Airbnb's, there's a spaghetti western-ish duel over smartphones, a hackathon bait and switch, and I presented at a big conference in Amsterdam.

If you've got Apple TV (or similar service), you can now watch Vooza videos on your "real" TV via AOL On. Details here.



P.S. Sign up for the Club Scale email list if you wanna see my latest thing when it's out. It'll be really good.

Bill Burr explains how he was inspired by Dave Attell

Burr talks about writing, staying out of "robot mode," and how he spices up bits by adding tags and improvising.


Obvious and true

In The Cult of Originality, cartoonist Nina Paley writes, "We can’t know what’s original. We can only know what’s honest."

In my case, if something seems obvious and true, but I don’t see it reflected outside myself, then I try to manifest it. If I find myself arguing a lot, getting angry and angering others while simply telling the obvious truth, then I suspect whatever idea I’m speaking for would be better expressed in art. My most successful, “original” artworks were all ideas I’d discussed with others ad nauseum (the other parties’ nauseum, since they couldn’t see what I saw and rejected the concepts in conversation). Yet no matter how much others insisted said ideas were stupid, or crazy, or not worth thinking about, the ideas continued to press themselves on me as true. I wouldn’t need to give them a voice if I could hear them outside myself.

Seems like a good basis for what to talk about onstage. If you're constantly arguing for something that seems obvious to you but not to others, bring it to the stage.


Advice on getting a tape

Good advice on getting a tape that I heard from another comic: Never just launch into the material that you're trying to get on tape. Riff on the room or do a couple other jokes or something else just to loosen up and get a few laughs. Then take a pause and dive into the set you're wanting to capture as if you're just starting it. No one who watches the tape is gonna care (or even know) once you edit out the other stuff. And now you're starting with some momentum instead of starting from scratch.


You can now watch Vooza videos on your TV via AOL On

In related news, I'm now considering getting Botox.

They never forget how you make them feel

In "Think Like A Fan," Twitter's Head Of Music talks about how Drake, Jimmy Fallon, and Kid Rock have gotten traction by using that mindset. And he even quotes Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou said this “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” They never forget how you make them feel.

Seems like good advice for a standup set too. Laughs per minute might not be as important as the feeling you leave 'em with.


This is how I feel pretty


Be worth talking about

1,000 True Fans - Still Relevant? drops some Seth Godin wisdom:

Be Remarkable

The word is confusing and mis-interpreted by many to be something far beyond what it really means.. Seth Godin’s best-selling book “Purple Cow” explains it nicely.

“When I say remarkable, I mean just that… It’s worth talking about.“

That’s it.. Worth talking about. That’s remarkable.

You, me and everyone else reading this blog can be remarkable – because we all can do things worth talking about. In fact, we already do it every day!

There’s a nice quote that comes to mind…

“Advertising is the tax you pay for NOT being remarkable.”

Good podcast interview with Godin and Brian Koppelman.


Brené Brown: "What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful"

Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability.

It occurred to me the other day that academics and businessmen are the opposite of standup comics in a way. They're always puffing themselves up. Dropping fancy job titles, where they got degrees from, trying to sound smart/impressive, etc. Meanwhile, standups lead with what's wrong with them. How they're fat, bald, lazy, depressed, neurotic, etc. They do it that way because they know these things build empathy and connection. They get the audience on your side. Once you do that, you can go wherever you want with them.


Jerry Seinfeld: Comedians aren't supposed to like awards

Re: Jerry Seinfeld's great Clio speech...

...he's given a similar acceptance speech before. See: "All Awards Are Stupid."


Team Lena


"This fall after Modern Family...it's IS-ish!"

How Larry David creates a Curb Your Enthusiasm scene

How does Larry David come up with Curb scenes? Watch him create a funny on-the-spot Curbish scenario based on "I donated money in your name" charity donations. It's at 40m10s in to 43min of this KPCS interview.


Aim to convince one out of ten

An excerpt from Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." The gist: It's ok if 9 out of 10 people don't like you, as long as that other 1 REALLY likes you. Seems like you could apply that to standup too.

In other words, you can’t please everybody.

Even when I ran the club, I understood this. A lot of customers came to the club. If one out of ten enjoyed the place and decided to come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten people didn’t like the club. Realizing this lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to do that, I had to make my philosophy absolutely clear, and patiently maintain that philosophy no matter what. This is what I learned from running a business.

After “A Wild Sheep Chase,” I continued to write with the same attitude that I’d developed as a business owner. And with each work my readership—the one-in-ten repeaters—increased. Those readers, most of whom were young, would wait patiently for my next book to appear, then buy it and read it as soon as it hit the bookstores. This was for me the ideal, or at least a very comfortable, situation. I went on writing the kinds of things I wanted to write, exactly the way I wanted to write them, and, if that allowed me to make a living, then I couldn’t ask for more.

Reminds me a bit of Kevin Kelly's 1,000 True Fans. You don't need everyone, you just need a few true devotees.


Why we should let Ray Rice keep playing football


Joan Rivers: "I would never tell a lie onstage"

Joan Rivers on telling the truth [via AK]:

From the beginning, and to this day, I would never tell a lie onstage. So now I walk out, I go, “I’m so happy to see you,” and I really truly am so happy to see them. The one thing I brought to this business is speaking the absolute truth. Say only what you really feel about the subject. And that’s too bad if they don’t like it. That’s what comedy is. It’s you telling the truth as you see it.

I like this idea as the inverse to Steve Martin's old approach (i.e. everything he says onstage is a lie). Also, some of her advice to comics from that piece:

First of all, don’t worry about the money. Love the process. You don’t know when it’s gonna happen. Louis C.K. started hitting in his 40s; he’d been doing it for 20 years. And don’t settle. I don’t want to ever hear, “It’s good enough.” Then it’s not good enough. Don’t ever underestimate your audience. They can tell when it isn’t true. Also: Ignore your competition. A Mafia guy in Vegas gave me this advice: “Run your own race, put on your blinders.” Don’t worry about how others are doing. Something better will come.

And I love what Howard Stern said at her funeral.


The Racial Joke Test

In Ironic Racism, Victor Varnado offers up The Racial Joke Test:

The test is “DO THAT JOKE IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE MOSTLY COMPRISED OF THE GROUP YOU MIGHT BE IN DANGER OF OFFENDING”. If if doesn’t fly or you don’t feel comfortable then drop that joke.

The last line of the piece: "Please go to harlem and pull that puppet out and see how it goes."


How Nora Ephron gave Woody Allen a happy ending

Interesting piece on how Woody Allen influenced Nora Ephron.

The film opens with simple, white-on-black titles, backed by an elegant, evocative jazz standard. The story that follows, framed by documentary-style straight-to-camera interviews, concerns a witty, urbane Jewish neurotic and his relationship with a sunny, fashionable shiksa. They stroll in through an autumnal Central Park and discuss death, sexual hang-ups, and New York real estate; the borough of Manhattan is captured in loving beauty shots, often backed by the music of Louie Armstrong. From that description, it would be easy to assume I was describing any number of Woody Allen films (Annie Hall in particular). But no, I’m talking about director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally.

So why did Harry/Sally do so much better at the box office than any of Woody's movies? Bring in the happy ending.

Yet the key to When Harry Met Sally’s initial financial success and subsequent cultural ubiquity most likely lies in its third act, when it takes some turns decidedly its own. To be clear, it’s not all an Allen carbon copy; the famous Katz’s Deli sequence, for example, is a funny scene, but it’s also a “funny scene,” an entirely unbelievable set piece with a (hilarious, mind you) sitcom punchline that one can’t imagine within Allen’s more grounded world. But most strikingly, once Harry and Sally take the plunge and their relationship becomes more serious, it becomes more of a conventional romance — and more of what we would come to define as an Ephron movie.

Most importantly, the picture culminates with an apologetic Harry coming to his senses, sprinting through New York City on New Year’s Eve, and delivering a big, heartfelt speech so he can win back Sally, who he really loves after all. This happy ending is When Harry Met Sally’s chief divergence from the Allen playbook. It’s not just that his best-known comic romances, Annie Hall and Manhattan, end with their focal couples apart rather than together; in Allen’s nearly 50 films as writer/director, only six (Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters, Oedipus Wrecks, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, and Melinda and Melinda) feature a couple that meets, falls in love, and lives happily ever after.

Allen’s jaded view of love — all broken relationships and heedless infidelity — may be the more realistic one, but realism don’t sell tickets, kids.

Happily ever after is where the money's at.


How Larry David gets laughs with silence

Love this Curb Your Enthusiasm scene. Interesting to me how different this kinda humor is than doing standup. He's milking the shy, quiet thing here – for a while – in a way that'd never work onstage in front of a big crowd. On a screen, you don't have to "command the room" in the same way. You've already got the audience's captive attention. The camera does the heavy lifting for you. That means you can get laughs from subtle looks or simple/quiet things that'd get lost in a live, "you need to reach the back row" setting.


Wellsplaining to sick people


Yelp for doctors?


Vulnerable vs. confident

How do you seem confident and vulnerable at the same time? Are they opposite feelings? Thought about that while reading this bit from an interesting profile on Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.

“The way I see it is that I was always pretty comfortable with being vulnerable, but not particularly confident,” Tweedy said. “I feel like I’m a lot more confident, but I still embrace the fact that I am pretty vulnerable, if that makes any sense. I don’t have to be somebody else. I don’t have to be as good as somebody else, I just have to keep making stuff that I am excited by. That is one of the only things I have had control over. I am more aware of it — I am more aware of the things that I have control over.”

Read the rest.


Trying to understand the other side

Writer and comedian Alex Blagg on people getting offended.

Almost no comedy will be inoffensive to everybody, and if it is it's probably pretty boring. With comedy you're relieving tension by saying and doing the unexpected, and a lot of times that by its nature will lead to people not liking the results or saying it's offensive to them — that your representation of their particular experience is unfair or inaccurate. That will always happen, but I think the likelihood of that happening is so greatly diminished when you're setting out as a performer or creator to try to be honest. Instead of just saying Okay, what's the first thought that comes to my head — what's the easiest stereotype I can make fun of? and then just going with that, thinking a little bit deeper and trying to understand the real motivations and attitudes and behaviors that make us human, and then looking at those things as the material you can focus the joke on — I think that's where the best comedy comes from and that's why people like Key and Peele are almost infallible. It'd be really tough to put together a legitimate case about them being lazy or insensitive comedians. They feel like humanists to me.

I like that notion: If you're coming across as human and digging deep and trying to understand people's genuine motivations and behaviors, it's gonna be tough for anyone to call you insensitive.



Love how this video (above) is making fun of the format of documentary trailers for flicks like Dogtown and Z-Boys (below). The actual concept isn't that meaty but the editing and style of it make the whole thing shine.


Cigarillos, etc.


When my band ran into Robin Williams while he was filming Patch Adams

My one run-in with Robin Williams was when he was filming Patch Adams in Chapel Hill. Back then I was in a rock 'n roll band and we were on tour playing a burrito joint that night near UNC. After sound check we wandered around the campus and ran into the place on campus where they were filming outside.

About 100 people had gathered around to watch the goings on. When the director called cut, Williams didn't head for his trailer though. He jumped out into the crowd and signed autographs and started riffing with everyone who was standing there. It was that manic energy that we've all seen from him. He cracked jokes and worked the room (well, lawn actually) until he got to us, four shaggy looking rockers with mustaches. I thought he'd give us both barrels but he actually had a pretty sincere conversation with us about music, touring, being on the road, etc. He signed an autograph for our drummer, we invited him to the show, and he said he'd think about it. And then he moved on to the next available target and kept going until they needed him back on set about 20mins later.

It was just a brief encounter but it def seemed like he had an energy level that didn't go down. "Always on" would be an understatement. I thought this line from A.O. Scott's piece on Williams summed him up well: "His essential persona as an entertainer combined neediness and generosity, intelligence and kindness, in ways that were charming and often unexpectedly moving as well."

Fun Williams in-the-wild clip: 1986: Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams improvise on 60 Minutes.


The scene that Roger Ebert called "the sexiest and funniest at the same time in all of romantic comedy"

Roger Ebert's review of Preston Sturges' "The Lady Eve” calls out this scene...

If I were asked to name the single scene in all of romantic comedy that was sexiest and funniest at the same time, I would advise beginning at six seconds past the 20-minute mark in Preston Sturges' "The Lady Eve,” and watching as Barbara Stanwyck toys with Henry Fonda's hair in an unbroken shot that lasts three minutes and 51 seconds.

Stanwyck plays an adventuress who has lured a rich but unworldly young bachelor to her cabin on an ocean liner, and is skillfully tantalizing him. She reclines on a chaise. He has landed on the floor next to her. "Hold me tight!” she says, holding him tight -- allegedly because she has been frightened by a snake. Now begins the unbroken shot. Her right arm cradles his head, and as she talks she toys with his earlobe and runs her fingers through his hair. She teases, kids and flirts with him, and he remains almost paralyzed with shyness and self-consciousness. And at some point during this process, she falls for him.


Bill Burr: When was the last time you went on stage and you killed so hard the person after you bombed?

Bill Burr was asked, "Can women be funny?" His answer: "Yeah, of course." And then he went on...

Become undeniable. When was the last time you went on stage and you killed so hard the person after you bombed? If you're fucking doing that on a regular basis, people are gonna notice, regardless of what you have between your legs.

Kill, kill, kill. The rest will sort itself out.


The problem with hating hipsters

People love attacking "hipsters" yet no one self-identifies as a hipster. Important lesson: Start getting more specific with your insults.

That's when things get a little more challenging...

"Hipsters = skinny jeans" Eurodudes have been rocking those for decades.

"Hipsters = indie rock fans" Plenty of douchey bros love The Black Keys and Spoon.

"Hipsters = facial hair" Every goddamn dude in NYC has a beard now.

"Hipsters = hating on everything" If you're hating on hipsters, then that's kinda the most hipster thing of all.


Barry Katz on how much comedians make, finding a manager, etc.

Barry Katz did an AMA at Reddit. ("I've managed, developed and produced for Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, Tracey Morgan, Jay Mohr among others and host the Industry Standard podcast on the business of comedy. Ask me anything.") In it, he breaks down the typical rates that comedians get paid...

If you're going to a comedy club in your city and seeing a person headline that you don't know that well, he's probably making between $1500-$3000 a week. The person going on before the headliner is probably making between $500-$1000 a week. The person MCing probably $300-$500 a week. If you go to a special event with a name that's a household name, you can probably figure out how much they're making by looking at how much you paid for the ticket and the people in the room, and normally the artist is making 50% of that gross, up to 100% depending on their pull. It the tickets are $25 apiece and 300 people in the room, you're talking about $7500 for that show. 6 Shows, about $40-$45K coming in. Chances are a headliner of that nature could make $20K or even up to $50-$60K that week, maybe more. That's usually how it works.

...and gives his advice on finding a manager (hint: don't).

Don't worry about finding a manager. When you're doing the right thing, when your comedy is undeniable, when you go to your home comedy club ten times in a row and you have the best set of the night by a landslide every, single, time and every bartender, every waitress, every manager, every comedian that hates you, every audience member if they had a truth serum in their veins would say you had the best set of the night. If you can figure that out, and do the kind of comedy that you love, embody the kind of material that blows you the fuck away when you watch it, when that starts happening, managers like me will chase you like your ass is on fire. But until then, keep working hard, keep doing the right thing and don't lose faith in yourself. You will prevail.

Katz also has a podcast where he interviews industry types.


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict explained in baseball terms

Louis CK and Howard Stern wind up crying/laughing together

At 31:20 into this interview, Howard presses Louis CK to talk about having a dog lick cottage cheese off his balls. They both completely lose it. It's pretty cute.


Why clapter – clapping plus laughter – is the enemy

SNL's James Downey on Working with Norm Macdonald:

To tell you the truth, Norm and I had done Update for three and a half seasons. I felt like we had made our point. What I did like about the way we approached Update was that it was akin to what the punk movement was for music: just real stripped down. We did whatever we wanted, and there was nothing there that we considered to be a form of cheating. We weren’t cuddly, we weren’t adorable, we weren’t warm. We weren’t going to do easy, political jokes that played for clapter and let the audience know we were all on the same side. We were going to be mean and, to an extent, anarchists.

I enjoy how "jokes that played for clapter" is the enemy here.


People who use Airbnb love to smile. You like smiles!

Vooza: "Earnings Call"

I channel my inner Donald Trump on this one. More at Vooza.com.


Alan Watts on technology's "fantastic vicious circle"

Orgasm Without Release: Alan Watts Presages Our Modern Media Gluttony in 1951.

The “brainy” economy designed to produce this happiness is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse –providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve ends with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect “subject” for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ears with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-without-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity — shock treatments — as “human interest” shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.

More Alan Watts.


Upworthy is piousbragging


How improv gets the imagined typer out of the way

Long piece on Steve Carell and the meticulous art of spontaneity:

Most comedy directors now believe that even an expertly written script can’t reliably elicit belly laughs. Nicholas Stoller, the director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, both of which were substantially improvised, said, “The movies we’re trying to make, which have a hard laugh every minute, could not be made without improv.” Traditional comedies have a sleekness that calls to mind the typewriter. Consider the moment in the 1980 film Airplane! when two passengers chat before takeoff: “Nervous?” “Yes.” “First time?” “No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.” The point of improv, Apatow told me, is to make scenes feel fresh and unstudied—“to get the imagined typer out of the way.” When an improv really works, it has a skewed specificity that bears the stamp of an actor’s subconscious. In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, it’s the scene where a vexed Mike Myers, as Dr.. Evil, stifles his son, Scott, with a whole run of shushes: “Let me tell you a little story about a man named Sh!” Scott opens his mouth—“Sh! even before you start.” Tiny pause. “That was a preëmptive Sh!” Scott opens his mouth again—“Just know I have a whole bag of Sh! with your name on it.”

Getting the script outta the way and replacing it with the performer's subconscious makes an entirely different cake.


5 things I love about Ted Alexandro

5 things I love about Ted Alexandro:

1) His energy onstage. So many comics rely on being high energy – practically yelling toward the crowd. Ted takes the opposite approach. He leans back. He draws you in to his worldview. There's a zen calm to his approach. Yet he still manages to be hilarious.

2) And I dig the way he's political. See, there's the kind of comedian who preaches and lectures about his political views. Ted doesn't do that. He's a "be the change you want to see in the world" kinda guy. He's super involved in the Occupy movement without being in your face about it. And he seems to constantly be doing things like making calls for Obama or cleaning up after Sandy or volunteering somewhere in Astoria.

3) He also founded the New York Comedians Coalition which got clubs in the city to raise spot pay for comics. I can only imagine how hard it was to bring together a group as lone wolf-ish as NYC comedians in any sort of organized way. But Ted managed to pull it off.

4) Then there's his most recent standup special. Most comics tape specials in a big room in front of a juiced up crowd. Ted taped his at The Creek in front of a few dozen people. It's a special about the reality of doing standup, not the "on steroids" version that's usually released. (And he was able to put it out without lining the pockets of a big corporation.)

5) A lot of big name comedians look down on comics who are less experienced. They ignore them or do the ball busting/hierarchy thing. I've never seen Ted do that. He's always been patient and kind in conversations with me and other less-experienced comics. No wonder he gets so much respect from his peers.

It's easy to measure the wrong things in this business – to look at who's got industry heat or a pilot deal or a high iTunes ranking. But sometimes the person who's really winning is the one who redefines success. When I look at how well Ted does both onstage and off, I see true success. I see someone who is an example of how you can make people laugh and be an artist and a nice, authentic human being.

If you feel the same (or want to take my word for it), Ted is now raising money on Kickstarter for his "Teacher's Lounge" web series. It's created & written by Ted and Hollis James and stars lots of comics you know. There's less than 70 hours to go in the campaign and they're close but still need some more funds. I just pitched in some cash and I encourage you to do the same.

Related: Ted Alexandro on letting jokes breathe

How large a part of your life is it?

In Being a comic and a punchline, Cameron Esposito talks about when she hears comics doing “I’m for gay marriage but…” jokes.

When I hear comics tell those jokes, I wonder what other, more personal experiences they might have to talk about.. You say you worry that people think you look like a lesbian and you aren’t one? Okay, sure. How large a part of your life is that fear? The audience you are in front of tonight might never see you again, so is it a crucial enough aspect of your life that you’d want to it be the only topic an audience ever hears you discuss? If not, talk about something that is. If so, why is that? What are you so afraid of?

I think that's an interesting frame: If an audience is only going to see you once and hear you talk about one thing, what would you want it to be?


Bob Dylan on the supernatural artist

Bob Dylan's system for rating artists (according to author Robert Hilburn):

Artists fit into one of three categories-the natural performer, who does the best they can within their limits on stage; the superficial performer, who shouldn't be on stage in the first place because they've got nothing original to tell you; and the supernatural artist, who, in Bob's words, 'is the kind that digs deep and the deeper they go, the more gods they'll find."

It's like artistic limbo. How low can you go? Also brings to mind another question: What happens if you find demons in the depths alongside those gods?


Assume you have to make it yourself

Oren Brimer on Producing 'The Pete Holmes Show'.

I’m not saying it’s everyone’s path, but my path was being really good at everything. I can write something, I can direct it, I can edit it, I can produce it, because at the end of the day you have to assume no one’s going to make anything for you. Assume you have to make it yourself and then whenever someone will help you or you get money for it, that will only be a bonus as opposed to being an expectation. I feel like people get bogged down by feeling like they need someone to validate their idea before making it as opposed to just making it.

Good thinking. Waiting around for the industry to "discover" you puts your fate in the hands of others. Not to mention, a lot of industry folks operate from a place of fear and not wanting to get fired as opposed to caring about what's good or not (if they even know what's good). Make something you think is great and prove it's worthwhile. Even if it gets you nowhere, at least you made something. Makers make stuff. Complainers complain about stuff.


TMZ vs. Satan


The college scam


The lesson Norm MacDonald learned from Steve Martin

From Normcore: Norm MacDonald's Quest to Host 'The Late Late Show':

The one thing you don't want to do is say, "I'm going to be different than anyone else — I'm wearing jeans!"...Steve Martin told me when he started out he was dressed as a hippie, and that shocked me. He was like, "Well, I was doing avant-garde stuff. Then suddenly I realized avant-garde comes out better from a guy in a white suit." I thought that's pretty fucking smart.

People laugh at odd combos. High-low, skinny-fat, smart-dumb. Comedy is in the contrast.


Took my chances on a big jet plane, never let them tell you that they're all the same

Los Angeles friends: I'll be in your city next week. If you want to see me tell jokes, I'll be performing on the following shows...

Jun 10 - 8:00pm - Put Your Hands Together @ UCBLA
Jun 11 - 8:00pm - Pints & Puns @ Angel City Brewery & Public House
Jun 12 - 8:30pm - Josh and Josh Show @ Bar Lubitsch
Jun 13 - 8:00pm - Peachy Keen @ Bar Lubitsch
Jun 15 - 9:00pm - Neal Brennan and Friends @ Mi's Westside Comedy Theater
Jun 15 - 9:45pm - French Toast @ Le Taix


Simon Amstell's amazing psychedelic story

People talking about drug trips are like people talking about their dreams: You had to be there – and you weren't. That's what makes this chunk by Simon Amstell on doing Ayahuasca so amazing. It's deep and it's weird and it's funny throughout.

From syllabus to ‘It's Funny Because It's True’ - Exploring The Buddhist Truth Of Suffering Through Comedy.


Future Insights interviewed me about Vooza

Future Insights interviewed me about Vooza. Questions include: "Was there a specific viral internet video that made the light bulb go on for Vooza?" "Is it harder for you to play the straight man or the guy who delivers the punch lines?" "Which is your favorite Vooza video, and why?"

Vooza takes the piss out of ‘branding’:

You know those self-indulgent videos where people talk about creativity, inspiration and their approach to branding as motivational music plays in the background?

Since launching (and doing we’re-still-not-sure-what), Vooza's made it its business to demystify the startup journey by zeroing right into the smarmy “thought-leader” attitude that so readily shuts people out before they've begun.

See the video on branding and read the full piece.


The benefits of doing it on the side

J-L Cauvin wrote an interesting piece recently: Comedy Career Advice: Keep Your Day Job. Seriously. (Excerpt: "When opportunities are coming in that cannot be missed and that a job is actually in the way of, then you should quit.")

Was reminded of it while reading Why ‘Side Projects’ matter?

1, They don’t have to provide you with a living. You can still eat if they fail.

2, They don’t have a deadline. And as there is no time pressure, you don’t revert to your usual formula. You try new things. You experiment. You take risks.

3, This is a Labour of Love. You provide the ‘Labour’. And you provide the ‘Love’. So when you spend time on it, it is because you really want to. That keeps you coming back and pushing it on. That’s important. This thing will require you to keep plugging away at it, maybe, for years.

Love pays well in the end. But in the early years, it doesn’t pay at all.

I think the experimentation part is important. The more you're trying to make money off of comedy, the more you start to follow the rulebook. The industry has a way of homogenizing people. It all starts to look, sound, and feel the same. The time when you're not getting paid offers you freedom. It gives you the ability to do whatever the hell you want.


Louie is constructed like a standup set

Interesting angle: Why Is Louie Such a Remarkable TV Show? Because It Makes Stand-up Comedy Cinematic.

The segmented nature of the series — disconnected tales, anecdotes, moments, and reveries, some of them just a few minutes long — evokes the stop-and-start rhythms of a stand-up routine, an art form in which it's perfectly acceptable to pivot from one subject to the next with a blunt transition: "Women." "Football fans are the worst." "Now I'm gonna talk about things that you can do to keep people on their toes." He's talking to you directly, in the way that a stand-up comic would talk to you from the stage at a club, but he's doing it through the language of film — a translation that's not as simple as it sounds, given that stand-up is pure performance, just words and gestures. Theater...

The only transitions between these stories are the commercial breaks between acts, or the seven days separating one full episode from another. This temporal black space is the equivalent of a stand-up saying, "Can we talk about Obama for a second?" or "It is so friggin' hot right now!" Every such transition means the same thing: "Now I'm going to talk about something else, and hopefully I'll be interesting enough that you'll keep listening and not heckle me." Richard Pryor could do routines in which his dog or his pipe talked to him, then ramp down into more personal stories. Eddie Murphy could do a filthy routine about Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton as gay lovers and a childhood reverie about kids and ice cream within the same performance. George Carlin could mix wordplay, social satire, religious and political commentary, personal memories, and even an extended fantasy about the destruction of the world and somehow make it all seem to fit. And if you didn't like one or another of these bits, all you had to do was wait a few minutes, and the comic would be on to something else.

Good points I think. Most TV feels more like watching a storyteller. The random leaps at play in Louie do evoke a standup set more than most of the narrative-driven things on TV.

One other CK thing I read recently from GQ: That's Not Funny, That's C.K. I think the part about anger coming from fear and shame is interesting – how much great comedy comes from those things?

This is worth noting only because a decent amount of his material seems to emerge from a place of anger—or maybe more accurately, anger's parent streams, fear and shame—and when he's standing there in his black T-shirt and jeans, sweating and red-faced, you get the sense that however much that joke has been honed for comic effect, it also isn't totally an act. The signal seems to be beaming from someplace real and not completely peaceful inside him.

And Louie was just on Charlie Rose.


The wrong way to judge a joke

Interesting story from one of Lenny Bruce's trials (article). A witness transcribed his act and started reading it back in court. Bruce was furious: "I'm going to be judged on his bad timing, his ego and his garbled language."

But Richard Kuh, an ambitious assistant D.A., was eager to take on Lenny Bruce. The chief witness against Bruce was Herbert Ruhe, an inspector for the city's licensing division and a former C.I.A agent. At the Café Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, Ruhe took notes on Lenny's performance, which he read from at the trial. (By the way, Ruhe told me later that he was just doing his job, that he had nothing against Lenny.)

Lenny was in a state of desperate frustration. He begged—he literally begged—presiding judge John Murtagh for permission to do his own act and not have it dismembered by an agent of the prosecutor.

"This guy is bumbling" Lenny told me, "and I'm going to jail. He's not only getting it all wrong, but now he thinks he's a comic. I'm going to be judged on his bad timing, his ego and his garbled language."

An unusual witness for Lenny was the syndicated columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, an active Catholic and political conservative. But she had a keen sense of humor and had attended some of Lenny's club gigs in New York. In taking the stand, she was treated with great respect by the judges and court attendants. Kuh, the Torquemada-like prosecutor, had put together—out of any context—all of Lenny's "dirty words" from the tape of the Café Au Go Go performance, which Bruce was not permitted to give to the court in his own way.

Kilgallen, demurely dressed, wearing white gloves, sat coolly on the witness chair as Kuh circled her and then, in a loud, accusatory voice, roared a barrage of "dirty words" at her. Pouncing, he shouted: "You say that Mr. Bruce is an artist of social value. What is your reaction, Miss Kilgallen, to these words—these words—he used in his act?" Dorothy Kilgallen looked at her gloves, looked up at Kuh and then, with precise constitutional logic, said: "They are words, Mr. Kuh. Words, words, words."

Reminds me of the whole Colbert tweet debacle or when blogs reprint what Tosh or Tracy Morgan say onstage. Seeing words written down or said by someone else is WAY different than hearing how they were delivered in the room from that performer.


I pretended to be an idiot startup CEO who's overly obsessed with Steve Jobs at a tech conference

Because of our Vooza show, I got to give a keynote talk at a big tech conference in Amsterdam two weeks ago. I pretended to be an idiot startup CEO who's overly obsessed with Steve Jobs. I told 'em to embrace failure and ignore their families. I think they figured out I was joking? Here's a clip...


"Proof of concept" pilot

Good backstory to Cristela Alonzo’s semi-autobiographical Cristela show:

Cristela didn’t make the cut. However, the producers, who also are behind ABC’s Last Man Standing, and 20th TV took the $500,000 penalty, a fraction of what a normal pilot costs, and used it to budget a presentation with ABC’s blessing (the network called it “proof of concept”). Cristela ended up filming a full-length pilot on the stage of Last Man Standing using that sitcom’s crew, led by director/co-exec producer John Pasquin, with two days of rehearsal and prep time, doing the blocking in a windowless room using paper plates and metal chairs. Cristela, originally not even budgeted to get a testing, tested through the roof, with Alonzo, who has no previous acting experience, scoring higher than Allen, New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel and The Crazy Ones’ Robin Williams.

I like the lean "proof of concept" approach they took to making the show. Do it as cheap and easy as possible and make something good and prove it works. Then build it from there. Everyone's always hoping to win the lottery and get the BIG DEAL but the organic way to do it is to build slowly, make sure it's a good idea, and then double down from there.


Neal Brennan & Ryan Hamilton on HOT SOUP tonight (May 6)

Tonight (May 6) at HOT SOUP we've got:

Neal Brennan
Ryan Hamilton
Nathan Macintosh
Joe Pera
Sabrina Jalees
Andrew Short
Matt Ruby
and special guest host Simeon Goodson!

Full details.


Vooza's intelligent pokes

Article at solidsmack with some good words about our Vooza show:

Silicon Valley is definitely worth a watch…If HBO isn’t your thing however and you still want to have some laughs at the expense of start up culture, the collection of shorts over at Vooza intelligently pokes fun at everything from crowdfunding concepts to product pitches and business card exchanges to product launch videos.

See the videos at Vooza.com.


I don't like musical comedy

A reader writes: "I think you should do a blog post on musical comedy. Even if it's about how you think it sucks. I want to hear your opinion. Because I respect it."

I did think Flight of the Concords were pretty great. But mostly, I don't like musical comedy. The dickish way to say why: I think it's mostly done by people who are not good enough at comedy to succeed as comedians and not good enough at music to succeed as musicians. But they mix the two and deliver an inferior version of both things as a sort of magic trick that audiences like in the same way audiences like prop comedy and guys dressed in drag.

Look, I love music and I love comedy. I just don't get off on them being mixed. Probably because I'm very binary and take a purist approach to things. (Overall, this is an unnecessary and unhelpful way to live life but c'est la vie.)

Also, I think music hits people on some sort of reptilian wavelength and then makes anything that goes along with it easier to swallow. Think about how stupid most song lyrics are. Or the painful in-between song stage banter of most musicians. People let it go because, hey, music!

But, y'know, do your thing. It takes a village and all that. And anything can be done artfully and worth watching.



How Stephen Colbert defined his character slowly

I’m Happy for Colbert, But Let’s Be Clear: We’re Losing One of TV’s Greatest Characters:

The formation of a sitcom character is like a sculptor laboriously chipping away at marble; what Colbert did was more akin to a rock slowly being smoothed by the motions of the tide. 150 nights a year, Colbert defined the character slowly but surely, segment by segment.

What Colbert did on his show is/was amazing. To carry the entire show every night (Stewart has others that help out on-camera, Colbert does it all on his own) and to do it in character is something else. I understand why he wants to shift into being himself. But I'm gonna miss how vicious and mean "Stephen Colbert" could be. Like here...

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias." I got a feeling the real Stephen Colbert will be nice and uplifting and the kind of guy we can root for. But we've got plenty of those already. The truthiness of "Stephen Colbert" was a special thing in the ocean of Upworthiness and it's gonna be missed. See this related tweet.


Sontag and Hedberg on photography and time

Susan Sontag in "On Photography":

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

Or, as Mitch Hedberg put it:

One time, this guy handed me a picture of him, he said,"Here's a picture of me when I was younger." Every picture is of you when you were younger. "Here's a picture of me when I'm older." "You son-of-a-bitch! How'd you pull that off? Lemme see that camera...what's it look like?"

Btw, Buzzfeed posted A Complete Ranking Of (Almost) Every Single Mitch Hedberg Joke.


Vooza tackles Kickstarter and projectors

Some recent Vooza fun...

The Honest Kickstarter Campaign
This video shows what’d happen if people told the truth about their Kickstarter campaigns.

Hooking Up The Projector
No one ever seems to know how to hook up the projector. Maybe it’s a missing dongle. Or maybe it’s haunted by evil spirits.

More at Vooza.com.


Spinal Tap's "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare"

This 1979 short, spoofing The Midnight Special, was the seed that turned into This Is Spinal Tap. Love the beer bottle!


Hashtag activist vs. selfie revolutionary

Hashtag activist, eh? Starting a hashtag is to activism what Like-ing a baby photo is to raising a child. All you did was type a couple of words and hit Send. If you want to be a real activist, do something difficult. Volunteer for a cause. Go to a city council meeting and speak up. Take some action that involves more than 3 seconds of effort. Otherwise, you’re not really an activist. You’re just a heckler.

Plus, I'm worried about what's coming next if "hashtag activist" becomes a real thing...

Selfie revolutionary - “if you photobomb, I drop real bombs”
Groupon militant - “30% off lipomassage or we storm the gates”
Retweet jihadist - “I detonate an IED of Upworthy and Buzzfeed all over your Twitter”
Yelp extremist - “We showed up with 20 people and we want a table NOW or else”
Snapchat warrior - “my willingness to fight for this cause will disappear in 10 seconds”


Getting the references doesn't really matter

A good parody is one where ya still think it's funny even if you don't know the original that's being mocked. Fred Armisen talks about this at Splitsider in response to a question about the obscure references on Portlandia:

I just think of my memories watching Saturday Night Live as a kid, I didn't know who the hell they were talking about. There were jokes on Weekend Update that I would laugh at but I didn't know what they were talking about. So I think it doesn't matter — references don't really matter. Even Bugs Bunny is that way, they throw in some jokes for adults and sometimes you just laugh at the way it's being done. That's something that is a lucky break — we get to have Jello Biafra in a sketch, and if you know who he is great, and if you don't it's still a sketch.

Full interview.


Winning the first minute

Non-comedy article on ageism in tech had this quote I found interesting: “There are people in a room whose talent is to win the first minute. Mine is to win the thirtieth or the sixtieth.” Seems like it can work that way in comedy too. The guys who have the best TV set or tight 5 aren't always the ones you wanna watch for 45mins. Alas, you often don't get to the 45 unless you can nail the 5. And so it goes.


What networks/advertisers really want (aka why our entire society winds up held hostage by the most naive among us)

Just read that advertisers, whose main target is the 18-34 year old demographic, are starting to skew even younger (12-34). I remember being in the heart of that age range and feeling good about that: “We’re the ones who get it. We’re still alive. Move outta the way, old man!” But now that I’m becoming that old man, I’m starting to think everything on TV is aimed at people in that age range because they’re the only ones dumb enough to actually believe advertising.

That athletes eat Subway. That Coors is made from fresh Rocky Mountain water. That being an NBA player is like working for State Farm. That ladies flock to a dude who sprays Axe on his crotch.

What networks/advertisers really want is to capture the attention of the most gullible and easily manipulated segment of the population. Because that’s who can be twisted and fooled into wanting whiter teeth or whatever. And the end result is that our entire society winds up held hostage by the most naive among us as we’re all force-fed a steady stream of schlocky, dumbed-down entertainment for pawns. [This post sponsored by Samsung!]

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...