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.
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”
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.
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.
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!]
I don't think the story is about the missing plane. It's about the ocean and how tiny we are compared to it. We think we're always being watched and that satellites know it all and technology rules everything around us. But then the ocean goes and swallows a hunk of metal. And all our cell towers, radars, and navy ships ain't shit compared to this 2/3-of-the-planet-covering pit of mystery and darkness. Part of me likes to think the ocean is saying, "Here's how lost you can get when you dance with me." But actually, the ocean doesn't give a fuck. I hope we never find that damn plane.
Cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems thinks humor is worthy of serious academic study and writes about in his new book “Ha!” He explains why unhappy people are funnier.
Yet in tests measuring the ability to write cartoon captions, people who were more neurotic, assertive, manipulative and dogmatic were actually funnier. As the old saw holds, many of the best comics really are miserable.
Perhaps, Dr. Weems writes, unhappy people are “more likely than others to speak out in awkward or socially unacceptable ways to make a good joke.” Or, as people from Aristotle to Gertrude Stein have pointed out, unhappiness can breed creativity, and the best jokes require both intellectual gymnastics and astute observation of human nature.
Unless you are a model, Tiesto, or Leonardo DiCaprio, our doormen probably won't let you in." VERY excited to learn more about this hot club that's coming to NYC. Also excited: Dan Soder and Joe List. Spend 30secs at ClubScale.com and you'll see what I mean...
Many of the most popular K&P sketches are genre parodies, which play on our collective cultural understandings of the signifiers of a particular genre. In perhaps their most famous sketch, the East/West College Bowl, part of what makes us laugh immediately is the recognition of the codes of the sketch. Giving the viewer this comfort of recognition then allows them to play within the genre. As the names and characters get more and more ridiculous, much of what works about the joke is that it's still rooted in an extremely familiar framework. Atencio’s ability to appropriate semiotic codes as a way to build a frame for a sketch sets up K&P’s writing and performance perfectly.
What genre signifiers can do is build a scene in a single shot, before a word is spoken. No words need be wasted on setting a scene or tone because that work is done in advance by the director. All K&P need to do is inhabit the scene and build their characters and jokes. We've all seen many beginning level improv scenes fail because the actors spend too much time talking about where they are and what they are doing before they work to find what is unusual. Atencio gives K&P the ability to immediately go for what is unusual through creating authentic and real-feeling genre beats. Seemingly counterintuitively, because of Peter Atencio’s thoroughness in his direction and the creation of the aforementioned cinematic look, the performance is able to be the most tangible element in a scene because it's the element that feels the most uncomfortable or unusual to a viewer. If it looks like a horror film, and sounds like a horror film, then it’s funny when people don’t act like they are in a horror film.
We've seen something similar in our Vooza videos. When you're working within an understood framework, the jokes have that much more zing/surprise to 'em (see this Radimparency video). It's like the setup is already there for you.
Larsen explains that advertising sales are ultimately what runs a TV network and that “controversy is not a good thing to sell advertising.” This means if you want to get on TV, being unnecessarily blue or racy will hurt your chances...
[Ari] said Louis CK told him that if he was all of a sudden not allowed to do any of his old jokes, that he wouldn’t stop being a comedian – he’d just write new stuff. He used that mindset as motivation to keep his nose to the grindstone and keep working on new material until he came up with 15 minute chunks he was proud of.
But you asked how you get the comic pitch. Well, obviously a lot of it is rhythm. And as often as not, it's the surprising rhythm. In life and in movies, you can usually guess what someone is going to say—you can actually hear it—before they say it. But if you undercut that just a little, it can make you fall off your chair. It's small and simple like that. You're always trying to get your distractions out of the way and be as calm as you can be [breathes in and out slowly], and emotion will just drive the machine. It will go through the machine without being interrupted, and it comes out in a rhythm that's naturally funny. And that funny rhythm is either humorous or touching. It can be either one. But it's always a surprise. I really don't know what's going to come out of my mouth.
I'm fascinated by how/when jokes stop working. I think this surprising rhythm thing has a lot to do with it. When you first tell a joke, you're not sure where the laughs are, what to emphasize, etc. And that can create some real magic. Words pop into your head and you're surpised so the audience is surprised. But once you hone it into a polished bit, you often smooth over those rough edges. And that can take away the surprise. And that can kill the laughs. And then you gotta figure out a way to make it seem like the first time all over again.
’70s comedy ruled from an anti-throne of contempt for authority in all shapes. College deans, student body presidents, Army sergeants and officers, country-club swells, snooty professors and the EPA: Anyone who made it his life’s work to lord it over others got taken down with wit.
When the smoke bombs cleared and the anarchy died, comedy turned inward and became domesticated. It also became smaller.
“The Cosby Show” and Jerry Seinfeld didn’t seek to ridicule those in power. Instead they gave us comfy couch comedy — riffs on family and etiquette and people’s odd little habits.
Now, in the Judd Apatow era, comedy is increasingly marked by two worrying trends: One is a knee-jerk belief, held even by many of the most brilliant comedy writers, that coming up with the biggest, most outlandish gross-out gags is their highest calling.
Today’s comics have abdicated their responsibility to take down the powerful. They tiptoe around President Obama, but comedy has to be fearless.
These days they’re more at ease mocking their social inferiors than going after the high and mighty. Comfortably ensconced inside the castle that Richard Pryor and George Carlin tried to burn down, they drop water balloons on the unspeakable middle-America drones of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.”
Even comics who present themselves as the loyal opposition to the political leadership, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, expend most of their effort simply repackaging Democratic Party talking points as jokes. The ’70s hang-’em-all anarchist spirit lives on only in the margins, in a few brave outposts like “South Park.”
Interesting points though I think one could argue that dramatic movies and TV shows have devolved in a similar way too. I think you need to consider the context of the times too. The 70s were responding to the 60s and Watergate which was a very different vibe than the Reagan era stew that Cosby and Seinfeld emerged from. That said, it'd be cool to see more "stick it to the man" comedy.