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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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"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.

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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.

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