Planned Parenthood and dudes

Hey fellas, Planned Parenthood has been really, really good to your dick. Y'all need to speak up too. Birth control and abortions are two of your best friends unless you really dig condoms and giving up on your dreams. I know they mostly do cancer screenings and other lady parts stuff but I wish it was just 100% birth control and abortions so I could scream, "HELL YEAH GIVE ME MORE, you goddamn pussy angels." ‪#‎StandwithPP‬


“New York’s Funniest Stand Up” open call

From Caroline's:

The search is on for New York’s funniest comedians and comedic performers! Launched in 2008 as part of the annual New York Comedy Festival, the “New York’s Funniest Stand Up” competition is open to any and all performers who think that have what it takes to be called “New York’s Funniest.”

There will be an open call audition at Carolines on Broadway (1626 Broadway between 49th and 50th Streets) on Tuesday, October 6 starting at 9:00 AM. Participants will perform up to 2 minutes of their original material before a panel of industry judges.

20 performers from the open call will be selected to advance to 2 semi-final rounds on Tuesday, October 20 at Carolines on Broadway. 10 performers from the semi-final rounds will be selected to advance and perform in the final round, which will be held on November 15 at 4:00 PM at Carolines on Broadway as part of the 2015 New York Comedy Festival.


10 things I’ve been thinking about life, love, and relationships lately

High holidays time and I was asked to write a short piece on relationships for a Jew publication. What I came up with:


Here are 10 things I’ve been thinking about life, love, and relationships lately...

1) There’s a book a palliative care doctor wrote explaining what people actually care about when they’re dying. And there are four things that matter: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. Those are the things we actually care about with the people we love. Probably wise to keep that in mind every day.

2) Tinder is just another video game. It is Angry Birds but with people.

3) I think that trilogy of movies that Richard Linklater/Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy did reveal more about the reality of relationships than any of the silly rom coms Hollywood puts out..“Before Sunset” is my fave.

4) Dance more. People who dance a lot never seem that sad. They have a way to let it go. And if you don’t dance, find another way to let it go. Because it’s building up in there..Also, if you’re a dude: Twirl your woman. Gals love to be twirled.

5) Every time a woman posts a photo of an engagement ring on Facebook, a feminist loses her wings.

6) A good relationship is like cooking with a cast iron pan. You keep building up the seasoning in there and then you are cooking in your past and all the flavors from your previous experiences seep into your current experience and things get more complex and deeper and delicious in a way that teflon can’t reproduce. That’s the sweet part about being with someone for the long haul. When you make love, you wind up making love to every other time you’ve made love.

7) Our culture overemphasizes happiness as the ultimate goal. It’s all Pharell songs and self-help books and that’s cool and all but if you never experience sadness than you never experience joy. You need dynamics, otherwise it’s all the same. If all the type on a page is bold, then nothing really stands out. So try to find the right balance of happy/sad instead of relentlessly pursuing some plastic version of joy.

8) You keep looking for the answer but you already know.

9) Get into nature more. The problem with the city is we’ve traded trees for therapists and trees are much better listeners.

10) Text messaging is creating a lot of frustration in our relationships. It is a very low bandwidth form of communication compared to actually looking someone in the eyes and speaking to them. I wonder how much psychic pain is caused by the illusion of connectedness we get from [bzzzzz]...hang on, just got a text...


High kicks forever

My buddy Jake died last week. In Chicago, he used to play drums and I'd play guitar and he was sloppy but good and hit the drums hard and danced around the beat but never lost it. He reminded me of a cross between Keith Moon and Peter Sellers. Then he moved to NYC shortly after me and we used to listen to records and see rock shows and watch football together.

He had a light about him. Everybody loved Jake. He flowed through the room. He had long hair and, often, a mustache. Something about him glowed. He could really seduce you with that.

He introduced me to a ton of great music. Weird avant garde German instrumental shit from the sixties and underground psychedelic stoner rock. He had vinyl flowing through his blood. He told me about Wooden Shjips and Cave and Cluster and other bands I never would have found and wound up on repeat in my life.

He once ordered a bunch of Russian wooden crates off the internet and then spent the next year trying to sell these crates to everyone he knew. You could use them as a table. Or a bookshelf. Or whatever. And they had Russian printed on the side. He never sold ya hard. But if you needed a crate, he was your man.

He also would sell other stuff. He had a store on Amazon. Books that were signed and promo CDs and other random crap. He was always buying and selling stuff and working the angles. He couldn't handle working a real job. He had to carve out his own groove.

And we'd watch football together. He liked the Bears and the Jets. It'd be the middle of winter and we'd be watching the games and he'd fire up the grill and make pizzas on it and roast shrimp kebabs and give us some of his home brewed beer that he made under his bed. One time I had people over on my roof and he brought a neon Jets sign to light up the roof. For the next three years, we talked about that neon Jets sign every time I saw him.

And he dated and lived with Gina, one of my best friends and someone I knew even before Jake. They showed me what it's like to be a resilient couple who goes for it over the long haul while I spent years bouncing around relationships. I remember the first night she emailed me about him after their first date and how she referred to him as "the young turk." It's one of the best emails I've ever read and I'm sad I don't have a copy of it. I just remember grinning the entire time. Jake had a way of making everyone around him grin.

I think about The Beach Boys song "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" when I think of Jake. He belonged in the sixties or seventies, not now. Same thing geographically. He loved the city but I think it was too much for him. He should have been on a tractor somewhere. He was so sensitive. I think he wanted to swim under the current so it was tough for him to deal with a world full of waves.

He took drugs. Lots of 'em. He said he had back problems and so he needed something for the pain. I never really knew what he was doing. We'd smoke weed but the rest of it he hid from me. Later on, I'd hear about trips to the methadone clinic and trying to kick stuff and most of the time he seemed fine but once in a while I felt like he wasn't all there. He died of a heroin overdose. I wasn't too shocked. He had been spinning out for a while there at the end. He moved back to Chicago. I hadn't talked to him in a while.

He used to do high kicks. Everyone had to back off and give him space. And then he'd launch into the air and kick his leg over his head. Total seventies rocker move and it seemed like the world would freeze for a split second when he did it. Then he'd land and we'd all laugh. It was a joke but it wasn't. That high kick was as beautiful as any dance move I've ever seen. I love you Jake. Rock on.


Comedy questions about fear, mistakes, and books

From a reader:

Hi Matt, do you have checklists or techniques you use as a reference in the creation process?
Nah, I mostly have an organic writing process now. I keep notes in a notebook and in a web app and then I sometimes will talk ‘em out at home but mostly I’ll try to do ‘em onstage and see if the crowd responds and then hone and tweak from there. I think I was a little bit more meticulous about developing bits when I was greener though.

Your favorite comedians?
Bill Burr, Doug Stanhope, Norm Macdonald, Nate Bargatze, John Mulaney, Chris Rock, Patrice Oneal, Greg Giraldo, and Paul F. Tompkins.

Books you recommend to learn comedy techniques?
Born Standing Up is good. And those Mike Sacks interview books are good reads. But you gotta do it to learn I think.

2-3 mistakes to avoid?
Don’t go for clapter. Laughs are better than applause.
Stop talking so much. Cut words. Go from A to B as quickly as you can.
Don’t take rejection personally. It’s usually apathy, not antipathy. Part of this game is not getting what you want.

How did you deal with fear on stage.
I like fear. It makes me feel alive. You’re not in Afghanistan. It’s just a stage and the worst thing that can happen is they start checking their phones. We’re all gonna die anyway so wheeeeeeeeeeeee…

Live set from The Knitting Factory

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Profile of me in Splitsider: "Comedy as a Startup"

Comedy as a Startup is a Splitsider profile on yours truly and the shows I produce. Well researched piece! Excerpt:

So it was with great joy and a few droplets of pain that I devoured the web series Vooza in more or less the afternoon I discovered it. Here is the startup world in all its sleek hubris and ridiculous jargon, its mosaic of turtlenecks and button-downs, its insistent self-congratulatory self-congratulation...

Like Vooza, Club Scale is directed by (Jesse) Scaturro with a sleekness befitting of the world it skewers. (Joe) List and (Dan) Soder bring a disorienting honesty that speaks to Ruby’s love for Christopher Guest; they’re almost adorable, in fact, once you overlook their characters’ unabashed dickery. This is sort of true of the series as a whole, though: behind the flashing lights and dancing bodies is the distinct feel of just some buddies hanging out.

The piece also says I am birthing "a bizarre new model for indie comedy." Well, that explains these cramps.

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Paul F. Tompkins: "The ladder never ends because you’re always building the fucking ladder."

When Paul F. Tompkins Powerfully Opened Up on ‘The Mental Illness Happy Hour’ [Splitsider] led me to listen to the interview and I agree that it's great. I found this exchange about the "you don’t have this yet" mentality that pervades comedy to be noteworthy.

Tompkins: There’s always something more that you’re gonna want. There’s never—because, there’s—I think especially—I think this is true for everybody, but I think especially in our business, because we have these, um, there’s, there’s, um, there’s always a carrot a-and the stick always gets longer, you know. It’s always like, well, OK, you got this, but what about this, you don’t have this yet. You know, and we keep thinking, like, you know, right now, what I would love more than anything, uh, is to get a steady gig on television, you know, where I go to the same place every day, Monday through Friday, um, and I get to come home and have dinner with my wife, you know, at the end of the day. I would love that, absolutely. And (laughs) in my mind, I conditioned myself to think that is a modest goal. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t want to be a global superstar, all I want is my own television show. Is that asking for so much?

Gilmartin: Financially and creatively rewarding, right near my home.

Tompkins: Exactly. Now the thing is, that is, that is a somewhat attainable goal. It’s possible that that can happen. It’s not probably, you know what I mean? I-i-it’s—nothing i-in a weird world like this is probable, it’s only possible...

Tompkins: It’s like, look, I, I, uh, I went through a period of bitterness not that long ago, where I was in a, I was in a really dark place. I-i-it was all about, um, you know, uh, entering into middle age, turning—getting into my 40s. And getting, like, I’m 43 now. So, realizing, like, well that’s just going to continue happening. That’s—there’s not—I’m not gonna wake up and, like, “Oh, you’re 38 again.” What? Fantastic! I didn’t know it could go the other way! Um, you get, like, a reset of a couple years. Um, so, I, I, I got into this, this place where I was just overwhelmed. And it, it was, like, it was so much, like, what I bet my mother experience where it’s like, holy shit. Time is going by so fast, so fast, that all I can think about it, ‘I’m almost dead. I am almost dead and where am I and what am I doing?’ You know, I did not realize how great my life was. I couldn’t see it. And I tried—I was trying to see it. You know what I mean? Like, at this point, I am a married man, I’m a professional standup comedian, uh, I’m having, like, a really good year financially, from all these different things. I’m working on, um, all these other projects that are towards my goal, but I was still at this point where everybody else was doing better than I was. I was, I was not any closer to achieving this goal that I wanted to achieve. It was never going to happen. And, but really what it was about was mortality. It’s that time is too short. It’s never gonna happen. And, uh, I-I-I—it’s embarrassing, that I can’t, um, uh, provide for my wife better. It’s uh, it’s embarrassing that I have, I have fucked up my career with this dumb behavior in the past, that now I’m never gonna be where I wanna be, not even what I want to be, but to a point where, uh, I can breathe, you know. It’s always gonna be like this. I’m always gonna be on the fucking hustle. I’m always gonna be traveling around, I’m gonna be packing that goddamned suitcase.

Gilmartin: That’s so crazy.

Tompkins: It was terrible. It was terrible.

Gilmartin: Because I can tell you, Paul, from—you’re—as a peer of yours, and I know there are tons of other peers that feel the same way, we look at you and think, “If I could only get to where, where ….” And that ladder, I think, never ends. Unless you can say I’m happy to just be on this journey—

Tompkins: The ladder never ends because you’re always building the fucking ladder.

Gilmartin: Yeah.

Tompkins: You’re always adding the rungs on there. It’s always you, you know. Nobody else was telling me, “Paul, you know you’re a failure, right? You know that, uh, you should be a lot farther along.” I was the only one telling myself that.

Gilmartin: Do you ever stop sometimes, uh—

Tompkins: Paul, I’m sorry, I do wanna say this. The life that I’m leading now is the exact same life that I was leading when I was in that horrible place, except now I see it all totally differently. And I see how great it is.

I admire his openness and think this is a good perspective to keep in mind. It's easy to look up at the mountaintop and see how far you have to go. But it's also worthwhile to stop and look behind you and see how far you've come.

Another interesting bit from this talk is when he explains talking about his personal crisis onstage, even if it doesn't bring laughs:

I feel like the, the difference between the entertainer and the artist is that, that the entertainer, the first duty of the entertainer is to entertain. But the first duty of the artist is truth. And I like to consider myself an artist. And I feel like my evolution as an artist has not come all this way to just stop at merely entertaining people. I’m not trying to shut anybody out, I’m not alienate anyone, but I do feel like it is pointless for me to not explore these things.

Related: I previously wrote about PFT discussing the bad of cursing and the good of being conversational.


Shoe Game

I wrote/produced this. Join the email list for more Club Scale.

Key & Peele = Masculinity > Race

A Farewell to “Key & Peele” from the K&P showrunner in The New Yorker.

If people talked or wrote about the show, it was usually with a focus on race. Personally, I’ve always thought our primary subject matter was masculinity: what it means to be a man, what we can and can’t say. The scared husbands whispering “Bitch,” the vain slaves on the auction block, the hit man crapping his pants, Lil Wayne rapping in the cellblock, the two businessmen competing to eat the most disgusting soul food—they’re all fronting, trying desperately to be braver, cooler, smarter, and stronger than they really are. Fronting continued to be our meat and potatoes for the next four seasons.

That Soul Food sketch may still be my fave:

He also mentions they typically wrote five times as many sketches as they needed. Then "a process of mercilessly winnowing down the material: cutting sketches, rewriting the ones that survived, and, later, editing each scene until we felt that what remained was the essence of what had intrigued us in the first place. And, of course, the dick jokes."


Artists and marketing and Hugh MacLeod

In this interview, cartoonist Hugh MacLeod talks about marketing yourself.

2. A lot of artists and creative types see marketing as an evil necessity – or just plain evil. What would you say to them?

“Artists cannot market” is complete crap. Warhol was GREAT at marketing. As was Picasso and countless other “Blue Chips”. Of course, they’d often take the “anti-marketing” stance as a form of marketing themselves. And their patrons lapped it up.

The way artists market themselves is by having a great story, by having a “Myth”. Telling anecdotal stories about Warhol, Pollack, Basquiat, Van Gogh is both (A) fun and (B) has a mythical dimension… if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have had movies made about them. The art feeds the myth. The myth feeds the art.

The worst thing an artist can do is see marketing as “The Other”, i.e. something outside of themselves. It’s not.

For a counter-opinion, here's Bill Hicks:


Wayne Dyer

Sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Wayne Dyer. I remember watching him on PBS as a kid and thinking he was some weird, barefoot, bald, hippie dude spouting new agey crap to a bunch of old folks. Yet I couldn't turn it off because he'd be talking about ancient Chinese texts, Persian poets, Lao Tzu, being connected to source, dying while you're alive, and by the end of the whole thing I felt like I'd brushed up against something deeper and more important than anything else that was on TV.

And given our current outrage culture, I often recall his advice to stop looking for opportunities to be offended. He wrote, "When you feel offended, you're practicing judgment. You judge someone else to be stupid, insensitive, rude, arrogant, inconsiderate, or foolish, and then you find yourself upset and offended by their conduct. What you may not realize is that when you judge another person, you do not define them. You define yourself as someone who needs to judge others."


Trigger words and audiences that shut down

Audiences are starting to just shut down at certain words more and more. Just say the word "rape" or "vagina" or "black" and a segment of people shut down. "That's not funny." Not all of 'em, but more of 'em. As another comic I know put it: "It's the same way some audiences don't listen on a joke that has a trigger word and normally crushes and they look at u like a racist..... Like you idiots this joke crushes and black people laugh at it 99% of the time."

The Coddling of the American Mind in The Atlantic touches on trigger words and this attitude. "In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health." (via NB)

However, there is a deeper problem with trigger warnings. According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, the very idea of helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided. A person who is trapped in an elevator during a power outage may panic and think she is going to die. That frightening experience can change neural connections in her amygdala, leading to an elevator phobia. If you want this woman to retain her fear for life, you should help her avoid elevators.

But if you want to help her return to normalcy, you should take your cues from Ivan Pavlov and guide her through a process known as exposure therapy. You might start by asking the woman to merely look at an elevator from a distance—standing in a building lobby, perhaps—until her apprehension begins to subside. If nothing bad happens while she’s standing in the lobby—if the fear is not “reinforced”—then she will begin to learn a new association: elevators are not dangerous. (This reduction in fear during exposure is called habituation.) Then, on subsequent days, you might ask her to get closer, and on later days to push the call button, and eventually to step in and go up one floor. This is how the amygdala can get rewired again to associate a previously feared situation with safety or normalcy.

Students who call for trigger warnings may be correct that some of their peers are harboring memories of trauma that could be reactivated by course readings. But they are wrong to try to prevent such reactivations. Students with PTSD should of course get treatment, but they should not try to avoid normal life, with its many opportunities for habituation. Classroom discussions are safe places to be exposed to incidental reminders of trauma (such as the word violate). A discussion of violence is unlikely to be followed by actual violence, so it is a good way to help students change the associations that are causing them discomfort. And they’d better get their habituation done in college, because the world beyond college will be far less willing to accommodate requests for trigger warnings and opt-outs.

The expansive use of trigger warnings may also foster unhealthy mental habits in the vastly larger group of students who do not suffer from PTSD or other anxiety disorders. People acquire their fears not just from their own past experiences, but from social learning as well. If everyone around you acts as though something is dangerous—elevators, certain neighborhoods, novels depicting racism—then you are at risk of acquiring that fear too. The psychiatrist Sarah Roff pointed this out last year in an online article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. “One of my biggest concerns about trigger warnings,” Roff wrote, “is that they will apply not just to those who have experienced trauma, but to all students, creating an atmosphere in which they are encouraged to believe that there is something dangerous or damaging about discussing difficult aspects of our history.”

What I love about comedy is that we can dive into these topics and fears and bring out deeper insights. If we can't even talk about this stuff, we're all going to just get more scared to "go there" and that can't be good. We should be able to discuss racism, sexism, violence or whatever on stage. That's how we can all get to a better place with dealing with these realities. If it's dangerous or damaging, that's great for comedy and for healing and it's a bummer that sorta thing is getting squeezed out of the standup game.