Welcome to Your Comedy Layover...

Washington D.C. may not be a city that embraces comedy with open arms, but you knew that already. That is why you found us. Here you can get information, interviews and insights on the best local stand-up, improv and sketch comedy this city has to offer... 4 Now. You can reach us at dccomedy4now(at)gmail.com. LET'S DO THIS, DC!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Double-Tying Your Shoelaces While Crying: Finding the Pre-Show Ritual That Works for You

The zone! Every performer craves it. That flight of fancy in which everything seems effortless, innovative and just plain right onstage. You're not even trying, and yet, you're beyond present in each moment. Everything clicks, including cameras later because, guess what? You're famous! No, you're not actually. But you feel like it. You feel better than fan fiction published in a nationally-acclaimed magazine! In fact, before Britney Spears' life went slightly awry, she titled her chart-topping fourth album In the Zone. In other words, the zone = artistic nirvana, or something approaching it.

the zone is difficult to put into words, but easy to picture. some say it looks like a waterfall, others say a swan.
photo courtesy of Flickr and Editor B

The zone is hard to describe really. So I'm not going to try. It's not even what this post was supposed to be about. Get back on track, me! This post is about how performers hope to get in the zone...i.e., any pre-show rituals or exercises done to get the ball rolling and to prevent utter awkward pie (Unless that's your act! Heyo! I just called myself out.) Pre-show rituals never guarantee anything, but they at least put our minds in a comfy place where we can deny the jitters and/or dance them away.

[Hit the jump for my pre-show rituals, as well as some perspective from comedic rock stars! And then, if you're brave enough, add your own! We will judge you on them, but you knew that already.]

My own pre-show rituals slightly differ for stand up versus improv, but are rooted in the same channeling of creative focus. Yeah, I did just use the phrase 'channeling of creative focus.' I did also just draw attention to it.

My stand up rituals involve going to the bathroom, being more antisocial than usual, reviewing jokes, stretching, studying the room for potential off-the-cuff bits, trying to write new material in meager amounts of time and annihilating negative thoughts using mental sunshine daggers. I also do a few breathing exercises to prevent the panic attack that inevitably rises in my sternum before any open mic/show/gynecologist appointment (Am I right, ladies?!)

warm ups can be creative, and so can you! girl on far right ain't havin' it.
photo courtesy of Flickr and eric.surfdude

For improv shows, there's usually a group warm up with your co-players, which involves getting your energy going and clearing your head of daily dust accumulation. I like warm ups that involve jumping as much as using your noggin. I also try and think of a few characters, lines, voices or scenarios, which some might constitute as "cheating" but no, not really. It's just brainstorming to prevent shitstorming onstage. It's also just to get my clinker thinking. I don't need to justify myself to any of you!

get yer head in the game!
photo courtesy of Flickr and Jason Gulledge

It's important to note that sometimes, none of these things work. And performing feels weird. Really weird. As if someone just gave birth to you right before you got onstage, you came out covered in slime, and then a roomful of people (or also commonly, a room devoid of people) expected straight no-nonsense entertainment (paradox, son!) before you could even blink for the first time. However, that's all to be gained through experience, exposure and lots and lots of uncomfortable times to come. I can't wait.

Important Funny Peoples' Two (Million) Cents:

Richard Lewis - "Most comedians do about the same at every night, and before it’s ‘where can I get a lap dance’ and then on to do their show. Me, I stay in my hotel room, like ‘Papillon,’ and study my stuff."

Margaret Cho - "I don't really have any rituals; I'm not a ritual person.... I read a lot, and I'm usually reading before a show."

Jim Gaffigan - "I smoke crack."

Jim Breur - "Absolutely nothing. I’m one of those comics who sees it like going to war: I just show up, look at the battlefield and pick my weapons."

Louis CK (on any pre-show rituals before taping HBO's One Night Stand) - "I just sit around. I try to contain myself and stay in one place, 'cause otherwise I'd go walking all over the place. But that's burning energy. I hate waiting. I want to get onstage, badly, especially at this f**king place, on this stage."

BONUS: Discussion thread on the Chicago Improv Network about dealing with stage fright.
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guaranteed to Score with These Shows!

If you are going to do anything other than watch NCAA basketball this weekend (forget them, you know your bracket is already fucked up) then head out to these above-the-rim comedy shows.

The Awesome Room
Tonight is The Awesome Room @ McGinty's Pub in Silver Spring, MD. This week's show crosses over and hits the paint with music, comedy, musical comedy and comedy about music.

9pm $4

Starting Lineup:
Tyler Sonnichsen
Bryson Turner
Kojo Mante
Jason Saenz
...and DC funk/fusion powerhouse The Champions!


Washington Improv Theater's F.I.S.T.
Also tonight thru Saturday is the final bracket of WIT's F.I.S.T. tourney @ The Flashpoint Theater. It is teams of 3-on-3 competing for YOUR vote. Shows have been selling out. There is only going to be more madness in March as we approach the final matches.


Tonight:
Yocko Cronkite vs. MimeHunters @ 8pm

Friday:
Blue Cop Town vs. The Achievers @ 9:30pm

Saturday:
Pay Attention To Us vs. Grandma Molly's Wayback Machine @ 8pm

Winner of Thursday's Match vs. Polygamy @ 9:30pm

Buy tickets here.

Note: Basketball puns are like comedy swishes!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DC Comedy Spotlight: Hampton Yount

DC’s got talent. You know this, kids! From the guy who just wants to give you free money to the quarterback who sat on the bench for 10 years and then proceeded to dominate..until the playoffs….. this city knows how to produce stars.

This week’s Spotlight shines on Hampton Yount, who interestingly enough, looks very odd in a suit and has one hell of an arm. More importantly however, he is damn funny.

At first glance you may look at this Warrenton, VA native and say “Oh, who is this nicely dressed young man? He seems so happy to be here; I bet this is his first time.” Then he steps on stage, and you immediately realize that you were wrong. You just got thrown for a loop, and he hasn’t even told one joke. That is how it feels the whole time you watch Hampton perform. Just when you think you have him figured him out, he surprises.

By toughing up in bumf*ck dive bars that only Larry Poon could love, Hampton has now infused a hard-nosed approach into his energetic and rosy-cheeked delivery style. Did he just say that? Yes, he did. Did you just laugh at something you normally would not have found funny? Yes, you did. Does this guy also write an online comic strip? Yes, he does.

Hampton is regularly seen at the Topaz Hotel, Chief Ike’s, Top Shelf, Wiseacres, Bistro Europa, The Bomb Shelter, The Laugh Factory and the DC Improv where he has done guest spots for Ted Alexandro and John Mulaney. He also won the October 2007 DC Improv Showcase.

CATCH THIS KID!!!

This Thursday night, catch Hampton at Wiseacres in VA.

He will also be doing some Hyatt shows next month.


DCC4N’s Interview with Hampton:

Where did you first perform? What was your first paid gig?

My first time was at Attitudes in Blacksburg. There was no open mic so I had to do guest spots right out the gate. My first paid gig was at Maria’s at the Westminster Inn. It was hosted by Bird Knight, and Doug Powell was the headliner. I did ok, and it was a lot of fun. Doug Powell was so awesome. I was so lucky that the headliner was not only genuinely funny but also great to talk to. On the drive home, I screamed out the window “I’m a comedian now!” For real.

[Click the link to read the rest of Hampton's interview, plus a video!]

When did you realize that you wanted to do comedy?

It’s actually a sad story, to me. I had a lot of fun in college, and it was a really great time all in all, but I ran into a very dark period at the end. I really hated myself and had given up on everything. I’d just lie in bed for days, not eating, being miserable. At parties, I would have so much anxiety, I’d just walk away. I always wanted to be a comedian. I was definitely the class clown growing up, but suffered from very bad stage fright (I ruined a school play in sixth grade). Plus, I just figured everyone wants to be a stand-up comedian, why am I any different? Eventually, I literally said to myself “I have nothing more to lose” and walked into a comedy club in town. I immediately felt better. Oh wait, I should have said something funny.


Who were some of your earliest influences? What about them captivated you?


I always liked seeing comedians on TV. I didn’t think they were funny, but I was mesmerized by what they were doing, telling jokes and receiving laughter. No built sets, no costumes. Today, I guess I would call it the rawness of the setup. It’s just a person and their ideas.

The first comedian I latched onto was Chris Rock. I thought he was genuinely funny AND had a perspective, which was thrilling. He wasn’t just a joke machine like all the others, he was actually entertaining. I then saw Eddie Izzard a year or two later and was blown away, because it was comedian who at least was semi-similar to my own sense of humor, which I didn’t think could happen. He’s very Monty Python.

Then came the big one, Bill Hicks, at 15. I’m not saying Bill Hicks is the best comic ever, but he was a revelation at the time. Is there any way a sarcastic fifteen-year-old isn’t going latch onto an anti-authority figure like that? I idolized him. I really wanted to be a comedian after seeing Hicks. He really is the shining example of someone who reads up on their facts and has an undeniable perspective to go with it.

But it was actually David Cross’s CDs that finally helped push me. For months, I’d just listen to those two CDs every day, no kidding. He just carries such an unbridled hatred of stupidity and liars. He’s like comedy punk rock. He taught me that nothing has to be sacred and that realness is the most important trait of great comedy.


What was your first joke?

It was a long joke about an idea I had for a prank show. I explained that this new show on MTV, Damage Control, pranked a person over a couple of days, and that I wanted to do a show called “I’m Going to Drive You Fucking Insane” which took place over years. It is such a terrible joke, but they liked the whole thing. Idiots.

Do you prefer to write on- or offstage? Do you enjoy the process of writing?

I guess my only requirement for writing is that I have to be inspired. I don’t just write to write, because then I come up with these long monologues about topics I don’t even fully grasp. Let that be a lesson. For instance I don’t write about politics because the one thing I do know is I know NOTHING about politics. I leave jokes kind of unpracticed before I get onstage. I know the heart of the joke and how it should flow, but I don’t decide on the exact word order till like the third time I’ve done it.

I’ve also realized that my brain works, and every comedian’s brain really, like a specific filter. I need to cram my head full of stuff, and then pour out whatever it is I create through that filter. Problems happen when you don’t take the time to absorb and cram your head.


What about performing live do you enjoy?

I love hearing laughter, especially a baby’s laugh. I wish my audiences would laugh like a large group of babies.

Do you ever want to convey a message?

I wish people were more cynical and unforgiving like me. Hopefully, people will realize how cool I am, and then want to be like me. Like when the first Matrix movie came out.

What's hacky to you?

I could list the different varieties for hours, but I’d rather mention a recent moment. I was hanging out with Bryson Turner, and I went on a small tirade about fat black female comics while Comedy Central was playing a stand-up performance of one such type comic. I was complaining that that breed of comics tend to do very similar material. So I give examples to Bryson like “They always say 'I once dated a skinny white man; we looked just like a [Blank] and [Blank]'” or “Whenever I wear a [Type of clothing not meant for fat people], I look just like a whale in a [Blank].” There is a slight pause as we both look at the TV, and then the comic does exactly what I just said, but she finishes hers with “I looked just like a walrus in a burrito.” We sat with our mouths open.

What is your day job?

I am unemployed right now, thanks pre-written questions. I was laid off. I worked at this startup; they wined and dined me, and eventually fucked me. I woke up and they were gone, but a single rose was laid on the pillow next to mine. Seriously though, if any comedians are reading this and have a job opening at where they work, then e-mail me. I am looking for any line of work really. On a similar note, being unemployed does wonders for writing slumps.

Were your parents supportive of you doing comedy?

Yes and no. They supported me following my dreams, but they didn’t expect the dream would take longer than two years. So now they give me some crap about it. It doesn’t help that they don’t like my jokes, and my dad thinks he would be better than me.

Where do you plan on moving next?

L.A. All my comedy heroes live there and I won’t be happy as a comedian until I have won their respect.

How do you feel about the overall comedy scene in DC? Anything you want to change and what are you going to do to change it?


I absolutely love the scene! I get so excited sometimes when I think of all the crazy talent in the area. We get to grow in a vacuum; there is a huge sense of camaraderie; and there is very little struggle for stage time. I watch comedy online all the time, and I just hate so much of it. A good 20 of the comics in the area are funnier than 90 percent of comics on TV. The only thing I would change is more rooms. I am going to try and get this room in Vienna. I’ll let you guys know if anything happens.


Read more!

Fuck Shecky Magazine


The folks behind the comedy-centric blog Shecky Magazine have a lot of hate to get off of their chests, and so do we! Shecky's hate is directed at whoever is foolish enough to practice, comment on, produce, watch, or hear about stand up comedy, and ours is directed at Shecky!

Here are just a few of the people that Shecky has dropped a dump on in recent weeks.

Brian Lowry of Variety for speculating on why there are no more stand ups starring in sitcoms.

Peter Berrera for having the audacity to have only been doing stand up for two years!! Come on, Peter, you should have been doing stand up for more time than that before having an opinion!

Tim Rawal, columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times (NC) gets talked down to for speaking ill of Dane Cook.
You always take the high road, Shecky!

Matt Belknap of "A Special Thing" and the Never Not Funny podcast gets a blog lashing for also having opinions about comedy. Who the fuck do you think you are besides someone who has close relationships with most of our favorite comedians, Matt Belknap?!

And now, our very own local funnyman, Travis Helwig, is the subject of Shecky's tremendous bitterness. This is a man they have neither seen nor ever even heard of. Why? BECAUSE HE IS A COLLEGE STUDENT WHO IS FAR FROM BEING FAMOUS. He got interviewed, which is an exciting thing. But in Shecky's eyes, it means war. They are incensed at his views on comedy. How dare anyone express an opinion without the express written consent of Shecky Magazine, the Superbowl of comedy reporting and the authority on all Haha's and Chucklehuts across the land?

Of course this isn't the first figure in the area, Shecky has had negative things to say about.

And how dare you, almighty Shecky Magazine, print words on a computer, rather than a traditional newspaper! How the fuck am I supposed to read it?! I can't bring it on the subway!!! Also, do you think you're the first people to ever start a blog?!! How dare you! Pink is the new blog, not Shecky! Also, why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? These arguments make complete sense, and don't make me seem crazy, completely bitter or out of touch at all. Also, like us, sometimes you just can't think of anything nice to write, and end up just shitting on people who probably didn't deserve it. Just ask Mike Metz.

And one more thing, assholes, will you please put a link to us on your website? Nobody reads this piece of shit.

Read more!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Laughter Benefits Charities and You

More comedians are giving back. A few weeks ago, Jay posted about the "Purpose Driven Comedy Show" in an effort to shame the rest of us. Well, we were shamed, but that probably isn't the reason we are seeing more charity shows produced by local comedians in the area. Personally, I don't like to give, I like to take, but that shouldn't stop you from laughing at these important causes.

"Cry Laughing" Comedy Benefit
Supporting the Sintia Mesa Foundation

Four DCC4N favorites, Kojo Mante, Mike Way, Erin Jackson and Jason Weems come together for a night of great fun and big laughs at the DC Improv, on Saturday, April 26, 2008. Two shows in the DC Improv Lounge at 8 PM and 10:30PM. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, March 25, 2008 for $25. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 202-296-7008 or visit the DC Improv website.

Stand-Up for Obama Fundraiser Show
Supporting Barack Hussein Obama

Pulling double duty in the charity olympics, Erin Jackson joins Tim Miller, Jimmy Meritt and Jermaine Fowler in raising money to support one of the presidential candidates. One show only: Friday, April 18 at 7:30pm at the Comedy Spot. Tickets are $15. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 703-294-5233 or visit the Comedy Spot website. Read more!

Dr. Heckle and Mr. Snide (Comments): Part 2

[Last week, we posted on the topic of hecklers and how to deal with them. Today, Hampton Yount brings the topic up again with his insights on the many faces of the interrupting douche/heckler. Enjoy.]

Hampton here again, ready to bring you new emotions through printed word. Let’s cut to the chase. I made a list of the different kinds of hecklers I have seen or heard about. One of my secret pleasures is writing up lists: Favorite movies, favorite songs, and least favorite memories. If a really eccentric criminal threatens to put me on a desert island, I know exactly which five best Weezer solos to bring. So, in that tradition, I have decided to shine a light on comedy and list the different types of hecklers.

Note: All of these categories are made instantly more annoying if they are a girl. Award them five hundred Fran Drescher points! Herewego! (read that real fast…real fast)

The Oblivious
I’ll start with the one that is less a standard heckler but more of an annoyance. This is the guy who doesn’t realize a show is going on. Well, don’t be mad at him; it’s not like you’re on stage with a microphone sending your voice over a PA system. He probably thought God was trying to talk to him, and he lost his faith years ago (Too little too late, God!) The best is when you stop talking or draw attention to this character, and they act like you are being a jerk. I once got a “Sorry” so dripping with sarcasm that I used it as lubricant and jerked off with it. That’s how much I loved that moment.

The Idiot
This one might actually be my least favorite. This is the guy who shouts things that are neither good nor bad about your bit. It’s rare, but it makes me slit my mental wrists every time. I’ll give an example; I have a joke about Battlefield Earth (so fucking funny, I’m a genius!), and on several occasions, I have had someone shout loudly, “JOHN TRAVOLTA!!!” midway through my bit. Frustrated, I asked one of these guys “What about him?” and he said “He’s in the movie.” I then shouted at this man for several minutes.

[Hit the jump! He's on to something here, guys!]


The Helper
This is the one you hate to hate. He shouts stuff out with the intent, in theory, to help you. Either that or he laughs weird. He’ll shout something like “You are so funny!” or have a weird, show- stopping cackle (In all the cases of the weird cackle, I wanted to stop the show and PAY to watch the person laugh). The problem is that it can make you mad, but you have no idea where to place that anger. You can’t yell at the person because it feels weird to say, “Stop having fun!” The only solution is to hug the life out of him.

The Corrector
I think you’re getting the trend here; this is the person who tries to correct your joke. Usually you’ll quote a fact or make an assertion, and they want to make sure the audience isn’t made dumber by your slight misstep. Well, how fucking helpful! No, their help couldn’t have waited until after the performance. They need to make sure everyone knows John Goodman is actually a Virgo, you blasphemer.

The Impresser
Finally, a category truly worthy of hate. He is the pinnacle of douchebaggery, the guy who shouts things to impress his friends/date. His parents were two bullies who stopped punching each other long enough to look in each other’s goofy bully eyes and breed on top of a gym mat. Nine months later, they gave birth to something with no manners. The worst is that after this guy shouts something, he goes for “The Confirm” with whoever he is with, and is greeted with sycophantic smiles. Suddenly, your head drowns in memories of high school; how him and his posse laughed at your awkward boners. Not at mine though! I was awesome in high school! I had lots of cool friends, and I was voted Class Boner. Digression aside, The Impresser is just upset someone is funnier than he powerdreams he is. I recommend comparing this specimen to a type of failure. The balance has been restored.

The Leader
This is the heckler whose comments are dead on. He is speaking on behalf of the audience, and you can feel it in your pores. Fear this heckler; he is your doom. In an ancient primeval way, this heckler's scent has claimed dominance, and is verbally hitting you in the face with a femur while the audience/apes flap their arms in approval and hurl feces (the tomatoes of the ape world) at you. Maybe it’s time to rethink career choices.

Any more that you can think of?

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

WIT Offers Free "Intro to Improv" Workshops

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to speak and act with spontaneity, confidence and humor without a second thought? Improv gives you the tools to get yourself out of bad situations and into awesome ones. These workshops are free, fun, and oh yeah, did I say it's free?

The Washington Improv Theater classes focus on creativity, communications and teamwork and have enthusiastic instructors that establish a fun and trusting atmosphere.

Former students said:
"I loved this class"
"Great opportunity for expression, meet cool people and build confidence."


Free Intro to Improv Workshops:
Monday Mar 24 7:00 – 9:00pm
Tuesday Mar 25 7:00 – 9:00pm
Wednesday Mar 26 7:00 – 9:00pm
Thursday Mar 27 7:00 – 9:00pm


Location: The Children's Studio School at 1301 V St NW

Info/registration: topher@washingtonimprovtheater.com

Also:

WIT's Spring Classes begin March 30th with a $20 discount for early registration.


Read more!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Top Shelf" Tonight

Tonight! Who doesn't like to party on the day after St. Patrick's Day? You? Well this isn't a party, it's a comedy show so what about not doing so much talking? What? Are you fuckin' with me? OK, security get this asshole out of here! (pulls out gun, murders audience)

The resplendent lineup includes:
Eli Sairs
Jason Weems
Tim Miller
Mike Blejer
Jay Hastings
Jason Saenz

And hosted by Nick Turner


Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
8:30pm doors
Show starts at 9
Solly's Tavern
1942 11th St. NW (11th & U St.)
$5


**Also, Join Our FACEBOOK Group. OR DON"T!


Type rest of the post here
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Gallagher Will Blow Your Mind

Gallagher interviews and free tickets were being thrown around like so many hotcakes in New York over the past week, and they resulted in some pretty great reading.

First up, the Apiary's Eliot Glazer had an interview with the man himself. He was granted full access, save for a few taboo topics. You probably expect a good deal of "Gallagher II" talk. You would be wrong. You probably don't expect half of the interview to consist of Gallagher trying to pitch the idea of a chain of family-friendly hotels. You would be wrong twice. My friend, you must read it yourself.

PART I
PART II

Now that you have a glimpse into how batshit crazy Gallagher has become, we move on to The Comic's Comic recap of his show that can only be described as "Epic." It peaks early when, as a result of Gallagher's show inexplicably not selling well, he is forced to turn the first hour of his show into a bringer, and then he verbally abuses the comedians during their sets. Oh my god, I felt like I was there, and I want to give Sean a medal for this review somehow.

Unfortunately, he's not coming anywhere near here on his tour so we will have to live vicariously through our blog brethren to the north. Has anyone seen him in concert? I want to live through anyone I can.


Read more!

Dr. Heckle and Mr. Snide (Comments)

Last week at Chief Ike’s showcased many fine local comedians, but it also featured one obnoxiously drunk patron. While I don’t want to dwell on that incident for too long, I can say that I did not handle the situation well as the Host. It was just something I had not dealt with before and for one reason or another couldn’t smother that vodka fueled fire before it got out of hand. And it did.

It was a learning experience, most definitely.

I have dealt with drunk people in improv shows before. But they don’t interact so much during the show so much as they EXPLODE at the chance to throw out an suggestion at the top.

“DILDOS!! VAGINA!! DRINKING!! SARAH’S TITS!” and then proceed with the typical drunken laughter/snoring.

It was bound to happen for me during a stand-up show, too. Which makes me want to be more prepared for the future. How to do I handle someone like that on stage? How do I handle it as a host, booker, owner? Talking about it with a few folks, there seem to be some rules of engagement.

[Hit the jump for the rest of this "YOU SUCK!!".... post.]



1)The audiences enjoyment comes first. A heckler always undermines that, therefore your loyalty with the one patron ceases to exist.
2)You want to handle it first with grace, second with bluntness and third with a boot out the door.
3)There are different types of hecklers and some can be handled better than others.

Supposedly there are two types of hecklers. Both of them I assume are drunk. The first are those who think they are adding to the show:

“MY SISTER WENT TO GEORGE MASON!”
“Great, I didn’t ask. Shut the fuck up.”
“BUT SHE DID!”

Or the more abusive types, the ones who want to hurt you and the show:

“YOU SUCK! YOU ARE UNFUNNY!!BAHAHAHA”
“THANKS FOR COMING. Show him the door.”

Then there are those who don’t even know they are disrupting the show, the stereotypical LOUD drunks.

“I ALREADY ATE BEFORE THE SHOW!!! I DON’T WANT ANYTHING!!!!”

Do all these types of people need to be dealt with in the same way? I am really interested in what comics & improvisers have learned from their dealings with heckers. I still think it is some of the scariest shit out there. Hell, it’s St. Patrick Day. Share some drunken stories.

BONUS: Cool article on a heckler getting put in his place at a Comedians of Comedy show in NYC. COURTESY DEAD-FROG.COM

SUPER BONUS: Maria Bamford's latest episode.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

4 Then Interview: Danny Rouhier

In the 4 Then Interview series, DCC4N hopes to answer the question on many DC comic's minds..."What happens when I leave DC?" In this edition, Danny Rouhier "sits down" with us and talks about the ups and downs of getting stage time in New York and the benefits of starting out in a city like DC.

So what have you been up to since leaving DC?

I'm living on the lower east side of Manhattan. It's in New York. The other guys who moved up here don't live in New York. Looking right at you Ryan Conner of Jersey City. I've already had a lot of ups and downs since I've been here. The ups include performing at Carolines, a television show called 'The A List' on Animal Planet, starring in a pilot at the New York Television Festival, and winning a national sketch comedy competition and filming a sketch comedy pilot with Proctor & Gamble Productions. The downs include only performing once at Carolines and having no one email me back ever, my frustration at not being able to secure representation, not knowing that many people or where to go which makes getting stage time hard, and the fact that there are so many cash only places in New York; I like to just use my debit card.

[Hit the jump for more of Danny's interview]




When did you start doing stand up and where did you do your first open mic? How did it go? Who were the people you remember starting out with?

My first time doing standup was at Soho Tea & Coffee in Dupont Circle in October of 2004. At the time, I thought it went great and was hooked. In retrospect, I was probably atrocious.org and would have hated myself if my present self could see that version. I would also tell that version to break up with his current girlfriend because it wasn't going to last. Anyway, Jared Stern was there. I remember him being the nicest and most supportive guy. He still is. For the first couple months, I didn't realize that I wasn't really 'doing' standup. I would perform once every couple of weeks and invite all my friends. I didn't know that you had to work at it. It wasn't until I started hanging out with my boys Rory Scovel and Ryan Conner that I realized what this process was all about. Once I got going, along with those two guys, I met Justin Schlegel and Jon Mumma. We were all just starting out and kind of going through the same things. In that respect, I think we were lucky.

When did you decide it was time to leave DC?


There really wasn't one moment when I realized: 'I have to go now'. It had been in my mind for a while. I felt myself growing complacent in DC. I wasn't as hungry as I could have been. No one has a success story where they say: 'It was really easy and I didn't really have to work at it." Even the people that are really gifted; they still have to bust their butts. If I had to point to a specific time, it was probably after I had featured for Bill Burr at the Columbus Funnybone and had then spent 6 weeks featuring at the premier chain of comedy clubs in Canada. I just felt like there was more out there for me. There's 1 great club in DC and that's hard because everyone is in 1 line. This isn't to put down DC. Far from it. I love DC; it's my home and it always will be. I think DC is an amazing place to start one's career. I just felt that there was only so much I could do there. I was scared for so long to take the step back by moving to a new place. It became clear that I had to take that step back so I could finally go forward.

How did DC prepare you for NY?

DC prepared me by making me funny. I know it sounds simple (and probably arrogant) but it's true. I was able to get up a lot in DC. I was a regular at a lot of open mics; really good open mics that don't exist anywhere else in the country. I got to the point where, if you saw me, you had to say, at a minimum: 'this guy is ok'. That's a big deal. People that don't know you don't want to put new people on if they suck. It's easier to break in if you get your chance and do well. If you aren't ready, you can move to the back of the line and who knows when your next chance comes? The challenge for me is that I was comfortable in DC. I was at the top of a pile and didn't have to do any work to get stage time. Up here? No one cares. 'Wait, you have done 10 minute sets at Topaz? Wow! Come do our show!'

What do you do to get booked?


Getting booked is tough; especially for me. I'm actually kind of a shy person. I don't particularly enjoy networking, meeting people, and hanging out. I prefer to show up, do my time, and go home and play video games. That doesn't fly up here. You have to keep showing your face. You keep showing up and showing up and showing up. You become someone they know. Then you get a spot. You have to introduce yourself to people 100 times. It's ugly. No one tells you about that. I had no idea. I thought I'd send a few emails, go crush and then watch all the bookings come in. No dice. After I got the tv show, 'I thought: here come the bookings'. Still nothing. No one cares. You still have to go through it. You have to get your hands dirty and hustle. There are no short cuts.

Do you run into DC comedians who have made the move, and have they been helpful?

There are a bunch of DC folks up here. It's helpful to get their input and hear about their experiences. It's comforting to know that they are going through it too. I see Rory Scovel, Ryan Conner and Matt Mayer all the time. Erin Conroy, Alicia Gomes, and John Razos are up here too. I don't see them as much because they are hermits. Actual hermits with staffs.


Have you looked into running your own room?


We had a room with a really short life. Rory, Ryan and I ran a show at Soundfix Records. We got 3 shows. Thanks guys. Really? 3 shows? I stopped by there on a Monday and there was no one in there. We at least had like 7 people. 7 vs 0. They didn't even have to pay us. As for other rooms, it's going to happen. There is no better way to get yourself out there than to run a room that comics want to do. A few of us have something in the works that will hopefully get going within a coupe months.

What was your favorite room in DC?


I really liked Topaz. It's a well run room. You do this for a while and you come to appreciate that. A lot of people like to make fun of Curt for being neurotic, but he runs a great show. It's professional. The people that complain about it should run their own rooms. No one is entitled to anything. Everything we as standups do is dependent upon the work and effort of others. You need an audience, a mic, a venue, someone to make the lineup, take the hit as the mc, and so on. If you don't like the rules of a place, don't perform there. Anyway, Topaz is such a cool place. The vibe is great. It's like a downstairs lounge in New York. It was intimate but you could cram a decent number of people in there. The crowd always listens and is respectful even if they aren't dying laughing.

You've been involved with both sketch here in DC (Poonanza) and in New York? How do you like sketch and have you been trying to get more involved in it? How do you like it compared to stand up?


I love sketch comedy. It's a great outlet. As I mentioned above, I was part of a winning sketch team that got to film a tv pilot. Great experience. I've found that it's a great way to motivate yourself to write and create. It's an awesome way to encourage collaboration with other comics and something that can bring people together. I like doing it as an alternative to standup. It will never replace standup but I like it as a release now and again. Really cool shows like the Poonanza are a blast to put on even though it's stressful. There are downsides though. The biggest problem is getting people together. I am always down to write/film or whatever. But other people are busy. It's next to impossible to get people together. Even up here, where everyone is doing comedy stuff full time, I still can't get everyone together for a shoot. That pain in the a$$ factor is prohibitive at times and it's why writing sketches will never replace the complete control I have with standup.

How would you describe your style of stand up and how has it evolved since you started?


When I first started, I didn't know anything. I mean, I knew nothing. I didn't know the rules. No one was there to tell me. I didn't know that it wasn't OK to do someone else's joke. I never happened to do it because it didn't excite me to do that (I wanted to be original) but I didn't know you shouldn't. When I started out, I loved Brian Regan (still do) and Mitch Hedberg (still do). My style was half Brian Regan and half Hedberg. It was a random hodgepodge of poorly written putrid refuse that I cannot believe came out of my mouth. I would alternate between trying to do something with a dry delivery that was really clever like Hedberg and then start talking really loudly and over-emphasizing words in a poor man's Regan. I also mixed that in with some frat-tastic 'I drink a lot'/wouldn't it be funny if this movie character was in this situation? jokes. It was bad. The main difference now is that I also do some Daniel Tosh style jokes.Haha! JK! LOL-ing. The biggest difference between me now and then is that I found my voice. I know what it is I do now. I'll never be a great writer of jokes. It's just not me. I have to put myself out there. I'm funny. I'm the guy in the group of friends that makes all the funny jokes. I balance the self-deprecating with the confidence. I share more of myself with the audience than I did before. I was scared to then. Now it's: 'here is why I was insecure about this'. Then it was more like: 'What if William Wallace was your driver's ed teacher? You'd get to a stop sign and he'd be like: 'Hoooooollllld!.....Hooooolllllllllld!......Hooooooollllllllllld!....Ok, turn right'.





You can catch Danny in the DC area in April.



Danny will be featuring at the Baltimore Comedy Factory April 3rd and April 4th.



You can catch a longer set on Saturday, April 5th when Danny headlines the Hyatt in Bethesda.


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Friday, March 14, 2008

DC Comedy Spotlight: Bryson Turner

DC has a lot of nice guy comics, but Bryson Turner is the tallest. He also is one of the funniest by having this rare ability to make himself vulnerable onstage, without eliciting the normal pity parade an audience would give to that. Even when he turns it around and starts hatin', he is still having fun with it. He is just a sincere guy, sharing with you the things he finds funny. Yeah, sometimes it is a potentially awkward subject, but his laid back demeanor shows that he never means to offend and audiences can’t help but believe him. A lot of times, you will see Bryson and the audience laughing together.

Bryson has brought his act to Wiseacres, The Hyatt in Bethesda, The Bomb Shelter, The Arlington Draft House and Solly's Top Shelf. He has also opened for Bill Burr @ the DC Improv.

Bryson’s charm continues to pay off. This weekend he is opening for one of DCC4N’s favorite comedians, Maria Bamford, at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse:
Friday March 14th @ 9:45 $22
Saturday March 15th @ 9:45 $22


Catch him next week @ The Awesome Room in Silver Spring, MD:
Thursday March 20th @ 9pm $4


Then he is back at the DC Improv this April in the DCCF Audition Showcase and with Cash Cab Host Ben Bailey.

Check him out, kid!

DCC4N Interview with Bryson Turner:

What was your first joke?

"I actually went to the same high school as Christina Aguilera. That's true - we went to North Allegheny High School in Wexford, Pennsylvania. Yeah. And here's an interesting trivia fact for you - I was actually the only kid from our high school that didn't have sex with her.
(laughs...pause)
I'm kidding, I'm kidding....of course i had sex with her."

[Hit the jump for more of Bryson's Interview]



When did you realize that you wanted to do comedy?

This is a really douche-y answer, but I can't remember when I didn't know. I remember I was maybe four, and I saw Eddie Murphy hosting an awards show, and he told a joke about how for most people, if you see someone walking down the street, dressed up like an old lady, and they fall into an open manhole, then that's funny. But it's harder to make a comic laugh. For comics, it has to be an actual old lady. I remember - at like maybe four or five - I heard that and I was like "that's me. i'm a comic." that's what i knew i wanted to be, forever. all throughout childhood, one of my biggest fears was "what if i get onstage and find out this isn't for me?" i had no idea what else i would do. i thought about doing talent shows or coffee shops as early as 11 or 12, but i was scared to death of finding out that i was actually terrible at what I felt 100 percent sure was my calling. now i've been doing it for five years, so i only get that feeling after about three open-mics a week.

Who were some of your earliest influences? What about them captivated you?

Actually, I didn't have any stand-up comics as influences early on. My earliest influences were my older brother's friends. I wanted desperately to be accepted by them. I wasn't good enough at sports to compete with older kids, so humor was my only shot. Whatever I could do to make them laugh, that kind of shaped my comedy. So my personality and my comedy were both really self-deprecating back then. If you're laughing at yourself, then no one can just laugh at you. They can only laugh with you. That was my in.

The first comedy album I ever owned was Brian Regan's. That affected me, definitely. I remember my neighbor up the street burned me a copy of the Regan CD, but it was just one 56-minute track, so me and my little brother used to listen to the first 20 minutes time after time after time, but we'd almost never listen to the end of it, which is about dogs barking and stuff, if I remember right. We used to quote that thing non-stop. Oh! Episodes of the Simpsons, too. That writing was just so damn good. I never had a computer until college, which is when i started downloading stuff. Jim Gaffigan was the guy I was most into when I first started actually performing stand-up. When I first started doing stand-up, my style was a cross between Gaffigan and Conan during his opening monologues. Those were the two I did at first. Then it was David Cross, and now Bill Burr and Patrice O'Neal are the two that I really see and say "wow...that's the direction I want to go." Louis C.K., too. It blows my mind how willing they are to open themselves. That's what captivates me. When a comic invites you into the thoughts a regular person wouldn't think to admit. Louis C.K. has a bit about how now that he's a father, whenever he hears about a baby being found in a dumpster, he understands. Who would think to admit that thought to other people? And it crushes. It destroys. That's the type of thing I see and say, "Man...I hope I'm able to open myself up like that someday."

Where did you first perform? What was your first paid gig?

I told a joke when I was hosting a talent show at an International Church Conference when I was 12 I think, in front of maybe 800 people, and it bombed worse than any joke I've told since, but that's a story for another day. Let's talk about the first time I did a set. I took a class called "TV/Film Comedy" my freshmen year of college, and I stayed after one time and asked the teacher how I could get the most out of the class possible, because I wanted to pursue it as a career. He told me the best way was to do stand-up. I guess there was one other kid who had sought him out and said the same thing, so a couple weeks later, at the end of class he had me and this other kid do stand-up for like 200 kids. Looking back, the other kid was actually funnier.

The first time I got paid was a couple years later. I did a Halloween-night show at a local bar and got paid sixty bucks. Actually, I remember telling my dad that I didn't want to cash the check and give it to the bank, because I wanted to keep it as a memento, and he asked how much it was for, because he figured he'd just pay me the money and let me keep the check, like as a gift. I told him it was for sixty bucks and he was like, "Photocopy it." He wasn't trying to be patronizing, but I don't think it occurred to him that anyone would get paid more than five bucks to tell jokes.

Do you prefer to write on or off stage? *Do you enjoy the process of writing?

I could write this answer for days, and it would be the most depressing answer ever. I'll keep it short. I write better off-stage. I write in spurts. I don't earn any of my writing. I rarely, maybe once a month, sit down for an extended stretch and hash out all the potential humor in a premise that I think of.
Okay, think of it like this. Remember when I said I wanted to do stand-up when I was 12, but I was scared I'd be bad, so I didn't start until I was in college? Well, I'm still in that phase when it comes to writing. I think I could be a lot better if I wrote, but I don't, because I'm afraid I would find out I'm wrong, and then I would have effectively defined my ceiling as a comic. I refuse to sit down and write daily and find out what I can really do, because I'm afraid I'll find out I can't do that much. I'll never be a good comic until I overcome that fear. I know this, and yet the fear continues to reign over logic and hope. I hate myself and I'm a fraud and anyone who respects me is being fooled.

What about performing live do you enjoy?

There are rare moments when I feel like I'm talking and not just performing a bit. Those are the moments I enjoy. They're very rare, and very fleeting. I told a joke recently about race, and I ended up talking about childhood and how I feel a need to connect with black people as an adult because my childhood was so devoid of them. I didn't go up there planning to say it, it just kind of came out. It was real, and it came out funny somehow. I did a set in October and had about a minute straight where I felt it, like what I was saying was coming out straight from the core, completely unfiltered. That minute in October is one of the best moments of my life so far. I know this is probably reading corny, but I can't describe it right. I just always feel like my mind is tensed up whenever I perform. Those moments where everything releases, and it's pure, are amazing. That's really the only reason to bother living life. For those brief moments where you don't feel like you're tricking everyone.

Do you ever want to convey a message?

haha my answer to the previous question probably suggests i do. Yes, I'm one of those comics. I think I can say something through humor. I don't really know what that message is yet, but I'm definitely a proponent of connecting.
Look. I've only been doing this for five years. So I'm a terrible comic. Anything I claim to be trying to do is going to be insulting to anyone who is actually doing it. I'm an asshole. I know. I wrote a joke a month ago about fucking a mannequin at Baby Gap. So any "message" I claim to be passing along has to be served with a rather large side of salt grains. I want to say I just like connection, but I totally get off on what people think of me. So if I claimed that the message i'm trying to send is something deep, or profound, it would probably just be part of the larger, more latent message that I'm trying to send, which is "Bryson is awesome, and fascinating, and you should want to get to know him better." That's the message I try to send. I'm an asshole.

What's hacky to you?

Anybody who encourages the audience to be dumber.

What is your day job?

I work as a receptionist and have the opportunity to read and write for seven hours a day, though instead I just surf espn.com. That depresses me.

Were your parents supportive of you doing comedy?

They were and are. Different parents have different strategies. For better or worse, my parents love me unconditionally. I learned to love unconditionally. That can be a bad thing in romantic relationships. But that's the only love I know. now I'm rambling. Yes, they're supportive. I think sometimes my mom is too supportive -I don't want the rest of the church choir to google me and listen to my bit about blowjobs. But, like I said...unconditional. I would suggest that that might be a bad thing, because i don't feel i have anyone to prove wrong, but i'm not quite emo enough to complain that my parents loved me too much.

Where do you plan on moving next?

I don't know where I'm headed next. I toyed with the idea of moving laterally, as in to a city with a similar-sized scene, like Austin, TX, or Minneapolis. But if I was a betting man, I'd say New York. I really don't know. I could die tomorrow, you know? If I get the chance to live somewhere new in this life, I'll be thrilled. I will say this, though - I'm always going to look back fondly on DC. This place has been very, very good to me, both comedy and otherwise.

How do you feel about the overall comedy scene in DC? Anything you want to change, and what are you going to do to change it?

How do I feel about the overall comedy scene in DC? Not good - the way I see it, anybody wearing overalls probably isn't that funny.

BAAA-ZINNNNNNNNNNG!!!

Seriously though, I think it's good. Could it be better? Of course. But there's more to a scene than just how many open-mics there are. So much of comedy is having life experiences to make jokes about. There's so much here in DC that you just don't get in other cities - the diversity, the history, the culture. For me, it's been a great place to try to grow as a person, and your comedy comes out through that filter.

If I were going to change something? I think the DC scene can fall into a trap of creating a bubble around itself. There's only one major club in town, so I think it's dangerous to invest that much stock into what they think of you. The scene needs to work hard to branch out and connect with other scenes around the East and around the country. Andy Haynes spending time here, and the resulting connection to the Washington (state) scene was really cool. I'd love to set that up in places like Austin, or Minneapolis, or different spots like that. But I just think the scene has an overall need to branch out further and try to reach out to other cities.

How will i help make a change? I'm voting Barack in '08. I feel like that's a good place to start.
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Writing in a Group But Feeling So Alone!

So I'd like to broach a stand up comedy topic, the likes of which has frequently been broached before. The other day I met up with some compadres for a joke-writing session. There were four of us total at the mah-jongg table, minus the combative nature of a good Chinese tile game session. First of all, I think the main purpose for writing with other people is running your ideas by another jokester's brain―similar to lobbing tennis balls over the net easy, hoping for a nice safe validation of a return*. But I face the same problem every time I write with other people. I feel weird sharing my ideas. That's right. The very purpose of getting together with others is wasted because Team Self-Esteem wants to tyrannically rule EgoWorld for another day.

Chiefly, I worry about things like this happening:

Comrade: Aparna, why don't you share a joke now?

Aparna: Oh no, it's ok. I'm still trying to get my notes together.

(Repeat this 3 times throughout joke-writing session)

Comrade: Aparna, I have to go in five minutes.

Aparna: (cautiously) Oh! Ok so I did have this one idea...

Comrade: I'm all ears!

Aparna: Alright, so I was walking on the street the other day...[yada, yada, fetus of a premise]

Comrade: (delicately raises one eyebrow then the other, searches for words, suddenly, lightbulb-over-head face) Oh, that reminds me! I have a new tag for my pogostick joke!

Aparna: (feels bad about herself)


photo courtesy of Flickr and Cold Cut


That's not to say that happens all that often. In fact, on more than one occasion, I've shared a mere idea blip, and it's been well-received. But then I realize I don't really want anyone else's help in writing out a joke because that feels like cheating. Yeah I said it. Cheating. Because if the other person goes somewhere better with my premise, it feels like it should be their joke, not mine. Even if they say, "no, it's yours, take it. Also, take my wife, please!"―it still feels kind of dirty. One possible solution is trying the joke onstage before taking it into a workshop format. At least that gives me a better idea of where I'd like to go with it, if anywhere, and helps me feel more in control.

Conversely, I don't mind helping other people with their jokes because it would never occur to me to take someone else's idea just because I helped them with it a little. Double standard, me!


there's nothing wrong with teamwork so share the ball.
photo courtesy of Flickr and pixeljones


Maybe the real issue here is I expect crumbs of genius to fly out of my mouth regularly during comedy writing sessions, and that's just not realistic. There will be hits, and by George of the Jungle, there will be misses! I still come up with a great deal of my material 10 minutes before I get onstage, or when I'm standing somewhere without a pen or a piece of paper.

Mos definitely, I think I write with other people because I am absolutely 100% bonafide lazy when it comes to making myself write on my own. Believe me, I've tried. Usually, I open up my notebook, smile wistfully at some underdeveloped premise embryos, and then just end up doodling question marks everywhere until the page looks like a 13-year-old's heartfelt 6th-period tribute to the Riddler.

So I think I will continue writing in groups―even if just to create the illusion of friendship. Speaking of which, I forgot to say that part. It helps to write with people with whom you are on good terms. As opposed to people for whom you harbor an intense secret dislike. You're welcome.

*Yes, I like analogies. Analogies are to me what cheese is to a baguette. Vital and sustaining!
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brutal Honesty from a Comedy Booker


With so many shows popping up, you might be asking yourself how to get booked on them. I've put together some helpful advice from comedians here and there who run shows of the "back of a bar" ilk that may help you when deciding the best way to approach a booker about getting some stage time. I can only assume that the exact opposite approach is what would be needed to get booked in clubs.

John McBride (The Bomb Shelter, Classic American Comedy):
"If you want to be booked, you need to be out. Be out everywhere, so people see you. How are folks supposed to book you if they don't know who you are? Also be funny on stage and don't try so hard to be funny off stage, in terms of booking nobody cares if you are funny off stage. Be yourself."

Peter Kassnove (The Comedy Clubhouse @ Telephone Bar in NYC):
"Showing up to the show is a lot better then just contacting someone for spots. It makes a much better impression on the bookers, at least in my experience. Plus, you may want to stick around for the show. It really bugs me when someone stops by, asks about a spot, then makes a bee line to the door when they realize that they aren't getting any time on that show."

Greg Johnson (The Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy Show @ Rififi in NYC):
"I feel like I need to have seen someone's act before they get booked. So if you're uncertain as to whether or not someone's seen your act, make sure you shove it down their throats with a tape or a list of shows they could go to. Mailing out "reels" and things isn't really necessary, but It's confusing to be begged for stage time by someone I've never even seen. Show the person something funny you've done..."

(more advice from Jake Young, Tyler Sonnichsen, Barry Rothbart, Jay Hastings and Nick Turner after the jump)


Jay Hastings(DC Improv Comedy Showcase, The Bomb Shelter):
"Much like any other job your trying to obtain, it helps to have a friends recommendation."

"When a booker says "tight and professional", it means NO RIFFING and NO CROWD WORK! That doesn't tell me anything about your act. Also, don't be blatantly filthy."

Barry Rothbart(Village Ma in NYC):
"You should not try to pander or be funny when first approaching a booker. It's a sure sign of being amateur when you come off "trying" to be funny in conversation to a booker, it's usually best to get to the point and be straight forward about asking for a spot. It seems like you are a professional and have been around the block more often. Because they usually know the motives when a new comic tries to interact with them."

"Make sure to not go over your time the first time you do a spot."

Nick Turner(Top Shelf):
"It helps to come out and watch and say hi. Bookers are eternally grateful to anyone who supports the show."

"Also, it helps to be ready before you start asking for these spots. Generally people want you to have been doing open-mics for a year or so at least."

Jake Young(The Awesome Room):
"You have to have a concrete purpose for a booker. If you fill a niche, or are a consistent host/close, or you bring in a crowd because you're new and have friends, these are reasons that outweigh the simple "funny enough" requirement."

Tyler Sonnichsen(Laughing Lizard):
"I just like a good balance of confidence and courtesy. I want you to be able to handle an audience with a high bar set, but also don't be a dick. Bring energy, and don't belittle the room or the establishment."


-Leave more tips in the comments...
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Variety Open Mic Tonight @ Solly's Tavern

"May I recommend this for the evening, sir?" ~ Your Classy Waiter


*now with comedy


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Improvisation Meets Stand-Up Vol. 1

by: Mike Blejer and Jason Saenz
First up: The Stand-Up Comic, Mike Blejer

Full Disclosure:
I’ve done some improv over the course of my life since I’ve been involved in acting from about the time I was 8 or so, but in the context of comedy I did mostly sketch in college and then writing a satirical blog for a magazine after school before I started doing stand up. My point is, I’m going to be making a lot of assertions about improv and stand up and I’ll own up to my lack of in-depth experience with improv now. Feel free to use that to discredit me without really considering the strength or validity of my argument.

The Gripe:
A lot of comedians I’ve seen perform bits that could just as easily be done in improv. For instance they take a two things that are wildly different and juxtapose them in an obvious way and then act out “what it would be like.” (e.g., What if, Captain America went to the Laundromat!?! ‘What is this, steel mesh?! I ain’t steam-cleaning no shield!!’). This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I just think that stand up comedians should aspire to do things which people can’t do in improv, to play to the strengths of their chosen medium.

So because stand up material is practiced beforehand1 you should be able to do things with it which you just can’t do with improv. This could mean going into a subject matter in greater depth (what is typically thought of when depth is discussed), but it could also mean exploring a concept with more subtlety than would easily be attained in improv. For that matter, it could be structuring a bit with more depth, the most conspicuous example is probably a call back (which also occurs in improv, but again the subtlety factor can be a big differentiator here), but in addition to call backs, there are more interesting structural benefits that can come from prepared material.

[For the rest of Mike's take on Improv and Jason's counterpoint hit the JUMP!]


Comedy Autopsy:
Bryson Turner has a bit he’s doing right now which provides a really good example of this. I will try to paraphrase the joke as best I can2:

Premise/Observation: They sell regular and large sized condoms in stores, but not small condoms. “They have every other type of condom except small condoms. They even have mint-flavored condoms, and I highly doubt there are women out there saying, (Act out) ‘man...i wish there was something that made my mouth feel really clean and really dirty at the same time.’”
Normal explanation/set-up: No one wants to have to publicly admit they have a small penis by buying one. (Act out: “Hey can I get price check on a 12 pack of mini-P’s? Yeah, the ones for people with small penises. Over in Isle twelve. For this guy.”)
Alternate explanation/Twist 1: A man with a small penis doesn’t really need a condom anyway, because if he’s gotten a woman to agree to sleep with him despite his ‘shortcoming,’ he’s obviously cunning and resourceful enough to get out of using a condom anyway. (Act out?)
2nd premise/Twist 2: This is why I think MacGyver had a small dick.
Development/set-up 2: (act out) Girl to Macguyver says “what should we do, all I have is this saran-wrap, a rubber ring and some twist ties” (This isn’t quite right, but the supplies will lead the audience to believe Macguyver will turn it into a condom).
Twist 3: (also act out) Maguyver says “It’s ok, I’ll take the twist ties and wrap them around the rubber ring, use the saran-wrap as a lens to turn it into a make-shift laser which I can use to render myself sterile.”

Ok. Look at all the logical steps required to get from point 1 to point 6 there. Look at how 4 serves as both a punch-line and a set up. He draws a logical line, extends it to an absurd place, extends that absurdity to another logical line, and then brings that to an even more impressive level of absurdity. It’s fucking great, and it reflects a kind of depth that could realistically only be achieved by writing it in advance (other requirements include being funny). Ok, sure, the joke is about MacGyver, which means he can’t in good conscience tell it to anyone under the age of 21, but who cares, because people who can’t buy alcohol are too busy obsessing over how to get alcohol to laugh at jokes anyway. Take that collegehumor.com…

The Fight:
This is not intended as an insult to improvisers or improv as a format. Leaving aside improv for its own sake, it helps build strong performing skills. Good improvisers exhibit a kind of immediate responsiveness and vibrancy that can be found lacking in more “prepared” performances like sketch and stand up3. I think most people who have been doing stand up for a while will testify that when you start doing it, you’re basically just presenting the material you wrote and hoping it will go over with the audience, but over time you get more comfortable listening, paying attention to what’s going on both in terms of your own material and with the room. You get so you can more easily add stuff that is immediately and sometimes only relevant to that night. And that’s the kind of thing that can leave an audience walking out telling their friends “oh shit, it was awesome, but you just kind of had to be there.” Zach Galifianakis is a good example of someone who does this really well. His material (for the most part) is really strong conceptually, but at the same time he can fly off the handle and bounce in between at one moment being shy and reserved and the next exploding violently at the audience, but in a way that they (usually) understand is (usually) all part of the joke (…usually).


Me! This is about Me!!:
My love of stand up comes fundamentally from the fact that it can so deeply explore relationships between concepts, society, and your own life experience in a way that just excites me on an intellectual and emotional level. That said, I recognize that stand up is live performance, and at its best it should represent both the prepared material but also the vital improvised response to what’s happening in the room on any given night. If you’re not going to aspire to that, then why do live comedy at all?


For me, long term I know I need to do more improv. Right now I’m learning on the job, which is proving to be a really exciting challenge, but one I could probably navigate better with more direct experience in improv. For a lot of people improv is what they love doing and just want to keep doing it forever and that’s awesome for them; for me, I think it’s a means to an end. When I look at myself and honestly evaluate why I keep getting up on stage, it’s because I love telling people what I think about things, I love constructing my joke/puzzles as cleverly and tightly as I’m able, I love making people laugh. Bottom line? I love doing stand up. When I don’t hate it.

Next Up: The Improviser, Jason Saenz

FULL DISCLOSURE:
Over the past 3 years I have been performing, taking a class or rehearsing long-form improv at least two nights a week. Before that I had performed in ComedySportz type shows i.e. "Whose Line." in highschool and college. I am happy to say though, I have never been in a group that wore the same color t-shirts. I have been digging into the world of stand-up since May 2007 and I strive to find the common ground between the two styles. Writing jokes, in the pure "sit down and write" sense, continues to be a challenge for me.

THE GRIPE:
That improvisers cannot make the leap to stand-up as well as others. Also, that anything not pre-planned completely or a bit that inherently requires thinking on your feet is not stand-up comedy.
When in fact, the foundations of improv transcend into the world of standup more deeply than most people think and that a good understanding of improv will only help you recognize the strengths and weakness of your set and what you can do to address them.

COMEDY AUTOPSY:
Improv schools like The Annoyance and UCB teach game and pattern work as the fun of the scene, and ultimately the reason why you would want to see that scene again. It's the exact same thing with a well constructed joke, i.e. Bryson's small condom joke.

1) Small Condoms= Not a big seller (establishing the game)
2) Guys w/ Small dick = don't need a condom because they are resourceful (still heightening the game of "small condoms don't sell")
3) MacGyver = has a small dick (capping the game by taking it to the most resourceful guy ever and why he would never buy one when he could just make one himself)

Improv gets your brain thinking in patterns, raising the stakes and recognizing why audiences enjoy seeing them. It also in a way, teaches you the Comedy Rule of 3. That the third beat of a pattern is the funniest, if it was properly established and heightened in the first two beats. This is something many good stand-up jokes adhere to. I do believe that this is not only achievable by writing it in advance but that it can be done onstage as well, because a smart comic/improviser could see the 3 beat possibility from just the reaction to the initial premise.

The Fight:
This is not to say that writing and working on material offstage is not the best way to be comically creative. It definitely has established itself as the backbone to standup. I know it is something I want to get better at. What I am saying is that audiences react to the same thing, regardless of the medium. In standup, improv and even comedy editing you want to trim the fat and heighten the joke. There are things that are specifically taught in improv that will help any standup comedian. Examples like; realistic character work, having a strong initiation, not dropping your "deal" and being confident. Those are all fundamental concepts that my favorite comedians excel at and also what good improv coaches teach.

Me! This is about Me!:
My love of improv comes from the fact that I can create something from nothing, by understanding what makes something fun to watch. I also love that improv teaches you to give and take, how take care of your partner as you bolster yourself as well and to always think of how I can agree and 'Yes And..' something. It puts my mind in the right direction and clears up all roadblocks that take me away from the fun. It excites me, to think a scene literally about nothing at all, can cause people to hoot and applaud and never be able to explain it to their friends. It was just for them.

For me, I am still adjusting to the transition from the group mentality of improv to the solo dependency of stand-up. I can tell you what I see the benefits of each are: improv teaches you to trust your partner and to truly know how they are going to react next. “I set them up, you knock them down.” This translates better to sketch writing and character creation than I believe stand-up does. I mean, just look at the history of the cast members of SNL. The majority are improvisers. Stand-up has taught me though, how to be more confident. That at the end of the day I have just myself to rely on. I don’t think you can truly find your “voice” as a comedian, without performing stand-up. It just forces you to say to yourself “how do I want to present myself, what type of comedian do I want to be?” Stand-up instills self promotion and learning to do that is just something you have to do in the world of comedy.

For me, long term I know I need to do more standup. I always want to continue doing improv, because I really believe it makes me fundamentally a better comedian. But, when I look at myself and honestly evaluate why I keep getting up on stage, it’s because I love sharing something about myself with people that will make them laugh and Stand-up does that for me as well. I just love improv because I can create something out of a mistake, a moment, a gesture or a silence that will resonate with someone else. It's kinda magical. When it doesn't completely suck.


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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Main Event Interview: Maria Bamford

"One of the most innovative comedians working today." That's how Patton Oswalt introduced Maria Bamford last October to the audience at the Black Cat during the latest edition of the Comedians of Comedy tour. Bamford then went on to steal the show by seamlessly weaving in characters throughout her twenty minute set. Maria is back in town this weekend headlining at the Arlington Drafthouse. (Friday, March 14th and Saturday March 15th) Local stalwart Erik Myers will also be on the bill.

We were lucky to have a chance to have Maria answer a few questions about her comedic style, approach to writing and thoughts on non-traditional comedy venues.


You've mentioned Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy as being a few of your comedic influences. What about their performance style captivated you?

I like their goofiness-and with Eddie Murphy I liked his characterizations- I think my favorite part was listening with my Dad.

How far were you into your comedy career when you felt truly comfortable with your style?

I guess that’s sort of an ongoing process as an artist/human- I’m always changing but it’s really helped to have things on TV/Internet because the more people who like what I do and come to see me, that really helps me feel more comfy – that people know what they’re coming to see.

How do you or have you in the past curbed the urge to pander to an audience who maybe had a certain expectation in material or delivery of material that differed from what you were presenting?

Well, I only have one act- so, beyond trying to do jokes that I already I have that I think people might like- jokes that are loud or slightly sexual seem to grab people’s attention, but I only have 2 or 3 of those – so, I’m a bit stuck if people don’t like it, they just don’t like it.

What do you find hacky?

I’m not a judge of comedy/art- I think it’s pretty subjective and if somebody laughs or gets something from somebody’s work- then it’s valuable/funny.

How has your material changed over time?

I think/hope I’m more personable- am better at communicating my premises, but I think it’s stayed the same in that it’s whatever I’m passionate about at the time.

Do you find that audiences in non-traditional comedy venues and theatres are more open minded than audiences in traditional comedy clubs?

I like them because I do better in them, but I don’t know if that’s because they are more specifically marketed toward my sense of humor. Comedy Clubs can be sort of vague in their advertising (give away free tickets) and that makes the audience unprepared for what type of show is on- let’s blame the comedy clubs.

When you are writing a new joke do you write it out fully and then take it to the stage or do you take the concept to the stage and then work it out?

I just do it on stage and try it over and over and over again. To friends, family, on stage, wherever.

How do you cope with the occasional writer's block?

Just keep writing.

How often do you spend daily or weekly writing?

About 5 days a week- but sort of happens throughout the day- while driving, walking my dog.

How do you handle hecklers? What was your worst heckling experience?

Every heckler is different-and I have specific lines, but sometimes, you can’t prepare and just have to be in the moment and hope for the best- The worst heckling is always the last one. It feels bad- is a bummer when people don’t like it and verbalize it- I don’t understand why they don’t leave or ask for their money back- because the comic really can’t do anything about it.

Have you ever felt like you were in a slump on stage either with your material or how you were performing your material? What have you done in the past to break the "slumpy" feeling?

All there is to do is to keep trying, keep doing it, keep doing more things. Stop talking about it, worrying about it and just do it again. Take a break if you’re not having fun-do something else, take a vacation, then try it again. If you really don’t enjoy doing stand-up- it’s ok to stop doing it! There are other ways to be creative!

Have you googled yourself and what was the weirdest thing that popped up that was associated with your name?

I googled myself a few times and then, I stopped once I read a negative chat room thing that bummed me out. Who cares what other people think? It’s none of my business. All I need to do is keep doing what I enjoy doing and let go of the results- whether anyone cares doesn’t really matter as long as I’m having a good time.

Check out Maria's sit com on Super Deluxe.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

DC Comedy Festival "Audtion Showcase" at The DC Improv


The dccomedyfest is entering its fourth year and we're looking for the best comedy standup from DC and throughout North America.

"A select group of DC's most hilarious stand up comedians will perform on a special audition showcase Saturday, April 12. This great roster of performers will be auditioning for an opportunity to be at the New Talent Industry Showcase during dccomedyfest (Thursday, Aug 7) at the DC Improv for talent scouts from The Tonight Show, Chelsea Lately, networks, agents and more! But performers will also be considered for other slots in the festival, including Feature Shows and other special performance opportunities."

The Line-Up for the Show features:
Jason Weems
Aparna Nancherla
Jay Hastings
Bryson Turner
Kojo Mante
Nick Turner
Larry Poon
John McBride
Tim Miller
Hampton Yount


When: April 12th, @ 8:00 pm
Where: DC Improv Comedy Lounge
Tickets: $10
Website: http://www.symfonee.com/improv/dc/home/Index.aspx


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Nick Turner Fights! Comedy Blaze


If you are one of the almost all people who don't know what a Nick Turner Fight! is, then please let me happily explain it to you. I used to write a blog that consisted of me starting email fights with other people named Nick Turner and then posting the carnage.
Today I had an interesting email exchange with an "executive" at the mega-huge comedy video site, Comedy Blaze. I thought I might resurrect the whole Email fight concept. Enjoy.


From Comedy Blaze:
We are currently building an advisory board for ComedyBlaze looking to recruit a few celebrity comics, actors and entertainment executives. We will compensate them by issuing them with shares (ownership) in ComedyBlaze Inc. Please let me know if you might be interested.
We are also currently closing an investment round for CB with a financial investor. We would like ComedyBlaze to be partly owned and backed by members and industry players. So we are opening up the round to include investment from you or other entertainment folks you may know. I’m happy to pay you a finder’s fee in cash if you introduce us to someone who invests in CB…feel free to forward this message or just call me.
If you don’t have any cash to invest just upload your videos and we’ll pay you.
-Comedy Blaze Guy

Great, let me know when my shares are ready.
-Nick
Nick,
If you are interested please let me know and we can schedule a phone call.
If you have any videos, please upload them.
I was kidding. Since you called me a "celebrity, it sounded monumentally disingenuous.
-Nick
OK, do you have anything you can upload?

I'm afraid that your last email didn't exactly address all of my concerns. I was mostly talking about the lack of sincerity in your first offer. It seemed like you just rolled over it and pitched another effort to gain my sweet uploads. Obviously I think you're great and look forward to a long relationship. I just need confirmation that what I received wasn't entirely a form letter, but an honest commendation of my storied stand-up career. Thank you so much Andrew for the validation that we all crave. It means a great deal to me.
Your friend, Nicky T


(Read the exciting conclusion to my brand new Nick Turner Fight after the jump)



There is one thing I am struggling to understand. If you or any artist has uploaded a video to youtube, MySpace or Facebook, why would you not upload it to ComedyBlaze?

I made the site because I thought it was a no brainer. Almost no one bothered to upload anything. So one might say the 50 50 split was of no interest to the artists.

I then offred the CB grand with a cash prize of $1k for the most viewed videos. That seemed to have almost no effect. Now I have increased the CB grand to pay $5k and am hoping that gets someone to not only upload to CB, but also email their contacts attempting to win the prize and get the fair 50 50 deal we give everyone.

I then offered to make the artists owners by allowing them to coinvest in my first financing round. You and others seem to prefer to keep your videos on MySpace where 100% of the revenue will go to newscorp now owned by old man Murdoch and youtube owned by google, the biggest giant of all internet titans.

What at all is cool about those guys so you want them to keep 100% of the money from value you create. I thought artists were either intelligent or had agents to look after their commercial affairs. I am now wondering if I am the retarded one here.

Why would you not upload your sweet vids if they are already on the public web making old billionairs richer?


Well, I'm no marketing guru Andrew, but you problem seems to be the fact that when you upload to Youtube, people may actually SEE the videos. From the desperation in your voice it sounds like there isn't much chance of that happening with Comedy Blaze. From this logic, why wouldn't I just put the videos up on my own site and reap all the financial rewards, of which there will be none, just like Comedy Blaze.
I am impressed with your insistence that I, (celebrity) Nick Turner, come around to your way of thinking. So impressed, in fact, that I will let you answer the question that I have asked you no less than three times already. Why did you refer to me as a celebrity in your initial email? What about me do you know that led you to the conclusion that I was needed in your project? I get that you just told everyone the same thing. I'm sure you have even sent that email out to non-performers. That, my friend, probably has something to do with the mass resistance to your own Newscorp-like empire. But hey, I love your work, and I've been a big fan of yours for a long time. I think what you have done for the world of comedy is certainly commendable.
-Nick

Fair enough.
If you are getting fewer than 200k views it is hard to monetize that. I will aggregate traffic and get to 30M and be one of the biggest entertainment destinations on the web. I am buying a company in LA that manages myspace pages for a large client roster of real celebs. Ironically they will pay me cash to make their CB pages and email directly to their fan lists. That will get me past the current catch 22.

Yeah, I really went slutty on my mass mailer you got, my celebrity friend!

Great, let me know when the Bob Saget videos are up.
-Nick


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