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!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Andy Kline Interview Continued...(Part 3)

You mentioned that you would like to be a staff writer for a show, if you had to pick a program that was on right now, what would it be and why?

Well, South Park, but they don't use writers. I think The Boondocks would be a great show to write for. It seems like you can get away with anything on that show, and crossing the line is encouraged. That gives you a lot of freedom as a writer. But beggars can't be choosers. I'd write for Blue Collar Comedy at this point.

What comedy set on audio tape or DVD can you sit down and watch over and over again? Any tape while growing up or any other time in your life that you just "wore out"? What about it resonated with you?

Chris Rock: Bring the Pain That was an instant classic. When it first aired, I taped it and practically watched it daily. I still watch it every now and then.

George Carlin: Jammin' in New York. It changed the way I think about comedy. Just a great mix of Carlin's observational stuff and his angry stuff. This was before I discovered Bill Hicks, who I also listen to constantly. I've always been drawn to guys who were both angry and smart.

I also watch Mr. Show regularly. It's the best sketch show of all time.

The one that really stood out when I was a kid was Eddie Murphy: Comedian (and later Raw). I don't think I related to it in any meaningful way. I just couldn't believe how talented he was.

Any jokes or moments you remember on stage in particular where you think back and say to yourself, "What was I thinking?"

Well, the stuff I was doing back in '94 is pretty embarrassing in retrospect. I mean, I felt way more mature than other people my age, yet there I was doing jokes about shitting. But being a comedian, I specialize in delusion. So I just rationalize that as a necessary part of my development. Other than that, nothing else stands out. I never went through a prop phase or anything.

If I'm saying "what was i thinking," it's moreso about a situation where I got my hopes up about an audition or contest despite knowing better.

Anything you would like to see more of or less of in the Baltimore/DC/NoVa comedy scene?

More paid gigs would be nice. That's obviously self serving, but I think it would help people's development. A lot of comics in the area lack experience hosting or stringing together tight feature sets. If the area had a couple more quality B rooms that embraced local comics, some of the newer guys could pick up valuable lessons without having to drive to Kentucky for $75. Right now as a new comic, you can do open-mic's and showcases, but there's a long line for the club work.

Beyond that, I wish the industry would pay more attention to DC. There's an occasional industry showcase at the DC Improv, but you can't get every funny person onto one of those shows. Our proximity to NYC winds up obscuring us a little bit. Places like Austin and Seattle are scouted, but DC gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.

I'd like to thank Andy Kline for taking the time to answer the questions I fielded for him. If you have a chance, check out his blog and website on the link to lefthand side of the page to read more of his thoughts and check out dates for upcoming shows.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Andy Kline Interview (Part Two)...

I went back through your blog and find it way more interesting than the one I slap together. The stories and observations are pitch-perfect, however the last one you wrote was back in '08, am I missing where the "real" blog is somewhere else or do you just write when the inspiration hits? Have you ever been offered, other than 98 Rock's "Wrath of Kline", commentary slots for anything else?

I tend to blog only when I'm inspired. I used to blog more and I keep promising myself I'll pick up the pace again. That usually comes down to laziness. I have several blogs that are 75 percent done, then I lost interest. I keep threatening to randomly post five new blogs simultaneously, but I haven't done it yet. For a while, the Wrath of Kline sort of replaced my blog. But that's been over since last summer, so I have no excuse.

I got a lot of good feedback from the Wrath of Kline, and I've looked a little bit into recording and syndicating it myself, but I haven't received any clear answers on how to make that happen. I don't want to make it just another YouTube rant or podcast, but it might end up resurfacing in that form. I did talk to Mickey from 98 Rock's morning show about bringing it back there, but we haven't nailed anything down.

How did you like doing radio?

Radio was a lot of fun, but I'm definitely a second-fiddle kind of guy. I don't talk much and prefer only to open my mouth when I have something funny to say. So on the air, I'm quiet for several minutes, then I blurt out a punchline. That's not good when you're the guy who's supposed to carry the show, but with two other hosts in the room, it worked for me. Had I been asked to fill in and be the main host, I would have failed miserably. I can't even carry a conversation at the McDonald's drive-thru. If you can't order a sundae without dead air, you have no business hosting a radio show.

I did Irresponsible Radio every week for about eight months, and I felt like I was just beginning to come out of my shell when the show was canceled.

I think you more than live up to what you say in your bio, about not using stand-up as platform to move elsewhere, but do have other creative interests? Have people offered you roles for TV, film, webseries, etc..any of that interest you?

I'm actually sick of that bio. Not that I disagree with what it says, it just feels old to me. I need to rewrite it. But, the sentiment is still valid. What the bio is really saying is that I'm not doing stand up so I can host a game show or interview Nickelback on MTV. I just want to do stand up. That seems like a simple idea, but comedy is flooded with actors and opportunists just looking for another bit of exposure. They're not interested in the craft, and they're pretty ignorant to how it all works. Not that comedians shouldn't take commercials or TV roles; I'm just saying if you have no real interest in comedy, get out of the way. You're just taking up space and valuable stage time. I guess I'm a purist.

Beyond that, there's a real freak show aspect in stand up these days that I hate. I've said this before, but if Lobster Boy or The Bearded Lady were around today, their handlers wouldn't tell them to join the circus, they'd send them to open-mic night. Lobster Boy would have no interest in comedy, but he would get on TV in two years and eventually land a development deal so he could be an inspiration to us all.

Seriously, if Chang & Eng were around now, you can't tell me they wouldn't be juggling scalpels at some Funny Trap somewhere. After the show, they could sign your hat and t-shirt simultaneously. The shirt would say "Joined at the Hope."

I've never been offered any roles in film or TV, but that's okay because I'm a horrible actor. If I was to take a job like that, it would have to be a part I wrote for myself knowing my limitations. Of greater interest would be writing for a show or web series. I, along with a couple friends, have written a bunch of sketches, and I've written other things for people here and there, but nothing steady yet. But being a staff writer on a show would be a great job for me. I would love that.

Did hecklers throw you when you were first starting? Has handling them become just as routine as handling any other evriomental obstruction/obstacle, i.e. mic, set decoration, stage size...Did you write "comebacks" while lying in bed or was it a skill that just developed, or maybe it didn't have to...

They definitely threw me at first, but not so much anymore. I don't invite heckling or crowd work at all for that matter, but I'm pretty confident in my ability to handle it. It's just as routine as commenting on the mic or stage size, except you have to be funnier with hecklers than you do with bad set decoration. Also, most hecklers aren't yelling "you suck" or anything like that. They usually mean well, but just don't understand boundaries. They're drunk, and who doesn't love making fun of a loud drunk guy?

I think the initial instinct is to come up with the perfect funny line to shut the heckler down. At first, it's incredibly frustrating. You don't think of that line until about 3 in the morning after the show. Then, it becomes midnight. Then, you think of it just after you step off stage. Eventually, something funny will pop into your head in the moment. I've tried to sit and write lines for those moments, but they rarely work the way I want them to. To me, they wind up sounding detached, and the best heckler comebacks are completely in the moment. But, over the years, I have occasionally improvised things in the moment that wound up becoming stock comebacks. I don't like going to the stock stuff immediately, but It's good to have in a pinch.

Really, the "perfect line" thing isn't even how I do it anymore. These days, I wind up letting the heckler talk a little bit. Eventually, he'll say something that I can pounce on. I basically give him enough rope to hang himself. That takes another level of confidence. You have to really believe that, even though you don't have something funny right now, if you keep this conversation going, something funny will come out. Sometimes I can't think of anything and it gets awkward, but it's just as easy to make fun of the awkwardness as it is to make fun of the actual heckler. With a heckler, you have options. Comment on the heckler himself or comment on the environment created by the heckling.

Do you have a heckler moment that stands out for you?

If you ask me tomorrow, I'll probably have a different answer. But I had a good exchange with a woman at the DC Improv once. It's memorable because she got a big laugh (i.e. she won), and I came right back with a better line. It started after I mentioned something about Jews.

Her: I caught one. I got a jew.

Me: You caught one? Are you going to keep him or throw him back?

Her: ...

Me: You don't have a Jew. He's your friend. You don't own him.

Her: He's my husband, I do own him.

Me: Wow, he got a bitch.

Trust me, the timing was perfect.

You mentioned that stand-up has become an opportunity for actors and people looking to be seen and the comedy/craft take a backseat or are just thrown out the window, while your disdain is understandable, I've heard as much or even more disgust reserved (by other comics) for the long-time open-miker that just has never had it and never will get it, do you have more sympathy for the comic with good intentions?

In New York, you'll go to an open-mic and see the worst comic you've ever seen, then find out he's been doing comedy 12 years. The long-time open-micer is usually a sad story. It takes guts to quit comedy. As a comic, every time you talk to your family/friends, or every time you run into an old acquaintance, they ask you how the comedy thing is going. They talk you up to their friends. They say things like, "If you make it big, don't forget me." They ask if you have any jokes about them. Comedy is basically a means to get attention and quitting means you won't get that attention anymore (not to mention the immediate on stage attention). Your whole identity has become comedy, so getting out takes away your identity. Most comics are insecure, so they would rather bomb for a decade just to keep that charade going. They get used to the bombing. It stops affecting them. They get their high just from saying they're comedians. Taking the plunge out of comedy is more terrifying to them than taking the plunge into comedy.

I guess I have more sympathy for those guys. They're flawed to begin with, and the only thing comedy has done is deepen their flaws. But, they're probably never going to graduate beyond the open-mic's. If you're any good, you'll surpass them soon enough. The actors often have managers and agents who have enough pull to book them at clubs and festivals, taking up real spots on real shows. That's worse to me. But if I was still competing for open-mic spots, I'd probably say the opposite.

Patric O'Neil reminded me of the "Cringe Humor"/Tough Crowd group that has come out of New York. Some comics like O'Neil and Jim Norton seem to be able to do that sort of humor because it doesn't feel forced, it inexplicably comes from an honest place. But I'm sure they can't always get away with it. What goes through your mind when you see an open-mic comic using "shock" material? I'm not one for censorship but what advice might you have for someone just starting out that tells you that they have a "really good date-rape joke".

When I see a new comic going the shock route, I think he's looking for an identity before he has found his voice. It's something we all do, but while one guy does it with rape jokes, the next guy might do it by emulating Dave Attell or Demetri Martin. I did it by being over-the-top dirty. Most people outgrow that at some point, but you'll never be able to talk them out of it. It has to happen naturally. I would never tell a new comic he has to be clean or safe. But I would tell him to question his own motives and draw honest conclusions.

There's not a whole lot of rebellion in comedy these days, so if you have that rebellious streak, you don't have too many current role models. You might be flying blind a little bit. Before you have an act, the most rebellious thing you can do is to make a crowd feel uncomfortable, and that's where the cringe element comes in. It's a defense mechanism. It's "I'm such a badass, but I'm not funny yet. So I'll make it the crowd's fault. They're too conservative to laugh at the real shit. And by real shit, I mean ten minutes on pussy farts." You have a built in excuse for bombing. The same thing happens in alternative comedy, except replace pussy farts with unicorns.

Meanwhile, with Patrice especially, there's a ton of insight beyond the shock stuff. In fact, I don't find him very shocking at all. But for a new comic who's into Patrice, it's a lot harder to emulate insight than it is to emulate shock value. So they take what they can.

Your set destroyed at Jay Hastings' Roast. It seemed to come right into your wheel-house, is that when its almost too easy for you? What is your process for writing jokes in general?

I actually forgot to do what I felt was my best joke at Jay's roast, so like the whore comic I am, I've been trying to slip it into conversations ever since. Of course, slipping jokes into conversations is the type of thing people bashed Jay for during his roast. So, at the risk of being like Jay, here's the joke (only DC comics will get it):

I asked Jay why he wanted to move to Seattle. He said, "Well, it's always been my dream to get into the DC Comedy Fest."

Okay, maybe not the best joke, but my favorite. That joke wasn't even about Jay, but that's what I like about roasts. You get to bash everybody. That's definitely in my wheelhouse. Partly because my brother and I grew up insulting each other endlessly, but also, during my open-mic days at Wiseacres, the comics would bash each other relentlessly. If we followed one of our friends on the show, we would usually open our sets by hammering the previous guy. It became part of the routine...what am I going to say about the last guy. Every week was like a miniature roast.

It took a couple days for me to write anything for Jay's roast, but once I got over that hump, the jokes came pretty easily. In general, I have two basic processes for writing jokes. Usually, when I come up with a premise, I just bounce the idea around in my head for a few days or even weeks. I may or may not try working it out on stage. After a few weeks, the final bit just sort of emerges and it's done. Not a word written down. In fact, I don't have the final versions of most of my bits written down. If I ever fall down, hit my head and lose my memory, I'll be fucked.

The second process is pretty much the opposite. Overwriting. I'll take a premise and basically write a five paragraph essay on it. I'll explore a few different angles and try to draw some kind of conclusion. After a few days on the shelf, I'll read it back. Usually as I read it, I'll notice openings for tangents and punchlines. I'll probably wind up using about a paragraph total for the bit, but the extra writing will open up a lot of doors. That process usually yields better bits, and yet I use it less frequently.

Part 3 coming tomorrow...

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Interview with Comedian Andy Kline (Part One)

The first time I saw Andy Kline perform was while I was taking the stage for the second time ever at Wise-Acres back in 2002. To give you a sense of where I was in the development of my craft, I wore a Hawaiian shirt because I thought it felt more like, "Hey I'm a comedian!". I had no idea what I was doing. Kline on the other hand, knows exactly what he's doing. My first impression of Kline was that I immediately envied his voice and attitude, everything was said with authority and most of it, if not all of it was honest. He is one of those comics that I really want to listen to when he takes the stage, a rare talent in the area, someone that writes jokes as well as he packages and delivers them.

You have been doing stand-up over ten years? When and where did you first start? What was the experience like?

I grew up in Leesburg, VA back when it was still considered a small town, and have lived in Northern Virginia most of my life. I moved to NYC for four years (2004 to 2008), but wound up getting sick of living there. Hence, my return to VA.

I really have two "start dates" with comedy. The first was March 1994. I did the Wednesday open-mic at the now-defunct Comedy Cafe on K street in DC (It became a Fast Eddie's...there was no public outcry). I had always been somewhat interested in comedy, and I felt like I was funny, but I was also incredibly shy. I was so shy, the mere act of calling the club to ask about the sign up process was painful. Despite the nerves, my first time on stage actually went okay. Not great, but I got a few laughs. My second time, I destroyed. Third time, I bombed horribly, but some of the comics laughed. From that point on, I became sort of a darling on the local open-mic scene. My act was incredibly dirty (this was before "Def Jam" was an insult), but crossed with a shy, deadpan delivery. Picture Steven Wright talking about bodily functions. Plus, I was 19 and looked 15. I stood out. Most of the comics who ran their own shows liked me and gave me spots. But, I quickly found out I was what I call "open-mic funny." I wasn't really "weekend funny," and had no idea how to get to that point. I treated comedy like a hobby for a couple years until all the local rooms started closing. Then, I drifted away from it for a while.

My second start date was spring 1998. I went to a new open-mic at Wiseacres on a Wednesday, did a set (the old bits), and met a few first-time comics. Over the next couple weeks, I met a few more comics who were just starting out. We all became close friends immediately. Probably nine of us. We hung out and talked comedy constantly - literally every available moment. And every person in that group had a ton of talent and potential. I was the only one with comedy experience, so I knew how rare it was for that much talent to just show up and start comedy at the same time. We would actually say things like, "This is like the Seattle music scene in the early 90's, but for comedy." Self importance is only silly in retrospect.

That whole summer was an awakening for me. It's when I really became a comedian. Thanks to my new clique, I quickly found my voice and learned how to articulate my opinions in a funny way. To this day, when I write a bit, I'm trying to impress those guys. I still feel like if you put us all in a room together right now, I'd be at my funniest. No group of comics I've hung out with since has had that kind of chemistry or affect on me.

I have a feeling I sort of know what you are getting at, could you elaborate on "open-mic funny" vs. "weekend funny"?

At an open-mic, you have a very short set and the crowd has probably seen a bunch of comics already. Since the crowd is already somewhat jaded, the context of your set is different. You can make fun of the previous comics. You can say something extremely shocking or dirty and get laughs because of how ridiculous it is. You can get away with rape and abortion jokes. You can also throw out a half-written premise that only has one punchline. It might get a huge laugh, but instead of finishing the bit, you can say, "Come back next week. I'll actually write that one," and get a laugh from that. You can take a prolonged look at your notes, then blurt out an absurd observation. The odd timing alone will bring laughs.

On weekend shows ("real" shows), the crowd probably isn't going to follow you into edgier/dirtier stuff unless you've earned their trust first (or you're famous). They also won't tolerate too many half-written bits before losing interest. They get restless if you thumb through your notes on stage. On the weekend, you need a polished act that flows together. Within that, you can take some liberties and go off on tangents, but the crowd has paid money to laugh, so they need to believe you can bring it. I've spoken to lots of people after paid shows who've said, "I can't believe that guy was looking at notes on stage," or "That guy seemed drunk. That's unprofessional." Obviously, a lot of those people are full of shit, but that's where they're coming from.

At a real show, the crowd has expectations that you need to fulfill. At an open-mic, their lack of expectations are enough to get you a few big laughs. It's just a different set of buttons that you need to push.

That's really cool to hear you talk about a group of comics that supported each other, so often I think people assume and can make, stand-up a strictly solo endeavor. Sounds like a group that spawned confidence but with the necessary feedback?

The feedback was the key. We were brutally honest with each other. It wasn't the stereotypical support group mentality. You could go on stage and absolutely destroy, then have three people in the back telling you what you did wrong. We were rarely satisfied with just doing well. Of course, part of that was due to the lack of open-mic's. For a long time, Wiseacres was the only place to get a spot, and that was only once a week. Between sets, we had a week to micromanage every little aspect of our bits before returning to the stage. When Wednesday came around, the stage time was extremely valuable. We didn't have the luxury of saying, "I'm just going to phone it in tonight. I'm getting on three more times this week anyway." The people who did that; the ones who, a minute into a set, shrugged their shoulders and said, "I don't care...I'm just fucking around" - they remained mediocre.

Your experience in New York, beneficial? What did you get sick of?

I'm a better comic now than I was before I moved, but I don't think New York had much to do with it. I think it's just the natural growth that comes with time. You can get on stage a lot in NYC, but much of that stage time is in front of empty chairs or jaded comics. Unless you're passed at a few rooms that actually give you quality spots, you're not going to develop much. Either that or you'll develop a really narrow, specific persona that isn't broad enough to command a crowd for more than fifteen minutes. You have to get out of the city and stretch out a bit.

The real goal of moving to New York is to get noticed by the industry. I've always done well with crowds, and other comics generally like me a lot. But, the industry barely knows I exist. I've never drawn the attention of any noteworthy managers or agents. In that sense, New York was a total failure for me. Part of that was my fault. NYC is a city for hustlers and I'm no Rick Ross. I'm terrible at networking.

There's also a randomness in NYC that makes you want to claw your eyes out. Have you ever been in line at the bank for a half hour, then when you get to the front, the teller says, "actually, you need to be in that line," and points to a longer line? That's what it's like. You can work your ass off for months to make something happen only to have it completely fall apart in a day. There are tons of comics in NYC who have the same story. "I spent eight months trying to get in with that club...the guy really liked me...then one day, he stopped returning my calls. That was two years ago." You can get lucky and make good connections, but it's rarely a meritocracy. There's always someone higher than you who has half the talent. And nobody knows how it happened. Also, when a booker says, "You're funny, but we've already got funny white guys," you can't help but to feel like cattle. Things like that killed my motivation in New York.

As far as living there, I liked a couple things about the city, but I much prefer Virginia. I miss the pizza. I don't miss the piss.

Do you still feel like you're growing/evolving in your own comedy?

The growth is a lot more subtle now. In the early days, I could look at a tape of myself from a year ago and see obvious changes. Now, last years tape looks pretty much like this years. I used to be more self aware about my growth, especially as a performer. I would go onstage and intentionally try to sound angrier. The next week, I would say it more with a smile. Then, maybe slow it down or speed it up. From each one of those lessons, I could piece together elements of performance that worked better for me; things I would have never thought to try unless I forced them.

At this point, I don't think I've grown too much as a performer in a long time. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and I play to them. I'm probably looser now, and more willing to improvise, but not in any obvious way. Any notable growth that takes place now is in my writing. I go through stretches where I try to get more ambitious and make larger points in my bits. Sometimes it works, often it fails. But that's where I push myself now.

As a writer, it's easy to test yourself. When you write a new bit, ask yourself if you could have written that bit a year ago. Be honest. When you're first starting out, the answer is probably no. As you gain experience, it's harder to draw the same conclusion. You have peaks and valleys, and you often plateau. Right now, I feel like I've plateaued a little bit. I haven't written anything in a while that makes me fell like I've taken a big step forward. But, I've been thinking a lot bigger lately, so it's only a matter of time before that seeps into my act. Early on, the stagnation can freak you out. After a while though, you realize it's just part of the growing pains and it'll pass. I don't think about it consciously anymore. Every now and then, I just realize I've grown a little.

As far as growth, do you still feel like you learn watching other "A" room comics? Or has the veil been revealed far too often and for too long? Anybody that comes through that you say to yourself, "I can't miss his/her set".

First off, it's just as important to know what you hate as it is to know what you like. Watching bad comedy can be as enlightening as watching your favorites. I still watch A room headliners with a critical eye. I mostly look at how they initially take the stage and how they introduce new topics. Segue's are often forgettable. Once you're into a bit, the crowd doesn't even remember how you got there. When a segue stands out, it's usually because it was clumsy. With the best comics, transitions are generally seamless, so you have to make a real effort to spot them. I look at little things like that.

I also check out the way comics use their voices and bodies. For example, a comic who moves around a lot will usually stop moving on the punchline. They'll lean forward slightly, too. Also, if you watch a show at an A club, you'll often notice that the feature talks louder than the host, and the headliner talks louder than the feature. The more polished you are, the more authority you have over the crowd. Not that headliners are shouting or anything, they just have a more commanding presence. I also love watching the top comedians handle hecklers. I'm particularly fascinated by that.

You should never take another comics jokes, but you can sometimes take a piece of their mannerisms or vocal rhythms. Just not in an obvious way. Right now, the must-see comics for me are Bill Burr, Marc Maron, and Louis CK (though it's hard to see him in a club these days). I wish I could see more of Dave Attell and Patrice O'Neal, but I never seem to catch them. Also, I never miss anything from Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle.

(Part 2 coming soon...)

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Bea Arthur- 1922-2009

She took being the punchline as well as she could deliver the deadpan

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Special Edition Show, May 1 - The First 100 DAZE

Join Planet Washington at The Westin City Center, 1400 M Street NW 20036 The Monticello Ballroom, 8 PM - 9:30 PM Friday!
$20. Group Rates Available. (Show scheduled for WNDC for this date cancelled)

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Ted Alexandro at DC Improv 4/24-4/26

Click here to buy tickets

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview with: Hip-Hop Basement's Mr. Mark

We caught up with Mr. Mark from Hip-Hop's basement for a short interview. You can catch Mr. Mark's contributor, Mark Pagan, with Washington Improv Theater's group, "Caveat".

You have been in the DC area for how long, past and present?
Like, I grew up around here and all. But I was away for about 9 years. That's sounds all mysterious and shit. I didn't get locked up or nothing. I almost got caught for putting a C&C Music Factory single in my jansport back in the day at Sam Goody. But, there is a real problem with incarceration in this country. We tend to think of our society as holistic, but it's all a facade and shit. I'm jonesin' to meet Howard Zinn one of these days to talk about Eldridge Cleaver's Primeval Mitosis theory. Could you like hook a brother up with like a way to do some sort of roundtable discussion?

Other than all that, I been back in DC for three years, son.

Word. You know, I'm sort out of the Howard Zinn-Noam Chomsky loop, but I think I could possibly get you a talk with Ward Churchill, he's dying for someone to listen to him these days. If you could hold another sort of round-table right now? What might be the topic and who would you have at the table? Right now, my mom. I need some intervention. She like found condoms in my room and she doesn't believe that i was holding them for my friend Charlie. Now, I can't use the car and she won't let me hang out with Charlie. She thinks he's a bad influence. The same thing argument happened at my 30th birthday party. She left Buca de Beppo in a huff, man. Besides her, I'd like to talk with Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian to see what he's up to. Oh, and Robert McNamara over the state of military occupation in foreign territories. And shit.

Man, you are heavy into the world scene and bring the knowledge--for someone that is living with their mother? Which is all good, hey we all have to make sacrifices right now, especially artists, but your mom is giving you the business for finding condoms in your room? Your 30 years old, why you letting her play you like that? I don't know. Maybe, I just feel bad because her cooking gives a lot of people indigestion. We go out a lot to eat and all. It's tough on her psyche. Moms have a hard time with that stuff....cooking being good and all. I tell her how good her food is, but she doesn't believe it. She can hook up some mac and cheese.

Word, word, word, that clears up some things. So whats this current project all about? What was the impetus? Is this just a solo operation? What would you like to see possibly come from it?

Well, to be honest, it was a garage sale that set all this off. Like, I was having to get rid of mad stuff after years of being all around. I laid up at mom's crip and found all this old stuff that I forgot about. So, yeah, it's a one person operation. I decided to make a diary of sorts about my life, Mark's life (Mark Pagan), you know, like our life (everyone)...mxing it up with hip hop and other elements of nostalgia. Just tryin' to figure out who we is...I mean, "are." No let's stick with "is." I hope that doesn't sound too elitist or nothing. You tell me, ok? 'Cause I'm just like you. You know, I feel really bad about mentioning that theft earlier. I'm not tryin' to validate petty crime in our youth. I'd just like people to be entertained and spread the word. Hopefully people like it enough to share it and share with each other. I like peoples.

Mr. Mark, I have had the privilege of having some solid conversations with you in the past, could you tell the people about some of the wild buys and steals that you have brought back from your travels? Any other stories you would like to share? I don't want to incriminate myself, dog. Look, I'm not trying to condone criminality in any form. But, I can't lie...I've walked the line. See, I been going down to South America quite often to bring back merchandise. Know what I'm sayin'? Tired of hidin' it. Whenever I'm in Lima I hit up some "markets" in Miraflores. Fresh stuff, man. Really hot. I hooked up 2 seasons of Charles in Charge, the best of El Chavo del 8, the complete Father Dowling Mysteries, and all ten parts of Krzysztof Kieslowski's religious parable, The Decalogue, for $15! All on DVD. Well, one disc accidentally has a few episodes of Nightline on it for some reason. But that's when you hit up your distributor. I have a number and all but my mom won't let me make long distance phone calls here. But I don't mind the Nightline too much. It's pretty informative and balanced.

If Mr. Mark could collaborate on any sort of artistic project, who would you collaborate with past or present? What would it be? And what would be the title of the collaboration? That's really tough to say. I wouldn't want to bring anybody back from the dead because they might be all comfortable up there. I can't really afford the kind of amenities that the afterlife provides. What if you can have all you can eat grapes there? I mean, that's a huge catering expense, dog. Especially if they were already celebrities down here. Yo, they gonna come back to earth super spoiled.
If I had to do it, I'd get John Ritter, he seemed pretty nice and he did die a little too early. Um, some old Memphis horn players, like one's who were studio musicians for Stax Records 'cause they were probably underpaid and need some credit. MC Trouble because she died too early too and she had a nice smile. Uhh, Franz Kafka 'cause he probably has a lot to say. John Cassavetes because we need a visual alcoholic. And Julia Child to hook up catering. Wait, Bob Ross too...album cover or art for the performance. Oh yeah, Cesar Chavez and Angela Davis as promotion. I guess it would be a soulful musical about the industrial revolution. Something called "Aren't We There Yet?" Wait, can I come up with a few more ideas? This has got me thinking. Would Gene Wilder be ok as security?

Answered beautifully...well, this about closes things up for us, as always a pleasure Mr. Mark. Anything you would like to leave our readers with? Any plugs or upcoming events?
Just thanks and all. Take a look at the site, hiphopmomsbasement.com and keep it close 'cause there's gonna be lots of stuff going on real soon. Oh yeah, artomatic. I'll be there this year. Again, sorry about talking about stealing. I don't want that promoted.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Planet Washington (Set You Free)

Come into your planet soul:

wicked funny parodies, improv, sing along
The Westin
1400 M St NW
Saturday 4/18, 8 pm
$20 Tix: Neil 202 333 3599

...and Ken's mentor Mark Russell is coming this Saturday ... so laugh it up!!!

Next Public Show, May 1,
Women's National Democratic Club

From Ken:

Nothing much for a satirist to laugh at or sing about tomorrow night. Taxes. Tea. Tea Bags. Tea Bagging (heard it once or twice). Pirates on the high seas. NY Governor (D- Emperor's Club) Love Client No 9's Big Come Back. Double Entendres. Single Entendres. Alaska Governor Tells All (you mean there's MORE?). TX Governor talks Secession. OIl man sells wind mills. POTUS runs with foreign dog - Bo Obama - The Drama. Is Castro Convertible? Talent show contestant winning hearts with heart-winning solo from Les Mis entitled "Win Their Hearts." Outcry over Release of Torture Memos - but not over Memos or Torture. And wat else.....oh, Tea Bagging.

For the latest up to the twitter
musical political satire,

Yours in jest,
Planet Washington

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

We Just Sold-Out...

Now where's the gold. Where's the gold Mikey!? Yeah, Mikey where's the gold!?

We are going to be receiving some clips here and there from the guys at Salient Media (clip in upper-left-hand corner and below), please feel free to weigh-in with your vote or leave a comment here or send it to me via email and I'll post it. I'm curious on thoughts from both comics and non-comics on the somewhat-mission statement/caption for the series "Comics Without Boarders":

"Comics Without Borders brings you the best comics from around the world who aren't afraid to push the boundaries. A showcase of multi-cultural stand-up comedians hosted by Russell Peters."

They are looking for feedback...

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Check It

Sent from WIT's Mark Pagan: I'm promoting a blog by a friend, "Mr. Mark." He has put together a bit of a fun side project during this recessional time. Here are his reasons why you should look at it:

1. It's a blog with pictahs and videos. It's supposed to be like a diary and shit. 30 years of skeletal history, all closeted and coming out. But like straight. I'm sorry if I offended you with that remark.
2. There will only be 10 episodes of this videodiaryblog thing. It's like limited time only and all that.
3. I'm giving the whole thing like six months 'cause that's the way I roll.
4. I'm like exposing my soul, my thoughts to all of you.
5. If you like it, could you like show other people? It would be very validating to have that happen.

Here is the link for the first two episodes- http://hiphopmomsbasement.blogspot.com/search/label/Episodes

and the blog itself- hiphopmomsbasement.com

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Sunday, April 12, 2009


From Comedy Sportz Website in Ballston:

ComedySportz & the Blue Show are the in-house improv troupes of the Comedy Spot. Both are shortform, audience focused comedy improv shows. (Yes, similar to TV's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?")

= clean comedy (PG) with regular weekly performances Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 7:30pm, frequent Saturday matinees for kids, and private shows upon request.

"adult" comedy (R) with regular weekly performances Fridays & Saturdays at 10:00pm.

us at
Please be sure to send us your name, email & best phone number to reach you.

Any sort of headshot and resume you may have. Even a casual photograph is fine; we just want a face to put to your name.
(We don't need a professional quality photo: you can even just bring in a digital printout of a picture of you. You will be given paper on which to write down your previous stage and training experience if you don't have a resume.)

Please dress comfortably so that your clothing won't restrict your movement.


Doors to the Comedy Spot will open at 7:30pm.
The audition will begin at 8:00pm.
This will be an open audition where we will run you through a variety of games we perform in our shows.

For the audition: keep your material clean so that we know you can perform a ComedySportz show.
(Our improvisers perform in both shows, not just The Blue Show.)

  • Confident performers who can listen and react.
  • We will be looking to see how well your words and actions onstage show that you are building upon the offers made by your scene partners.
  • We are looking for strong character and scenework - not forced jokes at the expense of the story. And remember, we are also looking to see that you can be entertaining, and clean.
New to improv? Not a problem. If you can play well with others onstage - we can teach you the games. Just portray confidence onstage and listen and react to the people onstage with you.

Already performing with a troupe? No worries, you are only expected to perform as often as your schedule allows. We highly encourage our improvisers to perform with as many local groups as possible.

We will email everyone who auditions by 12pm Wednesday.

People who are asked back will then be put on an up to 8-week training/probation period during which new members are encouraged to come to as many practices and shows as possible.

are every Tuesday 7:30pm @ the Comedy Spot.
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What's Been Going On...?

Ben busy of late, its been hard keeping up with updates and just generally getting a feel for what has been going on...so if you would like to send in an update with anything that you have been doing, shoot it on over to me: mikaelljohnson@gmail.com

So...what I have been aware of:

  • Washington Improv Theater crown's "Not Mad, Disappointed" as the champion of their 40-team F.I.S.T tournament that lasted just over a month. The team featured, Karin Hammerberg, Colin Murchie, and Michelle Guardino Swaney--who was a part of the '08 winning team as well. No one likes Michelle anymore.
  • Seaton Smith (Pictured)releases the premiere of "Annoy Charlie Smith", 10-episode web-series, that was launced at Solly's Tavern.
  • Aparna Nancherla produces "Desert Island Comedy" a two-show set featuring: JoyseyGirls4Ya, Superbest, Mythical Newsroom, Jsem Rad Je Jsem Tady (Mikael Johnson), and Mike Duffy
  • D.M.V Comedy Competition ($$$$$), a lot of shows and a lot of dough at stake to the winner, check in with Chris Hayes for more information: doogizzle@hotmail.com
  • New Open-Mics, check posts below this one!
  • ARTOMATIC's Registration has begun!

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Tom-Tom's Wednesdays Open-Mic

From Dr. Love:

The new open mic at Tom Tom's is great, I love it. The cheap booze has nothing to do with it, though it don't hurt.
Comics: You're !&#$#@ing up if you don't try this show. Running two doors down is another open mic at Heaven and Hell---you can park once and knock down two open mics. This may be a first in the history of standup. I checked out the other room and it's fun, well worth doing.
Details: Tom Tom's, 2333 18th St NW
(in Adam's Morgan, between N Belmont Rd & N Kalorama Sq)
Washington, DC 20009
Shows will be EVERY WEDNESDAY @ 9 O'CLOCK (yeah, nine...that's when the crowd showed up last week).
Show up a few minutes earlyish to sign up; also, parking's a bitch, and you might want to allow for that.
ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO MC WRITE ME BACK. This goes for the Palace of Wonders show as well; next Palace show is a week from today, April 12. Time change there, too; new time for Palace of Wonders shows is 9 p.m. every other Sunday night.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

72 Film Fest and 48 Hour Film Project

While 48 Hour Film Fest has closed its team registration, the 72 Film Fest held up in Frederick, Maryland each year is just getting started, check here for details. If you missed the team registration for the 48 Hour Film Fest that is going to be held May 1st here in Washington then shoot us an email and we possibly can get you hooked up on someone's roster. These film festivals are a great way to meet folks if you are looking to produce any kind of promotional or creative shorts for yourself down the road. You meet a good camera guy, someone who can edit and few good actors it can do a lot to raise your own bar.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Loving a New Open Mic (TONIGHT)

From Mr. Loving:
Hi kids,

I'm just back from traveling--a lot of people here couldn't reach me since my laptop broke and my phone is not smart. Sorry for the delay and I hope this answers the new people's questions.

First---no more Thursday night Peyote Cafe. The guy loved it too much and wanted it at a different bar. So as of this morning THE NEW OPEN MIC IS WEDNESDAYS, 8 O'CLOCK, AT TOM TOM'S IN ADAMS MORGAN (2333 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009). It's a better venue for what we do and will be a lot of fun, so I hope you can make it.

Second---no more Peyote Cafe (for now, see above).

Third---New people: Some of you asked about details. They're few. Mainly "don't go over ten" and "be funny." Added points if you drink--I love alcoholics. If you have any other questions email me.

A'ight, see you there,

robb 703-399-5398

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