Category: comedy

An Interview With Business Development Manager and Comedian John Scimeca

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John Scimeca is a business development manager at Air France who is also a stand-up comedian; here is a link to his Twitter page:

 

 

 

 

 

Q: How did you first come to work for Air France?

A:.I spent many years in my youth trying to find the right career path. I tried everything: While attending night school, I drove a truck. I also worked as a bartender, as a head hunter, in apparel manufacturing, retail, and even tried my hand as a circus acrobat. I kept searching for the right situation. One day noticed a position with Air France posted in the Sunday New York Times. (That was back when you could actually speak with someone in person about a job.)  I sent in my resume. Pretty soon I was called back and asked to come in for to be interviewed. As it turned out, I got stuck working a 14 hour shift the night before the interview and was exhausted, But I went home, showered, changed and drove into New York. From there I was sent to JFK airport for more interviews. In total, I had 6 interviews that day. It was an exhausting experience but I got the job and have been here ever since. Never give up trying.

Q: What were the reasons for the Air France and KLM cargo merger?

A: There are no secrets here. All of this information is available on the Internet. I just read on Goggle the following: The Air France – KLM merge made it the World’s largest Airline in terms of revenue.

 

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced with the merger?

A: Both Air France and KLM had good reputations prior to the merge, so it was not difficult getting the word out.
Q: What changes did you see in your career with Air France?

A: I started off as an Operations Manager. After the merge, I was promoted to Sales Manager. I am now responsible for USA Business Development of our Express Products Division called Equation.

Q: What is you funniest work story?

A: There is a funny story from when I was working for a trucking company. It is about a shipment of Ostriches which were being sent to California for a breeding farm. It seems that the wooden stalls that held the Ostriches were built out of low quality lumber and several of them broke apart when they were being loaded into the trucks. Soon we had dozens of really big birds running in the warehouse and several escaped onto the roadway. We spent the entire evening rounding up these birds. I remember hanging out of the side door of a cargo van that was speeding down a road in Brooklyn trying to lasso Ostriches running alongside.

Q: What made you interested in stand up comedy?

A: I have always felt comfortable speaking with small groups of people, but I didn’t think I could work a crowd. I thought of taking public speaking classes but never got around to it. One evening, I just happened into a comedy shop in Manhattan during open mic night. I had a few drinks in me and walked up on the stage. It was terrible and I bombed. (If anyone reading this was at that show, please allow me to buy you a drink). But like anything worth doing, I persevered, practiced and tried again. Things got better and I found my timing and style. It’s great to feel the vibe of the room, to catch people off guard and make them laugh. There is an electricity flowing when a performer and the audience connects. To me, Laughter is the World’s Greatest Cure.

Q: Who are some of your comedic influences?

A: I have to mention Robin Williams first and probably would have even if he was still alive. The man was a comedic genius and his loss really strikes home. I am influenced by Richard Pryor, John Belushi, Sarah Silverman, Bill Cosby, Bill Maher and George Carlin. I enjoy standup as well as Improv. I enjoy starting my set by introducing an absurd concept and then going off in a separate unrelated direction before reintroducing the first thought and piecing them together. Thankfully, I find my work in comedy has opened up new avenues for expression. I recently completed 2 original screenplays including one I am pitching for Gina (Gershon) as a tough New York Investigative Reporter.

Q: What trends in stand up comedy annoy you?

A: I do not like abusive comedy. Don’t get me wrong, anyone going to the bathroom during my set gets picked on. And hecklers deserve everything they get. But for me, it isn’t about picking on someone else. My job is to make everyone feel good. For the most part, messing with people isn’t funny, it’s cruel.

Q: Tell me an NSA joke.

 

 

A: I have strong suspicions that my wife is having an affair.

But I can’t afford a private investigator.

So I called the NSA and tried to get them to send me proof.

They weren’t very helpful.

Now I am starting to suspect them of being in on it…

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

 

 

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An Interview With Comedian And Actor Brett Klein

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Brett Klein is a comedian and actor who was a member of the Second City Teen Troupe; here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.brettkline.com/Brett_Kline/Home.html

 

 

 

 

 

Q: What made you want to be a comedian?

 

A: I was in a school play when I was 8 and got the biggest laugh of the show. The crowd’s roar felt better than anything I had experienced. I was okay at sports, but never a star… So, this was the first place I got real praise. I began making kids laugh in class, and then eventually my teacher recommended I take improv camps at The Second City in Detroit. As soon as I turned 12, I made my parents sign me up for the teen camp and knew from that moment on I wanted to make people laugh for a living. I was eventually selected for The Second City’s Teen Troupe, but then it disbanded when the theater closed down. I was 16 and hungry to get on stage, so I started doing stand up.

 

Q: How were you selected to be in Second City’s teen troupe?

 

A: I probably took more summer programs than anyone else in The Second City’s youth training center. I remember they let me take an extra camp for free once, because they needed more people. I placed into their advanced summer class and then was invited to audition for the teen troupe. The troupe had a short run, with practices every week and a show once a month.

 

Q: To what method of acting do you ascribe?

 

A: I received my BFA in Acting from Michigan State University, which teaches a number of methods. I’ve been trained in classical, contemporary, musical theatre, film and commercial. We learned various tools and exercises in vulnerability, listening, scoring, voice, movement, etc… Just the workload from that degree and performing in shows makes you a more disciplined actor. We learn about Stanislavski and “method acting”, but I (as well as my professors) have mixed feelings about the concept. It is useful to live offstage as your character for exercises and to learn more about how your character would respond in different situations. However, it is also important to be able to turn it off and not lose yourself. Don’t be a jerk to your cast and crew. Also, the most interesting part of acting to watch is an honest reaction between two scene partners. If you are so obsessed with just your own character, you will lose the objective and connection with your scene partner – this will create a very two-dimensional performance.

 

 

Q: What makes your stand up routine unique?

 

A: I incorporate music and spoken bits, which are inspired from my life and other random thoughts. My act has been described as “comedy with ADD”. I often will bring up a guitar and play original songs and raps, with jokes scattered in between. Just out of college, a fair amount of material has been inspired from college life. I try to bring a lot of energy to the stage and make it a performance with some physical comedy rather than just a guy reciting jokes. This is particularly the case in my rap song, “Kosher Sausage”.

 

Q: Who are some of your comedic influences?

 

A: Stand Up:

Stephen Lynch, Flight of the Conchords, Steve Martin, Mitch Hedberg, Patton Oswalt, Eddie Murphy, Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, Robin Williams, Jim Jefferies and Bill Cosby.

 

Sketch:

Chris Farley, John Belushi, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell and Dan Aykroyd.

 

Also, a number of national headliners who aren’t as famous, but I’ve worked with and/or seen a lot:

J Chris Newberg, Dave Landau, Bill Bushart, Chris D’Elia, Buddy Bolton.

 

Q: How do you deal with a heckler?

 

A: I’ve only had a malicious heckler a few times. People usually just think they’re helping the show or are just drunk and talking a lot. There are stock lines, like, “I don’t slap the dick out of your mouth while you’re trying to make a living,” or, “How about we switch places, where you come on stage and I’ll go in the parking lot and blow four dudes!” …While lines like these can be helpful if you’re stuck, sometimes it’s better to ask the heckler questions and figure out why they’re being such a dingus. It’s not a normal thing to heckle and usually they will make themselves vulnerable and sound like an idiot on their own. Also, the crowd typically hates hecklers unless the comic is ignorant and racist. So they are usually on your side no matter what you say. Even if a comic is bombing, crowds typically feel bad for him/her as a human being and don’t want to see a heckler win. Sometimes though, people just suck and you might have a bad night. Just get up and do it again.

 

Q: What is The King about?

 

A: The King is a comedy/thriller shot in Detroit and written by Dave Landau (Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central), Sebastian Oberst (Bones, Weeds) and director Ken Kuykendall. It’s a coming of age tale about a kid who gets his first car. Him and his three other friends go on an adventure in the projects of Detroit and all hell breaks loose. You can read about it and watch the trailer at the link below:

 

http://www.absrdcomedy.com/2014/08/05/first-glimpse-king/

 

Q: What role do you play?

 

A: I play the nerdy Matt Kegler, who is the best friend of Jesse (the protagonist). Matt is one of the four leads and is essentially the embodiment of high school insecurity. Friends and popularity are a battle for him, which is why he is so loyal to Jesse. Him and Klaw (Jesse’s other friend) hate each other and there is constant tension. While in many ways Matt is a weak character with bad luck, he also has a sense of bravery and strength in that he will stand up for what he believes is right. Much of the comedic relief comes at his expense. When I read the script, I knew this was exactly the type of movie I wanted to work on. Matt really reminded me of myself in high school. I was very excited when Dave gave me the role.

 

 

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your comedy?

 

A: My day job is working as a freelance comedy writer for United Stations Radio Networks. I write parody songs and audio sketches for radio stations around the country. The company has a phenomenal writing team with award winning comics from around the city. I interned there last summer and began submitting scripts. They started accepting some and helped me workshop sketches. Once I left, they kept taking my material and I began making decent money. I moved back to NYC after graduation, so I could pursue stand up, acting and come into the studio to write. I’m the rookie on the team and it’s given me sort of a home base in the city. It’s really beneficial, because I get paid to work on my craft for a different format. Also, it’s a great place for me to network with other comics and performers in NYC.

 

 

Q: What’s funny about NYC?

 

A: NYC is ridiculous. The amount of insanity you witness every day is entertaining and often disturbing. Just a few days ago, I saw a guy masturbating in public right outside of the office. In addition to the crazies of NYC, the comedy scene there is probably the best in the world. You can get on stage multiple times in a night and there are tons of clubs and venues. Someone who’d be a headliner in the Midwest will pop in for an open mic. I’ve had to follow established comics from Comedy Central, The Tonight Show, MTV, HBO etc. It really makes you step up your game to keep up. Crowds are also tougher in NY than in Michigan. You need much harder hitting and tight material to get booked in NYC. The best of the best are there, and clubs can book them easily. I was getting booked to feature and MC regularly in the Midwest. Now, I feel like I’m starting back at square one. There is a lot of bad comedy in NYC, but also a hell of a lot more great comedy. It’s everything x1000, which makes it more difficult to stand out. It’s making me realize how far I’ve come, but also how far I still have to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview WIth Comedian Dobie Maxwell

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Dobie Maxwell is a comedian who has appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson; here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.dobiemaxwell.com

 

 

 

Q:  When did you know you were funny?

A: I was in fourth grade, and whenever I answered the teacher’s question I couldn’t resist going for the laugh. Everything she asked me was a setup to a punchline. It was like my own version of Hollywood Squares. After a while, she’d stop calling on me because she knew I would be going for the laugh. The other kids loved it, and it was too hard to resist.She used to yell at me and keep me after school, and say things like “You’re not stupid, young man. You KNOW the right answers, but all you ever do is crack jokes. You actually think you’ll be able to find a  JOB where someone PAYS you to tell JOKES/” I had no idea that was an option.

Q:  What’s funny about bad luck?

A: Without question, when it happens to someone ELSE. Anybody else. We’ve all gotten into the wrong checkout line in a store, and as soon as we get there we see it slow down because some imbecile is trying to cash a traveler’s cheque from Guatemala. I have more bad luck on a daily basis than anyone I have ever met. It makes people LAUGH. Period. I wish it weren’t so unfunny to live through personally, but at least I can turn it around and make others feel better about their own struggles.

 

Q:  How do you train someone to be funny?

A: The first thing I tell each and every one of my comedy students – and there have been more than 2,000 – is that NOBODY can ‘make’ another person funny. It’s just something one is born with…or they aren’t. Not many don’t have at least a little something to offer, and those people usually wind up in middle management in corporate America.

Q:  Who are some of your comedy heroes?

A: There were three names on my personal “Holy Trinity” of funny people that stood out from all others, and I was fortunate enough to meet them all in person and have it be a pleasant experience. In no particular order, they were Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rodney for a morning radio show I had in Salt Lake City. His wife Joan was from there, and he was booked for a show. He had no idea I was a comedian and had been studying his career, so he asked me to come to the show because he wanted to meet me. We hit it off, and at the end of the night I asked to get a picture with him. I brought along one of the technical engineers from the radio station, and he ended up not getting the picture. He didn’t tell me until after we got back, so I didn’t get my picture. Still, it was a thrill to meet him. George Carlin came to a club where I happened to be working, and we met before the show. He told me to go out there and ‘show me whatcha got’, and that was very intimidating. When I got off stage, he had left. I was crushed, but the club manager said he had a plane to catch, and that he came all the way back from the cab to make sure the manager told me I was very funny. Whether he thought that or not, it was a classy thing to do and I’ll remember it forever. Bob Uecker is not known for his standup comedy, but he is one of the funniest humans I have ever heard. He’s from my home town of Milwaukee, and I’ve been listening to him him broadcast Milwaukee Brewers baseball games on the radio since I was a kid. He’s hilarious, and I loved him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as well.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and why does it make you laugh?

A: Standup comedy has been my ‘day job’ since 1985. The only other thing I’ve done since than is morning radio – but I never stopped doing comedy. It’s a craft, and the only way to improve is to keep doing it. I love it more now than I ever have, but it’s harder and harder to make a living. Gas prices are killing everyone, both comedians and fans. When someone has to choose between food, clothing, shelter or comedy – guess who loses 100 times out of 100? Plus, the road life gets harder as one gets older. It’s brutal, and the thrill wears off very quickly. The shows are still fun, but getting there is a major hassle. I’m based out of the Chicago area, and I’m trying to keep my work as close to home these days as I can.

Q:  What has been your greatest onstage triumph?

A: When I was first starting out, there were no comedy clubs in my hometown of Milwaukee. There was a jazz club that had comedy on Monday nights, but none of us were professionals. It was a showcase where newbies would start out. There was a neighborhood alcoholic pharmacist that showed up seven nights a week to drink, and he was known to everyone as “Drugstore Bob”. He was a nasty and downright abusive heckler, and the drunker he got the more nasty he would be to the comedians. He would sit at the bar and yell up his lines, but  he’d know exactly when to step on a punchline and be a gigantic pain in the shorts to everybody. He loved all the attention, and the bar would never throw him out because he was a good customer. On more than one occasion, he would heckle some poor newbie to tears. The guy had no mercy, but he wasn’t an idiot. He was like Simon Cowell with about six cocktails in him, and he pulled NO punches on his opinions of who was funny and who wasn’t. Well, I worked my way up the ranks in that venue, and before long I could handle myself with any heckler – even Drugstore Bob. He started in on me one night, and I nailed him to the wall over and over again. It got huge applause from the regulars, and I knew I had what it took to do this. It isn’t for the squeamish, and I came through my boot camp with flying colors.

Q:  How do you deal with a heckler?

A: One important point I think that needs to be brought up is that not everybody that talks during a comedy show is a heckler. Sometimes it can be a great compliment to the comedian because if a person in the audience starts to talk it means the comedian made a connection with somebody. I’ve been doing it so long that at this point hecklers just annoy me. It’s like Mike Tyson going into a bar for a drink and having someone idiot think they’re tougher than him. I have a microphone, lights, a stage and a lifetime of experience. That’s like having a 7th degree black belt in karate. I’m able to defend myself with the best of them, so I’m not worried in the least. For some odd reason I have never been able to figure out, there are people that think they’re ‘helping’ by heckling. I’ve never figured that one out, but if you’re reading this and you think that – you’re WRONG. Stop it.

Q:  How did you get booked on Craig Ferguson?

A:I happened to live not far from a comedy club in Chicago where he was booked, and his plane was running late. The club asked me if I would mind being on hand in case they needed me to kill time until he got there. Not a problem, and I ended up doing over an hour. There was a CBS lady that was there and saw the whole thing. During Craig’s show I went into the club office and her purse happened to be sitting there. I took a big chance and wrote her a note and included one of my CDs and asked if she would please pass it along to the talentbooker. She ended up doing it, and that’s how I ended up on the show.

Q:  What trends in stand up annoy you?

A:‘Alternative’ comedy. What a joke. That’s just an excuse to not have an act. Standup comedy is HARD, and not everyone is able to do it. If the entertainment genres were to be compared to our solar system, standup comedy would be Pluto. Whether it’s a planet or not, it’s still the furthest from the sun. Standup comedy is THE hardest performing art to master, and if one can do it it will make anything else seem like child’s play. No offense or disrespect to other crafts like acting or improv or music – whatever. They’re hard too, but a good solid standup comic is very hard to find. Another trend that bothers me is how downright filthy newer acts are getting – for no discernible reason. I’m far from being a prude, and there’s no swear word in any language that could offend me personally. BUT – one should learn the craft first before venturing down that road. Whether anybody likes it or not, being able to work clean is a lot harder but it’s also the best way to start getting paid the fastest. “Clean makes green” is something I tell my students, even though some don’t listen. Smart people in it for the long haul will look at comedy as a craft. Others are in it as a hobby, but they’ll soon tire of it and start playing video games soon enough.

Q: Tell me a blogger joke.

A: How many bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It doesn’t matter, as long as somebody likes their latest post. Sorry, that’s pretty weak.  I’ll have to work on that. Good thing I have enough other stuff to use on stage. 🙂

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Comedian/Radio Personality Benjie Wright

 

 

 

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Benjie Wright is a comedian and radio personality on “Brickwall Comedy Show” on KLZS.   He resides in Eugene, OR; here is a link to his website:

 

http://benjiewright.wix.com/benjiewright

 

 

Q: What made you interested in a career in radio?

 

A: I always had a love for radio but it was kind of by accident that I got into the business. I remember when I was in college I was taking a prerequisites class, English Journalism, and we had the GM of the sports station in to talk about radio. I was more concerned why our local sports team was run by idiots and a week later I was interning for the morning show. Walt Shaw was the news director and a fascinating guy. He did news and sports for the station and worked as a review writer for a couple different magazines, writing features on automotive and vacation resorts. He showed me how to get to the meat of the story and for morning radio you have about a minute and a half to do so. I was never the smartest person in class but I was quick witted and by writing and preparing the shows I quickly climbed the ranks from morning show producer to cohost and eventually my own show. The greatest joy was being in touch with pop culture and addressing stories and subjects before anyone else. Eventually advertising took a crash in 2009 and I was let go from the station in a sweep to cut salaries. Being funny was natural, and on more than on occasion when we would had comedians in to promote the comedy club, I was told I should give it a try. So I climbed the steps to the comedy stage and mad a marriage of the two writing styles.

Q: What made you decided to move from Alabama to Oregon?

 

A: Marrying a woman not from Alabama, I met my wife in California where I attended college and convinced her to move to Alabama where I was from. She gave it a great try but really the pace of life was to slow and rural for her. When my comedy career took off and I started touring nationally there really was no reason for us to be based in Alabama anymore. She had family in Oregon and so for as much as she had sacrificed for me in my entertainment career, it was only fitting that I do the same and west we went.

 

Q: What is the biggest difference between audiences in Alabama and audiences in Oregon?

 

A: When I first started doing comedy I was really worried about how I would be received outside of the south but to be honest, there really is no difference in that every audience wants you to make them laugh. You have to find your voice and writing what you know. I try to orchestrate a sense of shared values and prospective with the audience. I like to expose the universal truth that the audience is just now realizing in laughter and connect with them intimately as a performer. I think comedy is no different than any other trade in that you have to learn it. Treat your early years like an apprenticeship, studying the masters, listening not just to their jokes but to how they deliver them. From the way they word it to any physical nuances that add to the delivery. If your smart, crafty, and have a well-structured joke, it doesn’t matter where you are.

 

Q:  How do you deal with an annoying heckler?

Joe Rogan nailed it in the 2007 documentary Heckler, “the number one thing about hecklers is 100% of them are douchebags.” My first reaction is to try to figure out why this douchebag is trying to derail the show. You have to address it immediately and shut them down. Nobody is on the hecklers side but it is very intense for the audience. As a performer it is easier to turn the room against you by attacking. You don’t know who this person is or their relationship to the room, especially in bars. They maybe friends of the owner or booker so by launching right into them, you just guaranteed you’re not coming back. And lot of times in bars, they don’t know the etiquette of comedy. 99% of the time they are drunk and the stupidity of their statement is enough fuel to take ownership and turn a joke out of it. Be prepared, a good comedian is always thinking three steps ahead of the moment. The better you are at improve the easier it is to handle this person. You have to keep the room on your side the whole time, keeping the incident entertaining but embarrassing enough to shut the heckler up. I have a little thing where I lead the room in kicking the heckler out. It’s hard to argue who’s the jerk when the room told you to leave. I find in most cases the comedy venues that have hecklers have a history of not managing their audiences. Still, I find the better you are at stand up, the lease likely you are to be heckled.

 

Q: What’s funny about Eugene?

 

It has to be the old hippie culture. I have never seen a greater group of people who have successfully let themselves go. And good for them, they’ve found themselves which I think more people should take the risk and do. The idea of peace, love and freedom, sounds good till you turn on the news. Eugene has strived to be different fighting the “Establishment” at the same time creating their own established order.

Q: What sort of day jobs have you had and how have they influenced your work?

 

Even from high school, I didn’t really have conventional jobs. While other kids were bagging groceries or working fast food, I pulped wood, roofed houses, and worked on a worm farm. Even after my days in radio while I was trying to get my comedy off the ground, I drove cab. Not the most glamorous of jobs and most of these folks were on the fringe of society. Odd balls that helped shape how I would look at the world. It also taught me to be self-motivated. There were no sick days or vacation time. You showed up, you got paid. The dark side of comedy you don’t see is the endless amount of hours spent self-promoting and seeking out gigs. 90% of comedians don’t have agents, they have bookers that manage regions and it’s a juggling act trying to plot out a tour.

Q: What do you look for in a radio guest?

Somebody that has something to say. The art of interviewing, I think, is the most fascinating of all journalistic feats. It is a three way conversation between two people and the listening audience. The thing that makes a great guest is a prepared host. Do some research and have a general course of the interview and then listening and creating punctuated moments. Subtly coaching your quest to keep the segment on track and interesting to the audience. As with comedy, you have to create a relatability from the start. First between you and your guest and then between your guest and your audience. By creating this intimacy you can ask more pressing or personal questions that otherwise would have guarded responses. The more comfortable you make it by being professional, respectful, and educated the more interesting the interview.

Q: What are some of the challenges of doing a radio comedy show?

 

A: The pace, it’s more forgiving then the stage in that the audience doesn’t have to be laughing like at a comedy club but it does have to be entertaining. Doing the Brickwall Comedy Show with Chris Warren and Alex Elkin, we each go through the daily headlines and trending topics like any news talk show host would do but we go for what makes the story funny or ridiculous. It’s a dance of judgment because you have to push the envelope with comic observations at the same time not chasing off listeners and advertisers. Both are very similar but with radio you really have to keep in mind the community standards.

Q: How realistic is Portlandia? (Why or why not).

A: It’s a satire of Portland, anyone from anywhere can point out the good and the bad of their town, this time someone made a show about it. Being a southerner I’m used to the world views the south so I take the show for what it is, a comedy. I moved to Portland six months before IFC debuted “Portlandia” and my first exposure to the show was the sketch bit, “Dream of the 90’s.” As an outsider new to Portland, I thought it was hilarious because I saw these people everywhere I went. Not saying that everyone is that way but you notice that person everywhere you go. Oregonlive.com had a great interview with Portlandia co-stars and co-creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Brownstein, who was part of a Portland based band Sleater-Kinney said in the article,

 

“Portland does take itself seriously. It’s a very sensitive city. Very self-reflective and it nurtures sensitivity.”

 

Every one of us has a person in our lives that is exactly that way and how many times have you chuckled to yourself how overboard at times that person reacts. The show poke fun at such contemporary rituals of obsessing over TV shows, being overly read, dog parks, and self-righteous. I can’t help but think that if you are offended by the show than you are the target of the show. To quote Bill Murray from Strips, “Lighten up Francis.”

 

Q: If you could interview the ghost of Richard Pryor or the ghost of Lenny Bruce on your show, who would you pick?

A: That’s a hard one because if it wasn’t for Lenny Bruce there wouldn’t have been a Rickard Pryor. Both comedians were renowned for their uncompromising and critical form of comedy addressing politics, religion, sex, race, and vulgarity. Lenny Bruce paved the way for free speech in his landmark trial for obscenity, but to listen to both comedians sets today, Richard Pryor’s comedy still strikes a chord with all audiences.  Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor “The Picasso of our profession,” Bob Newhart has called Pryor “the seminal comedian of the last 50 years,” and to this day Pryor is listed at Number 1 on Comedy Central‘s list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians. You forget Richard Pryor’s body of work as a stand-up comedianactorfilm director, and writer. He won an Emmy in 73, and five Grammy Awards from 74 to 82. In 1974, he also won two American Academy of Humor awards and the Writers Guild of America Award. The first ever Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to him in 1998. Of course, I would start the interview listing these accolades and the ghost of Richard Pryor would interject, stating that he owes his success to the underground stand-up hero Lenny Bruce. Pryor identified Bruce’s influence as the catalyst for his work. In an interview with WENN in 2004, Pryor gave credit saying, “Lenny changed my life. I never heard anything like him before and I remember thinking, ‘If this is comedy, then what the f*** am I doing?’ It was Lenny Bruce who said comedy wasn’t about telling jokes – it was about telling the truth.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Comedian Gene Getman

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Gene Getman is a New York based stand-up comedian who has lived everywhere from a mental hospital to Texas; here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.genegetman.com

 

Q:  What made you want to be a stand-up comedian?

A: People ask this question often and it’s a lot like being asked “How are you?” The degree of honesty with which you answer depends a lot on the circumstances. To a stranger on the street, going off about your insecurities and upbringing would be insane, but in the setting of a therapist’s office, getting into your issues with megalomania and seeing your dad’s balls as a kid seems a bit more appropriate.

To be perfectly honest, I’m really not sure why I began doing stand-up comedy and I’ve given it plenty of thought in the time since having started. It’s easy to say that I just watched some stand-up as a kid and thought “hey, I could do that!” But that would be about as sincere as answering the “How are you?” question by saying “I’m ok”.

I think alot of the appeal came from watching guys like Doug Stanhope, Joe Rogan, and Louis CK perform these high-concept, paradigm-changing bits. Many of their jokes were not only funny but highly insightful. They changed my perspective on the word in a way that’s humbling and enlightening. The ideas they shared through their act were not just profound but highly entertaining and there’s something to be said for taking a potent thought and delivering it in a way that’s captivating and exciting.

Anytime I hear a really good new joke, it makes my world feel just a little bit bigger and thats an incredible feeling! Maybe I just wanted to have that kind of impact on someone else. Or rather, I wanted to be credited with being the one to make that kind of impact on someone else. But that still doesnt answer the question of why I decided that I needed to be the guy to do that. Respect? Adulation? My dad’s balls? Or perhaps I saw it as a means to not having to work a job I hated 8+ hours a day and even the slightest chance of achieving that possibility was worth a fool’s errand. But what in me seeks those things to begin with? Im not really sure. I think it’s easier to just say that I just watched some comics and thought “hey, I could do that!”.

 

Q:  What is the difference between someone who is considered funny by everyone who knows them and somebody who can actually do stand up?

A: Empathy. And it’s the difference between people who eventually improve as comics and those who dont. What people who are funny to their friends don’t realize is what it’s like to be an audience member at a stand-up comedy show. Imagine having a complete stranger walk up to you on the street and not only require your attention but expect you to get on board with their opinions and ideas to such an extent that you explode in laughter! Why in the world would you give this stranger the time of day much less be sold to their way of thinking?

The only justification for validating a given set of ideas lies with the credibility we place in the individual delivering them and despite our best intuition, this credibility isn’t so much associated with the content of the statement than the context of who delivers it. Who says the thing being said is often far more important than what is being said at face-value. It’s why comedy clubs build their comics up with mountains of credits before they go on stage. “This next comic has been on every late night show ever!! He performed at George Carlin’s funeral!!! He’s so funny you’ll take up smoking crack just to calm yourself down!!!!! GIVE IT UP FOR….” Give what up, by the way? – Your sense of disbelief.

People who are funny to their friends already have the context and sense of disbelief built-in through years of familiarity. It’s not so much what they say that brings about the humor as is what they say in terms who they are.

Also, being funny on stage means being funny the whole time you’re on stage. People underestimate what that entails. It’s relatively easy to come up with a witty line in a conversation and be funny for 3 seconds but after that moment is over, the funny guy at the watercooler has the luxury of continuing on with the rest of his conversation being mostly inane! Getting a laugh on stage buys you 15 seconds, if that, of non-funny dialogue and you still have to be engaging or you’ll lose the crowd for the next joke.

A comic on stage constantly has to be on top of how they are being received by the audience. Professional comics are experts at this. They understand the underlying context and emotion behind every given second of their act. Conversely, we all see those people who keep coming back but “just don’t get it”. They think they’re killing but the audience is cringing (god, I hope that’s not me!). Knowing the difference takes empathy. And it’s the real learning curve behind becoming a great comic.

 

Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?

A: Growing up, I watched alot of Comedy Central stand-up and got to see alot of the comics who are now considered quintessential, as they were coming up. They all found their way into my sphere of influence. Dave Attell with his endless left-turns and absurd midget jokes, Greg Giraldo with this poignant social commentary, Bill Burr with his everyman take on relationships and jovial sexism, Doug Stanhope in his biting cynicism and unsurpassed honesty, Joe Rogan with his grandiose existential chunks on what it means to be a human being, Patrice O’Neal with his fearless, matter-of-fact stage presence that seemed virtually untouchable, and of course Louis CK who’s somehow managed to put all of those things together! I hear one or another of their voices behind every joke I write, sometimes even louder than my own. But I’m beginning to learn where to look for my voice under the weight of these guys, to whom I can only ever hope to hold a candle.

Q:  What subjects do you think have been done to death?

A: Having done stand-up for just over 2 years and having been exposed to more open mic comedy than any human being should have to see in a lifetime, I’ve definitely noticed several of same topics coming up over and over. It’s weird. And Im not talking about plagiarism. People, especially new comics starting out, somehow gravitate towards the same constructs and ideas.

Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Michael J. Fox doing anything that requires a steady hand (sewing, shaving, brain surgery)
  • Any play on rape being inherently non-consensual. Here’s an example using a really bad joke I used to do: “I asked my girlfriend if she was into rape fantasies. She said “no” and I said “perfect”.
  • Harry Potter
  • Miley Cyrus/Justin Bieber
  • Gay People. Ex: “I have nothing against gay people, I just think it’s gross..” or “I wish I were gay because I wouldn’t have to deal with women..”
  • Angry socio-political rants in the form: “We’re so spoiled in America! Don’t you know that people in [3rd world country] don’t even have [thing Americans have]
  • “So I was taking a shit the other day..”

..and of course..

  • Masturbation. If stand-up comedy is taken to be a sample of what people value and care about, the human race must be masturbating themselves to dehydration on an hourly basis.


That’s not to say that I’m judging. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I made every hacky mistake and probably invented a few of my own. I always said that on a scale of 0 to 100, 0 being the level of skill you typically see the first time a person steps on stage and 100 being that of a comedy master (Richard Pryor, George Carlin) I started in the negative. I sucked, ALOT! And I still have a long way to go just to catch up with the people who have actual talent. Luckily, Calvin Coolidge had a few things to say in my favor:

 

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Though you gotta wonder what kind of idiot takes his comedy advice from Calvin Coolidge.

Q:  Are New York audiences really harsher than other audiences?

A: I’ve only been doing standup in New York a short time so I haven’t really had a chance to get a feel for every aspect of the city so everything I’m about to say will probably be wrong, but from what I can tell I would not say that New York crowds are more harsh, only that they are more diverse. You definitely have to work harder for a New York audience but that’s because the audience you get is mostly a roll of the dice.

In other parts of the country, the crowds tend to be a lot more consistent simply because the local population is. New York City crowds tend to vary wildly. Even within a single show, you’ll can expect to see some young and old couples, people from Australia, tourists from Cleveland on vacation, a Canadian, drunk guys from The Bronx who came in off the street, a Bachelorette Party, and a guy in a Pokemon costume (that happened).

The other reason: New York audiences tend to be a bit more cultured. Club crowds especially consist of people who are typically more well-travelled, higher-educated, and have in general been exposed to more experience throughout their lives whether they grew up in the city or by definition, having travelled here. It definitely takes a bit more to raise their eyebrows than the typical audience in the middle of the country. Or maybe it’s because most of them don’t speak English.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and what is funny about it?

A:  The funniest thing about my day job is that it doesn’t exist. But its a good thing. Jobs are as much of a trap as they are a means of supporting yourself. Sure, you’ll have financial security but what portion of your time will be left over to enjoy it? Time is our one true asset and the premise of working a job you hate as a means of survival literally resolves to exchanging your life and consciousness for assets. It’s an absurd proposition. Of course while money may not bring happiness, the lack of it will surely bring misery and Im certainly not advocating some sort of idealistic bohemian existence crashing on couches between visits to Burning Man. Yet, it’s very difficult to make a living solely on stand-up. Fortunately the skills you learn along the way translate very well to other walks of life. I try to keep my means of income at close to stand-up as possible which means picking up gigs in videography and film editing, web design, graphic design, and taking freelance writing gigs when I can. Pretty much anything creative, I try to turn into a source of income, if possible. I also try to pick up acting/extras gigs when I can manage to wake up before 2pm to go on an audition. Most recently, I’m working on getting my documents in to be licensed as a cab driver which I can do late at night after I’ve exhausted my stagetime opportunities. If all else fails, I can always use my engineering degree and master’s in applied math to teach or pick up freelance tutoring gigs (which actually pay better).

Q:  What’s funnier Texas or New York?

A: New York is definitely funnier. There’s just alot more going on. This city is insanity! No human was ever meant to live this way. The potential for comedy is probably the one redeeming quality New York City has. You’re not gonna get much to go off by sitting in a cow pasture in Bernardo, Texas. The sheer density of people and ideas in New York City leaves no room for anything but comedy. Certainly not parking spaces or affordable housing.

Q:  How did you end up in a mental hospital?

A: When I first read this question I thought “Oh yeah, it was from the time I took acid and ended up raging through the Subway until someone called the cops and they took me to the psych ward”, but I was released the next day which means that the time I spent an entire month in a mental hospital was a completely separate incident!

I was around 15 or 16 and on probation for some stuff I probably shouldn’t mention in writing (it involved more acid). For some reason, they had a social worker coming to my house because I guess they couldn’t imagine that a kid as fucked up as myself could be raised by anyone other than satan-worshiping rapists (For the record, my parents are very nice people. They’ve never raped anyone). From what I can recall, I was being pretty dismissive of the social worker and started playing guitar loudly to freak her out. I guess it worked because the next thing I remember, I was in some building (probably the Social Services Office) where they somehow convinced my parents that I needed to “Go away for a bit.” My parents, being Russian immigrants were easily intimidated and away I went!

It all seems very surreal and fucked up when I think about it as an adult. I mean what right or reason did they have for locking me up? Sure, I was out of control as a teenager; I had stopped going to school, staying out late drinking and doing drugs (though I only ever smoked pot and occasionally used other psychedelics), but what kid isn’t acting out at 16? Aside from the aforementioned non-violent offense, I was never a threat to anyone. It doesn’t warrant my complete removal from society! I basically went to jail for a month for not subscribing to what is deemed to be the standard path in life. Pardon me for not allowing my time to be wasted sitting in a classroom in one of the worlds worst education systems. And I taught middle school for a year. If those kids could only understand the degree of carelessness, inefficiency, and disregard the administrators have for their time, they would drop out faster than you can say “G.E.D”. But that’s neither here nor there. Go fuck yourself, social services! (To borrow a quote from an episode of Maury).

 

Q:  What was the most surprising thing you saw there?

A: Well in my highly medicated state – What disease was I being medicated for, again? Oh, that’s right, individuality – I can’t say that there was much of anything that particularly caught my eye. It was pretty much exactly what you would picture being in a mental institution to be like, less the cute socially awkward girl with an eating disorder and the large but gentle black guy who lost his 2 year old son getting sno-cones at a pool party. You wake up, get force-fed breakfast you would feel bad serving to a trash compactor, then have most of your day wasted as you’re herded around like lobotomized cattle from activity to therapy session until the day mercifully ends in you being locked back into your cage but you can’t even rub one out because whatever cocktail of will-suppressing pharma-crack they have you on keeps your dick more limp than a paraplegic on muscle relaxants. Fuck anyone who’s ever received a paycheck with the name of that place in the top-left corner. I hope they died yesterday.

Q:  Tell me a journalism joke.

A: I would but my editor didn’t think it was funny.


Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

 

An Interview With Comedian Matt Nagin

mattnow

 

Matt Nagin is a comedian, writer and actor; here is a link to his website:

http://mattnagin.com./

 

Q:  When did you know you were funny?

 

A: I recently watched an old home video from when I was seven years and pretended to be Mahatma K. Gandhi. The fact that I was doing an impression at this young age shows that on some level the need to entertain has always been integral to my identity.

 

I also remember being a real showboat at my Bar Mitzvah. It was a shared Bar Mitzvah. To save money and increase efficiency two other children were Bar Mitzvahed with me. But I remember outshining them and really singing my Haftorah portion like I was auditioning for American Idol.

 

Hence, while I didn’t perform standup until seven years ago, humor has always played a preeminent role in shaping my existence. I’ve used it to fend off bullies, pick up women, improve my relations with my family, deal with a devastating chronic illness. I even used humor during my grandpa’s eulogy!

 

That being said, I’m not sure I ever KNEW I was funny. There was an overall sense I had potential, but I never KNEW for CERTAIN. To this day I still wonder, at times, if it’s an illusion. Just because I say I’m a comic doesn’t mean it’s accurate. People can call themselves whatever they want. Then, too, you question your priorities. Why am I even going out on stage every night? I could be doing something important…like joining The Peace Corps.

 

I think this self-doubt and self-questioning is critical to the development of many artists. If I KNEW I was funny I wouldn’t have the same drive to perform. For it would already be PROVEN.

 

It doesn’t matter that I’ve gotten up on stage more than a thousand times over the past seven years and quite often have terrific sets. It doesn’t matter that I had a very successful one man show that obtained four star reviews. Even after a set where I kill, and go home feeling great, the next day I’ll wake up, go back to a club or open mic, and have to prove myself over again. Comics spend their lives CONVINCING THEMSELVES that they are funny. And, in the end, you’re only as good as your last show.

 

 

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your comedy?

 

A: I work as an Adjunct Professor of English Composition. This job has helped my comedy in a number of ways: it has helped me be more expressive; it has taught me the importance of conveying matters in a way that is simple and lucid; it has given me confidence talking to a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds; and it has inspired me to devise a myriad of strategies to relate to an audience.

 

A critical challenge with being a teacher and a comedian is these are two vastly different worlds. I often go over feminist theories in one of my classes yet I discuss raw sexual encounters with a series of women I explicitly portray as doltish in my standup. One persona does not neatly overlap with the other.

 

A College Professor is a very strong persona; you are expected to convey a certain level of professional distance and objectivity while in that role that is almost directly oppositional to what is expected from a comic. Most comics unveil what is deepest and most personal—they try to eliminate anything like a professional distance. Plus, they often act like fools; another polar opposite to the prototypical highly intelligent lecturer in a tweed jacket.

 

Q:   How do you deal with a heckler?

 

A: Many standups fear and/or despise hecklers. I consider a heckler a gift. The reason for this is that in most cases the audience gives you carte blanche to make this rude intruder look foolish. I have always been able to think quickly on my feet, and am willing to be honest in the moment about my own flaws, as well as being perceptive about the flaws of others, so I do great with hecklers. Some of my best sets have involved making hecklers look foolish. This could also be partly the result of my teaching background—as an instructor you learn how to keep troublemakers in line.

 

Incidentally, I’m also not a big believer in having prepared heckler material—it seems better to respond in the moment. Stock lines seem too forced. It is like a guy using a pickup line at a bar. Few women take such a wannabe Lothario seriously. I think you are better off being authentic and responding honestly and authoritatively. There are different opinions on this, of course, as with everything, but the critical element is that the comic must win the battle with the heckler. If not it is the kiss of death.

 

I remember one of the few tough sets I had when it was pretty much a tie. The reason is I was being heckled by a grandma. Female hecklers, in general, are trickier for a male comic. The reason is if a comic eviscerates a female heckler he can easily come across as a total jerk. These feelings are only compounded when the heckler is a grandma. No one wants to see someone rip apart a nice old lady. Well, this old lady screamed out “not funny” during an edgy joke and mocking her in a way that didn’t come across as too cruel yet enabled me to continue the show was challenging. That was probably my toughest heckler in recent memory—not because of what she said so much as because of what she represented to a lot of audience members.

 

Q:  What is your strangest teaching story?

 

A: My first year teaching, at a local community college, I had a student with Tourette’s Syndrome in a racially-diverse remedial class. Her condition was such that she could not control the urge to yell out racial epithets. Needless to say the other students hated her. Every day the class was on the verge of a race riot. Because she had a medical note specifying she couldn’t control what she blurted out I had to be sensitive to her condition. At the same time, I had to keep in mind that she was pissing off the entire class in a highly disruptive fashion.

 

I tried to suggest she do her best to control her condition which only seemed to make matters worse. The class was a nightmare. Every day was jarring. I’d routinely kick students out. I had them all sign behavioral contracts stipulating that certain poor behaviors would get them an F. I gave surprise quizzes and complex homework assignments in a futile attempt to gain control of the classroom dynamic.

 

Then, one day, during another heated exchange, where I threatened to fail one student who was being rude to the girl with Tourette’s, he stood up and said that if I didn’t pass him he’d come into school and shoot me. He went on to describe how he’d do it graphically. Given all the school shootings at the time that was a very endearing threat. Then he stormed out and slammed the door.

 

Remarkably, he ended up passing the class. Not because his intimidation worked. I would rather die than lose integrity. But because, in spite of his behavioral problems, his writing was at a level that was ready to move onto the next class. It was terribly inappropriate behavior and, in retrospect, I should have reported him to the Dean’s office. But he probably moved on from it, and, hopefully, never threatened to kill any of his other instructors.

 

Q:  What are some key ingredients for strong comedic writing?

 

A: One key ingredient for strong comedic writing is it has to fit the persona of the performer. What is funny in one person’s voice is not funny at all in another’s. Anyone can write a joke. So the critical element that separate’s comedians, in my opinion, is the stage persona, the way they convey a joke, the delivery, the particular charm of the individual.

 

Another key element with comedic writing is timing. The punchlines need to come in unexpected places. The set needs to play against expectations, to create disruption, to build contrast, and to develop in such a way that the audience cannot see where precisely the performer is taking them. This can all be established in the writing.

 

A: Yet another key element of comedic writing is depth. When a performer has depth in his set, when he really conveys something of substance, it stands out from the endless performers who merely try to be amusing.

 

Q:  Of all the people you have opened for, who was the funniest in person?

A:I am reluctant to answer this question directly—because I hate to pick favorites. But some of the funniest individuals in person are not who you would expect. I think being funny off-stage is almost a separate art and some are better at that then they are on stage with prepared material. I know performers who can riff brilliantly off stage an entire hour and have it be better than what most comics take fifteen years to come up with.

 

Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?

 

A: I try to be influenced from all areas—film, painting, writing etc. My favorite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick, and I was hugely influenced as an artist and human being by Kubrick’s dark sense of humor, his psychoanalytic streak, and his cynical perspective on mankind’s foibles. Films like Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange, all mix the humorous and the disturbing in ways that have always intrigued me. Woody Allen was another huge influence as I feel I am in the tradition of neurotic Jewish self-loathing intellectuals—only I would say my sensibility is much filthier. Obviously, I am not in his league—he is a brilliant filmmaker and was a terrific comic—but I like to learn from what I consider the best. Other standups I really enjoy are Sarah Silverman, Bill Burr, Don Rickles, and Gilbert Gottfried.

 

Q:  What about human nature is fundamentally comical?

 

A: I think humor is a natural defense against the tragic. I am sure Jews during the Holocaust were telling each other one-liners. My 94 year old grandma told me that what helped her family get through the Great Depression was a sense of humor. Not savings. Not stories. Not love. Not family. Humor.

 

Wherever there is the most sorrow and anguish there is the greatest need for humor. We are currently in a very troubling era; global warming, a country ruled by a military-industrial complex, corrupt politicians subservient to corporate interests, bailouts for corporate criminals who have destroyed the national economy, unheard of infringements of civil liberties—the list goes on. In such an era, humor is essential as a means of coping, synthesizing and responding to the collective madness.

 

But, really, in any era, there is a need for humor. For human life is so fragile. It all goes by before you know it. We are at the mercy of bowel movements, urination, snot, body odor, sexual emissions, and come into the world helpless and then go out of it the same way. We pretend to have great importance when we are on a rock hurtling through space at more than 67,000 miles per hour. Meanwhile, our incomprehensibly vast galaxy that is but one of hundreds of billions of similarly massive galaxies. Given all these realities, how could you not see our reality as inherently comic?

 

Q: Are there any subjects you consider off limits?

 

A: I once had the opportunity to talk with Robert Klein and ended up discussing the same question. He essentially said that you can joke about anything. No topic is taboo. But he felt that if you are going to do jokes about very sensitive topics like 9/11 or child prostitution, say, the material had to be that much more hilarious.

 

So, to answer your question, no, I don’t feel any topic is off limits. That said, some topics will be easier to develop material from than others. But any topic, to me, is fair game. It all comes down to execution.

 

Q:  Will you tell me a blogger joke?

 

A: Many people are very upset the NSA is spying on us. All communication is potentially being monitored by this agency. Nothing is completely personal. But this doesn’t bother me at all. My one hope is that the NSA will start reading my blog. No one else is.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of

 

An Interview With Comedian Rosalie Gale

rosalie-_smaller-16

Rosalie Gale is a comedian who makes shower art and invented Hot Girl Fart Shoes. She will appear at The Bridgetown Comedy festival this week; here is a link to her website:

http://rosaliegale.com/


Q:  
What made you want to be a comedian?

A: I’ve always loved making people laugh. I was never the hot girl so I didn’t get that kind of attention and instead depended on humor to ingratiate myself with others. In my late 20’s, I realized I had a knack for saying things out loud that other people tried to shush internally.

But honestly, when it comes down to it, my hatred of “legitimate theatre” was what drove me to try stand up comedy. I used to love theatre and immersed myself in it all through high school. Then, I studied performance in college and about 1/2 way through I realized that I actually kind of hated it. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to choose a different major, so I pressed on and graduated. I moved to Seattle in 1999 decided I wanted a creative outlet. I had always loved stand up and once I made the connection that I could do it anytime I wanted – whenever it fit into my schedule – I decided to try out an open mic.

Q:  What is shower art and what made you interested in making it?

A: Shower Art is waterproof art you can hang in your shower with a suction cup. My husband and I make them out of rubber, glitter, discarded toys and a fair amount of sarcasm. The origin story isn’t all that exciting: I was bored in the shower one day and when I came out I told my husband, Doug, that there should be something in there that you can look at. We set about figuring out how to make them and two years later we finally had the process down pat. We hung up our shingle shortly after.

Q:  What is it about life that you find worth laughing at?

A: I find most everything that is uncomfortable and awkward hilarious. Also, poop. Really anything that a five-year-old boy would laugh at is what cracks me up. That said, I keep the poop jokes out of my stand-up and really focus on them in my art instead. You have to draw the line somewhere, right?

Q: What is unique about the comedy scene in the Pacific Northwest?

A: I think the Pacific Northwest is kind of like comedy Kindergarten. You can find stage time most any night of the week and there are all kinds of comedian-run rooms in bars and coffee shops around the city. It’s a great city to start out in and hone an act before moving on to New York or LA. You won’t get seen by the right people here – and for those just starting their careers – that’s a good thing. “Get a solid 1/2 hour and then move” is a strategy often employed here.

Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?

A: Janeane Garofalo: She was one of the first female comics I connected with. Edgy.  Kinda,  grumpy. Not overly concerned with fitting into Hollywood beauty standards.

Jen Kirkman: I love the way she tells hilarious stories from her life. Also, we share the same views on retirement communities (can’t wait!).

Paul F. Tompkins: I’ve seen some of his earlier stand-up that I didn’t connect with as much as I do his current work. He gives me hope that one day I’ll find my voice – like he obviously did.

Kyle Kinane: Another story teller at heart. I remember seeing him open for Patton Oswalt in Seattle and my husband and I repeated one of his jokes over and over and over. I’ve made a point to see his act every time he’s been to town since. His stories are so crazy and far-fetched and so obviously true that you can’t help but fall in love with his life a little.

Q:  What is it that you find funny about crafts?
A:  The indie craft revolution started about 10 years ago and created an environment where people can create and sell weird things that you would have previously never been able to find. One of the first, Jenny Hart created Sublime Stitching, a company that produces cool embroidery patterns depicting Day of the Dead, burlesque dancers, robots, meat, vital organs and heavy metal (to name just a few). Before Jenny, those themes weren’t available to embroidery fans. Thanks to her – and the Internet – people can buy weird patterns anytime. The whole movement has really created more options for people. It used to be – if you didn’t like bunnies and geese – you were out of luck. Now you can find crafts that cater to just about any interest.

Some examples of crafts I find funny:

A knitted dissected frog.

This three-headed kitty.

Bigfoot wearing pasties.

This bird telling you what’s what.

This bunny that swears.

Q:  What trends in comedy annoy you?

A: I’m not sure if there are any specific trends in comedy that annoy me. I do get annoyed when people make blanket statements about women not being funny — but how could I not?

Q:  Who was the strangest heckler you have ever had?

A: I used to co-produce a show called Non Profit Comedy that benefited a different organization every week. At one show, one of the non profit employees talked incessantly through the show. During my set she commented loudly on every single thing I said. It was bizarre. You know we’re doing this to raise money for you, right? Right?

Q: What is Hot Girls Fart Shoes?

 

A: Hot Girls Fart Shoes is a collaborative project that my friend Jessica Obrist and I created last year. We make fart shoes like Fozzie the Bear wore in the Muppet Movie — self-inflating whoopee cushions attached with Velcro. We ask women to put the shoes on and have someone film them as they walk around in them for the first time. In short: It’s just stupid fun.

Q: If you could open for Lenny Bruce, Johnny Carson or Ellen DeGeneres, who would you pick?

A: I’m sitting here trying to think of a scenario where Lenny Bruce, Johnny Carson and Ellen DeGeneres all want me to open for them on the same day so I have to only choose one. It’s making my brain explode a little. I guess if someone’s life depended on me choosing, I would pick Ellen so I could ask her to record a Hot Girls Fart Shoes video.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)