Category Archives: Interviews
Tonight at the Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater:
The audacious and critically acclaimed comedian, Marc Maron is bringing his legendary podcast to life on the Trepany House stage on the last Tuesday of every month! He’ll be joined by new guests every month. This month’s guests are TJ MILLER, JAKE FOGELNEST, ARIES SPEARS, MIKE BOBBITT, and DAVE HILL!
For over fifteen years, Marc Maron has been writing and performing raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy for print, stage, radio and television. A legend in the stand-up community, he has appeared on HBO, Conan, Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Real Time, The Green Room, two Comedy Central Presents specials and almost every show that allows comics to perform. He has appeared on Conan O’Brien more than any other comedian (a record 47 times and counting).
His podcast “WTF with Marc Maron” featuring compelling monologues and in-depth interviews with iconic personalities such as Conan O’Brien, Louis CK, Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Judd Apatow and Ben Stiller, premiered in September 2009 and is a worldwide phenomenon with over 40 million downloads and counting. The show regularly hits #1 on the iTunes charts and has been called a “must-listen” by Vanity Fair and New York Times, among many others.
&”Comedy podcaster Marc Maron puts together a fascinating hour of discussion” -Entertainment Weekly
“WTF is vital for people enthusiastic about not only comics but storytelling, deep conversation, and lovable displays of pathos.” – GQ
“The Charlie Rose of comedy podcasts” – The National Post
“If you haven’t subscribed to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast (via iTunes, etc), remedy this, immediately. Because the show, it’s hilarious” – Vanity Fair
For more info, photos, and the podcasts go to www.wtfpod.com
It’s the…wait for it…Twentieth episode of Nerd Comic Rising. We’ve interviewed some steller comedians on this show (well, at least I have, but I like to think you participated) but none quite like Ricarlo Flanigan, star of “My Big Black Podcast” and comedian extrordinaire. Listen as we talk growing up in Religion, Racial Tensions, and he sends my white guilt through the roof! Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m fascinated by all branches of performing arts. Stand up comedy and burlesque share a lot of the same roots in show business, both starting back in the vaudeville circuit nearly a century ago. A few years ago I did a Halloween show with my friends the Detroit Rockabilly band Graveside Manner. Also on the bill was the burlesque troupe Detroit Dizzy Dames led by the wonderful Lushes LaMoan. We became Facebook friends and I couldn’t help to notice how incredibly busy she constantly is.
For me, the hardest part about being a performer is figuring out how to juggle so many different schedules. We’re all essentially small business owners trying to sell a product, and that product is ourselves. Somehow Lushes manages to not only juggle the business of Lushes LaMoan, but is additionally teaching burlesque and serving as the Branch Director of the Detroit chapter of Dr. Sketchy which is an “anti-art school” featuring local models and burlesque performers, and she manages to juggle it all very well! She’s one of the hardest working performers in the city and has already made a name with herself with noteworthy accomplishments like being featured on the cover of the 2010 Metro Times Lust issue.
I think I may have figured out how she does it all when I had a chance to catch up with her at a recent Dr. Sketchy event at the Scarab Club downtown. She multi-tasks incredibly well! We talked while she arranged snacks for all the attendees, delegated chairs being set up for the artists, and fielded questions from a long line of people.
The first I remember meeting you was that Halloween show a few years back.
Yes. I started managing the Detroit Dizzy Dames when SPAG went on hiatus. It started with myself and a few of the girls not wanting to stop doing burlesque. We carried on what we do and did it a little differently. So we started the Detroit Dizzy Dames and that show was the Halloween Hootenanny and that was actually our very first gig.
I wasn’t born a slave. I become one after the great robot wars that started September 1st, 2011. The human race was either obliterated or taken aboard the giant robot space ships and sent to work as gardeners on the third moon of Flab Quarv 7. My former life as a comedian who rocked the socks off of audiences all across the United States and parts of Canada were behind me. Now, I was trimming hedges and pulling weeds for the gluttonous Flab Quarvians.
The days were long. One Flab Quarv 7 day is equal to 3 ½ Earth days. Oh, how I miss the Earth. The nights were longer. Sure, they were only a standard Earth night long, but they felt longer because I was a slave gardener and only had a hoe to fend off the vicious nocturnal Jagerbeasts.
I’ll never forget the night when a little bit of home came rushing back to me in the form of a friendly bearded face. At first I didn’t recognize the bearded man, although his intense glare was eerily familiar. It wasn’t until he took off his fake beard, which he wore at night because Jagerbeasts are afraid of facial hair, that I realized it was my old friend the great Mike O’Keefe! I was excited to see him. Mike was always like a little brother to me. Before we could greet each other a space rake violently crashed into his skull killing him instantly.
Behind him, stood Jeff Scheen. He had blood in his eyes. After he wiped his eyes clean he recognized me and asked where Mike O’Keefe went. Fearful for my life and not wanting to be the bearer of bad news, I changed the subject and asked Jeff to tell me his tale. Still clutching his bloodied space rake, Jeff sat down beside me and we began to talk. The other slaves were fascinated and joined in the questioning. Here is a transcript of Jeff’s final words to our ragtag group.
I remember back on Earth you told me once that you slept in your parents’ room until you were 12. Is that where all your fucked up material came from?
I guess. I destroyed their sex life. Killed it. Because as soon as I was out of there they had a kid. My sister is 12 years younger than me. I was the only child for 12 years.
How did you rebel?
I always wanted a sister.
Ben Konstantin has been my peer from the very start of my time in comedy. Like I said previously regarding my friendship with Bob Phillips and Steve Lind, Ben is a guy who I don’t see me interacting with in any other world outside of comedy. We’re just two very different people. Honestly, he rubbed me the wrong way until I started to get to know him. What I viewed as off putting, was really just focus and determination. I’m glad I managed to overcome my preconceived biases and got to become friends with Ben before he moved to New York. I’m a fan of the guy and I was curious to see how the Big Apple was going to treat him. A handful of Detroit guys have made the jump to New York, but I wasn’t as close with any of them as I am Ben. So now that he’s a couple months into his new residence, I picked his brain.
How is comedy treating you so far out there?
It’s been tough and great at the same time. Recently I had a week where I was on stage seven times in five days and mostly good shows.
I’m a big fan of VGKids. When it came time for me to start selling merchandise, they not only were my first choice, they were my only choice for printing. As a podcast nerd, when I heard they were under writing episodes of The Sound of Young America, I decided then that I would support them. I think that’s a great idea for everyone. Most of my friends are poor comedians and we don’t have a lot of money to use towards donations, but what we can do is support the advertisers of the things we enjoy. An added bonus for me with VGKids is that it turned out they happened to be headquartered practically in my backyard in the secluded warehouse district of Ypsilanti!
Here’s something I’ve been noticing lately. In tough economic times, the businesses that seem to be thriving are the ones where the employees are happiest. Did you know that Sears and Kmart make their employees work on Thanksgiving Day? Both of those struggling companies had to merge to stay afloat. Companies like Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil-A close on Sundays and they’re growing these days! Every time I’ve been in VGKids everyone seems happy like you think there was a camera crew just out of site doing a reality series. And the thing is…VG Kids is growing! There’s a lot to be said for running a company well.
I wanted to know more about VGKids. My brother-in-law Monday Busque is in every third alternative band in Detroit I think. He mentioned to me the history of VG Kids and I wanted to dig deeper. So when I picked up my most recent order, I had the chance to sit down with Aaron, the production manager at VGKids.
Tell me about the history of VGKids.
James (Marks) started a vegetarian grocery store in Pontiac about 12 or 13 years ago. He was doing screen printing and shows in the basement. He closed the grocery store, but during the time it was open, customers nicknamed the kids who worked there “Veggie Kids” which kind of morphed into “VGKids”. And that name was sort of branded and taken on when he moved to Ypsilanti and continued to screen print for bands and friends.
What made him initially decide on screen printing? Was he a musician too?
He was. Yeah. He had been doing it this whole time. It all started with stickers. So when he came here he wrote the business plan, started VGKids and it slowly turned into what it is today.
I’m a big fan of Allyson Hood, but I’m also insanely jealous of her. When I watch her on stage it really seems like she hit the ground running. Relatively new at comedy, she’s only been performing for about the past year, Allyson already has a very distinct voice and point of view. She’s self assured on stage with very deliberate timing. I’m a firm believer in people having a natural talent for comedy and Allyson certainly backs up that theory in my mind.
When I interviewed TJ Miller, I did research and found an old interview with him from before he broke big. Hopefully this will be the same case with this Allyson Hood interview. I really believe she’s going to be big. I’m proud to have shared the stage with her during my birthday shows and she’s a performer who I always look forward to seeing work. Enjoy our chat.
What I find interesting about your start is that you got into comedy totally by yourself because it just became this thing that you got obsessed with.
What was that process that put you on stage the first time?
I just started looking up open mics at comedy clubs. I just googled open mics in Detroit and I think Mark Ridley’s (Comedy Castle) popped up first. So I just called and said, “Hey I want to sign up for the open mic. I’ve never done this before. What do I do?”
Did you get on the first week?
I got on the first week and I didn’t get on the next week, but I did get on the week after that. I got on twice a month exclusively there after that.
It’s a podcast seventeen (going on eighteen)! And this episode is with the amazing Jeff Dwoskin. We talk about old awesome tv shows, writing strategies for longer sets, and he says the things my wife wishes I would say, which is why she is forbidden to ever hear this. Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to email@example.com
One of the best tools a comedian has is their friends. I can’t think of anything more important than having a tight group who you can bounce ideas off of and get honest feedback from. Honesty is the key in that. I’m lucky enough to have Bob Phillips and Steve Lind around. The three of us get together, help each other punch up our material and most importantly tell each other when things aren’t working. The last time we got together, I picked their brains about the writing process.
Mike: How do you guys come up with your premises? Will you wait for something to happen or can you sit down and force yourself to write?
Steve: I used to force myself to sit down and write. Now I wait for a premise to happen.
Mike: So now everything comes from real life?
Steve: All my stuff comes from real life pretty much.
Bob: More and more is coming from real life.
Mike: Bob, but you’re more of an observational comic.
Steve: But isn’t that real life?
Mike: Well, yeah, but abstract observational I guess I mean. Not really abstract, but more pop culture.
Bob: Yeah, but that’s real life though. It’s just not my personal life. Lately I’ve been trying to find the things, and let them come, that make me feel strongly one way or another and find out why. I’m angry about something, why does that make me angry? Okay, where’s the funny in that? Okay, do other people feel that way and think of this as odd or weird?
I’m addicted to comedy. I can’t get enough of it. In a perfect world, I’d be on stage seven nights a week. When I have a week where I’m off from a club, I’ll hit an open mic show or two. They’re fun. I absolutely love trying out new material and more importantly, I love meeting the next crew of comedians. I think it was last year that I ran into who I think is the new class of great comedians in Detroit…and this new class truly is great.
I think the greatest asset that the new group has is that they’re all super fans of the art of comedy. They listen to podcasts and they have their finger on the pulse of the comedy scene. One guy in particular for me not only is a lot of fun to watch on stage, but is also so much fun to hang out with off stage. That guy is Mike O’Keefe. He’s a student of comedy and he works incredibly hard. He really is like a little brother to me. And as brotherly relationships go, sometimes there’s tension. We had a rough spot that really only last a minute or two the other night, but it was pretty heated. The spot was based entirely in miscommunication and it resolved itself really quickly. The nice thing that came out of that was that I learned about another side of Mike O’Keefe that I didn’t really know too much about. Realizing there was a profound deepness to him that I was unaware of, I took the advantage of having an outlet to conduct an interview and I got to more a little more about one of my dearest friends.
Yeah, but I think we’ve only been pals for only a year.
I don’t think we need to say our friendship is that close? “Pals”?
You remind me a lot of a young Mike Bobbitt.
What does that mean?
Well, I think this will be the first real serious conversation we’ve had since we’ve been friends.
Gross. That’s the weird thing about comedians. I’ve spent like a million hours driving to open mics with Trevor Smith, a guy I talk to a ton and maybe had two serious conversations.
An important thing that I think should be addressed because it’s a thing I dealt with and just swallowed until I started resenting some of my peers is that we have the reputation of being the wacky fun guys on stage and off and sometimes people don’t understand there’s a method to our madness.
Here’s the neat thing about comedy. You can work with someone once or twice and totally hit it off. Maybe you see them a grand total of six days in eight years, but you just feel a real bond with that person because you share the same point of view and profession. That’s how it’s been for me with Mike Brody. I was shocked when I saw him the other week because he didn’t look exactly like I remembered and then we both realized that it’s been years since we’ve seen each other! Sure, we’re Facebook friends and have each other’s phone numbers, but I have a lot of phone numbers and even more friends on Facebook (probably a lot more than you)!
Mike Brody is simply fantastic…both on stage and off. The reason he’s instantly likable is because he’s just a really decent person. I honestly think if I were to trace back when I realized I needed to be more conversational on stage, it’s probably right around the time I worked with Brody. The fun thing about being his friend is when you hang out with him before a show and then watch him get on stage, it’s just like the conversation continues, but now the audience is involved.
So when Mike was in town, we went out to lunch and just started talking about all sorts of things. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
You got married since the last time we hung out. What was it like the first time your wife went to see you perform?
It was at a Montreal audition, so it was already high stress; and my new girlfriend was there to see me for the first time! So basically I had to tell her, “Here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to go to the club and you’re going to sit by yourself for two hours. I’m going to occasionally walk by really fast and say, “Hi”, but I have to pace. My shows are not going to be a date for us.”
It’s the 15th Episode of Nerd Comic Rising, and the end of the NCR Fast!! This episode kicks off season two with a second interview with Mike Bobbitt! We talk about his recent trip to LA, depression, and our mutual love of Brad Austin which leads to planning his destruction. Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
AJ Finney is pretty fantastic. He’s high energy…that doesn’t come close to describing that! He’s a manic ball of comedy energy and instantly likable! I’ve gotten to work with him once, but I saw him again earlier this year at the Detroit Comedy Festival. He’s a super awesome guy who just released his new CD this week! He was nice enough to let me bounce some questions off of him. Enjoy!
I think over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable letting the audience see me for all my internal disorders. Were most people hide their insanity with medication, I embrace my eccentricities and employ improvisation as tool wrangle my ADHD. That’s not saying that my chosen lifestyle over the years hasn’t also intensified my already overactive imagination and anxiety issues.
You do well with audiences and your peers respect you a whole lot too. Are you planning on staying in the midwest or do you have plans to make a move to one of the coasts.
I will always consider the Midwest home, but I will go where I need to in the future. Right now I’m enjoying all the experiences the road has to offer like interesting conversations with strangers, canned beer, black outs, sleeping in my car, radio interviews, hecklers, art museums, hipster dive bars, waking up naked in a hotel lobby, malls, strip clubs, Canada, who’s in my bed…wait this isn’t my bed, all for 30-60 minutes of stage time, to battle for laughs and I love every minute of it.
You’re new CD is coming out this week…unless I’m mistaken about that! Tell me about it!
The CD is titled “AJ Finney My Brain Don’t Work No Good” which was recorded live at Stanford’s Comedy Club in Kansas City, and is being released Tuesday July 26th on Uproar Records. It’s an explorative experience about how I interpret the world through my rusty bucket of wiggle worms, interlaced with stories of love, loss, rum, and my intense obsession with green beans.
You have a lot of festivals under your belt. Do you have any advice for people who are maybe doing one for their first time?
Submit to as many festivals as possible. If you don’t make it, hey apply next year or attend anyway as an audience member. If you get in have as much fun as possible. I’ve actually gotten more work from fellow comedians that I’ve met at competitions than I ever have by winning one. “Networking is the name of the game”
I find with the auditioning process for a festival or any big thing I tend to get in my head and psyche myself out. How do you stay level headed when you go out for things?
With festivals and auditions, do as many as possible, the more you do the easier it gets. Always perform with confidence. My opinion is they aren’t judging you’re material as much as they’re judging you as a person, do they like you?, can they sell you?..etc.
I’m proud of the fact that newer comedians read my site and I have access to picking the brains of some great comedians like yourself. What advice do you have for the newer people?
First off thank you for the compliment Mike. My advice to anyone starting off is to become completely obsessed with the art form itself, the history, the artists, the formulas, everything comedy. Realize your career choice is a marathon not a sprint, it takes time to develop your voice as an artist.
Where can people find out more about you?
AJ’s CD: “My Brain Don’t Work No Good” is available on Amazon and iTunes right now.