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In 2014 I made a huge leap of faith from my long time home in Michigan to the great unknown in California. It was and continues to be scary.
This is a place that’s much more open to helping you when you’re a visitor than it is when you’re a resident. When I would visit, I got on the best shows in town because I knew a handful of people and could say, “Hey, I’m going to be in LA the second week in June, can you put me on?” Now that I’m here, there’s no urgency. I’m just another mouse trying to get a piece of the cheese. As far as comedy goes, honestly, I’ve done more here as a visitor than I have as a resident.
For free entertainment, I managed to get myself on the list to get free movie screening passes. Recently, this has gotten me into a couple of super advance screenings of movies that aren’t due out for months and months. Contractually, I’m not allowed to say anything about the movies, but there wasn’t anything in the confidentiality agreement about talking about the screening process. So let’s cover those in the broadest terms.
After the movies everyone in the audience gets questionnaires. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Every opinion is the same. My opinion doesn’t matter any more or less than the guy in the American flag shirt with the cut off sleeves…and yeah, that guy really exists. My opinion doesn’t matter any more or less than woman who kept misplacing her child because she was doing something else. My opinion also doesn’t matter any more or less than that child, who also gets a questionnaire! Technically, my opinion matters less than all the aforementioned people because I’m too old.
I’m in Appleton, Wisconsin right now. Appleton is probably best known as the first American home of Harry Houdini. I went to the Houdini Museum today and it struck me how much I could take from Houdini’s life and apply it to comedy.
Erik Weisz was constantly reinventing himself. His earliest performing was as a trapeze artist. When he moved on to magic, he took the name Harry Houdini. For some comedians it’s easy to find your groove and stay in it. I think sometimes there’s little difference between a groove and a rut. I doubt anyone today would remember Houdini the trapeze artist, or Ehrich The Prince of the Air as he was calling himself at the time. I don’t know how many of us would even remember Houdini the magician. It’s that third reinvention as an escape artist that brought Houdini his fame. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend I was at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase with my friend Nate Fridson. I’ve only seen Nate once since he moved to New York about a year or so ago. He churned out a ton of new material. It was really nice watching him. I was nervous going into the weekend since it had been a good month since I did more than 15 minutes of time in one set. Maybe stand up is like riding a bike. I haven’t ridden a bike in years and I’m worried how my first attempt would be.
The shows ended up going pretty well. With the exception of about four or five minutes on being an uncle, I’m not doing any material from my CD that I released just about a year ago. I have a pretty good track record at the Showcase so I took advantage of that trust to try out some new pieces. Most of them worked.
This week marks the start of two months of road work. The boredom I feel from doing the same jokes over and over again tends to go away when I’m in new cities. I know everything will be brand new to them. This week I’ll be at the Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s a great club and I’m really looking forward to it.
Earlier in the week I did a live episode of WTF with Marc Maron. That was pretty awesome. I know Marc has his reputation, but he’s been super cool to me. I was nervous for the interview, but it went fairly well. We dug a little more into my personal life than I would have wanted, but that’s the nature of the show. After that I went over to the UCB Theatre and did a set on Comedy Bang Bang. Zach Galifianakis closed that show. Backstage he seemed like a genuinely good guy. That made me happy. Eric Andre was there too. He was just super nice and charming. It really does seem like the only dicks you encounter in this business are the people at the bottom who are bitter being stuck there. The higher up you go, the nicer people seem to be.
I closed out my LA trip with a set on The Meltdown and Meltdown Comics. That show was simply amazing. It’s a small room, packed full of comedy super fans. The line up is always great. I was so honored that my Jonah Ray let me be part of it. Through my years I’ve met a lot of people who I don’t get to see nearly as much as I’d like. Jonah is one of those guys. He’s another guy who in addition to being a really good comedian, is also a hell of a nice person.
Sean Patton from New Orleans closed the Meltdown show and was simply amazing. I worked with Sean here in Michigan and thought he was great. Earlier this week though, that greatness was on a whole new level. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, another super awesome person too. Hopefully Sean and I will be able to do some shows together in 2013. He’s going to be on Maron’s television show for IFC next year. I have a feeling that’s about the time that he’s going to blow up and become a household name at least with comedy nerds.
From start to finish, last week was a blast! Enjoy some clips from Nate, Jonah and Sean.
I get flack sometimes for being friends with the Yoder family, but that’s how it’s been with every job I’ve had. When I managed a Gamestop, I regularly hung out with district managers outside of work. When I worked in a call center, my boss not only became a friend, but he became one of my closest friends and even stood up in my wedding. It’s not that I’m an ass kisser, I’m just a hard worker. I’ve been in situations too where I hung out with employees and became friends. The only way friendships like that can start and last is if the lines are clearly drawn between work and play and no one takes advantage of the other.
My friendship with the Yoders gives me a unique perspective on the business side of comedy. I feel lucky to get that behind the scenes point of view sometimes. I think about this season of Breaking Bad. Last season, Walter White thought it was all about him. As comedians, we tend to do that a lot. Now that Walter is running the show, he’s seeing how much work goes into the business. He was just one piece in the puzzle. Yes, like a comic, you could argue that he’s just about the most important piece, but there are still lots and lots of other pieces.
John Yoder founded Funny Business years and years before many of us ever picked up a microphone. Now he’s taken more of a back seat approach to the family business and turned the reigns over to his three sons Jamison, Eric and Michael. I got a chance to bounce some questions off of the two elder brothers (because Michael’s dashing good looks are too hypnotic) to give you a behind the scenes look at the company that employs so many of us. I hope you enjoy.
I was surprised when I found out how long the Yoder family had been involved in show business booking and the fact that it sort of started with music. Can you tell me about the history of Funny Business?
Eric: Well, to keep it short and simple – my dad, John Yoder, started out in college booking bands for some of the bigger local music venues. Later he also begin running a foreign film arts theater here while continuing booking bands. An opportunity came up for him to break into comedy right before the boom hit and became a major player in the years to come as somewhat of a pioneer in the comedy club world. When club business slowed down a bit, he made the wise decision to diversify into the college and corporate markets and we have continually been building off of all these over the last many years.
A lot of comedians are quick to want to move to New York or LA, but it seems to me like a bulk of the paying work in comedy is in the Midwest. Have you noticed a trend for where some of the cities where comedians are coming from besides New York and LA?
Eric: I would say that it really depends on what you are looking to do, and which direction you want to head in your comedy career. I see some incredible acts coming out of the Minneapolis and Chicago areas over the last couple years. The Detroit scene has been steadily rising as well, and I can see it returning to its former glory as a comedy and arts hotbed.
NYC and LA have always been the cities to be in for TV, Movies and for acts looking at specific careers in comedy. They both have their ups and downs. I believe the Midwest has some of the best club crowds for comedy, and for those just breaking into forming longer, full feature and headliner sets, there are more opportunities to do this, and more stages that provide the necessary stage time. In NYC and LA – it’s a lot of places providing 5 or 10 min. sets, which is great for building that short tv set , but not so much building a full 30 or 55 min. set that almost all clubs require.
With the internet and all the opportunities on it, there are so many things you can do to gain exposure and build your “brand” now despite where you are based out of. But of course a time will always come where you need to decide what you plan to do with your career and if living in a city like LA or NYC is going to provide you with more resources for that goal.
Funny Business has had much more of a presence in a lot of the festivals in North America. What do you look for when you go to these?
Eric: Festivals are a huge part of my role as a club booker, and they are great because you are able to see so much talent over the course of a couple days, that are all already hand-picked acts – thus giving you the opportunity to see some of the top talent all in the same venue(s). It’s also a chance to have face time with a lot of acts you may deal with regularly but don’t always get to meet face to face. I look at each act in comparison to the clubs I book, and what markets I seem them being the best fit for. I look for all the usual things, unique – well written material, confidence, stage presence and experience, etc. and a lot of time it’s a no-brainer who stands out to you as someone you want to get on the books right away.
Very successfully, Funny Business has helped out a lot with Gilda’s Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids. How did that union begin?
Jamison: I think they originally got in touch with us through the owner of The Bob. Knowing that we book Dr. Grins here in town as well as several corporate events and our roots here in the community was what got us started. From there it’s been a great marriage with a great organization and group of people we really support and work very well with.
The first two years of Laugh Fest have been humongous! I know you can’t really say much now, but I know planning for the following year pretty much begins as soon as one year wraps. What can people expect in 2013?
Jamison: You’re right…Can’t say much. Suffice to say that people can expect the same caliber and diversity of talent as the past years. Our hope is that each year builds on the next and support and visibility for Gilda’s Club continues to grow along with it.
So we’re getting ready to go back into the busy season of comedy when you’ll be booking emcees again. For people looking at transitioning from open mic to emceeing, what’s the best way to get noticed by you?
Eric: Performing at open mics in clubs we book and asking the club owners for referrals are a quick way to get on my radar. We speak with them frequently and they always mention the acts they see consistently improving and who they would like to see given a chance to host a weekend – sometimes we don’t always agree, but it definitely will put them at the top of the pile for review. Having quality tape, with minimum 10 mins of CLEAN material, suitable for an emcee set is important and almost ALL bookers require this.
Another important thing is being prepared. Have all necessary items before emailing bookers. Know what they will want/expect from you. Come across as a professional, it is essentially a job interview when applying to work at a professional level. Check your references, I’ve had guys use references, probably assuming we won’t check – then those references have no idea who the act is that used their name. That automatically puts a bad taste in my mouth, personally. Their also a handful of acts that work regularly for us that have consistently introduced us to high quality acts, so names they bring us we tend to take notice of quickly.
What do you and the clubs look for in a good emcee?
Eric: Clean material, confidence and good energy. An act open to feedback and willing to be taught. They need to recognize their role as an emcee. You are NOT the star of the show. Your job is to warm up the audience, promote the venue and the acts on the bill – not yourself. Being humble and recognizing your position on the bill is important. Hosting is not an open mic – and not the time to try out new material. The audience paid for this show, and deserves your top performance.
Eric was surprised when I told him I thought it was easier for me to go from middle to headliner than it was to go from emcee to middle. The reason was that I felt I didn’t have to ask for it. The clubs where I started closing the shows at first were the ones that requested me to do so. Generally speaking, how do you decide to move people up to the next spot?
Eric: Typically at the time you are prepared to move up to the next level, we are already hearing that you should be. Sometimes mentioning or making your case to be moved up is what needs to be done, but at that point most of the time we’ve already begun to get that type of feedback. We closely check progress, and monitor feedback and new clips, performances, etc. The biggest mistake some comedians make is pushing to move up before they are ready. It’s important to be honest with yourself about where you are at. Asking for honest feedback from club owners and comedians you work with is important.
The business side of comedy is so incredibly important. Is there one thing you think all performers, in general, could do in order to be better business people?
Eric: Ask for advice, take the time to learn and soak up knowledge about how the other side works. I see all the time that the acts that are consistently working on writing, building content, contacting venues/bookers and actually putting in full days of work to build their career tend to genuinely reap what they sow. The comedy business isn’t just writing and performing, it’s learning, promoting, building and growing your own business – and you are your own business as a comedian. Balancing working on your act and learning the business side of comedy is incredibly important.
If a bar or a club are looking to either start comedy or have someone help them with booking, how do they get in touch with you?
Eric: They can check us out online at www.funny-business.com for more info and to request quotes – and we are also always available to discuss further via phone at (888) 593-7387.
These photos were taken at the 10:30PM Show at Joey’s Comedy Club on Sept. 25, 2011. The performers for the evening included the following:
Michael Malone, Headliner.
Ricarlo Flanagan, Feature.
Bill Bushart, MC.
Jeff Scheen, Special Guest.
On Sept. 18, 2011, the stand-up community shared their thoughts on their fellow comedians and its honoree, Nate Fridson. Nate has made the move to New York City to further his stand-up pursuits. Best of luck, Nate!
As some of you know, I have insomnia. It totally blows. I sleep at intervals of somewhere between 1 and 4 hours with gaping holes of late night awake time where there isn’t even anything on tv that isn’t an infomercial or 2 & 1/2 Men.
I get asked a lot, “Hey Allyson, what do you do when you can’t sleep?” and while I usually answer, “I just lay there and try to sleep,” what I really mean is, “I do a whole bunch of weird shit that I don’t want to tell you about because we don’t really know each other well enough for me to tell you about it and you not feel like you should probably leave the room whenever you see me because you’re afraid my weirdness will rub off on you.” It won’t, so pull yourself together and get ready for a strange journey into what I do when I cannot sleep in the middle of the night.
I usually try to go to sleep at a reasonable time. And by reasonable, I mean, before midnight. I watch Conan, then I try to fall asleep on my own. Sometimes this works, but usually it doesn’t. I just lie there like a slug while my cat grooms herself on my chest. It’s disgusting.
So I do a quick run through of all the things that are supposed to make normal people sleepy. Here they are in no particular order:
-Drink sleepy time tea
-Read a boring book. Like, basically anything by Dean Koontz
-Count backwards from 100
-Close my eyes and hope sleep will come all over my face.
When that shit doesn’t work, because it practically never does, I move on to the weird stuff. Get ready folks. Here, in no particular order are the weird things I do to bring sleep.
-Hard boil eggs. Seriously, when the threat of burning my house down is looming, I become exhausted waiting for these fucking eggs to finish cooking so I can lie down. There are also constantly hard boiled eggs in my house, which is only awesome around Easter.
-Facebook stalk people from high school and feel better or worse about myself depending on how much better or worse they look.
-Jog around my neighborhood and hope coyotes don’t eat me. Seriously, there are coyotes in my neighborhood and it turns out you can run pretty fast when you feel like you’re trapped in a horror movie that involves coyotes tearing you limb from limb.
-Try and sell stuff on eBay. I’m broke as shit, so as long as I’m up I might as well be productive and try and make some money.
-Play airplane with my cats until they start biting too hard.
-Take a bath, but first I have to clean the bathtub. Like, every time I want to take a bath, I have to scrub down the bathtub because I don’t want athlete’s foot in my asshole. I then end up cleaning the entire bathroom. Then I take a bath and about 5 minutes in I get bored so I get out and get my iPod, then the water is cold, so I have to drain a little then add more hot water. THEN I start to panic that I might fall asleep and drown so I have to get out of the bathtub and grab my inflatable airplane pillow, which I have to blow up, so I have to sit like a a nob on the edge of the tub blowing it up. Then I get back in and the water is too cold again, so ONCE AGAIN I have to drain a little bit of the water and the refill it with the hot. Then after about 20 minutes I start to get all pruned and I’m not even halfway through whatever podcast I’m listening to.
-I listen to the rest of whatever podcast on my bedroom floor with my feet in the air while I focus on trying to spread my toes as far apart as possible. It’s called yoga toes folks, it’s a real thing. And I can do it really well with my left foot, but my right foot isn’t as good at it which pisses me off. I hate my right foot.
-Go into elaborate fantasies about one day writing my memoir and then being interviewed by Conan O’Brien.
-Try on outfits that I would possibly wear on Conan.
-Try on all the shoes in my closest and then wonder why I own so many high heels that I never fucking wear because I can’t walk in them anyway and I almost always fall over in them.
-Consider selling my shoes on eBay.
-Re-consider selling my shoes on eBay because what if I need them for a wedding or something, because seriously, all of my friends are getting fucking married and I don’t want to have to buy a new pair of shoes every time I have to go to some wedding.
-Go back on facebook to see who the fuck else I know is getting married.
-Consider joining eHarmony.
-Realize I’m a disaster of a person and I would be one of those people who gets rejected from the eHarmony site and decide that I can’t handle that kind of electronic rejection.
-Go back on facebook, drink half a bottle of wine, and decide I’m better off than all those fuckers.
-Realize I’m too drunk for the internet.
And finally, friends, I fall asleep around 6:30 in the morning. Which gives me about 1-2 hours before I must be awake for the day. Huzzah!
So that’s what I do when I cannot sleep and sleep deprived mania washes over me. I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into my weird ass life as an insomniac. Please don’t avoid me forever now.
It’s a podcast that can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets! Legally! And this episode is with the ever awesome Dan Currie. We talk about the Michigan Comic Network, stupid girls who can’t pick the right door, and the peculiar nature of what was Lansing comedy politics. Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
As some of you may know, I like sharks. In fact, scratch that, I freaking LOVE sharks. I have ever since I saw Jaws as a kid, which I realize is strange and unusual, but I’m a strange and unusual person, so deal with it, folks.
Shark Week, which if you’re not familiar, is a week in which the Discovery Channel blocks off it’s prime time programming for programming that consists of hour long documentaries specifically about Sharks. This year, the running theme of Shark Week seemed to be about shark attacks: survivor stories, unusual amounts of shark attacks in one area, shark attacks throughout history, shark attacks, shark attacks, and more shark attacks.
On August 4, 2011, 5 Americans and 2 Canadians performed at the Phog Lounge. We arrived, we joked, we made them laugh. The evening’s perfomers included:
These photos were taken at Joey’s Comedy Club on July 27, 2011 in Livonia, MI. The line-up included the following comedians:
Bryan McCree, headliner.
Kate Brindle, feature.
Jeff Arcuri, mc and fellow alum of Bill Bushart’s Stand-Up Class, Spring 2011.
Thank-you to all performers, Joey’s Comedy Club, and Campus Martius Park!
This past week I did a handful of shows.
I started at the Castle on Wednesday where I was working on a five minute clean set. It was basically the set I did at the Ice House in Pasadena last month minus the opening joke. It killed in Pasadena to the point where it threw off my timing. I couldn’t keep the faux anger thing going on because I was so overcome with delight that the Latinos were enjoying me so much. It ate shit at the Castle. I recorded it. Christine and I watched it. Her guess is that the opening joke might not be the right opening joke. Back to the drawing board.
After that I headed over to Joey’s for Bill Bushart’s birthday. Bill was on fire on stage! It was a blast to watch!
On Thursday I spoke at the writing session at Laff Tracks in Novi. It’s a good group they have there. I had a really fun time. I’m glad they had me come out. I worked from my notebook and tried some new stuff. It probably wasn’t club worthy, but I could see it working more for rowdy bar crowds. With the exception of one joke that I did a couple more times this past week, I honestly can’t remember what the other things were.
Friday and Saturday I was at the Holly Hotel with the Scheen and Connoly portion of the Jeff Comedy Jam. It was a strong line up! I think it’s fair to say that we all have similar sensibilities and if someone liked one of us, they liked us all. That being said, one of the shows was a battle. I’m still glad that Beth who runs the room there is still super cool and nice and hasn’t turned to the dark side that comes from whatever bad mojo haunts the Holly Hotel! Previous managers…horrible people. The most recent one started off nice, but turned evil. Beth is still going strong and just a genuinely nice person.
My friend and newest writing partner Lesley Braden returned to the art of stand up during the Saturday show. I was really impressed. She came out with a brand new five minutes and it hit strong!
My brother brought out a bunch of his family and friends to the Saturday show for his birthday and I was glad that it went well. He and I are polar opposites, but one thing we did always have in common was our sense of humor. My first performances were acting out scenes from Saturday Night Live, Strange Brew and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure with my brother on our front lawn for neighbor kids. It always makes me glad to have him in the audience. This year for his birthday I didn’t make him get up on stage with me. Okay, at Holly you can’t really get up on stage as much as you can get over on stage.
On Sunday, Mr. Scheen and I rocked Maxie’s in Flint. The new general manager was complaining about the previous week show because audience members apparently left. My only guess is it was the heat. Maxie’s needs to fix their A/C. I was drenched when I got done performing like I had been in a sauna. It was a fun night. Jeff Scheen left me alone in the parking lot with a scary man, but I made it home safe!
This week I’m in Lansing at Connxtions. Come on out if you’re in the area!