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If you didn’t back the Kickstarter, now is your first chance to get a copy of the new album! My upcoming shows at the Comedy Castle in Royal Oak will also serve as my CD release party. It’s your chance to pick up the new album…along with bonus gifts (Kickstarter leftovers). Make your reservations today by either going to the Comedy Castle’s website or by calling 248-542-9900. This is also the last date I have scheduled in the greater Detroit area. In other words…it may be your last chance to see me live.
I have a couple non-comedy things coming up that I’m really looking forward to. My friend Jared Stroup has written a great screenplay that he’s gearing up to produce. There’s a really fun…and sizable role in it that he asked me to play. I’m super flattered and honored! I’m beginning to feel my limitations as an actor. I think sometimes people have a natural talent for things and sometimes they don’t.
My first love is music. I really wanted to be a musician. Growing up all of my friends were musicians. I was in a handful of bands to the dismay of my bandmates who had to carry my load. I think playing with good musicians helped me get better, but I just didn’t have what it takes to be good. I’m noodling around with a bass now and am probably as good as I was twenty years ago when I practiced a lot!
I’m hoping I’ll find some secret talent when it comes to acting. I just watched a clip of a thing I shot over the past year and was pretty disappointed. I think I did a passable job in Deadpan, but those were words that I helped write…and a character that was based pretty close to myself. Jared’s movie is going to be the thing that makes me decide if I want to keep trying this…or maybe check out an acting class. He and I have talked about my worries. I have a lot of confidence in him as a director though.
Okay…let’s not make this all about me. My buddies Dave Landau and Ken Kuykendall have an upcoming project too called The King. Dave sent me the script a few months ago and it’s really funny. It’s dark, has heart and is really good. Production starts really soon. They asked me to play a small role…which I don’t think I’ll fuck up!
Anyway…I caught up with Dave and Ken to ask them about their upcoming movie The King.
Ken, I met you a couple years ago when Dave and I were in LA at the same time. How did you guys meet?
Ken : We were pirates and Dave owned a fast boat that I was shoffering him around in. I was racing him to his destination, as he was late. He subsequently was the owner of Nascar and I was looking for a job outside of pirating and became a driver for his team…. and Scene. Dave and I met at Second City Level B in Detroit. We became fast friends after that. No pun intended.
Dave: I don’t know what Ken is talking about. I met him two weeks ago.
I’ve watched the shorts you guys have done together. What made you decide to tackle a full length movie?
Ken: I actually made a feature film before, when I was 19. It’s called Loaded Potato 2. It’s about a Mr. Potato Head toy that goes on a rampage killing people. Dave is in it. We also collaborated on a short called Bromine that I put a lot of effort into. I seem to do something very involved, with lots of people in it, about every 5 years or so. It seems like it’s that time again.
Dave: Once I experienced watching our short film Rub That Lamp with a theatre crowd. I became interested in making a feature as it will give me something else to persue besides stand up.
Ken: Showing a comedy film with an audience is on par with riding a roller coaster.
Ken: Thanks, Mike. I had a lot of fun putting that together. I think I learned that it’s better to film your movie all at once, rather than over a period of months as your actors can suffer from depression causing their weight to fluctuate. Thin in this scene, fat in the next.
Dave: Fuck you.
What were the differences you noticed between audiences watching your act versus watching Rub That Lamp, Dave?
Dave: If a stand up show is not going well. I can switch gears and try other material. If a film isn’t going well… I can’t go home and re-edit it and bring it back that night. The butterflies I got when showing the film for the first time, I haven’t gotten since doing stand up in the early days.
Ken: Right before it played. Dave looked at me and said. “If this doesn’t go well. We should probably just leave.”
How did the story come about?
Ken: Dave, Sebastion Oberst and I basically wanted to write scripts to sell in L.A. This is one of several things we wrote together during that time. We just sat down one day and began writing. Obviously, it’s based on Dave’s early Detroit days. From there it seemed to organically come out on paper. We had a really good time. I remember laughing at how crazy some of the stuff is we were writing. I just thought we’d maybe sell it and at that point, somebody else would have to deal with how crazy it is. Now here we are doing it.
Dave, in your stand up you talk about your wild days growing up. How much of The King is autobiographical?
Dave: It’s based on my early days of traveling from the suburbs to Detroit to buy booze illegally. All the characters are based off of real people i know or are people you might meet in Detroit in real life. This story is a heightened collection of everything that can go wrong in Detroit when cultures clash. I think this is a story that most people from around the Detroit area can relate too.
I dug the script a lot. Dave sent me an early version of it. It reminds me of a darker, but still very funny Superbad. How would you describe it?
Dave: That’s cool that it reminds you of Super Bad, because we want this film to remind people of the teenage years and that’s what Super Bad did.
Ken: I can see that. I also think it’s something like a smaller scale Dazed and Confused or American Graffiti but set in 1999. Where a couple of recent high school graduates go on that one last adventure together, except things get really messed up, like a Tarantino amount of messed up.
What was the writing process like? Did you guys sit in the same room and one person dictates? Were you on the phone? Do you bounce dialogue back and forth out loud with each other?
Ken: Dave had the beginnings of a script idea called New Car. We for the most part wrote it together in L.A. Coming up with ideas and trading typing when one got stuck or the other had something amazing to add. Like wrestling tag teams. Later, back in Detroit we re-wrote the ending and touched it up.
I’ve collaborated on scripts in the past and while the stuff I’ve written as a collaboration is the stuff I think turned out best, during the process it can be terribly difficult. How did you guys manage writing together?
Ken: We seem to write well together. Like we always used to do improv sketches well together. We’re just on the same page I guess. Like referring to your first question of how did we meet. That’s our first 5 minutes of meeting. We just kind of clicked.
Dave: Yeah, I guess when we write. We kind of follow the rules of improv of agreeing and heightening what we’re writing. We both enjoy heightening stories to the point where they can’t be heightened anymore. So much so that some Second City instructors felt our scenes went too far. We both feel that the best comedy is taking things as far as they can go. i.e. South Park, Shaun of The Dead or anything Rick Gervais does.
Ken: The car represents freedom. Because you can go to new places and do all kinds of things that you can’t do without a car.
Dave: My experience with my first car went from being my greatest experience to my worst experience in one night. The story is based on that feeling, Where new and exciting territories can become dangerous when not explored causioutly.
The script is written. You’ve raised some production money through Indiogogo (I donated as well)…what’s the next step?
Ken: We’d both also like to thank you, Mike, for your donation! We’ve currently finished pre-production. There are a few more things here and there to do. We have the car, the camera, the cast and we’re ready to go. We’ll be filming some stock shots and small scenes starting as early as next week.
Ken, marry, fuck, kill…Dave Landau, Martin Landau, Lando Calrissian?
Ken: Marry Lando Calrissian, because he would provide a nice home in Cloud City. Though we’d probably get divorced after he stabs me in the back. I wonder what frozen carbonate feels like. Fuck Martin Landau, because with out viagra it’s probably an impossible mission, which I chose to accept. Kill Dave Landau, so that I can just take all the millions that The King makes for myself.
Where can people go to find out more about this movie?
Dave: You can “like” our Facebook fan page for The King here.
Film incentives or not, these guys are doing it. That’s the great thing about artists. They create art. It doesn’t matter if there are big backers or anything like that. What matters is there’s a vision and a drive to make it real. I know I’m really looking forward to The King!
I’m going back and forth between thinking I’m the worst uncle in the world getting my niece and nephew to say bad words into a camera and realizing that they at least hear way worse at school every day. Nevertheless, I thought it would be funny.
During my CD recording, I spoke a little bit about how my parents tried to shelter me and my brother. That only worked until outside forces invaded.
This is the kind of kid I was. When I was around five, my parents moved us to Sylvania, Ohio for a year. On the first day the kid across the street came over and within minutes taught me the word “fart”. Until then, I would say, “my pants burped.” My mom’s sister’s family wouldn’t even say “burp”! They’d say, “my piggy came up.”
I wasn’t broken yet. Well, I was, just in a different way. Back in Michigan a couple years later I was on the playground at recess with my friend Corey. He fell off a slide and knocked out a tooth. When he noticed he said, “shit!” Being a good kid, I ran and got the lunch lady to….tell her Corey said a bad word. I neglected that entire tooth business. I kind of remember wondering if he was going to get in trouble over the bad word. I don’t remember worrying about the tooth or the bloody mouth at all.
I remember too watching National Lampoon’s Vacation and having my parents telling me and my brother to leave the room during the entire cousin scene. Of course that only made us want to watch the scene to find out what we were missing. So we watched from around the corner in the kitchen. We assumed it was the line, “Ever bop your baloney?” We went to the refrigerator and tried to figure out what was so bad about bologna and how exactly does one, “bop” it?
I grew up with the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born. I loved and still love that movie. In middle school in an English class we had to write our autobiography. Mine is called A Star Is Born. I watched that movie a lot as a kid…except for the scene where Kris Kristofferson and Babs take a bath together. There’s no nudity, no sex, no swearing in that scene. I guess it’s because Babs puts makeup on Kris and my mom didn’t want me watching that. Nevermind the fact that throughout the rest of the movie Kris Kristofferson snorts almost a Scarface amount of cocaine.
Somehow that must have worked a little. I don’t do drugs, but I do get squirmy when I have to wear makeup for TV things.
I’m not sure where I was finally broken. I know by high school my friend John and I would drive around in his Chevelle and “bowel growl”. That’s what we called yelling the most offensive things possible in our best death metal voices out his window. So if you lived in Troy, Michigan and were woken up by a couple of teenagers playing demon between 1988 and 1991, I’m sorry.
So here we are in 2013 and I’ve got a potty mouth. I don’t know how it happened. I worked in radio for awhile and kept it clean there. My first CD is pretty clean to the best of my memory. I was in a punk band in the mid-90s and sang fairly preachy songs about staying clean…oh wait…there was one about eating shit and another about a friend’s penis. Oops. Not sure where I was going with that.
So to the best of my mom’s ability she probably didn’t want to raise a foul mouthed brat. The good news is she didn’t. Everyone else did!
There were a lot of huge popcorn films this year, but my favorites are made up largely of smaller films. For me in order to really enjoy a story I have to care deeply about the characters. While I recognize The Master as a great film it just didn’t click with me. I thought the world was interesting, but it followed my least favorite character in that world….much to the dismay of Jared from the Man in the Movie Hat website. The Master does follow the same theme that makes up my top five favorites though. It’s a story about friendship. So here’s my list.
#5: 21 Jump Street. Yeah, I know. I had so many movies to put in this slot. Moonrise Kingdom, Goon and Frankenweenie could have all easily been here instead. Ultimately the reason I chose 21 Jump Street is because if all four movies were sitting on the shelf and were the only thing I could watch, it’s the one I’d put in the Blu-Ray player. It’s fun and Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have real chemistry together. You get the feeling that it was just a fun film to make. Nick Offerman has a great scene where he basically goofs on the whole idea of rehashing an idea from twenty years ago. It’s self aware. There are a couple of great cameos that will probably take you by surprise too.
I don’t know or care about hockey at all, but Goon was great. The final scene is cringe worthy. Moonrise Kingdom is your typical quirky Wes Anderson film where every frame is a work of visual art. Frankenweenie had me really caring about an animated character and pleading near the end to just let the film entertain me and not remind me of any life lessons. All three films are ultimately about friendship.
#4 Looper. I’m always a sucker for time travel stories. I’ve worked on the idea on stage about how if I could go back in time to meet with my younger self I don’t think we’d like each other very much. That’s definitely the case here with Looper. Ryan from the aforementioned Man in the Movie Hat website saw this before I did. I sent him my prediction of what I thought it would be about. I was way off. So I went in excited to be surprised…and surprised I was right up to the finale. Maybe it’s not really a movie about friendship as much as it’s about self preservation….but hey…that’s pretty important too. Filmmaker Rian Johnson gets better and better with each project. the fact that he glosses over the mechanics of time travel has been criticized, but it’s just not important to the story. He does a great job of imagining a near future and creates it with a pretty limited budget. Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps proving himself as an amazing actor. Just look at his range when you compare something like this to Hesher from 2010.
#3 Safety Not Guaranteed. I haven’t been able to get into the whole “mumblecore” thing so I didn’t really have high hopes for this thing starring Mumblecore Lord and Savior Mark Duplass. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a small story about two people getting to know each other. One of them is either nuts or a time traveler. The story could have easily been a big film, but I think the fact that it stayed small really let you get to know the characters as opposed to inserting unnecessary big action pieces. Mark Duplass is seeking a travel companion to time travel and Aubrey Plaza interviews for the position. It’s a really sweet film. Aubrey Plaza does really nice subtle things with her face that’s proving her as a really good actress. I look forward to seeing her do something completely different in the future.
#2 Django Unchained. I just saw this yesterday and fell in love with it and the leads. Christoph Waltz plays a character so unlike his Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds…but maybe a little similar in some ways. Jamie Foxx is just plane cool. to borrow from my friend comedian Mikey Mason, Django is Han Solo cool. Samuel L Jackson is almost unrecognizable at the start and plays a role I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play. It’s epic. The music is amazing. It’s poetic. It’s funny at times…particularly the scene where Don Johnson’s posse is dealing with the eye holes in their lynching hoods. The blood and carnage are over the top leaving one of the sets looking like the house from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. I loved it and can’t wait for the Blu-Ray….and I’m not really a big Tarantino fan at all. This is definitely my favorite film of his so far. Again, the friendship between King and Django really clicked with me.
#1 Silver Linings Playbook. I saw this last week and loved it. I’ve heard mixed reviews about how it’s all over the place and the ending is trite. I don’t care. I thought the acting was great. I love the way the story telling was frenetic because it matched the characters. The friendship that forms between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence was engaging. It’s arguably Lawrence’s first grown up role and she really pulled it off.
Some honorable mentions for me are a horror movie triple threat with The Innkeepers, Silent House and Cabin in the Woods. All three take the scary movie format and twist it to make for interesting films. Silent House is shot as one continuous shot….although not really through the magic of film making. I loved some big pictures too like Hunger Games, Argo and the Dark Knight Rises. Sleepwalk With Me was enjoyable and really captured what it’s like to be a comedian while diving into Mike Birbiglia’s sleep disorder….coincidentally, I’m typing this at a La Quinta Inn…people familiar with Birbiglia’s story should get the significance. I’m on the third floor. Luckily insomnia is my only sleep disorder.
In Bruges is a perfect film in my book so I really had high hopes for Seven Psychopaths. I think my expectations were too high maybe. It’s a fine film, but doesn’t capture was In Bruges did for me. Hmm, In Bruges is another movie about friendship.
I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet, but from everything I hear about it, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will probably end up in my top five. We’ll see. I was a little underwhelmed by Prometheus. I think I just fell victim to all the hype and speculation. The Avengers was fun, but I’m not really a big superhero guy. In fact I missed Spider-man completely and have no intention of seeing it unless it pops up on HBO when I have nothing happening.
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.
I guess the modern day equivalent of this is Dan Whitney. He was your run of the mill road comic from Nebraska. He didn’t really stand out until he reinvented himself as Larry the Cable Guy. While I don’t think most comics need to be that drastic, I think trying new things is incredibly important. I first envisioned myself as a nerd comic. That’s fine. Lots of people are doing it and it’s popular right now. Maybe that’s the thing that struck me about that. It’s popular right now. How long could I stay relevant doing what could certainly be a fad. I don’t think nerd comedy is a fad though. I think it’s a generational thing. If you look at a lot of the nerdy comics out there, they all seem to be somewhere between 30 and 45. While I don’t identify myself as a nerd comic anymore, there are still nerdy references in my act because that’s how I communicate. If you watch Marc Maron, he explains his point of view in a much more literary means because he’s a well read guy. I watch a lot of nerdy movies. Those are the glasses in which I see the world and the way I communicate it.
Houdini was a great marketer. He had eye catching posters hyping his arrival to a town. If you look at the more successful road comics, they do the same thing. I’ve never seen the Disgruntled Clown perform, but I know who he is from his marketing. At the Funny Stop in Cuyahoga Falls,Ohio, the Disgruntled Clown had life sized posters of himself at the club plugging his upcoming date. And back to my earlier point, while I don’t know the Clown, he’s a great example of reinvention. I know he has another character named Rocker John. Comedy legend has it that sometimes he has Rocker John opening for the Disgruntled Clown giving himself the ability to collect two paychecks per performance. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I like to believe it is. I also like to picture a poor emcee on stage trying to fill time while John puts on his clown make up in the kitchen of a roadhouse in central Indiana somewhere! My friend Mike Stanley may be a person you don’t know yet, but like Houdini, he’s a great ground floor marketer. He makes beautiful tour posters that catch the eye.
Up until he died, Houdini was the President of the American Society of Magicians. He got magician groups from Kansas City to Buffalo to join. It makes me think of this new trend in comedy podcasts. You have these podcast networks like The Nerdist or Earwolf that end up taking on all these podcasts which ends up being beneficial to all parties. It gives these individual podcasts more presence and it makes the networks larger businesses. Chris Hardwick just sold his Nerdist empire to Legendary Entertainment.
On a strictly stand up level, you have Chicago super group Comedians You Should Know. I know that I reference them a lot and that’s because in addition to being great performers, they’re great business people. They’ve created a brand for themselves. I would think the next step would be satellite branches of CYSK. At least that’s what I would do in their shoes. Right now, they’re a huge thing within Chicago, but I could see them growing beyond that.
I imagine Houdini was like a lot of performers and got to be sick of his act. He was constantly inventing new grand escapes. In 1904, he did his Mirror Handcuff Challenge. In 1908, he added the Milk Can Escape to his act. 1912 was like his Louis CK period where it was just a ton of new stuff like his Chinese Water Torture Cell, Suspended Straightjacket Escape and Overboard Cardboard Box Escape. I just imagine him frustrated that he’d been a success for 13 years and getting a huge gush of inspiration to get out of his rut. He was at the top of his game, like Louis CK right now, and just wanted to keep pushing himself further and further.
Like many of the performers of today, Houdini ended up doing movies too. Brian Regan said recently that he wanted people come to see him because he was a comic, not because he was playing something on a TV show or was the voice of something in a cartoon. But in that interview, he also admitted to wanting to start looking into those kinds of opportunities. Being in a movie or on a television show is a good way to gain an audience. I’m sure Houdini knew that in his time too.
The last modern day comedy comparison I’ll make is to Gallagher. If you’re not a comedy nerd, you might not know that Gallagher let his brother take his act on the road as Gallagher Too. I believe the story goes that the original Gallagher would take half the US and his brother would take the other half. In Houdini’s time there was another performer, by the name of Theodore Hardeen, doing a lot of Houdini’s tricks and escapes. Hardeen, Houdini, the sound similar. Theodore Hardeen was born Frenecz Weisz, and was Harry Houdini’s little brother. In fact, early on they performed as The Brothers Houdini. The Weisz brothers didn’t have the animosity of the Gallagher brothers though!
Regardless of what you’re pursuing in life, a lot can be learned from Houdini. You have to keep working hard and find new things that interest you. Don’t be afraid to try new things because chances are that new thing is a lot less scary than behind bound upside down while submerged in water!
As a comedian, I personally love how many comedians are in the cast of Breaking Bad…arguably the best show on television. Well, to tide you over for the ten months until the show returns, here’s a look at some of the stars doing their day jobs.
Obviously the most highest profile comedian on the show has to be the great Bob Odenkirk playing sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman. Here he is in one of my favorite sketches from Mr. Show:
Comedy nerds were quick to spot Bill Burr on the show. He’s had a lot of key scenes at one of Saul’s lackeys. You may remember him from the inspector who helped Skyler get the car wash and more recently as the truck driver during the train robbery episode. Here’s a look at his amazing stand up:
Along with Bill Burr, Lavelle Crawford plays Saul Goodman’s “bodyguard” Huell. Yeah, he usually provides some comic relief in the show. Here’s some of his comedy.
I had no idea until it came up on the Breaking Bad podcast that Steven Michael Quezada who plays Hank’s partner Steven Gomez is a stand up. Here’s a quick look at some of his work:
Aaron Paul did a funny video playing “Weird” Al Yankovic. Matt Jones who played Badger is also in this as a bartender. It’s a Funny Or Die exclusive, so here’s the link: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Hope you enjoy! The final eight Breaking Bad in July 2013.
I’m returning to the Skyline Comedy Cafe this weekend. This is such an amazing club!
I was super active on Twitter over the past couple weeks while I was in Los Angeles. In case you’re not following me there (and why aren’t you?) here are some of the highlights.
Aug 22: The first time I brush my teeth after flying, I seriously worry that baggage handlers stuck my toothbrush up their butts.
Aug 23: LA is Airport Expensive!
Aug 24: Thank you Harry Moroz for taking me to a Latino Juice Bar to tell jokes.
Aug 24: In Detroit the homeless people want you to give them money. In LA they want to tell you about their “aggressive folk punk” music.
Aug 24: Either I saw Jamie Foxx at a gas station or I’m a racist.
Aug 25: You can’t take pictures in the Scientologists Psychiatry Museum people people take things out of context.
Aug 25: It’s okay for a man to run wearing flip flops if he’s in a shower being chased by a man wearing a boner.
Aug 25: Everyone looks crazy if you watch them long enough.
Aug 27: For the first time twenty minutes was about twenty minutes. Thank you unpredictable traffic! (I got to lunch super early, but had time to check out a great toy store called Blast From the Past.)
Aug 28: Three Harold & Kumar movies, but only one Harold & Maude? Ruth Gordon could have saved Christmas.
Aug 28: Back stage with all the guests while my friend Laura giddily snaps pictures to capture my nerves.
Aug 28: Bang Bang went much better than last year.
Here’s the line up from the stage entrance in the green room.
Here’s a tweet from someone else:
Zach was surprisingly shy and nervous. The relationship he and Scott have on CBB, is pretty much how they were off mic. Eric Andre was super nice and charming. Really good guy.
Aug 29: Headed to
@meltdown_show in a little bit to close out the trip with a nerdy bang.
Aug 30: You will all know who the ridiculously funny
@mrseanpatton is within a year. You heard it here first.
Aug 30: This is the biggest plane I’ve ever been on. There are easily 15 seats! I’m not good at estimating numbers.
If you’re not following me on twitter, why not? Hope to see you there for more misadventures!