Category Archives: Uncategorized
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!
Maybe it’s the lack of sleep last night, but for some reason I found this entire conversation via Scrabble with my best buddy Bob Phillips to be ridiculously funny.
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.
WordPress offers a lot of cool stats. Below is a chart of what countries the people live in who come to this site.
I assumed I would have the most readers in the US and then Canada. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the UK was a close third. I love Australia too. I really hope I can perform down there soon. I know all the lyrics to Who Can It Be Now so I’ll hit in just fine. France is fifth, eh? I wish it was broken down to see where on the site people from each country were looking. Surprisingly, close behind France was Brazil. I sort of thought it would have been New Zealand or another European country. So, this may be interesting only to me, but it was interesting nonetheless.
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.