Today won’t be the day everything changes. Real life isn’t like that. Real life is a mountain climb. Today I take another step towards the top of the mountain that has no peak.
I’m going to be a guest on a live WTF. If you’re not in the comedy world, you probably don’t know what that means. Having Marc Maron invite you on his show is the modern day alternative comedy equivalent of having Johnny Carson inviting you to sit on the couch. If you’re not in the comedy world, that analogy probably didn’t help either. Being on WTF is a big deal. He has more listeners to his podcast than many television shows have viewers. This is my first big credit.
The business of comedy is largely based on credits. That’s why when you go to a comedy club sometimes the comedian is still hyped by their appearance on some TV show 25 years ago. Four minutes on Conan O’Brien is a world of difference to club bookers. Sometimes it’s just as hard to get in the doors of a club in Peoria as it is to get a nationally televised set on a late night talk show.
Podcasting is the future. It’s new media. It’s creator controlled. There aren’t suits and advertisers running the game. Podcasting is pure. WTF is one of, if not the number one comedy podcast on iTunes. I estimate that a quarter of a million people will hear it. Hear me.
Unlike a spot on a late night talk show, I don’t expect anything to change. When it was announced I’d be on the show, a club I’d been trying to get back into do a feature spot contacted me to headline, but I mostly chalk that up to coincidence.
Before being on WTF I worked hard writing, performing, trying to make new opportunities. After being on WTF I’m still going to work hard writing, performing and trying to create new opportunities. But now I will do it feeling validated and confident because Marc invited me to sit on the couch.
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!
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!
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.
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
I was googling Louis CK to find photos to run with my Louie recaps and I found one from LA comedy scene photographer Leizl Estipona. Well, I e-mailed her to see if she had any others that had more than just my arm in it and she managed to find two more!
Here’s the story behind the first one. Jonah Ray was hosting the Comedy Bang Bang show at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles. He introduced me by saying that I open for Marc Maron all the time. I was worried because I think I said that he and I have only worked together once…well…twice if you count this night. I didn’t want Marc to freak. So this picture is in the middle of me telling Jonah on stage, “I didn’t say all the time!” Sure enough, Jonah went backstage and Marc corrected him. Jonah laughed and told Marc that I told him that was going to happen. When I went backstage, I mentioned it to Marc too who told me that he and Jonah already discussed it! Ah….the silliness the ensues in the green room!
This next picture is a pretty momentous occasion for comedy nerds. Maron and CK used to be like best friends. As things in comedy go, that relationship changed over years. This night at UCB may have been the first time they’ve seen each other socially in years. Louis did Maron’s WTF podcast, but this could very well be their first time bumping into each other in a club setting. Marc seemed so excited when it walked into the green room and Louis was sitting there. It was really exciting to experience first hand!
So there you go! Thank you Leizl for finding those for me. She does incredibly great and rare photography of the LA scene. She gets access to areas most of us dream about. Check out more of her simply amazing work on her site!
I feel like it’s been a good dozen or so years since I’ve been this excited for someone to release a new album. Maybe the last time it happened was Gwar’s “Carnival of Chaos” in 1997, but I already had that before it came out. You guys do know I’m a very important person, right?
I’ve been so jet lagged since I’ve been home. Jet lagged and depressed. LA really felt like the land of opportunity. Being in Michigan feels like being stranded on a desert island. It’s not that I can’t get off the island because there isn’t a boat. There’s a boat. It’s within grasp. The only problem is I’m chained to this house. That’s how I’ve been feeling since I’ve been home. Feeling like I have a 700 square foot albatross.
My plan in recent years once I realized I wasn’t half bad at this comedy thing was to get decent enough at my craft so I could go out to Los Angeles and make a fair enough first impression. I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that you only get one chance to make that first impression and that the first impression is a lasting one. The opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and get a guest pass with the “in crowd” presented itself in April. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since. On a realistic level, I was hoping the trip would recharge my batteries. And it certainly did that, plus it gave me direction. On a totally unrealistic level, I was hoping I’d have an experience like Fatty Arbuckle where someone would see my little song and dance act and say, “C’mere kid, I’m gonna make you a star!” Obviously, that didn’t happen. Read the rest of this entry
Were you wondering how many days it would take until I turned this into another love fest for my favorite comedian? Well, the answer is six!
Today, let’s listen to Marc Maron “Final Engagement”.
This is Maron’s third album and the closest to what his voice is now. It’s angry, a little self loathing and doesn’t hit on politics like his earlier stuff does. Okay, I get it. Not everyone shares the same love for Marc Maron’s style that I do. I have to say, and I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I feel like since discovering Maron, I’ve become a better person. I feel like, more so than any self help audio book I’ve listened to, Maron’s outlook…or inner look…makes me take a hard look at how and why I do things…and how I can find the humor in things that have caused me a lot of grief for a long time.
Maron is raw, unfiltered and super funny. I think he’s at his best on tracks like “Running Into the First Ex” or “What Love Becomes” where he opens up to the point of being quite uncomfortable. It’s not always an easy journey with Maron, but I think if you listen, really listen, you’ll be a better person once you get to the other side.