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.
Before the movies, staff members will go through the line asking everyone how old they are. I was told by one to never tell anyone again that I’m 42. When it comes to screenings, I’m 34. I’m flattered that they think I can pass for 34. Yeah, I could. I’m a rough looking 34, but a great looking 42! I can’t even get screening passes using my information. I have to get them using my girlfriend’s information because she’s in that prime demographic of females 18-34. For real, I’ve tried to get passes inputting my information only to be told that the screening was full. I tried again using her information and…voila…enjoy your movie!
The questionnaires cover the obvious. What did you like? What didn’t you like? How about those actors?
I saw a big comedy movie scheduled for 2015. There was a sequence where a Slayer song was used, unbelievably and appropriately well. Whoever did the music for that absolutely nailed it! It was a song where the mood fit the scene, as did the lyrics. I may have been the only person to note that afterwards. Looking around the screening room (yeah, this one was so early that it wasn’t even in a theater, it was a tiny screening room at the studio), I saw people cringing at what I was guessing their dislike of Slayer. Maybe they even made a note of that on their form. That’s disappointing. If more people note that they didn’t like that moment than the people who note that they thought it was a subtly cool choice, that moment may be gone and you’ll never get to see it.
Sometimes I’m wrong. I think my second biggest strength as a human is being able to freely admit when I’m wrong. My first biggest strength is my ability to pat myself on the back! I saw a supernatural horror movie the other night where one of the character dies by a hair dryer falling into the bathtub and electrocuting her. The first note I made on the “what didn’t you like?” section of the survey, “hair dryers falling into bathtubs can’t kill you.” Really?! That’s where I chose to draw the line in suspending my disbelief? I was fine with all the supernatural stuff happening, but apparently I couldn’t get past a technical flaw. For the record, circuit breakers would prevent you from being electrocuted if an appliance fell in your bathtub or swimming pool. While I believe that to be true, I’m not willing to test it out. I’ll save that for my doppelganger Adam Savage and the Mythbusters crew.
When you go into a movie knowing you’re going to be asked to make note of the things you didn’t like, you’re going to be looking for things not to like. Some movies aren’t meant to be inspected under a microscope. We’re not talking Paul Thomas Anderson movies here, because I’m guessing he never has to put his work under the scrutiny of test audiences.
The question that bothers me the most is the one about what you thought about each main actor. Sometimes actors get bad roles or bad direction. Maybe they’re cast in the wrong role. One of my favorite actresses was in one of the movies I saw, but her character was one note and she was extremely under used. So when asked what I thought of her in the movie, what could I do? Do I say she wasn’t good, even though I know she’s actually pretty great at her craft? Or do I say she’s great, even though she wasn’t in this movie? This particular actress is primarily known for television. What if poor screening results from this keep her from getting more movie roles even though she’s normally really good?
While I appreciate the free movies, I don’t think the opinion of test audiences should really matter. I get the importance of having someone tell you to maybe take another pass at things. Whenever I post something new here, punk rock poet/actor Jimmy Doom is always quick to let me know when there are spelling or grammatical mistakes. When I write a new script, I always send it to comedian/writer Nick Anthony because he not only understands that craft on a level I don’t yet, but he also doesn’t pull any punches. It’s important to have people who are honest with you…if their opinions matter. I think we can all agree that maybe George Lucas should have asked Steven Spielberg what he thought of anything he’s done since Return of the Jedi. Maybe he did, but Spielberg wasn’t honest. Jimmy and Nick are both great writers. Their opinions matter because they understand the craft and they’re honest. The opinions of random people in a test audience shouldn’t matter, but they do.
But seriously, thank you for the free tickets!
Inspired by an article on Hip in Detroit about how to be a good music fan, I decided to write about what it takes to be a good comedy audience.
1. Research the comedian you’re going to see. There are a crazy number of a varieties of comedy. It’s like ice cream. Baskin Robbins sells 31 flavors because not everybody likes chocolate or vanilla. Some people love Superman…and if you’re one of those people, you’re wrong! Comedy is the same way. Maybe you like the nimble wordplay of a Myq Kaplan or the introspection of a Marc Maron or maybe you just like an angry hippy to smash a watermelon on stage. Those are just three examples of the many, many kinds of comedy out there. All are valid. Comedy clubs generally only serve one kind of ice cream each week. I love Moose Tracks. I’d hate to go to a comedy club expecting Moose Tracks and find out that week they were only serving Raspberry Sherbet. I hate Rasperries! So research your entertainment options. Most comedy clubs have a website where they list the performers. And most performers have clips of their act available online. I wouldn’t walk into a movie house and just plan on seeing “movie”. No, I’d know exactly what movie I wanted to see because I researched the product first. I should have stuck with the ice cream analogy. I’m hungry. Read the rest of this entry
In the past week I’ve watched both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The World’s End. Both are movies that got me thinking a lot about nostalgia.
Wallflower takes place during the 1991-1992 school year. It was two years after I graduated, but the world was very familiar. I had groups of friends I bounced between back then. I had my closest friends in John and Bill who never overlapped. John was my metal head buddy and together we played video games and went to concerts. We’d drive around late at night and talk about girls. Bill and I went to the community center and shot pool or we’d go to the movies. I also had my own personal Wallflowers.
Sometimes I get discouraged about losing weight. Since it happens gradually and I see myself in the mirror every single day, I don’t tend to notice the change. So for shits and giggles…well…and motivation…I look at old pictures of myself.
I’m down over a 100 pounds from my heaviest. When I lost weight the last time (I’ve bounced back and forth quite a lot over the last few years. I’ll probably die like Luther Vandross or James Coco if I do that again) I’d reward myself with buying smaller Read the rest of this entry
Thank you again to everyone who came out to the Comedy Castle this past weekend for my CD release party….and thank you especially to those of you who supported this new album in advance through my Kickstarter!
Now is the chance for everyone else to get their hands on my third album “nowadays.“. I’m really proud of this one. While it’s the dirtiest thing I’ve ever put out there, it’s also the most personal. The CD opens with a little skit that kind of harkens back to the old Read the rest of this entry
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. Read the rest of this entry
When I was 16 or 17 years old I bought an Almighty Lumberjacks of Death cassette probably from Rock of Ages or Flipside Records. I never saw ALD live, but I certainly knew who they were. ALD were Detroit punk rock gods! That album “Always Out of Control, but Never Out of Beer” struck a chord with me. The songs ranged from fun anthems like the eponymous Almighty Lumberjacks of Death to the socially thought provoking Motor City Trick or Treat. Jimmy Doom was my guy. He was a local icon, but he was also dealing with the same girl problems I was facing because why else would he write Devil Girl?
I loved that album.
Fast forward years later and I meet Jimmy Doom. My memory of this could be way off. I was working at one of the many many comedy clubs called Wise Guys. I think every third or fourth state may have a comedy club called Wise Guys. Doug Stanhope was coming to town and we wanted to do something different to book his opener. I had the idea of having a contest. To find Detroit’s most extreme comedian, we’d have Detroit’s most extreme entertainers judge it. I brought in locals who wrestled in the WWE, Detroit Derby Girls, and musicians including Jimmy Doom. Even though I was probably maybe a little bit of a creepy fanboy, we hit it off.
If you’re 35 or older and grew up around Detroit you probably remember the Detroit Zoo talking animal commercial from the early 80s. I don’t think a week goes by that something doesn’t jog my memory about this ad. Well…I made a parody of it. It may actually be the first thing I’ve posted on Youtube that doesn’t contain anything objectionable!
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.
So last week I recorded my third comedy album. I had a sold out show at Go Comedy Improv Theater in Ferndale, MI. I couldn’t believe how many people from different chapters in my life showed up to support me. Five days later, I’m still glowing!
My buddy Erik Kitter opened for me. Erik used to work for me when I managed a Gamestop. He’s kind of like a little brother to me. Yeah, I already have a little brother, but if you know the two of us then you know he’s definitely the one who is way more mature! I bought Erik his first drink when he turned 21 and well…I don’t know…I tease him mercilessly, but that’s kind of what you do to a little brother…who isn’t a head taller than you and collects guns!
Ever since I lived in New Orleans about twenty years ago, I had the feeling that I would love Savannah, Georgia.
In my mind it was going to be like all the good parts of New Orleans without the public drunkenness and abundance of frat boys exchanging beads for boobs. Side note, if you’ve always romanticized the idea of going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, ask yourself this question. Would I like to be stuck in the middle of the world’s largest obnoxious and anarchic frat party? If the answer is no, but you still want to see New Orleans when something else cool is happening, go any other time of the year because something cool is always happening. Go for Halloween or Jazz Fest. Those are both great alternatives. If they idea of being in a giant awful frat party is something you’d enjoy, then what are you doing on my website?
I don’t agree with the idea that there’s no such thing as a bad audience. Comedy in itself is a ridiculously challenging art form. Think about it like this. You have one person relaying words to a group of people who have nothing in common other than the fact that they’re all in the same room at the same time. That one person has to not only try to relate to everyone, but do it while the wait staff is walking around, people are in various states of intoxication, money is being exchanged, and who knows what other baggage was brought into the equation before it even began.
Last year I did a show in front of a group whose mission was to create a safe internet environment for children. Before the show I was dreading it. I thought how on Earth could my silly potty mouth and socially incorrect song and dance act entertain these uptight assholes. They ended up being one of my favorite audiences of the year. I never hang out with people after the show because I’m painfully shy in crowds. I’d rather be in front of a crowd than inside of one. These people were great. They had a great sense of humor even when it was aimed at them….which it was. I know how every single story I tell on stage ends. I never know how some off the cuff riffing is going to end. I also don’t have a filter on my uncontrollable urge to say just about everything that pops into my head on stage. I’ve always been a person too who likes to see how far I can push things, so I’m sure I pushed them pretty far when I saw they were game for anything. It was a really fun night.
Maybe it’s nerves or the adrenaline rush of doing what we’ve waited all day long to do, but many comedians tend to talk a bit too fast on stage. Comedian and owner of the Komedy Korner, Leo DuFour once suggested when I got off stage that I slow down and enjoy my time like I would a delicious meal. Maybe that was a health tip and I’m forgetting that I was scarfing down a Poutine platter at the time….it was Canada after all. Let me find another example.
One of my best friends asked me after a show why I don’t speak on stage like I speak normally off stage. He was right. I didn’t believe in my material at the time so on stage I would yell and ram my jokes down the throats of the audience as quickly as I could.
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. Read the rest of this entry
For the past few months I’ve been tooling around with this idea to try to add it to the act, but this morning when I sat down with it, I realized it would just end up being the kind of thing I’m about to complain about.
Religion is a touchy subject, but I want to get this off my chest. I’m tired of the high and mighty pompous attitude of Atheist comics.
What I do or don’t believe when it comes to the existence of a higher power is my business and completely incidental.