Category Archives: Interviews
It’s the…wait for it…Twentieth episode of Nerd Comic Rising. We’ve interviewed some steller comedians on this show (well, at least I have, but I like to think you participated) but none quite like Ricarlo Flanigan, star of “My Big Black Podcast” and comedian extrordinaire. Listen as we talk growing up in Religion, Racial Tensions, and he sends my white guilt through the roof! Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to email@example.com
I’m fascinated by all branches of performing arts. Stand up comedy and burlesque share a lot of the same roots in show business, both starting back in the vaudeville circuit nearly a century ago. A few years ago I did a Halloween show with my friends the Detroit Rockabilly band Graveside Manner. Also on the bill was the burlesque troupe Detroit Dizzy Dames led by the wonderful Lushes LaMoan. We became Facebook friends and I couldn’t help to notice how incredibly busy she constantly is.
For me, the hardest part about being a performer is figuring out how to juggle so many different schedules. We’re all essentially small business owners trying to sell a product, and that product is ourselves. Somehow Lushes manages to not only juggle the business of Lushes LaMoan, but is additionally teaching burlesque and serving as the Branch Director of the Detroit chapter of Dr. Sketchy which is an “anti-art school” featuring local models and burlesque performers, and she manages to juggle it all very well! She’s one of the hardest working performers in the city and has already made a name with herself with noteworthy accomplishments like being featured on the cover of the 2010 Metro Times Lust issue.
I think I may have figured out how she does it all when I had a chance to catch up with her at a recent Dr. Sketchy event at the Scarab Club downtown. She multi-tasks incredibly well! We talked while she arranged snacks for all the attendees, delegated chairs being set up for the artists, and fielded questions from a long line of people.
The first I remember meeting you was that Halloween show a few years back.
Yes. I started managing the Detroit Dizzy Dames when SPAG went on hiatus. It started with myself and a few of the girls not wanting to stop doing burlesque. We carried on what we do and did it a little differently. So we started the Detroit Dizzy Dames and that show was the Halloween Hootenanny and that was actually our very first gig.
I wasn’t born a slave. I become one after the great robot wars that started September 1st, 2011. The human race was either obliterated or taken aboard the giant robot space ships and sent to work as gardeners on the third moon of Flab Quarv 7. My former life as a comedian who rocked the socks off of audiences all across the United States and parts of Canada were behind me. Now, I was trimming hedges and pulling weeds for the gluttonous Flab Quarvians.
The days were long. One Flab Quarv 7 day is equal to 3 ½ Earth days. Oh, how I miss the Earth. The nights were longer. Sure, they were only a standard Earth night long, but they felt longer because I was a slave gardener and only had a hoe to fend off the vicious nocturnal Jagerbeasts.
I’ll never forget the night when a little bit of home came rushing back to me in the form of a friendly bearded face. At first I didn’t recognize the bearded man, although his intense glare was eerily familiar. It wasn’t until he took off his fake beard, which he wore at night because Jagerbeasts are afraid of facial hair, that I realized it was my old friend the great Mike O’Keefe! I was excited to see him. Mike was always like a little brother to me. Before we could greet each other a space rake violently crashed into his skull killing him instantly.
Behind him, stood Jeff Scheen. He had blood in his eyes. After he wiped his eyes clean he recognized me and asked where Mike O’Keefe went. Fearful for my life and not wanting to be the bearer of bad news, I changed the subject and asked Jeff to tell me his tale. Still clutching his bloodied space rake, Jeff sat down beside me and we began to talk. The other slaves were fascinated and joined in the questioning. Here is a transcript of Jeff’s final words to our ragtag group.
I remember back on Earth you told me once that you slept in your parents’ room until you were 12. Is that where all your fucked up material came from?
I guess. I destroyed their sex life. Killed it. Because as soon as I was out of there they had a kid. My sister is 12 years younger than me. I was the only child for 12 years.
How did you rebel?
I always wanted a sister.
Ben Konstantin has been my peer from the very start of my time in comedy. Like I said previously regarding my friendship with Bob Phillips and Steve Lind, Ben is a guy who I don’t see me interacting with in any other world outside of comedy. We’re just two very different people. Honestly, he rubbed me the wrong way until I started to get to know him. What I viewed as off putting, was really just focus and determination. I’m glad I managed to overcome my preconceived biases and got to become friends with Ben before he moved to New York. I’m a fan of the guy and I was curious to see how the Big Apple was going to treat him. A handful of Detroit guys have made the jump to New York, but I wasn’t as close with any of them as I am Ben. So now that he’s a couple months into his new residence, I picked his brain.
How is comedy treating you so far out there?
It’s been tough and great at the same time. Recently I had a week where I was on stage seven times in five days and mostly good shows.
I’m a big fan of Allyson Hood, but I’m also insanely jealous of her. When I watch her on stage it really seems like she hit the ground running. Relatively new at comedy, she’s only been performing for about the past year, Allyson already has a very distinct voice and point of view. She’s self assured on stage with very deliberate timing. I’m a firm believer in people having a natural talent for comedy and Allyson certainly backs up that theory in my mind.
When I interviewed TJ Miller, I did research and found an old interview with him from before he broke big. Hopefully this will be the same case with this Allyson Hood interview. I really believe she’s going to be big. I’m proud to have shared the stage with her during my birthday shows and she’s a performer who I always look forward to seeing work. Enjoy our chat.
What I find interesting about your start is that you got into comedy totally by yourself because it just became this thing that you got obsessed with.
What was that process that put you on stage the first time?
I just started looking up open mics at comedy clubs. I just googled open mics in Detroit and I think Mark Ridley’s (Comedy Castle) popped up first. So I just called and said, “Hey I want to sign up for the open mic. I’ve never done this before. What do I do?”
Did you get on the first week?
I got on the first week and I didn’t get on the next week, but I did get on the week after that. I got on twice a month exclusively there after that.
It’s a podcast seventeen (going on eighteen)! And this episode is with the amazing Jeff Dwoskin. We talk about old awesome tv shows, writing strategies for longer sets, and he says the things my wife wishes I would say, which is why she is forbidden to ever hear this. Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the best tools a comedian has is their friends. I can’t think of anything more important than having a tight group who you can bounce ideas off of and get honest feedback from. Honesty is the key in that. I’m lucky enough to have Bob Phillips and Steve Lind around. The three of us get together, help each other punch up our material and most importantly tell each other when things aren’t working. The last time we got together, I picked their brains about the writing process.
Mike: How do you guys come up with your premises? Will you wait for something to happen or can you sit down and force yourself to write?
Steve: I used to force myself to sit down and write. Now I wait for a premise to happen.
Mike: So now everything comes from real life?
Steve: All my stuff comes from real life pretty much.
Bob: More and more is coming from real life.
Mike: Bob, but you’re more of an observational comic.
Steve: But isn’t that real life?
Mike: Well, yeah, but abstract observational I guess I mean. Not really abstract, but more pop culture.
Bob: Yeah, but that’s real life though. It’s just not my personal life. Lately I’ve been trying to find the things, and let them come, that make me feel strongly one way or another and find out why. I’m angry about something, why does that make me angry? Okay, where’s the funny in that? Okay, do other people feel that way and think of this as odd or weird?
Here’s the neat thing about comedy. You can work with someone once or twice and totally hit it off. Maybe you see them a grand total of six days in eight years, but you just feel a real bond with that person because you share the same point of view and profession. That’s how it’s been for me with Mike Brody. I was shocked when I saw him the other week because he didn’t look exactly like I remembered and then we both realized that it’s been years since we’ve seen each other! Sure, we’re Facebook friends and have each other’s phone numbers, but I have a lot of phone numbers and even more friends on Facebook (probably a lot more than you)!
Mike Brody is simply fantastic…both on stage and off. The reason he’s instantly likable is because he’s just a really decent person. I honestly think if I were to trace back when I realized I needed to be more conversational on stage, it’s probably right around the time I worked with Brody. The fun thing about being his friend is when you hang out with him before a show and then watch him get on stage, it’s just like the conversation continues, but now the audience is involved.
So when Mike was in town, we went out to lunch and just started talking about all sorts of things. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
You got married since the last time we hung out. What was it like the first time your wife went to see you perform?
It was at a Montreal audition, so it was already high stress; and my new girlfriend was there to see me for the first time! So basically I had to tell her, “Here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to go to the club and you’re going to sit by yourself for two hours. I’m going to occasionally walk by really fast and say, “Hi”, but I have to pace. My shows are not going to be a date for us.”
It’s the 15th Episode of Nerd Comic Rising, and the end of the NCR Fast!! This episode kicks off season two with a second interview with Mike Bobbitt! We talk about his recent trip to LA, depression, and our mutual love of Brad Austin which leads to planning his destruction. Check out more great content at JeffreyConolly.com or email feedback to email@example.com
AJ Finney is pretty fantastic. He’s high energy…that doesn’t come close to describing that! He’s a manic ball of comedy energy and instantly likable! I’ve gotten to work with him once, but I saw him again earlier this year at the Detroit Comedy Festival. He’s a super awesome guy who just released his new CD this week! He was nice enough to let me bounce some questions off of him. Enjoy!
I think over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable letting the audience see me for all my internal disorders. Were most people hide their insanity with medication, I embrace my eccentricities and employ improvisation as tool wrangle my ADHD. That’s not saying that my chosen lifestyle over the years hasn’t also intensified my already overactive imagination and anxiety issues.
You do well with audiences and your peers respect you a whole lot too. Are you planning on staying in the midwest or do you have plans to make a move to one of the coasts.
I will always consider the Midwest home, but I will go where I need to in the future. Right now I’m enjoying all the experiences the road has to offer like interesting conversations with strangers, canned beer, black outs, sleeping in my car, radio interviews, hecklers, art museums, hipster dive bars, waking up naked in a hotel lobby, malls, strip clubs, Canada, who’s in my bed…wait this isn’t my bed, all for 30-60 minutes of stage time, to battle for laughs and I love every minute of it.
You’re new CD is coming out this week…unless I’m mistaken about that! Tell me about it!
The CD is titled “AJ Finney My Brain Don’t Work No Good” which was recorded live at Stanford’s Comedy Club in Kansas City, and is being released Tuesday July 26th on Uproar Records. It’s an explorative experience about how I interpret the world through my rusty bucket of wiggle worms, interlaced with stories of love, loss, rum, and my intense obsession with green beans.
You have a lot of festivals under your belt. Do you have any advice for people who are maybe doing one for their first time?
Submit to as many festivals as possible. If you don’t make it, hey apply next year or attend anyway as an audience member. If you get in have as much fun as possible. I’ve actually gotten more work from fellow comedians that I’ve met at competitions than I ever have by winning one. “Networking is the name of the game”
I find with the auditioning process for a festival or any big thing I tend to get in my head and psyche myself out. How do you stay level headed when you go out for things?
With festivals and auditions, do as many as possible, the more you do the easier it gets. Always perform with confidence. My opinion is they aren’t judging you’re material as much as they’re judging you as a person, do they like you?, can they sell you?..etc.
I’m proud of the fact that newer comedians read my site and I have access to picking the brains of some great comedians like yourself. What advice do you have for the newer people?
First off thank you for the compliment Mike. My advice to anyone starting off is to become completely obsessed with the art form itself, the history, the artists, the formulas, everything comedy. Realize your career choice is a marathon not a sprint, it takes time to develop your voice as an artist.
Where can people find out more about you?
AJ’s CD: “My Brain Don’t Work No Good” is available on Amazon and iTunes right now.
The other night I was complimented on my skills in being able to react with everything that happens during a show so quickly. That night a lot of things happened during the show. On one side of me I had a neat, but crazy old coot who dressed like he could’ve been Weird Al’s dad. On the other side of me I had a 24 year old girl admitting proudly that her Beiber Fever ran so deep that she liked to pick up on underage boys on Myspace…because apparently only adults are on Facebook. I worked with it.
The reason I am able to work with it so well is because I have an improv background. When I started stand up I took classes at Second City in Detroit when it was still there…and certain powers that be cared more about the arts and less about baseball…or however the story goes as to why Second City Detroit is no longer. My teacher there was PJ Jacokes.
PJ now operates Go Comedy in Ferndale. In addition to being one of the best improvisers I’ve ever seen…he did a long form show one night that ran the gambit of emotions…simply amazing…he’s also an incredibly nice guy. He hooked me up with my acting agent, which is a bigger deal than you may think. PJ and I are both stocky, nerdy white guys. So the roles I’m going out for are a lot of the same roles he’s going out for. That’s pretty awesome when you think about it. He opened the door for someone to be his direct competition!
I sat down with PJ a long time ago, but in the months since got overwhelmed by how long it takes me to transcribe an interview. This coincidentally, is how he and I started our talk.
It takes me an hour to transcribe ten minutes of audio.
Do you have Dragon Dictation? It’s an app on the iphone that takes audio and translates it. It’s 70% accurate.
Matt Busch is cool. Yeah, lots of people are cool, what makes Matt so special? I believe that Matt, along with comedians like Patton Oswalt and filmmakers like Kevin Smith brought a certain amount of awesomeness to nerd culture. They brought nerdiness out of the basement and into the sunlight.
If you’ve been to any comic book convention, you’ve probably seen Matt Busch. There’s usually a horde of fans around him because he’s personable, charismatic and has time for everyone.
At his heart, this is the coolest thing about Matt Busch, he owns his inner nerd. On the outside, he’s a cowboy hat wearing tattooed rock star, but on the inside, he’s still that five year old kid seeing Star Wars for the first time in 1977 anxiously waiting for the action figures to come out.
For my birthday I thought it would be fun to interview the person who brought me into this world – my mom! Sometimes I feel ripped off because other comedians seem to use comedy to cope with parent issues. I don’t have any. My parents were perfect. My dad worked had to provide his family not only with everything we needed, but pretty much everything we wanted too. I found my interest in sci-fi and fantasy through my dad and as a kid I was seeing Star Wars opening weekend and going to hobby shops/comic book stores. It’s in directly through my dad, that my friendship with Gwar began.
My mom is a super mom. She’s the mom that all of my friends were jealous of. When she had me and my brother, she quit work to raise us full time. During the years that my brother and I were in the same Middle Schools and High Schools, she volunteered at the school clinic and was known to be the cool mom who let kids come in and lay down for an hour if they had a headache…or a test they didn’t study for.
Her way of raising me and my brother, who by the way is also pretty spectacular in himself even though he and I are just about polar opposites, was not only to love us unconditionally, but to also trust us until we gave her a reason not to. I’m glad to say that my brother and I both turned out fine. Neither of us do drugs, whore around or light homeless people on fire. Sure, we got into the mischief that young boys tend to get into and I’d be a fool to think my mom didn’t know, but we both always made sure that we never got into so much trouble that it would disappoint our parents or make them stop trusting us.
So, when I interviewed Nate Fridson, who also comes from a very solid family, I touched on wondering where we get our motivation to do comedy. I firmly do believe there is something a little unhealthy about wanting to make a group of strangers like us night after night. For me, I think it’s because I miss that feeling of being the most important person in the world that my mom gave me as a kid. I’m like a junky searching for that high that he on the first go around. I’m hoping having an audience love me enough will make me feel like that unconditional love I had from my mom as a kid.
I’ve always been lucky. I come from a supportive family. Even to this day, I schedule myself in Holly, near where my brother Brian lives with his family, so my brother can come out and see me for his birthday. My wife Christine is super supportive and works hard in order for me to pursue my dreams. As I sit here on the morning of my birthday transcribing this interview, I realize that I’ve always had it pretty lucky and that’s the best birthday present there is.
My mom and I sat down over a game of Scrabble and I interviewed her not only to have a chance to talk about me a little bit, but also to distract her so that I could win a few games because usually she destroys me! Read the rest of this entry