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
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. Read the rest of this entry
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.
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’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
They say you should never meet your heroes. I’ve found that to be untrue. When I was 18, I met and became friends with Dave Brockie, better known as Oderus Urungus lead singer of Gwar. He took me under his wing for a few years and helped direct me onto my journey as a professional entertainer.
As an adult, my hero is Marc Maron. He’s a master of his craft and a truly unique voice. He’s said in the past that young comics tell him that they want to be “real” and he responds by telling them to work on being funny first. Marc is both real and really funny.
My biggest fear driving home from my week in Madison, Wisconsin was Christine asking, “Did you have a good time?” I’d answer, “Of course! I was at one of my favorite clubs working with my absolute favorite comedian, who I feel like I got to become friends with, of course I had a good time!” Then she’d say, “Good, because that was your Make a Wish. I have some bad news for you.”
Mike Bobbitt is arguably one of the funniest, if not the funniest comedian working in Detroit. In his eight years in the business he’s already performed in numerous comedy festivals and worked with some of the biggest names in the business.
The remarkable thing about Mike Bobbitt is that he’s able to walk the fine line between speaking to a very specific crowd while maintaining a level of accessibility to the masses.
Mike currently wrapped production on the television show that he and his wife wrote. I had a chance to talk to him while he was in Madison, Wisconsin.
Mike, let me start by saying you look really handsome.
You manage to be both cute and cuddly and ruggedly handsome at the same time. That’s quite a feat.
I appreciate that, but this is already starting off a little weird.
Mike DeStefano died Sunday night. I never met him, but I wish I had. I first heard him on The Moth storytelling podcast. Mike had a couple stories on there that I remember. He had one that really stuck with me. It was about how he was visiting his wife in hospice. They were both HIV positive, but hers turned into full blown AIDS and she was dying. He ended up buying a motorcycle and took her for one last ride. It was such an inspiring story about living life to its fullest all the way up to the end. It was a story about love. It was a story about saying goodbye. It was a story that touched me. At the end of the stories on the Moth, the host Dan Kennedy comes on and gives a little bio about the speaker. He said that Mike DeStefano was a comedian living in New York. I had a feeling he would be the kind of comedian that I respected and strived to be more like. I had a feeling his comedy was raw, original and honest.
It wasn’t until about a year later when Marc Maron interviewed Mike on the WTF Podcast that I really sought out his work. I was glad that the same story touched Marc like it touched me. It’s a powerful story that even paraphrasing it for Christine one night brought tears to her eyes. In the interview, Mike explained how he became a comedian. He was giving AIDS awareness lectures. When people would ask silly questions, he’d give silly answers. “Can I get AIDS from my dentist?” “Only if your dentist is fucking you in the ass.” I found out Mike had been on Last Comic Standing. To me, that didn’t bring legitimacy to Mike. Mike brought legitimacy to what is essentially a game show. Mike DeStefano was the real deal.
This time I wrote a note reminding myself that I wanted to research Mike’s work and see what I could find. I ended up downloading his CD “OK Karma” off iTunes. Much like the performer himself, the CD is raw and rough around the edges. He has moments where he rants and it doesn’t really hit strong with the audience. He wraps up that rant with announcing that what the audience is just heard is going on the CD. It’s a real moment. A polished CD from a punk rock comic would sound…wrong.
Coincidentally, Saturday morning I was driving with a local punk rock spoken word artist Jimmy Doom. The night before Jimmy was talking about wanting to take a stab at comedy. His spoken word CD is raw and witty and I’m sure he’ll do great. I wanted to introduce Jimmy to DeStefano’s work because I knew they shared a similar sensibility. It always brings me joy when I can make someone laugh, whether it is from something I said or something I played for someone. Jimmy cracked up.
After the Maron interview, I found Mike on Facebook, friended him and sent him a message thanking him for sharing his story and being inspiring. He never wrote back and that’s okay. I know I’m not the only person he touched. I wish I would’ve gotten the chance to work with him. I wish I would’ve gotten the chance to share a stage with him. And I wish I would’ve gotten the chance to say thank you. We all overcome adversity in our lives. Mike overcame losing his soul mate, battling a life ending disease and drug addiction and he did it all with a smirk and a middle finger in the air. It kind of makes a lot of my problems seem small by comparison. If there is a heaven, I hope the first thing Mike said to God was, “Fuck you, I beat HIV! I win! Now where’s my old lady, mother fucker?”