9th Anniversary and my thoughts on comedy classes
Nine years ago today I had my graduation show at Joey’s Comedy Club. Since then I’ve done over 1480 shows.
Some comedians argue about the benefits of comedy classes. I like them, but with an asterisk.
I don’t believe you can teach someone to be funny. I think it’s like playing a musical instrument. You either have an ear for music or you don’t. It’s the same way with comedy. Either you have an ear for what a joke sounds like or you don’t. Yeah, like with music, you can teach the mechanics, but some people just are never going to get it. They don’t have that natural ability.
Believe me, I wanted to play bass so badly. Practically all my friends when I was a teenager and in my early twenties were great musicians. A lot of my friends to this day are still great musicians. I just don’t have a natural affinity towards music. I practiced and practiced my bass until I was passable in a punk band where I wrote most of the songs so I knew I didn’t throw anything out there that was beyond my ability. My first passion is music. If I could do that, I would. I hate that I can’t. I took guitar lessons and tried, but at the end of the day someone else with a natural ability was going to have a much easier time and go a lot further.
It’s the same way with comedy classes. Some people take the classes with no ability, but they want to be a comedian so bad. They’ll never really figure it out. Some people have that ability and just need little pushes in the right direction. Some people may be amazing writers and just want to conquer their fear of public speaking. For that matter, some people may have no interest in comedy at all and only want to conquer their fear of public speaking.
I believe comedy classes are a good thing…as long as their being taught by a comedian. There was, for a time, a stand up class being taught by a local actor. I guess that class was for students who wanted to learn how to act like a comedian.
Bill Bushart taught my class. Bill himself is a great comedian, but what makes him an even better teacher is his ability to almost immediately tap into a student’s sensibility and punch up the material in their voice. Bill is a master of tagging jokes and in my opinion the best teacher out there. I don’t know how things would’ve been different for me had he not been my instructor.
I’m glad I took comedy classes and started this pursuit of this craft. I’ve never worked hard for anything in my life before this. Everything I did, I did because it came easy to me. I’ve sacrificed more for comedy than anything else or anyone else in my life. I don’t know that I’ve made the right decisions always. At times I’m almost certain I’ve made the exact wrong decisions. Comedy has given to me and it’s taken from me. I’m so deep in it now that I don’t see a life without it. I love comedy like a junky loves their fix. At moments of lucidity I see comedy as the Symbiote that at first helped Peter Paker and then later tried to destroy him. But when I’m on stage, I’m high and I like it there.
Looking back, if I were to give anyone advice starting out, it would be to set boundaries. Look at the things that make you happy now and never let comedy step on those things or take those things away from you. When you sit down with a note book to write new bits, write yourself reminders about where you are and what’s important. My personal experience is it’s hard to balance the life of a comedian with the real world. I think the people who have are the people whose real world really started once they reached a certain level of success. I don’t know.
All I’ve learned in the past nine years is that I’ve amassed a lot of opinions about things and an ability to spew them without having any real knowledge of anything at all. And that’s what comedy is really…when you break it down. One person in the spotlight spreading their thoughts to a somewhat captive audience.
Well…this return to the website took a weird twist, eh? Welcome back.
Juggling with Lushes LaMoan
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.
Jeff Scheen is Weird
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.
Guess the Pedestrian
I spend a lot of time driving for work, and as anyone who does knows, you need to do something to alleviate the boredom of the road. That’s why I came up with the game Guess the Pedestrian.
It’s a simple game, and you can play it alone or with friends.
In my experience, unless you live downtown in a big city, there are only a few kinds of pedestrians out and about:
- People too poor to afford a car
- People with DUI’s
People exercising don’t count as pedestrians – they’re doing something else all together.
The fun is trying to guess which type each pedestrian you see is. The girl in a Sepultura T-shirt and pajama pants pushing a baby stroller and smoking a cigarette? No car. The 40-something guy carrying a 12-pack and a bag of groceries down the street? DUI. Keep tabs on how many of each you see, or with a buddy, each pick a type, and see who gets to 10 first. It’s fun for everyone! Except, of course, those poor pedestrians.
My New Favorite Podcast: Affirmation Nation with Bob Ducca
I have started listening to an excellent new podcast over the past few weeks. Listeners of Comedy Bang Bang will recognize the character Bob Ducca from his frequent appearances on that podcast. Affirmation Nation with Bob Ducca has turned what I thought might have been a one-note character into a 5-day-a-week 3-5 minute dose of awesome. Seth Morris (the man behind Bob Ducca) is a comedy genius as far as I’m concerned.
Every weekday, Bob shares a story, gives us a health tip, responds to listener e-mails, or reviews a health product on the show. Every episode is funny, often in an unexpected way, like when Bob started recording an episode and got kicked out of the recording studio by the person who had booked it, or when his guided meditation turned into 2 minutes of the sounds of him removing all of his medical devices before he could begin.
I laugh out loud at this podcast more often than I do with any of the other comedy podcasts I listen to.
If you’re not listening to Affirmation Nation, check it out on iTunes or at Earwolf.com.
Quick Questions: What’s Your Favorite Movie About Comedy?
I live, breath, eat and sleep comedy. Movies about comedy speak to me. From the flawed Punchline to a classic like Annie Hall, I love movies about comedians. The best movie to capture the essence of comedy in a small town doing a one nighter has got to be The Godfather of Green Bay. But my all time favorite is Funny People. People knocked it, but I love it. My nightmare is that I’ll end up friendless like Adam Sandler’s character. I try really hard to be nice to everyone, but I know sometimes I piss off my friends and that makes me feel terrible. I need my them. Anyway, I asked my peers what their favorite movie about comedy is. Check it out:
Brad Austin: Comedian. (Mike note: An essential documentary for every comedian to watch.)
The third chair…the great Pat Francis: Mr. Saturday Night.
Kristy Rock: When Stand Up Stood Out. Read the rest of this entry
Live From New York…It’s Ben Konstantin!
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.
Week in Review: Nerding Out!
All the proofs for my new CD “Full Frontal Nerdity” were finalized this week and the order is being processed. I’m super excited for it. Roger from the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase has been gracious enough to host my CD release party on September 22nd. He even let me put together a super awesome line up that I handpicked. The show will open with Jeff Conolly who was part of my birthday show where we recorded the CD. Comedian/Derby Girl/Cool Chick Amy Probst, who I’m a big fan of, will be next, followed by the super awesome Allyson Hood. Allyson has a guest appearance on my CD. Mike O’Keefe, who also makes an appearance on my CD is next and then finally it’s me. I’ll have free passes for this show too. I really can’t wait for the 22nd!
I also had a meeting with the Red Cross this week. On October 25th a bunch of us will be roasting Dracula to benefit the Red Cross. So lots of great things up ahead.
Thursday I did a set at the Painted Lady. I’ve been going through a lot of stress and well…went on stage with a lot of baggage. It was cringe worth, but therapeutic. Trevor Smith had two new bits that were so awesome that it made me want to quit comedy for a minute. He and I will be hitting the road together in a couple weeks to head to Goonie’s in Rochester, Minnesota.
After the Painted Lady a lot of us headed over to Go Comedy. I did an interview for an internet project. It was fun and silly. I love the camaraderie of hanging out with comedians. In spite of my little melt down, it was a great night.
On Saturday I headed up to The Bull Ring in Goodrich, Michigan. Vicky, who runs the place, likes to make sure her customers have regular comedy, so this show was sort of a lead in to the start of their normal season. I didn’t know it was only a one person show, so I was glad that Allyson Hood came out for a guest set. She ended up opening the show and really set the stage for me. That show ended up being great!
Sunday I met up with one of my oldest friends, Jeff Sanguis to work on a project with him for his website Nerding Out. Jeff was the lead singer of Detroit ska legends Telegraph. We’ve been buddies since we were teenagers and stayed close because of our mutual dorkiness. Jeff and I both bought Bonnie Burton’s Star Wars crafting book, so we ended up rolling tape while we each picked a project to make. It was great catching up with him again, especially while dorking out!
My brothers showed me this video, and I thought it was great. As far as I know, it is historically accurate.
Shut Up, Internet! #5
This is the fifth in a series of posts on internet trends or memes I think are just plain stupid. Please be advised that my opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Mike Bobbitt, Off the Mike, any other contributors, Stephen Hawking, the United States Navy, M&M Mars, the Newsboy Legion, my mother, my dog, or my wife.
Taking Comedians Seriously on Twitter
Twitter is a lot of fun, and I really enjoy following my favorite comedians on there. The problem I have lately is the deluge of stupidity coming from other Twitter users. Not a day goes by that one of the comedians I follow doesn’t retweet an idiotic answer to a rhetorical question, someone accusing them of being dumb or offensive because of a joke they made, or explaining something to them like they’re a child because the feigned ignorance for humor.
You are reading posts made by comedians. They are usually trying to be funny. Let’s all just take that for granted. It’s usually pretty obvious when they are being serious, otherwise it’s safe to assume anything they say is for humor. If you’re following your senator, by all means, take him or her seriously all the time and tweet your outrage to them. If a comedian offends you or says something you don’t like, unfollow them, but don’t send them a message about it. They’re just going to retweet it to show the rest of us how stupid you are. Yes, we will all look down on you from our lofty comedy nerd towers.
Why do idiots try to ruin everything for us?
Comedian…er…Comedienne…er…the Hilarious Allyson Hood
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.
On Writing with Bob Phillips and Steve Lind
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?
“Lost” Photos from LA (monumental Maron/CK shot!)
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!
Quick Questions: What Word Bothers You in Comedy?
In light of a situation where an older comic kept using the word “Oriental” to describe Asian people even after I explained to him that “Oriental” describes property, not people, I got to thinking about words that both me in comedy. I hate that word in addition to the word “retard”. Not only is that word hurtful, but it’s just such a hacky word to throw out to get a guaranteed laugh. Anyway, I asked a bunch of my peers which words they don’t like when used on stage. Check it out:
Mike O’Keefe: “In any context, I am not a fan of ‘bitch’. ”
Garri Madera: “Really”.
Ricarlo Flannigan: “Seriously”. Very annoying.
PJ Jacokes: “Bitch”.
Jeff Conolly: “Faggot. It’s like cooking with truffles. Only the best chefs can do it because the flavor is so potent and easily off-putting if mishandled. “Faggot” is the same way, only the best comedians can handle it properly. Also, truffles sound pretty gay.”
Paul Gilmartin (Mental Illness Happy Hour/Dinner and a Movie): ” I can’t think of any word in particular, but when they use the same phrase over and over because they’re afraid of silence, I get annoyed.”
A Conversation with Mike Brody
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.”