Yesterday’s Letterman Auditions were a bit fun, although watching TV ready sets in a comedy club sort of loses the reasons why people go see live comedy anyway… to see what you can’t on TV. Plus, with a two hour length, it’s a bit of a march after an hour and a half. Even I find it hard to judge how funny someone is at that point. (No wonder most comedy films clock in at 90 minutes.) Do the talent bookers have that much endurance or do they just want to get ‘em all done at once?
I still had a few favorites at this show, one of these being Roy Wood Jr. - who had a great bit about all other races gaining equality in this country but only after they go through their turn picking fruit. His Septupalet bit (which you can see here) is pretty good too. My favorite joke from the night came from Liam McEneaney about being raised Nerd rather than Catholic or Jewish - instead of a conformation or a bar mitzvah, he’s taken to a murder mystery as part of a Star Trek convention. I also liked Myq Kaplan, who had a great bit about women breastfeeding in movie theater (they said no outside food!). (You can see this and another good bit of his about pyramid schemes here).
It was also fun to see Todd Barry open to warm up the room for what was to come - but judging from the laughter coming from where the comics were congregating, it was even better for them.
I caught a couple of shows this weekend as part of the fest. One of which was Friday’s Comedy is for Humans, hosted by Baron Vaughn and Joshua Grosvent at the PIT. The conceit of the show is that most stand-up events run through performers fast, bringing up as many performers as possible, each with a five minute chunk of time to perform.
Comedy is for Humans is a little different in that it allows performers to go at length - a sometime rare opportunity until you’ve reach a certain point. All of these people have got the goods to got that long, but it’s not a muscle they get to flex as much. So part of the fun is watching the performers feel that out - to see how they manage those moments of awkwardness where the segue isn’t quite there. Comedy is for Humans is a great title for the show because you can fake a persona for five but for twenty, but you can’t hide all those little things that make you human (well, at least not without a lot of practice).
Comedy is for Humans takes place every Friday at 8PM at The PIT
Filed Under Live Events
The next ten days, from now until Sunday the 17th, will see a variety of shows under the banner of The New York Underground Comedy Festival. The festival is a blend of events with a dual focus. There’s definitely a lot to appeal to people who know comedy from TV with established talent and shows, including Jim Norton, Bonnie McFarlance as part of a benefit performance as well as a special show of “Laughing Liberally”, which has a certain allure to 49-51% of the population (probably larger considering it’s NYC).
But there’s also, like Aspen and Montreal, a focus on looking for what’s next. On the NYUCF schedule you’ll see quite a few shows marked in red such as the 2006 Emerging Comic Contest and audition for the Late Show with David Letterman. These shows are where the industry will be looking. As NYUCF founder George Sarris emphasizes since so much of the industry is here, these shows could be a boon to some of the performers. If you want to see people before they make it to TV (or Aspen or Montreal for that matter), these shows are it.
I’ll be trying to check out a lot of events the next few days, particularly since this year’s festival contains shows on September 11th, which seems like a very interesting day to try and mine for funny. Check out NYUCF main website and see if there’s something that fits your fancy.
Filed Under Live Events
Dead-Frog will be a proud sponsor of the 2007 San Francisco Sketchfest which will take place from January 11th to the 28th. Right now, they’re accepting entries to take part in the festivies from almost every conceivable combination of comedians: sketch comedy groups, solo sketch/character performers, one-person shows, improv groups, short sketchy plays, alternative comedy acts, musical comedy acts and stand-up comedians. Last year’s event saw performances and appearances from Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk & David Cross. Todd Barry, Eugene Mirman, Doug Stanhope, Hard ‘n Phirm, Kristopher Tinkle and Paul F. Tompkins. And that was just a single night. It’s great company to be a part of.
The early deadline is tomorrow, but the full deadline is October 15. If you’d like to perform in the city by the bay, you can download an application form at San Francisco Sketchfest’s Official Website.
Filed Under Live Events
I couldn’t make it this year due to some scheduling conflicts. I was thisclose to going but just couldn’t see my way there. But here’s what I’ve heard from the festival organizers:
Flying Solo Series: Our new Flying Solo series soared above and beyond the hopes of our programming team. Though it was not a complete sell-out, it reflects a new direction for Just For Laughs, young, hip, edgy programming. We are all about variety so its great that this new series has been so well received by fans and media.
Stand-out performances this year:
- Jay Oakerson - New Faces and Nasty Show
- Christian Finnegan - Gala
- Tim Nutt - Gala
- Reggie Watts - New Faces (one to watch)
- Patrice Oneal - Nasty
- Patty Rosborough - Relationship show and Nasty
- Katt Williams
Demetri Martin created a HUGE buzz this summer at the Fest. He was THE in-demand interview request. His performance was a knock-out.
Our new club shows: Asian Invasion and Comedy Showdown did very well. Steve Byrne was the stand-out performance at Asian and Andy Parsons was the winner of the Comedy Showdown.
Mark Forward won the Canadian Homegrown Comic Competition.
We added a very special event featuring John Cleese. An in-depth look at his career with a Q&A segment hosted by Ian Hanomansing.
La Clique - our wet, wild burlesque style show was absolutely wonderful and created a lot of buzz with the media.
For more personal experiences of the fest, check out Christian Finnegan’s better half the lovely Kambri Crews and her posts on the CC Insider and Shecky Magazine’s rundown of what they saw Wednesday and Thursday ( Part Un and Deux ). Also good is Chortle’s coverage. For more on the Festival visit hahaha.com
New York City’s second annual Sketchfest starts this Thursday with three days of performances from the best groups not only in the Big Apple, but across the country. I talked to Alex Zalben about what people can expect from this year’s fest and how to enjoyably endure seeing every show in the festival.
What are some of the newcomers to the festival that you are most excited about introducing to New York?
It’s like you’re asking me to choose one baby over the other… But I’ll try. Cody Rivers show is fantastic. They’ve been performing together for only a short while (relatively speaking), but have blown up on the sketch scene in the past year, and I can see why. Their show walks this incredible line between ridiculously surreal premises that could be mistaken for experimental theater, except for the fact that they each have a clearly defined idea behind them, which brings them into the realm of sketch. Fempyre is a rock duo from LA, and they are hilarious, rocking, and not to be missed. Slow Children at Play are awesome. They’re still in college (at Boston University), but are so polished and funny, we had to take them into the festival. I think their tape made me laugh the hardest out of the over 100 submissions we got. And American Dream from Chicago are excellent, just really well done, solid sketches.
Are there any targets that seem to be common across sketch groups this year? Does anything thematically tie some groups together?
I think that comedy targets are in a little bit of a transition period right now. Two years ago, it was definitely political humor. Last year, people were all abuzz with The Aristocrats about dirty or blue humor. With that faded away, I think something new hasn’t filled that void yet. If I was to guess, I would say that it’s not a target, but an approach that’s on the horizon. The rise of shorter form programming on the web has been an incredible boon to sketch comedy. People don’t want to see 22 minute shows, or ever 15 minute shows. They want three to five minute content. Who has that? Sketch comedy groups. That’s how we structure everything. It’s yet to be seen how it will fall out, but people are catching on very quickly that what they want for their next-gen programming in sketch. Conversely, I think there’s a huge push in the sketch community to embrace the theatrical aspects of comedy. It’s fine and good to stand their and tell jokes, but people are realizing that what makes sketch different is that it’s theater. You have props, characters… Why not take it to the logical extreme, and actually work on blocking, stage presence, pauses, etc. They’re two very different directions people are going in, and I’m excited to see how both go. Also, lots of jokes about bears.
Does the potential for industry attention change the tone of the fest at all?
I think it certainly puts the heat on the performers to put on the best show they can, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. That being said, there’s a concerted effort on the producers part to not make this an industry supermarket. When we first decided about the festival, we picked and chose pieces from other SketchFests around the country, and what we enjoyed about each of them. The one constant is that they are full of a great, supportive, positive community of people who, more than anything are there to check out as many shows as possible, and laugh and clap whenever they can. So that was our number one priority: making this a great experience for the performers, making sure that all they have to worry about is performing, and we can take care of the rest (getting them into the shows, feeding them, being as prepared technically as possible, etc.) So to that end, we take care of the industry and press behind the scenes, in the same way, and just let the artists deal with the positive fall out.
As one of the four members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Matt Besser has founded a theater, a school and a community that finally made New York a rival to Chicago for improv. He’s since moved to Los Angeles, extending the community and establishing another coast for students and peers to play, where the industry can see much of the best live comedy performed today. However, Matt right now is more concerned with the middle of the country, as he is taking his one-man show about religion, atheism and the fighting Razorbacks “Woo Pig Sooie” across the South for a series of dates in June. We talked about the reaction he hopes his show will spark in the bible belt, as well as some of the politics surrounding it, along with touching on maintaining the integrity of the growing UCB and the sometimes cult of Del Close.
How do you think your Southern performances of “Woo Pig Sooie” will differ from our LA or New York performances? Are you expecting more negative reactions?
If I get negative, that’ll be a lot of fun. (laughs) You saw the show and it’s kind of a dialogue too, I like to talk to the audience a lot. And yeah, in California and New York, kinda preaching to the converted in a way. And I still expect to have liberal audiences, but I also expect because it’s in the bible belt I’ll get more reaction to certain things.
Usually when I do that show, everybody has different lines. Some people will be laughing along, and I’ll start talking about the pope or priests fucking kids up the ass and all of the sudden they’ll be like, “Whoa! Not funny any more!” (laughs) The Jews will be laughing and I’ll make fun of the Sabbath and “Hey, not funny anymore!”
You make that point in the show. Does the dialogue ever get too thick or does that comment defuse things right away?
I encourage it a little bit. If you know my work, I like a little bit of confrontation. I think that’s fun. I’ve only done this in New York, San Francisco and LA, pretty liberal audiences anyway. The only time it really got a reaction was I had a Catholic in the front row who kicked a chair against a chair. I engaged him and said, “What’s your point? There’s a story about priest molestation in the paper every Sunday, how do you feel about that? If there was a story about truck drivers molesting kids in the paper every day, we wouldn’t have trucks anymore. We’d find a different way…”