Monday, March 30, 2009

BNN Mondays: Bobby Smithney and Saturday Delivery

Boston News Net regular Bobby Smithney mourns the current state of the postal service, and tries to eat a hamburger in one second. It does tie together, I promise. You'll have to watch to see.

See more clips at

Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: Wes & Eugene's Cabinet of Wonders at the Brattle 3/26

John Wesley Harding and Eugene Mirman seem like an odd pair – one is an English-born folk/rock singer and writer heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, the other is a Russian-born comedian who took his early cues from Emo Philips. But they meshed beautifully together, with the help of a few noteworthy friends, Thursday night at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge presenting their traveling variety show, Wes & Eugene’s Cabinet of Wonders.

The show was both heady and silly, featuring writers Tom Perrotta, Rick Moody, and David Gates, musicians Tanya Donelly, and P.T. Walkley, poet David Daniel, and comedian Larry Murphy. Harding assembled the whole group onstage to start out, introducing each guest in a poem and setting a sort of impish tone. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves right from the start, ambling onto the stage looking game for whatever the show turned out to be.

John Wesley Harding and Eugene Mirman Plan Their Cabinet of Wonders

What it turned out to be was a true variety show. Mirman did a couple of sets of comedy, Harding did a couple of sets of music, drawing heavily from his new rock album, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead. Perrotta and Moody both read pieces about food – Perrotta regarding his less than adventurous palette and Moody about how cheese equals death and is therefore eternal and indispensible. Murphy did his newbie comic character (something he’s been perfecting for years – I won’t spoil the surprise if you can see him do it).

Mirman showed a few videos and told the story of his epic battle with Delta Airlines over his lost luggage (he was eventually compensated, and used the money to buy post cards pre-addressed to Delta Airlines demanding a televised apology), and a couple of bits from his recent book tour for The Will to Whatevs. For local fans, he also brought back his spoof of the television campaign from a couple of years ago.

But there was also a bit of mixing and matching, with Harding at the center. Moody and Gates sang harmonies with him, Walkley backed him up for a couple of tunes, and Harding even got Mirman to sing “Mrs. Robinson” with him. He accompanied Tanya Donelly, who started with a shimmering “Moon Over Boston,” a song she sang at Harding’s request (he said he had seen her do it at the Middle East years ago and loved it).

Tanya Donelly and John Wesley Harding "Moon Over Boston"

The night ended with everyone back onstage again, singing “We Are the World style,” as Harding put it, a song Harding wrote that was inspired by Eugene. I got video of this, but so as not to spoil it for those who might be catching the tour at a later date, I won’t be posting it yet.

Here are the rest of the tour dates:

Wed, Apr 1 -- The Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
Thu, Apr 2 -- Missisiippi Studios, Portland, OR
Sat, Apr 4 -- Largo, Los Angeles, CA
Sun, Apr 5 -- The Independent, San Francisco, CA
Thu, Apr 9 -- Street Entry, Minneapolis, MN
Fri, Apr 10-- Shuba's, Chicago, IL
Sat, Apr 11-- High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI
Wed, Apr 15-- Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wes & Eugene's Cabinet of Wonders, Tonight at the Brattle

If you haven't already gotten your tickets to tonight's Cabinet of Wonders show at the Brattle, don't wait to try to get them at the door. Eugene Mirman packed the Brookline Booksmith at last month's reading of The Will to Whatevs, and with all of the talent on the bill for Wonders, it's sure to sell out.

I spoke with Mirman about the show, and his book, in February. You can read the interview here.

This is the line-up, from the Brattle site.

John Wesley Harding (musician)
Eugene Mirman (comedian)
Tanya Donelly (musician)
Rick Moody (writer/musician)
P.T. Walkley (musician)
Tom Perotta (writer)
David Daniel (poet)
Larry Murphy (comedian)

That's a lot of talent, with a decidedly local bent. I'm especially happy to see Larry Murphy doing a set. He's the voice behind Assy McGee, a guilty pleasure of mine since I interviewed him about it for the Globe when it started in 2006.

Here's a bit of Murphy at work:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Derek Gerry Hosts at the Burren: Tonight 10PM

Great line-up tonight at the Burren, hosted by Derek Gerry. The show is free, starts at 10PM, and features friend of the site Jessie Baade, Dan Sally, Ted Petengill, Mike Pincus, Dan Boulger, Danny Richardson, Steve Macone, Sal Votano, Jessie Baade, Shawn Marek, Mehran, and series creator Dave Rattigan. If you're reading this, stop now and run out to Davis Square in Somerville. the back room of the Burren is one of Boston's best, cozy venues, and they pour a great Guinness.

Jonathan Katz: One Man, Many Games at ImprovBoston

Jonathan Katz returns to ImprovBoston tomorrow with a new show, One Man: Many Games. Katz calls it “kind of a work in progress,” an adaptation of his podcast from with a few games added in to round things out. The show will run the next two Thursdays, then take a break for Passover on April 9, and come back for one more show April 16.

So what about the “games” in the title? You’ll have to see the show to find out more specifically, but Katz did tell me about one game called “Don’t Die.”

“When I was 16, I was going out on my first date and my grandfather pointed out that my shoelaces were filthy,” said Katz. “So I changed my shoelaces and he came in and I modeled them and he said, ‘New laces make a big difference.’ And then he keeled over and died. It was the end of my grandfather but the beginning of the game, ‘Don’t Die.’”

“If you say something that’s really hanging there, or if you’re wife said something to you like, ‘Don’t forget to…’ or something really mundane, you could say to her, ‘Don’t die.’ You wouldn’t want to tell her family that those were her last words. That’s how that works. It’s a great game. All you have to do is play it once and you’re hooked.”

Just like the podcast, the show should be all-new material, a prospect that excites Katz. “My wife says to me, ‘I hope you’re not planning on doing everything brand new,’” he said. “And I kind of want to do it brand new. I want to do something I haven’t done before onstage.”

Katz has worked with ImprovBoston, performing a show at the Central Square venue last year. It’s a convenient place for the Newton resident to work, and it’s also easy for Katz, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, to access.

“I like them for a couple of reasons,” he says. “One is they’re in Central Square. The other is that the theater is accessible, not only for the audience but for the performers, as well. And there aren’t a lot of places like that around here. It’s so easy for me to get in and out of it.”

ImprovBoston has been presenting more non-improv shows, like its Thursday night “10 Slot” stand-up and storytelling show. One Man fits better with those shows than the theaters traditional improv fair. “I’m one of the least spontaneous performers I know,” says Katz. “And that show in particular is so perfectly timed and planned. It’s just me generating audio from my computer. Whatever dialogue there is I’ve timed out on my computer to sound like a natural conversation on the phone.”

Eventually, Katz would like to take the show to a bigger venue and perhaps film it, although he is still working on how to present that. “It’s not visually very intriguing, I’m just a guy pretending to be on the radio,” he says. “But I guess it worked for Howard Stern on TV. He also had a lot of naked women walking around behind him.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

BNN Mondays: MC Mr. Napkins JammaJams

Boston News Net went back in front of the cameras this week, so we bring you MC Mr. Napkins' latest Headline Anagram JammaJam.

See more clips at

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Craig Ferguson and the Road to a Bit O' Revolution

Since Craig Ferguson's first one-hour stand-up special, A Wee Bit O' Revolution, was taped at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre, and airs tonight on Comedy Central, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at my interview with him for the Boston Globe a couple of years ago. I found him to be a fairly down to earth, less frenetic version of who you see every night on The Late Late Show. He took a long road getting into stand-up, then out of it, and then back in again.

The Glasgow-born Ferguson dropped out of high school at 16 and wound up working in factories, doing construction, and tending bar. He came to comedy after drumming in punk bands, then found sudden success in the U.K. with a character he was doing at open mics called "Bing Hitler." "Within a year of doing the open mic night, I was playing two and a half thousand, three thousand-seaters with that open mic character," he said. "It was crazy."

A bit o' Bing Hitler:

Ferguson moved to Los Angeles in 1995, and not long after wound up with his gig on the Drew Carey Show not long after. It was a breakthrough for him, but he stopped doing stand-up to concentrate on the show. "When I came to America and got the gig on the Drew Carey show I just stopped doing it," he said. "And I hadn’t done it for ten years. And I think once you’re a stand-up you really always are a stand-up, and I always had this nagging feeling that, I’m in trouble, because if I have to go in and do my act, I don’t have an act."

The Drew Carey Show ened in 2003, and Ferguson got his Late Late night gig in 2004, which threw him back into the world of stand-up comedy again, working on a nightly monologue. Ferguson is greateful for the leeway he was given by David Letterman, Les Moonves, and his CBS bosses to make it work. "They just said you’ve got to find your own style, you‘ve got to do your own thing," he said. "We eventually got to the way we do it now, which is basically a very haphazard kind of, it’s kind of a mess. But it works for us, and the numbers speak for themselves. And the show’s success I think is to do with that. We don’t try to be something we’re not."

That eventually led him to the free-form monologue he does on the show now, which in turn led him back to comedy clubs (and to Revolution). "There’s nothing more liberating than doing stand-up," he said. "It is the number one instant access shot in the arm for performers. It’s the only way to do it if you can do it."

Ferguson also became an American citizen last year, something he has talked about on the Late Late Show frequently. In 2006, though, he was still studying for the test. His thoughts on the subject will seem familiar to you once you've seen the special. "I consider myself an American in a way which perhaps alarms regular Americans,' he told me then. "You know when someone becomes a Catholic, people who have been Catholics all their lives are like, why are you so extreme about this? You feel like you have to be extra-Catholic just to catch up on them or something. I’m kind of like that with America. There’s nothing more zealous than a convert, and that’s kind of me with America."
Craig Ferguson - Loving America
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

Ferguson also never bought into the differences between an American sense of humor and a British sense of humor. He said he was more comfortable in front of American audiences than any other audiences, including those in his native Scotland. "It’s very difficult to say ‘an American sense of humor,’" he said. "You mean an Irish-American sense of humor? An African-American sense of humor? A French-American sense of humor? A Cherokee sense of humor? Humor is universal, I think, if people understand what the hell you’re saying."
Craig Ferguson - Getting Out of Scotland
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

Further reading:
1. Sean McCarthy's take on the special over at The Comic's Comic.
2. Also take a look at Ferguson's comic novel, Between the Bridge and the River. It's a fun bit of strangeness, worth seeking out.

Bobby Collins on Boston

There are few places Bobby Collins hasn’t played in this country over the past decade and a half or so. And since he first came to Boston years ago, the landscape here has changed. So I thought I’d take advantage of the fact that he was coming to yet another Boston comedy venue – Showcase Live! at Patriot Place – to pick his brain a bit about what he’s seen on the road and what might be different.

When did you first play Boston?

Coming from New York and then moving to Ca., a booker asked me if I ever played Boston. In my world, there was nothing beyond New York - I started there, I earned my degree there. I went to Boston, the waves parted. I have played Boston for the last 14 years. It’s become a mainstay for material and an oasis for my head.

How many different clubs in Boston have you played?

Many places. Let’s take a look – I’d say at least 20 different venues including corporate gigs in hotels, opening gigs for Cher and Julio Iglesias, various comedy clubs (i.e. Comedy Connection, Nicks).

How do you think it compares to other cities around the country?

Boston and New England people are the most educated, fun loving, people - they just get it. They're up on news and they read. They're informed and not afraid to let you know how they feel about a topic whether it offends them or not.

Do you find your audiences are different in Boston than in other cities?

Audiences in Boston are attune to what's going on in the world and they realize if we as a country were not consumed with TV and sports we'd we in our basements cleaning up our muskets to overthrow this government.

What are your favorite places to play around the country?

New York, Boston, Miami, Vancouver, Maine, Vermont, Atlantic City, NJ, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Hermosa Beach, Ca.

What do you look for in a club?

In a club – sight lines, sound, mic with long cord, how I'm treated, no ego, good reputation, kind management, great audiences, room to get around. Clean green room, tight security, good staff and friendly, easy people to work with. And above all honesty when getting paid (esp when working on a percentage basis).

How has that changed from when you started out to when you became an established veteran?

Comedy was a lot smarter, more current, more original, we reflected our culture, the country, our own lives. Nowadays the comics are like a programmed predictability of a General Motors assembly plant - its all the same. Its no longer an obsession, it’s a way I can get on a shit TV show to make more money than I'm making now. One thing missing – quality.

What do you look for when you decide to record a CD or a DVD?

I look into myself to see where I'm at at a particular moment in time. Has my material progressed and changed? Have I changed? Remember, growth means change, change doesn't always mean growth. Just because you change your hairstyle doesn't mean you've changed as a person. When I find I've grown enough with more material, it’s time for another CD or DVD.

How many different clubs have you recorded in?

Five different venues I've recorded in - including Boston.

What’s next for you?

Presently working on new material and perfecting it in clubs for a new CD - working on two new projects that would allow a lot more people to discover the Comedy of Bobby Collins . I'm exactly in my career when I should be right now - Thank God .

Friday, March 20, 2009

Myq Kaplan, MC Mr. Napkins, and Connie Michener at the OAsis Coffeehouse Tonight

The sounds drifting out of the Oasis Coffeehouse at the First Presbyterian Church in Waltham are usually musical, coming from a variety of folk, blues, and jazz performers. Tonight, those sounds will be mostly laughter, as the venue hosts its first comedy night, featuring Myq Kaplan, MC Mr. Napkins, and host Connie Michener.

Michener, who studied at ImprovBoston and made her stand-up debut in ’06, has seen folk acts with a sense of humor like Jim’s Big Ego and Teddy Goldstein do well in the room. She performed there in October and says she “found a warm, friendly, responsive audience, older than the club scene, and ready to laugh. It's a coffeehouse, not a bar, so people are more alert and attentive than in other conditions -- this is good or bad, depending on your act.”

Michener reports there is also a growing interest in entertainment venues in Waltham, citing possibly plans for a new performing arts center near the Oasis. She expects more venues for comedy to part of that growth. “There are two or three open mics in the works on Moody Street, at More Than Words, and also one that seems to be alternating between the Skellig and the Lincoln,” she says. “This, and undeveloped potential between the town and the Brandies and Bentley campuses means anything can happen. As for the Oasis, being associated with a church that is very active in the community, it has a somewhat established and curious audience.”

Stand-up Comedy with Myq Kaplan, MC Mr. Napkins, and host Connie Michener at the Oasis Coffeehouse, 34 Adler Street, Waltham. 7:30PM. $12/$10 students, seniors and Waltham residents with ID.

Thursday, March 19, 2009 Presents... Discount Variety Tonight!

Tonight is the second edition of Presents… Discount Variety at the Cinema Salem Café (One East India Square, 8:30PM). If you’re thinking of heading out to the show, or you’re on the fence about coming out, here’s a bit of info about tonight’s performers, singer/songwriter Danielle Miraglia and video ventriloquist Even O’Television. We’ll also have videos from Hard Left Productions, and I will be hosting. So if you have a car or access to the commuter rail, come out to Salem tonight for some music, comedy, and video shorts.


Bio: Raised just outside of Boston in Revere, MA, where its famous beach is better known for girls with big hair than its history as a popular tourist attraction, Miraglia was raised on a variety of popular music, from her parent's Motown records to the classic rock influences like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin that encouraged her to learn to play guitar at thirteen. A passion for the arts and an outstanding gift for writing lead her to Emerson College in Boston's downtown theater district. After graduating with a degree in Creative Writing, she put her writing skills, originally intended for novels, towards songwriting and began performing at open mike nights in the Boston area. This set in motion what would become a full-time career in music.

How long have you been playing in Boston?

It’s been 10 years since the first time I ever played original songs on a stage at the now defunct Kendall Café in Cambridge.

What are your favorite places to play?

Anyplace where people are there specifically for the music.

Who are your favorite comedians, locally and nationally?

Favorites of all time, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Steven Wright and I’m obsessed with Bill Hicks. I have a very annoying habit of pointing out every little thing that anyone has ever ripped off from him. I still feel like he’s never really gotten enough credit for how much influence he's had on comedy. I also love Dave Chappelle, Bill Maher and Louis C.K.

What is the best comedy show you’ve seen?

I’ve seen some greats live. I’m thankful to have seen George Carlin before he died and I’ve seen Margaret Cho, and Steven Wright, but they were in such large venues, it’s not the same vibe as seeing a comedian in a small club. It was more like “Wow, I can’t believe that’s one of my favorite comedians in person!” than “Wow, what a great show!” I think the most energetic and greatest live comedy shows I’ve seen have been any that involved Kevin Knox. He just has the gift of great intense delivery. He can say anything and it’s funny. It's been a while and I don't remember the material itself at this point, but I just remember the whole room rumbling.


Bio: Evan O' Television has been dazzling and perplexing audiences with his one-man-double-act and video ventriloquism since 1995. For a decade Evan also served as a co-founder and resident Artistic Co-Director of the underground performing arts space, PAN 9. In 2007 he was profiled in An Encyclopedia of Vaudeville Performers by Routledge Press. "Double Negatives," Evan's full-length solo theatrical work premiered at the Perishable Theatre in March 2008 and will be appearing in new venues throughout 2009.

How long have you been playing in Boston?

I have been performing in Boston since 1994. I first learned about Television in 1995.

What are your favorite places to play?

The Coolidge Corner is delightful. The Cambridge YMCA is invigorating. The Comedy Studio has an adventurous audience. The Perishable Theatre is my home away from home. But the living room at my old loft (PAN 9) always contained the folks that returned my love the most reciprocally.

Who are your favorite musicians, locally and nationally?

I am lucky enough that much of my favorite music is made by people I know. In Boston, Fluttr Effect, HUMANWINE, The Dresden Dolls, Goli, Beat Circus, and Hallelujah The Hills are the folks I try not to miss. I also love the Steamy Bohemians!

And Danielle, I got to share the stage with Danielle once before at club Passim (for one of Peter Dutton's shows) and she was singing some real 'shake you to your bones' music. She's got that powerful kind of voice that will spirit you down from the mountains to hear it.

Nationally, my tastes run pretty eclectic. I am just as likely to listen to underground hip-hop like Oddissee, Quasimodo or Hell Razah as I am the latest from Wilco, Dylan or Gillian Welch. I am sad Sleater-Kinney doesn't tour any more and Sun Kil Moon is a recent favorite.

What is the best music show you’ve seen?

Once at Pan 9, Jonah Rapino of Devil Music brought in this Japanese band called Ghost that was led by woman named Chiaki Yoshihara. (I later learned there was another Japanese band named Ghost, as well).

Anyway, the taxi driving the band had gotten in a car accident, and so by a fluke of timing they ended up headlining our show by default-- even though we had never seen them play before. From the moment they started playing, the room thundered with this epic orchestral-punk music. Chiaki Yoshihara was like this wild fusion of Lou Reed and PJ Harvey. That show was the closest I have ever gotten to outer space.

Last year the most stunning and amazing show I saw was a woman named Merill Garbus who plays under the name tUnE-YaRdS. The year before that, it was Sxip Shirrey (who sometimes plays with Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls). He completely blew me away.

I think Brian Carpenter of Beat Circus puts together some of the best shows in Boston, when you go to them you really don't want to miss a single act.

Stripped Stories at Mottley's Comedy Club Tonight

We may like to think that there are no taboos anymore, that we’ve become desensitized to sex and everything else that used to shock us. The one thing that can still make us laugh and cringe, sometimes at the same time? Honesty. Which is what Giulia Rozzi and Margot Leitman have been looking for since they started their show, Stripped Stories, in 2007.

The show, which they host regularly in New York City, features comedians, writers, and just plain folks telling stories about their sexuality, the more true, the better. As Ms. Rozzi points out in this e-mail interview, the stories don’t have to be wild – they don’t even have to be graphic. They just need to be true, and honestly told. Rozzi and Leitman bring their show to Mottley’s Comedy Club tonight at 8PM, with Jessica Sutich, Tim McIntire, and musical guest Mindy Raf.

What inspired you to create Stripped Stories?

We created Stripped Stories after realizing that most of our conversations with both each other (since the show began, between the two of us we’ve experienced marriage, divorce, singlehood, break-ups, and more) and other people seemed to always lead back to sex. We wanted to create a forum where people can speak honestly and humorously about sex without judgment, hence the creation of Stripped Stories.

How do you find the guests?

Either people approach us after seeing the show with stories or we invite folks to send in story ideas to

Are people generally nervous before they go on? Does anyone ever back out at the last minute?

Yes! Although we often have experienced comedians/writers on the show, some still get nervous as this is a very revealing show and some may not be used to such a personal level of performance. We love getting people to challenge themselves and share these stories onstage. Everyone who has sone the show has agreed it’s been a unique and positive experience.

Have you ever had someone tell a story that thought was wild and embarrassing that turned out to be kind of normal? I’d imagine the threshold for what people consider brave to reveal can change kind of drastically.

Well, stories don’t have to be “wild.” The show is now about sharing your craziest experience, the show is about revealing the humor and perhaps the heart behind sex. Stories range from tales of first kisses to wild orgies and everything in between. So it’s not about how extraordinary one’s sex life is, it’s about their honest sharing of that sexual experience and how they felt about it, what they learned from it, etc.

How many stories do you and Margot have? Do you still have new material after hosting this for two years?

Every time we think we’ve run out of stories we remember more. Like I said, the story could be tame or wild, so whether it’s me sharing my thoughts and experiences watching porn last week, or me sharing my experience of a wild night I had last year, we find stories all the time. We also sometimes retell our favorite stories. The story needs to have an element of sexuality, it doesn’t need to be about literal sex.

How has the show changed since the first one?

The show hasn’t changed much as we have changed. When the show started, Giulia was engaged and Margot was going through a break-up, then Giulia got married, Margot gota boyfriend, Giulia got separated/single, Margot got engaged, now Giulia has a boyfriend and Margot is married. Who knows what’ll happen next year?

Do you always do an after party? Is that usually a fairly casual affair?

It's us drinking post show at the venue or a nearby bar. It’s a great time and audience members tend to come up to us wanting to share stories with us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kyria Abrahams Readings

Kyria Abrahams doesn't have any readings scheduled for her new book, I'm Perfect, You're Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah's Witness Upbringing, in the Boston area, so if you want to see her soonish, you'll have to go to Providence, RI or New York City. Here are the two she currently has posted:

Books on the Square
471 Angell Street
Providence, RI
Friday, March 20, 7PM-9PM

Barnes and Noble Tribeca
97 Warren St. (at Greenwich St.)
New York, NY
Monday, March 23, 7PM-8PM

Robby Roadsteamer: I Solved Every Miniquest

Robby Roadsteamer has officially come through his Nebraska period, recording his new album, I Solved Every Miniquest, with a full band. And that’s not the only change. Miniquest also leaves behind the hard rock mustache rock for a more poppy sound, still heavily influenced by his troubadour shtick for the past four solo albums (released within the space of a year and a half). There’s even a hand-clapping sing-along (“Two Week Maine Vacations”) danceable folk rock (“Silverspoon Artist Girl”).

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of Tekken references, and some songs that reference the music industry, although Roadsteamer (and his need to work menial day jobs) is the main target. The best of these is Roadsteamer’s self-penned Wikipedia entry – “Bury that timecard right in the clock/Go clean up dress shirts at Sears.”

Miniquest has a bit more of the party atmosphere that made Roadsteamer’s earlier band albums so much fun (see especially “When We Hang Out”). Which might have something to do with the camaraderie Roadsteamer has worked to engender in the comedy community for the past several months, resulting in a string of comedy/music shows at rock venues.

The latest of these shows, The Greater Boston Alternative Spring Comedy Fling, happens tonight at the Middle East Upstairs with Mehran, MC Mr. Napkins, Chris Coxen, The Steamy Bohemians, Renata Tutko, Anderson Comedy Group, Ken Reid, and emceed by Shane Webb, with musical guest Chris Keating. Doors at 8PM, cover $8. Roadsteamer has also been giving out copies of Miniquest at the shows, so you may be able to snag one there.

You can see a bunch of ths Spring Fling folks in this video for “I Guess It’s All About” (note Mehran’s performance as “stressed out man on phone”).

Cheap Tickets

Susan Anderson is the community manager for a site called, which offers discounted tickets and such on events, and she e-mailed me today to tell me about today's promotion on the site -- $15 tickets for Mitch Fatel and Jamie Kennedy at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre. The way it works is, if enough people sign up and buy the tickets, then you get the discount. If not, no one gets it. But today's promotion only needs twenty people to sign up, so if you're thinking of going to see these shows with friends, you may want to let them know.

Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how this works for you (e-mail link on your left).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Random Notes: Louis C.K., Maher/Coulter Reviews

My friend Sean McCarthy at The Comic's Comic was at the Louis C.K. show Saturday, and wrote this review. C.K. was readying a set for his new specials, which he is tentatively set to tape sometime in April. If Saturda's Orpheum gig is any indication, his biggest problem will be choosing what material makes the final hour. Most every riff was right on, from his take on our impatience with technology (expanded from his Conan appearance that made the rounds on YouTube) to having to choose between walking the dog and keeping an eye on your kids as a single dad (sorry, pooch). He did an hour and thirty-five minutes for the main set, and then an encore that he kept short, mentioning that people really ought to go home.

Also, The Bostonist wasn't terribly impressed with last week's showdown between Bill Maher and Ann Coulter. I spoke with Maher about Coulter in 2007, before he taped "The Decider" at the Berklee Performance Center. He said he hadn't spoken with Coulter in a long while, and said, "I always got along with her well, because we never talk politics."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Upper Crust on Craig Ferguson Tonight!

Technically, The Upper Crust is a band, and not group of comedians (nor are they pizza). But they do make me laugh, and they did open for Tenacious D a few years back at Avalon. And I expect their appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS, 12:25AM) should be reason to rejoice.

They also have a new album available for download here right now. If you aren't familiar, take a listen to experience the majesty of rock and the mystery of roll.

Here's a bit of a preview, the band's video for "Let Them Eat Rock."

More on Ferguson, whose new special A Wee Bit O' Revolution was taped in Boston and airs on Comedy Central Sunday, later in the week.

BNN Mondays: Harry Gordon Hopes Obama Fails, and St. Patty's Day

Boston News Net did not televise Saturday's show, so we have a couple of clips from the recent and not as recent past. First, Harry Gordon goes Limbaugh and explains why he hopes President Obama fails, and explains why that has nothing at all to do with economics. At all. He promises.

Plus, the weather report from last St. Patty's Day. Apparently, it was mostly "Blargh."

See more clips at

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jimmy Tingle Back At the Regent Tonight

Anywhere comedy can possibly be performed in Boston, Jimmy Tingle has played there. When I spoke with him Friday, he was on his way back from a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast gig in Lowell (who has the energy to be funny at breakfast?). Since Tingle’s Off-Broadway Theatre in Davis Square closed in 2007, he has been taking advantage of his ability to travel a bit more, locally and beyond.

“Now that I’m not doing that anymore, I can play around town and I really love it,” he says. “It frees me up to do things around the country and it’s just great to get in front of new audiences in new towns.”

Tingle heads to the Regent Theater tonight to play a show with no specific theme or title, which is also unusual for Tingle these days. “I’ve been so married to the one-person show thematic format of it – I’ve done American Dream and Tingle for President – I’m calling it just Jimmy Tingle in Concert,” he says. “It’s just a fun show. It’s highlights of other shows and new stuff. They were calling it the Laughter Stimulus Plan, but it’s not a brand new show based on economic theory. We’re having a ball. It’s just fun to be loose.”

Tingle is doing a monthly show at the Regent, booked through June. It’s a comfortable environment for Tingle. He produced several shows there when the venue opened in 2001, and is now co-producing this show with the Regent. He enjoys working with the Regent staff, and gets to play a bigger room on a regular basis, all without the grind of owning his own space. Plus the Arlington location is close enough to attract some of the old Off-Broadway crowd. “I do a high profile gig once a month in town, it’s a public event,” he says. “It’s really good. It’s a reasonable price. I like the arrangement very much.”

Tingle is also readying his new CD, Jimmy Tingle for President. It’s available now as a download, and will be available on CD April 14.

Tingle on casinos in Massachusetts:

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Boston Comedy Interview: Louis C.K.

Louis C.K.'s last one-hour special, Chewed Up, was brilliant and often brutal, bringing to life in perfect detail C.K.'s innermost thoughts on his own family, his own body, and even murderous fantasies about the deer near his home. The Newton native has a tough task ahead of him trying to follow that up, but that's what he'll be doing at the Orpheum Theatre tomorrow at 10PM. C.K. is looking to follow George Carlin's pace of turning in a new one-hour special every one and a half years or so, and he is already well on his way with his first two specials, Shameless and Chewed Up. C.K. may tape the Boston show for an album, and he's looking to tape video for the new special sometime in April. When I spoke with him this week, we had a good, sometimes rambling conversation about the specials, his new material, and his special plans for the Boston show.

I’ve heard you’re now planning not to tape in Boston?

Yeah. It’s a real drag but it didn’t work out. I’ve been trying to get this special together and it’s been taking a little longer than I thought, so I have to wait until April to shoot it.

Just to get the material down?

No, no. The material is ready. It’s the logistics of shooting a special. It’s a lot of cameras, and I had to bring the financing and everything together but it just didn’t happen fast enough for me to hire a crew to do it in Boston.

Did you learn a lot from doing most of the work last time?

Definitely. We figured it would come together a little quicker. But this is the way this kind of thing goes. The show I shot in Boston last year, by the way, was intended to be shot earlier. I was originally going to shoot it in, like, January and I had it up as ready to go in January, and then we kept moving it. We moved it like three times. This time I couldn’t move it, the Orpheum’s a lot bigger, I couldn’t really move the venue around. Originally, I was going to shoot last year’s special at the Sanders Theatre, on the Harvard campus, in January. But we couldn’t pull it together, so we had to pull out of there, and then we found the Berklee was a nice replacement. But in this case, the Orpheum is the Orpheum.

And to me, doing the show at the Orpheum, that’s a very big event for me. So I’m sort of taking that as its own thing. I sort of think, I actually think honestly the audience will have a better time. I’ll be able to do as much time as I want and just be totally unhinged. Which is how I would generally do the special, but nobody’s going to be bothered by camera people, nobody’s going to be asked to move around their seats or anything, and there’s no cameras in the way anywhere. So in a sense, it will be a better show for those people. I’m going to make up for it by doing as much time as I’m capable of.

The last thing I saw taped there was Comics Come Home, and there was a 45-minute wait while they fixed a camera, and fist fights broke out in the lobby.

Yeah. The Orpheum is going to be interesting. [laughs] We’ll see.

There’s a certain decadence to that room. People complain about seats and things, but I kind of like it a bit worn out.

Right, I know what you mean. You mean the Orpheum itself. That’s why I’m taping there, because I love it. It’s a beautiful room. It’s just so historic and it’s so Boston. I love grand buildings that were created for people. You know, regular folks. I think that’s a great thing, to get as lofty as possible about a theater, the thing I love about America – we build great, giant, beautiful things, and they were never meant for, like, royalty, you know? When you go to Versailles, you’re like, they made this all for some fat pig who they eventually cut the head off of. But when you go to Grand Central Station or a place like New York, this was made for the people, you know. This was made so that some guy with a bar hat could watch a movie with his feet up on the marble and chew peanuts and throw it on the rich people below. I just love it. And that’s the feeling you get in the Orpheum. So I just really love that place.

You know, I picked the Orpheum to do this year before I decided to shoot a special there. Looking through the venues and saying, let’s go back to Boston. To go back to the Orpheum – and it’s pretty sold out, it’s going to be full – that should be a pretty great night.

Do you think that you’ll try to go back to tape there? Where will you shoot the special now?

I’m going to start taping in April. I can’t do a big show at the Orpheum and then go back in a few weeks, you know what I mean. There ain’t that many twenty-six hundred people who are going to come and see me again in two months. So I’m probably going to tape in either Milwaukee or Cleveland.

Are you getting into a good rhythm for developing an hour a year now? Is that something that’s gotten easier?

Well, it’s not easier, but I know how to do it. You know what I mean? The difference is, is something easier, meaning something that you are good at and know how to do. It’s a lot of work and actually this one is harder than the other ones I’ve done, because the other ones inspired me to try doing things that are hard. [laughs] But it’s a lot of fucking work. This one’s a lot more energy, and it’s longer, too. I’m doing, like, ninety minute, two hour shows. There’s a lot more energy in them.

What are the harder things that you’re attempting?

I’m more animated, I’m louder and there’s more going on in some of these bits. And it’s a longer show, and it’s just more intense, I think, than some of the other ones that I’ve done. So yeah, that’s a lot. And it’s definitely really hard but it’s also important enough to me now that it’s all that I really do, these shows, these hours. It’s something I dedicate all of my time to.

Will you edit it yourself again?

Oh yeah. This one I’m going to do it all myself again. I just really like to have control over that stuff.

Was that a rewarding process last time?

Oh, I love it. You know, I was a filmmaker and I really got a lot out of cutting it together. Yeah, that was really fun. I think I did a good job. I’m happy with the way it came out. If it was shit I would have hired somebody better than me.

I thought the last special was great. We spoke about this just before it came out – the non overblown look to it, I’m a comedian riding in on a Harley with dancing girls and fireworks.

Right. By the way, I am going to record the Orpheum show professionally, audio-wise. I’ve already decided. I’m going to record it and use it possibly as an album or something. I’m not sure yet, but I want it. I just know it’s going to be a great show, and it’s probably going to be close to two hours. It’s going to be late, it’s fucking ten o’clock. We were originally going to sell a second show before it, an eight o’clock show, if we decided to shoot for the special we were going to do two shows. So it’s a ten PM show, which is pretty late for comedy, but I’m going to do a shitload of time and record it, because I have a feeling that’s going to be a very unique show. And I’m going to want it.

Would you release an album that’s different from the video of the special?

That’s something I’ve thought about doing, because I think with the last special, it was kind of, there was a little bit of a drag with the recording. I read a review of the CD of Chewed Up that I thought had an accurate criticism, which is that the whole first part of the CD is just quiet with the crowd mumbling, and then I come out and they’re cheering – they left that on the CD. That’s retarded. [laughs] Who wants to listen to that? There wasn’t any care taken into putting it – and that’s my fault because I shepherded that whole thing and if I had made it stink, I could have edited the CD too. But I just got tired. I just had to move on to other shit. That’s my fault. But to me, the idea is that I would release the same material but a different performance of it as a CD. I think that would be more value. No two shows were alike. They’re similar and use the same material.

I’m sort of talking out of my ass right now. I don’t know that I’ll do that, what I’m saying. I don’t that I’ll use it. But I’d like to try.

I think comedy geeks like myself would wind up comparing the bits from one to the other, seeing how it changed.

Yeah. I think so. And it’s funny, because Carlin is, to me, is still the pace car of… prolificness. Proliferteriouslesness?

That’s going to be hard to spell.

What’s the noun that is related to the word prolific?

I think it’s prolificness, but I’d have to go back and take a look.

Prolifpolery or something like that?

You could say “productive.”

[Mumbles looking through online dictionary]

I’ve got my trusty real world dictionary here…

Prolificalness. Here’s the one I thought it was. Prolificity. Prolificness works. Prolificalness, and then prolificity is what I would like to use. I’m going to go with prolificity, and George Carlin being the pace car of prolificity, had a lot of specials that were collections of shit that had been on albums. He did a bunch of albums, and his first great specials just caught up with his albums. They were the same material. I don’t think you can do that now. I think it’s different now, because everybody sees everything. You know. Things, oh boy, here we go, proliferate through the market more. So it’s hard to do that. You might be able to, maybe. Anyways, having a special and an album that reflect each other has become very common now – I didn’t mean to say any of this, what I said before.

Louis C.K. on Conan:

Have you kept the Conan bit in the act? I know in a Vanity Fair interview you said you were worried it would become over-exposed.

No, it’s still in because it’s a good forty minutes of the set. It’s a much bigger bit. That was literally ten percent of it, was on Conan. So I think it’s fine. In the past, my whole thing of redoing the act every and having every special be fresh, I’ve always done some of the material on the talk shows to promote it. It makes sense to use the strong stuff on a talk show, when you’re trying to use the talk show to promote it.

For this special, do you think you’re doing more topical or news-related material than you’ve done in the past?

No. That whole bit on the economy is certainly informed by what’s going on, but no. I just don’t do that. It has a shelf life, and… I don’t care about current events. They’re hit so hard by comedians. That whole thing of, “Hey, what the hell…” you know, “And the eight babies lady…” You know, Jesus. And fucking enough. It’s the most boring part of our national conversation, is the five headlines. You can’t tell the news from Entertainment Tonight anymore. It’s just a bummer. And I think it’s one of the most boring aspects of stand-up, and it’s just me being really harsh, is just the feeding on that shit. And taking the, “Here’s my take on it.” Oh, okay, that’s about three degrees different from what Conan said, and Leno said, and Letterman said, and Jon Stewart, and Dennis Miller, and Spike Feresten, and Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. And the columnist, and the Onion. And a bunch of bloggers. And the legions of comedians around the country. Your take on the Octomom, you somehow found a little territory in there that was just yours. And I really wish you had thought about something about yourself instead.

The only thing that you can bring to the world that’s unique is yourself. That’s the only thing you have. I’m being an asshole, because there are people who observe culture and are really great at it… Bill Maher, there’s another one. So many people hitting everything. They all do it well. I have one bit in this set that right now that’s about Captain Sully because it relates to the airplane stuff, and to the whole everybody’s miserable thing. But it’s a tangent of that.

I think when I did the first half-hour I did for HBO, I opened with stuff about the Mel Gibson Jesus movie, and it’s my biggest regret, ever. Because who the fuck cares about that now? I watch that now and I was shocked when I saw it. It’s like, really? I opened with that? That’s crazy. Nobody gives a shit about that now. And I just saw “the Jesus movie.” What Jesus movie? The Greatest Story Ever Told? Which one?

You’ve done a lot of intensely personal stuff, do you talk about the divorce in the act? And if that’s too personal to ask—

I don’t talk about what happened in my divorce or what happened in my marriage, I talk about what it’s like to be divorced as a general thing. That’s something new to me, and it hasn’t happened to everybody. And the way that people react to divorce and stuff like that.

Louis C.K. on deer:

This is probably a bad segue, but I wanted to talk about the deer joke from Chewed Up. I think that’s one of the most awful images that I’ve ever laughed at out loud – laughing at “bleedy dicks” and AIDS-ridden deer. How do you craft something like that to lift it from being just gratuitous or outrageous into something that’s truly funny?

I think it’s the spirit in which you say something. If I just said, “Hey, what if there was a bleedy dick AIDS guy fucking a deer? How about that folks? Come on, what are you all… Don’t get all… Fuck you.” That would be one thing. But the anger I have toward that deer is the engine I have for all of this stuff.

Chris Rock said something interesting in his last special about, once you’re angry at somebody, all bets are off. Call them what you want. Calling somebody something in anger is different from just saying, that’s what I think those people are. You know what I mean? Like, saying all gay people are faggots or all black people are niggers is just coldhearted racism. Like murder one, two, and three. If you murder somebody in anger, you actually get less time, which is bizarre. It’s the same sort of thing if you say, “Look at that nigger walking down the street.” That’s not okay. But Chris describes the whole thing where a black guy takes your wallet and does all this shit to you and pisses on you or whatever, and then you go, “Fucking nigger.”

He tells the story about being in traffic listening to like, I forget who it was, Wham or some gay music. He just happens to like certain music that’s very gay. And he says if he’s in a red light and it turns green and he won’t move and he’s just listening to his music really loud, the guy behind him has the right to yell, “Hey faggot, get out of the way.”

So I think, given the context, this poor deer who never hurt anybody.. Definitely the point of that bit is, to me, the complete out-of-proportion anger that I’m launching toward the deer. And it was the hardest bit to do on that special. Because when I started doing that bit I was spending a lot of time upstate and I really was infested with deer and I hated them. But by the time I got it to the Berklee, I was fakin’ it. I just wasn’t feeling that anger. It was hard to do, and I actually took big breaks from doing the bit leading up to that show. Because I needed to really keep it fresh, and I needed to not really hate it. So that was a little tough to pull that off. I just had to just tell myself, there was a time you were really this angry at deer, remember that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dress Up Show at Mottley's Tonight

If you head out to Mottley's for a little pre-weekend comedy tonight, you may notice things look a little different. It may appear that you have walked into the Great Gatsby, and some of your favorite comics may not appear as you are used to seeing them. Same goes for the audience. That's because you have stumbled into The Dress Up Show, hosted by Ering Judge and Bethany Van Delft. The show is a chance for comics (and the audience, if they so choose) to put on their best finery, which may necessitate a quick trip to a secondhand shop for some. The series begins its run tonight, and will run the second Thursday of each month.

Here's a bit about the show from Judge.

What inspired the Dress Up Show?

Well, Bethany and I co-hosted a show once, and we had such a great time that we knew we wanted to co-host on a regular basis. Over the summer, I went to see the "Sex and the City" movie in the theater, and I was amazed by how dressed up the audience was. It was evident that tons of people are dying for some place to wear their most fabulous clothes, but not a lot of bars and restaurants around here inspire that vibe. Bethany thought dressing up would be a fun theme, and she pointed out that if we did a show on the early side in the city, we could attract people who want to hang out in town after work during the week. That's why we're doing the show at 7pm on Thursdays, and Mottley's Comedy Club provides the perfect downtown location.

Do you think the audiences will take you up on this?

I do! We've already gotten a lot of positive feedback about the dressing up aspect. And it's pretty free-form, so whether people want to wear glittery platform shoes or a top hat or a ball gown, it's all welcome. But if you wear a top hat, you have to sit in the back.

How many of these do you plan to do? Are you thinking of this as an indefinite run?

It's a monthly show that will take place on the second Thursday of every month, and if it goes well we hope it will become an ongoing thing. The owners of Mottley's (Tim, Jon and Jeff) have been super open to the concept, so hopefully it'll catch on and go for a while. Our second show will be April 9th.

What have you heard from the comedians who are participating so far about their level of enthusiasm?

Everybody seems pretty excited about it. It's a great excuse for the comics to experiment with self-expression and that crucial first impression on stage. The rule is that comics have to be more dressed up than they normally are on stage, so it's definitely a relative level of dressiness. I think it'll be interesting to see who chooses to dress formally or business-like and who goes with something funkier.

Do you expect this to change the vibe of the comedy at all?

I think it really might! Of course, it depends on the comedian. For some it'll be a total artistic twist that might even disrupt their normal on-stage persona, but I think for the most part it'll be interesting to see who seems much more confident wearing something fancier than usual.

The Dress Up Show at Mottley's Comedy Club, 61 Chatham St, Boston. March 12, 7PM. With Erin Judge, Bethany Van Delft, Dan Boulger, Maria Ciampa, Andrea Henry, Mehran Khagani, and Ellen Moschetto.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lamont Price Brings the Fun to the Sweetwater Cafe

With Wednesday’s “March Madness” show at the Sweetwater Café, Lamont Price is coming up on his one-year anniversary for at the Boston venue. Price has booked shows there every couple of months since last April, taking a casual approach and putting comics he likes personally on the bill. It seems to be working. Price reports that he has had good crowds, and the Sweetwater already wants him to book another show for April.

“This show is strictly to have a good time,” says Price. “I don’t have any rules. Comics will ask me, what should I do? And I say do whatever you want to do. I don’t care what jokes you do, I’m not telling you what to do. There’s no rules here. Let’s just have some fun. If it stops being fun, them I’m going to stop doing it.”

Price will host a mostly local line-up with Mehran, Ed Dominguez (from Providence), Dave McDonough, Daniella Capolino, Sean Sullivan, and Ken Reid. All of the comics are people you will likely see on a bill with Price again at the Comedy Studio or other clubs around town. And while Price will sometimes book an out-of-town comic to network, he doesn’t think much about that aspect. When he says he’s in it for the laughs, he means it.

“Some shows, I’ve had guys I know from New York come down and do time, and I guess that helps me as far as getting booked, share and share alike,” he says. “I’ll go to New York and I’ll have spots because of that. I don’t know if it helps me that much. I just do it because it’s a fun idea. I don’t think it hurts me either. I do it on my terms.”

But don’t let Price’s laidback approach fool you. He has worked hard on his act and to make the most of his opportunities. He has booked more indie film work the past few years, including last year’s Face Dance, produced and directed by Martin writer and producer Topper Carew. “I want to do more,” says Price, “I want to do as much as I can. I’m doing a project coming up with Kevin Bright, the guy who created Friends, doing a little something with him. It’ll be good for my reel.”

Price was also among the handful of comedians who auditioned for Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival last week at the Comedy Studio (another audition was held at Mottley’s Comedy Club), and gives an honest assessment of what was a well-received set. “I think I did fine,” he says. “I don’t think I destroyed the room, but I thought I did well and I presented myself pretty well. As long as I was me onstage, that’s pretty much all I can ask for, really.”

Price has auditioned twice before, in ’04 and ’05, and not surprisingly, he is hopeful but won’t spend the next couple of months waiting by the phone for his call from Canada. He talked to Jeff Singer, and feels confident that he impressed, but that’s no guarantee he’ll get a sport. “He knows that I can murder, basically,” Price said of his post-show talk with Singer. “That’s obvious.We’ll just have to wait and see what they’re looking for.

March Madness at Sweetwater Café, 3 Boylston Pl, Boston. March 11 at 8PM. Price will also play ImprovBoston’s Standup Thursdays at 10PM Thursday and the Comedy Studio Friday and Saturday.

Monday, March 9, 2009

BNN Mondays: Boston News Net, Year One

Boston News Net turned one this past Saturday. Since they first went on the air, the economy has tanked, tensions in the Middle East went from bad to worse, and the Jonas Brothers have made a 3D movie. BNN hired former Lehman Brothers analyst Paul Dome to tell you what might be in store for Year Two.

Visit for more videos and show info.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random Notes: Don White, Lisa Lampanelli

In the years I have known musician/comic storyteller Don White, I have found him to be a charitable man – especially when I moved to his home town of Lynn in 2006. He’s written songs about this town and captured it in his book, Memoirs of a C Student,” and tonight, he’ll help out My Brother’s Table, a local soup kitchen, with a benefit show. The show will take place tonight at 7:30 PM at the First Lutheran Church, 280 Broadway, Lynn. You can find the details on his Web site or in this article from Lynn's Daily ItemAnd on the other end of the spectrum, both Lisa Lampanelli shows at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre are sold out. You can two completely different takes on this self-professed “Queen of Mean” on the Bay Windows site or the Boston Globe.

Roadsteamer on Spotlight on Cambridge

Robby Roadsteamer drops some knowledge, and a few "blueberries," on Spotlight on Cambridge with Peter Bowers. Also revealed -- Mehran is his connection. He also drops blueberries.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Montreal Looks To Boston for Talent

Boston comedy and the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal have had a good relationship over the years. The Festival is where Lenny Clarke got his first sitcom deal. John Pinette packs big rooms there. Mike Birbiglia gave his one-man show, Sleepwalk With Me, a pre-Off Broadway spin there. This weekend, Just For Laughs is coming to Boston again looking for more Boston comics for their New Faces showcase and other shows. Jeff Singer will come to the Comedy Studio Friday and Mottley’s Comedy Club Saturday scouting for the Festival (see below for the full line-up). Here’s a sneak peak at what he’ll be considering when he looks at some of the best talent Boston has to offer.

How long has it been since Just For Laughs has scouted Boston?

We make sure to visit Boston every year. One of my colleagues covered in 2008. It's been a few years for me personally. The city has always produced a wealth of comedy talent going back to Jay Leno, Steven Wright, Lenny Clarke and Denis Leary through the current generation of comics like Mike Birbiglia, Eugene Mirman, Jon Fisch, Shane Mauss and Patrick Borelli. In our industry there are a handful of cities that have a reputation for being good comedy towns. Boston has always been one of them. Austin is another. If you find me a town that rhymes with those, I'll be on the next plane and let you emcee the show.

What is it you’re looking for from a comedian?

It really depends on the show we're booking. For New Faces, something that makes them stand out from the pack. It could be clever writing; a distinct persona; unique point of view or a "born-with-it" quality that draws in the crowd. We want comedians who are polished and ripe enough to be thrown in the spotlight. They've also got to be memorable, whether it's their personality or their jokes. I know I've found someone special when I'm reciting one of their bits the next day without consulting my notes. Those traits generally apply to most comedians we hope to book at the Festival. However there are other theme shows such as Nasty Show, Ethnic Heroes of Comedy, The Relationship show, Alternative or the Music Show where we're seeking specific kinds of comics to fit the bill. The material is paramount. And of course I can't ignore the obvious: being able to get laughs. There are comics I personally find amusing who I know would die a horrible death in certain rooms. Conversely there are others who might not be my cup of tea but would resonate strongly with a local crowd as well as the industry We try to maintain the tricky balance of being taste makers and giving the audience what we think they want. I believe I answered this question without once using the word "funny". Damn I just blew it.

Is there a certain quality that disqualifies someone immediately?

Steroids. But we don't do drug tests in comedy. If we did the Festival would be down to 6 stand-ups and an Italian quick change artist. That guy's got to be on something too.

I can't really think of anything that would disqualify someone, however I have seen auditions where performers have committed comedy suicide. We saw one guy this season who yelled nonsensically at an audience member his entire set without saying one joke. Perhaps he was trying to be Andy Kaufman-esque or something. He missed the mark completely. It was a disaster. As he was bombing, his microphone disconnected from the wire and he still continued his maniacal rant using only his voice in the dead, hollow room. It was a layer of uncomfortable on top of awkward. I suppose that counts as a disqualification. We were all afraid to go near him after the show. My colleague thought he was going to Travis Bickle one of us.

Has what the Festival has been looking for changed over the years?

I'd like to think we continue to seek the best talent from around the world. One thing that has changed is the growth and expansion of Just For Laughs. The Festival expanded to Toronto last year, and this June a version launches in Chicago. With these new editions plus the cross-Canada tours and other ventures in development, the Festival is looking now more than ever for comics who can play big stages to wide audiences in multiple cities. Also, the solo, sketch and specialty shows have grown so there are more opportunities to showcase different forms of comedy in addition to traditional stand-up. Even with stand-up, we've experimented with storytelling format shows like "Confessing It" which was a big hit for several years, and other variety type shows. I think you'll see more of that this season and in the coming years.

How did you wind up going to the Comedy Studio and Mottley’s?

Comedy Studio has a great reputation too. I've personally known about it for years, from the days when I ran a popular alternative comedy show in New York called "Eating It" at Luna Lounge. For ten years I saw many Boston comics who played my room. The majority of them got their start at the Comedy Studio. So now of course I want to go straight to the source. I've been there once before but it's been at least 5 years if not more. The gentleman who runs it, Rick Jenkins, is a really nice guy with good taste. All the Boston comics speak fondly of him. I like working with someone like that. As for Mottley's, I only recently discovered the club through the grapevine. Since The Comedy Connection moved on up to the East Side (in Jeffersons parlance), I needed a new small to mid-size downtown room. I've heard good things and am looking forward to doing my first showcase there.

Have you seen Boston comics do well in Montreal before? Any specific memories?

Louis C.K. and Nick DiPaolo have destroyed so many times it's hard to keep track. Those guys could kill at a Tsunami Concert for Bangladeshi AIDS Research. Same goes for Patrice Oneal and Bill Burr. On the New Faces level, Ira Proctor did very well last year. I love seeing Bostonians flourish in Montreal, except when the Bruins are in town.

How many cities are you visiting for auditions?

In addition to New York where I'm based, I'm going to seven cities this season. I just got back from Austin, Texas. Then Boston, Nashville and Atlanta followed by the final leg of Denver, Minneapolis and Detroit. I'm also attending showcases in L.A. My L.A-based colleagues cover San Francisco and another associate is doing a showcase in Chicago. I try to mix it up every year. Last season I hit Raleigh which was really strong. In years past I've been to Washington, DC and Philadelphia. We also work with clubs around the country who help us put together showcases which we tape and review. We draw many callback candidates from those taped showcases. So if I can't make it to Cleveland or Omaha, I'll still see who's making them laugh there.

How do you narrow down your list once you’ve visited all the towns you’re drawing from?

Again each show will have different determining factors. For New Faces, my primary focus, I basically look for the qualities I mentioned earlier and then begin to compare my lists to assess the overall talent pool. We like to mix it up with some diversity, including geography, when possible. I can usually narrow it down one showcase at a time. By the time I'm done I should have enough final callback spots between New York and L.A. to see everyone I initially liked. If I'm forced to cut it down for whatever reason, I'll consult with my colleagues for a second pass. For shows like Masters or the Gala, I work closely with my Festival associates who already have certain candidates in mind or waiting lists from years past. If these scouting trips produce an abundance of outstanding comedians, narrowing them down will be a good problem to have.

Friday, March 6, 8PM

The Comedy Studio
Shaun Bedgood, Maggie MacDonald, Matt McArthur, Tony Moschetto, Lamont Price, Ken Reid, Robby RoadSteamer, Dan Sally, Sean Sullivan, Renata Tutko, Joe Wong.

Saturday, March 7, 8PM
Mottley’s Comedy Club
Ken Rogerson, Tony V., Robbie Printz, Bethany Van Delft, Erin Judge, Orlando Baxter, Tom Dustin, Mike Whitman, Mike Dorval

Ardal O'Hanlon Back in Boston Tonight

Irish comedian Ardal O’Hanlon sold out four shows when he played the Burren in 2007, and with good reason. He’s a popular comic in the U.K., partly due to the fact that he played Father Dougal McGuire in the classic British sitcom Father Ted, and partly because he’s simply a great comic. He is adept with a good story or a quick punchline, a fine skilled comedian.

Since 2007, O’Hanlon has been busy back in the U.K., doing guest spots on shows like Skins, and looking into his own history (a grandfather who was in the IRA with Michael Collins, and a line that stretches to Peter Fenlon Collier, of Collier’s Encyclopedia fame) on RTE’s Who Do You Think You Are? Tonight at the Somerville Theatre, you get a second chance to see O’Hanlon live. I spoke with him by e-mail this week (and kept the English spellings in, so you know it’s authentic).

What was your impression of playing the Burren when you were here in 2007?

Didn't know what to expect but loved it. Intimate venue, mixed audience, sensational atmosphere.

Have you been over to the US much since then?

Only once while researching a documentary about my family. I spent a few days in New York looking up an obscure relative who founded the mighty Collier publishing empire. As you can imagine I was especially interested in what happened the fortune.

Did you find a lot of fans wanted to know about "Father Ted" when you were here?

I was surprised and gratified to learn that there were a lot of genuine Fr Ted fans in the US many of whom travelled long distances for the show. There were also a lot of first generation Irish there for whom Fr Ted is something of an institution.

I've read that you searched your family tree for a show on RTE – were you surprised at what you found, especially about your grandfather and the IRA?

I was dimly aware of much of my family history but was blown away when we uncovered the actual evidence. My grandfather was a modest unassuming man who for love of his country threw himself in at the deep end of the War of Independence. He had always been a somewhat distant hero to me but thanks to the programme I felt I got to know him as a man and walk a little bit of the way in his shoes.

What is your role on Skins? (The show airs on BBC America here).

Skins is a cult show in the UK. A lot of the adult roles are played by reasonably well-known comedians and actors. I play a down-at-heel teacher who gets a little too close to one of his pupils.

I notice you have a section dedicated to Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran, and Tommy Tiernan on your site listed as "coming soon." What are your plans for that?

That I am embarrassed to admit is a very old website (2001) which was
never finished. I believe the list you refer to was a list of my favourite comics at the time. Coincidentally Tommy Tiernan, Dylan Moran and I have advanced plans to do a mini-tour of the US together hopefully this June.

How are you balancing stand-up and other work at the moment?

I did a movie before Christmas called Wide Open Spaces which stars Ewen
Bremner and should be released in the autumn. After Boston and New York I am on the road a lot taking in far flung places such as the Middle East and China (it sounds a lot better than it is - they are low-key shows for English language communities). Then it is back home to do a new sitcom about an Irish politician.

A bit of video from O'Hanlon's last stop in Boston, from Off the Boat Comedy:

Ardal O'Hanlon, Live in Boston

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Friends Help Knoxie Tonight At Giggles

Kevin Knox was supposed to be dead five years ago. That’s when he was diagnosed with cancer and grim prospects. But Knox has been fighting an unconventional battle with his cancer, through diet and supplements, and with the help of friends like the comics who will play a benefit for him tonight at Giggles Comedy Club.

When I spoke with Knox Monday, he was caught in a snow storm trying to find a restaurant that served organic food. After his diagnosis, a lot of people, he says, thought he was insane to eschew the standard hospital treatment for a more homeopathic treatment of fresh organic food, supplements, natural oils and the like. “[That] didn’t shake me at all because I’ve been insane all my life,” he says. “This didn’t throw me off.”

Knox is grateful for the extra time and for the friends who have been essential to his fight. “Because of my friends, because of the people who’ve been helping me out, I’ve been able to fight this illness my way,” he says. “I wanted to be outside the box for this. My parents, my sister all passed away from cancer and they fought it conventionally and they died these horrible deaths. I was supposed to be dead five years ago – February 12 is my five year anniversary. I’m still alive, I was only supposed live for a few months. The alternative stuff does work. People don’t know that or understand it, but it really does.”

Twelve weeks ago, Knox had a setback when doctors discovered what Knox describes as a grapefruit-sized mass in his abdomen. His surgeon was able to remove it, according to Knox, without doing much harm. “The surgeon had been doing to 26 years, and he said, ‘In 26 years, I’ve never seen what happened happen. When we cut into your abdomen it just basically fell out onto the table. It was totally encapsulated.’ He says, I’ve never seen that. So now he wants me to go to Mass General to have my immune system studied. So we’re doing something right.”

And while Knox has bounced back quickly, working out and finally getting back to doing some shows, he was out of work for several week, which is why tonight’s benefit is so important. “My friends realize that fighting cancer my way, none of it’s covered,” he says. “I have incredible insurance that I never get to use because of how I’m fighting it.”

Tony V. hosts the benefit tonight, which includes Steve Sweeney, Don Gavin, Ken Rogerson, Frank Santorelli, Ira Proctor, Jimmy Dunn, Dave Russo, Paul D’Angelo, Artie Januario, Brad Mastrangelo, Johnny Pizzi, Mark Riley, and Danny Miller. Tickets are $30 and doors open at 6:30PM.

If that seems like a lot of names for one show, Mike Clarke points out that there will be even more comics in the audience. “Kevin is the most charitable guy there is so everybody’s just more than happy to give back to him,” he says. “A lot of guys are coming, they might not even be able to get on, but they’re coming to support the cause.”

Knox is one of the grand characters in the Boston scene, the only act with enough energy to have followed Dane Cook’s frenetic act on the Comics Come Home bill a decade ago. His every movement and statement onstage is played like he’s trying to reach the back row of a stadium crowd, even when he’s playing his regular Monday night gig in an intimate room like the Vault.

His reaction to the help and support he has received is typically oversized. “Everybody’s been so amazing to me, especially Mike Clarke and Giggles,” he says. “All the comics have just been so supportive. It’s really been amazing. All the fans, people have been sending me love and cards trying to keep my sorry ass alive. I can’t believe it.”

Kevin Knox will also play Giggles Friday with Tony V. and Dan Miller and Saturday with Artie Januario and Dan Miller.

Josh Gondelman and Shawn Donovan's World Tour of America

Josh Gondelman and Shawn Donovan begin their trek across the nation this week, playing everywhere from Chicago to Austin, San Diego to Seattle, all in about a month’s time. They’ll kick off their World Tour of America tonight with a show at Mottley’s Comedy Club with a slate of guests – Jon Lincoln, Tim McIntire, Brian Moote, Dan Boulger, Ken Reid, Chris Coxen, and Renata Tutko. I spoke with Gondelman by e-mail about the tour.

How did you decide to do a national tour together?

I have some good friends in a really great local band (The Grownup Noise), and they do a self-produced tour every summer, so that was definitely an inspiration for me. I had the idea a year ago to do a similar thing. Shawn was my first choice to come with me because my rubric was: Who can I call who will leave his/her job on a moment's notice? And Shawn was the first name that came to mind.

Have either of you done extensive road work in the past?

I've been all over New England and down to New York for shows, one nighters and weekends and stuff, but this is my first serious long-term nation-wide trip. It's an excuse to see the country and meet people and get onstage in front of all sorts of different crowds. We've got some adventures planned, too. Salamander hunting with a nature photographer in Chicago, Graceland, riverboat gambling in Mississippi. Also, Shawn is a bigfoot enthusiast, so the Pacific Northwest will be full of mystery and danger.

How did you book the places you’re going to?

The internet has been a great resource. Just Googling cities and contacting people on MySpace out of the blue has yielded some great results. Also, Boston has become a really cool melting pot for comics who started out in different places. Brian Moote was a big help booking shows in Seattle and Jess Mozes who works at the Comedy Studio got us a gig in San Francisco. Also, there are lots of Boston transplants all over who were very helpful. The Walsh Brothers in particular. Lots of guys who went to Emerson are out in California, too, and they were very cool. Mike McCusker was very supportive. We're mostly crashing on couches of college friends. At this point in my life, no one owes me any favors anymore, though. I better not move anytime soon.

What is your mode of transportation?

1999 Toyota Corolla. Mine. I'm picturing it as a cross between the Blues Brothers ("It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses, etc.") and the Big Lebowski ("They finially did it; they killed my f---ing car.") But mostly we're putting 8,000 miles on a ten year old car. Fortunately we've got a friend who is a comedian and a mechanic who's taking a look at it for us. Comedy is sort of like the free masons sometimes.

What venues/cities are you most excited to play?

We got hooked up with some really cool showcases in Chicago, which is our last stop on the way home. Plus, I've heard nothing but great stuff about Austin and San Francisco as places to spend time.

What do you think you might learn from playing these other cities?

What I'm hoping for mostly is to broaden my horizons in terms of absorbing comedy. Boston is a great community, but I'm excited to see what the conventions are outside of that community. What makes people uncomfortable in other cities? What sorts of jokes are "hack?" I'm curious to see whether mainstream comedy is sort of like mainstream music, in that what blows up nationally is the most commercially viable iteration of a particular style or dialect. I'm excited to get into the nitty gritty of things. And also to see how my act plays all over, for sure.

Will you be trying to pick up shows as you go along, in addition to what you already have booked?

We're already pretty jam-packed, with something like 17 nights onstage out of 28 days away, so it'll be tough to book additional things, but I'd definitely be up for doubling up and hitting a couple of shows on the same night in cities where there's a lot going on. You know, like Oxford, Mississippi.

What will be your first official gig back in Boston after the tour?

The Monday we return, I retake the helm of my usual Monday night open mic at Sally O'Brien's in Somerville. Then I'm at the Comedy Vault the first weekend I'm back (April 10th and 11th), and then The Gas (Friday) and the Comedy Studio (Saturday) the next week. So I'm hitting the ground running.