Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal plan for Boston

Eugene Mirman and hats? Kristen Schaal and ice cream? Hands touching hands? All of these non questions are non answered in this mutual video interview between Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal about their show at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre Saturday.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jeff Kreisler's Get Rich Cheating

Jeff Kreisler couldn’t have timed the release of his new book, Get Rich Cheating; The Crooked Path to Easy Street, any better. After all, as Kreisler points out, cheating in business, sports, the entertainment world, wherever you choose to apply his advice, is recession-proof. Kreisler, who grew up in Amherst and has written for The Daily Show’s Indecision08 Web site and Jim Cramer’s, will be at the Borders on School Street at noon today reading from the book, with a couple of other New England readings Tuesday and Thursday.

How long have you been working on this book?

About 2.5 years, conception to publication. Probably 8 months of writing, the rest was publishing industry nonsense.

Did you have to add anything in last minute as the "financial crisis" became more of a national focal point?

Actually, I already had almost everything about the crisis in there, it just didn't have that label. all the scams and lies - all the taking advantage of people's desire to get rich or have cheap homes or easy credit - all the secrecy and obfuscation in the financial markets - it was all already out there in the world and in there in the book... it just hadn't caused 10% unemployment yet.

I did write one chapter specifically about the crisis which is a step-by-step recap of all the tricks I advocate and how they were used leading up to the crisis - sort of a "see, I told you could Get Rich Cheating". I also added some last minute stuff about Madoff & Blagojevich, but they fit pretty easily into existing sections.

Were you writing to a general audience, or to a business audience?

The first version was for more of a business audience. A lot of accounting jokes. I'm not kidding. Please kill me. BUT THEN I got a new publisher - Harper Collins - and they wanted me to expand it beyond corporate crime. Good decision. Now it covers cheating throughout culture, with a way for anyone to get rich in any industry.

Showbiz, sports, politics, and, of course, business. There's sooooo much cheating. Every day something new (Daily Cheat Chats on

Is there anyone or any book in particular that inspired the tone?

I think it came from that old sense of "if you don't laugh, you'll cry." Just writing my weekly business column - and therefore reading the business news every day - kinda overwhelmed me with all the crap that's going on in that world. And, of course, as a struggling comic, I want to get rich quick... and there were a ton of those books those days (especially about real estate).

Another take-itself-too-seriously screaming-at-the-top-of-my-lungs rant about what's wrong with the world wouldn't work, so why not flip and advocate doing all these horrible things, and do it like those get rich quick late night infomercial guys. (Have you seen our infomercial?

(Some say the voice is somewhat similar to what Colbert does, but I wouldn't say that was an inspiration, just a flattering coincidence).

I haven't seen too many humor books that actually cite sources -- did you do any research specifically for the book or did you use sources you were reading anyway?

I've always been one of those lunatics with stacks of newspaper clippings piled everywhere. Was worried it was a sign of dementia until I sorted through them for some citations. Now I feel okay.

I actually did a lot of research just for the book. If I thought some company had done something, I needed to be sure... and if I wanted to find someone who'd done something specifically stupid, I'd go look and usually find.

Lotta research. Princeton degree: Engage!

Who is the Greatest Cheater?

I got the most pleasure out of Enron. They just had everything.
Arrogance, manipulating workers and investors, crazy excessive spending, yelling at grandmoms, using Star Wars characters to fake transaction, making up whole industries, doing nothing, ties to GW Bush, awesome defenses (after they found an email which said "shred the documents, they're onto us," CEO Jeff Skilling said he was just "being sarcastic." Genius!), and, of course, Ken Lay faking death and vacationing with Elvis and Hoffa.

What made you decide to pursue stand-up after studying at Princeton, Exeter, and Virginia Law School?


Seriously, I've always been interested in politics and culture and the formation of society and the interaction of man... and there isn't really a profession where you get to blab about that - at least not one it's easy to get into. In comedy, you can do whatever you want, as long as it's funny. Works for me.

Also, I'm delusional about comedy. I idolize the notion of the court jester, he who speaks power to truth as long as he's funny and wears curvy shoes. I think - especially in our culture - satire can inform and help make smarter citizens.

Oh, and I'm the stubborn youngest kid and I like a challenge.

When did you live in Boston?

Summer of 1999. Grew up in Amherst, came here often. Am here right now. (Reading at Borders).

What advice would you give to your old boss, Jim Cramer, now?

Shhhh, don't speak.

What kind of personal fortune have you amassed doing stand-up?

You ever heard of "money?" That's mine.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Joe Rogan talks Talking Monkeys and more on TVSquad

Joe Rogan's new special, Talking Monkeys in Space, debutes tonight on Spike TV at midnight. I talked to him for TVSquad -- read the interview here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Discount Variety tonigth at the CinemaSalem Cafe -- Andy Ofiesh and Gumbo Diablo!

If you have any way to get out to the north shore tonight, make plans to see Presents... Discount Variety at CinemaSalem. Tonight starting at 8:30, we have Andy Ofiesh of the Naked Comedy Showcase and the zydeco soul of Gumbo Diablo, all for a cover price of just five bucks. For more info, click here. And read below for more info on tonight's featured performers.

Gumbo Diablo could be called a zydeco band, but their style covers a much broader range than that -- roots, soul, country. As lead singer Wendy Kinal puts it, they like to play "the originals, the Stevie covers, and anything people are dancing and smiling and to. Hire us and we'll help you throw one of the best parties of your life!"

How long have you been playing in Boston?

About two years.

What are your favorite places to play?

Pleasant Cafe in Maynard - we've been there several times and it just has a chill, welcoming feel; the R&R in Malden is a good ol' Neighborhood Bar (I believe the full name is the R&R 5-Star Dive Bar..enough said); 31 Main in Ayer and the Happy Swallow in Framingham are fun as well, and different - audience, energy, etc.
- I love reading the vibe and rolling with it.

Who are your favorite comedians, locally and nationally?

I do like the Walsh Brothers and Andy Ofiesh, and it's not just because I spent hours and hours eating kabobs in the middle of the night in Scotland with them. The "Untrainables" always crack me up (Renata Tutko, Nate Johnson, Sean Sullivan, Ken Reid). I always loved the late, great Gilda Radner. Oh, and Bea Arthur, RIP.

What is the best comedy show you've seen?

Does a clown piece I saw in Brazil count? I howled with laughter and terror the entire time. It was brilliant. As far as stand-up goes, I can't pinpoint just one. There's usually a moment in ever show I've seen that just tickles me to the core.


It would be easy to label Andy Ofiesh's Naked Comedy Showcase, which he hosts the first Wednesday of every month at ImprovBoston, as a stunt. After all, it is naked people doing comedy. Ofiesh admits that's a pretty good way to get attention, but to dismiss the show, and Ofiesh himself, as a novelty would be to miss out on a surprisingly innovative show and a whipsmart local comedian. Ofiesh has distinguished himself, dressed and undressed, in the local scene with a wicked, sometimes off-color sense of humor, and is a happy fixture of the Boston scene.

How long have you been playing in Boston?

Eleven years.

What are your favorite places to play?

Comedy Studio and ImprovBoston.

Who are your favorite musicians, locally and nationally?

Locally I really like Gumbo Diablo, and not just because the lead singer is my roommate. More famously, I like White Stripes (or related groups), and Red Hot Chilli Peppers

What is the best music show you’ve seen?

River Rave in 2004. There were a ton of great acts, but the best was P.O.D. tried to turn Gillette Stadium into a mosh pit, and then invited a bunch of kids on stage to sing Youth of the Nation with them.

Tom Dustin goes Blue tonight at Mottley's

Tom Dustin regularly delivers stories about his personal life onsage that, when heard secondhand, would probably not make him seem terribly likable. His slmiy entertainment lawyer character from Robby Roadstemaer's Quiet Desperation webcom series won't help that image much. But watch the crowd when he tells them about his dating habits or makes a particularly offensive joke about race, and you won't see many disgusted faces. What you'll usually see is a lot of people laughing. Tonight at Mottley's, Dustin invites some of his friends into his comic world with Dark Blue.

What's the general concept behind Dark Blue?

Dark Blue is a dirty, politically incorrect stand-up comedy show. Dirty shows are not a new idea. But instead of having a bunch of easy F-words, thoughtless sex jokes and racist shock humor that you might expect from a show billed as such; I wanted to get some truly talented comedians who typically shy away from the edgier side of comedy and have them use the material that might be considered inappropriate for general audiences.

"Dirty" comedians are often asked to "keep it clean" by booking agents. But I've never heard of a "squeaky clean" comic being asked to bust out their edgiest stuff. So, that's exactly what I decided to do.

What made you decide to do the show?

Bill Cosby, Brian Regan, Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan. These guys are all hysterically funny and they all work squeaky clean. I wondered what it would be like if they worked "blue".

So, I decided to take amazing comedians, most of whom almost never swear onstage and rarely explore controversial issues or taboo topics, and tell them to do the material that they have that is too questionable to perform at most shows. I said "I want to hear that hilarious, dark blue stuff that usually gets cut out of your act for fear that someone might be offended enough to write a letter of complaint because their delicate sensibilities might be injured." I said, "let it all hang out".

How did you decide who would be on the bill?

I booked the guys who make me laugh.

Joe List was the easiest choice. We've been friends since we started in comedy and he's hilarious. He works the best clubs all around the country and plays by the rules at those venues. But, Joe's stockpile of material contains the funniest filth I've ever heard and he rarely gets to show that stuff off.

Jason Kanter is a comic originally from Ohio who now lives in NYC. He's a great writer and has some twisted stuff that will undoubtedly fetch big laughs where groans might be (on another show).

Josh Gondelman is doing a spot also. Josh is the nicest, most polite and likable comic in Boston. I'm trying to turn him to the dark side.

Tim Kaelin and I have been talking about doing a show like this for years. While Tim isn't known for being squeaky clean, he is intelligent enough to be filthy-funny without just being filthy.

Juston McKinney really personifies what the show is about. He is a squeaky clean comic who has done The Tonite Show and won the "Listerine clean comic award". I'm looking forward to watching him go dirty for once.

Is this a show you'd do again, or regularly?

I'd like to have it as a monthly show. And I've had alot of great comics ask to be on future installments. But for now, we'll see how this one goes.

You have a unique ability to say awful things to a crowd of people and make them laugh. How do you develop that skill without getting beat up after the show every night?

I get away with saying some things that other comics might have a hard time pulling off. I don't do it to intentionally offend people, I'm just being myself and saying things that I think are funny. After all, I am trying to get them to laugh and have a good time. Plus, if you make most of the crowd laugh, you've got alot of back-up if a few sensitive audience members want to kick your ass.

Is there anything you wouldn't consider talking about onstage?

I can't think of any topic that I wouldn't cover if I thought it could be funny. I don't ever want anyone to be mad or sad based on something I said. It's comedy. It's suppose to make you feel good. But, at the same time, I feel like there are people who go through life looking for things to get mad and complain about; they want to be offended just so they can whine about it. I have never understood how people get offended by anything a comedian says. I always want to ask them: "where does it hurt?". Because I don't get offended by words and ideas. To me, there's only funny and unfunny. There is no offensive.

Do you improvise your parts for Quiet Desperation?

Yeah. For the most part, the Quiet Desparation series is all improvised. Roadsteamer tells me what the scene is about, gives me some ideas of direction and then we shoot it.

What appeals to you about that role?

My lawyer character is basically an extremely exaggerated version of my real self, so it's not really a stretch for me. I love the idea of playing a total scumbag with no morals, no ethics, and no concern for what anyone thinks about him. I'm a fan of villains.

Do you plan to do more acting in the future?

I've loved doing the stuff I've done. And I'd love to do more if the opportunity presents itself. But, right now I'm just trying to focus on my stand-up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A meandering conversation with Kate Clinton

It’s hard to find just one term that described all that Kate Clinton does. For nearly thirty years, she has been a stand-up comedian, touring the country and writing smart, pointed political material. She has been at the forefront of gay and lesbian comedy, although to label her a “gay comic” would be unfairly limiting the scope of her worldview. She’s also an author (her latest book is I Told You So), a columnist (for The Progressive and other publications), a blogger (see the CommuniKate section of, and an activist.

She’s also a lot of fun to engage in a meandering conversation, as I found yet again when I spoke with her earlier this week. She’s at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre tonight (7:30 p.m. Tickets are $29 and $37 at 617-931-2000 or, and she’ll start her annual summer un at the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown next month.

Have you decided on a term for what you do yet? Last time we spoke, it vacillated between humorist, stand-up comedian, monologist and perhaps some mix of the three.

I think we’re going to stick with “humorist.” The older I get… They last longer.

How do find time to write an act, a book, a column, and blog for roughly half of the political sites on the Web?

Well, thankfully, they’re fairly vital. Put a column out and you hear from somebody who saw it on… what? I don’t even know what that is. I did a thing on Judy Joy Jones a couple of nights ago, that is BlogTalkRadio, and people were calling in from South Africa. It was like, wild. I guess just doing it a little bit every day is what the key is, and I think really, at the end of the day, as they say, it’s all about providing content. And if I just keep writing and you look back after two or three years and you think, oh my god, I have a book.

Is that how the new book came about?

Yes, it really did. I had about, I think it was three years since my last book and I thought, oh, I’ve got enough. Especially actually doing the blog, which, of course, had to be translated from bloggerian to make essays. Because I would look at them and go, I don’t even know what that was about. But I looked back and I thought, there’s enough, and we approached Beacon who was very happy to do it. And I had about, probably about six months to put it together.

And I put it together and then handed it in at the end of July. Then we went through the primaries and the election, or the conventions. And then really, thank goodness, at the end of August, Beacon called and said, we really want another chapter to kind of finish the primary stories, finish after the Novemner election and send it in. And I was really happy, because I just finished a lot of storylines that I’d been following for three years.

How much did you have to change from “blogonese,” was that the word?

Bloggerian. I like “blogonese.” It was mostly splicing together short ones from day to day, and then there was also just making connective tissue, explaining things that we seem to forget. There was a moment where we thought a “poindexter” was a type of guy, but he was actually a guy. You have to explain that. I think we definitely live in Short Attention Span Theatre. So that was part of the work of the blog thing, and just changing tenses and making sure it had a consistent flow, mechanical.

The other thing was, Beacon asked for articles that hadn’t appeared in the Advocate or The Progressive or the Women’s Review of Books. So they asked for some original material, which turned out to be much longer. The blog and the magazine articles are like 750 words tops. I really loved the opportunity to write a longer piece. Some of them are a couple thousand words.

So it really got to develop different ideas, which they really liked, and then they said, we really want you to write a memoir. And I said, “I’m that old?” But it’s an interesting idea for a memoir. It’s like taking five huge, changing LGBT events that I’ve been at over the course of twenty-eight years. Because I’ve kept journals and I’ve been writing all those years. So it’s an interesting idea that I’d really like to do.

Is that something that you’ve already started on?

I keep notes. I’m in kind of the mind that you write what inspires you at that moment, save it, and then kind of put it together later as some kind of quilt. I really encourage people who want to write a book and they get overwhelmed, and I say, just write things that you remember. Save them and look at them later. We’ll get somebody to help you figure out how to put it together. Some books look like that, too. [laughs] sorry!

I guess that’s a matter of maybe not publishing it quite so soon in that process, not publishing as soon as you’re done with the notes.

Ooohh. Contemplation. Hmm. Yes. But everything is so speedy. The pace of things, when I think about different styles of writing for a blog, which actually has been interesting because it’s really freed me up. I’m the slowest writer in the world. You know, I a paragraph and then I go back and tinker with it and then slowly move on.

But the blog thing really freed me up, and actually doing the video blog has freed me up in performance in odd ways, because it really, they’re like two-minute blogs that I put up every Thursday. I have like three words on a page and they’re things I want to talk about. But in performance, I have a thirty, thirty-five page script that I’m happy to veer from and improvise from, but I’m very prepared. So there’s a way that the spontaneity of the blog has helped me be more spontaneous in a show.

It all goes together, everything. Because I’m doing a blog and I think, oh, that’s such a great idea for a show, or I’m doing a show and I think, ooh, that would be a great little piece.

With gay marriage and “don’t ask, don’t tell” out in the forefront right now – you’re not the only comedian who’s been addressing these things, but you’ve been addressing them for years – do you feel like it’s strange that those are such hot-button, mainstream issues at the same time right now?

You know, I always feel like Madame DuFarge in Tale of Two Cities where you’ve knitted everything up and then the revolution comes and you’re unraveling and you’ve remembered everybody. But I think watching, and certainly participating in, marriage equality and gays in the military, it just seems like it’s at a tipping point. I don’t think it’s any mistake that we no longer have so much rank homophobia on high. Have you seen the movie Outrage?

No. Not yet.

It’s a wonderful movie. And just to see George Bush making that announcement that there was going to be an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution, it’s like, what? To not have that anymore from on high, I think it’s just perfect that it’s just blossoming now. There have been very many different strands happening, organizing in the gay movement, and I think that now they’re really coming out and being able to really garner the attention of the remaining newspapers.

It’s really quite amazing, and I’m not – people are really mad at Obama for not being more involved in it. I’m sure he’s got a plan, just like he had a very long and extended plan to win the election. I’m sure he’s got a plan on this. But it’s just, he could do much more in terms of leadership. They seem to forget that they won and that they have a majority. Perhaps they should lead. He could sign an executive order, he could do a stop/loss pronouncement that would at least freeze throwing gay people out of the military right now.

It’s amazing to see that sixty-eight percent of the country believes that gays should serve in the military. I don’t know if that’s because we actually are in so many wars and will take anybody… “Oh, yeah, let the gays get in. Get in the front. You guys are great.”

And then, of course, here in New York stage, we’ve had this coup where two Democratic legislators have gone to the Republican side. One is under indictment for miuse of campaign funds, the other one, oh, assaulted his girlfriend with a bottle. They’re Republicans now, which is perfect. So I don’t know what the status of marriage equality here is. People who are really in know and behind the scenes say no, it is going to progress. But the chambers are locked. Nobody’s giving up the keys.

I think we need to seat Al Franken. It would be a proud day for comedians everywhere, to have an openly comic American in the Senate. I’m looking forward to it. They have to seat him.

There have been many closeted comic Americans in Congress.


They don’t hide it very well, there are the telltale signs.

They’re the classic “openly closeted.” But this, proud to identify his heritage. He is an openly comic American. And it will be a proud day for all of us.

Do feel the debate is in a healthier place now than it has been?

I do. It’s more vitriolic now, which is a great sign that we’re making progress. I’ve always viewed our progress by the opposition against us. And we’re in the last gasp stages of the old white guys. “Oh, they’re not going to be in the military! No, they can’t get married!”

I do think it’s a very vigorous national debate. It’s popping up in Iowa The thirteen colonies that wrote the Constitution are coming around to it. And states, there are very active gay equality organizations in lots and lots of states that weren’t there before.

What’s your report card on Obama at this point?

I think for deportment, he would get an “A.” I don’t know what he’s on, but he’s so calm. I’d like some. Communications skills, “A.” finishing tasks, “B.” He’s getting there. Plays well with others – “tries to play well with others,” that would be the new category – a “B.”

I just think he’s got an amazing, calm team around him. I’m amused by all the old guys who are going, “He’s trying to do too much.” And I just think you’re jealous. Apparently, I don’t know how long his days are, but he’s got time to go on dates, doing all those things. I guess he doesn’t work out as long. Bush, they totaled it up, he took 470 days off in his eight years. So I think he’s got eight years to unravel. He’s got major cleanup on aisle five. That hundred day thing, that was just annoying. It was so fake and crazy. Still trying to assess the damage. The option was John McCain, or as we called him “God Forbid.” So I’m hopeful. That’s about all that’s left.

Last time we spoke, you said that you had really gotten bored at the end of the Clinton years with everything being about sex. Did you have a similar feeling retreading the issues at the end of George W. Bush’s term?

I did have Bush fatigue. And I mean that in the worst way. I really did. I don’t know if it was the result of eight years of anybody. But I think the categories had been pretty hardened and it would just be more of the same. It got pretty tiresome. But then it was overlapped for the last two years by the campaign. I don’t know how they do it in England. A six-week campaign and then you’re done.

How long have you been doing your annual run in Provincetown?

I think 94 years? I think. Actually, I started when the Cape was still connected to the mainland. I think this might be like my eighteenth or nineteenth season.

What keeps you coming back?

Well, in 1990, somehow, I bought a house in Provincetown. I feel sorry for performers who are performing there for the summer and they have to live in something less than their own home. But I get to go and be in my own house and have my own garden and ride my bike to work. It’s just wonderful. And really work on stuff for the fall. So it’s just perfect in many ways, except I am away from my partner who is plagued by shuttles and Cape Air and “Aaah! It’s foggy! I can’t get there!” From New York. But she allows me the simple pleasures.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wendy Liebman in town tonight for benefit

Wendy Liebman came to Boston to study psychology, and left as a comedian. She was a student at Wellesley College in the 80s when she first started taking adult ed classes on stand-up and venturing out into a Boston scene populated by the likes of Brian Kiley, Jonathan Katz, Jimmy Tingle, and Don Gavin (whose delivery was influential on her own style of rapid fire delivery and throwaway lines).

Tonight, she’s back in town at the Regent Theatre for a benefit show for Community Works, which has been called “a portfolio of 32 local social justice organizations.” She’ll be joined by Tony V, Bill Braudis, Rich Ceisler, Chris Tabb, Jim Lauletta, and Jane Condon. I spoke with her by e-mail.

How did you get involved with charity for Community Works? “A portfolio of 32 local social justice organizations” sounds a bit confusing.

Community Works is like The United Way but local. The women who started it, Kip Tiernan and Fran Froehlich are the Mother Teresa's of our time. Money donated to this charity goes to help the homeless, the sick, the needy. I love this organization and I would do anything to help them.

What is your part in the documentary The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story?

My husband and his cousin made a tribute film to their fathers, the composers who wrote a lot of family music (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, "It's a Small World," and "You're Sixteen," to name a few.) The brothers worked together for over 50 years and yet they never really got along. The tag line for the movie is “Brothers, Partners, Strangers.” I got to speak on behalf of my mother-in-law, who passed away before the movie was made. If you get the chance to see it, you should -- it's a gorgeous movie and it will bring you back to your childhood.

How often do you get back to Boston?

About once a year! I will come back every year to do the benefit for Community Works for the rest of my life (you have it in writing).

Do you still see people here who watched you coming up?

Yes. And I still do some of my old jokes. I tell them to pretend they're watching time lapse photography.

Do you keep in touch with comics like Tony V, who’s also on the bill?

Yes, gotta love Facebook! That's how I approached the other comedians to be on the show!! (Tony V., Rich Ceisler, Bill Braudis, Chris Tabb, Jim Lauletta, and Jane Condon.) Jonathan Katz and I just did a piece for his radio show, "Hey, We’re Back."

What should we be looking for from you in the future? Are you working on an album or a special?

Next week I'll be a part of the Just for Laughs Festival in Chicago. I plan on recording my first DVD on my 50th birthday, Feb 27, 2011.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Joe Wong rubbing elbows with Kanye and David Blaine on Ellen's Bigger, Longer, & Wider Show

Ellen DeGeneres today revealed that Boston comedian Joe Wong will be on Ellen's Bigger, Longer, & Wider Show, which tapes June 17 and airs June 27 on TBS. Watch for my poss on TVSquad for more info on the show.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bill Burr on The Tonight Show -- first stand-up performance of the Conan Era

Just posted a bit over at AOL's TVSquad blog about Canton native Bill Burr on The Tonight Show this evening. He'll be the first sand-up comic to do a performance spot on Conan O'Brien's watch as host.

A few wods on the Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Festival with Chris Coxen

You may not be used to looking for comedy on Mondays in Boston, so you may not have noticed that Chris Coxen and Robby Roadsteamer have opened up shop downstairs at the Cantab every Monday for what they're calling the Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Sleepoever. They'll be bringing along friends from the other Greater Boston Alternative shows Roadsteamer has been putting together over the last six months.

A few comedy shows have come and gone in that space, but few of them have had the kind of committed hosts the Sleepover has in Coxen and Roadsteamer, or the type of scene that is coalescing around them. I had the chance to speak to Mr. Coxen about the show recently by e-mail.

How do you and Robby plan to be the first comedy show not dumped from the Cantab?

Ha! That's a good one. If keeping our show at the Cantab means Bobby (Robby) and I have to drink up a juicy bar tab by ourselves each Monday night to keep the Cantab happy, then that's what we'll do. In addition, we may also try to make the show good. Good shows don't get dumped. Geeks get dumped.

With all of the shows both of you are currently involved in, why add a free show on a Monday?

Bobby (again Robby - I get to call him Bobby) and I need a weekly show that we have complete control over and just like the Peanuts cartoon, there can be no adults around telling us what to do. This is how maniacs like Bobby and I grow our artistic figures; a small, humble, creative, intimate, casual but quality performance environment. Much of what my act is stems from loose, creative environments like the Great and Secret Show. We're looking to replicate that feel. Why free? Do you know someone with money? If that's the case, we'll start charging. It seems like we only know people that are too poor to shower much less pay for comedy. Besides, we want to give folks a strong incentive to keep coming back to the show. We want to make a nice, free hangout for them.

With all of the new clubs and new shows opening up, do you think we’re reaching a level of saturation? What niches do you think still need to be filled?

You're completely right. There are a lot of clubs opening up and saturation is always a potential issue. Whether there were 100 clubs in Boston right now or two, we feel like our show will be unique. The success of Bobby's Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Shows have made it clear that there are people out there who want more alternative comedy. Also, the two of us feel like we fall between multiple genres. We feel like it's a harder for us to succeed because people in the industry don't know quite know what to do with us. When you feel like this, you have two choices: 1) start drinking bad whiskey and lament or 2) do your own thing, create your own scene for your own artistic enjoyment and hope for the best.

Who will be on this week?

The lineup is Shane Mauss, Mehran, Matt Wilding and Sara Heggan. Should be a taste-worthy show.

Do you have a stable of people you expect to see regularly?

Indeed so. You'll probably always see the bartender and the same few chairs. The chairs will always be "plants" in the audience. No one will see it coming. Beyond that, I hope to include Nate Johnson and Sean Sullivan doing sketch/character items. Ken Reid, Mehran, Nicole and few others will appear frequently as well.I've already booked most of the shows into August. Brian Longwell, Shane Mauss, Joe Wong and MC Mr. Napkins are some other heroes that are scheduled to make it so.

Will you and Robby perform together at the shows?

No plans have been made yet for this but it may happen inadvertantly.

Will we be seeing the new character from Quiet Desperation?

Maybe. Once issue with that is that Renaldo is a dead ringer for Barry Tattle. I don't want to start a Bermuda cat fight between the two lads.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Boston Comedy Interview: Dylan Moran of The Fellas

This is Part Two of my interviews with The Fellas, Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran, who are at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre tonight and tomorrow (read part one here). Moran is a somewhat unknown quantity in America as a stand-up comedian, although like Tiernan and Ardal O’Hanlon (who will be on the other dates as The Fellas tours the country), he is immensely popular in the U.K.

American audiences would know him best from roles in Shaun of the Dead and Run, Fatboy, Run, and while he is good on the big screen, those roles don’t hint at the depth and ferocity of Moran’s wit. When we spoke last week, he was driving in Geneva, Switzerland, and looking forward to his first shows in Boston.

How often have you played the States outside of New York?

I’ve played New York twice and I did a run in L.A. for six weeks. So this is my first time going further afield than that. Where are you calling from?

From Boston.

Yeah, that’ll be my first time in Boston. We’re going to Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia. So my first time out of New York and out of L.A.

I take it your doing a full tour of the United States?

I don’t know that I’d call it a full tour, Nick. It’s kind of a look-see at the moment. It’s six cities, I think, in ten days.

Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to about the tour?

Well, yeah. I’m talking to you now from Geneva at the moment, I’m on the road here in Europe. I’m going to Sweden in a couple of days and as I’m sure you’re aware, the whole world has its eyes on America, pretty much most of the time, and never more so than at the moment with everything that’s happening right now, and everything’s that’s gone on in America before the election and since then. So it’s a massive influence in the European’s life. And there’s this permanent fascination. And of course Boston, Ireland, the whole thing is full of [inaudible]. And places like New York, Baltimore, and Chicago, as well. I know a bit about Philadelphia. These places are references in everybody’s mind, especially if you’re an Irish person.

Everyone followed the election very closely here. We’re all talking about it and all watching to see what the administration is going to do, about the biggest bit everybody’s talking about, about Israel and Iran. And that constant flood about all the economic stuff going on, it’s kind of white noise at this stage.

Are you looking forward to talking to people here about that?

Yeah! Very much so. I’m very much looking forward to getting hold of the American take on things. And you want to come in with some local knowledge, as well, about what effects people in each individual city. So comic have to do their scramble around and do some research just like any, just like people like yourself, really.

Past finding out what suburb is considered the local shithole and –

Yeah, that’s all standard issue stuff. I mean, you do that, but it depends on how far you really want to go. The thing is, you’ve got to be careful because there’s a line you’ve got to tread between – you’ve got very limited time to canvass opinions and taxi drivers and whoever else you bump into during the day about what the state of the city is, you know? I certainly do try to get a collage of opinions while I’m there and find out what’s on people’s minds.

By and large, the purpose of that is not so much to tailor it for that place, again and again I find confirmed what’s on people’s minds is pretty similar wherever you go. People are worried about the core issues of having a job and security for their family and all the rest of it. The regional variations you get, that’s the interesting stuff. Those references – like you say, finding out what the tough part of town is or whatever – that all matters because you’ve got to, it’s a mark of respect, I think, when you’re talking to people to know a little bit about what effects them.

If a big part of the job is trying to tap into some sort of universal experience, I would think that’s sort of an education.

You’re right, the experience is universal, it’s just that the names change or the big manufacturing center’s name changes or whatever it is. But the dynamics are the same wherever you go.

Are you looking forward to hearing more American stupid people?

Well, you know, America has stupid people like the rest of the world. But what makes American stupidity different to other national stupidities, it is a geographical quirk in a way, because if you live in Europe you can be bright or stupid or whatever it is, but you’ve probably come into contact, you’ve probably moved around a little bit and been other places.

In America, because America is just such a huge crucible or world culture, everybody goes there. You can kind of travel without leaving the country, insofar as you can talk to somebody from anywhere in the world. But Europeans do remark on American incuriosity about actually getting their asses out of the country. You know? We’re all a bit, sometimes are scared when they hear statistics like only seven percent of Americans have passports or whatever, you know.

I think that there’s also a lot of misinformation out there, as far as what we’re told about other countries. You read the guides – we visited Ireland a few years ago and we were told never to talk politics at all.

Well, that’s nonsense, you know. That’s absolute nonsense.

That ended pretty quickly in the first bar we visited that people actually talked to us.

Exactly, yeah. [laughs] Even getting to American on a work visa is no walk in the park at the moment. Whoever you are, America is an incredible phenomenon culturally in the world. You’re inside it so you’re take on it is different, but as an outsider, you’re very much reminded when you approach America that it is the only remaining empire in the world. And it’s quite formidable. You are humbled before the eagle. That’s part of the process of getting there. You know, there’s an awful lot that you’re asked to buy into to any degree, whether you want to live there, or… I’m working there for ten days. And it’s an empire and it conducts itself as an empire, as they have done historically. You can feel quite small when you’re knocking at the door, and all you want to do is talk to people. It’s not anything more than that.

Do you think there are inherent topics for comedy in there or do you have to work for an angle?

The thing is it only really works for comedic purposes if people understand what you’re talking about. But if you haven’t been outside the city walls of the empire, you don’t know what it’s like to try and get back in, you know? There’s a lot of American citizens… E Pluribus Unum saying holds good insofar as there’s a lot of respect and loyalty. You sign up for a lot when you say, “I’m an American.” It seems to me, as an outsider.

Yeah, there’s some conflict as well if you hear people from another country taking issue with what you’re country is doing. IF you have the same issue, it’s hard to navigate that and not circle the wagons and not get defensive.

Yeah, I think it does. I think that’s no mean feat for an American to avoid coming across as defensive. I can absolutely understand that. I tell you one thing I noticed once Obama got in, is how much friendlier everybody is to Americans.

Yeah, we saw celebrations all around the world on our local news.

There’s a huge warmth that has always been there for Americans that was kind of put in the fridge for a while. That’s been defrosted and offered up again since he got in.

There are a number of people here who don’t believe that.

Well, from the European perspective, I think that is absolutely the case.

One of the arguments here on the liberal side is that the world respects us more now. Of course, that puts the conservatives on the defensive, saying that’s all nonsense.

Well, the Republican party, they’re tits up in a ditch at the moment, aren’t they? They don’t know what to do. And they know they’re in for eight years, barring a disaster, and I can’t think of any disasters that would surpass the Bush administration disasters. It would have to be a really bad response to an invasion from Mars to displace this guy. The world is in love with him. He is the modern politician, par excellence. He’s got no peers. He is out on his own in terms of performance, intelligence, command.

The other night I watched the Washington Correspondents Dinner, the national press dinner, and he was at least as good as the comics they put on. It was kind of a roast situation, isn’t it. To see him crack gags like the Cheney gag, which would have been widely reported, it’s something else.

I also watched one that was done for Bush a couple of years ago, and you see his rictus on his face, where he’s not sure if he should laugh in certain places. He looks like he’s got a harpoon in his back, for most of us.

I’m wondering if people here will be surprised that you know as much as you do about the inner workings of our politics. That was one thing that was driven home to us when we were visiting Ireland, that everybody sort of pays attention to us. Even in that bar, we told them we were from Massachusetts and the male half of the party we were talking to immediately went to, “Oh, gay people can get married there.”

Yeah, well, like I say, you guys at the stern of the world’s ship. So everybody onboard is looking to see where we’re going. Make no mistake about it. As America tilts one degree this way or that, there’s a huge wake that we’re all in. It’s serious power. There is no more serious kind of power on the planet. We’re informed because it effects us directly. You know, it’s not just kind of a spectator sport or for our own edification so we can sit around in cafe bars and finesse our arguments with one another, it’s because we’re directly effected.

How do you introduce yourself to an American audience that may not be familiar with you as a stand-up comedian?

I don’t know. I’m working on that. I’ll tell you, it’s a weird thing. I’m Switzerland now, I’m going to Sweden tomorrow, I came back from Australia last week. I played to sixty-eight and a half thousand people in Australia, so people know me in those parts. Every performer talks about breaking America. And that’s a piece of work, I’ll tell you. You’ve got to be prepared to put in the time. And you’re not going to do it in one sortie. You’re not going to do it in one raid. It just takes a lot of time. You’re such a big country, you accommodate so many different kinds of people. The diversity is total, every spectrum of humanity is represented. It’s work. I don’t know how it’s going to go, all we can do is try.

How often have you and Tommy Tiernan played together – was the British Comedy Invasion in New York the first time?

I don’t think crossed paths in New York. We were on at different times. Tommy and I know each other from way back when, went to the same school and so on. We’ve known each other a long time but we’ve very rarely gigged together. I guess we’ve done it once or twice.

What was the incentive for creating The Fellas?

That all came from a one-off gig we did in Liverpool, which has a lot of Irish associations. Ardal, who I don’t think is going to make Boston, is coming along, so there’s three of us. It was just kind of fun, to be honest, to be on the same bill together. There’s lots of people with Irish American connections, obviously, in Boston and Chicago and all these other places I’ve mentioned.

How important was Ardal O’Hanlon to your becoming a comedian?

The first time I went ot a comedy club, Ardal was on. He was in this trio. I went along, I wasn’t expecting very much, I thought it was some kind of student revue and I thought it would be quite rubbish. And everybody was incredibly polished and together and very smart and very funny, and I went on the next week and did five minutes and that was it for me. I haven’t done anything else since.

I read a review of [your stand-up show] Monster where they talked about questions from the audience being a big part of the show. Is that something you do frequently?

I don’t know what night they saw. It’s not particularly interactive. I think the show that I’m doing now, I only ask one or two questions of the audience. Sometimes I don’t do it at all. But I talk to people. Sometimes in the American school of doing comedy, in the very little that I’ve seen live, it’s very much something that’s glazed and sealed and ready to go at any time. I try and be there and talk to people. It’s not a set. It’s not the same every night.

Do you think the fact that you were in some films that were fairly popular in America will help you once you get here?

I don’t know, Nick. E’s hoping. That’s all I can say, really. Anything that gets people in is all right with me. That’s the thing, if you can get people in, half the work is done already. I’m really keen for people to come along. Apart from anything else, Tommy and Ardal are really, really good comics. It’s good stuff. People should come.

Boston Comedy Interview: Tommy Tiernanof The Fellas

There’s an obvious difference between American and Irish comedians, says Tommy Tiernan, one of Ireland’s best. He says his fellow Irish comics tend to meander a bit more, in contract to the more precise, well-rehearsed Americans who cross the Atlantic to play the U.K. So it would follow that a conversation with Tiernan would meander just as much, and be just as enjoyable as his comedy.

I spoke with Tiernan this week about his shows tonight and tomorrow with Dylan Moran (interview coming soon) at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre, called “The Fellas.” The show is part of a tour that will also feature Ardal O’Hanlon on other stops. Tiernan, Moran, and O’Hanlon are legendary in the U.K., but not known quite as well here. Americans would know Tiernan from last year’s Comedy Central special, Something Mental, Moran from his roles in films like Shaun of the Dead, and O’Hanlon from BBC America or PBS repeats of Father Ted.

Neither Tiernan nor Moran have been to Boston before, so the shows are a rare treat for Boston comedy fans.

How frequently have you played the States?

I started going over probably about three or four years ago. And it was more of a curiosity thing than any notion of a career move or anything like that. And I had gone over and started doing the comedy clubs in New York on Monday and Tuesday nights. I did that for a while, and then I got involved with Arnold [Engelman], the promoter who’s doing these shows. So we did runs in theaters, and did one in New York. A few in New York actually, and one in LA. And then started doing a little in comedy clubs in Nebraska and Washington, Texas. San Francisco.

How was that experience?

It was great, actually. I loved doing the comedy clubs. I thought they were fantastic. There’s an element of solitude when you’re doing theaters, one-man shows. There’s more life in the comedy clubs than there is when you’re in one theater for six weeks in New York. There’s more sort of peripheral action in the comedy clubs. I really enjoyed that. And I found the range of crowds across America fascinating.

I did Pittsburgh, and I found that they were up for anything. Didn’t matter what you were talking about, as long as it was funny. There was no holds barred in terms of political correctness or any of that kind of stuff. And then I found when I went to the clubs in San Francisco, I found those more conservative than places that you might have thought were more blue collar states. I found it really interesting that there was a kind of conservatism to the liberals that was a surprise for me. I found when I played in front of predominantly black audiences that they loved all the material about families and sex and children and all that type of stuff, but they weren’t prepared to tolerate any material about religion. They just weren’t interested in that at all.

I played a club in Washington where the owner of the club came up to me and told me not to curse as much onstage.

Do you not find that in clubs in England?

Oh god, no. I think the idea of a comedy performance in a club or in a theater is that, while that performance is happening, all rules are there to be broken. That’s the nature of the beast, that you’re there to be irresponsible. You’re there to be reckless. That’s the whole point of it. It’s kind of a sacred act of divilment, is a word we have in Ireland. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously.

It’s not a term I’m familiar with. Don’t know if it’s slang or…

No it’s slang. It’s the opposite of urban slang, it’s rural slang. So yes, all those experiences were interesting to me, that there was so much diversity over there. And they were all very enjoyable.

Have you ever been to Boston?

I took a holiday on Cape Cod once. We stopped in Boston for a night or two and the only thing I did of note was stand outside a bar called “Tiernan’s.” That’s the only thing I ever did there. I never played there. But I’m aware of its comic history and the great comics who have come out of there.

Who are the ones you’re familiar with?

People like Steven Wright and Denis Leary. I know there were people who worked there – there’s a DVD I have called When Standup Stood Out and it’s kind of a biography of Boston as an area that encouraged wildness, I suppose, in a sense. Or a particular kind of clever comedy, I suppose is the phrase.

It was definitely a great scene in the 80s. There was a point where there was a boom here, I’ve heard there was a similar sort of thing that happened across the U.K. with comedy.

In Ireland, it was different. The boom in the U.K. happened, and there was never really much of a scene in Ireland. And Irish comics would go over to London to gain recognition and to earn money and stuff like that. And from the early 90s, actually no, from the mid-90s, from ’95, ’96 onward, stages started opening all over Ireland. And that trend, a renaissance, not even a renaissance, because it didn’t exist beforeahand, that was when Irish stand-up comedy started to become a distinctive thing on its own, as opposed to just a branch of English comedy.

Was there a distinct influence coming from both American and English stand-up comedy?

No, I think the Irish sense of humor was very much… I think it was a kind of surrealism. When English comedy, like Monty Python, it has a kind of silliness to it. And the Irish stuff was more, it was kind of silly but with a bit of soul. It was kind of playing around with language looking for a beautiful phrase, rather than looking for the joke. It was less joke-based than English comedy. In comparison with American comedy, a lot of it is so precise. It’s so chiseled and Irish stuff is very meandering. It’s full of talk and it’s not the most precise thing in the world.

American acts come over here and are enjoyed because they’re a revelation to us. They’re so exact in everything and so well worked out and word-for-word and so sharp. There’s almost an aggression to a lot of it, you know. And the Irish stuff is more – I don’t know if this is a good or bad analogy – but if you imagine a man in a field shouting at cows... [laughs]

I’ve seen that. I grew up in a rural area. It’s easy for me to imagine.

In American comedy, the cows go exactly where the man wants them to, and they stand there for however long he wants them to stand there. In Irish comedy, they move slowly, they wander everywhere, but the man keeps shouting anyway. So I guess our stuff is a lot more meandering.

Have you ever read Mark Twain’s “How to Tell A Joke?” No, actually, I think it’s “How to Tell A Story.”

What’s his book, “How To Tell A Joke?”

It’s not a book, it’s an essay. He talks about how he prefers when somebody moves around the point and never quite gets to it and tells fifteen or twenty story before he gets to the point of the original story that he was going to tell.

The Mississippi must have originated in Ireland, because that would be very much what we’re like.

How did you, Dylan, and Ardal decide to make a your of the Three Fellas show?

I guess because we all come from in and around the same part of Ireland and we all have quite successful individual careers. And I’d say we’re about ten years from working with each other. You know when you’re starting off, you’re put on bills with other people. And because we’re successful on our own, we tend to work on our own. And so the opportunity to work together, almost as if we were starting out again is great. It’s as much a social thing, really, it’s the opportunity to spend some time with each other was the icing on the cake. I have great regard for them, personally and professionally. I think they’re good men and they’re fabulous comics.

Since the three of you have very high profiles in England and lower profiles in America, was that part of the consideration, that three of you might crack the American market together rather than alone.

I don’t think any of us are thinking of cracking the American market. It’s more of us thinking, well, we’re bound to get some people if the three of us go together. [laughs] Rather than a long term plan, it’s more of an immediate plan. If the three of us stick our heads above the parapet at the same time, maybe we won’t all get shot. If nobody comes to the shows, we won’t take it personally. There’s three of us there, so if nobody comes, at least we’ll have each other.

What was the six-week walking tour or Ireland mentioned in your bio? Were you playing smaller clubs?

In Ireland, the notion of clubs wouldn’t exist like it does in America. Each town doesn’t have a comedy club. There might be, in the whole country, there might be five or six comedy clubs. What happens is, there are a lot of small, little theaters where you could do a comedy show, but we wouldn’t have a regular thing of a club working two or three nights a week, ever week of the year. The walking tour was, I guess I was looking for a type of Huckleberry Finn experience of my own country.

So I spent six weeks, I plotted out a tour, and I spent six weeks walking the roads and across a few mountains, going from town to town and doing comedy. It most certainly did not live up to any expectations. I spent most of the time on roads that were far too busy for the size of them. I don’t know what you’d call them in America. There were barely, barely two lanes. And going in opposite directions. The notion of being able to walk around Ireland doesn’t exist anymore because there’s so much traffic. It actually became very stressful. But I did it anyway.

Who influenced you to start comedy?

I guess people like Lenny Bruce, would be the main guy, really. I would have got into him through being a Bob Dylan fan, and then from Bob Dylan, into the beats, and from the beats, into Lenny Bruce. So even before I had heard his material, I like the idea of him. I’d heard about this taboo-breaking, improvising genius.

I managed to find a tape, which was his live at Carnegie Hall show, and I just listened to that over and over and over again for years. I didn’t understand a lot of the references and his style of comedy wouldn’t, it’s just me, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’m a lot more energetic, sort of wilder onstage. But I think I fell in love with the idea of stand-up comedy because of him, and how serious it could be, and how dramatic it could be, as well as how funny.

And once I actually started doing it, it was all the usual suspects. I would be a big fan of Bill Cosby, Bill Hicks, Denis Leary would have been doing it, all of them were heroes of mine starting our. And a lot of American comedy now that I really, really like. People like Patton Oswalt and Dave Attell and Demetri Martin. They’re all guys that I really like.

How was the recent David Letterman appearance?

I’d done it about two or three weeks ago. It was fine. I’ve been doing stand-up now about thirteen years, and I’m going to be forty in a couple of weeks. So I know no one individual thing really makes that much of a difference. So it was just another night to me.

One of the curious things was, that was the third time I’d done it, and it was a learning experience, first of all, in terms of what you’re able to do as a comedian. I had just, two weeks prior to that, I had just done a show that was thirty-six hours long. I did continuous stand-up comedy for thirty-six hours. And at the end of that thirty-six hours, I realized that I probably only had about four minutes that was suitable for American television. So that was what I performed.

You know, you can kind of get into a comfort zone. Especially, I would be very well-known in Ireland, I would be very well-liked. So in a sense a lot of the work is done before I come onstage. And people are already on my side before I start to speak. And that can seduce you a little bit, I think. And maybe you can get a bit lazy, or maybe you aren’t as sharp as when you were starting out. And you might think, oh, I can do this. Look at how they’re reacting. And to go from that and then to put yourself in a situation where you’ve only got four minutes in front of people who don’t know who you are in a highly pressurized situation, it’s fantastic to see how you react to that. You actually get very, very nervous again. I actually don’t know that much at all, really. I’m not the expert that I thought I was. And from that point of view, it’s fantastic to do.

But it’s always a learning thing as well in terms of language. I had a line in a piece about, I talked about once where I shaved my sideburns off, and I shaved them that inch too far and I had crossed the thin line between punk and psychiatric patient, was the lines I had. And they told me I can’t say “psychiatric patient” on American network television because people will complain and write in. The second time I was on I had a line about fat lesbians. I wasn’t talking about women in particular, it was an image that I had, I said, “outside the house there were a bunch of fat lesbians with machine guns” was the line. And they told me that the lesbians can’t be fat. It’s always curious to encounter that.

On Irish television, you can curse. You can say “fuck” on Irish television and it’s okay. And then to go over to America and experience those types of things, it’s always interesting.

What were the circumstances under which you were doing thirty-six hours of straight stand-up?

I wanted to mark Easter. So the show started at three o’clock on Good Friday and went until dawn on Easter Sunday.

Where was this show?

It was a show in Galway, where I live in a theater called Nuns Island. It’s the world’s longest solo stand-up comedy show.

Since Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle were battling here over seven hours versus eight hours, I’m sure they’re both going to be severely disappointed.

Let’s put those guys to bed right now. Yeah, thirty-six hours.

How did you manage to do that? Were there breaks?

I set the gig up, and we were looking for a structure for it. How were we going to do it? So we said, why don’t we contact the Guinness Book of World Records and see what kind of rules they might impose. And they said for every hour of an endurance event, you’re entitled to a five-minute break. That’s what I did, I did an hour an took a five-minute break.

Was there somebody from Guinness there?

Absolutely, yeah. They were making sure the breaks were only five minutes long, they were making sure there were always ten people in the audience at any one time, none of whom could be connected to the show or asleep. We had a huge team of people working on the show to make sure we had crowds coming in at three, four, five o’clock in the morning. It was a community event, and I had a lot of people helping. It was a good thing to have done. I’m glad I did it.

Did anybody stay for the whole –

No. If anybody had stayed for the entire thirty-six hours, they would have held the endurance record, not me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BNN.. Wednesday: Top Stories

This will be the last "new" Boston News Net video until the next season starts sometime this fall. Fear not, BNN Mondays fans, there are plenty of videos in the archives to keep us amused until then.

This week, we have the final "Top Stories" segment of the week, covering Clark Rockefeller, Gillette's new ad campaign, and fistfights in Revere.

For more from Boston News Net, visit the BNN Web site.