Monday, September 27, 2010

Improv Asylum video parodies The Town

A week after it's debut, The Town was still one of the biggest movies in the country this weekend. Add to that the local setting, and it was only a matter of time before the video parodies started rolling out. Improv Asylum is one of the first out of the gate with The College Town. The stakes have never been higher for beer pong.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The BC Q&A: Maria Ciampa on comedy and yoga

Maria Ciampa hosts Comedyoga
Saturday at South Boston Yoga
Stand-up comedy and yoga may not seem like terribly complimentary concepts. One requires a bit of chaos, the other a peaceful center. But that’s not the way Maria Ciampa sees it. Ciampa is a stand-up and improv comedian and also a yoga instructor. Tomorrow night at 7PM at South Boston Yoga, she hosts her second Comedyoga event.

The idea was to bring two of Ciampa’s favorite communities together, to find a few people that make her laugh, and see if they would make some of her other friends laugh, too. Saturday’s event includes Ken Reid, Jess Sutich, and Josh Gondelman.

According to Ciampa, the show could become a staple – the folks behind the yoga studio have been supportive, and Ciampa would like to do more. I spoke with her by phone Thursday.

Why comedy in a yoga studio?

I guess it’s three things, when I decided to do a comedy show at a yoga studio. First, I noticed at a lot of comedy clubs, at a lot of comedy shows, that it’s dark, it’s late, there’s a lot of alcohol, and I never actually needed all those things to laugh. So I thought, why not bring it to a lighter atmosphere.

Secondly, as much time as I’m at comedy clubs, I’m also at yoga studios. And they tend to be, although they’re light and happy and alcohol free, they kind of almost feel obsessed with being healthy. Like, “Ooh, we’re enlightened!” This kind of condescending feel to it. And I thought, you know what, some yoga studios, not all of them, but some yoga people and yoga studios could use a little more levity. Maybe not take themselves too serious, maybe just laugh a little now and then.

And I just love both these things, and so my third thing with it is to combine them both and do the experiment and see if it works.

So you’re trying to get the comedy people on the wagon and maybe the yoga people off the wagon?

Yeah, kind of. I don’t know, I think there’s a happy medium. And I see extremes in both realms, and I think I’m always trying to find that happy medium. I figured why not actually do it in practice.

What was the audience like at the first one? You did one a few months ago?

It was in June and we had a pretty full audience. It’s a big yoga studio, but for the amount of chairs and mats that we set up, it was very full. It was a mix. I was really happy with the mix between people that go to that yoga studio regularly for classes and people that I see out at a lot of my comedy shows. So it was really cool to see these two communities that I love come together.

Was there any natural crossover? Had you convinced any of your comedy friends to do yoga or your yoga friends to come out to see comedy?

Actually there has been that, which has been really cool. And it’s weird because you think it would be harder to get the comedians who are out drinking at all hours of the night to come do yoga. But it wasn’t. Definitely a few of my comedy friends – Al David came to
Some yoga classes with me. I feel like a few other people did. I don’t know, there’s so,e sort of interconnection between the two for a lot of people right now. And I think in the cmedy community, and I’m starting to feel in the yoga community, too. There are two other comedians in the yoga community that I know of.

But it was easy to get people to come out. The yoga people are kind of like, “Yay! Comedy! I’ll come to your show!” That happened right away.

Does doing yoga help you with your comedy?

Oh my gosh, 100 percent. When you are doing yoga, a series of poses on a mat, you need to work on your ability to physically and mentally hold center amid the conflict going on. Conflict in terms of "this is a hard pose," "I hate this teacher," "this is hurting my joints, what can I do to make it more comfortable?" "I just want to be somewhere else," "oh my god look at my stomach, I'm a fatty," and the like.

When you are doing comedy, onstage in front of people, you need to exercise that ability to hold center amid all the inevitable conflict. Here, the conflict might be internal, as in "should I tell this joke to this audience?", "oh god I'm nervous, I should have worn different shoes," or, "oh shit, I'm more drunk than I realized!", or external, like a crowd that's not paying attention, a heckler, a crowd that is paying attention but quiet for some awful reason.

So both require you come from a strong center. And yoga helps me develop that on my own, then I can try to bring it to the stage. I'm still working on it, (as I suspect I forever will be) and there are days where I feel stronger than others, both in yoga and onstage.

So as you’re twisting yourself into a pretzel you’re thinking, “Hey, what if I call my husband a little gay?”

Exactly. My best ideas… It’s weird because they are two very different ways of being, but I think they compliment each other very well.

Is there gong to be any actual yoga performed at the show?

I get that question a lot. No. It’s just a comedy show at a yoga studio. We might have surprise characters, maybe guest teachers who ask people to get on their feet. But no, it’s just kind of a situation where we’ll get together and laugh.

What's Your Major features comedy and music tonight at Church

Brendan Boogie, creator of What's Your Major
You want to laugh tonight, but you also want to hear cool Boston bands play music, and you miss the “back to school” atmosphere from college. What can you do? What? What show could possibly even address your needs? Who would even want to create a show like that?

Brendan Boogie, that’s who. He created What’s Your Major?, which plays tonight at Church Boston near Fenway. Boogie is the leader of Brendan Boogie and the Best Intentions, and he has tapped his friends from Boston’s comedy and music scenes to play the show, co-sponsored by local music blog, Boston Band Crush.

The music: Shoney Lamar & The Equal Rights, Gene Dante & The Future Starlets, Kingsley Flood, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, Low Static Romance, and Ad Frank.

The Comedy: Tim McIntire, Maria Ciampa, and Duncan Wilder Johnson.

I asked Brendan a few questions about the show, and he gave me a bunch o’ smart ass answers. Here they are, in between videos of other interviews on this subject.

Wait, McIntire was a botany major? Really?

What’s the main premise of What’s Your Major?

To learn. To expand our minds. To party. To put off any meaningful decisions to a later date. To laugh. To rock. To waste our parents' money at the bar. Basically, the same premise as going to college.



How did you winds up with such close ties to both the music and comedy communities?

My charisma transcends your foolish human boundaries. Also, you tend to burn through relationships quickly when you never pick up the tab, so it’s important for me to spread myself around a few different scenes.



How is Church as a comedy venue?

Surprisingly good. We did this event last year and set up the comedy stage nearer to the bar so the comics could perform while the bands switched over. Last year, we actually did have to toss some people for heckling and being obnoxious. They came from a wedding. They started the day exchanging eternal love for each other. They ended it getting verbally ripped to shreds by Tim McIntire and then tossed from the building in tears. I have a lot of hope for those two kids.



Do you plan to keep doing these shows?

Well, this is only sophomore year, so I'd say so. Maybe junior year abroad? What's Your Major 3 in Amsterdam? Start booking your hostels now.



How is Boston Band Crush involved?

Editor-in-chief Ashley Willard is the empress of all things Boston rock. Even when you think she's not involved, she'll be there to unite your friends and smite your enemies. It's best to just submit to her every whim.







The BC Q&A: Mike Donovan

Mike Donovan plays the
China Blossom tonight and tomorrow
Mike Donovan has been doing comedy in Boston for longer than there has been a dedicated comedy club in this town. He remembers his first paid gig in 1977, a year before the Comedy Connection became Boston’s first full-time comedy club. He’s played Boston through all of the supposed comedy busts and booms, and still plays regularly in Boston and around the country. He’s at the China Blossom in North Andover tonight and tomorrow.

Some of Donovan’s best stuff revolves around sports – his routines about doodling on his baseball cards and sports sponsorship are classics. You can hear both on Donovan’s new CD, Throwing Rocks, which is surprisingly also his first CD.

I caught up with Donovan earlier this month to talk about Throwing Rocks, sports, and Boston comedy.

What made you decide to finally release a CD?

Gas money. Plus to get Rob Steen to stop asking me, “When are you going to make a CD?”

How many shows did you cull from? It sounds like you bounce around from different shows.

I think its from at least 40 different shows. My wife Hilarie knows the exact number. She co-produced it. I think its fun to jump around from club to club, and audience to audience, and even from year to year. The second half includes some of the retro bits.

You say at one point on the CD that all comedy is mean, that no one has ever laughed at someone almost falling. Is that something you’re conscious of when you’re writing a joke? Is it an idea you write to?

No – Never think to write that that way consciously. I let a funny thought come to me and then I go from there. But the cruelty, its just the way I see it. Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. The joke is on the person being told the joke. It's always funny at someone's expense.

Mike Donovan's new CD
The CD really shows off the range of your voice – do you think you’ll work in radio again? And have you ever tried to sing seriously?

I'd love to do radio again. I sang in a choir at Symphony Hall when I was 12.

The baseball cards routine is one of my favorites of yours. Did any of your collection survive childhood?

My mom threw my cards away. Bad day. There is a baseball card store in Arizona called, “My mom threw out my baseball cards.”

Which do you enjoy more, sports or history?

History. It's something that's grown in a good way. I wouldn't have said that ten years ago.

What are your thoughts on the “Yankees Suck” crowd?

It's September 4 and the Sox are drowning, so it’s a tough time to answer that one. I never chanted it. I still think the Giants/Eagles is a rougher rivalry. Sox fans have dignity now that we won two. Red Sox had more injuries this year than any football team I ever rooted for. I called them the Boston Red Cross.

You’re also working on a history book – what do you hope to communicate to people about history?

I just want to tell the story in a clear, fun, and edutaining way.

What was your first gig in Boston? Do you remember the place?

I used to host charity talent shows at the LaBoure Center in South Boston when I was 16. I did impressions and the voices did jokes. My first paid gig in Boston I think was at the Black Rose tavern at Faniuel Hall. I did sets between the Irish bands. About four Saturdays in the summer of 1977.

You’ve seen a good portion of this city’s comedy history, is there anything that has remained consistent about the scene over the past 30 years?

Some comedians steal jokes. Some don't. Some crowds are great. Some crowds aren't. Second show Friday usually blows. Cerebral comics bomb at the bowling alley gigs. Bowling alley comics bomb at the tux and gown banquets. When the blender goes on, the joke goes down. And it's usually a lot of fun, in spite of the obstacle course.

Where do you think you fit into that history?

I'll leave that one blank.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bob Marley sets new Guinness Record for stand-up

New stand-up record holder, Bob Marley
When the next Guinness Book of World Records is released, Bob Marley will be in it. Marley set out to break the record for longest stand-up set Wednesday morning at 7AM at the Comedy Connection in Portland, Maine, to benefit the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital.

According to his Facebook page, he achieved his goal Thursday evening, besting the former mark of 38 hours and six minutes with a 40 hour set.

You can see video from the marathon performance here.

Gary Gulman CD taping at the Studio tonight

Gary Gulmn tapes a CD at the Studio tonight.
According to Comedy Studio owner Rick Jenkins, there are still a handful of tickets left for Gary Gulman's 7PM CD taping tonight. The 9PM show is sold out. The Peabody native will be taping both shows tonight for a new CD. He'll also be doing headling sets tomorrow and Saturday and taping those as a backup, in case the final product needs some touching up. Call 617-661-6507 to snatch up those last tickets for tonight.

Gulman has been tuning up for this for months, showing up at open mics around Boston and playing a number of shows, including several spots at the Studio last week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More on Billy Bob and Maddow

Billy Bob Neck outing Maddow on YouTube
On Friday, Billy Bob Neck, a.k.a. local comedian Paul Day, was surprised to find a video of his popping up on The Rachel Maddow Show. Billy Bob can be a bit hard to take if you don't know it's an act, and despite the obvious fun Maddow has been having with his accusation that she's a "lesbian vampire," some people have been taking it seriously.

The story has been on Maddow's blog, first here, where Maddow posted a photo of herself with fake (I think) vampire teeth and a pint of Ben & Jerry's Vein-illa Les-bean. Then Maddow's bloggers found my interview with Day and posted about it again.

The folks over at Blue Roots Radio also interviewed Day Monday. You can hear it here (click on the links under the "Dates" heading on the left side).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bob Marley goes for the record at Portland’s Comedy Connection


Bob Marley attempts to break the
Guinness stand-up record for charity.
By the time you read this, Bob Marley will most likely be onstage at the Comedy Connection in Maine. He goes on at the ungodly hour of 7AM Wednesday morning, trying to beat the Guinness record for the longest stand-up comedy performance. The current mark of 38 hours and 6 minutes was set in October by Australian comic Lindsay Webb.
Marley will try to best that at the Connection to help out the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, Maine's only certified children's hospital. The club will charge by the hour during the event to raise money (see Marley’s site for details).

Marley is a Portland native, and honed his craft in the Boston scene. I spoke with him for The Boston Globe in 2005.

Here’s Marley, explaining himself.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Billy Bob Neck on The Rachel Maddow Show

Billy Bob Neck
Boston comedy fans watching The Rachel Maddow Show Friday got to see a familiar face in the closing moments. Maddow showed a YouTube clip of fundamentalist commentator Billy Bob Neck exposing Maddow as a “lesbian vampire,” making fun of her appearance and wondering aloud why MSNBC would allow such a creature to comment on America. Much to her credit, Maddow played the whole clip, and it seemed to amuse her.

Neck, of course, is the character played by local comedian Paul Day in comedy clubs and on his Hour of Bein’ Good on BlogTalkRadio.com. And his appearance on Maddow surprised no one more than Day. He had not been contacted beforehand, and had no idea he was about to be on national television.

I asked him about it by e-mail this weekend.

First, the clip, then, the questions.



How did you find out you were on Maddow?

A friend from my days debunking some little parasite who said he blew Obama sent me an email. Mike Bent sent a message shortly thereafter.

What was your reaction?

Stunned, which gave way to frustration. Generally, MSNBC repeats Countdown and Maddow but, it being Friday, I guess the liberal viewers demand their dose of the documentary, Lockup. So I had to wait for it to get posted online. After that, I was elated. At the top of the show she talked about a “piece of tape” that had the office convulsed in laughter for more than an hour. It really doesn’t get much better than that. My wife was already asleep when I found out. I kind of nudged her and told her about it. She apparently thought I mean it was just on Maddow’s blog since she was a little freaked out in the morning.

Do you think they think Billy Bob is real?

I’m assuming not but you never know. Smarter people have fallen for it, but the whole notion that she’s a lesbian vampire because of two moles on her neck...it’s a little over the top. I think it’s one of the more blatantly THIS-IS-A-JOKE-PEOPLE bits that I’ve done. Still some people really do believe in vampires. I guess it just re-iterates the power of a book written a long time ago to influence people’s lives. ;-)

Have they been in touch with you yet?

Sadly, no. I’m hoping to get in touch with them. That’s the only downside of a Friday segment - the office pretty much closes. Obviously, it would be great to get a little commentary segment occasionally. I’d love to do an interview with Maddow. That would be a huge thrill.

The jokes on that bit were particularly harsh – are you surprised they used it?

Harsh? I thought it was pretty goofy and good natured in relation to saying that Sharron Angle believes that God had a good reason to let your father to rape you or the Burn A Koran song. On the whole, I think it’s pretty accessible. I felt a little bad about saying she had small breasts, but I think it was Newbower that said, “You can be a good person or you can be funny.”

Will Billy Bob continue to try to expose Maddow? What’s his reaction to all of this?

I thought about it. If Maddow fucks with Billy then he will certainly fuck back. I’m not sure that she’ll be a focus, though. He’ll probably just continue to rail against homos, liberals and those who shoot crack cocaine in their eye. There are far too many targets to shot at.

The BC Q&A: Inspector Hound director Diego Arciniegas

Hound director Diego Arciniegas
If you haven’t already seen the Publick Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, this week is your last chance. The play is at the BCA through September 25. I caught it in previews, and can say that fans of this site who enjoy English comedy – Monty Python, Eddie Izzard, Beyond the Fringe – will enjoy Stoppard and this play. You can see my review here.

If you want to interact with the characters beforehand, you can become Facebook friends or fans (find the links on PublickTheatre.com). Director Diego Arciniegas and his cast also have a few surprises even for those familiar with the play. Traditionally a one-act paired with Stoppard's After Magritte, the Publick production stands alone, with a few ingenius additions to make it a 90-minute play.

I spoke with Arciniegas via e-mail this weekend.

When did you first encounter The Real Inspector Hound?

My first exposure to the play was when I was a freshman in high school. Our Theatre Department took it to the Massachusetts High School Drama Festival.

Have you directed it before?

Yes, once, when I was teaching at a boarding school in England. It was a very different production (I still have pictures). Felicity had a can of Sprite in her hand during her scene with Simon - I don't know why now.

What made you decide to do it this time?

I wanted to do something funny, smart and full of wordplay. I think comedy is a better idea-delivery-system than drama these days. I knew there was a bigger, edgier play lurking within this play and was interested in exploring that.

Did you consider doing it in its original one-act form with After Magritte?

Actually no. I noticed that within the play there are supposed to be two intermissions (three act plays were quite the thing in murder mysteries). I actually considered having two intermissions, but then realized that as the play spirals out of control, I wanted the intermissions to get faster and faster like in a fun house.

The tea scene is the obvious beneficiary of giving the play more time – where else did you target to add some space?

The beginning of the play, the false starts. Stoppard's stage directions have Moon already in the audience and detail how he turns the pages one after another. I found that a little undramatic, so I substituted the repeated false starts. That put some time on the production. Also having Mrs. Drudge vacuuming for a good 20 seconds as the start of the play added some time.

I noticed that Stoppard, through the character of Birdboot, sets down some pretty rigid rules of theatre, and then the playwright smashes those rules. "You can't start with a pause" (the vacuuming), and yet the play starts with a pause. I detected a young playwright rebelling against the conventions of theatre and brilliantly making them work. But actually the running time of this play is normally about 50 - 60 minutes. So we only really put about fifteen more minutes on the play. It is the inclusion of an fifteen minute intermission that brings us to 90 minutes.
The Real Inspector Hound at the BCA
How did the Facebook idea come about?

It seemed the logical extension of the metatheatrical nature of the play. If we supposed that this was really happening, and that these were real people committing the perfect murder and burying it in plain sight. And if it was true that these theatre critics get caught up in the world of the play, than it only made sense that they should have a life outside the theatre as well. I also roped the House Manager and the Stage Manager into doing performative things as well. So I guess this is all a long-winded way of saying that it was part of the attempt to blurr the boundaries of what was real and what wasn't.

I don’t want to give away the surprise for the intermission, but whose idea was that?

It was the audience's idea really. I think we had confused them so profoundly that they needed to know it was safe and okay to get up out of their seats. In previews they weren't getting up because they didn't want to miss anything, and I felt it was cruel to mess with their minds too much.

Stoppard has called Hound a kind of mechanical wind-up toy, that it has lasted somehow with very little change. Are you familiar with that description? Do you agree with it?

Basically I do, but I think he gives himself less credit than he deserves. If it is a wind up toy, it is closer to the out-of-control robots might see in Terminator or some movie like that. There's a danger and a darkness lurking in the play that the term "mechanical wind-up toy" doesn't do justice to. But I agree about the mechanistic nature of the play.

Did you discuss anything else to break the fourth wall that you decided against?

Some of my actors who were dead at the end of the play did not want to get up for the curtain call. I thought that would be pompous and pretentious. The evening’s entertainment had to end after all. So the resulting compromise was the curtain call as you see it now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bill Burr's new special, Let It Go, debuts on Comedy Central Sunday

Bill Burr: Let It Go debuts Sunday at 11PM on Comedy Central
It’s hard to remember the last time I saw Bill Burr fail onstage, partly because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen. The closest I think I came was watching him pull laughs from a grudging crowd at The Comedy Store in LA a couple of years ago (I talked to him about that and a number of other things for FunnyGrownHere in May). But he did make them laugh, something a number of other comedians, big names and small, couldn’t do on that bill.

Burr is as solid as any comic in the country right now, and his new one-hour special, Let It Go, gives you a good taste of that. The title refers to Burr’s self-professed anger issues, over everything going home for the holidays to another man asking if he wants a cookie.

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Bill Burr - Pro-Swine Flu
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That might seems a bit frightening, like Burr could snap at any minute, but he’s not that kind of comic. He’s not Sam Kinison, whipping himself into a frenzy, staring past the audience and screaming into the abyss. No, his tone is more self aware, and his anger is the opposite of self-righteous. More like a highly amused, “I can’t believe what an asshole I am.”

He talks about being sarcastic to his girlfriend, and even takes a shot at motherhood – “Women are constantly patting themselves on the back for how difficult their lives are and no one corrects them because they want to fuck ‘em,” he says. Bring that kind of sentiment into a normal conversation, you might want to duck.

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Bill Burr - Pit Bull Mix
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But more often than not, Burr is his own favorite target. He admits to thinking about suicide, maybe once every couple of weeks. And never over anything big, like a girlfriend leaving. It’s the little things that catch him, like forgetting he’d agreed to bake a pie, something he doesn’t know how to do, on Thanksgiving Dar. “Whenever I know the next four hours of my life is going to suck, I think about,” he says.

He takes a well-directed shot at male bravado, how everything smart or sensitive is “gay” to the super masculine. That’s why guys drop dead at 55 over nothing. “It’s literally from five decades of suppressing the urge to hug a puppy, admit a baby’s cute, say you want a cookie,” says Burr. “You gotta just keep pushing it down.”

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Bill Burr - No Home for the Holidays
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It’s these kinds of observations that keep him from marrying, and from wanting to go home for Christmas at ago 40. He doesn’t want to face questions again about what he does for a living. “So,” he says, feigning the voice of an uncomfortable relative, “you’re just going to tell jokes? Talk about disease and wish it on people?”

Hopefully, yes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Mehran Show: Bitch spotlights women at Mottley's tonight

The Mehran Show: Bitch at Mottley's
It’s a well trod story in the comedy world, how women have often had to work just a bit harder than men – sometimes much harder – to get the same results. There’s a scene in Fran Solomita’s documentary on Boston comedy When Stand Up Stood Out where Janeane Garofalo talks about female comics getting booked. The attitude, she explained, was that, we had a woman on last week, we can’t have a woman on this week. Gender was a specialty, like a prop comic.

To some extent, that still happens. “I get that in any show, if you add two or more chicks it's becomes labeled a chick night, add three blacks comics it's black night,” says San Francisco native and current Boston comic Chantal Carrere. “I think it is what is and it's my job to be seen regardless.”

“Most shows are sausage fest,” she adds. “All men, and they don't say, ‘Hey come to the all mens show.”

Which brings us to tonight’s Mehran Show at Mottley’s. The name of the show is Bitch, and it’s an all female lineup. Usually, Mehran picks a kind of silly theme, like Boozebag (the comics get drunk) or Dude Looks Like A Lady (male comics in drag). This one is a bit more pointed.

Mehran has been in the Boston comedy scene for a bit over three years. In that time, he has been drawn to a lot of female comics. And he’s noticed they’re not included in the social scene that is the supportive tissue surrounding the scene.

“What I'd discovered in my own personal experience was that I wasn't seeing women taken into the fold the way men take each other into the fold,” he says. “I was noticing that women who showed/show tremendous potential, be they natural performers or writers, weren't getting acknowledged or invited to writing groups or asked to perform on shows booked by other comics. Meanwhile, I watched male comics come into the scene, show half the natural funny and get carried out on the shoulders of other male comics like they were Sean Astin in Rudy.”

Bitch, then, is a way to bring that to light. And also bring lightness to it. “I like alcohol and I put on Boozebag,” says Mehran. “I like weed and I put on Weed, I like men in dresses and I did Dude Looks Like A Lady. Funny bitches are better for me than black tar heroin and I packed a show with some of my favorites ever.”

That list includes Carrere, Myka Fox, Shane Webb, Erin Judge, Bethany Van Delft, Jessica Delfino, Maria Ciampa, Phoebe Robinson, and Sarah Heggan. And while they focus on the comedy, Mehran can bring up the gender issue.

“I think I have a bit of a luxury to be biting and bitter about it on their behest. It's like that saying-- you never want to be your own broker. This is my opportunity to fight and say the bitter stuff so they don't have to. They can maintain their dignity and I get to be publicly incredulous. It's a win-win.”



What makes an issue like this difficult is that it comes down to perhaps the single most subjective criteria – are you funny? Not everyone will find you funny, regardless of gender, and that’s hard to argue. The only way to dispute it is to get out onstage and make a crowd laugh.

“I think at the end of the day you must be funny and I am so I get paid,” says Carrere. “If I was some chick trying to play off her looks or cheap female jokes then yes, I might have a different answer but I have been blessed.”

Sometimes, that means breaking a bit of new ground. “I am in the Boston Comedy Festival and I just realized not one women has ever won,” says Carrere. “I plan on changing that this year.”

The BC Q&A: Jon Fisch

Jon Fisch plays Club Bohemia at the Cantab tonight.
Newton native Jon Fisch doesn’t have any comic gimmicks. No props, no politics, no nerdy stereotypes. What you get with Fisch is just flat-out funny. Great writing, an easy sense of himself onstage, and the ability to walk into any comedy club and make people laugh, sometimes til it hurts. It’s what got him into the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, on Comedy Central, and Last Comic Standing.

Tonight he’s back in Boston, playing Club Bohemia (the downstairs room at the Cantab), for a show sponsored by Mass Hilarity, a production company created by local comics Elvis Collins and Angie Frissore looking to start its own Boston comedy blog by the end of the year.

I spoke with him by e-mail this week.

How did you hook up with Mass Hilarity to play the Cantab?

I did a benefit show a couple summers ago for Angela at the Somerville theater. A comic friend, Steve Burr booked the comics for Angela. He’s from Rochester, ny but I still like him cause he’s a sox fan. It was a really fun show that Steve hosted with Moody McCarthy, Keith Alberstadt, April Macie, Tom Simmons, James Johan and Christina Pazsitz.. Angela is a great person, a big comedy fan and we've remained in touch.

Did you ever play one of the comedy shows that popped up there from time to time when you were in Boston?

I did one that I can remember. Steve Calechman may have been behind that cantab show. I think Sam Walters was there that night and Mike Birbiglia claims that’s the night I met him and his brother Joe.

Who were the people you learned most from while you were here?

I learned a lot from watching and talking with Robbie Printz, Paul Nardizzi, Kevin Knox, Jim Colliton, Tony Moschetto, Tim McIntire, Don Gavin, and Tony V.

Where was the first place you tried stand-up?

Rick Jenkins comedy workshop graduation at the Comedy Studio.

You label yourself a “prolific monologist” on your Web site. You have a point of view, but not an easy gimmick or label, like a blue collar comic or a political comic. Do you think that means you have to work harder to make a more immediate impression?

I remember doing a set on a showcase show, I must have been the sixth or seventh comic on the show and it was one of those nights where we were all having great sets. After my first joke I heard a woman say something to her friend like “ooh this guy is different.” I let my bits and my act speak for itself and I try to be original by being personal and hope that sets me apart and make an impression. But then again, I am not a household name so maybe I should get a hook, any ideas?



It seems to me that a lot of comics have a kind of home club in NY. Not sure why that is, if you need a place to plant your flag so people will notice you, rather than getting lost playing a ton of clubs, or if it’s just a matter of a comic finding a comfortable place to play.

It’s nice to have a place that loves you. Different clubs over the years have given me love at different times. I'm fortunate to perform at the clubs that I think I fit well at. I think it's more about that, finding that place where you are comfortable.

When do the Tank seasons begin and end? Pretty organized to have actual seasons.

It’s probably less of being organized and more just in need of breaks. It can take up a lot of time so ending a season is just my excuse for taking some time off. We have started recording for season 3 with new equipment and should start posting them for our listeners starting next Tuesday.

What do you get from interviewing other comedians?

I love comedy. I love doing stand up and I love talking about stand up. I think most comics; most real comics have an interesting story to tell and an interesting perspective on stand up. I just try to provide a little time capsule for their career. There are interviews with the famous comics out there, but we all have our own insight to share. I’m a fan of stand up and this podcast is for other fans of stand up and for the fans of the particular guest.

What do I get? I guess I get to talk to other comics and I hope to draw out that nugget of wisdom that can sum up a certain part of stand up.

Who’s coming up this season?

Things happen and schedules change but looks like we’ll have Karen Bergreen, Rob Cantrell, Jim David, Gregg Rogell, Joe Derosa, Lynn Koplitz, Al Ducharme, Jesse Joyce, Allan Havey, Nick Dipaolo and Dwayne Perkins

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grownup Noise at Passim, on CultureMob.com

The Grownup Noise know local comedy well -- they were the Walsh Brothers backing band for their epic Fung Wah tribute a few years back. They are just back from a national tour and playing an acoustic show tonight at Club Passim.

I wrote about them today for CultureMob.com, a site to which I will be contributing local and national arts and entertainment stories. Read the post, and go to the show!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chris Fleming's last Boston shows

Like many Boston comedians before him, Chris Fleming is packing up and hitting the road for Los Angeles this month. He's got a leg up, having signed with New Wave Entertainment after an audition at The Comedy Studio in January. Tonight and tomorrow are his last official shows as a Boston resident.

I spoke to him in March about how he developed his particular physical and tangential style of comedy, his background in dance, and the rooms in Boston that have been important to him.

As is the danger when you interview someone in the street, we get a little noise in the background toward the end in the form of a fairly one-sided shouting match with a musician down the street. No one was harmed. At least during the interview.

Enjoy the interview, and afterwards, a video of Fleming performing at the Studio.



At the Studio:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gary Gulman tonight at The Comedy Studio

Comedy Studio owner Rick Jenkins has announced that Gary Gulman will be popping in to the club tonight to do some time.

Here's the rest of the line-up:
Sean Sullivan hosts Mike Abramson, Lue Avent, Jessie Baade, Thersea Condito, Shane Copeland, Janet Cormier, Tyler Fischer, Andrea Henry, Chrissy Kelleher, Corey Manning, and Matt Nazarian.

Music and Wrestling: King Hell and the Boston League of Women Wrestlers at the Middle East tonight

Former Boston comic Sam Walters is back in town tonight with King Hell, his New York-based funk metal outfit. They're playing the Middle East Upstairs, paired with B.L.O.W.W., the Boston League of Women Wrestlers. King Hell are a theatrical bunch - you can count on seeing Walters headbanging standing on an anvil and probably thrusting a pitchfork skyward at some point. But how did they get tangled up with wrestlers?

"Our space alien brothers in the intergalactic band Planetoid gave us B.L.O.W.W.'s coordinates," says Walters, "which is probably the strangest true sentence ever written."

On their Facebook event page, the band bemoaned the passing of an era in pro wrestling when the participants had colorful names like Super Fly and Junkyard Dog. So they've suggested a few new names, like Deformo the Homunculus.

So would Deformo be a good guy or a bad guy?

"Deformo The Homunculus is all things to all people, like Abraxas," says Walters, "except he blinds opponents by flinging hot oatmeal in their eyes. In that regard, he's quite singular."

The action starts at 9PM at the Middle East Upstairs.

Happy ImprovBoston Day!

In recognition of 29 years in operation, in Inman Square and now in Central Square, the City of Cambridge has declared September 9 "ImprovBoston Day." You can read the official declaration here. The proclamation provides an interesting snapshot of IB's history, going back to its founding by former Second City student Ellen Holbrook in 1982 and the fact that it once operated in a club owned by former Celtic Satch Sanders.

IB kicked off its Second Annual Boston Improv Festival last night, which will bring over 100 performers to three stages through Sunday. Acts come from all over the country, and a few, like We're From Here, WDWMKR, and Montreal Improv, from Canada.

Joe Bill also returns Saturday, but not with his usual act, the fantastic duo of Bassprov, which has played the Lowell Comedy Festival in the past. And the North End comes to Central Square when Improv Asylum brings its new mainstage show, Hungry, Hungry Hipsters to ImprovBoston Sunday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Louis C.K.'s Hilarious

Louis C.K. is ridiculously prolific. The first season of his low-fi sitcom Louie ended last night, and he’s planning season two. He’s got a new special, Hilarious, screening tonight at the Kendall. And he’s got a whole new show ready when he comes to the Wilbur later this month.

You would think that you would recognize more material from Hilarious as premises in Louie, but no, other than a couple of random subjects, it’ll pretty much all different. Consider also that last time he was in Boston, he recorded his shows for a possible CD release (although there has been no news on that front). And there was a lot of material in that set that doesn’t wind up in Hilarious.

And just about all of it hits. Hilarious is amazingly consistent with C.K.’s previous two specials, Chewed Up and Shameless. Both of those specials were solid and inventive, and Chewed Up was a classic. Hilarious fits right in.

No comic working right now has a funnier internal logic than C.K. Most of his observations, no matter how absurd, echo someplace in your brain to make you think you may have thought exactly the same thing at one point or another and not been able to express it. The hot girl at the bar? She is three lines to C.K. – boots, skirt, and shirt. A weird seductive geometry.

Guys going out just to get laid rove in packs of nine wearing the same button-down shirts, hoping to run into nine women walking in the same formation. Technical schools, to C.K., are the places where dreams are narrowed down. “You can do eight things,” he says. “We got it narrowed down to eight for you.”

He even has his own stupidity put together in a process – he does something stupid, analyzes it, and commences with the self hatred.

One bit might seem familiar to fans who watched C.K.’s appearances on Conan, and that’s his riff on people’s impatience with technology. He expressed a lot of the same thoughts on Late Night in 2008 (see video below).



If you can’t get out to the Kendall tonight, Hilarious will be on the Epix premium cable channel on September 18. After that, it will air on Comedy Central, which will also releae the DVD, next year.

Comedy Studio Comic in Residence Interview -- Corey Manning

Every month, The Comedy Studio puts one comic on every show for the whole month as part of its Comic in Residence program. The idea is to help a comic grow with regular stage time in front of a variety of audiences.

Every month, we here at Boston Comedy ask the CIR the same questions, as devised by my idol, Bernard P. Coltrane.

For September, we have Corey Manning, whom I first saw perform sketch with Chris Tabb, his sometime partner in the Dynamic Duo of comedy. Manning and Tabb used to host Big Funny Sundays together at the Emerald Isle in Dorchester a few years back, and occasionally still perform as a duo.

The North Carolina native worked every room he could get into when he first came to Boston, and hosted a show at Dick’s Beantown Comedy Vault. Since then, he has written a one-man show and been featured at Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza.

When did you start doing comedy?

It depends on what one considers it to be validation that you are a comedian. If you accept command performances in a principles office as credentials, then since I was 6 years old. If you're looking for a comedian who is generating enough income to live comfortably, I'm still not there yet. But for me, I became a valid comedian when I began to take it seriously, which was December of 2001. That's when I performed at the old Comedy Connection of Boston for first time. I then began seeking out The Comedy Studio, Black Comedy Explosion, Nick's Comedy Stop, The Emerald Isle, etc.

How often have you played the Studio?

When I first started doing comedy in Boston, I would go to The Comedy Studio religiously 3-4 times a week. More so to watch and learn, rather than to just perform. But, between superhero work during the day: I facilitate workshops for youth/adults, and I work as a Prevention Specialist for FCD (Freedom From Chemical Dependency); personal and family responsibilities: just got married in July, road gigs and other local comedy gigs, it got to a point where making it to The Studio became a luxury. So now, I'd say 2-3 times a month, if I'm lucky.

What other clubs do you play?

Wow... It would be easier for me to give you the one club I don't play, and why, but I don't wanna be a d*. I co-host Big Funny Sunday, the last Sunday of each month at the Stadium in South Boston. This is the most consistent place I currently perform in Boston. Lately I have been on the road. I have been blessed with opportunities, and have the willingness and the temperament to perform at different venues, with very diverse ranges of audiences: white, black, mixed, southeast asian, cape verdian, west indian, seniors, children, disabled, bikers, gang bangers, corporate, faith based, NAAACP, and the KKK (they didn't have on white sheets, but you could tell.) You name it, I've performed for them.

While some comics may stick to a venue/audience that they are most comfortable with, I am open to situations that will force me to grow as a comedian and a person. Plus, being a comedian who is black, I can't afford/don't have that luxury.



What local comedians have influenced you?

I could dedicate an entire website to list the local comedians who have influenced me. My influences are not limited to just veteran comedians who have served as mentors to me like: Kevin Knox (RIP), Jonothan Gates, Rick Jenkins, PJ Thibadeau, Tony V, Stephanie Peters, Frank Santirelli, Jim Luletta, Jim McCue, Tim McKintire and Patrice O'Neal. I'm also motivated by the success of my peers like: Lamont Price, Bethany Van Delft, Kelly MacFarland, Tom Dustin, Joe Wong, Myq Kaplan, Shane Mauss, Josh Gondleman and Chris Tabb. And I'm inspired by comedians who are/have recently blasted on to the Boston scene like: D.J. Reason, Brian Beaudin, Orlando Baxter, James Goeff, and Mehran Khagkan.

What's the average number of gigs you've played in a month before this?

I play about 10 - 20 gigs a month. I'm to a point in my comedic career where I'm working almost every weekend.

How will you approach your time -- work on new stuff, refine older stuff, or a mix of both?

So here's the plan... On Wednesday and Sundays I'm going to riff: just walk on stage, grab the mic and see what happens, or try something crazy like playing a harmonic, or facilitate a 5 minute workshop. Thursdays I will work on new material. Fridays and Saturdays, I will tighten up or develop my short audition set. That's the plan, but I'm ADHD, so it will most likely change.

What do you expect to have gotten out of the experience when the month is over?

My expectation is to be funnier by the end of September. If you're reading this article/blog/interview, come to a show at The Comedy Studio. I'd like to get your feed back on my performance. I value it, no matter who you are, or what your affiliation to comedy is. Lastly, I want to improve and become a better comedian, superhero, and person.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Moon to Moon: The Real Inspector Hound

The Publick Theatre's The Real Inspector Hound 
About 16 years ago, I was in a college production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. I was a big fan of Stoppard’s, having found him through his film adaptation of his most well-known play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I was a huge high school Monty Python nerd (I was told by my high school guidance counselor that my “Monty Pythonish sense of humor” was a distraction to my schoolmates and thus, no National Honors Society for me).

It was an easy transition from Python to Stoppard. And I had spent enough time parroting Python sketches that I had a pretty good English accent. At least for a kid from tractor country. So I was excited to audition and show off my abilities. Alas, we did the show without accents.

I played Moon, a second-string theatre critic watching a second-rate murder mystery with a fellow critic. Hard to say much more without giving it away, but I got to literally jump off of the stage at the audience in the end, breaking that fourth wall in an utterly ridiculous way. It was as much fun as I’ve ever had onstage.

Back to the present. I noticed a couple of days ago that the Publick Theatre in Boston was mounting Hound at the BCA. I felt a wave of goodwill, and made arrangements to see it Friday night, the second night of previews.

I was admittedly excited to see the play. I realized when I got there, and started looking around the set, that I had never actually seen the play, just been in it and read it. Despite a thick fog surrounding Boston and promises over the past 36 hours of a plague of frogs, the theater was mostly full. I sometimes wonder what kind of demographic enjoys Stoppard, and it seemed like a fairly diverse crowd in terms of age and relative hipness.

The college production I participated in (I am hesitant to say it rose to the level of “acting”) was a one-act play. Director Diego Arciniegas’s program notes mention that Hound is often on the bill with other one acts. But Arciniegas has always thought the play needed more room to breathe, and this production gives it that room, as a stand-alone 90-minute play.

“Taking our cue from the playwright,” he writes, “we set about to give the play the time it deserves, placing an intermission where Stoppard suggests there might be one, and suggesting another at an appropriate place.”

One of the themes of the play is breaking the fourth wall, as the critics and the cast of the play they are watching become inextricably intertwined. Arciniegas and his cast take that one step further – the characters Felicity Cunningham, Inspector Hound, and Simon Gascoyne all have Facebook pages which, in his introduction, the director encourages the audience to join. It’s a brilliant and fun device, keeping the audience involved even after they’ve left the theater.

The show’s pacing is perfect. The breathing room is obvious, especially directly after the intermission, when we rejoin the story at tea time. Arciniegas also takes the intermission as an opportunity for a well-placed gag, not that the show lacks laughs anywhere along the line.

The cast is first-rate, especially Gabriel Kuttner as Magnus in his wandering electric wheelchair and Sheridan Thomas, who plays Mrs. Drudge with a cockney deadpan reminiscent of Peter Cook. And they do some of their best work at final bows.

Yes, there is a meta aspect to this – more than 16 years after playing theatre critic Moon, I am an arts and entertainment writer, and to top it off, I’m reviewing the play I was in. For this particular play, nothing could be more appropriate.

Quiet Desperation moves from YouTube to MyTV

Rob Potylo told his Facebook friends a few days ago that big news was coming about Quiet Desperation, his Web-based sitcom satirizing the local music and comedy scene. Tonight he revealed that the show will move from the Web to MyTV starting Christmas Eve. Here's Potylo's interview on the future of the show.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The BC Q&A: Des Bishop

When you speak to Des Bishop, the accent is a bit hard to place. It sounds American at the core, a bit of New York, the result of his Queens upbringing. But there’s at least a touch of Irish in there, not surprising, since he has spent the past 20 years in Ireland, where he is a celebrated comedian and television personality and runs a comedy club in Dublin.

Fitting, then that he says some people think the particular stew of speech makes him sound a bit Bostonian. Bishop is back in town Saturday at the Wilbur, a few years after his first appearance at the Boston Comedy Festival. He’s coming on the heels of a successful run of his one-man show, My Dad Was Nearly James Bond, in Edinburgh. It’s a fun but serious show, he notes, dealing with his father’s acting and modeling career, and a battle with cancer the family is still fighting.

I spoke with Bishop earlier this week from his home in Dublin where he was getting ready to leave for Boston.

What brings you back to Boston?

What happened was, I did some one-off gigs in New York leading up to going to Australia. And I thought, I’m always getting e-mails about doing a show in Boston, I want to do a show in Boston. I was going to do the Burren pub in Somerville. Because I actually had been to Boston once in 2008 but it was for a documentary about the Irish language, and I did a little gig at the Burren.

So I was going to do a gig at the Burren, but then I thought, might as well do a theater. An agent I knew in New York suggested the Wilbur, and we booked it in. It was all on a bit of a whim. But then, of course, I went to Australia and I’m just back from Edinburgh and all of a sudden, wham-o. I’m going to Boston tomorrow.

Do you have fond memories of coming to Boston?

Yeah, I love it. To be honest, I’m kind of annoyed at myself for not doing it more. I just wish I’d gone on a more regular basis because I think an Irish-American kid from Queens who lives in Ireland has a lot of things to say to people from Boston. Obviously the whole Irish-American upbringing is a common upbringing in Boston. Even though I was brought up in New York, I think there are a lot of similarities. A lot of people think my Queens accent actually sounds like I’m from Boston.

Then you have that added extra thing of so many Irish people from Ireland that live in Boston. So you throw all those things together, it’s probably a city in the world I should be in more often.



You don’t get the Boston versus New York argument?

I don’t care about that. I’m not competitive with Boston. Plus I’m a Mets fan, and I know that there’s a bit of bad blood over 1986. It’s really a Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, and I hate the Yankees as much as Boston fans do, so I can identify.

Are you doing a lot of the Irish press here?

I did The Emigrant. I must admit, I was a bit late getting on top of it. That was just because I was in Edinburgh doing a new show that I’ve written, and it kind of took off. It kind of went a whole lot better than I was expecting. The whole thing kind of took off and it became sort of all-consuming.

Is that the new one about your father and him almost being James Bond –

Exactly, yeah. All that stuff. So when I booked this in, I didn’t realize that that was all going to take off as well. There’s a part of me that would love to just take that show to Boston, but I haven’t really booked it in that way and I haven’t really organized the technical stuff that goes with it.

So this is going to be a straight stand-up show and not the one-man show that you’ve been touring with?

Well, first of all, it’s not really fair to do that to people who come. As much as I would have loved to have done that show, because it went amazing… It is stand-up, but it has some moments that are not really funny, deliberately. And I think that’s fine for people who paid to see that particular show, but I don’t think it’s fair on the audience if they’ve come in expecting a certain thing and then you give them something else.

But this is going to be a great stand-up show. There’s stuff from that show that will be in it. A good 50 percent of it, to be honest. But it won’t have the sort of through-message of the show that I did in Edinburgh, which was quite powerful, but can be a little bit emotional at times.

How often have you been doing that show?

I just did 30 shows of it with only one night off over the month of August. I did an early version of it in Australia, but then that’s it. I’m doing an Irish tour of it from the end of October. I hope to do a run of it in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago but at a later date when I have some backing in the U.S. I had some people in Edinburgh inquire about it that want to get involved, but I’ve just got to figure out who’s the real deal and who’s not and try to do it properly. You can just get lost in the mix in the United States. It’s just massive.

What is the through-line? I know it has to do with your father and your family.

My dad has lung cancer, so that was the motivation behind it. But her was also an actor and a model before I was born. It was kind of a story I always wanted to tell. Because he did legitimately have an audition on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It was a cute enough story that I wanted to tell it for a long time, in relation to what he did as an actor before I was born.

But it has a new impetus now because he’s not going to be around that much longer. There’s a lot of stuff in the show about his regrets about giving up acting. As a result of learning so much about my father and about families in general from him being sick, there’s also a sort of liberation about how a lot of those regrets are quite ridiculous when you consider what you’ve achieved as a father as opposed to what you feel you didn’t achieve as an actor.

It’s all about what you learn and how liberating, strangely liberating, terminal illness is for a family. So it’s a serious enough story but it’s funny all the way through. It’s hard to describe. In its description, it’s quite serious but actually in its performance it’s quite uplifting. Because unfortunately, we’re all going to have to face death. That’s an unfortunate constant in all our lives. And we are experiencing the road to my dad’s last few days in quite a fun, enriching, and uplifting way.

I try to tell that in a really humorous way and it’s gone down really well. I use a lot of pictures from our lives. It’s quite nostalgic. People’s family lives are quite nostalgic and they’re not as unique as people would like to think. There’s a lot of identification in [the details of] our lives, so people have responded pretty strongly to the show.

Has he seen it yet?

Oh, well that was the great secret in Edinburgh. He got onstage with me 18 nights in a row at the end. Because it’s all about him sacrificing his dream to give us a stable life, so the ultimate gift to a man who’s made that sacrifice is to let him live his dreams and get him back onstage, at least for one more standing ovation, which is what he got 18 nights in a row.

Did he perform anything?

Oh yeah. We had a little bit of banter, nothing major. But he had a few lines. He had the closing line of the show. He had the last word.

It’s too bad you couldn’t recreate scenes from Her Majesty’s Secret Service to show them how it would have been so much better.

You’ve made an assumption that perhaps I have already done. We did a little, probably illegal without any rights, we did a little green screen stuff with Her Majesty’s Secret Service. So the end of the show, it’s very fun, because it’s all about giving my dad that one final performance. But we did do some stuff on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Would it had been different for him, do you think, if George Lazenby hadn’t been one and done after that?

Well it certainly helped my cause in terms of the show. Because there’s a lot of humor in the fact that it was Lazenby’s Bond that he didn’t get. His performance wasn’t as bad as it has been remembered. But unfortunately he had the tougher act to follow in Sean Connery. And also, his accent wasn’t ideal. And also, he happened to be in the James Bond where they were quite experimental, in terms of Bond’s vulnerability, which was very experimental in terms of the late 1960s. I guess nowadays when they’re experimental with Daniel Craig, it’s more understandable. But society was probably still a bit misogynistic back then.

So there’s loads of reasons why Lazenby’s performance will be remembered as it was. I say in the show that people think my dad was lucky because Lazenby was the worst James Bond, but my father thinks of it more critically and thinks, [if] Lazenby was the worst James Bond, I was worse than the worst James Bond. So it’s hard to know whether that was good or bad that it was Lazenby’s Bond that h didn’t get.



Is it hard to do this show and then go out and do an hour of stand-up and not fall into the show?

The version I did in Australia was less intense, so I have an hour of stand-up that still uses the fact that my dad is ill as a sort of center point without it being too sort of one-man-showy. What I did in Edinburgh, I pulled back on some of the stand-uppy routines that are in it. But when I’m not doing that show, I expand the stand-uppy bits and I pull back on the storytelling bits. But it still sort of tiptoes around the fact that my dad is sick.

I still have a lot of good stand-up about illness, about nostalgia, and about the very humorous realization that you become the parent of your parents when your parents get ill. And there’s a lot to learn when that happens. It’s pretty light-hearted, the concept of that role reversal. It’s a pretty central premise of a lot of stand-up, sort of like, I became a dad and I learned all these things, I got married and I learned all these things. So now it’s like, now I’m looking after my parents, I’ve learned all these things. There’s nothing groundbreaking about that, actually. It just seems groundbreaking because it has to do with terminal illness.

The things that don’t have to do with that, is it harder to break those into the flow?

No, not at all. I would consider that to be my strong point, or the place where I thrive. In fact, it seems a strange thing to say it’s a crutch but I almost have a crutch of using the concept of serious subject matter as the thing that motivates me. It helps me if I think the thing that’s driving my stand-up is stuff that people are uncomfortable talking about. That’s where I become comfortable.

That’s where the better laughs are. You look at someone like Richard Pryor—

Richard Pryor, man, that’s my motivation. The strange thing about Edinburgh is that all the comics started coming to see my show. I wouldn’t have been that type of guy before, the guy that comics would go see. So it’s very flattering. But two of them, on two separate occasions, said they felt it was like Richard Pryor. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m like Richard Pryor, but it’s a lovely compliment to get, when the guy that you like the most is seen in your stuff.

He’s the touchstone for that vulnerable bravado, that confessional type humor, where you can’t believe somebody’s saying something this personal onstage.

But it’s the stuff I get the most out of, because stand-up can be so flippant. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good joke, but there is something great about taking a piece of that person away with you. Because it seems to be more useful in life. Don’t get me wrong, I love political humor, too. That has its own uses. I love good, witty play on words. That’s very entertaining. But I come from a life where I stopped drinking at 19, I had testicular cancer at 24. The parts of my life that have been the most enriching have been the parts where I had to be honest with myself. I like when I see somebody onstage being honest, because I feel that I’m getting something a little more out of it than just the laugh. You can take away somebody’s unique experience, you can take away the fact that they’ve shared a bit of themselves. There’s something to learn from that.

I’d assume there’s a fear that comes along with that, that if you’re a career comedian, wondering, is my life always going to be interesting enough to comment about.

Yeah, I guess. But the point is that you’re still living, so life is always throwing things up. And of course, I wasn’t into this in the early part of my career. So I’m sure there will be other things that may float my boat in the future as well.

I guess those fears are always eased by two things. One, you’re always growing. You’re always doing things that you’ll find interesting. And also, the things that drive you creatively are always evolving, too. So in ten years time, I may actually be very motivated by something completely new in terms of humor. But then I might be motivated by the fact that I don’t want to be funny anymore and I want to explore these things in a new way, maybe by writing a piece of drama. You just never know.

So there’s no point in being afraid. I’ve been doing stand-up since 1997 and there were so many different times in life where I thought I’d exhausted the things that motivate me. And I couldn’t be any happier with the show that I’ve just written. In fact, it’s the most satisfying thing that I’ve ever done. So five years ago when I thought, shit, what am I going to talk about now? It seems like a wasted fear, really, you know?

Having spent the first part of your life in New York and the rest of it in Ireland, and touring so frequently, do you ever feel settled?

Well at the moment, no. With my dad being sick, I’ve spent so much time in New York. More time than I have since I was 14 years old. Which has sort of unsettled me again because I guess for the first time in a long time I actually thought, god, I could live in the States. I just hadn’t spent long enough to feel I could do that. So that really unsettled me because my life is based in Ireland. A time like this would do that to you anyway. Four years ago, I would have said, I’m Irish now, despite the fact that my accent is very American. Ireland is my life.

What comes with that, I would assume, is an outsider’s perspective no matter where you go.

Yeah. And I think that’s what happened in Edinburgh. John Bishop, who’s a very successful Liverpudlian comedian who recently broke huge in the U.K. out of nowhere, he actually said that very thing to me. Because I’m going to tour this show in the U.K., and he was saying, it’s about time that you made that move, because even though it’s always been the outsiders view in Ireland, you have an equal outsider’s view in the U.K., and you should exploit that.

And I guess it’s the same when I go to the States, because even though I’m from New York, I have 20 years in Ireland living away. Bill Clinton wasn’t even president when I left. George Bush was president. The first Iraq war hadn’t happened when I left. America has completely changed. I have that whole experience. The boom of the Clinton years, 9/11, the recession – all of those things have happened. So I have a sort of European perspective on that. Even in America, I have an outsider’s view.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The BC Q&A: Carole Montgomery

Carole Montgomery has played just about everywhere a comic can play, and appeared on just about every TV show, from Comedy Central to the Travel Channel, that has ever hosted a comedian. She’s done Vegas revues, one-woman shows, and co-produces the New York Underground Comedy Festival. And somehow she found time to be on the local PTA (and wrote a show about it).

But other than an appearance at the Boston Comedy Festival a few years ago, she hasn’t gotten to Boston much. She’ll change that Friday and Saturday when she plays Mottley’s Comedy Club. I caught up with her by e-mail this week.

Is there anywhere you haven’t worked? Your bio lists Guam.

Actually I am going back to Guam as part of the NY Underground Comedy Festival Allstars show that we take overseas to the troops. This tour I will be going to Singapore, Marshall Islands, along with Diego Garcia, a remote island in the Indian Ocean. I would love to play England, Ireland and Scotland. From what I hear, it's much like the states were for comedy in the early 90's.

You’ve done a lot of TV spots – have the shows changed much over the years? I feel like the TV landscape changes a lot, but when you look at comedians doing guest spots on TV, the dynamic has remained fairly consistent.

You can get much more risqué than when I first did TV. Hell you couldn't get away with sexual innuendo but now it's all over stand-up TV spots.

How do you approach family material, a theme that has been so well mined, with a fresh perspective?

My whole act has always been about my life, whether I was single, dating, married or being a mom. It's always truthful which is why so many people can relate to it.

Are you still on the PTA? Do the other members know you’re a comedian?

No more PTA for me. My son Layne is actually in his first year of college. But yes, the members knew what I was doing. At the time I was starring in Crazy Girls at the Riviera Hotel in Vegas, which was a burlesque topless type of show.



Outside of the Boston Comedy Festival, have you played Boston much before? Any gigs that stand out?

I filmed a Comedy on the Road here once. Love to play here, don't come here as often as I should.

If you had to give a mission statement for the NY Underground Comedy Festival, what would it be?

Furthering the act of stand-up comedy.

Do you feel there’s a separation between you as a performer and you as a festival producer?

Not really, I'm a very down to earth, no bullshit person both as a performer and producer and people know that.

Do you know a lot of Boston comics from the NY Fest?

I love Jessie Baade who is opening for me. Jim McCue I know from the Boston Festival. Dave Russo I know from Vegas. Patty Ross is a dear old friend. And Lenny Clarke and I go back along time.

Any chance your son Layne will follow you into comedy?

God I hope not! But then again, he has a lot of creative genes in him from both me and his dad, who knows?

Any new projects on the horizon?

The thing I am working really hard to get known is my persona as National Mom. Since my son has flown the coop so to speak, I'm not ready to stop mothering so I figure I could start taking care of the country. Starting with our boys and girls in the military. I also just did a fill in co-hosting gig on NJ 101.5 radio and really want to explore maybe getting my own radio show, most likely as National Mom. I like to say I'm fixing the country one joke at a time.