Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kevin Knox Celebration of Life Memorial SErvice

For those of you who haven't seen this yet, the Kevin Knox Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be held tomorrow at the Collins Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Shawsheen Road, in Andover. Visiting with the family is from 12-2, and the service begins at 2PM. To RSVP, follow the Facebook link.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mike Dorval gives Death By Chocolate more of a stand-up spin

When I interviewed Mike Dorval about his Death By Chocolate one-man show for its run at Wellfleet in July, he told me he was happy to announce it was coming to the Boston Center for the Arts in November (it runs Fridays-Saturdays through December). He said then, "Who knows what can happen between August and November?" Apparently, what has happened is a change in his attitude toward the piece.

When Death By Chocolate debuted at the Boston Plyawrights' Theater in February, it was definitely a theatrical one-man show. It was a complete story, about Dorval's struggle with weight and diet, told in scenes with a definite ending.

Dorval says the show has loosened up considerably for the current production. "It's definitely funnier now as I've embraced the stand up side of my nature," he says. "Originally it still had the feeling of something of a monologue but having had the chance to be in front of so many people and interacting with them like I do in my stand up, I have a better understanding of how to relate what I have to say to other people. And I've decided its ok to include things simply because they make me laugh."

And the show may continue to change, as long as Dorval finds new places to do it. "Every night is a little different and I love going in and tweaking and helping the show grow," he says.

Dorval says he has no plans for Death By Chocolate once the current run is over, but he'd love to keep doing it, and interest in the show is growing. "I just know I want it to live on in some form or fashion," he says. "And it will."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nick DiPaolo taping tonight with Aaron Karo

Those who were planning on going to the Aaron Karo show tonight at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre may have a bit of a surprise waiting for them. Karo will be taping a special, and so will Danvers native Nick DiPaolo. The taping was set up quickly (the folks at the Connection told me they just found out this week). Each will do an hour or so of material. Boston's own Big Nezz will warm up the crowd.

Monday, November 16, 2009

RIP Kevin Knox

Veteran Boston comedian Kevin Knox passed away early this morning after a long battle with cancer. For those who knew Knox, or "Knoxie," as many called him, it's hard to believe there is something strong enough to beat him. If you saw him onstage, you know he never stopped moving. And his Gatling Gun delivery wasn't just a stage affectation. It was how he spoke, how he thought. And if you were a regular around Boston clubs for the past couple of decades, it was a voice you heard often, hosting showcases at Nick's Comedy Stop, The Comedy Connection, and, most recently, at Dick Doherty's Beantown Comedy Vault.

It was a common refrain to hear a fellow Boston comic say that cancer picked the wrong guy. "It just never occurred to me that he wouldn't keep fighting on and on and on," said Doherty this afternoon.

There was little Knox didn't try, starting with traditional medicine and continuing with a more organic approach. But, as too often happens in these cases, collective bravado and individual best efforts lost out to the inevitable. It's obvious from the dozens of recent benefits for Knox, including a standing Monday night benefit at the Vault, how much Knox meant to local comedians. It is a hackneyed phrase perhaps, but true. He will be missed.

A few pieces on Knoxie:

Men's Health

Boston Herald

Boston Globe: New Doherty Showcase

Boston Globe

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stephen Lynch on the second leg of 3 Balloons and his upcoming special

Stephen Lynch kicked off the first leg of his 3 Balloons Tour in Boston in February. Now he’s on the second leg of the tour and heading to the Hanover Theatre in Worcester Saturday. Sometime next year, you can expect to see a few different versions of the tour on a Comedy Central special, on DVD, and as a concert film, if you happen to frequent film festivals. I caught up with Lynch by phone last week.

How has the tour been going since you were here in February?

The show is much funnier than it was when we were in Boston, I’m pleased to report. Even though it was pretty good then, we’ve learned a few things. It’s going well. We finished that big tour in the spring and then I took the summer off, and then I started off this new tour with a trip to Europe where I did a bunch of Scandinavian dates and Dublin and Germany. It’s been going really well. Now we’re back to the U.S. and doing some places we missed on the first part of the tour.

Is it still the 3 Balloons Tour?

Yeah. The record’s eight months old now, but it’s still the same tour, really. We’re doing the same show, maybe a few changes here and there as we come up with things.

If someone saw you in Boston at the start of the tour and came to see you in Worcester, how would it be different?

Uh. Oh boy. Now I have to write something really quickly before I get to Worcester, don’t I? The show always is evolving, so I can’t tell you exactly what will be different. The set-up will be the same, where I show some videos and do a bunch of songs from the new record and I have some friends join me onstage. But there will be subtle things, and some new jokes here and maybe a song or two replaced as we come up with other things. But nothing radically different.

When you say it’s funnier, is it just a matter of the timing?

Yeah. The jokes start to gel and you start to think of better transitions between songs, and song orders, you experiment with those. By the time I’m done with this tour, I don’t know when it will be, probably sometime next year, it’ll be just where I want it. And that’s the time you have to hang it up and start over again. Which is unfortunate, but that’s how it works.

Are you someone who can write on tour?

Not really, no. I mean, yeah, I’ve done it before. But what I really need is time and isolation, which is sort of hard to come by when you’re traveling with people and checking into hotels and on airplanes all the time. What I need to write really is to sequester myself in a room somewhere with nobody around me and force myself to do it. If given the chance to watch America’s Next Top Model or write, I will probably watch TV before I take up a pen. Which is unfortunate, but I’m very easily distracted.

Then all the songs would wind up being about America’s Top Model or the people who annoyed you on the airplane.

Yeah. That would really be horrible. Maybe not. Maybe I could write a rock opera based on America’s Next Top Model. I think it would have a very short shelf life, though.

Have you taped the show that’s going to be the new DVD yet?

Yeah. We taped it back in, I think it was April in Portland. I shouldn’t say we taped it, we filmed it. We actually used film because I wanted it to have a certain look. I haven’t seen any of the footage yet so I don’t know if it’s going to have that look that I wanted it to have, sort of a 70s rock concert, Last Waltz-type look to it. So we’ll see. I hope it comes out the way I see it in my head. I wanted it to look sort of classic and not just another something you’d see on Comedy Central.

Was there a particular reason for doing it at the Aladdin Theatre?

I like the theater. It’s sort of an old, decrepit movie theater. I don’t know when it was built. It’s got to be a hundred years old, I’m guessing. And I always pull good crowds there. And there were film crews readily accessible there. So instead of doing it somewhere where I would have had to fly in a crew of a hundred people, there were people there or near there already. I’ve always done good shows in Portland, too.

Did you do anything differently for the filming?

No. I did essentially the same show. Now what I can use out of that, I’m not sure. For example, I always close my show with “Purple Rain,” which I think would probably more than I would ever make on the sale of the DVDs to actually use, because Prince does not come cheap, I do not think. So that’ll be out. I’ll have to think of a different way to close the show. And the video, I’m thinking what I’ll do is sort of intersperse the video that I show during the show with songs and with other videos, other tour diary type videos, which I have yet to shoot. I’m trying to give it some sort of storyline instead of just song after song after song. I think, I mean, that’s the plan now. Don’t hold me to any of this. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. I have some interesting ideas.

So Comedy Central’s going to have an hour version of it, you’ve got a version that’s going to be going around to film festivals, and the version that winds up on the DVD. Are those going to be three different versions?

No, I would assume that the one that winds up on the DVD will be the official work, and then if we chose to send that out to festivals, great. But what we give to Comedy Central will just be an abbreviated version. I don’t know what they want, I don’t know if they want just the songs or if they want the shortened version of the story I’m going to come up with. I don’t know. I’m really wracking me brain trying to figure out how to make this all come together.

How did you choose Gregory Dark to direct the concert film?

Somebody suggested him, I can’t remember who it was, exactly. But he came to see a show I did in Los Angeles and we spoke after the show, and he seemed to really be on board and have some good ideas and be on the same page as I was, so we just sort of clicked.

Had you seen any of his work before?

You mean his work in the music video world or the pornography world?

I’m unaware of his work in the pornography world.

Apparently he did some early work, in the 80s, I think, in the porno world. No, I wasn’t really familiar with any of his work. I just saw that he had a lot of experience, and then when I talked to him, we seemed to hit it off. That was enough for me.

Did he try to make you wear a big fuzzy mustache?

Yeah. It turned into a whole porn shoot. There were fluffers there before the show.

When does this get released in the different iterations?

You know what, I don’t know. I have to finish it first. Obviously people are waiting for me, waiting very patiently for me to do this. We did film it several months ago. But I like to take my time with these things. I want to make sure it’s quality before I put it out.

Do you have any plans for once the tour is over?

Hopefully I’ll have started writing new songs and I can get into the studio again and start recording. The last record, we did the whole thing in a week in a studio in Brooklyn. And this time what I’d like to do is sort of record in chunks, so when it comes time to put out the new record I don’t have to rush in and finish everything. I’ll have things that are already done. And that way I can tweak things to my version of perfection and change things as I go. So that’s the plan for now, just keep writing, recording.

Any idea, other than the method of recording, how you want things to be different from previous recordings?

I wouldn’t mind doing something with more of a through line to it. Maybe I’ll take a stab at a rock opera one of these days. Or even a mini rock opera and the rest can be unrelated songs. The idea of telling a little story seems intriguing to me. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the past few months.

Read my previous interview with Lynch here.
Or watch my post-show interview from Boston here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gavin, Rogerson, Sweeney, and Dunn play benefit for Kevin Knox tonight

Some of Boston's most tenured veteran comics are playing a benefit tonight for Kevin Knox. Don Gavin, Steve Sweeney, Kenny Rogerson, and Jimmy Dunn will top the bill for tonight's show at the theater that usually hosts Sheer Madness (a.k.a. The Cahrles Playhouse Stage II), organized by the folks at Tommy's Comedy Lounge. Tickets are available at, or at the box office for $25. Tommy's Comedy Lounge, 74 Warrenton St, Boston. 800-745-300

On a related note, Dick's Beantown Comedy Vault won't host their running Monday-night benefit for Knox to avoid conflict with the Tommy's show.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

2009 College Improv Tournament -- Prelim Results

The preliminary winners from this afternoon's 2009 Coolege Improv Tournament at ImprovBoston are in:

Match A Winner - Cheap Sox (Tufts University)

Match B Winner - Purple Crayon (Yale University)

Match C Winner - DangerBox (New York Univeristy)

Match D Winner - TBS (Brandeis University)

Match E Winner - Seriously Bent (Suffolk University)

These winners will face off at Improv Asylum tonight at 11PM, and the winner will go on to compete against other groups from around the country.

Third Annual College Improv Tournament: East Coast Regional in Boston today

Fourteen improv teams will compete today in two different venues starting at noon for today's Third Annual College Improv Tournament. Priliminaries start at ImprovBoston at noon, with teams from Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and run on the hour until 4PM. The finals then move to Improv Asylum at 11PM. The shows are open to the public, tickets are $10 for the prelims and $15 for the finals, available by phone at ImprovBoston (617.576.1253) and Improv Asylum (617.263.6887). Student discounts available.

Participating schools: Emerson College, Yale University, Boston University, Tufts University, Salve-Regina University, Northeastern University, New York Univesrity, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Colgate University, Brandeis Univesrity, Penn State, Suffolk, and Mount Holyoke.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Show is on tonight at the Studio

There was some doubt earlier this week over whether there would be a show tonight at the Comedy Studio. Just got this from the Studio's Rick Jenkins, confirming there will in fact be a show, with a great line-up, to boot:

We will have a show tonight (Friday, November 6) at the Studio.

The Hong Kong wasn't sure until Wednesday night. So we quickly put together a pretty cool night. Personally, I feel like it's going to be a great time. Like the old days; small turn out; lots of funny friends.

Renata Tutko will host sets from Chris Fleming, Sarah Heggan, Rick Jenkins, Andrew Mayer, Andy Ofiesh, Sean Sullivan and Bethany Van Delft.

Eddie Brill at The Comedy Club at Cheers

Eddie Brill is a New York guy, but he has a special place in his heart for Boston. Brill, who books comics for David Letterman, went to Emerson College and worked on his chops here in his early days. Now he gets back for gigs like his two-night stand at The Comedy Club at Cheers, tonight and tomorrow, and to look for talent for Letterman. “Some of the best comics in the world are from here,” he says, speaking last night from his hotel room in Boston. “If I didn’t come here to check out the comics in Boston, I’d be a fool.” He booked Joe Wong for his debut this past April, and worked with him on his set. Brill also teaches comedy, and he’ll be teaching three days of seven-hour workshops at Emerson this weekend.

How often do you get back to Boston, do you think?

Probably about three to four times a year. I’m always here looking for comics for the Great American Comedy Festival. I’ll try to do a Letterman audition up here, as well, but sometimes they’re the same thing. And I always teach at Emerson once a year, and I come up once or twice a year to do gigs or corporate work. That kind of a thing.

What are the workshops on, in particular?

It’s a comedy workshop that I created about ten years ago. I’ve been doing the one-day, very intense workshops for seven hours. And I’ve done it all over the world now, in Australia and England and Ireland, and all over Canada and the United States. It’s been very, very successful. It’s really about comics being honest with each other and helping each other, being each others’ eyes and ears. I’ve got it down to a science where it’s really effective.

So a few years ago I presented it to Emerson, and they let me do a weekend. It was so successful that we’re into our third year in a row.

Who is it aimed at? College comics or –

No, I’ve done workshops with ten people and eight of them have been doing it for sixteen years, plus. Comedians are nice to each other, but it’s really hard to be honest with each other because there’s a lot of ego involved. This is a situation where people have been given the okay to really be honest with each other in a respectful way, and you can help each other and be each others’ eyes and ears, to point out the kinds of things that people don’t know about themselves because you can’t see yourself.

Is that the main point of it, to show people how to communicate within the comic community?

Naw, that’s only part of it. The key is, I learned more from teaching when I was at Emerson than I did from doing. So I created a workshop where everyone is a teacher. Everyone learns so much about what they do by seeing what others do.

How much of that is stuff you learned since working on the Letterman show?

Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve learned that much. I have learned about what we want at Letterman, but that’s something in addition to what I’m already doing. It’s pretty much a different hat. And I’ve always loved teaching and I will admit I’m pretty damn good at it. I’ve always been very good at being that kind of person. Been doing it or a very long time and I’ve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students, and a lot of them have been in touch with me and a lot of them have been inspired, not only to be comics but to be writers, and they learn a lot from them. So it’s been very, very good. There are people who don’t ever do it again, but they appreciate it. And then there’s people who never thought about doing it and begin doing it.

How tough is it when you sit down with a comic, especially one who might be well known and has been road testing their material for years, how tough is it to sit down with them and do something for Letterman?

It’s very tricky. What happens is, the kind of cool thing is, word has gotten around to trust me, that I’m not going to let anyone go up there and do anything that would make them look bad. Whatever I talk to them about will only be, will help them do better. And there have been some scenarios where I’ve helped some pretty top-name comics with some ideas for their sets and they just loved them. What it really comes down to, the bottom line is, it’s the comedian, it’s their set, not mine. So I might make suggestions, and most of the time, these people will follow it, but they’ll do it because they’ve learned to trust me.

Was it harder at the beginning, when you don’t know as much as you do now, when you first started the job?

I had booked before, a had booked a comedy club and a couple of shows, but this was booking for someone else’s taste. And interestingly enough, we have similar tastes. We both like the same kind of funny, which really is helpful to me. He also has a lot of integrity, Letterman, where he doesn’t care if anyone is big, he just cares that they’re funny. That’s a really great boss to work for, who’ll put comics on because they’re really great at what they do, not because they have a big name and you want to get ratings. He just wants the comics to be great. He’d rather find a young comic that no one knows about, instead of finding someone who already has all that power.

Are you currently looking at anyone else from Boston, or working with Joe again?

Definitely going to do something with Joe again in the new year. I like Dan Boulger. I like him a lot, I could see him eventually have a set for the show. There are so many great comics in Boston, and each time I see the groups from Boston, they improve all the time because there’s so much work here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ken Reid makes Music To My Years tonight at Mottley's

In a post-apocalyptic world, Ken Reid is the guy you need to preserve to remember all of human history. Well, maybe not all of it, but certainly anything to do with modern movies, music, or television. I have often told Reid about some obscure movie I saw on a Sunday afternoon, something I watched for a laugh, just to have him tell me when he saw it in the theater during its original run. Far from just parroting this stuff in his stand-up act, Reid makes it all personal, and hysterical. Tonight at Mottley's Comedy Club, he presents his third one-man show, Music To My Years.

You’ve talked about TV (A Very Special Episode) and movies (Cusack Attack), does a show about music complete the circuit for one-man shows for you?

I was actually thinking about this yesterday, when I first started writing the first show (Cusack) I thought that this would be the trilogy and that it would pretty much cover everything. Lately though as I've sort of been finding a good rythem with these shows I think there's a couple more in me. I was thinking of stories I have about slightly larger topics like school, horror and work and I think I could probably work shows around those topics.

Just how personal a subject is music for you?

Like most popular culture, it's very personal for me. But I think music is personal for most people even if they don't realize it. I tie a lot of my memories and specific times, places and events to specific songs. Songs act like pnemonic devices in a lot of ways for me. I spent most of my teen years in rock clubs and reading about music and hunting down records so it was a major part of my formative years. The first real experience I had with business and performing was all music as well even though I am in no way shape or form a musician. But I think if i hadn't been in a band, I probably wouldn't be doing stand up comedy now.

Would you consider yourself a music snob? Is there a style or genre of music at which you turn up your nose?

I am a music snob. But I don't think there's a genre I dismiss or turn my nose up at. Actually that's not correct. Reggaton.

Will you be playing music or videos for illustration at this show?

I always do a power point slide show with these shows. I feel like it adds some jokes and also keeps people from getting bored of me talking for an hour and gives them something to look at other than my mug. There will be some music involved with this show. I was going to include some video footage of my old band but decided against it, people can look that stuff up on Youtube after if they want laugh at my expense.

You’ve had brushes with a lot of notable musicians – how do you wind up coming in contact with these people?

That's a question I ask myself a lot. I've somehow managed to encounter a lot of "celebrities" and gotten myself into some strange situations over the years. I think most of it is just dumb luck. Some of it was just the company I kept and the places I was hanging out. The band I was in did fairly well locally and a lot of our peers got very big, so that helped. I also worked at a radio station in college which helped. I actually cut a few stories out of the show because even though they were true I thought they were so weird that people wouldn't believe me.
Will you be doing this show anywhere else? Or bringing back any of the other shows?
I'd like to. The other two shows I performed at some colleges and out of state a couple times. I'm hoping to take one of the shows down to NYC at some point.
I would be remiss in ignoring Halloween in this interview – what would be your top couple of recommendations for Halloween movies for comedy fans?

Night of the Creeps - All time horror/comedy classic, comes out on DVD (finally) on 10/27

Saturday the 14th and its sequel Saturday the 14th Strikes Back - Weird "kitchen sink" Mad Magazine type horror spoof comedies, I don't know why but I have a soft spot for them.

Neon Maniacs - Not an intentional comedy by any means, but one of the weirdest movies I've seen. the village people of monsters live inside the Golden Gate bridge and terrorize teenagers, also the monster dissolve in water.

Soulkeeper - Just checked this one out, it's from 2001, sometimes it tries a bit too hard with the comedy, but most of it works, and it has a Debbie Gibson cameo.

The Pit - You'll laugh watching it, because your mind needs to defend itself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kevin Knox benefits this week

Veteran Boston comic Kevin Knox is battling stage four melanoma, and is in need of help, which he'll get from his friends at Dick's Beantown Comedy Vault and Giggles. Starting tonight, the Monday night show at the Vault, which Knox usually hosts, will be called "Knoxie's Team," and proceeds from the show will go to Knox. Vault owner Dick Dohrty says this will be the case indefinitely, as long Knox needs the help (see line-ups below).

Team Knoxie at the Vault:

OCT 5: Dick Doherty, Greg Howell, Jim Lauletta, and Corey Rodrigues
OCT. 12: Frank Santorelli, Dave Russo, Chris Zito, Mike MacDonald, Rodrigues, Doherty
Oct. 19: Paul D'Angelo, Mike Koutrobis, Doherty

Also this week, Lenny Clarke and Steve Sweeney headline a special show at Giggles tomorrow to benefit Knox. the site lists Clarke and Sweeney "plus ten other comedians," and from past benefit shows, I know a lot of comics show up at Giggles to do a little time. If you're a comic and planning on attending, feel free to e-mail me or mention it in the comments section here.

I'll post any more benefit info as it comes in.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sara Benincasa's Agorafabulous at ImprovBoston tonight

Sara Benincasa brings her new one-woman show, Agorafabulous, to ImprovBoston tonight. The show, about the comedian/writer’s experiences with panic attacks and agoraphobia, has drawn positive reviews in several cities, and Benincasa is also working on a book by the same name. Benincasa has quite a varied resume – she was a citizen journalist for the MTV Choose or Lose Street Team last year, hosted Tub Talk with Sara B., for which she interviewed people in her tub, and currently co-hosts Get in Bed, a sex-chat show on Cosmo’s satellite radio station and hosts the Family Hour with Auntie Sara at Comix in New York once a month.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Boston Comedy Interview: Paula Poundstone

Paula Poundstone left Boston as a young comic in 1980, traveling the country before settling in San Francisco. In the intervening thirty years, she’s become a popular touring comic, a favorite panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and an author. Her first book, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant To Say, echoed her personal style, meandering through her very public personal struggles and much lighter topics. She says when she’s trying to lecture her kids, “I’ve heard myself talking about Norma Rae, and I realized I started out saying, could you make your bed?”

Poundstone released her first CD, I Heart Jokes, earlier this year, and she’s working on her second book, trying to work a tad faster than the nine years it took her to get the first one out. She’s also playing the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre tomorrow.

I was told you are writing a second book now, is that how you’re writing it again, [the stream of conscious method]?

No, which is probably why my brain is totally stalled on my second book. No, it isn’t. I’m going to try to be a lot more careful. I’m going to try to stick to the point in this one. I’ll be jumping back and forth, but I won’t just let go of the pedals.

Is there a particular theme?

My book is loosely, the working title for it is, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness. Basically I’m trying to do the things that I either thought would make me happy or that somebody else, I talked to somebody else and said, what do you think would make you happy, and then I do it their way. I still have these awful scheduling problems, which was part of what made the other book take nine years. Hell, if I bring this one in at five years, I’ve nearly by forty percent, improved.

I think the way I wrote the other book made fits and starts more doable than this. With the other one, I could write for fifteen minutes and stop. This feels a little harder to do that. I’m not a writer for a living, so what I do is, I try to fit it in the cracks of my life, and sometimes, there’s no god damn cracks. Every day. You know, you’ve got your plan, and everything interrupts your plan.

[Dog interrupts, barking at the reflection of a necklace Poundstone is wearing, which starts a discussion about pets].

Honestly, I may have gone over the top in terms of numbers, but as just a general idea, we spend so much time saying, oh, look at this cat thing or that cat thing, what they do, and just watching them and are thoroughly entertained. I don’t know if it’s worth all of the vet bills, but it’s pretty fun.

For I’ve written about comedy for the past ten years, trying to promote good, smart comedy, what makes makes me laugh as much as anything is the I Can Haz Cheezburger site with the cat and captions.

Oh, I’ve heard about it. I’ve never seen it. You know, some nights… I’m certainly not a genius, but there are nights where I weave, I think, anyways, politics and life… it feels my act has a meaning, sometimes. It’s not like an on-the-nose meaning, but some kind of a meeting, and then the crowd really responds, and it goes really well, and then I go, oh my god, this is how I want to do it. And there are nights it really feels great. IT just feels like it was the right balance of both things, I wanted trying to be anything I’m not, it went over really well, and then I talked to the individuals in the crowd, and there’s this soul to the audience that I’ve tapped into, and it just feels absolutely magical.

And afterwards I’ll hang around and sell my books and sell CDs and sign them and that kind of thing. And I shake people’s hands, and I take pictures with people, and I sign things and I talk to them some more. God, it feels great. And somebody will come up to me and say, “Hey, you didn’t talk about your cats.” Yeah. You know what? I forgot.

There were a couple of other things going on.

Yeah. The truth is, I’m the same way. I enjoy a silly, stupid cat joke as much as the next guy, or I suppose I wouldn’t do it. But it’s the same thing with, I make these little films and I put them up on YouTube, and I’m not a great editor, none of it’s the second coming. But I’m learning how to do it, and I’m including what I think are some pretty funny jokes. And it’ll get, if I promote it on my Twitter and blah blah blah, I can have a few hundred views within a couple of days! And then there’s somebody who films their goldfish. I’ve heard about it, I didn’t see it, “Oooh, it had a hundred thousand on the first day.” Okay. Great. I’ll just sit quietly over here.

Going back to talking about politics and life in general, I think the reason why weaving those things works for you is because they feel like they’re coming from the same place. It’s not like you’re starting one thing and stopping another.

Well, I mean, there’s a connection between the two. People always say to me, “Well, what can we expect?” And I have yet in all of these years to come up with an answer. “What kind of comedy do you do?” I feel like, largely, who I am is just a citizen, barely hanging on, in terms of obtaining information enough to make halfway decent to vote. But I’m not a political analyst, that’s not what I spend my time doing. Even when I do Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, I cram with newspapers on the airplane and the train on the way there. I always feel the others cheat because they’re born into the world knowing more about current events than I do. I always say to people, there are weeks where I’m very well informed about a lot of things. And then there’s months were I can’t tell you very much about politics or about what’s going on in the world because we were having tantrums at home or, you know, this health problem or this thing with this kid.

And I think most voters are like that. Most of us have our lives that we are trying really hard to contend with, which is why it’s really galling when there’s something like a town hall thingee, and people go to the trouble of shouting misinformation. Now, I think some of those people actually believed the things they were shouting. But they got that misinformation from somewhere. Where did they get it? Something like the Sarah Palin Website. Oh, please, that’s just terrible. I don’t mind somebody disagreeing, but I really mind the waters being muddied when I’ve only got a few seconds to look.

I don’t even know how people in other countries do it. There are places where the whole country is a lot more aware of what’s going on there. It’s not necessarily good news, by the way, it’s not necessarily good things are happening where they live. Places where they have new democracies and almost everyone goes out to vote, that’s astounding to me. Because I find it so hard to just get by.

Did you follow comedy as a kid?

Yes and no. I wasn’t very familiar with the… there’s more venues now than there ever were before. I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. Maybe if I’d been raised in Manhattan, I might have snuck in and seen Lenny Bruce. So we had Bill Cosby albums, we had Alice’s Restaurant, we had Smothers Brothers albums, a couple of them. It’s funny, though, I never gathered that they were recorded in front of people. I didn’t know anything about recording one way or another. I thought… I don’t know where I thought it all came from. Magic, I guess. Who else? I think we might have had a Lily Tomlin album. So I loved those things and those people, but that was pretty much the width and breadth of my knowledge of stand-up when I was little. I loved the response of laughter, I loved to laugh myself. I loved the sound of everybody’s laughter. Even derisive laughter.

I met, when I was working Boston, I met this guy that had like every comedy album that ever existed. People you had no idea had ever recorded a comedy album, or you had no idea that they were ever stand-up comics. Oh look, Tip O’Neill. Who? He had a huge stack of them. He had Nichols and May and people I’d never heard of and certainly wouldn’t have known they made an album. This had been his passion for years.

Was he also a comic?

Yes, but very bad. And I think he eventually got out of it all together. He worked with a partner and oh my god were they bad. So it just goes to show you that having a lot of comedy albums isn’t a substitute for being a good comic. Although in truth, we were all bad. We were all just terrible. It’s amazing that anybody ever paid us.

What pushed you towards it?

I had always wanted to be a comic performer of some sort. I don’t know that I always thought that I would be, but I always wanted to be. There was no path for being a stand-up when I was young. If somebody came up to me now and said, I’d like to become a stand-up comic, I’d say most cities, or a number of cities, anyway, have kind of a nightclub circuit of comedy clubs. Maybe only a couple at this point, but most cities do. And they have open mic nights. And sometimes colleges do, as well. They have open mic nights. That’s what you should do. You should think of stuff you think is funny, write it down or just plain commit it to memory, get your five minutes going and get up and do your five minutes. Afterwards, order a juice from the bar and sit down and think about what you learned. Do that over and over again, a lot, and that’s how you do it.

Well, when I was younger, there were no… a lot of the people that went before me, they went to strip clubs and said, hey, can I tell my jokes here? I never would have been that brave. At one point, I did see street performers, and I thought, I could do that. I had no idea that they had an act, by the way. I just thought they were just talking. I thought I could do that. I also didn’t know that they had to audition and get a license. I really thought I would just stand up in Boston Common somewhere and start telling jokes and hope that people would gather. That was my fantasy, and I don’t think I would ever have been brave enough to do that. And therefore, I was a really funny table busser.

Whre did you play when you were here?

The Ding Ho. The Comedy Connection had a comedy night at the Ding Ho years ago, and that’s kind of what brought comedy in there. And then Barry Crimmins came along and negotiated a deal for himself there, and because the Comedy Connection was only there every other week or something for one night. So Barry had them do it five nights a week, or whatever it was. And that became a rising place for stand-up comics. And again, most of us were really terrible at the time. So I started doing stuff at the Connection. Of all the comics that sucked, and really and truly we all did, I was never a favorite amongst the powers that be and so I only even got the ten dollar jobs occasionally. And I only really worked out of there for a year or so before I took a Greyhound bus to see what clubs were like in other cities.

What year was that you left?

’80. And the thing is, when you start out in a place, they’ve really seen you be bad. You’re never going to be much worse than you are when you start out. Right, so they’ve seen you be bad, and that’s what they tend to remember. So I’d show up in a city where they’d never seen me before, and I’d gotten a little bit better, and they’re used to their people who are bad. So in some places, I seemed, well, desirable is too strong a word. But I seemed like a slight cut above.

I would take a bus, I had that Ameripass thing that they used to have on Greyhound – you could go anywhere you wanted for a month for a hundred and fifty bucks. What I would do is, I would take a bus to a place I wanted to go, say Denver, for example, when I got off the bus in Denver, I would go look at their bus schedule there. I would check my suitcase into a locker at the bus terminal, and I would look at their schedule to find a city, a town, a place that they went to that was four hours away. I would find the latest departure for that four-hours-away place, I would show up at the Greyhound station at that time, go on that bus for four hours, and I’d get out at that stop and get back on a bus coming the other direction. And in this hour, I slept eight hours a night. I did that for a couple of months. And along the way I stayed at this person’s house or that person’s house. Sometimes when people realized where I stayed, it was that age where we were all young and if somebody had one apartment, why not have ten people in it? I often flopped on people’s floors.

Did you go to L.A. from there?

No. I went to San Francisco. I worked, I did open mics in Canada a couple of places. Yuk Yuks in Montreal and Toronto. I went to Zany’s in Chicago. I can’t remember anymore. I went to San Francisco, and pretty much the second I got off the bus, or crossed the street, anyway, because the bus station was kind of the armpit of the town, the day I arrived, I said, I think I need to stay here for a while.

Did you have any favorite comics that you knew from Boston?

Well, Steve Wright and I started out a couple of weeks from each other. He was so different from what was mostly popular in Boston at the time. I mean, he’s different than lots of guys. He’s great and wonderful and clever. He would be described as different anywhere. But in Boston there was a style that was sort of the style, and even acts that might have been better had they used more of themselves and less of the Boston style, not too many people could find a way to not be a part of the “Boston style.” I don’t know. Steve just did what he did and he was great and brilliant. There’s a guy named Jack Gallagher that was great. I liked all those guys and I had a great time with them.

Jim Tingle is still a good friend. He’s somebody who had a really funny trajectory about how he did what he did. Jim’s a really brilliant, well-educated man. But he’s a Cambridge townie. And I don’t think at the young age we all were when we were back in the beginning, I don’t think you told people that you were a really brilliant, well-educated man. The way he does what he does changed. He didn’t used to talk about politics when he started. He played the harmonica and he’d go onstage drunk. He got thrown out of the club the first time he went on.

Why did it take you so long to record a CD, do you think?

Couldn’t find the button. I’m bad with technology. I don’t know. I don’t know why. I just didn’t do it before, and then I did. I always like to be clear with people that I owned a lot of CDs. I just hadn’t recorded one. I don’t want people to think that I’m not hip.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nick Di Paolo plays the Hard Rock with Joe List and Dan Crohn

Danvers native Nick Di Paolo is back in town tomorrow, and he’s bringing former Boston comic Joe List with him. Di Paolo is playing the Hard Rock Café, with Dan Crohn hosting and producing (he also produced the Doug Stanhope show there in May). Di Paolo was a regular part of Colin Quinn’s Tough Crowd, a show that featured comedians busting each other’s chops and speaking off the cuff. Di Paolo was one of the few comics commenting from a conservative standpoint, and with a Democrat in the White House again, Di Paolo says the political quotient in his act is rising. I spoke with him by phone earlier this week.

How’ve you been?

I’m hanging in there. Making a living, traveling the country.

Are you concentrating mostly on stand-up and touring right now?

Right now, yeah. I’ve got a few things in the works that I’m supposed to keep close to my vest because it’s new technology. Radio/Internet stuff. A blog/radio thing. It’s with some pretty big names in radio here in New York.

I thought you were going to tell me you were doing comedy as a hologram on CNN.

That’s it, dammit. How’d you hear that? You know, what’s funny is, I am going to be doing Joy Behar’s new show on Headline News. HLN. Her show’s premiering September 29th, it’s an hour talk show, political, a roundtable. I’m scheduled to be on there October 8th.

She’s always been really good to comics, regardless of whether she makes you laugh or not.

Yeah. I knew Joy years ago before she got kind of famous. I went to audition a couple of weeks ago and it was great. It was at a conference table, and there were a bunch of people around there, and they were filming it. And it was me and this black comic from Boston, you probably know. He’s got like an African name. He’s a young kid. He’s Harvard educated.

Oh, Baratunde.

Yeah. Baratunde. It was me, him, and another kid from Boston who writes for, what paper was it? But it was a good mix. I went in there and my Tough Crowd training really [kicked in]. They were like, nervous and I was like, let’s get this over with. I was really loose and I was cracking up everyone at the table and I was taking shots at Joy and she was laughing. And I said, if they don’t make me a regular on this…. Anyway, they did call and they said they want me on October 8th with Arianna Huffington.

I suppose you’re looking forward to that.

Yeah. I go, can we get a translator, ‘cause she sounds just like Zsa Zsa Gabor to me. “I’m telling you, darling, the Republicans are…” That’ll be interesting. I’m doing that and then Dennis Miller, the radio show called and they want me to do his show on October 1st. I got things in the mix here.

Are you looking to do more stuff with a political bent?

Uh… yeah, actually. I try to be relevant with my comedy and it’s pretty interesting times, you know? There’s nobody on the right as far as… [clears throat]. I’d like to get back on the radio. But it’s a tough market to crack in New York. It’s just hard, when you come from the right and you’re a comic, stuff that I go after is stuff that’s been deemed politically correct by everybody. It’s almost taboo, if I point out, like when The Daily Show, and again, I always bring them up, when they’re going after white Republicans, okay, I understand that. But if I want to make fun of the president or Michelle Obama or Charlie Rangel, even conservatives won’t laugh out loud and be called a racist. That’s why you don’t see real conservative comedy. All the shit is taboo.

Do you feel like you’ve jobs because of that or missed out on opportunities?

I don’t know. I can’t say definitely, but you’ve got to admit, the business I’m in, the people who run it don’t think like I do. So I’m sure that’s come into play but that’s like when Obama says, “Do you know how many jobs we’ve saved?” How do you count that?

The thing about your political stuff, it never seems to be personal, beyond the chops-busting level, and regardless of whether you’re coming from the right, you’ve never seemed like a big talking points guy to me.

Yeah. Well, it depends. I’m doing WABC radio this Sunday from four to six, which is the big, that’s the one all the heavy hitters are on. And I did it a couple of months ago. They’re audition people to fill like a four to six slot on the weekend. When I did audition a couple of months ago, I was kind of a talking points guy, but it’s funny, her note was she wanted me to be funnier, the program director. I was hitting on all the talking points. I guess that was too serious for her.

How big a part is politics in your act?

In my stand-up? Right now, it’s more than it’s ever been. Just because, Obama, it’s amazing what’s going on. It’s crazy, whether you like what this administration is doing or not. It makes great Sunday morning television and I love picking up the newspaper, and I did get that opinion from Tough Crowd of wearing my right-wing opinions on my sleeve.

Nobody’s carrying the baton for the right side. It’s not real deep-cutting. Some of it is, when I talk about the torture memos, Michelle Obama being more muscular than I am. Right now there’s a nice chunk in there, but it’s not all I do. Like I said, I don’t see a future in it. The people who call the shots in this business are the same people who love Bill Maher, and they’re not going to put me on HBO, are they?

Do you know Bill Maher?

Why would I, and I said this to my agent, why would you as a conservative go on that show? Even if you made great jokes, the whole audience is just going to sit on their hands. And it’s just going to play to dead silence, you’re going to look like an asshole. If he didn’t have a large studio audience I’d go on there.

How did you hook up with Dan Crohn for this show?

Through my middle act, Joe List.

He seems to be your connection back to Boston these days.

Exactly. By the way, Joe List, we were just in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, and the whole time we were in Milwaukee, he kept bragging how he’s got tickets to the Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills. That’s all he’s bragging about, right? Well come Monday morning, my phone starts beeping. It’s a text message from Joe List saying I’m in the hospital, I have to have my appendix removed in a couple of hours. He missed the game. He probably missed the most exciting game of the year. So I guess he knows Dan, and Dan knows me. And I said sure. I like the idea of it not being at a comedy club venue.

Geek rocker Jonathan Coulton comes to the Paradise

Writing a song a week is no easy task. Writing a good song, one you’re willing to release to the public, one that isn’t about the pencils on your desk or whatever is directly outside of your window even if it’s jus the neighborhood cat, is even harder. But that’s how Yale graduate Jonathan Coulton made the transition from computer programmer to king of the geek musicians and an Internet sensation. Coulton comes to the Paradise Saturday in support of his new DVD/CD Best. Concert. Ever. I caught up with him by e-mail this week.

What was the initial impulse to write your own music? Was it something you were doing frequently before you thought of the ³song a week² idea?

I've been writing music since I was in high school. And before that I always listened to music with an ear to how it was written - I used to listen to certain songs over and over trying to figure out how they got the magic stuff in there that made it awesome. So I wrote stuff all through high school and college and into my 20s and 30s before I ever started doing it professionally. I can't listen to those now, I've learned so much about songwriting since then.

How did you arrive on a way to support yourself with the music?

By luck mostly - I did Thing a Week for a year, and by the end of it I had attracted enough attention and fans to be profitable, and things have just grown from there. Putting my music out there for free certainly helped get it into people's hands and heads, and I've always been very clear about the fact that I hoped people would buy it and make it possible for me to make a living from it.

Do you get a lot of people downloading for free still? Was that tough to compete with, selling CDs and downloads?

Not really. I've found that competing with free actually works pretty well. I don't know how all the numbers work, but you can bet that if there wasn't so much access to free stuff nobody would ever have heard of me. And a lot of people tell me about how they downloaded it all for free and then later came back to give me money because they liked it so much. In a way, that's more meaningful than when people buy it the first time around.

Did you write any more traditional or non-geek songs before you found your groove writing about programmers and zombies? And do you have a song about zombie programmers?

No song about zombie programmers yet. And yes, I've written quite a few non geeky songs. I never really decide I'm going to write this thing or that thing, I just kind of go with whatever pops into my head.

After that yearlong burst of production, writing a song a week for 52 weeks, did you lay off writing or was it hard to stop?

It was very easy to stop, I was very tired. And it's been hard to pick up the pace again, mostly because I've become so busy with touring and the daily business stuff that needs to get done. I'm not sure I'll ever have the kind of luxury I had when I started Thing a Week - all the time in the world and nothing to lose.

Were you surprised to see so many home made videos for your songs, like the ³Re: Your Brains² videos with HALO characters floating around?

Yes, I'm continually delighted to see people re-using the music in various ways. There's so much creative energy out there, it's just amazing to see how much time people spend making things, and very satisfying to be a part of it.

Has anyone covered your music?

Yes, there have been a few. A band called We Fight Dragons recently covered The Future Soon and I thought they did a fantastic job of it.

How did you decide you wanted to do a live DVD/CD?

I've spent the last couple of years learning how to do a live show, and learning how to make a lot of these songs work in that setting.
It's often a very different feel from the recorded version, and having that interplay between me and an audience is a lot of fun. So it's nice to have this artifact that represents all the stuff that I've learned.

How did you choose the venue for the live recording? Wouldn¹t it have been easier to record closer to home in New York?

San Francisco has always had really fun exuberant crowds, and the Great American Music Hall is a beautiful venue that always sounds fantastic. It just felt like the right place to do it.

Did you find you had a big following with MIT and the college scene in Boston?

I do well anywhere there's a tech community, and Boston is no exception. I'm playing there in a couple of nights, and I know they're going to be loaded for bear.

What are your plans for after the current tour is over?

I don't do long trips, just these short weekend things throughout the year. As a result, I'm sort of always touring - as far as I can tell, the current tour never ends...

The Naked Comedy Showcase at Club Oberon tonight

The Naked Comedy Showcase adds a new venue to its roster tonight with a show at Club Oberon. Producer and host Andy Ofiesh launched the show -- which features, for those who think the title is some clever reference, comedians who perform naked -- at ImprovBoston in December of 2005, and continues to produce the show there the first Wednesday of every month (he also does it at the People's Improv Theater in NY the first Saturday of every month).

It's an interesting dynamic, tough to pull off an onstage persona with any bravado, or really to maintain any sort of pre-fab persona, when you're standing nude in front of an audience trying to make them laugh. Quite often, comedians don't like to put their name in the press for the show, but Ofiesh tells me Micah Sherman is closing tonight.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tom E. Morello at the Latin Pride National Awards tonight

Boston’s own Tom E. Morello will receive the 2009 Comedian of the Year award at tonight’s Latin Pride National Awards at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre, honored along with actor Cesar Evora and writer Laura Posada. He’s been a part of this scene for ten years now, and the honor is well-deserved.

How long have you been doing comedy in Boston?

My first stand-up set was in May of 1999 at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. It's technically a 10 year span, but realistically it was 4 years of messing around and 6 years of serious business.

What made you start?

I had dreamed of being a stand-up comedian since I was 8 years old, when my mom let me watch "Bill Cosby - Himself" on Cinemax. I didn't take the plunge until I was 25, because I was absolutely terrified of the Boston audiences. I would go to Nick's Comedy Stop and watch a packed house of rabid baboons jeer and heckle, and I wondered: what type of chance would I have against that? That's why the Comedy Studio is the driving force behind the resurgence of not only Boston comedy, but comedy in a general sense. It's nearly impossible to become a unique and original comedian when you're playing behind chicken wire, hoping the glass bottles being thrown don't make it through. The Studio afforded all of us the opportunity to learn in a stable and supportive environment. It has paid off in spades, when you see the sheer volume of incredibly successful performers who made their start at the Studio, under the tutelage of Rick Jenkins.

Are you doing a set tonight?

I'm either infusing my acceptance speech with some of my "greatest hits", or they'll tell me at the last minute that I'm cutting a live album because a salsa band had problems with their work visas at the airport. I honestly don't know, but I'm always prepared for anything.

Will this be the biggest audience you’ve played for?

A few years back, I opened a pair of sold-out shows for Jeff Dunham. That was about 1300 people, so this audience at the Wilbur Theatre will likely be about the same size. I'm at my most comfortable in front of large crowds. My act is broad and theatrical, I actually had to learn to dial it back so I could work in front of 8-10 people in a small club setting without blowing their ears off. I have an acting background, and always relish the chance to work a large stage without any limitations on presentation.

How did you get involved with the Latin Pride National Awards?

A couple of years ago, I was a red carpet interviewer at the Awards for Boston Latino TV, (a local Hispanic news show) and I can't say that I enjoyed my time on the opposite side of the velvet rope. I'm a terrible interviewer, because I kept wanting to ask the question, "why are you more important than me?" Last year I was at the LPNA to present an award, I sat in the orchestra pit with the celebrities and silently wondered the same thing.

How did you get the news you were Comedian of the Year? Were you surprised?

I was told that a write-in campaign led to the award. I had a large volume of friends and fans write to the producers on my behalf, and it led to them rebooting the Comedian of the Year award, (which they had actually skipped over last year.) I am always surprised at how many people are willing to go bat for me. It is humbling and heartwarming that I've been able to entertain and befriend so many wonderful folks who in turn, made this happen. I am a micro-celeb compared to the other names on the bill, and I will make the most of my opportunity.

What will you do with the award?

I'm sure my mom will find a place for it at her house, right next to Ceramic Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary Candles, (which would be a great name for a salsa band.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frank Santos, Sr. R.I.P.

I have heard from several sources today that Frank Santos, Sr. passed away suddenly late last evening. I will pass on more info in this space as I get it. Santos has been a staple of the Boston comedy scene for twenty years, doing his R-Rated Hypnotist act at the Comedy Connection and clubs and colleges.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mike Bribiglia's Video Tour Diary

Mike Bribiglia kicks off his video tour diary by speaking with the stranger onhis tour bus. He'll be back in town in November at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Boston Comedy Interview: God's Pottery

According to the bio on the back of their new book, What Would God’s Pottery Do? The Ultimate Guide To Surviving Your Teens and/or Being Successful, God’s Pottery is Gideon Lamb and Jeremiah Smallchild, international television stars touring the United States. Last Comic Standing brought the Christian musical duo national attention last summer, but before that, they played Great Scott in 2006 when the Allston venue tried to form a partnership with the Upright Citizens Brigade to bring regulars from their New York stage to Boston.

Tonight, God’s Pottery is back at Great Scott, this time as part of Anderson Comedy’s regular Friday night show, The Gas. I caught up with the duo, who are played by Wilson Hall and Krister Johnson, by e-mail this week and tried to get them to break character (I know that Johnson, who plays Gideon, is originally from Newton, and asked about it, but other than a Joey McIntyre reference, they didn’t take the bait).

This is the interview, with a couple of clips from GP’s new prank web series, Christ’d, which is featured on In the first episode, they get Mike Birbiglia.

How did you guys meet?

Jeremiah: Well, we first met as kids in our small town in the Midwest. I was riding my bike past the Great Pines Lumber Museum when I saw a boy lying prostrate outside the gift shop. It was Gideon, and he had eaten too much Captain Humely’s Lumber Fudge with Sawmill Sludge (fudge logs with caramel) and a whole jar of Mighty River Log Jam strawberry jam straight from the jar, no bread! I saw that this boy needed a friend to guide him through the misery caused by his overindulgence. he friend I had in mind was Jesus. A couple days later, things really clicked for Gideon and he began to see the importance of Jesus when he fell on his head after attempting to fly off his roof like Superman. He called me, and we became fast friends.

Gideon: So I made two friends that day!!!

Do your siblings come to your shows?

Gideon: Not as often as we’d like. My younger sister, Princess, has come to some shows. (Her real name is Vicki, but everyone calls her Princess because when we were kids she was really into princesses—and still is!)

Jeremiah: I keep trying to get my brother, Brent, to come on out whenever we play the Quad Cities, but he’s always tied up with his responsibilities with the Jaycees. It’s weird though, he always has time to go to the gun range, and he’s invited us every time, but we don’t like guns.

Gideon: “Hugs not guns,” as the saying goes.

What led you to perform in comedy clubs? Aren't they mostly dens of sin and unhappiness?

Gideon: We have to go wherever we’re needed! Jesus didn’t say “Oh, I’ll just let the lepers figure out how to heal themselves while I hang out at the arcade and blow my allowance on video games.” No, he went out to where the problem was—just like we do—and did his part to make a change. Of course, what Jesus did is much more important than what we do…

Jeremiah: …Yeah, but we’re getting there. You know, something we’ve learned is that addressing all the issues out there is a lot like driving in the snow: you have to steer into the problem.

How did Last Comic Standing help you spread your message?

Jeremiah: This one’s easy.

Gideon: Yeah, you have to realize that by being on national TV—and we’re talking about NBC here—we were seen by literally hundreds of viewers, and just the exposure alone helped us spread our message.

Jeremiah: And then add to that the fact that most people are sitting around thinking “I wish someone would tell me more about Jesus and the Bible, and I wish someone would tell me more about what I’m doing wrong and ways I can change that, especially in the middle of a prime time comedy TV show that is otherwise pointlessly secular.” It’s the same reason that religious politicians keep getting elected—people love to have someone making decisions for them based on the Bible.

Christ’d Episode One: Mike Birbiglia

In your new book, you sometimes mention rock bands like the Rolling Stones, and you sometimes play songs that could be construed as rock songs. Have you read The Devil's Disciples by Jeff Godwin or Why Knock Rock? by Dan and Steve Peters? Are you concerned you might be leading impressionable kids astray?

Jeremiah: Hey, listen, we like to rock out every now and then…

Gideon: Sure, we listen to a little Ronnie Milsap, or maybe some Christopher Cross…

Jeremiah: Yeah, we’re not against “hard rock,” it’s just that some of the harder stuff—The Spin Doctors, REM—should be avoided for various reasons. We address this in our book.

Gideon: Look at Fergie, talk about a dangerous character: she was once a nice girl on Kids, Incorporated, and then she grew up and now sings hip-hop, and recently urinated herself on stage. You have to be careful whom you listen to!

Jeremiah: We haven’t read either of those books you mentioned, I’m sure they’re terrible.

What can you tell me about Newton, Ma?

Jeremiah: Newton is famous for two things: fig-based cookies and Matt LeBlanc (Joey from “Friends”)! That’s all we know about Newton.

Gideon: We had a friend from Newton named “Krister” (at least that’s what he claimed his name was), but we had to sever our relationship with him after Krister boasted about spiking his Pepsi with lemon extract at his High School dance to get high and/or drunk. We have no time in our lives for drug addicts, let alone boastful ones. And ESPECIALLY ones who misuse baking products.

Christ’d Episode Two: John Roberts

Why write a self-help book? Was the Bible not enough?

Jeremiah: We feel that reading is the language of learning, and learning is the gateway to knowledge. All the famous teachers have written books, including Bill O’Reilly, whose book “The O’Reilly Factor for Kids” really inspired us to write our own book for kids.

Gideon: And one thing that’s cool about a book compared to writing songs is that a book doesn’t have to rhyme! We actually started writing the book trying to make everything rhyme, but we gave up pretty quickly.

Jeremiah: Notice how all Dr. Seuss books are very short.

Gideon: As for the Bible not being enough, well, the Bible is like the best piece of food on your plate—like a hot dog—but it’s still helpful to have some other food, like potato salad or a pool of ketchup to eat along with the hot dog.

Jeremiah: And that’s where we come in.

Gideon: Think of us as a pool of ketchup.

Jeremiah, if you're jealous of Gideon for always wearing his orange "Virginity Rocks!" t-shirt, why not get a "Virginity Rocks!" t-shirt in a different but complimentary color?

Jeremiah: I wasn’t jealous of the shirt itself, I just didn’t like that everyone thought of Gideon when they thought of virginity, and not of me! I’m just as big a fan of virginity, if not bigger!

Gideon: Yeah, but I have it on my shirt, so…

Jeremiah: See? That’s why I was frustrated. But I’ve found a way to work through my frustration, and that’s just that I vow to be a virgin longer than Gideon.

Gideon: Ok, well, you better be prepared to wait a long time then.

Jeremiah: Oh, I am. And you see that? That’s an example of a good contest, a good game that the Youth can play, instead of “Who can get pregnant the fastest?” or “Whose shirt is the most see-through?”

What other projects can people look for from God's Pottery?

Gideon: We’ve got a brand new web series called “Christ’d!” where we prank our comedian friends with goodwill and concern.

Jeremiah: It’s like the show Punk’d, but the pranks are good-natured.

Gideon: So far we’ve Christ’d Mike Birbiglia and youtube star John Roberts, and we’ve got plenty more to come!

Jeremiah: Plus we’re on the road these days performing all around the US, and when people come to see us, they’ll hear songs they’ve never heard before, including on TV and the Internet!

Gideon: We hope you’ll come say hi!

Mitch Fatel addresses Boston Comedy fans

Okay, so Michael Loftus made a video a couple of weeks ago talking directly to the readers of this blog, and his PR people sent it to me blind, hoping I'd post it. He was promoting his new Comedy Central stand-up special, which aired that week.

Well, what can I say? I'm a sucker for that kind of hustle, and I'm sure Loftus taped a few hundred of those to send out to different places.

Mitch Fatel has a new special out this week, and he happens to be represented by the same PR people. So Wednesday, this video showed up in my inbox. And Fatel takes it one step further, addressing you, my reaading audience, from his bathtub, and including a bit from the special (a routine about inverted nipples and other strange phenomena of genitalia).

The special debuts on Comedy Central tonight at 11PM and comes out on DVD Tuesday. Here's Fatel's personal pitch:

Here's my review of the special on

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Discount Variety Interviews: Tim McIntire and Brendan Boogie tonight at the CinemaSalem Cafe

This month at Discount Variety we have two good friends, Tim McIntire and Brendan Boogie. McIntire is a stalwart of the Boston scene, someone I first came into contact with when I wrote a piece about Bill Hicks for I had just moved to Boston, and McIntire e-mailed me about it and told me I should come to the Comedy Studio to see his Thursday Night Fights. That became a regular haunt for me as I covered the local scene. Brendan (I can’t bring myself to just call him “Boogie”) I met a year or so ago, and had the pleasure of playing on a show with him in February. We traded bits of Elvis Costello cover tunes waiting for our time to go on, where he gave me his great rocking pop EP Disposable Pop. See him solo acoustic at CinemaSalem Café tonight!


Brendan Boogie played bass with the Boston power pop group Scamper until they were all eaten by alligators. After being rebuilt by science, he started his own outfit Brendan Boogie and the Best Intentions. Brendan's full-length follow up to 2008's Disposable Pop EP is set to fill up your earholes with gooey goodness this December.

How long have you been playing in Boston?

I started with Scamper in September 2004. Before that, I sold my bass and rig to finance an ill-fated trip to LA to pursue a career as an obsolete reality show contestant.

What are your favorite places to play?

Junior highs and women's prisons, mostly.

Who are your favorite comedians, locally and nationally?

I find Ann Coulter hilarious. Whoever is playing her is a brilliant comic performer. Locally, I find the Jim Henson puppet they call "Mayor Menino" pretty good.

What is the best comedy show you've seen?

I might have dreamed this, but I saw Tim McIntire and the Walsh Brothers open for Louis C.K. at the Comedy Studio one time. My spleen hurt from laughing so much.


Tim McIntire has been one of the most prolific comics in Boston for nearly a decade. He began his career in Colorado and honed his act on the road, working every comedy club, roadhouse, and speakeasy between California and Pennsylvania. After moving to Boston to move in with a hot girlfriend—who would eventually become his hot wife—he quickly became a fixture in the comedy scene, gaining notoriety for his Thursday Night Fights at the Comedy Studio, his edgy hosting job for the Boston Music Awards, and for his first comedy album, Poor Impulse Control.

Since that time, he's released a second album (Scatterbrain), written for Nickelodeon (Fairly Oddparents), been featured on National Public Radio (Special Edition with Tom Ashbrook), performed at several comedy festivals (Boston and Chicago), and appeared on TV (Comcast Comedy Spotlight). The Boston Globe has called him a "comic on the verge of stardom," and the Boston Herald has called him "a breakout comic to watch." He is currently seeking representation for his first novel, Suicide Lane. In the little free time he has, he likes to fish—for trout, not bass, because he went to college.

How long have you been playing in Boston?

Since 1996. I moved here, and my first gig was an open mike at Daisy Buchanans. It was such a bucket of blood that I considered moving away immediately.

What are your favorite places to play?

Well, at the risk of seeming too self-promotional (a concept musicians may be unfamiliar with), I love playing at my own club, Mottley's. I don't know how or why, but I kill there like no place else. The Comedy Studio is a blast, too. As far as non-comedy rooms go, I love doing the Lizard Lounge, even though the layout is weird for comedy.

Who are your favorite musicians, locally and nationally?

Locally, I love the Grownup Noise, the Rationales (and Dave Mirabella by himself, too), the Motion Sick, The Wrong Reasons, and my man Brendan Boogie (who in addition to being very talented is also the only guy in Boston I've been able to talk into going fishing with me). Nationally, I'm crazy about Cory Branan these days. I also love Drag the River, Scott H. Biram, and Todd Snider. I'm also on something of a Keb Mo kick. And I am a totally unrepentant, non-ironic, and lifelong Blue Oyster Cult fan.

What is the best music show you’ve seen?

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Roxy back in 1998. Transcendent. Absolutely transcendent.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jonathon Gates on Starz Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-Up tonight, viewing party in Randolph

If you want to see Jonathon Gates tonight, you have a couple of choices. You can stay home and watch him on Starz, making his debut on Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-Up (his episode airs at 11PM). Or you can join Gates, Brooklyn Mike, and some Gate’s favorite comedians at the VFW Post at 10 Highland Avenue in Randolph for a viewing party. Gates has been a staple of this scene for more than a decade bringing his own Black Comedy Explosion to different venues, from the Comedy Connection to its current home at Slade’s. I caught up with him by IM to talk about the show and the BCE.

How did you get the spot on Martin Lawrence’s 1st Amendment Stand-Up?

Well they were having auditions all over the country. The guy who is the host, Doug Williams, told them about me. I hosted the audition in Boston and he got to see me. Only 38 were picked out of 1500.

How did you know Williams? Just from touring clubs and such?

He reached out to me through mutual comics and he came and did my Wednesday night.

What do you think this appearance will do for your career?

Not up to me but whatever GOD has in store I am ready.

How did it feel at the taping? Was it more exciting, or just another gig for you?

Well to be honest I was sitting back watching everyone and going I GOT THIS.
If you go to Starz you can see a piece of my show.

Was it something about the crowd, or did you just feel confident that night?

I know I had a lot to offer to the crowd than I was watching some others do.
The crowd was great.

How did you decide on Brooklyn Mike to play the viewing party?

Well, I am really cool with him and I know the Boston crowd loves him. He is family to me. It was easy.

How did you meet him?

Through another comedian by the name of A.G. White. It’s been over ten years now.

What do you think makes him click with the Boston crowd?

Just like me, he is a people person and he meshes with any crowd.

Do you think any of the Boston comics who auditioned have a shot to make it on the show eventually?

There were some strong performances – Lady Vain, Corey Manning, Chris Tabb, Steve Donavon.

Any of them in particular stand out to you?

Steve Donavon. A white guy doing his shtick to a majority black crowd and he was so cool and collected and was killing them.

How did you hook up with Slade's as the home of the BCE?

After the Comedy Connection , I was doing it once a month at the Russell Auditorium, I just knew Boston need a spot for people of color on a regular basis. I started doing comedy at Estelles from Slades was there almost a year. When they closed the guy who owned the Mirage (Estelles) own Slades, Frank Williams, and he offer me a spot to bring it to Slades on a regular basis. It is a great spot – food, people and great laughter.

Do you feel like the show gives comics, especially black comics, opportunities they might not get elsewhere, or do you feel the scene is fairly open?

Hell in this city and most major cities if I didn’t have this spot a lot of black or Hispanic comics would never be set be seen.

Are you going to be performing at the viewing party, as well?

I don’t think so. I think I will relax and take it all in.

Will Brooklyn Mike do time?

Yes and probably some of the local acts like Big Moe, Just Al, Christine Hurley and Lady Vain and hopefully we get blessed by Chris Tab and Corey Manning.

Was Martin Lawrence an influence on you at all?

I have to give credit where it is due. He and a lot others have opened up doors for black comedians trying to make it. What he has done for comedy is a great thing

Friday, September 4, 2009

Boston Comedy Interview: Tony V on being roasted and World's Greatest Dad

Yesterday’s post of my interview with Bobcat Goldthwait covered Goldthwait’s friendship with Tony V, and how they work together. Goldthwait is in town tonight for the Roast of Tony V as part of the Boston Comedy Festival, and he cast Tony in his new film, World’s Greatest Dad, which opens at the Kendall Square Cinema tonight, as well. Tony, who was working towards his masters in social work at UMAss before he started stand-up comedy, plays Dr. Pentola in the film, a high school guidance counselor in his glory when a tragedy hits his school. It’s a great role for Tony (he doesn’t get strangled to death like he did in Showtime’s Brotherhood), and the film is a wonderfully dark consideration of kindness and lost civility. [Warning -- some of this material may be a bit of a spoiler, if you want to be surprised when you see the film, you may want to skip ahead in the interview a bit].

Tonight at the Hard Rock, though, kindness and civility will most probably be tossed out the window as Tony is roasted by Goldthwait, Lenny Clarke, Steve Calechman, Joey Carroll, Artie Januario, BCF founder Jim McCue, Kenny Rogerson, Frank Santorelli, and Sean Sullivan. I caught up with Tony by phone last week about the film, the Festival, and the roast [see also this story from the Boston Globe].

So was it fun for you, getting back to being a social worker for a bit?

Yeah, it was. In all seriousness, a little bit, I think that’s what made Goldthwait think of me. You know what I mean? Because he knew that part of my life and everything. And although it’s not completely necessary for that role, like anything else, it does help. When we were talking about Kubler-Ross, I had actually done papers on it. You know what I mean? [I had] an understanding of that. And the other part is how cutthroat those people are, too, how somebody like that would actually want to ride the coattails of the guy. Because other than that, he’s stuck in broom closets in schools. That’s his life, going from school to school to patch up something that doesn’t need to be patched up.

One of my favorite parts is when your characters tells Robin Williams’ character, “It’s great, the kids are starting to come to me again.” He’s so happy because people are starting to talk to him.

Right, about misery. About their life, about their misery, and he’s gaining as much from it – he’s afraid the tap’s going to be turned off and there’s a genuine panic in him. I don’t know how closely you remember it, but in the first scene, he’s like, “No one comes to see me. Did he have any friends? Cuz I’m just sitting here.” It’s like an empty office. It’s like, finally I get to do my work. Let’s not put our foot through this.

It’s an interesting issue that the film brings up, because there is some good that comes out of this lie.

Well, some good. If you take it to its absurd logical conclusion, the world is so much better without this kid and with the lie. You know what I mean? The football player comes out, he’s going to live his life. Robin’s getting published, he’s getting laid. The school is a better place. Everybody’s happier. And that ultimately is the dilemma – do you keep the lie going because it made fro a better place but it’s eating you up. Or do you have to live with yourself.

Did you consult on any of this stuff with Bobcat when he was writing any of this?

I consult with him on everything. I can’t say specifically he called me in for my expertise or anything – this came out of his head. But whenever he writes, he constantly calls me with, “Ah, what do you think about this scene,” and “how did you like this.” Even when we were shooting, he works very collaboratively, which is one of the things I like about him a lot. But this came out of his experience and his dark head. We did talk about some of the finer points and stuff.

And as a matter of fact that scene, the one you were just referencing, didn’t come out exactly as it was written on the page. Because we discovered this, his motivation as we did it, and I have to credit Robin with a lot of that. Because that was a bear of a scene for me. You know what I mean? I understood the intent and stuff but Robin being the only reason the film got made, he’s the guy, he said, “This is Tony’s scene, let’s shoot me out first,” and so by the time it came to my coverage, I had done the scene seventeen different times at different angles, getting Robin’s coverage. I know the scene, but, as they say in the acting lingo, you’re discovering it. You know, something happened, and we did one and we got it and Bob goes, “We got it, as a safety do you want to do something that’s in your head?” And I said yeah, let’s do that while it’s fresh. And then we did this take, and that’s what it became. But he pushed it that way the whole time. Both of them, Bob and Robin were so gracious and knew I understood what the point of the scene was.

So how did you come to be roasted this year at the Festival?

I think everyone else was sick. I think that’s really what it came down to. No, I’v eknown Jim McCue for a long time, and I think he’s a good buddy and I think he enjoys what I do. And it’s like a lot of things around here, some of the old guard, or dinosaurs, as they call us, or whatever, are not as in touch with everybody else as I am. I still make it a point to sort of be around and I go to open mics and I see what’s happening, and I’ve not just gone off to make a living and forgotten where my roots are. I’m still here. This is it. I made a decision. So I just think he thought it would be fun. And I think there’s a fair amount of people who’d like to take a swipe at me.

Anybody you’re particularly worried about?

I would think Goldthwait’s got most of the dirt. We’ve been really good friends for many years, and if there’s any coattail riding I could be accused of it would certainly be his, although they’re very short coattails.

When did the two of you meet?

His first night in Boston – and I think it’s 1982, I’m putting it, it might have been late ’81, but certainly the spring of ’82 is what memory serves – his first night in Boston was my first night onstage. He had come down from Syracuse or wherever, Upstate New York. Him and [Barry] Crimmins were friends. Him, Tom Kenny, they were doing improv up there or they had a comedy troupe. “Ducks” was in the title, if I remember correctly.

Then he had come down to start doing stand-up, and he was the new guy, and I was brand new, and we were sitting at the Comedy Connection and no one would talk to either one of us, and we were both nervous as hell, and we started chatting and he said, are you a comedian, and I said, well, it’s my first night, and he said, well, I’ve been doing this up in New York and I go, oh, great. And then he went on, and our styles are completely different and stuff. And we sort of stayed friendly ever since.

What’s your memory of that show?

I was petrified and I think I was doing some sort of bastardized Gallagher act, smacking stuff. I had props and balloons and all of that. The whole Tony V. thing came about because [host] Mike Moto wouldn’t take the time to learn my name.

What do you think brought you and Goldthwait together and kept you friends through the years?

I think we share a very similar sense of humor, certainly not delivery or temperament. I think he’s much more intense than I am. But we can crack each other up without thinking about it and that, on a comic’s level, that’s what you gravitate to. You know what I mean? You can say almost anything to him and it doesn’t matter and he back to me, and it doesn’t. As friends, it’s a comforting thing to not sort of be on guard all the time, or worry.

And then I opened for him on the tour that would never end. I think we were on and off the road for like five years together. We’d go on the road and then we’d come back, and then we just got to be real good friends, even more friendly then. As I say, he’s a little younger than us, but we share a very same sensibility and cynicism towards life.

What is special about playing or coming up here?

For me, it’s home. If anything was a career choice for me, it was to make my home still in Boston. I’ve wandered in New York and L.A. but I’ve never felt more at home anywhere than here. I always wanted my quality of life to be as important to me as anything else I did. This is home and this is where I feel the most at ease.

What local comedians influenced you?

When I was coming up, one of my biggest joys was to watch Jack Gallagher work. I credit him with a lot of keeping me in the business early on. That being said, Lenny Clarke, although we do nothing that’s similar, our attitudes, our politics, our styles, I never laugh as much personally as when I’m with that man. He is one of the funniest guys on the planet as far as I’m concerned. To this day. I’m going to work with him on the Vineyard on Wednesday, and the show will almost get in the way of our good time. And Goldthwait has always made me laugh, on top of everything else. You can’t be friends with someone for almost thirty years and not find them funny. It’s just impossible.

How do you feel Boston fits into the national scene?

What it was, it certainly is not. But the legacy if anything is, it continues to give people just starting out a chance to get onstage and work. And that’s what I think makes this place special. It’s still a place where, if you don’t mind working out of your comfort zone and going to VFW or a Sons of Italy somewhere and trying your jokes, you can work a lot. The only advice I ever give people, other than to say don’t ask my advice because if I knew anything else, I wouldn’t be standing in the same club you were, ours is not a job you do in theory. You’ve got to do it. Get onstage any way you can and to suffer sucking as much as the ego will allow.

What do you think this Festival will mean for you or to your career?

I think it keeps something going. It reminds people that we’re still here, that there is a vibrant scene, still. That although it’s gone through changes and it’s certainly not what it was, it’s still a good place and there’s still a lot of people.

What do you see in the near future for Boston comedy?

I think it’s going to keep morphing into whatever it becomes, and I think as long as there are colleges… I think the best thing it’s got going for it now is Emerson and Harvard and B.U. to a certain extent. For better or worse, we live in a country where nothing’s being made anymore and you’ve got to find a living doing something abstract. It will keep becoming a place where you can try to do that. It constantly feeds itself because of geography and temperament. It’s always going to come back. I always going to be a place where people thing, well, there’s something going on there because there are smart people who want to be funny.