Friday, February 26, 2010

Boston Comedy Showcase tonight at Club Oberon

If you’re looking through the club listing for a comedy show tonight, don’t skip the Boston Comedy Showcase at Club Oberon. You won’t find a stronger line-up in the city – Joe Wong (two Letterman appearances, Ellen), Corey Manning (Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza), Mehran (who hosts his own monthly shows at Mottley’s and Tommy’s), Lady Vain (NE Def Comedy Jam Showcase), Dan Crohn (who produced the Doug Stanhope show at the Hard Rock last year), and Shereen Kassam (SlumDog Comedy Tour).

Kassam co-produced the show, inspired by a conversation with a friend who had never been to a comedy show. “I immediately started bragging about the pool of amazing, talented comics we have in the Boston area and how many of them are blowing up and moving to NYC and LA,” she says. “I convinced him that he would not be disappointed if he checked out a local comedy show, and I was right.”

Kassam and co-producer Peter Norris wanted to find Boston comedians who had already broken or were on the verge, trying to capture an audience that might not think of coming out to a comedy show. “The goal is to give the audience such a great show that they will not only remember the night and the talent, but also fall in love with comedy and become faithful patrons to the comedy scene,” says Kassam.

The plan is to host a showcase like this every month at Oberon, as Kassam points out there are many more comedians she’d like to feature. She’d like to showcase the diversity of talent Boston has to offer, something exemplified by tonight’s roster. “The comedians on the line-up are smart, funny, and hit on real things/situations that they have encountered; each of these comics pushes against the boundaries in a witty, but bright manner,” says Kassam. “This show will encourage people to feel comfortable stepping outside of what they are used to.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

U.K. comic Martin Plant makes his U.S. debut at Mottley's

Martin Plant makes his U.S. debut with a high standard to meet. The U.K. comic points out on his MySpace page that, “I owe being able to do what I do to those who went before me, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and many more, and Id be an asshole if I let them down.” Plant brings his one-man show, “Leading the Horses,” to Mottley’s Saturday, his first performance in the States. I caught up with him by e-mail to ask about the show, his U.S. tour, and his influences.

How did you put together the U.S. tour?

I started out with material I knew would work internationally, topics like: People, Drinking, Laws, Religion. Things that we all deal with everyday no matter where we are from on the planet, really. Then I took a few months and looked at American life, the things that you guys go through, and wrote solidly for about 3/4 months for the material. Then over the years I've gained fans across the US so I'm taking the tour to them really, playing the big cities and places they're from.

How did you know Mottley's?

I didn't know much of Mottley's to be honest, but when I was looking for a good club in Boston, the same name kept coming up, so I got in touch with Tim (McIntire) and he has been an utter champion, he was really passionate about putting on the show and has really been working hard to get the night all up and running, promotional stuff, etc. And I'm really happy he's doing to be doing a set on the night.

What are your expectations of American audiences? Is there a specific sense of humor you associate with the States?

I've been asked this a lot, and for the most part, funny is funny wherever you go. America is different in the way that humor differs on a nearly state by state basis, what works in New York, wont go down so well in Memphis. What's hilarious in Nebraska, different again in LA. I think that in America, like most places, it boils down to whether you want to hear alternative or mainstream comedy. Sort of the HBO vs Cable argument, you either want quite safe jokes and innuendos or you want to hear a comic take on riskier things and say the word "Fuck".

Have you gotten any advice from other UK comics about trying to tour and build an audience in the U.S.?

I've had some advice from a few friends who have made the jump over here and the constant theme simple seems to be "Be Funny!" also they told me to remember to drop the "Britishisms". It's odd, but words I've said near daily for 20 odd years means nothing or something different over here. I was out having some drinks over here with a few friends and as the night wore on I said "I'm pretty pissed, so I'm gonna go home" they were trying to understand what had upset me, and "Pissed" to me means drunk.

How is "Leading the Horses" different from a typical stand-up show? What makes it a one-man show?

In my mind, the show is different because I'm trying to make a point. I'm not doing Mother-in-Law and dick jokes, I'm hoping to use humor to show what I feel are some really messed up things about the world. The title comes from the old expression, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" and that's what this show is, my view on the world, presented in a funny way. You may agree, you may not, but hopefully you'll laugh a lot.

Me at Squirrels Comedy Club 22/9/07

Martin Plant | MySpace Video

You mention that you are inspired by Carlin, Pryor, and Lenny Bruce, and "I'd be an asshole if I let them down." How do you know if you're living up to that?

It's all mental as far as that goes. The thing that links them all is that they all did material that was viewed as offensive and against what people knew as safe, but when you looked at it, they were all very cleverly showing people their own pre-dispositions and hang-ups. And in the case of Lenny Bruce, he died for other comics to have the right to free speech, and I compare myself by when I get some material that touches on a subject that people may flinch at, not running from it, but making it accessible and staying true to my own vision.

Other than Pryor, Carlin, and Bruce, what comedians influenced you?

Doug Stanhope should be far more well known that he is, he's probably the best stand up working today, but because of some of his topics, he doesn't get as much exposure as he should. Lee Evans had a lot of influence on me too as he was the first comedian I went to see live and it made me want to start doing comedy myself. Eddie Izzard deserves a lot of recognition too, he is a very intelligent and funny guy who was true to himself throughout his career.

Did you see a difference between American and English comics when you were starting out?

To be honest, the amount of US comics has increased a lot, but when I was starting out, there were only the really big names that made is across the pond, Carlin, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, etc. But they were always much more confrontational, whereas British comedy was always more analytical and self deprecating.

What made you pursue comedy seriously?

I started out doing acting, and I found that I always wanted the comedy roles, and I'd ad-lib certain bits and want to re-write them to make them funnier, and I soon realized I wanted the laughs more then I wanted to be acting. And I went to a stand up show with a friend who bet me I could do it too, so I called a local comedy club and it was there I knew this was wanted to do with my life. I did many years of working a full time job then going off to gig at night and sleeping on a couch or a floor, so once I earned enough to go full time, it seemed the natural progression.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Comedy Central, Live Nation partner for Boston House of Comedy

Comedy Central and Live Nation today announced a partnership that will occasionally turn Boston’s House of Blues into the “House of Comedy.” House of Blues locations across the country will be booking comedy under the House of Comedy banner, and will also tape comedy specials at the venues. The first special under the new partnership will be taped in Boston on April 16th.

Comedy Central has not revealed who will be on the bill for that first special, and nothing was scheduled for that date on the House of Blues Web site as of this afternoon. But Aileen Budow, VP of Digital Media & Events at Comedy Central, told me by e-mail, “We have another big announcement regarding Boston and the talent coming out on Monday which will explain the connection.”

Comedy Central has plans to tape two specials at House of Blues locations this year. There will also be official “branding” coordination between the House of Blues and the House of Blues, including marketing and the stuff you see in the gift shops. Comedy Central will also use its site to promote the venture.

The House of Comedy joins a burgeoning club scene in Boston, including newer clubs like Mottley’s Comedy Club, Tommy’s Comedy Lounge, and The Comedy Club at Cheers, as well as older clubs like The Comedy Studio, Nick’s Comedy Stop and Dick’s Beantown Comedy Vault, regular shows at music clubs like Great Scott, and larger events at The Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre, the Orpheum, and other theaters. (See my Boston Globe article from December 24, 2009 about the expanding scene).

Juston McKinney: Stuck in A Middle Class Hole

Juston McKinney started his comedy life in Boston years ago, moonlighting from his job in Maine's York County Sherrif's Department to do comedy. He eventually moved to Boston to do stand-up, before moving off to New York and L.A. Now he has a home in New Hampshire, the state where he was born, within driving distance of this weekend's gig at the Kowloon on Route 1 in Saugus (Dave Rattigan and Donny Soares are also on the bill).

McKinney maintains a high comic profile, touring with Blue Collar: The Next Generation in 2007, and until recently hosting an Sirius-XM show from his home. His new hour special, A Middle Class Hole, will debut in May or June (the date is still being worked out), and will be released shortly after that as a CD/DVD. He also plays the Palace Theatre in Manchester, NH on March 6.

A few thoughts from McKinney:

What’s the story behind the name of the special, A Middle Class Hole?

Most of the material on this special comes from my being stuck in this middle class hole, of home ownership, marriage and kids. We saved our money so we could put a down payment on a house. We bought our house in August of 2006, which we now know was the exact peak(to the month!) of the real estate market. My neighbors are in the same situation, no one can move, we live on a cul de stuck.

Do you think the material on the special will surprise people who know you mainly from the Blue Collar tour or from past Comedy Central appearances?

I don't think so. It's still pretty blue collar.

How do you feel about appearing on the Tonight Show as part of Conan O’Brien’s all too brief run?

I was happy I got to do it. I guess I'm part of a small number of comedians who have done the tonight show with both Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. For whatever that's worth? I guess a weekend at the Kowloon!

How important is the Manchester, NH show on March 6, considering you live part time in New Hampshire? Will that feel like a home town crowd, do you think?

Everything is riding on my Manchester show, if I don't sell enough tickets I may have to put one of my boys up for adoption, I'll even throw in my wife. All kidding aside being a new Hampshire native it is always fun working in Manchester and the Palace is an awesome venue.

Does Boston feel like your comedy hometown, since that’s where you got your start?

Yes I consider Boston to be where I started. Being from New Hampshire and Maine you didn't have any places to get on stage so Stitches in Boston was the first place I ever performed....and bombed.

Will you get back to the radio show at some point?

I loved doing my weekly radio show on Sirius XM and it lasted about a year but it just got to be very time consuming. I would in the future like to do it again when I can find the time.

Do you think you’ll draw some folks from New Hampshire or Maine at the Kowloon, since it’s not far from the northern border?

Definitely a lot of my friends from up north look for a reason to hit Route 1 in Saugus because they go right by a strip club. The only question is whether they end up blowing off my show or not.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

FX moves Louie to June, pairing it with Rescue Me

Louis C.K.'s new sitcom, Louie, will no longer debut April 1, as announced earlier this month. FX now plans to debut the show sometime in June, with Denis Leary's Rescue Me serving as its lead-in, creating a block of shows created by Boston comedians.

From the FX press release:

Louie is a brilliantly funny and original series, and we are excited by the critical response to the show,” said John Landgraf, President and General Manager, FX Networks. “Even though it is a drama, Rescue Me has always been regarded as one of the funniest shows on television and it will provide an outstanding, compatible lead-in for Louie. We successfully used Rescue Me as a lead-in for the majority of the first season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We believe in Louie and want to provide it with the best possible platform for success.”

Note: The videos from previous posts on Louie will be taken down by the end of the week at the request of FX, and hopefully replaced soon.

The Mehran Show kicks off Thursday at Mottley’s

Mehran wanted to make a statement booking the first edition of The Mehran Show for Thursday at Mottley’s Comedy Club. So he called it "The Mehran Show presents: Legendary," and asked a host of comics that often headline their own shows – Shane Mauss, Kelly MacFarland, Tim McIntire, Maggie MacDonald, Dave McDonough, Tom Dustin, Lamont Price, Ira Proctor, Dan Boulger, and Ken Reid.

“It’s the launch show,” he says. “I wanted it to be ridiculous.”

TMS marks Mehran’s second monthly show, including Deviant, which he stages at Tommy’s Comedy Lounge. Each show will have its own identity, established both through the booking and the themes. “What I'm discovering that's different about them is that The Mehran Show will be episodic,” he says. “Each month, the show will work around a different theme. That will either be coordinated with the comics or evident in the lineup. It's really pretty self-indulgent, really, but it's the kind of show that will constantly adapt.”

“Deviant is more about the audience it's speaking to,” he adds. “It's a shore to crash on from the mainstream. Sort of a statement night about comics who are ‘different’ and who I think are amazing, in a sense presenting the possibility of being a deviant and being awesome. ‘Alternative’ feels like a vegetarian option. Deviant says ‘fuck that mainstream shit.’"

Booking is a new experience for Mehran, who now not only has to worry about his own set, but how the other comics on the bill go over, as well. That’s why he’s setting the bar high from the beginning. “The fact of the matter is that I'm not trying to foster new talent with these shows,” he says. “There are other mics for that. Neither one is an open mic or a newcomers night or an amateur night. I'm not trying to put people up who I've seen have a good night here or there. I want superstars. I want my audiences to be able to trust me that I'm not politicking or scratching backs. I'm producing a show that I feel lucky to watch.”

Mehran says he will be following his instincts, trying to find comics that audiences will remember and talk about. That may mean that good friends in the comedy community may not make the cut, a prospect Mehran admits worries him. “There's some nervousness here, because I'm an active comedian in the Boston comedy community – professionally and socially,” he says. “And so many people have been good to me.”

While Mehran expects a lot from the comics he books, he plans on holding himself to the same standard. “I'm hosting these rooms,” he says. “And I don't plan on mailing it in.”

A bit of Mehran:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maria Ciampa: The Interviewer Interviewed

It’s a simple concept – Maria Ciampa sits down with her husband Justin Carr and a camera or two, and asks him questions, which he does his best to answer. This is the gist of the achingly funny video series, Interviews With My Husband, that Ciampa has been producing for nearly a year. She just released the eighth installment, “Catchphrases,” and several more are in the works.

It works because of Ciampa’s questions, alternating between mundane and absurd, and also because Carr, a DJ by trade, has a wonderful deadpan. It all feels quite quaint on the surface, but there is a real edge to some of the questions that makes you wonder if there is a real, contentious issue between them (why doesn’t she like the beer he brews?).

Here Ciampa gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Interviews With My Husband, including the comic strips that started it, and what we might expect in March when she debuts a few more installments at the Women In Comedy Festival at ImprovBoston, a festival Ciampa co-founded.

This will all make more sense if you watch the latest video before you read the interview. So here ‘tis:

Maria Ciampa, was there a particular conversation or experience that led you to think Interviews with My Husband would make a good video series?

There were many many particular conversations that led me and Justin to create IWMH (like how I shortened that? because I don’t have the TIME to write out Interviews with My Husband, Nick. I just don’t have the time to write all that out.)

One of the first conversations that led to IWMH was on the night before our wedding. We were in Puerto Rico, at a place on the beach in San Juan, and we were getting ready for bed, as if we’d already been married for 70 million years, and I noticed Justin kept his socks on as he got into bed. It was really hot, so I asked him why he was sleeping in his socks. He said, “So I don’t get cold feet.” It was then that I knew I was about to marry a man who I could decide then and there was either really hilarious, or a total retard. I chose both.

The beginnings of IWMH was actually a cartoon that I write, and comedian, illustrator and host of the storytelling show A Night of Oral (Tradition) Jess Sutich illustrates. I would tell her about our conversations, and since she’s a patient friend who was probably drinking a glass of wine at the time, she would listen and say, “I can do that in a comic strip.” And I was like, “Yes, do that.”

The comics are online here. Here’s the one I just described, so if it’s not funny to you, it’s because you just read it in story form a second ago, or because it’s Old Tyme pun-like humor, which for some reason you don’t find funny.

Here’s another one.

And here’s one I really love.

Maria Ciampa, why do you begin every question to Justin Carr by saying the name, Justin Carr?

His name is so succinct, so concise. So easy to say. I need to say the whole name. I don’t just do that when I interview him, I call him Justin Carr all the time, whether I’m happy, angry, hungry. Those are my three main states, really. I call him “Justin Carr” in rain, sleet, snow, in sickness and in health. Except during sex. That would be weird.

Maria Ciampa, do you agree that the joke of using someone's first name before every question works much better in your videos than it does here in print?

I disagree. You have won with the joke of calling me by my full name, Nick A. Zaino III.

Are the videos mostly improvised? Do you run through different takes and edit the best ones?

I see now you are asking about my “artistic process,” Nick A. Zaino III. Let me share.

I come from an improv background, and I believe in the power of improv in creating material. I also believe in honing that material before it’s put out there. So Justin and I hang out and improvise, then I write it down, then we improvise again, and find more funny within what has been written. After that, we lock down a script, and rehearse only 3 times. More than that kills it. Justin is not an actor, does not like to be on stage, but for some reason the camera loves him, and he is totally comfortable in front of it. Probably because he’s so friggin hot. But I digress. Then, we memorize our lines (well, Justin does, I use a cue card) and voila! Expert director of photography Jacob Lipcon and masterful video editor Sasha Goldberg create the hilarity that you see on film.

How often do you plan on making episodes of this series? Do they just come about when you have set of questions you think will work with the premise?

We release a new episode every 6 or so weeks.

Many scripts are already written and waiting to be shot. Justin and I have conversations daily that are scribbled on scraps of paper, the back of envelopes, and Justin’s face in sharpie while he’s sleeping, that will eventually become new episodes.

Plans for the spring include:

Shooting on location at a supermarket, park, yoga studio, and other exciting places.

Reversing the roles and having Justin interview me

Taking questions from viewers for me to ask Justin, and for Justin to ask me. We already got one great suggestion: ask Justin about ex-girlfriends, which I do all the time since I can’t believe he’s ever like any other lady but me.

Justin debuting a special “sports” episode, where he interviews me about sports, especially football, about which I care and know nothing.

Inviting Justin on the WICF Comedy Podcast, downloadable on iTunes, and streaming here.

Will you be debuting any of these at festivals or shows, like your upcoming Women in Comedy Festival?

Funny you should ask, Nick A. Zaino III! Justin and I will be debuting some of these at the Women in Comedy Festival, March 24 - 28, 2010 at ImprovBoston and Mottley’s Comedy Club! I would check out the web site for exact show times.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Joe Wong's Letterman spot 2/12

Joe Wong returned to the Late Show with David Letterman last night a television veteran, less than a year after making his television debut on the show in April of 2009. Another solid set, with an inspirational message to those who don't like to wash their hands.

Just For Laughs back in Boston

Jeff Singer is back in town this year looking for comedians for this summer’s Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. As I have noted before, Boston has been a valuable source of talent for the Festival in the past, from established comics like John Pinette, who kills there every time he’s on the bill, to their showcase for up-and-coming comedians.

Singer will be at The Comedy Studio tomorrow and Tommy’s Comedy Lounge Monday (the Tommy’s show is a benefit for Haitian earthquake relief, as well) to see a couple dozen of the best Boston has to offer (see the full line-ups below). I caught up with Singer this week to take about what he’s looking for this year, keeping the New Faces under wraps, and some of the other shows JFL has on tap.

Are there any comics you saw at last year’s auditions that you made a point to get back on the bill at this year’s auditions?

I generally defer to the club bookers/owners to choose the showcase lineups. They're in tune with the local scene and get to see the comics year round. I've built strong relationships with the clubs over the years so I trust their recommendations. Occasionally I may hear about someone local through the grapevine. If they're not on the preliminary list I'll ask that they be added, pending space. That happened with Philadelphia this year, which I am attending tonight. The club owners sometimes ask me the question you posed. So I'll tell them who I'd like to see again, but it's rarely a surprise. There are instances when I ask to see someone whom the club has no intention of bringing back. It happened this season.

The clubs and I don't always see eye to eye but I think that's healthy and can be mutually beneficial. In this case the club gladly accommodated my request. The comic did well, and it opened the owner's eyes to see her in a different light. Conversely, I can recall times when the club pushes their favorites, hyping them as slam dunks. I'll see them and just not get it. But then after some time, I'll take another look and eventually see what the owner saw. So you never know. I'd rather not specify names in Boston, but honestly there's been such a solid batch over the last few years. It becomes more of a question of how to fit all the great comics we're tracking along with first timers on one bill. And by the way, it's not only New Faces I'm showcasing. See the next answer below.

Any changes in what you’re looking for this year?

Not really. Same criteria with New Faces: Unique, original voices with distinct traits that set them apart from the pack. And of course they've got to have all the fundamentals down pat. Also as in seasons past, I'm looking for more than New Faces. We have other shows such as the televised Galas, for which I now serve as set consultant; Masters; The Ethnic Show; Amp'd (The Music theme show); The Relationship Show; Nasty Show; Nasty Girls; Alternative; Uptown, Frizzy Hair show, etc. Plus we're entering our second Just For Laughs Festival in Chicago which has its own needs. There's also JFL Toronto and cross-Canada touring. The growth has been tremendous and I'm thrilled to be scouting for all these endeavors.

Did anyone you picked last year do well at the Festival?

I thought the JFL team (including myself) made some great selections for last year's New Faces. I don't have the list in front of me, but off the top of my head guys like Kumail Nanjiani, Mike Bridenstine, Moshe Kasher, and Pete Holmes all shined. And one Boston ex-pat: Myq Kaplan. He's still considered a Bostonian, right? I think I once saw him wearing a Yankees cap. I was also proud of Godfrey, a veteran comic I pushed for who wound up killing at various shows at all three Festivals.

Any other cities do particularly well in auditions this year?

I've already done showcases in Austin, Minneapolis and Denver. These cities have become staples on my scouting trips. Based on past experience, I'm sure you'll see New Face comics make the final cut from at least two of those towns. I was in Seattle a few months ago for their comedy competition and got to see some good comics from around the country. A few from Boston, actually. I am just starting my East Coast leg: Philadelphia, Washington, New York and Boston. Then in March I go to Atlanta. Plus there are the taped showcases for cities I don't get to attend live. Those are important too. Last year we gave callbacks to comics from Indianapolis and Cleveland based on viewing tape.

Did you have anything to do with the Red Cross benefit aspect of the show at Tommy’s?

No not at all. That was all their idea. Obviously a great cause to help the people of Haiti so I hope the evening is a success.

How hard is it to keep the list of New Faces comics from leaking to the press early?

It's not so hard to keep it from the press unless you bribe me with clam chowder. I like Manhattan not New England, sorry.

The bigger challenge is keeping the list under wraps from "the industry." I live in L.A. now and I see how agents, managers, casting directors and other industry executives blanket the preliminary showcases and callbacks. It's much more intense compared to New York. But we try to keep our cards close to the vest and we've learned ways how not to tip our hand. One of the main reasons we do this is to maintain the integrity of New Faces. If the industry jumps all over them prior to the Festival, they're no longer "new." If and when we can, we also prefer to book a handful of New Faces who have no representation so that they can come into the Festival fresh with the potential of being a true "discovery." I may have digressed from your question - I do that - but it's related to why we make an effort to keep the list secret.

Do you think you’d pick anyone up for something other than New Faces?

Yes. I think I already answered that above. If the comic is an appropriate fit for any of our other shows, we'll give him/her serious consideration. I looked at several comedians last year in Boston specifically for Masters. Not sure what's on tap for this season.

Are you looking for specialty shows, as well, like Boston’s Naked Comedy Showcase? Or would you prefer those kinds of things be created in house?

I have heard about this show but haven't seen it. We look for specialty shows all the time, but if it involves multiple stand-ups it has to be something with a unique spin and an ability to draw an audience and sell tickets. A good concept sometimes isn't enough.

Aside from our recurring theme shows, we have developed many specialty shows involving stand up in years past: Dating It and Confessing It to name a few. UCB is also forging a partnership with Just For Laughs and they may bring in some specialty shows under their own umbrella. And we're always expanding our solo series and theatrical shows. But based on what I've heard about Boston's Naked Comedy Showcase, sounds like it's something worth looking at and considering. But if it involves seeing Lenny Clarke butt naked, I'll pass.

The Comedy Studio, Sunday, Feb 14, 8PM: Jessie Baade, Shaun Bedgood, Ahmed Bharoocha, Rick Canavan, Tom Dustin, Josh Gondelman, Brian Longwell, Maggie MacDonald, Steve Macone, Gary Petersen, Ken Reid, Sean Sullivan, Bethany Van Delft.

Tommy’s Comedy Lounge, Monday, Feb 15, 8:30PM: Graig Murphy, Lamont Price, Dave McDonough, Dan Crohn, Kelly MacFarland, Danny Kelly, Dave Russo, Carolyn Plummer, Chris Tabb.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ralphie May plays Berklee, happily

Onstage, Ralphie May is an aggressive guy. He likes the “in-your-face” approach to comedy, taking on race, talking about his wife, Lahna Turner, in a way that might earn him a continuous slapping at home if Turner were not a fellow comic. But make no mistake, May is a happy guy, and some of his best moments onstage comes when he admits that, and talks about how he would be nowhere without Turner. He’s thankful for everything he’s got – wife and kids, a good home, and a healthy career.

It’s trend that started after May got his show on Last Comic Standing in 2003, and has continued ever since (I spoke to him for the Boston Globe in 2005 about his success). He’s got four specials, including last year’s Austin-tatious, and he’s playing venues like the Berklee Performance Center, where he’ll be Saturday.

I caught up with him via e-mail this week.

When we spoke for the Globe a few years ago, you talked about how thankful you were for being able to settle into a good place to live and being in a good relationship. Did you have to recalibrate how you write comedy after that?
No, if anything it gave me more freedom to be me. I’m still just as much of a filthy, dirty animal. I still like controversial material and I still do what I think is funny.

You had a lot of fun with the birth of April June May in Austin-tatious. Should we expect similar material about August James May?

Ya know what, he’s so chill, he hasn’t really done anything yet that has surprised me. He’s an amazing baby and I haven’t done any jokes specific about him, but I know I’ll have fun with him.

In the liner notes for Austin-tatious, you thank “the angry lesbian at Starbucks that gave me a piece of her mind and listened to you” for “making me think more.” What was that conversation like?

I went into a Starbucks and she seemed mad at me and I usually don’t get that reaction. She told me that she didn’t spit in my coffee, even though she wanted to. She said she heard me on the radio that morning and I was joking that a Prius looks like a “gay” spaceship. Why is “gay” bad? I apologized to her and told her thank you for the new prospective that she was right and that I wouldn’t joke about it anymore. She said thank you she offered me a piece of lemon loaf.

Have you left Last Comic Standing behind at this point? Is it still a credit that sells tickets, or do you find you don’t need to mention it anymore?

I don’t need to mention it, but so many people fell in love with that show at that time. There was a lot going on with the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and people constantly come up to me and tell me how they loved me on that show.

Will you appear on the show when it comes back?

If they asked me to I would. I would arguably be the biggest thing they ever launched (figuratively and literally). That show gave me my start, so I would do anything I could to help them out.

What does it mean to be “politically incorrect” these days? That, to me, always seems to set up a vague sort of straw man enemy – has anyone actually tried to censor you?

The media always tries to censor me. I can’t do parts of my act due to the content and context. I’m always being told to not touch on this subject or that subject. Comedy Central took out a chunk of my act talking about dirty Chinese people. What does being “politically incorrect” mean? Just speaking about what’s on my mind and not worrying who about I’m going to offend. Just like when I talk about Tiger Woods being half Asian and half black. He hit a tree while driving in his own neighborhood, that’s the most Asian thing I’ve ever heard. How about the fact that he slept with all of those women… that’s NBA black. I didn’t make it up, I’m just pointing out the obvious.

You’ve got albums, DVD specials, and you’re playing big rooms. IS there a “next level” you’d like to reach, or are you where you dreamed you’d be someday?

I’m far beyond wherever I dreamed I would be, but I don’t think I’m done yet. Dane Cook plays Madison Square Garden, Larry the Cable guy plays Corn Husker Stadium. I want to perform to bigger audiences. I want to perform around the world. I’m trying to learn Spanish so I can perform to audiences in Central and South America. I want to be a movie star. I’m already bigger and more successful than I ever thought I’d be. I never thought I’d have my own home and now I’ve got two. I never thought I’d drive a nice car and now I’ve got three. I never thought I’d have a beautiful girlfriend and now I’ve got a beautiful wife and 2 healthy children.

Be a part of Ryan Lee Crosby video shoot Saturday

I know the banner above these posts reads “Boston Comedy,” but you will be seeing occasional posts about local music here, too. There are places where local music and comedy intertwine in an obvious way(Rob Potylo/Roadsteamer, The Steamy Bohemians, etc.), but I won’t be limiting music posts to those particular intersections.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along info about a video shoot happening at the Boston Boxing gym tomorrow at 5PM. Local singer/songwriter will have his band playing his song “Big Takeover” in the boxing ring, and he says, “We need folks to stand around the ring as enthusiastic spectators.” Crosby says people could expect to be there sometime between six and eight.

To hear some of Crosby’s work, including “Big Takeover,” click here. For more info about the shoot, contact Crosby at

Brad Mastrangelo headlines Giggles

If you enjoy Brad Mastrangelo, you have all sorts of options this weekend. You can see him do a full headlining set at Giggles on Route 1 on tonight or Saturday, you could see him on a special Valentine’s Day bill at Giggles on Sunday with Tony V headlining and featuring Mark Riley and Johnny Pizzi.

Or, if you’re spending the weekend indoors cowering at the possibility of another devastating snow storm, you can order his DVD, It Just Doesn’t Matter. Mastrangelo self-produced the DVD, shot at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, NH a little over a year ago. I caught up with Mastrangelo to ask a few questions about the DVD and playing on Valentine’s Day.

What made you decide to produce a DVD?

I actually made a DVD and a CD. I wanted the DVD because I tend to make a lot of facial expressions because a lot of my comedy is storytelling and like a true Italian, it comes out in my expressions.

How did you choose Tupelo Music Hall for it?

I had done a show at The Tupelo once before and it was such a great place. It was intimate and the crowds were great. The owner had just put about 200k into the sound system and lighting because they have a lot of bands there also. People had been asking me to make a DVD for a while but I never really put much thought into it until I worked at this place one time and I new this was the perfect place.

How did you find the production company?

I found the production company up in NH I looked at some of the work they had done and liked it. We did a two camera shoot from different angles and I was very happy with the finished product. Plus they have a full editing studio which I have used to edit different parts of the show to send out. I was just about to get my date for the Tonight Show with Conan and then all hell broke loose. The Jimmy Fallon people have it now and so far they say they like it.

Was it tougher to concentrate on the comedy when you're worrying about all of these other elements?

It wasn't that tough to worry about comedy wile taping because I just wanted to make a good one hour one man show type of thing so fans of my comedy could just watch it. When you are taping or something specific like a TV show it is defiantly more challenging. For this show I just wanted to let it rip and be as natural as I could be.

How has it been selling for you?

The DVD and CD have been selling very well. When I bring them to shows I sell a lot of them plus many people have been going to my website and buying them from there.

Any material in particular you've written for Valentine's Day weekend?

Valentine's Day is great for me because I have a lot of material about marriage that I love to bring out and since there are many couples in the crowd it goes very well. The whole idea of Cupid shooting an arrow at someone to make you fall in love with them is comical to me, today he would have been classified as a stalker.

How big an influence was Lenny Clarke? There's a certain uniquely Boston style for which he is the best example, and you fall very much in that vein.

Me and Lenny have become very good friends over the past five years but the funny thing is I had never seen Lenny do stand up until the time we met. He has been so helpful to me and we often work together doing various fundraisers. Him and his brother Mike, who has also been very helpful to me were a big reason that I was invited to do Comics Come Home with Denis Leary.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More video from Louis C.K.'s upcoming Louie

Louis C.K.'s new FX sitcom, Louie, doesn't debut until April 1, but FX is generating an early buzz with new clips, like the one I posted last week. It's hard to tell from these clips what the actual show will look like once we get to see it 22 minutes at a time (this one's only 20 seconds), but my guess is that this show will hit even closer to home than Lucky Louie.

C.K. won't be able to get away with quite as much in terms of language and nudity, but FX has been loose enough with shows like Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me to imply C.K. will have more than enough freedom with which to tell the stories he wants to tell.

Video has expired as per agreement with FX.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Joe Wong back on Letterman Friday

Joe Wong taped his second appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on Monday, which will air Friday. Contacted by e-mail, Wong reports that all went well. “The second time is slightly easier,” he said. “I am more familiar with the stage and the theater. I felt that the crowd loved it. I'd have to watch it Friday to know better. I am never calm enough right after a show to judge it.”

Joe won’t have much time to celebrate. He’ll be headlining The Comedy Club at Cheers on Friday and Saturday, running home to watch the spot Friday night. “I like agonizing over a bad set alone (kidding),” he said. “I want to stay at home as much as possible because I am traveling more and more these days.”

In case you missed it, here’s Wong’s Letterman spot from April of last year.

Ahmed Bharoocha heads to Dublin

Ahmed Bharoocha won the Magners Comic Stand-Off this weekend, which means he’ll be traveling to Dublin this fall to perform in the Bulmer’s Comedy Festival. Bharoocha’s comedy also earned him a trip to perform in the Great American Comedy Festival in Johnny Carson’s hometown, Norfolk, Nebraska in June of last year.

And his traveling may not be over. He auditioned for the entertainment company behind Last Comic Standing, New Wave Entertainment, last month, and he’ll perform for scouts from Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival at The Comedy Studio on Sunday. Pretty good for a guy with a degree in theatre.

How does it feel to perform in a competition? Is it different from a regular set in any way?

I always find competitions a lot more nerve racking than a regular show. Its harder to just have fun on stage because you're being compared to everyone else on the show. Also it adds a little tension back stage sometimes because instead of just a bunch of comics hanging out doing what they love we are now pitted against each other.

Have you ever played outside of the US? What are your thoughts on playing Ireland?

I have never played outside the US but have always wanted to. I am so excited to play in Ireland. I am half Irish and I really feel that I got a lot of my sense of humor from that side of the family. Growing up thats always what being Irish meant most to me; having a sense of humor. But at the same time I've very nervous to see if my humor translates over seas. Esp because it doesn't always translate over state borders.

How did the New Wave audition go?

I felt really good about the New Wave audition. The show was a blast and the people from New Wave were super friendly. I was offered a CD deal, but I decided it wasn't the right time for me to put one out. Since I don't often get chances to do sets that are 45 minutes long I would feel that I'd want to put out a 45 min long CD yet.

How was the Great American Comedy Festival last year?

The Great American Festival was both very great and very American.
I had such a fun time meeting so many talented comedians from around the country. It was one of the biggest things I've ever been a part of and also one of the first times I've ever played middle America. It was so interesting to play another part of America and learning what jokes work and what jokes don't.

How are all of these gigs outside of Boston influencing your comedy? How do your experiences playing outside of Boston compare with playing locally?

I think it helps so much to travel and do shows outside your comfort zone. It forces you to see how your material holds up to different types of crowds. Also you meet other comedians with very different roots and influences and can learn a lot from them. Its interesting to see that different areas really respond very differently to certain jokes. Performing locally to performing outside Boston is almost like playing away games and home games in a sport.

You aren't in familiar territory and you feel like you don't have home court advantage but you can still go home with a win.

Any other news coming up to talk about?

This Sunday at the Comedy Studio I'll be auditioning for the Montreal Comedy Festival. Also my sister Maureen's movie Abajee, that I Assistant Directed on, will be showing at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this week.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Guest reviewer Brian Joyce on Jennifer Coolidge

Boston native and Emerson grad Jennifer Coolidge was in town playing the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre on Saturday. Coolidge is an extremely talented comic actress who can turn a throwaway line into a punchline (See Best in Show, how she drags out the simple "Errm... me, too" into a bizarre rejoinder). But you can measure her stand-up career in months at this point.

I was covering another show (featuring Lynn's Sean Lynch -- stay tuned for a video interview with Lynch later this week), and I knew Brian Joyce, craetor of AltCom and co-host of the Wednesday night talk show The Whole Truth with Derek Gerry, was going. So I asked him for his thoughts. Here they are.

Joyce's review:

Coolidge did a short set - about 45 minutes - but it was packed with laughs and she left the crowd wanting more. There were a couple obligatory digs at Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, but for the most part she takes an absurdist approach to her storytelling, with not-so-True Hollywood stories about her long-lost scene in "Brokeback Mountain" and the time she got beat out for the role of "woman with flappy vagina" by the "girl at the bottom of the well in 'Silence of the Lambs'."

She played up the ditzy-blonde routine, but her dirty innocence and sultry theatrics make her appear genuine, even vulnerable. Some of the one-liners were a bit obvious, but her stories were funny, engaging, and ridiculous. She seemed as comfortable and confident on stage as many veteran stand-ups.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Video: Rob Potylo (AKA Robby Roadsteamer) Interview

For the first time in his career, Rob Potylo is truly himself. He's no longer Robby Roadsteamer, the over-the-top rock and roll character he created for himself roughly five years ago. He's out of the comedy clubs, and tonight will play a two-hour set at Great Scott by himself, as himself, covering material from his first "solo" album, Worried All the time I'll Make Mistakes. The show starts around 8PM.

After his last project, Super Time Pilot, released an album, on Ernie Boch's label, the band imploded, and Potylo is now self-releasing albums again (visit for more info). And Mistakes features songs not played for laughs, which might surprise a few fans.

I caught up with Roadsteamer in the place most really big comedy interviews happen, outside of the Texas Roadhouse in Danvers on Route 1, a short walk from a Staples (one of Roadsteam-- er Potylo's former employers). He discusses the new album, his fantastic line-up of guest musicians, his webcom Quiet Desperation, and tonight's show. And if you're watching at work, turn the sound down a tad.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sean Lynch, Pat O'Shea tape a TV pilot in Lynn

A black box theater in downtown Lynn is probably not the first place you’d think you’d find a crew taping a television pilot. But tonight at the theatre at LynnArts, you will find Sean Lynch, along with several of his comedian friends, shooting what Lynch hopes will be the pilot for a show called The Long Way.

For Lynch, who grew up in a house he says is roughly 20 blocks away from the theatre, this is his “homecoming episode.” Which is part of the reason why a portion of the proceeds from the $15 cover charge will go to a performing arts scholarship for students in Lynn. “There was no theater like this when I was a kid so I want to help,” he says.

The show is “about the strange life of working comics,” says Lynch. Joining Lynch will be Pat O’Shea, Sean Donnelly, Mark Normand, Jordan Carlos, and Scott Wallace. Lynch, who now lives in New York City, counts them all as friends, but chose them specifically for to spice up the narrative. “[They are] five comics I respect who have interesting back stories, flaws, and aspirations. They are also from wildly different backgrounds, incomes, and successes.”

Documentary shows can be a messy affair sometimes, capturing people from unflattering angles or making stupid decisions. But O’Shea, who is also currently based out of New York City, isn’t worried about protecting his private life. “I don't mind people following me with cameras, as long as I'm not too drunk and my pants are still on,” he says. “Sounds interesting, although i'd like it to stay real, and not have everyone aping in front of the camera.”

The show will apparently show each comedian in their home town, with most of that shooting done already. Donnelly was born in Long Island, and Carlos (also known as Stephen Colbert’s black friend Alan from The Colbert Report) in Brooklyn. O’Shea was born in East Milton, Ma, and had his own homecoming of sorts last January with his CD release party at Mottley’s Comedy Club.

There is still a bit of filming left to do, and if the pilot gets picked up, he says it might surface sometime in June. “The pilot will take two months to complete in post,” he says. “We have two more shows to do in New Orleans (Mark's home) and Annapolis (Scott's home).”

The Long Way taping
With Sean Lynch, Pat O’Shea, Sean Donnelly, Mark Normand, Jordan Carlos, and Scott Wallace.
Saturday, Feb. 6, 8PM
25 Exchange Street
Central Square
Lynn, Ma

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ken Reid opens sold-out Patton Oswalt show

There’s a conversation I am convinced will take place sometime today that will be the most fantastically detailed pop culture, zombie-heavy, glorious nerdfest to take place in Boston, possibly ever. That’s because tonight local comedian Ken Reid is opening up the sold out Patton Oswalt show at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre.

Reid has done one-man shows that explain his life through television, music, and John Cusack movies. There are old-school revolving comic book racks in his home. Oswalt did a voiceover for Mike Mignola’s Amazing Screw-On Head (still disappointed that was a one-off), and has professed if he had a time machine, he would use it to go back and prevent George Lucas from making the last three Star Wars movies.

According to Reid, the happy accident happened because Oswalt and former Boston comic Myq Kaplan have the same manager, who asked Kaplan for a few names of possible openers. “Out of those names, for some reason, they chose me,” says Reid.

Don’t expect Reid to overindulge – he thinks it would be unseemly. “I don't really have anything special planned,” he says. ”I'm only doing a 15-20 minute set so it will probably be a few stories, I think one of them involves Boy George, but it probably won't be overly pop culture skewed. I don't want to come across as trying too hard to ape Oswalt's realm.”

The Wilbur seats about 1200 people for a sold-out show, which Reid believes is the largest crowd he’ll have played to as a comedian. As a singer, though, his old band, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, played comparable places once or twice. “I'm not sure how many people were at the Boston Music Awards at Avalon,” he says, “but I think that was a pretty big venue.”

Reid is in the planning stages for another show or two, the details of which are still being hammered out. “I'm working on a story telling show that would involve more people than just me,” he says. “I'm also trying to see if I can make some full length shows about comic books and horror movies work for a general audience.”

A sampling of Mr. Reid's work:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A preview of Louie, Louis C.K.'s new FX sitcom

Louis C.K. announced his new sitcom, Louie, with a hilariously off-color video on in November. Here we have our first look at the show, which debuts April 1 at 10PM on FX. If Lucky Louie was an autobiographical show about marriage and kids, Louie looks to be equally autobiographical, this time about a single dad trying to raise two kids.

Here's the clip (note: I can only keep this on the site until April 8, when I will have to take it down at the request of the network).

In other Louis C.K. news, his new stand-up special, Hilarious, get a warm reception at the Sundance Festival last month, the first stand-up special to debut there. Here's a report from Ain't It Cool News, plus bonus clips.

Quiet Desperation Episode 17

Robby Roadsteamer/Rob Potylo has a new solo album to promote. So obviously, the thing to do is visit Santa in New Hampshire and eat a big bag o' mushrooms. Also, the return of Chippah!

It's all here in Episode 17 of Quiet Desperation.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Magners Comedy Festival kicks off Thursday with contest, showcases

The Magners Comedy Festival kicks off three days of comedy at Tommy’s Comedy Lounge and Nick’s Comedy Stop Thursday, starting with the backbone of the Festival, the Comic Stand Off. Ten comics will compete for a chance to be a headliner at the Bulmer’s Comedy Festival in Dublin this fall (plus a trip for two to Dublin).

There will also be a few showcase shows, like Friday’s “New York vs Boston” at Tommy’s, hosted by Sean Sullivan and featuring Tom Dustin, Lamont Price, Graig Murphy, and Carolyn Plummer for the hometown team, and Tom McCaffrey, Kenny Zimlinghaus, Jesse Popp, and Sara Shaefer for NYC. Friday at Nick’s is the Best of Boston with Jimmy Dunn, Mike McDonald, and Juston McKinney.

Saturday is the Stand Off Final hosted by Jim Colliton, and a late night “Comedy Confessions” show at 11PM hosted by Tom Dustin and featuring Dave Russo, Sean Sullivan, Robby Roadsteamer, Mehran, Lamont Price, and Ken Reid. Plus, as reported early, Gary Gulman has sold out his 8:30 show Saturday at Nick’s, and has added a second show at 6:30.

Magners chose Boston to host the Festival not only because they are based here, but, according to U.S. Trade Marketing Manager Kevin Murphy, “because we felt it was hot bed of comic talent. With a number of famous comedians past and present coming from the area it was a natural choice.”

They chose Tommy’s and Nick’s so they could host simultaneous events in the adjoining clubs and give it a true festival feel, and they expect to make this an annual event. “It would have been easy to jump on an existing festival as a sponsor,” says Murphy, “but we really wanted to take grow a grassroots comedy festival that we could call our own, year after year. Given the success of the Magners/Bulmers Comedy festivals overseas we are poised to grow our festival to their status and make a name for own festival.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Score Patton Oswalt tickets with the Connection's "Big Fan" contest

When I checked Ticketmaster yesterday, there were only a few single seats left for Patton Oswalt's show at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre on Friday. By the time you read this, those will probably be gone. So the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre is giving away the last pair of tickets on their Facebook page.

To try to win the tickets, you have to friend the Wilbur on Facebook, and sometime between midnight tonight and 2PM EST on Thursday, post a photo on the Wilbur's wall that demonstrates why you are a "big fan" of Oswalt's. If you win, you'll be notified by Thursday at 6PM.

Click here to go to the contest page.

New Gary Gulman show added at Nick's

Peabody native Gary Gulman is returning to Boston again to headline the Magners Comedy Festival at Nick's Comedy Stop on Saturday. He's already sold out the 8:30PM show, so Magners has added an early show, at 6:30PM at Nick's.

Gulman also sold out several shows at Mottley's Comedy Club in December.

See this space Wednesday for more info on Magners's stand-up competition.