Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Interview: Sean Altman is Jewmongous at Passim

Sean Altman earned his self-applied stage name Jewmongous by being Jewish and incredibly tall. In fact, he claims to be taller than Jesus, or at least implied that by naming his 2007 Jewmongous album Taller Than Jesus. Altman co-founded the a cappella group Rockapella, but since he left that group, he has been applying his musical talents to ethnic humor with his two-person show, What I Like About Jew and the one-man Jewmongous.

As Jewmongous, he sings about Jews for Jesus, drinking Christian baby blood, and a number of Jewish holidays (see the video for “They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat)” below). Altman comes home (he lived in Boston with his father for a while and still has family here) tomorrow to play Club Passim in Harvard Square.

Has the Jewmongous repertoire changed since you were here last? Any new songs?

Two of my best songs are brand new: a rollicking Italian tarantella called "Blame-a De Jews" (sung by me as an ancient Italian Pope!) which attempts to explain the ancient papal roots of institutionalized anti-semitism.

What will the goyim get out of Jewmongous? Will they need to read up before the show?

Goyim (non-Jews) are more than just welcome; they're encouraged! The show is much more fun with lots of goyim in attendance, as I get to explain the bizarre-o quirks of my people to the uninitiated. I'm just learning myself, so it's truly the blind leading the blind (toward a vat of exceedingly heavy food).

One of the quotes on your site mentions Kinky Freidman – was, or is, he an influence?

No. I could name one Kinky Freidman song, although his first name makes me feel all tingly down in my special place.

Is Frank Zappa an influence, by any chance? Seems like the humor and some of the outrageousness of “Christian Baby Blood” and some of the other songs would certainly fit.

No. I can name a couple of songs, but I own no albums and have no mp3s. Zappa is too fancy for me. Musically, I'm a meat'n'potatoes Beatles guy, with some Ramones and O'Jays thrown in for spice. Lyrically, my biggest influence is my Dad (a UMass Lowell Physics professor, no less!), who told me lots of Jew jokes growing up.

When last we spoke, you mentioned that you were getting a new audience at most every show, unfamiliar with the songs. Has that changed? Does the show has its own following now?

My picture is in today's (Wednesday) Boston Globe, so I hope I get lots of newbies attending the show. My show tends to draw a strong repeat clientele, kind of like a fine restaurant or a skilled hairdresser or a talented hooker.

Are you someone who enjoys April Fool’s Day? Do you play pranks?

My prank will be to appear onstage at Club Passim, masquerading as a someone who knows anything about Judaism.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maria Bamford talks about the Women in Comedy Festival and Plan B

Maria Bamford is popping up all over the place these days. Earlier this month, she released a new DVD, Plan B, of her one-woman show about moving home to Duluth during a career slump. She’s on the Disney Channel’s Kick Buttowski. You may also have recognized the Comedians of Comedy star on Target TV ads around Christmas (she says she got to improvise those, which is probably why they were funny).

If you haven’t already seen her free one-hour special (available for download on or heard last year’s CD, Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome, you have a lot of catching up to do.

Which is why the theme of Plan B – Bamford moving back to her hometown of Duluth Minnesota to reassess her career options – seems ironic. It’s hard to think of a comedian with a fuller schedule than Bamford’s these days.

Bamford is known for her keen ability to create complete characters, every one with their own distinct voice and set of mannerisms. She stretched that ability in Plan B, voicing an entire town, addressing each other and addressing Bamford, sometimes several to a scene. Still, Bamford didn’t find it difficult to intertwine the different characters. “It was fun to imagine what it would be like to move home,” she says.

Most of the characters from Plan B seem to have no idea what Bamford does for a living or how it works. Longtime fans will recognize Bamford’s mother, and a register jockey who tells Bamford that she was never funny, just weird. The interactions are hilarious, but Bamford says the real life perception of her job is a bit less crazy. “Nobody seems to weirded out by it,” she says. “I think I make up stuff so that I seem like more of a weirdo.”

If you usually ignore the commentary tracks on DVDs, don’t ignore the one on Plan B. It features Bamford with her parents watching the show, pointing out their favorite jokes and telling stories. “I think they really enjoyed it and they are game for anything, as they are my parents,” she says. “My dad opened for me at a motorcycle rally in my hometown and did his first 15 minutes of standup in front of a crowd of moderately interested Midwest biker-types. He is a good egg. And I did pay him 300 bucks.”

Bamford will be headlining a sold-out show Saturday at ImprovBoston as part of the Women In Comedy Festival doing stand-up with Jackie Kashian and Maria Ciampa (you can still get tickets to the simulcast here). She’s also hosting an open mic Saturday afternoon at 1 PM, with an unusual process.

Those who want to perform at the open mic will show up and put their names into a hat. Only the comics who are chosen will stay for the open mic, which is closed to the general public. “I love a short open mic with no audience, which is why it’s limited to 8 lucky signuppers,” she says.

Women in Comedy co-founder Maria Ciampa is thrilled to have comics like Bamford and Kashian, as well as Edie McClurg (part of the All Girl Revue playing tonight and tomorrow) as part of the mix with a strong line-up of local stand-up, sketch, improv troupes, and storytellers. “Bamford and Kashian are both unique, funny voices, so it means so much to lots of Boston comedians to have them in town,” she says.

Also search for "The Maria Bamford Show" on YouTube, which features some of the same material as Plan B, but in a video sketch format:

Edie McClurg talks to Fox about the Women in Comedy Festival

Edie McClurg is an unforgettable actress. All you have to say is, "They think he's a righteous dude" and people light up -- "Oh, that's her!" She's been a popular character actress for decades, from "The Richard Pryor Show" up through "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and her voice work on "A Bug's Life." She's a trained improv actress, as well, with L.A.'s The Groundlings, and she'll be performing improv tonight at ImprovBoston as part of the All Girl Revue on the Women In Comedy Festival.

Here's a clip of her being interviewed on Boston's Fox 25.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interview: The Bombshell Show

The Bombshell Show: Boston Comedy's Blond Invasion hits Mottley's Comedy Club on Thursday with all sorts of blond comedy fury. The reason Jessie Baade and Nicole Luparelli put this showcase together have little to do with hair color, though. Both sport blond locks, but the Bombshell Show is more a good excuse to put some talented comics together on the same bill -- Chris Fleming (who is moving to L.A. soon), Amy Tee, Sara Blodgett, Kaite Lasky, and Ken Reid, who will sport a blond wig for the show.

If you're going to the show, remember blonds get two dollars off the $12 ticket price, and they're not picky. You can wear a wig or dye your hair that day, anything that makes you blond for the duration of the show.

I spoke with Jessie and (The Real) Nicole last week about the show for FGH's cameras. This is the result:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Russell Brand coming to the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre

The Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre just announced on their Facebook page that Russell Brand will be playing the venue on April 17. Tickets go on sale at noon on Friday.

Brand (who is engaged to pop star Katy Perry) stars in Get Him to the Greek, a spinoff of Forgetting Sarah Marshall starring Brand's off kilter pop star Aldous Snow. The movie is out June 4.

Here's the trailer:

Video: Maria Ciampa on the Women in Comedy Festival

The Women In Comedy Festival 2010 kicks off Wednesday at ImprovBoston, bigger an better than last year's first edition. Directors Maria Ciampa, Michele Barbera, and Elyse Schuerman have assembled a packed schedule full of local and national talent in every comedic genre -- stand-up, sketch, video, improv, and storytelling -- playing March 24-28.

Maria Bamford and Jackie Kashian are headlining with a show Saturday (Bamford will also host the free afternoon open mic on Saturday). The All Girl Revue, with Edie McClurg (remember the secretary from Ferris Bueller?) and Jane Morris (founder of SEcond City's ETC stage), plays the Festival Friday and Saturday. Bonnie McFarlane is on the storytelling show Saturday with Sara Benincasa and Robin Gelfenbien.

And that's before you count locally-bred talent like Giulia Rozzi, Kelly MacFarland, Jessica Sutich, Jenny Z (as Liz Fang), Somebody's In the Doghouse, Naughy Nanas (an over-50 improv troupe), Michele and Micah, and Josh Gondelman (the Festival's lone male stand-up). For a full schedule, click here.

I caught up with Ciampa last week at ImprovBoston to talk about the WIC Festival 2010. Here it is, with a minor edit.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Joe Wong on C-Span

If you missed Joe Wong's performance at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner last Wednesday, C-Span has posted it on their official YouTube site. Wong had some good jabs at Vice President Joe Biden (who was laughing along), immigration, and health care.

Here's the video.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ralph Harris tonight and tomorrow at Giggles

Those who first encountered Ralph Harris on Last Comic Standing in 2007 may not realize he'd been performing for more than fifteen years at that point (you can see his first TV credit was "In Living Color" in 1992). He'd already had an HBO special and a Comedy Central special by the time he hit LCS, and a spot on the sitcom On Our Own.

Tonight and tomorrow at Giggles Comedy Club (Route 1 in Saugus), you'll be seeing a seasoned comic with a couple of decades of material from which to draw. Here's a bit from his 1996 HBO comedy special to get you ready.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Josh Gondelman talks Laughing Skull and open mics

Earlier this month, Josh Gondelman won the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival competition in Atlanta, goign up against comedians from around the country. IT won him bragging rights, and perhaps more importantly, work. Gondelman will hit the road with 24 weeks worth of work, as soon as he can schedule it with different clubs.

Josh also hosts one of Boston's most relaxed open mics at Sally O'Brien's in Somerville. It's a place where comics and crazies go to express themselves, and emerging headliners go to work out new material.

I caught up with Gondelman at O'Brien's after Monday's open mic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Joe Wong works out for an audience with the president at the Tavern at the End of the World

Tonight at the Tavern at the End of the World, Joe Wong will be working out an unusual set. It’s not for a big local show, or even a late night talk show spot. Wong will be doing the set he’ll be performing at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington for an audience that will include President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Tonight's show is a special event, the Twas the Night Before St. Paddy's Day showcase (Tony Moschetto will also be on hand). Scotty Lombardo's regular open mic will resume next Wednesday.

I spoke with Joe earlier today about playing for the president, and the material he has planned.

Are you nervous for tomorrow night?

Not really. I’ve practiced the set many times before. Who knows, maybe I will change my mind once I get there.

Have you been coached by anybody about what to expect?

My manager’s been to similar occasions a couple of times before. He kind of knows what to wear and so forth. Honestly, the biggest hassle is getting a tuxedo ready. That’s like a brave new world to me.

Do you have any special material planned because the dinner is of a political nature?

Oh, yeah. I have a lot of political jokes. The entire set is, some immigration stuff, and the rest is mainly politics.

Was that something that was unusual for you?

It’s very different than my usual routine, in a sense. But on the other hand, in 2003, I had a short film about me running for president. I sort of used that concept but added more political jokes. I really enjoyed this process, though, I have to say, coming out with jokes, making fun of current policies or saying something totally absurd about my political views. I’m having fun with it. And it’s the Radio and Correspondents Dinner, so I don’t even have to worry about my choice of words. In a regular comedy club, I have to make that sure I don’t use big words that turns people off, but in this case, they’re all reporters.

Do you have any specific targets or is it more you’re poking fun at yourself?

Mainly I’m poking fun at myself. But also, I have some jokes about Scott Brown. Of course, Obama and Biden. And a little bit about the Supreme Court Justices. That’s about it. Samuel Alito is going to be there, I think.

That’ll be fun.

I just hope that the reporters should know, pretty much should be up to date with current events. Some jokes won’t work in the general audience, but they should be more accepting of it.

Controversy at Mottley's Comedy Showcase and Chili Cookoff

Last Thursday, Mottley's Comedy Club took a bunch of Boston comics and made them compete for their spot on that night's show the way ancient comedians always settled their disputes - with a chili cookoff. Mottley's First Annual Comedy Showcase and Chili Cookoff ended in controversy - Mortensen, who does PR for the club, came in second. Jon Lincoln, co-owner of the club, won in a field that also included Tony V., Tony Moschetto, Kelly MacFarland, Tom Dustin, Amy Tee, and Dan Boulger. MacFarland won the "People's Choice" award for her contribution.

Lincoln was booed by the comics in the back as he took the stage. Some actually hissed and shouted "set-up" or "fixed." Lincoln would point out that the certificate marking his win was signed by him earlier, and then made out to him, as well.

Was it fixed? We'll never know. But we do know that the night raised money for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

I interviewed Lincoln and his fellow Mottley's co-owner, Tim McIntire, after the show.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Local Music: Danielle Doyle and Joy Kills Sorrow CD release shows tonight

Most of you will probably be out watching comedy tonight. But if you’re more in the mood for some good local roots music, there are two CD release parties going on you’ll want to consider.

The first is Danielle Doyle, who celebrates the release of her debut CD, The Cartographer’s Wife, at the Lizard Lounge with guests Flightless Buttress, Garlic & Moonshine, Beth Colegrove, and Meg Smallidge, all of whom played on the album. (Note – if you miss her tonight, make sure to get out to the Burren on April 18 when she plays the Sunday night singer/songwriter series hosted by Danielle Miraglia, or, if you’re further north, catch her opening for Loudon Wainwright III in Portland, Maine on March 26).

Doyle has paid her dues studying at the Passim School of Music and interning in the music industry, while gigging around town and writing her own ethereal repertoire. She lists Iron and Wine, Neko Case, and Gillian Welch as influences, and you can hear different elements of those artists pop up on Cartographer, especially the nourish “Sky,” which would slip easily into a set of Case’s first few albums. If you’re a fan of that genre, you’d be doing yourself a favor to familiarize yourself with Doyle’s music.

The second is the Boston-based bluegrass band Joy Kills Sorrow. They’re at Club Passim tonight touting their second album, Darkness Sure Becomes This City, which was officially released February 23 on Signature Sounds (home to Peter Mulvey, Patty Larkin, Erin McKeown, and Kris Delmhorst). JKS immediately brings to mind Alison Krauss and Union Station, mostly because of Emma Beaton’s smooth, dreamy vocals.

While the overall sound is mellow, there’s a lot of active flatpicking going on with guitarist Matthew Arcara (winner of Winfield’s National Flatpicking Championship in 2006), mandolin player Jacob Jolliff (who studied his instrument on scholarship to Berklee), and banjo player Wesley Corbett (who has toured with Crooked Still). Bassist Bridget Kearney does more than hold down the root – somehow, in the midst of all that picking, she manages to find melodic, flowing basslines. A talented outfit from top to bottom.

Friday, March 12, 2010

CD Review: Chance Langton's I'm Better Than Them

Veteran Boston comedian Chance Langton is what I would call an ellipses comedian (that’s right, I just made up a category of comedian). His jokes aren’t technically one-liners, but he has that same quick punch – a line or two of set-up, pause, then punchline.

It’s an act he’s been honing for 30 years, and the stand-up on his album, I’m Better Than Them, newly available on iTunes and, is a lean, efficient set.

It’s all in the timing for Langton, and you can almost count the beats until the punchline:

“I was in Vermont once… that was enough.”

“I drove 100 miles for this show, which is… stupid. Cause I live down the street. There were three accidents on the way… I was in each of them.”

“Remember that song by Gloria Gaynor, ‘I Will Survive?’ … Whatever happened to her?”

It doesn’t quite do justice to Langton’s delivery to print the jokes, but you can get a sense even from just reading them how they land. It’s a classic format, one that you could have heard half a century ago, but Langton sets it off kilter. At his best, Langton’s comedy is inspired silliness. It’s a bit puzzling, but immediately funny.

One of my favorite bits has a longer set-up, but Langton’s standards, but it’s still only a few seconds from start to finish:

“The first time I fell in love, I fell in love with Shirley Temple. I saw her on TV. I was five and she was five. I couldn’t believe. I met her at a mall when I was six… she was 50.”

Langton is also a musician (he was courted by Epic Records in the 70s as a singer/songwriter), and there are four songs on the album in addition to the half-hour stand-up set (“Live at the Capitol Center for the Performing Arts”). The title track, “I’m Better Than Them,” is a list of celebrities that Langton brags about being, well, better than. John Belushi, J.F.K., John Holmes, Jimmy Hendrix. If you’ve spotted ther trend there, you’ve also spotted the joke – they are all dead. Which is how Langton comes off better.

It’s a simple gag, and unlike Langton’s quick-hit jokes, it wears out its welcome after a minute or so. The same is true for “The Laugh Factory,” which seems like a goofy commercial for the Los Angeles comedy club of the same name.

Langton is much better with the loonier “One of the Elves,” a waltzing folk ballad sung by Langton in a helium-tinged voice. There’s an inscrutable kind of melancholy to it, as he sings, “Maybe I’m the monster who’s afraid of himself/Because when the end comes I’m just one of the elves.”

And then there’s the somewhat more straightforward “I Want to Make Money,” a midtempo acoustic rock song about a working stiff daydreaming through the job and hoping for something better. It’s the best song on the album from a musical standpoint, with an assist from “Weird” Al Yankovic’s band (bass player Steve Jay, drummer John Schwartz, and guitarist Jim West).

On a regular folk album, “Elves” and “Money” would be more conspicuous in their oddity. But next to Langton’s stand-up, they seem a bit more subtle.

The best way to hear this stuff is live (Langton is at Nick’s Comedy Stop tonight and tomorrow), but I’m Better Than Them gives you a good idea what you’re in for.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Out Today: Shane Mauss, Jokes to Make My Parents Proud

Shane Mauss often paints himself as “the dumb guy” – someone who doesn’t know a lot about sex and women, someone who likes to drink a bit too much. Someone who, let’s say, might be fooled by the future version of himself coming back after a sex change to fool him into having sex, just to gross his past self out.

You can already see, though, that Mauss’s mind works a little differently. Beneath the sarcasm and the somewhat flattened, Midwestern tone, there’s a nimble imagination, which is all over his first comedy album, Jokes to Make My Parents Proud.

The time-traveling bit is a prime example, based on something Mauss says he had heard about sex changes being more convincing and complete in the future. Mauss could have found an easy target for that premise in some gender-bending celebrity or bashing someone’s sexuality. But he turns the joke on himself, twice, with a time machine thrown in (time machines are a recurring subject on Jokes).

Mauss also has a great bit about wandering into a Best Buy when he was stoned on mushrooms. He thought it was the future. He wound up in the camcorders section. “So for about an hour,” he says, “I watched a movie about me watching a movie about me.”

At times, Mauss brings to mind Louis C.K. for his penchant for telling self-deprecating stories about his sex life (see the last few tracks and his story about trying anal sex with his girlfriend). He’s perfectly willing to show himself being led by his libido and inexperience in a situation where the joke is on him. And he knows how to pepper his stories with one-liners (“I already play with myself so much in the shower that now I get hard when it rains”).

And there’s also a withering wit at work. He talks about being from Wisconsin originally (he’s been honing his craft in Boston for the past six years), and people asking him if there’s a lot of cheese there. “You bet there is!” he says, gleefully. “I can go into a grocery store, get all the cheese I want!”

There’s also his bit about his accidentally leaving an electric blanket on all day, to the frustration of his girlfriend, who says he could have burned the house down. “We’ve been sleeping in a blanket that just randomly bursts into flames?” he says. “Can we go back to the blanket that doesn’t spontaneously combust?”

With the new album up for download on and iTunes (you can only get physical copies at his shows), a Comedy Central Presents coming up on Friday, and a thriving touring career, Mauss is leaving Boston at the end of the month. He’s taking a somewhat non-traditional path, spending some time in Australia before heading to Austin.

It has been fun to watch him develop the material on Jokes for the past few years in Boston, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of him, in Boston, on TV, and on the Web, in the future. Where Mauss will be reunited with his female self. Mauss’s future is a weird, funny place.

Video: The Steamy Bohemians tell the Boston entertainment community, "Don't struggle."

The Steamy Bohemians hosted their second Jerkus Circus at Club Oberon Friday, featuring favorites from The Human Floor (he is just as he sounds) and comedians Bethany Van Delft and Andy Ofiesh. They've been producing and hosting the Circus at various venues around Massachusetts for the past five years, bringing together musicians, comedians, burlesque troupes, and strange people for one big show.

I spoke with them before the post-show giddiness faded to talk about the Circus, past and future.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Steamy Bohemians back at Club Oberon

The Steamy Bohemians are back at Club Oberon tonight with the Jerkus Circus at 10:30PM. They're bringing with them the usual unusual bunch of freaks and performers (check their regular Facebook page for upcoming performances in Providence and Worcester). Here's the complete line-up from their Facebook event site:

Babes in Boinkland
Best Burlesque by the Boston Phoenix '09 Led be the gorgeous and brilliant Sugar Dish (Slutcracker creator and producer)

Andy O'Fiesh (The Naked Comic)
Yup, that's no flesh toned body suit! But you'll be laughing so hard you'll forget he's naked.

Bethany Van Delft
Comedy Central's Funaticos, host of the Dress-up Show Boston/NYC

Mary Widow
from Black Cat Burlesque. Hot like a mannequin with a great sense of humor.

Eliza Blaze
Hottie Aerialist Extraordinaire!!!

The Human Floor
Creepy sideshow acts of strength, daring, and pain tolerance

Alex the Jester
Physical Comedian and Variety Performer. The World's Greatest Jester!

86 Years Young Mary Dolan
Terrifically funny old gal from the Vaudeville years

UnAmerika's Sweetheart Karin Webb
Beautiful, brilliant, hilarious performance artist. Must be seen to believed!

Jeff Garlin makes the rounds in Boston

There are still a handful of tickets left to see Jeff Garlin at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre tomorrow. But if you miss your chance to see him do his own show, there are three other places you can see him while he’s in town.

Garlin has a new memoir out, called My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World. He’ll be reading from it and signing books at the Borders in the Back Bay at 2PM on Saturday. He’ll also be performing with the Harvard improv troupe, the Immediate Gratification Players, at 11:30PM on Saturday. Not sure about the ticket situation, so click through to the link for more information. He’ll also be reading from the book and signing it Sunday at the Jewish Community Center in Newton on Sunday at 4PM as part of the Boston Jewish Book Fair.

A short commercial for the book:

Giulia Rozzi flies solo at Mottley's

Boston audience are used to seeing Giulia Rozzi telling personal stories onstage. She’s done at as an east coast producer for the show Mortified, and with her own show, Stripped Stories. She still helps out with Mortified, and does Stripped Stories once a month in New York City and occasionally tours with the show.

But tonight and tomorrow at Mottley’s, you’ll see her by herself, headlining the show. “My stand-up is personal, revealing,” she says. “I share stories about my family, my life, the only difference is you get me-all me-for 40 minutes.”

The Belmont native left for college in 1996, but started comedy at open mic nights at Nick’s Comedy Stop when she came home to visit. She started stand-up in earnest in 2001 when she was living in Los Angeles. She’s currently working on a one-woman show she says is about “marriage/love/divorce.”

Here’s a sample of her stand-up:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Comedian/Songwriter/Filmmaker Jessica Delfino brings "Dirty Folk Rock" to Gloucester tonight

The title of Jessica Delfino’s show, “Dirty Folk Rock,” may be a bit of an understatement. Even the titles of her songs (“My Pussy Is Magic,” “A Stranger’s Cock”) are NSFW, to say the least (sorry if you are reading this at work). She does mention in her bio that she has been denounced by the Catholic League, and if you visit the links from, you can see why.

But the multi-talented Delfino has entertained audiences around the world, appearing at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Fest, and the Dublin Comedy Festival. She can also tone it down enough to appear on Good Morning America and Fox News’s Red Eye show. She’ll be toning it down a bit tonight at the Cape Ann Community Cinema in Gloucester, as well.

I spoke with the singer, comedian, and filmmaker by e-mail about the show.

How did you hook up with the venue in Gloucester?

I was hitch hiking through Calcutta and this guy picked me up in his truck. He told me he had a friend who owned a place in Gloucester, MA and that I should play there. 6 months later, here we are.

Is the Gloucester show going to be multi-media? Are you planning on showing any of your videos or shorts?

Yes, I'll be showing some videos. I'll also playing a few different instruments including the guitar the electronic auto harp and the flying V ukulele. But not at the same time. The electronic autoharp by the way, is pretty amazing. It's like a keyboard from the future. You really have to see it to understand its magic.

The press release says this show will be toned down a bit from your normal shows. Is that at the request of the venue? What can people expect?

It is partially at the behest of the venue yes. Some people just don't understand the more outrageous stuff. But it is still dirty folk rock and I still expect to offend some people. Apologies, there are no refunds for people who expect to be offended but aren't.

I Wanna Be Famous

Do your parents ever ask you why you have to sing about some of those things?

Parents often thank me for doing their job for them.

Do you still perform in the subway?

I do on occasion, but not as much as I used to. I got tired of getting less cards from say, record label execs and more cards from shady people who claimed to own a restaurant in Queens they'd love to have me play at on a Tuesday night.

Where did you get a flying V ukulele?

I got my flying V ukulele in Scotland at a regular old music store. The UK is so cool, there, flying V ukuleles are just a normal way of life.

How do international audiences react to what you do?

They seem to enjoy my work a lot. They let their kids come to my shows, they get all my jokes and laugh at them and they give me presents. I can even sing my songs there on the radio. We are friends.

Do you identify more with being a comedian, a musician, or a filmmaker? Or some combination of all of them?

This is such a tough one and I get this a lot. I went to art school and so I have this mentality that I can make money doing whatever creative thing I want to. But people really want a title. So I try to think of clever ones which combine -- twisted minstrel? Let's just say if it were charted pie style, it'd be a very eclectic and delicious pie.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kyle Kinane buzzes into the Middlesex Lounge tonight

Kyle Kinane comes to the Middlesex Lounge tonight with a building buzz. He has been Patton Oswalt’s regular opening act, cropping up frequently on Comedy Central and late night talk shows, and had a small role in the Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow movie Funny People. He also has a new CD out, called The Death of the Party, on A Special Thing’s label.

But if you ask Kinane, he’d really not talk about being a “rising star” or any of the other labels with which he’s currently being fit. “I'd rather not pay attention to that,” he says. “Seems that ‘buzz’ and ‘rising star’ usually lead to "what ever happened to?" a couple years later.” His album wasn’t his idea. A Special Thing approached him to do it, and, he says, “When AST asks you to do a CD, you say yes.”

And while Funny People is a nice resume builder, it hasn’t gotten him as much recognition as his opening slot for Oswalt, where Kinane has a better chance to show off his talent. “The only people that recognize me from my five seconds in Funny People are the ones I told to look for my five-second part in Funny People,” he says. “People look me up online from the gigs with Patton though. He's got to have one of the best fan-bases in comedy. They seem to hold comedy in the same ranks and respect as music.”

If you go to, you’ll see he’s labeled his Web site “The minimal efforts of Kyle Kinane,” and there’s little more than a show calendar and a list of random thoughts. He has a blog, called “I’m dead and it’s all my fault,” on which he mostly addresses more random thoughts to a mysterious person named Doug. The latest entry from last week – “There’s no such thing as a bad neighborhood when you’ve got a purple belt in taekwondo, Doug.” Kinane describes the (fictional?) Doug as, “the unfortunate friend of a man whose ambition is second only to his incompetence.”

It would be easy to mistake Kinane’s effortless, absurd everyman humor as a sort of slacker charm, as he tells stories of his crappy jobs and getting hassled on the street by the cops in Burbank for riding his bike too fast down a hill. But Kinane has worked hard on his craft. Before he left for L.A. in 2003, Kinane was part of a group of kids in Chicago trying to develop his own style. He says there was a “large contingency” of people who were pursuing comedy as a serious career option, “just going to every show we could with as much new material we could push out.”

Kinane credits his friends back home with shaping his sense of humor. “I'm in Chicago right now and went out with people I've known since junior high,” he says.” I laugh harder with them than watching any comedy program.” He credits his delivery, which is sometimes shouting and slurry, to “booze and the frustration of having to yell over crappy audiences.”

When asked what he’s working on now, he says, “Finding new ways to kill Doug's friend. The obligatory writing packages and the sort. Making sure the wings don't fall off of it all.”

Kinane comes to Boston by way of Dan Boulger and Sean Sullivan, both of whom are on the bill tonight (along with Tim McIntire and Rob Crean). He met Boulger at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen in ’07 and Sullivan when the pair were taping Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham last year.

Kyle Kinane with Dan Boulger, Sean Sullivan, Tim McIntire, and Rob Crean at the Middlesex Lounge, 315 Mass Ave, Central Square. 7PM. $5. (617)868-6739.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Interview: Kathleen Madigan

There is little Kathleen Madigan hasn’t done in her roughly twenty years in comedy. She’s left her original profession (in her case, journalism), done the big move from St. Louis to L.A., toured the country, done every conceivable TV talk show, and even done reality television as a contestant on Last Comic Standing. Most recently, she’s played to the troops in Afghanistan, made the leap from clubs to theatres, and found herself on the set of the Dr. Phil show.

But unlike some for whom stand-up is a means to an end, the comedy is the thing for Madigan. It’s what sustains her. “[It’s] Just fun,” she told me, speaking by phone from Florida, where she was visiting family. “Just stupid fun. I mean, if I wasn’t onstage telling jokes I’d probably be just at a bar talking to somebody. It’s kind of the same, except somebody’s paying me.”

I spoke with Madigan about comedy, Dr. Phil, staying healthy, and a plethora of subjects ahead of her show this Friday at the Comedy Connection Wilbur Theatre. The vast majority of that conversation is included here.

I have to apologize, I’ve got kind of a cold and my brain’s kind of a big slug.

That’s okay. I just had one for three days, it’s finally going away. It was a killer.

How do you avoid stuff like that when you’re on tour?

Euuch. All these airplanes. You just keep going and getting more antibiotics and the doctor just stares at you like you’re crazy, but what are you gonna do? There’s no way to avoid it, unless you want to walk around like a crazy person with a mask on your face like Michael Jackson, which I just can’t bring myself to do.

Do you have a lot of interactions after shows with fans and such?

If I go out for a meet and greet. And I’m not a freak about germs, but you do think, man, I just shook, I don’t know, a hundred people or more’s hands. You can’t think about it too hard. You just have to go, oh well. I think I got this from a plane. I think planes are the worst because it’s just recycled air, so if there’s one person sick, it’s just bluh bluh bleah.

You were already touring a lot before Last Comic Standing, did that get you bigger venues?

You know, not bigger venues, but just more people… By the time I did Last Comic I had already been on the road, what? Twelve years, I guess. And I’d already done a bunch of Tonight Shows and Lettermans and Comedy Central stuff. But there’s a bunch of people who don’t watch all that stuff, they only watch prime time TV. They don’t stay up that late. So it’s like a whole different audience you pick up. It’s weird, because when I do daytime TV, whether it’s Bonnie Hunt or the Dr. Phil stuff, that’s a whole different group, two.

There’s three different groups of TV watchers, the late night, the prime time, and the daytime. And they don’t seem to criss-cross. You know, they have their time, and that’s that. So it helped me get new people who didn’t know who I was. And then the bigger venues have just come with time. I don’t really work any clubs any more except a couple of my favorites. And that’s usually when I want to work on something and do a bunch of shows in a row.

You’re also on VH1 and CNN – are all of these segmented audiences that don’t overlap?

Believe it or not, E! and VH1, that’s the gym crowd. They see me on there but they don’t even hear it. They just know they’ve seen me somewhere. And CNN people, they don’t seem to really go out.

I didn’t see the Dr. Phil show but I read about it on your site – how strange was it to be on a show with a guy who’s essentially a huge comic target?

Really strange. It was like I had taken percoset after a medical procedure. Because, like, they put me in the audience, and then I was onstage with him, and I was running around the audience asking them questions. He’s a huge comedy fan, though, and he listens to Sirius radio and they play me a lot. So that’s where he heard me, and then his son is friends with Ron White, who I’m also friends with. He wants to make the show, some days, a little lighter and a little less intense. Which is great. Me and Ron White and Jon Lovitz actually did it a couple of weeks ago, I guess. It was a two-parter, they aired the first part. The second part hasn’t aired. Where, you’re actually talking about the subject but in a lighter way. Not so heavy, PhD people with facts. They’re there, but we’re there to lighten it up a little bit. [There are videos linked from Madigan's site, including this one, but no embed codes.]

I was surprised. He has a great sense of humor, he laughs a lot, his wife is lovely. And as a comic, we do tend to be cynical, and I kept thinking, are they faking this? IS this real? [aside] I’m fine, dad, I got her. I’m holding one of my sister’s twins, who’s being very good right now. I will not be obnoxious and put you on the phone with her. “Say hi!” God, I hate that.

It was really strange, but he’s actually sincere. He’s not full of shit. And, I don’t know, I guess I just assumed that everybody on TV was kind of full of crap. I’ve seen him stay after the show and talk to people for like an hour. He could leave. HE could go home, and say, too bad, so sad, you signed up for the show, it is what it is, you knew what it was going to be, and I’m out. But he doesn’t. And I have no reason to lobby for the guy.

It just seems strange to hear he’s a comedy to think of how many times his name must come up when he’s listening to that [Sirius radio].

I don’t think he would mind. He’s actually like, all Texas, all the time. He understands if you’re making fun of him. He’s a good sport about it, put it that way. He doesn’t take himself so seriously. He would love it if someone did a skit making fun of him. He gets it.

He also has a sarcasm quotient that’s pretty high with you, Ron White, and Jon Lovitz.

Yeah, his tastes, the people he picks off of Sirius radio – he knows my CDs – it’s odd to me, he does have a pretty high cynicism, sarcasm meter, because there are comics that are way less cynical. Like if you took Bill Engvall, Engvall’s just nice. I mean, he’s funny, but he’s a nice guy. You know what I mean? There’s nothing cutting or edgy about Bill. I would think that he would lean towards that, but he goes for – I mean, out of the four Blue Collar guys, Ron is definitely the edgiest. And that’s his favorite.

Has the job of comedian changed a lot since you started? The Internet has exploded, there are a million more niche channels than there used to be.

Overall, the biggest change is, success is not going to come overnight. It’s not going to come with one television show like it used to. You used to go on Carson, and you figure, there’s only three channels, definitely a third of the country is watching you, usually two-thirds of the country. So the next morning, you would be famous. Two-thirds of the country would know your name if you’re Roseanne and you go on Johnny Carson the night before.

Now, there’s a hundred channels – five hundred channels – there’s a bazillion media outlets. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It used to be a sprint to Carson, and then bam, you could headline Vegas. The whole thing just changed. My god, I’ve done the Tonight Show twelve, thirteen times, Letterman five, Conan two, the rest of them. I’ve done them all. It’s a build, it’s a slow build, and you just can’t quit.

I see too many comics who, they get frustrated and they quit. If somebody said, “What are you proud of?” it wouldn’t be any of the TV shows or any of the things that took a lot of work and perseverance, it’s that I haven’t quit. That’s the only thing that I’m really proud of, because there are many times where you have to rethink the whole thing and think, really, seriously, what the hell am I doing? Am I going to be some 50-year-old woman in some club called Bonkers? [laughs] Really? You have to assess it frequently and go, okay, okay, okay, can I keep doing this? Can I hang on?

And I see a lot of people who just fold, and they either go to writing or – because people want a normal life, they want a family, they want a house, they want all that. So they just say screw it and fold. And some of them shouldn’t quit. Some of the funnier ones go, that’s it, I’m out. And then some of the ones that suck keep going.

It seems like there’s got to be thousands of people who quit this job every year, if not every month.

Or they try it. Every single person in L.A., every waiter and waitress, go, “Oh, I do stand-up.” Oh, okay. Really? Do you really do stand-up? Or did you go to a coffeehouse and get up and say something. There’s a very big different.

Did you go straight from St. Louis to Los Angeles?

Yeah, but slowly. I did the Tonight Show and I did some other stuff out there, and then I got an apartment. It wasn’t like one day, I just packed up and moved. It was like, okay, I’ll get an apartment here, I’ll have some stuff here, and then I’ll just throw some stuff in my parents’ basement. It was kind of ramshackle for a few years. I was wherever I was. And then over time, it was like, okay, this is actually where I’m going to kind of live. Even now, I’ve got a guy out buying furniture for my townhouse because I’m not even there. I don’t even have time to go get furniture. So he’s going to get it and sending me pictures of it. And it’s like, okay, that looks great, leave it there. So it seems like I have a home.

Is that a good position to be in, or would you rather have a sitcom or something where you could settle down and be in the same place more often?

I don’t know. Lewis Black had a show on Comedy Central called The Root of All Evil for a couple of years, and he’s one of my best buddies, and he said will you perform on it but write some stuff as well, and write some stuff for him, and I said okay. So I was home for three months in a row and it was super strange. I was still going out on weekends and doing my gigs, but Monday through Friday I was home and had a job like I would go somewhere at ten o’clock in the morning and the same people would be there every day. It was fun, but it was only fun because I think we knew it was temporary. I don’t think I could sign up for that.

The one thing that we have that’s awesome is freedom. Right now I’m just in Florida with my family hanging out between gigs because I can. I’m really close to my family and they’re in Missouri most of the time. They say a sitcom’s thirteen weeks, but really it would be more. You have to be somewhere at a certain time every day. I don’t know, you just lose a lot of control. And that’s one of the other big things that changed. They’re not really giving comics sitcoms anymore.

They’re more ensemble pieces now.

I wouldn’t mind being a second banana on one of those. I wouldn’t mind. Like, David Spade’s had a nice career, as far as that stuff goes.

If you hadn’t left newspaper writing as a profession, where do you think you’d be right now?

I think I would have somehow become a flight attendant. And then I’d be that crabby, 40-something flight attendant that wants to kill everyone on the plane. And also probably addicted to some sort of pain medication from pushing that cart up and down an aisle.

Where you’re playing in Boston is a 1200-seat theatre. Is that the norm for you these days?

These days, it is the norm, between 800 and 1500, depending on where I am.

When you look at where your career is now, playing theatres and selling CDs and DVDs, are you where you want to be? Is there something you’d like to add to that?

No, I’m exactly where I want to be. I really try not to think past Friday. I’ve gotten really lucky with this train of thought. Stuff just comes up. You could have asked me a million things that you thought would happen. I never thought Dr. Phil would call my cell phone. Never. It wouldn’t have been within the range of things that could possibly happen.