Friday, November 11, 2011

Andy Kindler at The Boston Comedy Festival Tonight and Tomorrow

Andy Kindler plays the Boston Comedy Festival
I first saw Andy Kindler live almost a decade ago at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, where he gives his annual State of the Industry Address. In a week’s worth of shows featuring the biggest names in comedy, it was Kindler’s Address that no one wanted to miss, that everyone told me was a must-see. It didn’t disappoint. Kindler was and is brutal. He excoriated comedians, actors, television shows in front of an audience that most probably contained a fair amount of the people he was targeting.

I didn’t escape the week without comment, either. I made the mistake of sitting up front with my arms folded at on of Kindler’s alternative comedy showcases. I was trying to keep my elbows to myself, but it looked like I was sitting their stiff and judging. And so it became a standoff, because once someone makes fun of your posture, you can’t change it, or they win. It should be noted, though, I was laughing.

When I spoke to Kindler the next year at Just For Laughs, he didn’t really remember the incident, but he laughed at my retelling. I told him that I hoped he’d find a venue to play in Boston one of these days. I would loved to have told people about him when I had my weekly column at the Globe. Alas, he is finally here, and that column is gone. But I do have this blog, and I would encourage anyone who enjoys the sarcastic arts to head out to the Charles Playhouse Lounge tonight or the Davis Square Theatre tomorrow to see Kindler finally headline in Boston, as part of the Boston Comedy Festival. And sit with your arms to the side.

For those of you who recognize Kindler from Last Comic Standing or Everybody Loves Raymond but haven’t seen his standup, here’s a clip of him on Letterman from earlier this year. His part starts at about 2:05.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Comedy Is King Tonight at Club Oberon

Lamont Price hosts Comedy Is King   

Lamont Price uses the word "emerging" to describe the group of comics he's hosting tonight at Club Oberon as part of his Comedy Is King showcase. It's worth noting that Price, Tony Moschetto, and Dan Crohn are well-known to avid Boston comedy fans. They are currently staples of the scene. But that doesn't mean all of you reading this know them, or could rattle off your favorite of their jokes. But more of you might be soon.

"The term 'emerging' is basically a good way to let the audience know that the comedians they are seeing are at the forefront of breaking huge and this is a great chance to see them now before they get expensive," says Price. "I mean, Tony Moschetto, Dan Crohn and Mikey Walz on one show? Wont be $15 in a few years!" 

Walz is the other comic on the line-up, and he'll be making his East Coast debut. Price speaks highly of him. "He's a hilarious comedian in a very competitive San Francisco comedy scene and he has Boston roots, so this figured to be a no brainer," he says. "Also, we want this to be a show comedians from all country want to perform at."

There are plans for more editions of Comedy Is King. Price says there will be another one in January, and the hope is to do it every month. "You figure it makes for a great show when you have hilarious comedians that all get along," he says. "I want a carefree environment."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crimmins Occupies Boston

Barry Crimmins is back in town today for a run of shows, including the Roast of Barry Crimmins, part of the Boston Comedy Festival schedule tonight. A bunch of Crimmins' old friends, and a few newer ones, will be on hand at the Charles Playhouse Lounge for that, including Steven Wright, Steve Sweeney, Jimmy Tingle, Tony V, Dan Wasserman, Mike McDonald, Niki and Lainey of The Steamy Bohemians, Randy Credico, Billy Bob Neck, and John Ennis. Before that, though, he'll be out at Occupy Boston at 4PM to address the crowd.

On Saturday, you'll get to see Crimmins at his best, doing a headlining set at the New England Folk Music Archives in Somerville, at the Arts at the Armory Space on Highland Ave. That show is the official kickoff of Crimmins "Occupation: Occupation" tour. It'll be his first full-length show in Boston since last year's shows with Erin Judge and Dennis Perrin at Mottley's. Billy Bob Neck and Tim Mason are also on that bill.

And if you want to see Crimmins one more time before he heads out of town, he's part of a phenomenal bill for the Friend of Mine: Tribute to Bill Morrissey show at the Somerville Theatre on Thursday, November 17. I'm not sure if this is the complete line-up, but so far that show will include Peter Case, Shawn Colvin, David Johansen, Mark Erelli, John Gorka, Peter Keane, Fred Koller, Cormac McCarthy (the musician), PAtty Larkin, and Pete Nelson. The night will be hosted by Cliff Eberhardt and David Dye. Mr. Morrissey died of heart failure in July. It's easy to see his influence, as a musician and as a friend, just by looking at that list.

We're lucky to have Crimmins for so many shows, and that he's still standing to do them after a recent accident precipitated by his dogs, Lettie and Lu, trying to draw and quarter him on a walk near his Upstate New York home. Here's Crimmins' recounting of that story, and a bit more about the shows, from his blog.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bill Bailey at the House of Blues September 20

I don’t know exactly what is going to happen when I head out to see Bill Bailey Tuesday night at the House of Blues. And that’s on purpose. I know the DVD of this tour, Dandelion Mind, has already been released in the UK. I know he was in two great U.K. shows – Black Books and Spaced. I know he is a funny stand-up and a talented musician. In other words, I would be absolutely shocked if I didn’t enjoy the show, and I don’t want to ruin it be watching too many clips of material I might see Tuesday. But for the uninitiated, here’s a hint of what we can expect.

And here he is at work with the wonderful Dylan Moran:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

From the Archives: Bill Morrissey and Barry Crimmins

Barry Crimmins and Bill Morrissey played two shows together in 2006 at Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway Theater in Davis Square - Morrissey and Crimmins: Two Lives Only! I was still writing the weekly Comedy Notes column for the Boston Globe at that time, and one thing I always enjoyed doing was stretching the subject matter outside the bounds of what people would normally expect to see under the word "Comedy." This show was a perfect example.

Crimmins and Morrissey were both masters of their respective arts, comedy and folk music. And Morrissey had a great sense of humor that was perhaps more obvious onstage than on the studio albums. I got to explore Morrissey's work and have a great conversation with him.

Since then, I had always hoped I'd have the chance to speak with Morrissey again. So it was with great sadness that I learned of his death on July 23. He passed away in a Georgia hotel room while touring. But I'm grateful for the one conversation, and that I got to see him on a wonderful night with Crimmins. The following is a greatly expanded version of the Comedy Notes column I wrote for the Boston Globe, originally published May 5, 2006.

It should be noted that this piece doesn't come close to the emotional resonance of Crimmins' remembrance from his blog, Farewell, Hercules... Bill Morrissey 1951-2011. A highly recommended read.

Longtime friends meet again, onstage

Barry Crimmins and Bill Morrissey bring a bit of Boston history with them tonight and tomorrow when they hit the stage at Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway. Between the two of them, they've seen or inspired some of Boston's best and brightest in comedy and music.

But since Crimmins now lives just outside of Bath, New York and Morrissey in New Hampshire, they haven't played Boston together since the early nineties. "We're both Boston guys, so meeting up in Boston is the greatest," says Crimmins. We both made our stones in that town."

When they first met at a hip basement club off Harvard Square called the Idler almost twenty-five years ago, they had just started to establish themselves in their respective fields. Crimmins was the creative force behind the Ding Ho, the epicenter of Boston comedy that produced luminaries like Steven Wright and Lenny Clarke. Morrissey was on his way towards recording the music that would lead Ted Drozdowski of the Boston Phoenix to call him the "musical poet laureate of New England."

Crimmins was drawn to Morrissey's writing and sense of humor, and was surprised to find Morrissey had seen him perform at the Ding Ho. Once they started talking, they found they both had an appreciation for the folk work ethic and progressive politics. "I think we're sort of, even though Bill's certainly not overtly political, his work is kind to the little guy and stands up to the big guy, and I'd like to think that's what my work's about," says Crimmins. "I always talked about doing comedy with a big target, and I've never enjoyed people who just, you know, make fun of [the little guy]. Bill's the kind of guy that if he sees a homeless guy, something will soak in and three days later there'll be a genius song about the guy. He finds a context for the humanity of people that might otherwise be overlooked. He sticks up for regular people. His work really notices that their lives matter. That's pretty great."

Crimmins and Morrissey are also considered great writers in their respective fields, although Crimmins would give Morrissey the advantage there. Where Crimmins sticks to nonfiction and current culture, Morrissey can get to truth by creating stories and characters with a master's eye for detail. "One of his songs is like a great novel," says Crimmins. "In one song he gets so much texture, so much character, he has such an eye. And then the other thing, of course he's a folk musician, but if you listen to what he's been doing over the past several years, he always grows musically. He's always adding stuff. And it's because he's not just home listening to Pete Seeger albums. He has wonderful other influences. He knows the blues backwards and forwards, he knows jazz, he knows everything."

Morrissey would agree that he and Crimmins share a sense of politics, but Morrissey thinks Crimmins' humor can cross political lines. "Although Barry is to the left, as I am, his humor will make conservatives laugh," he says. "You know, he's certainly not afraid to poke fun at the left. And I've sat there with very conservative people in his audience and they didn't wanna like him. But despite what they wanted, they did and they were laughing. Which I think is the sign of a great comic, a man whose got a great perspective. Barry just doesn't go out and preach to the converted, which would be a very easy gig. You know, folk singers do that, too. Political folks singers. Just go out and sing to their audience."

Stylistically speaking, it's easy for a musician to preach to the converted, as well, chasing whatever sound is topping the charts. Morrissey has never approached music that way. He has stories to tell and a particular sound, all of which exist outside the bubble of popular music. "There's a lot of pandering," he says. "In music, it seems like people listen to the radio and try to imitate that just to get airplay. I just never did that. The reason I write, I just write with complete disregard to what's popular or what's not popular, what's passé or what hasn't happened yet."

If his sound changes, it's because he's made a discovery that could fall anywhere on the musical spectrum, beyond era or genre. Morrissey likes to explore. "I don't listen to just folk music," he says. "I listen to a lot of jazz, a lot of classic jazz. I listen to old country, because there really isn't any new country. I listen to country and western, and nowadays the closest you can get to that is country and suburban. I listen to classical. I just have an appreciation for good songwriting, or just good musicianship. I'm more than happy to just listen to Lester Young playing with Count Bassie."

It's not surprising, then, to hear Morrissey describe Crimmins' comedy in terms of music. He loves Crimmins' politics and his energy. He even jokingly frets about having to follow Crimmins at this weekend's shows. "He's just a roman candle onstage," says Morrissey. "He's his own Chicago blues band. He was just this unstoppable force."

"What he does and what I think a good musician does, a good songwriter grabs you by the lapels and says, 'Look, I've got to tell you something right now,'" he adds. :And he doesn't have to yell at you but he's got that urgency. As opposed to, 'Oh listen, I was just thinking, I want to talk to you about something.' It's like, 'No man, I've got to tell you this right now.' That's how Barry I think approaches his performing."

Crimmins is equally complimentary. "Actually, I don't think it's fair," he says. "His sense of humor is as good as mine and I can't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow. So it's really unfair. At least he doesn't rub in the fact that he's multi-talented and I'm semi-talented."

"I had one of his CDs in the car the other day," says Crimmins, "and I was listening about the immigration stuff, and I happen to hear his song 'The Man From Out of Town' - 'The laws are not made for the man from out of town.' And I thought, gee, you could translate that song into Spanish and it would really speak to that situation."

Though humor is an important part of Morrissey's show, offsetting his more somber songwriting, he says he could never do what Crimmins does. "I do incorporate a lot of comedy in what I do, but I would never get onstage without a guitar," he says. "I guess that's my security blanket. And I just enjoy the history of comedy, going back to Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley and of course Jack Benny and people like that. Obscure people like Joe Ancis."

The mutual admiration society has continued throughout the years as the two have gigged together whenever possible and catch up when they are playing the same cities. "When he and I get together, the stories start coming out," says Crimmins. "They get better as you forget the details, because we're both writers and creative, and you know... you fill in the blank spots, it really moves it along."

Both have grown since their early Boston days. Morrissey is now a Grammy-nominated songwriter with ten albums and a novel to his credit. His eleventh is expected to be released on Rounder in September. Crimmins is one of the country's premiere political satirists, writing daily for "The Rhandi Rhodes Show" on Air America and working on an essay-driven book for the radio network.

"Bill and I are the same way in that we both have set the proverbial bar high enough for ourselves that we force ourselves to push and hustle every day," says Crimmins. "Not out of ambition but out of need to protect and continue our art."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Myq Kaplan, on Conan, at Dick's Beantown Comedy Vault Friday and Saturday

Myq Kaplan is back in Boston tonight and tomorrow playing Dick's Beantown Comedy Vault. He's been busy, appearing on Conan (the show, hosted by the person, not on the person) and answering questions over at In case you missed it, here's his Conan set.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ken Rogerson on CNN, At Giggles This Weekend

In a Boston scene that was known for being wild, Ken Rogerson was wilder than most. The 80s boom is often described as a free-for-all of incredibly funny people, several shows a night, and copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. Rogerson recently spoke with CNN about the scene, and I followed up with him to fill in a few more details. He’s still one of the funniest guys in town, and you can catch up with him at Giggles in Saugus this weekend.

I know this is something that a lot of the comics who lived through joke about with each other, is there any hesitancy about talking about it too much, or mythologizing it, to those who weren’t there?

No hesitancy at all about talking about it. For those of us who lived it, it happened. It was a very special time in the comedy world and we were a part of it. There were three clubs on the same street for a while. We made lots of money and hung around with some of the the funniest comics ever. Personally a lot of it was wasted on me because of the booze and drugs. I was never really aware of what a special thing we had going on. The drug part was the tragic part. I always make it a point when talking about the madness, funny though some of it may be, that it never ended up fun for me. The end of every drug and alcohol run was horrible. I want to pass that on to the new comics. None of tht shit makes you better. You just think it does.

Do you think Boston was any worse than other cities in terms of the partying and drugs?

Boston was worse than a lot of towns for partying cause there were more of us and we made more money. But quite honestly whatever town I was in I found people and comics to get fucked up with. We just did it on a grander scale.

Do you think people sometimes lose sight of the fact that there were so many legitimately funny people here when they focus on that aspect?

None of the people that were involved do.

You talk about stopping as a sort of epiphany – were you able to stop that quickly?

That epiphany took twenty-five plus years to happen.

How much different is your creative process now than back in those days?

I never really had any creative process. I snorted blow and wrote shit down. Some of it worked. some of it didn't. I enjoy writing and doing stand-up now, more then I ever did back then. Mostly I was about the party back then. The comedy paid to keep the party going. Today I sit and write and re-write and work on the things, other then stand-up, such as acting and screen writing, that I should have concentrated on back in the day instead of waiting for the dealer to show up. It's a million times more fun now and I'm in better shape physicaly now, then I was twenty or thirty years ago.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Josh Gondelman Records Debut CD for Rooftop This Weekend, On Big Sauce Tonight

Josh Gondelman records his debut
CD Friday and Saturday at Mottley's
Not many comedians can get away with telling an adorable story in a comedy club. Not without the audience getting a little queasy. But Josh Gondelman has a story in his act about one of his preschool kids wanting to be a wizard, and showing him a less than thrilling magic trick, that is just that.

Gondelman’s reputation as Boston’s “nice guy” comic is well deserved. He hosts an open mic every Monday at Sally O’Brien’s that feels welcoming, even if the audience often stares blankly at the comic like the Chuck E. Cheese Players in between “shows.” We will be losing him next month to New York City, where he will be trying to take the next step as a comic.

Before he leaves, he’s recording his debut CD for Rooftop Comedy Production at Mottley’s Friday and Saturday. Friday’s show is sold out. He’s also on the Big Sauce radio show tonight, on which he has been a frequent guest, for a "Pre-CD Release Party."

When do you officially leave for New York?

My lease is up at the end of July, so that's when I leave Boston. I'm going to be on the road half of August and staying with my girlfriend who already lives in New York for the other half of the month. The idea is to have my own place (own meaning shared with a zillion other guys to keep the rent at Bostonish levels) by September.

Was it important to you to get your CD recorded in Boston before you left?

I really wanted to get it done before I left. It's kid of my capstone independent study project. It's the end of roughly my first seven years in standup, and I think it's a nice, tidy way to move on to a different phase. I'm not planning to retire the material, but it'll be cool to have a document of what I did while I was here.

What are your release plans for it? Do you have a target date?

I'm hoping to have it all squared away and ready to go by September. I'll probably come up and do a CD release show in the fall. I'm going to try and get the art and editing done as well as possible but quickly too. I'm eager to see a finished product.

How did you come together with Rooftop?

I had done Rooftop's festival in Aspen last summer, and they were all super nice and great. The quality of the stuff they put out is awesome, and I opened for Kelly MacFarland when she recorded hers (for Rooftop, and I thought: "I want that! I want to do that!" My roommate/great friend Shawn Donovan had just done an album on his own, and so I was a little jealous, and I reached out to Rooftop, and they were really awesome and enthusiastic.

What are your thoughts on selling out Friday’s show?

I'm really psyched! Lots of people from different corners of my life have reached out and said that they're coming and bringing friends, which is really flattering. It's better than just having a uniform group of people all there from the same place. Because everyone will have their own sensibility, but ostensibly they're all there to see me.

Has appearing on Big Sauce helped you at all?

I really enjoyed going on Big Sauce. They were great about inviting me back to promote. I really respect and appreciate what they do for the community. We'll be giving away tickets to Saturday night's show. My nightmare is no one claims them. No one wanting free tickets to my recording is terrifying to me.

How do you feel about the “nice guy” tag? I’d imagine it’s flattering but problematic.

The "nice guy" thing is definitely flattering. It's not something I had ever intentionally cultivated, but it kept cropping up from various people describing me. It's funny because a lot of the time it's something a comic will say that about a guy he likes as a person if he thinks that guy has no act. Like: "Josh Gondelman...yeah, I've worked with him. Super nice guy."

But I think/hope I get it because I'm actually nice, and my act is nice too. I'm not vicious onstage, you know? It's just an extension of who I am normally, and I've got a pretty good nice guy pedigree. I bake. I teach preschool (until June 21st). It's only problematic in that I sometimes worry I'm not nice enough. I have a tough time dealing with hecklers sometimes, because if I get mean for a second, the rest of my personality seems like a sham.

Do you ever write something that’s at odds with the nice guy image and not use it because it would be out of character?

I've definitely written some meaner or dirtier stuff that doesn't exactly fit with my persona. But usually either a. It doesn't fit with what I want to put onstage anyway, or b. I can "aw, shucks" it up a little bit and get away with it. It's all about attitude. If something is more adult in tone but dealt with in an innocent way, people find it much easier to swallow. Plus, I can always tweet it. My twitter is less consistently pleasant than my live performances. It's fun to be a little grosser or edgier.

How are your students taking the fact that you’re leaving?

My students are sad. The parents are sad. I've got kids in my class who I had their older siblings my first year as a teacher, so I've known the family for four years. I'm sad to leave them. Everyone's really lovely and supportive, though. Some of the kids have made me big heart-shaped cards, and the parents are all wishing me the best. I love when the parents try to explain standup comedy to the children. That's my favorite. The kids are like: "He just goes and tells people jokes?"

What do you expect once you get to New York?

I'm expecting it to be hard. There are a zillion comics there. So many of the best working comedians in the world live there, so it's a tough proving ground. I'm going to have to start from the ground up again, which is half demoralizing/half exhilarating. I'm excited to see how the change in scenery impacts my writing and performing. I've got a lot of friends there, which is nice in that I get to show up without being another anonymous dweeb coming to the big city to "make it." I don't want to lean on anyone for favors, but it's good that there's going to be someone to say: "Oh yeah, I know him. He's a nice guy."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tonight: Worried All the Time Premiere at the Armory

Rob Potylo and Metropolitan Pictures pulled Quiet Desperation from MyTV this week. They never got the chance to do the same with the children's show, Worried All the Time. They shot a pilot for it, and MyTV didn't pick it up. According to Potylo, the network was worried about a lot of the same people from Quiet Desperation being involved in a kid's show. Tonight at the Armory in Somerville might be your only chance to see the whole thing.

The night is being billed as The Premier Of Boston's Only Children Show For Adults: Worried All The Time and will feature performances from The Galactic Army Of Toys (featuring members of Walter Sickert And The Army Of Broken Toys), The Space Balloons (featuring Michael Epstein and Sophia Cacciola), The Tiny Space Instrument Revue (featuring jojo and a visit from various projections of Mefflike beings), Eliza Rickman, The Frog, and of course, Rob Potylo And The Lonely Planets. Kevin Harrington emcees.

Here are a couple of preview videos:

Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys:

The Space Balloons, "The Mustache Song"

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Blogger: Lucas Lewis Interviews Mehran

The final installment of Lucas Lewis Week, wherin Mr. Lewis interviews Mehran, one of Boston's rising stars of stand-up. I've spoken with Mehran for this blog and the Boston Globe before, and when you've covered someone for a while, there are questions you might stop asking because you think you already know the story. That's where an interview like this is refreshing -- I get to see someone else approach Mehran from a different perspective. There's a lot here to chew on, so dig in. And remember, Lewis is at The Gas tonight, and Mehran is hosting Criscoteque Two: Preaching for the Choir at Oberon. The Gas starts at 7:30, and Criscoteque at 9:30, so you should be able to make both. Thanks again, Lucas! - Nick  

Mehran hosts Criscoteque 2 tonight
at Oberon in Harvard Square
When and why did you start doing standup comedy?

I had just been laid off from my job at Harvard University where I’d worked in a number of different offices doing high-level admin work for three and a half years. I started temping at Harvard because I’d pretty successfully burned every bridge I had in the hospitality industry (rat fucking bastards) and I needed to not live on the street. I figured I could write, had strong computer skills and needed to explore potential career-paths that came with some degree of job security. My first temp role had me licking envelopes for three days. On my second contract, I happened to luck out and caught the fancy of one of the University’s top managers and, with her personal and professional mentorship, I moved up the ladder at rocket speed. Within 18 months, I was the Project Manager to the Office of the President and Provost, sitting across the hall from Larry Summers in what was his last year before his forced resignation. It was a circus.

You have to understand that up until that point, I had always fancied myself something of a boozy, acidy, weedy, comedic performer. I emceed underground arts shows and concerts, did some BIZARRE performance art, directed some funny one-acts, studied theater and acted wherever I could… so the transition to a desk job, especially one in such an occasionally austere environment, was both jarring and, in a sense, deeply depressing. Something of my family’s voice in me was pushing me toward a sustainable life-long career and I was, in listening to that voice, ready to accept that entertainment wasn’t going to happen for me beyond a hobby. Then in my last year at HU, working at the School of Public Health, my department saw some pretty severe budget cuts as a result of Bush-era slashes in federal public health funding and I was let go.

I collected unemployment and kept looking for work back at the University, but everything just felt too damn unhappy or underpaying to commit to. So to make my job-search time less agonizing, I decided to connect to my performance roots and signed up for the first standup comedy class in Boston that came up on Google. Standup was just about my favorite entertainment medium, but I thought that it was the kind of thing that you were either born doing or it wasn’t meant for you. I actually believed that. I hadn’t committed to writing material, EVER, and I thought that standup wasn’t for me because I didn’t open my mouth and instantly sound like Janeane Garofalo’s HBO special.

Debate on the merits of comedy classes to one side, that leap motivated me to write my first five minutes and, most importantly, it assured me to the fact that development was a process. Our final showcase was on November 1, 2007. That was my first time performing my own standup material in front of a seated audience and, accepting that this is going to sound unbearably trite despite its truth, I FELT my life change in that moment. Everything clicked. Walking home with my friends from that performance, I’m not even kidding, it’s the walk I’m still on. My life has been clearer to me since that night.

Can you give me a quick summary of how you went from newbie to Boston's best comic (per The Phoenix)?

Well it’s the Phoenix Best of Boston POLL. It’s a voting campaign driven thing—it’s really not about THE BEST. For Christ’s sake, the other nominated comics on my year were ALL frigging legends. I just happened to mobilize my facebook army the best into voting for me. Period. It had and has nothing to do with any qualitative measure of comedic superiority. Me, in my second year of comedy, a better standup than Kelly MacFarland? It’s an insane suggestion.

But if this question is about how quickly I rose in the ranks or how I manage to do alright in Boston’s entertainment landscape, then we’re looking at a whole different set of factors. For one thing, I’ve worked. I’ve put in my time, eaten it HARD in venues large and small and have seen humbling levels of support. Also, and here’s where personal opinion comes in, I brought myself to the table. I have material, sure, but I’m also the culmination of a pretty interesting life and I think people tune into that. I rarely take the blessing of getting to perform for people for granted and my audiences and I trade a lot of love.

You obviously have a unique voice; how did your act develop, and how deliberate was it?

I told the truth and I told it in my real voice—who I am onstage and who I am offstage are the exact same person. Also, I didn’t start at 21. I probably could have—the core sense of humor is still the same—but at 31, I’d already done the bulk of my soul searching, unleashed myself on the world in a million different ways and survived multiple crises of depression and identity. I think that’s a huge part of the standup experience for an audience, witnessing that specific human being in communication and tuning into her or his unique take on life. For the performer, standup can almost serve a function of social instruction and to do that, she or he has to have some degree of intimate self knowledge and mastery… something that I couldn’t claim to have had ten years ago when I was still licking the wounds of my troubled adolescence and embarking on the life I wanted.

My act started where so many acts start… toilet humor. The difference with me being that there it has remained. Somewhat kidding. My life is always mineable for material because it’s loaded with outrageous shit.
As for deliberateness, sure there were some deliberate moves. I started with the Iranian homo thing… in part because it’s my unique angle and in part because I’m a fucking Iranian homo. The rest, like most comics, I think, has been a process of discovering how I, in the medium of standup comedy, would shape what I find to be funny. The only thing really deliberate about a discovery process is the commitment to keep showing up and see it through. I can say that in that process, I took risks, shared myself and made some of my bigger mistakes earlier than most.

What are the venues or people that helped in your development?

How long have you got? Jesus.

The Comedy Studio, Rick Jenkins, Erin Judge, Tim McIntire, Mottley’s Comedy Club, Kelly MacFarland, Maz Jobrani, The Wilbur Theater, Jim and Helen McCue… Robby Roadsteamer/Potylo… they’ve all represented opportunity, mentorship, guidance, support, ENDORSEMENT… deeply, deeply humbling generosity and I hope to be able to repay them all someday.
Then there’s the community of local comics who have been incredible to watch and learn from. I remember my first nights going to the Studio—they have a policy where you have to attend three shows before you can take their stage—I remember thinking “how am I ever going to do that??” Lamont Price, Tom Dustin, Myq Kaplan, Dan Crohn, Ira Proctor, Micah Sherman, Ken Reid, Renata Tutko… there’s no way to start naming them all without leaving key people off the list or repeating names I mentioned earlier. It’s a very impressive group of inspiring, original talents who blew me away at day one and continually renew my resolve/anxiety to improve. Hell, some of the newer comics these days are bringing it hard, too.

Development is a big topic. There’s the slow climb of improvement—that’s facilitated by regular stage time and, again, we don’t have enough ink to thank all the bookers, local hosts and open mic organizers who make it possible. The other side of development, I think, has to do with the opportunities where you’re challenged to take on higher-stakes gigs. These are evolutionary jumps for a performer. The Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, performing in front of your comedy heroes, the Boston Comedy Festival, playing packed theaters like The Wilbur, The Berkeley Performance Center, The Lisner Auditorium… you learn a lot about who you are and what you’re made of as an entertainer in those moments… where you might fit, practically, in the greater comedy landscape.

Have you experienced discrimination in comedy? If so, in what ways was it similar or different than the discrimination you've encountered in everyday life?

Listen, my shit-kicking and shit-detecting skills were engaged at a very early age because they had to be (I’ve been out of the closet in a fairly conservative Iranian home since I was 15) and to that end, I’ve been lucky to know how to shut a lot of bullshit down before it ever gets a chance to start. I’m a big, fun extroverted gay man who self-identifies as Iranian, sure, but above all, I’m a strong, real, present person who doesn’t let iniquity slide. People tend to ascertain that quickly enough to preempt nonsense and spare themselves significant pain and misery. I don’t bring a victim mentality to the table and, no, discrimination has never been an issue.

The other side of this is that in the year 2011, the gays have pretty much won the war of visibility. I don’t have to fight that much anymore because people who would be stupid enough to air their prejudice in public are in the statistical minority and most likely fear being summarily shut down. I’m fine with bigotry being silenced by fear. I’ll take if from there and show them the light.

MIND YOU, I’m not being booked for Elks Lodges or to entertain the troops… but that has more to do with demographics and propriety than anything else. You wouldn’t hire GWAR to play a conservative corporate concert unless you wanted to watch a bunch of terrible people melt down. Which I happen to love doing.

Why do so many great standups come from the suburbs of Boston? You went to high school with Eugene Mirman, right?

Eugene and I went to high school together, indeed. That was Lexington, MA and for all of Lexington’s white moneyed shittiness and separation from the real world, we mostly got to be the trippy lifeforms we were there. I look for that in comedy—the trippiness of the source. The Eugene I know today is pretty much the exact same guy from 1992. Only he’s everyone’s idol and deservedly so.

Boston is a thinking person’s town and it’s counterbalanced with a rich and delicious tradition of assholeism. The right Bostonian will point out exactly why you don’t need to be so psyched to be alive, tell you to go fuck yourself and somehow invigorate your day with that information. I love it. Also, and I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, Boston isn’t where you “make it.” That takes a certain pressure off of development. A comic can discover her or his voice with less pressure and temptation to compromise to more formulaic templates here—if just for lack of example. This creates a culture of unstrained, unforced individuality and that’s a huge gift, particularly in one’s starting years.

You're notorious for having feuds — you even did a show featuring comedians you'd had "issues" with. How much of this is serious?

Notorious? FEUDS? Really? I mean… there’s probably some reputation there for being outspoken and not shying away from conflict but “notorious feuds” is tabloid exaggeration. I withhold less than the average person. It’s that simple. I also believe in the fundamental value of the truth as an agent to bring about positive change… and truth is typically in rare supply in environments where networking plays such a pivotal role in scoring work. Fuck all, do I hate networking. Give me honest, trustable dialogue and relationships any day.

Some of this perceived quarrel is also hazing, which I own. I was hazed on my initiation into comedy and trust it to be an essential ritual. It trains one to think more critically and respect the institution of comedy that preceded one’s involvement. Most of the folks who put me through the wringer in this city have since either moved on or diminished in their social presence on the scene. Giving newcomers a modicum of grief is a service I perform mostly out of necessity. The veterans aren’t around that much to do it anymore and we can’t go throwing a bunch of bladder-headed babies into the fray.

In the rare instance that I have a real issue with someone, sure, it gets to be serious. But I’m not an agent of seriousness, I’m an agent of laughter. There isn’t a bridge that can be burned that can’t be rebuilt stronger, smarter and funnier. Hence the capacity to mend relationships and book a show entirely with comics I’ve at some point driven mad. That was a great show, by the way. I’m glad I was able to get back on the good foot with all those talented people.

Generally speaking, what is your take on the Boston comedy scene? The good, the bad and the ugly.

Good: the support network, the general originality of voice that happens here, the opportunities for mentorship and development, the ease with which one can fall into the scene and find stagetime, the possibility of being a big fish in a small pond.

Bad: small pond. you reach a critical capacity here and have to move to New York or Los Angeles to make a play at greater distribution. we can’t retain our talent.

Ugly: Tom Dustin. (I love you, Tom)

Alternative comedy is a blanket if not meaningless term often used to describe an array of different acts. What, if anything, does the term mean to you? Are you an "alternative" comic?

In my experience, alternative comedy is just poster short-hand for shows booked with hipper, non-traditionally dressed, potentially disenfranchised comics whose acts are marked by greater absurdism, sexual weirdness, politically leftist incredulity and/or references to marijuana/psychotropic drug culture. I happen to fall into all of that and who doesn’t like playing to an audience that’s on open to all of one’s eccentricities and peccadilloes? So in that regard, sure, I’m an alternative comic. Still, one has to broaden the scope. Comedy is comedy. Funny is funny. Some of my most rewarding comedy experiences have been in rooms where the audience didn’t see me coming and you can come out of those situations with some die-hard fans and advocates.

Tell me about Quiet D — the genesis, your involvement and your takeaway.

It started as a phone conversation between Robby Roadsteamer (né Potylo) and myself. We were talking about how fun it would be to film a show about our talks and interactions (both of us being pro-drug and, well, awesomely damaged funny people) but to pump up the absurdity. Robby took it a step further to suggest that the show could really showcase some of the city’s talent so that, perhaps, not so many of us would have to defect to NYC or LA.

Robby’s tremendously motivated and what could have been just a flight of fancy idea between two friends, quickly became a steady stream of shoots featuring dozens of Boston comics with Joe Madaus behind the camera. Over the course of about nine months we shot thirteen or fourteen webisodes. Rob and I continued to talk daily and batted some of the ideas around but the vision, the coordination, the direction, was almost entirely Rob’s. (Except for my scenes, which Rob would rush and butcher in editing.)
With each passing webisode, it became clearer that we had very different ideas about where the show needed to go—I felt that there were too many cameos and that we had to get more organized, loyal to plot lines, etc., if the show was ever to transition to a 22-minute televised format. I did my best to communicate these ideas delicately, but Robby ultimately took my concerns more as artistic criticism than collaborative feedback. Tensions escalated for months until Rob couldn’t bear me socially and I couldn’t bear him professionally. The partnership caved.

After about nine months of radio silence, Robby was approached by a production company and they bought the broadcast time on MyTV and I was invited back. I agreed, under the condition that I’d be able to exercise a degree of creative control to, by my standards, increase the value of the show. I didn’t want to be associated with something that I didn’t agree with aesthetically or otherwise and wouldn’t lend my image without the assurance that I wouldn’t have to tip-toe around changes and suggestions. This time, I was unabashedly forward in communicating all the work that I thought the show needed. Robby was on board for about a month and we saw some great strides but, yet again, things turned hostile. This time, after roughly two weeks of insurmountable disagreement and rabid barking on both our parts, I decided to back away from the show sooner rather than later. I didn’t want the craziness to negatively impact my work in standup and that worked out for the best. I haven’t watched since episode three.
Lessons: Know when to bow out of something when you know you disagree with it and it isn’t going to change. Pull the trigger before things get heated. Never go back to a stubborn situation, no matter how great you think it could be. GET YOUR CONTRACT UP FRONT, otherwise, prepare to toss in a boatload of effort for pure grief. Define your boundaries and be honest about how you work. That, at least, I did get right the second time around.

What are your feelings on Rick and The Comedy Studio?

I love Rick Jenkins. Personally, I have all the warmth in the world for him and professionally, I don’t know that I have too many people in comedy to thank more. He gave me key advice and asked me deep questions up front that absolutely accelerated my development. He’s absolutely a mentor and I can count on him for good and precise advice when I need it. People joke that he likes to take credit for comics once they go on to succeed in the business. Me, I look forward to being able to thank him for all of his support and guidance. I can experience some catastrophic comedy failure somewhere and as soon as I walk into The Comedy Studio, I know I’m home. If you knew me better, you’d understand how welcome, rare and meaningful a feeling like that is for me.

Do you feel like you'll need to move to New York or LA to take the next step? Why or why not?

Yes, I will have to move to one or the other. I’m still weighing my options. I don’t know LA. I’ve never been but Lord knows I would prefer the weather. New York is a taxing bitch of a city where I play regularly enough and already and know a host of SUPER-talented comics. It’s certainly the easier of the two, transition-wise. The biggest factor is that I’m not rich. Moving is going to be expensive, as is living in either city. I also don’t look forward to liquidating my life in Boston. I’ve accumulated a metric fuckton of crap.

I have to move because I want to do big things and I want to up my game. There are just more greats, by sheer numbers, in NYC and LA. If you’re going to try and jump over the bar, you have to put yourself in front of it

What IS the next step for you?

I mean… I love doing standup and I love producing shows that showcase standup in new and interesting ways. I’m super proud of Boston and deeply in love with some of my fellow comics. To find a way to bring what I do now to its next level… to increase its reach and viewership… to drive my own personal agenda in comedy and spread my unique signature of joy… help some people while I do it… that’s the dream.

I’ve been doing these rave/standup comedy hybrid shows that are a hoot. Next one is at Club Oberon in Cambridge on May 27th and it’s a benefit for this AMAZING choir in town, Coro Allegro.

And on May 14th, I’m in the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival final audition round in NYC.

We’ll see!

What's the worst show you've ever done?

There have been some doozies. Like the one where a Latina lesbian chased me off the stage while the audience was like, “she’s right!” I had made a joke about the blind children of Mexico being more violent than their blind peers from other countries… because they think everything is full of candy. It was a shitty drag show and most of the audience was made up of these white-guilt liberals who didn’t cotton to my political incorrectness. The host was off somewhere not giving a fuck about the show. Meanwhile, I was doing my residency that month at the Comedy Studio AND I was on my second day of waking up at 3AM to film 20 spastic episodes of Deal or No Deal (if you look them up, I will find you and kill you.) So I was at the end of my rope anyhow and having some crazy Latina all up in my grill on a shitty runway stage was more than I was interested in for the night. I promptly collected my shit and got the fuck out of Dodge. Mind you, I felt FINE about leaving and never really thought about it again. If we’re talking about shows where I’ve hated myself afterward and/or hidden in public toilets and/or not left my apartment for a week over… well… that’s a whole other interview.

Guest Blogger: Onward and Upward

Lucas Lewis Week is almost at an end, so remember to check out Lewis's performance at The Gas tonight at Great Scott. He's taping his set, and it's always good to have a full crowd for that. Thanks to Lewis for his work this week. One more coming -- a lengthy Q&A with Mehran. -- Nick

By Lucas Lewis

BOSTON — Let's say you're a comedian in Boston. You've been at it four, maybe five years. You've started to have some success, and you're well-known to the comedians and bookers around town. You've played all the local clubs to rave reviews, entered some festivals, maybe even gotten some road gigs.

So what comes next?

More than likely, you're going to start to think about the next phase of your career, and more than likely, that's going to entail moving to New York or Los Angeles. The time frame may vary but the general consensus is that you need to leave Boston in order to succeed as a comedian.

“It’s really to do it for like 10 years and then eventually move to L.A. or New York,” says comedian Eugene Mirman. “Really it’s so much about tenacity that if you literally just keep doing and it and doing it, you’ll probably eventually get good. But you have to leave Boston. Definitely in terms of getting work, there’s just a lot more in New York and L.A.”


I graduated college with a degree in theater. And I'm unemployed...because I have a degree in theater. I just moved into my own apartment. It’s near where my parents live. It’s across their hallway...because I have a degree in theater.
— Ahmed Bharoocha

Ahmed Bharoocha, 27, spent the first half of his life in Southern California, moving to Rhode Island just before starting high school. He attended URI and, after a brief foray as an engineering major — largely to please his parents — he eventually graduated with a degree in theater.

His parents eventually came around.

“At that point I had started doing standup and they had seen it,” he says. “I think they could just tell it was something I was really serious about. After that they didn’t give me a lot of guff about it.”

Bharoocha started doing standup comedy in earnest in 2004, occasionally heading to Boston or New York for gigs but mostly staying in Rhode Island at first. He met fellow Ocean State comedian Tim Vargulish and the pair soon started traveling to Boston with increasing frequency — first monthly, then weekly, and eventually several times a week.

As an outsider, Bharoocha found the Boston comedy scene intimidating and hard to break into. That perception was turned on its head when he began attending open mics with regularity, and he was soon assimilated into what he now considers a very supportive, accommodating scene. It was a stark contrast from the “bringer” shows he did in New York, where stage time was contingent on how many people you brought through the door, and the crowds were often hostile.

“With Boston, there’s a lot of stage time where you can get up all the time, a lot of open mics where people will listen to you,” he says. “They might not laugh, but they will pay attention to you. In New York, there are a lot of really rough, angry open mics.”

Bharoocha soon came to consider himself a Boston comedian. He set goals for himself that he quickly realized, including become the Comic-in-Residence at the Comedy Studio. He earned invites to prestigious festivals, including the Boston Comedy Festival, the Seattle Comedy Festival, the Great American Comedy Festival and the Bulmer’s Comedy Festival in Dublin.

He started to get work on the road, too, but he had a nagging feeling that he needed to move to New York or Los Angeles to take the next step — or at least to try.

“I kept putting it off, and it was getting to a point in Boston where I was comfortable — I did most of the things I wanted to do, and I was worried it would be too late if I didn’t go,” he says.

Last winter the Boston comedian Zach Sherwin, aka MC Mr. Napkins, moved to L.A., where he now hosts a free standup showcase (“French Toast”) at Taix in Echo Park on Sunday nights. Sherwin had Bharoocha on the show his first night in town.


“I'm originally from Wisconsin. I used to have this crazy job there where me and all my co-workers got paid to get drunk all day. It's call roofing.”
— Shane Mauss

Shane Mauss, 30, grew up in La Crosse, Wisc., and came to Boston in 2004 in part to pursue comedy. Only, he didn't really know how one did such a thing. That didn't stop him from having an almost-absurdly fast — and certainly unusual — rise in the comedy world.

“I had no idea what I was doing so I just opened up a phone book — people still used phone books back then — and I called around all the different clubs. Rick Jenkins was the guy who was just like, come check out some shows.”

Mauss soon got himself on a bill; it was OK. Jenkins encouraged him to take a standup comedy class, which he did with Rich Gustas at the now-defunct Emerald Isle in Dorchester. (Tough neighborhood, he says; he once got mugged outside of the class.) The graduation show was eight weeks later, back at the Studio, and Mauss — as they say in the business — killed it.

He immediately started getting booked on bigger shows around town, and soon he was hosting. He made it to the finals of the Boston Comedy Festival in 2006, and on the strength of that performance he was invited to the prestigious (but now defunct) Aspen Comedy Festival, where he won Best Comic. He found management and was soon being booked all over the country.

Less than three years from the time he started doing doing comedy, Mauss appeared on Conan.

Even though he’s from Wisconsin and lives in Austin, Mauss considers himself a Boston comic. He's not the only one. Mauss was recently one of six nominees for The Phoenix’s Best Comedian award in the Best of Boston readers' poll — something his doesn’t realize until I tell him.

“I'm in the running for best comic in Boston right now? That's funny, I had no idea. Well, that's a mistake on their part.”

While he had enough work to move wherever he wanted, he thinks for most aspiring comics, the road still goes through New York or L.A.

“I feel like if you've been doing standup and have been doing well for like five to seven years, and maybe been in some festivals and done fairly well, and maybe are featuring a fair amount, then I'd say there's going to be a point where you might have to seek out New York or L.A. to catch a break,” Mauss says.

But Mauss' story, while an interesting case, is hardly representative.

“I don't know, my path was different just because I got seen in a festival and invited to another festival and things just sort of blew up for me. So I never needed to go to New York or L.A. to be discovered.”


Bethany Van Delft was born in New York but moved to the Boston area when she was little, ultimately ending up in Dorchester. She always loved comedy but was “debilitatingly shy” growing up, and it wasn't until she had a quarter life crisis more than a decade ago that she mustered nerve to try standup.

“I was a restaurant manager, I had a three-story townhouse in South End and an awesome boyfriend — and I was so incredibly bored,” she says. “I thought when that time comes, you’re just happy, and I was miserable.”

She signed up for a comedy writing class at the Boston Center for Adult Education and was the only woman — and the only person who wasn't white. She dropped out after three classes, frustrated with feedback that either seemed non-applicable or like a double standard. But she still showed up for the graduation show at The Comedy Studio and actually had a decent set, good enough to earn a monthly spot from Jenkins.

Van Delft continued on this path for a few years, writing a new set each time and generally just maintaining but not improving. Jenkins would always tell her she needed to go to open mics, but she never did.

“Obviously you know you can’t get good at comedy doing that,” she says. “I didn’t really get what you had to do to become a comic.”'

But about six years ago, something clicked. Van Delft made the rounds, introducing herself at all the clubs and performing nearly every night at open mics or feature shows. She killed. She bombed. All of it made her better. And now she has a decision to make.

“I know that I have to go somewhere,” Van Delft says. “Probably New York, I would think. It’s just really hard. I started comedy later in life, like I wasn’t 19 and in college or anything. I wonder how much that has to do with a comic’s success…

“It’s a tough decision I’m trying to work out right now. I have to do it. To be at the next level, I have to do this. I’m at a crossroads right now.”

Boston is a starting point, but it's never the endgame.

“Boston isn’t where you 'make it,' says Mehran, who last year was named Boston's Best Comedian in The Phoenix Best of Boston readers' poll. “That takes a certain pressure off of development. A comic can discover her or his voice with less pressure and temptation to compromise to more formulaic templates here.”

Kaplan, Sherwin and Mauss — who not all that coincidentally share management — represent the last exodus of great Boston comedians. Josh Gondelman, Van Delft and Mehran are perhaps the next wave.

And if there's one negative to the Boston comedy scene, it's this: The place can't retain its talent. Seems like as soon as someone gets really good, they leave.

But the void never lasts long.

“One of the amazing things about the Boston scene is how it replenishes itself constantly,” says Nick Zaino III, who has covered comedy for more than a decade and runs the Boston Comedy Blog. “Every few years, a bunch of people leave, and you wonder, who’s going to take their place? Who is going to step up? And it might not be obvious who that is, but there is always someone there who gets good and starts really building and getting hot.”

That next someone might be Matt Donaher, aka Matt D, a New Hampshire native whose ascent in the Boston comedy scene has been downright Mauss-like. Last month he was voted Boston's Best Comedian in The Phoenix readers' poll — just two years into his comedy career.

Donaher's razor-sharp one-liners (ex: The important thing to remember when committing a the order) have earned him slots at big clubs and festivals, and there's more on the horizon. But the 25-year-old says he's not going anywhere at the moment.

“I don’t really feel the itch because Boston’s been so good to me,” he says. “I’m happy with what I’m doing and I know for a fact if I left right now it would be to my detriment.”

Ultimately he'd like to be a writer, perhaps for one of the late-night shows, and he thinks skipping town before he's developed more would be a mistake. Still, he already knows that at some point he'll probably need to leave.

“It’s more that I don’t want to hit one of those lulls, so that would require a move to jump start it all,” he says. “If a year from now, nothing from this conversation has progressed, that wouldn’t be good at all.”

But if — or, more likely, when — he does leave, one thing seems certain: There will be someone else waiting in the wings.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest Blogger: The Studio

More from Lucas Lewis, because it's Lucas Lewis Week. Today's piece is about The Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. - Nick
 By Lucas Lewis

Other clubs say, “Tell all your friends about us.” We want you to keep this quiet, because we’re not sure the Chinese know we’re here.
— Rick Jenkins

Rick Jenkins of The Comedy Studio
CAMBRIDGE — Tucked away on the third floor of the Hong Kong restaurant in Cambridge, across Massachusetts Avenue from the gated majesty of Harvard Yard, sits what many funny people consider to be the greatest comedy club in the world.

Among them are Eugene Mirman, who has released three comedy albums, written a book (“The Will to Whatevs”) and acted in the HBO show “Flight of the Conchords”; Joe Wong, a Letterman favorite; Shane Mauss, who had a Comedy Central special and released an album on the station’s imprint; and Frank Smiley, the senior producer (and talent scout) for Conan O’Brien.

But unless you’re a comedian, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of The Comedy Studio. That’s by design. When owner Rick Jenkins starting doing Sunday night shows at the Hong Kong 15 years ago, he didn’t set out to create the kind of cookie-cutter, two-drink-minimum comedy club that proliferated in the 1980’s.

At first, he didn’t set out to create a comedy club at all.

“I was almost 35 and had not made it as a standup comic, and clearly wasn’t going to make it as a standup comic,” Jenkins says, “and I got a day job at a bookstore for minimum wage figuring, ‘Alright, I got to do comedy for 10 years and now I have to start the real world.’”

Instead, his Sunday night shows starting doing well, so he added Friday and Saturday night shows. There’s now a magic-themed show on Tuesday nights, and Wednesdays and Sundays tend to feature less polished comedians than weekend nights, but the format — about 10 comics doing 5-7 minute “feature” sets — has remained relatively constant.

That’s one thing that separates The Comedy Studio from some of the bigger clubs downtown, such as Nick’s Comedy Stop, which more often than not follow the standard format of feature performer (doing about 30 minutes), out-of-town headliner and maybe an emcee.

Another is the crowd. Jenkins likes to joke that he doesn’t want the audience to tell their friends because “we’re not sure the Chinese know we’re here...and for the first 10 years that was really true,” Jenkins says. “People would call the Hong Kong and they would have no idea what they were talking about.”

Jenkins is quick to point out that it’s not generally overrun with Harvard people, but the Cambridge location does lend itself to a smart, hip crowd.

“Boston is a thinking person’s town, and it’s counterbalanced with a rich and delicious tradition of a**holeism,” says the comedian Mehran, who grew up in Lexington (and attended high school with Mirman). “The right Bostonian will point out exactly why you don’t need to be so psyched to be alive, tell you to go f*ck yourself and somehow invigorate your day with that information. I love it.”

Smiley is the senior producer for The Conan O’Brien Show. The first time he went to the Studio, he looked at 10 comedians and had three on the show in the following two weeks.

“That's pretty much unheard of,” says Jenkins. “Usually it takes at least a year of them tracking someone, and out of 10 they might find one they want to track.”

Not surprisingly, Smiley returns often, and he's quoted on the club’s program:

I consider it the greatest comedy club on earth. It’s a return to the days of smart audiences, which I find are rare, and I’ve been everywhere. You go to the Comedy Studio and then you come back to the New York clubs and you fall into a depression.

“The Studio has such a good crowd,” says Ahmed Bharoocha, a Boston (by way of Rhode Island) comedian who moved to Los Angeles earlier this year. “They’re usually smart and they’re going to like you. It’s not like a road room where you have to bang it into (their) heads — which is a good thing to learn, too. I think Rick really wants you to get your set ready for what you think it’d be on TV.”

And that is the most crucial ingredient of The Comedy Studio: Jenkins himself.


“Seven chairs on that side,” Jenkins tells a comedian who’s helping him transform the third floor of the Hong Kong into a comedy club.

There are four 20-foot long tables plastered with snapshots and press clippings that constitute the bulk of the seating at the Comedy Studio. Six nights a week, Jenkins is here to set up, though mercifully he only has to break down four of those nights. Every show starts at 8 and ends by 10.

Girl Talk is playing over the speakers while a comedy DVD menu circles repeatedly in silence. Along the back walls is additional seating, and after setting up the tables, Jenkins takes to arranging a handful of promotional signs from over the years along the back wall. One features a black and white photo of a much younger-looking Jenkins, when the Buffalo native, who’s approaching 50, still had a full head of hair.

Then, as now, when he dons a dark suit for his hosting duties (he emcees most of the weekend shows), Jenkins seems surprisingly straight-laced for the proprietor of a hip club considered to be a bastion of “alternative” comedy (see “Indie Comedy”). He credits comedian Eugene Mirman, who was a staple of The Studio for four years before moving to New York in 2000, with shifting things in an experimental direction.

“He’s really the one that took my mainstream instincts and pushed them towards the gorilla operation,” Jenkins says.

But Jenkins’ mainstream instincts and appearance are in part what allow The Studio to thrive. Audiences who wander in off the street might be put off by the bizarre antics of one comedian, but 5-to-7 minutes later they have Jenkins up there smiling and delivering the kind of setup/punchline jokes they expect during the segue.

And it largely operates like a real comedy club, apart from the fact that the comedians don’t get paid, so there is a professionalism and efficiency to everything.

“Rick does a great job running it,” Mirman says. “It has a wonderful spirit to it. It’s got so many elements that come together that make it great place.”

Comedians are able to experiment; the audience is exposed to different kinds of jokes than they might see on TV without being pushed out of their comfort zone for too long; and Jenkins gets to feature a variety of comedic acts and styles.

“You’ll hear a lot of comics say you need a place to fail,” says Nick Zaino III, who has covered the Boston comedy scene for more than a decade (for The Boston Globe, among others) and runs the Boston Comedy Blog ( “The Studio is often that place, where people are supportive enough that you can really swing big and whiff sometimes.

“But if you make contact, you’ll really have something. That’s not something you can get everywhere. And the Studio isn’t a big club, but it’s an established place, so it means something to people to get to a certain point there.”


Jenkins’ willingness to try new things and let comedians experiment is unusual for a legitimate comedy club, especially one that generally pulls a good crowd, but it’s central to his mission. He doesn’t just select talented and unique voices; he helps to foster them, often from the beginning.

When comedians contact him about getting on a show, he’ll send out a welcoming care package, replete with a filled letter, articles on The Studio, a listing of open mics and a free pass to the club. It’s not clear what Jenkins gets out of this, but for aspiring comics it’s a great primer for the scene.

“Comics really develop here,” Jenkins says of Boston generally, but he could be talking about his club. “It’s really more like a graduate school.”

He rarely offers advice without being asked, but he has it at the ready. Jenkins even has a Comic-in-Residence program, a sort of finishing school for young comedians. Every night for a month, the Comic-in-Residence does a set at every show, hosting or taking the bullet (going first) for crowds that range from teenagers to tourists to grizzled veterans of the Boston comedy scene.

One of the first Comics-in-Residence was Myq Kaplan, the Last Comic Standing finalist. When Kaplan first performed at the Studio 10 years ago, he was an aspiring singer-songwriter who just thought he'd try some of his funnier songs onstage. He was crestfallen when he found out he only had seven minutes.

Also on the bill that night were Jonathan Katz and Louis C.K., though at the time neither name meant very much to Kaplan. Later, when he became serious about comedy, he hosted a show at the Studio with Micah Sherman before moving to New York a few years ago.

“Basically Rick was the first person to put me on stage,” Kaplan says. “The Studio I think of as my home club. That's where I got started, I love going back there. It's just a really great place with great audiences and Rick is great.”

“I don't want to blow smoke up his a**hole one more time, but The Comedy Studio was a really important terrarium for me to do stuff,” adds Zach Sherwin, who performs — and recently released his first CD on Comedy Central Records — under the moniker MC Mr. Napkins. “Rick gave me that weekly hosting spot and then I'd do a couple other spots a month, and it just was a really good community of smart, appreciative people who gave me a lot of good feedback early on. The Comedy Studio was huge.”

Sherwin and Kaplan are among the latest batch of Boston comics to find success only to skip town. Another is Shane Mauss, who now lives in Austin. Mauss' rise was downright meteoric (see “Onward”), but like Mirman and Kaplan before him, it really started with the Comedy Studio.

“I think of the Studio as my home club,” Mauss says. “As far as actually performing, it's my favorite club in the country. It's not always super intelligent comedy that you see on stage, but the audiences are usually up for whatever — dumb jokes and smart jokes alike.
It's one of the few places where I can do my really weird alternative stuff, but then I can also do my blue collar-y stuff talking about drinking or my old construction job...I haven't really seen that in too many clubs.”

For his part, Jenkins thinks the recipe is simple: “If you have good audiences, comics will want to be here, and if you have good comics, audiences will want to be here.”


You can point to many things as evidence of the Studio's central place in the Boston comedy landscape, the respect it engenders among comics in particular. The club has sustained itself without a single professional promotional push. Smiley and other scouts regularly look to Jenkins to produce showcases so they can locate the town's top talent.

But one of the most impressive things is this: The Comedy Studio occupies this elevated space despite the fact that it doesn't pay its comedians. The space is too small and the tickets too cheap to support anything more than Jenkins and his Hong Kong restaurant overlords. But it doesn't seem to matter. The best out-of-town comics often try to make a pit stop at the club, even when they're playing far bigger, far better paying (and this would include anything that's paying) gigs downtown. Todd Barry and Gary Gulman have recorded CDs here.

Whether it's the crowd, Jenkins, the space itself or some combination in between, the alchemy has worked for 15 years. When asked what sacrifices he's made to make that happen, his dismisses the idea entirely.

“I'm making a living doing something I love, instead of making a decent living doing something I hate,” he says.

In The Comedy Studio, Jenkins has created the kind of club he’d want to attend.

Just don't tell your friends.

Guest Blogger: Scorpion Bowls & Punch Lines

Lucas Lewis Week continues with this piece on Boston's tradition of comedy in Chinese restaurants. - Nick

By Lucas Lewis

BOSTON — There’s something about Chinese restaurants that seems to bring out the best — and the worst — in Boston comedy.

Back in 1979, it was Barry Crimmins establishing the first full-time comedy club in town at the now-legendary — and now-defunct — Ding Ho in Inman Square. Today there’s the Comedy Studio at the Hong Kong in Cambridge, perhaps the most revered and respected comedy club in New England (see “The Studio”).

But across town, in the shadow of Fenway Park, there’s a lesser-known venue forging the Chinese comedy connection: Grandma’s Basement, an intimate lounge connected to a Chinese restaurant at the Howard Johnson Hotel. In Boston, as elsewhere, comics congregate around the shows they can get on — mostly small showcases and open mics. Grandma’s has the added allure of being a small room (a dozen people makes the 44-capacity room look full) run by one of their own, and as a result it has become one of the premier hangouts for local comedians in the past year.

Bar manager and sometimes host Benny Bosh (nee’ Boshnak), who shares booking, hosting and bartending duties with fellow comic Tom Dunlap, is happy that this happened when it did.

“We’ve grown in popularity at a perfect rate alongside our — mine and Tom’s — comedy performance,” Bosh says. “That is to say, I’m glad it wasn't this popular a year ago, because then I would've looked like a complete idiot on stage. Now I just kind of look like one.”

The insider cache — along the Chinese restaurant bit — is a marked similarity to the Ding Ho, which Crimmins designed to be a comedy clubhouse. “The secret of the Ding was that it was of, by, and for comics,” he wrote in a 1999 retrospective for The Boston Phoenix. “The Ding treated all its acts like stars. Comics didn't pay for drinks — ever. They could put anyone they liked on the guest list.”

Grandma’s Basement has other parallels to the Ding Ho, too. On Fridays and Saturdays, Bosh or Dunlap are usually behind the bar, slinging strong — and on occasion free or discounted — drinks to the comics assembled.

A typical weekend show (which is canceled when the Red Sox have a home game that starts later than 1 p.m.) will feature around 10 comedians doing 5-7 minutes apiece, though there are exceptions: Earlier this year, local comedian Shawn Donovan recorded his first album, Few Mourn, at Grandma’s Basement.

“Donovan’s album recording I still think of as one of our greatest successes as a comedy venue,” Bosh says. “He is without a doubt one of my favorite comics in Boston and in comedy, and I’m so happy he got that out there and I was able to help achieve that.”

As for Chinese restaurants bringing out the worst in Boston comedy? The Ding Ho was as notorious as it was noteworthy, with comedians nearly running the place into the ground with their bar tabs and after-hours shenanigans. Grandma’s Basement hardly ever approaches that level of debauchery, but The Phoenix did recently dub Thursday’s open mic “The Best Worst Night of Comedy” in Boston for 2011.

Bosch, who hosts most Thursdays, wears the distinction as a badge of honor.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Quiet D" Done On MyTV

Rob Potylo on Quiet Desperation
What began in December as a promising venture to bring Boston comedians and musicians to a larger officially ended today when Rob Potylo and Metropolitan Pitcures announced they were pulling Quiet Desperation from MyTV. In a press release posted this afternoon on Facebook, Potylo and Metropolitan announced the decision, citing MyTV’s new ownership and subsequent stricter censorship of the show as their motivation.
Carlisle One Media bought WZMY in March, and have said they plan to continue the association with the MyNetworkTV. Shooting Star Broadcasting had owned the station since 2004.

The press release says the new ownership has a different vision for the station, and had asked Potylo and Metropolitan to removed some content and to “bleep” some words. They contend they had already vetted the show for content that would comply with FCC standards.

“Principal filming has been completed according to the original standards we agreed to with MyTV management when we made our broadcast deal,” said Metropolitan Pictures Creative Director Warren Lynch in the statement. “Now that we’re more than halfway through the season what are we supposed to do, re-shoot it?”

Potylo contends much of the shift has to do with Carlisle owner Bill Binnie. “Last week they (MyTV) ran an infomercial for tooth whitening instead of a repeat episode they had already broadcast – simply because of the new owner’s personal taste,” he said in the release. “He already wants us to remove humor related to marijuana and bleep words that don't violate TV-MA/18 standards, and it’s the start of a slippery slope which, for me, would destroy my vision of the program. I know QUIETD has a mass appeal that is undeniable, and we’re willing to stand by that.”

Guest Blogger: Boston Grassroots Comedy in Full Bloom

Guest Blogger Lucas Lewis
Starting today, I'm declaring this "Lucas Lewis Week" on the Boston Comedy Blog. Why? Because Lewis is recording a set for the first time Friday at The Gas, he's going to be leaving town shortly, and he's written this fine, multi-part piece on Boston Comedy. He's gotten into quite a few corners of this scene, and there is a lot to explore. He also interviews me. So in a very lazy way, I am posting something I said, too. Lewis was not lazy, though. And you'll see the fruits of his efforts today through Friday, including an extended Q&A with Mehran, who will be putting up Criscoteqhue 2 at Oberon Friday. Enjoy! -- Nick
By Lucas Lewis

CAMBRIDGE — Rhys Thomas paces nervously in front of the Middle East Corner on Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square. The 22-year-old Beverly native and student at North Shore Community College is preparing to perform standup comedy in front of a crowd for the first time, at the weekly Corner Comedy Open Mic, and he’s, well…

“I’m a wreck,” he says matter-of-factly.

Thomas has been taking a standup class at nearby ImprovBoston with Josh Gondelman (, a young but seasoned comic thought by many to be among the city’s best. Gondelman won Atlanta’s Laughing Skulls Comedy Festival last year, and in June he’ll record his first CD.

But Gondelman is also a preschool teacher who’s widely considered “Boston’s nicest comedian” — a persona he plays with on his website — and his soft-spoken demeanor is no doubt a comfort for fledgling comedians like Thomas.

The impetus for Thomas to actually pick up a mic, however, came as a result of another show put on by tonight’s host, Rob Crean of Anderson Comedy.

“It’s been something I’ve always enjoyed, but I never thought I could actually do it,” Thomas says. “I went to see Rob’s show kind of by accident, ‘The Gas’ (a showcase that takes place every Friday Night at Allston rock club Great Scott), and that’s the first time I ever saw local comedy.”

Boston’s local standup comedy scene is experiencing a second renaissance, producing shows at the rate — if not the profit margin — that made it known as a comedy hub in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when the likes of Denis Leary, Lenny Clark and Steven Wright patrolled the stage.

The Middle East Corner’s Tuesday night show is just one of many comedy open mics around town; Boston comedians regularly go on to appear on Comedy Central and, sometimes, the major network late night shows; and alternative shows are cropping up all around the city, from rock clubs in Allston to cramped living rooms in Jamaica Plain.

Not all of this is new, of course, but the manner, scope and character of these independent comedy ventures are unique, according to more than a dozen comedians, club owners and journalists interviewed for this series.

Thomas aside, the cast of characters at the Corner Comedy Open Mic doesn’t seem to veer dramatically from those comedians showcased elsewhere on Friday and Saturday nights. In this respect, it's similar to the other main comedy open mics around town: Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville’s Union Square (Monday), Grandma's Basement in Fenway (Thursday), and The Banshee in Dorchester and Rosebud in Davis (Sunday).

You quickly start to see a lot of the same faces.

This is one of the things that sets Boston apart — it's small enough that there is a real sense of community. There are Facebook groups as well as the Boston Comedy Softball League. Instead of stealing material, Boston comedians have a reputation for suggesting “tags,” or additional punchlines, to one another.

When Myq Kaplan, a finalist on the last season of Last Comic Standing, got started in 2004, “I didn't realize how welcoming and supportive and encouraging the Boston comedy scene was,” he says. Kaplan, who has released a comedy album (Vegan Mind Meld), now lives in New York — a place that, because of its size and scale, lacks the camaraderie of the Boston comedy scene.

“To me it was just incredibly supporting,” adds Shane Mauss, who within months of starting standup upon moving to Boston in 2004 was getting prime gigs and invaluable advice thanks to other comedians. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was good, of course, but it's a sentiment echoed by most of the comedians interviewed.

Perhaps when Rhys Thomas conquers his nerves a little more, he might find the same thing. Despite being petrified, he gamely delivered his material, which was based on the premise that he's worried about people who are telepathic because he feels like his brain is a messy apartment. A line about there being “porn everywhere” got a laugh.

Ultimately, Thomas was pleased with how his first show went. Contacted a few months later, Thomas hadn't performed again aside from the graduation show for the class he was taking. But he was resolved to change that.

“I’m still terrified,” he says, “but in the past two weeks I have started writing out bits that I like, that I’m laughing at, instead of just premises.”

Even with his somewhat peculiar, alternative brand of comedy, Thomas can expect to find a warm reception.

Guest Blogger: Indie Comedy Rocks, But What’s the ‘Alternative?’

Eugene Mirman at the Paradise
in March
A sidebar to Part I of Lucas Lewis's series on local comedy. Lewis will be recording a set Friday at The Gas at Great Scott. - Nick

By Lucas Lewis

JAMAICA PLAIN — On a warm night in late April, a crowd assembles in the living room of the Whitehaus, a three-story Victorian in Jamaica Plain that has been putting on rock shows in its basement, and in this particular parlor, for the last few years.

Only on this occasion, music is merely the sideshow: The main act is the Union Square Round Table (, a comedic variety show that started in Somerville and is normally held at PA’s Lounge in the show’s eponymous square the last Friday of each month.

PA’s accidentally double-booked this month, so the show moved to Somerville’s progressive counterpart on the other side of the river, JP. It turns out to be a fortuitous move. The room is packed with first-timers, and it’s a younger crowd than the USRT typically attracts. Rockers. Hipsters. Bohemians. Other JP stereotypes seemingly come to life.

Keira Horowitz, who has been involved with the show for most of its five years, is encouraged by the turnout. Before she goes onstage to talk about her personal history of Jamaica Plain, she says the group will probably try other locales, too.

Eugene Mirman, a successful comedian (see “The Studio” and “Onward”), former Somervillian and friend of a few of the group’s founding members, used to perform at the show with some regularity, and Horowitz confesses that until recently, she assumed he was their primary draw. Tonight’s show is evidence to the contrary.

In some ways, the USRT is the kind of cerebral, multimedia variety show you might expect from an educated collective of 20- and 30-somethings: smart (if obscure) impressions, oddball videos, faux professorial lectures aided by PowerPoint and an overhead projector.

But then there are unexpected wrinkles, too, like the married musical duo Cotton Candy performing flawless renditions of actual commercial jingles from years past, or the chocolate pudding cooked in the kitchen over the course of the show and served at the end by the mustachioed Round Table knight TD Sidell.

Unlike many of the comedy shows around town, none of the featured players seemed to be trying to “make it” in comedy.

“The Union Square Round Table is seven-or-so people who are mostly embarrassed by comedy but try to do it anyway,” USRT member Chris Braiotta writes in an email. “We try to avoid a lot of things, but we especially try to avoid being too much like dudes. We are all millionaires, which takes a lot of pressure off.”

House shows (sometimes called “basement shows,” for obvious reasons) have been a staple of the underground music scene for years, and the Whitehaus is one of the best known and longest-running establishments in the city in this regard. Its proprietors try not to publicize the exact location lest they draw the ire of the police — “ask a punk” is the classic, though now somewhat ironically invoked, phrase affixed to flyers where an address might otherwise be printed.

There seems little chance of the cops coming tonight; people are sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Basement comedy shows are less common, though this hardly an isolated incident. For a time, the comedian Jenny Zigrino and her housemates held the King Cobra Comedy Night not far from here on Greenough Street — in their living room.

Like “indie rock,” “indie” or “alternative comedy” are rather amorphous terms that encapsulate a broad range of styles. Alternative comedy is the more dated of the two, beginning with comedians like Janeane Garofalo and now synonymous with comics like Patton Oswalt.

“Alternative comedy wasn’t really a specific style, there was just a sincerity and an energy to what people were doing, and it wasn’t trying to find the lowest common denominator to get on TV,” says Rick Jenkins of its origins, which mirrored the growth of his club, The Comedy Studio. “Ironically, all those people ended up on TV because they were so good and unique and different.”

It might not have a clear definition, but it can still be useful shorthand, especially when it comes to describing the types of comedy that are on the rise in Boston. According to comedy writer Nick Zaino III, Oswalt has described alternative comedy as merely what happens when neither the performer nor audience have a preconceived notion of what standup comedy should be.

Sometimes it means a comedian whose material is unorthodox or pushes the envelope. Sometimes it's as simple as doing a standup show in a rock club.

“I think at one point it, like music, it started as a term that meant as an alternative to mainstream,” says Mirman. “But the truth is comedy clubs are a creation of the 70's or 80's. Most of the places I do stuff (now) have music or trivia.”

And sometimes they're just a living room.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Boston Comedy Interview: Neil Innes

Neil Innes plays the Regent Theatre
in Arlington tonight at 8PM.
Neil Innes is a serious-minded silly man. He helped create the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band while still in art school in England, followed Eric Idle’s Sir Robin the Chicken-Hearted around singing about having his elbows broken, and played Ron Nasty, the John Lennon character in The Rutles. He’s an accomplished musician and satirist who sings songs like “I’m the Urban Spaceman” and “Slaves of Freedom.” Death Cab for Cutie took their name from one of his creations, and he’s friends with Yo La Tengo.

If that’s not an eclectic enough CV for you, Innes is also a self-proclaimed “Ego Warrior,” and is toying with the idea of branding himself a “Fame Slut.” That’s one of many things we spoke about last week by phone when Innes first arrived Stateside. He tours regularly, but doesn’t get over to America too often, so tonight’s show at the Regent Theatre in Arlington is a fairly rare chance to catch him in action. The last time he was this close to Boston was 2004 – he played the Regent then, too, a fantastic night of absurdity and music. Or musical absurdity. And duck hats.

Innes is working on several new projects, including a book that may not turn out to be a book, podcasting, and finding inspiration through the Garage Band home recording program. Which means even more Innes to enjoy, all of which you can find at his Web site,

I don’t have an ending for this introduction. So here’s the questions.

Are you touring to promote the Anthology?

The Rutles I’ve put to one side now. I mean, they’re thirty years old. Although on the Web site,, you can still see the final Rutles song, which is called “Imitation Song.” And there’s a couple of videos, one done by Bonnie Rose, an animation thing. And then one done by Ed Bertinshaw.

So that’s available, but what I’ve been doing recently is, I’ve revisited four half-hour radio programs I did for the BBC Radio Four called Innes Own World. And forgotten, it was a lot of work. I did all the voices in a soap opera. Four episodes. And I did a kind of Current Affairs/24/7 news thing called The Breakfast Things. Because personally, I’m absolutely fed up with 24/7 news. It just drives you mad. Because it isn’t really news, it’s 24/7 conjecture, or the very worst, emotional engineering. What’s the most shrill thing, what’s the most panic we can cause? So I’ve had enough.

So this Breakfast Things was featuring Dick Headline, anchorman, talking to his breakfast things. Like a tea pot and a beverage container and an egg cup. And the headlines are, a child’s small Wellington boot was found in the garden at long last. That sort of thing, with all the dramatic music. And silly adverts.

I started playing around with Garage Band and being able to edit things myself by trial and error. But it felt more like when I was a painter and I was in art school. You’ve got control over it. You’re not saying to someone, go forward a bit, go back a bit. You actually do it. So I started editing the thing, and I found you could ply in all these other things from Garage Band, lewd music, loops and things you can put in.

So I put all that together and took them to a friend who’s got all the singing/dancing Pro Tools and whatnot and we made it sound really, really good. That’s basically what we’re traveling with this time around, Innes Own World, Best Bits Part I and Best Bits Part II. People have been very positive in the feedback. But it’s not mainstream recording. I joke. I say they’re the first recordings that have ever been recorded in 2D. It’s different because you’ve got highly-produced comedy with stuff you can listen to more and more and hear again and again.

Is what people see on this tour going to be more audio sketch comedy or music?

No. What I learned with the Bonzos is, you can’t make faces on records. You have to do something else. What I’m doing this time around is, it’s going to vary, Nick. Some places just want me to do ninety minutes in one go, which I kind of hate. I don’t think anybody should be alone onstage for more than forty-five minutes in one go. I will modify things. But what I’m happiest doing is making this two parts, kind of two part, People’s Guide To World Domination. And just laughing at the absurdities of life and featuring immature themes like blowing raspberries and cocking snoots, if you know what that it.

No, I don’t.

Oh. It’s when you thumb your nose. I just feel more and more that because of the 24/7, the way the media is now, in your face all the time, and even the great Randy Newman has said that fear is color-coded now. I think it’s time that people celebrated their individuality, really, and just stepped aside from the herd. It’s plain to see. It’s like people farming. I think they treat battery chickens better. You know what I mean by battery chickens? Intensive farming where they put animals in cages. Television’s almost doing that to people, sort of shaking them upside down for whatever disposable income they’ve got. And it’s relentless. So that’s what the movement Ego Warriors is about, and what the show’s about, really. To sort of sidestep from it, to say, hang on, hang on, it’s all pretty silly.

That seems to be part and parcel of what the Bonzos were about, as well.

Yeah, I think so. I don’t think you change your spots. I’m sixty-seven now. But I think I’ve never grown older than six. My naivety is six. My sense of fair play is a six-year-old’s.

What I was referring to was the Back Catalogue on Amazon, not the Anthology. Amazon had that as released July of last year.

That’s right. It’s taken a while to find out how to do these things. But last year, I got my catalog back, and now I can actually make it available, so people can go and get what they want from it, if they like. The age of the record is almost done. Some people still like to have CDs, which is nice. But I’m actually moving forward since finding out about Garage Band. I want to do this podcasting called Radio Noir. Because you can put things on a shuffle, you know. It’s quite interesting. I’ve done a few experiments with it. And I’m also working on a book, which I don’t particularly want to put into book form. I might narrate it and have those put into the mix on Radio Noir. I’m thinking of calling How Sweet To Be An Idiot: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Neil Innes: Ego Warrior and Style Guru. Something like that. Nothing like a long title.

Ego Warrior and style guru go together quite well.

I think so. I have toyed with the idea of adding “Fame Slut,” but I think people wouldn’t believe me.

Well, then you wouldn’t get carried in Wal*Mart. I know that’d be important to you.

Absolutely. One day people will get what I do. But I don’t mind. I’m not in any hurry.

Do you feel like people don’t?

Oh, the ones that do, do. But the vast majority probably don’t. I don’t know, maybe my irony’s a bit rusty. No, but it’s counter, if you like, to the idea of getting in a big crowd and whooping at some flashing lights.

Although, you know, that can be fun, too.

Of course, of course. Somebody’s got to do that job.

We don’t want to exclude anything.

I may be part of the human immune system. You never know. That would be awful, if all the human race was there for was there for was to sort of make the planet mutate from putting plastic in the oceans. That’s our achievement, that’s our legacy.

I would love to see you tour with just the flashing lights and encourage people to come and whoop, and see if that becomes successful. That’s at least two of the seals broken.

No, but I have written a song called “Stadium Love,” which is on the Bonzos very final album that we did in 2007. And I have been onstage with a smoke machine. And one or two twinkling, flickering rope lights, which I used for a kind of an Elton John song. But no, after forty years at the cold face of satire, I think all I’ve achieved is a graceful state of futility. Somebody’s got to do it.

Well, an achievement is an achievement.

Yes, of course it is. Anyway I don’t understand this obsession with fame. I can understand wanting money because, as Groucho said, it can’t buy happiness, but it’s a good down payment. But the fame thing, you’re not supposed to be famous unless you’ve done something that you were doing anyway that happened to be good. Or considered, yeah, that’s useful.

People are seeking recognition for existing.

Yeah. Or being loud and vulgar on television. It’s depressing.

Which they consider a skill, as well.

Yes, they consider it skillful. I think every now and again you just have to turn back and marvel at how many godless, brainless, talented, and rich people there are.

Was the reunion a few years ago of the Bonzos the last?

It certainly is as far as I’m concerned. I thought just the one show, A Night To Remember the Bonzos: The 40th Anniversary, I thought, well, I can bear that. Lovely people, actually, Stephen Fry, Adrian Edmonson, Phil Jupitus, and Paul Merton came along. And I thought that was going to be it. And then I got a phone call saying, “Do you fancy doing some more,” and I said, “No, I thought that was it.” They said the others would like to do it, and I said let them do it. They said, no, no, it’s not the band, it’s the guests. The guests want to do more.

So we did twelve really big two, three thousand seaters and a really ridiculous tour. We had two buses, one for us, one for the crew. And articulated lorry with all this stuff. We did this tour. And Adrian and Phil were on the tour all the way through. And that was a really, really happy bubble to be in. Then we made an album in 2007 and then I felt, we should really leave it alone now, because the only band I want to be part of is the Bonzo Dog Gaga Band. It was good fun, but I think it’s run its course. Now, of course, Adrian and Phil are full Bonzo members, being the last phase of the Bonzos.

People probably don’t realize there were about four or five phase of it. The first one was fourteen or eighteen people at the Royal College of Art, playing this terrible old twenties and thirties English jazz on a Tuesday evening at the canteen. And then there were nine of us that went out to the pubs. And then it became eight, and then six, and that’s when the Bonzos packed in, around 1970, ’71. Something like that. And then the new version was obviously this century. Odd! Odd to think the Bonzos have spanned two centuries.

I was hoping it would reach out to the States when I heard about it.

No, I don’t think so. The Bonzos are similar to me, really. They’ve got their adherents, but… let’s put it this way, we’re not halftime at the Super Bowl.

Although that would be great to see.

It would be, wouldn’t it? And now, hold up the game, we’re going to play, “I’m Going To Bring A Watermelon To My Girl Tonight.” You wouldn’t be able to print this or say this, but it would be called “What the Fuck?”