Wednesday, January 30, 2008

CLASSIC BITS: "Religions, Inc." by Lenny Bruce

Today you can say basically anything you want in front of a microphone in the name of comedy. Sarah Silverman and other comics have torn down the last wall of taboos. We've run out of a diseases to poke fun of to the point that comics are going back to cured diseases like polio for fresh laughs.

But the late 50s and 60s were a different time. I'm not going to pretend that I knew what America was like then, but you couldn't go on a stage and just say anything. Lenny Bruce helped change that and it wasn't just his swearing and drug use. While it was what got him infamously arrested and led to his heroin overdose in 1966 (Phil Spector said he died "from an overdose of the police"), there was even more to him.

"Religions, Inc." was originally released on Bruce's second album, The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce (1958, Fantasy). In 1991 it was re-released on CD in the The Lenny Bruce Originals vol. 1 collection with his first album Interviews of Our Times (Fantasy). And it was also included on the Let The Buyer Beware 6-CD set from 2004 (Shout Factory).

Richard Zoglin explains in his new book Comedy at the Edge:

Heard today, unfortunately, most of Bruce's best-known routines aren't great advertisements for this talent. "Religions, Inc.," his acid re-creation of a Madison Avenue-style meeting of evangelical leaders, was a brave piece of commentary, a swipe at commercialized religion that was years ahead of its time. But as comedy, the juvenile one-liners must have seemed ham-handed even then.

Some of the references are obscure today to the point that The Lenny Bruce Originals Vol. 1 includes a glossary. "Philly Joe" was Miles Davis' drummer and a friend of Bruce's known for his on stage impersonations of Bela Lugosi's Dracula. "C.C. Camps" were a string of work-camps nationwide inaugurated by FDR to combat unemployment during the Great Depression.

The middle can be confusing and it's not quite as "tight" by today's standards. Yet the voice and point-of-view are relevant even today. It's been over 50 years and it's not too often that we hear such a biting and relentless critique of a major institution of our society. Today, many jokes about religion today don't go beyond young boys and Catholic priests.

Monday, January 28, 2008

VIDEO: Kent Haines at Die, Actor, Die

Live stand-up comedy from Kent Haines at last Monday's installment of Die, Actor, Die at The Khyber.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looking Back at the Week that Was for This Week, All Week

Get caught up:

- Local comic Doogie Horner reveals all that you ever wanted to know about the death of Oscar Wilde. We know the Internet has you clicking all over the place, but take a few out of your day to read this.
- And when you finally turn off the computer, but still can't sleep: Comedy at the Edge
- Doug Benson is probably out of Philly by now and hopefully you didn't miss him at Helium this week
- And an interview with phenom Joey Dougherty!

Friday, January 25, 2008

"I Guess We'll Do Comedy Tonight": The Open Mikers

Have you watched The Open Mikers? Not enough people have.

This is the kind of stuff that I want to start doing more of. Not the performing so much as the filming. Anyone that has ever tried stand-up will feel a little pang in their stomach from watching this.

There's something about stand-up comedy that constantly turns people away. Most folks will sit through dozens of crappy opening bands this year and applaud after every song, no matter if they liked the song or not. And how often do these bands get negative feedback or heckled?

A lot of people will listen to DJs "spin tracks" from their laptop this year and won't attempt to interact with their "art" beyond asking if they would please please please play some Madonna so that the party can really get started.

But if someone were to go on stage with ideas that aren't quite your own, well you just have to get out of there!

Of course it's not as simple as that, but still...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

INTERVIEW: Joey Dougherty

Joey Dougherty is 17 and has been doing stand-up for about a year now. He's a junior at Roman Catholic High School for Boys in Philadelphia. He's got a joke about that: "I go to an all-boys catholic high school and there's a zero percent of getting laid. But a one hundred percent chance of getting a high-five."

How and why did you get into stand-up in the first place?
I've just been into it since I was little. I remember when I was seven or eight and looking at it and being amazed at, really enjoying it. But I always just put it out of my mind, like "oh yeah, that's not me. How could I end up there?". The actual thought of me being able to do it was, I don't know, I always knew that I wanted to do it, but it was more about location than anything because I went to a school that was downtown. And during this entire time when I got into high school just daydreaming about it a lot and I started looking up open mics and since I started to know the city more and more, the world became smaller to me. So, it's not out of my reach now.

And Philly's not too big a city that-
Yeah, that you can't get around. It was just like "oh, it's right there? It's not in a whole different world? It's just right down the street? I guess I'll check this out." But I think I just for fun would write, I was writing comedy but it was just awful, like I'm sure anyone that starts.

What you do now is a lot of one-liners, were you always writing like that?
When I first started trying to write, I went for long stories or my thoughts on something. But I realized that no one wants to hear my thoughts on something because I'm 17. Nobody's wants to hear a 17 year-old's opinion on anything. So I'm aware of that and if you boil down comedy to anything, it's saying silly things. So I just kind of started writing one-liners because I don't want to have a long set-up for something that's not going to work. I want it to go, "is it going to work, yes, is it not going to work, no."

You want the immediate reaction.

Yes. I want it now and that's it.

You said when you were younger you were always watching stand-up, who were you watching?

My first favorite comic, the first one where I knew the name, was Lewis Black. Which is really weird because I don't really follow politics at all now and I'm not even political, but its just about how he can be talking about anything and he's funny. And then I started paying attention to Dave Attell more. And when I really started to write, I saw a documentary on comedy, The Comedians of Comedy. When I saw that documentary I said, "ok, I'm going to start writing", and I saw that when I was 15. That movie pretty much started me to think "ok, these guys sound like normal people", they did it, why can't I?

How do you work something new into your set?
This is a problem that I have. I always try to do one new joke every time I'm on stage. Which gets really hard. And if you're going to do it at an open mic where they want to see improvements, it's kind of hard, because no one's going to notice an extra ten seconds. So if that's how long your jokes are then they're not gonna take the time to go "oh he did all of this, he did all of his religion stuff", they're not going to notice the extra 10 seconds that you worked on. And you're pumped that that actually worked. That's how small it is, so, don't write one-liners.

Do your parents and friends know that you're doing stand-up?

I tried to keep it a secret from my parents. But they knew I was coming down here, because I told them "ok, well, I'm coming down here, but I'm just going to watch" and the first couple of times that's what I was doing. Then I went on a week before Thanksgiving, and it came up at the Thanksgiving table with my entire family. And they found out eventually. I think I was 2-3 months in before they found out.

Have they seen you?

Do they want to?

I don't care if anyone else sees me, but I don't want my parents to.

Do you have problems getting into clubs because of your age?

Not here (Helium) because I called ahead of time and made sure it was ok, but usually if you're just polite about it, it's ok. I went in to it thinking I don't want to be the kid that's funny at the lunch table, that was my goal. I don't want to look like that kid.

What do you want to do when you graduate from school?
I don't know. Continue to do this. I might go to community [college] and transfer into Temple for advertising. But I'm not that good of a student, just average. So college sounds like a good idea and I definitely want to pursue learning. But I think I want my major to be advertising or writing. The only problem is I'm not good at thinking up stories, I'm only good at thinking up jokes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Perhaps you know him from The Marijuana-Logues.

Or, from Best Week Ever.

Or on Last Comic Standing.

Or heard his podcast I Love Movies or his recent appearances on Never Not Funny and Road Stories.

And soon you'll watch him in his documentary Super High Me.

But for now, you can see him at the Helium Comedy Club:

Wed. 8PM
Thurs. 8PM
Fri. 8 & 10:30PM
Sat. 8 & 10:30PM

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jay Mohr does two and a half minutes in front of a brick wall about TurboTax

Take my 1040, please!

[Thanks to Roger Weaver for posting this on a special secret Yahoo! group]

BOOKS: Comedy at the Edge by Richard Zoglin

Today marks the official release of a new book on 1970s stand-up, Comedy at the Edge by Richard Zoglin. Its a very concise examination of the last time that stand-up comedy was culturally, artistically and financially relevant in America on a large scale. Like Peter Biskind's books on different film eras, it pretty much sums up the triumphs, stories and controversies of the times.

I'm only on page 83 at this point, so I don't have much to say about it, but topics covered include:

- Why Lenny Bruce was relevant to 70s comedy beyond his use of swear words
- The evolution of George Carlin and Richard Pryor from straight TV jokesters to counter-culture heroes
- The improv discoveries of David Steinberg and Robert Klein
- The comedy club politics of NYC's Budd Friedman and L.A.'s Mitzi Shore (yes, that Shore) where no one got paid and an union, the Comedians for Compensation, was attempted (quick excerpt: "Gallagher's yelling, 'Why don't we burn the fucking place down!'")
- Albert Brooks' lampooning of bad showbiz acts, the post-modern comedy of Steve Martin and of course Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton
- The scarcity of female comedians in the 70s
- Jerry Seinfeld taking it mainstream into the 80s

Much has been reported on the joke stealing- David Brenner (Philly's own) accusing Robin Williams of using his material on HBO- and the boozing and egos (TV detective Richard Belzer among them) but there's a lot more to it too.

For Shame, Philly!

Recently L.A. comedian Jen Kirkman briefly mentioned her recent gig at Helium:

I do notice that the more right-leaning a county, the less tolerance there is for a woman to take the stage and make them laugh. In those situations, sometimes people start heckling before I take the mic. Even a very liberal and smart crowd in Philly when I was there a few months back, had six lunkheads up front who yelled, "Hillary Clinton sucks!" as I came out on stage. I turned around. Was she behind me? Was I wearing an enormous, pastel beaded necklace? Did I have bags under my eyes? I'm not Hillary. Ohhh...I get it. I'm a woman. On a stage. Talking. Yes. We all suck. Can I go on, please? Not really, becuase the loudest lunkheads are always the "winners" in an audience. So, it doesn't matter if 200 other people are on your side, they are going to be quiet about it.

For shame, Philly! Ok, so I shouldn't call out an entire city, but for shame to the six losers up front. I thought brainless, pent-up hecklers yell from the dark back of the house?

Monday, January 21, 2008


Comic Vs. Audience is proud to present a scintillating new bi-weekly column, Literary Adventure, written by bookish gadabout Doogie Horner. Everything written in Literary Adventure has been vigorously fact-checked by a team of ten graduate students, so don't second guess any of the outrageous claims made within.

Greetings Faithful Literary Adventure Reader (if you are a Casual Literary Adventure Reader, you can fuck off right now): I’d like to preface this Literary Adventure with an apology. This particular adventure, unlike most of my escapades, is not funny. In fact it’s a bit depressing. Also, it’s really long. It’s a long, somber, joy-draining slog punctuated by buggery and weeping. On the plus side, it has a little more adventure than usual. As an incentive for readers to finish this bitter meal, I have devised a contest. Hidden in the story are three funny parts. If you can find them, I will buy you a shot of absinthe. Let the hunt begin!

– – –

Oscar Wilde—novelist, playwright, foppish wit, and convivial conversationalist—was one of the most famous celebrities of late Victorian England. His novels and plays won critical and popular acclaim, but his fame was due just as much to his dramatic and unconventional personal life. He cultivated a indolent, over-dressed, effeminate persona that was in stark contrast to the masculine depiction of manhood then held as the ideal.

His quips and catty remarks were wired around the world as soon as they fell from his languid lips, and his gay society escapades regularly made headlines. His renown opened exclusive, golden doors to parlors where he rubbed elbows with the highest echelons of British aristocracy. Unfortunately he also rubbed penises with some of them, which drew the ire of powerful heterosexuals in the British government. Especially incensed by his shameless buggery was the Marquess of Queensberry, whose son, Lord Alfred Douglas, had been seduced by Wilde. Based on this and other documented gay activities, Wilde was eventually put on trial and convicted of “gross indecency” for which he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in Reading Prison.

When Oscar emerged from prison his fortunes had been scattered in the wind. A penniless, unemployable pariah, he fled England and went into self-imposed exile in Paris, where he depended on the charity of friends to survive. The harsh conditions of prison had done irreparable damage to his health and three years after his release he developed meningitis and died, destitute and forgotten, in a rented hotel room.

His death was a bit of a mystery. Historians are still unsure what brought on the fatal meningitis. At the time, physicians diagnosed that it could have been caused by an ear infection he had a few months prior, but the evidence was inconclusive. Some have speculated it was a side effect of syphilis, which Oscar may or may not have had. Still another cause could have been a skull fracture he received while in prison.

All of these theories are plausible—but they are all wrong.

The truth is far more astounding.

It’s so astounding that it’s scarcely believable, and may cause you to scoff haughtily before canceling your subscription to Literary Adventure Quarterly. But let me remind you, it wasn’t too long ago that I exposed an equally shocking revelation which was eventually proven true: the fact that the Martin Lawrence film Black Knight was merely a thinly veneered rehash of Mark Twain’s novel a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

We all know the history books are packed with lies. Only suckers think Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin without any help from the Atlantians. And if the South really lost the Civil War, then how did they end up with all the cool shit? Barbecue, NASCAR, sun tea, John Denver, and Emmett Otter’s Jug Band?

I had to dig deeper than the Encyclopedia Britannica to uncover the real story of the last few days of Oscar Wilde’s life. My search took me to Paris, London, Naxos, Tibet, and Sbarro, where I got some breadsticks (good brain food). Unfortunately no single source held the complete story.

In the catacombs beneath St. Mark’s cathedral I found Oscar Wilde’s final journal, only to discover that several crucial pages had been torn out. I caught a glimpse of a black cloaked figure running away, but after a brief cane sword fight, I lost him in the labyrinthine tunnels. Nevertheless there was useful information left in the journal. Using it along with other sources including interviews, newspaper articles, government documents, and tea leaf readings, I’ve compiled what is to date the most complete (true) picture of the final days of Oscar Wilde ever published.

The following are relevant excerpts, edited and organized to describe events in chronological order. Our story begins with an excerpt from the journal of Giuseppe Fillages, a French wallpaper designer of great renown who had a wallpaper shop in Boulogne Billancourt, a suburb of Paris.

June 6, 1896.
Abaddon spoke to me again last night in a dream. His visits become more frequent. In the dream he told me to awake. I did, and beheld in the air over my bed a burning pattern, burning in the air before my eyes. I closed my eyes in horror, but the pattern was already seared into my mind. The flames glowed green, a hideous green like oozing pus, and as the diseased flames sputtered and dropped on my bed, they burnt holes like acid. I’m ashamed to say I threw up.

Beelzebub has shown me what I must create to help Him cross over. I have seen the pattern. I do not know if I have the strength to create something so hideous, but I will try. I know of only one way to create that awful shade of green, but I don’t know if my soul (what is left) can stand it.

– – –

Footnote: Abaddon is a name for the Devil, used in the book of Revelation. It’s literal translation is “destroying angel.” Beelzebub is another name for the Devil, and also the title of a Dead Milkmen album. It’s unclear which usage Giuseppe is applying here.

We pick the thread up next with a newspaper article from Boulogne Billancourt.

August 25, 1896
A fire broke out in the Fillages wallpaper shop last night, burning the entire factory to the ground. The fire started sometime after midnight, and only the owner, Giuseppe Fillages, was inside. He was killed in the fire. The fire started quickly and was raging out of control before the fire department was notified. The entire factory burnt to the ground. The large vats of highly flammable dye inside probably contributed to the speed and ferocity with which the fire burnt, and also the strange color of the fire. The green flames were visible as far away as Paris.

The cause of the fire is unknown, and foul play has not been ruled out.

Amazingly, amongst the ashes, one thing survived the flames untouched—a single spool of wallpaper. It has been sold by the family to pay for the debts they have incurred due to their loss.

– – –

The wallpaper which miraculously survived the flames was sold to the Hotel d’Alsace in Paris, which used it to paper the room Oscar ended up moving into on his release from Reading Prison.

A few months later, as the ashes of the Fillages wallpaper shop were sifted through, large piles of bones which could have come from animals OR human babies were found inside the wallpaper dye vats. My bet is baby bones, because that’s how Satan worshippers roll.

Oscar Wilde’s journal chronicles his arrival in Paris, and his initial impression of the Hotel d’Alscace.

August 25, 1897
The Parisian air is thick with foul odors. Yet it is imbued with an energy, a creative crackle. Robert has helped me find lodgings at the Hotel d’Alscace, a towering monument on the Rue Des Beaux that rivals the Palace of Minos in the unapologetic gaudiness of it’s adornments.

Nowhere is it more disgusting though than in my very own bedroom. The bed is large and fine, made of oak with a soaring canopy. All of the appointments are very tasteful, in the same rich oak with burgundy cushions. But the walls—the walls are grotesque. The paper on them could not be more hideous if Satan himself had been flayed and his skin pasted to the walls with the blood of children. It’s shade of green is so putrid and powerful that when I close my eyes at night the pattern hangs before my eyes a moment still.

My evenings are made much more pleasant by the warm company of a number of renters [slang for male prostitutes –ed.] whose acquaintance I have made already. My favorite is but a sliver of a lad, whose slim hipped white figure droops gracefully like the bell of a lily.

When he told me his name was Aiolos, I was delighted. “Are you Greek?” He nodded shyly. Imagine my good fortune, to travel all the way to Paris to find a new Adonis to play with!

– – –

Footnote: Oscar’s favorite male prostitute in London was a beautiful young Greek lad. When the boy moved away it’s said that Oscar wept copiously, and exclusively wore violet for several weeks.

The next entry is a letter from Robert Ross to friends in London. Ross was Oscar’s oldest friend and lover, and had weathered a torrid on again off again relationship with Oscar for years. He was one of the few friends who didn’t abandon Oscar after his release from prison, and followed Oscar to Paris.

February 2, 1899

Dear Reggie,

Greetings from the City of Lights! How is dreary London? Oscar and I miss you terribly, although I can’t say we miss much else about the isles. The weather here is mild, and the people pleasantly open-minded. When I think of your sitting room on the Thames though, I admit a wistful tear wells in my eye.

[Next two paragraphs omitted by editor, because they are irrelevant. He talks about poetry for an ungodly length.]

Oscar is adjusting to his new surroundings with difficulty. He does not seem to understand that he is living in a hotel room, without the authority to change its appointments to his liking. He is obsessed with tearing down the wallpaper in his bedroom, which I agree is rather ugly.

He gave me quite a scare yesterday. When he didn’t meet me at Augusto’s for breakfast, I went up to his room and knocked. Nobody answered so I let myself in with the key. Immediately my nostrils were assaulted by a pungent odor. Pressing a kerchief to my nose, I rushed in and found him unconscious on the bedroom floor, his face white as marble. There was a tub of turpentine next to him, and fuming rags were scattered around. I could see that he had been using the solution to try to scrape off the wallpaper, which hung tattered in some spots. I threw open the windows and dragged him into the parlor, where I revived him with difficulty. He was incoherent at first, and babbled about some word that sounded like “abbadon.” His eyes were filled with terror, and he clutched at me for protection. A doctor inspected him later and said he was lucky not to have died.

The hotel was very upset and I only talked them into forgiving Oscar with great difficulty. Of course I had to pay for the repairs to the paper.

When I scolded Oscar later for the incident, he responded in a most uncharacteristic way. Terror again stole into his eyes, and he wouldn’t say a word. When I pressed him he finally apologized, and said it wouldn’t happen again.

– – –

An excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s journal:

February 10, 1899
Ron is a dear. How many times has he saved my life and soul? Yet I fear my soul is still in mortal danger. Perhaps it would have been better for me to die. I will not set another foot in that room alone. It wins. Let it be so. Let the evil within rot there.

– – –

And another:

September 10, 1900
I have tried everything. Yesterday I picked up some lovely blue fabric in the market, and hung it on the walls to cover that ghastly wallpaper. When I woke in the morning the fabric had fallen apart. It seemed to have aged a hundred years in one night, and lay in rotten shreds on the floor.

I swear I hear the walls breathing.

Have I described the pattern? I have not. I am not brave enough to stare at it for very long. It appears at first glance to be rose bush vines climbing an ornate trestle. But at night I swear the vines writhe like thorny tentacles. I must tell someone what I have seen. Robert would think I am mad, and perhaps I am. I can’t tell him. Who can I share my burden with? I must know if I am mad.

– – –

All the pages in Oscar’s journal past this date were torn from the book, and the trail turns cold. A few months later Oscar fell ill and died, supposedly from acute meningitis.

We know from Robert Ross’s letter and journals that Oscar never did tell him his fears about the possessed wallpaper. But Oscar’s journal expressed a strong desire to tell someone. Did he share his secret with anyone?

He did. The young prostitute Aiolos.

The following is a transcript of an interrogation recorded by the Russian Secret Service in 1944. Aiolos Hortis had been drafted into the Italian infantry during World War II, subsequently transferred to a German Panzer division, and was captured by the red army during the siege of Leningrad. He was interrogated fiercely, even though he knew nothing. After 48 hours of brutal questioning and torture, he was delirious with pain. He confessed to everything he had ever done, including the following:

January 2, 1944

Interrogator: We know you know!

Aiolos: I don’t know anything!

Interrogator: We know!

Aiolos: What? What?

Interrogator: It’s all written down! Your friends have abandoned you! WE KNOW EVERYTHING! Just tell us!

Aiolos: (unintelligable)

Interrogator: We will cut your cock off!

(Screams, a scuffle, tape stops, then starts again.)

Aiolos: All right, all right. I was there. I saw it all. I don’t know how you know.

Interrogator: We know everything.

Aiolos: It was awful. (sobbing)

Oscar was always good to me. I think he really loved me. Doing that, it was just for money, to get by, but Oscar, he made me feel special. He was always calling me a Greek god, that was nice.

We spent a lot of time at his hotel, but eventually I noticed we wouldn’t go into the bedroom anymore. We would stay in the parlor, or sometimes sleep in the bathtub, which was uncomfortable. When I asked him why we didn’t use the bedroom anymore, he got very nervous. I could tell he was trying to decide whether or not to tell me something.

The he got up and said “alright, let’s go in the bedroom.” There was a padlock on the door. He took a key from a chain around his neck, and I could see there was also a cross on the chain, which I thought was odd. He opened the doors and we went in. We walked into the middle of the room, which seemed unnaturally dark, darker than the drawn curtains should have made it.

He asked me to look at the wallpaper, and tell him if I saw anything. I didn’t. It just looked liked ugly wallpaper to me. Then I looked closer, and the pattern took on depth. It became three dimensional. I stared in amazement. The pattern was a rose bush climbing a trestle, and as I looked at it the vines began to twist and turn. They grew. They writhed and reached out. A stupor descended over me and I realized with sudden horror that I couldn’t move. I was transfixed. My mind sunk in green, viscous water. The vines slithered toward me, and I couldn’t move away.

Interrogator: What the fuck are you talking about?

Aiolos: Oscar was behind me, and saw what was happening. He pushed me aside. “Vile pattern!” he yelled, “Haunt my room no more!” He pulled the cross out and I saw it was surrounded by blue flames too bright to stare at. He could barely hold it, and the licking flames that fell around its hilt singed his wrists. He couldn’t move any further, it was too much for him. The vines reached out. Oscar looked down at me. I don’t know what he saw, but it leant him strength. He thrust the cross into the wallpaper, which reared back and shrieked. Every curtain in the room tore in two, and bright sunlight poured in. A shockwave burst from the wall, and I was knocked unconscious.

When I woke up the first thing I saw was the wallpaper looming over me.

Interrogator: Where is the Enigma!? Tell me the code!

Aiolos: I scurried back in fear, but immediately I could see the wallpaper was different now. It had no more power. It was just ugly.

I found Oscar laying on the floor next to me, also unconscious, but in extreme pain. Blood trickled from his ears and nose, and he was moaning. I was unable to rouse him, so I ran for the doctor. I didn’t tell anybody what I really saw, because I didn’t think they would believe me.

(Smack, a scream)

Interrogator: (unintelligable)

(More screams)

– – –

By now, all of you should be nodding your heads in silent assent: “Yes Doogie, your case is airtight. I believe unequivocally that Oscar Wilde died from injuries sustained while battling ugly wallpaper. I’m sorry I scoffed at you. Enclosed find my check for $3,000, which should keep my Literary Adventure Quarterly subscription up to date for the next 100 years. P. S. Thank you.”

“My wallpaper and I are in a fight to the death. One of the two of us must go.”
–Oscar Wilde’s last words (no really, look it up)

Doogie Horner will be performing tonight at Die, Actor, Die at The Khyber (56 S. 2nd Street), 8PM, $5.


Tim & Eric Awesome Tour Live Dates - April 23rd in Philly!

Apr 21: Cambridge, MA @ TT the Bears
Apr 22: New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
Apr 23: Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar
Apr 24: Asheville, NC @ The Grey Eagle
Apr 27: Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Apr 28: St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
Apr 29: Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Apr 30: Austin, TX @ The Parish
May 2: Seattle, WA @ Neumo's
May 4: San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
May 5: Los Angeles, CA @ Echo Plex

Taken from Brooklyn Vegan

ADVICE: Lessons from Improv 201 at UCB

NYC comic Matt Ruby of the excellent blog Sandpaper Suit offers some notes from his Level 2 UCB improv class, some which apply to stand-up. The ones that especially make sense to us:

Whatever scares you, do it.

Specificity is our friend. Add it.

Honesty is our safety net. We can never go wrong if we speak how we honestly feel at the time.

Whatever you feel uncomfortable doing is exactly what you should try doing.

Go from A to C. Leaving the B out is often the interesting part because it lets the audience's brains make the connection.

First laugh line is often the audience telling you where the game of the scene is.

Be ahead of the audience. If you just thought of it, go for it. If they already know where you're going, you've lost.


TONIGHT: Die, Actor, Die at The Khyber

DIE ACTOR DIE - It's a comedy show!

Stand-up, sketch, video, music and whatever the hell else we can throw up there.

Hosted by Don Montrey with special awesome co-host Juliette Pryor

Doogie Horner
Kent Haines
Corey Cohen
Animosity Pierre
Steve Gerben

Plus you never know who else may show up!

When: Monday, January 21st
Where: The Khyber (56 S. 2nd Street)
What (Time): 8 PM
How (Much): $5
Why (Should I Come): The universe ends in 2012, get whatever laughs in you can. Also because there are Drink Specials: $1 PBR and Miller Lites, $2 Lagers and $2 Dead Actors.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Michael Showalter - "Cats"

If you've heard Michael Showalter's debut comedy album Sandwiches & Cats, perhaps you'll remember that there was a woman in the front that brought two cats that meow-heckled Showalter throughout the show. Below is the hilarious unedited footage. He basically goes on a six minute rant that keeps the audience laughing the entire time.


Friday, January 18, 2008

INTERVIEW: Anton Shuford

Besides featuring weekends at Helium, local comic Anton Shuford has been working on a new web show called "Illanights" for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation's website ("you wish you knew"). We caught out with Anton in the end of 2007 at Helium to find out what it's all about. The first episode debuted this week.

What happens on the show? Where do you go?

Basically we'll go out to different bars in Philadelphia, different restaurants. And the camera follows me around and we'll see what kind of trouble we can get into, but pretty much we highlight different bars and clubs in the city.

How many episodes will you be doing?
We're going to be doing eight episodes. It's a web show, five minute episodes but because you have to go out and party, it takes all night to do it.

How did you get involved in the series?
The production guy saw me do comedy once and we formed a friendship and we played cards together a few times. He pitched the idea seperate from me, but he pitched the idea with me in mind so once the company seemed like they were going to go for it, he asked me if I wanted in and made sure I was on board.

How is it different than stand-up?
This is much easier than any stand-up you have to do because stand-up is an art or a skill that requires immediate response. This doesn't really require that, it's just you going out, you want to be funny, you want to meet people but you just got to be fun for this project. Where stand-up you have to be funny. [With the show] you just have to smile a lot and be friendly and that makes the show go. There is some hosting in the sense that I tell people where we're going, what we're doing and why we're here.

Are you trying to make jokes too?
You do some jokes, some timing, but because the show is a mass amount of film that has to be cut down and edited down, whether it's funny or not is really up to the editor, not up to me. Where as at the time it's really up to me to make things happen. The editors, they have to judge what they think is funny and want to use, it makes it a little more PC.

So you're not part of the editing process?
Maybe, I might be part of the editing, we'll see. I'm lobbying to be part of the editing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Thurs - 8:00PM
Fri - 8:00PM & 10:30 PM
Sat - 7:00PM, 9:15PM & 11:30PM

VIDEO: The Ultimate Warrior Reads Transcripts from the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show

In 1990 the Ultimate Warrior was the World Wrestling Federation Champion, but in 2008 he's a political pundit that does college tours.

(By Gregg Gethard)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Classic Bits: "Black Nationalist" by Richard Pryor

This week's classic bit comes from Pryor's 1978 album Big Ben The Blacksmith. The details on this record are very cloudy and the only thing on the internet I could dig up was from the wikipedia entry of Laff Records:

Pryor released only one album for Laff, Craps (After Hours), with his direct participation, then later signed a deal with the larger Stax label. Laff sued Pryor after Stax released That Nigger's Crazy in 1974; the case was settled when Laff gave Pryor his freedom in exchange for being allowed to compile albums from recordings they made with Pryor between 1969 and 1973.

In 2002 Richard Pryor and his wife/manager Jennifer Lee Pryor won the rights to all of Richard's Laff masters and raw tapes in a court case. The Pryors then gave free rein to Rhino Records to go through the tapes and make an anthology that included the entire Craps (After Hours) album and the best of other Laff releases. The results were released in 2005 on the 2-CD set Evolution/Revolution: The Early Years (1966-1974).

This explains the cheesy album cover and horrible editing of this record. Often the audience laughs and applauds uproariously in places that don't seem right and certain parts of a bit are simply cut out. But even so, in this bit Pryor mocks six different characters as they discuss religion on television and not even the Black Nationalist is safe.

So at the risk of looking like someone else taking advantage of Richard Pryor, here it is. This is a vinyl rip, so please excuse the scratchiness.

In 1994 the album was re-released on compact disc by Polygram/Island and in 2005 Pryor sued the Universal Music Group claiming that they were selling 11 of his recordings without actually owning the rights.

Our Top 5 Stand-Up Albums of 2007

We figured two weeks into the new year would be the perfect time to post our list of our five favorite stand-up albums of the year.

In case you didn't know, comedy is in a really great place right now. Websites like Superdeluxe and Funny Or Die are putting out quality videos, blogs like The Apiary are covering the underground scene for people that aren't lucky enough to live in the hot spots and A Special Thing started a great record label. And maybe more importantly, there isn't so much stand-up on television that it is becoming watered down.

This list could've been longer, but after five it became too arbitrary. So honorable mentions include: Steven Wright's I Still Have A Pony, Michael Ian Black's I Am A Wonderful Man, Jen Kirkman's Self Help, Jonah Ray's This Crazy Mixed Up Plumbing (technically an EP) and Flight of the Conchord's The Distant Future (also just an EP).

5. Mike Birbiglia - My Secret Public Journal Live (Comedy Central)

There aren't many good storytelling comedians around, but Mike Birbiglia is one of them. While his first two albums consisted of short, quick jokes, My Secret Public Journal Live is made up of longer first-person stories he started telling on the Bob & Tom radio show. Birbiglia can connect with his audience so well that by the time he says "before I tell you this part of the story, to remind you, that you're on my side", its kind of redundant.

4. Comedy Death Ray (Comedy Central)

It's a little unfair to put L.A.'s answer to Invite Them Up on here because it's a double-disc, but if you were to condense the best tracks down to one CD it would make the cut. My favorite tracks include: PFT (great stuff that wasn't on his album!), Todd Glass, Hard N Phirm, Neil Hamburger, Jimmy Pardo (razor scooter!), Nick Thune, Reno 911 and Andy Daly. The Andy Daly character is so hilarious that it's worth the price of this alone. It should be illegal to just post it on the internet because that would be spoiling the surprise.

3. Patton Oswalt - Werewolves & Lollipops (Sub Pop)

Because he talks about things that no one else does. Who else has material about the 20 birthdays you are allowed to celebrate, crazy chefs of four-star restaurants, or physics for poets and make it hilarious? Plus, "Wackity Schmackity Doo!" is one of the funniest things I've heard this year and the "Gatekeepers of Coolness" really struck a chord with me as there was a guy where I grew up that had the same effect on me. His name was Dr. Rock.

2. Michael Showalter - Sandwiches & Cats (Jdub)

The first time I listened to this album I didn't really get it. Perhaps I'm just not smart enough. I thought it was pretty good, but nothing really jumped out at me. But luckily I listened to it again and it hit me like a ton of bricks in my big, dumb head. Although not all stand-up, songs with his band The Dollies and studio bits are included, there's enough for it to make the list. There are subtle things here that most other albums lack, like the quiet delivery of "jumpy legs" on "Requip". A lesser comic would really play up that line in an attempt to get a big laugh, but for Showalter that's just the beginning.

1. Paul F. Tompkins - Impersonal (AST)

Because everything on here is funny. Lines like "here's how rich I am" and "I'll tell you this for free" get me every time. And because his peanut brittle bit is so incredibly obvious yet hilarious no matter how many times you hear it. And this is all material he doesn't do anymore!

And although we won't make lists for these, The Ten was the funniest movie of the year and Louis CK's Shameless was by far the best stand-up special of the year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

VIDEO: Animosity Pierre at Bedtime Stories


Monday, January 14, 2008

RECAP: Bedtime Stories, 1/9

This month's Bedtime Stories at the Shubin Theatre was a marathon affair with 16 acts of sketch, stand-up and monologues based around the theme of politics. Highlights:

- Roger Weaver started out the show with, of course, political jokes. He took shots at William Howard Taft, Ross Perot and finally as he got more contemporary, our wonderful current president. He stressed that we should go to the National Constitution Center although "the problem with the framers of the constitution is that they had such a pre-9/11 worldview".

- Matt Lally and David Terruso of Animosity Pierre performed a mayoral debate between Jim Jimelson (sp?) and Jim Jimelson with a shocking ending.

- Pat Kelly played a stay-at-home dad trying to do political humor like the late, great Bill Hicks.

- It was around this time that the host, Gregg Gethard, had ballots passed out. Being "major proponents of democracy", the audience was allowed to vote on what next month's theme would be: GIRLS GONE WILD, A TRIBUTE TO ALYCIA LANE or FUCK COMCAST. GIRLS GONE WILD won by a narrow margin.

- Chris Morganti as Dennis Miller moderated a 3rd party presidential debate between local stand-up comics John Kensil and Mike Rainey with some dead-on hilarious asides:

"Everyone here knows you guys have enough chance of winning this election as Paris Hilton has of discovering the Unified Field Theory, alright?"

"Bush refused to fund stem cell research, which made him look like some kind of Tyler Durden Neo-Luddite, right? But he also said that we are going to the moon. Which is great because we'll get there five years after the Chinese. Which is great because the first thing you want after a long journey is a number two combination plate with egg roll, right?"

- The Ultimate Warrior (Gregg Gethard), former WWF Intercontinental Champion and political pundit, read a transcript from a Rush Limbaugh's radio show as well as talked trash on "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig.

- Secret Pants performed a sketch about an unique way to bring people into a struggling town.

- A 7th grader from St. Rose of Lima in North Wales, Little Miss Jaime Fountaine, read her speech for re-election as class treasurer that detailed her successes, controversies and the backhanded politics of middle school government.

- Blaze Brewster discussed who would win the presidential election if decided by physical competition in the Thunderdome.

- Meg & Rob performed a sketch as a romantic couple that write signing statements for their date, just like President Bush does for congressional bills.

- Councilman Kent Haines read the minutes from last week's town council meeting where "allegations were made, feelings were hurt and several members of the town council were seen weeping."

- And Don Montrey, host of Die, Actor, Die! (next show is the 21st at The Khyber), told some jokes that he wrote for the political show This Is The Week That Is.

The show was awfully long at two and a half hours, but then again you're also getting a bang for your buck ($5). The next show is Wednesday, February 6th and the theme is GIRLS GONE WILD, A TRIBUTE TO ALYCIA LANE.

- Video from Bedtime Stories at the Shubin Theatre
- An interview with local comic Anton Shuford
- The Top 5 Stand-Up Albums of 2007
- Dana Gould at Helium
- Another Classic Bit
- Maybe some more stuff!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How To Beat Myspace Comedy

This post of Dan's is pretty great as well as this Doug Stanhope blog post which is he links to.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

BEDTIME STORIES: "Power is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac"

Bedtime Stories is a monthly comedy show at the Shubin Theatre where performers can do something, anything, around a topic. This month's topic is politics and going up on stage are:

Secret Pants
Meg and Rob
Animosity Pierre
Sixth Borough
Kent Haines
Don Montrey
Petey Celona
Mark Dames
Charles Rosen
and more

Wed. Jan 9th, Shubin Theatre (4th & Bainbridge), 8PM, $5

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Classic Bits: "You Can't Get Bitter" by Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks is one of my favorite comedians ever. Not only was he incredibly honest, brave and unique, but he could write a great joke. That's not a backhanded compliment. Rather, it's easy to spout unconventional ideas, but it's difficult to always make it funny. Bill could do that no matter if he was talking about far-out politics, conspiracies or amazing drug trips. But he also had jokes about the beach and how moths were always attracted to light.

This bit is from the 2002 compilation Love, Laughter and Truth.

Love, Laughter and Truth is a collection from Hicks' personal tapes that weren't intended for public consumption. In most of them, like this one, he isn't killing and sometimes the crowd is yelling out at him. At the beginning of this bit he starts slow and seems to dig himself a hole. But as he sets the scene and it becomes more descriptive and grotesque, the laughs and moans come rolling in. These aren't just standard punchlines but incredibly dense turnings of phrase until the applause at the end.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Small Piece of Steve Martin, Pt. I

A Small Piece of Steve Martin is a new reoccurring piece in which we analyze a passage from his book Born Standing Up.

Page 181:

"...and the laughs, rather than being the result of spontaneous combustion, now seemed to roll in like waves created far out at sea."

Often the reaction of a large theater audience doesn't sound like laughter but just a rush of energy. In a live recording you may only be able to pick out a few individual laughs, maybe because a guy was sitting close to a microphone. How powerful it must be to have the ability to create the same instantaneous response from thousands of people just from talking. And to have the ability to experience that moment of silence between saying that last word and the noise crashing towards you. And how depressing and draining it may become to have to do so every night.

Conan's First Writers' Strike Show (Beards)

I didn't catch all of Late Night w/ Conan O'Brien last night, but what I saw from his monologue to the first guest (Bob Saget) was pretty good. He's obviously a funny guy and his ring spinning bit was conceptually hilarious as he was literally counting the seconds until the first guest. And the video of him in the office was great, but how many times can he go back to that?

You'd figure it will wear thin eventually. Perhaps this is all part of Roger A. Trevanti's plan to bring the stars over to their side: cut their legs from underneath them and wear them down. That and not letting them shave may crack them.

If there's any silver lining at all to this (and there really isn't, it sucks) it's that there's some spontaneity back on television. Conan can thrive in this type of environment because he can be goofier and more self-deprecating than the rest. I would love to see his show turn into awkward improv scenes (with Max?) and interviews with fake celebrities.

The NBC "bug" (small watermark with the channel's logo) during the show was downright creepy. It was the words AMERICAN GLADIATORS and the Olympic rings incorporated into the NBC logo. Maybe I don't watch enough television, but I've never seen a network do that. It's usually cable channels like TLC that put up annoying bugs to promote shows like Your House Is So Dirty Tues. 9/8C. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of what they've got in store for us if this strike doesn't end: physical competitions that no one cares about!

Hopefully the strike will end soon, as I don't want Letterman looking like Walt Whitman.