Three Course Comedy at New York Vintners



New York Vintners is a cool little wine shop that does all the usual tastings and pairing lessons, but every couple of months, they do something a little different - present a three course meal prepared by Chef Ryan Smith, paired with wines… and comedians!

The evening opens with host Pat Dixon and the first comedian, followed by the first course, more comedy, second course.. etc.  So, no one’s scraping their plates and paying more attention to the pork shank than the jokes and the awkward resetting between courses time is filled with fun comedy.

The crowd was a mix of couples and singles, it seems like a good evening for date night or meeting the person you’ll be going on your next date night with. You’re seated at tables of 8-10 and the meal is served family style, so there are plenty of opportunities to chat with your new seat-neighbors.



With a $150 per head price tag, the crowd certainly skewed upper middle class, white and a little uptight.  They were happy to go along with the dirty and the edgy, but Pat, Ian Fidance and Casey Balsham couldn’t slip in even the most harmless and silly of racial jokes or anything that made them feel uncomfortable about their privilege. But a glass of prosecco, a couple of white and one of red in, they were loose enough to let Pat Dixon riff on positive Asian stereotypes in response to a young Asian lady who was (pretty politely) heckling and let Doug Smith do whatever he wanted.

With no raised stage and a (relative to a typical comedy club) well-lit room, it could have been very awkward, but the crowd were good sports and the comedians ran with it. Ian took the opportunity of being at crowd level to fake hit on an audience member who said her date had stood her up and Casey played with the proximity by saying “I can’t look you in the eyes while I tell this porn joke” and actually turned around to face the wall as she delivered the premise (to huge laughs). Doug’s set felt the most like one at a small comedy club, everyone was loose, people were getting a little rowdy and audibly agreeing with jokes.  Then Nathan Anderson really took advantage of the space and sat down next to the stood-up girl (who later admitted she hadn’t been stood up, she just said that) and went real meta (“What is he doing? Is this still a show?”). And Pat did a great job of setting the tone and controlling the room before each act, even as they went from uptight prissy to talking-back tipsy.


The food was incredible and of course so was the wine.  As I mentioned, the event costs $150 per head, so you definitely have to want to satisfy your foodie, wine snob and comedy nerd all at once. But you’ll get your money’s worth. Join the NY Vintner’s Mailing List for info on the next comedy night (and other events).


The Entirely Free Social Media Course for Comedians 2: Twitter Basics

Twitter Basics

This is the first of two posts about Twitter and it’s the more technical/logistics one of them.  We’ll get into style and content in the next one, since that’s way more subjective anyway.

The Fastest Way to Make Sure No One Sees Your Tweet

This is the most important lesson in the entire course.  If you forget or disagree with everything else, listen to this!

This is a reply



This is a mention



Twitter treats them differently.  If you start a tweet with “@”, Twitter treats it as a reply, which is only seen by people who follow both of you. If you’re actually having a conversation, that’s great, you aren’t clogging up everyone’s timelines.  If you’re trying to promote, give a shout out or whatever, you’ve just severely limited your audience.



The canonical way to get around this is to throw a period in from of the @… or just get creative and reorder your words, or start with something like “Hey!” “Yo!” or “Pssst”




FAVES ARE GOOD

I’ve heard so many people complain “Thanks for the fave.. for nothing” because, of course, only retweets end up in other people’s timelines.  But guess what?  The majority of Twitter users aren’t narcissistic entertainers who spend more time on their Notifications screen than any other. I got a ton of followers off a Lauren Ashley Biship (@sbellelauren) fave thanks to the Discovery and Activity screens.





Lists!



Twitter has a very cool feature called Lists, that’s supported nicely by the native mobile apps and by TweetDeck on your computer.  Lists let you group people you follow into categories for fast/selective viewing.  I have lists set up for venues and shows, news outlets, and my actual real life friends.  I follow over a thousand people, so this keeps me from missing out on things that are most important or timely, while still being able to see lots of people’s tweets when I have more time.  I also start a new list for every festival I cover, with all the comedians booked to perform on it, so I can stay focused on that for the duration. I’ve even got one that’s a group of NY comedians who like to talk shit on each other for whenever I’m in the mood for that.

When to Post

There are various studies done about the best times to post to Twitter (and everything else) for maximum views/sharing, though these are really generalized and I’ve found don’t necessarily cover comedians and comedy fans, who are night owls.

If you pay attention over the course of a week or so (or use Buffer to track it for you - more on that in a minute), you’ll probably figure out your own best times.  Here’s what I’ve found works for me (and my theory as to why):

  • 10:30-11:30 am - Most comedians are just waking up and laying in bed reading Twitter, normal people have hit their first “bored at work, let’s see what’s happening online” break
  • 1:30-2 pm - People are just getting back from lunch
  • 5-8 pm - Comedians are sitting around, bored at open mics, desperately refreshing their social media apps, also the best time to post about tonight’s show, as normal people are getting out of work and deciding what to do tonight.
  • Around 10:30 pm on weeknights - Normal people are at home, sitting on the couch, half watching TV, half reading Twitter
  • Weekends

How Often to Post

PLEASE SPREAD OUT YOUR POSTS! Yassir Lester is the only person I haven’t unfollowed (or removed from a List) for taking over my entire timeline.

If you’re promoting something, you CAN post it more than once.  Definitely use different words each time so it’s not just a straight repeat, but you won’t be annoying people by doing this.  Twitter is ephemeral, we aren’t all pooping/reading it at the same time.  And don’t forget time zone differences.

Which brings us to…

Get a Scheduler

A lot of people love HootSuite, but I’m partial to Buffer.  Buffer lets you set up an automatic schedule, plus add any additional posts immediately or for a scheduled time.  This way, you can write a dozen tweets at once, but dribble them out to the world at a non-annoying pace.



Buffer has the added bonus of tracking Faves, RTs and clicks so you can see which times and types of posts work best for you.

I also still use TweetDeck on my PC (RIP TweetDeck, the best mobile Twitter app ever), because it has excellent support for both Lists and pre-scheduling.

All right, that’s enough nuts & bolts.  Next time, MORE TWITTER - Why you shouldn’t listen to anyone’s advice about how to tweet (including mine)


Sheng Wang is a BEAST!


Time for the weekly comedy crush, brought to you once again by the Sunday night Sam & Joe Show at Caroline’s. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Sheng, nor the first time I was wowed by him.  I’ve seen him crush at Gotham and The Stand and probably some other places I’m forgetting.

All Sheng’s jokes are strong and do that Good Comedy thing where they are both totally relatable and totally novel at the same time. Nearly every joke has a uniquely memorable phrase in or around the punchline - “Lace it up” (a bit about how straight men should be able to hold hands), “The cop is within” (a bit about stoner paranoia) and “Your hate is weak” (lazy racism), just to name a few.

And he’s got such a confident, deliberate delivery. No matter how long the setup, the audience feels safely belted in for the ride, totally sure of the upcoming payoff.  Even when he pauses to decide which joke to do next, or trails off at the end of a newer bit that he hasn’t finished tightening up, everyone’s on board. I even saw him stop in the middle of a new bit about insurance deductibles last week (which I got to see finished last night), pause and say out loud it was new and he was trying to remember what he wanted to say next, then before launching back into a different joke, he said, “Sorry guys, I’m a fraud” and the audience practically roared. That’s some pretty impressive comedy voodoo.


The Entirely Free Social Media Course for Comedians 1: Introduction


First of all, props to John Roy, whose Entirely Free Comedy Class is the inspiration for this and still the ONLY comedy class you should ever, ever EVER take.

There’s no right way to do social media, that’s one of the beauties of it.  But there are a LOT of wrong ways to do it and you’re probably doing it wrong.  But until you get to the point where you have People, it’s not a great investment to hire a “Social Media Expert” to do it for you. So, read on and become your own social media expert!

Why do I need social media?

Social media is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to both promote your shows & projects and engage with fans so that they want to come to those shows.  It’s also a super fun waste of time.

Give To Get Mentality

If you’re only using Twitter and Facebook as a megaphone to blast out ME!ME!ME! info, people are going to tune you out very quickly. You should always be giving people more that you are asking for.  And giving is easy - jokes, fun pics, links to articles that interest you, passing on info about other comedians’ projects, a simple @-reply to a fan. It’s not hard work, but it pays you back.

What networks/platforms should I be on?

I’ll be going into each of these in more detail, but here’s an overview:

  • Facebook - Even if you’re so over it, it’s the easiest way to spread the word and engage people
  • Twitter - Duh.
  • Podcast - I’m lumping podcasts in here.  You should have one.
  • Instagram - Of course.
  • Tumblr - a great platform for blogging and interacting with people and being a weirdo. You can also use it to create a completely free website for yourself with all the jazzy contact info and clips you should have but can’t afford to do on Wordpress or Squarespace just yet.
  • Google+ - This one’s a maybe, but if you have a blog, write for any website or have a YouTube series, it’s a must
  • Vine - Eh, it’s a crapshoot.  If you’re naturally inclined toward the language of 6 second videos, definitely.  If you’re not into it, don’t force it.

Choosing a Username

USE THE SAME USERNAME ACROSS EVERY PLATFORM - don’t make it hard for people who know you one place to find you in another!

Choose your own fucking name or something really close to it! Otherwise, have a very adorable and memorable handle. Again, don’t make it hard on people who want to find you.
It also helps when other people are tweeting you in a show lineup, you want people to know you’re on the show, not wonder, “Who’s this FuzzyBear123 guy?”



A few other tips:

  • Don’t put “comic” “comedian” or “funny” in your username unless you have a common name or similar to someone more famous than you for something else.  Like @ComicDaveSmith gets a pass and @IanEdwardsComic had to distinguish himself from all the guys named Ian Edwards who actually play or ref soccer instead of just podcasting about it
  • If you’re going cutesy, keep it close to your actual name - @Brodyismefriend (Brody Stevens), @seanytime (Sean Donnelly) and @mccarthyredhead (Matt McCarthy) are all good examples.


Linking Accounts

1. Please stop auto-posting your Tweets to Facebook.  

Its not only annoying to read a naked “@somebodyorother” in a Facebook post, but it makes you look lazy and will lower your post Likes and shares.

You should also be tailoring to each platform, anyway.  Facebook gives you all kinds of space, write it out!  Don’t just shove the same abbreviated 140 characters in there.



2. Please stop auto-posting your Facebook posts to Twitter.

The opposite problem, you end up with an ugly tweet that gets cut off with the … and forces people to choose whether to click through to read the whole thing… and they probably won’t.



3. Please DO link your Instagram through to everything else.

Everybody likes pretty pictures.


Okay, that’s your intro.  Next week, we’ll talk Twitter and how you’re making a really really common mistake that’s stopping everyone from seeing your tweets!


Groupie About Town

We all know this site is my baby.  It’s my little playground where I can do whatever the fuck I want.  But sometimes, you gotta work for The Man.  And by The Man, I mean some really awesome comedy websites & podcasts like AmericasComedy.com and The Interrobang.

So, in case you missed them, here are some interviews and pieces I did recently, plus a fun podcast appearance!



Andy Sandford - Beards, Bummers and Booze (Interview) - Andy’s a very funny NYC comic (originally from Atlanta) who just released his first album Me The Whole Time



Why Dan St Germain is so Bad at The Good Times (Interview) - Dan’s another hilarious (and bearded) NYC comic who also just put out his first album.



Sam Tripoli (Interview) - Don’t worry, LA, I haven’t forgotten about you!  Sam is a great LA rock n roller comedian, who was my first ever comedy crush back in ‘10 (And I don’t mean in the make-out way, I mean I fell in love with his comedy)



Out of the Tarpit: The Rebirth of the LA Comedy Club Scene - The first in a series I’ll be writing for The Interrobang, finally putting all the LA Comedy inside baseball knowledge I’ve amassed this last 5 years to good use!



Legion of Skanks Podcast:  Drink some water dick mouth! -  One of my favorite NYC podcasts with Big Jay Oakerson, Luis J Gomez and Dave Smith.  You should check out all the episodes, but especially this one where I think I was supposed to be talking about slutty hot weather dressing, but we just ended up talking about who I may have slept with and who I may have killed.



Let’s Talk About Sex – Guys We Fucked Podcast (Review) - Another of my new favorite podcasts is Guys We Fucked a sexy time fun podcast hosted by Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson.


A Fond Farewell to The Pete Holmes Show


I love The Pete Holmes Show. It’s a wonderful new take on the nighttime talker, a great showcase for one of my favorite comedians (old Petey Pants), and created some amazing moments, characters and content.

EVERYONE loves the X-Men, Street Fighter and Batman sketches, but here’s a collection of some of my favorite moments from the too-short lifespan of this wonderful show.  

1. New Material Seinfeld



Oh man, New Material Seinfeld is just my favorite. It’s so spot on and was entirely unexpected the first time he popped up. Bonus: You can catch Pete almost saying “new shit” in this one.

Sean McCarthy has a great piece at The Comics Comic talking to Joe DeRosa about it.

2. Sherlock Holmes Sucks At Deduction



Now this one was for the fangirls. Pete, with his adorable teased hair poking fun at everyone’s favorite dreamy genius crime solver. WIth the excellent Matt McCarthy as Watson.

3. PeteyLeaks



Speaking of Matt McCarthy, I just adore this PeteyLeaks segment for so many reasons.  But mostly for the hilarious discomfort of Pete’s as Matt called out his mix of total caring and just space cadet thoughtlessness. It’s a beautiful moment, not just for the squirmy factor, but just such an honest and funny peek into a long time friendship.

4. Profound Profane



Profound Profane was another recurring segment that was a great juxtapostion of both just weird silliness (and discomfort) but also some real deep shit. I always loved that Pete had a lot of segments that weren’t edgy or cool, but just wonderful and wide-eyed explorations of stuff that makes you feel good.

5. Realistic Garfield



Pete does these bits onstage about video game characters going to the doctor, he just sets it up and starts riffing about eating apples off the ground and whole chicken legs and this was a great offshoot of that.

6. Realistic Mario



Realistic Mario is another great take on that theme. With the added bonus of almost offensively comically bad Italian accents.

7. Pete Dazzles Jerrod With His Impressions



So many of Pete’s guests were friends and fellow comedians, it made for a completely different vibe than your typical talk show.  And this wonderful clip with Jerrod is one of my favorites.

I’m also gonna sneak in this one with Big Jay Oakerson that I love.



8. What’s Wrong With Joe?



I mean, it’s just so… I can’t stop laughing to type a proper description. “I invented time travel, the burden’s too great!”

Ok, I’m gonna try.  It’s a great window into how dude comedians show their love for each other.

9. Gary Gulman Stand-Up Set



Pete had a number of stand-ups on during the run and they are all delightful, but Gary and Beth Stelling (I’m sneaking in another two-for) are just the epitome of that.



10. Monolgue



Again, veering charmingly away from the standard late night setup, I love Pete’s monologues. I didn’t even know how to pick just one. I kinda threw a dart.


What’s Up at Stand Up NY


Friday, I got to check out a full show at Stand Up NY.  It’s a super charming club (note the pink wallpaper) on the UWS that boasts really diverse lineups throughout the week and even from show to show in a given night.  Yeah, it’s overall the same large pool of comedians, but some nights, if you wanted to see Gary Vider and couldn’t make the 8 pm show, you blew it.  Not that it’s a problem, all the lineups are pretty strong, so the 10’ll be fine too.


I’ve popped in before, briefly, and admired the headshots from Corey Melton (@theCoreyMelton) and, of course, I’m all about the upstairs Labs. But this was my first full “sit down and watch a show” night there. It was good,

Yamaneika Saunders hosted, just adding to my growing list of super impressive emcees in the city. I was mostly there to see Joe List, who I just love and Gary Gulman, who didn’t actually end up being on the show (lineups are always subject to change) but I got to see a couple new-to-me vets - Mike Yard and Kevin Brennan - so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The room’s an average size and crampedness for New York, but the drinks are cheap and the wine comes in a generous pour. So, that’s another good reason to keep coming back.



Broken Comedy at Bar Matchless


Bar Matchless wasn’t one of the shows like Kabin or Knitting Factory that Angelinos were telling me to hit up even before I moved.  But it was one of the shows with the best on-the-ground buzz once I got here. Produced by Michael Che, Nimesh Patel and Becky Astphan, Broken Comedy (the actual name of the show located at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn) is a tight little weekly.

The room is one of the better bar setups I’ve seen so far - there’s enough seating, the stage is high but not too high up and there’s even a little bar right there in the back. The crowd is great and seemed mostly full of repeat visitors and their friends.  One girl commented on her way out that this was becoming her favorite night of the week.

And with last night’s show, she had good reason to think that.  Gary Gulman.  Hell-lo. He’s so funny and has such lanky ease onstage, he made a story about a trip to Trader Joe’s a fun, tangential, layered bit with plenty of laugh beats along the way. This guy knows what he’s doing.  I don’t even have anything else to say besides it was a pleasure.

Yamaneika Saunders piggy-backed on that with tales from the urban warzone that is Whole Foods before going into material and totally freaking out a guy in the front row by telling him if he wants to get some good pussy, “YOU GOTTA FUCK THROUGH THIS FIRST!” It was pretty awesome.

I was in and out during the rest of the show, but very pleasantly surprised to walk back in and find Jared Logan onstage, working through a lot of new material. And they were almost all winners. And I can’t tell if it was the content or the environment, but they all felt really accessible. Maybe it’s from enjoying so much southern hospitality lately or having a lovely fiance as a roommate instead of a bunch of dudes (a premise he worked on last night), but it was sort of a cuddlier Jared Logan and I really dug it. (I know, I know, part of why we love Jared IS when he gets really wound up to the high point in a good bit, but still)

Nimesh and Che rounded out the night with a tandem set.  It was almost talk-show style, with Nimesh acting as both host and sidekick - tossing Che softball setups, then cracking and riffing on the answer.  It was a clever way to work out new new material and mine it for what’s got legs in front of a real crowd.

Broken Comedy is every Monday at Bar Matchless.  Follow @BrokenComedy for lineups and updates.


Let’s See What Greenwich Village Comedy Club is Talking About


I’ve heard a real mixed bag about Al Martin’s clubs - New York Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, and the newest Greenwich Village Comedy Club. But I know enough by now to take every gripe from any comedian with a grain (or ten) of salt and anyway, I like to make my own mind up about things.

I’ve been to NYCC a couple of times and, while it’s not much to look at, the smooshed in crowds can be pretty great. And many comedians swear an allegiance to the place for giving them good stage time as they came up.

So, when I arrived, I had a good idea already what the aesthetic would be and I wasn’t too far off. A dark little basement space, with the tables packed not-quite-too-close and right up against the low stage. No real green room to speak of (I saw comics just hanging out in the hallway to the kitchen while they waited to go up). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The room is deeper than most, but low-ceilinged enough that the laughs can travel and build and there’s something kinda great about seeing comedy in a place with that dingy rock show vibe.

The Saturday 10:30 show crowd was a mixed bag.  They felt like they’d all taken advantage of the nice weather and gone out day drinking and were in various stages of sobering up, getting sleepy and getting drunk again. But they were good enough to enjoy energetic host Larry Beyah and give so-so hot-and-cold energy to most of the lineup, but they all came together for veteran headliner Mike Britt. And like NYCC, when the crowd in this small space gets good, it’s sooo good.


More Dark Comedy at Stand Up NY Labs


I was sad to hear a few weeks ago that Stand Up NY Labs is scaling back their live show roster to keep focus on their podcasts and other content creating pursuits.  But luckily Luis Gomez’s #DarkComedyShow remains intact. I really like this show. It won over all my skepticism last time and I’m looking forward to “seeing” it again.

Since I know most of you won’t bother to click that link to find out what the deal is, here’s the deal: The room is completely blacked out and the audience is asked to wear blindfolds so their eyes don’t adjust to the darkness. Complete visual deprivation.  The only light is a tiny pen light Luis uses to get the comedians safely to the stage and back.  So you get to experience what is a half-visual medium with that half taken away. And in a lot of cases, you get that Blind Effect of heightening everything else.

The guy who made the most use of the space and situation this time was Dan Soder, who first addressed that we were basically doing comedy in a giant’s armpit (the A/C was struggling to keep the tiny, packed room cool), then compared the anonymity of the show with YouTube commenters, which he called back at the end of his set to thank us for being nice ones.  He also lapsed into a Luis impression and told us he was considering coming out and doing his whole set as Joe Machi, because how would we know?

The darkness also may have actually helped his joke about how black comedians miss the cuntiness note when they do impressions of white people. He talks about how rich middle aged women just live to complain at restaurants and they probably get off on it.  Then he does an act out.  Hard to do in the dark, but the vocal part of it is so dead on that it was impossible NOT to get a mental picture.  But it might not be quite as vivid when you’re busy looking at Dan’s face saying those words.

Jay Oakerson also dealt with the situation well, and earned extra difficulty points, since he does so much crowdwork and that just wasn’t gonna happen. He used the opportunity to go metaphorically dark and tell all three of his rape jokes in one fell swoop then run through the story he’s working on for Ari Shaffir’s upcoming show.

With Jay’s story, I think the vivid mental images might have hurt him a little.  I thought the story got a perfectly good response, though he said it was less than he was hoping for. And, without giving anything about the story away, I said “Well, I definitely want to picture [that one part], maybe don’t mention it was Kurt Metzger by name.  Just say it’s your buddy Kurt and we can all imagine whatever we’d like best.”

PS Since The Lab (PPS I’m gonna start calling it “The Lab” because too many syllables) is focusing on content, you should definitely give a listen to their many fine podcasts.  I’d highly recommend Race Wars, Guys We Fucked, Tuesdays with Stories, and Moonlighting.  I’m also just starting to listen to We Know Nothing and Lust for Life and they seem pretty cool.