Comedy Underground with Dave Attell Live

Comedy Underground with Dave Attell was a really refreshing turn for Comedy Central’s Stand-Up lineup. I’m hoping it’s a harbinger of the pendulum finally swinging back toward hardcore, no-gimmicks, rock n roll stand-up comedy.  The performers featured on the show, like Kurt Metzger, Mike Vechhione, Jay Oakerson and Joe DeRosa are some of the biggest badasses on the mic who haven’t necessarily received the TV attention they deserve because they didn’t fit the mold of what was in vogue for the last half decade.  And even the familiar faces like Nikki Glaser, Ari Shaffir and Jimmy Shubert have chops that far outstrip their level of industry buzz.

After Season One wrapped, Attell has kept the party going with monthly live shows at The Village Underground (where the series was filmed).  Following the show’s format, each night features a group of straight up killers, set free to be as dark and dirty as they want, with Dave doing a little chit chat session after each set.

BTW No word yet from Comedy Central on a Season Two pickup, so why not take a sec to tweet them your support!

The August edition was a great as ever, with super hilarious folks like Marina Franklin, Gary Gulman, Keith Robinson, Sam Morril, Jay Oakerson, and Chris Distefano split between the early and late shows, and very cool drop-ins Amy Schumer and Gilbert Gottfriend.

The combination of a stand-up set and a little Q&A with Dave is really delightful.  Watching Gilbert & Dave interact on the late show was both a comedy nerd’s wet dream and incredibly enjoyable for the audience. It’s also just great to be in a room where everyone’s on board with where this is going.  The early audience, especially, was just great.  All gut laughs, no turning to see if their girlfriend was frowning or if they were “supposed to be” laughing at this joke.

This will turn into a novel if I extoll the virtues of each and every set, and anyway, you should just come and experience it for yourself!

Your Name Here? Who The Hivemind Thinks Is The Next Paid Regular

All right, we’ve got about thirty folks playing in the Comedy Store Paid Regular Fantasy League and there are no two identical rosters, which is kinda cool. But there are some overall trends.

The general consensus is that the next paid regulars will be:

  1. Earl Skakel
  2. Jayson Thibault or Rick Glassman
  3. Rick Glassman or Yassir Lester

And that these folks are probably gonna get passed at some point real soon:

  • Kyle Ray
  • Amir K
  • Jen Murphy
  • Jon Huck

It was interesting to see some of the weird patterns that emerged. Like Teeb, he was either on your ballot in the second position or not on your ballot at all. And nearly everyone who had Glassman somewhere, also had Yassir and/or Jen.

And my three favorite rosters are:

Adam Eget (who is technically disqualified):

  • Mini Dean
  • Fat Texas BBQ Sandwich
  • Steven Patrick Morrissey

Dan Madonia who did not vote for himself, and Ryan Mirvis who ONLY voted for himself.

Good luck everyone.

PS I totally feel like that mean girl in Junior High who would tape a list of who were her friends this week to her desk so everyone knew who to be cool with and who to shun.

Hosts With The Most - Part II

Back in June, I wrote a piece that was mostly a love letter to Marina Franklin as an awesome emcee (a job she HATES to do) and got many excellent suggestions on other amazing hosts I had “left out”… and I know I’ll get more after this one, buuuut  here are some more  thoughts about hosting from some of my favorite emcees on both coasts.

James L. Mattern is the name on every New Yorker’s lips (right after “Ardie”) when you talk about great hosts.  The Artist Formerly Known as Maddog now goes by “James” and has been doing a lot more “real” sets lately, so let’s not pigeonhole him, but he’s really fucking good at it.

(Note: I have kept all punctuation and spacing exactly as Mattern sent it to me because he types like he talks, so read it in his voice)

"I like hosting I’m the dude throwing the party. Making people familiar with each other. It’s fun I also get to see how people change in the audience from start to finish And see how they feel a sense of community with each other because of comedy. And in the city it pays more. So Ching fucking Ching!!!!"

On the other coast, where hosting is more an obligation to be fulfilled by the youngest guy on the lineup than a respected skillset to be admired, Willie Hunter has always stood out as someone who not only did it well, but took pride in the job well done. He’s regularly hosted The Comedy Store’s Potluck, a 3+ hour extravaganza that can easily fall off and become an arduous trudge in lesser hands.  He’s so “hostly” we tease him that he’s the “white David Letterman”

"It’s both [enjoyable and a chore] for me. I enjoy the onstage part. The riffing, usage of wit, being pleasant, and interesting for the audience. The best compliment you can get as a host is "The SHOW was great because you (host) were the captain of the ship. The chore part is everything else. Other comics: with their demands from insignificant credits (one guy told me to say he’s one of Funny or Die’s top twitter accounts). Some will even ask me to set them up for their first joke (the worst). Others (for the most part) look down on the host and therefore, it can feel like a thankless job. The venue: making announcements about parking, 2 drink minimum, and sometimes the venue will tell you how to run the show (crazy because they hired you!) I don’t like it when the venue gives you more chores that could have been done by the doormen or waitresses (and not to mention you have to be funny!) And in some cases the host gets paid the least of all, but there are exceptions which is great! A good host is someone who can keep the show moving. Even in dire situations. One time a pretty well-known/famous comic was onstage. He wasn’t doing so well (no big deal it happens), but this particular comic took offense that audience wasn’t feeling him. So he attacked them, mainly these to two young ladies in the front row (who happened to be on their phone, but who could blame them? The guy wasn’t good that night and they spent money!). Long story short, the established comic killed the energy, told the audience he didn’t need them because he’s already famous thusly making it awkward. He ran the light with his tirade, got off stage and brought me back up, as to say "well this isn’t my problem anymore goodbye, here’s Willie." Luckily I was prepared to deliver the perfect line to win the audience back. "(beat) Well, as you guys can tell. I’m NOT doing so well in my career so I need all of you. Even you two (two ladies in the front)." Then I kissed the two girls on the hand and moved on with the show. I brought up my good friend Andrew Santino, he crushed, and the show was saved. No one remembered Dane Cook’s set. [Note: if you can’t tell, Willie’s making a joke there. Dane hasn’t performed at The Store in years] That’s what you have do as a host. We the going gets tough, roll over and play dead."

Aaron Berg isn’t typically thought of as a host.  He’s had an established career in Canada and the US as a regular comic. But he does host, and he does it well.  Mostly at The Stand, including as regular emcee of the sort-of Cringe Humor Show reboot Creeps of Comedy.

"I enjoy hosting very much because it’s so in the moment and I can put material on the back burner. One of my first mentors (Canadian comic who passed away - JT Huntley) explained to me that a host is basically welcoming everybody to the party. The show is a party. I believe that. A good host has to actually care about finding out about the audience and be worldly and knowledgable enough to share with them. Also a good host needs enough material to bail out a comic that bombed or lay a track of ease for an up and comer following a marquee name. The qualities that make me a good host are 1) being present and not locked into an act 2) caring more about a great show than proving how funny I am 3) having fun. Real down and dirty honest fun."

Stuart Thompson is another young gun from LA who almost immediately showed skill and enthusiasm for the hosting spots he was given starting out.  Whether at The Comedy Store, the Improv or a bar show, Stuart has a knack for giving off the “I’m in control, everything’s going to be fine, I got this” vibe that so often comes in handy.

"I do enjoy hosting, most of the time. I enjoy being at the helm of a show and being the liaison between the crowd and the other comics. When I host, I feel like I’m the audience’s portal to a great show. That being said, I still enjoy doing a set just as much as I enjoy hosting, if not more so. I need both. I can’t just be a stand-up and I can’t just host. I learned the basics of hosting by watching guys that were just a step or two ahead of me (guys like Willie, Tony Hinchcliffe, Rick Ingraham, David Taylor) hosting at the Store. Watching those guys work was helpful for figuring out what I should do when I host, but when it came to figuring out what I should avoid doing, I’m still learning that. I have to learn by making mistakes in front of others. The one rule I have when I make a mistake is that I call it out. I’ve found it puts the audience at ease. I’m not perfect, and they shouldn’t think otherwise."

Nick Youssef on Depression, Drugs and Comedy

This site is mostly built on original content, generated entirely by me.  I’ll periodically link to a collection of cool articles and videos by other folks, filed under Awesome Shit, but I very rarely excerpt something from another site as just a passthrough, but I think this one merits that.

Nick Youssef is a very talented LA comedian and a very good person. We’ve been friends since I started. Mostly just hanging out, shooting the shit, getting drunk and going to Norm’s at 3 am type friends. But when it’s mattered, Nick has proven to be a very thoughtful and caring person. I always peripherally knew about his struggles with depression, but they rarely surfaced while we were together, certainly not in any way I felt comfortable addressing, beyond periodically thanking him out of the blue for being a good friend.

That’s part of why it was important for me to pass this on.  But also because it’s universal.  You don’t need to know Nick or The Comedy Store or any other specific person - comedian, or not - who has suffered depression for this to ring true.  More importantly, of course you know someone who has dealt with - or currently is going through - depression. These are some great insights into understanding that, and if it’s you going through it, this is a good reminder that you aren’t the only one and there are ways to address it.

"Comics I looked up to when I was younger were sober, in therapy and happier and more successful than ever. I had been romanticizing a lie."

" Ironically, for many years, they were only memorialized on the walls at The Comedy Store- a black and white 8x10 checkerboard graveyard of misguided people who didn’t seek the help they truly needed."

Why Creative People Should Get Help (Even If They Think They Shouldn’t)

Yes, this is inspired by the tragic loss in our community yesterday, but I’m not going to say his name, I don’t want to jump on some shitty SEO tragedy bandwagon and, more importantly, the massive sadness and impact of this event stands entirely apart from what I want to say here. The loss is significant on its own, not just as a “teachable moment.”


Depression is a “selfish meme” - its very symptoms try to keep you from taking action to treat it. The apathy, hopelessness and fatigue make the corner of your bed so much more appealing than the chair at a therapists office.  Add into that the pervasive myth that depression (and other mental illnesses) are the source of many geniuses’ creativity, and a lot of us don’t go get the help we need.

It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes the chemicals are too far out of whack, the well worn neural pathways etched too deep for treatment to be fully effective, but most of the time it helps. It at least helps you be able to get out of bed and take a shower and leave the house and enjoy a conversation with a friend.  It helps you stop shoving the lazy garbage food into your body that’s only making the problem worse. It helps you stop drinking whiskey every night just to manage to do your job and interact with people and then be able to sleep, which is definitely making it worse.

Whether it’s one of the many strains of talk therapy, or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, there’s a combination that can ease the oppressive burden of your depression and anxiety or even out your manic highs and depressive lows. And there’s a therapist who is right for you.  Many of us know one or more who specialize in treating entertainers, but even if you just find a decent one on your health plan, they aren’t going to fill you with pills to dull your soul and try to force you into a cookie cutter Stepford lifestyle.

You may think your romantic depressive episodes or shiny manic ones fuel amazing late night writing sessions that will just stop once you start to recover.  But is all of what you’re producing so amazing?  And are you sure you won’t have more and better after? Depression gives you tunnel vision, it narrows the scope of your world.  And maybe you did find a unique and powerful observation about that corner of the world, as you examined it over and over, but as you get better and your field of vision widens, you’ll have more experiences to draw on and more connections to make. You may have to make adjustments, it may take a little while to find your new rhythm, but you’ll still have one.

I’ve been treated for depression twice in my adult life and left one episode to rage unchecked. That one sucked hardcore and, in hindsight, I suffered more than a few negative repercussions that could have been avoided if I’d just made the appointment. The most effective treatment I’ve had is called Mindfulness Behavioral Therapy, an offshot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I bring this up because I think it’s a form of therapy that can seem the least invasive and scary to people who have that fear that it will rob them of their creativity and personality.

It’s kind of “black box” therapy - there’s no laying on the couch, talking about the time your father wouldn’t take you fishing. You simply identify the negative spirals you go on and learn how to cut them off at the pass.

To be honest, though, it did change my personality.  It made me the Groupie you know and love. I was always in there, a wonderful trusted friend to the people I let in, but in my early twenties, I was a defensive, insecure dickface to people who slighted or threatened me. MBT taught me to be trusting, to give the benefit of the doubt, to not take things personally and to be incredibly objective. Think of how much more time you’d have to write great jokes if you weren’t wasting so much of it stewing on some perceived injustice that was never about you in the first place? It also opened the door to me being more honest - both about positive things and about negative things - and brutal open honesty is the real root of comedy, so please go get therapy!

The Comedy Store Paid Regular Fantasy League

If you listened to the Tommy Morris episode of Inappropriate Earl with Earl Skakel, Mat Edgar, and I, at the end we discussed starting a Fantasy Draft for the next Paid Regular of the Eget Era and here it is.

Select your top 3 picks for Who’s Getting Passed Next (submission form).

This is “Farm Team” only, so no points/no round for someone like Pete Holmes, Jackie Kashian or David Spade.

When a new comedian is passed, you’ll be awarded:

  • 1 pt for having them anywhere on your team
  • 3 pts for guessing in the correct position
  • 4 pts if your choice is a write-in 

I’m not dealing with handling money from across the country, but you are welcome to form your own leagues where you deal with that. 

I’ll post updates and standings so you can enjoy everlasting glory and I’ll do something extra nice for the winner(s)

Wow! Ha! The Musical Surprised Me

I checked out the second night of Ha! The Musical on Sunday.  I’m friends with most of the cast, the writer is one of my closest friend’s almost sister-in-law and I’d stopped by rehearsal, so it was pretty neat to still encounter some surprises during the show!

Christian Finnegan can sing!!  Like, really well. I assumed Bill Dawes had some pipes, since he’s been in a Broadway show.  I knew Casey Balsham could belt one out and I was familiar with Jay Oakerson’s dinging prowess from Legion of Skanks sing Grease. But, wow, I had no idea Finnegan would be so good at it!

If you want a professional peanut gallery… hire Keith Robinson, Derek Gaines, Monroe Martin and Chris Cookson.  Whoo, I actually had to shush them at one point!

This play really gets the world of stand-up - There were so many little moments sprinkled throughout that were dead-on, but the kicker was Finnegan’s ending soliloquy and song, spelling out the hard/boring/lonely life of a road Headliner.  It actually brought a tear to my eye.

Ha! has four more shows in its initial run, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so get your $10 tickets with code CASEY now!

Gabbin with The Groupie

I’ve had the great good fortune to do some awesome interviews lately.  If you haven’t read them yet, check em out now!

I had a fucking awesome conversation with Sam Tripoli about coming up in Vegas and LA, finding his crowd and how porn stars overshadow everything at The Interrobang. Don’t forget to check out his album Believe in Yourself.

I talked with the incredible Kurt Metzger for AmericasComedy.Com about his new special White Precious and the other hundred thousand projects he’s working on.

And I got to talk with the delightful Mark Normand for AmericasComedy.Com about period jokes, gay jokes, being a workaholic and his new album Still Got It.

You wanna watch comedians sing and dance?

 I love watching comedians do other things you wouldn’t expect them to be good at, like basketball or boxing. So you can imagine how excited I am to see them sing and dance in Ha! The Musical. 

Ha! is the creation of LA-based writer/producer Michelle Wendt, who has had plenty of dealings with comedians, both professionally and personally.  So she put together a musical that exposes all the onstage and backstage stereotypes and politics most people rarely see.  

Emcee Kevin Farley takes the audience by the hand and introduces them to all the types like The Shock Comic, The Girl Comic, The Ethnic Comics, the Open Mikers.  Each has a backstory and a musical number that sets up their place in the pecking order and what they have to deal with in this business. I’m a little flattered/horrified that the Chucklefucker character just happens to also run a blog, but hey, I’m 100% happy that term is being passed into the general lingo.

In addition to Farley, the show stars comedians with experience ranging from Broadway to college theater to singing in the shower - Bill Dawes, Christian Finnegan, Big Jay Oakerson, Casey Balsham, Luis J Gomez, Gibran Saleem, Shawn Pearlman, Alyse Kenny, Paul Shissler and Charles McBee.

You can catch Ha! at Stage 72 at the Triad Theater Aug 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7, with special performances from the incredible Bridget Everett Aug 3 & 7.  You can snag your tix for only $10 if you use code CASEY or LEGION at checkout.

Is This the Stupidest Organized Outrage Against a Comedian Yet?

Sorry guys who wanted to get instantly (in)famous by offending bloggers with your rape jokes, looks like you’ve got to switch to race jokes now. And if you enjoyed the manufactured outrage against Leslie Jones, Stephen Colbert and Anthony Cumia, you’re gonna looove the latest protest against Ari Shaffir.

A number of years ago, Ari starred in a series of National Lampoon sketches called The Amazing Racist.  They’re scripted, but shot to look like it’s a reality type show, just following around this awful guy making fun of everybody. 

Periodically, someone unearths one of these videos, takes it out of context and gets real angry.  Usually there are some yelling Facebook posts and tweets, we all have a good laugh and that’s that.  In the latest go round, though, they’ve taken it to a whole new level. Charlotte, NC radio station Latina 102.3, played the audio of one sketch focused on Mexican immigrants on air and then posted it to their Facebook page. Fans of the station then looked up Ari’s schedule and posted information about his upcoming dates at The Stand and Stand Up NY, calling for a campaign to get these clubs to stop booking him.

The Stand reportedly received about fifty phone calls over the course of the day, most of them basically prank calls with the caller yelling something in Spanish and hanging up.  The group also organized to leave negative reviews on Yelp and Facebook of the venue, along with a series of ironically homophobic and anti-semitic posts on both Ari’s and The Stand’s Facebook pages. (Yay!  Let’s fight fake racism with real bigotry!)  A few folks even had the good sense to make death threats against Ari and threaten violence against the venue.

The Stand publicly stood behind Ari, as common sense would dictate, and received a wave of support after posting the following message on Facebook and Twitter.

The entire thing is so stupid and ridiculous.  Putting aside how dumb it is to get upset over satire, if you’re going to do it, pick a better target. Ari’s not a celebrity with a ton of endorsements and The Stand is not a conglomerate trying to maintain mass appeal.  In fact, of all the clubs Ari works regularly, The Stand is more likely to book Ari extra spots as a result of the dust-up. Nice work, dummies.