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.

New Faces vs Muddled Cocktails

If the first round of New Faces showcases at JFL, in a theater filled with mostly industry, was tough, the second round was a whole other challenge.  The Wiggle Room is a very cool little venue with the unfortunate problem of having the bar very close to the stage, where they make craft cocktails that take about twenty minutes each and require numerous loud utensils. The fact that anyone was even paying attention, much less laughing, is an impressive feat every member of the group should be proud of.

The fact that a couple of the Group 1 comedians managed to have really great sets is even more impressive.

Of course Randy Liedtke had absolutely no problem.  He’s the winner of the “You’re really gonna make this guy do New Faces now?  You’re not just going to skip him ahead?” award. He’s a pro who should have been here years ago, so his material and confidence rose above the situation for the best set of the night. And it’s extra impressive, because he’s no one thing. He packed in joke jokes, “normal” bits, wordplay and a closing bit whose humor rested on constantly playing with the audience’s expectations. And we were with him the whole time. I am a little disappointed I haven’t heard about a fake JFL Twitter account, though.

John McKeever was the other standout whose presence and material kept the room at attention and laughing the whole time. His persona is accessible and relateable, which helped everyone connect with his just barely off center material.  And I’m still giggling at his , “I saw a stripper yawn.. they’re not supposed to do that!” bit.

Half The New Faces Rock!

Don’t get excited, I’m not about to rip on half the New Faces… I haven’t seen them yet.  I get my Group 1 showing on Friday. But it’s like the Gods of JFL wanted to welcome me to town, so my first show was Group 2, featuring a ton of my pals and faves - Hasan Minaj, Michelle Wolf, Ryan O’Flanagan, Monroe Martin, Jake Weisman and Justine Marino.. and hosted by Pete Holmes.  Pete did an amazing job setting up the room - a notoriously stiff audience - so everyone had a solid or above average set. (Again, sorry, no gleeful schadenfreude here) But I will give a shout out to the folks who really knocked it out of the park.

Michelle Wolf - Holy mother, did she kill. Michelle is just a great all-around comedian.  Her jokes are mainly standard setup-punch/misdirect but her unique voice is so strong in every single one of them.  The perfect mix of familiar comfort and delightful novelty. And I’ll grudgingly bring up gender just to point out that Michelle is what I see the next wave of female comedians being, namely not “female” just “comedians.” Of course her material comes from her unique viewpoint, which happens to be filtered through the experience of walking around the world as one of us girls, but that’s it.  There’s no pandering, no trying hard to be “not girly”, there’s just telling the funniest jokes she’s got.

Jesse Elias - The feeling in the room during the first bit of this Bay Area comedian’s set was, “Is this a gimmick?” With his bushy hairdo hiding his lowered face and a sort of nervous kid affect, you could feel everyone being not quite sure what to do with this.  Then he addressed it with a joke about how his father always told him he needed to make eye contact and it was off to the races. He just built strong momentum throughout, as he tackled totally silly topics with a completely “I never thought of it that way!” approach.  For example, that lemon and lime are the good girl/bad girl twins of the flavor world.

Drew Michael - His set didn’t hit as hard as Michelle’s or Jesse’s (possibly because the room was getting tired by then) but it was my favorite. I just really liked him and less than half way in, I had that “I want to see more of this guy” feeling. If I can put my finger on anything, it was the confident, matter-of-fact honesty.  Whether he was the hero or villain of the bit, he didn’t veer toward either false self-deprecation or aggressive bravado. I mean, he got away with a pretty good chunk of material about how he once stalked a girl into dating him. If you can get the crowd on your side for that, you’re doing something right.

Who NOT to hate on New Faces 2014

It’s that time of year again!  Time to ramp up your hatred of yourself and your peers as you see who got New Faces. Wooo!  Just remember, it’s just a fun free trip to Montreal and an ego boost, it’s not the magic ticket to stardom and happiness immediately and forever, so go back to hating your peers for the usual reasons.

It’s a good list this year, a diverse group including mostly actual unknowns.  My only complaint is that they didn’t just bring back the 2013 class, which was basically all my comedy BFFs.

"Alingon Mitra, Brad Wenzel, Drew Michael, Eliza Skinner, Grant Lyon, Hampton Yount, Hasan Minhaj, Jack Robichaud, Jake Weisman, Jen D’Angelo, Jesse Elias, John McKeever, Justine Marino, Kate Berlant, Matteo Lane, Michelle Wolf, Monroe Martin, Nore Davis, Randy Liedtke, Ryan O’Flanagan and Whitmer Thomas."  — Full New Faces 2014 Lineup

That said, here are a few real stand-outs from the 2014 class

Monroe Martin - You’ve certainly already seen his great act and adorable face on Last Comic Standing. He’s so funny, you can see the talent through the weeds of the silly challenges and “coaching sessions” they throw at the LCS contestants.

Hasan Minaj - I’ve known of Hasan through his sketch group Goatface for some time, but I finally got so see him do a good long set at Moontower this spring and he blew me away. Good jokes, great underlying mechanics and confident stage presence.

Michelle Wolf - I love Michelle because she’s a great writer and she’s kinda weird, but naturally unique weird, not like “Hey look, I’m being kooky!” weird. Did I mention great writer?

Matteo Lane - Adorable gay fireball, who can fill any room with his personality and get even the stiffest of crowds on board.

Jake Weisman - Well I guess this is growing up.  This is the first time anyone even in the general vicinity of being my “peer” is on New Faces. So I’m going to give that weird compliment of, I’ve seen Jake come up since close to the beginning and always thought, “Yeah, that guy’s funny” but then I recently went months without seeing the incremental growth and when I saw him again, I was like, “Jesus, he is strong.” 

Like I said, everyone on the list (at least the ones I already know) are great. I’m a little disappointed none of my crushes made it this year (It’s okay, I had a good run last year).

How The Meltdown Show Almost Gets It Right

I am incredibly snobby about comedy on TV.  I think that the way it is traditionally filmed and edited sucks all of the life out of a live stand-up performance and truly reduces it to a truly two-dimensional experience.  But that’s been changing lately - Ari Shaffir’s This Is Not Happening, Kurt Metzger’s White PreciousComedy Underground with Dave Attell and the latest season of The Half Hour are all starting to change that. And The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail actually does a really good job of capturing the vibe of the live Meltdown Show.

First of all, it’s heavy on the interactions between hosts Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani.  That’s a key facet of the live experience.  The camera shots are tight and sometimes at weird angles, which is exactly how it feels to watch this incredibly packed and popular show live.  They even intersperse some backstage footage, which keeps it from feeling too sterile.

All that would be amazing… if they showed more than three minutes of any of the comedians. It would be hard to reasonably pack four comics onto a normal 23 minute stand-up showcase show where the host merely introduces the acts, but jamming them into the hostful goodness that is Jonah and Kumail seems almost ridiculous. I mean, seriously, they feel like afterthoughts.

On the plus side, it does allow them to show some of the more interesting things comedians feel comfortable trying in the back of Meltdown Comics.  Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher’s appearances on the first episode are great examples of things that may not work in an 8+ minute spot. But it’s now heavily banking on the audience buying into Jonah & Kumail to tune in week after week, rather than just hit the Comedy Central website for the short clip of the guest they want to see. They’re engaging fellas, so it might work, but I’ll be really excited when they bring these elements to something that’s a more about the comedians than the show, itself.

The Entirely Free Social Media Course for Comedians 4: Facebook

Page vs Profile

Facebook treats your base profile page very differently from a Fan Page. Switching to a Page will impact how often your posts are seen and by whom, as well as who can tag you and who you can tag.

It can be nice to maintain both a Fan Page and a personal Profile, so you can continue to use your Profile like a normal person, while keeping some distance between yourself and strangers/potential stalkers, but it’s important to understand how your interactions will change.

The Facebook algorithm is like the Colonel’s Secret Recipe, closely guarded, but we all kinda know what’s in there. Facebook serves your News Feed with posts based on who you’ve interacted with most - people you’ve messaged, Liked, commented or tagged recently and frequently; people who have Liked, tagged, messaged or commented on your posts; and if you use the Facebook app on your phone, it even combs who you communicate with via email and text; then it adds in a touch of random so you don’t just end up with a feed full of the same three people (though I did go through an 80% Mike Lawrence phase).

Pages are different, because they want you to buy advertising. If you don’t, your posts are severely limited.  The base is that about 10% of the people who have Liked your page will see a post.  As that post gets more likes, clicks and comments, it gets spread further… and that also raises the base reach of future posts. But not for long.  

It also changes who can tag you.  People posting from regular profiles can tag your Page all they want, but other pages (for example, Clubs where you are performing) may not be able to tag you in certain posts or photos.

Don’t just write, read!

Because of the way the Facebook algorithm works, don’t just be a bullhorn, read, Like and comment on other people’s posts - both because it helps them spread their posts and it’s good karma, but because it’ll help spread your posts as well. Plus, you don’t want to miss out of that cute video of a dog driving a car!

Facebook Also Has Lists

Facebook has a Lists feature, they have some built-in categories like Family and Close Friends, but you can make your own public or private lists as well. They can be helpful if you want to just spend an afternoon sifting through your college friends’ baby photos or high school friend’s angry political rants.. but probably the most helpful use for comedians is for sending invitations, because…

Use Events, but Stop inviting everyone to everything!

Facebook events are very handy, they spread the word and are easy to add to a Google Calendar.  But for god’s sake, stop inviting everyone on your friends list!  Congratulations that you did some googling and found the javascript to let you do that, now STOP. Make a list of fans & friends who actually want to be invited to these kinds of things and only invite them.

Stop kidnapping people into your Group!

Groups are a better way to spread the word about your show than a Page, but it’s even ruder to just add someone to your Group than invite them to your Event.

Okay, there’s your info and preaching about the platform we all love to hate!

Why You Should Go To The Sam & Joe Show Sundays at Caroline’s

The Sam & Joe Show has become something that actually makes me look forward to Sunday nights.  I’m sad when I miss it, even for something awesome.  It’s such a great show for so many reasons.

The first and second are Sam Morril and Joe Machi.  They are each wonderful, both onstage and off, with very different styles. And their squabbling brother dynamic is hilarious.  Each week, one hosts and the other bites the check spot (lately, it’s been mostly Joe hosting) and they do a mix of Greatest Hits and new shit.

The third reason is the lineups.  Holy cow, have you seen these lineups?  It’s a Who’s Who of rising NYC comedy stars - Gary Vider, Joe List, Jono Zalay, Jenny Zigrino, Michelle Wolf, sorry everyone else I didn’t name but you know I love you and I have to stop somewhere.  There’s rarely a dud and when they bring in some of the older guys, it’s vets who know how to put on a show, not embittered has-beens sill trotting out the same material from 1998.

The crowds can go either way.  Since it’s Sunday, it’s mostly folks on vacation (who don’t have to work in the morning) or who are DGAF drunk on a Sunday, so it can go anywhere from perplexed at American idioms and references to yelling “I’m from Jersey and I spent all day sucking dicks!” Though it mostly lands in the safe “We’re enjoying this” zone. And the show ends promptly by 11, so you shouldn’t be scared to join them on a “school night.”

The Sam & Joe Show is every Sunday night at Caroline’s on Brodway at 9:30 pm (tix)

Fuck Yeah, Big Jay Oakerson

In the continuing series of New Yorkers I love, there is no comedian in New York I love more than Big Jay Oakerson.  Period. (Sorry Luis!).  Where to begin?  He is a fantastic stand-up, with plenty of well-written material that he weaves seamlessly in and out of completely off-the-cuff crowdwork. You know how most people come to a comedy show and think that the comedians are doing all-new stuff they just thought of right now and we all hate that?  Well, that’s kind of what Jay does, and we all fucking love it.  

His stage persona is a sort of lovable scoundrel scumbag, and he’s got wild tales for any situation to go along with it.  And while he can be an intimidating figure at first glance, he’s just a big old teddy bear, which comes across to the audience when he lets out a silly giggle, mid-story.

And he could not be a cooler person offstage. He and his partner in crime, Christine Evans, have been top tier most welcoming and helpful people to me since I moved here.  And every single person I’ve ever spoken to who has met him even once has a story about some friendly favor he did for them, just because he’s a nice guy.  But don’t get me wrong, he’s no pussy, he’ll bust your balls with the best of them and can take it like he gives it.

If you don’t have the pleasure of living in NYC, where you can see him regularly at The Stand, The Comedy Cellar, Stand Up NY and pretty much everywhere, get a taste of Jay through one of his podcasts - Legion of Skanks or The Sex Drugs and RocknRoll Show.

The Entirely Free Social Media Course for Comedians 3: More Twitter

Okay, the last one was about Twitter mechanics, this one is about Twitter style.  And the most important thing is.

Don’t Listen to Most Social Media Advice

JUST BE YOURSELF! This trumps any other specific content/style advice you get from me or anyone else.  You like cat gifs, post some cat gifs. You hate ‘em, don’t do it just because someone said that’d get you more followers or whatever. Just like with your act, you’re trying to get people to connect with you not some phoney persona that’ll just disappoint them when you make the big reveal that “Ha ha!  It was me the whole time!”

That goes for tone, too.  If you’re a silly one-liner guy, stick with it.  Dark and gloomy, great.  Cheerful and upbeat, good for you.

Here’s a few of my favorite tweeters, who are all very different.

Hashtags, RTs, Compliments and Trolls

These are the features I hear the most bitching about (and, in many cases, abuse of)

  • Jesus, why are you always putting so many hashtags in everything? - Hashtags, originally envisioned to help organize posts on similar topics or around events, can now be used for anything from a snarky aside to a wordwide riff game. Some people even ironically put seventy-eleven hashtags in a post.  Again, that’s your choice, based on your voice, but hashtags actually do help other Twitter users discover your tweets.
  • He’s a retweet whore, RTs literally every compliment he receives - This is actually one of my personal pet peeves… BUT, I also get how cool it is for a fan to get a RT from their comedy hero. I even find a lot of podcast fan’s tweets to be fun and creative. So, if that’s your jam, don’t listen to me mumbling in the corner.
  • Ugh, now we’re gonna watch her get into it with these trolls again - Other side of the coin of the previous thought. I often find it funny to see what hate tweets idiots take the time to type out and send to comedians, but sometimes it can start to feel less “Ha ha, look at these dummies” and more “Is she about to have a nervous breakdown because of some 12 year old in Des Moines?” Plus, you have to consider how your followers will react and if you’re just creating a giant echo chamber of meaningless insults being hurled around on your behalf

Why Should I Use Twitter In The First Place?

Most everyone is on board with Twitter at this point, with many folks essentially abandoning Facebook for it.  But there are some people who still use it grudgingly or are dragging their feet about using it. Most commonly because, they say they just don’t “get it” It’s a very different model from Facebook, so it does take some getting used to, but that’s exactly why it’s so great!

  • Twitter is ephemeral - While it can be maddening that your same post gets 100 Likes on Facebook and 3 faves on Twitter, this also lets you play around on there.  You don’t have to worry that you aunt in Cleveland will stumble upon your 3 am Sat drunken thoughts on 10 am Tuesday.
  • Twitter is asymmetrical - Unlike Facebook’s Friend model, you don’t have to follow back everyone who follows you and they don’t have to accept a request for you to start following them.  This is a beautiful thing. You don’t have to have a timeline full of stories of small town divorce from your high school classmates or allow strangers who’ve become your fans access to your personal vacation photos.
  • Twitter doesn’t game your feed - Facebook uses an ever-changing algorithm to decide whose posts you “want” to see. Twitter is just a firehose. So I get to see all the Boston Globe posts about the Red Sox, instead of just one in five because FB has decided I probably want to see that guy I’ve been texting lately’s posts more (I don’t).
  • Twitter is timely - Was I the only one who found it a little sad to see so many pre-match USA soccer posts pop up three days after they’d lost on FB? More importantly, I actually see posts about Reddit AMAs, live podcasts and upcoming shows before they happen. And Twitter is great for breaking news like Earthquakes, fires and celebrity deaths.
  • Twitter evolves  - Twitter users and how they use it help define Twitter - not only what are common conventions, but actual features.  Remember when there was no such thing as a native retweet? Or when you had to host your photos on another service like Flickr or Twitpic?  This organic evolution keeps Twitter constantly useful because it reflects how people are actually using it.

Ok, that’s my Deep Thoughts on Twitter.  Next week, Facebook Profiles vs Pages and how they decide who sees your posts.