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Archive for the year 2010

PHILLY SKETCHFEST, COMEDY MONTH, AND MORE!

PHILADELPHIA – The third annual Philly SketchFest is pleased to announce that it will be participating in the city’s first-ever Comedy Month. SketchFest, which kicks off tonight and runs from November 8-14, will serve as the second week of Comedy Month.

Comedy Month was created by the Philadelphia Comedy Collective – the brain trust of three of the top comedy forces in the city – the Philadelphia Improv Festival, Philly SketchFest, and the Philadelphia Joke Initiative. Together, they have assembled the largest collection of comedy performances in the city outside of the annual Philly Fringe. Comedy Month runs from November 1-21 and all shows are at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom Street.

Tickets to all Philly SketchFest shows are $10. Audiences can use their ticket stub from one show to get into the following show for $5. Passes for the length of Comedy Month are $100. More information can be found at: www.philly-sketchfest.com.

The Great Southwest Laff-Off!

Heads up, comics! Auditions and submissions for the Great Southwest Laff-Off! start November 4th. Contests starts January 6th. First prize winner receives $300 and 3 professional paid bookings at Laffs Comedy Caffe’ in Tucson, Arizona. Click here for complete schedule, submission, and audition information.

THUGS: THE MUSICAL!

Kevin Avery is a comedian, writer and actor, originally from San Francisco. He has appeared in the indie film Harrison Montgomery with Martin Landau, at the inaugural Rooftop Comedy Festival, and can also be seen on Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen, Comedy.TV, and on the current season of Latino 101 on SiTV. Kevin is currently in the process of kickstarting his latest short film, a comedy called “Thugs: The Musical!”

Featuring David Alan Grier, Margaret Cho, Rachel True and Kevin himself, “Thugs” is being funded entirely through fan donation at Kickstarter.com.
Kevin explains the project with a little help from his famous friends, below…

To help Kevin make this film happen, please visit his kickstarter page.

LITTLE REID, BIG CITY #6

by Reid Faylor

Oh New York, you tricky trick. You goofy goof. You. To think last week I was angry with you, all upset and such. But now, now I have settled back into a deep and respectful “okay-ness” with you that feels warm and fulfilling.

Last week was essentially a shit week, as the last blog post may reveal –bad sets, tickets, a subconscious despair. But things can turn around so very quickly. Granted, I was in a bad mood about comedy in general; I severely doubted my abilities at it, stopped writing, and didn’t perform for a week. Which was stupid, and a little scary. Nothing specific had set it off, but a rolling wave of loneliness and what I call “grouchy” had washed over my dreams, making their clothes all wet and their aspirations damp. The week had pushed my dreams into the pool even though my dreams repeatedly said “no” and even told the week that its phone was in its pocket. But things can turn around so easily.

It was a process.

Despite my bad mood, I still loved comedy, I just doubted myself, so I couldn’t help but attend two live tapings of WTF (Marc Maron’s damned fine podcast). This was a good night. Saw good comedians talk and debate, met up with local guys, talked to some new people. Also, I got a call that night telling me I had gotten a job I hadn’t even interviewed for, one with a far easier commute than my last job in New Jersey. Things were looking all sorts up!

The next big piece in the Let’s-Make-Reid-Feel-Better puzzle was a surprise encounter with W. Kamau Bell. Kamau is a San Francisco comic and quite the hell of a guy. I met him during my time with the Rooftop Comedy Talent Institute, and he immediately in my mind became somewhat of a mentor –everything he said about comedy and writing rang true, and helped me develop a lot more into the performer I wanted to become. He was in town for his one-man show and happened to stop by the “Comedy as a Second Language” comedy show I was attending. It was great to see him again. We talked for a while, caught up, and one thing in particular stuck out from our conversation: he told me he was jealous. He was jealous that I got to move to New York, to go to a brand new place and start again. “You can be whatever you want to be,” he told me –it’s a great way to start from a clean slate and be the comedian you want to be. That struck me oddly true; I hadn’t realized the opportunity I had been given.

After a week of brooding and eating ice cream in the dark while playing Minecraft (a life destroying video game that I am building just the greatest sky garden in), on Sunday I performed again. I thought a lot about what Kamau said, and it put me in a better, more relaxed mood. Sure, in New York I am completely starting over, but I get to start over the exact way I want to. That night I performed at the Freak Show mic at the Ten Eleven bar, and for the first time in more than a year, I decided to just go on stage with no real plans and improvise. When I hit the stage, it felt good again, and I started talking –to the piano, myself, the audience a little. I started riffing about the Pop Tart store I had recently gone to, and improvised a joke suggesting that the Pop Tart sushi they served there was essentially “the idea of atheism made concentrate in food form.” I started spinning words, a whir of improvised phrases and analogies in an oddly poetic tone. It did pretty well. I then did a brand new joke I had worked on once, and had fun doing it. Leaving the stage, all the sudden I was excited again; I wanted to perform as soon as I could, improvise, write new weirdly meandering jokes, and get back into it. I had a good set, felt comfortable, and felt like I was doing exactly what I wanted to do on stage.

It was a peak, but with that definition comes the reality that it is a height surrounded by lower points and valleys (you see, like a mountain range! Metaphors –how fine!). I tried improvising at the next three shows I performed at, and they went fairly mediocre, none hitting the pace and feeling of the last show. But finding that freeness on stage and enjoying it again reset my opinion of comedy. I can do this, and when I do, it’s going to be done exactly the way I want it to.

NEXT WEEK: I peruse rugs online that I shouldn’t buy, and begin worrying more and more that the mosquito bites I keep getting may be bed bugs.

GUEST SENTENCE: My dreams (used to be about playing in the NHL, sometimes include myself, naked and vulnerable): “Don’t. Don’t do it, week. Goddammit, my phone’s in my pocket! I said I don’t want to go in the goddamn pool! My phone is in my goddamn pocket! Oh Jesus. You asshole. It’s a smart, phone!”

Follow Reid on twitter.

Happy Halloween from Elevator To: Space

Happy Halloween from Rooftop’s favorite elenauts Alex Koll, Chris Garcia, Louis Katz, and Sean Keane.

Happy Halloween! I’m gonna eat you!

Who said there are no romantic Halloween songs?


I will eat you alive

Stuckey & Murray Sing the Songs of Stuckey & Murray

We’re proud to announce the release of our first ever musical comedy album by comedy duo – Stuckey and Murray.

After ten years together and two full-length studio albums, the comedy-music duo is bringing a set of brand new original songs to the stage and recording them live for the first time ever.

Stuckey & Murray have over 20 million hits under their belt thanks to the viral music videos that spawned from their albums – Destination: Rock Bottom and Mythical Fornication (producer Dean Baltulonis – The Hold Steady).

The left-handed, NYC based comedy music duo made their network TV debut this summer as semi-finalists on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and they’re frequently played on Sirius’ Raw Dog radio. They’ve also appeared on MTV, VH-1, E!, FUSE and performed their live show at the Montreal Comedy Festival, All Points West, Virgin Music Fest, Edinburgh Fringe Fest and many other cities across America and Europe.

Accompanied by classically trained guest musicians, Stuckey & Murray Sing The Songs of Stuckey & Murray is the first full set of material from the group in front of a live audience that spotlights their expert musicianship and the hilarious camaraderie their fans have grown to love.

In conjunction with the album, Stuckey & Murray’s have released, “Awkard Sex,” their first ever animated music video.

“Stuckey & Murray Sing The Songs of Stuckey & Murray” is out now. You can buy the “Awkward Sex” single or the album in its entirety on iTunes.

LITTLE REID, BIG CITY #5

by Reid Faylor

Before I begin, I’d like to respond to some of the comments I got on last week’s blog, as I felt they were very encouraging:

“Good job guys ..” -Mikey Mouse.

Whoa! Thanks Mikey! And your website, a certain “factspenisenlargement.com” was really something, too. Thanks for your interest!

“This is one of the best credit restoration companies used by many around the world.” –Johnny Carter.

Mr. Carter! Wow! Thanks for reading, and thank you even more for the credit restoration company info!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Amber Preston, a wonderful Minneapolis comedian, stopped by for a visit this week. She was in town for some NACA auditioning and visit-making, so she slept on our air mattress with its Batman sheets. The sheets used to be mine. In college. I went to Minneapolis over the summer to do some shows and visit friends, and it felt strange to look at the New York scene from a Minneapolis perspective.

I went to two shows with Amber, representing in my mind the best and worst of the New York comedy scene. One was “Hot Soup”, a booked show put on by Matt Ruby, David Cope and others, and despite a small attendance at first, every comedian that went up put on a great show –some of the best comedians I’ve seen in New York, all together, making all sorts of sillies. It’s the kind of show that in many ways is unique to New York –intimate setting, great rising comedians having fun and trying out material, relaxed. It’s a show you strive to be on.

The other show was an open mic, in the middle of a day on a Saturday -45 comedians, two minutes apiece, no audience, long. Amber seemed to do fine with it, but remembering my time in Minneapolis with it’s friendly comedians, great shows, and welcoming atmosphere, I felt almost ashamed waiting through this mic and it’s uninviting tone and tough crowd. Having a fairly bad set didn’t improve my mood about it either.

I started comparing New York to the other cities I’ve done comedy in –San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Cincinnati. There seem to be some bigger highs, but the lows feel lower and more punishing. It’s a harder place to stand out in, and it constantly makes you prove yourself. This definitely makes you better, but the total absence of comfort in the scene (at least for now) makes it a far more difficult task. I definitely started to miss my home scene in Cincinnati.

That was Saturday. On Sunday? Worked all day to replace my roommate’s car battery (out of town, going to get ticket unless we moved it), got an unknown object hurled at my car by an infuriated New York driver for unknown reasons, and received a $130 ticket for holding my phone in my hand (Note: Not talking, not dialing, just holding). Needless to say, by the end of the weekend, I had a fairly horrible opinion of being in New York.

But last night, talking with another comedian who moved here three months ago, her horror stories made me feel better. Car towed, four tickets, phone stolen, rough entry into the scene. She recounted her first two months as miserable and essentially God-awful. In month three though? Optimistic, happy –at ease. It all takes time. I know this will get better, but until it does –ice cream, unemployment, and a plant I bought in depression (Vivian) will soften my woes.
Next week: I probably get depressed and buy more plants.

Finally –guest sentence! This comes from Amber Preston (Aspen Comedy Festival, poor vision): “Reid, I didn’t send you my guest sentence after even requesting one and being reminded by you twice. Oh no!”

Poor form Amber. Poor form.

Follow Reid on Twitter.

Keith Alberstadt Interview

Interview by Nathan Timmel.


Comedy is an interesting business of strangers. You cross paths with someone, become tight, good friends for a weekend, and then forget about them Monday morning as you head off to the next town. That encapsulates the relationship I had with Keith Alberstadt. I remembered meeting him, remembered liking and getting along with him and having a lot of fun, but for the life of me could not remember where all this occurred or when it happened.

When I called Keith to catch up and discuss his new CD, It’s Pronounced “Jenkins”, he was at a car wash in Tennessee, getting ready for a week at Zanies. Sadly, he couldn’t remember where we met, either.

NT: Let’s start with the title.

KA: It’s Pronounced “Jenkins” will make sense to anyone that sees my act or buys the CD, and I called it that because it’s indicative of my smart-ass personality.  The bit is: I called a customer service rep, and she was having problems with my name, so at one point I said, “It’s pronounced Jenkins.” She replied, “It says here Albert…” and I said, “Yes, I know it says Alberstadt, it’s pronounced Jenkins.” She bought it, and called me Mr. Jenkins for the rest of the conversation, which I found hilarious. It became a story that I used in my act, but honestly started out as a sort of throwaway when I first told it. It kept getting huge laughs, and ended up becoming a staple.

NT: How many shows did you record?

KA: We actually didn’t do a whole lot of editing; it was pretty much recorded in one night. I know a lot of comics like to splice together—I’m not going to throw any comics under the bus, because I’m guilty of doing the same thing in the past, where you take a bunch of shows and splice together bits from different nights—but this time I just picked one night, one show, and just ran with it. Didn’t do a whole lot of editing at all.

One thing I’m really happy about with this CD is the military tracks. I was able to record my shows overseas, I think it was in 2007, and we were able to use the footage. Not all of it, of course, but snippets. One from a show at Doha, Qatar, two from Iraq, and one from an aircraft carrier, where we did a show for the sailors. It’s military specific material, from that environment, so anyone in uniform is gonna get it. Civilians probably aren’t, but that’s what makes this CD unique, those four bonus tracks, for the people in uniform. It was from my third tour to the Middle East.

NT: So by that time you had learned some of the military lingo, and were sort of planning ahead by brining the camera and recording the shows, because you could do jokes specific to that crowd and knew it was a special event to be participating in.

KA: Absolutely. That’s exactly what happened. I knew I would have another CD coming out, and I wanted something to make it special. I went out and did my research and got a quality hand-held recorder from a guitar shop and just recorded everything.

NT: You said you wanted to make this one special; what number CD is this for you?

KA: This is my third CD. My first one was in 2003, it’s not available anymore, and the second, One Night Stand was in 2004. As you can imagine there was a lot of overlap between the two. This third one, “It’s Pronounced Jenkins,” is completely new and different, so I’m keeping One Night Stand in print so people can buy both and not bitch about hearing the same jokes. [Laughs]

NT: You sort of hit on my next question; I was going to ask how long it took you to come up with the material for this disc, but if the last one was 2004, are we looking at six years of writing and honing bits to perfection?

KA: For the most part, yeah. I’d say 90% yeah. But there’s always a joke or two that comes out that isn’t as crisp as it will be a year from now, but when you’re having fun with the moment, you keep it genuine.

NT: So, here’s the tough one: describe your comedy to someone who’s never heard you? Are you an observationist, a storyteller… what sparks your creativity? What compels you to write or be original?

KA: I’m pretty much a mix. I observe weird and quirky things my friends say to me, and use them in personal stories. I talk about my mom having cancer…

NT: Always a funny topic.

KA: [Laughs] Well, I talk about how you have to laugh at life, and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. It’s not a topic that people like to laugh at, but it open things up, and engages people… [pauses].

NT: It’s honest, and from the heart.

KA: Yes, but it’s also me. It’s me being a smart ass in the face of something that’s not supposed to be funny. Like a story I tell about when my mom had a black eye. She slipped she slipped and fell, and was skipping Mass because she was embarrassed. I told her she should go to Mass, and when people turn to one another to exchange a peace offering: “When dad turns to you, flinch like he’s gonna hit you again.” It’s a funny way of looking at a bad situation, and people can appreciate that in light of something so tragic, its good to have a sense of humor about it. And she’s beating it, the cancer, so there’s a very positive ending to all that.

But I’m getting off track here; to answer your original question, my style of comedy is pure, genuine smartass. It’s not antagonistic, it’s a “guy next door” sort of… [pauses]. It’s a smartass with a mischievous grin attached to it, not bare-knuckled aggression.

NT: Going back to cancer, were you aware with how Robert Schimmel dealt with it? He did a whole segment at the end of his act where he wasn’t telling jokes, he would talk about his experience in very open and honest terms.

KA: I’m very familiar with that. He would give people hope, and that’s what makes people appreciative of what we do. You let that wall down, you open yourself up a little bit, and you let them see beyond the stage. I think people walk away with that with good feelings, having seen someone allow themselves to become vulnerable.

It’s Pronounced “Jenkins” is available at itunes, on Amazon.com, and in our very own Rooftop store.

The Iowa Comedy Festival: Joel Fry Interview

Interview by Nathan Timmel

Speaking with Joel Fry is like drinking a shot of 5-Hour Energy; his enthusiasm is infectious. Relentlessly positive, his upbeat attitude lets you believe the impossible is possible, even if that task is setting about creating a relevant Comedy Festival in Iowa.

Joel is a founding member of Cornstar Comedy, and the idea Des Moines could host a Comedy Festival first entered his brain three years ago. Since that moment, Joel has spent his time planning, planning, and planning some more.

This weekend, all his hard work will come to fruition as the first ever The Iowa Comedy Festival launches.

Rooftop Comedy is partnering with the festival to attempt to showcase quality comedy in the Midwest; Rooftop favorite and Iowa resident Nathan Timmel gave Joel a call to discuss everything under the sun festival related.

NT: A little background first; tell me about Cornstar Comedy.

JF: I’m the chief booking coordinator for Cornstar Comedy, and it’s an agency that works exclusively with Iowa comedians, booking shows in Iowa venues; bars, nightclubs, hotels or what have you. We want to create a better infrastructure for comedy here in Iowa. We primarily focus on small towns, because there’s usually nothing going on there. We become the biggest event of the night by default, and usually we get incredible crowds. These people aren’t likely to make it to a comedy club, so we bring a professional show to them. The audiences are loyal, they appreciate it, we get a ton of return business because of it, and I think that’s something that inspires local comics. They see the response, and think, “Hey, maybe comedy is something that’s viable here in Iowa if I work really hard.”

NT: Who dreamed up the idea of an Iowa Comedy Festival?

JF: The Iowa Comedy Festival as an idea probably started about three years ago with a friend of mine, Greg. At the time, we had a couple open mic shows in town, and some sketch groups, and an improv troop. All these shows were all on different nights, and different weeks. Greg wanted to combine all the entertainment Des Moines had to offer and do some shows at a local theater. Instead of different shows on different weeks, everything would be strung together over the course of one week.

NT: Is that legal, combining sketch comedy, improv and stand-up comedy?

JF: [Laughs] Well, that’s what happened next. About two years ago my friend Jared and I had a different idea of what creating a festival would entail; we wanted to have it showcase stand-up comedy. Jared and I used to run an open microphone, and it was a lot of fun, but it made me realize that in Iowa, stand-up comedy isn’t seen as a really viable form of mainstream entertainment. And I think that’s too bad. I think there are a fair amount of really funny comedians in Des Moines, and in Iowa in general, that just fly under the radar. So what we wanted to do was have a “crown jewel” event, sort of a coming out party for stand-up in our state.

NT: What’s the comic response been like?

JF: At first the festival was going to be a very small thing; two, three days, maybe bring in a big headliner. But then interest from around the Midwest just swelled and we started adding venues and showcases. People were contacting us from Chicago, Omaha, Minneapolis, Kansas City… suddenly we had a four-day event with seven shows at five venues and over fifty comedians involved. It’s turned into something that’s really fun to work on.

Nationwide, we’ve gotten a great response from the East Coast. A little from LA, but the East Coast has looked at this with great anticipation. We got our Rooftop page just a few days ago, and in just those few days it’s gone crazy, expanding our profile and creating a great amount of interest across the country.

NT: How did Rooftop get involved with the festival?

JF: Rooftop has been incredibly cool. Obviously Rooftop is very supportive of comedy, it’s basically an on line comedy club, and I initially contacted them. Jenn is my contact there, and she had so many ideas, and she saw so much more potential in this than I initially did. I mean, I was coming into this as a neophyte, [Joel adopts an over-excited, silly voice] “Hey! I got a couple of shows I want to put together and call a festival!” But she saw it and said, “We can do this, this, and this for you, and we can make this legitimate and get a lot of people exited in it,” and that’s been just great.

NT: Have you studied any other festivals to see where they went right or wrong?

JF: I’ve been kind of looking at the model Rooftop has used for the Aspen Comedy Festival, and I’ve been talking to people at Punchline Magazine and comedy.com, I’ve kind of just been picking their brains. They’re people that have been involved with comedy for years and years, and though they may not necessarily be putting together festivals, they know the business and I wanted to find out if this was something they thought was sustainable. Everyone has given me a lot of positive feedback, and they’ve given me some amazing tips and ideas on how to manage your own business. And that’s how I need to look at this: as a business. If that’s how I approach it, that’s the best way for this to be not the only Iowa Comedy Festival. I do want this to be a big, sexy event, but it’s a foundation year, and I want it to run for many, many years to come.

NT: You’re using Des Moines as a base; is that because it’s where you live, or because it’s the largest city in Iowa? I ask because Iowa City and Ames are college towns; any thought to putting it in either of them?

JF: Well, it’s a series of things. It is the largest city, it is the state capital, and outside of Iowa it’s probably the most known city we have. It’s also got a great central location for a half-dozen comedy scenes around the Midwest, all within driving distance. And, since Des Moines is the largest city, it offers the best sheer quantity of venues. We’ve had many venues jump on board and support the local comedy scene here.

NT: Yet I don’t see the only comedy club in Des Moines listed as a sponsor.

JF: The Funny Bone hasn’t really embraced the local scene, which is why the guys in the area have rallied around each other in the past few years and created their own network. The Funny Bone closed down for a little while [when they changed locations] in 2006, and they really didn’t have a consistent open mic or promote a Des Moines scene for a while before that, so the guys created their own open mics. They started booking each other in shows all around Des Moines, and then all around the state of Iowa. Now there are three open mics around the city, none of which are affiliated in any way with The Funny Bone, and even though The Bone is very aware of the comedy festival, they haven’t been very committal as far as wanting to be a part of this. Danny Franks at Penguins comedy club, on the other hand, jumped on board and will be putting an all-Iowa lineup on their stage the week of the festival, and I think that’s a huge step forward for Iowa comedy.

NT: Has the process been more or less of a hassle than you expected?

JF: Well, it’s a lot of work. [Laughs] Since its grown larger than I first anticipated, I’ve had to take on a lot more responsibilities and do more planning. I’ve had to talk to ticket distributors… I’ve been signing a lot of papers, that’s for sure. [Laughs] Contracts with venues, contracts with ticket mangers, contracts with performers and comedians… On top of that I have to wrangle up sponsors, maintain an online presence via Twitter, Facebook, our website, our newsletter… all of that goes together. I feel if we stay viral, that’s where we’re gonna get the most interest, when we stay in people’s collective consciousness.

After that comes the glad handling, the schmoozing, all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, getting people to outbid one another, that we can get the most money and then offer the customer the best product and the best comedy because we’ll have the funding for it. It’s definitely more business than I thought it would be, but it’s something I’ve grown to embrace, because I’ve learned so much; planning this has taught me so much.

NT: Jake Johansen is closing out the Festival; was it easy to approach him about being a part of everything?

[Note: Joel got very enthused with the mention of Jake Johansen; his speech sped up to near incoherent levels as he struggled to contain his happiness]

JF: I’ve wanted to work with Jake for a long time, but never had any means to, and when we decided to bring a big name headliner in to give this thing a face, he was the first guy that jumped to mind. We had a few other comics with and without Iowa ties we could have used, but he is the best Iowa based stand-up comic working today. I sent him a personal message, he forwarded it to his management, Paradigm Entertainment, who is just awesome; they’re the best management group I’ve ever worked with. They immediately got in touch with me, we got the ball rolling, they set a price; we said, “Sure.” It was actually a little less than I anticipated, which was great, they told me Jake actively wanted to be a part of this, that he was a fan and was actively interested in being involved and was pumped, and that really helped grease the wheels there, because they wanted to get a deal done, and obviously so did we, and it, it was just very smooth. All we did was sign a contract, give them a deposit, and now he’s coming to Iowa, and he’s gonna be the face of the Iowa Comedy Festival, and he’s gonna be closing the damn thing out.

NT: Comedy contests are notoriously subjective; crowd-pleasing material that you’ve heard before from other comics and seen on the Internet does very well. Are you doing anything to keep it a little more original or honest?

JF: The thing I’ve heard about comedy contests, and I love this quote: “In comedy contests there are three people who had a great time, and loved the event, and seven people who don’t think something as subjective as comedy should be judged by a panel.”

What we do, is in the preliminary rounds, we have an audience vote. Now, I hate, I hate with a passion audience votes, because I’ve been in contests like that before, and they suck. So what we did is: you have to pick three comics for the evening. If you’re there to see someone specific… [pauses] I think its great people are coming out to support their friends, and that comics are getting people in the door, but you can’t just vote for your friend. You have to pick three people, and if you pick two or one, your vote gets thrown out and you didn’t end up helping your friend at all. We did this last year and it worked out pretty darn well. The people that deserved to make it to the finals, made it to the finals.

For the finals, it is not an audience vote. We’re going to have a panel of five, and the panel will be all comedy professionals. We have Comedy Productions lined up, which is the largest comedy booking agency in the Midwest, and The Entertainment Group. We’ll have three other booking agents involved, and these are people are professionals who work with comedians all over the Midwest and they will know if anyone is hacking material. We’re going to have those people in there so that the true talent gets picked.

Visit the Iowa Comedy Festival website for complete schedule and ticket information.

Watch clips from ICF performers on our ICF events page.