It’s a familiar response from people who’ve just met someone that calls comedy their full-time job.
On the surface, it’s glamorous: laughter, bright spotlights, and traveling the world. But like sausage-making, the real action is far from pretty. What goes unseen is the struggle undertaken by comedians to perform on that stage.
In his new mini-eBook, Go Home Happy, stand-up veteran and Rooftop contributing blogger Nathan Timmel leads the reader through a funny, pride-swallowing journey navigating the minefield of club owners, booking agents, drunken hecklers, and unexpected friends.
Part fun and games, part sobering insight, Go Home Happy takes the stand-up comedy fan behind Oz’s curtain to reveal the tedious struggles—and rewarding moments—that come with this spotlighted territory.
Here’s an excerpt:
When people cannot handle a particular performer or joke, they sometimes feel the need to offer their opinions loudly, and in the middle of a show. Hecklers, as they are known. These people are instant critics. Hecklers have something to say, and in an age of Twitter and Facebook updates they can share feelings instantly and constantly. They forget what discretion is and demand their opinion be heard, even if it is in direct opposition to the 200 audience members surrounding them, people who happen to be enjoying themselves.
The most odd moments of my act bring out objection in people. Three of the strangest events are:
Upon the birth of my daughter, I commented on the fact I’d rather have a gay child than one with a food allergy. I happen to love peanut butter, and I’ve always been a friend to the gay community, so I’d rather my daughter be attracted to the same gender than have to give up my vice. Because of that statement, a woman handed in a note stating their son had a food allergy and that she didn’t find my thoughts on the subject funny in the slightest.
After visiting Iraq and performing for American soldiers stationed in a dangerous war zone, I made the suggestion that to keep the people we care about safe—our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in uniform—we should bring them home and use prisoners and gang members to fight our wars. My specific punchline was: “If they win, great. If they lose, fuck it, great! Either way, no one we care about gets hurt.” From the back of one comedy club, “Prisoners have rights too, asshole!” was shouted and an angry man stormed out. The crowd was stunned; someone was defending murderers and rapists at the expense of the American military?
While in the middle of a pro-immigration joke, I was interrupted by a Hispanic woman who began shouting that immigrants were hard-working people, and didn’t deserve to be made fun of. When I pointed out that I had just said exactly that, and that I was making fun of racists who believed otherwise, she went on a five-minute tirade about how wrong it was of me to be talking about immigration when immigrants built America. We were on the same side of the issue, yet she was too drunk (or dim) to understand that. I could barely get a word in edgewise as she babbled on incoherently.
The worst thing about people who cry “Offensive!” at any given topic, is they are generally only offended by their one, personal pet fetish. A comedian can say what they want about any subject, as long as it isn’t the one that “hits too close to home.”
Look at the movie Ted, for example. If you are unfamiliar, it’s a film by Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. The humor is politically incorrect to say the least, and lewd, rude, and crude to say the most. I loved the movie and laughed to the point of tears throughout it. The film contained jokes about religion, gender roles, drug use, 9/11, and of course, one line involving Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a complaint that made national news, a patron with ALS stated he was enjoying himself up to the point Marky Mark’s character wished the disease upon Joel McHale, but that particular line went “too far.”
Examine that thought process: the man wasn’t upset by jokes about race, religion, 9/11, or homosexuality, because they didn’t apply to him. But when a joke invaded his personal space it was suddenly over the line. Hypocritical? Absolutely. But rarely do people take a moment to scrutinize the whole of any situation; they only understand what angers them, because that’s all that matters.
We sat down with Tabari McCoy to talk about the Cincinnati comedy scene and his sophomore release on Rooftop Comedy Productions, “Laughing With a Panther.” Check out the preview and enjoy the cover art!
Rooftop Comedy(RC):How has Cincinnati’s comedy scene influenced your comedy?
Cincinnati’s comedy scene has influenced me in one very specific fashion: It’s allowed me to get better by inspiring me to get better. Sure, we’re not New York. No, we’re not Los Angeles. OK, we’re not Chicago, San Francisco or even (insert your city here so that you will like me and feel better about me by thinking I gave a shout out to your city’s scene). But I will say this: We have had and still have a lot of talented comedians who have come through the Cincinnati scene: Greg Warren, Josh Sneed, Ryan Singer, Geoff Tate, Dave Waite, my best friend in comedy/Rooftop label mate Mike Cody … Even Katt Williams has Cincinnati/Dayton area connections – my point being the scene here has influenced me simply because it’s made me get better.
RC: What is the best thing about the Cincinnati comedy scene and why do you feel it’s unique?
OK, here comes my long-winded response, edited for those with short attention spans/ADHD/better things to do than read along as I babble on. If you’re going to perform in Cincinnati and you’re serious about becoming a good comic, you’re going to get better because there are more opportunities to get on stage here than one might think, the majority of the comedy outlets here CARE about developing good comedians and the audiences here know a good, original comedian from someone just going up on stage and spewing nonsense. Likewise, the comedians here are not all the same – you have urban comics, alternative comics, storytelling comics, one-liner comics, gay, disabled, single, married, younger, older – we are like the IKEA of comedy: People drive from miles around to come visit us, find at least one thing they like even if they act like they’re just browsing and then come back again to eat the food they all talk about like they don’t like it to outsiders. And yes, that was a chili reference.
What makes our scene unique, though, is the fact that Cincinnati draws comics from Bloomington, IN – which has a GREAT scene of its own – Dayton, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Louisville and Lexington who all WANT to work here. I think that says something about Cincinnati, other than the fact it has several major highways that connect and pass through Cincinnati.
RC: Who do you most admire on your scene right now?
I always joke about it and recently said it to him, but you have to give Geoff Tate credit for the fact that if that dude eats a sandwich, he’ll have 15 new minutes of material. His turnaround time from pen to stage is Louis C.K.-like, save for the TV series, the movie roles, the Conan appearances, the Rolling Stone cover … Well, you get the point.
To get it recorded and sell it! What kind of question is that?! Seriously though, I really wanted to record an album for a couple reasons: One, to prove to all these bookers/managers/talent agents that I should be booked in their clubs as I have the time necessary to go on stage, do a good job and in the words of Eric B. & Rakim, “move the crowd.” Two, I have about 90 minutes of material in my head – I literally forgot 15 minutes of jokes I MEANT to get on the album – and I wanted to get it recorded to retire some of it and force myself to work on newer, better and more tightly written material, using this album as a “jumping off” point. Last but not least, I wanted to get this album recorded because I have no idea how far I’ll go in comedy , but I will always have proof that I did this, I made people laugh and no one can ever take that away from me (cue introspective, Denzel Washington in Malcolm X-style music).
RC: I had to have the reference of the cover art explained to me. Can you do me a favor and tell us about that and why you chose that particular parody?
Here are a few things about me that anyone who really knows me will tell you is true: I love hip-hop. Like, LOVE hip-hop (but not the show “Love & Hip-Hop;” that show is just “ratchet” as the kids say). And I can rap, especially freestyle, very well. I used to emcee battles when I was in college BEFORE the movie 8 Mile came out, son! Thus, it’s safe to say that my love of hip-hop and for groups like A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, Kid N Play, Digital Underground and The Pharcyde among others runs deep.
Back when I was a kid, though, LL Cool J was pretty much the top dog as far as solo emcees go – and his album Walking With A Panther is still one of the most original, crazy, ‘what in the world inspired THIS?!’ covers of all-time. Wanting to avoid the standard comedy album cover where it’s a guy (or gal, let’s be fair to both genders) making some kind of wacky face and incorporate my love of hip-hop, I started looking through my hundreds of CDs and vinyl and was like ‘What can I parody that will still accomplish both goals and still be funny, almost inside-joke level for those in the know and intriguing enough for people who don’t so that they’ll go ‘What is this?!’ Then, I saw LL Cool J headline a concert this summer with De La Soul, Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew (with Slick Rick!) and Public Enemy and I was like, “Yup – I’ve got my title/cover.”
So thank you, James Todd Smith – I may be critical of some of your acting roles, I’ll forever be a fan of you on the M-I-C.
RC: How do you set goals for yourself in comedy and what does your daily comedy work schedule look like?
My goals for comedy are quite simple in terms of how I set them:  Keep working to become a better and better comedian that can perform in front of all different kinds of audiences because  You never know when you might get a call to do a show that could change your fortunes for the better (or worse, if you’re not prepared) and  whenever I think of something funny/have something funny that happens to me, WRITE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY.
Besides those things, my comedy schedule consists of the following:  Call clubs/email bookers weekly if not daily. When you have no agent and don’t live in L.A. or New York, you have to work 10 times harder MINIMUM to get booked. (Who knew the key to playing Lexington, Kentucky, Kansas City, Baltimore, Denver and/or Milwaukee was living thousands of miles away?);  Read about as much comedy happenings online as possible to stay up on the industry;  Remember to ENJOY comedy.
I started doing stand-up for being a fan of stand-up for years. Comedians are our last, completely honest truth-tellers in society: You can say something in a joke that is very poignant and it’s hard to cry when you’re too busy laughing. The ability to go up on stage, share your thoughts, opinions, experiences and perspective to make a complete stranger laugh and forget about their own troubles is the greatest power of all-time, save for money, athletic ability, revolutionary technology … You know what? I think I’ve just made myself sad, so I’m going to stop here and just tell people to buy the album!
Paul Mecurio talks with Rob Corddry from “Children’s Hospital,” “The Daily Show,” “Pain & Gain,” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Paul and Rob worked together on “The Daily Show!” In this episode of The Paul Mecurio Show they talk about “Children’s Hospital,” their days on “The Daily Show,” how Rob copied Stephen Colbert’s character, responding to people on twitter, Rob’s fascination with Michael Bay and what it is about his sweat glands that require him to have a giant industrial strength air conditioner!
A few weeks ago my co-worker, Dominic Del Bene, pointed me to a blog post from AdamHammer.com entitled “Where the F*CK have I been???” It’s a good idea to read that first. In it, Adam explains that in 2012, his father went to jail for lewd and lascivious acts with a minor(“some To Catch a Predator type stuff”) where he died. Dealing with the family crisis sent his personal life and career into a tailspin. Depression, alcohol, rage…Not a good combination. I couldn’t believe how raw the story and writing was. It was like getting pounded in a bare knuckle fight and left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. Brutal. It was so crazy that I wanted to know more about the story and how these events have effected Adam’s stand-up and he was gracious enough to answer my questions.
Before the Q/A I wanted to start with something Adam included in an email towards the beginning of our correspondence.
“I should probably mention that I’m so open and honest about this stuff because of Robert Schimmel. I toured with him for a couple of years and the way he got through losing a son to cancer, a messy divorce, his own cancer and all the other shit that happened to him was to talk about it and not seek sympathy, but laughs. It feels better to have people laughing with you than telling you they’re sorry. Unfortunately, that comes with a risk of sounding calloused. The only way to find other people who may have gone through something similar is to talk about it. And just hearing you’re not alone is therapeutic in itself.”
Gotta love Robert Schimmel.
RC(Rooftop Comedy): Did you do jokes about your father before all this happened? What were they like?
Yes. Sort of. Here’s a video:
RC: How did his role in your life shape your comedy?
-I learned what wasn’t funny from him and did the opposite. My uncles taught me how to make people laugh. My dad wasn’t funny. He tried and failed miserably. The over-parenting I got shaped my rebellion. Which in turn shaped my pursuit of comedy. Only because I never had the patience to learn an instrument. I was never destined to have a desk job.
RC: Are you afraid that your new bits about your father are too dark?
-No. I’m afraid they aren’t worked out enough. I need to make sure I’m making jokes, not getting therapy. There’s no such thing as too dark. And my bits aren’t dark, they’re honest. They’re uncomfortable, but the people that get it, get it.
RC: Do you think this will forever color your comedy in a certain way?
-Which color? Blue? My jokes have colored me blue long before this. I’ve always taken a “question the answers” approach in my joke writing. For over a decade I’ve talked about the positives of drug use, how drunk drivers are safer than sober drivers (67% of all fatal car accidents are caused by sober people), how deadbeat dads don’t get enough credit for giving us great men, how my plan if I get cancer is to run up a massive credit card bill then go to jail. I try to challenge conventional thinking. I think this subject matter falls in line. Not a lot of comics can find the funny in molestation accusations. It’s all just a challenge for me.
RC: Why do you think it’s important to talk about this on stage?
-I think comedy is a great way to find people with common experiences. Like, I didn’t know any other kids tried putting leaves on a broken bone until I heard Brian Regan do a bit about it. That was great. I don’t think anything is important to talk about on stage though. We’re entertainers. Not artists. Not politicians. I just can’t come up with anything as funny as Brian Regan’s leaf bit. So I make jokes about my dead gay dad.
RC: You mentioned on your blog that these events put your comedy career into a nose dive. Were you ever close to quitting?
-Not quitting. Just grasping at straws. I was on a pretty steady upward trajectory before this shit went down. Then, my momentum drastically changed. I can’t quit. I may never make it. But I can’t quit. It’s been 13 years since I started. Close to 7 since I’ve had a day job. Not only do I not want to quit, I can’t. Try explaining a 7 year gap on your resume when you’re applying for a square job. I got to the point of applying for jobs last year before I had a project come through. Delivery driver jobs and shit. I have a college degree and that’s the only interview I got. The way that I got in the room is that all my cover letter said was “I have a clean driving record. I’ve never been in jail, and I speak English. I’d love to meet you for an interview.” After sending out at least a hundred letters, that’s the one that got me in the room. Luckily I picked up a writing/producing gig and didn’t have to deliver fish.
RC: What advice do you have for comics coping with a personal struggle?
I’m not religious or involved in any 12 step programs but I was dragged into them when I was a teenager and there is one good thing I picked up: accept the things you cannot change. Change the things you can. Have the wisdom to know the difference. Also, save your money. Always save your money. Even if you’re not going through anything draining, save your money. You’re gonna need it.
Daily Motion is looking for stand-up submissions to the Montreux Comedy Festival and the deadline is Halloween(October 31st). Here’s what you do:
First, go HERE!
Upload your best stand-up comedy video no more than 5 (five) minutes in total running time.
Jury selects 20 semi-finalists subject to public vote.
10 finalists will be selected based on votes.
Five (5) winners will be determined by Jury.
About Montreux Comedy Festival
“Today humour is all over the place : the stage, the web, TV and films.
With internet and the new media, programs cross the borders and go beyond cultural and language boundaries.
These evolutions on varied platforms and emergent markets, notably in Asia and Africa bring in new ways of looking at the occupations in production, broadcasting as well as creation in an international perspective.
Besides presenting quality shows that allow us to discover young talent, measure annual trends and see again established artists, the Montreux Comedy Festival from now on intends to contribute to a more global reflection on the world of humour and comedy and on the way we work.
Therefore the Montreux Comedy Festival proposes together a general public programming and professional meetings. This includes the Awards Ceremony, the Conférences and « Talks » with several leaders, professionals in comedy, and also, meeting spaces.
The Montreux Comedy Festival chooses the emergence of novelty, approaches the new medias and welcomes international comedy to showcase the best of the professional and artistic context of today humour.”
As a straight white male, Nathan fits neatly into the demographic most likely to fear the LGBT community. When ‘Gay Rights’ are being discussed on the news or in the world of politics, white males are generally those opposed to equality.
In his essay Same Same, Nathan describes how an upbringing devoid of homophobia—something unusual for a small Midwest town in the early 1980s—prevented him from falling into the trappings of bigotry. Though various forms of racism and prejudice governed many around him, Nathan maintained the strong belief that all people are equal.
With stories from childhood to current day, Nathan describes:
The intolerance he witnessed in small-town Wisconsin.
Gay bars he tentatively visited in Milwaukee (only to find they put straight bars and their testosterone-soaked clientele to shame).
His own near miss with gay bashing while walking with a friend in Boston.
A run-in with an overly zealous fella at his local gym, someone who held an all-too-obvious interest in Nathan.
Despite surroundings that should have tainted his point of view, Nathan turned a shoulder to the negativity, returning instead to the strong belief instilled in him as a child: love is love, no matter the gender of those involved.
Here’s an excerpt:
I was almost twelve years old when I first learned what homosexuality is. This would have been 1981, before the Internet gave humanity the availability to spread information worldwide instantaneously. I’m betting kids as young as four know what “gay” is today, but back then YouTube and Facebook didn’t exist. Social networking occurred on front porches or in the supermarket, and kids played baseball outside, not on videogame systems. (A truth that could, if I were so bold, lead me down a path involving the obesity epidemic America faces. But I’ll leave that be. For now.)
Though I may not have known what homosexuality was during the first decade of my life, it had still existed around me in a very open way. Every so often my “uncles” James and Tony would visit my family, or we would visit them. They lived together in Chicago, and to my wee little mind it was simply two of my dad’s many brothers living together. The arrangement made sense to me, and when we visited I never exactly put on a Sherlock Holmes cap and poked around: “Why, this apartment seems to have only one bedroom, and said bedroom doesn’t have bunk beds. How odd.”
I really liked Tony, because not only was he flamboyant and fun, he indirectly allowed me to see my very first R-rated movie; Tony has a small part in The Blues Brothers. Because of that fact, my parents allowed me to slide into the theater ahead of the age-17 restriction placed upon the film. Tony isn’t in the credits, which is odd, because he actually has a speaking part. In the French restaurant, when Jake and Elwood are trying to recruit Mr. Fabulous back into the band, Tony is the waiter who says “Wrong glass, sir” to Dan Aykroyd. Give the scene a glance; you can tell he’s gay just by looking at him. Not that it matters, but the second R-rated movie I saw was The Road Warrior, and my first PG movie was Orca, the Killer Whale. I may not remember my wedding anniversary, but I can remember these nuggets of useless information. Yup.
Regardless, as relationships do wane, eventually James and Tony parted ways and the next time we visited I was introduced to my “uncles” James, and Ray. Even as a child, I was not stupid and knew something was amiss. Apparently Ray had been hidden away in a Harry Potter-style closet for many years, my grandparents were adopting full-grown men into their family… or something else was happening. Something I didn’t quite comprehend at such a young age. As James was the constant variable in the two relationships, he was obviously my father’s actual blood relation. Now I had to wonder: who were Tony and Ray?
After topping out on San Francisco’s local scene, Jason Downs skipped town to chase bigger dreams. Now he’s touring all over the nation, funnier than ever and he’s taken the time to tell us about his humble beginnings.
If you’re in San Francisco this Wednesday or Thursday, you can be a part of Jason’s debut album recording! Buy your tickets HERE.
RC(Rooftop Comedy):When did you hit the SF comedy scene, how did you hustle and who were the big comics on the local scene at that time?
I started in the early 2000’s. You could get a MUNI bus pass for like $35 bucks.
I lived in Monterey, CA, a small little tourist town two hours south of S.F. My girlfriend and I would drive up on a Saturday for 5 minutes of stage time at a little place called Java N’More on Church Street and the Moch Cafe on Valencia. After a two hour drive, we would exit on Vermont St., drive right to the Moch to sign up for 5 minutes, then drive to the Java N’More, do a set there, and then drive right back to the Moch and do my final set of the night. Then we would drive back down to Monterey that night, wake up the next morning, then we would drive back up to San Francisco on Sunday to hang out at the Punchline for the showcase.
The big local comic at the time was Arj Barker. Al Madrigal was always great to watch. I would just watch and study his stage presences and how at ease he always was with the crowd. Kamau Bell was just starting to become a phenom. Kevin Avery was just a mad man with crazy energy that destroyed every set. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Avery have a bad set. John Hoogasion was this comic’s comic. Just a really great writer. Those were the local kings.
RC: Do you remember your weekly schedule of open mics? Any memorable shows?
When I finally moved to San Francisco, I became obsessed. Mondays, the Rose Crown in Palo Alto. Tuesday, the Luggage Store. Wednesday was always hanging at Cobb’s or the Punchline. Thursdays, the Brain Wash. Fridays, the Java Source. Saturdays was the Moch. Then you would call every Mon-Wednesday to try and get a set at the original Cobb’s on the wharf. It was just about hustling to get as much stage time as possible.
RC: What do you think was the most important lesson you learned in your early days of stand-up?
I learned where all the good parking spots are in San Francisco. If you’re in the Mission there’s a great parking lot in between 22nd and 23rd st, off of Valencia. If you’re in the business district don’t park on Clay. Tons of car break ins. Park on Washington; tons of parking and very little break ins. If you’re in the Richmond, park on Clemente st. between 6th and 8th Ave.
RC: Did you have a group of cronies? Who was in your “class” of comics?
I started during that whole new wave comedy with Kris Tinkle, Louie Katz, Kevin Shea, Sheng Wang, Jasper Redd, Ryan Stout, Mosha Kasher, the Sirofs. They took this whole stand up thing way more seriously than I did. I took it as more of a party, get to hang out type of thing, don’t bother chasing success, it’ll come when it comes. It took somebody like Louie Katz to break out and actually start achieving success before I realized,”oh, we actually have to pursue this. We are actually trying to accomplish stuff. Oh, okay. I better get on it.”
RC: Do you think SF is a good place to cut your teeth? Why?
I think San Francisco is the best city start out in. No bringer shows. Although, I think that is just starting to change. That’s sad. I hope S.F. comics put a stop to that bringer show shit that’s starting to creep in from LA. San Francisco has high standards. People who go see comedy in San Francisco are comedy savvy. They know what good comedy is. You can’t get away with doing hack jokes. You have to be original. Yet, they’re forgiving and it’s far enough from LA and NY, that you can make mistakes and the industry won’t hold it against you for the rest of your life. When I am on the road and a newbie asks for advice I just say,” move to San Francisco”.
RC: When did you feel like you “found” your voice? Was there a specific moment?
I think I find it every six months. Every six months I make a break through where I am like,” I found my voice. This is it.” Then six months later, I am like,”now this is it. I think I found something new.” Then it happens again six months later.
A big turning point was in 2010, at this huge club called the Stardome in Birmingham, AL. It’s like a small stadium. I made a rule to force myself to come up with new material. I would open with new material every set, in order to force myself to build material. No matter what, I had to open with new stuff. For a couple of months I was building a ten minute chunk of material on pro Gay/marriage equality stuff. You want to talk about tough, try opening your set with ten minutes of pro gay material in Birmingham, AL. I didn’t bail on the material. I stuck it out. That was what I was working on at the time and I wasn’t going to let the location dictate my material. I bombed horribly. But the audience knew that although they might not agree with what I was saying, they could tell that I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t a fraud. It’s weird, it’s almost like you’re not a good comic until you can bomb with grace. When everything is going wrong, the plane is crashing, but you keep your cool and you’re able to land the plane in the Hudson and everyone lives.
RC: How did you know when you were ready to leave SF? Do you have any advice for other comics on that note?
When MUNI bus passes got to 60 bucks I was like, it’s time to go.
But for real, I knew it was time to go when I did everything I could in San Francisco. I built an act. I pretty much honed my skills. I was a regular at all the major clubs. I had industry people telling me I have to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I think most comics should leave when you’ve become at least a feature at all the major clubs in your area and there are people telling you it’s time.
RC: I know you’ve been opening for Michael McDonald for a couple years. How did that relationship come about?
This story is crazy. Michael was performing at the San Jose Improv. I got a call on a Sunday to middle for him, which is weird to just do a Sunday. I have a rule that I never turn down work. I drive down to the club and I see another S. F. comic standing in front of the club. I ask him why. He says I’m replacing him because it wasn’t a good fit. I was like,”I am not going to do the show. I am not going to take money out of my friends wallet.”
That S.F. comic told me to go ahead and do the show. So I did, but I was a total asshole to Michael. I didn’t talk to him. As soon as the show was over I bounced without saying a word. Then I got a call a couple of weeks later from the San Jose Improv. They said Michael was coming back and requested me. I said yes. I was going to do it, but I wasn’t going to be cool to him at all.
So basically, I was a total dick to him for an entire weekend. I had a “total fuck this guy” attitude. At the end of the week, Mike walks up to me before he leaves and says,”Hey, I’ve been doing this for a while and you’re the best feature I’ve had. Would you like to open for me on the road?”
Without a second of hesitation I was like,”Okay!”
That was four years ago. I’ve been opening for him ever since. Now I consider him one of my closest friends. He is one of the nicest, most generous guys I’ve ever met. He’s taught me so much about the business aspect of comedy that I would never even thought of. Moral of the story, don’t turn down work, be a dick, and screw your friends. Actually I found out way later that Mike had nothing to do with the friend getting replaced by me. Basically I was dick for no reason. I have a history of overacting. I’m working on it.
RC: What does the Punchline SF mean to you? What are your favorite things about that particular venue?
I hold the Punchline sacred. The way the farmer looks down at the earth and holds it sacred. The way Christians look at the bible and hold it sacred. The way people hold their marriages sacred….Okay, that was totally a line from Sam Kinison in Back to School. But seriously, it is special. It really does feel like home to me. All the memories, hanging out all night, the NYE parties, going to the Sunday showcases, opening for everybody there, from the late Mitch Hedberg to Dave Chappelle. There is a reason the best comics want to headline that club, because it’s a great club. The standards are high. Most people who run comedy clubs just care about how many baskets of chicken wings they sell. At the Punchline, it’s comedy first. I go on the road and talk to M.C’s. and they’re like,”yeah, I’m the waiter. They needed somebody to open so they just asked me.” At the Punchline, before you M.C. you’re doing comedy for four to five years. Before you even get on the comedy showcase, you’re hanging out watching the Sunday showcase for 9 months to a year. At the Punchline, the comedy is first, which is rare. So when they are allowing me to come back and record my show there, it means a lot to me.
Good luck, Jason! You won’t need it. To follow Jason and stay up on all things Downs please…
Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” talks with Paul Mecurio about their days working together on “The Daily Show,” his experiences leading up to working on “The Daily Show” and how “The Colbert Report” was created. Stephen also gives us a really cool, exclusive behind the scenes blow-by-blow of the Daft Punk controversy that everyone has been talking about!
Amateur comedy competitions turn me off. Not because I have a perfect losing record(3 for 3), but because people want to take this fun thing that I love, and start judging and saying “this person is better than this person. He wasn’t funny, but she WAS!” We’re all offering our uneducated opinion at the end of the day and do we really need to add yet another dimension to make stand-up more difficult?
What’s worse is the contest where the audience “votes.” More accurately, when enthusiastic green comics are blatantly exploited to make money for the promoter. The newbies hustle to get anyone and everyone they know, to the support them and then the audience winds up sitting through a long terrible show where the person they came to see only performed a “tight 5.” There’s an entry fee, the people you bring buy tickets, drink minimums…It all gets a little too skeezy for meezy. The people who come to those shows won’t be leaping at the chance to see you again. This is the kind of stuff that burns me out. Americans love competition. We have to label someone a “loser” and unfortunately, a “winner.”
That being said, I have to begrudgingly acknowledge the positives.
1. Hey, it’s stage time!
2. A packed house! It’s not often that amateur comics can get in front of a good and welcoming crowd.
3. “You have to learn to promote/market yourself!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know…It’s a business.
4. The grand prize MIGHT be worth entering.
This is why I was interested in talking to Tim McLaughlin about his competition set. As you’ll see in this clip, his approach is a little different and left me with questions.
How long have you been doing comedy and how would you describe your act?
I have been doing comedy for 3 years. I dont have much of an act, I have lots of jokes but I mainly work them into my set with crowd work, there is no set order of what goes where. So I guess you could say my act is manipulating the crowd into what I want them to say so I can use a joke I’ve written.
What was this contest for and why did you enter?
The contest was to emcee the weekend at Cracker Comedy Club for Charlie Murphy. I entered the contest because I get paid by Morty’s Comedy Joint in Indianapolis to do comedy, and there is a restriction on set by Crackers not allowing Mortys comics to get work at their club. So I went in to win the contest so they had to work me.
What were the results and were you surprised?
I won the contest. I was a little surprised at the results considering I did not do a single written joke during my set, and there were other very good comics on the show that night.
How many people did you bring to the show? How did you promote yourself?
I brought 7 people to see me, and the 7 only came bc a friend from out of town dragged them with him. I did not promote myself at all, after doing this 3 yrs no one I know will come see me anymore. The crowd that night had about 150 people all together.
In your opinion, what are the positives and negatives that come out of comedy competitions?
I don’t see many positives to comedy competitions unless I win, but one positive is it gives people incentive to get their friends out to a show giving you a larger crowd to preform in front of. The negatives of a comedy contest are creating unneeded tension between comics before a show. The fact that comedy is subjective that makes it hard to judge, because what is funny to you may not be funny to someone else sitting right next to you.
Our clip shows you interacting with a crowd member and saying “I don’t want to win this contest.” True, or part of the act?
That is totally true. I was happy I won but I didnt give a shit if I lost. I only sign up for contests like this to get as much stage time as possible. Winning is always fun and makes you feel good inside, but my main goal always is to go out and put on the best show I can for the people there to watch it, whether it be 8 or 800 people they all deserve your best, prize or no prize.
So the prize was opening for Charlie Murphy. How did that go? Do you feel the contest was worth doing in retrospect?
It was a very fun weekend, all the shows were sold out. I got to shut down several hecklers which is my favorite thing to do. The contest was worth doing in the sense that it got me on stage an extra 10 times in a week I would normally have not had those kind of reps.
Congratulations, Tim! Hopefully this will lead to more success in the future!
To keep up with the Mayor of Fart Town(Tim McLaughlin), follow, like and visit his website.
Each week Emmy Winning Comedian, Paul Mecurio, talks with major celebrities and newsmakers on his podcast, “The Paul Mecurio Show,” revealing something unique about that person, while giving us insight into Paul’s life and view of the world – a world he believes is out to get him and how he thinks he can change or beat that world (so far the score is World: 1,287, Paul: 0). Paul has interviewed “A” list celebrities such as, Paul McCartney, Jay Leno, Bob Costas, Lewis Black and many more. In this interview, Paul asks former Beatle, Paul McCartney where the confidence came from to radically change the band’s sound and direction when they were at the peak of their popularity to create the groundbreaking album, Sgt. Pepper.