Esther’s Follies is stepping aside the weekend of the ROT Biker Rally for The Velveeta Room’s 25th Anniversary and Comedy Festival. Over it’s colorful history since opening in 1988, the Velv has become one of the best clubs in the Southwest to see standup comedy. Every comic who’s played there wants to join the festivities, so an all-star lineup of 25 will divide up the various bills throughout the weekend. Confirmed at this time are JR Brow, Kerry Awn, Nancy Reed, Lucas Molandes, Mike MacRae, Matt Sadler, Mario DiGiorgio and Howard Beecher, plus appearances by legendary club founder Ronnie Velveeta.
Thursday June 13, 8PM – $12 general admission / $17 reserved
Friday June 14, 8PM, 10PM – $15 general admission / $20 reserved
Saturday June 15, 8PM, 10PM – $20 general admission / $25 reserved
Tickets can be purchased online at https://esthersfollies.com or by calling our box office at (512) 320-0198.
Andy Hendrickson was kind enough to answer all my questions about the inner workings of a Late Show gig. Andy was also generous in allowing us to post a practice set of the exact material he’d perform on Letterman. If you want to know how to kill on Letterman, this is a great place to start. Enjoy!
RC(RooftopComedy):Congratulations on a phenomenal Late Show debut! This is a moment comics dream about and only a select few will ever realize. I’d like to explore the Late Show experience from the beginning to how it’s currently impacting your career, so let’s get started!
RC: How were you contacted and how did Letterman hear of or see you?
There are 3 bookers that work together to find comics and prep them for the show. I met them through a comedian friend of mine here in NYC and sent them a link of about 10 minutes of my best TV material.
RC: How much lead time were you given before the appearance? What kind of instructions did they give you regarding time/material. Was there an approval process for the jokes?
It was a long process for me but it’s different for everyone. It took almost a year of whittling my set down from 10min to about 7min for a live showcase. Then based on that live showcase we cut it down to about 4-4.5 minutes and then I did another live audition. Then we tweaked a couple things and moved the order around. I kept sending them links to revised versions of the set. I had one line that I added that got approved the day before. They’re looking for about 4 minutes in the club. It translates to about 5 minutes in front of the Letterman audience with applause breaks and solid laughs. They are great at what they do. They picked out some really good jokes that fit the style of the show…and I figured out how to put them together. Then we made adjustments.
Eventually, I was given a ballpark as to when it might happen but I got official notice on a Monday and recorded a week later on a Tuesday.
RC: I’m going to have both clips of the performance in the article. Is there anything you want to say about either clip?
Well, the clip from The Comic Strip was on a Sunday night in front of a mostly European tourist crowd. I recorded Letterman on a Tuesday. At that point I had the set down word for word. They were kind of rough crowd and weren’t quite warmed up yet. I just pretended I was in front of a huge crowd that was laughing hard and practiced going slow. Sometimes that’s tough to do when they’re not quite on board with what you’re doing. You know you should stick to the script but your instincts tell you to speed up, change the jokes or maybe talk to the crowd. I just forced myself to rehearse as if I was on Letterman.
RC: Have you appeared on any other late night or television program before?
No, this was my network TV debut.
RC: How did you feel leading up to the performance, during and after?
I felt really good about the whole thing. I had been prepping and rehearsing this same set for a few months so I knew it backwards and forwards. The week before the taping I ran around NYC and did my set about 15 times.The experience was a little surreal when I was standing on the side of the stage ready to go out. I could see Letterman at his desk and it really hit me that this was going to happen. I just told myself to have fun. I knew I had enough experience and if anything weird came up my instincts would take over and the set would go great. Those Letterman crowds are the best. Afterward, I felt great. I felt relieved and excited. I knew it went well. I had a sense of satisfaction and gratitude. I told myself that all the hard work pays off.
RC: What kind of in studio practice did you get? Were you given coaching?
No studio practice. You get to walk out on the stage and stand on your mark. You get a feel for the space and the room… its smaller than you would think. It’s very intimate in there. Like doing a small theater. The crowd is really close and very receptive. As soon as I got my first joke out I really loosened up and just performed like I would for a great theater crowd.
No coaching really. I’ve been studying Letterman comedy sets for a few years. I have friends that have done the show. I knew that it’s best to go really slow and let the jokes breathe a little. I also knew to expect applause breaks and laughs in places where you don’t normally get them. I wasn’t sure what to do with my hands because there’s no mic. I tried to practice that as well but I figured it would come naturally just like having a conversation at a party. I always try to make it feel like I’m just having a conversation with the crowd.
RC: Have you always been a fan of the Late Show with David Letterman?
I’ve always been a big fan of the show. Since college. It has been a goal of mine to perform on the show since I got into comedy. It still feels a little surreal.
RC: Why do you think the Late Show has more gravitas than other late night programming?
I think its because the Late Show has a solid tradition of smart comedy. The show has it’s own style that has been consistent for years and years. People respect that. People respect David Letterman as a comedy icon.
RC: Was this an opportunity you visualized in your mind far before it happened?
Absolutely. Before I had my opportunity to do the show, I went backstage with a friend who did the show and I’ve sat in the audience. I stood on the stage in the spot where you perform. I visualized myself being there, performing and killing…. more than I care to admit.
RC: At what point did it seem like Letterman was a possibility?
As soon as we started selecting specific jokes I felt I was on the right track.
RC: Have you already felt an impact on your career? Have any immediate opportunities surfaced from the appearance? Are you hoping for anything specifically?
I’ve had a few things pop up here and there. I can’t be too specific but, yes, it’s already impacted my career in a great way.
RC: Any advice you’d give a comic about to debut their stand-up on TV?
Just have fun. You’ve already put in the hard work and you deserve this moment. Make sure you enjoy it and that’ll come across to the audience.
“My podcast is up and running and this week we have a 2-part interview with my good friend – the hilarious, Lewis Black. This is a really cool interview because it’s Lewis not just being funny but giving us an insider’s look on how he got to where he is (homeless and living in a dumpster). He talks about how he started in comedy, his time at Yale Drama School, being a playwright, how he developed his comedic voice and the best way to stiff a hooker on her fee and NOT get killed by her pimp. The man’s a genius! Enjoy the podcast and spread the word about it to your friends please. And if you don’t have any friends, maybe you should stop listening to podcasts, change out of your sweats and join the human race.”
After over 200 episodes, Rooftop’s broken take on the news, has branched out and can now be seen on Hulu. Hosts Brian Kane and Sean Keane can now rub elbows with your favorite clips from SNL, Katharine McPhee’s Smash and Splash, a new celebrity diving competition show. Here are a couple episodes to make your day brighter.
On Thursday, March 14th, 2013, I logged on to Facebook like it was any other day. I scrolled down the innocuous news feed of people talking of how there was only “One more day until Friday!!” and extolling the virtues of coffee, when a status update floored me. A former MWR representative from Kuwait posted, “I am shocked and saddened to learn my good friend Scott Kennedy passed away in his sleep last night…” There may have been more to it than that, but my mind was already too numb to read further. Scott was gone? Just… gone? The concept was too foreign for my mind to digest. He couldn’t be gone; he was my friend. Friend’s don’t die, death is something you hear about other people experiencing and grieving over…
I met Scott years and years and years ago, in the “delightful” little burg known as Modesto, California. Scott was headlining a comedy show; I was the middle act. The club was downtown, a location in the middle of an ever-evolving revitalization project where new stores were surrounded by old Bail Bond shops. Affluent yuppies stepped around bearded homeless men with little concern as they marched into the trendiest of trendy clubs.
Scott and I bonded over a mutual appreciation for one another’s comedic chops, as well as a passion for civil rights. I say “civil rights,” because if you didn’t know it, Scott was gay. He wasn’t in the closet by any means, and in fact, talked about his orientation in his act (and on television), but it was nothing he led with. No, Scott would drop that bomb right in the middle of his set: “Oh, by the way, this big, burly man that’s been talking football, family and relationships? Yeah… he’s gay.” Sexuality wasn’t something Scott wore on his sleeves like a less talented comedian might do—using “gay” as a crutch to get cheap laughs—no, Scott went up and performed comedy, winning the audience over using his wit and observational eye. Only many minutes deep into his set did he let the audience in on his secret, and it challenged the hell out of what stereotypes people thought “gay” was. Which, Scott would tell you, is exactly why he tailored his set the way he did. With his magician’s reveal, Scott became the everyman; “Why, he could be my brother, cousin, uncle…” It was a fantastic way of combating homophobia, albeit by not even mentioning homophobia or being confrontational. If anything, it was designed to be an afterthought. Which is made it all the more subversive, brilliant, and effective.
After those shows, Scott and I kept in… probably somewhat-annual touch after that; maybe checking in every 13 months or so, just to say “Hi,” and then like happens so often in the comedy world, we just forgot to reach out to one another. Somewhere in the couple years between exchanges, Scott got involved in military tours, and that is where his legacy will shine. Were I a better researcher, I would look up the exact number of times Scott put himself on the line to make sure the men and women who serve knew they were appreciated. As it stands, I know the number is north of 50, which means calling him this generation’s “Bob Hope” would not be too far off the mark.
I was lucky enough to tour Iraq with Scott in 2010, and it was unlike any other experience I had ever had. Scott was a man born without ego; everything he did was for the troops. No matter the situation, he was ready to perform for them. In a war zone, nothing is done under optimal conditions, but that didn’t matter in the slightest to Scott. “How can we give the soldiers the best experience possible?” was all he wanted answered. If there was an outpost in need of distraction, if there was any single person who needed to be reminded they were appreciated and cared for, Scott wanted nothing more than to make sure they got a show. His dedication to those in harms way was unparalleled.
I cannot for the life of me remember how it happened, but at one point on the tour, one of us referenced the Family Guy episode where James Woods exclaims, “Oh, piece of candy!” Like many little things that make up the best in friendships, that became our calling card. It was a running joke for the rest of the tour, and for months and months after, a random text would hit my phone, “Oh, piece of candy!”
My deepest empathy is with his family at this time.
On August 31, 2010, President Obama addressed the nation. He declared combat missions in Iraq over and announced a troop drawdown would begin. One day later, comedian Nathan Timmel boarded a plane as a part of the first group of entertainers to enter the war-torn country under this new ‘mission.’
Telling jokes to soldiers who face death every day is a different kind of performance – no stages, microphones, or spotlights. Rec rooms, dining facilities, and courtyards become performance spaces, and comedians use their best stage voice to tell their stories without the benefit of a P.A. system. All the while, armed escorts scan the perimeter for signs of danger.
A most notable—and unfortunate—difference is: when playing a comedy club in America, you don’t tour the local emergency room and receive information about the customer who died there last week. While being shown a medical facility outside Basra, however, that’s exactly what happened. A quiet moment that brought home the true cost of war.
Thought-provoking, sentimental, and an unflinching critique of a seemingly lazy mainstream media, An Inattention to Detail is a reflection on the unique responsibility of delivering punch lines to those who need laughter the most.
John Roy has done the stand-up community a huge solid and is posting an entirely free stand-up class on his Tumblr. As someone who has paid for stand-up classes, I can confidently say his approach is thorough, step-by-step and sincere. Whether you’ve never done stand-up, are a new comic still figuring things out or a pro looking for a resource to point people to, look no further! Make sure you start at week one.
Once again I am returning from a light sabbatical. Last time, I was working on the release of my first full-length book, I Was a White Knight… Once. (Something you can check out by clicking the nifty link provided)
(Yes, that’s also a clickable link. Go ahead, check it out. You know you want to)
The tale is a split-story regarding the arrival of a new baby under my roof; half is from my dog Kitty’s point of view, half from mine.
Right now, it’s only available on the Amazon Kindle, but hopefully that will be changing soon. If you don’t have a Kindle, they have plenty of free reader apps available, and guess what? My download is less than a buck. 99-Cents is all it takes to take to read yourself to sleep at night, and keep this in mind: as it’s an e-book, no trees were harmed in the making of it. Sure, plenty of Chinese slave labor went into making the electronics device you’ll be reading it on, but don’t think about them. Think about the trees. The carbon-dioxide absorbing/oxygen-emitting trees.
They weren’t harmed at all.
Below is an excerpt.
(Oh, and if family-friendly comedy isn’t your style? Check out my first mini-book,Touched By Anything But an Angel. That’s about me getting a massage from a man. Disgusting, isn’t it?)
From The Four-Legged Perspective:
On December 2nd, 2012, at 1:10 in the morning, I awoke with a start. Something didn’t feel right, and it was my belly and body. I was warm, and immense pressure was pushing up from my stomach into my throat.
I was going to throw up.
Maybe. Suddenly the urge to purge was more the sensation I was about to make liquid boom-boom.
(I’m not sure which exit strategy frightened me more.)
I left the bedroom and went to the living room to assess the situation; was this a false alarm, or was I really about to be sick? The hot cocoa I had before bed was burning in me. I wasn’t feverish or achy, so it wasn’t the flu. Food poisoning, maybe? I had been in Mexico ten years earlier; maybe a sleeper cell of Montezuma’s Revenge had taken root in my colon and was finally coming to fruition? No, that’s just silly talk right there.
Twenty minutes later, at 1:30, I heard Hillary fuss in her room. My ears perked, but I made no motion toward her; she often makes little pig noises as she transitions between sleep cycles. As a new dad, when I first heard them months earlier, I would lay in bed petrified, horrific new parent thoughts running through my head: “Do these sounds mean she can’t breathe? Is she getting enough oxygen? Is she about to wake up and start crying?” Should I get a bottle ready? Should I go pick her up? I should probably pick her up. When in doubt, always pick the baby up and let her feel Daddy’s warmth to let her know she is loved.”
(I know that’s in absolutely zero parenting books, but I thought it just the same. And I did, thankfully, just let her sleep.)
Very quickly, however, Hillary’s transition squeaks became comforting. Once we discovered they were natural, they were a sign all was well in Hillary-world, which acted as a sort of melatonin to us: “Ah, she’s good. Now I can sleep, too.”
But, snap back to the present, a few seconds after her initial peep, I heard Hillary gurgle, then choke and spit up. As I stood to check on her, she started crying.
Before I could get around the chair I had been sitting in, Kitty burst into view; he was headed from the master bedroom to Hillary’s room. Kitty saw me walking in his direction, and paused…
When Rooftop asked if I wanted to talk to Steve Gillespie about his new CD release, Stever Fever, I said “Absolutely yes.” I don’t know the man well, but I had bumped into him several times on the road and really enjoyed his comedy.
The last time I worked with Steve, it was at a bar in Iowa. At least, that’s what our itinerary said. Upon arrival, Steve and I discovered the location was a supper club, and a fairly swanky (by Iowa standards) one at that. We looked at our clothes–we had each dressed our best for a dingy bar–and felt a little out of place. To make matters worse, the space was decorated for a wedding, one taking place the next day. The walls were adorned in white lace, and our “stage” was the altar.
Fortunately, the audience was in a laughing mood and not in any way confined or defined by our surroundings; they laughed with ease and the gig was a fun one.
With a wink to Justin Beiber, Steve’s new release is out now.
NT: Where’d the title and cover come from; was it a difficult process?
SG: The name was the easy part. The cover art was challenging. I like taking goofy pictures, I have quite a collection, and deciding which one I liked best and fit with what I thought the title is conveying, was difficult.
With that said, I am really pleased with how it came out. I thinks its look sharp.
NT: Any rejected titles you’d like to share?
SG: I overheard a women in a restaurant say “I’m a badass girl in a tough ass world” and I thought for a moment that A Badass Girl in a Tough Ass world could work, but I’m glad I went with Stever Fever. It fits well with the tone of the album.
NT: How long did it take you to write the material?
SG: I think all of the material on the album has been written over the past 4 years. Some of it within a month of the release.
NT: Is this your first CD?
SG: Yes, and some are probably hoping its my last.
NT: How long have you been performing; how long did it take you to find your voice?
SG: My first time on stage was on Jan. 17th 2006, so just over 7 years.
Find my voice? That’s hard to pinpoint and in a lot of ways I think you never stop finding it. It should evolve as you evolve.
For the sake of the question, I would say I started to notice a definite direction around year 3-4.
NT: Do you see yourself remaining in Minneapolis, or have you an eye on LA or NY?
SG: The plan for me right now is to remain in Minneapolis for the next 2 to 3 years at the most and then move to Los Angeles.
I have spent the past two summers in Los Angeles and have been slowly prodding in that direction.
NT: How has the Minneapolis comedy scene influenced you?
SG: The “scene” (fucking hate that word), has made an enormous impression on my work. I’d put this city up against any other in the world as fast developing comics. I know the rebuttal, “(whining voice) but, but, but Steeeeeve, what about LA and New York?”
Those are the places you go when you’ve developed into a professional.
Of course there are always exceptions. I have performed pretty much all over the country and there are a few good and a lot of bad comics just about everywhere I have been.
NT: Your disc opens with self-depreciating humor. Is that done with intent, to set the audience at ease? “Look, I’m not taking myself too seriously here, so don’t get all sensitive when I get into slavery.”
SG: In retrospect I wish I would have called the album Stever Fever Live, because that’s what the it is, a live show. I don’t really know how I’m going to open a show until I get in front of the audience and feel their vibe (for the lack of a better word). That material chunk was going to be used at some point and when I got on stage it felt like the audience was um….uneasy about my appearance, so I naturally worked into that piece. But I don’t always open the same way.
And yes, my material can get pretty dark but I like to keep it all silly and absurd.
NT: Describe your comedy to someone who hasn’t seen—or in my case, worked with—you.
SG: Personal and dark subjects delivered in absurdity.
NT: You keep a road journal on your web page; is that for fans, or a way to keep track of your own career?
SG: Its basically just something on my site people can look at if they’re interested. Its becoming more of a picture/news journal than anything.
You can follow Steve on Twitter (@epigillespie) or be his Internet friend on Facebook to keep up with his day to day activities and tours.
Ben Evans, stand-up and manager of Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia, has captured a brutally honest comic experience. My hat is off to Ben for having the foresight to make this documentary and I’m proud to see Tushar Singh bravely representing for comics everywhere. TUSHAR IS HILARIOUS and proves it moment by moment while the camera is rolling. Here’s the situation in Ben’s own words…
“Late last spring I followed fellow Atlanta-based Indian-comedian Tushar Singh to a one-nighter he was booked to do in Birmingham, Alabama and documented the entire experience. The result of my efforts was a 36 minute documentary which I shot, directed, narrated, and edited by myself. What enticed me about this particular show was the parameters of the gig which required Tushar to do two separate 30 minute sets of clean material to a group of Isma’ili’s (Muslim Indians) in a hotel conference room with no alcohol – pay was $500. However, Tushar does not have 30 minutes of material.., let alone a separate hour dedicated to folks who are expecting some clean wholesome family wise cracks. And what low-level comic turns down $500!?
What came out in the end was what I believe to be a solid depiction of a good comedian and person, a lesson in preparation/or a lack-there-of, and what it can be like to be a comedian starting out.”
If you’re a seasoned comic looking for a trip down memory lane or a new comic drooling over a paid set, this will take you on the emotional roller-coaster that can potentially be stand-up.
Thank you Ben and Tushar for allowing us this glimpse into the real world of comedy!