Top Five is a column in which we talk to stand up comics who have just released their own album about their five favorite comedy albums of all time.
Alvin Williams looks to deliver some cheer to the world with his new stand-up comedy album “I Hope You’re Happy“. Alvin is constantly traveling to entertain audiences in comedy clubs across the country, and sometimes things can get a little stressful for him out on the road. So we asked him to list the top 5 comedy albums that bring a little joy into his life when things on the road get tough, and he happily obliged. So here is Alvin Williams with his top 5 comedy albums.
Eddie Murphy is my all-time favorite comic. I wish he would have done more specials but considering his jokes are still hilarious 30 years later, I don’t blame him. My dad used to take me on a lot of road trips as a kid, and he would always buy tapes from the clearance section of video stores. I found this one, he bought it, and the rest is history. Still one of the most memorable road trips I ever had. We listened to the album 3 times! Everything that Eddie talked about I could relate to, and his impressions were so perfect! I still can’t look at Mr. T, Ricky Ricardo or Ralph Kramden without thinking of this album. A must-have even now!
First and Foremost, I think all of George Carlin’s albums could have been my Top 5. To me he is the best comedic writer the world has ever produced. He can do anything with any subject and any audience. I chose this album because it was the first time I had heard a comedy album without an audience. I’ve always wanted to do one of these myself, but I would probably need to put out 50 years of genius first before people would buy it, soooo….I’ll wait. Carlin’s genius is on full display in this album, and I appreciate it even more because it’s like he’s going over the written jokes in a notebook before he has to convert them to an audience-friendly presentation. That’s the way we all really want to present the joke, in its purest form. Every time I hear it I feel smarter!
I love Seinfeld’s work, because it’s laugh out loud funny, but also clean. When I think of the perfect set, this one comes to mind. I heard it on audio first before I saw this performance on HBO. I was in high school when I first heard this and it was the first time I heard a comic and went “That’s EXACTLY what I was thinking! I thought it was just ME.” He’s the gold standard in mainstream comedy that appeals to everyone and this album is a testament to his hard work. Plus I love the concept of “retiring” material and never using it again. I’ve tried to retire material but sometimes I’m on the road and a joke is WAY too perfect not to use. Kudos Jerry, hope you do another one soon!
Chris Rock is the guy I tried to model myself after: Be funny AND have something important to say. His social commentary is so spot on it just blows my mind how somebody can be that funny and that socially relevant all at the same time! I’ve watched all of Chris Rock’s specials but this is the only album I owned. I actually bought it because of the Champagne Song. SO FUNNY. Watch the video on your lunch break and it will be stuck in your head the rest of the day! Also, this album has the best bit to end all bits: Not sure where this publication is being sent, so for the sake of not being censored, I’ll just say it’s the bit where he differentiates between the various types of black people.
Dane Cook in my opinion was a victim of his own whirlwind success. He’s viewed now as if he was this all-energy but no substance comic, and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I think over time it just became cool to not like Dane Cook. But I was always a Dane Cook fan and I cannot deny the influence this album had on me. My college roommate had this playing in his car and it reminded me of when I first heard the Eddie Murphy Comedian album. Playing the tracks over and over again. This is the album that made me want to do stand-up. Not just a fantasy of being a comic, but actually getting on a stage and DOING it. This album was perfect. PERFECT. I still tell stories “Tarantino Style” in my everyday life because of this album. It’s just BETTER that way! I hope that 20 years from now people won’t be jealous of Dane’s rapid success and appreciate the body of work he has put forth. Anyway, if you’re just a Dane-hater but you’ve never heard him, this is truly worth a listen!
Alvin Williams’s album, I Hope You’re Happy, was released on June 3rd, 2014 on Rooftop Comedy Productions. It is available on Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp.
Top Five is a column in which we talk to stand up comics who have just released their own album about their five favorite comedy albums of all time.
Trey Galyon has just released his comedy album “The Moronic” here at Rooftop Comedy Productions. Trey’s stand-up chronicles his life in a very observational though objecting way. There’s a lot wrong with the world and Trey will speak on it with clarity and focus, weeding out the worst of what he sees and giving it hit after hit, punchline after punchline. He’s a man with high standards and his list of his Top 5 Comedy albums of all time makes a whole lot of scents. Pass us the good stuff Trey!
Ok, Here are my top 5 comedy albums in no particular order…
Dave Attell – Skanks for the Memories Love this album! Attell is so quick and funny. This was one of the first albums I bought after I started doing comedy and I still listen to it regularly. Who hasn’t mumbled ‘yeah, but them titties ain’t retarded’ about a bazillion times?!! Go see him live! So much fun watching him work
Patrice O’Neal – Mr. P
Patrice’s only CD and it is retarded good. Patrice is one of those guys I watch and say, ‘yeah! That’s what I’m trying to do with my comedy’. He’s so honest and has an incredible way of explaining things. The first 20 minutes of this CD are non-stop laughs and ‘White Women are Pleasant’ has made me laugh out loud on the subway about 3 dozen times. Unfortunately you can’t go see him live, so get ahold of everything of his you can. The Comedy Central special ‘Elephant in the Room’ is just as good!
Bill Burr – Why Do I Do This?
Bill Burr is one of my favorite guys out there right now. Everybody loves him for the Philly rant which is really awesome, but his actual standup is even better. That opening ‘Pedophiles’ bit will drag you right into his world! Fun all the way thru, and then closing it with the ‘Muffins’ bit is perfect. Check him out live also!
Bill Hicks – Dangerous
I started comedy in Austin, TX and when you start comedy in Texas you learn about Bill Hicks VERY QUICKLY. He was one of a kind. You can feel the honesty and passion in his voice. One amazing thing is that all of his political material, even though it was written 20 years ago, is still relevant today. Rant in E Minor and Arizona Bay are great to. I picked Dangerous because it’s his first album and a nice intro into the world of Bill Hicks.
Bill Cosby – Why is there Air?
Cosby is my favorite of all time! ‘Himself’ changed my life! Everybody has a favorite Cosby album and everybody is right. I picked ‘Why is there Air?’ because my grandparents had that album and it brings back a lot of great memories. Go see him if you get a chance! You can watch him do 2 hours and it feels like 30 minutes and you’ll want more when he’s done. He’s the master!
There you go. Those are my favorite comedy albums right now…
Buy my album, or buy one of these!!!
And go see some live comedy!!!
It’ll change your life, man!
Thanks Rooftop Comedy!!
Trey Galyon’s album, The Moronic?, was released on May 13th, 2014 on Rooftop Comedy Productions. It is available on Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp.
Big night for Isaac Witty! Making his 2nd television appearance tonight on Conan. We were thinking about what a comic can expect from a TV appearance and Isaac filled us in. Read on and check out his album “Zero Balance” but don’t miss him TONIGHT on TBS!
RC(Rooftop Comedy): Congrats on booking Conan! How did your last appearance on Letterman affect your career? Are you expecting the same thing from being on Conan?
Doing Letterman was about 10 years ago. It allowed me to get a bunch of college, corporate and club work that never would have come my way without it. It changed people’s perception of me, which mostly just freaked me out at first. I do not want to have any preconceived ideas for what doing The Conan Obrien Show will do for me. That’s how people fumble the ball. Too busy thinking about what kind of endzone dance they’re going to do. All I know for now, is that it’s really cool to be asked to do the show.
RC: Are you going in knowing that you’re going to crush it? What is your confidence level like?
I’d say I’m 95% confident, 5% of the time… earth trembling panic mode. It all happens in waves. I ran the set at Acme Monday night and crushed, but all I could think about for the next 2 hours was the fact that I went 15 seconds too long. Of course, I’d like to do well, but I’m not trying to think about that. Believe it or not, it helps me to downplay things like this. When you start doing comedy, you think every set is make or break, but it’s not. This thing is a marathon.
RC: Any reason in particular that you’re excited to be on Conan vs. other late night shows?
I’m excited to do Conan because his fans seem be smart.
RC: Describe your ideal experience of performing on the show.
My ideal experience? Do the set, get laughs, exchange pleasantries with everyone. I’m really not asking much here.
RC: Is what you visualized realistic?
I think I can do the set and get the laughs, but I’m not very well liked, so the pleasantries part is a stretch…
RC: Do you know any other guests that are going to be on the show? How could you harass them in a way that would amuse you?
Jeff Goldblum is also on the show! Ideas on how to harass Jeff Goldblum? What kind of insane prankster do you think I am? I’m almost 40! I’m not going to attempt any hijinks on a famous actor that I don’t know. “Did you hear about Isaac? He almost got to be on Conan, but he tried to freeze Jeff Goldblum’s underwear in the craft services room and was forced off the premises.”
RC: Are you taller than Conan and could you beat him in a street fight? What would be your plan of attack if he came after you?
I am 2 inches shorter than Conan O’Brien. Being that I’m the “little guy” in this fight, I’d have to use his height against him. I haven’t been in a fight since I was 8 years old. I imagine that if I did fight to win, I’d have to fight dirty, so I’d most definetly go for the kneecaps. I learned most everything I know about fighting from the Cobra Kai.
RC: Besides stand-up, what have you been up to lately?
What have I been up to lately? I’m in a sketch comedy group called The Turkeys. We’re just about to release a bunch of stuff on the internet. I’m really excited about it! We’re all a bunch of rag-tag comics that got tired of waiting around for something to happen in our lives and careers so we decided to do force ourselves to create something. The problem is, after about 2 weeks of writing sketches we realized that we’re all just lazy sacks of crap, and creating video sketches is really hard work. We’re all good friends. Over the last year, we’ve gotten it together and I’m just really proud of what we’ve come up with. Check us out out: @The_Turkeys or facebook.com/theturkeyscomedy
Very psyched to be heading back to San Francisco this month, my favorite city with the first name “San.” Sorry Diego. I am headlining at the Punchline Jan 15-18th. I love San Francisco, the variety of foods, the varied cultures, the Bay, but you need more bridges … and bigger ones! The crowds are always great comedy audiences – I can’t wait to come back and I always have a blast in the city. In fact, I wish it would stay open later. 2:30am? Come on! By the time I’m done with my shows that leaves me barely an hour to visit some local watering holes, have a few cocktails and engage in illegal cockfighting. Hope to see you at the Punchline Jan 15-18th. And check out my podcast “The Paul Mecurio Show” on iTunes (http://bit.ly/paulmecurio). I’ve interviewed, Sir Paul McCartney, Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, Jay Leno, and The Host of Mythbusters, to name a few.
Paul has won an Emmy & Peabody Award for his work on “The Daily Show w/Jon Stewart.” He is a regular on “Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld” on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and has been seen on “The Late Late Show” on CBS, “Conan” and has had his own special on Comedy Central.
Stand-up veteran, Tom Simmons approached Rooftop about making his titles available for purchase with bitcoin, as you can see, on bitlaughs.com. How will Bitcoin change the way we buy things? Should comedians be exploring this currency more? Let Tom get you up to speed.
RC(Rooftop Comey): How long have you been a stand-up and how have you seen technology change the landscape of professional comedy?
I have been doing comedy since before jokes. You kids today with your punchlines and premises… we had to tickle the audience. I used pens and notebooks instead of computers. I remember many bookers and industry not wanting to book via email. It was all phone calls (land lines) and mailing people video tapes and 8×10’s from ABC photos. So technology has changed a lot. But it is still about writing jokes and telling them to crowds, all the rest is promotions.
RC: Why is now a great time to be a comedian?
Hmm, is now a great time to be a comedian? Who told you that bullshit? It is always a great time to be a comedian, the hard part is remembering that.
RC: What is the hardest thing about being a comedian now?
I don’t know how to answer that, so right now answering this question is the hardest part. The hardest thing about being a comedian is the times when the business of it feels hard or hopeless and when the shows are not flowing naturally. Everything feels stale and flat and I think I am never going to be funny again… then I write a few new jokes and the world is wonderful again.
RC: Where did your interest in Bitcoin come from and how do you think it will impact how we buy things?
I have been reading about money and trying to understand it for a few years now. I don’t want to. It is boring. But since money is important and the world revolves around it, I became interested in it. I am sorta into the concepts of human beings live in illusions of our own creations and mass perceptions. Money is an example of this and that fascinated me. It is not backed by anything, it is just made up basically out of nothing. Those were striking enough facts to me, but then I became aware that the Federal Reserve is a private corporation that makes up the money out of nothing and then sells it to the nation at interest. Most of the people who are on the money were against the Federal Reserve system. Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Jackson… they were all against it. That is an insult to the their legacies. Like putting Mother Theresa’s picture on condoms and passing them out at Planned Parenthood.
So, the long answer to where did my interest in Bitcoin come from is that I was at an impasse on what the answer was. There is this entire monetary system that is made up and based on nothing but faith and ignorance in and of the system. It is owned by a small group of people and basically runs the entire country. But what choice do we have? Bitcoin caught my attention in that it reminds me of an old school local currency. Benjamin Franklin once commented when asked what led to the rise of the colonies success. He said some version of, “The ability of the people to create their own money without the built in debt.” I just jacked that quote up, but you get the gist.
I am not saying that Bitcoin is the answer, I haven’t done enough of the research, but my hope is that if we are just making up a system anyway- why not support the one that is fair and seems more genuinely free market. I think more and more people as they learn about the monetary system will begin to lose faith in it. I believe Bitcoin is here to stay and all it needs is more and more people to accept it and use it in commerce. I want to support that and be a part of it.
RC: Alan Greenspan says that bitcoin is a bubble and has no intrinsic value. How would you respond to that and why do you think there’s a need for it?
I don’t know how to respond to that. I actually think it’s a bubble too. The problem is people are holding it like stock instead of using it for day to day bill paying. When that really starts happening on a grander scale the price will settle to somewhere that makes perfect sense. What Greenspan doesn’t seem to get is that a growing number of people see his money as having no intrinsic value.
There is a need for Bitcoin because a small group of people who own the federal reserve bank hold a monopoly on the product of money. They have slowly taken more and more control of the country through debt and dictating economic policy…. that is too much power for a group of people who we don’t even know the names of and who can’t be audited.
This is what the Federal Reserve says about BitCoin. “Although some of the enthusiasm for bitcoin is driven by a distrust of state-issued currency, it is hard to imagine a world where the main currency is based on an extremely complex code understood by only a few and controlled by even fewer, without accountability, arbitration, or recourse.” (Senior economist François R. Velde of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)
Haha. You just described the Federal Reserve System.
RC: Do you think the government is threatened more by comedy or Bitcoin?
HaHa. The government isn’t threatened by either. They control the media outlets, the overall message, and the military machine. I don’t think Raytheon accepts bitcoin.
Plus, if they ever want to end bitcoin all they have to do is shut off the internet. By the way. I have used the word ‘they’ way more times than I am comfortable with in this interview.
RC: Do you think it’s important for people to know about bitcoin? Why?
I do think it is important for people to know about Bitcoin and to use it. The only way to make real change in this country is with our dollars. When people come together and the money shifts, so does the power structure and the voices that we listen to and follow.
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.”
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…