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Mike Sacks Interview

In his 1994 autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans explained his desire to become a producer was in seeing the power they held; producers worked behind the scenes to make everything on the silver screen come alive. Mike Sacks had similar wonderings while growing up in Washington D.C. While many people dream of being on David Letterman or hosting Saturday Night Live, Mike wondered who wrote all the jokes and sketches he was enjoying. Following his inquisitive nature through college led Mike down a path of freelance writing humor pieces and eventually landed him an editorial position at Vanity Fair. From there, he became a member of The Pleasure Syndicate, a humor writing group consisting of Scott Jacobson of The Daily Show, Todd Levin from The Tonight Show, Jason Roeder of The Onion, and Ted Travelstea, a writer for Esquire.

Rooftop had Nathan Timmel give Mike a call to discuss his interest in comedy writing.

NT: What made you pick New Orleans/Tulane University?

MS: Mostly just the weather, quite frankly. I didn’t get into too many schools, and Tulane was just one that happened to accept me. I wanted to head down south rather than up north. I used to vacation down south when I was a kid, so that’s what I was used to.

NT: What did you study while there, journalism?

MS: English Literature.

NT: Which is actually my background, too, only you took your degree and write with it, where I stand on stage and talk about my penis.

MS: Well, it’s not too different, really. I never did take any journalism courses, actually.

NT: Really? That’s interesting. How did you take a background in English and translate it into what could be considered a journalistic trade, working in the editorial department of Vanity Fair?

MS: I just needed jobs to support myself while I was freelance writing, and the way it worked out kinda was lucky. I was working in retail for four or five years—I worked in a record store—and then I got my first editing job for an association in D.C. From there I went to Knight Ridder, which is a wire service, from there I went to The Washington Post, and after that ended up at Vanity Fair. Nothing was really planned, it just happened that way. And I never considered myself a journalist, what I wanted to do was just to write humor. But to support yourself doing that is really tough, so this is just what I ended up doing rather than working at a record store.

NT: On that note, do you then feel you should sue Nick Hornby for using your character in the book (and then movie) High Fidelity?

MS: I actually get a lot of questions about High Fidelity; people think that my retail days were similar to that movie, where I’d hang out with a couple buddies and go down top ten lists of my favorite things. In reality, I worked in New Orleans and later in Maryland, and in Maryland the record store was behind a government housing project and we’d get robbed about once a month. It was really very bleak; it was nowhere near as interesting as the movie.

NT: I think what’s interesting is no one usually thinks of a record store when thinking of robberies; banks and gas stations get all the attention. But when you’re looking for money for drugs, anything will do. Plus, record stores are probably really easy to hold up, I would suspect.

MS: Yeah, it’s very easy. We were making a lot of money at the time off the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, with Whitney Houston, so we always had a lot of cash, and I think people knew that. A path led to our store in this mini-mall, so the record store was one of the first places they would hit as they made their way around the mall.

NT: You’re part of The Pleasure Syndicate, a humor-writing group. People hear a lot about sketch comedy, or improv troupes, but humor-writing groups are less common. Give me a little background on the Pleasure Syndicate.

MS: Well, the group writing process for humor is done a lot when writing for TV and for movies, and I always wondered why that couldn’t be done for print. What I discovered is one of the reasons it’s not done is because there’s very little money in print. But, if you can pull it off, if you can get a good deal, and get a group of writers that work well together, then the product is going to be better for it.

We had worked together, not all five of us, but at one time or another two or three of us, for projects for Esquire or The New Yorker. Ultimately we worked on a back-page humor piece for Radar, which was a monthly list, just 101 jokes, like “Worst Places to Die,” or “Things Not to Say at a Job Interview.” We worked really well together on that, and decided to work on a bigger project, which was a book project. We were only going to do it if we could sell it for enough money to be worth it, and we were lucky as it hadn’t been done before, and was interesting enough to various publishers. There was a bit of a bidding war, which Random House ultimately won, which gave us four months to write it.

Because we had all worked together before, everything went very smoothly, and I do think the book turned out better because of the group process. If it had been just me writing, or me and one other person… we had the benefit of going with the best jokes among the five of us, rather than just settling for something than just one of us might have come up with. We’re actually in the process right now of pitching a second book, which is an employee manual for a Wal Mart type company. It’s something you’d receive on your first day, and exposes what the company is about, its history and the rules for working there. So hopefully that will sell, and we can start working on that.

NT: And what was the title of the first book?

MS: Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk is the one that’s out right now.

NT: You also have a book of your own out, a book of interviews.

MS: Right, that’s called And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers. I interviewed about forty humor writers, and twenty-one made the cut. Although, the electronic version has twenty-five, I think. Those are lengthy interviews with humor writers about the process, how they made it, and what they would recommend to those just starting out or those wanting to improve their careers.

NT: Did you want to talk to these people specifically to write a book, or was there an amount of simple personal interest in just wanting to talk to them?

MS: A little of both, I mean, it was an excuse to talk to these guys, who I grew up admiring. I was always much more interested in behind the scenes, wondering who the writers were for Saturday Night Live or David Letterman, and how did they get there. I couldn’t find any books from the viewpoint of writers; books were always from producers, or actors, or directors, not from the writer’s standpoint. I thought it would be interesting to see how one becomes a writer for late night TV, or becomes a humor writer. So it was partly realizing that viewpoint wasn’t out there, and partly just wanting to talk for five to ten hours a day to David Sedaris, Merril Markoe of Late Night With David Letterman, and Harold Ramis, and Larry Gelbart. It was a fun thing to do, and if I were young, and in high school now, it’s the kind of book I’d be interested in reading, to see how one makes it in this crazy business.

NT: And you also have a book coming out next year, a compilation of your writings…

MS: Yeah! This a collection of short humor pieces from New Yorker, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Time, Radar and other places. They’re all independent humor pieces, which is surprisingly difficult to get published these days. Editors and publishers are always looking for a link between stories, an over arching theme. So I was lucky to have sold this to Tin House, out in Oregon.

NT: And what’s the title?

MS: Your Wildest Dreams Within Reason, and that comes out in March of 2011.

And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers, and Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk are both available in bookstores nationwide as well as on line.

Dan Finnerty Interview

Movies are made in order to elicit audience response; a good horror movie will make everyone jump at just the right points, a well-done romance will have women tear up as the end credits roll. While it is difficult to surprise the modern audience—people who have seen and heard it all—occasionally something so genuinely original can still startle and please even the most jaded person. The 2003 release Old School contained such a moment.

In the movie, Will Farrell’s “Frank the Tank” has just been married and is sharing the first dance with his new bride. The scene looks to be a throwaway; a cheesy wedding band in obnoxious tuxedos is playing Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, and nothing interesting is taking place. Then, without warning, the mundane becomes hilarious. During the line, “Every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes,” the singer added one simple word, and everyone’s ears perked. The look on Will Farrell’s face matched that of every person in the theater; “Wait, did I just hear that? No, I must be imagining things…” and almost immediately the joke was driven home: “And fucking every now and then I fall apart!” The entire audience laughed in genuine surprise and enjoyment.

Though others before him had done parodies, Dan Finnerty had the simple idea to add swear words to popular songs. Not only did Dan add swear words, but he did so while playing the songs straight, making the words somehow work, slipping in the vulgarities in a way that made it sound as if they had always been there.

In a word: brilliant.

The aforementioned Dan Finnerty is the founder and lead singer of The Dan Band. Once a Los Angeles staple, The Dan Band now tours America, and has just released a CD, The Dan Band Live.

Between stops on his current tour, Nathan Timmel was able to chat with the exceedingly affable Dan about singing, swearing, and marrying up.

NT: First off, I have a personal question: when were you at Emerson College, because I was right down the road at The Berklee College of Music from 1990 to 1992.

DF: Wow, I was there from ’89 to ’92, that’s crazy.

NT: Yeah, we should have hung out together more, had we actually known one another even existed.

DF: I would have met you at Newbury Comics.

NT: I went there a lot. I was actually at Newbury Comics one day when several New Kids on the Block showed up at a clothing store next door and started a teenybopper riot.

DF: The same thing happened to me. When I graduated in ’92, I went out to dinner to celebrate with family, and the youngest New Kid was there and turned the place into pandemonium. I couldn’t even enjoy my graduation celebration because of Joey Macintyre. [Laughs]

NT: What did you study at Emerson; you’re obviously fluent in music, as you went on to perform on Broadway, were you in theater?

DF: I was an acting major, and I almost majored in TV Production, but that became a minor.

NT: When I listen to The Dan Band, I hear great harmonies and arrangements; is singing something that came naturally to you, and when you put the band together did you use friends, or did you audition actual musicians?

DF: I was always musical, and probably always secretly wanted to start a band, but to me anyone who had a band seemed so legit. I grew up in farm town New York, so I never took the idea of being in a band too seriously. I would have felt too stupid trying to pretend I was worthy of pursuing music. After college, I was doing the show Stomp, and it was my last night with that production and the guys took me out to a bar that had karaoke. I just jumped up and sang I Am Woman, because I was drunk. The next day I moved to L.A., and a friend of mine had a band here, and she wanted me to open for her so it would look like she was headlining. [Laughs] She said to me, “Just sing anything, it doesn’t matter what.” I had just sung I Am Woman, so I did that again, because I thought it was pretty funny, and I added You Light Up My Life and Flashdance (What a Feeling). It was just bongos and an acoustic guitar, and at the end of it, this guy came up to me and he’s like, “Do you have a flyer?” I asked, “For what?” And he said, “For your next show. When is it?” I’m like, [surprised voice] “Fucking never.” He said he booked The Viper Room, and he’d love to book me if I could turn what I did into a thirty-minute set. So I found through friends someone to play keyboards, electric guitar and bass, and we played The Viper Room. After that, I started playing at Largo, which is this cool comedy club here in Los Angeles, and that’s when Tenacious D was just starting to take off, and Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman were always there. From there, I played Largo for about a year before I even added backup singers, because I got to a point where the songs I was choosing needed harmonies, so I found two people to sing backup. After that, we just started putting any bad, ridiculous choreography I could remember from stupid ‘80s videos. So that’s probably how The Dan Band got started, with me just making fun of it all.

NT: You said you originally were singing songs by female artists for comedic effect. When did you have the simple brilliance, and I use those words on purpose, to add swearing? Was alcohol involved?

DF: I always swear anyway, which is a big joke with my friends. I was brought up a strict Catholic, and I couldn’t even literally do variations of swear words, because if it was even implied that I was trying to swear I wasn’t allowed to say it. So the minute my parents dropped me off at Emerson, as they pulled away I got Tourettes and was just like: “FUUUUUUCK!” Which is a good lesson to parents to not be so intense with your kids, because they’ll end up doing what you didn’t want them to do, but in front of the world. [Laughs]

NT: Like the Catholic girls who are so repressed at home that when they get to college they explode onto men.

DF: Exactly. [Laughs] Exactly. The swearing was really just like a little, rhythmic interjection. I’d play just a little personal game, just to see if I could fit “motherfucker” somewhere in the lyric. Todd Phillips, the director of Old School, came to see me, and he basically said, “I have this scene where I need a wedding singer; what songs are you working on?” And I was working on Total Eclipse of the Heart, to put into my show, and Private Dancer, by Tina Turner, and Todd liked both of those ideas. I went to do the scratch vocal, pre-recording, in the studio, and I started singing Total Eclipse. I didn’t think I was allowed to swear, so I was just singing it straight. Todd stopped me like one verse in, asking, “Dude, are you going to swear, like you do in your show?” I was like, “Are you kidding? I can swear?” He said, “Yeah! Go crazy!” And I just said, “Buckle up, motherfucker!” [Laughs]

NT: You’re like psychic; whenever I ask you one question, you answer it, and then another question I have before I can get to it; Todd Phillips discovering you was something you knew would come up. Before that you talked about ‘80s choreography, which was something else I was going to talk about, specifically involving the video for Please Don’t Bomb Nobody This Holiday. Did you put the celebrities in that for fun, or was it an obvious throwback to We Are the World type songs and videos?

DF: I wrote that Christmas album two years ago. Originally they wanted me to do all covers of Christmas songs, because that’s what Christmas albums are, covers of classic songs. But all I ever do is cover songs, so I wanted to write my own this time, which, I don’t know how good an idea that was, because at the end of the day everyone just wants to hear fucking Jingle Bells [laughs]. I definitely wanted to write a We Are the World kind of plea, and mine is so stupid, too, because it’s saying you can bomb people the rest of the year, just take the one day off. Everyone who was in the video has seen my show at one time or another, so I knew there was remotely some good will. It was so ghetto, the way we shot it; I ordered a screen and two lights online, and we just went to their house and pop up this screen, and you could see in their eyes they didn’t realize how low rent this was going to be. I mean, the playback of the song was through my iphone, so they would put on headphones, which were just hooked up to my phone that I was holding in my hand. They would look at me like, “Seriously, this is it?” [Laughs] But it was a lot of fun, I mean, getting to hang with Christopher Guest, who is like a personal idol of mine, what with his mix of comedy and music, with Spinal Tap and Guffman—it was just a lot of fun.

NT: Let me toss an oddball question out there: while I make no judgment on your relationship, when your wife [actress Kathy Najimy] was named Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine, aside from the obvious pride you must have felt, did you sort of stand there, feeling, “So my wife is Woman of the Year, and I put the word ‘fuck’ into popular songs”?

DF: [Excitedly] Oh, she reminds me of that every day. I mean, the other day at my show, on Saturday, I referred to her as “My Ho.” She was in the audience, and I just tossed out, “I want to thank my ho Kathy,” and afterwards someone was like, “Yup, Ms. Magazine woman of the year, and you’ve reduced her to your ho.” The irony is insane. What’s even crazier is: Gloria Steinem officiated our wedding, so half of my friends are sitting at our wedding saying, “What the hell?” I mean, I did feel unworthy, that there were people more deserving of having the distinct honor of Gloria Steinem at their wedding. Kathy certainly deserved it, and I kind of coat-tailed on there. [Laughs] There was one great moment at one of my shows early on at Largo when Gloria walked in just as I was starting the song Gloria, by Laura Branigan. People in the crowd were like, “WOW, Dan’s got it together, having Gloria Steinem enter during Gloria.”

NT: When all it was, was a happy accident. Nice. I looked at your tour schedule, and it’s a healthy mix of colleges and stand-alone theaters; which do you prefer?

DF: There’s definitely a demographic I attract, and it’s guys who looked like me at different ages and weights. Like, I’ll look at a guy and think, “That’s what I looked like ten years and ten pounds ago,” and then I’ll see another guy and think, “That’s what I’ll look like twenty pounds from now.” And then there’s the Old School and Hangover crowds, who see me in those movies. But what’s funny is I did this one-hour special that was produced by Steven Spielberg and was directed by McG, which was awesome. But then it ended up airing on Bravo, which maybe wasn’t so awesome, [Laughs] because that wasn’t like the perfect demo for us. What’s funny, then, is you could tell in the audience who had seen the show on Bravo. And then I did The Jay Leno show, which was a whole new demographic, and yeah, you could just see who in the audience knew what they were getting into, and who maybe didn’t.

NT: Ok, one last, stupid question: When do you think Inside the Actor’s Studio jumped the shark, Martin Lawrence or Bon Jovi?

DF: [Laughs] Bon Jovi.

Lachlan Patterson Interview

Lachlan Patterson hails from Vancouver, Canada, which bodes well for him, as Canada has proved exceptionally adept at churning out talented comics. He has performed on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, as well as at the Vancouver Comedy Festival and Rooftop’s own Aspen Festival.

Now, Rooftop is helping Patterson with a new milestone: recording artist. Patterson’s CD, Jokes To Make Love To will be released Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 on iTunes, Amazon, and through RooftopComedy.com

Patterson and Rooftop interviewer Nathan Timmel kept opposite schedules, but were able to improvise a chat via email.

Read more »

Kevin Camia Interview

Kevin Camia is a staple of the San Francisco comedy scene. A storyteller by trade, Kevin doesn’t resort to the cheap laugh to draw an audience in, he uses tales of his life and experiences. Its worked out well for him, as Kevin is a regular up and down the California coast, playing at all the clubs it has to offer.

Rooftop was so impressed by Kevin, we decided to release his first CD, Kindness, on our label.

To promote it, we had interviewer Nathan Timmel chat with Kevin about the CD, its recording, and the musical instrument they share a fondness for.

NT: Tell me about the title of your new CD, Kindness. It has a very positive connotation to it, which is not something I think of when I think of stand-up comedy. Was that done on purpose?

KC: Well, I pretty much came up with the title because of one of the early bits I do on the CD. I say, “I know when somebody is trying to take advantage of my kindness.” It’s sort of a throwaway line, not even a punchline, or anything like that. It’s just, I realized a lot of my bits are kind of, not totally mean spirited, but it’s not nice. There’s a chance somebody could get offended, that’s kind of the idea. It’s not lilywhite, one-size-fits-all comedy. Basically, it’s supposed to be a little ironic.

NT: That’s funny, because as I said, I didn’t think “kind” and “comedy” went together.

KC: Yeah, and the cover of the CD is me riding on my cat, and smiling, which is not so super sweet.

NT: I’ve seen that; did you draw it yourself? And how did you come up with it?

KC: My friend Aiyana Udesen drew it. She used to work at The Punchline in San Francisco, and she went to an art school, so I figured if I ever made a CD, I’d have her do the cover. As far as riding a cat, that was an idea… [pauses] I dunno, [laughs] I guess there’s not really much to it; I just really like cats. I almost made it me riding a panda, because I have a couple panda jokes, but I just really like cats.

NT: Nothing wrong with that; I have two of them.

KC: Me too. [laughs]

NT: You mentioned a friend that was an artist; do you get inspired by other art forms outside of comedy, and does that help you with your comedy?

KC: Oh absolutely. My girlfriend is a playwright; she has masters in play writing, so we go to the theater a lot. And I used to play in several bands, so I see a lot of live music, and I still play a little bit. At The Punchline, there always seems to be a group of people who are in art school, or they’ve been to art school, so they just seem to “get it,” the creative lifestyle, which is nice.

NT: What instrument or instruments do you play?

KC: I play a Filipino instrument, called a bandurria, which is a fourteen-string instrument…

NT: Take that Tony Levin.

KC: [laughs] Yeah, the bandurria is kind of like a mandolin, but there are some strings that are in sets of three. It’s a traditional Filipino instrument, and in the band I would dress up as this sort of ‘fake rock star’ persona, and we would play traditional Filipino music, but rock it out [laughs]. One guy I used to play bass for, Sean Hayes, ended up getting pretty big. He’s a singer-songwriter kinda guy, and now he has all these albums out and plays all around the world, and I stopped playing with him just before he hit it big.

NT: It’s good to hear you play the bass. A damn fine instrument; I went to The Berklee College of Music for a couple years and studied and played jazz bass.

KC: That’s really cool. I’ve been getting into Mastodon lately; their bass player was really good and played intricate, melodic lines.

NT: You’ve mentioned The Punchline a couple times. Is that where you recorded Kindness?

KC: Yeah, I did it in one show, where I performed for about an hour and ten minutes, and then we cut it down to about fifty minutes. There are probably a couple little things I would have done differently, but now I can take notes for the next one. I was just looking forward to recording it so I could sort of ‘retire’ some of the bits, and look forward to writing new material. I was definitely nervous recording it, because I get really weird when I listen to myself perform, which made editing a trick, but I like how it turned out.

NT: I know what you meant about ‘retiring’ certain bits, but I think it was Doug Stanhope who said that once you put out a CD, that’s what the audience wants to hear. Like, you perform, and you sell them a CD of that show, those bits. So, not to challenge what you just said, but what are your thoughts on that?

KC: I get that. I mean, depending on where I am, I’ll do different parts of the CD. Like, if I’m where nobody knows me, I’ll do more of it, but back home at The Punchline, I’ll do less, because they’ve heard it already, and I always like writing and creating new material. I guess I’m looking at someone like Bill Burr, who every year has a new special, and new all new material. He’s one of my favorites, so I look at that and it’s something to shoot for. I want to challenge myself to come up with another forty-five or fifty minutes as soon as I can.

NT: Is San Francisco still your home? Are you considering a move?

KC: I’m still in San Francisco, but I plan to move at some point. All my friends, the people that started at the same time as me, have either moved to LA or New York, but I figure that when you move to LA you better have everything ready, you have to have your screenplay, your monologue jokes and all that. It’s so hard to do comedy in LA that you have to be more rounded. If I just wanted stage time, I can get that here.

NT: And New York?

KC: Yeah, a lot of my favorite headliners come from New York, but even they eventually move to LA. I dunno, I just like San Francisco… it gets a little crowded in LA and New York, and I like seeing things like trees, and nature.

Pick up Kevin Camia’s “Kindness” on iTunes.

Margaret Cho Interview

Margaret Cho became famous in 1994. That year, she was thrust into the spotlight by ABC, who had developed a show around her. The sitcom, All American Girl, was touted as one that would shatter the television racial barrier for Asians. When it was cancelled after one season, Cho was made a pariah for the downfall. Perseverance through a dark period involving drugs and alcohol led her to greater success in stand up by becoming even more brutally honest about her life and experiences.

On August 24th, Cho will release an album of musical comedy entitled Cho Dependent. Following the release, she will tour extensively.

Rooftop had Nathan Timmel sit down for an afternoon conversation with Cho to discuss her upcoming album, current acting gig, and recent show at Bonnaroo.

NT: So how was Bonnaroo?

MC: Bonnaroo was great! I’m a big fan of Conan O’Brien, so I saw him twice, and I was making a music video there with one of the artists I collaborated with, Brendan Benson, who’s just fabulous, and he also plays a scene in my show. I just love music festivals, because it opens me up to see so much good music. I was able to go see people I just adore, like Jay Z, Jack White, The Dead Weather… I love Jack White, he’s a great musician and a great person, so that was really cool. I got to see The Punch Brothers, and they also were in my video. I love the presence of comedy at those kind of festivals, so I’ve been playing them more. This was my second Bonnaroo; I did South by Southwest the past couple of years because I enjoy that, because I get to do the comedy stage and then go visit the music stages.

NT: Tell me about the video you were filming.

MC: The video, it’s great, it’s called “Baby, I’m With the Band.” The initial idea was having me walking around, not being able to get backstage, but what we found [laughs] is that many of these bands felt really uncomfortable rejecting me or acting mean. So, right now we might be moving in another direction; it’s not done yet. It’s being directed by the great, great Liam Sullivan, who is making all of my music videos. He’s a really great comedian and filmmaker, and he’s someone I’ve toured with many times, so I’m really happy to be working with him again. But yeah, a lot of people were really scared to not be nice to me, so I want to point out that everyone in the video was actually very nice.

NT: What you should have done is had these bands watch the Ricky Gervais show Extras, where he had Kate Winslet act like a diva, and Patrick Stewart played a perverted version of himself…

MC: [laughs] …and David Bowie sang the song about Ricky being a “sad little fat man…” I love that show.

NT: It would have been perfect for the bands; “You don’t understand, no one will take this seriously.” The music video is to promote your new album, Cho Dependent, and on your website you said, “I have wanted to make an album like this forever.” How long did it take to go from concept to reality regarding the album?

MC: The concept is an old one, something I’ve had since the nineties, I think, where I’ve wanted to do something like this but never had the time. But when I finally did sit down and decide to call some of the musicians I’ve known for years, like Ani Difranco, who I used to tour with, and write songs and learn to play guitar and learn to sing and record, that took about a year and a half.

NT: You learned to play guitar for your album and didn’t just leave it to the musicians?

MC: Yeah, I wanted to. I wanted to be as involved as possible.

NT: Nice. You work with an amazing array of musicians—Fiona Apple, the already mentioned Ani DiFranco to name two—how did you approach them, did you encounter any hesitancy, and what was the overall experience like?

MC: Some people I had known already, like Ani and Jon Brion and Grant Lee Phillips; those guys I just asked and they were instantly excited about the project and wanted to be a part of it. Everyone had their own way of working, but in general, I would write the lyrics and then we would have a writing session together, or I would just send the words off and receive a demo some time later. Everyone was so generous with their time and worked on it extremely hard, which was so amazing. I also got a lot of voice lessons and guitar lessons as well as lessons in production and engineering! I feel so lucky that such talented people wanted to help me as much as they could. It was totally incredible.

NT: It has been said every rock star wants to be a comedian, and every comedian a rock star; would you agree with that?

MC: Absolutely, but I don’t think comedians would want to be musicians if they understood all the hard work that went into it.

NT: Comedians just have to show up and stand behind a mic, they don’t have to lug around equipment or do sound checks.

MC: Exactly.

NT: How do you plan to present the new material, music and comedy, to audiences? Will you tour with a band?

MC: I won’t be travelling with a full band, but I will have musicians with me. It’s something you have to approach differently from a normal stand up tour, because you have to find that balance between comedy and music. Since it’s stand up comedy, you have to hear the lyrics, but at the same time I don’t want to overlook the fact that musically it’s still a big production because the album is comedy songs. I haven’t figured out which songs I’ll play live, yet.

NT: How important is touring to you?

MC: I love it. I’ve been touring for twenty-five years now, and it’s something I’m very passionate about and enjoy. It’s not something I can do as much right now, as I’m living in Atlanta and working on the show Drop Dead Diva six months out of the year. But normally I travel constantly, so it’s sort of weird being anchored in one spot. I still do a lot of sets here, though, and a lot of comedy, because I love it, but I’m looking forward to getting out on the road.

NT: You mentioned Drop Dead Diva; how did you end up on that show? Did you ask to audition, or did you get that phone call every actor wants where they said, “We wrote a part for you”?

MC: Well, the part was written with me in mind. I was in the very beginning stages of my album, and was working with an artist named Jay Brannan, writing songs all day, and I went to his show that night and the creator of the show, Josh Berman was there, and he approached me and said he had written this part that was perfect with me. We talked about it, and he was really excited, and I ended up being the first person cast, and that set it all off. We filmed the pilot in Atlanta, it was picked up, and I’m really proud of that because it’s a great show, and its changed my life dramatically because I’m used to touring all the time, but now I’m staying in one place.

NT: You’ve two books under your belt; any plans for a third?

MC: Yeah, I’d like to write another book. It’s not my first thought, though, to write another book, because it’s so much work. Comics sort of want to do a little bit of work, we don’t like to do a lot of work [laughs].

NT: When and how did you begin your journey into the world of body art? Do you think it was a natural progression of your creative side, meaning you’re a comic, you’re an author, and this is another medium of expression for you?

MC: Well, I think I’m done, as far as my own art is concerned, because I don’t have any more room. Right now everything I’ve had done is in that Japanese style, where it’s not full sleeves, it’s cut off at the elbow so it can be easily covered up. Whenever I’m hired as an actor, it’s generally in a part that’s pretty conservative, like a cop, or a doctor, or right now I’m a legal assistant, a paralegal. My interest in tattooing goes back to my childhood; I think I always knew I would get tattoos someday, I just didn’t know when. My parents owned a bookstore in San Francisco, and I was raised amongst all of these people who were very artistic, and very wild. They were all tattooed, and tattooed by Ed Hardy, who also sold a lot of his tattoo books at my parents’ shop. I’ve known him since I was a child, and he ended up being my tattoo artist, then, too.

NT: You’re very famous for being actively involved with Gay and Lesbian rights; how did this first come about—did you cater to a gay fan base, or did one discover you? Describe the founding of that relationship.

MC: I started working, as a young comic, as gay clubs. I mean, the majority of the work I got was at small gay bars and venues. They were showing my comedy videos at a bar called The Midnight Sun, and through that I got quite a gay following in the neighborhood, The Castro. I think my [activist] work came about because I was in the gay scene already; it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. All my friends were gay, so it just made sense and felt right.

For all the information you need on Cho Dependent and her upcoming tour, visit www.margaretcho.com.

Drop Dead Diva can be seen Sunday on Lifetime.

Rob Corddry Interview

Members of Improv troops are known to have impeccable comedic timing, and Rob Corddry wears the stereotype well. In 2002, as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was riding a wave of popularity and praise from their Indecision 2000 coverage, Rob was asked to audition for and join the show. Within a year, he was one of their favorite and most recognizable correspondents, fitting right in with Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.

Corddry left The Daily Show in 2006, taking roles in films such as Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay and Semi-Pro.  In 2010, Corddry was officially a lead in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine.

In 2008, Corddry developed his own web series, Childrens Hospital. A hilarious skewering of medical dramas, Corddry was nominated for a Streamy Award—an award created by the International Academy of Web Television “to recognize excellence in the arts and science of web television”—for his writing on the show.  In 2009, Rob was nominated for a Webbyaward for best individual performance, and won the Webby for Best Comedy: Long form or series. 

This July, Childrens Hospital will debut on The Cartoon Network’s late night programming, Adult Swim.

Rooftop asked Nathan Timmel to discuss Childrens Hospital, as well as wax philosophic on the 1980s television drama St. Elsewhere, with Rob. Read more »

Dan Cummins Interview

Dan Cummins is shooting like a rocket; he has been in the comedy game for only ten years, and in that time, he has been on Live at Gotham and had his own Comedy Central Presents. On Saturday, May 29th, Dan will make the next enormous leap in his career when he upgrades to his very own Comedy Central one-hour special.

As a friend of Rooftop Comedy for years, Rooftop wanted to help Dan get the word out—watch the special—and had Comic Nathan Timmel give Dan a call.

Read more »

TOM SEGURA INTERVIEW

A Los Angeles resident by way of Florida, Tom Segura presents a lackadaisical, “everyman” persona while on stage. Though sloth may be a part of who Tom is, once you peer behind the Wizard’s Curtain you understand you’ve been manipulated, and I mean that as a compliment. What people don’t immediately see in Tom’s on-stage presence is the mind of a relentless professional; only at the end of his set does the audience realize Tom knew exactly what he was doing, and how he was in control of the room the entire time.

Tom doesn’t rush in to situations, or create checklists simply for the case of doing so; many comedians try and put out a CD after only being in the game a year or two. The material is usually substandard, because in the early years of your career, you’re simply not all that good. Tom waited almost eight years to record his first CD, “Thrilled.” The material has been tested time and time again, continually tweaked in front of hundreds of audiences. Tom knew the CD would be a reflection of who he was, and he wanted the jokes to be as tight as possible before committing them to history.

Rooftop had comic Nathan Timmel give Tom a call to talk about the “Thrilled,” as well as comedy in general.

NT: How did you come up with the title, “Thrilled?” Is it sort of a Michael Jackson homage, only in the past tense, seeing as he’s dead he’s no longer a “thriller?” [note: I had not seen the CD cover before asking this question]

TS: You know, I’d love to be able to take credit for it, but what happened is: I typed up twenty-five titles I was considering, and people were laughing, and saying, “maybe this one, or this one,” when my buddy’s wife just said, “What about Thriller, Two?” I just started to laugh hysterically at that, I really thought it was funny that there could be a sequel to “Thriller.”

I pitched the idea to Rooftop, and they were a little hesitant. They wondered if I was walking on a fine line with copyright infringement, I think, so I just tossed out “Thrilled,” because it has it’s own meaning. Plus, I really wanted to have a cover like the “Thriller” album, because with me in that pose… it’s just too ridiculous. And on top of that, I love that if someone is looking up the number one best-selling album of all time, mine is one letter off from it. It makes me laugh to imagine someone could be looking to buy Michael Jackson’s album and end up looking at mine.

NT: So I was making a joke about Michael when you told me the name, and I accidentally got it right. You’re working off the same method as porn sites on line, where if you’re one letter off, you end up viewing a clip of “donkey-punching,” instead of, well, whatever reason you might have been looking up donkeys.

TS: Yeah. [Laughs] It’s a big joke. I’ve had flyers made up of the cover, and it’s funny when people don’t get it right away, and they sort of stutter politely, “Oh, um, that’s a, um, very nice suit you’re wearing. Very interesting.” But the people that do get it, they laugh at the fact I’m in the exact same position Michael was in on his cover.

NT: So you’re out there, pushing the CD in advance of the release.

TS: Yeah, I’ve been doing a decent amount of shows lately, so I pass flyers out after each show. It has the album cover on it, and it has the release date, and where it will be available. I’m just trying to get it out there.

NT: Where did you record the disc?

TS: I recorded it at Acme, in Minneapolis. I luckily got in there somehow…

NT: [Interrupts, laughing] You have powerful management you turd, don’t talk about luck.

TS: [Laughs] I mean, I was lucky to get in there.

NT: It’s all in the phrasing.

TS: Exactly. [Laughs] I was there a year ago, and it was incredible. Of all the clubs I’ve been to, and there are some great ones out there, there was never a bad crowd in Minneapolis. I mean, the thing I liked about it, is: in your act, you have those jokes that are sort of “for you,” where certain people get it, but it’s not always the one everybody laughs at. I felt like, in that club, everyone got everything, even the subtle stuff. Even if it was a tag or a sarcastic throwaway line, the people at those shows were amazing and just on top of it. They just laughed at everything. So I knew I wanted to record there when I went back, and that’s what happened. On my next time through, I recorded the disc. I also knew Rooftop had equipment there from my first time through, so when I was thinking about recording my shows, I contacted them and it just snowballed from there. They had the recording setup, and I didn’t have to do much else but show up and tell jokes.

NT: How long is “Thrilled?”

TS: It’s fifty-two minutes. I recorded an hour, but I edited out eight minutes because the bit was pretty visual. When I thought about it, I didn’t want a joke on there that you kind of had to see to get the full effect. Other than that, the CD was recorded in one show, and it represents all eight years I’ve been a stand-up comedian.

NT: What other projects are you working on right now?

TS: I’ve been writing a lot; I wrote on a couple pilots this past season, and it’d be nice to have one of those picked up and get hired on there…

NT: [Interrupts] You really are married; you’re already sick of the road and all domesticated. You want a real job and to go home every night to the wife.

TS: [Laughs] I do, man. It was so great writing on these shows, because I got spoiled. I’d write all day, then drive home and have dinner with the wife. I’d forgotten what that was like, I’m so used to being in an airport on Tuesday mornings and away from home all the time. I love the road, and I love performing, but it’s nice to take a break from the travel aspect. But writing aside, I’m also making my own short films, even directing them, which I love, and auditioning a lot.

NT: When did you make the jump to directing shorts? I remember we were all doing little projects when I lived out there; did that inspire you at all?

TS: Oh, absolutely. Being a part of all those little projects we did was great. It made me realize that if you call people, and you’re excited about a project, you can get them excited.

NT: Because people just love being creative.

TS: Exactly. Exactly. You realize that in our business, there is a gigantic majority of stuff you cannot control. But the one thing you can control is your effort and ability to be creative. You can write jokes every day. You can get a camera and try and film something. No matter what happens on the business end of it, you can still be creative, and that’s a great thing.

“Thrilled” will be available everywhere fine comedy is sold Tuesday, May 11th, 2010.

You can find all your Tom Segura information at TomSegura.com

Robert Buscemi Interview

Robert Buscemi was a staple of the Chicago comedy scene for years. During his tenure, he won many accolades, including Best Stand Up (2009, Chicago Reader) and Best Comic (both 2005 and 2006, Chicago Snubfest). After being a finalist in the 2007 Chicago Comedy Awards, he was invited to perform at Rooftop Comedy’s very own Aspen Comedy Festival.

Robert is releasing his CD, “Palpable,” this Wednesday, April 28th, at The Annoyance in Chicago. Rooftop had idiot comic Nathan Timmel email Robert Buscemi some questions in advance of this event.

NT: You recorded your new CD “Palpable” at Chicago’s Lincoln Lodge, yet are holding the release party at The Annoyance. Any reason for the shift?

RB: Wow. Good question. Well, the Lincoln Lodge had sound equipment already set up for Cameron Esposito’s recording of her Rooftop CD, “Grab Them Aghast,” just a few weeks before mine. Like me, Cameron did the Rooftop Aspen Comedy Fest too. And I’m a long-time veteran of the Lodge, which has an unbelievably retro vibe to it, which fits my character really well, so it was a great place to record. And we really packed it.

And… The Annoyance is… I’ve cultivated a relationship with The Annoyance over the last few years, performing like 6 or 7 special, one-off shows there. That’s basically just hero worship on my part. I don’t know how much stand-ups outside of Chicago know this, but the Annoyance is like the Sex Pistols of sketch and improv. They’re absolutely legendarily decadent, and just revered as the cool kids in Chicago. There’s a ball cap behind the bar that just says “BORING AND GAY,” which really captures their… just… I don’t know. Just trust me: they’re cool. I always bust my ass to fill the house and then write them thank-you notes and give them any merch I have. I’m kind of gay that way.

Mick Napier teaches there, Susan Messing, Joe Bill, Mark Sutton… those people are legends in the improv world, and I just adore that theater. I used to do improv and tons of theater, so it’s really exciting for me to perform in a theater like that. In fact I’m in Chicago right now, having just hosted three nights at the Chicago Improv Festival, which was great. I hosted a roast for Mark Sutton, and I was just surrounded on stage by all this fantastic talent. I like to get my mind into other forms of comedy for some reason. I find it liberating. So I’m always getting onto improv and sketch bills to do sets or host.

It’s weird. Before I did stand-up, I always sniffed around stand-up shows and away from sketch and improv and theater, and now that I do stand-up, I love sniffing back into theater. I’m pretty restless in general.

NT: What kind of setup was used to record “Palpable?”

RB: Just a stage and a mike and a crowd. Maybe 100 people in. The Lodge is the back room of a pancake house; that’s literally what it is. And they have this fake mythology that it’s a fraternal organization like the Elks or the Moose. So you’re back there and it’s just perfect for my comedy, and Mark Geary has always had a really high-end production, considering the goofy space. So I think I wore a tie, and I didn’t get nervous behind the curtain exactly, but I kind of got pumped and did a little spontaneous air-boxing, which is weird for me. I usually just wander up like I’m getting into my bathtub. I’m not always successful, but I’m weirdly calm as a performer, even when a set isn’t going like I want it to. So Adam Burke opened, and he’s one of the very, very best in Chicago. And it was kind of important to me to try to run an undiluted headliner set and not chop a single joke in the editing room. Which we didn’t. The whole thing is in like 53 minutes of absolutely real time. I was really glad to pull that off. I think it’s the theater guy in me — I wanted it to be a “real” listening experience where you heard me from beginning to end, and that’s what it wound up being. And Nathan Winters mixed it really “warm,” he called it, like a record album, which I liked immediately. I don’t know how he thought to do that, but again, it’s perfect for my style
and material.

NT: Where did the title come from?

RB: It’s a joke on the CD. I say “When I perform on the road, people comeup to me and say ‘Wow. Robert Buscemi. The sexual mojo you bring on-stage is absolutely palpable. I want to take you out to my pickup truck in the parking lot and see if I can’t… ‘palp’ some of your… ‘bables.'” It’s really corny, but people get a kick out of how dumb and grandiose it is. And I don’t know, “Palpable” is actually what I want the album to be — clownishly, audaciously, moronically sexually and kind of obscenely stupid. Not that I’m blue, I’m not. But I like to be a jack-ass, and that word captures an aura of cheeky forwardness that I like.

NT: How long did it take you to write the material for your CD?

RB: Oh geez. Well. I mean… I’ve got jokes on there that are among the first I ever wrote ever, from like 8 years ago. And then others are far newer. But… it’s tough to say. It took years, really. I mean… I have to have new stuff that’s moving forward for me or I get bored, so there are jokes on there that are quite new. I’ve always done the same brand of buffoonery — some tiny brainless jokes and some long, insanely, ridiculously involved stem-winders that double back on themselves and roll forward and back and contain shameless word play and outlandish imagery. Sometimes that just appeals to me, that rolling-rolling-rolling goofiness, where a joke runs away from you. I always come back to bits like that.

NT: How do you feel Chicago has influenced you as a comedian? Is there a method to your madness, in choosing the path of stand up in a city revered for its Improv history?

RB: Geez. How did it affect me. Well, put it this way. I wandered onto the scene at a magical historical moment, where about 6 or 7 comedians who are now exploding every which way were doing the same open mike every single Monday, a place called the Lyon’s Den. That open mike had 50 people on it every week, and many were very, very, very good. Many
weren’t. But many were.

And the good thing about starting stand-up in any city other than New York or LA is that… there are no real prizes. There are really no cameras and no money, aside from some road work. And in Chicago, stand-up is very much overshadowed by improv and sketch and theater. So you have to just get good. You have to impress your peers, and you have to form your own community. There wasn’t even a centralized comedy club, just showcases in bars that comics would start up. Zanies is there, but it’s mainly a road stop from road comics, with just a few nights for locals.

So it was like having to play stick ball because you don’t have bats or balls or grass. We were on our own. But I like to think that made me scrappy and unafraid to be original and work to impress the smart people in a room and not care overly much for the lowest common denominator. And it’s important to develop that toughness especially if you’re a curve-ball, alternative comic like myself. Comics bitch about performing for their peers, but I find your peers more discerning and ready to reward genuinely original stuff, even if they can be cranky and stingy.

For some reason I’ve never objected to the label “alternative comedy,” incidentally. I guess it gives me at least some sense of identity and place to hang my hat. People have to call it something, and I always find it a comically unoriginal thing when a performing artist of any kind on a talk show will object to “labels.” Especially if they’re successful. Artists kid themselves that they’re more original than they are, I guess. Myself included.

NT: Is Chicago your hometown, or did you move there to pursue your stand up comedy dreams?

RB: Nah, I’m from Springfield, Ohio, which is why I have this twang everyone finds so sexy. I came to Chicago for improv and theater. Stand-up was always too scary. It really was a dream though. And I’d always kind of secretly collect these fly, retro clothes and hats and just leave ‘em in my closet. And it would depress me at some level, because I kind of knew they were my stand-up character’s clothes. Isn’t that weird? I just got tired over the years of hearing myself swear I was going to do stand-up. I was getting boring. So I finally decided that no matter how painful it was, I would do it at least 20 times. And then if I wanted to, I could stop. But I knew that one or two times would just be too few to get any good read on it. And it was painful. So yeah, I was in Chicago for years, but I always wanted to head to LA and ply my wares there, which is why I’m there now working the scene like it’s a big dairy cow and I’m its mechanical milker.

NT: How would you describe your style of comedy to someone who hasn’t seen you?

RB: Very goofy, very silly, sort of otherworldly and strange. It’s very much a cult act, and people get it or they don’t. And I don’t mind telling you that can be frustrating. I always want to reassure people that I don’t take myself too seriously, but my pal Nate Craig, who’s one of the very best comics to come out of Chicago, he gets mad when I’m too… patient with new initiates to my style. He calls it me trying to make it easy on people by passing out “candy corn.” Comedy’s great that way. You have all these hard-ass stand-ups paying attention to your art over the course of years, and they really identify and care and want you to stick to your vision. I read somewhere that Sam Kinison used to throw chairs at Jim Carrey at The Comedy Store when Jim Carrey would fall back on some obvious or easy material. I think of that story a lot actually.

I’m very bawdy, but my character is just too loony and brainless to be genuinely crude or offensive. Hell, I don’t know. I love character comedians. Steven Wright. Or Jimmy Pardo. Pardo’s just Johny Show Biz, and it kills me. I love a performer who just knows he’s the king of the planet. Chris Elliot is that way too.

So I do a version of that — go up there and just throw nonsense out like my life depends on it. It’s really, really, really important to me, all this stuff I say. It honestly is. But I swear to you I haven’t the slightest idea where it comes from. Writing for me — and performing, actually — is like doing a Ouija board. I have NO idea who’s speaking or what their point is, but… I wind up speaking almost in parables. God knows. I mean … it’s such a fun kind of mega-riddle though. Life is. My material is. I just love it. I do.

My fave of all time is Steve Martin. Hands down. And I love Nick Vatterot out of New York. I like the really deranged, maniacal stuff, where comics can barely see through the blinding idiocy of some craven image they’re weaving. That’s what I try to do.

NT: I was struck by how you’re always dressed damn fine on stage; is wearing a suit something that feels comfortable to you, or a throwback to the days when seeing live entertainment was something people dressed up for? Both? Neither?

RB: Both. It’s the theater thing. I like a show. I always think of the musical Cabaret, and how the actors are all in pale make-up and wearing lots of red and kind of ratty silks and suspenders over bare chests. I like that. But yeah — it’s a throwback. I’m a throwback for sure. I think I crave a time where people were only doing one thing. Just one thing at a time. I think we all do. You sit. I talk. You listen. We laugh. I’m on stage.

It’s pointless, really. You could watch TV, movies, you could do any of 10 billion things, but you’re watching me, this mope who thinks he’s clever and cute, and he’s trying to get you to laugh beer onto your chin. It’s all so quaint and lovely to me. It’s so pointless. But yeah, I like to give ‘em something to look at. It makes you identifiable and a bit larger than life. It’s like wearing a plastic nose and mustache and glasses. It’s corny, but it just says “Hey! This guy’s a card, I’ll bet!” It’s really me trying to be uncynical and show people I’m having fun.

NT: Do you have any creative rituals you follow when writing? A particular coffee shop you sit at, your dining room table, while driving, etc…

RB: Not really. I kind of listen for funny patterns in conversations with non-comedians a lot of times, and that will make me jot a note or turn it into a bit. I’ll be riffing with non-comedian friends and something funny just comes out. That’s how a lot of my material happens. I’m almost afraid to write sometimes. I’m just too… I just get so carried away. I’m afraid I won’t stop or something. Isn’t that weird? Sometimes I dream I’m just typing and typing and typing, or that words are just rooooooooooolling out of my mouth. I love that feeling.

I can say this, that my favorite time is when a joke is about 75% of the way there. It’s good, and you know it’s good, and you just… it’s just such an exciting feeling to have it taking shape over the course of a few weeks. It’s like dating someone new — you’re all excited, but you’re also unsure. You’re almost afraid for it and insecure for it. But it’s so great when it just comes out right one time on stage. That’s what happens to me a lot — I’ll be on-stage and the joke will just arrange itself in response to… the need to give it structure or tangibility for a crowd.

NT: Do you tend to take untested material to the stage, or do you first bounce it off others, looking for reactions from friends/family?

RB: Good question. I’ll… usually bounce it a bit. I’m not afraid to tell a stand-up joke on the phone to a friend, or to my parents, or… hell, I’ve done stand-up at a dinner party. I pride myself on being kind of shameless. That’s part of the Vaudeville thing. I guess I feel like people look at you and think it’s kind of cool what you do, and if they’re not going to see a show soon, hell, I’ll do a bit for ‘em.

But I’ll drop a brand-new joke into a fairly important showcase. I will. And I always workshop and open-mike a lot. That’s just my nature. I like having roughed-out ideas on a note card and trying ‘em out. That may be when I’m happiest. And the thing about being in comedy clubs is I’ve seen some real greats with notes, and for me that’s a treat. I’ve seen Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock both do that — actually bring up notes just like an open-miker or a show-caser. To me that’s fun. I like to see the journey. So yeah, I’ll work stuff out right on stage. Some of my best material has taken shape that way.

NT: In closing, any exciting plans for the future?

RB: Just to gnaw away at the scene in LA and spread the gospel of me. (Did I just say that?) Oh, and all the other usual human stuff — I’d like to avoid pain and death and sorrow and heartbreak and cynicism and find adoration and wealth and spiritual calm and solace and good hamburgers. Is that too much to ask?

DANA BUCHWALD INTERVIEW

Dana Buchwald’s “Women Stand Up! A Comedy Cabaret” has been a Minneapolis staple for four years running; you can see a new show every Saturday night, and is an evening meant to celebrate and inspire female creativity. Stand up comedy, poetry, performance art… all are welcome under the show’s banner.

This year, Dana is adding something new to the mix: a film competition. “Women Stand Up and Shoot” promotes women writers, actors and short film directors and focuses specifically on the art of comedy.

Rooftop had penised interviewer Nathan Timmel talk to Dana and about the contest, and her interest in women in the world of comedy.

NT: You host the Cabaret show every Saturday, but you yourself aren’t a stand up comedienne; what’s your background in performance?

DB: Well, I’ve done a lot of performing. I started out in dance, and I’ve done theater, and was directing primarily and had done some comedy work. I was in a show at this particular theater, and I saw and opening and pitched “Women Stand Up!” to the artistic director, and she said, ‘Let’s do it!’ I think it was simply out of my frustration of wanting to see more women in comedy. So even though I don’t do comedy, per se, I do host the show.

NT: How did it evolve into the film contest?

DB: There’s still a relative dearth of women in mainstream films when it comes to comedy, so I just wanted to take the weekly theater show and expand on it. Do you know what ‘Independent Feature Project’ is?

NT: I can’t say that I do.

DB: Ok, well, they’re assembled around the country, and their mission is to help and promote independent filmmakers, and there’s one here called IFP Minnesota, and I pitched the idea to them, and they said ‘Great! We love that idea,’ especially one woman there who herself was an independent filmmaker.

NT: As you aren’t a stand up, then, what draws you to comedy, be it stand up or in the world of film?

DB: I think that in comedy, and especially recently, that there is a lack of women. I think that with people like Carol Burnett, you have more the exception than the norm, and she was pretty amazing and had, I think, the longest running variety show, which no one really expected to happen. You do have, today, Tina Fey, who is very successful, but most of the mainstream comedies that come out, and especially in the past five to seven years or so, are just packed with men. And I’m not saying I don’t like men or that they’re not funny, but there’s just no female perspective, and the one role for the woman is to be the pretty girl, or the straight person.

NT: Do you think that has to do with bias, like “women aren’t funny,” or more market research, like “boys will see comedy films, where girls will see Nicholas Sparks movies, so let’s put the boys in one film and girls in the other?”

DB: I think it’s complex, like with any real issue it’s a multitude of things. I don’t think it’s just bias, because that would be too simplistic. There are fewer women in comedy, so it’s a numbers thing, which is why I’m trying to encourage more women to get into comedy. But I do think for a very long time there has been that idea that ‘women aren’t funny,’ or ‘women aren’t as funny as men,’ or ‘women have to do a certain kind of comedy.’ And while there might be market research telling us one thing, you kind of have a bigger imagination than “market research.” For the longest time, there was the idea ‘women aren’t going to go to action movies,’ and then you have “Alien,” where Sigourney Weaver was the lead, and strong, and the movie was successful.

NT: Or like Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs.

DB: [Laughs] I think I’m the only person that doesn’t like that movie, but yeah, something that breaks the norm. Like, getting back to comedy, the only sort of ‘buddy movie’ I can think of in the past few years for women was Baby Mama, which was fun, but revolved around fertility and romance, as opposed to, say, a guy comedy where they just go on a road trip, and there’s really no greater purpose to it than that. Does that mean I want to see a bunch of [female] road trip movies? Not really, but I don’t think they should have all the same foundation.

NT: Wouldn’t it be better then, that when making movies the powers that be try to draw women in by using a foundation that is appealing to women as opposed to just creating a nothing movie, putting women in it, and expecting women to support it simply because it has women in it?

DB: Personally, [laughs] yes. I like movies and comedies that don’t talk down to audiences and that are more thoughtful. But I also think women fall into that trap, that image that women are better and nobler, and always supposed to take the high road. So do I want to see the female version of Dumb and Dumber? Not really. But do I think women should get the opportunity to make a stupid movie that tons of people might see just because they want to see a silly movie? Yes.

NT: Do you think that “women have to take the high road” is ingrained in us because of television? Where the standard sitcom has the situation where the guy is dumb and funny, and the woman is the authority figure?

DB: Yeah, I do. And I think that’s what safe, and I think that’s what people think will sell. I think that’s very accepted, so what I want to do [with this contest] is challenge those beliefs, and give women the outlet to be whatever they want in a comedy.

For more information on Dana’s weekly Cabaret show, visit its Facebook page.

For more information on the contest, “Women Stand Up and Shoot,” contact Dana at womenstandupandshoot@gmail.com.

The submission deadline is April 21st!