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APPLY FOR THE 2012 WOMEN IN COMEDY FESTIVAL

The Women in Comedy Festival 2012 is accepting submissions for its annual event. Comedians can send submissions online in the categories of improv, musical comedy, sketch, stand up, and storytelling.

The deadlines for show submissions are Tuesday, November 1, 2011 with $30 submission fee and Tuesday, November 8, 2011 with $40 submission fee (extended deadline). Instructor deadlines are Tuesday, October 18, 2011 with $10 submission fee and Tuesday, October 25, 2011 with $15 submission fee (extended deadline). All deadlines are at 11:59pm ET.

The 4th annual Women in Comedy Festival will take place March 21-25, 2012 in Boston.

Visit the WICF 2012 site to apply.
Good luck!

HAL SPARKS INTERVIEW

Rooftop Comedy Productions is proud to announce the release of Hal Sparks’ Escape from Halcatraz. Recorded at the legendary Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, Halcatraz showcases Hal’s knack for hilarious voice work and takes you on a whirlwind tour from Ozzy Osbourne’s stint on American Idol to the very non-sexy appeal of a man with a Kentucky accent. Rooftop pal Nathan Timmel interviewed Hal to talk Peter Gabriel, the best comedy venues, and the greater role comics play in society.

If you understand the world of promotion, the spark behind an interview is tied to a product or pitch from the interviewee. The interviewer is supposed to mention the product (or pitch) as much as possible in order to drill the thought “Must purchase” into the reader’s head.

That stated, I, Nathan Timmel am a very bad interviewer. Instead of talking exclusively about his new CD release—Escape from Halcatraz—I spent most of my time talking with Hal Sparks about the concept of art, the role of comedy in society, and wandering down needless tangents involving Bloom County and the Billy and the Boingers single placed in one of the old books. In fact, when he not only played with my Peter Gabriel reference in the first question, but took it one step further by referencing Peter Gabriel live stage performances, I knew I was going to enjoy our time on the phone.

So, instead of saying repeatedly “Go buy the Hal Sparks CD!”, this interview is an end-around. Hopefully, by offering a bit of insight as to who Hal Sparks is as a person, there’s a good chance you’ll obtain a sense of who he is on stage, what his comedy is like, and therefore want to buy the CD after all.

Hopefully it all works out in the end.

NT: Your new CD release, Escape from Halcatraz, has the same title as your 2008 DVD release. Are you employing the Peter Gabriel method of artistic expression, where your product will all have the same name in order to confuse outsiders? [Peter Gabriel named his first 4 CDs the same]

HS: Yes. [Laughs] Actually, this is the first time that special has been available on CD, so I’m not actually putting out multiple projects with the same title, it’s just the CD of the DVD. I’m sorry it’s not more complicated than that, because, ironically, most of the things I do are to be as much like Peter Gabriel as possible. In fact, my next special will be done through a phone receiver as I walk on a treadmill.

NT: And then you’ll bring your daughter in to harmonize with you as you tell your jokes.

HS: While riding a bike upside-down on the ceiling, yes. For the record: Peter Gabriel concerts? Awesome. I think the Cirque Du Soleil people ripped him off. They were sitting around, thinking, “Can you sing? I can’t sing, but I can do all the theatrical stuff!”

NT: [Laughs] Well, since this is a re-release, that makes me ignorant of many of the specifics. Talk about the special you recorded, and what buyers are getting.

HS: This is my first special; I self-produced it. It was recorded at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, which is one of my—if not my single favorite—club in the country. I’ve been going there for years, and the audiences are just so smart there that I knew if I needed to tape something, there would be no delay between the smart punchlines and the laughter. Like, if you do the same joke in another room, they’ll still laugh at it, but there’s a delay between the punchline and the laughter, because they might not get it right away. Taping a special, you need the audience to be right there with you; you can’t wait around for them to figure it out.

NT: Unless you wanted to hire a very precise editor: “OK, we need to take out 3 seconds here, 3 seconds here…”

HS: Exactly, too much work.

NT: Since you mentioned having a favorite club, let’s talk about that. Now that you have a name for yourself, do you prefer working clubs—“This is where I got my start, it’s real and raw comedy”—or do you like theaters, where there’s no last call or a check being dropped during a punchline?

HS: There are still certain clubs I love to do because of how they’re laid out, and how they treat the performers… Obviously Cobb’s, Flappers in Burbank is that way… but truthfully, I do prefer the 800 to 1,000 seat theaters, because the audience is there for a reason; they’re invested in the show. No one dragged them there, they didn’t get a free ticket or it just happens to be “comedy night” at a place; they’re there because they bought the ticket, and they know what I’m about. In so far as being able to experiment as a performer, and go out on a limb, it’s much better when you have a room full of people who aren’t trying to flag down a waiter and who are already interested in what I’m going to do.

NT: God, we could go off on such a tangent here that I probably wouldn’t put in the interview [I have, but I’ve edited it like a TV movie: for time, space, and content], you talk about going out on a limb and experimenting: how do you feel about the fine line between experimenting and getting your words and thoughts out there vs. the fact people have paid to laugh and not hear someone rant their beliefs into a microphone?

HS: That’s actually a “conflict” I’m very comfortable with. Laughter is the dynamic that makes stand-up special, because otherwise you’re just a philosopher hoping people are interested in what you’re saying. If they’re not, you’ll lose them. That’s why I think that if you’re doing stand-up, comedy is job one; it’s not a compromise to go for laughs. If you’re doing something else, it’s performance art, which is totally cool, but it’s not comedy. I enjoy the concept of going, “OK, here’s an idea I have, and here’s an important point socially that I think needs to be made… how do I make it funny?”

It’s like being an artist, and saying, “I paint paintings, and within the ‘confines’ of this canvas, I can do anything I want; I can go anywhere.” I think the same thing goes for comedy, except the canvas is laughter. As long as I’m getting laughter, it allows me to go however deep I want into any psychological or spiritual area and hold on to people. Where if you’re just philosophizing, their minds will wander.

NT: Or they’ll start to think about why they disagree with you, or why you’re wrong…

HS: Exactly. In the most recent show I did in Edinburgh, Scotland, I ended the show with a bit about a Jewish person and a Palestinian in a cave coming to the conclusion, “You know, we’re a lot alike.” And I almost wanted to avoid the joke because the conflict has been going on so long, and on a socio-political level the joke could be the equivalent of “Dogs and Cats are different” or “Men and Women are different.” But, at the same time, is there a responsibility on the performer to gain a new perspective on it? Obviously the conflict hasn’t been solved, so if you create a bit that doesn’t take one side or the other and you make jokes that ridicule the whole thing you actually do help—in a way—to chip away at the reasons for the fight.

NT: I would agree with all of that, and go one further that even if you are re-treading old ground or doing a “Men and Women are different” joke, as long as you bring your personality and perspective to it, you can give the bit some vitality and originality.

[Interviewers note: I brought up Doug Stanhope much earlier in the interview, and then Hal and I went down what would be several pages of transcribed paths were I to have included all our ramblings about him, Carlin, Eddie Izzard, and comedy with commentary.]

HS: Exactly, you brought up Doug a while ago—and while I should be promoting my own stuff, I love the art of stand-up comedy so I don’t care and love talking about this—Doug has a bit about politicians running on getting the unemployment rate down, and wondering where the guy running on 100% unemployment is. Where’s the politician saying “Let robots do it! Spend more time with your family!” And while a lot of comics are talking about the economic climate right now, that’s Doug bringing his own unique voice to it. And I talk about economic and job frustration in my act and on Halcatraz, and do so from my point of view and using my voice.

NT: Which goes all the way back to the idea of the comedian as the court jester, who poked fun at serious subjects and at the king in order to get a message across, but with a feather-touch, so to speak.

HS: Yes, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that in America, a vast majority of people are not seeking democracy; they’re seeking individual kingdoms. They want to sit in their TV-chair thrones, with their remote control scepters, and change channels, going: “Off with his head, off with his head” until they find something they like, then watch that until they grow bored and “Off with his head…” As a stand-up comedian, it’s your responsibility to call attention to that so it doesn’t grow out of control. You get people to laugh at themselves, that they not take themselves too seriously.

NT: I would agree with everything you said, except for one part where you said it’s becoming more and more obvious, or clearer and clearer about how “Now this is happening…” I think people have a tendency to say “It’s worse now than it’s ever been,” when in fact it was probably fairly bad in the past, we just tend to gloss over the negatives in history and paint it as a shining example of “When things were better”.

HS: Oh, sure. I’m not a big believer in “The past is better than the present.” I just think that because of the comfort level we have today, there’s a good segment of society that says, “Well now I can have everything I need, I don’t need anyone else.” They fail to remember how inter-connected we all really are.

NT: OK, that I agree with; I think I confused your point of “We have more access to apathy now than before” with what I thought you had said.

HS: Because we live as “kings” more than we ever have… I mean, 600 years ago, ice cream was a near-impossibility for over 80% of the populace. Now you can barely drive a block-and-a-half without seeing some form of it. A lot of life is the normalizing of experiences; we take it for granted.

NT: And to take your historical example and modernize it: 10 years ago having a plasma-screen TV would mean you were rich; today everyone has one. So, let’s try and take the fact that how we’re speaking right now will give people a good sense of who you are and how you think—now that they have that foundation, describe your comedy to someone who hasn’t seen you. You’re obviously intelligent and well-spoken; take the “armchair king” we’ve been talking about, someone who might think you’re just going to be speaking over his head, and draw him in.

HS: Well, that’s my job, isn’t it? I take things that are of “higher concept” and boil them down to their most palatable and understandable version. It’s not my job to be the encyclopedia, I’m the Cliff’s Notes; I don’t end the conversation, I start it.  While my stand-up isn’t political in nature, it can’t not affect politics, and while I’m not sociological in nature, it can’t not have a sociological effect. I’m basically deconstructing your life in a way that if somebody else did it, you might get mad at them. But in the way I do it, you go, “He’s doesn’t mean any ill will.” So I’ll go from the sublime to the mundane, all in order to progress the conversation a little bit.  A lot of what Halcatraz is about is ego; about how completely full of shit we allow ourselves to be, myself included—when you see the opening and ending, and how they tie together, that will make more sense.

Escape from Halcatraz is currently available on iTunes.

 

Rooftop’s “Today in the Park” on the MSN Homepage

Have you watched the latest Rooftop Comedy original series, Today in the Park? Head on over to MSN and follow the adventures of a new mom, as she navigates everything from discipline to kombucha to breast-feeding. In this great episode that’s featured on the MSN homepage, three very different moms take on the choices surrounding nursing. If you’re a mom, have a mom, or know any moms, you’ll enjoy the whole series.

GET YOUR SIGNED COPY OF “NOT FOR HORSES” TODAY!

We have copies of Adam Newman’s new and hilarious “Not For Horses” album signed by the funny man himself.

BUT WAIT… there’s more! The next 20 people to buy the CD off www.rooftopcomedy.com can use the coupon code “horsie” and get 30% off their purchase.

Offer available for a limited time. Orders ship same day!

Speaking of good bargains, here’s an alternate version of one of the jokes on the album.

Pick up your signed copy of” “Not For Horses”

SUMMER MOVIE AWARDS

The summer is over. Kids are going to back to school and await anxiously for lunch time and recess. Young adults go back to school and await anxiously as they know student loans will, one day, destroy their lives. And sadly, the summer movie season ends.

In all honesty, it isn’t that memorable. I don’t feel like it was a very exciting season. There were some cool movies, some really bad movies, and some sexy movies (Chris Evans, hello! I mean, um, shit, what women were in movies this summer?)

Here are my summer movie awards. All of these were voted on by a committee of myself and my collection of Ninja Turtle action figures (the large, 12-inch tall ones.)

BIGGEST SURPRISE – CAPTAIN AMERICA
Here is a movie that was just asking to be hated. I mean, it’s called Captain America. It kind of seems like an idea that Tea Partiers would come up with in between protests and destroying our country.

But director Joe Johnson and super-hunk Chris Evans delivered a really fun and exciting film. They found a great way to deal with the entire “Captain America” shtick, almost making a joke out of it. They gave it what all good superhero moves need, a heart.

Unfortunately, the screenwriters had to stick with the timeline made for “The Avengers,” so they had to get the Cap to modern times. I would have loved for there to have been more World War 2 adventures. But now, we get to see him fight along other awesome Marvel superheroes. That might be a pretty awesome trade off.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – GREEN LANTERN
Really? The main villain will be a giant cloud? Come on!

This film has a great lesson for young filmmakers: a sense of place. It’s always good to establish your location in some way. Real locations are easiest because they come in with pre-established information and emotions. But fictional cities need some time to establish. Metropolis for Superman, Gotham for Batman, my sexpad for sexy ladies. All are giving sweeping establishing shots, scenes of its citizens, anything to make the city real.

In Green Lantern, I couldn’t tell you where the hell this city was. Apparently, it is a fictional city, but I have no idea. I didn’t feel anything for the city, its citizens, buildings, anything. Big emotional disconnect.

Also, if you’re going to make a superhero movie, don’t have him spend most of the movie pouting. Also, don’t establish a cool bad buy and then have him killed so easily and quickly. Also, more Ryan Reynolds being an awesome badass, less in-space crap.

Also, no giant cloud bad guys. Lame.

BEST COMEDY – BRIDESMAIDS
I loved this movie. One of the most-fun times I’ve had in a movie theatre.

Filmmakers often find humor in giving women vulgar things to say, thinking that is all you need for a good comedy. Luckily, everyone involved in this one knew that the vulgar had to be placed within a meaningful story and wasn’t just meant for shock and laughs.

Kristen Wiig, an actress that easily gets on my nerves on Saturday Night Live (mostly because she is overused, not because of anything with her) is perfect in this. It’s nice to see Maya Rudolph back, also. But Melissa McCarthy steals the show.

Lots of funny ladies. Lots of funny boners. I mean, sexy boners. My boners are sexy. And veiny.

BEST FILM THAT WAS SUPPOSE TO KICK MY DICK, IN A GOOD WAY, BUT ENDED UP JUST KICKING MY DICK IN WAYS THAT HURT AND LEAVE BRUISING AND MAKE ME SUPER UPSET AND MAD – TRANSFORMERS 3: DARK OF THE BLAH BLAH BLAH
I don’t want to get in into too much. This movie just pisses me off.

Again, a lame story. What the hell was going on most of the time? Why do Transformers build pillars to bring their planet to Earth? Why does it take hundreds of them? Why is only one the key? Wouldn’t there be a number that were important and keys? Why didn’t they build a backup plan just in case one broke? “Well, fakers, we broke one. No planet for us!” Why take their old planet? Why not just destroy Earth and take it.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t want to get into it…

When did Shia LeBeouf learn parkour? Why Chicago? Seriously, why the fuck did the Transformers need Chicago? It’s never explained! How come a film about fighting robots gets made without a lot of fighting robots? Why did the humans chose to jump out of the building and slide down it without a backup plan? Why did MY DICK HURTS.

HARRY POTTER IS AWESOME AWARD: HARRY POTTER: THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

I love these movies. We will never get a film series as well made, acted, and written than these. SNAPE 4EVA!

BEST FILM OF THE SUMMER: SUPER 8
I want to make sweet, deep love to this film and just cuddle forever afterward. From the heartbreaking first shot to the final frame, everything about this film was amazing.

JJ Abrams channels his inner-Spielberg and gives us a film that feels like the films I saw as a child. It’s my generation’s ET.

I laughed, I cried, and held in urine for longer than I could ever imagine just so I didn’t miss anything. And then I cried some more (half because of the ending, half because of the pain.)

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Horrible Bosses – It’s nice to see Charlie Day getting some primetime play.
X-Men: First Class – A lot of fun. Nice to see the franchise get a good reboot and a great palate cleanser from the Wolverine movie.
Beginners – Indie movie Heaven. This could be my favorite film of the year.
Thor – I expected this to be terrible, but was a lot of fun and pretty damn good. Makes me more excited about “The Avengers.”

ENTER COMCAST’S $80,000 COMEDY COMPETITION

Dozens of comedians will have a chance to square off against each other for their own TV special and over $80,000 worth of cash and prizes in Comcast’s “Trial By Laughter” comedy competition. Taping Tuesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 13th at Morty’s in Indianapolis, Trial By Laughter features three rounds of fierce competition. All three rounds will be taped and aired on Comcast, and all three rounds will be sent to Sirius/XM. Submit an audition clip on the Trial By Laughter website.
Good luck!

CHECK OUT “FLIP MY CLIP 4″ SHORT FILM FEST

Tonight at Rooftop’s partner club, Go Bananas, some of Cincinnati’s finest funny people come together for a night of hilarious short films. This year marks the fourth “Flip Your Clip” festival and showcases original short films from Mike Shelton, MC Mr. Napkins, Ryan Singer (PICTURED), and many more. Check out the full line-up of films and filmmakers.

The Nevada City Film Festival Comedy Show


Weinbach, Walsh, and Cooperman

The Nevada City Film Festival Comedy Show returns this weekend with the wickedly funny Brent Weinbach (Lopez Tonight, Comedy Central, FunnyOrDie.com) Brendon Walsh (Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, HBO), Eric Andre (Lopez, Comedy Central), Lizzy Cooperman (Tosh.0, MTV, Last Comic Standing) and hosted by DJ Douggpound (Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!). Local comedy group Best Friends Club open up the show.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

10pm-Midnight, $15, Ages 16+, Miners Foundry, 325 Spring Street, Nevada City, CA.

Click Here for tickets

Here are a few clips from Nevada City Film Festival performers Brent Weinbach and Brendon Walsh. Enjoy!

Dylan Gadino Interview

When Rooftop last talked to Dylan Gadino from Punchline Magazine, big changes were afoot. His baby had just received major backing from Salient Media, and with that everything was about to move forward with serious intent.

Well, it’s been almost a year and big changes did happen. Punchline moved under the Salient Media umbrella, brainstorming took place, and the new project—Laugh Spin—was created.

The essence of Laugh Spin is that of Punchline Magazine, but with bold new steps being taken. Nathan Timmel phoned up Dylan to discuss the events of the past eleven months.

NT: So, Punchline has become Laugh Spin, talk us through the transition.

DG: A little over a year ago now I made a deal with a company in Los Angeles called Salient Media. They are the digital arm of The Collective, which is a management agency that reps bands and comedians and the like. Salient Media is their production side; it puts out DVDs and CDs and they deal with websites, they have another popular website, bloodydisgusting.com, which is part of the horror film genre. Anyway, I teamed up with them, so they are essentially now the parent company of the website. They are mainly in charge of business development.

As we were going through the process of transitioning from Punchline being something I owned exclusively to having their backing, we decided it was probably a good idea to take the opportunity to reformat and re-brand everything, which I think is a good thing. For one thing, we wanted to make sure our new brand was singular, and that there would be no confusion with anything else. With Punchline Magazine, you have the Punchline comedy clubs and other Punchline branded entities. The other thing was the word Magazine; the word is becoming less and less relevant.

NT: I remember you talking about that last year; the problem with the whole magazine format, and that you went digital on purpose, because physical magazines are a dying breed.

DG: Yeah, in ten years, no one is going to even know what a magazine is. When I launched the site in 2005, magazines were already bombing. So I wanted to move away from that, and then the final thing is that punchline magazine dot com is a long URL to type, so we wanted to tighten that up, too. We wanted something short, punchy, and obviously relatable. Laugh is obvious, and Spin is a word that sounds active, and looks OK when smashed up against Laugh…

NT: Better than “Laugh Sneeze” or something like that.

DG: [Laughs] Right.

NT: What will be the new directions Laugh Spin goes in?

DG: Well, we’ll still be mainly editorial, but one of the new developments is we have a record label and we’re starting to put out records. We released something from a band from Australia called “The Axis of Awesome.” We’re also concentrating on getting a lot more video content on the website. We’re very interested in working with comedians and having them produce their own editorial content. We’re not looking to compete with Funny or Die or College Humor; we’re not looking to create funny web serials or that, we’re interested in editorial content. If a comedian is on tour, and wants to do a bi-weekly video diary of life on the road, that would be our angle. We’re also interested in getting into Podcasting.

NT: So who have you enjoyed talking to in the past year?

DG: I sat down with Colin Quinn when he was promoting the HBO version of his one-man show. I’d seen him on stage before, but I’d never actually talked to him, and it was cool because he was a super nice guy, very easy going… I’d heard from other comics that he was decent, and a caring guy, and yeah… very easy to talk to and laid back.

NT: Did he talk about his special being a tough sell, because that was historical comedy, and audiences don’t always like to think?

DG: He talked about it a little bit. He had Jerry Seinfeld directing it, so he obviously had a lot of power behind it with that name, but he talked about keeping it short. I think the tagline was “The history of the world in seventy-five minutes.” He wanted to make sure people knew what they were getting into, that it might be historical, but he was going to make it a tight set.

What I found interesting about that special is: live, Colin is a very divisive performer. Not because he’s controversial, but because of his style of performing; his stage voice is very ragged, he won’t push sentences, he’ll mumble, and some people really love that, but others just don’t like it. So what I found amazing about the HBO show was he was so polished; he was so disciplined. If you watch the show, it’s very George Carlin like, where every word is specific and has meaning.

You can find LaughSpin on the web, and follow them on Facebook.

JOHNNY BEEHNER’S TOP 5 COMEDY ALBUMS OF ALL TIME

To celebrate the release of his debut album, “Tiny Wiener“, we’ve asked Johnny Beehner to make a list of his Top 5 favorite comedy records of all time. Read his comments below and make sure to pick up “Tiny Wiener” on iTunes.

5. Jim Gaffigan. King Baby.

Jim Gaffigan always impresses me because he has hilarious bits about how lazy he is and I can totally relate, yet he is clearly a very hard working person. I loved his previous album, Beyond the Pale. I wasn’t expecting as strong of a follow up album, and was thoroughly impressed by King Baby so I chose to include that album. He takes topics that have been done over and over by comics and he somehow finds an original take on it. You listen to him and think he is somehow cheating. He’s just great.

4. Louis CK. Shameless.

I am a big Louis CK fan. I loved his old stuff. He had an album, “Live from Houston” that was pretty much his old style, very abstract and odd and silly. I was a fan of him from all that, but then he seemed to change gears when he did his HBO half hour special. He is very honest and says things that everyone thinks, but would never admit out loud. He just has a very unique way of looking at things and explaining them in a very simple, yet hilarious and original way. He is one of those comics that makes me want to sit down and write right after listening to him.

3. Emo Philips. E=MO2.

I found out about Emo Philips when I was in college. I went to the Comedy Café in Milwaukee when he was there and just loved it. His comedy is so unique and smart and silly. I really like his persona onstage, how he innocently tells these short story jokes that are hilarious as if he doesn’t understand it, or like he is the victim of these odd scenarios. I really like that. It’s like the dumb victim that isn’t really a victim. He has a few albums and they are all just great. I listened to his stuff a lot around the time that I started doing stand up. I was lucky enough to get to work with him in Madison, WI at the Comedy Club on State a few years back and Emo couldn’t have been a nicer guy. That’s always a treat.

2. Brian Regan. Live.

I think it is safe to say that Brian Regan is in a LOT of comedians’ top 5 lists. I have been a fan of his since the first time I ever saw him. His Comedy Central half hour special made me laugh harder than I had ever laughed at a comedian on tv. When I got his cd, “Brian Regan: Live,” I listened to the whole thing laughing my guts out, then I ran to my friend’s place down the hall and listened to it all over with him and just laughed. He really is one of those comics that me feel like, “What the heck am I doing calling myself a comedian?” You watch him and you just feel like he could take ANYTHING and make it funniest thing in the world just by his way of talking about things. I admire and am inspired by his work ethic. He is writing machine. I once saw him two nights in a row in Chicago with different friends and I probably only heard about 5 minutes of material repeated. He’s just amazing.

1. Steve Martin. Comedy is Not Pretty.

I love all of Steve Martin’s comedy albums. I love his comedy because I love silly comedy. He is silly and wacky, but his act was a very calculated smart plan. I read his book, Born Standing Up, and learned that Steve didn’t just go for the laugh. He really dissected humor and figured out what caused the laugh and challenged it and took risks, and it worked out great for him. So many comedians feed off of negativity and complaining, which can be funny, but Steve Martin’s off the wall and truly ORIGINAL style of comedy is always a very happy breath of fresh air. Listening to his albums makes me feel like a 3 year old laughing at my brother hitting himself in the face.

Want more comedy? Watch clips of Johnny Beehner in action on his profile page.

Follow Johnny on Twitter.