John Roy has done the stand-up community a huge solid and is posting an entirely free stand-up class on his Tumblr. As someone who has paid for stand-up classes, I can confidently say his approach is thorough, step-by-step and sincere. Whether you’ve never done stand-up, are a new comic still figuring things out or a pro looking for a resource to point people to, look no further! Make sure you start at week one.
When Rooftop asked if I wanted to talk to Steve Gillespie about his new CD release, Stever Fever, I said “Absolutely yes.” I don’t know the man well, but I had bumped into him several times on the road and really enjoyed his comedy.
The last time I worked with Steve, it was at a bar in Iowa. At least, that’s what our itinerary said. Upon arrival, Steve and I discovered the location was a supper club, and a fairly swanky (by Iowa standards) one at that. We looked at our clothes–we had each dressed our best for a dingy bar–and felt a little out of place. To make matters worse, the space was decorated for a wedding, one taking place the next day. The walls were adorned in white lace, and our “stage” was the altar.
Fortunately, the audience was in a laughing mood and not in any way confined or defined by our surroundings; they laughed with ease and the gig was a fun one.
With a wink to Justin Beiber, Steve’s new release is out now.
Here’s the story behind the CD.
NT: Where’d the title and cover come from; was it a difficult process?
SG: The name was the easy part. The cover art was challenging. I like taking goofy pictures, I have quite a collection, and deciding which one I liked best and fit with what I thought the title is conveying, was difficult.
With that said, I am really pleased with how it came out. I thinks its look sharp.
NT: Any rejected titles you’d like to share?
SG: I overheard a women in a restaurant say “I’m a badass girl in a tough ass world” and I thought for a moment that A Badass Girl in a Tough Ass world could work, but I’m glad I went with Stever Fever. It fits well with the tone of the album.
NT: How long did it take you to write the material?
SG: I think all of the material on the album has been written over the past 4 years. Some of it within a month of the release.
NT: Is this your first CD?
SG: Yes, and some are probably hoping its my last.
NT: How long have you been performing; how long did it take you to find your voice?
SG: My first time on stage was on Jan. 17th 2006, so just over 7 years.
Find my voice? That’s hard to pinpoint and in a lot of ways I think you never stop finding it. It should evolve as you evolve.
For the sake of the question, I would say I started to notice a definite direction around year 3-4.
NT: Do you see yourself remaining in Minneapolis, or have you an eye on LA or NY?
SG: The plan for me right now is to remain in Minneapolis for the next 2 to 3 years at the most and then move to Los Angeles.
I have spent the past two summers in Los Angeles and have been slowly prodding in that direction.
NT: How has the Minneapolis comedy scene influenced you?
SG: The “scene” (fucking hate that word), has made an enormous impression on my work. I’d put this city up against any other in the world as fast developing comics. I know the rebuttal, “(whining voice) but, but, but Steeeeeve, what about LA and New York?”
Those are the places you go when you’ve developed into a professional.
Of course there are always exceptions. I have performed pretty much all over the country and there are a few good and a lot of bad comics just about everywhere I have been.
NT: Your disc opens with self-depreciating humor. Is that done with intent, to set the audience at ease? “Look, I’m not taking myself too seriously here, so don’t get all sensitive when I get into slavery.”
SG: In retrospect I wish I would have called the album Stever Fever Live, because that’s what the it is, a live show. I don’t really know how I’m going to open a show until I get in front of the audience and feel their vibe (for the lack of a better word). That material chunk was going to be used at some point and when I got on stage it felt like the audience was um….uneasy about my appearance, so I naturally worked into that piece. But I don’t always open the same way.
And yes, my material can get pretty dark but I like to keep it all silly and absurd.
NT: Describe your comedy to someone who hasn’t seen—or in my case, worked with—you.
SG: Personal and dark subjects delivered in absurdity.
NT: You keep a road journal on your web page; is that for fans, or a way to keep track of your own career?
SG: Its basically just something on my site people can look at if they’re interested. Its becoming more of a picture/news journal than anything.
You can follow Steve on Twitter (@epigillespie) or be his Internet friend on Facebook to keep up with his day to day activities and tours.
You can buy his release Stever Fever in the Rooftop Store.
In case your streaming queue is lacking any share of top-quality stand-up, the popular LA comedy show UnCabaret is now available on Amazon Instant. UnCabaret is a mix of stand-up and special musical guests and has long been one of LA’s most popular comedy events. These filmed shows are now available to stream as episodes and season one looks awesome. Dana Gould, Tig Notaro, Rory Scovel, and Rob Delaney are among the featured comedians. Watch a clip from episode one (which features Delaney, Sandra Bernhard, Alec Mapa, and Andy Dick) and let us know what you think!
New York comedian Dan Soder performed on Conan last night and was full of advice. What sort of wisdom was he dishing? Well, let’s just say if you are a child of a single parent or a New Yorker who wants to know how to avoid getting mugged, you need to watch. Dan is rising fast in the comedy world and we totally have his back. Great job Dan!
Comedians Jon Dore and Rory Scovel are building a reputation of bringing a little “something extra” to their Conan appearances. Last year, Jon and Rory walked out onstage, claiming that Conan‘s producers double booked them, and simultaneously performed their sets. Yesterday, the guys returned to the show together, delivering a hilarious and bizarre performance that you just have to watch.
New dad Tommy Johnagin performed on Conan last night. Like many new parents, Tommy is learning on the fly and has some hilarious fatherly insights to share with the world. Whether you’re wondering how to break the baby news to your friends or you’re looking for the best nanny possible, Tommy has it down pat. Tommy also tweeted an adorable photo of his newborn daughter backstage. Watch Tommy’s full set after the jump and be sure to follow him @TommyJohnagin.
As we continue to follow the Beards of Comedy across the country, the guys recently filed what could be their most urgent video yet. If television has taught us anything, it’s that the zombies are nearly upon us, and it’s only a matter of time before The Walking Dead gets a little too real. Luckily, the Beards have you covered. In the latest installment of Beards Across America, the guys find themselves in Atlanta–the epicenter of all things zombie. From physical training to camouflage tips to shelter building ideas, these Beards will teach you everything you need to know to survive the imminent zombocalypse. You can watch the episode here.
Rooftop pal Keith Alberstadt (pictured here with Danny Bevins) recently went overseas to perform for the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. As part of the Comics on Duty World Tour, which also included Bevins, Phil Palisoul, Shawn Halpin, Drake Witham, and Paul Ogata, Keith did some shows and generally pal-ed around at the military base. He also documented being mauled by a US Army-trained dog. Don’t worry–Keith was fully protected. That said, the dog could use a little cinematic enrichment (seriously, Raging Bull? C’mon). Watch Keith face off with the dog after the jump.
And here’s a montage of Keith and the rest of the touring comics. Welcome back guys!
In November 1972, the Ms. Foundation for Women released Free to Be… You and Me, an album and book geared toward children, championing self-acceptance and rejecting societal gender norms. Actress Marlo Thomas, who came up with the idea for the project, hoped to fill what she saw as a void of progressive children’s entertainment. Singers on the album included Thomas, Alan Alda, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, and Carol Channing. Forty years later, Joel Levinson (The Tonight Show), Stephen Levinson (Channel 101, Funny or Die’s Noah’s Ark), and Rob Kutner (Conan) decided to do a comedic send-up of the classic album they listened to so often as kids. Turning the album, titled It’s OK to Do Stuff, around in an incredibly short two-week period, they invited actors and comedians like Lizzy Caplan (pictured), Eddie Pepitone, Fred Willard, Samantha Bee, and Colin Hanks to lend their vocal talents. It’s OK is a light-hearted and funny take on the original, mixing songs and skits to pay tribute to Free to Be. We chatted with Joel, Stephen, and Rob to discuss their musical comedy inspirations, the songwriting process, and more.
Rooftop Comedy: So what, if any, exposure did you have to Free to Be…You and Me while growing up?
Stephen Levinson: My parents, who were also Joel’s parents, bought it on vinyl and I played it until it was battered. It was one of those albums, as a kid, I made them play it over and over and over again. It’s funny because I probably haven’t listened to it since childhood, but when Rob approached me with the project, I re-listened to it and it was just—amazing. When you haven’t listened to a song in so long, you listened to it so much back then, you instantly remember so much.
Rob Kutner: I have a four year-old daughter and, pretty recently, I was playing it on CD for her after not hearing it for a really long time and almost every one of those tracks opened up a well of memory. And I remember at the time, it was kind of this mind-blowing album for what it is—there’s nothing else out there like it. Not only are there all these empowering things about boys and girls and what you can do, but also so entertaining and so charming. It wasn’t at all ideological, even though it’s highly ideological now.
SL: That was the original impetus, I think.
RK: I saw that story being listed. I have a twisted mind so my immediate thought was, “What if there was this bizzaro version of it? What happens in the recording studio that we can do sort of like an ultimate history of it? And then I remembered that I knew Joel and Stephen and they’re amazing. [Joel laughs] I have a string around my finger to help me remember. I was like, “Oh, that can actually exist”.
Joel Levinson: Yeah, ultimately, it was driven by the 40th anniversary so it was kind of like, “We’ve got two weeks. Let’s see what we can do”.
RK: My wife had a baby a few weeks ago, so literally there was this biological ticking clock going on, where Joel and I were like in this creative frenzy trying to get this thing going. And then we brought Steve in because Joel and I are incapable of actually taking something into the real world.
SL: My baby’s not born until January, so I had a little bit more breathing room than they did.
RC: Did you listen to any musical comedy growing up?
SL: Stan Freberg in particular. Stan Freberg was one of those albums that we listened to it as music, before we even knew it was comedy.
JL: You’re right! [Laughs]
SL: Our parents played those albums for us…
JL: Before we had any chance of getting a joke. We just knew that people in Allan Sherman’s audience were losing their shit. They couldn’t get enough of Allan Sherman.
SL: I was going to say Tom Lehrer also. I think also, the musical songs that Monty Python does. They do these amazing dark and twisted songs that sound very light and upbeat. No one else does songs about the things they do, like “Finland” and things like that.
RK: I was just going to say, I’m the youngest of the bunch of us and the music I listened to growing up, I think, the line between comedy and real music blurred a lot. If you look at Poison and Billy Idol and the videos I was watching. When Steve was watching them in high school, I was watching them as a five year-old and it’s much harder to see whether or not they were joking.
RC: I wanted to ask you guys if you could tell me about what went into writing some of these songs and what the process was.
JL: Rob brought about the general idea then he threw some titles at me, I threw some titles at him and we tried to get a laugh and whichever one did was our pick. It was all done via e-mail.
RK: There was one point at which Joel just sent a list of potential song & album titles – I remember one was “Friends Of Friends” and I just immediately starting writing the song in my head. I could instantly hear this whole story of awkward people who didn’t really know each other and were stuck in a room together… things like that would be like a little spark and explode and other songs grew into something.
JL: Musically it’s born out of the original Free To Be… The music they wrote and performed on the original album is actually really great music. Those songs had a lot of rhythmic changes though, and with comedy you kind of want to stay away from that but it was basically pretty major chord-heavy and simple so we could lay the jokes over it. The whole point on this musically is to stay out of the way as much as possible.
SL: And Joel, for a living, enters online video contests and most of his entries involve songs, so he’s great at just whipping out a song and then forgetting about it – and it’ll be stuck in my head for the next month.
RC: Do you think Free to Be holds up today as a relevant, useful piece of entertainment for parents to share with their kids?
RK: I do think that, like with the Doll thing, Disney has sort of set up this empire that every girl is indoctrinated into princess school, starting at age three and a half. Our daughter is already obsessed with unicorns, just because the culture is there.
SL: Our parents bought me a doll, I think because of this album. I was not into it. They tried.
JL: The Free to Be album also went with this amazing Free to Be book. Some of those Shel Silverstein poems are just as worthwhile today as they were when they were written. Same with “It’s Alright to Cry”. That one is totally timeless. It’s totally beautiful.
SL: And how many times does that get quoted and people don’t even know where it’s from?