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Adam Hammer: Where he has been


A few weeks ago my co-worker, Dominic Del Bene,  pointed me to a blog post from AdamHammer.com entitled “Where the F*CK have I been???” It’s a good idea to read that first. In it, Adam explains that in 2012, his father went to jail for lewd and lascivious acts with a minor(“some To Catch a Predator type stuff”) where he died.  Dealing with the family crisis sent his personal life and career into a tailspin. Depression, alcohol, rage…Not a good combination.   I couldn’t believe how raw the story and writing was. It was like getting pounded in a bare knuckle fight and left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. Brutal. It was so crazy that I wanted to know more about the story and how these events have effected Adam’s stand-up and he was gracious enough to answer my questions.

 

Before the Q/A I wanted to start with something Adam included in an email towards the beginning of our correspondence.

“I should probably mention that I’m so open and honest about this stuff because of Robert Schimmel. I toured with him for a couple of years and the way he got through losing a son to cancer, a messy divorce, his own cancer and all the other shit that happened to him was to talk about it and not seek sympathy, but laughs. It feels better to have people laughing with you than telling you they’re sorry. Unfortunately, that comes with a risk of sounding calloused. The only way to find other people who may have gone through something similar is to talk about it. And just hearing you’re not alone is therapeutic in itself.”

Gotta love Robert Schimmel.

RC(Rooftop Comedy): Did you do jokes about your father before all this happened? What were they
like?

Yes. Sort of. Here’s a video:

 

RC: How did his role in your life shape your comedy?

-I learned what wasn’t funny from him and did the opposite. My uncles taught me how to make people laugh. My dad wasn’t funny. He tried and failed miserably. The over-parenting I got shaped my rebellion. Which in turn shaped my pursuit of comedy. Only because I never had the patience to learn an instrument. I was never destined to have a desk job.

RC: Are you afraid that your new bits about your father are too dark?

-No. I’m afraid they aren’t worked out enough. I need to make sure I’m making jokes, not getting therapy. There’s no such thing as too dark. And my bits aren’t dark, they’re honest. They’re uncomfortable, but the people that get it, get it.

RC: Do you think this will forever color your comedy in a certain way?

-Which color? Blue? My jokes have colored me blue long before this. I’ve always taken a “question the answers” approach in my joke writing. For over a decade I’ve talked about the positives of drug use, how drunk drivers are safer than sober drivers (67% of all fatal car accidents are caused by sober people), how deadbeat dads don’t get enough credit for giving us great men, how my plan if I get cancer is to run up a massive credit card bill then go to jail. I try to challenge conventional thinking. I think this subject matter falls in line. Not a lot of comics can find the funny in molestation accusations. It’s all just a challenge for me.

RC: Why do you think it’s important to talk about this on stage?

-I think comedy is a great way to find people with common experiences. Like, I didn’t know any other kids tried putting leaves on a broken bone until I heard Brian Regan do a bit about it. That was great. I don’t think anything is important to talk about on stage though. We’re entertainers. Not artists. Not politicians. I just can’t come up with anything as funny as Brian Regan’s leaf bit. So I make jokes about my dead gay dad.

RC: You mentioned on your blog that these events put your comedy career into a
nose dive. Were you ever close to quitting?

-Not quitting. Just grasping at straws. I was on a pretty steady upward trajectory before this shit went down. Then, my momentum drastically changed. I can’t quit. I may never make it. But I can’t quit. It’s been 13 years since I started. Close to 7 since I’ve had a day job. Not only do I not want to quit, I can’t. Try explaining a 7 year gap on your resume when you’re applying for a square job. I got to the point of applying for jobs last year before I had a project come through. Delivery driver jobs and shit. I have a college degree and that’s the only interview I got. The way that I got in the room is that all my cover letter said was “I have a clean driving record. I’ve never been in jail, and I speak English. I’d love to meet you for an interview.” After sending out at least a hundred letters, that’s the one that got me in the room. Luckily I picked up a writing/producing gig and didn’t have to deliver fish.

 

RC: What advice do you have for comics coping with a personal struggle?

I’m not religious or involved in any 12 step programs but I was dragged into them when I was a teenager and there is one good thing I picked up: accept the things you cannot change. Change the things you can. Have the wisdom to know the difference. Also, save your money. Always save your money. Even if you’re not going through anything draining, save your money. You’re gonna need it.

 

To keep up with all things Adam Hammer:

Follow him on twitter @AdamHammer

 

Same Same: Why Gay Doesn’t Matter

nathan timmel Same SameRooftop contributing writer Nathan Timmel is at it again.

As a straight white male, Nathan fits neatly into the demographic most likely to fear the LGBT community. When ‘Gay Rights’ are being discussed on the news or in the world of politics, white males are generally those opposed to equality.

In his essay Same Same, Nathan describes how an upbringing devoid of homophobia—something unusual for a small Midwest town in the early 1980s—prevented him from falling into the trappings of bigotry. Though various forms of racism and prejudice governed many around him, Nathan maintained the strong belief that all people are equal.
With stories from childhood to current day, Nathan describes:

The intolerance he witnessed in small-town Wisconsin.
Gay bars he tentatively visited in Milwaukee (only to find they put straight bars and their testosterone-soaked clientele to shame).
His own near miss with gay bashing while walking with a friend in Boston.
A run-in with an overly zealous fella at his local gym, someone who held an all-too-obvious interest in Nathan.

Despite surroundings that should have tainted his point of view, Nathan turned a shoulder to the negativity, returning instead to the strong belief instilled in him as a child: love is love, no matter the gender of those involved.

Here’s an excerpt:

I was almost twelve years old when I first learned what homosexuality is. This would have been 1981, before the Internet gave humanity the availability to spread information worldwide instantaneously. I’m betting kids as young as four know what “gay” is today, but back then YouTube and Facebook didn’t exist. Social networking occurred on front porches or in the supermarket, and kids played baseball outside, not on videogame systems. (A truth that could, if I were so bold, lead me down a path involving the obesity epidemic America faces. But I’ll leave that be. For now.)

Though I may not have known what homosexuality was during the first decade of my life, it had still existed around me in a very open way. Every so often my “uncles” James and Tony would visit my family, or we would visit them. They lived together in Chicago, and to my wee little mind it was simply two of my dad’s many brothers living together. The arrangement made sense to me, and when we visited I never exactly put on a Sherlock Holmes cap and poked around: “Why, this apartment seems to have only one bedroom, and said bedroom doesn’t have bunk beds. How odd.”

I really liked Tony, because not only was he flamboyant and fun, he indirectly allowed me to see my very first R-rated movie; Tony has a small part in The Blues Brothers. Because of that fact, my parents allowed me to slide into the theater ahead of the age-17 restriction placed upon the film. Tony isn’t in the credits, which is odd, because he actually has a speaking part. In the French restaurant, when Jake and Elwood are trying to recruit Mr. Fabulous back into the band, Tony is the waiter who says “Wrong glass, sir” to Dan Aykroyd. Give the scene a glance; you can tell he’s gay just by looking at him. Not that it matters, but the second R-rated movie I saw was The Road Warrior, and my first PG movie was Orca, the Killer Whale. I may not remember my wedding anniversary, but I can remember these nuggets of useless information. Yup.

Regardless, as relationships do wane, eventually James and Tony parted ways and the next time we visited I was introduced to my “uncles” James, and Ray. Even as a child, I was not stupid and knew something was amiss. Apparently Ray had been hidden away in a Harry Potter-style closet for many years, my grandparents were adopting full-grown men into their family… or something else was happening. Something I didn’t quite comprehend at such a young age. As James was the constant variable in the two relationships, he was obviously my father’s actual blood relation. Now I had to wonder: who were Tony and Ray?

Same Same is now available on the Amazon Kindle.

Tim McLaughlin wins a comedy contest

Amateur comedy competitions turn me off. Not because I have a perfect losing record(3 for 3), but because people want to take this fun thing that I love, and start judging and saying “this person is better than this person. He wasn’t funny, but she WAS!”  We’re all offering our uneducated opinion at the end of the day and do we really need to add yet another dimension to make stand-up more difficult?

What’s worse is the contest where the audience “votes.” More accurately, when enthusiastic green comics are blatantly exploited to make money for the promoter. The newbies hustle to get anyone and everyone they know, to the support them and then the audience winds up sitting through a long terrible show where the person they came to see only performed a “tight 5.” There’s an entry fee, the people you bring buy tickets, drink minimums…It all gets a little too skeezy for meezy. The people who come to those shows won’t be leaping at the chance to see you again.  This is the kind of stuff that burns me out. Americans love competition. We have to label someone a “loser” and unfortunately, a “winner.”

That being said, I have to begrudgingly acknowledge the positives.

1. Hey, it’s stage time!

2. A packed house! It’s not often that amateur comics can get in front of a good and welcoming crowd.

3. “You have to learn to promote/market yourself!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know…It’s a business.

4. The grand prize MIGHT be worth entering.

This is why I was interested in talking to Tim McLaughlin about his competition set. As you’ll see in this clip, his approach is a little different and left me with questions.

How long have you been doing comedy and how would you describe your act?

I have been doing comedy for 3 years. I dont have much of an act, I have lots of jokes but I mainly work them into my set with crowd work, there is no set order of what goes where. So I guess you could say my act is manipulating the crowd into what I want them to say so I can use a joke I’ve written.

 

What was this contest for and why did you enter?

The contest was to emcee the weekend at Cracker Comedy Club for Charlie Murphy. I entered the contest because I get paid by Morty’s Comedy Joint in Indianapolis to do comedy, and there is a restriction on set by Crackers not allowing Mortys comics to get work at their club. So I went in to win the contest so they had to work me.

 

What were the results and were you surprised?

I won the contest. I was a little surprised at the results considering I did not do a single written joke during my set, and there were other very good comics on the show that night.

 

How many people did you bring to the show? How did you promote yourself?

I brought 7 people to see me, and the 7 only came bc a friend from out of town dragged them with him. I did not promote myself at all, after doing this 3 yrs no one I know will come see me anymore. The crowd that night had about 150 people all together.

 

In your opinion, what are the positives and negatives that come out of comedy competitions?

I don’t see many positives to comedy competitions unless I win, but one positive is it gives people incentive to get their friends out to a show giving you a larger crowd to preform in front of. The negatives of a comedy contest are creating unneeded tension between comics before a show. The fact that comedy is subjective that makes it hard to judge, because what is funny to you may not be funny to someone else sitting right next to you.

 

Our clip shows you interacting with a crowd member and saying “I don’t want to win this contest.” True, or part of the act?

That is totally true. I was happy I won but I didnt give a shit if I lost. I only sign up for contests like this to get as much stage time as possible. Winning is always fun and makes you feel good inside, but my main goal always is to go out and put on the best show I can for the people there to watch it, whether it be 8 or 800 people they all deserve your best, prize or no prize.

 

So the prize was opening for Charlie Murphy. How did that go? Do you feel the contest was worth doing in retrospect?

It was a very fun weekend, all the shows were sold out. I got to shut down several hecklers which is my favorite thing to do. The contest was worth doing in the sense that it got me on stage an extra 10 times in a week I would normally have not had those kind of reps.

 Congratulations, Tim! Hopefully this will lead to more success in the future!

To keep up with the Mayor of Fart Town(Tim McLaughlin), follow, like and visit his website.

Twitter is   @MayorOfFartTown

Facebook.com/MayorOfFartTown

DynamitePartyHour.com

The Paul Mecurio Show with Paul McCartney

Each week Emmy Winning Comedian, Paul Mecurio, talks with major celebrities and newsmakers on his podcast, “The Paul Mecurio Show,” revealing something unique about that person, while giving us insight into Paul’s life and view of the world – a world he believes is out to get him and how he thinks he can change or beat that world (so far the score is World: 1,287, Paul: 0). Paul has interviewed “A” list celebrities such as, Paul McCartney, Jay Leno, Bob Costas, Lewis Black and many more. In this interview, Paul asks former Beatle, Paul McCartney where the confidence came from to radically change the band’s sound and direction when they were at the peak of their popularity to create the groundbreaking album, Sgt. Pepper.

Preview #1 – Where did Paul McCartney get the confidence to make Sgt. Pepper’s…

Preview #2 – Paul McCartney on his various roles within the bands…

Listen to the Paul McCartney interview here.

Follow Paul on twitter: @PaulMecurio

Like him on facebook!

PaulMecurio.com

Nathan Timmel: Only Slightly Offensive – Album Out Now!

Friend of Rootop, Nathan Timmel is releasing his third album. He was kind enough to answer my questions about his efforts and personal material focusing on family life and the struggle to create it.

RT: How long did it take you to generate the material for this album? How do you feel it compares to your previous efforts?

My last CD came out in 2008, so it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of four years to compile the material. If I remember correctly, the one before that came out in 2004, meaning I’m a either a very slow writer, or I’m meticulous.

As far as comparison with previous releases, I cross my fingers that it’s better. Not because anything I’ve done before is “bad,” but my hope is I’m continually improving as a comedian.

RT: Your album is titled Only Slightly Offensive. Have you had any run-ins with offended audience members? How did you handle it?

It’s very rare that I’ve had customers offended, outright heckle, or complain because of a joke in my set. I think–or maybe I hope–that when people enter a comedy club they understand that everything said is in good fun. I called the CD Only Slightly Offensive to hold on to that sensibility, because whoever is listening to it won’t be doing so in a comedy club environment. The title is a play on words, with “Only” and “Slightly” meant to offset one another, hopefully catching the eye. “Wait, is it offensive, or isn’t it?”

There are a couple spots on the CD you can hear the audience give a good groan. It’s the groan that is mixed with laughter, where they’re thinking “I can’t believe he said that” while they giggle. They get that what I’m saying might not be the most politically correct thing in the world, but that I’m not attacking anyone or being hateful.

That said, I’ve discovered that there is always something that will offend someone no matter how innocuous the joke. I received a negative remark on a comment card because of a joke about the possibility of my daughter having a food allergy; years ago I had an audience member scream “Prisoners are people too!” and storm out of the club because I suggested America should use prisoners for landmine clearing in Afghanistan.

What I’ve discovered regarding handling such moments is that the audience is generally on the performer’s side. It’s a case of mob rules, and in a comedy club the mob is there to laugh and have fun. Yes, there can be a stick in the mud who wants to pout because they didn’t like something, but that’s on them. If they’re not in the mood to giggle, there’s not much I can do about that.

RT: You decided on self-releasing this album. Was that process easier or harder than you imagined? What was the biggest challenge?

With modern technology, self-releasing is easier than it’s ever been. The challenge is that because of modern technology, self-releasing is easier than it’s ever been. (See what I did there?)

The problem is legitimacy. It can be somewhat difficult to get taken seriously without a label backing you. As a whole, many people and institutions like the validity backers offer. In the music industry self-releasing is done every day. In the world of comedy, it seems a little different; “Why should I trust you’re funny? You did this yourself.” I attack that stigma by making a professional album. I hired a professional photographer and used a graphic designer for the cover. It wasn’t recorded using my phone, I tied directly to the sound board so my voice would always be crisp. This isn’t something I burned on my computer at home, it has a quality look and sound to it. If someone is going to spend their hard-earned money on me, I want it to be worth it for them.

RT: How would you describe your brand of humor to someone who has never heard you? How long did it take you to find your voice?

I’m generally a storyteller, and I can be exceedingly personal at times. I find it easier to write about my experiences than I do to sit and try and make something up, and by being honest I can (hopefully) avoid doing material that’s already been done (e.g. how many comics have a joke about wearing a red shirt at Target? How many crack wise about “Safe Lists” with their partners that go: “I had Jessica Alba on my list, she had her personal trainer on hers!”) Occasionally I’ll have a throwaway joke involving something topical, but you’re not going to catch me on stage these days making GW Bush jokes, something that makes me cringe since we’re so far removed from that time period.

My voice… that one’s tricky. I think a comedian’s voice is something that changes as he changes. When I started performing, I had just been cheated on and dumped. My humor was very dark back then. Now I’m married and have a child and I’m upbeat and happy. I think my voice and material is a reflection of wherever I’m at in life, and best case scenario it’s going to keep growing as my life keeps changing.

RT:  You talk a lot about your wife in your comedy. What does she think of all this? Specifically, you doing stand-up, your material, mentioning her in your act? Is she supportive?

I got beyond lucky in my marriage. It’s a comedy cliché, I know, but I met her because of comedy. She was in the audience, heard me do a personal set about my family and upbringing, and felt “a connection” (her words). So, she knew what she was getting into; “OK, this idiot talks about his life on stage, and I’m in his life… I guess he’s going to talk about me now.”

Every so often she asks me to shitcan a joke for the evening, because her parents or grandparents or boss or someone is in the audience, and I respect and do that for her. But when I’m on the road, she generally has no qualms about what I’m saying. The people in the audience don’t know her, and will most likely never meet her, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Overall, she is beyond supportive. She has a Master’s Degree and swims in the business world, making me the yin to her yang and all that nonsense. We balance well.

RT: You go into great detail about your struggle to conceive. Have you found this opened you up to a different audience? Has the baby material led to any interesting opportunities?

Discussing infertility on stage has been… you have no idea how many people go through that struggle. I didn’t until I started talking about it on stage. When I would joke about trying to get pregnant, so many supportive people would share their story with me after the show. They would explain how long it took them, and in many cases have a very happy ending.

Now that my daughter is here, I’ve joined the cult of parenthood. It’s like buying a car; suddenly you notice the very model you bought everywhere. I had no idea how many people had kids until mine came along.

RT: Do you feel like comedy has taken on a new meaning as you’ve transitioned from a single man to now?

Unfortunately, yes. Comedy used to be me expressing myself; now there’s a business aspect to everything. When I was single and without responsibilities I could take anything offered; now I have to look at each one and do a cost-benefit analysis. Being a dad means you have to provide, and sometimes that means time over money. If after gas and food I’m not walking away with much, the extra day with my daughter becomes more important.

RT: As a new dad, how has the child impacted comedy for you?

When I was starting out, I watched people I found hilarious walk away from comedy because they got married and had a kid. I couldn’t wrap my head around it; I had no clue how anyone could leave the road behind. I’m nowhere near close to doing so myself, but now I get it. I get the longing, how much you miss your child when you’re away from them. It makes taking certain gigs or runs difficult; “OK, I don’t want to be gone for 3 weeks solid…”

RT: If you were to look back in 10 years, how would you want to remember this album?

Hopefully fondly. I’ve always loved the movie Bachelor Party, and I’d like to think Tom Hanks looks back on that film with a wry smile. It’s a drunken sex comedy involving nudity, drugs, prostitution… nothing you’d picture Oscar winner Tom Hanks in, but hey, there he is. If in 10 years I can look back at this and go, “Well, I sure talked about my wife’s naughty parts a lot, didn’t I?” and be OK with that, I’m good.

Buy Nathan’s new album Only Slightly Offensive

Keep up on all things Timmel at his website: nathantimmel.com

The consumate family man…Asleep on the job.

Broken News Daily: Taco Bell Employee Licks Taco Shells in Photo Online

If I were this guy, I’d be making a run for the border. To a land of good Mexican food…Canada. Let’s be honest, disgruntled workers have been doing things far more disgusting to the fast-food you and I consume on a daily basis, for the last 50 years. Big whoop! But now that there’s proof, a social media nightmare has begun for the Chalupa slinging giant. Yo quiero a new job!

Broken News Daily: Teenager Owns Over 300 Exotic Pets!

A teenager who owns over 300 exotic pets? Looks like this young man has a future behind bars…Animal enclosure bars! Oh goo! When I was a teenager, all I had to do was take out the trash and to get me to do that it took two older brothers putting me in a double-chicken-wing. “Twist my arm why dontcha!”

Velveeta Room Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Esther’s Follies is stepping aside the weekend of the ROT Biker Rally for The Velveeta Room’s 25th Anniversary and Comedy Festival. Over it’s colorful history since opening in 1988, the Velv has become one of the best clubs in the Southwest to see standup comedy. Every comic who’s played there wants to join the festivities, so an all-star lineup of 25 will divide up the various bills throughout the weekend. Confirmed at this time are JR Brow, Kerry Awn, Nancy Reed, Lucas Molandes, Mike MacRae, Matt Sadler, Mario DiGiorgio and Howard Beecher, plus appearances by legendary club founder Ronnie Velveeta.

Thursday June 13, 8PM – $12 general admission / $17 reserved
Friday June 14, 8PM, 10PM – $15 general admission / $20 reserved
Saturday June 15, 8PM, 10PM – $20 general admission / $25 reserved
Tickets can be purchased online at https://esthersfollies.com or by calling our box office at (512) 320-0198.

Broken News Daily now on Hulu!

After over 200 episodes, Rooftop’s broken take on the news, has branched out and can now be seen on Hulu. Hosts Brian Kane and Sean Keane can now rub elbows with your favorite clips from SNL, Katharine McPhee’s Smash and Splash, a new celebrity diving competition show. Here are a couple episodes to make your day brighter.

In Memoriam: Scott Kennedy

On Thursday, March 14th, 2013, I logged on to Facebook like it was any other day. I scrolled down the innocuous news feed of people talking of how there was only “One more day until Friday!!” and extolling the virtues of coffee, when a status update floored me. A former MWR representative from Kuwait posted, “I am shocked and saddened to learn my good friend Scott Kennedy passed away in his sleep last night…” There may have been more to it than that, but my mind was already too numb to read further. Scott was gone? Just… gone? The concept was too foreign for my mind to digest. He couldn’t be gone; he was my friend. Friend’s don’t die, death is something you hear about other people experiencing and grieving over…

I met Scott years and years and years ago, in the “delightful” little burg known as Modesto, California. Scott was headlining a comedy show; I was the middle act. The club was downtown, a location in the middle of an ever-evolving revitalization project where new stores were surrounded by old Bail Bond shops. Affluent yuppies stepped around bearded homeless men with little concern as they marched into the trendiest of trendy clubs.

Scott and I bonded over a mutual appreciation for one another’s comedic chops, as well as a passion for civil rights. I say “civil rights,” because if you didn’t know it, Scott was gay. He wasn’t in the closet by any means, and in fact, talked about his orientation in his act (and on television), but it was nothing he led with. No, Scott would drop that bomb right in the middle of his set: “Oh, by the way, this big, burly man that’s been talking football, family and relationships? Yeah… he’s gay.” Sexuality wasn’t something Scott wore on his sleeves like a less talented comedian might do—using “gay” as a crutch to get cheap laughs—no, Scott went up and performed comedy, winning the audience over using his wit and observational eye. Only many minutes deep into his set did he let the audience in on his secret, and it challenged the hell out of what stereotypes people thought “gay” was. Which, Scott would tell you, is exactly why he tailored his set the way he did. With his magician’s reveal, Scott became the everyman; “Why, he could be my brother, cousin, uncle…” It was a fantastic way of combating homophobia, albeit by not even mentioning homophobia or being confrontational. If anything, it was designed to be an afterthought. Which is made it all the more subversive, brilliant, and effective.

After those shows, Scott and I kept in… probably somewhat-annual touch after that; maybe checking in every 13 months or so, just to say “Hi,” and then like happens so often in the comedy world, we just forgot to reach out to one another. Somewhere in the couple years between exchanges, Scott got involved in military tours, and that is where his legacy will shine. Were I a better researcher, I would look up the exact number of times Scott put himself on the line to make sure the men and women who serve knew they were appreciated. As it stands, I know the number is north of 50, which means calling him this generation’s “Bob Hope” would not be too far off the mark.

I was lucky enough to tour Iraq with Scott in 2010, and it was unlike any other experience I had ever had. Scott was a man born without ego; everything he did was for the troops. No matter the situation, he was ready to perform for them. In a war zone, nothing is done under optimal conditions, but that didn’t matter in the slightest to Scott. “How can we give the soldiers the best experience possible?” was all he wanted answered. If there was an outpost in need of distraction, if there was any single person who needed to be reminded they were appreciated and cared for, Scott wanted nothing more than to make sure they got a show. His dedication to those in harms way was unparalleled.

I cannot for the life of me remember how it happened, but at one point on the tour, one of us referenced the Family Guy episode where James Woods exclaims, “Oh, piece of candy!” Like many little things that make up the best in friendships, that became our calling card. It was a running joke for the rest of the tour, and for months and months after, a random text would hit my phone, “Oh, piece of candy!”

My deepest empathy is with his family at this time.

Scott was a good man, and will be missed.

I am proud to have known him.