On August 31, 2010, President Obama addressed the nation. He declared combat missions in Iraq over and announced a troop drawdown would begin. One day later, comedian Nathan Timmel boarded a plane as a part of the first group of entertainers to enter the war-torn country under this new ‘mission.’
Telling jokes to soldiers who face death every day is a different kind of performance – no stages, microphones, or spotlights. Rec rooms, dining facilities, and courtyards become performance spaces, and comedians use their best stage voice to tell their stories without the benefit of a P.A. system. All the while, armed escorts scan the perimeter for signs of danger.
A most notable—and unfortunate—difference is: when playing a comedy club in America, you don’t tour the local emergency room and receive information about the customer who died there last week. While being shown a medical facility outside Basra, however, that’s exactly what happened. A quiet moment that brought home the true cost of war.
Thought-provoking, sentimental, and an unflinching critique of a seemingly lazy mainstream media, An Inattention to Detail is a reflection on the unique responsibility of delivering punch lines to those who need laughter the most.
Once again I am returning from a light sabbatical. Last time, I was working on the release of my first full-length book, I Was a White Knight… Once. (Something you can check out by clicking the nifty link provided)
(Yes, that’s also a clickable link. Go ahead, check it out. You know you want to)
The tale is a split-story regarding the arrival of a new baby under my roof; half is from my dog Kitty’s point of view, half from mine.
Right now, it’s only available on the Amazon Kindle, but hopefully that will be changing soon. If you don’t have a Kindle, they have plenty of free reader apps available, and guess what? My download is less than a buck. 99-Cents is all it takes to take to read yourself to sleep at night, and keep this in mind: as it’s an e-book, no trees were harmed in the making of it. Sure, plenty of Chinese slave labor went into making the electronics device you’ll be reading it on, but don’t think about them. Think about the trees. The carbon-dioxide absorbing/oxygen-emitting trees.
They weren’t harmed at all.
Below is an excerpt.
(Oh, and if family-friendly comedy isn’t your style? Check out my first mini-book,Touched By Anything But an Angel. That’s about me getting a massage from a man. Disgusting, isn’t it?)
From The Four-Legged Perspective:
On December 2nd, 2012, at 1:10 in the morning, I awoke with a start. Something didn’t feel right, and it was my belly and body. I was warm, and immense pressure was pushing up from my stomach into my throat.
I was going to throw up.
Maybe. Suddenly the urge to purge was more the sensation I was about to make liquid boom-boom.
(I’m not sure which exit strategy frightened me more.)
I left the bedroom and went to the living room to assess the situation; was this a false alarm, or was I really about to be sick? The hot cocoa I had before bed was burning in me. I wasn’t feverish or achy, so it wasn’t the flu. Food poisoning, maybe? I had been in Mexico ten years earlier; maybe a sleeper cell of Montezuma’s Revenge had taken root in my colon and was finally coming to fruition? No, that’s just silly talk right there.
Twenty minutes later, at 1:30, I heard Hillary fuss in her room. My ears perked, but I made no motion toward her; she often makes little pig noises as she transitions between sleep cycles. As a new dad, when I first heard them months earlier, I would lay in bed petrified, horrific new parent thoughts running through my head: “Do these sounds mean she can’t breathe? Is she getting enough oxygen? Is she about to wake up and start crying?” Should I get a bottle ready? Should I go pick her up? I should probably pick her up. When in doubt, always pick the baby up and let her feel Daddy’s warmth to let her know she is loved.”
(I know that’s in absolutely zero parenting books, but I thought it just the same. And I did, thankfully, just let her sleep.)
Very quickly, however, Hillary’s transition squeaks became comforting. Once we discovered they were natural, they were a sign all was well in Hillary-world, which acted as a sort of melatonin to us: “Ah, she’s good. Now I can sleep, too.”
But, snap back to the present, a few seconds after her initial peep, I heard Hillary gurgle, then choke and spit up. As I stood to check on her, she started crying.
Before I could get around the chair I had been sitting in, Kitty burst into view; he was headed from the master bedroom to Hillary’s room. Kitty saw me walking in his direction, and paused…
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.
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.
Ben Evans, stand-up and manager of Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia, has captured a brutally honest comic experience. My hat is off to Ben for having the foresight to make this documentary and I’m proud to see Tushar Singh bravely representing for comics everywhere. TUSHAR IS HILARIOUS and proves it moment by moment while the camera is rolling. Here’s the situation in Ben’s own words…
“Late last spring I followed fellow Atlanta-based Indian-comedian Tushar Singh to a one-nighter he was booked to do in Birmingham, Alabama and documented the entire experience. The result of my efforts was a 36 minute documentary which I shot, directed, narrated, and edited by myself. What enticed me about this particular show was the parameters of the gig which required Tushar to do two separate 30 minute sets of clean material to a group of Isma’ili’s (Muslim Indians) in a hotel conference room with no alcohol – pay was $500. However, Tushar does not have 30 minutes of material.., let alone a separate hour dedicated to folks who are expecting some clean wholesome family wise cracks. And what low-level comic turns down $500!?
What came out in the end was what I believe to be a solid depiction of a good comedian and person, a lesson in preparation/or a lack-there-of, and what it can be like to be a comedian starting out.”
If you’re a seasoned comic looking for a trip down memory lane or a new comic drooling over a paid set, this will take you on the emotional roller-coaster that can potentially be stand-up.
Thank you Ben and Tushar for allowing us this glimpse into the real world of comedy!
Not Jono here, and I’m really proud to tell you all about some amazing shows we have coming up this weekend! Rooftop Comedy is getting together with SF Sketchfest again to sock you in your face with four comedy shows this weekend alone! You should come! Well, unless you hate fun, then you should probably stay home. Hopefully we’ll see you non-fun haters there!
Not Jono and the whole Rooftop Crew
FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 10:30PM, EUREKA THEATRE
Conspiracy Theory Live with Jesse Ventura
With James Adomian, Kate Berlant, James Urbaniak, The Mutiny, and more!
Former Governor and wrestling legend JESSE VENTURA is on the ground in Chicago and he’s assembled a team of investigative experts to uncover some explosive information that will unravel the biggest conspiracy yet. The New World Order might keep Jesse off the air, but they can’t cancel the truth! A hit show at festivals around the country, Conspiracy Theory Live is heading for JFL Chicago in June! Featuring James Adomian as Jesse Ventura, and a panel of comedians in character as inside experts, you’ll want to be at ringside for the action.
Dr. Brown is the absurd comedy character of Philip Burgers – a world-renowned clowning skills instructor and actor who trained with the infamous Philippe Gaullier, another of whose pupils, Sacha Baron Cohen, called him “the greatest living teacher of clown”.
His credits include Dr. Brown Because (2010) and Doctor Brown Becaves (2011). He was also awarded the Top Ten pick of the Fringe 2010, Malcolm Hardee Award for Most Original Comedy nomination 2010 & 2011, The Sunday Times’ Best Comedy Newcomer 2010, Total Theatre Award nominee 2011, BARRY award for Best Comedy Show 2012, Total Theatre Award for Innovation 2012, Foster’s Edinburgh Best Comedy Award 2012 and global sell-out runs everywhere.
Burgers’ act much of which is mimed, and much of which is highly uncomfortable and a tad repulsive, nonetheless makes for compelling viewing.
‘About as bonkers an hour of comedy as ever you would find – part Mr Bean, part Buster Keaton, all odd.’ Sunday Times ★★★★
After a spectacular run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012 and numerous international festivals, Doctor Brown presents his BARRY Award and Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award 2012 winning show Befrdfgth. His cult following spreads to Prague, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, New York and Toronto, Dubai, Hong Kong and London’s Soho Theatre to name a few; Dr Brown is fast becoming one of the most talked about alternative comedians on the international circuit.
As loyal T.J. Miller fans, we’re very excited to see his new Comedy Central series Mash Up. Combining sketch, stand-up, and a healthy dose of T.J., Mash Up is set to premiere October 9. Watch two clips from the show after the jump.
First up, “Word Mash Up”, a sketch segment that combines two random words, like “S.W.A.T.” and “auto-tune”, to form something new altogether. Ladies and gentlemen, “S.W.A.T.-o-tune”:
Esquirerecently published a list of the best “new” comics, curated by the likes of Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Hardwick, Amy Schumer, and others. While comedy fans will rush to judge Esquire‘s liberal use of the term “new” (we’ve been Nate Bargatze fans for years), there’s no denying the strong pool of talent here. Here’s who made the cut:
See that link at the bottom? It says “Free,” and it allows you to read Kindle books almost anywhere you please, even if you don’t own an actual Kindle.
Neat, ain’t it?
Since it’s only available on the Kindle, no trees were harmed in the making of this product. Sure, plenty of slave-labor went into making the electronics in China, but put that out of your mind; think of the trees. The oxygen-emitting, life-saving trees.
They weren’t harmed at all.
So there you go; it’s less than a dollar, it doesn’t kill any trees, and it’s got a picture of (and story detailing) me being touched by a tubby gentleman.
In many ways, Andy Woodhull is just a comedian with a degree in geology and a dream. Yet he’s come a long way from juggling his 9-to-5 lab job and the demands of being a comic always on the road. Andy’s garnered some considerable cred as a comedian, appearing on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, performing at the renowned Montreal Just For Laughs festival, and winning the Best of the Midwest competition at the 2011 Gilda Radner-honoring Gilda Fest. Rooftop is happy to announce the release of Andy’s second album, Lucy, showcasing his ventures into manliness, dating, and more. We recently chatted with Andy about the Chicago comedy scene, his writing process, Butterfinger’s sneaky corporate loopholes, and more.
Rooftop Comedy: What was it like getting your start in the Midwest?
Andy Woodhull: Well I started in St. Louis, right after college at The Funny Bone there. I took a couple comedy classes and then moved to Chicago about a year later. I went to some of the open mics in Chicago, but I got most of my stage time at Zanies in downtown Chicago. I did a couple clubs in the suburbs and I would go back to St. Louis a lot and I just tried to do comedy as much as I possibly could. I was working in a laboratory—my degree is in geology—so for the first five years I was in Chicago I was working in a lab and then trying to be on the road as much as I could. It was crazy. Sometimes, I would drive to gigs and then drive back to Chicago, sleep in my car in the parking lot, and then work in the lab. Then I would drive to the show again the next night.
RC: I imagine that lifestyle reached a breaking point after a certain time.
AW: I did it for about five years and eventually it got to a point where I was on the road a lot and I was getting super drained from all the driving. It almost comes out to be two full-time jobs when you’re doing it that much. The last year I did it I was on the road probably 45-50 weeks a year, somewhere in there. I was working almost every weekend.
RC: The past few years have seen an influx of stand-up clubs into the improv/sketch-heavy city of Chicago. Do you think this is affecting the comedy community there?
AW: I think that lately there have been a lot of successful comedians coming out of Chicago, like TJ Miller, Kyle Kinane, Kumail Nanjiani, and Hannibal Buress. All of these guys are coming out of Chicago and then at the same time, Chicago is the third-biggest city in the country and there has been only one club downtown for maybe 30 years. So I think it makes more sense that more stand-up clubs are moving in. I think it’s going to be great for comedy in Chicago too.
RC: Was there a specific moment or show in your career that really pushed you to pursue comedy full-time?
AW: I think I wanted to do it fulltime from the beginning and that was always the goal to not have a job and just to do stand-up. It was just so fun and I loved it right away out of St. Louis. I didn’t quit my job until I won the Butterfinger comedy competition in 2008, where I wrote a joke about candy bars and ended up winning this contest. I quit my job right after that. They gave me 365 Butterfinger coupons and I was like, “I don’t need to work anymore”.
RC: Have you redeemed all the coupons?
AW: Yeah they’re all expired—the ones I didn’t use. I don’t even like Butterfinger that much, but I gave a lot of them away. The funny thing about the coupon is that you still have to pay tax. So each Butterfinger wasn’t exactly free—it was 9 cents.
RC: Last year you won the “Best of the Midwest” title at Gilda Fest. How was it performing at that event?
AW: It was very cool. This year was a lot bigger than it was last year. Last year, when I won it, I really didn’t hang out that much. To give some levity to my win, when I won, the Best of the Midwest was on a Wednesday and I had a show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday. After the contest, after I had won, I got in my car and drove overnight to Sioux Falls—13 hours in the car or something like that. That’s a good way to not get a big head about a contest win.
RC: Your new album is titled Lucy, after your beloved black Labrador. Do you think Lucy appreciates the honor?
AW: She has always been a big fan of my comedy. She used to come out on the road with me sometimes. Maybe it was overly sentimental to name the album after her, but I’m not really good at making up names. I knew I’d never be sick of that name and also I have a joke on the CD about Lucy.
RC: That one is a stand-out for sure. Listening to it, you get the sense you’re having a lot of fun telling the story, adding embellishments and tags here and there to fully paint the picture.
AW: That’s kind of how all my bits evolve. I’ll write something or I’ll have an idea and I’ll do it once and then they’re pretty fluid. I don’t normally have jokes that are done and then they’re always that way. I have a couple short ones that are like that, but the longer jokes I’ll often try to add to and take them in different directions—it keeps them kind of fun.
RC: Why did you want to release an album now?
AW: I guess it’s because you kind of want to graduate material—for me, anyway. It’s probably different for everyone. You also want to make that money! I started having jokes that I wasn’t wanting to tell anymore. When you get to that point, I like to make a CD or an album or whatever, because then those jokes serve a purpose. They’re there forever. They’re not just forgotten—if that makes any sense.
For comics and audience members alike, heckling just goes with the territory at comedy shows. Even the most well-behaved crowds are prone to drunken shouts, vaguely directed to the comedian on stage. We’ve been talking to comics all across the country, asking to hear their memorable heckler experiences, and we’re now sharing them with you. Check out the latest edition of Heckler Diaries, in which Chicago-based comic Mike Lebovitz recounts that one time he almost got beat up by a Hells Angel Biker. Tough crowd indeed.