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.
We’ve been following The Beards of Comedy all around the country and one day we can only hope to go on a road trip with these guys. In the first edition of Beards Across America, the guys dove into the SF dining scene, finding weird meat alternatives (brain tacos, anyone?) in the face of a pork shortage (remember that?). You can catch the two newest episodes, which take the guys to D.C. and NYC. First up, the Beards investigate the US Treasury Department, finding all kinds of conspiracies and little-known-facts about money. Next, the guys head to NYC to find a small slice of privacy in the city of over-stimulation. Watch both episodes after over at MSN!
We’re happy to present our newest web series, The Thing About. Each episode features actors, comedians, and writers telling funny, personal anecdotes. It sounds simple, because we know when to shut up and let them do the talking. We were lucky enough to have actress (and recent novelist) Molly Ringwald on the show. Molly serves as storyteller in the first episode of The Thing About, retelling a particularly memorable audition that involved one ex-boyfriend, one French director, and one choke collar. We’ll let Molly fill in the rest. Find out what happened at the audition over at MSN.
If you work in an office that organizes betting pools, we’ll save you some time and say “You’re welcome”. We’re happy to present our newest original series, Expert vs. Chicken. In EVC, which you can find over on Bing, we help you make the right choices when it comes to casual gambling.
Each episode poses a question on the likelihood of a certain pop culture-related outcome: will Rhianna show up Chris Brown and his new neck tattoo and win big at the VMA’s? Will Mad Men take home the award for Best Drama at this year’s Emmys? (No one said we were going to softball these). To answer each question, we turn to an expert, like TV Line‘s Michael Ausiello, as well as a, well, chicken. The latest episode tries to predict Mad Men‘s fate at Sunday’s Emmys. Who are you siding with? Watch the Expert vs. Chicken and let us know who you think will win and who’s just chopped liva’. [Swish]
Sacramento-based comedian Keith Lowell Jensen is all set to record his new album right here at San Francisco’s Punchline. We’ve been big fans of Keith ever since he described the refined nuances of paint-huffing appreciation. Keith is a super talented comedian, who has performed with all kinds of household names at all kinds of clubs and festivals, including SF Sketchfest and the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. We’re excited to hear that Keith will be taping his new CD at The Punchline, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Rooftop HQ. You can catch Keith next week on July 17 and July 18. Tickets are available through The Punchline and a small number of specially-discounted tickets are available through Goldstar.
And now, let Keith rekindle your childhood love of trains:
Although most people today associate “That’s What She Said” with The Office and high-fiving bros, the phrase actually has a storied history pre-dating women’s suffrage. We would go into detail, but we’ll leave that to esteemed comedy scholars Julie Klausner, Max Silvestri, Dave Hill, Dan Soder, and Ilana Glazer. Check out the new edition of Jokes Through the Ages, a new web series delving into the untold backstory of popular comedy. Watch the episode below. Got an idea for a joke that needs exploring? Let us know in the comments.
Today, the EPIX network announced its new slate of comedy offerings. The multi-platform network will air a mix of stand-up and more roundtable discussion-based shows, starting June 30 with Jim Norton: Please Be Offended. Comedian and author Jim Norton (pictured here) will be the first comic in the EPIX Comedy Unbound series of specials, which will air the last weekend of every month. Kevin Smith, Lewis Black, Jim Jefferies, Sherri Shepherd, and Eddie Griffin round out the rest of the Comedy Unbound specials.
The network will also air the 4th annual All-Star Comedy Roundtable, filmed recently at the Nantucket Film Festival. The show, presented by Ben Stiller, brings together Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, and host Bill Hader for a friendly chat about all things comedy. Other programs include comedy highlights from the annual Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Ball as well as Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes’ (aka Jay) recent trip to Australia. Sounds great to us.
Premiering this weekend, StandUp in Stilettos features some of the most popular female comics today. Each half hour will showcase a range of talented comedians who you may recognize from TV, including Retta (Donna from Parks and Recreation, pictured above), Mary Lynn Rajskub (aka Gail the Snail from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and host Kate Flannery (better known as Meredith on The Office). Also appearing on the show are a bunch of Rooftop friends and club headliners, like Maria Bamford, Erin Jackson, Lisa Landry, Kelly MacFarland, Christina Pazsitzky, and more. Check out a trailer for the show below as well as some clips of the featured comics and be sure to tune in to the first episode on June 16.
In 1991, Tom Morello, Zack de la Rocha, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford came together to form Rage Against the Machine. The focus was inspirational, educational music; music with a purpose. Encouraged by the idea art didn’t have to be mindless, in 2008 Nato Green joined forces with comedians W. Kamau Bell and Janine Brito to form Laughter Against the Machine, a comedy troupe with the implicit design to challenge audiences to “laugh and think at the same time.” Nato will continue collaborating with Bell as a writer for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, a new Chris Rock-produced series coming to FX in August.
Nato Green has been a staple of the San Francisco comedy scene for years, and Rooftop Comedy is proud to be releasing his CD The Nato Green Partyon Tuesday, June 5.
Rooftop sent interviewer Nathan Timmel to talk to Nato about his new disc, intellectual comedy, and parenting.
NT:Easy questions first: Where was the CD recorded? Tell me a little about the venue.
NG: The shows are taped at the New Parish in Oakland. My group Laughter Against the Machine has been doing runs there twice a year for the last couple of years. It’s mostly a music venue, although more comics are checking it out now. Moshe Kasher taped his tv special there in January. One night after a Laughter Against the Machine show, after the audience had left, we were walking out as Too Short was coming in. Some of the most explosive comedy shows I’ve ever done have been there, so it was a natural for me to go back there to tape the cd. Also, as San Francisco gets intolerably expensive to live, both the diversity and the arts community are being pushed out to Oakland.
NT:What is the CD called, and where does the title come from?
NG: The title is The Nato Green Party. There’s not a lost of mystery to that title, is there?
NT:You open your new CD with a play on your name, followed by an examination of your religion, Judaism. How important is your self-identity to your comedy? Is it your specific intention that audiences get to know you as a person through your comedy, as opposed to talking about traffic, or another “topical” subject: “Airline peanuts, who’s with me?”
NG: Hugely important, for two reasons. First, the comedy that inspires me the most is the comedy that carries an honest and personal point of view, that uses humor to search for personal truth. Second, I get called a “political comic” a lot, but a lot of political comedy is comedians writing jokes about things they see on the news. As someone who grew up on the left and was a labor activist for most of my adult life, I talk about politics because that’s my experience. It’s important to me to talk about political and social issues not only as an observer but as a person who is implicated in them.
The discipline that we spent the last four years cultivating in Laughter Against the Machine is only talking about things we sincerely care about. So occasionally, I think of observational premises, but they don’t really fit in my act because I don’t have strong feelings about them. “Why do we call people who take care of things caretakers, but people who take care of people caregivers?” They get shelved, or tweeted, until I can figure out a reason to talk about it onstage.
NT:How important is it to you to have an educated audience when it comes to political humor?
NG: It’s a different thing. When I’m in front of a very educated audience, I can go farther, cut out the exposition in the jokes, trust that people will catch all the references and understand what I mean by them. On the other hand, the best thing is a diverse audience. More diversity keeps everybody honest. It’s very satisfying to figure out how to make a nightclub audience laugh about thorny political issues, after they’ve been hearing dick jokes all night. (Not that there’s anything wrong with dick jokes per se.)
NT:Do you craft your political jokes in a way that allows people who do not follow the news to keep up?
NG: I try to write ripped from the zeitgeist more than ripped from the headlines. If I’m writing about something in the news, if I need more than one sentence to explain it to someone who doesn’t know about it already, it usually doesn’t make it into the act.
NT:Topics such as slavery and abortion make their way into your show, and are handled with confidence. Do you ever run into audiences that just aren’t willing to go down such paths with you?
NG: All the time. I don’t know a lot of other white comics who talk as directly about whiteness and white privilege as I do, and talk about race in that context. I have ended up writing material that is continually digging me in and out of holes with the audience. Walking people through why they reacted negatively to the jokes. Sometimes I feel like I’m facilitating a discussion more than performing. People don’t so much heckle me as participate in the conversation.
NT:Regardless of what you are saying, do you feel certain audiences just hear the topic and have a knee-jerk reaction?
NG: My audiences tend to react negatively to things, or want to quibble with things, but it’s not always what you’d expect. Someone came up to me after the CD taping show and said, “I love the show, but you shouldn’t drink bottled water onstage.” Someone else emailed me after the show to say that they loved the show but felt I “uncritically accepted the concept of Jewish whiteness” rather than placing it its historical context.
Sometimes it’s the audience and sometimes it’s me. Audiences always get very tense if I talk about Israel and Palestine, regardless of how carefully I tread. On the other hand, I tend to be pretty dark in my perspective on things, and want to talk onstage about whatever I’m upset about. Sometimes it’s too raw and I haven’t figured out a way to make it funny enough. I check my set list to make sure there’s not too much death and suffering clumped together. I have ideas all the time that I think are interesting and funny, but I need to let marinate until I get enough perspective to make it work for the audience without just rubbing their faces in anguish.
NT:While you are unabashedly left-leaning regarding politics, you do skewer your own political leanings as much as, if not more so, than you attack the right. Does this ever confuse audiences? Do people ever tell you they felt insulted by anything you said because it conflicted with their personal beliefs?
NG: Years ago [National Public Radio’s] Fresh Air ran an interview with this Israeli who organized a Jewish anti-semitic cartoon contest. You’ll remember that a Danish newspaper ran a cartoon of Mohammad, and in a non sequitur retaliation an Iranian newspaper called an anti-semitic cartoon contest. This Israeli guy said, “Anyone can make fun of the other guy. It takes real confidence to make fun of yourself.” That really inspired me.
I spent years as an organizer, and still stay close to the progressive/radical social movement activist world. While it’s plenty fun to mock the stupidity of the right, I am firmly convinced that my side’s biggest enemy is ourselves. We love to smirk about how stupid and hypocritical and paranoid the Tea Party is or whatever. Meanwhile, we manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every chance we get.
Certainly, there are people on the left who come to my shows who realize they didn’t actually want to see a comedy show–they just wanted to hear things they agree with. I’m not for them. Mostly I get away with making fun of my own side because the other people on my side can recognize the motivation, even if they don’t agree with the particular conclusions.
NT:You are a father—twin daughters—does that hinder, help, or have no effect on your touring schedule as a comedian?
NG: There are a lot of things I could do that comics do to build my career if I didn’t have a family. Instead, I have to be focused and disciplined. I hear other comics say, “I spent the day watching all of Battlestar Gallactica” or something. That’s not an option for me. My family is making sacrifices so I can pursue this dream so I want to have scraps of progress to show for it every single day.
NT: Did becoming a father re-calibrate your focus as an entertainer?
NG: Being a parent raises the stakes on every choice you make, because every choice affects another person. Every choice–from how many nights I’m away from home to how long I sit on the toilet. At the same time, my daughters are the greatest joy in my life. As much as I go onstage and talk about painful, confusing, scary, controversial topics, I’m basically hopeful. I’m happier now than before I had kids, because I no longer waste as much time on nonsense.
NT:I have an advance copy of your CD, and by that I mean “un-edited.” It contains some visual cues; will those remain on the full release? How much of your overall act is cerebral, and how much is physical?
NG: Mostly they will. If the joke has an act-out, it stays. Let the listening audience have a reason to come see me live.
NT:What’s next for you; what are your comedic goals? Touring, acting, writing…
NG: My most immediate next step is that I’m going to New York to work on the writing staff of Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, the new Chris Rock-produced late night show premiering on FX August 9. Beyond that, I want to blast this CD out widely to a non-comedy audience. The folks who might like The Daily Show but would never go see live stand-up. I plan to finish and find a distributor for the Laughter Against the Machine documentary I did with Kamau and Janine, and then tour behind it in the fall. After we get through out first 6 episodes of Totally Biased, release the LATM doc, and promote the CD, I’ll evaluate where I’m standing then. And I want to keep logging my Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours to become a great stand-up comedian.
The Nato Green Party will be available June 5 on iTunes, Amazon, and the Rooftop Comedy shop. The album will also be available to stream through Pandora, Spotify, and Last.fm.
In the newest episode of Rooftop’s original series Crashing the Market, we take a look at an astronomical bar tab, the iced tea/beer hybrid you didn’t know you needed, and exotic robot dancers–obviously. Goings-on in the business world tend to veer toward the absurd, so sit back (pop a bottle of pizza-flavored beer) and enjoy as host Mariah Castle brings you up to speed on the headlines. Watch the full episode after the jump and stay tuned for more Crashing the Market. And remember, the next time you wake up and realize you never closed your bar tab the night before, just hope you didn’t spring for that $100K+ bottle of champagne.