In my line of work—stand up comedian—you deal with people who are drinking. As a whole, people are good, and can handle their alcohol. But every so often you run into folks who would have done society a favor by staying home and downing a case of beer from the safety of their couch. Sometimes they heckle; other times they’re simply belligerent. Either way, they usually have to be kicked out of the comedy club.
I’ve always wondered what they thought of their behavior the next day, when they sobered up. Were they embarrassed by their actions? Any decent person would be. When dealing with the unwashed masses, however, you don’t always get decent people.
Case in point: the other week, a table of four had to be removed from the showroom during my set. They had talked all through the host, talked all through the middle comic, and were still talking when I hit the stage. Fortunately, by that point, management had lost their patience. After I had turned to them twice and said, “Hey, quit talking,” they were asked to leave.
There are two ways to exit a room you’re no longer wanted in: quietly, head hung low, or boisterous and defiant. On this particular occasion, it went 50/50; two people quickly slinked away, embarrassed by the attention. The other two at the table were stunned.
“What? We were just talking!” the woman shouted.
After the manager explained talking isn’t permitted during a live performance, they grew even more agitated. The manager explained that they were annoying every table around them, which seemed to stun the couple.
“They don’t have to listen to us if they don’t want to!”
Apparently the woman didn’t understand how audio waves work, and that you can’t really ignore sound.
To accelerate their exodus, the manager asked the audience, “By a round of applause, who wants these people to leave?”
The whole crowd erupted; the table had been sufficiently annoying enough to get on everyone’s nerves.
After several minutes of back and forth, the couple finally made their way out, throwing a couple parting shots my way, since I had dared tell them to quiet down.
As the collective rest of the audience cheered the departure, the thought I mentioned earlier crossed my mind: what would those people think of their behavior once they sobered up?
Lucky me, I got to find out.
The next day around 5pm, a post from the argumentative woman—Cindy—appeared on my Facebook Comedy Page: “Don’t go see this guy. Our table were laughing and talking and we were asked to leave as we left he had the audience clap to see us go. The comedian before him had no problem with us and encouraged the noise and laughter.”
As I made my way through the grammar and syntax errors, I had to give a combination laugh and sad head shake. As stated, this post popped up around 5pm. That means Cindy had all night to sleep it off, and all day to come to terms with her behavior. And when all was said and done? She used willful ignorance to double down on her stupidity.
I didn’t even consider responding to her post; there didn’t seem to be any point. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t wonder how some people make it through life when they’re oblivious to how the world works.
Dissect her very own words: up front, Cindy admits they were talking. She doesn’t even bother to lie, or say “We were kicked out for absolutely no reason!” Nope, she says they were laughing (lie) and talking (truth).
Next, she isn’t self-aware enough to understand that the audience applauding her departure means they were more than happy to see her go. It’s unlikely she made it her whole life without hearing spontaneous applause, which means she willfully denies the fact she wasn’t wanted there.
Finally, the opening comic wasn’t appreciative of her at all. I know, because when he walked off stage he was furious. He even, and somehow Cindy missed this, yelled “Shut the fuck up!” at her table. Twice. I’m not sure how Cindy interpreted “Shut the fuck up!” as encouragement, but I think we can determine from her writing skills she’s not the brightest light on any Christmas tree.
That night, when all was said and done I thanked the manager for his actions, and he laughed; “Oh, that wasn’t anything. If you thought they were bad, you should have been here for Screech.”
He described how during Screech’s set, a man who identified himself as a lawyer got into it with the Saved By the Bell star. The lawyer was exceedingly drunk, and started heckling. This set Screech off, and irritated the audience. They went back and forth for several minutes, with Screech getting in jab after jab and the lawyer getting angrier and angrier as the audience laughed and applauded at his expense.
Eventually, realizing he was on the losing end of the verbal jousting, the lawyer stood up, hoisted twin middle fingers into the air, and shouted “FUCK YOU!” to the world as he stormed out.
A fitting end to his derailing of the comedy show, but that’s not the conclusion to this story.
Several days later, the lawyer interviewed for a job; he was looking to move up in the world, and presented himself as a clean-cut, no-nonsense straight shooter. The potential employer took the man through every stage of the interview process, all the way to one final question.
After jumping through the myriad hoops of the interview process, the lawyer probably felt he had a great shot at being hired, until the potential employer said, “Well, I think we only have one question left; would you like to explain this?”
At which point they showed the lawyer a video of his actions at the comedy club. Someone at the company had been at the show, recorded the whole event on his cell phone, and realized it was the same person coming in for an interview later that week.
Job = denied.
I should start filming all my sets.
Just think; I could have posted a clip of Cindy acting the fool, and made sure all her friends got the link.
Maybe next time.
(bonus: sometimes there’s a camera running when I’m dealing with drunk folks)
Jim Capie knew he wanted to be a stand up comedian when he was five years old. What happened at such a young age? He saw the special, Bill Cosby, Himself. After that, the seed was planted.
In 5th grade, Jim wrote his first joke. He admits it “wasn’t even remotely funny.” But he knew he was on to something, because the structure was right; set up, punchline.
With high school out of the way, he started his career at age 18. He gave Los Angeles a shot, then returned to his native New York.
The pivotal moment in his career happened when he was accepted to perform in a comedy festival. He won’t name it, because throwing people under the bus isn’t his style, but he drove four house to be told, “Your slot is two minutes long.”
Jim knew something had to change, and decided to get himself out there. Using the power of social media, he founded the Stand Up Shots Twitter feed, a vehicle used to give unknown comedians direct access to comedy fans. At 20,000 followers (as of this writing) and growing, he’s Jim is making a difference. And we unknown comics appreciate him for it.
Rooftop contributor Nathan Timmel got into Jim’s head for the following interview.
NT: What do you look for when posting something? Brevity, originality… Do you search out specific jokes to publish, or do you yank the really popular ones from Reddit or imgur?
JC: After doing stand up for a while you start to understand what makes a “good joke”. Some of it is technical, you don’t want a set up that’s too long or an idea that has been done before. Some of it is intangible though. It’s not necessarily what makes me laugh. There’s this thing that comedians do, where they hear a great joke and they don’t laugh or even chuckle. They hear it and quietly say to themselves, “Hmm. Yeah.. that’s an outstanding joke.” Generally, that’s what I look for.
NT: Sort of hand-in-hand with the last question, do you notice a difference in popularity between longer vs. shorter jokes, or do your fans seem to simply re-Tweet whatever they find funny?
JC: I assumed, in the beginning, that people would not respond as well to longer jokes. I figured one liners and simple “set up, punch” jokes would do better, but I think I was just projecting my own laziness and unwillingness to read anything longer than 3 sentences. I found out that people respond just as well to longer jokes.
NT: In turn, bouncing off the last question: do you notice a difference between unknown comics vs. celebrity comics when you post them? I’m talking numbers; do your followers tend to like celebrity posts more, or are they fully behind anything funny, even if they don’t know the source?
JC: They respond better to famous comedians’ jokes, but only slightly. A Louis CK joke is almost guaranteed to do really well, but there have been many jokes by unknown comedians that get huge numbers.
NT: Was the Twitter account founded due to a love of comedy, or are you comedians… and on that note is it a group effort, or a one-man(woman) show, comedians who love comedy and believe a rising tide lifts all boats, all of the above, none of the above…
JC: The account is run by one unknown comic based out of New York. I started the account hoping to get exposure that I wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. But I felt I had a pretty important responsibility. I could very easily abuse this “power” by using famous comedians’ jokes to make a very popular twitter account and post my jokes to get exposure. So, from the very beginning, my plan was to make this account help other unknowns as well. Post (roughly) as many jokes from famous comedians as unknown comedians. And only put my own jokes as often as any other unknown. If I am doing my job right, you would never be able to look through the Twitter feed and figure out which comic runs the account. I have gotten a lot of “thank you’s” from comics over this past 6 months and it really is a nice feeling.
NT: Have you ever pulled a joke that wasn’t doing very well where you found it, but you liked it, and found that it was successful on your platform? By that, I mean that I notice differences across many platforms. Sometimes I’ll post something on Reddit, and it begins getting trashed and downvoted and called stupid. Then I’ll put the same joke on Tumblr, and it will get reblogged thousands of times. And then vice-versa: a joke that succeeds on Reddit will tank on Tumblr or imgur…
JC: There is definitely a big difference in how a Twitter audience will respond to a joke compared to the Reddit audience. I know I’ll make some enemies here, but Reddit frustrates me. Reddit has a very entitled audience, they feel that because they are “comedy nerds” they can give you all kinds of advice on how to make a joke better. Also, I don’t like the idea of “downvoting”. In stand up you know how well a joke is doing if the audience A: Laughs or B: Doesn’t laugh. The audience (usually!) doesn’t start shouting advice or booing if a joke isn’t great. With Twitter, the audience A: Favorites or B: Doesn’t Favorite. There is much less complaining on Twitter.
NT: Your willingness to post those who are unknown is nothing short of fantastic. Very few unknown comedians have access to 20,000 followers. There are usually so many blockades in place with comedy—you have to have an agent, know the right people—the industry isn’t interested in discovering new, but you are. Was that a goal going in to setting up the account? Giving the unknown a voice?
JC: I really think the entire entertainment industry is changing rapidly as a result of social media and the internet. Managers, agents, production companies, etc. exist(ed) because they brought the artist to the audience, that was their job. But when one guy is in charge of deciding who is or is not talented, you get politics and injustice (I know that sounds melodramatic but it’s true). Now that people can grow an audience online and speak to them directly, it is the audience who decides who’s talented or not. Add that to the fact that stand up has always been closer to a meritocracy than most other art forms, and you get hundreds of comics with more opportunities than ever before. My hope is that this account gives unknown comedians their own audience in the form of followers. From there, they can do with those followers what they please. Start their own comedy night in a local bar (except now people will actually show up), sell their first comedy album, post videos of their stand up, whatever.
NT: Do you have a pattern to Tweeting, such as “One every hour,” or “One Tweet every three hours,” five a day, etc.?
JC: Yes, I have a rough schedule to when I Tweet, but it has changed over time. There’s two reasons for this, I noticed that if you tweet too often people are less likely to Retweet. I guess people don’t want their entire timelines filled with just jokes.
And the other reason is that it is just exhausting. I grow the account by following 1000 people a day and then unfollowing the 850 (or so) people who did not follow back. Then, finding the jokes and posting them. Many (if not, most) of the jokes from famous comedians were transcribed by me personally. And then there is my own comedy to work on and my day job (yeah, I still have one of those), so often times my schedule is simply whenever I feel like it.
Months ago, my wife was listening to an interview with Jason Bateman. One question caught her ear: “Would you let your children get into acting?”
She stopped what she was doing and paid full attention to the words exiting Jason’s mouth. “I wouldn’t, only because it is a profession that you can’t really help yourself in. In most professions, if you stay at the office an extra four hours every day, you’re gonna impress the boss, you’re gonna get that promotion, you’re gonna get that raise, you’re gonna at least have job security. But with acting, if you’re really ambitious and you have a good work ethic, and are really good at your job, it might not really matter.”
My wife got lost in thought a moment, and in a very unfortunate parallel related those words to comedy, and my career. There is something odd—some might say unfair—about the artistic world, where how good you are matters much less than how lucky you are.
Which brings me to something semi-related. I cannot remember where I read this, but someone once asked a member of the Dukakis presidential campaign, “When did you realize it was over?”
The answer was a surprising, “When they announced we lost.”
They didn’t admit defeat one month, one week, or one day out from the election. Even though the world at large knew Bush Sr. was a lock, the Dukakis people lived in such a bubble they used faith to carry them to the bitter end. That wasn’t unique to the Dukakis campaign; Mitt Romney was so convinced he was going to win he didn’t have a concession speech written.
Delusion isn’t isolated to politics; every year on American Idol, confident teens declare, “I am the next American Idol.” They say it full of belief, even though at the end of it all there is but one Highlander standing in victory.
Which makes me ask: at what point are you supposed to become self-aware enough to understand: it’s not happening?
I’ve been watching David Letterman since his first show. I always wanted to meet him, to be a guest on his program. This goes back to when I was in high school. Sure, I had no reason to be on television, but I still wanted to sit on a chair next to Dave and just… be there. When I decided to become a comedian, Letterman became my goal. I never had any dreams of getting my own sitcom or becoming a movie star, I just wanted to perform on Letterman’s stage.
Dave is going off the air in a few months. To say things aren’t looking good for my dream would be like saying Abraham Lincoln had a bad evening at Ford’s Theater.
Which is OK, because in life you can re-calibrate your goals, and long ago I widened my net to include all the late night shows. Because I’d rather not look in a mirror and see Dorian Gray staring back at me.
Unfortunately, the very concept of grabbing a television slot looks ever more grim, depending on the day and my attitude. This causes me to wonder: is there a stage when hope becomes fantasy, with everyone but you knowing you’re on a hamster wheel and not a path?
Comedy is a struggle; any artistic pursuit is. It beats you up daily. There is a huge chasm between the joy of the stage and the struggle of the business. By way of example, I auditioned for a club last year. I heard they were looking for new faces, so I went and tried out. I did very well, yet as of this writing haven’t been hired there.
Meanwhile, another comedian went up that night and tanked. Their material wasn’t very good, and the audience wasn’t laughing. Naturally, that person works there regularly. Even worse to my ego, I spent a weekend with this comedian in 2013. They were my opening act and struggled through every show. There were a few smiles, maybe even a laugh now and then, but for a majority of the 30 minutes the comedian was on stage you heard silence.
And yet that person has a full calendar, and management.
You cannot make sense of these things; to try would be to go insane. I also don’t like giving voice to these thoughts. Negativity breeds negativity, no one likes a whiner, the power of positive thinking and all that jazz…
…but I admit that sometimes I feel like Crash Davis.
Maybe it doesn’t matter if I’m delusional. Maybe life is about being Rocky Balboa in the first movie, holding your ground to the bitter end and winning the moral victory while losing the fight. Maybe it’s enough to know that if you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be anything to anyone. Maybe these are thoughts I try to convince myself are truths.
Maybe trying to prove Jason Bateman wrong will be my Sisyphean task.
You can find more upbeat musings by Nathan on his website.
Comedian memes have exploded in popularity over the past year, and with good reason: they’re easy to create and share, everyone loves a quick giggle, and they give comedians direct access to a wide, diverse audience. You can find them on Reddit, imgur, and on websites across the Internet.
Since the Internet can be a messy place to navigate, Rooftop is going to use Stand Up Shots on Twitter to find some of the best memes of the week and plop them in one place–our blog–for you.
…and if you see a comedian you like, follow them on Twitter, look for their videos here on Rooftop, and tell us!
(Because we’re always searching for great comedians to put on our record label)
By his own admission, chasing the stage wasn’t Joe’s idea. Coworkers pressured him into performing, because he was always cracking wise at the office. A former journalist and advertising writer, Joe is a comic who has appeared on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and been a part of the Just for Laughs festival.
Rooftop writer Nathan Timmel shot him these questions regarding his first release with the label.
NT: how long have you been performing, how long did it take you to find your voice?
JD: This summer it will be 14 years since I was first forced onstage by my coworkers. I think around 10 years in I started to feel the consistency in my material, but the people who’ve been listening to me for a while say it was there early on. Ask me again when I hit the 20-year mark, that’s when the real fun will start.
NT: Where was the disc recorded, and over how many shows?
JD: May 2014, 3 shows over 2 nights at Brokerage Comedy Club in Bellmore, Long Island. I’ve done hundreds of spots there so I had a good comfort level.
NT: The bonus tracks: what was the thought process behind removing those specific jokes from the set and attaching them to the end of the disc?
JD: Rooftop did a great job with my insane requests to blend together jokes from all three shows – sometimes word by word – to make it sound like a complete headlining set. I boiled it down from about 75 minutes, then sent them charts & graphs that looked like the chalkboard from Good Will Hunting. The bonus tracks were jokes that I liked but didn’t fit in with the rest of the set. And what the hell, who doesn’t like bonus?
NT: You write a sort of love letter to NY though several of your jokes; you describe it in a way that allows non-natives to relate. Do you feel NY has heavily influenced you as a comedian, or is it the fact you’re a comedian that allows you to view NY through observational eyes?
JD: I didn’t hang out in NYC when I was a kid, so I’m still fascinated by the stuff you get used to seeing in an average day. You get blasé when a rat runs by holding a bagel in its mouth – I don’t think that happens elsewhere. But until you get used to it, it’s a constant assault on your senses, including your sense of decency.
NT: You hint of politics in your set, without going into “taking sides.” How far away do you see America being from the legalization of marijuana nationwide?
JD: I think there’s no turning back at this point, and that’s a good thing. To deny free adults access to something that’s less harmful than aspirin is nonsense. When my friends say, “But don’t you think legalizing medicinal marijuana will lead to casual use?” I tell them, “Yeah – THAT’S THE PLAN.”
NT: Marriage equality?
JD: What other people do is none of my business. I don’t feel threatened, because successful same-sex relationships are just as alien to me as successful heterosexual relationships.
NT: I would almost describe your comedy as… “Surprise left turn.” You hear the setup, and then the punchline is out of left field. I don’t want to give away specific punchlines, but the “homemade bong” comes to mind, as does a moment with the couple on the first date. Would you agree with that, and/or how would you describe yourself to someone preparing to listen to your disc or see you live?
JD: It’s interesting what I’ve learned about myself from my act – it turns out I like confusing and misleading people. We’re lucky I’m a comedian and not a crossing guard or air-traffic controller.
NT: You joke openly about medications, depression, OCD; how close to home is that part of your set?
JD: As much as I love “jokes,” it feels like the longer I do this, the deeper into my own life the act has to go. When a comic talks about something that’s true, it makes a different connection with the audience. I’d rather someone come up to me after a show and say that they could relate to personal stuff than some hilarious “talking-GPS” bit.
NT: Single when you recorded the disc… found a mate yet?
JD: Nope. But expecting better results once I bump my Tinder radius up from “8 feet around my apartment.”