Being Silly and Being Real: How Writing Comedy On The East And West Coasts Made Me Funnier

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my stand up has changed since I did comedy back in college on the West coast, and so I wrote this thing about one of my old jokes that I ended up adapting after coming to New York City. Before I say anything else, I want to point out that my experience in comedy is limited. I did relatively minimal comedy before coming to New York and I’ve been here for just over half a year. So, in terms of the East/West differences I’m writing about, they only come from my limited personal experiences, which I suppose could have been different for anyone.

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“What You Need To Know About Riffing” – Steve Roye

I found this article when I was looking up the definition of “riffing” for a project and I think it’s pretty funny. Although some of it is true, it basically says “riffing is a surefire formula for disaster and don’t try it, but some professionals are good at it though.” Hmm…how do you think professionals got good at riffing?

You think they just one day woke up and did it well? Doesn’t make any sense – riffing is the same as any other skill in comedy. You just have to get up there and try stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t work. So you try something different. It doesn’t mean “you should never riff unless you’re a professional.”

I did some further research on Steve Roy and I found this hilarious article he wrote about how his “Killer Stand-Up Comedy System” is NOT a scam. If you have to write a post about how your “system” definitely is not a scam (so don’t worry) I feel like that’s pretty…telling.

If you want a good, free online course for comedy check out John Roy’s free online comedy class. Steve Roye even sounds like a ripoff on John Roy! Look I know nothing about the guy so maybe he is legit, but regardless I find this stuff fun.

A TedEd Video About How To Write Comedy

So this video starts out saying,

“Did you ever notice how many jokes start with “Did you ever notice?” And what’s the deal with “What’s the deal?” There’s a lot of funny to be found simply by noticing the ordinary, everyday things you don’t ordinarily notice every day.”

And I was like “Whoa! How did they know that this joke I’m working on right now starts out with ‘what’s the deal with dolphins?’ What are the chances?! This person must know a thing or two about comedy.”

Other things I noticed about this video:

  • it shares a lot of advice about asking questions, being specific, archetypes, surprise, mind mapping, observation vs. imagination, character, story, rule of 3, punch lines, and k words, but I feel like it leaves out the most important thing: get on stage
  • the bunny helps me follow along

The video is written and narrated by Cheri Steinkellner, an Emmy-award-winning comedy writer.

Mike Lawrence Comedy Advice

Here’s a fantastic, pretty brief list of advice from New York City comedian Mike Lawrence on starting out in New York.

I’ve seen Mike Lawrence performing all over New York. He still comes to open mics once in a while to try out new stuff even though he’s a working comic who writes for Inside Amy Schumer, which I think is cool. He takes it seriously.

Here’s a great Modern Comedian video about him, too.


“Meet Nick Vatterott” – Sketchpad Comedy

Remember Nick Vatterott? I posted about him a week or so ago. Well, I found this really cool site called Sketchpad Comedy which is focused on helping people with sketch comedy and is based in St. Louis. And, one of their first blog posts is an interview with Vatterott. And it’s pretty great.

It has a lot of great advice about how to get started writing and that sort of thing. It also has some awesome videos from Vatterott. One of those is the cold open sketch he wrote for the Critics’ Choice Awards (hosted by TJ Miller) and the other one is his Late Night With Jimmy Fallon appearance. The sketch was awesome, but I was even more impressed by his tight 5. The set he put together for Fallon was so well put together and memorable that it makes me want to get way better! I’ve attached those videos below.

One great piece of advice that Vatterott shares in the interview is…

“Be prepared for the things that you want, so that when they come your way you’re ready for them. Don’t blow you’re chance to be seen by a club owner by getting an audition when your not ready, when your comedy is still hit or miss. Wait to get the audition when you’re killing on a regular basis. You don’t want to do an audition just crossing your fingers hoping you get it, you want to destroy and walk off the stage leaving them with no choice but to book you.”

I’m looking forward to more from Sketchpad! Seems like a fun site with good people.

Stand Up Comedy Documentary: 60 Minutes, 7 Days

I came across comedian Owen Benjamin in a very weird way recently. A guy on twitter started following me who is friends with Benjamin. Which is how I found Benjamin’s site and eventually came across his documentary, 60 Minutes, 7 Days.

If you’re a fan of comedy, this is a must see documentary. The premise is that Benjamin tries to write 60 minutes of show-ready material in 7 days – which, if you didn’t know, is pretty darn insane of a goal to hit.

A lot of the documentary is narration. Some of it is kind of weird. But it takes you into the mind of a writer and comedian: who Benjamin is and what it’s like to turn horrible material into something people will laugh at. I love it.

I eventually realized that a friend had recommended Benjamin’s podcast, Why Didn’t They Laugh, to me before. I’ve only listened to one episode of it so far, but I absolutely love it too. It breaks down comedy and quite literally offers answers to why certain jokes don’t work. It’s an analytical approach to comedy, but it’s also a really fun show.

Both the doc and podcast are fantastic if you ask me – Owen Benjamin has a new fan!

Comedy Actor Roundtable With Ricky Gervais, Will Forte, Fred Armison, And More!

Any time you see a set that looks like like an A Midsummer Night’s Dream patio party, you know what you’re seeing has to be good.

A comedy friend shared this fantastic YouTube video with me that’s from The Hollywood Reporter: a roundtable discussion with a bunch of comedy actors who are on shows that are really big right now. Ricky Gervais (Derek), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Will Forte (Last Man on Earth), Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), and Thomas Middleditch (I’m not gonna tell you which show he’s on…jk it’s Silicon Valley). They talk about what it’s like to be improving on set, how working with the writers and directors works, and just generally a lot of stuff you wouldn’t normally hear about their television shows.

Any “roundtable discussion” seems very overly structured to me. Like, just call it a discussion or something, right? But, the conversation here flows really naturally and you get the sense these actors are having a good time. Any time you get people in the industry together just talking I feel like better stuff comes out then when it’s just an interview with the media or something like that. I enjoyed watching it a lot. And, having seen most of their shows, I can vouch for them as funny people.

I also like how they threw in a woman to lead the discussion when they realized “Wait, these are all men actors. And they’re funny. We need a not funny woman to keep them on track.” Yay diversity!

P.S. I can’t help but feel like they coordinated the colors of the suits.

Gentleman And A Scholar

People are always complimenting guys saying, “He’s a gentleman and a scholar.”

Those are two things I’ve never wanted to be.

If I want to compliment someone, I say, “He’s a pimp and he runs a charity.”

That way, you can’t even be jealous of him. All you can say is, “He’s a great guy…he deserves all those hoes.”

Comedy Throwback: Who The Comedians Of Today Remind Me Of

Sometimes it’s fun to play stupid games like, “Who is the Richard Pryor of today?” So why not? But, before we get into this, I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to argue that any of these modern comedians are on par with the legends I am comparing them to. Nor am I saying they’ve necessarily been influenced by them, either. All I’m saying is that when I watch these comedians today, I can’t help but be reminded of some great old comedians. Maybe they’re just similar comedy souls born at different times.

Not quite sure what that means, but hey it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Sure it does. Anyways, I tried to pick some comedian pairings that would be interesting without being too much of a stretch. We’ll see if that’s true, I suppose.

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