Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Bee's Knees Comedy Arrangement is kaput. The buzz has fizzled out. Just like that. What did they have, a couple shows? Brutal.
I had high hopes for it because of the awesome room (at the Cellar Jazz Club), the quality of acts, and because they were adding a musical element. But it was not to be. One thing about the Cellar, if you're there it's because that's where you were going when you set out. There's virtually no walk-by traffic. That makes doing the legwork to get bums in seats all the more important. Did they? I have no idea. Sometimes you do all the right things and people still don't show up.
Does the media have a role in giving a boost? I'm not sure about that. The media generally reports on things that are already thriving. They're reporting, not cheerleading. If there's no crowd, there's nothing to report. So it's up to the club and/or bookers to get the word out as best they can. It's a lot of work.
The media will make an exception if there's something really unique about the show, or a big, established name is attached.
One excuse I heard was that they couldn't compete with the hockey playoffs. I'm not in business, but I hear this a lot from business owners. As a non-hockey fan, I don't buy it. I know lots of other people in this city who couldn't give a rat's ass about hockey. Why not market to them? A show for hockey wives or people otherwise sick of all the hockey talk. Or, conversely, a hockey-themed show for all those hockeypucks out there. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
I dunno, but something. You can't just put on a show, open up the doors, tell a few people, then hope word of mouth does the trick.
I can't tell you the number of comics who've approached me telling me of all their grandiose schemes about new rooms, only to have those rooms die a miserable death a few weeks later. Unfortunately, there's no evidence a single article in a paper will turn such a show into a sure-fire hit.
Just as well. The new season of The Bachelor starts in a couple weeks on Monday nights. Vancouver's own Jillian, the new Bachelorette, is the real bee's knees.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Eric Fell dropped by the What's So Funny? Skype studio to plug his cherry-breaking appearance tomorrow night. We chat. You can see us. It's a first for us:
So to recap: We have a record-breaking number of guests in studio tomorrow night. They include Eric Fell, Roman Danylo, Diana Frances, Ian Boothby, Shaun Stewart, Jennifer Perrin and Andrew Barber. And maybe more. Seven guests, three microphones. You do the math. Should be fun.
(Shortly after hanging up the computer with Eric, fellow Urban Improv'er Drew McCreadie gave us a dingle all the way from Toronto. That video will run sometime next week.)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
You think the D.A. would have dropped the much more serious charges if there was any merit to them? I don't. Would she have been able to get her children back if there was even a hint of truth to the charges? I don't.
So why bring it up? I guess because I remember those news stories from the time. Maybe others weren't aware of them and so rehashing it just brings a cloud of unfair suspicion over her all over again. But my reasoning was that others recalled the news, too. And I know for a fact that some people, to this day, think she did something untoward to a child. Ridiculous, and I wanted to dispell those notions. That I didn't do so more clearly bothers me.
Charges like that are the worst thing that can happen to a person, I imagine. Because once they're out there, they develop a life of their own. There's no going back. Think of the daycare workers at Martensville and McMartin preschools in the '80s and '90s. Horrific charges virtually ruined the lives of completely innocent people. Thankfully Poundstone has gone on to revive her career, but still.
Anywho, all this just to say the interview I did with her – which was a total pleasure, I might add – is now up at ye olde Comedy Couch. Read it here. Get all her quotes on the subject in context, as well as lots more less serious stuff.
So I was happy to talk with Clay in February of 2008. That transcript is now available on the Comedy Couch. In it, Clay talks about the difference between himself and the "Dice" character, but I didn't discern any great chasm between the two. Of course, I realize he was talking to me to promote an upcoming appearance by his blowhard persona, so I'm sure I didn't get the real Andrew Clay. Still, it was an interesting chat, I thought. Read it here.
So to you, Mr. or Ms. 1000, I salute you.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The Timmons-raised funnyman calls Toronto home, but he's a small-town guy at heart. Edwards is one of those naturally hilarious storytelling comics. His very essence oozes funny. The rhythm and cadence of his voice, the way he holds himself, his hangdog face... all add to his already top-notch material to make him universally loved and respected. So, needless to say, we were lucky to get him on the show.
The show was recorded in his hotel room in North Vancouver this past Friday, April 17. In the hour-long conversation, we talk about his insecurities, his work ethic instilled by his funny dad, the odds of him being his biggest critic, and the degrees of separation between him and Shania Twain, among lots of other stuff.
So listen, won't you? You know the time: 11 pm to midnight PST, 102.7 FM in Vancouver or on the internet via live streaming anywhere in the word here.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The first impression was the crowd, or lack of one. Poundstone is one of the best comics there is and consistently sells out theatres in the States. Why should the River Rock, which seats about a thousand, be only half full? Her manager said people don't know her up here, but I don't buy it. I know that her show wasn't a River Rock event, per se. An outside party rented the room and brought her in. Lesson to fledgling promoters: You can't just announce a big name and hope the rest just falls into place. You have to actually, you know, promote the show. I'm convinced that with the proper promotion, Paula Poundstone would have sold the joint out.
But being the pro she is, not a single mention was made of the empty seats. Nor of the fact there seemed to be nobody working the place. There was no introduction, no opening act. Rather she just strode onto the stage shortly after 8 p.m. sans fanfare and proceeded to entertain us for almost two hours.
Poundstone has what seems like very little prepared material. But maybe that's just her solid crafstmanship that makes us think she's flying by the seat of her man-pants. Certainly most of the show is crowd work. And that's as it should be because she's an absolute mistress at it. (That's the feminine form of master, isn't it?)
Like a lot of great comics, she uses her inner child to perfect effect. A lot of Steven Wright's jokes rely on this. He'll take a phrase and by taking it literally, as a child would, comes up with a(n) hilarious slant on it. As adults, we know so much we automatically jump to the correct meaning. But kids don't have the experience to fall back on. Here's an example of a Wright joke:
I saw a bank that said "24 Hour Banking", but I don't have that much time.When we were in Edmonton last summer, my wife came home from a run and said, "It's stinking hot out there." At which point our 3.5-year-old ran to the door. "Where are you going?" she asked. "I want to smell outside!" That's not a joke, but there's perhaps one in there somewhere. It's just an example of the child's literal mind at work.
Similarly we all know what it's like to be peppered with a hundred questions by a 4-year-old. They ask some really great, really tough, questions. And they don't stop. That's exactly what Paula Poundstone does. She turns her kid-brain on as she asks question after question to the unsuspecting saps in the audience. She'll want to know someone's job, and their job before that, and right back to the beginning, trying to get at how they arrived at their current position. It's the equivalent of the "why? why? why?" of a preschooler. Sometimes the interview seems to be going nowhere, but Poundstone is no quitter. She knows she's good enough to spin even the dullest of subjects into comedy gold. She's in no hurry. She takes us to the brink of losing us – she's not afraid of the quiet (except in her hotel room at night when she needs the drone of CNN for company) – and then ever-so-skillfully brings us all back into the fold.
When talking with a spotlight operator, she found out that the woman started as a teenager carrying Jane Siberry's guitar for her. Poundstone, a fan of the singer, says she never knew how to pronounce her name before. Well, the Jane part she knew, she said to big laughs. "Fuck of a lot of good that did," she said after learning that Siberry has now changed her name to Issa (pronounced eeee-sah). The one thing she knows gets changed. Story of her life.
Okay, so most preschoolers don't say "fuck", but you get the idea. She doesn't much, either. That was the only one. And one "shit". And then each repeated when she was horrified to find a couple of 13-year-olds in the front row. She generally works clean.
One prepared bit I recall was on modern medication. A lot of comics do jokes on anal leakage, but she had a great take on it. If she had a brain tumour and they offered her pills to cure it, but they had a chance of giving her anal leakage, she'd gather her kids around and tell them she loved them and she'd miss them. And then she turned the premise on its head. If, on the other hand, she had anal leakage and were offered a pill to cure it, with the possible side effect of a brain tumour, she'd ask for a glass of water. (I'm paraphrasing, of course, but it's still really funny, I think you'll agree.)
After almost two hours, Poundstone left the stage to a standing ovation. I heard nothing but good things from the people filing out of the place. It's just a shame there weren't more of them.
That's about as far as my memory will take me. If any readers here were at the show, feel free to offer your comments below. It'll spur my memory, too.
On a side note, there was one woman in the audience who almost ruined it for everyone. She had the remnants of a laugh that was a high-pitched, inhaled squeal. Poundstone addressed it a few times, but showed remarkable restraint because this woman did it throughout the show. It seemed to me, and many others in attendance, that she was just doing it for attention. There's no way you can be so aware of that noise coming out of your face and not do your best to muzzle it. She should either try harder to overcome her handicap or never, ever go to another live comedy show again. Ever. She was with two other people. I'm guessing they were new friends who had never been out with her before. She must go through thousands because there's no way I'd ever go out with her a second time.
But all in all, it was a really enjoyable experience. I'd love to see her back here again soon. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. All it would take is a local promoter with some gumption and a work ethic and a venue that would give her the same respect they give their own acts.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
- "funny job interview mistakes blogspot" (from Manila)
- "johnny carson luckiest person in the world love" (from an unknown American city)
- "brent butt not funny" (from some lost soul in Toronto)
- "jon dore homosexual" (from Brampton)
RIVER ROCK CASINO RESORT
IRWIN BARKER & FRIENDS:
FIGHTING CANCER WITH COMEDY
SATURDAY, JUNE 13
Richmond, BC – For the second year, River Rock Casino Resort will be presenting “Irwin Barker & Friends: Fighting Cancer With Comedy” … a hilarious evening of stand-up with all proceeds going to the Richmond Hospital Foundation. Irwin Barker is a Gemini nominated comedy writer and performer who is well known in the Vancouver comedy scene. He is currently a staff writer on CBC’s award-winning Rick Mercer Report. Prior to that, he spent several years as a writer for CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
In June 2007, Irwin was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare type of terminal cancer. Since then, he has been actively involved as an inspirational speaker on how he has used humour as a vital coping mechanism in his personal fight against cancer. He has been a headline performer at numerous cancer fundraisers as well as a keynote speaker for conferences dealing with cancer and palliative care. His first year of cancer treatment was the subject of a nationally televised CTV documentary, That’s My Time. The documentary debuted at the Halifax Film Festival in September 2008 where it was selected as Best Canadian Film. The reaction to Irwin’s presentations on comedy and cancer has been overwhelmingly positive seeing it as a “perfect combination of humour and reflection.” In Irwin’s own words, “Cancer has my body but not my spirit and I’ll continue to make jokes ... not so much about cancer but in spite of it.”
Proceeds from the event will go towards the Richmond Hospital Foundation’s $4 million MRI Campaign. “We are so close, over 90% raised,” says Lisa Westermark, Executive Director. “We just need a little more to reach our goal and provide MRI service in Richmond Hospital. Together we can reduce wait times, improve access and allow for consultation between radiologists and specialists. In short, we can transform care for our community.” The show will also feature comedians from across Canada including local comic Graham Clark who can currently be seen on Citytv’s The CityNews List, triple Gemini winner Tim Steeves and Toronto's own Tim Rykert who recently toured throughout North America as the opening act for Michael Bublé along with a few surprise guests.
TICKETS ON SALE THURSDAY, APRIL 16 @ 10:00 AM
DOORS: 7:00 PM SHOW: 8:00 PM
Tickets: $24.50 (+ Service Charge & Facility Fee) – Cabaret Seating
Tickets available at all Ticketmaster Outlets or charge-by-phone (604) 280-4444
or order on-line at www.ticketmaster.ca
Ages 19 years and over
Monday, April 13, 2009
For my money, she's the funniest woman in America. And that's tough, because I love Susie Essman and Joy Behar, Judy Gold... and there's a whole bunch... Maria [Bamford]. But Kathleen I've known for a long time. She's at the top of her game. She's a pain in the ass to follow, though. "Really? You had to be that funny, fucker?"Here's a taste of both those comics. I'll write more on Black closer to his appearance next month.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
(The previous record, fyi, was four coincidentally set the last time Darcy Michael was on. That guy has a following.)
Next week, as you can see over in the right-hand panel, we have the legend that is Derek Edwards! He's one of the funniest guys in the world so that'll be a good one, I just know.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I play from his CD Faulty Intelligence on the show all the time. On his website, I noticed he'd be playing Eugene on Saturday and then nothing until Tuesday's gig – his first ever – in Vancouver. So I wrote him asking if he'd be in town on Sunday and if so would he come on the show. Or at the very least call in. This morning I got the bad news. He wrote to say he's had to cancel this leg of the tour. Doh!
Hopefully it won't be too long before he makes it back here. And hopefully I don't have to rely on a poster in a library to inform me he's coming.
Meanwhile, take a look at some of his work. Zimmerman is an unabashed liberal and went to town during the Bush II administration, as you'll see in these clips. It'll be interesting to see what direction he takes under Obama:
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I had a great talk with Paula, who I've been a fan of for years and years. We bonded over Ping-Pong. Unfortunately, I had to get to the nitty-gritty details on her 2001 arrest. In doing some pre-chat internet scouring, I was surprised at just how many interviews with her didn't broach the subject at all. It was like the proverbial elephant in the room. The interviewer knew about it, Poundstone knew the interviewer knew about it, but nobody was talking about it. Strange, because she talks about it in her act.
I went into our conversation knowing I'd ask her about the charges. Where she took it was up to her. Maybe she'd not want to talk about it, I don't know. But I'd never know unless I asked. To her credit, she answered my questions thoughtfully, emotionally and frankly.
Of course, then I had a problem. My preference would be to write a story concentrating on her act because she is, after all, one of the top stand-up comics of her generation. But I couldn't ignore the elephant. There are people out there who, to this day, think she's some kind of pervert. They know nothing about the case other than the headlines it generated when she was first arrested. They don't realize that cops don't determine guilt; the courts do. Of course, by the time she got to court, some folks had already made up their minds.
She gave me such good quotes that I had to use them in the story. And the subject was so multi-layered I couldn't very well just touch on it in a sentence or two. So it is what it is. But if I could sum up my story in a sentence, it would be: Paula Poundstone made some mistakes, paid the price, isn't a creep, and is, in fact, still really, really funny and you should see her live show.
Anyway, here are some quotes that didn't make the final story. It gives you a bigger picture:
My manager called me the other day to say that nobody in Vancouver seems to know me and that this was going to cause a problem for ticket sales. So she said, "What if you made a film for YouTube about going to Canada?!" I said, "Why will that help?" And she said, "Well, it's better than doing nothing." Okay. I didn't want to seem like a person that wasn't go along to get along. I actually kinda got into it. So I spent two days using much more technology than I actually am skilled at. I spent two days making this film about sort of reintroducing myself (laughs) to Vancouver. I worked my ass off. I ignored the children and I finished it and I sent it to my manager, which I don't even know how to do and yet I sent it to my manager. She called me back. She said, "It's brilliant! It's genius! It's great!" And then she sent it to my agent and said, "Ooh, they thought it was great! They thought it was so funny, it's one of the best things you ever did. It was great!... Can you cut it in half?"Here's the clip she made:
So then I cut it in half. I cut it in half at the airport at six a.m. I took two sections out entirely. Just sort of brutal cuts because I didn't know how to cut it down within each piece, so I just took two sections out entirely. And I call her and I say, "Fine, I cut it." She said, "Well, what did you do?" And I told her what I cut out, and she goes, "Oh, I wouldn't have cut that out!" At which point I said, "Look, if you all know so much more than me, which is fine with me, then you do it." I haven't even looked at the version that they made because it was too upsetting for me.
I have no hard evidence one way or the other, but anecdotally, at least, I think her manager is dead wrong. So many times, regular non-comedy people ask me what I'm working on, who's coming to town, etc. I mention some really big names in comedy and invariably they ask, "Who's that?" But when I've mentioned Paula Poundstone, they all know who she is.
I mention we bonded over Ping-Pong. She calls it the "second-greatest game in the world" behind basketball. So there was that bond, too.
Oh, man, it's too bad we're not in the same place because we have parties four or five times a year, sadly not more, that are Ping-Pong parties. My friends gave me an old, like from a high school gym, scoreboard that has lightbulbs for the numbers. Oh, it's the best. It's so much fun.If I could, I'd play Ping-Pong every day. But it takes two. Still, I was intrigued about the Ping-Pong parties. She explained:
We have a tournament with a chart and we pick partners. We play doubles and we pick the names out of a hat for how to pair people. If I see a team that I happen to know is really going to be bad, then I cheat and reshuffle because I don't want people to have a not fun time. It's not fun to go out and just totally suck. And I have prizes for the winners. Several times I've been willing to not have prizes and then this friend of mine who helps me set up the party, he's always like, "Oh no, you've gotta have the prizes." It's usually like a Blockbuster card or something. When I moved into the first house that I lived in, which I bought because there was a basketball hoop in the driveway, by the way--We talked about her early years on The Tonight Show. Most of her appearances were with Jay Leno, but her first couple were with the legendary Johnny Carson, who propelled the careers of many a stand-up comic. I wondered if she was one of them:
GM: Another great reason to choose a house.
Yeah! That's the selling point. When I moved into my first house, my friend gave me a surprise party on that night, which, looking back, I think is insane. But it was the only thing that I had set up. Obviously it was all boxes. But the only thing that I had set up was the Ping-Pong table. It was in a garage that you didn't use a car with. It was like a refurbished garage. And she just got my book and called people whose names she had remembered me mentioning at one time or another. She didn't really know everybody that I knew. So we had this really eclectic group of people that didn't know each other. And by the end of the night people were hugging and slapping one another on the back. You know, because when you play together you get so excited about... You're friends for life once you've been a doubles team. Especially if you're a winning doubles team!
And then, okay, for your party here's what you need to do. At the end, when all the glory's already been had, you do around-the-table Ping-Pong. There's no number who can play. Everybody can play. It's very fast. The good thing about it you lose and ten seconds later you're back in the game. It used to be you'd leave the paddles on the table, as I recall, but people say that's not good so instead you pass the paddles. Then when it's your turn you hit the ball and then you run and obviously if you miss, you sit down. But it's such a fast game that nobody loses and then doesn't play. You're around the table in a circle. It is so much fun.
My game's not what it used to be. I used to be sort of the ringer. And now sometimes when somebody's really good, I don't invite 'em back!
I run the show here! I hate to lose at Ping-Pong.
I don't think that 'propelled' is probably the right word. (laughs) I was on Carson a coupla few times. I think by the time I came around we were a generation or two apart and I was just sort of there, in terms of him, you know what I mean?Despite all her successes, Poundstone remains humble:
When Joan Rivers was first on, the next day everyone knew her. But no, by the time I came around it didn't have the same power that it once had. I mean, unless you were extraordinary when you did it, which I wasn't. I was just okay. You know, I was fine. I wasn't bad, but it wasn't the kind of thing where the handful of people that saw it talked about it the next day. It wasn't like that. It wasn't meteoric by any stretch. My whole career's been that way, though. Everything has just been one foot in front of the other. Plodding might be the right word. I don't say that by way of complaining because in fact I support myself and I have three children that I've been able to raise with the money that I make. And we have Ping-Pong parties. I'm doing this new silly stupid technology thing and I'm kinda having fun with it.
I consider myself truly the luckiest person in the world. Because it doesn't necessarily last forever, people wanting to come see you. Some people that I started out with don't get to do this job at all anymore. And, you know, my plodding pace has done it.
I've never considered I quote-unquote "made it". And I'm so silly. You know, I still go to the mailbox with enthusiasm and I answer the phone with excitement as if there's going to be a letter in here or there's going to be a phone call wherein they say you've made it. And I wait for it every single day, I swear. It's the silliest thing in the world and it never happened. I have gotten to the point, because I'm 49, where I look around, particularly in this economy, and I'm able to go, "Wow. Lucky. Lucky, lucky, lucky." And I like when I see my stuff go up on YouTube or whatever. I mean, I don't know how to do that. I just recently learned so I didn't put most of that stuff up there. Somebody else did. But I look at my old stuff and I go, "Gee, I was kind of funny back then."Yes, she was. And still is, judging from her last Bravo! special a couple years ago. Here's a clip of her from back in the day. It still holds up:
I mentioned that her legal problems came in 2001. Some of you might remember that year. When I suggested that she might be one of the few Americans to see the silver lining in 9/11 if only because it finally pushed her name out of the headlines, she said:
It took over the news. Yeah, yeah. Well, it's true that in the grand scheme of things what was happening to me did not belong on the news one way or another. So, uh, yeah. Although certainly I wouldn't wish to have anything precluded by that.There's more, but I don't want to take away from your full enjoyment of the transcribed interview. I'll let you know when that gets posted on the Comedy Couch. Meanwhile, enjoy a clip of Paula from her last special. It's lie-down comedy of the highest order:
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
But now, through the magic of video, it's like I was. Each week on their website, they're going to show excerpts from the previous week. I love this idea. Hopefully, though, it won't keep people away, figuring they can just watch on-line. I'm sure the idea is to whet their comedic appetites, if you will, so they'll make it down to Broadway and Alma one Monday night. To that end, maybe they need to give smaller tastes of the acts, and edit them all together for some one-stop viewing. But I'm glad I was able to catch most of what I missed. Here are the first two on their page, all really funny.
City-TV superstar Charlie Demers:
Kelly "In my day" Dixon:
To watch all the other acts (minus Hutchinson, for some reason, and Dave Shumka for another reason), check out their video page. You'll see A.J. McKenzie, Paul Breau, musical act Janet Panic, Barry Greenfeld, and host Tim Rykert.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Heads-up on a couple new comedy rooms around town:
Tonight, The Bourbon on West Cordova hosts The Laugh Factory. And on Monday night, it's the grand opening of the Bee's Knees Comedy Arrangement at the Jazz Cellar on Broadway (near Alma). Now, I've never been to The Bourbon, but I've spent many an hour at the Cellar over the years. Not only is it a great room for jazz, it's almost perfect for comedy. Not too big, not too small, great sight lines, great sound, great menu, cool vibe. I'd love for it to work out just because it's a great hang. So if you're free, you should definitely check it out.
I interviewed Paula Poundstone a week or two ago. That story will be in the Straight this Thursday. Once it's there, I'll report back here with some extra tidbits I couldn't squeeze into the story – don't want to scoop myself, y'understand. So keep checking back.
Tomorrow I'll be speaking to one of the members of Spinal Tap. Which one? Good question. I guess I'll find out tomorrow. You'll hear about it soon enough. If you've got any questions you want me to ask, add them to the comments section and I'll try to squeeze them in.