Thursday, September 27, 2007

Interview with blogger East Village Idiot (Part 4 of many)

[To read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of this interview. ]

Quest: So why were you an idiot for moving to Vermont from New York City? It sounds like you had a lot of fun in Vermont.

Chris: Okay, I had fun there, but I came right back to the city. I had to ask myself, "Why did I do this?" And here's why I'm an idiot: I wasted so much money moving up there. I had to buy a car. And then I had to sell the car and take the loss on it. I took a salary cut to move up there to take the job. Because then cost of living is less. "Oh wait! But I have to have a car which will basically reduce my cost of living." So then it ended up being the exactly the same.

Living up there I was pretty much the only person who was 24 years old and single and employed. Cause everyone else moving up there was as a hippie--OMG, The damn dirty hippies-- or a hick.

I think the funniest thing was that I moved to Vermont being a dyed-in-the-wool New England liberal, and left Vermont so frustrated by the crazy hippies there that I definitely became a lot more conservative than I was before I moved up there.

The Hippies were like, "No we don't want this drug store here because drug stores are bad."

I say, "You medicate yourself your way. Let me medicate myself my way."

It was absolutely absurd. It was just bizarre. I rolled my eyes so much there.
And Oh my god everyone drives so slowly up there. On a road where the speed limit's like 55 and they'll travel at 35. It'll be on a two lane road and you're stuck behind them for 20 miles without a passing zone. "OMG I just want to get home!"

Quest: But where are they going? Not everyone is driving to work. There shouldn't be any rush hour traffic.

Chris: Burlington is a pretty condensed city, but the State of Vermont is incredibly rural. Basically, outside of Burlington vermont, it's pretty much like Alabama--in so many ways. Outside of burlington, Vermont is pretty much like alabama only much, much, whiter.

Burlington is frigid. It was so cold during the winter. I used to walk to work because I lived downtown and worked downtown. (It was my small attempt at bringing a piece of New York City with me to Vermont.) So one week we had a string of ridiculously cold days. The high temperature was below zero--the high was below zero.

And then one day, I stepped outside my door and it was sunny and it was clear and there was no wind. It was absolutely beautiful outside. The sun was shining. You could see across the lake--the mountains on the Adirondacks are on the other side. I unzipped coat. I took off my hat. I took off my scarf. I was like, "Oh, this is so great!!"

And so I walk into our office and the receptionist is there. And I turn to her and say, "It's a beautiful day out there today."

She responds cheery, "Yeah, it's 5!"

And she was right. It was five degrees. When it's minus 15 degrees every morning for a week straight, 5 feels warm. It's like it being 20 degrees for a week and then it's 40.

Quest: Wow, that's Canadian weather!

Chris: We were practically in Canada. There are parts of Canada that are further south than Burlington, VT.

Quest: Isn't Montreal nearby?

Chris: Uh huh.

Quest: How close is Montreal?

Chris: About an hour and 15 mins away. It was nice. I used to go up there a lot. Actually I used to shop at IKEA. Here's the problem with going to IKEA in Quebec, specifically.

You see like a little gadget. It's a Swedish name and there's no real description of what it is. Or there's a description, but it's not really clear what you can actually do with this thing. Imagine having all those descriptions in french.

Quest: It's supposed to be bilingual. The national languages are french and english.

Chris: Oh, no! It's barely bilingual. Honestly, if you were driving through some parts of Quebec and your car broke down and you had to pull over and need help. You might not find someone who speaks english. There are certain enclaves in Quebec that are strictly french speaking.

I went to a French-Canadian McDonald's inside a French-Canadian Walmart. It was the two most American things you could ever do in Québec. It was so weird. It was like walking into this alternate dimension, where everything looks the same except it's in French.

As you cross the border, if you have Vermont plates on your car, they're pretty lenient. Occasionally, you have to pop your trunk on the way back.


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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Interview with blogger East Village Idiot (Part 3 of many)

[To read Part 1 or Part 2 of this interview. ]

Quest: What is the line of demarcation, in years, where a person can officially say he/she's a New Yorker?

Chris: Well, this is a tough question. I moved to New York right after college and lived here for about a year and a half, left and then came back. So I've been here about 3 and a half years now, total. I'm feeling more and more like one everyday.

I am really bothered by native New Yorkers who say, "If you didn't grow up here you can never be a true New Yorker."

And I say in response, "Excuse me." All right, to a certain extent, yeah. I'll never know what it's like to have gone to high school here or something. But how does that make me less of a New Yorker than you. You're still going through the same experiences that I'm going through on a daily basis. I've put up with it for the 3.5 years. And if you're my age and you went to college and are coming back you've probably been through it for 3.5 years, too! So, I think the whole concept is kind of ridiculous. When you first move to the city and you know nothing about it--that's one thing. I've taken the time and I've definitely passed that learning curve.

Quest: Which is how long?

Chris: I hesitate to put a number on it. (pause) You work to get to know the city. I'm one of those people who will explore the outer regions of Brooklyn and Queens. I will gladly go to the Bronx. I've been to Staten Island. I bet there are many New Yorkers who have never been to Staten Island. I can guarantee you that! Although there are also New Yorkers who truly believe that Staten Island is not a part of New York. I concur because I've been there.

How about this? The day you become a true New Yorker is the day that you're willing to openly berate someone for doing something that frustrates you in public.

Quest: Get out! You've done that?

Chris: Oh, absolutely! I have verbalized my frustration at people before. Actually, it was on the 1st Ave subway station one morning. This girl had a large backpack she was wearing. And she was standing on the platform--the platform was really crowded waiting for the L-train.

This commuter says to her, "It's too crowded for you to be wearing that thing in here!"

She says in response, "If you don't like it, you take a cab!"

He says, "Well, you're the one who has a big bag. You should go and take a cab!"

So I say to the guy, "Why don't you f*ckin' stop judging people and go take a cab"

The girl turns to me and says, "Thank you."

There are days when the frustration level reaches a peak and I can't deal with it anymore. So, I'm going to say something.

On a crowded subway, you know you're not going to get beaten up for voicing your opinion because there are fifty other people around you.

Quest: You seem to have strong sentiments towards the city. Was that always apparent? Were you always a city boy?

Chris: When I was a little kid and even up to the age of twenty, I always said, "I'll never live in New York city. I hate New York city. I hate big cities, in general. You can't even get me to live in downtown Boston."

And now look at a me! I'm living in Manhattan of all places--everything I feared about New York has come to life. It was just an irrational fear. I think it was fear of the unknown. And then I was immediately in love with the city.

Not even the day I moved here, but the day I came here to start looking at apartments. I remember asking myself, "Why did I ever think twice?" And just think, if I hadn't come to that realization, I could be in Boise, Idaho, right now. So I'm grateful for that.

Quest: I'm sure many of your readers are grateful, too! (pause) But what about New York city makes people stay? There's definitely a camaraderie I think is apparent that most tourists miss out on.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. The thing about New York that the denizens get to experience is the community aspect of it all. People look after each other here. Just a month into my moving into the city, was the blackout in August 2003. Things in New York were kinda crazy. Everyone was kinda freaking out a little bit.

I helped this girl who was completely lost. She was in a tizzy when she approached me and lists off her predicament: "The subways aren't running. I can't catch a cab. I don't know how I'm going to get home."

So I said, "Walk with me. You're walking in the right direction."
I got to my apartment, went upstairs got her a map, gave it her, and highlighted the route for her to get home.

The second act of kindness during the blackout I witnessed was where this guy had a fainted on the Queensboro bridge. (I walked over the Queensboro to get back to Brooklyn, which seems counter productive but I was living in Greenpoint then. It wasn't that far out of the way.)

So this guy passed out on the bridge. And everyone was freaking out. It's literally in the middle of the bridge. There was no way we could carry him all the way across the bridge. There were cars on the bridge, but they weren't moving because they were just enveloped with pedestrians, who were also walking across the bridge. So twenty people flagged down a Fed-Ex truck, cleared the way, put the guy on the truck, ran down the bridge alongside the truck, moving people aside to get the truck across the bridge. New Yorkers actually looking out for others in times of crisis? It happens.

Quest: So what's the connection to Vermont?

Chris: This is a funny story. Here's the theme: I'm an idiot.

Quest: it says in your title of your blog.

Chris: Except it's not just the title of my blog. Here's what happened: When I was living in New York. It was a really hot summer, the second summer I lived here. I was like, "I can't stand the heat. I can't stand the crowds. I can't stand this city anymore. I have to get out!!!"

Quest: You had a breakdown.

Chris: I just had a complete breakdown. I'm just like, "I cannot deal with this anymore. I hate slow pedestrians. I hate how stuffy the subway is. Bad example, but I was like, "I hate waiting 25 mins for the G train." (That was my own damned fault for deciding to live in Greenpoint.)

So I was like, "That's it--I'm moving!" I took a job at an ad agency in Burlington, Vermont and moved up there. I lived up there for two winters. Skiied the heck out of those winters--had probably the greatest summer of my life. You remember the Seinfeld episode, The Summer of George? The summer I lived up there was The Summer of Chris. I was on a boat every weekend, out on the lake or hiking, kayaking. I was swimming in swimming holes...

And then I realized: "I am sooo bored up here."

Think about it. There 40,000 people living in Burlington, VT.

And then there are 40,000 people living in a 10 block radius of this pizza place. There are 40,000 people in Burlington and it's the largest city in the state!!!

I realized that I have to come back to the city.

[ Part 4 of this interview can be found here


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interview with blogger East Village Idiot (Part 2 of many)

[To read Part 1 of this interview.]

Quest: How do you feel about anonymous comments v. fellow blogger's comments v. regulating comments v. commenting in general?

Chris: I have to say that Gawker commenters are--I hate to say this because I am a commenter on Gawker--but they're the scum of the earth.

Quest: I didn't realize you had a specific "most hated" commenter. So you mean, Gothamist and all those guys?

Chris: Oh, yeah. If you're commenting on a blog, unless you're a fan of what you're reading, you're probably commenting because you don't like what you've read. I had a string of two posts last summer that were both linked by Gawker over a span of 2-3 days. People threw insults my way. People called me a rapist and a womanizer. I'm like, "What!?!"

So I guess the old adage is true: "Anyone can say anything on the internet."

I'll let anyone say whatever they want on my blog as long it's within reason. If it's completely and totally offensive, then I will go in and delete a comment. Luckily, that's only happened once or twice. It's a democracy.

I don't ever moderate my comments, but I do have a spam filter. And sometimes things that aren't spam, end up in my spam filter. Someone will tell me, "I posted a comment and you won't let it go up." And then it's followed by a nasty email. I get blamed for it, but honestly I didn't even know. I'll go to my spam filter and there will be three comments from people waiting to be approved. So fair warning to commenters: There are certain words that someone might use which will trigger the filter. You just have to be aware and be patient.

Quest: I was thinking of switching over to Wordpress. You're using Wordpress, right?

Chris: Yes. You can do more, but you can do less with Wordpress, too. It's very restrictive in terms of templates and they don't allow flash or anything on the site. It really restricts what you can do. Today I had a post from and it's because of that restriction that just a couple weeks ago, I migrated to a new server--just so that I could use flash again. Wordpress, if you host it on your own server, is a lot more flexible.

Quest: If you're hosted somewhere else, then it's more flexible.

Chris: Right.

I was so blown away by the tech stuff. I'm not a technical person at all. When I had to move all my stuff over to a server, it became a nightmare. I spent 12 hours on a beautiful Saturday sitting in front my computer all day trying to figure it all out. All these code words and everything--The "php" dot file. I don't trust myself messing with files when I don't know what they control.

Quest: What do you use, Mac or PC?

Chris: I have a Mac. Although, if I'm posting at work, I'm posting on a PC.

Quest: Do you consider yourself funny?

Chris: I don't think of myself of as funny. I think it would be really cocky to say that I'm funny. I thrive on feedback. And when I don't receive any, I begin to get nervous. Last week was a prime example: Summer's over and there's work on the table for everyone. And suddenly every one stopped commenting. I put a post up saying, 'What the hell guys? You're not giving me any feedback at all.' And then people started commenting are even moreso, which was good.

Quest: You actually posted, 'Why aren't you commenting?', to your readers?

Chris: Yes, and it worked.

Quest: So were you a class clown in school?

Chris: OMG, I was the biggest recluse in school. In school, I was the quiet one. No one expects that now. I did a total about-face. I was funny-looking, but I was never actually funny growing up as a kid. In my earlier years, I was totally an attention-whore. I will gladly admit this. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a game show host when I grew up. I would have my grandparents as contestants. I would ask them questions about my favorite cartoons. And they wouldn't know the answers and they would lose. I would get fed up with them and throw things at them. I was a really vindictive game show host! I was one sexual harassment suit away from being the next Bob Barker.

Quest: Niiiiiice.

Chris: I actually have two friends who won the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right.

Quest: Whoa!

Chris: I mean, won it all!

Quest: Aren't they taxed when they win?

Chris: Oh, yeah! They all had to shovel out ridiculous amounts of money in taxes, just to get their prizes. So you actually don't want to win it all on The Price is Right. Winning cash is one thing because they can just take it out--they can just garnish the cash. But with prizes it's different.

Quest: Why?

Chris: If you a win a prize, for example: if you win a car, you can't just saw the car into two pieces and give the government 52% of it.

Quest: Why not just sell it?

Chris: But, you have to pay the taxes just to receive it.

Quest: No wonder people were so pissed about the Oprah car giveaway. I would opt for Jeopardy any day.

Chris: Yeah. (pause) I once was a contestant on Cash Cab.

Quest: Really?! How did that turn out?

Chris: We ended up losing it all before we got to our destination.

Quest: Bummer. Sorry to hear that. But Ben Bailey is a mad genius of a comedian.

Chris: Yes!! Ben Bailey is a sorely underrated! People don't realize how terribly funny he is. You spend 45 laugh out loud minutes in the cab with him, and you only get to see a snippet of his personality edited into 7 min.

Quest: Do you think you have to develop sense of humor to live in NY in order to survive?

Chris: Oh, absolutely! I think if I didn't have a sense of humor about the things that I see in the city on a daily basis and the things that I deal with on a daily basis here, I would be a miserable person.

We're sharing so much of our personal space. There are people that live out in suburban midwestern cities that never come within 3 feet of someone in a given day. And here we are stuffing ourselves into a subway train, giving each other our six inches of personal space.

Quest: Is that humor or couldn't that be misconstrued as just plain patience?

Chris: I don't think that it's patience because no one in NY is patient. Let's be honest. We're always in a rush to get to our destination. I admit, I have Pedestrian Rage. Just like most people have Road Rage while driving, I have Pedestrian Rage. We have to replace it with something. It fills that little void that we left behind when I sold my car. There's no way you could get by if you didn't just roll your eyes and kind of chuckle to yourself this person in front of me is plodding down the stairs really slowly. One on the local and one on the express track. And I just put up my arms. You get frustrated but you just have to brush it off.

[ The continuation, Part 3, of this interview you can find here. ]


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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Interview with blogger East Village Idiot (Part 1 of many)

I got a chance to interview the coolest blogger this side of 14th street and 3rd Ave. His name is Chris, of the blog East Village Idiot. And some surprising things popped up during this interview!

Believe it or not there will be a Part Two. (My recording device stopped mid-interview--yeah, super professional of me, right? There was too much to talk about.) Our story begins in a land called "The East Village" at a pizzeria shop near 14th street:

Quest: So you originally grew up where?

Chris: In the smallest state with the longest name, Rhode Island; the official state name is the "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

Quest: In your "About" section, on your blog, you state your point of the blog is, "To ramble incoherently about the world around us. And occasionally, make people laugh in the process." So right off the bat, you have an immediate connection to comedy. Care to elaborate?

Chris: I always thought of myself as less of a comedian and more of humorist. I think there's a distinct difference between being a comedian and being a humorist. A humorist is funny on paper. A lot of my friends say, 'You're horribly unfunny in person. You're really funny on your blog. Why can't you be that funny in person?' I think my tone comes across better in writing than it does verbally. People can interpret [my writing] in different ways. I think I'm very sarcastic. I don't know if that necessarily comes across. The ambiguity actually works to my advantage.

I remember I wrote a piece when the "Don Imus thing" happened. It was titled "Five quotes from other radio personalities." [These quotes were] some really offensive things that famous radio personalities like Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Neal Boortz had said. These guys are all whack-o far right radio talk-show hosts. They're carried on ten times more stations than Don Imus is and they're still employed. I just put the quotes up. I put no commentary behind it all. Probably about 100,000 people visited my blog just for that post. It was on and several other social bookmarking sites. Plus, there were about 70-80 people who actually commented on the blog.

The responses varied from:

"Oh yeah, I totally agree with you. These people should be fired."


"Oh, yeah I totally agree with you. Don Imus shouldn't have been fired."

I didn't make a judgment one way or the other. It wasn't meant to be funny, but it served to vent my frustrations at the time. That happens on occasion: I'll have a post that's not meant to be funny at all, but instead though-provoking. It doesn't happen too often, but when it does sometimes [as a blogger] you get more attention.

[To see the quotes that Chris refers to, see this [link to A.B.W's blog]

I always ask myself. Why are people keep coming back and reading? I must be doing something right. It's really strange, too. I received an IM the other day from a reader. She started with, 'My friends and I were debating something on your blog.' Now I'm thinking about how odd this situation is. Let's put this in perspective: This total stranger is talking with her other friends, who are also total strangers, about something that I wrote. Two years of blogging and it still hasn't processed in my mind that people do [add my blog posts into their daily conversation.] People actually consider what I say. I never meant for it to get to the point that it has. I am very appreciative of the fact that it has gotten to this point. It was just meant to be tongue-in-cheek stuff for my friends to read. And then all of a sudden it blew up!

Quest: What was the date your blog 'blew up'? What's the timeline from 'beginning blogger' to 'blogger phenom'? Explain how it worked for you.

Chris: The first six months you have no audience. If you keep up your consistency, if you keep being funny, and you keep putting effort into it, it'll pay off.

The post that got me off the ground (and I always credit my friend for this) came out of the blue. My friend who lives in Washington D.C. called me drunk at midnight on a weeknight. She says to me, "My friend is driving and we're lost." I say, "Okay where are you?" She communicated where they were. So I told her, 'No, you're going the wrong way. You need to turn around.' After this whole conversation took place, I mapped it out on a map to emphasize the fact that they double-backed twice and then drove halfway the other way across town. And the website, Wonkette picked it up.

Quest: Wonkette?

Chris: It's a political blog/website owned by Gawker media. It was started by Ana Marie Cox, who works for Time Magazine right now. All of the sudden out of nowhere one day that post got linked. Every now and then I check to see how many people are reading the blog. All of a sudden I go from having 30 of my closest friends reading it once a day to 2,000 people. I remember asking myself, 'Why have 2,000 people visited today? Who are these people?'

Quest: How do you manage to multiple posts in one day? How many ideas? I notice you don't do long drawn out post. At most 200-500 words. You use a lot of pictures/images. What is your M.O. when it comes to your posts?

Chris: Literally, an idea will pop into my head or I'll see something on the street, and I'll say, "I have to blog that!" or "I'm taking a picture! It's going in the blog." My camera phone kinda need an upgrade. The pictures are kinda grainy. But for now, it does the job. Next investment: New camera.

With regards to posts, what I try to do is if I have ideas that aren't timely, I'll store them for a slow day. I post during the day, but I usually don't write during the day. (I'm working during the day, obviously I'm not writing.) Unless, it's something brief that I really want to profile and it's very timely and specific to that day--then during lunchtime I'll throw it up.

Other than that, on Saturdays or Sundays, you'll find me either at my couch at home or at Starbux sitting down for an hour or two pumping out a few ideas.

[ Part 2 is continued in this next post. ]


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Monday, September 17, 2007

Comedy and Humo(u)r in 2020 (Part 2 of 2)

So now that you've had a full weekend to digest Part 1 of this series, perhaps we can try and make sense of what we read.

Personally, I found the book so far very difficult to read. And I've noticed from some comments, some of you have found that to be true as well. I've found with this blog, I make concerted efforts to make my point very clear. I remember sophomore year English writing class, "Clarity is key!"

This book doesn't focus on clarity but more on ideas--the abstract. This makes for a difficult read. I also wonder if it's because I'm not psychic nor do I have Nostradamus-like visions of the future. The words may be written via stream of consciousness, which makes it hard to follow.

But I do believe, if I am to be a great performer, a great entertainer, a great comedian, and it takes 10 years to prepare (2007-2017), by the time it hits 2020, I should be well-adapted by that time.

Maybe in order to better prepare I should be paying attention to what is NOT funny in 2020:

Today people laugh at others' ideas, labeling them ridiculous. Not so, in 2020. All have a right to be, even ideas. Laughing at something is a way of distancing.

Well, by 2020 people relate totally differently to both ideas and people, relating to ideas just like people. They don't judge ideas, for example, allowing them to flow, honoring them for what they are. Because of this, although it might appear they are giggling at something at times, they are not.

When people laugh in 2020, it is because they are actually identifying with something much deeper. Their laughs are fueling more advanced ideas... for within laughter is insight, a potent evolutionary force, which people can feel. After laughing, it is not the least bit unusual for a person to comment on his addition to being a great healing tool in 2020, laughter is also a great learning tool.

I like what she says about laughter being a great learning tool. And if you have been paying attention to the smallest bit in this blog, then you would know that I intend to use my comedy as a learning tool.

So what it humo(u)r defined as 2020, then?

...looking at humor from the perspective of people in 2020, I would "define" it as such: Humor is everywhere; it is not just what makes people laugh. It is the laugh, too. It is the person who espouses the humor, it is the listener. It is the mother who influenced the child in what he knows and feels, the joke teller, so to speak. It is the resultant behavior because of the humor. It is everything humor touches; it is everything it doesn't touch. It is not just the joke. It includes all time frames, before, during, and after the immediacy of the humor. Humor is the combined laughs of many; it is the fuel for the jokes or the truths that make up the jokes. It is life itself because life makes up the humor.

As if this comedy thing wasn't confusing enough?

Any thoughts? Discuss amongst yourselves...

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blogrush Is Here! A great way to increase blogtraffic!




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Friday, September 14, 2007

A story everyone should read...

I don't often get too grim on these posts, obviously. But this story is waaaayyy too grim to ignore. (Forward it to friends--and let everyone know)...

The Smoking Gun


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Comedy and Humo(u)r in 2020 (Part 1 of ?)

So I'm currently reading this book about life in 2020.
(Yes, you heard me--life in 2020.) To para-quote that chick from Talladega Nights "Lucy Dee is not a thinker--Lucy Dee is a planner!" So yeah, I'm planning ahead. You know---just in case.

Anyway, the book is called, Conversing with the Future: Visions of the Year 2020, by Jenna Catherine.

Okay, Lucy, what's up this time? Why is this book relevant?

Hold your horses! I was just getting to that, oh dear anxious blog reader.

And Lucy, has anyone ever told you that you're crazy?

yes. and your point?


I picked up the book because I am always interested in the unexplained. And this book mentions what humo(u)r will be like in the future. If I'm a wise comedian, I should be prepared, right? I'm sure you want to be good at a job you love and, ideally, you wish to remain there for as long as humanly possible.

The author mentions that it's important to know the audience, not unlike today. And instead of you trying decipher my normally taxing posts, I'm just going to quote the text. Here the author differentiates between the way the audience perceives humor today, versus how an audience would in 2020 - page 66:

A performer in 2020 jokes about something, an embarrassing situation...he finds himself in. Today a person would view it as such: ..."Oh, how funny. That is so embarrassing; I've been there myself," but that would be the degree of her awareness.

A person in 2020 would be aware of much addition to identifying with the embarrassing situation, she might be aware of true motivation of the performer (not just that he wants to get laughs), perhaps something about his purpose in life, something about the performer's past, including emotional experiences, his current feelings, maybe even his feelings in the future. She would know instantly and intuitively--as is the case with all of these observations--the effects the performer is having on herself, as well as on others in the audience. In other words, people are not just aware of what is happening in the current moment to themselves and others in the audience but also something about the entertainer's "past" and "future," bringing it into the now, as they view him.

So what about the entertainer in 2020? That's what we comedians need to know about! How does the comedian need to function? - page 66:

...[the] same broad perspective also applies to the entertainer himself, in 2020. He too sees the world through many eyes, and many time frames. In fact, if he is a highly skilled entertainer, his perspective is probably even broader than that of his audience members. Today, on-stage entertainers definitely prepare ahead of time but also rely on just "winging it." In 2020, they really wing it. Since they are highly aware of their audiences' perspective, they are able to use that energy--well, for their acts. They integrate the thoughts and feelings of their audience members right into their routines---and on the spot. In some ways, the audience becomes the entertainment. But I am not just saying they are highly skilled improvisational performers, I am saying they are vastly more aware than the same kinds of entertainers today.

What about the laughter itself? How is that characterized? - pages 66-67:

Today, blurting out laughter uproariously whenever one feels like it during a performance might be considered rude. Not so in 2020... a person laughs, another laughs, then another. It's all very spontaneous, even raucous at times. Though not experienced like, "waves" in a football stadium (groups are much smaller in 2020, allowing for more intimacy) waves of sorts are experienced. Not distracting but soothing, people in the audience feel the building of a rhythmic, harmonious sound wave while remaining totally focused on the performer...not only focused--but at one with him. So, by 2020, it's not as if they have no respect for the entertainer, it's just that they know they have a part in the totality of the act. In fact, it would not be unusual for the members of the audience to join the the performer on stage, turning it into a dynamic group experience.

Wait a minute! Did she just mention the audience members in 2020 will join the comedians onstage? Didn't I just spend the better half of two weeks writing about WAYS to AVOID getting the audience member on stage?

What are your thoughts?


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Myth of the Heckler (Part 4 of ?)

[Part 1 of this series can be found here, Part 2 can be found here , and Part 3 is here]

Lucy, what more could there be? Are there are more steps to follow, after tearing the heckler a new one?

Well not more steps, but definitely more advice. Like this one:

- Step One (for the Advanced comedian) -

Here's a tough lesson for comedians to learn. Considered it an advanced rule, for those of you who have mastered all the prior rules.

The Rule:

If 50% of the audience doesn't hear it, it was never said.

Well, what do you mean, Lucy?

Let's go through the scenario, to give you some background:

You are on stage doin' your thang. So far, it's been a successful night. People are laughing it up (at all the right moments) and you have never felt more comfortable than tonight. It's your best performance to date. And you're flying high. You're even having this performance be recorded. Plus, you have agents, managers, and producers scouting you ready to sign you up for that Emmy-winning primetime sitcom--maybe even to host the Oscars!

Tonight you have a packed house. The space is so tight, audience members are standing just to watch you. Yet, somehow the dreaded heckler has made his way into the very front row--within in spitting distance. (Yeah, that close to you, but you're not that uncivilized!) The heckler begins to take potshots at you. Comment one has gone by, and you addressed it using 'Step One'. Comment two has gone by and you use 'Step Two'. And now you've hit comment three, your favorite, and anything's fair game (verbally). So now you give it to him, nailing him with everything under the sun. Perfect, right?

No, not perfect.

The members of the audience from the 5th row back have no clue what's happened and simply pick up one side of the conversation---the side of the conversation that makes you look like an unforgiving, insensitive, egomaniacal prick, who picks on random members of the audience. They think they're witnessing a live demonstration of the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" show. The audience begins to turn on you, and some even beginning to walk out. Agents and managers now see you in bad light, and they walk out complete with the contracts to the new sitcom they had you already to sign up for. You witness firsthand the repercussions of your actions and now, you're wondering

What did I do, Lucy? I followed all the steps!

You did follow all the steps, dear comedian. You did. And right you are. But this is where you went wrong:

You didn't communicate the other 1/2 of the conversation to the audience. The heckler clearly isn't mic'ed (and thank God because that would be hell). So what you need to do next time is: Every time the heckler tries to get away with a sly comment--repeat the comment back to the audience.


Heckler: (whispers) You're a crappy comedian!

You stop in the middle of the joke, turn, and begin to walk towards him. Face him and even bend over a him little because now the audience will see that you're directing your attention to a member of the audience, and an uncouth one at that.

You: (into the mic) You think I'm a crappy comedian, sir?

Heckler: Yeah, you suck!

You: Interesting. And do have any official documents letting us know that you can be a judge of who's crappy and who's not?

Heckler: (now mute)

You: So everyone, this person up front here has a problem with my comedy...

...and so on... and so forth...

Problem solved.

Lucy, why don't you just bring the annoying heckler on stage and let the audience do the justice? Surely, the audience will boo him off stage.

Have you heard the phrase too much of anything will only bring out more of who you are?
Too much money?
Too much authority/power?

Well, the same thing applies for our unruly heckler. Some hecklers feel the safety in numbers. And because they're sitting down, cloaked by the presence of a vast sea of people, they think they're just some anonymous voice. Usually that person is just testing you, and most likely is an introvert. Bring that person on stage, and watch them crumble.

But you could also have "the other" heckler who is ballsy enough to get stage and take over the show--albeit badly, but take it over nonetheless.

That microphone just amplifies who he already is. It gives him more power. And giving him the power, represents your loss of power. Plus, what if was just an asshole while he was seated? Once he's onstage, he's more of an asshole. In fact, an asshole with a microphone! This isn't good for anybody.

Your losing the microphone is the same as taking the pen from the writer, the paintbrush from the artist, or the racecar from the racecar driver. (Yeah, I don't know where that came from either.)

In any case, without the microphone, you're just human. And there's no chance of you getting it back--at least not without some consequence.

Again, the microphone represents power. Why would you want to give away a gift the gods gave you? Or give away the position that you worked so hard to achieve? You're the comedian! Not him!

Well, Lucy, what if the heckler is an inadvertent heckler? What if the person is very vocal, but not mean spirited? What if he enjoys the jokes and very much enjoys the performance, but his enthusiasm begins to slow the show down?

So you're asking about "the vocal conversationalist"?

The vocal conversationalist believes that the show is solely for him--a one-on-one show between you and him, that's being performed solely for his entertainment. After a few too many drinks, he forgets that he's in public and he decides to make the comedy club his own living room. He's watching you on TV, only now he's shouting at the TV screen.

You're right. He or she is not the traditional heckler. He is not there to bring about your demise. He simply feels that you showed up for him and you're there to carry on a personal conversation with him. Your set has moved him to speak, unfortunately at the expense of everyone around him. He is happy to be in your presence and he shows it by uttering add-ons at the end of each punchline.

"Yeah, I hear that!"

"No, you did not!"

"What did you do next?"

In a way, this person is your own personal cheerleader. And, you don't want to smite him down like you would a real heckler. This heckler is not speaking to spite you. For all you know, he's probably your biggest fan (or stalker). Kidding.

So how do you deal with him?

Be kind. And remind him that he's not at home. He's in club sharing a space with other people. He should be able to respect that.

Now at this point he can remain the kind, gentle soul he once was and learn to turn down the enthusiasm. Or he can quickly turn into the antagonistic heckler we are so familiar with. In which case, we would just refer back to 'Step One.'


- Brian Mollica is standup comedian out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He runs his own comedy podcast aired once weekly. I want to point out one show he does on Hecklers, where he talks about the Michael Richards incident which occurred on, November 17, 2006. (Almost a year ago.)

I encourage you to listen to the podcast here:

Podcast Episode: "Boo! You Suck!"
If you're short on time, he addresses the main topic of hecklers which starts at [18min 40 sec]

Podcast summary:

Brian states that two things are the main cause of heckling:

* Alcohol

* Jealousy

The crucial decision you need to make as a comedian is, "Are you going to engage this person?"

Choosing to engage a heckler is a powderkeg-- a completely unpredictable event that is liable to do some real damage.

Brian makes a salient point, "Don't let someone get into your head."

He makes mention of a common stock line - "I don't come to your work and knock the fries out of your hand." (Implying that you work at a fast food establishment.)

He also mentions that "When you engage someone in a crowd you risk "breaking the fourth wall."

Piece of advice: "Never give in: Never let you know that you're beat and your scared."


I've definitely mentioned this movie in 2 previous posts, but you should see the documentary movie, Heckler by Jamie Kennedy for an inside look to what it's like to deal with Hecklers.
This movie goes so far as to profile "the anti-fan," who develops a devout hatred of the comedian and will go out of his way to make your life as an entertainer a living hell. The Anti-fan is not quite a stalker, but pretty darn close.


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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Myth of the Heckler (Part 3 of ?)

[Part 1 of this series can be found here and Part 2 can be found here]

Like a good comedian should, you have been a patient and hospitable host. Up until this point, you've endured two smartass comments from this obnoxious audience member and you can sense that he's not letting up. This fatuous pissant has decided to make tonight the night to satisfy his personal vendetta on you and your dignity.

And out comes the unprovoked comment you were waiting for---comment number three!

Let's put things into perspective: You've worked hard to get here. Hundreds upon hundreds of lame open mics, less than ideal bringer shows, and mildly received guest spots. You've toured. You've traveled. You've worked your way up. And now you're headlining. Finally, you've made your way to this fantastic venue. People have spent money to come see you. That ticket ensures them that they'll see an enthralling fulfilling performance. That ticket ensures that they'll be in the presence of greatness--you. You are the entertainer tonight!

So you're not going to give all that up, are you? To some upstart lame-brain? Have you've practiced, toured, devoted years of your life to this craft, just to be interrupted by some whiny, surly, spoiled troublemaker? You refuse to play "Mr. Nice Comedian," just to appease some soused heckler. You're not going to give the mic up to some person who's only sacrifice was the two drink minimum. Enough of this barracking!!!

By this time, you would have built up your arsenal of "stock lines." So now it's on to, 'Step Three':

- Step Three - Let 'er rip!

Up to this point, you've done your job being a gracious host. You've given him--not one--but two warnings. What else can you do but to "let 'er rip"? He must've saw this coming.

And lucky for you, anything is fair game. You can whip out "The Dozens" and start to make fun of his mother and her cooking. You can rail on his girlfriend, his job, and his life purpose. If you so choose, you can work on your heckler craft so well that he'll leave with a psychological complex. (But I wouldn't go that far. You may end up paying for his health insurance.)

Now, if you want my personal opinion on your 'Step Three' stage rant, then I would at least try to make it entertaining for the audience.

Flying off on a handle, as well-deserved as it might be to the vociferous interlocutor, isn't all that fun for the audience. It sometimes a horror to watch, and takes the audience 'out of it.' The fourth wall inevitably comes toppling down.

Let's explore why adding a little comic flavor is always good in a fight:
Have you ever witnessed a barfight? Or any fight that took place in public? The fact that you even got a chance to witness it in the first place is already humorous. Sometime during the tussle you have to remind yourself that this is real life and that you're not at home on the couch. And being the masochist you are, post-scuffle, you raise your hands to the sky and thank your lucky stars that you were given the opportunity to witness it, secretly wishing (perhaps even going so far as to throw in another prayer) that you can witness another soon.

But do you remember watching a fight where one of the participants threw in a couple japes and jokes in between swings? It made for a much more enjoyable experience, at least on your end, as an member of the gathering crowd. Those cutting remarks also made the opponent that much angrier because the jokes were at his expense, which of course threw off his punches--because he was fighting out of anger.

This same theory applies to the annihilation of the heckler. Make it fun for the audience. Adding a little humor, which shouldn't be hard because that's your job, is guaranteed to make it more memorable and solidify your already popular persona amongst your fans. You'll gain a lot more respect and look good in the process. It's good PR. And you'll be less likely to end your entertainment career. Unlike like what happened to Michael Richards, (R.I.P. July 24, 1949 - Nov 16, 2006 God rest his soul).

[Sidenote to clean comics: If you're not a blue comic, I advise you to remain clean in your 'Step Three' diatribe. Because if there are members of your audience that are in attendance solely because you are a clean comedian (remember there are so few out there), not only do you risk losing them as audience members, but also as fans. Because now you've shown your true colors. You're not as clean and prime and proper as they once imagined you were. You've now sullied your image. So I would advise a clean set of comebacks for those more verbally sensitive audiences members. For example, you can do what Seinfeld does in this clip at about 1:00 min. It's not the greatest example of a complete heckle, but he incorporates it into a joke.]

[To be continued... Yes, there's more!]


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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Myth of the Heckler (Part 2 of ?)

[Part 1 of this post can be found here]

After you've properly addressed that first heckler comment, then you've done your job. You remained professional, read the audience, and used your "stock line" to address the situation. You were a true standup comedian in every respect.

Your stock line should be polite enough to not sound rude, but assertive enough to put the heckler in his place, letting him know that he's treading upon dangerous waters, and that an outburst like that is not appreciated and to not be repeated during your set.

Remember, you own the stage. And you're renting that microphone in the meantime. You should not allow any unruly neighbor to let their dog piss all over your lawn. You've mowed and pruned, and watered that lawn. So you need to assess and take charge! That's what 'Step Two' is about.

You remember the look your mother gave you when you were a child, and she suspected that you were about to get out of line. Not only should you study that look, be able emulate it and unleash it at will, but that deadly look should be translated to a stock line. It should be ominous, biting, stinging, and stays with the heckler forever so much that it haunts him in his dreams. And it should be funny enough to make the audience laugh. That look should be able to penetrate even the most inebriated and belligerent of drunks, stopping them in their tracks before they even had a chance.

Understanding the Heckler's modus operandi

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles ---Sun Tzu, The Art of War

So I know it's trite and cliché to quote Sun Tzu's, The Art of War. (I've never been a fan of war, and the idea of living that as a lifestyle or business tactic (yes, I mean you, Donald Trump) makes me want to puke.)

Be that as it may, this quote sums up how to approach a heckler after 'Step One' has been executed, but has failed. Like Sun Tzu says, you need to know the heckler--know your enemy inside and out. So then, we ask the question:

What is the heckler's motivation?

According to Wikipedia,

"The [heckler's] idea is to get the audience laughing at the interruption."

Thank you, Wikipedia---I've never thought about it that way. But yes, the heckler likes the idea of being on stage just as much as you do.

I would also include somewhere in that definition, "to put an end to your set." There is nothing more satisfying to the heckler than to bring your performance to a dead halt, completely burning your set to a crisp. An even more satisfying feeling to him is basking in the idea that he was the sole cause of your "Towering Inferno.' And the only evidence of your demise are the embers floating above the stage. He revels in your downfall, hoping that you will never to rise again from the ashes. Because then his job is done .

- Step Two - Understand that at this point, once the heckler decides to open his mouth for a second time, he no longer represents the audience. He has now crossed the line from diplomatic representative to power-hungry dictator. Also keep in mind that the first comment may have been a dare. Yeah, he got suckered into it by his frat boy buddies, with the hopes that he will receive approval and acceptance as a result of his stupidness. And you're there as the worthy opponent to put him back in his place. Or it may have been a testament to what the audience was feeling. Maybe the first comment was his way of testing you, just to see how you would react. Perhaps, he's jealous and wants to trade places with you. All these are valid reasons--for letting that first comment slip by.

But the second comment: ah, now onto the second comment--the table have turned. Fortunately, they have turned on the heckler. He took a few too many liberties that he shouldn't have otherwise taken by opening his mouth the second time. In fact, the audience is beginning to turn against him, especially if the audience was enjoying your set.

How does one deal with the second comment?

Simply the same as the first, but you're a little more stern this time. The first time your response is "not out of anger." The same goes with this one--not out of anger.


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Monday, September 3, 2007

The Myth of the Heckler (Part 1 of ?)

Unfortunately, the myth of the heckler is not "mythical" enough. To a comedian, they are very real, very dangerous, and must be hunted down and annihilated immediately. Why do we need to take such drastic measures when battling this beast? Well, think of it this way. Let a heckler off the hook or out of your sight for a second, and you'll see in due time increasing damage on your routine, on your audience, and on your mental well-being--the latter being the most damaging because you'll question your abilities and motivation behind why you became a comic, even to the point of reevaluating whether or not you want to get on stage ever again. You'll be a lot worse off if you give a heckler any leeway at all.

...he may be just vocalizing the sentiment of the audience...

The phrase "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile" comes to mind. Dismantle the heckler immediately or else he will put an end to your routine and perhaps even your career.

Sadly,the heckler will never become extinct, and you will never find the heckler on the endangered species list. Like a host-parasite relationship, as long as there are comedians, there will always be hecklers. You can work years and years to be a good, solid comedian. It only takes one night to be an expert heckler.

But do remember this:

Pay no attention to what the critics say, no statue has ever been erected to a critic. ---Jean Sibelius

Now substitute the word "heckler" for "critic." That should be enough motivation to keep you returning to the stage.

What is a Heckler?

Anyone who deliberately interrupts the flow of a performance (in this case standup comedy), most often in the form of an outburst, expressing themselves in a distasteful manner and usually directing their comments to the performer.

If you didn't like that definition, maybe this definition will lend you more clarity.

...Maybe that heckler actually speaks the truth...

Some Hecklers are more egregious than others. Some don't even know that they are heckling--those being the incoherent and incorrigible drunkards. Belligerent drunks are also a part of the game. However, this post aims to address how to strategically destroy the heckler and his motivations. Read on and I will provide you the proper armor necessary to take them all down.

- Step One - When a heckler makes his first unruly comment, believe it or not you must listen, in the manner that a psychologist listens to a troubled patient. In fact, that heckler may not be a heckler at all and he may be just vocalizing the sentiment of the audience.

What do I mean?

Perhaps, this routine that you're doing really does suck. Either you weren't polished, you're nervous, you're dropping lines, mumbling, etc. Maybe that heckler actually speaks the truth.

Ouch, Lucy, that's waaaay harsh!

...That heckler is your barometer....

Remember, I'm giving you steps to adhere to. This is only "Step One." And I'm teaching you the method by which a classy, sophisticated, and level-headed comedian approaches the situation. (This is not unlike being provoked in the middle of the street or in a public arena.) The entire time the situation is occurring, you should always be aiming to diffuse it, skillfully diverting the skirmish from heading into uncharted territories.

In this case, by taking a step back and thinking, "Well, maybe something just isn't right tonight. Maybe it is me." This is a humbling thought, and in retrospect highly, highly respected.

Comedians do often get cocky and so full of themselves that they think their "sh-t don't stink." But take a step back. Maybe this isn't your greatest set. Guess what? That heckler is your barometer. You should perhaps thank him for letting you know.

I do maintain the stance that is it a battle to remain even-keeled on stage. It is very difficult to not either a) fly off the handle or b) cower into submission. It's important to understand that either way, handling an heckler is an exercise in social psychology--don't get psyched out!

But, I deliberately state, "When a heckler makes his first comment..."

I, repeat... first comment. The situation calls for you to respond accordingly.

The best advice I've received about handling the first objection or outburst made by the heckler is this: The first thing that comes out of your mouth that is not out of anger, is going to most likely be comedy gold and put you back into favor with the audience. (Understand the audience never was out of favor with you, but you will become a champion in the audience's eyes when you use this rule.)

Unfortunately, Michael Richards never got a chance to read this blog before he hit the stage at the Laugh Factory. And many comedians say that his being labeled 'comedian' in the first place is debatable. He never did standup. He's only done improv. That doesn't make him qualified to be a stand up comedian. But apparently, his stint as a peripheral cast member on a 9 year-running national sitcom, overrides that. Last time I checked, that just makes you a comedic actor--not a comedian.


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