Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Personal Stuff: When comedy hits close to home

Every comedian... well, every good comedian goes through stages in their comedy. The type of comedian you are when you first start out is bound to change the longer you stay in comedy.

You have to admit, it's pretty daunting to get on stage and talk endlessly about random subjects that your audience may or may not relate to. The process of getting on stage, hearing your own voice (personally, I hate the sound of my own voice), feeling comfortable enough to speak to strangers, and hoping to stir up laughter is not easy. But once you get past that, well, I want to say that the journey is over--but it isn't.

I see comedy in three stages--"The three stages to becoming great":

Novice: (2 - 5 years of regular time on stage) You know what you sound like. You're comfortable with commenting on that outer sphere of life (your job, politics, standing in line at Starbucks). This stage is basically the observational part of life you take part in, but aren't super-invested in--emotionally speaking.

Comedian: (5 - 7 years of regular stage time) At this point, you've probably made comedy a career (in that you're getting paid for it). This is a difficult stage because many people who have been in it for this long, don't recognize that they still have more "growing" to do. And by growing, that means they can change and still mature into themselves. They can, but will they? Whenever there's changing to do, there's always an investment in time of humbling yourself enough to learn again---making mistakes, a lowering of the pride and ego, and realization that you are a flawed individual in your craft. I mean, think about it. You've been at your job 5-7 years and you think you have all the kinks worked out, so much that it's become routine. But if someone were to come to your place of work and point out that you still have some changing to do, then you would have some stages of emotional growth to go through probably resembling the Kübler-Ross model "stages of grief": Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, etc.

Master:(10 years + of stage time) This is the point every one wants to reach, where you can joke about truth. More particularly, your truth--the stuff you only talk to a therapist about: When your wife left you, that car accident you got into, terminal illness, etc. The stuff that you experienced first hand and it wasn't easy. but you can still joke about it. This stage is so distinct, few people ever reach it. It's a scary place once you've arrived. You risk alienating your audience with your personal story, because for the first time, perhaps they don't relate.

Clear example: Richard Pryor jokes about setting his hair on fire while trying to freebase cocaine. If that's not personal, I don't know what is. Listen to the routine below:

The time and years on stage aren't hard and fast rules. I only give an amount of time to give you, the reader, a vague idea. What's important is the maturity level--the emotional level that the comedian can reach. And believe me, it's a reach! After all, people say men and women mature at differing rates. Women seem to pick up on this faster and earlier than men do. Also, if you start doing stand-up comedy in your late teens and early 20s, you're bound to change perspective in your thirties. And that change is probably going to be a drastic one. Your comedy follows your life. That makes sense because in comedy you're taking cues from your own life, and only when it smacks you upside the head, do you perhaps pay attention and write down a premise on the back of a napkin while at the local diner. Just be sure to not to lose the napkin!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Interview with Comedian and Blogger: Brian Mollica

While in Vegas, I got a chance to meet up with Mr. Brian Mollica, who is a 10 year vet in the comedy scene--and he's only 29, folks! He was generous to donate his time and indulge me with my adolescent comedy questions. I have a bit of the interview scattered throughout today's post. I will try and learn FTP so that it's a little more user-friendly. Until then, enjoy!!!

Quest: So comedy, in general, how did you get started? How did that crazy idea enter your head?

Brian: I've been obsessed with comedy for a really long time. It's true. When I was a kid, my grandma had cable, we didn't have cable. My grandmother had cable. It was coming up during sort of the comedy boom in the 80s, where there were literally, I mean, for 24 hours there was comedy on somewhere. And I don't know something about it just really took to me. And I would watch from about five years old. I just watched it constantly. When I figured out that it was a job, that's when I really wanted to do it.

Quest: And that was what age?

Brian: That was probably around 6 or 7. I mean, I was the shyest kid ever and really nervous about doin' that sort of thing. So I guess I never really thought that I would.

And then when I was 17 in high school, I knew a guy who was working at the comedy club in Tucson [Arizona], where I was growing up. He was just workin' the door. And I don't know, he was having problems with his grades and he needed someone to pick up two nights during the week. So I did. I picked up two nights during the week. And I mean, it paid almost literally nothing. For two weeks, my paycheck was thirty dollars. That's what I was taking home. But I got to watch all the shows for free. And I did. And I watched every single night that I could, I would watch the show.

I just got so into that I finally probably about a year and a half, after I started, about 19, I started doing a couple open mics and it went, it went really well. And it sorta when from there.

Quest: Can I ask your age now?

Brian: I'm 29.

It probably didn't get serious until I was about 21. I did some open mics then I did some guest spots and some hosting. And then when I was about 21, I started taking opening jobs and going out on the road, while I was finishing up college.

Quest: Going out on the road?

Brian: You know, just local SouthWest stuff: New Mexico, Texas...

Quest: That's still a lot of experience at such a young age.

Brian: Yeah, no it was. It was good. It was good and bad, sometimes I think about it. It's great that you start young just because I got... I got a lot of attention first of all because I was young and I look even younger. I really did look like I was about 14 years old when I started, so you kinda get a little extra attention when you look like that. But at the same time, comedy is one of those things that if you go too fast you can kinda burnout. And there was definitely sometimes where, that's why I sort of weaned away from the road recently. It's just not really... It's not really what I wanted to do anymore, work the road.

Quest: I heard roadgigs are good pay-wise.

Brian: Can be. Yeah, can be, absolutely. It's the whole spectrum. The road, that's one of the big problems with the road too, is the money has sort of been the same. In the 8 years I've been workin', as far as the club circuit, the money is pretty much the same in eight years, which is insan--it's ridiculous! It costs me more to get there and to eat and everything else. Everything else is the same.

You can get good gigs on the road. You know, a lot of the Casino's I've worked pay well. You get corporate stuff. So yeah, there's money to be made out there. And if I, I always say, you know, as far as my career goes, if I was going to be a fulltime comic, I would have to be a road comic. And, yeah, it's just sort of not... I did it for two years and it was great. Nawh. Now I'm kinda done with it.

Quest: So now you want to focus on...?

Brian: Now it's more trying to set up something for me. The road in and of itself, I think, is dying a little bit. And that's sad, at least with the club scene. If you're a bigger name and you can pack a theatre, you can make tons of money. But I know I'm not there and I probably can't get there. For a club comic, a road club comic, I mean that's just. I think that's going to dry up really soon. So I want to start focusing more on local comedy. And maybe start bringing a package of comedy out to places. You know it's easier to book yourself as a comedy show so you sort of solicit rooms. You don't necessarily have to contact clubs anymore. You can go to colleges and say, "I do this Las Vegas comedy show." You know something along those lines. That's kinda where I am right now sort of trying to produce something a little bit more unique and get away from sort of the cookie cutter club industry that's not doing so hot.

Quest: Interesting. And what have seen throughout the years with regards to relationships with managers, bookers...

Brian: Absolutely. I think the biggest thing is and this is one of the things I try to do a lot on Behind The Bricks is... you have to understand that at some point it's not just writing jokes that make people laugh and gettin' the nerve to go up on stage. So much is focused on that and everybody thinks that's what you have to do to be a great comic. That is two percent of it.

Quest: Wow! So talent?

Brian: Yeah talent, I mean, please. And I'm sure if you're a comedy fan you've seen people either on TV, or big names. And you're just like, "They're just not that funny." Talent is a part of it. And a small part of it, unfortunately. I've hung out in small comedy clubs for ten years. And the funniest people I've ever see in my life have never been on TV and probably won't ever get a deal. It's just the way it goes. So much of it is marketing yourself. And trying to get set up with the right people. And luck is a huge part of it. You have to keep in mind that... there's a business aspect of it. And the business aspect is more important in a lot of ways than the comedy aspect.

A lot of the people in comedy now hate Dane Cook. Everybody hates Dane Cook.

Quest: Wait! Let me get this on tape.

Brian: Every comic you talk to hates Dane Cook. And regardless of whether you think he's funny or not they hate him because he's Mega-famous. As a comic, it's hard to actually become famous as a stand-up comic, not a lot of people have, you know, maybe oh they got TV--anhhn-yaa! now they have a good comedy career. But he became famous as a comic. And the reason why is because he marketed himself in the most unbelievably brilliant ways. I mean, any avenue that he could, he put his name out there. And he had a following. And by the time he already was on TV, he had a huge following. People look at this Comedy Central special that he had 6-7years ago and from that he's a full-fledged movie star now. And there's a lot jealousy there. Regardless of whether or not you like his comedy, I don't understand how you can't respect a guy that's done that.

Quest: Exactly. I agree. I agree. He was purely a businessman in that sense. And I think a lot of people don't--not a lot of comedians want to invest in the time, I guess, in having to market themselves and having to package themselves.

Brian: There's this idea that, "I'm an artist. That's what I'm here for. I write jokes and I make people laugh." And that's great if you have some sort of really aggressive management team. Or an agency. Then yeah, you can afford to just be an artist. But I mean, I've been with two different agencies. And even when you're with an agency, you still gotta get out there and you still gotta market yourself because they can only do so much for you.

Quest: You have two blogs. (one comedy, one sports show) Please explain the sports show.

Brian: It was kind of a weird thing. I used to do a poker show. That was the first time I ever got involved in any podcast or internet radio. And I only took it because I really wanted to get into radio. And I had interned a little bit in New York and I wasn't really happy with my experience. So I kinda wanted to do my own thing and this seemed like, you know, It was the only place that was offering my anything. So I took it even though I wasn't all that into poker. It just sort of morphed into more of a radio show. And then had a little bit of stuff mixed in. And people were kind of into it. But it got to a point where I was completely unqualified to be talking about any of it.

So I wanted to get out and I met somebody. I got a part-time job when I moved out here. And I met a guy who was really into Sports and Sports betting. So we kinda just started talking and we came up with this idea to sort of a Vegas Sports show and it's morphed from there. It started off just once a week. And we're doing it three times a week now. And we've picked up a couple sponsors. So it's actually working out, okay.

To be continued...

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Idiotic Notion that got me started in comedy, Part 1

So blogspot is getting the best of me these days, disallowing any of my neat interview podcasts to post. So I have to resort to a lame "Where did this comedy idea come from?" post. Well, fine blogspot, you may have won the battle, but I still have an army behind me of graphic designers that are going to rip your insides out and make them pretty for all to see---bwah-ha-ha-ha!! (Whoops! Halloween was last month!)

So how did this idea of comedy get into my head? To be honest, this memory didn't resurface until a conversation on the phone yesterday with a dear high school friend. For some odd reason, I blocked out this memory per chance because it was too painful.

Grabs your high chairs kids, gather around the fire, because momma's going to take you back... waaaayyy back to kindergarten, with Mrs. Johnson. Yes, I said it, Mrs. Johnson. Generic name, right? I'm not making this one up.

Mrs. Johnson lead the first grade class (whoops, already my memory is jumping years) in an annual Christmas school play. Each class had to perform their own version of whatever twisted zombie reindeer rendition to impress the parents. But because there were so many of us little 'uns, they threw in some ancillary characters: A Mother and Father Christmas tree. Enter yours truly: I was "Mother Christmas Tree". And Papa Christmas Tree and I, during all that time in Spelling and Grammar when we were supposed to be memorizing lines, we opted for doodling of dirty pictures, and making sure each was properly labeled--Butt, BOO-bies, and whatever that thing is below the belt. Vag-enis or was it Pen-gina?

Anyway, when it came time to bring the house down, Mr. Christmas and myself felt adequate. We sorta knew our lines. "Pen-gina." I remember during rehearsal that my cue was to speak after he did. I speak after he does. What it was exactly I should be saying still hadn't settled into my easily distracted and precocious brain. I just knew he spoke first.

Fast forward to School Play Day: The audience had been filled with anxious parents and restless kids. All the other classmates had not only memorized their lines, but they had done them so well, that people laughed after each bit. Genius, I tell you! I watched off stage in amazement. I took careful note of the cadence. Line. Line. Laughter. Line. Line. Laughter.

I found myself on stage with my green turtleneck on to blend in with my very carefully designed costume. I bore a sharp resemblance to a North American White Spruce. Meanwhile, Mr. Christmas Tree had become petrified. He somehow had allowed stage fright to set in. I didn't know where this was going, but I sensed all together downhill. Everyone else had gotten their laughs. It was Mr. Christmas's turn and he was bombing--big time. He just kept repeating the same two words in hopes that the other eight would magically fall out of his mouth. I knew it was now or never. I had to get that bit of laughter for him---for my partner in pervvy crime.

So what would a faithful Christmas tree wife do? Make silly faces to the audience. And just like I had anticipated, the laughter followed. It came in waves. I was overwhelmed by them. Unfortunately, so was Mr. Christmas. He thought they were laughing at his incompetence, failing to memorize a simple few lines. The audience finished laughing, yet Mr. Christmas hadn't quite finished crying.

I glanced offstage to meet a look of disappointment by Mrs. Johnson. What did she know? She wouldn't know good comedy if it shed pine needles on her front lawn. Make room on the couch, Letterman. A star was born! But only after I paid my dues in the "Timeout chair". (Sigh)

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Comedy Hero: Ricky Gervais

I want to do a radio show where I can say what I want, when I want and that's free for anybody who can be bothered to listen--Ricky Gervais

I'm going to keep this post short because I think there is too much to talk about about the mad comic genius, that is Ricky Gervais. He has the comedic Midas touch-- anything he touches turns into comedy gold. However, the quality I most admire about his is vast respect for comedy. He credits influences stemming back to the beginning of TV/Radio. He also understands that comedy must come from the core, the heart. And it has be to be grown organically. It can't be forced. Gervais has a keen eye for comedy. He acts like more of producer rather than the talent. Don't get me wrong the man is talented. But I would compare him to Howard Stern.

- Both had/have a careers in radio
Both are inclusive of their audience, choosing non-talent, "un-qualified" staff to be a member of his team, harping on their "unique talents." (Howard now has Sal the Stockbroker, Richard Kristie, as well as many others from his past Morning show troupe plucked right from the audience. Gervais, met Stephen Merchant as an intern and Karl Pilkington.)
Both have had massive success outside of radio.

What I've neglected to mention about Gervais is his obvious claim to fame: The Office sitcom series. And The Office, the American stepchild of the original Office.

My favorite thins about Gervais is that he knows when to quit. He ended both The Office and Extras after only a few seasons, never letting the audience fully tire of his product, but always going out with a bang, on top.

Gervais' latest venture has been a stand-up comedy tour. I use stand-up loosely. Although, Gervais is standing up on stage, he makes ample use of a podium and reads from a --highly unconventional and non-traditional in the stand-up arena. But it worked for him, and his tour ended up being a success.

I hold Gervais in high regard. His humor can vary from flat-out acerbic and biting to subtle sarcasm, the kind you have to listen to closely and almost decode the quirky

The blogosphere is almost clogged with articles on . And I couldn't possibly cover it all with out this post seeming like a comedic dissertation on the Ricky Gervais phenomenon and its affect on 21st century comedy. So I'm going to provide you with links below. Be sure to read them. They chock full of fantastic interviews with Gervais. And if you still don't get an idea of his sense of humor, than I will provide you with a clip from my favorite Gervais product, Extras.

Sir Ian McKellan teaches Andy (Gervais) how to act:

Andy chats up a girl:


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Comedic Adventure: BlogWorld Expo 2007, Part 2

So I finally made it to Vegas.

If you're reading the blog to hear about shotgun weddings I may have taken part in or for a detailed account of Elvis impersonator sightings, sorry you might want to keep traveling down your Google results search list.

If you're here from the Las Vegas promotional board, and worried about what I might reveal about Vegas, well too bad: "What happens in Vegas, gets posted on my blog."

Vegas, baby, Vegas! --Swingers

When any traveler finds himself in new surroundings, the traveler always searches for landmarks, signs, and key clues that he has reached his final destination. So upon my arrival to Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport (LAS), how did I know I was in Vegas? Oh, I don't know... perhaps the slot machines on the way to baggage claim? Don't believe me? Take a look:

[Random thought: Vegas' airport baggage claim looks exactly like Phoenix's baggage claim. Sort of surreal.]

I made my way to the restroom, and I had to take a photo of these Automatic liquid/foam soap dispensers - We, Americans, are planning on achieving new heights of indolence.
Nawwhh. I can't be bothered to pump out the soap myself. I need soap dispenser to do it for me.

I could understand if the business owner wants to conserve on soap, and this was a solution. But either way, it screams "way too much thought spent on soap." [Photo: Left -faucet, Right- The dreaded infrared motion activated soap dispenser]

So being the awesome pre-planner I am and thorough packing job that started 1/2 hour before I left my apartment, I forgot my driver's license at home. But I did have my passport. Doesn't matter--still no dice. (<==that wasn't an intentional Vegas reference). Anyway, I made the trip all the way over to the car rental hub. And then made the trip all the way back to the airport, sans rental car, to wait for my host to pick me up. (She was way awesome, hospitable, and tolerant of me. Thank you, again! Although, I think she was happy to have someone to eat all of leftover cereal. Yup, I'm a human vacuum, folks!)

After an hour and a half long ride using Las Vegas public transport, I made it to Las Vegas Convention Center in one piece. Finally, I had arrived to where the groundswell of blogging frenzy convened at The Blog World Expo. It was here that I was going to find an untapped resource. Or just a grabbag of schwag to fill-up much needed storage space.

Check out the gaudy Las Vegas carpeting! After speaking with one of the convention workers, ironically enough an Expat-NY'er, originally from Queens---he mentioned that their normal uniforms match the carpeting and purple is the dominant color of the suit. Knowing that, now take a closer look at the carpeting. Yuck!

I attended some classes/seminars and all was good. I definitely had too many bags with me to be mobile enough to hop from room to room. Overall, I learned a lot (kinda), and met some cool bloggers (definitely!). A good time was had by all!

Celebrity sightings:

  • On Thursday, I was proud to claim that I was in the same city as O.J. (Supposedly, he was in jail awaiting court proceedings. Poor, Orenthal.) One of the bloggers I met from NYC told me he even considered going down to the jailhouse just to see him and perhaps sit in on the court proceedings. Yikes. I don't want to touch that with a 10ft pole.

  • Rosario Dawson, who my brother proclaims is my Doppelgnger, especially after watching Clerks II--right down to the mannerisms. She was spotted at TAO's anniversary party.

  • Rick Fox, too

  • And now for the obligatory Las Vegas photos:

    Las Vegas likes to think that it can duplicate New York... and Paris.

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    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Comedic Adventure: BlogWorld Expo 2007, Part 1

    So Lucy, what happened to you last week? Your blog was dead. As in capital, D...E...A...D.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. And I only have me to blame.

    I'm going to ask you, the reader, if there is any better way to acquire the status of MEGA-hypocrite then in this current post? Is it possible to feel like more of a dissembler for making fun of nerds and geeks than to attend one of those nerdy geeky conferences myself, right after interviewing a fellow geek? No, it's not possible.

    Well, FINE THEN! As of right now, I'm redeeming my "Hypocritical Blog Post" pass.

    That long week I was gone, I attended the BLOG WORLD & NEW MEDIA EXPO. Yes, I did. (deep sigh) And I loved it!

    My descent into madness
    My trip started off chaotic, right from the get go. I'm talking the minute I pulled my key out of the slot after locking my apartment door:

    - I didn't call for the semi-expensive shuttle service, which I normally do, courtesy of the 'rents. So I opted for the subway, which meant I had to hotfoot it with my 2 backpacks and a semi-heavy suitcase. (Apparently, I don't believe in bringing clothing on trips. Clothing is for wimps. I like office supplies: books, magazines, papers, and pens. You can never have enough of those on trips.)

    - It seemed my destiny was to queue up and wait in every line possible. (Man, I could swear Mercury was in retrograde.) Lining up to get in the Air Train, then waiting for it to arrive. Lining up for my e-Ticket, then waiting in line to check my bags, which by the way is the most inefficient and inconvenient way airlines can inflict pain and prompt premature gray hairs upon passengers. They could easily just create a Chinese water torture line. It would be far more effective.)

    - I was unshowered (Yeah, that wasn't purposeful and perhaps a little TMI for all of us. But again time wasn't on my side.) Don't worry. I'm considerate of others around me. I make sure that only a dog could pick up my scent, rather than a human. I simply was too layered for anyone to notice. And luckily, I'm not a sweat'er. Luckily, that gene got passed over to my brother. Perhaps, Chinese water torture might've come into some use, afterall. Someone get me some Irish Spring!!!

    As much as airlines choose to torture their patrons, via Chinese methods or not, I love airports. I think they're fascinating, even if they are a hotbed for communicable diseases (as I've learned from the French-Canadian steward in And The Band Played On and Outbreak.) People from around the world, gather in this one spot, hang out for a bit, and then leave. I revel in all the faces and places to absorb. For me, it's like sensory overload. I view the airport like a teenager views the Orange Julius at the mall--the place to be!

    That's another thing about me that I've learned: I love to people-watch. I'm a natural voyeur. The people-watching trait was in me since before comedy, and has definitely helped me in my quest. I believe this is one trait you must have to be a comedian--being able to observe and listen. Be able to take a backseat and let others reveal themselves to you. At the same time, I've found this to be the most difficult trait to put at bay. Because it's so easy for me to relinquish the limelight, when it comes time to take the stage, I have to really fight myself to want to be in the forefront.

    Fast Forward to MSP Airport
    However, the madness didn't end here. It continued in Minnesota, which is where my connection from NYC landed. I nearly missed my connecting flight to Vegas because I was engulfed in comedy frivolity and mayhem watching my comedy buddy, Josh Homer's DVD.

    Here is where time seems to evade me and I'm still trying to put together the pieces as to why I was late.

    I deplaned (<== love that neologism) from my first flight with an hour and a half to spare for my next flight, according to my itinerary. I quickly found one of those "Arrivals/Departures" TV set-up that resembles the A/V wall at Circuit City. I perused the list for my flight to Vegas. "Gate A7--On Time, Departs: 11:30." It's now 9:00am. Solid. No problem. Like Dorothy in the land of OZ, I sauntered throughout my newfound airport. ("You're out of the woods...You're out of the dark...You're out of the night"...)

    I took in my surroundings and grabbed an exorbitant bite to eat. (Refer 5:50min into this video of Seinfeld's airport routine).

    I got to Gate A7 sat and waited. It was an eerily empty gate, for 10am. No matter. I shrugged my shoulders, took my seat, and popped open my laptop, anticipating comedy goodness. About halfway through the video, a creepy suspicion came over me, which is tough sense to pick up on while laughing my ass off. I began to ask myself, "Why aren't there more people around? Why is no one trickling in for a flight to Vegas? Why hasn't the digital sign above the check-in counter changed to "Las Vegas - 11:30"?

    I checked my watch: 11:26am. WTF!?!?!

    I nearly bulldozed over the closest airport attendant and asked her where I could find the nearest Circuit City wall of sound. I was lucky--only 20 steps away.

    "Gate A16" -- WTF!!?!

    Holy cow! What a great day and a fine time to test what miracle God would have in store for me today.

    Like the 80s one-hit-wonders A Flock of Seagulls profess , And I ran. I ran so far away, I wouldn't let that plane get away. I arrived and I watched my seat get filled in by a stand-by passenger. But I was patient. I explained who I was, with flimsy-ass e-ticket in hand and they gave me my rightful seat back. Holy mother of God! I didn't know whose ass to kiss as I finally sat down in my seat, where I was greeted by the pleasant company of a WWII vet who talked my ear off the entire three hour flight. I wanted to return the favor, but he was hard of hearing and he hadn't made the revelatory life-changing decision of investing in a hearing aid. Needless to say, it was a one-sided conversation most of the way to Vegas. Ass-kissing wasn't necessary. God was going to have me pay in dividends.

    Cool thing I came across in MSP airport, which I learned is NorthWestern's hub and charges $8 an hour for internet connection--yeah, right, I'll happily watch my comedy DVD any day)...

    Well, I saw this:

    Any guesses? Well, it's a Dyson AirBlade A new-fangled way of drying your hands in airport public restrooms. And believe me, it works! I've tested it!

    If you don't remember the name Dyson, it's that British guy we see in the TV commercials all time complaining about how vacuum cleaners lose their sucking power. So he invented this thing:

    This your turn to name that contraption, folks.

    Yup that's a vacuum cleaner, folks! And I'm sure it's an expensive one. But guaranteed never to lose its suckage.

    My mini-rant: I can't find the actual commercial with the British guy on YouTube because it's been pulled. Can someone explain to me why the advertisers would pull their own commercial from a free medium, such as YouTube? Commericals are meant to
    a) be seen b)get you to buy things. So why would they have a problem if internet geeks post it on their own blogs and websites? It's free advertising!

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    Friday, November 16, 2007

    My Reaction to the N-Word

    So being a black female, one would think that I would be offended by "the N-word," for the standard garden variety bunch of reasons: 1) Using the word equates to a hate crime. 2) We have relationship with the word that reminds us of a brutal and painful history which lasted centuries. 3) My people have been oppressed with use of that word--yada yada yada.

    (I even have a problem saying my people because it sounds so exclusive, like I'm drawing a circle in the sand and forcing others to stay out.) In fact, the key to ending racism is eliminating exclusivity. Erase the line. End racism by including everyone and accepting everyone as your own--as your son, as your daughter, as your mother, as your creepy uncle. I mean, c'mon, you tolerate his creepiness by inviting him back to all the family reunions. And you can't tolerate some other completely sane person of another background?)

    If you're racist and you want to stop being racist (kind of like being fat and wanting to shed some pounds), then this is the first step you can take.

    In fact, I will make that the title for another blog post, "Steps you can take to stop being racist." However, that's for another day.

    Back to the N-word:
    The way I see it, the moment that word leaves your mouth you've already placed yourself into a category---Idiot--- despite your race, ethnicity, and background. If you're white and you use it, you're an idiot. If you're black and you say it, still an idiot. Being black does not exonerate you from being an idiot if you use the N-word. You're just as bad as your stupid white brethren. You're not forgiven or given any leeway because you're black. Understand this rule, and you'll never be in the wrong in an argument.

    I also I don't think the N-word should be buried by the NAACP. My comedian friend, Josh Homer, pointed out to me, that the NAACP is being hypocritical.

    "Any organization with the word "colored" in it, isn't allowed to bury the N-word."

    'Nuff said.

    Lucy, you're a sellout.

    Au contraire my friend. You're selling out every time you use that word. You're selling yourself and "your people" (cringing after writing that) every time you that word leaves your mouth.

    One thing I've always heard is, you choose to be offended by that word and any other word that makes your blood boil. For some, that's a difficult realization. So I'll say it again. You choose what you will be offended by.. No one wants to admit being controlled by any one thing, especially a word. The way you see it, someone says the word and you react. But guess what? Newsflash: You have the ability to stop yourself from reacting. You can train yourself out of it--to not affect you, especially if you don't consider yourself one.

    So I choose not to let it control me. It never has. I'm not offended by the word and at the same time I choose not to use it to purposely hurt others. It's kinda the same way I think of expletives. For example: I'm not offended by the c-word, but I also choose not to use it, either.

    Overall, neither of those words define me. I barely feel comfortable using the words black or woman or comedian. You can find
    more of my neurotic ramblings about this subject
    at my friend's blog.

    So how does this N-word relate to comedy?
    Chris Rock has a very popular routine involves this very word. He has a very clever approach on this subject by never pointing fingers and saying, "You're a [fill in your choice of expletive here.]" He just makes a comparison by what should be and what shouldn't. He keeps them separate. Let's admire his finesse and grace as he dances through his routine.

    Notice he does the Jeff Foxworthy thing. He leaves you (the audience) to assign the bad quality to someone. And as an audience member, you usually assign that quality to someone other than yourself. He'll say, "If you fit these characteristics, then you must be an idiot."

    And what sane person is going to say, "Yeah, that's me! I'm the idiot! That sounds about right."

    No, of course not. They're going to say, "I know someone exactly like that." And never point the finger at themselves. Thereby showing no blame---no accountability. He made his point and no one gets hurt.

    Well, don't think Rock got away scot-free. Don't think he didn't receive any criticism for the "Black people versus N*ggers" routine--because he did. Why? Because he told the untold story, a story that is touchy, bordering offensive. He was opening up old wounds and pouring salt on them. It was criticism from one of our own. Faults that blacks felt should remain within the black community and not broadcast for the world to see. People felt violated because it was a private, unspoken truth. Personally, I don't think it's private if everybody in the room is thinking it. It's the Collective Consciousness, right? The cat's out of the bag and has been for a long time. The problem was no one was choosing to say anything--that is, until Rock.

    So when Rock came out with this routine, I felt vindicated. I found myself not only laughing but nodding in agreement at the end of every punchline. Because I wasn't one of them. I'm not a "N-word." I knew I would never be one. I know the friends I associate with will never be. I knew my family members would never be.

    My reaction to the N-word is that I don't have one. It's water off of my back. And I really think everyone (all black and white people) needs to take the stance. I think people give the word more power than it deserves. And once we stop using it, the clanging of the chains will fade. The wounds of the past will heal. We will finally be able to rise above it, so that we can forgive and forget, and move on. The problem is there are too many people that want to mire in the past. Those that don't want to forgive or forget or move on. Can't we all just get along?

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    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Comedy Hero: Robert Smigel

    Today's post was inspired by yet another inquiry from a fellow comedy fan. This fan, Loumi, I met on the social bookmarking/networking site Loumi approached me about a comedy writing interview project. (I was flattered that he even thought of me in the first place.) And I was lead back to Loumi's blog article, a PonderAbout article on outrageous humo(u)r, which gave me the idea for this jam-packed fact-filled post. So today, we will profile, Mr. Robert Smigel, revered comedic writer, best known as the creator and voice behind, Triumph The Insult Comic dog.

    I didn't discover Smigel until years into his popularity on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. (At the time, I was an obedient and gullible kid with lengthy homework assignments. Don't blame me! I wasn't allowed to stay up late on a school night. Sheesh!)

    And what rises from the ashes of rejection? Inspiration!...

    Smigel didn't begin in stand-up, like the many other comedians I profile. In fact, his story begins in sketch comedy. Smigel, a native New Yorker, ended up in Chicago and it was there that he began his comedy career, writing and starring in his own improv/sketch comedy group. (He and his comedy troupe buddies were Second City rejects.)

    And what rises from the ashes of rejection? Inspiration! With that, Smigel and company started "All you Can Eat," a comedy show which gave the stars the platform, contacts (Al Franken and Tom Davis), and balls to to try out for Saturday Night Live (SNL).

    And thus began Smigel's over 20-year reign at SNL. Smigel was hired as a writer on the ever-popular show and is noted for having the longest tenure on Saturday Night Live as a comedy writer (since 1985). Whew!
    Smigel (along with Dino Stamatopoulos) developed TV Funhouse which then churned out cartoon segments, "The Ambiguously Gay Duo", "The New Adventures Of Mr.T", "Michael Jackson", and the now banned "Conspiracy Theory Rock"

    Here is where my notes get fuzzy. Somewhere within the SNL years, Smigel came up with Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, the name "Triumph" coined by John Henson of Talk Soup fame. (Read the Onion Article below for more on that story.)

    Smigel is some sort of mad genius. And if you can't appreciate his humor like I do, well, you're probably just sane. That's okay. You'll learn to be craZy like a fox one day.

    Be sure to leave enough time watch this 10 min clip, of perhaps Triumph's most famous man-on-the street Conan sketch:

    If the link above doesn't work, you can always watch this
    popular video from the Milk and Cookies website.

    Remember, Loumi, the man who helped inspire this post? Well, he also authors another comedy related site, called Comedy Mashups that you comedy fans should definitely check out.

    More Links:

  • An Onion (A/V club) interview with Robert Smigel (2004)

  • A interview with Robert Smigel(2001)

  • Milk and Cookies is a dedicated comedy website that has several Robert Smigel produced/written shows from SNL and other series. For a laugh, please check them out!

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    Tuesday, November 6, 2007

    Interview with Blogger Buddy: Great White Snark, Part 2

    Click on the hyperlink if you missed out on Part 1 of this geeky interview.

    Quest: How do conferences play a role in your life? Is this a lifestyle?
    - WonderCon
    - Comic-Con International 2007
    - Alternative Press Expo
    - Maker Faire 2006

    Mr. Snark: Geeks don't have conferences, they have conventions. And they're my best opportunity to geek out and gather blog fodder.

    And, yes, conventions do involve a "lifestyle." Specifically, a costume culture. But the only time you'll ever see me dressed up as Wolverine or as a Klingon will be on the losing side of a drunken bet.

    Quest: Why do you know so much about Finland?

    Mr. Snark: Easy. I have exactly one Finnish friend. And everything he doesn't tell me, I make up. That adds up to a lot of information. For instance, did you know that Finland was once the biggest exporter of ketchup?

    Quest: No. I didn't. (pause) Even in your relative geekdom you do spring upon some relatively hip blogs like BoingBoing, YesbutNobutYes blog, and Would you say you're keeping finger on the pulse of celebrity and hipness as well as geekdom?

    Mr. Snark: Being a geek and being hip are not mutually exclusive. I think you're mistaking me for a nerd.

    Quest: Don't Geeks forgo social lives as well? Aren't they equally anti-social?

    Mr. Snark: Nope, common misconception. Some geeks are quite nerdy, but many are high-functioning, social beings who are not only devilishly handsome and intelligent, but also irreverently charming. But enough about me.

    I don't follow celebrity news beyond what I need to make disparaging jokes about starlets with drug problems. 'Cause ragging on Paris Hilton is something everyone can get on board with.

    Quest: I've noticed you speak about hipsters in your blog. Care to explain how they popped up in your geek/nerd radar?

    Mr. Snark: Since I live in San Fransisco, it's hard not to run into hipsters. And then subsequently laugh and/or vomit. They're basically the next-easiest target after 1) Paris Hilton 2) Britney Spears and 3) anyone in the Bush Administration when I need a quick-and-dirty joke.

    Quest: And you mention Patton Oswalt, a powerhouse comedian-- his explanation of hipsters (video)--in your blog. Any other comedian's that strike your fancy?

    Mr. Snark: My fancy is struck by comedians on a pretty regular basis, although I'm pretty consistently a fan of the Comedians of Comedy: Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn. And that was before I knew they were all comic book geeks. I think I must have a pretty refined geek-dar.

    Quest: Who is Joss Whedon? Why are his entertainment-related pursuits so important to you?

    Mr. Snark: Oh, dear. You really are naïve in the ways of geekiness, aren't you? Joss Whedon is best-known as the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. He is himself a big geek who has created a lot of happiness for geeks everywhere with his work.

    He's like Jesus for geeks, but with less of the crucification and resurrection stuff. Similar humility, though.

    Quest: You mention, "...Tuesday, August 21, was almost the fourth best day of my life. Right behind the days that I lost my virginity, got accepted to grad school, and maybe, possibly made eye contact for a brief second with Veronica Mars." Care to elaborate on the first three? (LOL)

    Mr. Snark: 1) No, 2) self-explanatory, and 3) I have these two stalker-ish photos of Kristen Bell from a panel at Comic-Con where--if you squint in just the right way--it looks like she's checking me out. It's very exciting stuff.

    Quest: What celebrities or Mini-celebrities or Mini-geek-celebrities have you run into in the blogosphere?

    Mr. Snark: As the profile of the blog has grown, I've had the chance to meet some really cool folks from the geek domain. For instance, I have an upcoming interview with Stephen Lindsay, the dude who wrote the critically-acclaimed Jesus Hates Zombies graphic novel, which sold out its first print run in less than a week.

    Quest: What's your astrological sign?
    Mr. Snark: I'm a Virgo. Usually that's a pretty lame pick-up, but it's kind of working for you. Well done.

    Where do you see this blog taking you? Do you foresee any long term goals in future Snarkdom?

    Mr. Snark: Since there's very little hope for a snarky blog about geeky stuff getting me laid, I'll instead shoot for enough notoriety to land some sweet geek-celebrity interviews.

    Quest: Thanks for doing this, Mr Great White Snark. Thank you for letting us usurp whatever time you had allocated to geek-out in exchange for this interview. Thank you for letting us peak into the world of all things geeky. We hope to see more coverage of geekdom in your blog.

    And dear Quest reader, I encourage you to check out Great White Snark's blog for a fabulous story about his uncle, FedEX, and whale-watching--a truly unusual and compelling story.

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    Monday, November 5, 2007

    Interview with Blogger Buddy: Great White Snark, Part 1

    In my casual trolling about the inter-web, I happened across yet another comical character (emphasis on "comic") who is a self-proclaimed Buffy the Vampire Slayer geek, a Star Wars geek, and a comic book geek. (Yes, he has the Batman tattoo to prove it, folks.) The blogger buddy I speak of is "Mr. Great White Snark" who keeps up a daily blog called ---wait for it--- Great White Snark. (You probably saw that one coming.)

    And when I see someone this amazing and this geeky, I can't afford to miss out on the opportunity to decipher the madness that goes on in this geek ringleader's head. Luckily, Mr. Snark was a willing participant.

    Quest: So, Great White, what is the inspiration for your blog?

    Great White Snark: One part geeking out, and two parts desperately crying out for attention. With a sprinkling of firm belief that every red-blooded American should have access to my insights and opinions on geeky matters on a semi-daily basis.

    Quest: What is the inspiration for how you came up with the name of your blog?

    Great White Snark: A very clever friend of mine came up with it. I like that it's a play on words, but it's still literal. I just knew I wanted something with the word "snark" ...for obvious reasons. And it was better than "Great White Geeky Dry-Witted Jew."

    Quest: Why did you feel the need to mention that you're jewish in that last response? Is it because of a need to relate that to your audience? Because going through your archives, I definitely did not detect any religious overtones in any of your posts, unless your consider Star Wars another religion.

    Great White Snark: ...because I feel the need to make punchlines. The fact that I'm Jewish is quite beside the point. "Great White Geeky Dry-Witted Jew" sounds pretty funny to me. Of course, that farting sound that sixth graders make with their armpits also sounds funny to me, so... you be the judge.

    I also take the Lord's name in vain quite a bit, but it's not because I personally have anything against the Man. Or... um, wo-Man. It's just that blasphemy is (a) second-nature to me and (b) gleefully fun when it's done right.

    Quest: I guess, what I mean to ask is, I'm a black female stand-up comedian. But it's not obvious in my writing. I don't rail on and on about being black. But I don't hide from it either. In a couple of posts, I do mention it because it relates to my experience as a comedian and as a female, so thereby very necessary in my blog.

    But your blog is just for fun, right? And built out of a pop culture (nowhere near political). Nor do I see any mention of Judaism in your blog. So why mention it now? In the blogosphere, you get the added benefit of choosing what degree of anonymity one wants. But by answering your question like that, it surely casts a different light, an issue you were hoping to shed some light on, it seems.

    Great White Snark: Now look what you've done. I can't very well be flippant in my response to a question like that, now can I? Way to take me out of my comfort zone. (Sigh.)

    Quest: That's my job. No comfort zone is safe with me.

    Great White Snark: As you know, any creative expression is more interesting when the author reveals a bit of him, or herself, in the work. (And now I've gone and implied that blogging is some form of High Art. Look at me! I'm an artiste with an "e" on the end!) Whether we're talking about stand-up, or writing, or pottery... no, wait. Pottery is a bad example. If you think you can reveal a part of yourself in pottery, then someone has been hitting you over the head with a hippie stick for too long.

    So, yes, I do reveal parts of myself in my writing, because it's more fun for me to write that way... and it makes my writing more fun for my readers. Especially when my dating life comes up. Oh, the guffaws.

    Quest: All right, I'll take that. Let's get back to the softball questions: Where are you blogging out of?

    Great White Snark: San Francisco. Home of the free, land of the brave, and hovel to the soft, round, and furry. Aging hippies, that is.

    Quest: However, you're originally from D.C.?

    GWS: I'm actually from the Virginia suburbs outside of DC, but if I say I'm from Virginia, four out of five people would assume that I'm Southern. And we wouldn't want that, would we? I haven't had incestuous intercourse with a cousin for at least seven or eight years, now.

    If you're wondering what gives me license to rag on Southerners, it's the 10+ years I spent in Atlanta and Tampa. Fair warning to anyone considering an extended stay in Trampa: You can never get that time back.

    Quest: How long have you been blogging for?

    GWS: Since March of this year. Which is approximately twice the average tenure of most bloggers, which basically makes me a village elder. So watch it with the backtalk, missy.

    Quest: So you've designated yourself a humor blog, officially? Why? What do you think makes your blog humorous?

    GWS: My blog is about geeks and geeky stuff like Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, comic books, zombies, and other goodness. Given the subject matter, half the jokes practically write themselves.

    Quest: You state in your blog that you plan on blogging about "forthcoming mental vomit about comic books and related geekery..." Does that in essence, make you an expert geek? Do you profess that you're a geek?

    GWS: Wow, way to go back in the archives.

    Quest: Clearly, you never read any other of my interviews. I'm a snooper.

    GWS: I don't just profess that I'm a geek. I am a geek. Don't be fooled by my high-functioning social skills, hygienic habits, and ability to dress myself.

    Quest: You make a distinction between nerds and geeks. "Nerds spend inordinate amounts of time with Photoshop and Final Cut Pro to produce stuff that geeks love to consume." What is the be-all-end-all distinction between a nerd v. geek?

    GWS: As is the case with most matters, the be-all-end-all distinction is a matter of my opinion.

    Nerds are awkward and big-brained. They're the ones who spend countless hours in front of their computers and in their labs, forgoing a social life so that they can invent brilliant stuff for the rest of us. Geeks love the contributions of nerds, because geeks don't have the intelligence or attention span to create these wonderful things themselves.

    The guys who did the hard work of building the Xbox 360 are nerds. The ones figuring out all the exploits to Halo 3 are geeks.

    Click the hyperlink for PART 2 of this interview

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    Saturday, November 3, 2007

    Greg Proops is NOT GAY, ferchrissakes!

    This post is for every homophobic, insecure pr*ck that keeps Googling "Is GREG PROOPS gay?" and ending up on my blog...

    Here is your answer: NO !

    Do you feel better now?

    Is that going to help you sleep at night?

    Did you lose the bet? I hope so.

    Proops willingly reveals his orientation 1:08 mins into the below video, being the fine gent that he is. (Personally, I think it's cool of him to even make the statement. He shouldn't have to--he doesn't need to explain himself.)

    And if you don't believe him, then I invite you to go screw yourself, because you need help. It's time for you to see a therapist.

    Oh, and by the way? Who gives a sh*t if he is gay? We should only care if he's funny. Only THEN can you place judgment and have an opinion. But even then, it doesn't matter because he's still making more money than you!

    *+*+*+* If you're still an insecure pr*ck after reading this post, then there's probably no reason for you to sign up for EMAIL or RSS.

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    Thursday, November 1, 2007

    Women in Comedy: Tina Fey

    I'm dedicating this post to Raffi, of citiZENmindful, because I know out of all my readers, Raffi would appreciate this post the most. So this my gift to you, Raffi, for being such an awesome persistent commenter!

    So let's start out this month, right! Shall we? With Mrs. Tina Fey. (Yeah, that's right boys. She's spoken for.)

    Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey is not known for her stand-up comedy. (Although, she did have a very small stint in it.) But rather she is known her for writing and her work on Saturday Night Live. Fey originally got her start at The Second City in Chicago. She packed up her bags and moved all the way from small-town Pennsylvania to head to the big mid-western city. There her story sounds much like any bright-eyed bushy-tailed wannabe-starlet--she worked at the nearby YMCA and took night classes at Second City. (Smart move, Liz! Uh, I mean, Tina.)

    So here's her timeline:

  • 1994 - Fey had been invited to join the cast of The Second City.

  • 1997 - With the help of friend and then head writer Adam McKay, she was asked to become a writer on SNL.

  • 1999 - Fey became the first female head writer of SNL. (It's about freaking time! (KUDOS, Liz! Uh, I mean, Tina!)

  • Fey's popularity took off from the SNL platform. And so has she. Fey left SNL in 2006, but only after she wrote and appeared in Mean Girls (2004), an adaptation of author Rosalind Wiseman's popular book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence (Yeah, that was a mouthful--even for me.)

    I've already written once about 30 Rock and the cataclysmic event that was the Fey-Seinfeld alignment. So again, I'll emphasis that you can see Fey Thursday nights (yes, that's tonight, so tune in) on NBC's 30 Rock.

    And if you can get your hands on the PBS series on Second City (SCTV) there are some cool interviews with Tina Fey as well as some other notables.

    So watch tonight's episode, and leave a comment about Tina Fey's remarkable talent. (And if you miss out, you can always watch the full length TV webisode on the NBC 30 Rock website.)

    [ Tina Fey on International Movie Database |Tina Fey on Wikipedia ]

    Oh, and Steve, if it wasn't for Nigella, next on the list would be Tina (right after Audrey Tatou, of Amélie.)

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