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Comedy Stray Notes August 2, 2021
An honest assessment of what it's like to see your dream project on the big screen plus a few other things
• When you make vids for the internet, you rarely get to see them with an audience. Occasionally, you might get selected for a showing or festival of some kind but there is never an opportunity to view all your work with a sizable crowd in a movie theater. So, you’re stuck always wondering, “How would this play play in front of a crowd?”
Well, after having this thought gnaw at me for years, curiosity got the best of me and I set up a screening that would answer this question for around 20 of my favorite sketches as well as my wife Anna Paone’s exceptional short “Our Lady of the 80s” at The Stuart Cinema in Greenpoint. If you’re not familiar with the venue, let’s start there. The Stuart Cinema, run by Emelyn Stuart is the ideal indie neighborhood theater with an altruistic vision. They allow super low budget films to screen for small sums, help movies become eligible for The Academy Awards with weeklong screening periods and also show mainstream fare like “Space Jam 2.”
Yesterday, thanks to their generous practice, Lebron took a seat and they screened Anna’s and my projects. We could finally see them with an audience to see whether or not they work. We began with “Our Lady of the ‘80s” and the retro imagery, tightly wound story and lived-in acting popped off the screen. Anna’s film more than passed muster. There was a loud applause from the crowd at the end. It felt right.
Then, it was my turn. 72 minutes of wall-to-wall sketches back to back to back. On paper, it sounds like a lot of fun. Watching this cut of what I deemed “A-material” in a vacuum on my computer, I thought all the videos would work and I’d end up batting 1.000 being carried out of the venue like I just hit a walkoff home run. That wasn’t quite the case. While the crowd was incredibly supportive since they were all friends and collaborators, the collection of sketches and short films didn’t all hit like I thought they would. Yes, a few were legit home runs but there were also singles, weak groundouts and maybe ever a strikeout as well. It was confusing to me all day until I thought about it and realized with the help of some friends who shall remain nameless that a) some of the sketches were a bit dated and don’t work quite like they did when I initially released them and b) because of the lack of variety, nonstop sketches became a bit of an assault of the senses. Knowing that now, I would call the event a major success. I now have a much better idea of what I would do next time in this given situation as well as which of my projects stuck the landing and which don’t connect with audiences like I thought they would. Mission accomplished.
Special thanks to all our friends and collaborators like Catherine LaMoreaux, Laura Paone, Kate Nahvi, Justine D’Souza,Matt Holbert, Matt Storrs, Alexis Jaffe, Jason Planitzer, Sarah Murphy, Jerry Lally, David Rey Martinez, Julianne Ballington, Belton DeLaine-Facey, Ben Miller, Andrew Tavin, Taylor Swabb, Roberto Tobar, L Ritchie, Barak Ziv, Jonathan Santillana, Russell Dolan and Ernest Barzaga that showed for us (all the others aren’t on the old FB). You made a dream come true for me. Y’all are real ones.
• Stopped by Broadway Comedy Club to catch a club show on Friday night and once again, it feels so right to be at a club. The being seated in the back, the crowd work, the low ceilings. That’s home. The show itself was made up of a mixture of comics of varying skill levels but there were a few major standouts that are worthy of shouting out. First has to be Andrew Tavin who won the room over with a pause so masterful in the middle of a joke, he had the crowd laughing for a good 15 seconds. That’s some Jack Benny level comedy mastery. Then, there was Jared Waters who came in near the end of the long show and re-energized the room to a degree that it felt like the show was just starting instead of ending. Finally, I’d never seen Vladimir Camaano before but now that I have, I feel like I’ve been introduced to a distinctive voice that I didn’t know exist. If you’re not familiar with his comedy, go seek him out and make sure you hear the Lexapro bit. It’s worth the price of admission.
• Another great week for funny shorts on the web. Here’s a round up of some of the best all for you:
- Some videos have titles so enticing that you can’t help but watch just to find out where it will go. That was certainly the case with Noa Osheroff’s superb short “How Hard Is It To Find A Cheap Sofa In New York?” made up of NYC comedy ringers like Nataly Aukar, Ashley Hamilton, Tom Thakkar and Hiam Abbass from “Ramy.” The silly yet grounded story follows Aukar’s character on a hero’s journey search for a sofa--not a couch--throughout New York City. To answer the film’s titular question- it is pretty damn hard to find a sofa in New York.
- House arrest is one of the funniest, if not the funniest punishment for criminal behavior there is and it’s a shock that there aren’t all that many great comedies about the subject. Laura Merli recognized this sore lack of representation and put an end to it with her sweet and subversive “House Arrest Rom Com” that posits her as the house arrestee for her mail fraud. She does her best to make friends with delivery people and Task Rabbit types like the deadly serious Jacob Williams to no avail. Then, when she links up with the poet/delivery man Paul Julemeus, she finally seems to break her lonely spell that comes along with being legally confined to your pad. Over the course of the movie’s brief runtime, we also meet a clueless ex played by Dan Perlman, an excellently flustered Brian Mitchell as Laura’s lawyer and Caitlin Peluffo stepping in as the aggro best friend who doesn’t know she’s the protagonist’s best friend. Quite ambitious for a movie that all takes place in an apartment. I loved it and think you will too.
- Back when I started comedy in AZ, one of the biggest fish in the small pond was the effortlessly funny Chris Bennett. I’ve kept up with his clips over the years and the guy is just as great as he was all those years ago. However, it’s not just his standup that holds up so well; you also have to see his walkarounds like “Chris Goes To The Snowflake Pioneer Day” which switches gears from the goofy to the sublime with Chris’ infectious cheer toward completely uninterested parties. For a good look at your new favorite comic, take a gander and check out that channel.
- I have a soft spot for meta, self referential, absurd “throw everything in the kitchen sink” videos that go for broke with their jokes that veer far from reality. In Ana Pacheco’s intro video for a Film Festival, she and her costars dial up the wackiness to 50 with dance scenes turning into surprising deaths, vulgar children who attack Millennials by saying “Boomers is a state of mind” and a classic callback to the Harvard Lampoon magazine cover with a dog. If you’re not familiar, check out this video for a tiny bit of comedy history and a heck of a lot of all-around hilarity.
• Here’s some quickie thoughts on a movie I wanted to see on a plane but skipped that’s now available on Prime plus two podcast episodes I listened to. Here goes nothing:
“Our Friend” (2019): One of my favorite things ever happened with this movie that’s based on a true story. First, the New York Times ran an op-ed about the experience the original author of the Esquire article had after the movie was released to a positive response at film festivals only to get clubbed by critics. Then, later that week, the New York Times had the audacity to run a negative review. It was like they were setting the author up for a hell of a prank. That story aside, I see that the movie sits pretty atop Rotten Tomatoes with an 85% mark and I am inclined to agree with that sentiment. This tearjerker with a terminally ill wife (Dakota Johnson) and her “married to his job” journalist husband (the somehow not cancelled Casey Affleck) skillfully skips past most of the trappings of similar fare by introducing a friend (Jason Segel) who keeps things light for the family. It’s a grounded movie with nods to Led Zeppelin, made up songs for kids, a realistic depiction of career disappointment and well-played workplace gags that paint a much fuller portrait of life rather than focusing on the death. THE ULTIMATE AIRPLANE MOVIE (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
Working It Out with Quinta Brunson: I wasn’t super familiar with Brunson’s comedy until I heard this podcast and this 50-minute gabfest turned me into a lifelong fan of Quinta. Here, she and Birbiglia share sad and very funny stories of the recently deceased Kevin Barnett to jumpstart the episode and then move to lighter topics like how Brunson became famous from creating the meme “Ooh, he rich,” and then subsequently dating poor people. Other highlights include Brunson’s acknowledgement that writing a book is not easy, she and Mike discussing how we need “friend contracts” that can be renewed or cancelled and finally how her parents gave her a name that means “five” and Birbiglia’s daughter’s name means “one” since he’s only having one child. Had no idea naming babies after numbers in a cool way was a thing.
Working It Out with Sarah Silverman: This is the rare podcast episode that comes with a disclaimer at the top of the episode and it’s well-earned. Silverman plays fast and loose with her jokes and if you get the chance to listen to this you’ll hear a truly dark, fantastic Hitler joke, an overview of Sarah’s childhood trauma and my favorite of all: a random observation about how her Dad cannot deal with silence on the phone. There’s a lot to like in this one and I barely scratched the surface.
I’ll be back next week with more of the same, my friend.
If you have any interest in a link taking you to the “Best Of” described above let me know and I’ll try and get something set up for you