Discover more from Matt Levy's Comedy Stray Notes
Comedy Stray Notes December 21, 2020
On viral Tweets, parallel thought, "Big Mouth," comedy journalism and a random shout out to egg nog
• You know how when you see a viral Tweet, you can’t quite explain it? You’re like, “That’s not funny! Why aren’t my Tweets or Instagram posts or TikTok videos or Snapchat filters that popular?” I feel that way all the time. I had gone BARELY viral on Twitter before and couldn’t explain it then. 1,000 favs here. 2,000 a few times. 4,000 once. Nothing wild. Then, this past Monday (a week ago), I innocuously asked Anna Paone, “Is this Tweet anything?” She said, “Yeah, it’s kind of funny” and I sent it out into the world. It did fine for an hour or so. 40 favs. Then 70. 150 a couple hours in. A nice ego boost. Then, a few big accounts retweeted it. Got up to a thousand. Once it gets to 1,000, my experience has been that it either snowballs a bit and rides a wave of momentum or kind of slowly drifts off the algorithm. For some weird reason, this one kept going. By 7 PM that night, I couldn’t even see who liked the Tweet anymore the likes were coming so fast and furious. I don’t say this to brag- it was honestly weirdly annoying. People would a.) like the Tweet and b.) like all the accompanying comments and then c.) leave. All in all, the Tweet ended up getting 79,500 likes. A sizable number. A decent margin in a Presidential election even.
Anyway, a few capital letter thoughts about going pretty viral. A.) People all make the same joke comment on viral Tweets. In my case, a lot of Michael Scott gifs. If you want likes, make a joke on a viral Tweet. People will blindly like it. Some people got 1000s of likes tagging my joke. B.) You can’t follow everyone that likes your Tweet. These folks don’t follow you either; I only got about 200 new followers from this Tweet. You have to follow them first and then hope for the best. C.) Twitter doesn’t allow you to follow that many people so after awhile you get soft banned so you can’t even capitalize on this platform they just gave you. It’s a bit disappointing. You can D.) make a variation of “This is my SoundCloud” but it always feels sad. Either way, it was nice having 300 or so people check out my YouTube channel. Even got two (you read that right) subscribers out of it. Getting people to push the subscribe button to you on YouTube is the hardest thing to pull off on the internet.
What did I learn? Have a game plan for when you go viral. Have the “This is my SoundCloud” joke ready to go and don’t take insults about your joke personally. After awhile, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the internet. If you want to see this Tweet, it’s linked below.
• Dan Fitzpatrick’s Divine Comedy” is one of the top Zoom stand up shows I’ve seen in terms of comedy quality, audience size and structure. The show is a perfect alchemy of talent, fanbase and efficiency. So, it was an honor to do the show this past Wednesday. The show kicked off with a bang as Dan made a joke about Zoom shows that killed me; I lost it when he said, “You know, Richard Pryor made it big doing Zoom shows that all of his parent’s friends came to.” Perfect bit. First comic to go up was the very funny Jeremy Pinsly and I was excited to see what he was going to do. The Zoom spotlight was on him and he proceeded to say he was going to run all of his Hanukkah material since it was the second to last day of the eight-day marathon of a holiday. I was shocked. I had actually written a special all-Hanukkah jokes set as well. This level of parallel thought had never happened to me before. I debated scratching my jokes that I wrote specifically for this show and just gave in and said to myself that it would be more fun if I just did the bits even if they were somewhat similar. At the very least, it would make for a memorable show. Well, that was generous. My jokes fell a little flat (sample: Zoom Hanukkah is the festival of ring lights) but I’m glad I stuck to my guns and was glad when the whole thing was over and I could give the floor to the headliner, the always funny Subhah Agarwal. She riffed on how in the age of Zoom shows, comics tell jokes about their parents and then follow it up with, “You know I’m kidding, Mom and Dad” because they’re at the show. For my Hanukkah set, I was very guilty of this. Either way, incredibly fun show and it’s nice to know that no matter how many times you do comedy, something entirely new can happen.
• Got to guest on my pal Franklin Miller’s “Franco’s World” podcast last week and he was generous enough to allow me to adapt the format of the show into something entirely different. He said, “We can do whatever you want to do.” I asked, “Do you mind if I demonstrate what a comedy therapy session is like?” He was game. So, for a little over an hour, I treated this episode a bit like a comedy therapy session so folks could get an idea of what I actually do in these comedy therapy sessions. We talk about his writing process, what material is most important to him and how to obtain his career goals. It’s a nice showcase of Franklin’s talents and ability to answer tough questions on the fly; I’m just there to help facilitate the funny as best I can. If you listen to the podcast (which can be found in the links) and this is something you want to do, let me know. I would love to set up a session with you to ring in the new year. Let’s figure out how you can own 2021 even if you can’t perform live indoors.
• I believe the old saying goes, “Content creators be creating.” I saw so many great things on the web by my friends who happen to be content creators this week. Here’s just a few:
- The eight-episode web series “Not From Around Here” produced by Shannon Dee and Kenneth Rosendo dropped this week and I can’t recommend it enough. The show is about a group of three roommates in LA who happen to originally be from Jupiter, Mercury and...New Jersey. Each of the ten-minute episodes feel like they’re part of a larger universe where aliens walk amongst humans and it’s almost normal. I loved every episode and was actually tapped to write a profile about the series. I’m going to share a quick excerpt from the profile that also serves as a recommendation for my favorite episode in the series:
Best of all, there’s a brief bottle episode ironically titled “This Sucks” that chooses to highlight physical comedy instead of the rapid fire verbal tit for tat culminating in a silent film romance between Dee’s android character Eve 2.0 and a roomba that is equal parts Buster Keaton and Wall•E. It was so funny and heartfelt, I didn’t watch it two times. I watched it three times.
If you want to read the whole profile that links to the series, you’ll find that link down below.
- As a longtime fan of Jordan Scott Huggins, I anxiously awaited the drop of Bop or Flop, his new podcast. The premise is irresistible. Huggins and his co-host Spencer Bland dub Billboard’s Top Ten Singles from random weeks in history as either “Bops” or “Flops.” For their first episode, they covered Jordan’s birth week which fell in November 1988. The episode that follows is a true trip down nostalgia lane. There are songs you barely remember like Kylie Minogue covers and many others you had no idea existed. For that alone, the pod is a bop. What takes it to the next level is hearing Huggins and Bland’s back and forth patter about how they feel about songs from the past and how their opinions differed from my own. For example, they loved the Chicago track they heard (I was meh on it), were lukewarm on Duran Duran (I felt that) and were downright angry at other tracks. I had no idea there was so much “lounge-y” music at the top of the charts in the late 80s but I learned that in this episode. These two have a gift for gushing about formerly popular music and if this sounds like your thing you can find a link to their pod below.
- Mastering an impression is damn near impossible. You can do it based on instinct but it’s not the same as actually being a virtuoso that actually transforms into the subject of their impression. That’s where this video from Steve Cohen and Jordan Yanco comes in. In nine minutes, dialect coach Yanco walks Steve from wanting to do a Bernie Sanders impression to Steve fully becoming Bernie. He instructs on what syllables to emphasize and how to jut out your jaw all they way down to the proper physicality. I can’t believe they put this online for free; this type of workshop is worth $150.00. Lorne Michaels, you ought to hire both of these guys- Yanco to teach and Cohen to do Bernie. If this sounds like your thing, I’ve got a video down below just for you.
- Just wanted to share that Misha Han has an all-time great Twitter. If you like jokes like his recent, “I dated a nurse that was terrible at texting me back. Not much of a “first responder” if you ask me,” you’re gonna love following him. Alternating between silly and satire, he’s got a great account worthy of popping to the top of your algorithm. Link to follow Misha can be found in the comments where you expect it.
• Huge week for good stuff to watch. So good, in fact, that I’m a day late with this release. I had too much good stuff to see. Here it all is.
Season Four of “Big Mouth” (2020): A simple blurb will not do how incredibly good this season of television is. Just like “The Simpsons” peaked in Season Four, this show all about puberty has found a similar stride. Starting with a shaky premiere episode at camp (although the recapping of Season Three to start the festivities was an inventive way to make a retread entertaining), the season picks up dramatically and comedically in Episode Two and never lets up from there. Seth Rogen makes an appearance as a camp friend to the show’s leads that is a nice nod to his arc on “Freaks and Geeks,” Patti Harrison mines her transitioning story for laughs and pathos and on top of that, Episode Two closes with one of the most brilliant poop gags of all time. So good it felt like it was written by Simon Rich, who I think may be the best living humor writer, pound for pound. That’s barely scratching the surface though. We see the evolution of the Missy character embracing her race, an episode that takes place entirely in the future chock full of Martin Shkreli jokes (a nice homage to “Futurama” and “The Simpsons” episode where Lisa becomes President) and another that was four vignettes about...hand stuff. It was...touching. The sequence with Andrew’s grandfather might be the funniest thing you’ll see on a TV all year. THIS IS TV’S BEST COMEDY (Streaming on Netflix).
“Sound of Metal” (2020): Every time I listen to my headphones a little too loud, I get anxious that I may go deaf. It’s probably an irrational fear but one made all the more visceral in this phenomenal character study. Ruben, played with ferocious vulnerability by Riz Ahmed, is a drummer for a sonically heavy band, when all of a sudden his hearing goes. Not all at once. There are sounds but every noise is like a Rorschach test; Ruben has to interpret what it is. Before he knows it, his perfect life making music and traveling the country in an RV is taken away from him. His girlfriend leaves him at a home for the deaf and what follows should be your standard issue, beat by beat movie of the week style film. Yeah, the movie does kind of follow that format- Ahmed’s character is an addict, he lashes out, he finds his way. This movie is anything but conventionally made though. The unknown actors alongside Ahmed all deliver lived in performances and the sound design alone demonstrating what the different stages of deafness are is the most visceral thing I’ve heard in a movie all year. Just the idea of this type of hearing loss made me tear up while watching. Hate to be hyperbolic after saying “Big Mouth” was the show of the year, but this could easily be the movie of the year. Also, of note, Anna and I have a little inside joke where we sing Meatloaf’s, “I would do anything for love but I won’t do that.” This movie, if you see it, ends up making the same exact joke we always make. It’s about eight minutes in. Once they made that joke, I was hooked. THIS IS A MUST SEE AND HEAR (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
“Scare Me” (2020): One of the best get rich quick secrets to quick success in Hollywood is the one-location horror movie. Rarely do these movies end up being funny though; they’re usually interested in just scares. Josh Ruben’s directorial debut is a bit more interested in using the one-location horror film to Trojan Horse a pretty nifty comedy film into the world. Smartly done. In this flick, Ruben and Aya Cash (you may recognize her from “The Boys”) are writers who both head to solitary cabins to get away from it all and find time to put pen to paper or clack away at a keyboard. After a great opening sequence featuring an eager Uber driver who drops Ruben off, his character meets the more successful Cash. They end up finding themselves in a battle of wits trying to one-up each other with scary stories that are edited in such a way that show you don’t need tons of money thrown at a project to make it entertaining; just great performances and world class sound design. Just as soon as the premise wears thin, the film introduces Chris Redd and it all leads to multiple satisfying endings. AN EXCELLENT ADDITION TO THE HORROR-COMEDY CANON (Streaming on Amazon Prime for $3.99).
“Mank” (2020): I was genuinely surprised to see so many lukewarm reviews for this film. The trailer looked like a slam dunk ode to Old Hollywood and unconventional biopics (especially about the man who essentially reinvented the biopic) usually work like gangbusters. So, I went into this Fincher flick with low expectations. Man, that was the way to do it. I ended up loving this thing. Smoky cinematography, a charming Gary Oldman and amazing period detail (not only production design; I’m talking more about how Hollywood Elites reacted to Hitler right before he really assumed power are all just a few elements of what made this so special. If you’re not sure about this movie, it’s the tale of Herman Mankiewicz AKA the man who allegedly really wrote “Citizen Kane” and based it on William Randolph Hearst. The movie touches on what it’s like to work for someone younger than you and creative ownership in a way that still feels resonant 80 years after the film’s story took place. What gives it an extra air of intrigue is that Fincher’s deceased Father wrote the screenplay. Really hoping he wins an Academy Award just like Mank did. Also, wanted to point out two oddities in the film- Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Fincher’s in-house composers) recorded a jaunty, bouncy and evocative 30s score as opposed to their steely, electronic work that totally works and Bill Nye THE SCIENCE GUY makes an extended cameo as Upton Sinclair. WAY BETTER THAN THE CRITICS ARE SAYING (Streaming on Netflix).
“SNLPodcast” with Luke Null: One of my all-time great fascinations are people that made it in comedy but then it all disappears. Folks that last just a single season specifically. There’s so many interesting ones. Gilbert Gottfried. Ben Stiller. Jenny Slate. Also, Luke Null. You might remember the name. He was on the show a few years ago and billed as a “musical comedian.” Not once in his season did the show allow him to do a musical bit. It ended up being a baffling hire. In this 40-minute podcast (with fairly poor audio quality), Null spills all about his season. The most interesting tidbits were that he was hired to essentially be the “bad boy” on the show as he demonstrated in his “I couldn’t care less” audition but once he got there, he buttoned up and the show put him on the back burner. SNL wants rebels was the lesson there. Also, of note, the podcast goes into great detail about a cut sketch of Null’s that played extremely well at dress BUT said sketch was stuffed in the classic first episode that Mulaney hosted so it was cut at dress. If you’re an SNL nerd at all, this short pod will scratch an itch about the show’s history you didn’t know you had.
“You Made It Weird” with Tim Ferris: This was a bit of a mashup of stuff my brother and I like; he’s into Tim Ferriss philosophy and I listen to Pete Holmes run bits for hours at a time. I was interested to see if these two would get along and what they would discuss. For awhile, the two of them didn’t take off. In this 2.5 hour episode, the only story that stood out to me was how the fire department came to Ferriss’ home in the middle of the night because he followed his own advice and put his phone on airplane mode. However, in the second half, he talked about an ayahuasca trip that preceded a silent retreat that brought out repressed memories in a way he could have never expected. The show became surprisingly moving. Some conversations just need an hour to warm up. For most of this edition, Ferriss is a bit more practical than charismatic making for one of the duller installments in the show’s history but there are nuggets of raw wisdom here if you stick around.
SNL with Kristen Wiig: Never understood why SNL needed to do essentially three Christmas shows back to back every December; it’s just an overload of Christmas it seems. I might just be cynical but all the episodes tend to feel the same. For the three Christmas-ish episodes from the past three Saturdays (Jason Bateman, Timothee Chalamet and now Kristen Wiig), this was by far the weakest. The show relied heavily on Wiig’s recurring characters (Secret Password with a contestant who always says the password, woman who is always surprised) where the bit doesn’t quite escalate more than it just exists. Either you’re onboard for it or you shrug and patiently wait five minutes for whatever’s next. Luckily, there were a few winners embedded in this 90-minute variety show. I was a fan of the “Mom Christmas Gift” sketch (although it reminded me quite a bit of the CVS Valentine’s Day sketch from a few years back) and the parody sequel to “A Teacher” was a nice spin on how silly that show’s premise is. On top of that, not a bad showcase for underused cast members Ego Nwodim and Andrew Dismukes. What will be most remembered from this episode though is Alex Moffatt’s debut as Joe Biden (I was really hoping Kyle Mooney would bring his awkward energy to the role of President but this is a decent settle I guess) and the tit for tat joke sparring at the end of Weekend Update where Che wrote jokes for Jost to tell and vice versa. It’s one of the few times the show insists on refusing to play it safe and Jost’s Scarlett Johansson burn instantly became a classic.
• Finally, I just wanted to point out that there are so many great articles about comedy on the web if you’re hankering for more comedy journalism covering what’s going on in the world. Special recommendations of pieces I’ve read recently are Alan Siegel’s “Tragedy Plus Time” about comedy in the Trump era for The Ringer, Jason Zinoman’s dissection of Carmen Lynch’s virality on TikTok in The New York Times, Brian Boone’s Top Ten Comedy Books of the Year for Vulture, Dennis Perkins’ cantankerous AVClub reviews of SNL and Zach Broussard’s list of Top 250 Comedians of 2020 (formerly 1000 comedians but shortened to operate at “25% capacity for CDC guidelines”) which gets funnier every year.
No comedy planned for the week. Just some good old fashioned celebrating around a tree.
Egg nog life
Comedy Stray Note Links
01.) Super viral Tweet:
02.) Franco’s World Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/francos-world/id1469885794#episodeGuid=ed6a5726-8ab7-433f-97be-e92e59919e6e
03.) Not From Around Here: https://aprofileaboutyou.medium.com/not-from-around-here-shows-you-a-whole-new-world-8075e093f79c
04.) Bop Or Flop: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bop-or-flop-pod/id1543762556#episodeGuid=https://boporflop.podomatic.com/entry/2020-12-14T18_51_28-08_00
05.) Steve Cohen and Jordan Yanco:
06.) Misha Han Twitter: https://twitter.com/himishahan
07.) Luke Null podcast: https://snlpodcast.com/episodes/2019/11/17/interview-luke-null
08.) You Made It Weird with Tim Ferriss: http://youmadeitweird.nerdistind.libsynpro.com/tim-ferriss
09.) Alan Siegel’s “Comedy In The Trump Era” Ringer article: https://www.theringer.com/tv/2020/12/15/22174371/trump-era-comedy-in-review-snl-impressions
10.) Jason Zinoman’s Carmen Lynch TikTok article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/09/arts/television/tiktok-carmen-lynch.html
11.) Brian Boone’s Ten Best Comedy Books of 2020: https://www.vulture.com/article/best-comedy-books-2020.html
12.) Dennis Perkins’ AVClub Reviews: https://tv.avclub.com/kristen-wiig-closes-out-saturday-night-lives-2020-with-1845921502
13.) Zach Broussard’s 250 Best Comedians of 2020: https://www.top1000comedians.com/2020