Discover more from Matt Levy's Comedy Stray Notes
Comedy Stray Notes January 24, 2021
On the app Rizzle, the tradition and legacy of "50 First Jokes" and a Bobby Moynihan podcast appearance
• In mid-November of 2020, I caught wind of an interesting post in the NY Improv/Sketch/Stand Up Resource Facebook group written by Allen McRae. He was looking for content creators to pitch pilots to go to series for the app Rizzle. I sent him a message like the status suggested and he replied telling me to pitch a few ideas. That afternoon, I shot out 17 pitches liberally selecting anything that seemed worthy of ten one-minute webisodes from my Twitter drafts. Here are two rejected ideas:
Show name: Tutorials where nothing happens
Logline: You know how the first minute of the tutorial for something important is always...nothing? This show is that first minute that is just...showing people nothing and blathering on.
Show name: I'll Be With You In A Minute
Logline: We see what a customer service representative really does when they put you on hold; push up, make out, scroll Reddit, shovel ice cream into their mouth, then they always go back to the call like it was nothing.
Those were rightly rejected. Allen’s got taste and knows when something has legs. He saw something in my idea that I wrote nearly nothing about:
Show name: Minute Made
Logline: It's MTV's Made but the person gets made in a minute
He said I needed to make a pilot and I did. It went OK; it starred my talented wife Anna E. Paone as a woman who wanted to learn how to ice skate. It wasn’t perfect but we got picked up! Rarely in comedy do you hear any good news; Anna and I were ecstatic. We now had to write ten episodes based on this premise. The two of us brainstormed as many things that one could be “made” into in a minute. We shot the true first episode right around New Years and will be releasing the next eight on the app over the next few weeks and subsequently on the Gram. If you want a taste of the series, you can find the first installment at the second link in the comments (the first one will take you to Rizzle; sign up! See if you can start your own series!).
• One of the great traditions of the new year in comedy is the “50 First Jokes” show that usually takes place at The Bell House in Brooklyn. The comics sat onstage anxiously waiting to get their first bit of the year out into the world. I loved going to see fleshed out jokes that had been workshopped for two weeks for this very show, silly, absurdist anti-jokes to break the tension and, of course, the barely fleshed out jokes that were probably written on the subway ride over to the venue. It came as a complete surprise to me that this past Friday, I got to see two shows that were spiritual siblings to the 50 First Jokes format.
The first was Jordan Scott Huggins and Spencer Bland’s 50 First Jokes featuring North Carolina comics. It was a well-executed, breezy watch that made one feel like they were meeting the elite of the NC scene. Comics did topical material (Bernie seated in the background was clutch), song parodies about Mountain Dew and one dude who pretty much didn’t say anything. I’m glad I saw it and if you’re nostalgic for the 50 First Jokes format, you can too. It’s linked below.
The second show was John Rosenberger and Chris Donahue’s 60 Shorts for 60 Shots. This beautifully titled show had a brilliant conceit. Essentially, the two hosts took 60 shots off camera while they rolled 60 short films from comics from all over. It was magical and felt like a Pine Box open mic operating at its absolute highest heights. The sketches/videos poked fun at pop culture, Zoom meetings and some were just flat out lunacy. This thing flew by and was executed flawlessly feeling more like a lost 90s Comedy Central short films showcase than a Zoom. If this type of thing strikes your fancy, you can catch a URL in the comments.
• This week, TWO people reached out to me to ask if I knew Matt Somerstein from Twitter since they were such big fans of his writing. I do know him and it’s great that he’s finally getting recognized. Somerstein’s great on the platform and deserves all the attention he can get. I mean with jokes like, “I made a fake facebook account of a comic who's new to New York City and i'm disgusted by how many of you sent him a friend request.” Brilliant. His handle is sitting in the comments just waiting for you to click on it.
• Rarely do comics have skills outside of slinging jokes; that’s why we get into it. It’s what we’re good at and decide to skip “getting good at other things.” Every so often, a comic will have a talent outside of bits and it makes their comedy all the more interesting. In Fluke Human’s case, the dude can rap and his Instagram video he released this week where “comic Fluke” battles “rapper Fluke” not only made me laugh but impressed the hell out of me. Come for the brilliant idea and stay for the surprise ending. Video is linked a scroll away, my friend.
• Saw three movies and listened to two podcasts this week. Here’s a quick synopsis and then we’ll be on our way.
“Shirkers” (2018): Every so often, I’ll see a movie and not want it to end. It’s rare. It’s not that I want other movies TO end but I feel their natural conclusion coming and I don’t feel the need to see an extra hour’s worth of material. With “Shirkers” I could have watched a year’s worth of story and not been bored. In Sandi Tan’s “debut” project, she tells the story of the botched film she made as a teen in Singapore that was never completed. Why it was never completed is much darker, weirder and juicier than you could ever imagine. Sandi Tan could have been Wes Anderson but it’s almost better than she didn’t; we get to see this unbelievable vision of hers instead here. FEELS LIKE IF A GREAT PODCAST WAS A MOVIE (Streaming on Netflix).
“One Night In Miami” (2021): This is a guaranteed Best Picture nominee this year (if the Academy Awards actually happen) that you should totally, totally see. The movie takes place mostly over the course of one night (yes, in Miami) in 1964 at a hotel. There, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X hold court talking about the turbulent state of their present day that reflects our modern world a bit too closely. There’s crackling dialogue (Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X verbally sparring with Leslie Odom Jr as Sam Cooke is a standout scene in a movie full of standouts), great character moments showing the vulnerable side of all these iconic men and it ultimately felt like a movie like “The Outsiders” where you’d see it in 30 years and say, “I can’t believe all these huge stars were all in a movie together.” Directed by Regina King and based on a stage play by Kemp Powers (who co-wrote “Soul”- he’s having a moment), she milks everything she can out of these characters leading to transcendent moments that gave me chills like Sam Cooke performing “Chain Gang” acapella with Malcolm X looking on in the audience or Muhammad Ali charming reporters and friends alike. AS GOOD AS THE HYPE SUGGESTS (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
“Austin Powers and the Spy Who Shagged Me” (1999): I’m not big on re-watching movies. However, I do make special exceptions. This movie falls squarely in that camp. If you haven’t seen this lately, treat yourself to what I think holds up as one of the most complete comic visions of all time. I surprised myself; I could recite almost every line. Yes, the Fat Bastard jokes didn’t exactly age well but Mini Me, Scott, Dr. Evil, Austin, Bosley, the Will Ferrell cameo (and post-credits gag), Jerry Springer all are as funny as ever. From the opening visual gag connecting the first film to the second and subsequently hiding Austin’s you know what’s to my all-time favorite match cut montage where characters are linked by different euphemisms for the male member, there’s so much to enjoy here if you need some good, dumb fun. HOW ABOUT YES, SCOTT (Streaming on Hulu).
“You Made It Weird” with Dane Cook: I’ve never particularly liked Dane Cook but I’ve always been fascinated by him. He’s the kind of guy that always speaks at full volume and is the life of the party. I don’t know exactly what transpired with the whole “joke theft” thing but I wanted to know what he was up to and how he was riding out the pandemic so I listened to him talk on a podcast for hours. After finishing, I became a bit more of a fan. For two hours here, he discusses Boston not suffering fools, how comics shouldn’t “just do podcasts” because you’ll have fans because they won’t come back, how his parents didn’t get him doing stand up as a career until they saw him at a big venue (this also led to a conversational detour where Dane and Pete said that having their headshot in a local pizzeria was more important to them than their biggest career achievements) and how he staged the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” Zoom reading this summer that I had totally forgotten about after seeing it trending on Twitter. It is important to note that Dane did drop two brilliant pieces of wisdom in the episode. The first was, “We always worry about the risk of doing something rather than what the risk is of NOT doing something” and “Nostalgia is basically just saying to yourself, ‘Remember when you felt OK?’” This all came from a guy who was confused about how to get his video up on Zoom in the conversation. Good chat. Glad I listened.
“Good One” with Bobby Moynihan: We’re talking about one of the all-time unsung SNL greats here. Interestingly, this podcast goes deep into Moynihan’s experience playing obscure character Janet Peckinpaugh, a woman that confidently hits on Tom Brady (played by Channing Tatum) and Adam Levine. Although just a few years ago, I do not remember this at all. Off the top, Moynihan quickly rehashes his ascent to being cast on the show very quickly (he performed at UCB and used to wait in the standby line pre-SNL like the rest of us mere mortals) and then settles into a nice rhythm telling the story of being the only new hire in his first season and the creation of Drunk Uncle (he and Colin Jost spitballed the idea together last minute; the last time he did it was the infamous Trump episode and Trump loved the character which made him uneasy; little did he know that the character providing support for Trump in that episode would resonate with his voters). My absolute favorite anecdote was about the creation of Riblet, the Weekend Update correspondent who went to high school with Michael Che and thinks he can do a better job than him. Moynihan confided that this character’s mispronunciation of words like “jorb” instead of “job” has been copied for years (although I feel like “ermagherd” came first). Then, of course, Moynihan went into great detail about cut sketches that an SNL superfan like myself can only dream of. I wish we lived in a world where Moynihan’s farewell tribute to Seth Meyers aired and Meyers went to the Weekend Update bar and hung out with all the correspondents from his era or Mike Myers got to do his SNL “Inception” Cold Open when he hosted or the “Lost” parody with Alec Baldwin made it past dress rehearsal but alas, we can only dream. Finally, Moynihan gives philosophical insight on how to write formulas for recurring characters and then let the cat out of bag about why they don’t have recurring characters anymore: it’s because we see sketches online immediately; characters appeared multiple times in previous eras because people may have missed episodes and not had easy access to find old versions; this was likely their first time seeing said character. Plus, so much more about why Lorne hates long sketches. There’s a billion reasons to recommend this episode if you’re an SNL fan.
• Started doing this thing where I list what I plan on working on every day creatively for the next month to focus my attentions, have goals and be more productive. I’ll report back next week on whether or not it worked. Other than that, I’m just chillin’ this week.
Yeah baby yeah
01.) Rizzle: https://rizzle.tv/
02.) Episode One of Minute Made starring Anna E. Paone:
03.) Jordan Scott Huggins and Spencer Bland’s 50 First Jokes: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1340533542948805&ref=search
04.) John Rosenberger and Chris Donahue’s 60 Shots For 60 Shorts: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/884214550
05.) Matt Somerstein’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/MPSomerstein
06.) Fluke Human sketch:
07.) “You Made It Weird” with Dane Cook: http://youmadeitweird.nerdistind.libsynpro.com/dane-cook-returns
08.) “Good One” with Bobby Moynihan: https://www.vulture.com/article/bobby-moynihan-snl-good-one-podcast.html