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JAN/FEB 11
THE COMEDIANS
Louie Anderson
Luke Cunningham
Julian McCullough
Jared Logan
Kurt Metzger
Tic & Tac All-Stars

HUMOR
David Baker
Jared Bilski
Sarah Blodgett
Ophira Eisenberg

Editor's Notes

written by Ken Carlson

WHEN YOU THINK about it, our society has a fairly basic set of guidelines for acceptable behavior. We come from many places with different beliefs, but in most instances, we, as a people, know how we are supposed to act. There are times we choose to ignore those guidelines, but we know what they are.

We know it’s wrong to steal from or hurt other people.

We don’t bring air horns to funerals.

When our drivers’ licenses need to be renewed, we don’t bring a date to the DMV to have loud, acrobatic sex in the midst of hundreds waiting on line; not even during the holidays.

And we don’t bring pornographic material on the subway.

Everyone has a private side, things they keep to themselves. It could be a kinky preference or an affectation for smooth jazz. You know you’re free to have them, you would rather others not know about them, and frankly everyone else has their own issues to deal with and doesn’t want anything to do with yours.

So, I was riding the train recently, and had my laptop and headphones with me for watching a movie, The Badder-Meinhof Complex; a marvelous, brutal account of the European terrorist organization in the 1960’s. Brilliant stuff.

Early in the movie, there’s a pleasant scene at a beach in Europe. It’s family time. Everybody’s happy and frolicking and naked. Nude beach; men, women, kids. Harmless stuff.

I’m sure many of you watch movies in public places nowadays; and other folks will crane their necks to see what you’re watching. Heaven forbid they go a minute without staring into a television, cell phone, or computer screen. Plus they want to see what crappy stuff you’re watching and how their Netflix queue is so superior.

As it turned out, I was not the only one watching this movie. A woman to my side, casually dowdy in a 90’s Talbot’s dress with overcoat and white Reeboks, had been tuning in and out, apparently bored with her compulsory Stieg Laarson novel.

When watching a movie in such settings and R-rated material comes up on screen, I think most folks turn their gadget to the side a bit to keep that for themselves. The situations are rarely overly racy or unusual, but out of context in mixed company, it’s not the sort of thing we share. So when this woman happened to glance at my screen and see naked folks of all ages, she gave me that distasteful glance that everyone feels they need to respond to with either a sigh, “Home movies!”, cultural assurance, “It’s OK. It’s European.”, or fake outrage, “Get your own! These are mine!”

I decided the next day to change movie styles, something a little safer and less likely to land me in a grainy photo with a trench coat over my head, and settled on Flash of Genius. It’s a Greg Kinnear movie from a few years back. Fairly formulaic tale of little guy inventor taking on big business. Not bad.

The title, Flash of Genius, got me thinking about that moment that every comic has. They’re lounging around, paying their bills, maybe texting friends to see if they want to go DMV to get their license renewed, and – BAM – it hits them. Flash of Genius. It’s so hilarious, so original, it needs to be committed to paper. It needs to be fleshed out and shared before others. People will laugh and herald the artist for his/her brilliance. Practice your Academy Award acceptance speech. Imagine yourself as an action figure.

Louis CK’s show on FX, Louie, was a Flash of Genius. It was perhaps the funniest show on TV this past summer, or, now that Rescue Me has taken a left turn at maudlin and a right at taking itself too seriously, the only funny show on TV this past summer. Not every episode was hilarious, but they made a point and brought CK’s talents to the forefront in the perfect setting.

Certainly another Flash of Genius falls under the heading of comic weight loss gurus. Robert Kelly, Drew Carey, and John Goodman recently joined the ranks of Tom Arnold with an almost religious fervor for dropping tonnage. What was once considered a sign of jolliness has become a symbol of a glaring hangover – (waking up and looking down at one’s gut) “Oh my God, what did I do last night ... and the last 30 years?”

Like the Kinnear movie, it’s fairly common for others to steal your Flash of Genius. Patton Oswald called out the Columbia University valedictorian this year for stealing his material in a graduation speech. As Oswald put it, “... if he’s willing to steal material for something as inconsequential as a speech, how rubbery did his boundaries become when his GPA and future career were on the line?”

I’ve got to go catch a train now. In choosing a movie to bring along, I should stick with safer choices. A friend of mine suggested a nice historical movie with Helen Mirren, Caligula. Any takers?

Ken Carlson is editor of the comedians magazine.
editor@thecomedians.org

Locked Out

written by Sarah Blodgett

I WAS SURE OF IT; this was the night I was going to die.
It started out innocently enough as I braved the freezing New England weather and drove to a new comedy show at a downtown Boston theater.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find street parking (I know, in Boston, go figure), so I had to park in a garage. Not knowing how late the show would go, I asked the attendant behind the booth how late the garage was open. His accent was quite thick, but he definitely said, “24 hours.”

“I’m all set then,” I thought innocently. I must have showed up at just the wrong time because all the other comics on the show found street parking.

The show was fun. A comic I didn’t know well invited us to an after-party at her apartment that was walking distance from the show. Some of the comics wanted to go get food first. No one wanted to lose their primo parking spaces, so we walked to get food, and then walked to the party. We had been walking for so long, I had no idea where I was. I took comfort that the crew I was with had cars parked near my garage and I could walk back with someone that knew the way.

When we knocked on the door to the party, I heard barking. Panic struck.

Now may be the time to confess something. I have an unnatural fear of dogs. Before you get mad at me, let me assure you, I don’t hate dogs. While I can appreciate a picture of an adorable puppy as much as any girl, I am afraid of them.

I think it began when, as a child, my cousin’s dog bit me right after my cousin uttered those famous last words, “Don’t be afraid, he doesn’t bite.” All dog owners say that and to all of you out there, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you.

I just can’t get used to jumpy dogs that bark at you. Luckily, living close to the city and having friends in small apartments, usually makes my fear a non-issue. Until now.

As I heard the barking on the other side of the door, my heart started to race. Then the door opened and a large dog was jumping and barking like crazy at all the new party guests. I pinned myself against the wall in the hallway and quietly said, “I’m not going in there.”

Of course everyone wanted to know why. I was forced to confess my fear, to which I got the usual reaction; people looking at me like I had just said that Hitler had some good ideas.

“I’ll just leave. You guys stay and have fun. I’ll just go home,” I said as I headed for the stairs. I realized that I had no idea how to find my car, but I was desperate to get out of there.

“Come on! Stay,” everyone encouraged – everyone except the girl whose apartment it was. She clearly had a different answer for me. She was also clearly not happy when some of the comics asked if she could put the dog in another room so I could stay.

“Okay, for now, but he doesn’t like to be confined,” she said glaring at me, not understanding the irony of keeping the dog in an apartment. “So maybe, if you really want to stay, we can figure something else out.”
I didn’t want to stay, but if I left because of the dog, I would look like a bitch. However, if I stayed and the dog had to be locked in a bedroom, I was a bitch. For someone that was just trying to avoid a dog, I had no way of not looking like a bitch.
I was offered a drink to loosen up, but I was informed that the only way to get to the bathroom was through the bedroom where the dog was being held and getting very angry about it.

A few hours later, embarrassed and dehydrated, I finally got to leave the party. And no one seemed sad to see me go.

I walked back with a few comics and one by one they found their cars and drove off.

Finally, I got to the garage.

I went to open the pedestrian door to the garage. Locked.

“Maybe they only keep one entrance open this late at night,” I thought. I went to every possible entrance to the garage. All locked. Now panic struck again. I looked desperately for a phone number to the garage. Nothing. I started desperately calling the comics that had just driven off. The two that I could get in touch with were already on the highway headed out of the city, but agreed to try to find exits that would get them in my direction. All I could do was wait.

Now, I had performed that night, so I was dressed up in jeans tucked into knee high boots, wearing a shiny silver coat with my blonde hair whipping in the wind. I had never been more thankful that my days of “miniskirts and strappy heels even in winter” were over. I paced back and forth on the street with my cell phone to my ear trying to find help, and trying to keep warm.

Suddenly a car pulled up, and a strange man rolled down his window. “How much?” he yelled. I started power walking away, hoping he wouldn’t get out and follow me. He got the hint and drove off. That scenario repeated itself five more times. I kept thinking how rude it was that these guys were mocking me. Here I was stranded in the freezing cold at 3 am on the mean streets of Boston, alone, pacing back and forth on a street corner. It was then that

I realized they weren’t mocking me. They actually thought I was a hooker!
I had gotten so disoriented walking to the garage from the party that I had no idea how to get back (and I really didn’t think I would have been welcomed back anyway).

There weren’t even any cabs around. Fear set in. This is it; I’m going to die right here on this street corner after getting raped by some sketchy John. Just then one of the comics I had been calling pulled up and yelled, “Get in! I’ll drive you home!”

The next day, I got a ride back to the garage to pick up my poor locked-up car. As I pulled out of the garage, I asked the attendant how late the garage is open. He said, “24 Hours.” So if you’re keeping track, not only do I not trust dog owners, but now I don’t trust parking garage attendants either.

Sarah Blodgett is a Funny Honey in Boston.
Check her out at SarahBlodgettOnline.com

Kurt Metzger

written by Ken Carlson

 

“ONE TIME,” SAYS COMEDIAN KURT METZGER, “someone came up to me after a show and said, ‘You were funny and I don’t usually like angry comics.’ I’m not really trying to do that [be angry]. I want you take me into your trust, then I bring up ... fisting. I don’t want to just yell Fuck You Fuck You! If I do it right, it comes out great. If I don’t, it’s just – ‘What’s this angry guy doing here?’”

The angry comic. You hear that description used quite a bit. They take to the stage stomping and ranting like professional wrestlers. If they weren’t booked tonight they’d be holed up in their apartment by the open window, sporting a stained wife beater and warm Schaefer, shouting at all the sons of bitches out on the street.

Actually Metzger plays it from the other side, instead of volume making his case, he uses the gift of candid shock, a delicate subtext of What the fuck? One minute he’s talking about ice cream, the next he’s gently accusing fans of one brand of supporting Nazis.

“Kurt is a lumbering, hairy joke monster,” says comedian Julian McCullough. “His intimidating presence and dark material is matched only by his masterful joke writing and deeply hidden fragility. I think he is one of the top five funniest comedians in America. He is number 26 in Canada.”


IT’S A TYPICAL EVENING AT COMIX ON 14th STREET. In the bar, hanging on the wall closest to the main stage, a monitor is repeating a promotional segment previewing upcoming shows at the club. Metzger’s name is listed on several themed lineups, ranging from Cringe Humor to Alternative; another sign that his buzz is spreading and so is his following.

On this evening he shows up a little haggard. He’s had to wake up early to get work done on an upcoming writing project. He’s worked on a patchwork of programs; America’s Funniest Mom, The Video Game Awards, Ugly Americans, and a bunch of MTV reality shows he describes as “appalling”.

He enjoys the process of working with other writers, being in a room and bouncing ideas off them and makes a point not to be married to his material. “You can always make more jokes,” he points out. “I don’t get all balled up about it, just because someone else is writing the same thing or doesn’t like it. I’ll just do something different. The best show I ever wrote for was The Chappelle Show. That was freelance, not in an office. I pitched them stuff from home and sent it in. I was really broke, three months behind on my rent. They fronted me the cash to pay it off, like $3,000, which was cool.”

Metzger has been working at this for about a dozen years. For publicity’s sake, he feels the sum of all those years’ work don’t come close to the impact from making it to the semi-finals of Last Comic Standing, which can be disheartening. “A steady living?” asks Metzger in response to a question about his career path. “I don’t know how I got by. I lived off girlfriends for a while. It’s never been easy for me. I got writing jobs when I could, get some city spots when I can, road stuff here and there. Even now, I’m still building up my following. It definitely doesn’t suck like it used to. It’s a bunch of little things. I’m not starving.”


“I’M SICK OF ALL THE GODDAMN FACEBOOK SPAM FLYERS I get from people for all their stupidly named shows!” says Metzger, as we discussed the New York comedy scene and the glut of irritating interruptions and promotional noise he receives. “How about that? I’m really sick of that! I’m sick that when I want to trash someone, someone else says, ‘Oh, he really works hard to promote himself.’ Fuck you. Really? That’s what you want to be known for, how good you are at marketing?”

However, he goes on to admit, “I really could use some marketing. So if any of those people read this, Fuck You, but I could use some help with my web site.”


What seems to stick in Metzger’s craw isn’t seeing the need for taking the time, as a performer, to get your name out there, it’s the overwhelming level of importance placed on it in place of talent. “It’s not even really people in particular,” says Metzger. “It’s like a meme; the idea that you have to brand yourself right away. So many people who do that are victims of such a shitty, shitty mindset that maybe they shouldn’t be trickling into it. Let’s put it that way to be charitable. It really bugs me.”

“Breaking comedy down into categories, like any other form of entertainment,” he says. “Those are legitimate designations when they start pulling in a lot of money. When people say ‘Alternative Comedy’, there is a significant market. It’s a thing because people are making money. But on a comedic level, it’s horse shit. Everybody has jokes. Everybody has a fuckin’ joke. Even the shitheads that sketch half of them, even if it’s not a joke, it is. It really is just for marketing purposes. I’ll do anybody’s room (in New York) and sometimes I forget (in smaller downtown rooms, for instance), ‘Holy Shit, there’s no energy in this shitty room.’ You have to calibrate for that. You see a lot of guys bomb in scenes like that. I just did this hooka bar, Karma. I’ve never seen such a listless, awful crowd. You look at them and ask, ‘What do you want?’ You can’t make fun of them either because they’ve been traumatized from high school. It’s a delicate thing because my bearing is the opposite from the shit in those rooms. I fuckin’ hate understated writer-itis delivery, like you ate a plate of ribs before you got there. A lot of places only want to hear that, the delivering of jokes in a dry manner, and you have to be careful not to come off like a bully. I’m already suspect because I talk like an asshole. It’s practice. I’m trying to temper it so I can go anywhere. Some people have their crowd. It’s never my crowd. I guess it’s a skill I have to work on. Theoretically you should be able to play any room. That’s something that’s in my head, but it may not be realistic.”

For someone who has been placed in many categories and carries an air of not giving a fuck, Metzger clearly makes distinctions between what will work where; what certain people will demand or others will sit through. He wants to play the road more but guards against being, “Too New Yorky. I’ve got to slow things down before I tell my fuckin’ retard rape jokes.”

He also cautions against the over analysis of the message behind material, that the point will probably be lost on some who take it too seriously by those who forget it’s about the laughs. “People think in symbols all the time. I went to England for the Real Deal Comedy Jam. All black shows need to have the word Jam in them, or royalty of some kinds. It was so weird. English black people are nothing like the black people here. American black people are way cooler. The English ones dress better. A black crowd here will get into my jokes. Over there, you have to talk in a way they’ve seen on DefJam. It’s like a fetish. They don’t even know what good stand-up is. They’ve got like three good ones out of a thousand. So if you don’t speak in those speech patterns – it’s almost like they want you to sing a fuckin’ song.”


METZGER STARTED OUT PLAYING black rooms in Philadelphia. As a beginner, he enjoyed the open mics there because they drew a crowd for shows like Blazin’ Thursdays at the Laff House. “I was from the suburbs,” Metzger recalls, “so an urban Philly environment was different from the black kids I grew up with. I was awful when I started. I was trying the make the audience not hate me so I picked up all these bad habits that you pick up from hacks. But all the guys from the chitlin circuit liked me. All the guys I thought were funny were encouraging to me.”

“When you start out, there’s a lot of ‘Why does this fuckin’ guy have this and I don’t?’” says Metzger. “The answer is – you’re not funny enough. It has nothing to do with the other dude. I usually have a spurt of several jokes that I do at once. Then I keep doing them. Then I get sick of them. Then I change them around. Hopefully, that new state of agitation will lead to some new shit. I’ve never been good at sitting down and writing my set. I think a lot of people are like that. I try to have some vague ideas I think are funny. I’ll sneak it in with a joke that works. If it bombs, it bombs.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Kurt develop,” says comedian Jay Oakerson. “From his very first time on stage to now. Every time I watch Kurt, I am blown away by his writing ability.”

“I just didn’t want a job,” says Metzger on his career and expectations, “so it’s all gravy for me. I don’t even want to do my fun job tonight. It’s amazing how much I’ve regressed into a twelve year old. That’s exactly what I thought stand-up would be – to live like an adolescent forever – the teenage pinnacle of what you want to do: play video games, sleep ‘til noon, maybe get laid.”

Kurt Metzger is a comedian based in New York. Find his clips on YouTube.