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Louie Anderson
Luke Cunningham
Julian McCullough
Jared Logan
Kurt Metzger
Tic & Tac All-Stars

David Baker
Jared Bilski
Sarah Blodgett
Ophira Eisenberg


written by Ken Carlson

WE GET A LOT of emails from younger comics looking for sources of inspiration and fans from other countries who may not be clued into recent releases; and since we here at The Comedians have been off for a while, I thought it would it be worthwhile to combine those points of interest for our reviews in this issue.

Dane Cook’s Greatest Hits package, I Did My Best, took me by surprise when it arrived in the mail. When I think of Greatest Hits, I think of bands that have been around for decades, may not be all that relevant now, and when they’re not combining their tour with 38 Special and REO Speedwagon to save on bus fare, are trying to recapture old glory, not to mention old profits, with their scant hit singles. In Cook’s case, he’s still at the top of his game and incredibly popular with the youngest comedy audience. Boyish charm and wardrobe aside, he’s put in his twenty, and this gives a comprehensive look at his high-powered style.

Bill Hicks’ box set The Essential Collection, encapsulates the brilliance and richness of one of comedy’s most influential performers. He was the quintessential combination of brashness and intellect. Every political comic, and most who choose to cover the mundane, over the last two decades point to him as one of their primary influences. Listening to this, you hear his ability to, not only bring out the laughs, but also produce dated material solid enough to make a statement today.

To see what different directions political comics can take, look no further than Tom Simmons and Jamie Kilstein. The challenge nowadays in doing political humor is immense; the fear of having half your audience tune you out in an ever more polarized landscape, keeping material fresh enough in the light of ever-changing events, honing material constantly bombarded on internet and late night TV, for starters.

Simmons made news winning the San Francisco Comedy Festival last year. His most recent album, Keep Up, is a reflection of the current times, but sways away from the cynical side of commentary, and more toward the friendly angle you get from a comrade in a bar. Simmons faces it head on with quirky optimism, likability and a mix of family material from the perspective of a new dad; which plays well in larger clubs you see in suburbs.

If Simmons sounds more easy going, then some might tell Kilstein, “Easy does it.” Jamie Kilstein takes a more urgent approach on Zombie Jesus & Please Buy My Jokes, with the intention leaning more toward shock than soothe. Kilstein has more of au underground city sound, skewed toward the younger masses, and seems less interested in changing the world as burying it. If you like your comedy with an eye on the fringe element, heavy on the venom, Kilstein’s your guy.

Ophira Eisenberg is a dynamic writer and you can find her dire tales from the road regularly in this magazine. Eisenberg specializes in drawing us all in on As Is, as our world becomes more alienated, to the perplexing prospect of fitting in anywhere; she’s a Canadian living in the US, a New Yorker finding her way in small towns, a earnest performer struggling to find meaning, a ‘poor chick with good bangs’. It’s savvy and stylish, without taking itself too seriously.

Maria Bamford is a marvelous performer who is a favorite to many, and yet, not as universally popular as I think she should be. For those who know her only as the blonde from this year’s
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Target TV and internet Christmas ad campaign, make this the year to see her live. To get a sample of what you’ll get, pick up Plan B. It crosses over to the one woman show format, with incredible patience and uproarious characters that she brings out from her family album; keying in on the insecurities and frustrations from a strange business and a unnatural fondness for Diet Coke.

In this past year, two giants in comedy were lost and I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest works of theirs as well. Both left so many fans of their comedy and so many friends in comedy as well.

When Greg Giraldo passed this fall, he was labelled in the press as an insult comic (which was woefully short-sighted) or the heir apparent to George Carlin (a lazy short change of them both). If you haven’t heard much of his stuff get Good Day to Cross a River, his 2006 album which represented the first stage of his career. It shows the masterful way he mixed the crude and suggestive with the level of in-depth social criticism our society has lost.

Robert Schimmel, in performing as long as he did, provided, not only a bridge to sharper, more direct acts like Rodney Dangerfield, he left a body of work that ranged from raunchy to tragic. Schimmel suffered more and left it all on the stage and written page for us to take in. On Life Since Then he segues from his hosting the porn awards to his experience in chemotherapy. He was a one of a kind with immense talent, something we should all be lucky to have written about us in whatever we do.

Laughter’s always in the cards for Louie

written by Rich Freedman

LAS VEGAS is a city built by
strong hands and funded with bad hands.

Since his Vegas debut Nov. 21, 1984, stand-up comic Louie Anderson has seen both, from the construction of towering theme-ridden casinos to the misery of departing visitors with empty pockets.

He’s also seen the joy of a tourist not just laughing at his humor, but relating to his poignant observations, be it from the stage or recalling his 1989 best seller, “Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child,” Anderson’s letters to his deceased father.

In mid-September, much of his hard work is paid off with the unveiling of “The Louie Anderson Theater” at the Palace Station.

“My own theater is a dream come true,” Anderson said. “I get to book all the acts, put up all my memorabilia. It’s a milestone.”

Yes, the man who makes no bones about his weight problems is entrenched in the desert city, which is about as far philosophically from his native Minneapolis, Minn., as possible.

Then there’s the temperature difference. While it’s in the low 80s back in his hometown, it’s pushing 105 in Vegas this week.

“It’s hot, but I enjoy it,” Anderson said. “A lot of people can’t stand it. But it’s not like I’m out playing ball or anything. Maybe as you get older, you enjoy the heat.”
Anderson labors in Vegas 30 weeks a year, having moved there five years ago. He puts his work “shift” into perspective.

“People say, ‘Wow, you work that many weeks. But I go to work at 6 and I’m off at 9. It’s a great job. Plus, people want to see me and they leave and they’re happy. I’m happy. It’s quite a good set up.”

Never, said Anderson, does he lock into automatic pilot.
“I stay coherent to what I’m trying to present,” Anderson said, believing it’s about “centering” himself before he steps on stage.

Besides, in Vegas, there’s all the competition. People are shopping, seeing other sites. Then they pay to see the funny man.

“It’s a very distracting place,” Anderson said. “You have to be really prepared.”

As one of 11 kids, Anderson learned early how to share and it’s carried into his grown-up life. He’s raised thousands for various charities, from 9/11 victims to the homeless to abused animals.

The former host of “Family Feud” and creator of the Emmy-winning cartoon “Life with Louie” knows the power of celebrity.

One time he met a woman at the airport who asked Anderson to call her cancer-stricken sister.

“It took only 30 seconds to call her, but it mattered to her and it mattered to her family,” Anderson said. “I could use my self, my voice, to say, ‘Hey, I was thinking about you.’ God gave me something I could actually use. It’s hard to measure. Nothing’s worse than when you’re in the situation where you’re losing something and you want to do something for that person who’s suffering.”

There are still people thanking Anderson for his emotional “Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child.”

“When someone comes up and says, ‘I read your book 20 years ago and because of that, I had a better relationship with my dad,’ that’s a healing thing for me,” Anderson said. “It was very difficult for me to put all that out there and it helped somebody.”

“There are people who put themselves in our path so our path is easier,” Anderson said. Through the years, that path around Anderson has been challenging. Yes, he was one of those kids who turned to comedy after he got picked on because of his size.
Dropping the pounds “is difficult for me,” Anderson has often said. “I’m honest about this.”

Years ago, he contemplated fat-reducing surgery “but I chickened out,” Anderson said. “I thought, ‘This can’t be good for you.’ I felt like even if I did it, I would be a failure.”
Rising childhood obesity in America isn’t surprising, Anderson said.

“It’s easy to figure out. We run commercials about food 24/7, about food cookers, about 1,000 ways to prepare everything. We have tripled-sugared everything. We never used to get crushed brownies into ice cream. It’s a beautiful site, but let’s be honest, did we wait 2,000 years to come to this: ‘We want a brownie crushed into that.’ The biggest thing is we’re eating without much thought. The most successful channel is The Food Network, said Anderson.
Food has become the new golf."

Sure, Anderson said, the deaths of heavy comics Chris Farley (1997) and John Candy (1994) hit him hard.

“I wish I could have helped,” Anderson said. “But I’m the last guy to go to them, ‘Come on, let’s get healthy.’”

Anderson has pounced on 5 smoking habit and burns off the calories doing time in the pool. And he keeps working. Losing weight may always be hard, but thinking of something funny gets easier, he said.

“Look at the world,” Anderson said, “We are competing with more outlets on the Internet,” he said. “You get puppies on a cam — or a panda — and you may as well forget it.”

Though Anderson said he’s never been competitive with other comics, wives are another thing.

“Most wives love me,” he said. “Women just want someone to feed ... and bathe.”

Rich Freedman is a writer from California.

Jared Logan

written by Ken Carlson

“BEING A COMIC, I don’t think I could do anything else,” says comedian Jared Logan. “I am proud of it. But I don’t like to philosophize about it too much. It’s also a job. A lot of guys [in stand-up], my friends and I as well, often go around and around in discussing the Art of it – What are we doing for humanity? How are we creating something new? – That’s not what’s important at all. That’s what people who write about it can do. Comics don’t have that skill set. No comic knows what their act is like. What’s more important is that you’re enjoying yourself, making money and supporting yourself, doing something you enjoy, and that you have a good work ethic where you put on a show that your audience enjoys.”

While Logan’s philosophy regarding his craft may sound typical and obvious in the same way that short, sharp, shock should be a standard formula for most punchlines, Logan’s act is anything but. Peppered among his societal jabs are the types of references most folks may not have equipped themselves when they looked in the mirror after getting dressed for a night out. Who tells jokes involving Susan B Anthony & Sylvia Plath anyway? Maybe the kind of guy who knows his Morningstar from his Scythe, or why Charisma may be more important to a Paladin than Strength or Constitution.

“Jared is a hilarious human being,” says comedian Myq Kaplan, “a top-notch comedian. From his on-the-fly, off-the-cuff, in-the-moment riffs to his solid, wonderful, and always fresh material, Jared always delivers and audiences are always happy to receive. He is at once humble and polite, yet in-your-face and super-intelligent; a total gentleman, yet also a man of the people.”

“I MADE A RULE– NO COMEDY TALK AT THE TABLE,” says Logan, referring to his role-playing association he has organized with fellow comics in New York. It’s like the regular basketball game that’s existed for comics in Queens, without all that unnecessary exercise and sweating.

“I really wanted these guys to get together, interact, without talking about comedy,” says Logan, who wears the weird nerd label with honor. “You know so many people through comedy. If you don’t know someone really well, you go immediately to talking only about comedy. I do it all the time. There’s talk about combining it (gaming) with comedy, bring in a video camera, start a blog and I’ve had to tell them, ‘No, no, no! This is us just not doing that. We see each other all week, doing that stuff. This is recreational.’”

Logan’s been playing Dungeons and Dragons since junior high. He took a couple of years off to attend to other things, but has returned to the table and made plenty of friends in doing so, with a session every Sunday in Brooklyn.

“We have a large number of geeky comics here; very geeky,” says Logan. “We’ve been playing for about a year and a lot of funny people on the scene have joined us. We don’t just play D&D. We play all kinds of games, like Call of Cthulhu, based on HP Lovecraft’s stories, and Shadowrun, which is like Blade Runner.”

“It’s the ultimate nerdy/theatre fag/commie thing. But it’s great for improvising, being in the moment. If I play that on a Sunday, I feel warmed up, like I’ve already done a set, especially if I’m running it. There’s a lot of verbalizing, a lot of quick thinking on your feet, and something about it that feels so frivolous, it’s shameful,” he says, relating his fantasy based story-telling to the written form. “Have you ever met someone who won’t read fiction? ‘It’s a waste of time and I’m not learning anything.’ Are you kidding me? You think a non-fiction book is more legit than a fiction book? Fiction can teach you just as much or more, if they’re well written and have a good experience tied to it. A lot of non-fiction books are full of shit.”

LOGAN MOVED TO NEW YORK two years ago. It been another dramatic change in scenery in his life as he’s strayed farther away from the type of place where he grew up, West Virginia, to where he went to school, Memphis, and where he got his foothold in comedy, Chicago.
“It’s going great!” says Logan “There’s no industry in Chicago, really. There are good and bad things about that. The good thing is comedians there feel they can do whatever they want on stage. It’s free, wildly creative. Nobody’s worried about people seeing you, or getting on that next talk show. You’re just doing your own thing. That creates a lot of really cool, creative stuff and horrible, sad bizarre stuff. The community’s a little tighter there and that’s probably because there are fewer comics. The bigger a group gets, you can’t hang out with everybody. Here, there are more, different groups of comics. It’s more competitive here, and that’s good too. At a certain point, if you’re performing well and writing well, perhaps not at the height of your creative powers, but you’ve found a process and it’s going well, then it’s time to start thinking about your marketing – How do I make money? The challenge here isn’t the comedy, it’s living here; dealing with high rent and all kinds of things like that. How do people find out what I’m doing? New York is a crash course in that. Those things are very important here. I’ve always had the attitude that I’m lucky that I get to do what I want to do. Marketing is the side I had to learn, the business side. If I want to be super funny in your festival, I have to be a print shop? I have to be an ad agency and a web guru?”

“Jared Logan brings unadulterated joy to whatever he’s talking about,” says comedian Steve O’Brien, “even if he’s talking about something he hates. He revels in every subject he tackles. He ping pongs between the dark and the surreal effortlessly because he delivers it all with the enthusiasm of an 8th grader who just saw Jurassic Park for the first time.”

THEY HATED EACH OTHER, is a two-man show Logan is putting together at Upright Citizens Brigade with comedian Dan St. Germain in a Thursday 8 pm slot. As a side project, Logan takes extra pride in producing something else with a friend to spotlights his talents and widen his exposure. “It’s the best thing you can do as a comedian,” says Logan. “Some guys just want to do stand-up, and if you like that, that’s great. But if you can show your world in other ways, it helps. The show is about famous people in history who hated each other; Tesla and Edison, Cain and Abel, that sort of stuff. We’re fighting as we tell the story. We’ve been working on it for a while. We put it up at a couple of places, like The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City, and at other people’s shows, 15 minutes at a time. If we don’t get a run at UCB, we’ll put it up somewhere. The show is about people who fight, and we (Jared & Dan) have an argumentative relationship, almost brotherly, in that we pick on each other. We’re pretty straight up with one another if we don’t like something, so a lot of work gets done. He’s way more focused that I am and kicks me in the butt to get work done and I calm him down a little bit, or try to.”

Where Logan is making the most of his stand-up income these days is at colleges. The two or three a month he performs provide a solid paycheck and receptive audience.

“I try not to think there are tough audiences out there,” says Logan, “just different. If you take into account their likes or prejudices, and think about that and write enough material to adapt, you won’t have too much of a problem. That’s something I’ve learned the hard way. College audiences tends to like material rooted in the ‘right now.’ That can mean pop culture, but doesn’t have to. They don’t want to hear anything that’s old fashioned to them, and old fashioned to them could be Seinfeld. They can be as rowdy as a club crowd, or like an East Village crowd and hang on very intricate stuff. If you’ve got them, they’ll listen to a long story, really enjoy it and love it. You have to take into account their prejudices and what’s going to get them excited. Sometimes I am surprised what they’ve heard of. They hate self deprecating humor sometimes. A lot of comics have self deprecating material. Being a portly gentleman, I have a couple of jokes about that. I accept my body and have come to terms with it. A college audience doesn’t understand, Why don’t you just eat what you want? They’ve never had that kind of hardship. Anything about how work sucks or getting older, they’re like, What do you mean? What’s work?”

“One thing that I bring that I’m proud of,” Logan continues, “I don’t just stand there and run through my material. Ever. I really try to have a real conversation with people. A lot of the time, I’m out in the audience, and I’m trying to make something happen that wouldn’t happen at any other show. I’m listening. If you say something and I hear it, I’m going to interact with you. I like to improvise. It makes it exciting for me. I also like my material and there are nights when I really want to do that. But most nights I want to acknowledge what’s going on in the room. If something weird’s going on, I don’t want to ignore it, I want to confront it. If I’m getting a vibe that they want to have a conversation, let’s have a conversation. I’m not talking about hecklers. Sometimes people will talk to you and that’s cool. I don’t understand this attitude that ‘Anyone who says anything while I’m on stage is heckling me.’ I don’t think that’s correct. It should be a conversation, interactive. You’re really there. They’re really there. They’re not watching a video of you. If they want to just see your material, they can just watch the video of YouTube that you’ve put up. I always want to interact and make that evening unique if I can. Just because I have a microphone I shouldn’t be a part of that conversation? Is there a risk in that? Absolutely. But that’s why it’s interesting. A lot of these people aren’t like me. We don’t have a lot of common ground. That’s what you write books and stories about. I have gotten mad at hecklers and will probably continue to in life, but when I’m at my best, doing what I want to be doing, I would rather have someone yelling out than someone just sitting there silent.”

“Jared,” says comedian Joseph DeRosa, who co-hosts a first rate showcase Tuesdays with Logan at Ace of Clubs “is sincerely one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. He’s got this great mixture of wit, charisma, and theatrical ability. He’s also a tremendous writer. When it comes to hosting a show, Jared is the perfect type. He’ll adapt to absolutely anything that’s thrown at him and, in turn, throw fantastic stuff at you.”

THERE ARE LESSONS that every performer picks up from common experiences in their lives and uses in performance. Tom Hanks has spoken endlessly of how much he learned from working with Denzell Washington in Philadelphia. UCB’s Billy Merritt used to mention his ever-present elven bag of magic where he would store pieces of knowledge and character traits for later use in improv. For Jared Logan, he gathered an important tidbit by watching ill-suited films with his mom. “I tried to watch There Will Be Blood with her. She was just disgusted by it. She said, ‘I work all day. I want to see people happy; cops putting people in jail, and all is right with the world, like Law & Order.’ I totally get that. But I’m the total opposite of that, as are a lot of other comics. We experience so much humor, that the darker the humor the more we find it funny. So I want to see everything go wrong. I just want to see tragic stuff happening, like horror movies. A movie to me is only as good as how often it surprises me because if you can’t predict anything in a movie, it’s not good. Horror movies are the best kind of movies to me, because they’re trying to surprise you more than any other movie. Because they’re trying more, statistics say they do. They have their tropes, but I love the idea of a genre just trying to surprise you all the time; like the job of a comedian is to be funny and be in the moment, absurd in a surprising way, making sure everybody has a real experience.”

Logan was a theatre major in school in Memphis; studying at being in the moment, utilizing his Meisner training. However, time often illustrates the differences between theory and application. “That’s all good stuff,” he says, “but it’s not the point. Go do it and see if you notice it in your act. I’m not going to say, ‘OK Jared, remember to use the Four steps of the Illusion of the First Time, then run your vocal exercises.’ Fuck that. It’s tearing it to pieces and taking the fun out of it. I don’t have an elaborate process before going on stage. They [his teachers] would make you hum to yourself, breathe out of your vagina, do all these vocal exercises, laughing together. That doesn’t do anything. They’re just placebo pills to help your confidence. Just be confident. You’ve done it before. It’s worked. You can do it. Great actors know how to make it look like it just happened the first time. Great comedians do that with their material, like it’s coming out of their mouth the first time. One way I try to practice that, is along with my material is to say other things for the first time.”

Logan adds, “There’s nothing new under the sun. Try to make it unique and that has to come from you.”

“He’s got this energy,” says comedian Nate Fernald, “about him that just commands laughter. I’ve probably seen Jared on stage more times than I’ve been on stage and every time I still laugh just as hard.”

For more on Jared, visit JaredLogan.com.