World Mental Health Day/ADHD Awareness Month

So it's World Mental Health Day and also ADHD Awareness month. I was only officially diagnosed with ADHD 1.5 years ago, after a lifetime of basically being told by mental professionals I was too smart to have it. It turns out not being able to regulate attention can be a plus when you can't tear yourself away from math, science and programming.

 

People close to me know I've struggled with hitting deadlines, disorganization and generally being messy but a good chunk of ADHD is also emotional regulation. I've recently started retaking medication for it which frankly has made me a better boyfriend, standup and all around person.

 

I added a really useful YouTube series I've been getting through the last couple of weeks. It does a good job of explaining what goes on in ADHD brains in case you want to better understand anyone in your life with it (and if you're reading this you know at least one person in your life that has it )

Comic in Residence 2017

Comic in Residence has been one of my biggest comedy goals since I first started doing this. For my non-comedy friends, it means I open every show for the month of December (in 2017!) 6 nights a week at The Comedy Studio in Harvard Square.

The Comedy Studio's has been the training ground for almost every comic you've heard of that's come out of Boston. And to be honest, it started off as the most intimidating stage for me to perform on. But you put your head down, do the work, fight through your insecurities (thanks Sarah for always listening to my gripes :)) and amazing things happen.

I can't imagine a better a way to celebrate my birthday month (again in 2017!) than doing comedy every night.

 

Thoughts on Openers

Thoughts on Openers

So I'm getting ready to submit to a festival and looking over my tapes over the last year. That's when I come a shocking realization I've been trying to hide from myself.

I'm sick and tired of my opener. Anytime I do a set where I think I need to do really well in  I break out the same 2 minutes to start it off. Standups spend years honing their material, so using the same joke over and over again when you're not telling them on TV isn't unheard of. However, you the performer can get tired of it and the audience has a magic way of telling when you're not enthused about a joke any more.

But a good reliable "get you a laugh 99.99999% of the time" opener can be the standup version of a blankie. You're standing in front of an audience of strangers that don't know who you are and sometimes getting the first laugh is more about calming your nerves than it's really about getting the audience on board. 

Your opening joke has a lot of pressure on it. It has to introduce you and your voice to the audience and get them to trust that you're funny and interesting. A lot of people (including myself) also put a lot of pressure on it to get laugh as quickly as possible. It makes sense, because you haven't built a rapport/trust that lets the audience know you're going somewhere great yet. But I've seen people, especially those with storytelling experience, able to just keep the audience engaged and that can be enough.

I heard a great piece of advice from Josh Johnson after I had finished bombing at Snubfest that had been handed down to him, "Imagine you're on a bus and starting a conversation with the person in front of you, what would you start off with?". I've been watching a lot of standup focused on how other comics open their sets and wanted to share some of my observations. Mostly as notes for myself because I'm a nerd and dissecting things helps me process them.

Give it up For....

I almost skipped over this because it's so fundamental it doesn't really count as your opener. But sometimes just getting the audience to laugh/clap as soon as you get on stage can be great first step. Getting the audience to clap for the host that brought you up is a super subtle way to get the energy up off the bat. It's also great to actually appreciate the host because it can be a thankless job.

Looks

A lot of people go with jokes based off of their appearance. It's the first thing the audience notices about you and its a quick way to connect with them. Also works well if something about your physical appearance separates you from the rest of the audience (you're tall,  a different race, etc.)

- "People tell me I look like (insert famous person) but if (insert deprecating remark)".
- "I look like (insert stereotype) but I'm really (subverting stereotype)"

Similar to this is taking advantage of having a name foreign/ethnic to the people in your crowd (my opener).

Place

It's also easy to start off with a joke about the place you're doing comedy in. Whether its the city, region or specific venue, its a quick way to start off with something the audience already cares deeply about. And it also gives the sense that you're making a joke specifically for the people in the room, which is the most powerful thing you can do in stand up. However, the more specific the joke the less well it travels to other areas.

Grand Statement

Starting off with statements that everyone in the audience has an opinion about.

- "It's so hot outside..."
- "Who's a fan of gay marriage?" 
- "Americans are heroes... because they're idiots"

It can be contrarian. You can then follow up with a bit about why your position makes sense. I'm linking to Ahmed Bharoocha set on Adam Devine's House Party again because his opener (and entire set) is so good.


Ad lib

Did something ridiculous happen in the room before you? Have a quick riff on a joke from a comic before you? This also plays into the "making stuff up for the people in the room" and something I really like to do. However, it can be a problem when you go early on a show, if you're not comfortable or experienced with off-the-cuff material or you're generally in a situation where crowd-work is problematic (like when your set is being judged for a contest). It can also backfire and dig a hole you have to spend the rest of your set crawling out of, so it's a gamble.


Just Jumping In

This is the approach I see from most established comedians on television/doing their special. If you're coming out to an audience that's paid a good amount of money to see you and you're already a known commodity, you don't need to worry about winning them over.  Unfortunately, you don't have all of that working in your favor when you're still at the stage where you're playing the backs of bars.  But having quick (15-20 second) battle tested teflon jokes you can fire off right off the top with little to no context can work here too.

 

Comedy update! Week of Febuary 1st 2016

Shows this week:

2/3 - The Comedy Studi in Harvard Square
2/4 - SketchHaus Presents: Off Ramp w/ Jo Sulin's We Can Turn This Aroun in Central Square
2/6 -I'm dusting off the guitar for  LaughterRisk - February Edition!

You can always keep track of the funnies at http://www.kwasiisfunny.com/calendar

Happy Black History Month!

Comedy update! Week of January 11th 2016

I've always been disconnected from pop culture that's older than me so I got introduced to David Bowie as the guy who played Tesla in The Prestige. Thankfully I had a lot of very smart friends school me in how much of an impact he's really had. Artistic to the end.

Comedy this week:

1/12 - Comedy night @ The Hilltop Spo in New Hampshire
1/13 - What Else Ya Gonna Do Wednesday? in Quincy
1/16 - Part of Your World II: Straight to DV. I'm not performing but they're using a sketch I wrote and I make a video cameo
1/17 - Tight Five The Peoples Sho. Come see me make stand up on the fly!

Always stay up to date at www.kwasiisfunny.com/calendar

Comedy update! Week of January 4th 2016!

New Year, Same mission. Places to catch me this week.

1/5 - PAPERBACK COMEDIANS @ 3065 LIVE in Wareham
1/9 - Laughing Liberally Boston With Laura Clawson From Daily Kos in JP
1/10 - The Comedy Studio in Harvard Square

Also, as a heads up make sure to check out Part of Your World II: Straight to DVD which includes a sketch written by yours truly and a video cameo (I'm going on 1/16)

You can always keep up to date at: http://www.kwasiisfunny.com/calendar

I'm also introducing my new motto for the New Year

Comedy Update! Week of November 16th

Boston Peeps you can catch me telling hahas this week at:

Wednesday: The Comedy Studio
Friday: Pavement Comedy Night: November Edition!
Sunday: People's Show: Friendsgiving

And a special treat for New Yorkers you'll be able to catch me telling jokes next week at:

Monday 11/23: Barely Making It
Wednesday 11/25: The Awooga Comedy Hour and The Peoples Improv Theater

Stay up to date on http://www.kwasiisfunny.com/calendar


Checking in on Goals

Half Year Progress

Holy crap, it's been 3 months since the last post on this site! I've been thinking a lot about comedy and it's place in my life and I thought it'd be a good time to revisit where I'm at with the New Year's goals I set for myself.

  • Write 3 sitcom spec scripts i.e. write a fake episode for a sitcom series in order to show your take on it
    • 2 Sitcom spec scripts and an original pilot. I have an idea for  Kimmy Schmidt and Veep specs so that should keep my going.
  • Write a new 4 minutes I'm not ashamed of every month
    • I've been nowhere near that. While I can use being heads down getting applications in for some tv fellowhships as an excuse, I've really been battling how I feel about open mics (the whole topic of another post). But I've been realizing that while people put a premium on stage time no one really talks about editing: taking the time to actually listen to your set, hear what what worked and what didn't, and rolling that feedback into what you'll do next. While, it's something I did  a lot of in my first year of standup, I've let that slip past me and I'm getting back to it (and already seeing results).
  • Start/take part of a sketch group
    •  I was really glad Danny Liss who I've taken two sketch classes with invited me to perform in a set of all his material. He's hilairous and if you ever get a chance to see a show with stuff he's writting (Comedy America!?) check it out.
  • Take an improv class
    • Sketch did take a back seat to improv though. I finished Improv 101 and loved it. I don't think I'm going to perform for reals anytime soon, but it was great to be in supper supportive environment where you don't have to put up a wall of invulnerability. My main problem is learning to think a bit on my feet more. I signed up for 201 and I'm excited for it.
  • Write something for this blog at least twice a month (The Blind Person's Web Comic seems like a possibility)
    •  Yeah, Definitely dropped of with the twice a month thing. Hoping to start that back up again. I thought the Movies list would be a great place for me generate content, but I was actually turned off by not liking some of them. Also, I want to find a form of reviewing them that requires a lot less editing. I'm also hoping that some stuff I've dealt with in my personal life will help me concentrate enough to keep up with these things.
  • Write a Cracked.com article (they have a surprisingly open submissions process)
    •  I completely forgot about writing a Cracked.com article. Have no idea what it would be about. Plus I'm pretty sure this isn't really relevant anymore.
  • 200 Daily jokes (3.8 a week)
    • Daily Jokes have completely fallen off. I was completely in spec writing mode and focusing all of those muscle that way. But I have a good system setup at work now for lunchtime hahas so hopefully I'll add that back in. 200 is not a hittable number anymore though. Also, I had to realize that quality of joke and social media response or only lightly correlated. It's been interesting seeing jokes that didn't go anywhere do a lot better when I send a TimeHop of them.
  • Watching two movies a month from Bill Hader's list of 200 Movies Every Comedy Writer Should See (and possibly write reviews...)
    •  I'll continue watching movies, but I'm open to expanding to movies off this list. I actually do watch a fair amount of movies (seeing them in theaters is something I treat myself to) so being willing to go off that list might make sense.


New Set of Goals for the Rest of the Year

My main impetus for returning to this post was being a little frustrated with comedy. Frankly comes down to my unhealthy attitude that most everything I do is to prove something to someone. And then realized it's because while I was working my butt off I've never really thought about what success should look like. As much as I told myself not to tie it bookings, that's always been in the back of mind but it's clear that that's a fools errands. Had to remind myself to focus on things I can control. Which is what this list hopefully contains.

  • A 10 minute set with a laugh every 15 seconds except for the closer.
  • Another spec script and another original pilot
  • Exploring Improv a lot more.
  •  (Semi-)Daily Jokes
  • By the end of the year have a 30 minute set I wouldn't be ashamed to make my friends come to see.
  • Every night I do comedy, have a 5 minute conversation with a person I don't know that well.
  • Save up for a car.
  • Go to a city, independent of a festival and introduce myself to their scene.

What else do you think I should at to the list?

The Blind Person's Web Comic #3

An ideal internet argument about comedy:

Internet: Hey, you have these jokes that have upset a lot of people. Care to comment? 

Comic: Some of those jokes are horrible. It's me awkwardly fumbling for my comedic voice in a medium that never forgets. I hope you understand that while you might just be seeing them now they're the product of a person I've grown out of. And while I understand that like any decent adult,I have to accept responsibility for anything I say in public, I'm not going to blanketly apologize for every view I have that may be offensive to someone. It's intellectually dishonest to pretend that I agree with the world view of every person that might hear my comedy. All I can do is hope that my jokes bring a net positive to the world.

Internet: Just like you have the ability to voice your opinions, I should still be able to state what I find objectionable. I will no longer support you through ticket sales/viewership.

Comic:  That's fine. This is a free society and I can't dictate what type of entertainment you should enjoy.

How it actually goes:

Internet: You're an asshole!

Comic: RESPECT MY ART!!11!1!

The Writing Bug

I'm on my way to perform in the LA Scripted Comedy Festival (with a pit stop in San Francisco to visit some friends).  Even though, I'm preforming standup I'm in the Hollywood mood and wanted to share a scene I worked on in a dialogue writing class. While I've been writing sketches and sitcom spec scripts its the first I've gone for something where it's sole purpose isn't to be funny. Enjoy!

2:34 (5 pages)

The Slowest Movie Marathon -- Annie Hall

As a New Year's resolution I've decided to work my way though Bill Hader's list of 200 movies every comedy writer should watch  which I was introduced to in the very great book Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks. I've decided to write reviews of these movies to stretch my writing muscles and to pretend like people care what I have to say on my little corner of the Internet.

The movie is called Annie Hall, but this is very much about Woody Allen's neuroses around women.  This seemed as a good a place to start as it's considered the masterpiece of one of the most prolific comedian writer-directors of this era. I've watched the movie two weeks ago but I'm just getting to writing up my feelings about it now so It's less play by play and more general feeling working of my notes and foggy recollection.

May have included a bottle of this very nice Speedway Stout (watch all the ad money roll in now!).

May have included a bottle of this very nice Speedway Stout (watch all the ad money roll in now!).

Like with most of pop culture that happened before 2004, I'm super late to the Woody Allen party. In fact the first movie of his I actually saw was Midnight in Paris which was fun but not in a way that made me understand why a generation of film makers list him as an inspiration.

The first thing I noticed about the movie is that it didn't have the" Beatles Effect". I didn't really get introduced to The Beatles until college (queue mini-rant of me listing favorite Beatles songs to prove that I'm cool now). When I did get to hear them, I could appreciate that a lot of what they were doing was original at the time but I felt like I heard it done better by the bands that followed them. On the other hand, Annie Hall feels like it stands the test of time as a movie that should be watched by any budding movie buffs (although some references get real awkward given current allegations against Allen).

You can easily see the echoes of people that are inspired by it.  The autobiographical fiction of Lena Dunham's Girls, Chris Rock's Top Five and of course Louis CK's FX Louie are the first that come to mind. Many sites like to talk about the current "Golden Era" of Television bringing us main characters that were not necessarily rooting for. While Allen's Alvy Singer is very much the main focus of his story but his neuroticism, judgements of Annie, and failures with the women in his life make it very clear that even he knows he's not going to be anyone's knight in shining armor. The film itself is the biggest critic of its main character.

There are at least 5 PhD student's with "Girls as a meta-critique of millenials" as the title of their thesis

There are at least 5 PhD student's with "Girls as a meta-critique of millenials" as the title of their thesis

The movie is a one stop shop of a lot of inventive scene types I've seen repeated in other places. The subtext/subtitled conversations, the realtime compare and contrast of his jewish family to Annie's WASPy brood (including a young Christopher Walken!), the split-screen therapist session, exaggerated childhood, even this Family Guy scene. There are entire shows based off of individual gags we see in this movie. If Allen didn't think of all these himself, I'd be really interested in hunting down the movies that originated them  (leave them below in the comments if you know!). The myriad  of styles that get thrown into this movie could easily be the outlined for a movie comedy 101 course.

As a budding stand up comedian myself, the few scenes of Alvy doing comedy really show Woody's singular style.  Most standup comedians today show their control of the audience by using confidence and bravado, not the stammering and wandering eye contact he presents. I'm pretty sure he'd get eaten alive if he had to work his way up from the modern open mic scene (which probably says more about the current scene).

Chris Rock's Top Five also includes a meta standup scene

Chris Rock's Top Five also includes a meta standup scene

I can see why Louis CK and Chris Rock are drawn to Allen. He's found a way for them to talk about things they only hint at in their stand up but don't neatly fit into bits that make the audience laugh every 20 seconds. The movie let's Allen show the world what he thinks about love ( "we need the eggs" although I think this scene is more telling) without having to have a microphone in his hand and that's a sort of freedom for a comedian.  The success of Annie Hall let's Louie CK show us what he thinks about not having a great relationship with your father, or getting yourself to believe in a goal.

My main criticism of the movie itself is that even though it mentions race, it's pretty much the same whitewashed version of New York and LA that Girls/Friends/Sex In the City is shot in. I loved the bit about the cleaning lady (although "colored" doesn't age well) and there's a great line about white women doing drugs because it makes them think they'll be like Billie Holiday. The lack of people of color (I count 3!) still works for me though because it unintentionally reinforces Allen's/Alvy's myopic view of the world.

It's going to be interesting to see how legacy of Woody Allen the man affects the legacy of Woody Allen the artist. While a lot of people have been willing to dump Bill Cosby the same doesn't seem to be true for Woody Allen, just having signed a deal to create a television show for Amazon. Of course there's a crap ton of differences between the two cases.  But I think this movie adds enough to a potential movie makers toolbox to be worth watching.

New Year's Resolutions

It's New Year's time and for a lot of people it time to make promises they'll forget by March. So this year I figured I should make my comedy resolutions public so that when I remember I have this blog again 3 months I'll panic and really kick it into gear. Plus the goal conscious semi-ambitious part of me needs something to aim for.

Also, I'm trying to keep this list to things in my control. As much as "be on television for something not crime related" would be awesome, at this point in my comedy career it would be sheer dumb luck for that to happen.

  • Write 3 sitcom spec scripts i.e. write a fake episode for a sitcom series in order to show your take on it
  • Write a new 4 minutes I'm not ashamed of every month
  • Start/take part of a sketch group
  • Take an improv class
  • Write something for this blog at least twice a month (The Blind Person's Web Comic seems like a possibility)
  • Write a Cracked.com article (they have a surprisingly open submissions process)
  • 200 Daily jokes (3.8 a week)
  • Watching two movies a month from Bill Hader's list of 200 Movies Every Comedy Writer Should See (and possibly write reviews...)

This list could be setting me up for a very public failure. But one thing I've learned so far in standup is that bombing isn't the worst thing in the world.

The Blind Person's Web Comic #1

Every time we make a scientific discovery, God becomes a little bit smaller. 

10,000 years from now God will be the constant in the equation that ties everything together.

People will memorize this number to 10,000 places.

And we'll have holy wars over what the 10,001st number should be.

Not So Live Stream: Scandal S4 E2

Between relying on Netflix and Hulu to watch shows and just being generally busy people, we don't all have time to catch up on our favorite shows the night they air. Doesn't mean we can't still write about them. Each week-ish I take a show I'm currently watching and give you a play by play as I'm watching the episode for the first time. Starting this off Scandal Season 4 Episode 2 "The State of the Union". Needless to say, spoilers abound!

Scandal S4-02

00:23 - We get it Scott Foley. You’re not this guy any more. No need to keep showing us how buff you are.

00:47 - Jeff Perry is really going for that Best Supporting Actor Emmy this year. I’ve never heard someone describe “vegetarianism” with such anger in his voice (and I watch Parks and Rec).

I hope they keep pushing his vegetarianism all season. Tofu makes you a top level political operative apparently.

03:04 - Oh yeah, Huck and Quinn still have that “we’re going to bang it out for mid-season sweeps” energy coming over from last season.

03:57 - I always love when a Scrubs alum lands on his feet. Excepts it’s been over 10 years since I last saw him and kinda had to scour IMDB for him. Btw, She can walk and he’s faking the POW camp. I’m calling it.

04:43 “I was tortured by the Talibwan”. One of the greatest lines delivered in television history.

06:04 - I could watch an hour of Cyrus Beane and Olivia’s father just chewing scenes and out acting everyone on the show. It’d be the weirdest buddy comedy on air.

06:39 - She don’t give a fuck. I mean brown uggs and gray robe. it’s just going make her coming back as full Mellie that much greater. Like a phoenix passive aggressively rising from ashes.

08:08 Speaking of buddy comedies I’d watch Josh Malina, Scott Foley(stating this now so when Shonda Rhimes spins this off I’m getting paid!).

09:02 More murder tension. The thing with Huck’s face is I can’t tell if he’s trying to emote or if he’s just constantly constipated.

10:40 Hater’s gonna hate. I want her life so badly. Well minus the dead kids, cheating husband, shady father in law…. Ok, I just want her view. She’s also a Scrubs alum!

16:49 Really? At this point you might as well have Fitz on the couch next to a bottle of Jergens. I love Scandal despite the Fitz - Olivia storyline. The amount of narrative juggling an stakes raising required to keep relevant made the reset button at the start of this season necessary.

17:10 Scandal Booty Call! I like how she deflects the whole “I’m not your boyfriend thing”. I think if you get put in a whole and come out looking like a homeless man, you’re allowed to ask to define the terms of the relationship.

Also, Harrison’s not dead (It was obvious enough that didn’t think I needed to say it before). But Shonda Rhimes does not suffer fools . So I’m assuming major facial reconstruction surgery? As long has he stays the best dressed black man on television.

19:20 I’m pretty sure Cyrus planted the domestic abuse thing himself? At this point keeping track of who’s black-mailing who is requires and Josh Malina -esque color coding system.

19:56 Oh right, it was our good friend Harrison. But look at Red, playing the game. She’s the one that leaked this. But this is bush league Scandal.

22:05 You’re really going to leave them alone to bang it out in the bathroom?

22:27 “I pulled your teeth out because you couldn’t mind your own business”. Foreplay gone wrong. Don’t get me wrong you do you, but after a certain point he’s going to pull out enough teeth that you can chew a steak

23:46 Don’t touch him. He’s still in murder-boner mode

24:05 Deus ex Malina. At least Scandal isn’t even trying to pretend anymore.

28:20 That look, “Bitch, I don’t even know your name.” This whole sequence is making me super excited for her Mellie - becoming - Dath Vader moment. You don’t tell Mellie when to be Mellie. These people need to know who they’re talking to.

31:39 “Don’t you think you owe me at least this much?”. Fitz, you are the most powerful man in the world. Find a woman that actually wants to be with you.

34:10 Still not full Mellie. It’s ok. I promise it’ll be worth the wait.

34:51 In all the ups and downs of this season I’ll wait it all out to see how far off the Handle Mellie goes when she finds out the truth about her son.

35:23 “The right to bear arms. Set it stone by the constitution. So was slavery by the way.” Oh shit, I think he just dropped the best gun control line I’ve ever heard. It’s so cute when Scandal tries to do it’s West Wing impression.

37:41 Mellie Grant > Olivia Pope. Bellamy Young has added a depth in to this character that you only see in Olivia Pope’s wine glass.

38:30 She’s got to work off her Fitz-boner. Chances of naked underneath the coat? high 50s.

38:59 If only the Mid-East crisis was as easy to solve as a Scandal Plot line..

:

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40:36 Male prostitute! How many eps until he’s killed off to hide the secret? I’m giving him 3. he doesn’t have the abs of a regular player. You’re telling us your name as if we’re going to need to learn it. How cute.

42:05 D’uh. Of course Lizzie Bear is behind this. Completely with the realm of Veronica Palmer