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Comedy Gripe of the Week: The Two Deaths of…

I should focus on the good news in comedy and that is the fact that I am co-producing a fun show in Brooklyn, that will be weekly starting in June (“Work In Progress” at Smith’s Tavern in Park Slope).  So far we have had good audience and good comedians.  But I can’t help but be depressed over the two-venue show that I had produced, Always Be Funny, which died twice in unceremonious fashion.

The first venue for Always Be Funny was River Bar in a part of New Jersey known as 10th Avenue and 43rd Street.  I had been hooked up with the place through a friend.  He had a friend who owned a bar and they wanted some comedy to drum up some business (you know a bar is struggling when they WANT comedy to BUILD business.  Adding comedy to a bar is akin to arson for insurance in terms of what it usually does to a bar crowd).  So we started a show, which began very strongly, but ended sort of like that guy in Metallica’s One video who was begging for someone to kill him, but had no means of communicating that desire.  So we turned it into an open mic, which actually was, on average, more successful than the booked shows because all the comedians had to do was buy one drink and they got a free buffet and 5 minutes stage time.

The open mic had reversed what had become a pretty bleak situation.

And then one day I showed up to the bar and was told by the bartender that the show was over.  Fortunately I was given 10 minutes advance warning, which is about the same amount of professional courtesy I’d expect if I were a maid in Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room.  I heard it through the grapevine that my friend, who I saw less regularly than the bar owner, had had a falling out with the bar owner (no idea if this is true) and that he cancelled my show, which had been running for over a year between the booked show and open mic.  I e-mailed the bar owner, but failed to get a response.  It was like two parents had a fight and then in anger, one parent killed their brother-in-law’s kid.  It may not have been quite that dramatic, but it certainly felt rude and unjustified.  Now the only historical evidence of the show’s existence is this Glengary Glen Ross spoof we filmed to promote it:

And for reference – here is the original:

But just because one show died did not mean I was without a venue (isn’t that why people have more than one kid?).  I still had my monthly show at the Village Lantern.  Well, if the River Bar show was murdered, then the Village Lantern show was kidnapped and presumed dead even though no body was ever recovered.  Allow me to explain.

I never ran the show as a bringer because there was a cover and drink minimum.  If people are going to do that they should save it for a club.  So most of our traffic was derived from friends, Time Out NY or people barked in.  The showed hummed along fairly consistently, ranging from full to half full, but never empty (and not on a downward trend the way the showcase shows at River Bar show had been).  But as time went on I kept getting told that “management really wants it full” and then I had two straight shows cancelled, one a day in advance, the other 6 hours ahead of time.  So I became The Douche That Cried Comedy Show.  It felt like that scene where Woody Harrelson has to make a hook shot in White Men Can’t Jump.  Already a difficult proposition, the guy then tells Woody that he also must shoot at the basket on the other end of the court (a 60 foot hook shot being near impossible).  So I am given a late show, that gets cancelled last minute on me several times and I am still expected to fill the place.   Their house, their rules, but why have it it anyway if you do what you can to make it fail:

If those were the criteria I would be fine with having the show cancelled, but instead what I got was no response from the go-between at the venue.  Perhaps it is because I am a big dude and people assume I will strangle them if I get bad news, but that is not the case.  I remember I asked about an April date and received one response that said he was behind on Facebook e-mails because of travel (I did not mention that travel did not seem to preclude Facebook status updates featuring dick jokes for the bridge and tunnel crowd, but it crossed my mind).  Then I asked a follow up about my show in April or May and received no response (still waiting for that response).  This kind of treatment would be understandable, or even expected, coming from a bar owner, but the person was a comedian that was acting as the go-between.  I guess professional courtesy is harder to find in shi*ty professions.

RIP “Always Be Funny.”  Long Live “Work In Progress!”

Off to Philadelphia for the weekend and the I’ll be posting the Movie of the Week blog Saturday (either Will Ferrel’s new movie because I heard it is good or the new Pirates of the Caribbean because it probably will be terrible) and a recap (hopefully with video) of my Philly shows on Monday.  AND BE SURE TO BECOME A FAN OF “RIGHTEOUS PRICK” ON FACEBOOK

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2009-2010 All ABF Team

With the NBA Finals upon us and the end of the River Bar showcase (becoming a weekly open mic starting in July) I thought it would be a good time to announce the first and only All-Always Be Funny teams from both the River Bar and Village Lantern shows (criteria was crowd reaction, my reaction, difficulty of show (tilted heavily towards River Bar participants) and Paul The Bartender’s response if at River Bar).  But before getting to this I’d like to thank every comic that has appeared on my shows the last year. 

Now here comes a long comedy-sports analogy because I like both and know that 80% of comedians will not understand (so hopefully someone will be able to translate it into Marvel Comics language or something else that will compute)

1st Team

Yannis Pappas – The best performance at any show I ran this past year (July 2009-June 2010).  Granted it was at the Village Lantern which is like a Comedy Central Presents compared to half of the River Bar shows this past year, but it was a great performance that would have worked in a broom closet.  Killed it with a relentless energy and various pantomimes of sexual acts on stage.  I’m not sure there’s anyone tougher to follow in the city right now, but one of my favorites to watch. 

Rob O’Reilly– One of only a few comics to actually kill at River Bar when patronage was well down.  Also one of only 3 comics to earn an enthusiastic rating from Paul, the bartender at River Bar.

Helen Hong– ditto Rob O’Reilly – but was Paul the Bartender’s favorite comic.  One of the few comics to actually make multiple appearances at River Bar.

Rory Scovel – At a poorly attended show at River Bar, managed to save the show, by doing a 5 minute play by play of a playoff baseball game as if the pitcher’s inner monologue were a sensitive gay man. 

J-L Cauvin – if only for mere cumulative laughs from having been on every show sans one. And I am Paul the bartender’s 3rd favorite  comic.

2nd Team

Sean Donnelly – except for me, logged the most time at River Bar, which slowly became a torture chamber for comedy.  And despite this, SD was able to bully crowds into paying attention and eventually laughing. 

Matt Maragno– the Pau Gasol performance – great, but overshadowed historically by being on the same show as Yannnis Pappas (Kobe in this analogy with the same verbal aggression that Kobe has on the court and in Denver motels) on the same show.  Every resident of Gramercy should hear “Coffee and Cream” (and my use of the word “historically” above is limited to my memory of comedy shows I run)

Dave Lester– Unlike the NBA we had to wait until here to see our first full fledged black guy (also from the show with Maragno and Pappas).  Got an enthusiastic response from my friend John.  To put this in perspective, John once skipped a show of mine at a bar to go to a bar next door, just to avoid comedy.  So if he considered it worthy, then it was.

Jess Burkle– Saw this guy murder within his first months in comedy (which goes to show a Harvard degree and experience in acting can go a long way in making a comedian).  I was not present for his ABF performance, but word of mouth was very strong and having seen him kill in Hoboken at The Goldhawk (the ABA to ABF’s NBA) I have complete faith in this decision.

Mike Lawrence– strong set on a night that was almost derailed by an awkward Ray Combs Jr. vs. Joe DeRosa quasi-showdown.  It is also worth noting that Mike Lawrence just edged out Ray Combs Jr’s testicles which made a 20 second appearance on stage at the Village lantern.

Thanks again everyone – now come say goodbye to River Bar’s showcase THIS THURSDAY.  It will be a great show and followed by the Lakers-Celtics Game 1. So if you like comedy, hoops and comedy-hoops themed blogs then you should be there. It is free and the lineup is excellent.

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Midtown’s Weirdest & Brooklyn’s Finest

Last night was another installment of my bi-monthly comedy show “Always Be Funny.”  The West Village Edition on one Saturday a month has been consistently strong, even though it costs money, but the Free show on River Bar (located at 42nd and 10th in midtown) has been struggling for audience.  It started out strongly, but with winter months and just general disdain fewer people have made the trek over to 10th Avenue (it might as well be west of the Mississippi).  So last night was a pleasant surprise when I saw a decent group of people in the cozy Hells Kitchen bar.  But looks can be deceiving.

When I tell friends about my show on 10th Avenue I think this is how far they think they have to travel.

When emcee Pat Breslin got on stage he may have felt like Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense because of the 12 non-comedian patrons, 10 continued their three respective conversations as loudly as possible.  To be fair, they may felt like Malcolm X, i.e., “We didn’t land on Always Be Funny; Always Be Funny landed on us!”

But the show continued with Helen Hong doing strong crowd work to get them involved, included two condescending “stage manager,” who I think were just two lesbians who thought this tiny 10th Avenue bar was secluded enough to just have a quiet conversation about stage lighting and organic produce without being bothered by annoying mainstream heterosexuals.

Mick Diflo took the stage next and absolutely killed it. By killed I mean had all the comics laughing and people still largely ignoring the show.  However, I think he did get the crowd’s attention when he began describing his bloody penile discharge.  By this time the crowd was down to about 8, but a few patrons had come in and actually watched and started to appreciate the free entertainment, especially this older black couple who were enjoying the show so much and sitting at attention you’d think they were at a fancy bringer show at a soul sucking comedy club!

Jon Fisch took the stage next and started with a seemingly innocuous line.  There was a small poster on stage for an upcoming Cancer benefit at River Bar and Jon Fisch said (paraphrasing), “Perhaps Cancer is not the best stage prop for a show.” To which a drunk woman (who is actually becoming our show’s first consistent patron) said, “Cancer is not funny!” and continued to berate Jon for most of his set. 

After that I took the stage and did about 25 minutes of work on only 3 topics: the WNBA (16 minutes), relationships (5 minutes) and Obama (5 minutes).  Women’s professional sports just baffle me in general, but i have devised a new video game – it’s called Conquer The Bad Sports.  The first level will be men’s and women’s curling, but as you move up levels it just becomes women’s pro sports. First golf, then soccer and then the last level is the entire WNBA in one arena and you have to destroy them all to save the integrity of sports.  Then, when you think the game is over, you have to face off against the game’s bosses – Serena and Venus Williams.  And just when it looks like they are beating you – it is revealed that Venus is actually a man and she helps you defeat Serena.  Next Play Station franchise – you are welcome.

The WNBA's new slogan: We're like the NBA, but slower, less fun and with slightly smaller cocks.

So after my diatribe/set the show concluded with a solid set from Calvin Cato for the 3 people I had not exhausted with my comedic and legal destruction of the WNBA.  I then went home to chug bleach.  Hopefully our April Fools show does better at River or else I feel like it will be time to pull the plug on that location.  At this point it basically feels like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.

Like my show - she looks charming and talented, but will end up dying a slow and painful death.

But as if one bad crowd was not enough – this morning I attended a showing of Brooklyn’s Finest at the world famous Times Square AMC – with 25 screens and dozens of arrests each weekend.  The movie was actually quite entertaining (think Training Day), but here were the real highlights:

  • The movie started 25 minutes late for no reason.
  • The amount of pre-show talk was at a level I have never heard before in my life. 
  • The talk during the actual movie was surprisingly low, except for when there were breasts on screen (which is when I and twenty other gentlemen of color stood up and ran up and down the aisle screaming “Damn them titties look GOOD!”) and the young Latina sitting next to me who took a 6 minute phone call during the movie for what actually appeared to be a job interview or set up for a job interview.
  • The old white guy sitting behind me who just before the movie started said to himself, “I’m just glad this is not a midnight movie.  This is not one I’d see then.” Racist? Maybe, maybe not. But 100% right.
  • Per information I have been told by someone who used to manage at that location, there was definitely at least one plain clothes police officer at the movie.  That is a job I would love to have.  Carry a gun, shoot people who start sh*t at movies, watch movies while working, get a sick pension and cheat on your spouse a ton (I worked at the DA’s office so I have worked with cops).  Maybe it is time I pursued that.
  • The new trailer for Wall Street 2 is damn good.
Worth seeing if you like tension, violence and latina breasts.

The bottom line is if you find yourself on 42nd street on the west side of Manhattan there will be funny stuff happening. So catch a movie and come see us on April Fools’ Day at 830.