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Talking to @AveryMonsen about Twitter, Vine, and Photoshopping Stupid Ideas

avery monsenAvery Monsen is a writer, illustrator, and actor living in Los Angeles. He illustrated and co-wrote the book All My Friends Are Dead, wrote for the third season of Billy on the Street, and has performed at UCB in New York. And, as mentioned in a recent article on this site about the short-format comedy of Instagram and Vine, another thing about Monsen is that he’s really good at Vine. I recently talked with Monsen about three of his favorite tweets, what it’s like being on Vine, and the kinds of dumb things that people post and like on Twitter.

Monsen: I love that we’re living in a time where we can come up with a stupid idea, make it, and share it with thousands of strangers, all within a few minutes. For example: I thought it’d be funny to Photoshop pictures of celebrities riding bikes so it’d look like they were riding delicious Subway sandwiches. That’s a stupid idea, yes. I made "Usher Rides A Meatball Sub," "Owen Wilson Rides A Bacon, Egg & Cheese On Flatbread” and then got bored and stopped. Classic comedy Rule of Twos. READ MORE

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@SamuelMoen and the Surreal Jokes That Work Better on Twitter

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@SamuelMoen just finished his master's in architecture at Harvard but says he didn't mean to. “Aside from Twitter,” Moen, who lives in Boston, told me, “my only major creative outlets are writing brutally honest Craigslist furniture ads and writing approximately one paragraph of a million spec script ideas and then going to get Sour Patch Kids and eating them until my tongue turns raw and sheds.” I asked Moen to expand upon three of his tweets, and he talked to me about the “summer camp friends” you meet on Twitter, favorite themes to explore and revisit in his tweets, and the kinds of jokes that work better online (all of them).

Moen: The idea of CrossFit appeals to me because I have always loved flipping over tractor tires. But what CrossFit doesn't offer is immediate catharsis. So, why not haul a fridge or a broken water heater out to the old quarry and just throw them off the side and hear that satisfying crunch of metal. It's also an excellent core and shoulder workout.

How did you first get into Twitter, and have you noticed the way you use it change over time?

Like many, I wanted a venue to complain and Twitter was supposed to be that. But you end up being followed by more strangers than friends and most of your friends don't really get Twitter anyway. So instead you stand in awe at people like Rob Delaney who can say whatever they want and it's funny and they access a level of immediate gratification that you lack. Eventually, you can access this, too, only to realize that you never needed it to begin with, Wizard of Oz style. But if anything it teaches you to look for humor in the unusual. The usual has been done and only people who like to say "bazinga" are going to laugh at a joke about comic sans. READ MORE

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Hope Cantwell on Fake Names and Wordplay in Tweets

hopecantwellHope Cantwell is a legal assistant and teacher living in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s been published in Vice and when I spoke with her recently she told me she welcomes any opportunity to write and is starting a free local paper with friends in Nashville. Cantwell, who tweets under the handle @hopiecan, also shared that she was voted wittiest out of her graduating high school class of 84 students, and she talked to me about three of her tweets, the first people she remembers following, and why she’s drawn to tweeting fake names and wordplay.

Cantwell: Most of the crap I tweet is rooted in my reaction or feelings about an experience (how droll!). With this one, I stopped in a coffee shop I'd never visited before and was feeling out of place and flustered. It's one of those places with just regulars, you know? And they're camped out in their usual spots with their Peter Nappi boots propped up on the table for everyone to see while they switch back and forth between reading The Stranger and The Nashville Scene. It was crowded and I just didn't know where or how to be, so while I was waiting I imagined the sort of person who would enter that environment, deem themselves the least pretentious person in that space, then proceed to call that space a kaffeehaus. And that thought cracked me up. Any time I can tweet the word "haus" I seize the opportunity. READ MORE

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Inside Siobhan Thompson's Twitter and Tweeting What's In Your Brain

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Originally from Britain and now located in New York, Siobhan Thompson performs and writes for the UCBNY Maude team Alamo, hosts and writes for BBC Ameria’s Anglophenia web series, and has appeared on various TV shows. On Twitter, Thompson goes by the handle @vornietom and has built up a delightful feed that ranges from flippant responses to trotted-out political conversations, adaptations of poems from elementary school, and well-constructed emoji landscapes. I recently asked Thompson to share three of her favorite tweets, and we talked about topical vs. standalone tweets, beauty tips for everyone, and where diving beyond people’s consciousness for a joke can go right or wrong.

Thompson: My general rule when talking about Twitter is "don't talk about a tweet for longer than the actual tweet", so this is very off my meticulously constructed personal brand. Like all very cool people, I take personal branding very seriously. Wait. No. Not my personal brand. Myself. I take myself very seriously. Gosh, there goes my silly little lady head getting all confused.

This is about as serious as I can get on the "are women funny" debate, because it's such a patently silly pseudoconversation that clickbait-driven hacks love to write about. It's so dumb. I also very much enjoy writing in the style of a 1970's faux Indian meditation guru, and do so whenever possible. Also also, I go through, like, so many hair ties. Where do they go? Is somebody taking them? It's impossible to know. I would read a blog post about missing hair ties in a heartbeat. It'd be much more relevant to my life than a thinkpiece on how Sarah Silverman's poop jokes are off-putting and unattractive. READ MORE

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Comedy and Poetry Intersect in @MelissaBroder's Tweets

attachment_1Melissa Broder (@MelissaBroder) is a poet living in LA. She is the author of three poetry collections, Scarecrone, Meat Heart, and When You Say One Thing But Meet Your Mother, and her work has been published in a variety of blogs and magazines. Outside of her poetry, Broder is very active on Twitter, and her feed is dark, existential, and very funny all at once. I recently got Broder to expand on three of her favorite tweets, and she talked to me about her tweet editor, her visit with a shaman, and being teen girls' hero.

Broder: I like this tweet, because other people liked it and when other people like my stuff it gives me a false sense of wholeness. I tweeted this impulsively, from the heart, rather than running it by my twitter editor first.

The tweet is based on an experience I had with an NYC shaman a few years ago when I realized that what I thought was anxiety my whole life actually had deep depression underneath. The shaman said the 'core passage' between my heart and neck was clogged with foreign beings. She guided me into my 'core passage' and I found bats. I'm not sure if they were real or if I was just trying to visualize something to make her feel like I was 'doing the work' and to validate how much she charged, but metaphorically it made deep sense. READ MORE

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Maria Bamford on How She Develops Her Act

mariabamfordWhen she’s not touring, playing open mics and festivals, making web series, or recording an album, Maria Bamford finds things to keep her busy—in the past couple years, she’s appeared on Louie, Kroll Show, and Arrested Development, and she does voiceover acting for cartoons like Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors. Beyond her busy schedule, though, what’s impressive about Bamford is how in her standup she addresses dark or personal matters like suicide and mental illness stigma while never sacrificing her effervescent stage presence. Her 2012 direct-to-download the special special special!, which had her performing a set in her living room for her parents with breaks to serve cookies, administer eyedrops to her pug, and let her dad use the bathroom, is now available streaming on Netflix. I recently got to talk to Bamford about her special, her experiences with acting and voiceover work, and some of her favorite fellow comedians.

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Louis C.K.'s Season of Mini-Movies

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"I want season four to go somewhere new," Louis C.K. said when he announced he'd be taking an extra year to complete the latest season of his FX series Louie, which wrapped up last night. What resulted was a season of Louie made up almost-entirely of multi-part episodes, with C.K. using the complete creative control FX gives him to make three movies, spread across multiple episodes, instead of creating 14 individual, self-contained episodes. Past seasons have seen C.K. straying away from vignettes and toying with multi-part episodes (like with season three's two-part episode "Daddy's Girlfriend," following Louie's adventurous first date with a mercurial woman played by Parker Posey, or the three-parter "Late Show" that saw him seeking Letterman's job), but season four saw Louis C.K. primarily using his show for these feature-length (or near-feature-length) installments for the first time.

While the first three episodes of Louie season four were self-contained stories, what followed made this season great: three mini-movies—“Elevator,” “In The Woods,” and “Pamela,” each with a self-contained arc airing in episodic installments, two at a time every Monday for the past seven weeks. The doubled weekly serving size was logical for showcasing the season’s multi-episode movies, but the pairings weren’t as neat as they could have been: “Elevator 1” aired after one of the season’s standalone episodes, “Elevator 6” went straight into “Pamela 1” without any space for reflection on the former, and “In The Woods” was presented as a 90-minute episode separating “Pamela 1” from “Pamelas 2 and 3”. The result was a welcomely pleasing schedule that felt just a bit imperfect, not unlike Louie climbing into a romantic bath with Pamela only to send half the water seeping over the sides of the tub.

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Steven Wright on 35 Years as a Standup and Consulting on the New Season of 'Louie'

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Legendary standup Steven Wright’s career has spanned over 30 years. He first performed in 1979, debuting on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1982, and having since then forged a prolific career out of his unique brand of deadpan observational humor and creative one-liners. Throughout his stint as a standup, Wright has toured consistently, starred in several specials, lent his talents for acting and voiceover work to projects as disparate as Mad About You, Half Baked, Reservoir Dogs, and Dr. Katz, to name a few, and won an Academy Award for his 1998 short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings. Most recently, Wright served as a consulting producer on the fourth season of Louie, lending his creative mind to episodes like the “Elevator” series and “Model.” Earlier this month, I got to speak with Wright, who told me about his career, what it’s like working with Louis C.K., and how standup is like pushups for your brain.

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'Veep' Season 3 Carves Out New Territory Along the Campaign Trail

veep-s3Seasons one and two of Armando Iannucci’s political satire Veep depicted the vice presidency as whimsically inconsequential: a politician and her extremely driven staff stuck wasting their intelligence and penchant for insults on carefully-calculated interactions with the press and “normals” while the actually important POTUS eluded all his underling’s phone calls. A change seemed imminent, though, at the end of season two when the president announced he would not be running for re-election. This news set the stage for an excellent third season in which VP Selina Meyer and her cohorts left the comfort of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, home for the past two years to some of the best, quickest, and most savvy zingers on television, to blaze a campaign trail towards the West Wing.

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Talking to Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham About 'Playing House,' UCB, and Female Friendships

Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham met over a decade ago while studying at the UCB Theatre in New York, and they instantly became best friends. Since then, the comedy partners have translated their real-life best friendship into several unique fictional ones for TV and podcasts. In 2012, they starred in their unfortunately short-lived NBC sitcom Best Friends Forever as childhood friends also named Jessica and Lennon, and the ladies appear semi-regularly on the podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! as fan-favorite characters, intern Marissa Wompler (St. Clair) and her highly-unauthorized faculty mentor Miss Listler (Parham).

This week, St. Clair and Parham return to TV in their new show Playing House on USA. As with BFF, the series has them starring as childhood best friends reunited at a later stage in life, but this time with a headier premise: when pregnant Maggie (Parham) splits up with her husband, Emma (St. Clair) moves in to help raise the baby. Playing House premieres on USA with two episodes tonight but you can watch the first episode online now. Recently, Jessica and Lennon took a break from editing to talk to me about Playing House, working with their mega-talented cast of improv friends, and some of their favorite female friendships. READ MORE

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Talking to Amy Schumer About Season Two of 'Inside Amy Schumer'

When Inside Amy Schumer premiered last April, it had the best first-episode ratings for any show on Comedy Central and got quickly renewed after only four episodes. The series successfully mixed often over-the-top scenes with standup, man-on-the-street interviews, and conversations with unique professionals, with Schumer always at the wheel.

Tonight, the show returns in full force, with a second season premiere called “Would You Bang Her” in which Schumer interacts with God (guest star Paul Giamatti), plays tennis, and goes deep with a porn producer. Recently, I got the chance to talk with Schumer, who in addition to Inside Amy's 10-episode second season is on tour doing standup and will start filming soon for Trainwreck, a movie she wrote and is starring in to be directed by Judd Apatow. Schumer told me about season two, working with her sister, and how she feels about certain topics being off-limits for jokes. READ MORE

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Talking to Matt Walsh About His New Improvised Film, ‘Veep’, and More

One of the founders of the UCB Theatre and a friendly face in the comedy ecosystem, Matt Walsh returns to TV April 6th when Veep premieres its third season on HBO. In addition to Veep, Walsh has a number of other interesting projects up his sleeve including a role in the found-footage tornado film Into the Storm and David Cross’s directorial debut Hits. Most recently, Walsh turned to Indiegogo to crowdfund A Better You, an improvised film (the writer-director’s second, after High Road in 2011) starring co-writer Brian Huskey as a hypnotherapist in the midst of his mid-life crisis. I recently got to talk to Walsh about the process of making an improvised film, what's next for UCB, and being an action hero. READ MORE

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Season 3 of 'Girls' Was Best When Everyone Was Together Being Weird

In the pilot of Girls, when Hannah Horvath expressed desire to be “the voice of [her] generation, or at least the voice of a generation” the line embodied the 20-something’s comically directionless ambition, yet critics seemed to take the message at face value, crediting Lena Dunham with being that voice in the real world. This baggage bestowed upon the show made it an exhausting topic of conversation (at the very least for young women living in New York) in spite of two strong, funny seasons. This year, Lena Dunham said to Marc Maron in her recent appearance on WTF, “People expect me to either defend or explain my generation but, because I feel 75 inside myself, I’m not really the right candidate for the job.” Luckily this year, either the think-pieces have subsided or I have learned to maneuver around most of them, clearing room for a third season that feels a touch lighter albeit more weirdly personal. In this way, season three has eclipsed the show’s previous depiction of Brooklyn life unfortunately mistaken as speaking for a cultural movement by focusing on the characters’ unique, often slightly disturbed drives as they navigate creative careers, brushes with death, and the distance between friends. READ MORE

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Revisiting the 'Late Night' Debuts of Letterman, Conan, and Fallon

Tonight sees the premiere of the fourth iteration of NBC’s Late Night franchise, with Seth Meyers taking over the position previously held by David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. In honor of Meyers’s debut, we decided to look back at those of his three predecessors. Each host’s first night came with some of the same: characters, bits, and segments that would return in the future, and ones that failed, often due to nerves. Although it’s unfair to judge a host based on their first show alone, it’s interesting to look back at how each era of the show started. READ MORE