Sara Schaefer on Coming Out of Her Chrysalis

Sara Schaefer has proven herself as a capable and talented comedian on nearly every front in comedy. Together with Nikki Glaser, she hosted Nikki & Sara Live on MTV, was the head blogger for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (for which she won the Emmy Award for Creative Achievement in Interactive Media), ran a successful three-year podcast, You Had to Be There, with Nikki Glaser, and has been producing a great new podcast, LIES, through Nerdist and WNYC.

All the while, between the jobs mentioned above and also working as a financial analyst at various law firms, Schaefer has been developing her standup. Her debut album, Chrysalis, is a tribute to her development as a comedian. On the album, she balances between witty observationalist humor and skillfully detailed stories about sensitive moments in her development. Though it’s been long in waiting, Schaefer tells us that we can expect to see more of her standup in the years to come.

I was glad to have a conversation with her over the phone about all this, as well as how she’s adjusted to her new home in LA, whether she feels more creative when happy or depressed, and what she hopes to achieve in the long-term. READ MORE


Vampires, Gangs, and Avian Puns with Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

whatwedointheshadowsJemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and Taika Waititi (director of Eagle vs Shark and Boy) have been friends since their college days. Despite initial reservations toward one another, the two became great friends through performing and continued together down the creative path. In 2005, they hatched the idea for a short about a group of vampires who share a house in Wellington, New Zealand. After filming the initial short, they spent the next eight years fleshing out the plot and the script in order to create the new and hilarious What We Do in the Shadows, slated for release this Friday in US theaters.

The film is truly unique — like a cross between the awkward, deflated characters from the Flight of the Conchords TV show and a Christopher Guest mockumentary — yet it addresses an age-old question: 'What would you do if you could live forever?' The answer to that question, as Clement and Waititi would have it, is 'probably nothing much.' What We Do in the Shadows is perhaps a more honest (though still comedic) look at what it would take to be a vampire in our modern world, from quarrels over dishes to finding ways to just kill time.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Clement and Waititi to chat about the movie. I entered the room to find Jemaine curled up under a blanket on the couch, with Taika sitting nearby. READ MORE


Inside the Boom and Bust Cycle of Standup Comedy with Jordan Brady

jordanbradyJordan Brady’s love of comedy has carried him through two great comedy “booms” and “busts” over the past 30 years. Although he was a highly active comic during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Brady’s interests turned towards directing and producing. His experience in comedy and love for the art of stand-up led him to make I Am Comic in 2010, which presents deeply personal and insightful interviews with comedians such as Louis C.K., Phyllis Diller, Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo, Sarah Silverman, and Dave Attell.

More recently, in 2014, Brady released I Am Road Comic, which focuses more specifically on the unique issues that face comedians who take their act on the road, often to diverse and unpredictable venues around the country. This time around, Brady gathered interviews with comics like T.J. Miller, Maria Bamford, Pete Holmes, Marc Maron, Doug Benson, Jim Norton, Judah Friedlander, Alonzo Bodden, Jen Kirkman, W. Kamau Bell, Nikki Glaser, and Kyle Kinane to recount their experience of “the road” as comics come to know it. He presents road comedy for what it usually is: a march into a small, unfamiliar town, in a strange bar, where nobody who knows who you are.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Brady over the phone about his experiences on the scene through the bang and bust of the ‘80s and late ‘90s, where he thinks the scene is now, and what really makes for a great comic. READ MORE


Ari Shaffir and the Importance of Intimacy

ari-shaffirWho would tape and produce their comedy show in a strip club? Ari Shaffir. This Is Not Happening has proved its merit as a successful web series since it appeared on YouTube in June of 2013, and on January 22nd it will finally premiere on Comedy Central. A part of its success comes from the dark intimacy of the venue, a feature that Shaffir pays a great deal of attention to.

Shaffir has applied this same philosophy to his upcoming hour-long special, Paid Regular, also being produced with Comedy Central. Taped in the Original Room at The Comedy Store, Shaffir strives to translate something that has often eluded most comedy specials: intimacy. Paid Regular will allow audiences to experience the enjoyment of a comedian at his home club, where he’s most comfortable on stage and can perform at his peak.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Shaffir about how he landed the opportunity to tape his special in such a unique room, the virtues of his DIY approach to comedy, and what happened with Jeff Dye’s controversial confession on This Is Not Happening. READ MORE


The Secret to Bill Burr's Success

billburrBill Burr was never an overnight sensation. It happened gradually. He's a comedian who has been so consistently hilarious, so consistently impassioned about his jokes, and so consistently on edge that after two decades, hardly anybody can remember a time when they didn't know Bill Burr.

But that's not to say that he's never the subject of widespread media interest. In 2006, Bill Burr walked onto a stage in Philadelphia in front of an audience that had booed and jeered every comedian who had come up before him, and they treated him the same. That became his shining moment. Bill Burr unleashed a torrent of witty rage that was so glorious that even the angry, rowdy crowd set aside their own inane contempt to laugh in praise of the miracle that they had just witnessed. That moment was special because it defined Bill Burr.

Since then, Burr has been busy as ever. He's produced a popular podcast (the Monday Morning Podcast), appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, and released four albums and comedy specials.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with Burr over the phone about his most recent comedy special, I'm Sorry You Feel That Way. READ MORE


Turning the Show Around with Big Jay Oakerson

bigjayEvery time I’ve seen Big Jay Oakerson, I’ve seen a different (but always hilarious) act. He’s certainly not alone in the growing genre of comedy based almost entirely on crowd work, but he does particularly define why it has become so popular.

We listen to comedians like Mike Birbiglia to hear a funny, intricate story, comedians like Louis CK to hear brilliant takes on simple opinions, and comedians like Steven Wright to hear how absurd our world can be when jumbled up and rearranged. We listen to comedians like Big Jay Oakerson to remember that humor isn’t always something rehearsed: at its core, humor is just part of your surroundings.

Oakerson’s podcast Legion of Skanks is a testament to Oakerson’s organic ability to be funny on any topic. His upcoming album, The Crowd Work Sessions: What's Your F@!?#ng Deal?! (out November 17th), promises to be another hour of off-the-cuff, homegrown wit that can catch even the most refined sensibilities off-guard. I had the chance to talk with Oakerson about Legion of Skanks, the new album, and how he developed his confidence onstage. READ MORE


How the Birthday Boys Found Their Footing in Their Second Season

birthdayboysWatching The Birthday Boys feels strangely candid. Their antics and self-described "stupidity" are immersed in a sort of all-inclusive comradery that dates back 10 years, to their time together at Ithaca College. Since moving to LA, the troupe has performed out of UCB LA alongside sketch troupe A Kiss From Daddy, produced numerous shorts for Funny or Die, and performed at the Montreal's Just for Laughs.

In 2013, none other than Bob Odenkirk agreed to collaborate with the troupe (consisting of Mike Hanford, Matt Kowalick, Jefferson Dutton, Tim Kalpakis, Chris VanArtsdalen, Mike Mitchell, and Dave Ferguson), to produce their show for IFC, The Birthday Boys.

After a successful first season, the boys have been hard at work developing sketches for the next season, which promises to include the likes of Tony Hale, Dana Carvey, Fabio, Jack Black, Tim & Eric (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim), Scott Aukerman, Carmen Electra, Chris Elliott, Horatio Sanz, and Paul Scheer.

Coming down off the whirlwind of preparation and promotion of the next season (premiering Friday), I had the chance to chat with Tim Kalpakis, Jeff Dutton, and Mike Hanford about their thoughts on the upcoming season and the delicacies of Upstate New York. READ MORE


Cameron Esposito and the Business of Being Herself

cameron-espositoCameron Esposito is honestly hilarious and hilariously honest. She is vest-obsessed and unbeatably upbeat. These characteristics make for a live comic performance you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, and lucky for us, it translates beautifully to her latest album Same Sex Symbol (out tomorrow). Esposito also runs a biweekly standup show and podcast Put Your Hands Together at UCB LA, writes a regular column for The A.V. Club entitled "Who In The World Is Cameron Esposito?", and is pretty much constantly performing anywhere from Los Angeles to Montreal. Amidst all of this, I recently got the chance to talk with the woman whom Jay Leno personally dubbed “the future of comedy.”

So you recorded your most recent album, Same Sex Symbol, in Portland. That crowd seemed really receptive! It seemed like an amazing set.

It was awesome! Portland was a great city for me. It’s a great city in general to do comedy because it’s big enough and they have enough arts exposure — they’re really excited about comedy and they know comics specifically by name. They have a nice scene but it's not so enormous that it’s not still a treat for you to be playing there. There’re a couple cities that have a balance like that, like Denver is like that, where it’s just like “Oh it’s so cool you’re here! Thanks for being here!”

At one point while recording the album, you had an interaction with an audience member named Julep, and you devoted an entire track of the album to her. She was literally in tears of joy just from seeing you perform live. That's sweet, but is there any story behind that? Did you meet her after the show at all?

That was a thing that happened. It was real. I looked out in the audience and I could only see the first two or three rows because of the lights, but I could see that there was a woman who was just covering her face in a weird way, and I just want to make sure she was okay. My whole thing is that I’m like trying to check in with them and move together through things so I was trying to figure out what was going on and she was crying tears of joy because she got to see me. I found out later when I met her after the show that she had driven down to LA to see me tape Put Your Hands Together and she'd loved the show. Then on her way back to Portland she got in a big car accident and she, like, flipped her car and survived, but it was a really tough time and she was super scared. Then she got to see me in Portland and I think for her it was just this moment of like not only does she like my comedy enough to drive from Portland to LA but also that she made it and she got to see that next show. READ MORE


Inside Rachel Bloom's Showtime Pilot 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'

rachel_bloomRachel Bloom made her first big splash in 2010 with the hilarious short "Fuck Me Ray Bradbury," which was so successful that Rachel had the honor of being present for Bradbury's first time watching it. Since then, she's produced numerous other successful and equally hysterical shorts, released two albums (Please Love Me and Suck It, Christmas!!! A Chanukah Album), produced a short Disney musical parody, and written for and voiced characters on Robot Chicken.

Bloom, together with Aline Brosh McKenna, is now developing a musical television series for Showtime, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The show will follow Rebecca (played by Bloom), who leaves her job in a prestigious New York law firm in pursuit of love in West Covina, California.

Bloom and I recently had a chance to chat about how her experience in sketch, writing, and musical productions has helped prepare her for this opportunity. READ MORE


The Art of Holding Nothing Back with Chris Laker

chrislakerChris Laker has nothing to hide. For fans of comics like Marc Maron or Patrice O'Neil, that can only mean better comedy. Laker has cycled through multiple career aspirations, gone through rehab, been married, divorced, accepted, and rejected. On their podcast This Week in Jackin', Laker and Myka Fox delve into the masturbation habits and history of comedians such as Mark Normand, Giulia Rozzi, Dan St. Germain, and Ted Alexandro. Nothing is off limits.

Together with New Wave, Laker has released his first album, Moments of Greatness. On the album, Laker reveals some of the most intimate details of his life, as well as his take on topics that most people keep to themselves. Laker has honed a talent for elegantly discussing any subject matter with a level of ease usually reserved for those who know us best. Moments of Greatness stands right at the intersection of intimate and universal, and the result is an album that simply should not be cast aside.

I recently had the chance to talk with Laker about his journey into comedy, his views on the "alt comedy" label, and what topics he finds just don't fly with audiences. READ MORE


Mike Birbiglia and the Importance and Power of Jokes

MikeBirbigliaMike Birbiglia has a very unique ability: the ability to tell any story, like the story of jumping out of a hotel window in Walla Walla, Washington, and make it relatable. To a certain extent, this is one of the primary goals of standup comedy. Although Birbiglia saw great success in the traditional standup circuit early in his career, he didn’t feel that he had produced an act that was true to his own form. So, after appearing on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend at age 23, Letterman at 24, producing a Comedy Central Presents special at 26, and his album Two Drink Mike at 28, he opened a one-man show that was completely different. Birbiglia began building a bridge between standup and storytelling.

Since 2008 he has appeared regularly on NPR’s This American Life, produced a book, a film, and two one-man shows: Sleepwalk With Me is a reminder that the failure to be honest with others and ourselves can only come back to haunt us; My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend underscores the dangers of always needing to be right.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Birbiglia about his new show Thank God For Jokes, which examines the double-edged nature of jokes, as they have the power both to forge bonds and build walls between people. READ MORE


Mark Normand on His Eventful Comedy Central 'Half Hour' Taping and Bad Advice from Other Comedians

mark normand half hour 2Mark Normand has slogged his way through the New York comedy scene since 2006. For years now, he's labored through open mics all across the city, played shows to half-filled rooms and drunk, distracted patrons, spent hours enticing passers-by to free comedy shows in the West Village, and balanced multiple careers, a relationship, and a social life.

But all of these have not been for nothing. Normand is now a Comedy Cellar regular, has appeared on Conan, Last Comic Standing, and Inside Amy Schumer. Most recently, Normand finally assembled his first album, Still Got It, and filmed his first Comedy Central special for their series The Half Hour, which debuts this Friday.

Normand and I chatted about some of the difficulties of capturing the sets, a deeply inopportune bout of food poisoning, and some of the worst advice he has ever received. READ MORE


Rachel Feinstein on Her Comedy Central 'Half Hour' and the Other Rachel Feinstein

rachel-feinsteinRachel Feinstein came to New York when she was 17. She did not go to college. She lived in Brooklyn. She shared her apartment with a band that called itself "Dicksister." When Feinstein entered comedy, however, she found an outlet and crowd that she grew to love. Since then, she's appeared on Last Comic Standing, had a Comedy Central Presents special, performed in Women Who Kill, produced an album (Thug Tears), appeared in numerous online sketches, done voices for Grand Theft Auto, and has begun to make more appearances on the acting scene.

Her second Comedy Central special, as part of their series, Half Hour, airs this Friday. I recently had the chance to talk with Feinstein about what it's like to do so many specials, her sources for inspiration, and what she hopes to develop down the road. READ MORE


Mike Sacks on 'Poking a Dead Frog', Discontented Comedy Writers, and "Comic Decay"

mikesacksComedians think often about how their identity relates to the world around them. They spent much of their time reflecting on who they are, where they come from, what they've done, and what they've seen. Usually these reflections are form-fitted and presented to us as comedy for entertainment, and it's through this process that we may come to know more about the comedian and the world we live in.

Imagine if you gave comedians free-range to tell us about themselves and what they think about their world without having to mold it to fit a comic form. Mike Sacks has been doing that for us since 2009 when he published And Here's the Kicker. Sacks, who is also a member of the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, gave us a peek into the minds of great comedy writers like David Sedaris, Paul Feig, Harold Ramis, and Bob Odenkirk. He's returned again with Poking a Dead Frog to give us yet more insights from the likes of Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, George Saunders, Marc Maron, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt, and more.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sacks about his new book and some of the messages he picked up while putting it together.

For starters, your title is a reference to the E.B. White quote "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." I've read the interviews you had with Marc Maron, George Saunders, and Bruce Vilanch, and I have to say: I think your examinations do exactly the opposite. If anything they invigorated the "frog." What was your goal going into each of these interviews?

My main goal is to not bore the reader. I hated school and the last thing I want to do is get too academic. There are a lot of academic books about The Simpsons, Monty Python, and comedy in general. There’s just no reason for me to want to read a book like that, let alone write one. So with these interviews it was my goal to make them entertaining and helpful to anyone who wants to get into comedy or improve their standing in the comedy world. And for anyone who might not be into comedy but who might just be interested in pop culture. There’s really no grander purpose. READ MORE