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Pryor, Rickles, and Mason: Doing Comedy as the Daughters of Legends

daughtersoflegendsMy father is an electrocardio physiologist. I did not follow in his footsteps, and nobody has ever come up to me after a show and said, "You were good, but I really love what your father has done for electrocardio physiology." But what if my father were, say, Richard Pryor? Or Don Rickles? Or Jackie Mason? For the children of legendary comedians, every humorous sentiment offered is considered in the context of their parent's work. To find out what it's like to deal with the substantial burden of entering the same field as a famous parent, I spoke with Rain Pryor, Mindy Rickles, and Sheba Mason, who are joining forces this Saturday in in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in the aptly titled Daughters of Legends Comedy Show.

Previously, Pryor has explored her own comedic voice through her autobiographical solo-show Fried Chicken and Latkes, and Mason has done the same through her show 702 Punchlines and Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical. Rickles has relatively recently begun to make her entry into the comedy scene, but already has a credit on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

I had the opportunity to chat with the three of them over the phone about their experiences as the daughters of such iconic comedians, how that has affected their views on comedy, and their views on where they belong in the comedy scene. READ MORE

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Tommy Wiseau Discusses Americans, Chickens, and Questions He Hates

TommyWiseauHeadshotTommy Wiseau and his cult-classic film The Room are two of the greatest mysteries of the entertainment industry. Since its release in 2003, traditions have formed around midnight screenings of The Room that are similar to those that surround The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Most notably, at each viewing, fans come dressed as their favorite character, bring along with them an arsenal of shoutouts, and engage in various act-outs such as throwing spoons at the screen. Wiseau and his origins are the subject of great debate, to such an extent that co-star Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell teamed up in 2013 to publish the widely acclaimed book The Disaster Artist, which  documents the development of Wiseau’s enigmatic six-million dollar film and posits some theories with regards to Wiseau’s history. Fans can look forward to the film adaptation of this book by Seth Rogen's production company, Point Grey Pictures, with none other than James Franco portraying Wiseau.

More recently, Wiseau has been developing his new sitcom, The Neighbors. The series is available on Hulu, and follows the mishaps of various tenants in an apartment complex. Wiseau portrays two of the show’s characters: Charlie, the protagonist and ‘manager’ of the complex, and Ricky Rick, the show’s main antagonist. The other characters in the series range from a woman who spends much of her time screaming and running around the apartment with a live chicken, a stoner, women in bikinis, a muscular repair man, a basketball-loving youth who rarely makes good on his debts, and countless others that could only be born from the mind of Tommy Wiseau.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Wiseau about the significance of some of the elements of his series, his expectations, and the questions that he wishes people would stop asking. Wiseau promised to award me with medals for my final two questions. READ MORE

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Giulia Rozzi and the Art of Making Comedy That's True to Yourself

Giulia-RozziGiulia Rozzi is a true comedic factotum — a jack of all trades — who has a well-developed talent, crucial in comedy, for making virtually any story extremely relatable. But beyond being merely relatable, Rozzi's humor is often deeply cathartic. In fact, she has so passionately explored the cleansing nature of comedy that she even had the honor of delivering a TEDx talk on the subject.

She has already run two successful solo shows: Stupid Foreigners (which examined her experience growing up in a fairly stereotypical Italian household) and Bad Bride (which explores the finer points of monogamy, love, and especially her own divorce and ultimate perspectives on self-love). Together with Brooke Van Poppelen, she is continuing to develop a new web series, Seeing Other People, which follows the humorously pathetic attempts of two couples to find replacement couple-friends. In addition to this, she is planning to record her second comedy album this summer, tentatively titled Great Set, which promises to be even more personal than her first album, A Very Pretty Name.

I had the opportunity to chat with Rozzi about the complications of body image in comedy, the virtues of leaping from art form to art form, and what we can expect to see from her next. READ MORE

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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