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Balancing Standup and Writing for 'Late Night' with Michelle Wolf

michelle-wolfNot many comics would close their New Faces Showcase at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival with a three-minute joke tying together men’s masturbation habits and JFK’s assassination. That one’s got a high degree of difficulty.

Michelle Wolf made it look easy.

Wolf, 29, was among the standouts last month at Just For Laughs, the comedy industry’s premiere festival. The NYC-based comic, who’s also a writer/performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers, even earned herself a slot performing in front of 3,000 people for Seth Rogen’s televised gala. Not bad for someone who’s less than 4 years into stand-up.

I had the opportunity to chat with Wolf after her New Faces showcase to talk about her former career on Wall Street, working on Late Night, and using Twitter to come up with jokes.

So you used to work on Wall Street? For how long?

Almost four years between Bear Stearns and then JP Morgan.

You must have liked it somewhat. 

No, I didn’t. It was good money and my schedule wasn’t so crazy that I couldn’t do comedy. Because I didn’t start comedy until after I started working. I had no intention of doing comedy.

You weren’t into comedy in college or anything?

No, no. I was either going to go to medical school or get my PhD in exercise science. I wanted to take some time off and a lot of my roommates got jobs on Wall Street and said I should get one so I did. I started improv about six months after I moved there and took classes at the PIT and UCB at the same time.  READ MORE

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Inside Just For Laughs, Morning Talk Shows, and the Future of Comedy with T.J. Miller

tjmiller_morningshowOf all the funny things T.J. Miller said during his many performances at the 2014 Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, one of his best lines came in his introduction of Andy Kindler for the State of the Industry address, which was part roast/part tribute.

“I’m trying to mix sentimentality with humor,” Miller said. “Just like in Yogi Bear 3D.”

Miller’s ability to make fun of his roles in Yogi Bear 3D, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and other critically panned franchises, which he does frequently, is what makes him so beloved in the comedy world. He’s in a weird position in that he’s a successful actor with roles in Hollywood blockbusters (plus the Emmy-nominated Silicon Valley on HBO), while at the same time never letting any of that go his head and maintaining his place in the standup world as a lovable goofball.

Miller can also be very serious about the craft of comedy, which I learned during a 2:00am interview in a hotel bar after one of his Montreal shows. We talked about his show, fame, and his bizarre morning news appearances. READ MORE

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Pete Davidson and What It's Like Being a Rising Standup at Age 20

petedavidsonPete Davidson is only 20 and already has amassed several TV appearances and a development deal. It would be easy to resent the success he’s had at such a young age if he wasn’t such a great comic. 

The NYC comedian is a regular at all of the city’s top clubs, has done late-night sets on Comedy Central and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and has a role in the Fox pilot, Sober Companion.

This year, Davidson was named one of Variety’s Top Comics to Watch at Montreal Just For Laughs, where he was among the festival’s highlights.

I had a chance to chat with Davidson in Montreal to talk about his start and why Staten Island sucks for comedy.

You started when you were 16 years old?

Yes.

And you just turned 20? 

Yep.

How did you get into it? Most kids at 16 aren’t like “I want to be onstage right now.” It’s frightening. 

When I was like 12, Dane Cook was more than a comic. He was the shit. He was on top of the world. I went to go see him at Madison Square Garden for my 16th birthday. Bill Burr opened, and after I saw Bill Burr, I was like, “I want to do standup.” He’s amazing. So I started writing a bunch of stuff.

You liked Bill Burr over Dane Cook?

Oh yeah. READ MORE

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The Bitter and Acerbic Highlights of Andy Kindler's Just For Laughs Keynote Speech

andykindlerAnother standing-room only crowd, including some of the biggest names in comedy, came out Friday afternoon at the 2014 Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal for Andy Kindler’s 19th State of the Industry address, in which the long-time alternative comic burns bridges from his safe position on Hollywood’s periphery, as Kindler himself would likely acknowledge.

Kindler went after his usual targets, including himself, Jay Leno, Bill Maher, Jimmy Fallon and Adam Sandler, but he saved the brunt of his ire for former Opie and Anthony host Anthony Cumia, who was fired from SiriusXM recently after hurling off a series of racially insensitive tweets. The Cumia rant made for some awkward moments, but that’s never stopped Kindler before. It wouldn’t be a State of the Industry address without them.

Actor and comedian T.J. Miller had the honor of introducing Kindler, and described the impact Kindler’s had on young comedians.

“I owe my entire career to Andy Kindler. Every comic does,” Miller said. “Because he’s a comic’s comic but beyond that he’s a failure on a massive level.”

SiriusXM recorded the one-hour speech. Listen to it below. READ MORE

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David Rees on How to Make a "How-To" Show

david reesFans of the 2001-2009 comic strip Get Your War On will be happy to know that David Rees, the man behind the cult classic political send-up, is back with a new project. Only this time, Rees has his sights set on ice cubes, shoelaces, and holes.

Going Deep with David Rees, which premiered Monday on National Geographic channel, is a how-to show that puts tasks we take for granted – say, swatting a fly – under the microscope. It’s a testament to Rees’s abilities as a humorist that he’s so easily able to pivot from blunt critiques of post-9/11 U.S. politics to the dry, though entirely earnest wit he brings to his show explaining the best way to open doors.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rees about his new show, how he came to be involved with artisanal pencil sharpening, and why he was relieved to discover the scientific community loves heavy metal. READ MORE

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Damien Lemon on His Comedy Central 'Half Hour' and How He Became a Comedy Cellar Regular

damien-lemonFor years Damien Lemon was known as much for his comedic skills as his legendary beater Toyota Corolla. With the way his career is going now, he’s probably due for an upgrade if he hasn’t done so already.

Lemon is one of the rising stars in the NYC comedy scene and has become a regular at most standup clubs, including the famed Comedy Cellar. He’s a cast member on MTV2’s Guy Code, and made his film debut two years ago in The Amazing Spider-Man.

On Friday, you can see his new special on Comedy Central as part of their Half Hour series.

I recently caught up with Lemon while he was on the road to talk about his special, what it’s like working on a summer blockbuster, and why he needs to take acting lessons. READ MORE

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Tommy Johnagin on Breaking Out as a Comic from Somewhere Other Than NY, LA, or Chicago

tommy-johnaginThere’s no definitive path to a successful career in standup comedy. Just ask Tommy Johnagin.

Though he now lives in LA, Johnagin built a career in his mid-20s headlining clubs across the country, appearing on Letterman multiple times, and starring in his own Half Hour special on Comedy Central while based in St. Louis.

That kind of exposure doesn’t happen often to comics based in non-coastal cities, but Johnagin was able to pull it off through a relentless work ethic, clever jokes, and a clear idea of career goals.

Now, Johnagin’s back with a new The Half Hour on Comedy Central. Ahead of the Friday premiere, we talked about starting out in a smaller market, Last Comic Standing, and his ideas for fixing the pilot system. READ MORE

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The Never-Ending Tour: On the Road with Brian Regan

Find the most jaded, bitter, resentful comic you can think of, and chances are even he likes Brian Regan. Everyone does.

Regan has been performing in 100 cities each year since 2005 through his non-stop theater tour, making him one of the most successful touring comedians in the country – a feat even more impressive when you consider he’s done it with scant film and TV exposure.

His everyman persona appeals to audiences of all kinds, and his clever joke-writing endears him to some of the best comics in the business, including Patton Oswalt, who has said Regan is the best standup comic working today.

I recently had the chance to talk to Regan while on break from the first half of his 2014 North American tour. We chatted about being a comic’s comic, helping young comedians, and his growing interest in a TV series. READ MORE

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Talking to Dave Attell About His New Comedy Central Standup Show and Special

If you’re a fan of standup, you owe it to yourself to watch Dave Attell do a set at the Comedy Cellar, the famed New York club where he can be found most weekends. To see him in his element, that is telling dirty jokes in a dark basement full of drunk people, is one of the greatest things in all of comedy. If you’re unable to make the trip, Attell has a new special out this weekend on Comedy Central, Road Work, that captures the raw energy he brings to the comedy club experience.

But wait there’s more. Comedy Central has also brought back Attell to host a weekly late night showcase, Comedy Underground with Dave Attell, featuring some of Attell’s favorite comics telling uncensored filthy jokes at New York’s Village Underground.

I recently had the chance to talk to Attell about his new projects, the problems with overproduced comedy specials, and how dirty comics are a dying breed. READ MORE

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Talking to Todd Barry About His New 'Crowd Work' Special

Todd Barry has a new crowd work standup special coming out on Louis C.K.’s website.

That’s the narrative we’ll be hearing over the next few weeks. Louie and Todd are friends, Louie thinks Todd is funny and offered to produce his special, Louie holds a lot of sway in the comedy world.

Just keep in mind Barry’s special isn’t some run-of-the-mill comedy special C.K. is producing as a favor.

A standup special consisting entirely of audience interactions hasn’t been done before, and Barry is definitely a master of the skill. This is going to be worth checking out.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Barry briefly about his new special before he headed out to LA to promote it on Conan, @midnight, and WTF. READ MORE

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Talking to Joe Mande About His Standup Mixtape, Writing for 'Parks and Rec', and Buying a Million Twitter Followers

Joe Mande always seems one step ahead.

Whether it’s his Twitter stunts, multimedia shows, or stories about attending a live taping of The Mike Huckabee Show really high, the LA-based comedian and writer has a knack for getting out in front of trends.

It makes sense then that Mande’s latest project is a comedy mixtape he’s releasing in place of a traditional album, complete with DJ drops, comedy sketches, and cameos from Amy Poehler, A$AP Yams, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, Jon Daly, Roy Hibbert, and more. The mixtape, which drops today, is called Bitchface and it's being released on former Das Racist frontman Heem’s record label, Greedhead.

I recently caught up with Mande to talk about the mixtape, writing for Parks and Recreation, and his quest for one million twitter bots. READ MORE

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Talking to Nate Bargatze About Standup and Developing an NBC Sitcom with Jimmy Fallon

If you need any validation that Nate Bargatze is a great young comic, just know that notorious crank Marc Maron is one of his biggest fans. And Maron doesn’t like anybody.

Bargazte is a rising star in the standup world known for his clever personal anecdotes and laid-back Southern charm. He’s made multiple late night TV appearances, toured with Jimmy Fallon and others as part of Fallon’s Clean Cut Comedy Tour, and recently sold NBC a pilot based on his act.

I recently had the chance to chat with the Tennessee native about his start in comedy, his relationship with Maron, and the process behind selling his first pilot. READ MORE

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Talking to the 'Workaholics' Guys About the New Season

Since premiering in 2011, Workaholics has picked up more and more steam as one of today's most smartly written shows starring some of TV's dumbest characters. Beyond the writing though, the secret ingredient to Workaholics is the real-life friendship between creators/writers/directors/producers Adam DeVine, Anders Holm, and Blake Anderson – a chemistry that earned them a double-season renewal last year. Ahead of tonight's Season 4 premiere, we talked with the Workaholics gang about how their show has evolved, how they come up with fresh ideas, and their extended thoughts on Justin Bieber. READ MORE

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Talking to Brody Stevens About His New Comedy Central Show and His Friendship with Zach Galifianakis

Think of any comedian working today. There’s probably another comic with a similar style.

Except for Brody Stevens.

It’s difficult to describe exactly what Steven Brody Stevens does on stage, but it’s high energy and part positive reinforcement, part self-affirmation, part antagonism, part hyper self-awareness, part lack of self-awareness, part revealing stream of consciousness. Or something like that.

However you want to describe it, it works. Stevens is very funny and there aren’t many people in show business who are more captivating. Both HBO and Comedy Central recognized this, and after a 20-year career spent largely on the periphery, gave Stevens the starring vehicle he basically commands with Brody Stevens: Enjoy It!

Billed as Comedy Central’s first drama (it began as a web series on HBO), Enjoy It is also hard to describe, as it’s a documentary with occasional animation and written comedy pieces. But it’s all about the enigmatic Stevens: his life, his career, his much publicized mental breakdown in 2011.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Brody Stevens while he was driving (don’t worry, he was on mood stabilizers and focused and safe and he’d done this before, he assured me) to talk about his new show, his start in comedy, and his relationship with good friend and Enjoy It executive producer Zach Galifianakis. READ MORE