Category Archives: Check this out

Brendan Tries Muay Thai

I tried Muay Thai recently for the first time last week.  I don’t have any plans to become a mixed martial arts athlete any time soon, but it’s something I had to do, both because I feel as though one should constantly challenge themselves to develop in different ways so that the through the crucible of awkwardness and near humiliation they can find themselves transformed into a better stronger more pure version of themselves… AND because I had talked about doing it so much that my wife bought me 10 classes at a local Muay Thai school and if I didn’t take the classes, she was going to be really pissed off at me.

My desire to take up this training is complicated.  The most simple explanation is that several years ago, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that in having lost weight, I had very little muscle tone.  Having had a few on again-off again extended trysts with the gym, in the past, I knew I could do better.  So I started lifting.  Slowly but surely, I became stronger and added actual muscle to my body.  One day at the gym, I saw a heavy bag and thought, I’ll go ahead and punch this a few times.  I’m much stronger than I used to be, I’m going to wail on this thing.  Very quickly, I realized I would get exhausted and really had no idea what I was doing.  Unlike a lot of people in internet discussion threads, when I have no idea what I’m doing, I try to learn more.

Enter months of watching boxing videos, MMA, videos.  Slowly but surely, it became something I would try to learn more about.  I bought hand wraps.  I bought boxing gloves.  I got better, but after a time, I realized I probably wouldn’t really do well if I  were in a physical confrontation.  I was faking it but I had no idea what I was doing.   Don’t get me wrong…

I’m 6’2, 235 pounds and people assume I played football in high school (I didn’t, I wrestled though.  Badly).  People my size generally think it’s not a good idea to pick trouble with me.  It’s a great feeling.  At the same time, I had an older brother who was much more the naturally athletic type, who, though I could easily out-grapple growing up (I sucked in matches but man I could outwrestle most people who had no idea what they were doing), he had MUCH better hands (punching abilities) than me.  Like a Civil War  trauma surgeon’s assistant, I caught so many hands.  I had to figure out what I was doing.

Watching mixed martial arts videos, I generally came to realize that the fighters in the octagon use Muay Thai so much because it’s so damn efficient.  It’s the science of 8 limbs.  There’s no silly forms or impractical stances.  It has basic parts of boxing, but adds kicks, knees, elbows, trips and throws, and makes use of clinching.  In the past, when I watched boxing, I would see boxers lock up and just look like they were hugging because they were exhausted.  It ruined the sport for me for a long time.  In muay thai, it’s not just hugging.  It’s the setup for all of those trips and throws.  And it can be so damn efficient.

So I made an appointment for my first class as this would be a one on one experience.  The impression I got over the phone was that I would just be learning basic things like how to not hurt myself by sprinting headfirst into a cinder block wall.  That’s not part of Muay Thai or anything, but they probably not want me to do that, especially on my first class.  I figured I could get in a quick weightlifting session and a little bit of cardio beforehand and not really suffer any negative consequences.  I took my preworkout supplement, had a good workout and came home with enough time to eat my first real meal of the day and then shower.

I got to the class and my instructor showed me the basics of kicking with my front and rear leg and basics of throwing jabs, crosses and hooks.  Still running high on the tail end of my preworkout, I found myself pouring sweat just standing still.  After a half hour, my instructor said “well that’s the end of the one on one, you ready for your first class?”

Not knowing what I was getting into, I smiled and started stretching.  It turned out I was getting into fighter conditioning.  What followed was 30 minutes of a 60 minute class based in repeating the teacher’s commanded combinations five times and then calling out your partner’s repetitions as they performed them.  I made so many mistakes.  Not just in form and footwork.

I barely ate during the day and hadn’t digested the food I just ate.  I was in the ironic situation of having calories sloshing around my stomach and not having any in my bloodstream.  Being used to hitting a poor heavy bag, I unintentionally put way too much effort into each punch.  Lastly, and possibly worst of all, I didn’t breathe properly.

This sounds incredibly stupid to anyone who has never worked on a heavy bag.  When lifting weights, especially doing squats, one does “valsalva” breathing in which you hold your breath for a time to make your core as rigid and firm as possible.  When throwing a punch, you find yourself attempting to keep your core rigid for the maximum transference of energy from your hips to your hands.  If you ever listen to a boxing match, you will hear lots of hissing between grunts as punches land.  This is because the boxers let their breath out with each punch to maximize core rigidity but not hold their breath so long that they become winded extra quickly from moving around the ring and punching.

After a half hour, I was on the verge of vomiting, my eyes were bloodshot, my face was beet red, and my shirt was soaked in sweat.  My right bicep was so worn out from throwing right hooks that I could no longer hold my arm straight.  My heart would not stop racing and yet I wanted to pass out.  Having made plans before the class, I left at the half hour break.  When I left, I was so exhausted I didn’t even bother putting my shoes back on.  I shuffled off to my car, still gasping for air and started the engine… with my left hand, as my right bicep was still useless.

Before I left, I looked around the room and everyone had a big smile on their face.  Not because they were laughing at my idiocy, that I was some meathead better suited for putting idiotic amounts of weight across my back than fighting.  It was a smile of camaraderie.  Their eyes said “you’re not great yet, but you’re trying so you’re one of us now.  Welcome to the club.”  Before I left, my instructor asked how I was doing.  I told him “it’s the most tired I’ve been in a long time, but it’s the most alive I felt.  This is the hardest I’ve worked since wrestling in high school.”  I then drove home and laid on the floor and panted and asked my wife to rub my cramped arm because I was underfed, overworked and dehydrated.

I can’t wait to go back.

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How to Podcast

So, CB Wilkins and I have been podcasting for a few years with What’s a Podcast.  Occasionally, after listening to it, other folks ask me how precisely one produces a podcast.  When CB and I decided to try to podcast, we had a certain idea but we didn’t know what a podcast should be.  So, we titled it What’s a Podcast and decided to move on.  That being said, I’ve learned a lot.

Step 1.  Decide What Your Show Should Be

Decide what you want your podcast to be about and what to call it.  If you have thousands of dollars to support yourself already and have the time and brains to do fantastic journalism, you can create a podcast like Serial, This American Life or Radiolab.  Marc Maron has mastered the art of  interview.  There’s countless roundtable discussion podcasts.  What should yours be?  Do you want to just discuss current events?  Should your podcast have a local focus?  Perhaps you just want to present audio of your local event like we are able to do with Tell Me More.

You need to figure out a specific sort of content.  Bear in mind, if you decide to do a podcast about the adventures of antique glass bottle collecting, you might have a very narrow audience.  At the same time, if you just djscuss current events, there’s a ton of people who already do similar podcasts, how will yours stand out?

What’s a Podcast, in my mind, is part Opie and Anthony and part WTF Podcast with Marc Maron.  We do interview but also break each other’s balls.  To our detriment, we came up with what is probably the least Google-friendly podcast title possible.  The only worse titles for our podcast would have been Bing, Webcrawler or Lycos.

Step 2.  Purchase Equipment

This can be as costly or cheap as you want, but you ARE going to have to drop a certain amount of coin to get it done.  As technology progresses, people are in a position to produce audio with incredibly high production values for increasingly lower prices.  What’s a Podcast uses the Alesis MultiMix 4 USB, a four-channel desktop mixer with a USB digital audio interface built in.  I lucked out and found it in a pawn shop for about 39 dollars.

Into this mixer we use cheap mics that run around 20 dollars apiece from guitar center.  I believe the brand is Digital Reference.  They have enough low-end to give our voices a pleasant tone with enough mid-end to keep our voices clear and not muddy.  The mixer only accepts two inputs via xlr, thus if a third or fourth mic are necessary we use a splitter to add more mics to each channel.

Additionally we use mic stands (holding a mic produces a lot of noise  you wouldn’t think gets picked up but does) and I use a spit screen because I have a tendency to speak very loudly and thus the power of the air from my P’s an B’s (plosive sounds) cause spikes in the audio that are very hard to listen to and edit out.

This is not the only way to do it.  Many podcasters instead use portable audio recorders.  Zoom has produced a very compact and efficient unit called the H4 that allows its owner to have 2 compact microphones that allow for stereo recording and the addition of up to two other microphones via xlr input.  The quality is high, the space small, and file size is limited to the size of your SD cards.

One podcaster I know uses a barebones setup of a single usb mic.

Additionally you could buy 6 top quality condenser mics in your acoustically perfect studio into an 8 channel USB mixer with phantom power for every channel, run each mic through a compressor, run it on a mac with Pro Tools installed and use an H4 as a back up just in case your computer crashes… but then again you’re reading the beginner’s guide… you’re probably not going to do that.

Step 3.  Record

What’s a Podcast uses Audacity, but again it is not the only way. When recording, introduce yourself, introduce the show.  Produce your content.  Really, do what works.  But really, big things here:

1.  No dead air unless it’s for dramatic effect like Radiolab does.  That’s why it’s good to have two people on.

2.  Don’t talk over each other all the time.  Admittedly harder to do on a solo podcast.

3.  Have a plan.  Stick with it, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it so you can see where conversation wanders.  You can always fix it in post.

4.  Know when to end it.

Step 4.  Editing

Again, our podcast is edited in Audacity Depending on your desired production value, you may want to play lead in music or an introduction or something like a radio show would call a sweeper.  Or you may not.  You may want to cut out bits of audio that your guest wouldn’t want heard in a public forum such as a podcast.  A lot of that is personal choice. In the beginning of our podcast, we would record for 2 hours and cut it down to one.

For me, I like to play a pre-recorded introduction and then get right to it.  Beyond that, I do practice a few tricks to get my podcast sounding slightly better.

1.  Normalization.  This takes away your peaks without distorting the sound quality too much.

2.  Compression.  This makes some of the quieter sounds easier to hear and reduces the harshness of some of the louder sounds.  Hard to get a feel for.  If you do it wrong, any loud noise crashes to silence afterward and then fades back in or you get a loud background hum between a lull in conversation, but when you do it right, it makes the conversation seem to be at a steady constant volume.

3.  Leveling.  This is like compression but makes sure what should be quiet is quiet and what should be audible is.

4.  Equalization.  We usually drop a little tiny bit of the mid level tone and increase the bass so that the voices have a more pleasant richness.

5.  Normalize it again.  You did a lot of weird  stuff, this kind of helps makes sure it’s all balanced.

This takes a lot of practice to get where you’re comfortable with it, my process might not work for you or be necessary.

Step 5.  Posting it

You’ve created an awesome podcast!  You edited it for 3 hours and waited 30 minutes for a file to render… now what?  You might be thinking “well, Brendan, I get it on iTunes and then I’m famous!  To get your podcast to iTunes (which you will want to do.  iTunes allows users to subscribe to your podcast… it’s downloaded every single time automatically by your listeners as soon as you post it) you have to submit them an RSS feed.

If you’re really good with computers you can upload your podcast to your own hosting site, upload a few files, write the RSS coding and then submit that to iTunes.

But again, you’re reading this article, so you’re probably not.  Sites like Libsyn.com and Podbean take the work out of all this for you.  You simply upload your content to their site through their pre-made back end, submit your RSS feed link to iTunes and then you’re good to go.

 

Now share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at YOUR comedy shows, and hope to God someone listens.

Again, check out What’s a Podcast (@WhatsAPodcast on Twitter) at http://www.whatisapodcast.libsyn.com to see more of how we try to do what we do.

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Brendan Kennedy is headlining Cinema Cafe’s Comedy at the Cafe, 9/27 at 9pm

Press Release:

Friday, September 27th, at 9pm, Hampton Roads comic Brendan Kennedy is headlining his own show, “Love is Not The Answer,” at Cinema Cafe’s Independence boulevard location for one night only. The show ties together jokes and storytelling in a unique and hilarious way at one of Hampton Roads’ best comedy venues.

Brendan Kennedy began performing stand-up comedy in 2005. He has performed in colleges and comedy clubs all over the East Coast. In this time, he has developed a stage presence and style that incorporates both simple funny ideas and hilarious experiences from his own life. “Love is Not The Answer” incorporates these skills to paint a picture of Brendan’s life, discussing his triumphs and shortcomings, and the personal connections he’s developed over time. His material is easy to relate to but takes an unexpected refreshing point of view and makes comparisons one might not expect.

Laura Watkins, writer for HamptonRoads.com and AltDaily.com, describes Brendan as having “…a knack for finding that sweet spot between the totally relatable and the utterly absurd. He’s one of the few young comedians who puts his whole presence into his set—armed with a delivery that is energetic, charming and deceptively effortless, Brendan is the kind of comedian who makes it look easy.”

Cinema Cafe, in recent years, thanks to its workshop night and huge local following, has become an integral part of Hampton Roads’ local stand-up comedy scene. What began as one show on Thursday nights with more comics than audience members has transformed into a show that attracts a “standing-room only” crowd and has spawned an additional night of improv comedy on Wednesday nights.

‘Brendan’s show, “Love is Not The Answer” is one night only, at 9pm, September 27th. Tickets are $5.

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What’s a Podcast: Episode 10: Travis Jones

This week, me and CB had CB’s long-time collaborator in indie films, writer, actor and storyteller, Travis Jones on the show. Not only did we talk about everything, like we do every week, but Travis told some amazing stories about his life, including failed romances that while humiliating are all too familiar and relatable.  Even more exciting is the fact that this is our TENTH podcast, meaning that if two assholes sit down and b.s. with each other long enough, someone WILL listen.

Click here to listen.

Also, in the future we hope to have some really exciting guys on the podcast.  including James Paulk, Chris Dembitz and the great, recently roasted Dan Ellison, the educated redneck (his term, not mine).

Lastly, there’s a Twitter account for the Podcast now @whatsapodcast, so that if you have any ideas you want talked about or general criticism to give me and CB, there’s an easily focused target for your outrage.  Or if you want to show some love, it’s a good place to do so as well.

See ya soon!

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What’s a Podcast: Episode 9

This time we had Jim Seward on.  Jim Seward is a member of Plan B Improv, a Stand-up Comedian, Actor and 20 year veteran of the Air Force.  It was a great podcast, we talked about Iraq, AK-47s, and stand-up comedy.  And we all say mean things about each other.

Check it out!

Just click here!

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What’s a Podcast : Episode 6

This week we had Laura Watkins, @OneHelluvaDame, on the podcast.  Laura is a blogger for AltDaily.com, a local alternative news blog.  This podcast is all over the place, it’s a little explicit, but it’s one of the funniest hours of audio you’ll ever listen to.

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2 Gigs in the Northern VA/DC Region!

Thursday night, March 29th,  I’m appearing at the next iteration of the Virginia Tech Hokie Alumni Comedy Show at the Arlington Drafthouse. This night is a congregation of quality comics who have gotten their education and life experiences in good old Blacksburg, VA at Virginia Tech.  It’s great because not only do we get to talk about the fun of our being alumni of Virginia Tech, but we talk about where our lives have taken us since Blacksburg.

The very next night, March 30th, I’ll be at Liberty Laughs, in Fredericksburg, VA, taking part in a contest.  Come on out!

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This week’s podcast is up!

Go ahead and click here to go ahead and start streaming it!  This is Episode 3 of “What’s a Podcast.”

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Podcasting!

So, I figured, if you’re into what I’m doing, my attempts at stand-up comedy and storytelling, you might be interested in another project I’ve started: Podcasting.  Me and my buddy CB Willkins have begun producing a new podcast called “What’s a Podcast?”  The idea behind this title was that neither of us had really ever fully researched exactly what we thought a podcast should be.  So this podcast is what CB and I think that people would be interested in listening to.  In essence, we both think a great deal of what’s on the podcast is what we both enjoy, bullshitting with each other and recording the stupid insights we have into each other’s lives.

It’s not on iTunes yet, as we’ve not produced a separate site/feed to host all the mp3’s, so for now, what we’ve done is produced the show and listed it on SoundCloud.com where it can be both Downloaded AND Streamed here.

I’m a bit late posting this, as the link above is to our second attempt at podcasting. If you like the link above, check out our first attempt here: here.

If you have any ideas about stuff you would like us to talk about, questions, and anything in between, shoot us an email at whatsapodcast “AT” yahoo.com.

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Stand-Up Comedy Night at Margarita Grill

When you think of stand-up comedy, a few archetypical images come to mind.  A spotlight highlighting the comic from the audience (years ago, literally a light created from heating up lime, hence a lime-light), a microphone and a sea of darkness that makes up the cavernous groupthink that is the audience.  Its perfection is the comedy club.  Locally, this can be seen at either Cozzy’s Comedy Club, or The Virginia Beach Funny Bone. The comedy club is the comedy equivalent of a lab setting.  Literally all distractions are minimized.  All focus is centered toward the stage.  All a comedian need do is not mess up the jokes he’s crafted.  Because chances are, if you’re on stage at a major room like the Funny Bone or Cozzy’s, you’ve put a huge amount of work into finding out which of your silly thoughts will make an audience erupt with laughter and which ones will just make people uncomfortable.

All of this work takes place at open mics/workshop nights.  These are shows that, the crowd is not  going to be exactly the same as an “A-room” crowd.  The audience usually doesn’t pay, very often the venue isn’t necessarily a business that has comedy other nights of the week.  If a comedy club is the perfect laboratory of comedy, workshop nights are the field study.  The result is that the comics work even harder.  While a comic can pick through his quiver of arrows to draw from when he’s doing a showcase show, he must experiment at an open mic.  They must engage the crowd even more.  The fruits of this labor are much like the work of Babe Ruth… you might have a lot of strike-outs.  But in the end this is how you become a home-run king… of comedy.

The root of all comedy is creating tension and relieving it.  Why did the chicken cross the road… (you’re dying to know)… to get to the other side (relief!).  At an open mic there is an omnipresent subconscious tension, so when a joke is funny (which really is more often than not), you will never laugh as hard in your life.  Additionally, when a joke works, there is nothing like the first time it’s ever told.  If you have ever enjoyed comedy, this is a sneak peak into the creative process that you might not have ever known about.  Louis CK, probably the best comic working right now, begins every one hour special he records with a few open mic appearances.  From there these jokes develop into theatre shows, and later into one new hour of material.  In short, if a comic ever wants to make anything of him or her self, they need the perfection that only workshop nights can create.

With that in mind, I’d like to invite everyone to come out to the workshop night at Margarita Grill this Wednesday Night.  Margarita Grill is located at the intersection of Virginia Beach Boulevard and Great Neck Road, just around the corner from Pollard’s Chicken.  For the GPS-ers and GoogleMaps people, it’s located at 2340 Virginia Beach blvd.

The show starts at 9pm, runs Wednesdays and is absolutely free.  I’ll be hosting.  See you then!

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