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Tell Me More at the Push Comedy Theatre

If you follow this blog and What’s a Podcast for any time, you’re familiar with the storytelling night I ran.  Being a fan of This American Life and The Moth radio hour, I became enamored with the compelling power of a well told story.  I fell in love with the way comedians like Mike Birbiglia were able to incorporate life experience so flawlessly.  I was dying to bring something like this to Hampton Roads.  It began at one bar, years ago.  The manager working the night I was booked seemed generally troubled by the fact I was trying to run a show.  I remember asking him if I could trouble him to turn on the stage lights  and microphone to which he replied simply with looking away and sighing like a teenager troubled to clean his room.  Still, the show worked.

We moved venues a couple of times, from one bar to another.  One bar, we got a lot of traction because the show simply took place in the smoking room of the bar.  Eventually we stopped doing the show, as whenever you do a show at a bar, you have a certain number of variables.  There’s the guy who just wanted to sit at a bar and drink a few beers in peace and quiet and didn’t really care to hear you talk into a microphone.  There’s the table of guys who would rather be watching the game.  There’s a table of girls who would rather listen to bad bar music and pound sugary drinks while talking amongst themselves.

Storytelling night had a devoted set of followers that slowly but surely became regulars.  Eventually, Storytelling Night ground to a halt.  I was bad at organizing it and promoting it.  Factor in that with it being on once a month on Sundays, it would be canceled some months due to bar maintenance, Superbowl, Easter, etc… and it makes sense.

I felt like a failure.  The art of Storytelling wanted a proper venue in Hampton Roads, and I felt as though I had let everyone down.  Every once in a while, though, some of the people who had been involved in Storytelling Night in the past and say in passing, “hey, that was cool, you should bring that back.”

Eventually, enough people brought it up where I realized there was a real desire in this area for a show like this.  I reached out to people.  People better than me.  People who have much better organizational skills.  No longer was I the sole driving force behind making the show happen.  Now there was a team.  Deb Markham, blogger, podcaster and storyteller picked up the ball and ran with it.  She worked with our friends at the Push theatre and convinced them we might be able to get one or two people to come out.  She submitted the event to the Virginian Pilot’s events pages, which in turn actually brought out a reporter who covered the event.

What had once been me hoping to run a show at a bar all of a sudden became somewhat legitimized… we had a real theatre.  Talent in this area had never been a real concern.  Hampton Roads is so full of interesting people; that had never ever been a problem.  So on our debut evening, a curious thing happened.  We sold out the theatre.  90 seats, 90 butts in them.  There were so many people interested in experiencing the stories in our community that we had to turn people away (obviously I wish they could have been there but better to turn people away than to beg for people to come in)!  Our audience was along for the ride and completely interested.  It was the best Storytelling night (now called Tell Me More) I’ve ever been a part of and it was only our first one.

And I don’t want to brag but the newspaper thought we were more fun than going to Phantom of the Opera.

Alright… I totally want to brag.  But, again, the whole thing is not my sole doing by a long shot.  The only reason it works is the coalition of people working together, Deb, the Pushers and their theatre and the enthusiastic charismatic people in Norfolk who have lived interesting lives.

It went so well.  We’re going to be happening every third Sunday of the month.  The next Tell Me More is Sunday, February 15 at the Push Comedy Theatre. More information can be found at TellMeMoreLive.org.

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Upcoming shows!

I’ll be featuring in Fayetteville, NC on September 7th, more details to come.

September 17th, I’ll be at Top of the Stairs, in Blacksburg, VA, headlining.

The next night I’ll be featuring at Readbeard Brewing Company in Staunton, VA.

Come see me!

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Plan B: Magic, Mammaries and Madness!

As I stated in my earlier improv comedy posting, I’ve been trying to get better at improvising.  I’ve rehearsed some with Plan B improv and they’ve decided to have me appear with them in their upcoming show at the Little Theatre of Norfolk.  This show is going to be great.  Joseph de Paul, a comedian-magician I’ve worked with several times will be doing tricks; there will be burlesque; and I’ll be appearing with Dustin Noack and CB wilkins who are regular parts of What’s a Podcast in addition to the entire regular Plan B cast!  Let’s say you think magic is so so?  There’ll be a striptease.  Let’s say maybe you get angry at the sight of a woman taking her clothes off.  A) You’re probably Republican and B) it’s okay, there’ll be improv and magic.

Maybe you just hate watching improv.  And maybe you don’t need to read this website.

It’s $10.  8pm.  Little Theatre of Norfolk, 801 Claremont Ave., Norfolk, VA.

Be there!

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On Improv

Improv is one of those things like I imagine having a friend with benefits is like.  When it’s good… it’s amazing.  When it’s bad, you just hate every second of it and wish there were better relationships established early on.

Since beginning to perform in 2005, stand-up has been my main focus.  It’s like conducting a symphony.  You write out your notes and ideas and then perform it with all the emotion and intensity you can.  Crescendos, speeding up and slowing down of tempo, all carefully rehearsed until the moment of performance when muscle memory has been established and all of one’s focus simply falls to perfecting the subtleties of the ideas you were trying to communicate.

Improv is more like jazz.  To be sure, I am not an expert on improv comedy.  Local acts such as Plan B and The Pushers have a much better grasp on improv.  However, through my experience, here is what I’ve found.  Instead of having a progression of ideas upon which you extrapolate common themes and make up punchlines for, improv is all about forming a new reality based on a couple of suggestions.

In short form improv, there is a very clear cut game… either a restriction of speech (new choice, accents, speaking in alphabetical order), or a specific scene the audience has already determined.  In long form improv, the game is harder to find, but can produce a more amazing scene if the players have established a good feel of each other’s strengths.

The biggest rules for improv I’ve found so far:

1)  Listen.

My earlier reference to improv being more like jazz is especially true here.  Jazz is made up on the spot, but each player is hunting for their spot in the groove and trying to put down notes that fit in well with what the other players are doing.  So with improv.  If you have a plan for your scene and refuse to deviate from it one bit, your scene will fail.  Which leads us to the next point.

2)  Yes And.

If you are doing an improv scene and a player establishes a fact about your scene, be it something about a relationship or a situation, it should be taken as fact and rolled along with.  Occasionally it can be fun to negate your partner’s suggestion, but improv is all about listening.  If you destroy the ideas your partner(s) have, you’re not going to get anything done and you will not have laughs.  And you will be sad.

3)  Establish a relationship.

This is so simple but people mess it up all the time.  For a scene to work, two people have to have something to talk about.  Who has more of a common conversation?  Two brothers or two guys who don’t know each other but bump into each other while waiting in line for something?

4)  Resist the punchline

As a stand-up comedian, the constant urge is to establish a premise, set up a joke and then kill with a punchline.  The problem is, 9 times out of 10, people don’t have a conversation this way.  So when one person breaks character and looks at the audience and delivers a punchline, it steals all the momentum from the scene.  Are you going to end up saying a sentence that is absolutely hilarious?  Hopefully.  The idea is you don’t want to stray so far from your established premise that it kills the scene.  However, if one makes conscious effort to have fun with the scene and make their fellow players look funnier on stage, EVERYONE looks better.

Like I said, I’m not the best improviser ever.  I do have a blast doing it once a week at Cinema Cafe Pembroke’s once a week Improv Show (Wednesday nights at 9).  When people do the above four things, we have a great show.  The more we stray from these, the worse it is.

 

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What’s a Podcast-Episode 71-Dave Coulier!

If you’ve had access to a television over the last 30 years or so, you’ve probably seen Dave Coulier.  You’ve either seen him as the beloved Uncle Joey from ABC’s Full House, co-starring alongside John Stamos and Bob Saget.  You’ve also seen him doing stand-up comedy.  You’ve also probably heard Dave Coulier and not realized it, being that Dave has done more voiceover work than you can ever imagine, including having done the voice for Richard Prior.  Luckily, Cozzy’s Comedy Club in Newport News, VA, a favorite spot of Brendan and CB’s had Dave Coulier for the weekend.  With CB hosting for the weekend, he asked Dave if he wanted to sit down and talk with us and Dave shared his dinner break with us.  As if this podcast’s main guest weren’t enough, this is likely the only podcast we’ll do with a feature act.  John Floyd, a headliner in his own right was featuring for Dave and was nice enough to sit down and chat with us and tell us about his experience in comedy as well.  We didn’t ask him about Alanis Morisette.  We’re better than that.  Also, CB already asked him and he only had nice things to say about her.  It was a geat time.  It was What’s a Podcast.

Direct download: Whats_a_Podcast-Episode_71-Dave_Coulier.mp3

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Where you been, BK?

At the beginning of my blog, I posted a weird sort of word sketch about the kinds of things I think about, and then I realized, a year later, I’d not written anything else.  So I dabbled for a while and had a blast, but I realized I’ve gotten busy with other things and neglected this a bit.  So what’s been going on?  Well, I’m working about 40 hours a week now, which, unfortunately, really does cut into my blogging time.  All those empty moments where I was previously just job hunting and checking to see if the internet still offered pornography is actually occupied with lifting heavy objects and dealing with customers.

Also, if you’ve followed this blog faithfully (perhaps as someone with very little to do might), you might notice I do a podcast.  If you haven’t noticed, it’s called What’s a Podcast.  It’s me and my buddy CB Wilkins and whoever we decide would be a good interview/guest, which has mostly been local comedians though there’s been a few other “civilians” who we’ve had on.  It’s great, because I really hate talking to boring to listen to people so I’ve made a point of only having guests I find engaging on.  I’ve gotten lazy about posting links on this site, but you can find us on iTunes and Stitcher Internet Radio, so if you want to listen we’ve actually got 40 episodes of talking for you to listen to.  We’ve actually reached the point that if you were to try to listen to all the content back to back, it would almost take two days.  Again, I imagine you have more to do over the weekend, but if you’ve never checked it out, it’s worth investigating.

Really the only other thing of interest I’ve been doing is thinking about is fitness sort of stuff, which justifies its own blog post in and of itself.  I’m still alive.  Look out for more blog posts to come.

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Alba Scots Pine Ale

I like to think of myself as a fairly well-versed traveler in the universe of beer flavors.  Typically, you think of three variables that can make a beer have flavor: malt, hops and yeast.  The degree to which a beer’s malt is kilned and then the temperatures that said malt is mashed can impart a wide array of flavors from grainy to caramel to chocolatey roasted coffee flavors.  Hops can make a beer just a little bitter or full of volatile oil terpenoid compounds that can make the beer citrusy, lemony, piny, floral, or any other flavors.  Beers like Dogfishead’s minute series impart the wonderful combinations of bitterness and flavor that can be released.  And then the yeasts, the workhorse of the beer-making process can impart flavors of its own.  In a lager, it is decidedly absent, a paradoxical lack of proof that makes its existence clear.  What one typically seeks in a lager yeast (cold, bottom-fermenting) is a clean malty profile.  In an ale, you usually get a wide variety of fruity ester flavors or phenolics, clove-like spicy flavors.

And then there are the beers that break the rules.  Usually, I reserve this category for lambics, the crazy bastards of the brewing world.

However, much of our knowledge of beer as we know it is tainted, with the addition of hops being more of a recent modification to the idea of beer as we know it.  Before this, people would make beers with spices and other herbs besides hops.  I admit, up until this day, up until this moment, every beer I’ve had has been hopped.

Now, I find myself with a beer in my house begging to blow all of my pre-conceived notions.  Alba Scots Pine Ale.  Consisting solely of malt, Scots Pine and Spruce Sprigs, according to “ancient Viking recipe.”  As if this wasn’t tantalizing enough, the beer claims to be best consumed at room temperature in a wine goblet, inspiring notions of a Viking feast hall after battle, drunk warriors, comiserating after the defeat of some unknown lesser foe.  Before even opening the bottle, I find myself both intrigued and scared.

Time to open the fucking bottle already.  The smell is an earthy alcoholic, malty caramelly, somewhat ferrel odor.  Ferrel in a good way, like you don’t know what’s going to happen.  The flavor is… surprisingly plain.  There’s a certain resinous quality about it.  Growing up in New York in the foothills of the Adirondecks, there was a tree near our house that while fun to play around, would constantly leak sap that always seeemed to make it on our clothes, hair and every now and then our eyes, if we were creative with our stupidity.  There’s hints of that behind a massive malt backbone and a well-muscled alcohol content of 7.5%.  The pine flavor becomes more apparent with each sip.  Where there would be more hop bitterness, there is a calm essence of pine hiding in the background.  What’s fine, is, it’s not completely out of place; many hops, Simcoe comes to mind, can get very piney… this seems to just cut out the middle man and deliver true coniferous resins without any pretext.

Overall… neither amazing nor prosaic. While it makes you stop and think a minute, it doesn’t make you reconsider everything you’ve ever thought about beer. It’s just okay… but different.

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What’s a Podcast: Episode 5

Me and CB had another local up and coming comic, John Small as a guest on our show. It’s awesome. We talk about flint-knapping, public urination, archaeology, ancient Latin, cuckolding, stand-up comedy, and the most amazing tale about internet dating you’ve ever heard in your life.

Click Here to Download Episode 5!

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What’s a Podcast: Episode 4: Pt. 2

We continue our conversation with Sam Zayvan. It’s good stuff:

Click here to listen!

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This is what happens when a funny person pours their heart and soul out on stage

Most of the time comics don’t like to give TOO much love to other comics, because the business is such that if you have a chance for someone to see you, take advantage of it, and fuck everyone else.  I’m going to break that rule for afformentioned friend of the blog, CB Wilkins…

CB Wilkins combines the size and strength of a bear, with a wit as quick as a cheetah, and a sense of humor like a lion eating a zebra, after the zebra said something cunty and tried to run away before anyone could notice. His background as an author and filmmaker gives him a style that is both autobiographical and yet universally understandable. While his tone swings wildly from having a huge heart to venting hate and bile, it’s always authentic and always funny. He loves baseball, dogs, and not drinking.

 

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