By Ross Bonaime, John-Michael Bond, Andrew Bucket, Matt Byrne, Curtis Cook, Rob DeSantis, Stephanie Hasz, Sophie Johnson, Zeke Leeds, Svetlana Legetic, Tristan Lejeune, Sean Joyce, Tam Sackman, Chris Trew, Brandon Wetherbee
The last comedy guide was thrown together as a joke. Then it did well. So we’re doing another comedy guide.
Some of this stuff is speculation (we have no idea what television shows may be good before they air AND YOU DON’T EITHER), some of it is fact (Curtis Cook is a comic living in Portland and he is very funny), some of it is lies. Lots of lies in this thing. Hopefully funny lies.
In addition to television shows you may enjoy and stand up shows in D.C. you might enjoy and Twitter accounts you may enjoy and comedy cities you might enjoy, there are some Bentzen Ball recommendations. For example, if you really like Tim & Eric, you will most likely really like Wham City. If you really like Bob’s Burgers, you will most likely really like Eugene Mirman. Get it? Helpful!
Finally, this guide is the definitive guide to everything funny in D.C. AND the rest of the universe from now until mid-March. Definitive. If something isn’t in this guide, it’s legally not funny. Offensively not funny. Or not. Or it’s just what 15 or so people think might be enjoyable. Whatever. It’s one or the other. I think it’s definitive.
Enjoy! -Brandon Wetherbee
Each episode of this new series will be a standalone story in the vein of Tales From The Crypt, playing up the unsettling darkness that’s lurked at the core of much of T&E’s material. They’re able to flex their stylistic muscles with a bigger budget and more guest stars in this not-quite-parody of anthology horror shows. -Matt Byrne
The Comedy Central rebirth continues to bear fruit. Review, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City … all belly-laugh funny, but also all, sadly, done for the year. Returning Sept. 24, however, is the sketch series that launched the renaissance to begin with. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele would be the two funniest guys on SNL right now, but fortunately you don’t have stay in and watch TV on a Saturday to catch their inspired brand of black-on-black crimes against banality. You just know Obama’s anger translator will have a lot to say this season. It took years for CC to find worthy heirs to Dave Chappelle, so enjoy these two while they’re still around — they have film careers in their future. -Tristan Lejeune
Anthony Anderson fronts this ABC sitcom that will no doubt draw comparisons to a modern day Cosby Show. The show focuses on Anderson’s Dre, the head of a family that he believes has gotten too far away from their black identity (case in point: his son’s desire to have a bar mitzvah). Through his comical attempts to gain their culture back (he throws an African coming-of-age ceremony for his son instead), black-ish offers some serious insights on the state of race in America and the depiction of black families on TV. Also, Laurence Fishburne AKA MORPHEUS plays Dre’s father. -Tam Sackman
A family comedy/drama series produced by Six Feet Under’s Jill Soloway starring Jeffrey Tambour as a middle-aged parent who comes out as transgender. Judith Light (perhaps best known as Angela from Who’s The Boss?), Girls’ Gaby Hoffman, and mumblecore titan Jay Duplass round out the very strong cast in this well-reviewed ensemble show. -Matt Byrne
The Golden Globe awards this police precinct rookie took for best comedy series and best lead actor therein prove one thing: the Globes are hipper than the Emmys. I’m not saying Brooklyn Nine-Nine is superior to Modern Family, but it certainly is fresher at this point. Sophomore seasons are crucial for shows’ development, but the real takeaway here is watching Andy Samberg develop his lanky wiseass schtick into leading man material … or not. Will this cop prove his mettle, or is he really just made for working the beat? -Tristan Lejeune
More than any other comedy this fall, this one is simply begging for a breakout year. It’s popular, but not too popular. It’s talked about, but not too talked about. And perhaps most important: its stars (such as The Daily Show’s Kristen Schaal and Archer’s H. Jon Benjamin) could bring in new viewers, but not enough to overwhelm those who’ve enjoyed BB’s first three seasons. This tale of a put-upon burger chef and his bat-shit wife and kids has found solid footing, and buzz from The Simpsons and Family Guy has to rub off at least a little, right? -Tristan Lejeune
A throwback three camera sitcom from one of the best standup comics going, John Mulaney, featuring a great cast (including Martin Short, Elliott Gould, and SNL’s Nasim Pedrad) and a solid, if familiar, concept. Mulaney plays a fictionalized version of himself, a working standup comedian, trying to make it big in showbiz while staying grounded in a slightly off-kilter world. -Matt Byrne
As the title may insinuate, Jane the Virgin stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane who, as you may have guessed, is a virgin. This becomes a bit of an issue when she is accidentally artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant. Oops! To add insult to pregnancy, the sperm belonged to her ex. Double oops! The trailer seems quirky and quick, but maybe gives away too much plot-wise. Nonetheless, Jane the Virgin, along with Black-ish, are both hopefully signs of things to come in terms of diversity on major network television and at least worth a try. -Tam Sackman
For all those of us still in deep mourning over Happy Endings and all those of us who wish Burning Love was a ten seasoner web series (which should cover just abut all of us), comes a rom com featuring Casey Wilson and Ken Marino as a longtime couple who just can’t seem to get to the next level. We’re rooting for this (and them) SO HARD. -Svetlana Legetic, from our Film Guide
The first half of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s third season was expectedly insane, time-traveling with Josh Groban to the past and jumping to the final episode with Jenny Lewis as the show’s pregnant band leader. Comedy Bang! Bang! goes in the strange places that normal talk shows wouldn’t dare, like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse mixed with early Letterman. The second half of the third season – premiering in October – will feature great guests such as Kevin Smith and a holiday episode with The Lonely Island, to be followed by a 40 episode fourth season. -Ross Bonaime
Also returning in October is The Birthday Boys for their second season. The amazing comedy troupe that occasionally features Bob Odenkirk is one of the most underrated and consistently hilarious groups in comedy today. Many of The Birthday Boys are also writers for Comedy Bang! Bang!, so get ready for a double dose of weird comedy starting in October on IFC. -Ross Bonaime
On the same day that Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn premieres on Netflix, Cenac will also release 1,000 vinyl copies of the routine in stores. Since we can’t see things on vinyl, only the Netflix version will contain puppets. For those unfamiliar, Cenac is best known for his work as a writer and correspondent on The Daily Show. He has since taken off as a stand-up comic, embarking on a month-long tour across the country the same day that Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn is released on Netflix and vinyl. -Tam Sackman
Mike Tyson stars as himself in a Scooby-Doo! style throwback cartoon that sort of sounds like, at worst, a parody of an Adult Swim show and at best a TV Fun House sketch. The supporting cast is strong enough to lend credibility to this bizarre fever dream; Norm MacDonald plays a pigeon named Pigeon, while Community’s Jim Rash plays a foppish ghost from the 1800s. I don’t know, man. -Matt Byrne
The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore premieres on Comedy Central January 2015
When Stephen Colbert was announced at the replacement for David Letterman on The Late Show, the biggest question was who will take Colbert’s place after The Daily Show? At the same time, people questioned must how many white people can host talk shows – especially named Jimmy – and why there isn’t more diversity in the late night landscape. As one of The Daily Show’s best correspondents, Larry Wilmore is sure to do a fantastic job when Colbert leaves for CBS. If he does half as good a job as John Oliver did when he staked out his own claim, Wilmore should be fine. -Ross Bonaime
The end of Parks and Recreation’s sixth season was a huge surprise for viewers, showing that the seventh and final season would feature a time jump to years in the future. Leslie and Ben have already had their many kids, Leslie now has more responsibility than ever and Jon Hamm is for some reason the worst employee the Pawnee Parks Department has ever had. Yes, even worse than Jerry/Larry. Making such a huge leap is a ballsy move, especially for a show entering its final episodes, but as NBC’s finest comedy in years, it’ll likely be a fantastic move. -Ross Bonaime
Better Call Saul is both an exciting and terrifying prospect. On one hand, it’s a spinoff of one of the most celebrated and loved shows of all time, Breaking Bad. On the other hand, continuing the story through a minor character like Saul Goodman – if it’s not good – could ruin the flawless reputation of its predecessor. Bob Odenkirk deserves the spotlight in his own show again and the idea of it taking place before and after Breaking Bad is compelling, especially since this claims to be a comedy. Fingers crossed it’s more of a Frasier and less of a Joey. -Ross Bonaime
BYT & Tig Notaro are throwing DC’s biggest comedy festival of the year. Yes, we know it is US throwing it, but trust us on this one. John Hodgman, Reggie Watts, Retta, Wyatt Cenac, Rosie O’Donnell, Wham City, Rob Corddry (AND YOU KNOW, just 30+ other comedians). Bonus: Free Shake Shack.
Sketch comedy weirdo wizards Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim will be bringing along spinoff pal Dr. Steve Brule (aka John C. Reilly) to their live show at the Lincoln. I’m not sure how their live show will work because I’ve never seen them without a green screen from the 80s, but I can almost guarantee that at some point during the night you’ll feel severely uncomfortable! -Tam Sackman
Everybody loves Hannibal Buress. We love him on Broad City. We love him on Late Night. We love him on The Eric Andre Show. We love Hannibal Buress because he genuinely seems to be concerned about the state of a lot of things in this world that we should probably be concerned about, too, but aren’t, like the state of white strip clubs and whether or not Jimmy Carter is entitled to shake everybody’s hand on an airplane without asking. -Tam Sackman
Anthony Jeselnik is not very nice. He wasn’t nice on the Jeselnik Offensive. He wasn’t very nice on Late Night. He loves AIDS jokes. He loves cancer jokes. He’s not very nice. But he is pretty funny, and if you’re not easily offended by exploiting touchy subjects and/or this cruel world has hardened you, you would probably like his show. -Tam Sackman
I saw Dave Attell at The Hollywood Improv at least 7 or 8 years ago. Jesus. I can’t recall who I went with but this was before I started doing stand up. He was crass and kind of shitty. I loved it. To this day I will still mutter this line to myself from his set “I’ll tell you one thing, you can’t bring a hooker back to life with Aspirin.” -Jenn Tisdale
In retrospect, it should have been obvious just how badly we needed a girl stoner comedy duo on network TV. However, it wasn’t until Broad City aired on Comedy Central last year that we realized this. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are hilarious on their own, but unstoppable together as not quite twenty-somethings still trying to get their lives together (without much success) in New York. Their live show will probably be more improv/ sketch-based, but if it’s the same self-depricatingly relatable humor on their TV series it’s going to be a great time. -Tam Sackman
The cool thing about Mike Birbiglia is that he’s pretty much a regular guy with regular problems except for sometimes crazy shit happens to him. “Sleepwalk With Me”, his 2012 tour turned semi-autobiographical film was more humorous storytelling than straight-up jokes, which pretty accurately sums up Birbiglia’s style. He’s also going to be in the new Annie movie, apparently. Lets hope he touches on that on his “Thank God for Jokes” tour. -Tam Sackman
Neil Hamburger aka Gregg Turkington is as sleazy-looking as he is funny. He’s Harvey Pekar + Tony Clifton in a lounge act. He’s delightfully depressing. He hates Taco Bell. If you don’t enjoy him you’ll enjoy him more. -Jenn Tisdale
He was Nerdist before Nerdist was Nerdist. A big guy in a small room.
Sure, he’s a talk show host on FX. Sure, he indulges in discussions about race relations. Sure, he’s one cool cat. But, Kamua Bell is more than the sum of these parts. He is foremost a keen observer of the transgressions of our modern cultural. A fearless comic that never comes off malicious, yet rather he possess the incredible ability to say just what is on everyone’s mind at any given moment. -Zeke Leeds
Bentzen Ball/DC alum turned Mulaney star Seaton Smith rings in the New Year with hopefully more joy than usual, and definitely more finger snapping. -Jenn Tisdale
Petey Pete! He’s coming to make it weird! Well over 6 feet tall with a jolly laugh to match this will be revealing and sweetly funny. Just a real delight. -Jenn Tisdale
A hallucinatory and not necessarily accurate compendium of plot summaries of every episode of Doug ever aired. Highlights include “Episode 112 “Doug’s Big Break” – Doug gets diarrhea so bad they put him on the news” and “Episode 137 “Doug and the Wall” – Doug gets expelled for seeing “Damn” written on a wall.”
Episode 273 “Doug Bukowski” – College-aged Doug thinks drinking makes him interesting
— Doug Episodes (@DougEpisodes) September 15, 2014
Dumb ass jokes from a Chicago-based golden boy of stand up comedy. Love this guy to pieces.
In order to make people think I’m not just reading trash on my kindle, every five minutes I say, “Wow, this really is an…Infinite Jest!”
— Tommy McNamara (@TommyMcNam) August 21, 2014
John Early, a NY-based comic is one of my favorite recent follows. A healthy dose of snippets from conversations with the world’s most infuriating pseudo intellectuals that never happened mixed between scathingly funny observations with just enough context.
“Oh for sure” — me on current events
— John Early (@bejohnce) September 10, 2014
This Clickhole/Onion News Network contributor does not get enough recognition for being brilliant. Sometimes absurd/angry, sometimes dark/sexual, always great. Please follow now.
This fall’s hottest jacket trend is wrapping a big ol’ wool blanket around a thin little model
— Megan Maile Green (@MeganMaileGreen) September 12, 2014
LISTEN TO THESE FUNNY PODCASTS
Todd Barry has a podcast and it’s exactly as laid back as you’d think it’d be. Todd sits down with a guest, usually another comedian, but he’s also had musicians on, and chats about innocuous topics, like life on the road and nice restaurants. It’s an easy listen that feels like a throwback to the early days of pre-Maron chat show podcasts where not every conversation had to explore personal demons.
Produced by WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR affiliate, this short-form podcast hosted by Chicago-based standup Tim Barnes stays below the 20 minute mark and features off-the-cuff conversations and ridiculous true stories from famous and up-and-coming comedians, including folks like James Adomian, Samantha Irby, and Eddie Izzard.
You listen to PYHT right? A bunch of the most famous standups doing intimate sets and backstage interviews hosted by future household name Cameron Esposito? You already listen to PYHT, of course you do. It’s the best (only?) comedy podcast with actual standup comedy on it, I can’t believe they didn’t think of it sooner.
It is possible to be funny outside of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It is possibly to have a kickass comedy festival that isn’t the Bentzen Ball. In fact, some of the funniest people, most of the funniest people, don’t start in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or D.C. We asked some of the funniest people in some of the not-known-as-a-funny places why you might want to consider their city. -Brandon Wetherbee
Of all the cities you could move to for comedy why on Earth should you choose Atlanta? We’ve got lots of reasons.
First off Atlanta is beautiful. Do you want to develop as a comedian without freezing for half of the year? Goodbye arctic New York and Chicago, we’re mostly hoodie weather down south. Sure we get shut down by an inch of snow, but you’ll learn how to write jokes about city planning.
There’s tons of stage time available in the city and, while the turn outs at the worst shows can be light, there’s almost always an audience. You can work out a joke in front of six completely different kinds of crowds over just a few days. Atlanta provides you the opportunity to do shows in a terrifying redneck biker bar, A-list comedy club, million dollar yuppie suburb, gay bar, or BBQ joint in a given week and have an audience each place. Also being in a Red State also means learning how to make people who disagree with you laugh. When you get on the road this helps a lot.
The scene here is newer than some other major cities, which gives us the advantage of not having a hundreds of comics yet. Lineups aren’t as packed for open mics, so you can do a 5 to 7 minute spot at most shows instead of just 3.
Beyond mics the city offers a host of great independent showcases like WonderComedy, the 1AM Secret Show, and Beer and Comedy. Experimental venues like the Hangar give comics a space to workshop everything from fake Late Night Shows to live action recreations of 90s Sitcoms. Want to do TED Talks from historical figures at 1AM in a warehouse? We’ll work that out.
Once you’re ready to move past open mics you’re in luck! We have four major clubs: Laughing Skull, Uptown Comedy Corner, The Improv, and The Punchline. Each go out of their way to book and showcase local talent. The Laughing Skull also hold it’s own eponymous comedy festival each.
Best of all, we have Star Bar, an odd little show at punk bar with an audience so notoriously great Joe DeRosa recorded his last album there. Getting on is involves calling at 5pm on a Thursday and the lineup fills up in seconds. It books first timers, headliners, and locals and throws them in front of a packed dive bar. Star Bar is one of the best independent comedy shows in the country. Its host Rodney Leete has just started a record label called Rotknee Presents to put out albums from Atlanta comics.
We lack decent public transportation, and the rest of the state can be insane, but I love Atlanta. The comics here constantly challenge me to be funnier, while the stage time makes that growth possible. Come check us out.
Oh, and listen to former Atlanta comic Andy Sandford’s album “Me The Whole Time.” It’s brilliant.
John-Michael Bond is an Atlanta based stand up comic.
The Moontower Comedy Festival is a major reason why Austin is so great for a stand-up comedian. But there’s also tons of other relevant-as-hell events that provide opportunities for stand-up comedians. From the yellow stage at FunFunFun Fest to the Burning Man-ish Art Outside to the annual “everyone gets kind of weird and nervous but ultimately comes together in support” Funniest Person in Austin contest (that, by the way, is a legit launch pad for a lot of very talented people). SXSW is another little event that some people have heard of. Toss in a handful of improv, sketch, and film festivals that feature stand-up comedy shows and that “dadgummit they got a damn festival every weekend goddamit” complaint/compliment Austin gets a lot results in a lot of resume building for stand-up comics.
Every night of the week there’s multiple shows to get on. Some of them might be in a Buffalo Exchange or a Juggalo Bar that doesn’t serve alcohol, but most of them are in fun dive bars near campus or movie theaters or in one of the 7 venues that actually puts comedy up full time. (Editors note: Chris Trew runs one of those places, The New Movement, where he’s proud to put up at least 4 stand-up comedy shows a week) (Real Editors note: Chris clearly wrote that last editors note all by himself).
Probably the best thing about doing comedy in Austin is the amount of experiences, people, and happenings that provide fresh material you can’t get anywhere else. There’s interesting and unique stuff like hipsters, vegetarian food, and politics all around Austin, so it’s very special to see a hipster eating vegetarian food discussing politics in the morning and then see a refreshing comedy routine that night about hipsters, vegetarian food, and politics. Austin has it all! Don’t move here!
Chris Trew is a Austin and New Orleans based stand up, improviser, sketch performer, wrestling manager, World Air Sex Championships host and podcaster. He’s a busy guy. Here he is at work…
My name is Mike Moran, and I’m a Baltimore-based, stand-up comedian.
Wow. Just writing that still feels weird.
Not the Baltimore part. The me-being-a-standup-comedian part. I still can’t believe I’m actually doing it. I haven’t been on T.V., yet to do any touring and am just now beginning to headline shows, yet, in comparison to my life just a few years ago, I feel like I’m living the dream; being on stage most nights and often doing pretty well. I just wasn’t expecting that to happen. I had never really done any type of performance until I was 27 or so (save for the time I played Peter Pan in middle school) and it still feels weird. I am grateful for it…but it still feels weird.
“Do you ever think about moving, maybe to New York or D.C.? Aren’t there more opportunities there?”
This is something I am asked often. My answer is: I really don’t want to. I’m pretty happy with Baltimore. My family, my day job, my cheap Bmore rent, my improv troupe, the podcast I co-host, most of my friends; I don’t want to be without them. For many local stand-ups Baltimore is the jumping off point for something bigger:
“I want to eventually move to L.A. and write for a show.”
“I want to get involved in improv in Chicago.”
“If you want to make it as a stand-up you have to go to NYC.”
I would rather just stay here. The pond is relatively small and if I can someday be a big enough fish to pay the rent without waiting tables, I’ll be fine with that.
It is true that there is not much infrastructure to facilitate a comedy career in Baltimore itself; part of the reason why so few full-time comedians stay here. As far as comedy clubs go you have the Comedy Factory in the city and Magoobys in the county, and that’s it. Not that there aren’t plenty of comedy shows with paid headliners at non-comedy club venues, but if you want to earn money as a comedian in Baltimore, being okay with travel is essential. That’s another thing I like about being here: D.C. and New York are reasonably close. Plus there are plenty of other smaller cities, and college towns, scattered in close proximity throughout the east coast. This is a luxury some starving comedian in the midwest may not get to enjoy.
The best thing about being a standup comedian in Baltimore is the support of the community. Though it can be catty at times (especially when it comes to mainstream vs. alt-comedy types) I wouldn’t be able to live this dream (yes, my tiny little comedy career is a dream come true for me) without the many people who have encouraged me, and helped nurture my creative side. Baltimore has a large DIY-arts community that I have found to be a god-send. It’s not just stand-up either: have you always wanted to publish a short story? Shred guitar riffs on stage? Create performance art so incomprehensibly pretentious that we’ll all just assume you’re a genius? Well, our city has a whole community ready and willing to help your artistic passions come to fruition, at least on a local level.
Everyone else can work towards making it out of Baltimore if they want to, but I personally am utterly grateful and satisfied to simply be Mike Moran, Baltimore-based, stand-up comedian…weird.
Mike Moran is a Baltimore stand up, improviser and co-host of The Digression Sessions podcast.
New Orleans is becoming a major contender on the comedy playing field, and people are starting to take notice. The New Movement Theater — a self-described badass comedy conservatory founded by locals Tami Nelson and Chris Trew — just moved to a huge new location on St. Claude Street, ensuring that high-quality, smart-as-fuck comedy shows will have a round-the-clock home in the middle of the weekend night action.
New Orleans’ own Andrew Polk and Joe Cardosi are making comedy waves with their comedy film/ podcast/ stand-up/ live show outfit called MASSIVE FRAUD.
Sketch comedy is gigantic in the city, too, with shows by local sketch groups like Stupid Time Machine and rude. traveling the country on widespread tours and selling out to major crowds at national sketch festivals.
The hunger for comedy in the city has made New Orleans an extraordinary place to do stand-up. There are open mics and booked shows every night at the week, at every hip bar in the city. Comics who are willing to work and show up to mics can expect to be taken seriously, to be respected by their fellow comedians, and to find themselves booked on a high-quality showcase (like Comedy Beast at the Howlin’ Wolf Den, or All Star Comedy Revue at the House of Blues) within a few months. It’s a truly warm community that is constantly swelling with excitement.
In November, New Orleans hosts a big, blow-out comedy festival called Hell Yes Fest, where no one sleeps and everyone watches great comedy for a whole week. Maybe you can do that in other places, but not in a place so loving, fun-focused, and unpretentious as New Orleans.
Chris Gethard famously wrote an article in 2013 titled Philadelphia is the worst city to do comedy. This article was changed shortly after the predictable backlash from the Philly comedy community to Philadelphia is the scariest place to do comedy. Both of these titles are completely inaccurate, and lucky for Philly comedians and comedy fans, the “Bill Burr curses off the city of Philadelphia for 20 minutes” isn’t the typical show here.
At the center of the Philadelphia stand up comedy scene is Helium Comedy Club, an A-room venue with top headliners, seating just under 300 people running 6 shows a weekend. Before Helium there was the now defunct Laff House, where Kevin Hart famously got his start, as well as guys like Big Jay Oakerson, Joe DeRosa, Kurt Metzger, and Keith Robinson. Since Helium came to town a few years ago, Philly is a scene that has spit out 2 performers at Just For Laughs, a full time writer for the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon (as well as a few Philly comics who pop up in regular sketches on the show), and a comedian who had a memorable run on America’s Got Talent.
Beyond the A room Helium Comedy Club, there are so many independently run comedy shows happening in bars and venues around the city, there is rarely an evening where comedy fans don’t have 3 or more choices of what show to go to. Whether you are into dirty comedy, clean comedy, sketch comedy, improv, comedy video showcases, panel comedy, and even comedy game shows, there is a show for you to see. Want to sit on your ass and eat a cheese steak? Well, Philly even has a strong network of podcasts often doing a fair amount of cross promotion for you to listen.
If you are a newer comedian or just a comic looking for stage time, there is an open mic every weeknight, some nights there are more than 1 within walking distance of each other in very supportive rooms. So no, don’t worry, you’re not going to have to curse off the audience for 20 minutes if you perform here…then again, it’s Philly, there is a good chance the audience might actually enjoy that.
Rob DeSantis is a Philly Comedian, Helium Host, and co-host of the Bob & Dave are Terrible People podcast.
A year and a half ago I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Portland, Oregon because Ron Funches moved to LA. And since Portland really can’t afford to lose any Black people, I took one for the team and made sure the city’s POC population didn’t dip in his absence.
Moving from Cleveland to Portland wasn’t as easy a transition as I expected. There aren’t very many jobs in Portland, and it rains a lot – both of which helped give the city the calming vibe of impoverished, grey-skied misery I’d grown accustomed. But, unlike Cleveland, Portland has this, like, weird, scent of quasi-liberalism that wafts through the city, seeping up to your nose through the septum piercings. That took some getting used to.
Like every city, Portland has its annoyances, and they’ve all taught me a lot about myself, both as a human being and as a comedian. I’ve learned that the words “gluten free” make me want to drown a white person in a bathtub filled of their own bullshit and tears. I met an anarchist on food stamps once, and learned that even anarchists will threaten to call the cops if you yell at them loud enough. I didn’t know what a zine was before I moved here, and in retrospect, I preferred it that way, and often long for my formative years of not knowing about zines.
I was so naïve.
I was so happy.
When people hear me complain about the city Portlandia parodies so well – the city I moved across the country to live in – they always ask: Why Portland?
Because the comedy scene here is fucking incredible.
We’re not Chicago, whose inaugural Comedy Exposition in 2014 doubtlessly proved why the city is a formidable comedy powerhouse. We’re not New York or Los Angeles, the top dogs of the entertainment industry. But we’re a good scene, and Portland is a place to grow.
Portland audiences don’t just support local comedy, but they’re well versed in what other comedy is out there, which means they expect you to bring something new to the mic. They’ve seen Lewis Black wave his angry finger. They know Mitch Hedberg’s one-liners. They don’t want to see your reinterpretation of someone else’s persona. They want to see something new.
Plus, Portland hosts the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. Do you remember the world before Bridgetown? It was a cold, uninviting place wrought by corruption and sorrow. Bridgetown is the light in the darkness, and you should be thankful for its existence every day of your life.
Portland offers comics the chance to be quickly noticed for their successes, but will still help cushion the pratfalls of freshman performers as it shapes them into better comics and guides them towards success. When you’re done here, when you’ve learned all the city has to offer and mastered your own comic voice, you’re ready to take on anything.
Ron Funches left only two years ago and has already been headlining spots across the country, as well as starring in the NBC sitcom, Undateable. In a year since he moved to LA, Ian Karmel has gone on to break on Conan, and worked as a writer for Chelsea Lately. Long time Portland comedian Shane Torres can be seen on last year’s seasons of Last Comic Standing and Comedy Bang Bang and he was recently featured on Put Your Hands Together. He also performed on the prestigious Just For Laugh’s New Faces show in Montreal (as did Funches and Karmel before him), and will be moving to New York at the end of the fall.
Portland isn’t where you go to make it big, it’s where you go to train before tackling the big cities. And it’s a great place to train.
Also, whiskey’s very cheap here and that’s a beautiful thing.
Chicago, New York, and LA are all places I’d like to end up a in few years. I’ll admit I’ve let myself dream of the day I’ll have a reason to pick up and move down the coast to California and I sincerely hope that one day, I get to pursue comedy in New York and live with all the white folks in Harlem. But until then, I’m happy to call Portland home and I’m thankful for all it’s taught me.
Curtis Cook is a Portland based stand up comic.
D.C. is a lovely place to see comedy. It is not the best place to see outside the box comedy. I asked some of my friends that produce and attend outside the box comedy to write about the shows I wish I could have shows, the shows I should have attended. -Brandon Wetherbee
The Wheel Show @ Nerdmelt in L.A.
I produce this show, so that must mean I really like it. There’s a giant wheel filled with options like: “Let a Dog Run Around” or “Mountain Dew Code Red Chill Zone,” each corresponding with a segment for the show. It could be a sketch, an audience participation game or a special guest (so far voice actor Maurice LaMarche, porn star Kayden Kross, and stand up comics like Maria Bamford and Rory Scovel have appeared). The running order is completely unpredictable and the show always has a manic energy due to that. -Joe McAdam
Arguments and Grievances @ Schuba’s in Chicago, festivals across the U.S.
This is a monthly live show that’s taped as a podcast to boot so you can enjoy it anywhere (but see it live if you get the chance). The show is structured around stand up comics picking sides on important issues like “Moms vs Dads” or “Jimmy Buffett vs. Warren Buffett.” The point argued is rarely the point, but rather the passion behind the petty issues. It’s a great showcase for stand up comics to not use their regular material and pretend to be lawyers. -Joe McAdam
Entertaining Julia @ ? in Chicago
Until its recent demise at the hands of an unsympathetic bar owner, Entertaining Julia was one of the longest running comedy showcases in Chicago, but it occupied a completely different space from the rest of them. EJ was a variety show, a dance party, and a platform for the Puterbaugh Sisters to do whatever the hell they wanted in a city that sometimes takes comedy too seriously.
The final month of EJ’s run basically didn’t happen–nearly every week was cancelled in favor of a private party. Eventually, rather than calling off the show for another week, they decided to throw it in their apartment. The result was maybe the best encapsulation of what they do that I’ve ever seen.
Pre-show, they played Yanni Live at the Acropolis on their TV/VCR. After taking the stage, Danielle almost immediately started going through Tiffany’s underwear drawer in her living room dresser. They brought on Bill Bullock, playing a saxophone and the part of Kevin Eubanks throughout the night. A handful of comics went up, mixed with more strange VHS clips. And throughout, everyone in the back was swapping hats and wigs from the Puterbaughs’ massive costume collection.
The next Sunday, they were back at their usual bar for what would turn out to be their final show. I missed it, but I think I’m happier that my last memories of Entertaining Julia involve the Puterbaugh Sisters criticizing each other for smoking in their living room while they made up songs about recent sexual encounters. -Stephanie Hasz
Late Late Breakfast @ Hideout in Chicago
Thanks in no small part to people like the Puterbaugh Sisters, Chicago’s standup scene has seen an explosion of non-traditional comedy shows over the past couple of years. One of the most unique is Tyler Jackson and Danny Maupin’s Late Late Breakfast, a hybrid open mic/game show, although that description doesn’t really do it justice. It takes place once a month on a Saturday afternoon at the Hideout (America’s best place). Comics who sign up choose a regular set or a game spot, where they complete tasks or operate under some kind of handicap while attempting to tell jokes.
The most recent one took place 2 days after 9/11 and had a War on Terror motif throughout. They hung a “Mission Accomplish” banner around their usual LLB sign. Tom Wisdom interrupted the show frequently to announce various suspicious things happening outside, each of which caused the hosts to raise the terror level and institute new onstage restrictions. Almost immediately, they banned everyone from wearing shoes onstage. Then, no one was allowed to bring more than 3 oz of liquid onstage–forcing everyone to drink their beer from travel-sized shampoo bottles. Eventually, the last few comics to perform were detained and forced to stay onstage after their sets.
Many of the games this month were similarly themed. Joe Fernandez got the first one–he did a regular set, which Charlie Universe turned into a hilarious, impromptu country song. J. Michael Osborne, playing the part of a southern senator, joined Lainie Lenertz to debate her set. Mary Runkle had to search the room for weapons of mass destruction. The most questionable one occurred near the end, when Robert Bud was force-fed apple pie while wearing a hood. I loved every second of it.
The best part is how joyous the entire show is–they pulled off a terrorism-themed show that was far more silly than it was shocking. There isn’t always an overarching theme, but every time I’ve gone, it’s been the best afternoon of my month. -Stephanie Hasz
So you’re giving stand-up comedy a try. You’re already the funniest guy in the office. You’re now only weeks away from being the funniest person in the city. Follow these tips and your success is guaranteed.
1. Change your email address
This is the first step. Make sure your email address begins or ends with the word comedian. Did you know email addresses are free? You can just make them say whatever you want and there is no one checking to see if you are, in fact, a comedian. You just leapfrogged 90% of the comics out there. Now you can use your new professional email address to get on shows. Kenneth Johnson? He sounds like a lawyer. Kenny da Comedian? Instant legitimacy.
2. Don’t prepare
Classic new comic mistake – spending time writing jokes and practicing them. That’s just stupid. You already know you’re funny. Your one friend told you. Did you think about what you were going to say before you killed it at happy hour? No. Stand-up is no different. Keep it loose. All you have to do is pick up the microphone that you’ve never held before in front of a room of strangers and let the comedy flow out of you.
3. Show up late/ask to go early/run the light
These are all good ways to follow up on that new email address. Making special requests shows confidence and that you have a lot going on. You’ve made it to being on an open mic. You’re not just a comedian. You’re da comedian. Own the stage. When you’re up there doing your thing no one should try to take that away from you. You’ve earned the right to end on a laugh. Keep going until you get one. Everyone will thank you later.
4. Shit on the room
Another way to show you’re in control is to talk about how the show isn’t very good. It lets people know you’re used to better. Sure people were laughing and having a good time until you got on stage, but after you point out what’s wrong with the venue everyone will get that other things are the problem and not you. That way you can leave looking superior without the hassle of having to perform well.
5. Be controversial
Comedy is about testing boundaries. You’ve watched stand-up on TV. You know where those boundaries are. Now it’s time to challenge them. Misogyny? Yes. Homophobia? Of course. Graphic sexual details? Please. Racism? 100%. You are in the business of opening people’s minds. It’s going to be uncomfortable. You might not get any laughs. But you made people think. And you took the steps to earn their respect. You’re a new comic.
In stand up comedy there are certain performers running around that we in the business call “hacks.” Looking down on hacks is as old as comedy itself, and this tradition doesn’t have to be reserved for comedians– you civilians can get in on the action too. This is a guide to spotting a hack.
Are they doing material about relationships? HACK.
Everyone can relate to the woes of dating or marriage, and hacks like to exploit the universality of relationship humor so that they can perform anywhere.
Is the comic referring to their appearance at any point? HACK
It’s the easiest and quickest way to endear oneself to the audience by addressing the way that they look in a fun way that puts the crowd at ease. We can all see you buddy. We don’t need a comment about it.
Does the comic ever use wordplay? HACK
Words can be manipulated to say two, three, four things at the same time. This isn’t poetry, this is comedy.
Does the comic ever talk about their family or upbringing? HACK
How about writing some jokes that aren’t about yourself for once. Every living person is from a specific time and place that shaped their own unique perspective on the world, so therefor thats really a beige and generic premise for a joke.
Does the comedian ever admit something shameful or private in a joke? MAJORLY HACK
This is the oldest trick in the book. Hacks like to get intimate with crowds really often and have some kind of catharsis through art. Don’t buy into this sensitive garbage.
Does the comedian refer to a line or image from earlier in the set in an attempt to “call it back?” HACK-O-RAMA
This rainbow suspenders wearing jerk can’t think of a new joke so they go back for seconds on the old joke. Total amateur hour.
Does the comic thank you at the end of the set? HACK HACK HACK
It’s the most kiss ass, pandering move to thank an audience after they sat through the entire performance.
This scenario has happened to all of us. You find yourself randomly at one of D.C.s flourishing open mics, one in which comics are knocking jokes out of the park left and right. You’re friends are laughing, you’re laughing; but you can’t help but wonder, “Should I heckle?” Many talented hecklers stop at this thought and never reach their true potential. This guide is meant to prevent you from drifting off into heckler oblivion, and to give you the courage you gain the attention you deserve at your next no-cover comedy show. All you need to do is ask yourself the following questions:
Is everyone around me having a good time?
Look around. Is everyone enjoying the show and paying astute attention to the comic onstage? If so, then surely you also deserve the same attention. Think of it this way: The comic onstage isn’t famous, and NEITHER ARE YOU! Why should they get all the glory just because they’ve been working hard and booking shows to hone their craft? You’re smarter than they are. You didn’t know there was a show, you didn’t sign up to perform, and you’re getting the SAME attention as they are. Attention you deserve just by being present and buying a combo.
Is the comedian in the middle of a joke?
In comedy, timing is everything. Why should you share your well-crafted input while the comedian is silently contemplating his next joke? For effect, be sure to heckle mid-joke. For the greatest impact, try to aim your comment at the pause immediately before a punch line. This way you will bring the room to a grinding halt and receive ALL the attention. Remember, the goal here is to get enough attention to fill the void in your heart that your parents left you to deal with.
Is it my birthday?
No brainer. It’s your special day! You get to take the day off, you get to have birthday sex, you get to go to your favorite bar, and you get to tell the comedian exactly what’s on YOUR mind in the middle of his set. Not only that, but you’re friends will be there to make sure you don’t feel weird and regretful about making this your special show on your special day. Also, perfect day to fill that hole we talked about.
Am I drunk?
Super important! The more you drink, the less sense you make. Heckler rule number one is DO NOT MAKE SENSE WHEN YOU HECKLE! So many people make this mistake and are doomed to heckler failure. Recently at the local Big Hunt open mic, English comedian Chris Milner was on stage when a noob heckler decided to yell out, “Scotland!” At that moment the audience thought, “Chis is English, Scotland is vying for independence, we don’t want to talk politics.” Immediate failure; attention back to the comedian. I went up to the heckler afterwards and gave him some notes, the most important being he should have yelled out “Good’ay mate!” That would have halted the show and brought full attention to the noob, because WTF? Wrong country!
Am I slightly offended?
Did a joke told onstage offend you? Let the comedian know! Did you not appreciate an Alzheimers joke because your aunt is starting to show signs? Halt the presses and bring that news to everyone’s attention. It matters not if the comedian is watching his grandmother lose her mind piece by piece and decided to write a joke about it to cope with a disease that affects 5.2 million Americans and countless family members. People should only be allowed to deal with tragedy in a manner YOU decide is appropriate. Never forget.
Can I go the distance?
Heckling is not about yelling one line at one comedian. Hone your skills by yelling one or two lines at every comedian until you find your groove. No one is good the first time around. It took me three years of heckling to simply understand the kind of heckler I wanted to be. Go to as many comedy shows as possible and work on your craft. Did the last comedian shut you down? Don’t fret, the next one might not be so seasoned and will crack under the pressure of having the attention drawn to a deserving member of the audience (you).
Do I know my rights?
The most important thing to remember when getting into heckling is a little thing called the Constitution of the United States. You have the freedom of speech, and you need to make this known when the host comes over to kick you out of the bar. You are a paying customer and you have a right to be there with your friends the same as anyone who is politely enjoying themselves at the show; certainly as much as the performers onstage who are undemocratically stealing the attention that you so rightly deserve on your birthday.