Ben Rosen is a stand-up comedian based in New York and a Creative for Buzzfeed.
CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
BR: It was actually exactly 5 years last week. Woo.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
BR: Terrible. Just kidding. Well… sometimes. This is always the hardest question for me to answer because I’ve never liked putting myself in any specific category. I feel like that just puts limitations on what I’m supposed to do. My goal with comedy has always been to use humor to change the way someone thinks about something. In my opinion, that’s where the power of the art is.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
BR: There’s so many great ones out there. Off the top of my head: Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, Mitch Hedberg. I actually saw Pete Holmes live and don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a while.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
BR: Absolutely. I’m not making this up – when I was 5 years old, my report card from my pre-school teacher said “Ben loves to tell jokes and write his own name.” I still do… on both accounts.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
BR: I prefer to do it with pressure. Having an important show is the quickest way for me to get to the meat of the jokes. To find concepts for material, it’s about having the antenna up at all times. I space out constantly. When I think of something weird or different, I jot it down. To work out the wording of a joke – this is going to sound psychotic – I actually put my ear buds in and walk around the city talking to myself as if I’m on the phone with someone. I know that sounds crazy haha but it works. Sometimes I slip in a pause as if the other person is talking to me… add in a “yea dude, totally.” It lets me try the joke out with some energy and passion and keeps the other pedestrians from calling the cops. I need a safe space to yell and move around and get worked up. When I lived in Baltimore, I could work my bits out in the car, but now I don’t have one.
CB:As a Creative for BuzzFeed, how do you find this work influences your comedy?
BR: It helps so much. At first, I was weary about having a job like this because I thought creativity was like a battery that would need to recharge. I didn’t want to burn out during the day and have nothing left for stand-up. That’s not the case at all. The better analogy is that it’s a muscle that you work out. The more you work on it, the better you get.
CB: You perform stand-up comedy all around the U.S. How do you find different states compare?
BR: The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that audiences in major cities like LA and New York are built for speed. They want to hear your jokes and they don’t want any extra words. Smaller cities love good stories… and poop jokes. My hometown just cannot get enough poop jokes.
CB: Do you find that you have to change your material at all for different areas of the country?
BR: A little. There are some references that don’t really have the same weight when I travel around. I was surprised how few people knew what AirBnB was.
CB: Do you have a favorite venue to perform in?
BR: There’s a place in Manhattan called “The Metropolitan Room.” It’s primarily a jazz room but they do a few comedy nights. It seats about 100 people and with the low ceiling, the laughs just stack on top of each other. It’s always a fun show.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
BR: I don’t think I could overstate how fortunate I feel being associated with all of the impossibly talented, hardworking, courageous, brilliant people in the comedy industry. It’s really something special. Now as far as the downside goes, I wouldn’t put it in the “frustrated” category yet, but I’m definitely concerned about how few people follow comedians’ careers. People take pride in knowing a band before they become huge, but there aren’t many people who care about a working comedian until their famous. I just wish more people got to know the comics when they were young. We’re really accessible!… and funny… and we smell good.
CB: Do you find that the New York comedy scene is the most competitive city to get on the bill for or would you say other cities are more competitive?
BR: In my experience, yeah. That’s why so many people move here. Look, I was starting to get steady work at the clubs in Baltimore before I moved and it was just my first year doing it. There’s more clubs in NYC, but there’s also a lot more comics and the audiences have a low tolerance for inexperienced comedians. If you move to New York and you’re not already a household name, expect to muck around at the open mics for the next couple of years. Muck is a English term for the f word, I believe.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
BR: Any audience that is willing to have some fun. I can’t stand self-righteous audiences who come to a show with their arms crossed. Dude, when did we become SO sensitive? You can feel it. Everyone is ready to pounce all over the comedians just so they can write an angry blog post and get a few twitter followers. I had one girl tell me that I shouldn’t joke about heroin. Why are you protecting heroin? You’re saying I can make fun of myself but heroin gets a pass? Fuck heroin.
CB: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled?
BR: I think that’s a bit of a misconception. Most people don’t heckle, at least not in the way you think they do. Occasionally I’ll get some helpers. You know, people who shout something out because they want to help you finish your jokes during the pauses. It’s certainly not the best when you’re working out the kinks on a new bit, but to be honest, I love playing around with the audience. People who yell out at a comedy show usually fall to pieces when you ask them a follow up question.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
BR: If you’re going to do it, make sure you’re really hard on yourself before you get on stage. Ask yourself if you really think people are going to laugh at those words you wrote down. Would you actually laugh out loud if you heard someone say that? Is it surprising enough? Is it clever? When you get on stage, you should expect no laughs. Know that you are going to hear silence and you’ll be happy with whatever extra you get. Also, if you get famous… please book me on a show.
I remember the first time I saw Katherine Ryan – it was in Edinburgh at the Pleasance where she performed her debut hour, ‘Little Miss Conception’. I sat on the front row and was so excited by this new fresh talent that articulated an honesty I hadn’t quite heard in a while. The show was full of songs, photos of Katherine from childhood through to adolescence, and a wealth of both savvy yet sassy, unique comedy.
Over the past few years, as Katherine has made increasingly more appearances on TV and is now a favourite on many panel shows, often this mainstream popularity can dampen the initial creativity that made talent so exciting when they started out. However, it couldn’t be more encouraging that Katherine’s stand-up has retained the same raw and brutal honesty that I loved so much when I first saw her perform.
Hers is a comic voice and style that has now evolved with a much more satirical bite; analysing contemporary pop culture and commenting on the not-so-often-heard commentary regarding the general awkwardness of celebrity lifestyle all performed with the same energy and conviction as is embedded into each and every punch-line.
Katherine’s skill at being able to discuss the frivolous nature of modern media whilst fluidly moving to serious and often controversial issues, particularly for women, is a skill not to be ignored. There’s a real heart and warmth to her stand-up, a consistent personal sensibility and sharing of her own experiences, which shows there is just as much substance to her very confident style too.
Katherine is currently on a national tour, which also includes excellent comedians providing support, so you can see this very funny comedian as well as some of the best emerging talent.
Click here for tickets to Katherine Ryan’s ‘Glam Role Model’ tour and see her in action.
CB: How did you get into directing comedy?
TD: As with lots of things, directing comedy just sort of happened… I really never meant it to. I just made things that I liked and made me laugh and then suddenly realized that most of my films sit on the verge of comedy (be it fairly dry and awkward). Then I started directing films for the Pleasance Theatre and have since had the wonderful chance to work with some superb comedians.
CB: Did you always want to make films?
TD: Not at all! I always wanted to be IN films! I got into making animation and then film came naturally as a result. Somewhere along the way I realised I preferred being in control of the film and telling actors what to do rather than acting.
CB: Have you found your work is influenced by any particular directors or filmmakers?
TD: Absolutely! David Lynch is maybe an obvious one, but a big influence. As I started with animation, I was always infatuated Wallace and Gromit (Nick Park) and Tim Burton and then later Henry Selick and Adam Elliot – both fantastic stop-frame animation directors! More recently it’s been Wez Anderson, Ben Wheatley and Paul Thomas Anderson. They all have a dark wit and intriguing outlook on life.
CB: Having studied Illustration at university, how have you found this has impacted on your comedy filmmaking?
TD: An Illustration degree was the best thing I ever did! It’s so broad and varied and teaches you to think, examine and deconstruct everything around you. Illustration is looking at something, working out what’s interesting and intriguing and then visualizing it! And that’s what comedy is I suppose… finding something interesting or funny in everyday life.
CB: You were also the director of Pleasance TV at the Edinburgh Fringe this year – how was your experience of the Edinburgh Fringe in this capacity?
TD: Working at the Edinburgh Festival was the best thing I ever did! (as well as Illustration…)
This year was my 6th year working for the Pleasance and my second directing Pleasance TV. Like a lot of people I go back reluctantly but wouldn’t really rather be anywhere else! Making films at the festival is fantastic though. Especially working with the Pleasance as there is an incredible wealth of performers, all excited to make things and do as much as possible in the manic month. Making films at the festival makes you feel part of the creative community there, which is really exciting especially when you get the chance to work with the likes of Tim Key – or at one point Tim Key and Bo Burnham!
CB: You’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign with composer Joss Holden-Rea for a film musical called Altern-i-life. It’s described as a story about “the residents of a small English town and the strange parallel lives they lead in an online world”. What inspired you to make this film?
TD: Well, both Joss and I are huge Musical fans and we didn’t know of many others so we clung together and decided to make one! Altern-i-life is inspired by the town I grew up in (Dursley, Gloucestershire) and by the absurdist British films and TV such as Sightseers and League of Gentlemen.
It came from the ridiculousness of how much time we all spend on Facebook comparing our fake lives to other people’s fake lives. This internet life is something that everyone experiences to some degree, but some take it to a whole other level of commitment and obsession – like the users of Second Life.
CB: What interests and excites you about the collaboration between film and musicals that interests you?
TD: There just aren’t that many short musical films – it doesn’t happen very often or at all. So that’s exciting – seeing if it’s something people like and can relate to.
Film also allows you to fine tune and perfect a performance without any hint of it feeling tired. It’s the worst when you see a theatre performance that seems tired and over performed (not that it happens very often). I like higher level of control and attention that you can put into film.
CB: There is a strong interactive element to the film – what interests you in the relationship that multimedia and technology have with comedy and filmmaking?
TD: I think it’s really exciting when something is interactive and playful with its format. It drags you into it and becomes more like a game! It also means you have more of an input in what you want to see which is nice.
Lots of my favorite live performances have been immersive and experiential theatre and comedy and so it’s nice to try and translate this into something that does a similar thing online. A little like the sensation of www.takethislollipop.com.
Good film is also not exclusive to feature films anymore. TV and online series have become more and more prevalent and respected as good and important pieces of work.
CB: At the heart of the project, your aim is to introduce wider audiences to musicals through the online world. Do you think a technological experience of a musical is more apt for younger generations or do you think it would enhance audience’s interest in the traditional medium?
TD: It’s really interesting, if you ask the vast majority of people if they like musicals, the answer is ‘NO’. But then you say, ‘What about Mary Poppins? Or Greece? Or Oliver?’ and suddenly it’s ‘Oh yes, well I like those’. The ‘Musical’ is a huge genre that people often think of as cheesy American over dramatic theatre, but it’s just not!
Film is incredibly accessible – more so than theatre because we spend so much time already at our computers – and it’s free (or this one will be). This film is also dark, modern and very English and hopefully is a slight expansion of the genre that might reach a wider less Musical-ly inclined audience! Imagine ‘This is England’ meets ‘The League of Gentlemen’ meets ‘Singing in The Rain’…
It’s important to us that it’s free and that it’s online because we really want it to be as accessible as possible and so yes, hopefully making a musical that people can access online and without going to the theatre will introduce more people to the diversity of the Musical!
CB: How can people get involved with the film?
TD: Altern-i-life is a story about living online. Therefore, we really want it to be completely funded by, and experienced through, the Internet.
We launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to make the film and made the most ambitious trailer we could to show that it’s going to be interesting!
You can support us by pledging anything you can and sharing the project to anyone you know (really even £1 makes a huge difference). If you pledge you get some great prizes, for £1 you can watch us and call us 24h and for £1000 we’ll write and make you your own musical number (but there are loads of prizes in between!)
Georgia Sharp is an Assistant Agent at JLA and writes exclusively for Comedy Blogedy about the corporate comedy world.
As an employee of speaker bureau JLA, my 9-5 is spent booking guest speakers for corporate events. Although the 25 of us in the office keep abreast of all industries in order to fit the briefs we’re given (think guest speakers from the fields of science, politics, business and beyond), a significant amount of our time is also spent researching, watching, advising on and booking comedy. Our annual Real Variety Show is renowned for showcasing the best new corporate-friendly comedy and variety talent around, so we’re all feverishly and constantly searching for the Next Big Thing.
In a nutshell, our corporate client base expects us to locate and book the best and most appropriate talent possible for their event. Comedy-wise, this usually means finding humorous guest speakers, cabaret acts or hosts, largely for awards ceremonies, parties or dinners. Occasionally, we’re called upon to find suitably amusing guest speakers to round off a heavy day of conferences.
The countdown to Christmas is our busiest time – we’re now deep into the end-of-year awards and party season – and so at the moment I’m checking the availabilities of heaps of guest speakers and acts every day. Whilst August is a quiet month in London for comedy owing to the Edinburgh Festivals and everyone taking their summer holidays, come 1st September, the phones go mad as clients begin to think about adding value to their events via a little festive cheer. Sometimes our clients have specific guest speakers or acts very firmly in mind, but more often than not, our job is to compile options which we feel fit the bill.
We’ll book guest speakers and acts for events with a budget of a few hundred pounds, through to servicing pockets with tens of thousands to spare for top performers (and hundreds of thousands is not unheard of). As such, you’ll see that our ever-expanding roster features the biggest names in comedy, but also tonnes of up-and-coming acts – ‘old-school’ ones, too – alongside the established artists.
We book guest speakers and acts for events big and small, functional and glitzy, serious and light-hearted, low key and high profile, and everything in between and beyond. There are fees to negotiate, scripts to work on, briefing calls to diarise, and complex travel and technical logistics to plot. We might have many months for this meticulous planning, or merely hours to fill a last-minute cabaret spot or replace a pull-out.
So, what are we looking for in corporate comedians or guest speakers? Well, as indicated above, it’s certainly not a case of one-corporate-comedian-fits-all. Different events require different talent, and it’s more of a common sense approach. It boils down to finding acts that really, genuinely make us howl with laughter (and we’ve seen so many comedians that it’s rare and exciting when this happens). We really like originality, so if you’re different, distinctive, and decent, we’re interested. You’ll also need an extra-thick skin to cope with and charm the capricious corporate audience. Sometimes delightful, sometimes frustrating: to survive the difficult times you’ll need serious skill to soften stony-faces and reel in those more interested in absorbing the aperitifs than the prescribed entertainment.
It’s true that swearing profusely is generally a no-no (although whilst dropping the ‘C-bomb’ is more or less out of the question, there’s room for well-judged profanity within the right context). I’d also tread carefully with controversial subjects – listen to the brief, understand the limits, and act accordingly. Flagrantly offending the CEO of a major business with a particularly crude, crass or juvenile gag probably won’t help you land a repeat booking. It can be helpful to incorporate a cleverly tailored gag or two, but we’ll rarely, if ever, ask a comedian to explicitly alter their approach or content for an event. Acts are booked because they’re already a perfect fit, and it’ll likely fall flat if they try too hard to accommodate a client in this way.
Ultimately, and without wishing to deploy cliché, it’s simply that indefinable star quality – you ‘just know’ when you see something special and ‘corporate’. So, if you think you’re side-splittingly hilarious, unique, clean and respectful of your audience, we want to hear from you! Be pro-active, and don’t wait for us to discover you – send us clips, invite us to gigs, and show us what you’re made of.
After six sell out Edinburgh Festival runs to huge critical acclaim, the UK’s premiere improv comedy troupe, The Noise Next Door (Tom Houghton, Charlie Granville, Matt Grant, Tom Livingstone and Sam Pacelli) will be touring the UK. They have been performing since 2006 and have appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sketchorama’, performed alongside Harry Hill, Al Murray and Jason Manford, and were the first international group to perform at FRACAS, the improv festival in California. Having received standing ovations in front of corporate diners, the British forces, secondary school students and even fans at ‘Download’ the heavy metal music festival, they are definitely one of the most versatile acts in the business.
Hugely talented, very quick, incredibly creative and, not least, very funny, The Noise Next Door are one of the most exciting emerging acts in comedy. Buy tickets if they’re in a town near you!
Tour dates are as follows:
Thursday 8th BRISTOL, The Lantern
Wednesday 21st COLDFIELD, Comedy Junction
Friday 23rd CAMBRIDGE, Junction
Sunday 1st WORTHING, Drama Hall
Thursday 5th BROMSGROVE, Artrix
Saturday 28th EASTBOURNE, St Lukes
Wednesday 24th NOTTINGHAM Comedy Festival
Wednesday 1st MAIDSTONE – Hazlitt Theatre
Friday 3rd ENFIELD -Dugdale Centre
Saturday 4th STAFFORD – Gatehouse
Thursday 9th BRIGHTON- Komedia,
Friday 10th EPSOM Playhouse
Sunday 12th HARROGATE Harrogate Theatre
Thursday 16th WARWICK – Warwick Arts,
Saturday18th CARNAFON – Galerl
Thursday 23rd HARLOW Playhouse
Friday 24th DARTMOUTH The Flavel
Friday 31st Oct MILLOM Beggars Theatre
Thursday 6th ALDERSHOT West End Centre
Friday 7th CARDIFF Millennium Centre
Friday 14th BATH Komedia
Saturday 15th WOLVERHAMPTON Civic Hall
Tuesday 18th DERBY Darwin
Thursday 20th CHELTENHAM Pillar Room
Friday 21st SOUTHEND Palace Theatre
Saturday 22nd COLCHESTER Arts centre
Sunday 23rd CANTERBURY Gulbenkian
Thursday 27th BRISTOL Hen and Chicken
Friday 28th NEW MILTON Forest Arts
Saturday 29th FARNHAM The Maltings
Wednesday 3rd FAREHAM Ashcroft Arts centre,
Monday 8th MANCHESTER Comedy Store
Friday 19th EXMOUTH Pavillion, Exmouth
Saturday 20th TIVERTON – TCAT
Sunday 21st IVYBRIDGE Stowford Hal
‘It’s very rare to see improv comedy so consistently hit the mark THE LIST
‘Pure Genius’ FRINGE REVIEW
‘The sheer volume of laughter this show produced was astonishing’ EDINBURGH EVENING STANDARD
‘A multi-talented behemoth of improve comedy…. Brilliant’ FRINGE GURU
‘Masterpiece’ THREE WEEKS
‘Astonishing’ EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS
SEE THE NOISE NEXT DOOR IN ACTION:
Accessibility is one of the toughest aspects of stand-up comedy. The circuit caters for all tastes, opinions and styles. But as mental or mainstream as an act intends for their set – do the audience get it? Can they follow a comedian’s logic to the point where they form some kind of connection with what they’re saying or observing to produce laughter or even a smile?
Andrew Ryan is an Irish comedian, who started gigging in 2008 and is now one of the most exciting emerging talents in comedy and in demand as both an act and an MC at the biggest comedy clubs around the UK and Ireland.
Andrew’s quintessentially Irish storytelling abilities and cheeky, friendly demeanour make him a natural observational stand up. He has supported both Justin Moorhouse and Terry Alderton on their UK tours and performed his debut hour show ‘Ryanopoly’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012, receiving rave reviews (‘Illuminating debut ★★★★’ – The Metro). Andrew performed his latest show ‘Life of Ryan’ at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2014.
Andrew has performed stand-up on BBC3’s Russell Howard’s Good News and BBC3’s Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live and has appeared as a guest on Sky Sunrise and as a regular panelist on BBC Radio.
Sara Shulman is the Founder and Editor of Comedy Blogedy, TEDxUCL Speaker on ‘The Power of Funny’, specialist comedy blogger for Ticketmaster and blogger for The Huffington Post. Sara was the former Head of Comedy at UCLU Rare FM and produces the Comedy Blogedy podcast ‘Humour Me’. Sara is currently a student at the National Film & Television School and has produced online comedy sketches and short films.
Photo Credit: Andy Hollingworth
Award-winning comedian David Elms has written a short silent comedy film called ‘SWAG’. In a recent interview with The Pleasance Times, David described the plot of the film:
It’s essentially about a guy who’s bored with his life until he buys a hat. And when I say “essentially”, I mean “entirely”.
The film is directed by Matt Holt and I have produced the film. We’ve been developing ‘SWAG’ since January this year and have put a huge amount of time, effort and love into telling this story, making it as creative, cinematic and humorous as possible…
SWAG is a new short silent comedy film written by award-winning comedian David Elms, directed by Matt Holt, produced by Sara Shulman and starring some of the best new and emerging talent in comedy, including ELLIE WHITE, MARK DAVISON, JACK BARRY, PATRICK TURPIN, TASH DEMETRIOU, MASSIVE DAD, LOLLY ADEFOPE, ORRY GIBBENS, THE PIN, ADAM LAWRENCE, LIZZIE DAYKIN, and more!
Come along to the screening which will feature stand-up from headliner JOSIE LONG, and sets by SWAG co-stars:
The screening is also a fundraiser where all money from ticket sales will go towards supporting the film.
Doors 7:30pm Show 8pm
More information about the film: http://davidelms.net/shortfilm/shortfilm.html
Graphic Design by Tom Lobo Brennan
Lee Martin for Gag Reflex presents:
THE AXIS OF AWESOME: VIVA LA VIDA LOCA LAS VEGAS
Time Out Sydney Comedy Festival Best Show 2010/2011
Time Out Sydney Comedy Festival Best Australian Talent 2010
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Moosehead Award 2008
“One of the best of the fest…they achieved cult status, with audiences on their feet whenever they took to the stage” Adam Hills
The Axis of Awesome are set to do their biggest tour to date around the U.K. this September.
The Axis of Awesome have a truly global fan-base – they have previously enjoyed sell-out seasons in Edinburgh as well as at the Adelaide Fringe and Cabaret Festivals, tours of Germany and the UK, the Sydney and Melbourne International Comedy Festivals, the Sydney Opera House, three sold-out tours of Sweden, Perth Fringe World, Singapore and two tours of the US. They have also played at the prestigious invite-only Montreal Just for Laughs Festival.
Not content with obliterating box offices around the world, they’ve also smashed online records – their ‘Four Chords Song’ is one of the highest rated YouTube comedy videos of all time, and their videos have amassed over 90 million hits. Their latest smash hit ‘Rage of Thrones’ has over 1 million hits, and it’s pretty darned awesome.
They have notched up multiple TV appearances in Australia as well as globally, and their latest album ‘Christmawesome’ has flown off the shelves. You might have seen them on Comic Relief, Jason Manford’s Comedy Rocks or heard them many times on The Scott Mills Show on BBC Radio 1.
They recently received funding from YouTube and Screen Australia as part of the Skip Ahead program to make a web series in Los Angeles, so by the time you read this they’ve probably already done that, or are in breach of contract.
The Axis of Awesome are comprised of lead singer Jordan Raskopoulos, who has appeared on numerous Australian TV shows, including Underground: The Julian Assange Story, and recently won an International Emmy as part of the team behind#7DaysLater. Benny Davis is a classically trained musician and has millions of hits on his YouTube channel “The Human Jukebox”, as well as a recent tour to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Guitarist Lee Naimo is a champion improviser and has featured on Slideshow and Written It Down where he made stuff up. He isn’t as talented as Benny, as boisterous as Jordan or as smart as most dogs, but he sure is part of the band.
Al Lubel is a “terrifically funny comedian” according to David Letterman, and Jerry Seinfeld has stated that Al has one of the best jokes he has ever heard.
Al started off as a lawyer (to please his mum) and became a comedian to please himself (which did not please his mum). After graduating from law school in Florida, Al moved to Los Angeles, passed the California Bar Exam but chose to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian rather than a lawyer.
After quitting law, within a year he won the $100,000 Grand Prize for comedy on Star Search. Doing the The Tonight Show was a childhood fantasy, so when Al heard that Johnny Carson was retiring; he auditioned and became one of the last comics to appear with Johnny. Al has performed on the Late Show with David Letterman five times.
Tickets are available to see Al Lubel at Leicester Square Theatre on Saturday 20th September
Have a listen to Al Lubel’s audio interview with Sara Shulman on Comedy Blogedy
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