This weekend with Charlie Murphy

Come on down to the Improv this whole weekend. I’ll be there opening for Charlie Murphy! 

Don’t watch this at work:

Go to the Pittsburgh Improv’s website for tickets.

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Congratulations to Bill Crawford

I just shook my head.  How in God’s name am I ever going to do that?, I thought to myself.  It was 2006.  I had just watched a showcase of local comedians absolutely crush a sold out crowd at the Pittsburgh Improv.  With about 6 open-mics under my belt, I was more than intimidated at the prospect of trying to become one of them.  I frequently went to stand-up show to get a better feel for what was expected of me.  I was wishing I hadn’t now.  This was going to be hard.  Impossibly hard.  The crowd was still laughing as the final comedian left the stage. “Thanks, I’m Bill Crawford,” he announced after his closing joke.  The audience whooped and hollered.

“No way,” I muttered to myself.  “That’s Bill Crawford?”  I hadn’t caught his name at the beginning of the set.  The house lights brightened and people began to file out.  I followed the flow of the crowd, looking ahead at the gauntlet of approval-hungry comedians that gathered near the exits to shake hands and accept compliments.  I broke off when I saw Bill.

“Hey Bill, great show,” I said shaking his hand.  “My name’s Jeff.  I think we actually have a friend in common.  Do you know Mallory?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” he replied.

“She was my neighbor in college.  I’m just starting out doing stand-up and she said I should try to get in contact with you,” I said.

“Mallory actually mentioned you to me the other day.  I saw you at an open mic a few weeks ago. You did a nice job.”  I was just as approval-hungry as any of the featured comedians that night.  Even a mild, probably polite, compliment was very satisfying.  We talked for a little bit longer about where I had performed so far, if there were any shows coming up, etc.

“I pretty much go to the Funny Bone and the Improv sometimes.”

“Ok, well why don’t you put like 5 minutes together and come out to a bar show I have in Regent Square? It’s on a Thursday.”

“Sure!”  I said excitedly.  My first bar show!  I was just dabbling in comedy at the time, testing the waters.  But I believe that invitation put me on the path of pursuing stand-up with more zeal and commitment.

We’ve all followed a winding path to get where we are today.  Often times, when we come to a fork in the road, there will be someone to shine a lantern on the dark ground, and help us not regret the decision to make the turn.  For me, when it comes to stand-up, that person is Bill Crawford.

That’s why when it was announced that he would be added to the 102.5 WDVE Morning Show, I was as happy for him as I could be for anyone.  I’d seen him go through the ups and downs of trying to make it as a Stand-up.  Performing at crappy bar shows, featuring at the Improv the next, then doing some ridiculously awful corporate event all in the span of 7 days.  All the while trying to be original and creative.  All the while trying to support a blossoming family.  All the while helping me and countless other local comedians get gigs, work on material, and offer advice.

I know there will undoubtedly be some backlash for ClearChannel’s decision to release Jim Krenn from the Morning Show.  Change is a difficult thing.  If you don’t believe me, try switching from ComCast to ViOS.  Bill is stepping into a hot seat.  But I don’t feel the need to implore anyone to “take it easy” on him or “give him a chance.”  The fact is that if you listen to the show, you’ll understand.  Talent is talent.  And Bill’s got tons.

Congratulations to Bill.  I’ve already got my alarm set for 6:00 on Monday.

Dartmouth Research Team Discovers “Finishing Moves” Lead to Pinfalls

Stamford, CT – In what will certainly prove to be a groundbreaking revelation for the world of Professional Wrestling, Dartmouth statisticians Igor Vronksy and Vhedhi Khamilan have discovered a strong correlation between Professional Wrestling “Finishing Moves” and the likelihood of achieving a pinfall.

“A few months ago, we were watching Monday Night Raw and we noticed that a lot of wrestlers won only after performing their signature maneuver on their opponent,” Vronsky writes in his research article. “I began an Excel spreadsheet right there and logged every match’s outcome along with which wrestler performed a Finishing Move. The results show a strong correlation, perhaps even causation, between the two variables.”

The article has already sent shockwaves through the Pro Wrestling community. The old guard seems reluctant to accept the findings. Ric Flair, age 62, was disturbed by the notion that 99% of a wrestling match is superfluous. “To think all the time I’ve spent doing Sidewalk Slams and Russian Leg Sweeps and Reverse Dragon Locks was truly meaningless. Whooo,” Flair crowed dejectedly. “It’s sad.”

“I should have just been going for the Stunner the whole time,” remarked former World Heavyweight Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin. “It would’ve damn sure my life a lot easier. Wouldn’t have had to waste my time with all the other crap.” Austin then motioned to the corner of the interview room and 9 cans of beer came flying out of nowhere. He opened each can, chugged the contents and sat in silence.

Dean Malenko, who built his reputation on being “The Man of a Thousand Holds,” could not be reached for comment.

The research also suggests that the actual destructive power of a wrestler’s finishing move has little to no correlation with its effectiveness in achieving victory. In fact, there appears to be some sort of innate, perhaps placebic, power in the notion of a finishing move itself. “In a recent match featuring wrestlers The Rock and Hulk Hogan, we clearly saw The Rock give a piledriver to Hogan,” explains Khamilan. “Based on impact testing, a correctly executed piledriver would likely brake Hogan’s neck, perhaps resulting in paralysis. Yet we observed Hogan kicking out of a pinfall attempt after a two-count. However, later in the match The Rock ran across the ring a number of times and dropped what appeared to be a harmless, almost comical, elbow to the chest of Hogan which inexplicably incapacitated the huge man.”

Vince McMahon, owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, has threatened to sue everybody at Dartmouth.

Improv…but for real

If you head over to the Schedule page of Konkdaddy, you’ll notice that the next few Tuesdays are booked up with something called “Steel City Improv.”  It should be noted that there is a difference between the Pittsburgh Improv and the Steel City Improv.  One is a comedy club, the other is a comedy class.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, I’m going back to school.

Your act sucks, kid!

I’m a big believer of taking time off to sharpen the axe.  I’ve been feeling a little dull on stage recently so I’m going to try to broaden my horizons in the hopes of stumbling into new territory.  This belief has led me to Steel City Improv, a 4-week class that teaches the basics of short and long-term improvisation.  Most people think of improv as “Who’s Line is It Anyway” type games, but most of the current comedy landscape is absolutely dominated by people filtering through the improv system.  Steven Colbert, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, Mike Myers, and Amy Poehler all came to stardom through prestigious improv groups like the Groundlings, Second City or the Upright Citizen’s Brigade.  My hope is not to tread the improv comedy path, but rather use what I learn in this class to build my stand-up further.

One criticism that I’ve always had of my comedy is that I tend to stick to the script.  I physically write out every single bit and try to memorize it down to the last word.  So in a sense it becomes more like a play than stand-up.  I don’t think I’ll ever abandon pre-written jokes as the base of my act.  However, I do think that I could be helped tremendously with a little bit of confidence going off the cuff.  Do I need an $80 improv class for that?  Probably not.  I could just say that I’m going to go up on stage with no jokes whatsoever and fly by the seat of my pants.  But I find I’m most likely to complete a goal when I pay someone else to set that goal for me.  Therefore, this is the best option for me to actually get this done.

The other daunting part about improv comedy (and the reason many stand-ups don’t make the transition so well) is that I need to be selfless on the stage that I share with other performers.  I have to be able to let someone else get the laugh.  I have to be able to pass up an easy joke if it jeopardizes the scene.  I have to let someone else take the glory.  I have to not be a whiny baby about those first three things.  This is a difficult task for someone who is used to operating alone.  I am, after all, a coyote on the desert ridge of laughter.  I don’t share my meat with nobody no how!  (cue sound of spit landing in a spittoon)

I’ll try to keep everyone updated with how it’s going.  I’ll be devoting myself to phrases like “Yes, and…”, “No questions,” and “Sir, you’ll get the most out of this class if you stop checking Facebook.”  Progress.  Onward and upward.

Now…can I get a suggestion from the audience?

Cher and the Sacrificial Offering

Not a single camera light flashed as Cher walked up to the Warner Brothers Recording office. She still hadn’t grown accustomed to her status as a relic, an artifact of a simpler time. It had been nearly a decade since the attention and adoration flowed freely. Now the pop of a paparazzi would have been a welcome change to the silence of the warm LA streets.

“Yes, I’m here to see Mark Taylor and Brian Rawlings please,” Cher told one of the receptionists at the front desk of
Somy, removing her sunglasses. She was told by the receptionist to go back to the far door on the right. Her producers were waiting for her.

She approached the door and noticed a strange smell. It was a type of rusty, oxidized smell that reminded her of drinking from the hose behind her childhood house in summer. However, after years of Perrier, the smell was unpleasant to her.

She creaked open the nickel-plated door and saw both Brian and Mark sitting across from one another on opposite sides of an rusted iron table. Brian sprang to his feet.

“Did you bring the magnets?” he asked, hurrying Cher into a vacant chair at the table.

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