Searching For Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor with Jamie Masada at Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, 2002

Richard Pryor with Jamie Masada at Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, 2002

JULY 16, 2014 | Los Angeles, CA

Word is out that the casting net is circling to find someone to play the late, great Richard Pryor in a film bio. Hopefully, the focus will be on finding someone who can capture not only Richard’s stand-up skills, but also his richly humanizing personal life. As great as he was on stage, his offstage actions made a believer of a teenager, who was celebrating his first night as a comedy club owner back in 1979. It was a first encounter I will never forget.
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Notes On The Comedy Underground

By Paul Oddo
August 22nd, 2014 | New York City, NY
Edited by Al Bahmani

Open mics are like slaughterhouses. We all want the meat, but few of us have the guts to get down on that killing floor to witness the carnage and appreciate the process. Beautiful jokes are prime cuts of expertly carved funny meat. What ends up on your plate is the end result of a long gruesome undertaking, which is the practice required to hone the skill to make it look so easy. When people see Louis CK, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman or Russell Peters perform they buy the ticket, enjoy the show and go home with those memories. They don’t see the failure that went into reaching that polished level. There is a lot of effort involved in making it look effortless, many levels to get there, and open mics are one of the most important.

To many people open mics are not seen as important. They can be excruciatingly awkward at times. Other times open mics downright offensive and even frightening. During our mic people have asked me questions;

“Is it always this misogynistic?”

“Is this mic supposed to be this offensive?”

“Do people make jokes about race a lot?”

“Do comics do a lot of homophobic material like that?”

“Why do you let people say things like that?”

My answer is always the same,

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The Etiquette of Bombing: A 5 step guide to recovery.


By Billy D. Washington

Edited By Al Bahmani

It’s late Friday night and a comic hears a knock at his hotel room door. A half dressed cutie stands there and says, “I saw your show tonight and got so turned on that I want you to make love to me tonight!“. The comic asks, “Was it the early or the late show?“.

There is nothing a comic takes more personally than bombing. Most would rather be accused of a crime than to be exposed to the uncomfortable stares of entertainment inadequacy. You never see it coming. The Bomb assumes its position when you least expect it. There is no clue as to its arrival, no prep for its ire and certainly no remedy for its results. Pre-bomb symptoms often take on flu like qualities. They include a sudden hot flash, a tightening in your vocal area, watery eyes, confusion and that one bead of sweat that develops somewhere in the middle of your back and rolls precisely through ass crack center. No matter how physically comedic or rhetorically gifted you are nobody is outside of its realm of influence. Many years ago I performed at the HBO comedy festival in Aspen and watched George Carlin stop in the middle of a taping and opt to close a showcase show later that night because the audience just wasn’t there for him.
Somewhere over the Rainbow…. If George Carlin can bomb, why oh why can’t I.

There are many ways to handle the Bomb, but as a comic who has experienced it few times and witnessed it many, I wanted to offer a few options as to how to address the humiliation with your head held high.

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Open Mic Terrorism: Why Groans Aren’t Laughs


By: Warren Wright

     I work at a bar that has a comedy open mic. An open-micer myself, I really enjoy the work environment and look forward to the nights I get to work on open mic night because I get to see comedy. I’ve even done a couple of sets on the job. I’ve always appreciated the community at the heart of an open mic, both the people going up and the people goodly enough to put it on. It’s great to see audience members come out to them and them walk away glad they did. They’re a good time. I’m not ashamed to admit that doing open mics are often the high point of my entire week. It just bugs the shit out of me when people get the clever idea to foul the whole establishment with god-awful jokes about rape,  or by referring to women as “bitches”, or whatever travesty inflicted upon those unfortunate enough to be in the proximity during that comic’s set. (The worst I’ve seen was a dude do a joke about the Boston Marathon bombings and the Sandy Hook shooting).
Oddly enough, those jokes don’t go over well. Nor do they strike me as being very intelligently thought out. Those jokes seem to serve no purpose other than making a group of strangers in a bar uncomfortable.  I never understood why a person would  consciously decide to spew such repugnant garbage into a microphone. I could only imagine if it comes from a place of sadism or just plain stupidity. It scared me to imagine if  somehow they were simply honestly and sincerely trying to be funny. I regard that theory as being the least likely. 
A joke, traditionally, is told with the intent of getting laughs. Hence the “Comedy” part of the phrase, “stand-up comedy.” The only measure of a good bit, be it a one-liner or a rant, is the audience’s response. Most comics understand that laughter, specifically, is their ultimate goal. After all, making the audience laugh every 5-15 seconds is our job. Any pro in Houston or the world over understands that and makes a living doing so. When you’re watching a comedian play their role successfully, it’s because of a certain creativity and the effort put into turning funny ideas into funny bits. With the objective killing and dying in comedy; and the expectations placed on us, it’s not an easy task. (At least to me). When a joke about necrophilia instead yields groans, it’s because it’s shit. It seems the reason this kind of anti-humor exists is because some people in all walks of life don’t realize the simple concept that is, You can’t say whatever you want. Be funny or get out of our way. 
A drunk dude offstage at a bar telling a street joke about the holocaust will seldom get laughs. I remember kids in middle school having arsenals of dead baby jokes. Even then, having the mind of a 14 year old, I found them pretty fucking obnoxious.  There’s a reason that those jokes fail. No matter how vehemently you demand the freedom to “speak your mind”, people get offended by things regardless. Todd Akin uses the word “legitimate rape” in a sentence and then John Stewart makes fun of him. Anytime you speak, you speak at the jeopardy of people being put off by your words. Even more so if  you’re telling jokes at a comedy club, or you’re appearing as a guest on Fox and Friends. Society has standards. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. 
What bothers me most about comics with such flagrant disregard is the how they violate the venue itself. Not only is a comic being a dickhead onstage going to damage his own relations with the crowd, but the crowd will have damaged perceptions of where they were when the saw this. I highly doubt Letterman would ever mention someone’s knack for rape jokes as he intro’s someone on national television. People bitch and moan about “political correctness gone mad”, but so-called “political correctness” is really just the practice of verbal self-preservation. People who firmly believe that they are “artists” and therefore should have carte blanche are missing the point. The whole thing is bigger than them. The impact of the rape comic ripples throughout the entire comedy scene. The rape comic on Monday isn’t going to make people wanna come to the Saturday night show. If only that asshole went with the airplane food material.