A Rough Personal Guide to Alt Shows & Scene Building in Standup Comedy

By Jay Whitecotton

Very little edited by Al Bahmani

First and foremost – feel free to dismiss everything you read here. I only wrote this as a reminder for myself. Comedy is wide open and an industry built on the illusion that what people do and how far they’ve gone is actually a thing.

Also – whenever something becomes obvious or overplayed – like jokes themselves – audiences become immune to it.

The whole industry is in constant change and nothing is forever. 

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Rule 1:

Only promote things worth promoting.

It’s your word on the line and if you send people to shitty open mics, overpriced venues or blah events – they will never trust your recommendation again and also – think less of standup.

There’s a reason people will walk into a bar show – see the event and say “ugh – its comedy night, are you sure you wanna stay?” – it’s because terrible comics who only care about getting their name out are working in unison with terrible bar owners whose only goal is to con comics and people to go into their shit hole to buy drinks.

Comedy is the greatest thing ever. Laughter, jokes, it’s in almost every form of entertainment. However it’s also the most disrespected. (seriously The Martian wins a Golden Globe for best Comedy? Fuck you too Hollywood)

If you’re approach to doing standup is to ‘fake it, til you make it’ please just go ahead and kill yourself now. You are the salt poured on the earth that stops any real growth.

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Rule 2:

Put comedy ahead of your ego.

If you put comedy ahead of yourself, refuse to allow the self satisfaction that always becomes complacency and avoid pandering to get cheap laughs because you need to feel like a winner – you will get better at it and your act in turn will propel you forward.

If you choose to believe in your greatness, act like you’re too good to talk and thank an audience post show, or treat comics as lesser people or as just avenues to get rides to your merch table event – well – you might get some local success, but eventually you’ll suffocate on your own inflated ego and succumb to the graveyard that is teaching defensive driving.

Allow yourself to suffer a lil bit ya fuck. Entitlement kills art.

Also – Keep this in mind – you deserve nothing, You are owed nothing. People worse and better than you will always get opportunities they don’t deserve. That’s fine. Nobody – no one – deserves anything so just do the work. Take satisfaction in making things better, improving yourself and don’t sweat what other people do on stage. That’s their business. Do that and and you’ll put yourself in way better position to succeed than trying to create substance out of hype. Let hype naturally form from actual substance. Do the work you lazy piece of shit.

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Rule 3:

Venue and atmosphere is everything.

Before producing your own show make a checklist. What is the perfect set up for standup comedy? You’d be surprised how many people don’t even bother to deal with this. The venue is almost the single biggest difference between success and failure. An ok show in a subpar venue would’ve been an amazing show in the right venue.

Intimate room: Find something that can seat 50 people comfortably, 80 people packed to capacity, but if 15 people show up it still feels like a good worthwhile show. Room dynamics affects the quality of shows and future turnouts. It is everything. For instance – if you have 5 round top tables – DO NOT line up the back of the room with them because you think you need more single chairs up front. People instinctively don’t want to be anywhere near the comedy and prefer tables. Unfortunately, sitting far away makes it harder for audience and performer to connect, so put small tables up front as a way to encourage people to be close to the show. This will also insure that they have a great time while making your event feel more full. Trust me – when people in the audience see an empty front row – even if the show is packed – they still feel like it’s a blah event in the back of their head. I don’t know psychology, but I know this to be true.

During room set up try making it a point to sit in every chair. Can you comfortably see the stage?

Separate from the bar: This is hard to find, but if you can get it jump on it. You want a show room dedicated to comedy. It forces the audience to be people dedicated to the show and for those who are not – can leave and drink or fuck around outside the show at their leisure. Putting on bar shows suck because you are constantly having to deal with walk-ins who only came to hang with friends, play darts, etc. Plus nothing is worse than a margarita machine killing a punchline. This drastically kills shows and people’s ability to enjoy comedy.

Staging: sparse, tasteful, cheap. You can do all of these with some cleverly arranged dark king sized bed sheets and Christmas lights. A stage should give elevation, but not uncomfortable to view and a soft LED light positioned close up top can get the job done. You want dark, you want intimate. Watch out for comics who step out of the light complaining they can’t see the audience. Yeah – that’s the point. Hit your mark and learn to tell jokes that don’t require crowd work. If no one is responding to you – focus on the craft and your performance. Not on “What’s your name, what do you do?” Little candles around the room are a nice, cheap, and effective mood maker.

Also – try to avoid long shotgun style set ups. Where the stage is at the end of essentially a long hall way. This creates focus issues and encourages more talk at the back of the room plus isolation from the performer. Set the stage in a way you can half circle chairs around the comic and you’ll be able to insure a better chance of intimacy.

Sound: Holy shit do people ignore this. Yes – you need a mic and a PA. What the fuck are you doing without this? No – it cant be rink-a-dink. Voices need to command and cut through. Rule of thumb I find works best is put your treble up, scoop your mid down a bit – then raise the bass according to the room dynamic. Nothing too boomy, but nothing too tinny either. Take your time and teach yourself the difference. This will save your ass every time.

Walk around the room during the performance. Can everyone hear? Sound changes when  a room is filled with a crowd laughing. Are the speakers placed in a way so the front row isn’t cringing while the back is struggling to hear? (again – intimate room solves this almost always)

Seats: up close. Tables up front. Single chairs in the middle – high tops around the back edges. (see intimate room)

Temperature: avoid warm, avoid hot. Slight chill keeps people alert, laughing, and drinking (ie loosening up enough to laugh)

Location and parking: find a place where people would want to go. Good bar, designated smoking patio, and safe parking. If it’s too far or outa the way people won’t bother to ‘make the trek’. All this is pretty much based on individual cities. Some places 15 minute drives are considered nightmares while other places view them as the short cuts. DO NOT just choose a place because it’s got people always going there. If there’s a mass of people annoyed that a comedy show is invading their environment it makes for a hard time, kills growth and makes you look like a tool.

During shows: Don’t open doors if you can help it til 15 minutes before show time. Let them chill and socialize at the bar (if you have a separate room). Have someone work the door and seat people. Have upbeat music playing before and after the show. Keep it lit, but lower down to dark when the show starts. Basic shit people forget. Play music when the show is over. Do it asap as silence is creepy when the show ends. Other comics – volunteer for this shit. Act like you care. Also POLICE THE ROOM. If someone gets outta hand heckling. Kick them out politely and immediately. Be kind about it – we’ve all been drunk, but use it as an opportunity to train the audience on how to be an audience.

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Rule 4:

Approaching Venues.

Found a place that fits most your criteria? Choose the best night for everyone. Talk to management. Make no promises that you’ll have immediate crowds, but explain what you want to do and willing to spend a year developing it. Don’t look for money and don’t accept a shitty Monday night because most bars will cancel events around Monday Night Football. If you take money out of the equation you have more control and freedom to run your show the right way. However if you prove yourself to the venue over time, you can possibly negotiate some cash to cover your promos. Just don’t expect the bar to help out or do it for you.

Bar/venue management is in constant flux and the greed factor is amazing. Especially when a new manager comes in all ‘swinging dick’ thinking he can tweak things.

It’s important to know that no matter how successful your show is – venues only want the ability to not think about that particular night. The freedom to focus on the chaotic hell that is operating an actual business. If you take all responsibility out of their hands except the night being guaranteed yours for a set period of time – you avoid most of the potential hassles. Far biggest is the one where we expect the venue to support with a crowd and then slack off on our own promotions.

That said – finding a place that will treat you right from the start with food and a tab is a goddamn treasure.

Build it first then get the bar/venue behind it. If you can’t build it without their help you probably weren’t ever going to anyway.  Be honest, direct, and make sure you get a lot of time to make it a thing.

It takes forever to do this proper.

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Rule 5:

Know Your audience. Have Good Taste.

People want to drink, fuck, and possibly smoke. That’s the first thing you have to accept. Seeing a comedy show is rarely first. There’s a reason it’s called Netflix and Chill as opposed to ‘See sad people talk about their failings and Chill’. There’s a lot of competing forms of entertainment and if you want people to see comedy (especially local) you’re going to have to make it special and worthwhile. It also requires like minded people and talent. This is where taste and direction is absolutely important. You’re going to have to decide what your goal is.

What I write here is purely my own tastes and may not measure up with yours. Please keep that in mind. My personal view is not booking shows where comics are screaming nigger, cunt, and rape as if they’re making a statement (this falls into ego ahead of comedy category for me) I don’t have any qualms with those topics in comedy, but most the time the people doing it are just covering up the fact they can’t write jokes and criminally boring and cliche. Demand better for yourself and earn the right to tackle those subjects.

That said – if your goal is to do a no rules, metal af, slayer themed comedy show – then you’re attracting a specific crowd that won’t be turned off by those subjects. However – this one rule applies across the entire spectrum – the jokes still have to be funny and performed well no matter. Do you, but develop some goddamn taste.

I also avoid ethnic themed shows for the same reason. “Oh cool, let’s do an hour on Mexican stereotypes.” These shows can attract full crowds and can be very rewarding – crushing with ‘been there done that’ jokes that play on stereotypes, but most comics who get sucked up in that start believing they’re anything other than a future Jeff Dunham puppet. Develop taste, demand better, kill your pandering ego. Plus – if your audience is made up solely of people looking for basic bitch racial jokes – no one will grow on stage and you paint yourself in a corner unable to book better and more original acts. Well done – you created a bad place to do comedy.

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Rule 6:

You Can’t Do It Alone

If you are a comic looking to create a space that allows you to get better on stage, develop an audience and more – know that you can’t do this by yourself. You can do it once for sure, twice, maybe even up to 6, but eventually you either stop crafting new bits or get worn out doing all the promos for your event. Know this. Get a group of comics together who will think like you do or trust you enough to follow through. Everyone will have to work together. Assign simple promo/show duties divided up. That will free up time for all to handle their own personal writing and be able to knock out their small share of the promoting. Does this mean get the funniest people in your town? Maybe not.

Open Mic Sign Up by Paul Oddo

“Friday Night Hot Chicks Open Mic” at UCB East. Photo by Paul Oddo

Rule 7:

Lineups

What if you’re new to comedy, but still want to produce shows you can grow on? Great – that’s how I started, but instead of promoting my name – I came up with a name for a monthly show that presented comics I loved to watch. Funny people I could introduce to an audience I felt would appreciate seeing great acts. This is how you build substance. Nobody trusts your constant hype of yourself, but promote a show that’s about the comedy first, that’s about a good time, in a good venue for the sake of good comedy – and you’ll earn a good name and better act for it. People will trust your word and thank you for it.

Your host has to be a good comic who can keep a show together. Don’t throw up the rookie open micer to run the list because he can bring a crowd or isn’t smart enough to know hosting is actual hard dedicated work. When you pull this kind of shit you’re creating a clunky atmosphere and a bad show. Care about the event you stupid self entitled fuck. Comedy before yourself or lose a good thing.

Start on time and lead off with the best comics you have – then mix up the acts for variety sake. Towards the end you can mix in whoever you know is taking chances that week or someone new with potential. By then the audience is on board loose and hopefully in a supportive mindset. 

(Doing the opposite of this trains your crowd to show up late and not respect the show thinking the start is just filler crap)

Creativity over Funny: You got to be funny yes. Absolutely, but anybody can pander for laughs. Farts are goddamn hilarious. Being creative is a challenge that should trump all. Its what gets you to write more. It’s what pushes you to get better. Being funny isn’t always the issue, but it’s the first thing comics attack themselves for not being. More often the idea is funny, but you sucked at getting to it, or communicating in general, or digging deeper into what the actual point of the joke is, or coming up with a creative avenue in the bit that would make you excited to say it on stage (or maybe you weren’t comfortable yelling at 30 drunks who just got done playing trivia now trapped in your comedy show while three different margarita machines squeal through your setups).

Anybody you book should have the freedom to fail. If you book a 15 comic showcase of short sets – give a few performers the chance to fail around the 9th -12th spot. Let them feel trusted to take some chances and grow. This will pay off huge down the road for everybody.

Everybody performing promotes: Make it a must. If you want good shows it requires community effort. I have a comic friend who actively says he refuses to promote any show he’s on. I won’t book him. If he doesn’t think he’s good enough to promote people to see, why would I ask anyone to see him either?

(All this still coincides with the very first rule btw – only promote good things worth seeing)

Avoid Poison: I know a lot of funny people who kill on stage, but create the worst atmosphere to hang or work around. They’re negative for the sake of being negative, treat new comics like lesser people, and shit on every crowd for not being exactly the way they think they should be. Don’t make em’ apart. All it does is kill momentum and make people not want to come back. Don’t get me wrong – I love negativity – it can be a blast! But if you’re trying to build something positive you won’t get far surrounding yourself with these types of comics who refuse to allow themselves to care. They bring everything down. Ask them to go. You don’t need that shit. It’s not helping.

Social anxiety: Let’s just get this out of the way. 99% of you DO NOT have intense social anxiety. You’re just an asshole. Oh you mean interacting with people is hard and uncomfortable? Yeah – suck it up you self absorbed piece of shit. Hang after the show and thank people for showing up. Go out and talk to people you meet about this ‘cool thing you’re apart of they might like’. Support comics on stage by watching and clapping as opposed to talking, interrupting, or other poisonous self involved bullshit.

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Rule 8:

Actually promote. Then do it again. And Again…

Let me let you in on a little secret. No one for sure knows what they’re actually doing. Producers are the biggest con artists in the fucking business. So much so that they often con themselves into thinking they’re competent. Look – the only thing that works 90% of the time is booking acts people want to see. Established names with valid credits. Can’t afford that? Then specialty gimmick shows often do the trick (to an extent).

Not one promotion tool works by itself 100% of the time. You have to do all of them – in advance – and then lather, rinse, repeat.

Here’s the checklist: Start with the name of your show.

Facebook: Create an event. Create a meme you can tag performers in. Post both – rely on none of it. Encourage shares and likes. Facebook has an algorithm that pushes popular posts ahead of posts with one or two likes. If you decide to create a page dedicated to your show, insist all the comics you collaborate with to invite people to like the page thru wall posts and instant messaging. This way you’ll have a large dedicated pool to promote events to. Do not invite out of town people to events or to like the page. Avoid getting bands, or old parents, or other comics to like the page. These people rarely actually go to shows and if they want to they can like the page on their own. If comics don’t want to help with this, don’t book them.

At the start I liked to make these events secret. I never made posters with a shit load of strange names with no credits. Sure it’s nice to see your name on a thing, but nobody knows or cares who the fuck you are so be good on stage – promote the show as a whole instead and people will figure out real quick who the fuck you are if you get good enough.

Text and Instant Messaging: Be polite, be sincere, and don’t just be ‘Promoter Person’. It turns people off (especially friends) – makes them feel like cattle to your ego. Yes you want your friends to see a great show, don’t hound them about it. Be a fucking friend and keep up with their lives. Ask about them. Actually give a shit and they’ll give a shit about you. (Life Hack: Being a person will also make you a better comedian) Also – don’t keep inviting your dead friends to your events stupid. Again – no –  you do not have social anxiety. 

Alt Weekly: Most cities have them. Look what they’re announcing. Look up the editor in charge of show announcements. Message them. Start a polite relaxed dialogue. Invite them out. Don’t be needy. Buy them a few drinks it’s a tough job they have to do trying to satisfy everyone at once. Don’t take it personal if they give you nothing back – they’re busy and paid like shit. Just stay in touch and be cool. If you develop great things they’ll go to you more and be there for you.

Flyers: Make a small number. Make them look like professional tickets or make them look cheesy on purpose, there’s a wide selection of taste to draw from and just so long as they’re simple and not filled with the names of a bunch of people no one gives a shit about – you’ll do fine. Don’t just hand them to strangers. Go to bars or popular spots you can talk to people in idle conversation and offer them info on this ‘cool thing you do if they’re down to check it out’. Again – You don’t have social anxiety. Go with friends and performers on the show. When you do it alone it feels weird and 9 times outa 10 – you give up on it. DO NOT just stash them on cars or in alt weeklies. That’s lazy and also rude as fuck.

Suck it up and be a person.

Meetup groups: there is a lot of them online join or start one.

Instagram and Twitter: good to have, but if you don’t have a pool of people working them together they don’t get you that far. Take pictures of the shows, post them on your pages. Let people see that people are attending your shows and liking it. This is huge and builds community.

Talk to people, get emails, Facebooks, whatever. Follow up. This is the number one thing that works – THAT NO ONE WANTS TO DO. Suck it up. Do it or watch everything fall apart.

All of the above – every week and forever. By themselves they will not work, but together you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.

Big vs. Small Market: If you’re in a big market you have the luxury of a lot of talent, but the handicap that they probably can hit up some shit mic the same night without having to do any of the above work. If you’re scene is small then you have the luxury of comics who will be eager and excited to see growth enough to do the work, but probably not enough to sustain a weekly show. (ie – If you have 20 comics doing 4 minutes you can have a nice showcase and opportunity to work in more new sets, also 4 minutes prepares you way better for tv late night auditions. You can make this show weekly, but if you only have 7-10 comics in your scene– you can probably pull off a monthly at best)

Jokes repeated bore and wear out an audience. Constant new jokes that aren’t ready do the same. Hit all the shitty mics you can and save the above type of work for one show worth promoting. That way you can develop material and stage chops, then test it out when it’s mostly formed in a good creative and trusted atmosphere. This will also make you look good to the audience that naturally builds around you.

The problem here is a lot of comics will get better, stop going to the hard mics, get lazy, dwindle out, or worse – get better – move forward and do nothing for the scene coming up to support them and teach them to do what they learned. Things will eventually fall apart and many involved will put their egos ahead of their comedy and think they’re above doing the work anymore.

Entitlement breeds complacency. Complacency kills art.

Try to avoid that or at the very least be conscience of it cuz it happens to us all no matter what level you are at.

Jay Whitecotton

Rule 9:

There Is No Money.

Like none. The money’s at the end. To get to it – you have to do the work. If there’s no environment to do the work right – you have to make one. Everything above is a helpful suggestion on how. Take it or leave it.

You can do free shows, $5 shows etc, but if you’re goal is to cover gas money to pursue becoming a standup comedian. You rarely get it for years.

If you’re a promoter looking to capitalize on talent by using them for the promise of ‘exposure’ and taking a $10 cover for your ‘trouble’ – well you’re a piece of shit and like the ‘fake it, til you make it’ people – Kill yourself. Radiation is something that also requires exposure and yours is about as worthwhile you charlatan.

If however you just want to cover printing and promotional etc – ask for donations. Let people pay what they want, be cool, or work as a collective with the emphasis on becoming better at comedy – so you can eventually be badly paid unappreciated touring comics. It’s about comedy first, ego second. There’s a reason why I didn’t make money a thing when looking for a venue. When you take money out of the equation – it becomes about the art. When you throw some nickles in, everything seems to get fucked up.

If you do this right – you’ll eventually be able to create networks with national acts and opportunities you never would’ve had by grinding out the same bullshit bar shows and no taste open mics. If you’re lucky enough to make a career out of it – honor these shows whenever you get a chance and be supportive. It’s real easy to fall off the high rung and have to do it all over again as many comics often do.

Do the work right. Avoid paying Lip Service. Follow through on your Word.

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Jay Whitecotton is a Stand Up Comedian from San Antonio, TX now living in Austin. He’s written columns for magazines without any journalistic credibility – toured professionally as a guitarist, despite no lessons – and sold a script that was never made into a movie… – He likes dragons

Originally posted with permission of Jay.

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An Open Letter to Hecklers

You think you can do this better? I dare you.

I dare you to try to write an original joke that’s actually funny. It’s harder than you think. That weird thing that happened to your dick might be concerning but it’s not funny. That time when you made a faux pas in the office – no one gives a damn.  Most statements that begin with “so I was drunk, right?” will only get you blank stares. Had a moment with the TSA? Chill, so has the rest of America. It’s been done before. Got anything else?

Came up with a set that’s funny, did you? How quaint. I hate to tell you, but as a comic you’re sense of humor is only one half of the equation and it’s not even the important half. And you’re new so it’s likely a steaming pile of rhinoceros turd. But since you’ve worked so hard on it, I dare you to memorize it. Practice it with different inflections, put the pauses in different places and try not to leave a pause after each punch line for the audience’s “raucous laughter” you’re so sure will follow (it probably won’t, sorry bro).

I dare you to sign up for an open mic…and actually perform for the full five minutes. Just you and a mic. And a spotlight that will likely stop you from seeing anything but white. (Kind of feels like you’re the asshole performing at the end of the tunnel.) Sometimes, you’ll be lucky enough to glimpse some seriously unimpressed faces staring back at you, impatient for you to actually begin to be funny. You’ll hear talking – it’s either your fellow comics or a good sign that people are bored with you. But, at least, talking means there’s an audience. Sometimes there isn’t. By the way, have you ever talked uninterrupted for five minutes? It’s a long fucking time.

I dare you to bomb. To keep talking at a crowd who wishes they could swipe left on you – for five minutes, for three hundred counts of one-one thousands. Watch people get up and leave during your set because you weren’t worth their time. Harsh, but it happens often.

I dare you to handle a heckler. You need to make sure you stay the authority figure onstage so you have to address whoever the drunk bastard is. Unless it’s a sober bastard, in which case, I’m sorry, but you’re probably a terrible comic. Keep in mind that your audience is a fickle mistress and if they see you rip a heckler a new one, they’re like to turn on you. Self-restraint is key, but not so much that you appear weak. I dare you to pick up exactly where you left off before you were interrupted, which was in the middle of a joke. That joke is probably ruined. Better get yourself back on track quickly, your audience is confused as to why you’re not funny. Recover or die.

I dare you to keep doing all of these things. Night after night. Can you handle the late nights after long days at the office? Can you do bad set after bad set and still come back for more? Do you still believe in whatever reason you walked up to the mic in the first place?

Then, after all that, I dare you to heckle another comic again.

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Written By: Emerald Gearing

Surprisingly, It Did Not Suck.

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Written by Aaron Aryanpur Edited by Al Bahmani

“Surprisingly, it did not suck.”

Those were my dad’s first words to me after my first time on stage at the Improv. Believe me, coming from him that’s high praise.

My dad is a funny, funny man with a dry, understated, wicked, multi-layered sense of humor. Growing up, I watched him laugh at the smartest, most subtle stuff and watched him howl at the dumbest stuff.

Part of my daily preschool ritual was checking the mail with him. I would know it was time for our walk when “Sanford and Son” was over. He loved Redd Foxx, Rodney Dangerfield and Cosby. We watched Bill Cosby Himself so often that it became like a second (or third) language to us. Now I can’t watch Cosby at all anymore, and it makes me sad.

We saw “The Naked Gun” in the theater. I was stunned when I looked over during the press conference/bathroom scene and watched my dad wipe away tears from laughing so hard. It was marvelous seeing someone who was normally so composed let himself be so free.

I think my dad was amused when I first tried stand-up. We’d talk on the phone and he’d ask, “Any new jokes?” I’d share a new bit I was working on about the day job or something he had said to me when I was growing up.

“But that’s not a joke though. I actually said that.”

I would agree with him. I had found it funny. And strangers did too.

When it comes to my family, at times I feel more like a reporter than a writer.

He’s watched me grow as a performer. He’s seen me destroy a room.
During a rare visit, I was driving us to a show when a genius idea hit me. I asked if he wanted to join me on stage during my set. I think he started panicking, “But I wouldn’t know what to say.” I told him not to worry, that I would handle all the set-ups and all he’d have to do is respond honestly. We would MUR-DER. He wouldn’t do it, though, and I consider it everyone’s loss.

He once asked me, “When you get your TV show, what kind of show is it going to be?” Not “if,” but “when.”

Joking around, I told him I thought it would be great to have an old fashioned variety show with sketches and musical numbers like Carol Burnett, Benny Hill or Hee-Haw.

“Hee-Haw? Like when the pretty girls pop out of the corn?”

“Yeah, Dad. Something like that.”

“You NEED to tell me when you get this show.”

Like I *wouldn’t* tell him if I was in production.

“…I could pop up out of the corn too. Playing the banjo.”

“YES. YES. YOU. COULD. We’re signing you up for banjo lessons yesterday!”

When I recorded my albums this year, he had some more professional advice. “You’re going to want someone to listen to it before it goes out in the world.”

He meant HE needed to hear it before it went out in the world. “Just because *you* think it’s funny doesn’t mean everyone will.” I told him this was material that was road tested over many years in front of thousands and thousands of people.

“Just because thousands and thousands of people think it’s funny, doesn’t mean everyone *else* will.”

He loves to hear road stories, about how I played for twelve people one embarrassing night and then 300 cheering people the next night.

“Any new jokes?”

He means jokes about him. I tell him the newest one, based on an awkward FaceTime experience between him and his grandsons.

“And people laugh at that?”

I tell him, “Of course. It’s funny.”

And he smiles, the writer.

Funniest Comic in Texas 2012 Winner, Aaron Aryanpur was also recntly voted one of the Top 100 Creatives For the Dallas Observer, and just recently made his national TV debut on FOX’s Laughs

*Originally Posted November 24th, 2015

Too Soon? Or Einstein’s Theory of Relative Coward Pussy

Too Soon

by Jay Whitecotton Edited by Al Bahmani

No one here is a good person.

No one here is without some sort of hypocrisy. Faster and faster we are going down the rabbit hole of social outrage – it’s just that in this case – the rabbit hole is up our own collective asses.

There is no such thing as ‘too soon’. No amount of time can lessen your emotional reaction.

Especially if you’re the supremely empathic pronoun you insufferably insist to be.

There is no ‘Comedy Clock’. No universal unit of ‘Joke Time’. Humor and the concept of ‘Too Soon’ doesn’t operate on Einstein’s Theory of Relative Coward Pussy.

Check my privilege? Check your hypocrisy.

Especially people mad at jokes considered “too soon” and in “poor taste” – who were JUST celebrating Charlie Hebdo as “courageous” months ago.

And also you – the people pissing on the French flag filter as “bullshit because the company didn’t manufacture the feelz over Beirut, Syria, Africa or any other country that didn’t send us a Statue honoring Liberty or supplied an army and resources during our own revolution…” Yes, fuck you people too.

Our obsession with identity politics has painted us in different corners of the same house, unable to communicate more than shrieking at each other across the dripping pool and stink of social media.

Yes – most of these people’s attempts at humor are an absolute atrocity. No one is defending their ‘quality’.

But shouldn’t you be defending their right to be said? Or did you already forget your saccharine ‘Veteran’s Day’ shout outs from just a few days ago.

For the record – I think these jokes are in bad taste too.

I also think your ability to point out how bodies blown up in the name of Islam isn’t actually Islam – it’s radical Islam – then immediately posting videos of shitty cops abusing their power with your own headline “FUCK ALL COPS! SHOOT THEM ALL!”

Is just as much in poor taste as these jokes.

Either way, so what? Facebook likes and shares don’t equate change or value. Even this post I write knowing it will be forgotten in a week or dismissed as TL/DR (because what’s the value of reading, right?!).

Maybe you should try getting your hands dirty. Do something about it for once. Stand up and follow through on your convictions.

You know – like Isis.

Bloodthirsty extremist cunts that they are – they definitely posses some follow through.

What are you doing, judging shitty jokes?!

Well at least Comedians do it through jokes. Our bombs are only self inflicted and you can easily unfollow their explosions.

Keep in mind for every ten to a thousand bombs, someone writes the perfect joke – and that’s worth suffering some bad taste for, isn’t it?

Maybe we can try to all just live our lives and stop stepping over our own feet to be publicly ‘right’. Maybe we can allow ourselves a few wrongs in an effort to do some actual growth.

Maybe we can try leading ourselves first before amassing some retarded Twitter army pushing an agenda of insubstantial change.

Maybe there’s both a way to respond to violence with peace and kindness, while also recognizing some cunts need to be drone bombed to whatever hell they’re willing to believe in.

Maybe we can accept and celebrate bad tasteless humor for what it is, while not ignoring the disadvantaged and underprivileged living in our own back yards.

Maybe it’s ok to not give a shit about the Sudan and worry about the rent or the final score of some sports game or whatever.

Maybe we can have our freedom and eat it too? I don’t know. I’m still growing and striving to make new mistakes.

That all said – here’s the box score for Friday the 13th’s Soccer Match.

France – 2
Germany – 0
Isis – 129 and counting…

Viva le France!

Jay Whitecotton is a Stand Up Comedian from San Antonio, TX now living in Austin. He’s written columns for magazines without any journalistic credibility – toured professionally as a guitarist, despite no lessons – and sold a script that was never made into a movie… – He likes dragons

Originally posted with permission of Jay.

Monty Loved Comedy

by Jay Whitecotton Edited by Al Bahmani

Monty 1

Monty wore a big, dumb straw hat lined with 420 buttons and positive affirmations. It was his comfort blanket, but as he gained confidence he began to take it off and hang it on the mic stand. His sets were exactly as he was off stage, filled with bouts of nervous laughter and catchphrases like “Where my Outlaws at?”and “If you don’t like my jokes I’ll smoke you out in the parking lot!” Always with a genuine sun baked smile.

Monty loved comedy.

In many ways it was the only thing keeping him together after the car wreck. Years before we met he had lost his wife in a crash. Though she survived in the most literal sense, she – from how I understood it – was frozen in time. A shell with no spirit. However, Monty refused to accept that. Knew she was still in there. He believed it and held on to her like you would your absolute closest and best friend. He saw light in her eyes, talked everyday about her and the day she’ll wake up to anyone who would listen. The magnitude of that kind of devotion overwhelms me too much to even try to write anything more about it.

Monty2

Monty had a lot of terrible ideas about starting comedy shows. Laundry mats, metro rails, his front porch, the restaurant near his house that he could just walk to… He would assemble anyone willing to join him on these terrible ideas and call everyone else who had the good sense to avoid that nightmare – cowards. In many ways he was right.

The “Where’s my Outlaws at?” was as silly as the straw hat, but it meant the world to him. The ‘Outlaw’ tag itself is an old stand up term from the early 1980’s that Houston Comics still can’t seem to shut up about. It included two of standup’s biggest legends – Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison – and was a tag Monty cherished greatly. One time after doing a gig in Houston, Monty got to meet one of the original Outlaws, Andy Huggins. For weeks he bragged how Andy gave him the blessing to carry on the name. It was a small gesture, but one that meant the world to Monty.

Everything he did successful or not he wore as badges, like the buttons that lined his big dumb straw hat.

Monty & Fam

However – nothing made him more proud than his kids and who they grew up to be. He loved them so openly, hailed their every accomplishment and looked upon them with happy wonder. Monty was very self aware of the kind of father he must’ve of appeared like so I think the fact that his kids grew up to be more normal than NORML came as an immense relief. Sometimes Monty would talk about them with a lost look in his eye, like a Captain slowly going down in the ship, sad, but also happy that they were at least safe in lifeboats paddling to shore. It always unnerved me.

Monty certainly had his dark days. Sets filled with anger and frustration. Occasionally creepy when you knew he needed to get some, but no one ever felt unsafe. He was a big goofy puppy and rarely held grudges for long.

Everyone that met him loved him, got annoyed by him, avoided him, put up with him, got excited to see him, and most definitely smoked out with him. It was genuine. We all worried about him, we all talked about his weight loss and occasional binges in moods, but none of us could’ve stopped this. That is also genuine. If you’re looking back trying to find a way you could’ve stopped this from happening, quit. He was his own self made Outlaw, fiercely set in his ways. All you can do now is say goodbye and try to carry on the best in him that he showed to us.

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It’s common to hear things like “this isn’t about you” or “you didn’t really know him that well to speak about this”. Don’t buy into that bullshit. The fact is – it really is about you and the people you are around. That’s how death works. Monty is gone so these questions aren’t his to worry about anymore. It doesn’t matter if you met him once or hung out every day, it’s ok to take the time to personally and openly reflect what this means to you.

How else do you really celebrate or honor the meaning of a life?

I don’t know.

Monty & Lesko

One time Monty let me try on his dumb straw hat. I was going to fuck around with him and do my best Montgomery Wayne Seitz impression, but the pins from all the buttons stabbed painfully into my skull. I realized quickly how that pain is what Monty felt every day he wore his favorite comedy hat. He didn’t have to wear it, often we’d make fun of it, but he wore that pain with a smile because it made him feel good trying to make everyone else happy.

I wish I appreciated that small sacrifice more when he was alive.

A GoFundMe Page has been made to help cover funeral expenses.

To Make A Donation Click Here!

Meeting Jon Lovitz

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Written by Aaron Aryanpur Edited by Al Bahmani

When I discovered SNL for myself, “my cast” included Dennis Miller, Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks and the power-duo of Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz. Growing up as a fan of the show and almost everything that that crew would go on to do – I was the kid who dragged his poor family to the theater to see ‘Mom and Dad Save the World’. I never thought I would ever get a chance to meet any of them.

I got my opportunity when Jon Lovitz headlined the Addison Improv five years ago this very week.*

When you start out, it’s enough just to get work at the club. You don’t get much say in who you work with. You don’t get much work, period. Sometimes the headliners bring their own supporting acts, but mostly the club matches up who they think would make a decent fit for a great show. As a newer comic, your job is to be the best version of you you can be while somehow also being as “decent a fit” with as many different comics possible (more flexibility gets you more stage time, and more stage time makes you a better comic which gets you more stage time and so on).

I didn’t campaign for many specific headliners (again, I just appreciated the booking), but I campaigned for Lovitz. You want to meet your heroes, and you hope that they’re not dicks.

I got the booking and was super-psyched. Without sounding too much like a fanboy, I was hoping for ANY kind of interaction (some headliners keep pretty guarded). I was also hoping I could get him to sign my NewsRadio caricature (already signed by Dave Foley and Stephen Root). It featured Phil prominently, and I thought he might appreciate it.

Mr. Lovitz was a bit aloof when I first met him, and I worried that he was going to keep his distance the whole weekend. I quietly introduced myself, told him that I was looking forward to the shows, and left the green room.

After my first set, I was surprised to see him waiting to talk to me in the back. While the host was making announcements on stage, he was excitedly whispering some heavy-duty compliments. Some headliners don’t even watch the show, and I took for granted that he wouldn’t have watched me. I nodded politely on the outside. On the inside, my inner-fifth grader was jumping up and down. Between shows the next few nights, we talked about comedy and art. I shared my caricature with him.

You know, Phil did both too.

“Yeah, I did.” and I almost cried.

It was a great weekend. When it’s gone well, there’s sometimes an awkward “end of the date moment” after the last show…something along the lines of, “Well, this was fun. We should do it again sometime.” The hope is that a headliner takes SUCH a liking to you, recognizes your comedic genius, and decides that you NEED to be their permanent opening act on the road.

The reality is usually a handshake. Maybe exchanging email addresses.

Jon Lovitz asked for my card.

Puzzled, he tried reading my name, “Aryanpur?”

After all of the shows and our conversations, I guess things like my name and my background didn’t quite sink in yet.

Yeah, my dad’s Persian.

Then he dismissively, Lovitz-ly handed my card back to me with a fake disgusted “Oh.

He was messing with me, and I played along. Out of mock-desperation, I protested, “But my MOM is Jewish.

And he just as quickly took the card back with a delighted “Oohhh” as if to say, “That’s better.

Then he clapped a little Lovitz clap and said, “Okay. I’m going to ask for your card, and you’re going to hand it to me, and I’m going to say, ‘Aryanpur?’…”

He was giving me direction for a conversation we JUST had.

“…and you’re going to say, ‘My dad’s Persian.’ And I’m going to give the card back and say,

‘Oh.’…”

There was no one else in the green room.

“…but then you’re going to say, ‘But my mom’s Jewish.’ And I’m going to say, ‘Oohh.’ Got it?”

So we replayed our conversation, and it was still funny. After the third time – just us in there, mind you – it was downright surreal.

I realized I was rehearsing and then performing a “sketch” with Jon Lovitz for no one but myself and Jon Lovitz.

There were some other remarkably wonderful and bizarre things about that weekend, but the business card exchange is what I’ll always remember about my time working with an SNL alum.

And maybe because he always seemed like a such a Simpsons/Critic cartoon of a personality to me anyway, I thought the story could use a visual.

You really need to hear the story in his voice, but the comic strip might help a bit.

Aaron

Funniest Comic in Texas 2012 Winner, Aaron Aryanpur was also recntly voted one of the Top 100 Creatives For the Dallas Observer, and just recently made his national TV debut on FOX’s Laughs. And he’s currently headling the Hard Rock Cafe this weekend August 28th & 29th with Houston’s own All D. Freeman. 

 

*Originally Posted July 17th, 2015