Getting Sketchy this Christmas : Q&A w/ Microsatan

 

by Britt Vasicek

Edited by Al Bahmanimicrosatan

 Microsatan is a sketch writing collective in Houston, Tx that is more than what you expect from such a group. The shows are electric, eclectic and it feels like you are witnessing greatness happen. Each show is jam packed with stand-up, improv, music, and sketch comedy, Microsatan has managed to carve out a scene that is all their own. Sketch members Ned Gayle and Conner Clifton took some time out of their day and gave their views on sketches, zines and staying creative in a city that most would not associate with the creative.

What is Microsatan?

NED: MicroSatan is a self-proclaimed comedic art collective. Now don’t worry, we only called it that because we are pretentious pricks. The reason we use ‘art collective’ is due to the production that goes into our shows as well as our mission to create comedy across several mediums other than live performance (see MicroSatan Mag: A Zine).

We’ve been producing a brand new, hour-long sketch show/narrative play complete with original videos and music every month for the past year and a half.

CONNER: Well, that’s not fair. We started calling ourselves a “comedic art collective” because we wanted to produce works that went beyond staged sketch comedy and even move into the realm of interactive that- ok yeah, it’s pretentious. We’re just a sketch comedy group that makes zines sometimes.

What’s the origin story? How did Microsatan start? 

NED: MicroSatan started between Conner Clifton and Billy Trim. My involvement came before their first show. I recently reconnected with Conner at ZineFest Houston after meeting him 6 years before. He told me he was about to do a comedy talk show that weekend and I immediately asked if he needed anyone to do dumb characters for the show. He said, “actually, yeah.”

I had such a blast at the show and realized it was exactly what I was looking for to work on so I begged them to let me join. It only took 6 knuckle jobs and a case of beer to get them to agree!

CONNER: Once we had Ned involved, we started growing and growing. Some members have moved away, but we still consider them part of the MicroSatan family. PLEASE COME HOME.

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So, who is Microsatan?

NED: A bunch of fucking white dudes and Ruth Hirsch and Antoine Culbreath.

CONNER: Yeah. That’s…. That’s true. But one of the things that Billy and I set out to achieve when MicroSatan got its start was a growing community. MicroSatan works heavily with people who are not regularly in our writer’s room. We get to test the waters with new contributors in a very comfortable and familiar environment.

NED: I started my comedy career in Houston doing improv comedy with full intention to go into sketch writing. While I do enjoy improv immensely, I always saw it as a tool to work towards writing sketches; a more active/immersive way of shooting the shit and bouncing ideas.

Being a film student with a heavy editing background, it’s really fun for me to find a way to stylize sketches in the writing room.

Putting together sketches like the Chuck Tucker “tough lawyer commercial” and the “studio-style product commercial” for Chuglet (a milk inspired chocolate drink!) have been the most fun/rewarding for me to work on. It’s all about finding the balance of “I’ve seen something like that!” and “What the fuck was that?”

CONNER: What I love most about sketch writing, at least in this capacity, is the team environment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked in with an idea that I was super dedicated to and then someone makes a suggestion that is way funnier than anything I came up with or something that escalates my original idea to new heights. Also, is there anything more fun than writing jokes with your friends and trying to crack each other up? I really only work by myself when I’m making comics because that’s really the only thing I can have complete and total control over.

What is the sketch scene in Houston?

NED: There aren’t a lot of active sketch groups in Houston. Not to say there isn’t sketch- I’ve seen fantastic sketch shows produced by/at both BETA and Station theater- but there aren’t as many groups actively producing shows at the moment. There have been a lot of great ones over the years, though. My favorite, now defunct, group was Feelings- comprised of Antoine Culbreath and Amy Birkhead.

I used to produce sketch shows with Kelly Juneau under the name Ned Kelly (named after the famous Australian bush bandit, not our names). Be Kind to Strangers has been active for *eons* and they always amaze me with the amount of content they push out with pristine live production (their recent set at Trill Comedy Festival was awesome!).

CONNER: MicroSatan was really my first experience with sketch comedy in Houston. I mean, I had done Neo-Benshi a few times beforehand, but even that show is a reinterpretation of an existing piece of work; I never created something out of nothing for the stage in that capacity, nor was I aware of anyone else doing anything like it. That’s my fault, I really only had exposure to improv and stand-up and storytelling before diving into the sketch.

Stalk Show (Rest In Piece) was my favorite sketch show in town. If you’re not familiar, the premise was Hoja Lopez was a creepy obsessive stalker who would fall in love with someone new every month and the show would always be dedicated to that person. She, Stacey Daniels and Kathryn Way wrote some really cool and hilarious stuff on that show. Unfortunately, Stalk Show is no more, but I’ve heard that the three of them are already working on something new. Keep an eye out for ANYTHING they produce!

Have you taken this thing on tour?

NED: We went on a small Texas tour earlier this year going from Houston – San Antonio – Austin – Denton. Rather than stay overnight in Denton after our final show, we were so revved with the energy we decided to leave for Houston around midnight. Delirious and pumped full of adrenaline we called a Jesus Billboard and Conner, with his best concerned parent voice, confided in the poor operator about his son. He must’ve talked for 30 or 45 minutes with this guy about his son’s strayed path from Jesus and how he would attend “Satanic laughing shows” like MicroSatan. We were all dying (from laughter!).

CONNER: I made sure that the tour lined up so that we’d be performing in Austin on the day of my birthday. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I really felt like MicroSatan had become my new family. After the tour, something clicked… We knew how everyone worked and what everyone could handle. We’re more of a unit after that tour.

Where do you see these projects taking you?

NED: I think we might take some time away from the live shows to work on larger video projects. This past year has been pretty hectic but we’ve really come into our own as a writers room. None of our upcoming projects are set in stone but I’m extremely confident in whatever we try to tackle next. I’d like to concentrate on projects outside of sketch such as expanding our zine, working on weirdo art shows and working on games (Conner is becoming quite the coding wizard).

CONNER: I’d like to slow down the whole “having a show every month” thing. I’d rather take the time to put together a show with a high production value. My big inspirations are the tightly packaged plots of Mr. Show and the over-the-top glamor and choreography of Busby Berkeley. I’d love to have a show full of musical numbers with showgirls swimming in blood fountains while Satan sings about eternal suffering, fully backed by a choir of demons.

Tell me about this Christmas Special coming up!

NED: I am very excited for this! Last year we modeled our Xmas special around the classic Christmas special format (mainly from the critically un-acclaimed Star Wars Holiday Special) where our stars of the show host a variety show of characters, songs, and stories. The format this year will be very similar, but with a new story.

CONNER: This has been a shitty year. Even before the election, you had plenty to complain about, regardless of your political leanings. Now, everything seems to be coming to a head and we’re all expected to put on a smile and celebrate the holidays as if nothing is wrong. The main thing we want you to walk away from this special with is a glimmer of hope that yes, you CAN enjoy the holidays despite having over 300 days of terrible news leading up to it.

Microsatan is excited to share their hard work with you and I can personally say there isn’t a better way to celebrate your holiday.

This holiday season Microsatan is putting on a Christmas Special with a tale that is guaranteed to be unlike any Christmas story you’ve ever heard. The event will take place at Midtown Bar & Grill in the upstairs room on December 9th at 10pm.

You can like their Facebook page here to keep up with their projects and RSVP for the event here to make sure you don’t miss this amazing show.

Tim Mathis: Houston’s Loose Canon Tightens Up

by Al Bahmani

tim-mathis

“Tim is a silly, funny and intelligent everyman who has this ability to be to liked by both black and white audiences.”

Theodore ME Taylor

 Houston Funniest Person 2011

So what’s new?

This Sunday I’m going to be in Kevin Hart Presents “Hart of the City” with a few other Houston comics and a Dallas comic. The other Houston comics in it are Crystal Powell and Ken Boyd. Alfred Kainga is the Dallas guy. The episode was filmed at Cafe 4212 which is a little jazz club in downtown Houston.

Where are you from and how’d you get into comedy?

I was raised in Clute, Texas. It’s a smaller town right off of Hwy 288 right by Lake Jackson, Texas about an hour south of Houston. The population was about 8,000 people when I grew up there. It’s very different now. I was homeschooled and then went to Christian school and then I went to the Navy in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which was horrible. I did anti ship missile defense. I didn’t do much there except paint. When I got out of the Navy, I went to Alvin Community College because I wanted to get into radio.

A College radio station in Alvin, Tx?

89.7 FM KACC is a classic rock station. Back then I had my own weekly show that was a mix of politics and pop culture. Radio is where I learned how to write jokes. (On the radio) I was always trying to be funny. Some of the jokes were a little too edgy, so I had to get approval to get them on the air. From there I got a job as a radio producer for KSEV 700 AM, a radio station owned by now Lt. Governor (of Texas) Dan Patrick from 2007-2011.  I had an early morning Saturday show. I was libertarian before everyone else was.

What did radio production involve?

With radio production you do the behind the scenes stuff, like run the show clock, answer calls, run the sound board and if they are a bunch of guests in there, you check the levels. Basically you keep the show on the rails. It’s not totally different from running a comedy comedy show. You still got to deal with different personalities. Comedy is different because it’s a live performance. With radio I can cut mics and go to commercial. You can’t go to commercial in comedy.

The transition from radio to comedy was much easier because I had my own radio show since I was in college in 2007.  I already knew how to write jokes and talk without verbal ticks like “uh, um and like” and all that. It was a really smooth transition into stand up.

What led to that transition from radio to stand up?

I got laid off from my radio gig in January 2011. Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick is actually the guy that laid me off. After two or three month of being depressed, I needed a creative outlet. I always wanted to do stand up so I went to the Sherlocks open mic and did my first set in April 2011.

I don’t know who the host was but Kid (Chris Reid) from Kid N Play did thirty minutes. He was supposed to seven and did about thirty. I was like, “I’ll be here a while”. I went up at one seventeen in the morning. So I was one of the last guys there and it went well for the four people that were there. I kept going on at Sherlocks and there Rich Williams told me about Uptown Hookah. I started going there and from Uptown, Netra Babin introduced me to Ali Siddiq and I became a regular at The Horn which is a room he used to run.

How did you end up booking your own comedy shows?

 I started booking my own shows around 2014. There was a room in Pearland, Texas called Skeets. It was a one-nighter and the guy booking the show didn’t want to book it anymore. He told me the budget and I took it. At one point I was running 5 rooms, which is about 4 too many. If you put together good shows then people are going to ask you to do more shows. If you put together crap shows and then you have to find venues.

What’s the best thing about starting in a place like Houston, Texas?

It’s a city of 4 million people and we have a lot of really good comics. There’s only two clubs and in order to get those spots you gotta be one of the funniest guys there is. It’s that competition that makes you very funny.

The “competitors” kept you funny are?

As far as comics go Jermaine Warren, Bryson Brown, Rich Williams, and then were those that were my mentors like Ali Siddiq, Caroline Picard, Billy D. Washington and All D. Freeman. I’d also like to publicly apologize to Sam Demaris. I drug you into a beef with another comic and I shouldn’t of done what I did. You helped me out early on and I apologize for that. 

And what are the pitfalls of doing comedy in a place like Houston, Texas?

There were times I’d be drunk by noon. In comedy alcoholism is easy because for number one, you’re always in a bar or a club that serves alcohol. A lot of times, you get free drinks and people will buy you drinks. Still to this day, I joke about not drinking any more and after the show people will come up to me and try to buy me more drinks. You don’t want to be a jerk, but you don’t want to break your sobriety. Andy Huggins helped me out a lot when I reached out to him. I’m still an alcoholic but I don’t drink.

Any advice anyone just starting comedy?

Stay in your lane, keep to yourself and don’t worry about other people. And don’t start any unnecessary drama.

So what’s next for you?

Right now I’m prepared for what every comes out. I got my website updated and I got a passport. I’ve been saving money in case I need to move anywhere. Everything is up in the air. I’ve never been on national TV before. I don’t know what’s next.

The Houston episode of “Kevin Hart Presents Hart of the City” airs this Sunday 10:30 PM CST on Comedy Central. A viewing will be taking place at Cafe 4212 for more details click here.

Andy Huggins: “Inspired By True Events” Recording

By Al Bahmani

Huggins Flyer

From “The Buttoned Down Mind of Bob Newhart” to Mitch Hedberg’s “Strategic Grill Locations” to Louis CK’s “Live in Houston” to Doug Stanhope’s “Something to Take The Edge Off” and “Die Laughing”, many great comics chose Houston, Texas to recorded albums. On December 27th 2014 at Rudyard’s Pub Andy Huggins joins their ranks.

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A Few Words With The Dom

domirrera18.jpg

Interviewed and Written by Al Bahmani

 

On and off stage Dom Irrera is a real likable character. With multiple stand up appearances from his break out performance on Rodney Dangerfield’s “Nothing Goes Right” to multiple appearances on the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “The Late Show With David Letterman”, two HBO One Night Stands, and voted Number 79 in “Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand ups of All Time”, and a regular every year at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Dom Irrera is a stand up force to reckoned with. Turn on the tv and you’ll see his face all over it, from films like “Hollywood Shuffle” and “The Big Lebowski” to roles in documentaries like “I Am Comic”, to “The Aristrocrats” to shows like “Seinfeld”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” to “King of Queens” to “Hey Arnold!” to “Bob’s Burgers” and many more. End of the day when all is said and done, Dom’s just a regular guy from Philly you’d share a pitcher beer with to help pass the time. We take some of that time and talk about the comedy business, his comic philosophy and what it takes to last so long in it.

 

I turn on the tv and your on it, what do you contribute your longevity in the business?

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Matthew Broussard: The Road So Far…

by Al BahmaniMatthew-Broussard-2

You might remember the brief moment in time Matthew Broussard was entrenched in the Houston comedy scene. During that first year he won not one, but  3 contests. Houston’s Funniest Person 2012 was probably the most prestigious among them. Recently Matthew’s has been spotted on television, “The Mindy Project” and “Adam Devine’s House Party” are the first that come to mind.  We catch up with Matthew and talk about life on the road, following your dreams, the entertainment business and other ways to stay busy.

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Finding K-von

Kvon discovers a holiday was hidden from him.

Kvon discovers a holiday was hidden from him.

What if you just found out your parents hid Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years Eve from you?
 You’d feel angry, bewildered, cheated and confused. When comedian K-von found out his father never told him about a similar holiday, Nowruz (Persian New Year), instead of getting angry he got even and created an award winning documentary.

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A Chance To Make World Comedy History

 

jamie

Written by Al Bahmani

Comedian Dana Gould once quipped, “Stand-up (comedy) is really an American art form, like jazz and shoplifting.” Jamie Masada hopes to prove him wrong. Currently Masada is looking for the funniest person in the world. Tonight at the Laugh Factory, the show will be streamed live, voting will begin 10pm Central 8pm Pacific and end October 21st 6pm Central 4pm Pacific.

Masada is no stranger to the American immigrant experience, born in Iran he eventually immigrated to the United States in his teens. “My father sold his accordion so I could be here… I worked at an apartment building. I was paid $35 and I would send home $30 to my parents. One day, I walked into The Comedy Store and someone said, “Are you a comedian?” I thought this was a job interview so I said “Yes.” They brought me up on stage. I was so nervous I told all my jokes in farsi.”

This eventually led to other spots on stage and a bit role as Hebrab Comando Number 5 in Neil Israel’s satire “Americathon”. The cult comedy starred John Ritter, Jay Leno, Harvey Corman and was narrated by George Carlin. “I was a young little guy and in 1979. Comics were on strike because the Comedy Store wasn’t paying comics. I had an idea to have a club that would pay comedians. Neil loaned me the money to open the Laugh Factory… It took me a long time to pay him off.”

“I have a dream, perhaps naïve, of bringing the world together through smiles and laughter. Religion, diplomacy, and democracy haven’t succeeded so maybe it’s time to focus on something more universal. And that is why I launched the first annual Funniest Person in the World Competition.” Masada added. “It is my hope, that by the time the competition enters its 5th year, representatives from each of the world’s 195 countries will eventually submit to be part of this yearly global competition.”

“Laughter is a universal language. This is a chance to find alternative ambassadors, the kind that bring diplomacy through a belly laugh. After all, laughter exists everywhere within the confines of culture and traditions. Laughter based on observations , laughter that acknowledges the gap between ideals and realities and laughter at the stereotypes – as well as the oddballs – of the culture, any culture, every culture.”

Ten Comics from South Africa and Wales to France, and Sweden to United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Israel and tonight anybody online can vote for their favorites here at www.laughfactory.com.