Wednesday, December 30, 2015


I just created a new show. I started about 2 months ago.

It was not enough time. Then again, there is never enough time, and you can never start too early, and maybe you can never start too late. No, you can definitely start too late. I started a little too late, but it could've been way worse, and for that I am thankful.

My character is pretty seasoned. Not Don-Rickles-seasoned, but almost a decade in. Still love it and feel like it's home. My friend Emily "High-Kicks" Newton said it best. "I used to think playing a character was hiding yourself. But it's actually revealing yourself."

I still feel like that about Butt. So I thought, what the hell. Throw up a goddamn Xmas show. I hate Xmas. Butt hates Xmas. We both love to hate Xmas. What a great way to get through the holidays.

Except it was utter, utter hell. It was unspeakably, ridiculously un-pleasurable. Nothing is a bigger gift than having the opportunity and luxury to create a show, and yet I could not take proper pleasure in it because I was so nervous. Just a few sips too many on the cappuccino and I would go NUUUUUUTS. I'm not capable of doing this. I'm lazy. I don't have what it takes. It can't be done. It won't be done. Those who love me now will see it and instantly love me less, and it will signify the start of my decline as an artist and human.

I have now performed this new show, publicly, three times so far, twice for paying audience members. I am feeling slightly better about it. Here are the things that got me through:

1) I HAD GREAT OUTSIDE EYES. I worked with Chloe Ziner (Mind of a Snail) in Vancouver and Ember Knight of Webo Bagdad in Los Angeles. They are very different. Chloe is a shadow puppeteer, jammer, clown, bespectacled, jazzy Western Canadian. Ember is a punk rock voice-of-a-generation comedy-scholar. Both are extremely snappy dressers. Both are extremely supportive, great story-see-ers—they both have specific, clear eyes and pure hearts. They are both coming at the work totally selflessly and in the service of the truth. I am very lucky to work with both of them.

3) I USED VIDEO. Don't get me wrong; I also fucked up using video. One of my first breakthrough rehearsals, I thought I was recording, I was not recording. Nonetheless, I prevailed, and video did happen several times in the process, and it helped me support Chloe and Ember in outside-eyeing me.

4) I BREATHED. I did breathing meditation. Breathing meditation is so far the only one I can really do, and it's life-changingly good. I do it lying on the floor of my dressing room covered in a coat, listening to a guided meditation on my phone. My first night in Bellingham, I would have lost my shit entirely if it weren't for the breathing meditation.

5) I'VE ALSO DISCOVERED THIS THING CALLED TRE. Tension and Trauma Release Exercise. Pretty simple. Just make yourself convulsively shake from your core. It's pretty much like giving yourself a massage from the inside. I might have to get certified in this shit; it's like that. That helped a lot too.

6) SELF-CARE BITCHES. This is a shout out to all my gurlz. This is to all the little gurlz out there with dreams, and enough pluck and spunk to make it happen. We work hard! You hear that voice in your head that keeps screamin, 'yer lazy'? Well, you're probably not. In a few cases, sure, maybe you are. But mostly you're just hard on yourself. Give yourself a goddamn bath. Put nice oil on. Juice, for godsake. Juice.

You're going to get it done. Lookit me. When all's said and finished, I put on a show, and nobody walked out. Granted, they're very nice in Bellingham. And for the LA show, I gave them all mulled wine and cheesesticks. But still, bitches. I got it done.

And I learned a lot. I begin to feel the momentum of the thing, and the spine of the show becomes a dragon that I am just learning how to ride, and it's fun, now that I'm up here, and feel less afraid. Okay, cool. Now comes the more fun part, the editing and sculpting and discovering part. Okay, cool. Not so bad anymore. Could be okay. Could be fun.

It's not always pretty, but you can get it done. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015


hey Deanna I had an idea of something you might share on the blog. It's something that really inspired me from watching you this summer - specifically how you have never given up on Butt and persevered through the many iterations the concept had gone through, including all the times when it must have felt at a dead end. I have found it so difficult to find where to go with something once created and after the initial success or failure. Kinda like once something is created and a little bit established as itself there's a wasteland of what to do next. Maybe this is something only I feel but I think it happens to a lot of creators, losing momentum or confidence in the initial spark. Anyway I thought I'd suggest it since I don't think anyone talks about it.

I take requests for this blog. This one comes from my friend Jonathan.

Jonathan and I met when I had just found Butt Kapinski, about 9 years ago. I found Butt on a street corner in New York City. I was wearing my trenchcoat, as I did, because I was a big noir freak, and I said out loud, "It wath a dawk thtweet," invoking the speech impediments I had as a child, the ones my family continued to pull out whenever anyone wanted to say something funny. And as soon as I did it, I literally felt like YES! THIS! I'VE GOT IT!

I brought it to the clown class I was in at the time. I was so excited. The teacher watched with a furrowed brow, and then said, "Hmm. I don't think it's Clown." Over the years I've replayed that moment many times, and thought about all the things I wish I'd said to that teacher. But then I just say fuck it and have a bath.

Last summer, I got one particularly lame review in Edinburgh, from a "legitimate" theatre reviewer. One of his critiques was that I "leaned heavily on the audience for laughs." My whole thing is audience inclusion. I set audience members up to get laughs for the funny and awesome things they say and do. So this reviewer was 100% right that I was doing that, but he just didn't happen to think that it was a cool thing to do. Or, you know how that old saying goes: Hmm, I don't think it's Clown.

The point is, Jonathan, that every step of the way, there are stupid obstacles and critiques and bullshit. And if what you are doing is what you MUST do, you will not give a good goddamn what anybody says. You just won't. And if you find yourself listening to the I-Don't-Think-It's-Clown's (or IDTIC's) of the world, then probably you don't love your thing enough.

I don't feel like I'm helping. I think that building a character or a show takes a lot of single-mindedness and the kind of crazy commitment that feels deep and instinctual, like parenting. And if you don't have that feeling for a project, you don't have it. And if you do have it, then it isn't about "persevering." You don't even notice you are persevering. You're just doing what needs to be done.

That said, there are very few people who go it alone. Most shows and projects need an outside eye, or a team, folks to helm the ship, and push through those moments of IDTIC. Because we all have moments of doubt.

And here's another crazy thing I've noticed: put money into a thing, and you'll stick with it. I've started a few projects with friends, you know, just messing around, and they've all died in the water. Put your cold hard cash where your art is, and it'll be less easy to let go of.

So that's my solution to your dilemma, Jonathan: cash and craziness. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015


So, to be 100% honest with you, when I'm in LA I give workshops in my bedroom.

It is a very big room. It isn't exactly my bedroom. My bedroom has archway, an entrance, in the middle of it, so there's one room that is my actual bedroom: it has my bed and dresser and dentist lamp, and during the workshops, chairs and one big exercise ball.

(Just for the record, I recommend sitting on balls when one needs to sit. In my next workshop all of my students will sit on exercise balls when they have to sit, and they will bounce whenever they want to).

The "studio" part of the bedroom is empty except for wood floor, big mirror and a few lamps for lighting. It is about 8x10, not a huge playing area, but some comedy stages are way smaller.

Most of my workshops there have been 6-ish. Last night I started a new 4.

Don't get me wrong, the teacher-phallus in me wants BIG CLASSES with lots of Students Giving me that Big Phat Cash. But fuck that teacher-phallus, you know? I teach big enough classes elsewhere. Big classes are great for being able to work out your shit in front of something that feels more like an audience. But in terms of training the subtleties of your audience dynamics, small classes are the thing. Because each audience member counts so goddamn much. There are only 4 people watching you, goddammit, and if they're not at least having a good time then what the fuck are you doing in this art form? Of course everyone can make 4 people laugh, right?

Total wrong. It's a different way of working. It's hard; it's a rich starting place. There's way more elasticity between you and specific other people. It is an intense community (might I add, in my bedroom, not exactly, but kind of). If you are one with an intense community like that, and give back to it and nurture it in the Naked Comedy way, you will be able to create that dynamic in every room you're in. Guess what, YOU'll bring the nakedness, the community, the bedroom, the dream of intimacy among strangers united in love and laughter. Every room will drool over you. It's good to work this way.

And it's good to work this way as a facilitator. I get to really fine tune. I can work with one student on developing his physical instrument, and another on forgiving her audience, and another on finding bolder choices, and another on exploring her inner disgustingness, all in the same class. We need this kind of super-specific, tailor-made pedagogy, each of us, like the small child in the educational model of Enlightenment philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who walks arm in arm with his tutor in the woods, touching all the flora. It is a fierce wild thing, this comedy beast, and the closer knit our knights can be, the better we can all conquer and ride it into the sunset. Or at least onto Sunset. It's nice to be in LA, for a minute.

Friday, October 30, 2015


In three days, it will be exactly 6 months since I left my home to go On The Road. In case anyone was wondering, this tour is too long.

I didn't plan to be On The Road this long, but here I am. Now I'm in the Yukon. In August it was Edinburgh. In June it was Philadelphia. So it went, so it goes. At some point, I'm pretty sure it was September. I miss my cats, I miss my workout routine, my spices and my loose leaf teas. I miss my pillow, my sock drawer, and that settled, fresh feeling of knowing I have a clean-ish towel, and enough yogurt, and staples and postage stamps and printer cartridges in all the right places.

This is a new feeling, these Road Blues, and like I said, it's a product of this particular stretch of Road being too damn long. But this feeling is preventing me from being able to think ahead clearly to what the rest of my year can/could/should look like, because I don't want to plan any more tours, I just want to hole up in my sock drawer and stay put.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what defines home. I remember summer 2014, I was in Calgary, complaining to some fellow artist friends about the state of my car.

"My car is a holocaust," I said. "Not a real Holocaust, of course, but obviously I must feel like it's pretty messy if I'm using the word holocaust right? Wow, things have gotten pretty bad in my car."

"Ha ha," said my fellow artist friends. All but Chase Padgett, who slowly shook his head.

Chase is a man who has seen his share of The Road. His eyes, great blue beams of truth, locked into mine. "Your car is your HOME," he said. "It's your HOME." And he said home not like someone might toss it off like hum, NO, he said it like hOHM, like hOHM Shanti Shanti. Like meditative NEXT-LEVEL shit, like SERIOUS zen serious meditative wearing robes and sitting on pillows shit, like NO JOKE. It wasn't funny anymore. Chase wanted me to understand in that moment that when you are on the Road, what counts as home changes, and you better hang tight and take good care of the slice of something-resembling-a-home that you DO have. Or else.

To extend Chase's metaphor, your car, your suitcase, your body, your mind: these are your only home on the road. You lose control of these things, you're homeless. And everyone knows that being homeless sucks. You can euphemism that shit and call yourself home-free, but that feeling of hOHM is essential to your mental and physical health; you cannot leave home without it.

I am not perfect at being At-Home on the road. But I am working on it. Thanks, Chase. Next time you go On The Road, maybe you'll let me watch you pack.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


It is 21 days since the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe ended. It's been 17 days since I left the Scottish beef farm yurt. The following was written in the middle of my first Edinburgh Fringe experience. 

It is 11 days since I arrived in Edinburgh. I think it's been a week since I've been performing here. I'm not positive about things like "time" or "days of the week."

Pretty much every day is show day. Often, there's another 10 min. performance or thing I've got to do. I'm getting into costume at least once a day, usually twice. I'm lugging my backpack and corpse-sack around town, cautiously navigating century-old cobblestones that like to play games with the concept of Level. I'm icing my left heel at night. I am getting almost the amount of sleep that I need; or maybe I need less sleep, somehow. I wake up without the alarm, heart already beating faster than usual.

I don't always understand what Scottish taxi drivers say to me, even when they're being super friendly and polite.

I am not flyering as much as I should. I should be out flyering for a few hours a day. If I were doing that, I would probably have bigger houses. I am generally satisfied with the size of my houses... and the day after I wrote that last sentence, I actually had too many people. And I didn't flyer at all. So who knows.

At other festivals I've been to, I have been alone and I've made many great new friends. At this festival, I am sharing a flat with good friends, and that means most of my socializing is done at home, cozy-like, and not necessarily out meeting people. I do not think the festival is so warm and friend-making at this stage in the game, though, so I definitely think I played this one right. I hear that in a week or so everyone will chill out and start making friends. But right now we all have our heads so far up our own asses that it's hard to see the possible new friends surrounding us at all times.

Flyers are everywhere. They collect in the streets, wedging their way into cobblestones, trodden upon by passers-by. They are the graphic-designed dreams of thousands, lovingly constructed to present hopeful souls and their art projects, hocking the experience theatregoers are sure to have if they follow that flyer to its intended destination.

Sometimes at my show people arrive with their flyers in their hand, and I have the feeling that these flyers are homing pigeons, safe at last.

I am doing okay emotionally, thanks for asking. But I don't recommend this festival to anyone who hasn't had loads of therapy or is armed with mood stabilizers. It's just too damn big, and there is no way to not feel like a lil' ol' drop in the bottomless well of needy actors. Or maybe there is a way, but I've got a pretty unique show and a fantastic publicist, and I still feel pretty goddamn small. So don't ask me what the way is.

I get excited to do my show about 3 minutes before I start. Before that, I am tired. But the show itself remains fun, most of the time. Sometimes there are moments in my show when I'm checking in with myself wondering, am I in this moment enough? And then I can get back into it, usually deeper than before. But my energy does need careful watching, because it's hard to keep a big boner for a show you've done daily for almost 2 weeks now, and will be doing for another 2 weeks.

I think I will crawl in bed pretty soon. I have no internet at my flat, and that sucks, frankly. I have "Pitch Perfect" on my computer, but I've watched it too many times, I think. I just can't justify watching it again. And what else do I have? "Back To The Future" (seen it too much) and a copy of one of my shows from Winnipeg. NO THANKS. I think I'll be going to bed and just breathing.

... stay tuned for post-month-recovery reflections! thank you for reading!!

Friday, July 10, 2015


Help help, friends. I've decided to go to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I'm going this year.

Why in god's name would you want to do that, clown?

Here are the twelve reasons.

1) I have great friends who are also going, and we are going to share a flat together. We all get the festival thing, to some extent or another, and know how to be cool. For my part, I will hopefully organize some group pilates and kale.

2) There are different artistic things going on among different peoples. Those of us on this side of the ocean are doing our thing. Those at that side of the ocean have a different thing. I seek cross-cultural ass-sniffing. As a word nerd, I look forward to speaking English with people who talk completely differently than I (No, you guys, I seriously think it's "I". I'm almost positive because that sentence would continue "than how I talk", so it would be logically shortened to just "I" the subject, not "me" the object. Grammmmmmmmmmmmar). I'm an American Jew from New York and LA, and these days the Pacific Northwest. On my way to Canada to roll around on the puppy green of Canada, where the festivals nurture you like ducklings in the nest. Then I'll be all among the English and the Scottish and the Australians, and that's just the native English speakers. Think of the internationality. That is fucking rad. That is worth the price of admission.

3) I am doing a free festival that is sort of a subset of the official Fringe, which means that the festival organizers together with the venues provide a venue to an artist for free, which is kind of amazing, and then at the end of the show I beg the audience for money like the beggar-whore that I am, which is less-amazing but definitely understandable. Is it the healthiest financial model for an artist? No, the entire free fringe model is really not set up to nurture you like ducklings in any sort of nest. Emails all year from the festival organizers convince you that you are absolute crap under everyone's shoes, and you should expect no more than 4 people per show, and that you're lucky to be alive, please don't bother them, after all, they're doing it for free. Despite all of this, I think if you're going to do Edinburgh, and do it for the first time, this free festival thing could be the best way to go.

4) I'll tell you one thing. Shaking the wizened hands of the rude men in charge of this free festival is something I'm really looking forward to. Those are some arts festival icons, for sure. 

5) I took the money I would've spent on a venue, and hired a publicist. She's completely amazing. Everyone needs a PR person, right now. Of course, some of my colleagues are really good at being their own PR. I admire the fuck out of those people. I'm even decent at helping other people with their PR: decent enough, in fact, to realize that I needed to hire someone in PR, other than me, to sell my show.

6) To stay healthy! How healthy can I stay in a cesspool of unhealth? How many shows? In how many days? Around how much debauchery? What am I, a gazelle? Is kale possible? It will be mine O YES THAT KALE WILL BE MINE. THAT KALE AND THAT PILATES WILL BE MINE.

7) Zoe Coombs Marr. Have you heard of her? I just did, from that PR person of my dreams! That's the other thing I'm learning: you must have a PR person, but you cannot settle for anything less than an awesome PR person, who knows people and is liked by them. But the point is, there's this Australian doing a bad male standup comic, with hair glued to her neck. We were just featured together in this article:
And that's just someone I've heard of! What about all the other inspiring artists? And new friends?

8) Did I really say 12 reasons to go to Edinburgh? Oh fuck, you have to go once, right? I know, it's not what it used to be, but I think the free fringe model is probably the closest thing, and still, Edinburgh seems like a place where people who love performance go. It is a Mecca. It is something everyone has heard of, even people who don't understand anything else you are doing with your life, it may be a dream come true, your life, it may be the thing you were born for, but until you say "Edinburgh" to people they probably won't know what the eff you're doing. But it's okay.

So, I'm saying Edinburgh to people now.

9) I directed a show I was pretty proud of, and it was really well received there the past 2 years. And it definitely helps to have a foot in the door already, just to say, hey folks, you liked that. you might just like this too. No guarantees. Worth a shot. That's a cool way to go to this whore-beast of a beast-fest. BY THE WAY DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY SHOWS ARE THERE? THERE ARE OVER 3300 IN THE OFFICIAL FESTIVAL PROGRAM, AND THAT IS NOT COUNTING FREE SHOWS THAT ARE NOT IN THE PROGRAM, OR THE SHOWS THAT ARE IN THE STREET, OR HIDING UNDER HOTEL BEDS ALL OVER THE CITY. There are shows coming out of every possible pore of that city during the month of August. And I will be one more clogged pore. It is nice to be part of an invasion, right? An art virus. It's definitely weird. Already it feels like a blend of Hollywood and Burning Man directed by Terry Gilliam, and I'm not even there yet.

10) I like my show, dude. I like doing it. I feel real happy when I get to do it. Don't get me wrong, I want to do it mostly and sometimes I don't want to do it but it's a sacred thing and you do it anyway no matter what mood you're in beforehand, and it's always really fun and surprising and special. And it's beautiful, when it really works. It's the best. 

11) Speaking of another thing I'm slightly freaking out: the performer-heaviness of the thing. When I'm teaching too, it feels great, because I get to feel useful goddammit. But when I'm performing, even though I love my show profoundly, there is of course that "performance" construct, which is, let us face it, a bit more about me. People have really good roles in my show; audience members do funny, fresh things. But teaching is really not about the teacher. Or maybe it is, and my particular strain of narcissism comes out this way, instead of that way. Who the fuck knows. I wish I were offering workshops. But I don't know how to do that and make sure I also do enough Pilates. The first Edinburgh. We'll see. I did volunteer to be a Venue Captain, which means, so far, that I get more emails. 

12) I hope that I either have a blast and want to keep going and going. Or that I learn a fuck ton and get lifted up in some ways and humbled in others. To challenge myself. To learn things. To make and keep friends. To work, bitches. To work.

In the next 2 weeks I am accepting any and all donations of prayer. It's the big one, people. Pray for Butt Kapinski. Pray for Naked Comedy. More than anything, my friends and loved ones, pray for kale.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Evidently, Eddie Murphy once said something to the tune of, “If you get another job (besides comedy), chances are you'll wind up doing that with your life instead.”

Eddie Murphy touched on a very real fear that comedy artists have: the fear that, if we spend any of our energy and/or talent on something OTHER than art, then we will clearly fail at art, that we will never make money from our art, that we will end up giving up our dreams, and being just like the man who measures our feet at the shoe store, mumbling “you want jokes? I used to tell jokes” all the while moving that metal geiger-counter thing up and down our arch to check our foot length.

Fuck this fear. Fuck it right now.

Here's what this fear produces, more often than not: sad, poor comedy artists. These are people who have to do something to pay bills, because comedy isn't doing that yet, so they get shit work that doesn't fulfill them at all, and isn't skilled in any way, and they probably have to work long hours doing that shit work, and then they get home at night and are fucking tired because they worked all day at a job they hate, so obviously, not much time for comedy art at the end of a day in which you got your soul sucked straight out of your nostrils.

Let's return to Eddie Murphy, and his theories about being an artist. Just to refresh everyone, Eddie Murphy was a star by the time he was nineteen years old. Not just a working comedian, a fucking star.

SO, given Eddie's career trajectory, I would say that it was smart, on his part, not to pick up another career, say, in the ice-cream coning sector, before his testicles descended and he found himself selling out stadiums. And, by extension, I would say to you, that if you are nineteen years old, or, hell, let's take inflation into account and say twenty-two, and you are finding yourself paying your bills through art, then you really have no need to figure out anything else to do. Mazel tov.

This is a message for everyone else. (Or for you, twenty-three-year-old, once your baby fat melts off and the Disney channel is done with you.)

Consider an alternative: you know you want a career as an artist. You know, like all wonderful things, that it is worth waiting and planning for. You want to last. You find something else to make money: a job that utilizes skills you enjoy using, something you are good at and makes you feel productive, something that gives you some satisfaction and rewards you financially. Even better, you land on something that can ultimately become a freelance operation, so that you can set your own hours, work less than full-time, have some flexibility. And meanwhile, you can afford things. Classes and workshops, rehearsal space, tickets to shows that will inspire you, taking role models out for coffee, a gym membership, organic produce, quality footwear.

You know what happens to a lot of poor, sad comedy artists who work shit jobs because they don't want to "give up their dreams"? They give up their dreams. They get tired, they poop out babies, they drink too much, they tell themselves it was never what they really wanted anyway.

You know what else happens to poor, sad comedy artists? They don't get better. I hear so many artists say that they cannot afford classes, or tickets to shows. How do you expect to get better at your craft if you do not invest in it? Are there ways to get good as an artist without spending money? Sure, probably, of course. But that hasn't been my experience, so I don't know how it's done. What I know is, you spend money, you take classes, you pay people who are better than you, you see shows that are better than your show, so that you can be inspired. And get better.

The model of Making It As An Artist Right Away, Or Starving Until You Do Make It, is not the only model you can choose on your artistic path. In fact, there might be a model that is healthier, a path that is strewn with quality-of-life things: a cute dress now and again, a trip abroad, kale. These things do not just make your life livable, they support the body that gives birth to all that art.

So I say, consider another career. Yup, I said it, a career. Nothing that takes too much time or energy. But something that makes you a specialist, with skills people want to pay you for. And during "work" hours, you can keep that secret artist identity of yours on the DL, under your trench coat, and that can be fun in its own way.

You may never make your living solely as an artist. There are gazillions of super talented people who do not make their living solely as artists. If you ever make money as an artist, celebrate it. Then celebrate it some more. Then next year, raise your rates.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I for one like to straddle the twin horses of theatre and comedy. I have no idea why those two disciplines have been so separate lately; or rather, who decided that comedy training was all about writing jokes and not about physicality, presence, use of space? 

Comedy was always what I was most attracted to, although I had a lot of acting and physical theatre training. And when I left the bubble of academia, and went out into the grownup world of comedy, I noticed something very weird. People were performing IN JEANS.

Jeans mean something to me, and I for one dont like what they mean. Jeans mean, Dont pay attention to my body, because its casual Friday, man. Jeans mean, I just rolled off the couch and am here to entertain you, dude. Jeans mean, There is no difference between my eating-a-taco uniform and my performance uniform. I might as well be eating a goddamn taco up here. Jeans mean, Fuck you, audience, fuck you, fellow performers, fuck all yall. I dont give a good goddamn shit-fuck. THAT IS WHAT JEANS MEAN.


Go ahead and argue with me! Comedy is like rocknroll, Deanna! youll say. Comedy is supposed to be rebellious and dont-give-a-shit-y! Comedy is cool, and cool people wear jeans!It makes perfect sense for Chrissie Hynde to wear jeans. Know why? Because she is playing a guitar and singing. Her instruments of entertainment involve her mouth, hands and arms. She can shake a leg and/or tap a foot, but she doesnt need to communicate anything with that leg/foot besides Im Chrissie Fucking Hynde.Chrissie Fucking Hynde is not about to wear gloves or a surgical mask when she performs, because those would prevent her from effectively communicating with the instruments of her art form.

When you wear jeans or dresses or heels or any clothing that is restrictive and/or bulky, you limit the creative potential of your greatest instrument, the one everyone is looking at. And while we may think you look cute or cool, we will not believe that you are a shape-shifting comedy juggernaut who can make magical imaginative worlds blossom in front of our delighted faces.
Dressing upwhen performing could be okay, but less so for ladies in dresses, unless theyve got underwear that they dont mind showing, and womens underwear on stage is a whole other blog entry. Burn Manhattan, my improv gurus back in the late-90s New York, used to improvise in suits and ties. That worked…and those were some sweaty-ass suits and ties at the end of an hour.

Clothing one plans to sweat inis generally a good rule of thumb when performing in the comedy arts.

I dont care what your body type is, if you do not approach your comedy as an athletic activity, you are missing out on the good stuff. Any type of body can give an amazing, physical performance. But not if youre constricted by your own goddamn clothes.

Do comedians have an inferiority complex? Are the Comedy Arts taken less seriously than the Other Performative Arts, hence the ubiquity of jeans? Chris Rock once called comedy the lowest medium in all of show business, in levels of respect. What is that? FUCK ALL THAT FUCKING SHIT.

Take your comedy seriously. It is our weapon, our instrument. It is what we use to synthesize and criticize and reflect our world. So let us wear neutral, flexible clothing. Let us be ninjas, clad only in our comedy skin. Dangerous, versatile, ready. Animals making loony music in the night.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


If you are not current-mainstream-society's-definition-of-physically-perfect, you are in luck: you have a body built for comedy. And the further you are from current-mainstream-society's-definition-of-physically-perfect, the more ideal your body is for comedy. You may receive nothing but negative messages about your body from those people and institutions who subscribe to current-mainstream-society's-definition-of-physically-perfect (or, fuck it, C.M.S.D.O.P.P. from now on), and that sucks, but once you're on a comedy stage, you will wipe the floor with everyone if you know how to use what you got.

Love your body, if for nothing else than its comic potential. But seriously, love it because it's yours, and it's the only one you'll ever get. If you loving your body is difficult for you, there are other blogs devoted to this. Go to one of those, and come back here once you've made some headway. Loving your body is crucial to your performance work, and fuck, to being human.

Back? Okay, good. So whatever your body is, you love it, because it belongs to you, and because you suspect that it will get you laughs if you know how to use it right. And you are 1000% correct about that.

If you have a body that looks like it does not exert itself much, guess what? Remember that anything that feels like a special, rare thing, an audience will cherish. So if you look like a bit of a couch-lover, but you are onstage dancing a tango or crawling like a tiger across the floor, you will quickly, quickly receive a lot of audience adoration. You will receive it way quicker than a yogi or an acrobat will. The audience expects the yogi and the acrobat to do physical things; they are not expecting that from you. Surprise those fuckers and win their love.

Also make sure to accentuate your body with your costume. A costume that reveals the contours of your body is generally a good idea, especially if you are not C.M.S.D.O.P.P. We'll talk more about what to wear later. 

But oh no! What if you are C.M.S.D.O.P.P.? What should you do with that idealized form of yours? Well, for starters, you better be ready to do your yoga and your acrobatics, if need be. And you also need to exploit whatever so-called "bodily imperfections" you do have. The good news is that C.M.S.D.O.P.P. really applies to like 2 people total. So chances are there is something about your body that is not, as they say in the trades, strictly ballroom. You're too skinny, you have a big beard, your knees look weird... there's gotta be something, Cindy Crawford! And/or this could be where some strategic padding or posture-adjustment could come in handy. We'll talk about that stuff later.

Your goal is to get a laugh the moment the audience sees you. There are so many ways your body can accomplish this. Choose yours.

Monday, March 9, 2015


I know what you've heard: many performers, even successful ones, have fragile egos. You may even be a performer who considers your ego a little on the shaky side. You're not alone! But now, get over it, immediately.

Here's the thing: maybe back in the Stone Age, when the fire was starting to go out for the night and everyone in the tribe was bored, tribal ha-ha-man Grog might have been a little shy and delicate. And that was okay.

"Come on, Grog! Please stand up near the mouth of the cave and do your impression of Ug-Ug having babies in the field!"

"Oh noooo," Grog would say. "Grog is scared and shy! You didn't laugh when I did that this morning!"

"But that was when we were distracted by the sun and the wind! Now it is night and the fire is almost out! We are bored and need something to distract us from the pain of being human!"

"Ohhhh kay," Grog says, ambling onto his rock-stage and assuming a crouching position. "Ouch," he cries, "my babies are coming!"
The tribe applauds wildly.

Those times are over. No one is begging you to entertain them anymore. Now there are 500 million ways the rest of the tribe can distract themselves from the pain of being human. 499,999,000 of those ways do not even involve putting on pants or leaving the comfort of an upholstered piece of furniture.

The time to be a performer with a fragile ego is loooooong gone. It's the audience's turn to be fragile now.

Think about it: they have put on pants. They didn't want to put on pants, and they're not even sure the pants look good. They didn't want to leave the comfort of their upholstered furniture that still has their smell. They have made a brave choice to come out into the scary, scary world to seek their entertainment. They are concerned they may have made the wrong choice. Nine times out of ten, they have.

You are the one on stage; you are in charge now. Your purpose is to assure them that they made the right choice—that they are sooooo courageous and wonderful for putting on their goddamn pants.

It matters not what crazy-fucked-up-trying-to-(dis)please-daddy reason got you on stage to begin with—once you are there, you are no longer the child seeking approval. If you're not mentally healthy and stable enough to be on stage and take care of your audience, you know exactly what smelly couch you should be on, and what degree of pantslessness suits you best.

Here's a paradox: your job as an entertainer is to pay total attention to how the audience is responding to you. You are there to serve them and to please them. But here's the funny part: if you act like you are at the audience's mercy, and will be crushed if they do not love you, they will never love you.

Think of a parent with her child. A good parent will know what is going on with her kid at all times. A good parent will let the kid know that he is seen and heard. But a good parent will not let the child feel totally in control. A good parent gives the kid boundaries, and does not get all butt-hurt if the kid is not happy every second. Remember who's got the power. 

Here's a useful mantra: Oh, you did not like that, audience? That's okay! That's totally fine! Get ready for THIS thing, audience! You will totally love it!


Don't get me wrong: it sucks when an audience is not loving you. There may be just one asshole in the middle of the audience, sitting there not loving you, but it still sucks, and it happens all the time to everyone, even Dermot Mulroney. But if you get mad at them, or take it personally, no one wins. Forgiveness is your best choice. When an audience sees that you forgive them, they start to like you more. They think to themselves: Hmm, this performer has failed to entertain me, but he seems aware of this fact, and he is not blaming me for not being entertained. In fact, he is making me feel okay about my feelings. Perhaps he is worthy of more of my attention, and maybe, eventually, my love.

Of course none of this is to say that you have to be totally sweet to your audience at all times. Yell at them from time to time, sure, make fun of them if that is your thing. But everything you do, you must do because you're taking care of them, and not vice versa. 

They've been so good, right? They deserve a cookie. As the tribal fire dies down, as the pain of being human rears its insistent head, be the grownup and give your audience the goddamn cookie they came for.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I'll tell you two workshop stories today.

One is about a man we'll call Philip. Philip is a bit of a physical Adonis: very buff, very tall. When it comes time for Philip to try to entertain us, he isn't trying hard enough. He half-heartedly moves an arm, or a leg, but nothing is firing. Then I ask Philip to start doing pushups and situps for us. He is concerned.

"If I start doing anything too physical on stage, I'll sweat," he says.
"And that's a bad thing?" I ask.
"Well, I am a BIG sweater," he tells me.
"Great!" I say.

Philip is sort of right. He does sweat. But once Philip starts sweating, we start laughing. We can see his effort, his commitment to keep the audience happy despite moistening his clothes in the process. We begin to see him as a performer who will do anything for us, and his lovability increases. And when the audience loves a performer, the audience is a thousand times more likely to laugh at something that performer does or says. Philip knows how to kill now, because he knows that if he's sweating, he's doing something right.

Next up: Jen! Jen is blond, pretty and serene-seeming on stage. I ask Jen to show us her ferocious monster impression. Jen scowls a little, bares her teeth a little. Nobody laughs yet.

"Be even more ferocious!" I suggest to Jen. "It's okay if you drool a little!"

Jen is surprised by this direction, but she takes it in. She starts working up some saliva to present to us. And as she is doing so, she starts giggling uncontrollably.

I'm going to go off on a tangent for a second to talk about "breaking." A lot of people in my workshops ask about that: what happens if I start to laugh at what I'm doing? Doesn't that ruin it?

It all depends. If you come out on stage "breaking" already, you're right, we will not be into it. We will think you gave up too fast. But if you come out and try your best to not-laugh, and laugh a little bit uncontrollably, that is totally a different thing. Think of Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show. Harvey Korman "broke" often. But the thing was, he didn't break immediately. He did his best at whatever ridiculous character he was playing, and sometimes he couldn't take it anymore, and he started giggling. But he tried not to giggle. He turned red, he cried, his cheeks puffed up. And we the audience felt privy to a real-live human experience, and we were riveted.

Back to Jen, mouth full of saliva, face beginning to contort with laughter. We are enthralled. A little bit of saliva seeps out of the corner of Jen's pretty little mouth. We start to laugh. How often does this girl drool in public? We're guessing never! We are witnessing a rare and beautiful thing, and we cannot get enough!

So drool, sweat, moisten, leak, wet your pants a tiny bit. Don't do it maliciously, or if it comes too easily. Do it when you can't help it. Your audiences will love you for it, and wet their pants a tiny bit, in sympathy with you, in perfect unison.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


I, too, must add my voice to the melee of discussion about women in comedy. I am a woman; I practice comedy. I have struggled with finding my place in the comedy world, and whether that's because I'm a woman or just a weirdo is a mystery I will carry to the grave.

I am hoping that women starting in comedy today are having a different experience than I did when I was starting out, but just in case they aren't... 

Way-back-when, in New York, I noticed the paucity of women on comedy stages. And the few women who were there often seemed to be playing straight men(not straight as in heterosexual, but straight as in the normalones in improv/sketch scenes). Too cautious, too contained. And far too many of those women had bangs.

Who or what is responsible for those “straight men,” those bangs? Lets take a peek at IMPROVISE, by Mick Napier, a widely-read bible of improv.

Mick Napier (b. 1962) is a Chicago-based improv guru, the founder of the Annoyance Theater. He is generally regarded as a master in the field. In IMPROVISE, a 130-page book published in 2004, he devotes exactly one page to issues of gender.

This is the first thing he says on the subject of women in comedy (although, granted, he doesn't say much):

A lot of women who enter improvisation believe that if they act a little batty both onstage and, more particularly, offstage, they will stand out. Eccentric attributes will set them apart and they will excel. Dont be a crazy lady. Be a strong woman instead(p. 90).

Mayyyybe you could make the argument that Napier was primarily advising women not to be crazy offstage. But why was that a message reserved for women? And is it not terribly weird that Dont be crazy made the top of his list of female-comedy-donts?

Im just curious: did anybody tell John Belushi Dont be crazy before Samurai Delicatessen? Did Sascha Baron Cohen get that message before Borat? Probably not, right?

When I read Napiers book 10 years ago, I was struggling to figure out where I fit in in the comedy world in New York. I kept hitting walls that I suspected were at least partially related to gender, even though I couldnt put a finger on what was wrong. "Don't be crazy" didn't work for me; it only made me feel more isolated, more crazy. So... is it working for anyone? Maybe it's producing some nice girl-next-door writer-types like Tina Fey, but how many big brave risky players like Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson do we have? And why are both of those women fat?

Does being the normal one sound fun to you? Have at it.
I for one would rather be crazy.
Crazy is just another way of saying unexpected, and isn't that what comedy is all about?
So be crazy, ladies.

Be free.