Sure, comics are notorious navel-gazers, but the fun themes at these recurring shows encourage them to dig for more than just belly button lint.
The How I Learned Series July 29, 8 pm at Union Hall: $6 advance, $10 at the door
The latest installment of this series, “You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here,” promises to be worth the price of admission. This show about getting kicked out of bars, being the last loser at a party, “the pursuit of fun,” and stupid decisions will feature Isaac Oliver, Ophira Eisenberg, Nancy Balbirer, Kate Greathead, Lynn Bixenspan and host Blaise Allysen Kearsley.
Hannibal Buress used to host this weekly showcase of up-and-coming comics, but now the duties fall on Clark Jones (who has toured with Buress), Will Miles, and Kenny DeForest. Get there early (doors open at 8pm): the event is free and has seen big-name drop-ins like Louis CK and Chris Rock, so the Knit’s front bar tends to get packed.
Sure, you could trek out to Jones Beach to see Aziz Ansari and Amy Schumer headline the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival in September, but that’s a big production. Instead, walk on over to a couple of lower-key comedy fests happening in the next couple of weeks.
You’ve probably seen Damien Lemon on MTV 2’s Guy Code, or as the cabbie in one of those Spiderman movies or on Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. This month you can find him doing stand-up at The Stand. Lemon first walked onto the stage in 2005, when he performed at Sal’s Comedy Hole, and since then he’s been dishing out laid-back advice and commentary on race, sex and, yes, Uber drivers. Lemon, who also co-hosts a podcast called #InTheConversation and co-anchors MTV 2’s Not Exactly News gave us insight into the comedians he most looks up to, the “two different Brooklyns,” and how he transforms “fucked up” shit into jokes that hit.
Over the millennia much attention has been paid to the concept of love (a second hand emotion? a stink?), while hate tends to sit, brooding in the corner. Apparently, the line between the two is thin. A wise master once noted, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Beyond this advice for mastering your emotions (and the force), is a call for empathy. Of course, how can one forget the more fatalist flipside: “haters gonna hate.”
This month marks the passing of 35 years since, in 1980, influential dork-rock gods Devo dropped their third and only platinum record, Freedom of Choice. Anew 33 1/3 book out by rock critic Evie Nagy describes this brief moment in time when the forces of a conservative shift were gathering in America and the pre-AIDS party was about to hit its peak. At the same time, people were increasingly hopeful when it came to technology and the possibilities it held for the future. Enter Devo, a band of brothers (literally– founding members included Mark and and Bob Mothersbaugh and Gerald “Jerry” and Bob Casale) whose mission was to call out the greater society for being a bunch of sheepish nitwits. The author, who’d interviewed Devo regarding their new album for Billboard back in 2010, was inspired by this unique moment in American history as well as a band that she said “there just isn’t really anything like them.”
I hate to say it, but I can sort of imagine Natasha Vaynblat, when she was Ms. Vaynblat, coming off at first as the teacher who could be walked all over. She’s nice, cute, and says things like “oh my gosh” with complete sincerity, but her unassuming nature belies her comic demeanor. During her four years as a teacher (she left the job in 2013, for comedy), Natasha loved to prank her students. In “United Federation of Teachers,” her first one-woman show at UCB Chelsea, the audience gets to see both her victories over troublemakers and her hilarious miscalculations, all of which remind me of the myriad reasons why I’ll never willingly put myself in charge of children. B+B spoke with her over the phone about her experiences and her new show.
Carolyn Castiglia for Right NOW! (Photo: Mindy Tucker)
A live late-night show premiering this Wednesday at the Slipper Room aims to “shine a light on women,” according to its host, comedian Carolyn Castiglia. The guests and supporting cast of Right NOW! will be women, and all the behind-the-scenes work will be done by women. With the occasional exception. “We have two guys on the first show,” Castiglia said. “One is black and one is gay. These are the voices that I relate to and these are the voices that right now—pun very much intended—I want to empower.”
Nation Lampoon magazine cover, Jan ’73 (Credit: National Lampoon)
I know I’m not the only one whose pre-adolescent mind was warped by National Lampoon and the cartoons of the New Yorker, so it’s a real treat to have seen documentaries about both at the Tribeca Film Festival.
On Sunday, Calvin Trillin kicked off a post-screening panel discussion about Leah Wolchok’s doc, Very Semi-Serious, by confessing that he had a “100 percent turndown record for cartoon ideas at the New Yorker.” Back in the day, aspiring doodlers would submit for 25 years before they were finally accepted, but the documentary makes clear that entry is no longer quite as forbidding.
If you haven’t heard of comedian Sue Smith yet, you likely will soon, because Time Out New York named her one of the 10 funniest women in NYC in 2014 and she’s coming out with an EP, Slutty Pretzel, on May 7 on The Experiment Comedy Network. Or maybe you met her in McCarren Park one recent Saturday when — as a member of UCB1, the Upright Citizens Brigade “news” team — she asked you to stick something up your vagina to save the world. We called her up to learn more.
Sally Burtnick and Brett Davis, co-creators of “The Macaulay Culkin* Show.” (Photo: The Macaulay Culkin* Show)
The fact that The Macaulay Culkin* Show has never had its namesake on stage doesn’t bother Sally Burtnick, the show’s co-creator. Since December 2013 when it debuted, it’s gained a reputation of being insane, and people have started caring about the show for its own sake. Despite the lack of Mac, the show’s had a huge year, with success neither she nor her co-creator Brett Davis could foresee. We rang her up to hear about it, and get a peek inside their upcoming performance, a staged reading of the screenplay Whenever Possible Forever, starring Jon Glaser.