Tag Archives: Funny

Seattle Focus: Randy Wood hosts Spectacular Comedy Revue, Nov 2, 2018

Randy Wood confronting New York pizza.

Randy Wood is one very funny, inventive, and artful performer. Here is a recent photo of him wandering through New York City. Somehow he got a hold of a bad piece of pizza! I’m not sure that’s possible but I’m staring at the proof, I think. Randy knows a lot about getting evidence and lawyer stuff, or it’s his ongoing character that sort of knows about all these legal matters and such:  none other than Sweaty Dee, attorney at law, “the best that you can afford!” Wait a minute. Maybe that pizza is delicious. Is Sweaty Dee taking it out of the garbage can? Is that his meal for the day? Oh, Sweaty!

If you are in Seattle, then you owe it to yourself to catch the Spectacular comedy revue at Pocket Theater, located at 8312 Greenwood Avenue North. This Friday, Nov. 2, from 8:30-9:30 pm.

There will be some great performers, music, and Sweaty Dee explains how the justice system works!

Line up:
Wonder Vermin
Pam H
Scott Adams
Sweaty Dee
Justus Ladies

Check out Pocket Theater for more details on this highly entertaining monthly event. Get your tickets right here.

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Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Comics, Humor, New York City, Performance Art, Randy Wood, Satire, Seattle

Book Review: ABRIDGED CLASSICS by John Atkinson

ABRIDGED CLASSICS by John Atkinson

We can all use a laugh and cartoonist John Atkinson has a unique way to provide that for you with his new book, “Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t.” This would make a great gift for Father’s Day or just about any occasion. Atkinson is known for his comic strip, “Wrong Hands,” where he distills things down to their hilarious essence. You have probably read his funnies in Time Magazine. Well, he takes no prisoners as he distills over a hundred works of literature down to a few mere words! Very funny stuff.

“The world of the one panel comics gag shares a lot in common with the world of stand-up comedy. Either the joke works or it doesn’t. Welcome to Wrong Hands, the world of John Atkinson, where jokes make impacts.” I said that as part of my introduction to an interview I did with John Atkinson five years ago. That was long before his gig with Time Magazine. I just happened to enjoy his ongoing work that all began, and continues to take place, on a blog at WordPress. I love that Atkinson keeps it all simple and real, down to maintaining his no frills free blog just like so many of us out here in the blogosphere.

There is a lot going on in Atkinson’s deceptively simple cartoons. There’s the joke, which can unpack in your mind on a deeper level. And there’s the pared-down art, free of ego-centric expressive lines. You end up with a very zen experience. Atkinson has a lot he wants to say in his work and the magic is in how he achieves the maximum impact with as little as possible. So, it makes total sense for Atkinson to tackle some of the most celebrated books–with hilarious results.

I highly recommend that you pick yourself up a copy. It’s a fun book that you’ll want to come back to. The little hardcover book has a nice look and feel to it. But, by all means, enjoy it on your phone too, especially since Atkinson’s format fits perfectly on any screen.

“Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t” is a 157-page full color hardcover, published by HarperCollins.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Cartoons, Comics, Humor, John Atkinson

Review: THE OFFICIAL DC SUPER HERO JOKE BOOK

THE OFFICIAL DC SUPER HERO JOKE BOOK

I still remember the sting and utter humiliation during an improv class when I was asked to tell a joke and I froze. I thought I knew what to expect from acting and improv but I wasn’t ready that night to tell a simple joke! Now, I have discovered a fine book that I wish I had with me all long: THE OFFICIAL DC SUPER HERO JOKE BOOK! This book will save your comedic bacon no matter what your age and is published by Downtown Bookworks.

Page from THE OFFICIAL DC SUPER HERO JOKE BOOK

There are more than 600 puns, knock-knocks, one-liners, riddles, gags, and tongue twisters! Use it at parties. Use it on dates, depending on the date, of course. And definitely use it to bring a smile to anyone’s face. How about a way to get a rambunctious kid’s attention? Everyone loves a good joke. This book is chock full of them in an eye-popping colorful presentation.

Page from THE OFFICIAL DC SUPER HERO JOKE BOOK

As you can see from the samples, these are smart and funny jokes. A little here about the authors: Noah Smith is a comedy writer who has worked for Saturday Night Live; Sarah Parvis is a children’s book author; and Michael Robin is an author and librarian.

THE OFFICIAL DC SUPER HERO JOKE BOOK is a full color 176-page trade paperback for ages 6 and up, published by Downtown Bookworks. You can also find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comedy, Comics, DC Comics, Downtown Bookworks, Humor, Jokes, Super Heroes

Review: ‘Simpsons Comics Knockout’ collected trade paperback

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT, published by HarperCollins, is a fine collection of Simpsons comic book stories originally published by Matt Groening’s Bongo Entertainment. This is a great opportunity to get your Simpsons fix all in one full cover trade paperback that collects five Simpson Comics: #116, 117, 118, 119, and 120. What you will find is consistently pithy, witty, and outright hilarious good fun.

Page excerpt from Simpson Comics #116.

Page excerpt from Simpson Comics #116.

Each comic book collected here covers one story. The titles are as follows: “Mall or Nothing,” “Sandwiches are Forever,” “The Flunky!” “Homer Drops the Ball!” and “The ‘X’ Men.” For example, in Simpson Comics #116, originally released in the U.S. in March of 2006, you have a sly satire on consumerism: the Simpsons find themselves living inside a shopping mall. This predicament is to the delight of Homer Simpson, and to the dismay of his progressive daughter, Lisa.

Other stories feature a Simpson family globetrotting adventure; a satire on help for the lovelorn; and Homer in a boxing match with everyone’s favorite corporate villain, C. Montgomery Burns! This is great all-ages entertainment from Matt Groening’s legendary creative team.

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT is a 128-page full color trade paperback, available as of February 21, 2017. For more details, and how to purchase, visit HarperCollins right here.

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Filed under Bongo Entertainment, Comics, Harper Collins, Humor, Matt Groening, Satire, The Simpsons

Interview: Jennifer Daydreamer: Comics and Beyond

Jennifer Daydreamer

Jennifer Daydreamer

Jennifer Daydreamer has been published by Top Shelf Productions and regularly contributed illustrations to the Seattle alt-weekly, The Stranger, in the late ’90s. In the course of a creative life, Daydreamer has seen her path take an interesting trajectory. I share with you now a conversation with artist and writer Jennifer Daydreamer on her new project, “Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe.” A Kickstarter campaign in support of a print run to the book is going on now thru August 28th. You can find it right here. She is the author. Full disclosure, I’m the illustrator for the book, and I contributed to the story. And she’s my partner.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Let’s begin, Jen. We can jump in to the very beginning of the Mack Stuckey project.

JENNIFER DAYDREAMER: You certainly did contribute to the prose. There are details in Mack, plot points, character names and so forth, that you came up with. We are both illustrators but you were the instant choice of illustrator. Although I can draw fast, I don’t normally paint in quick thick brush strokes, the kind you do, and so I was excited about a real artistic collaboration with you. Probably our first. I think after you’ve been blogging for ten years, this has been the first time you have interviewed me. So, thanks!

What was the impetus to writing Mack Stuckey?

Well, before 2008, I could score a job pretty easily. I’m a creative type but I have a detailed part of my brain that does well with accounting. I actually enjoy accounting because I find it meditative and so for most of my career I have been able to do accounting work for my jobs. I was in a series of job layoffs. One, the company went out of business, the next, the company transferred my position out of state, another one I was a new hire and when they do layoffs, the new hires usually get cut first. In a nutshell, the book is about the economy and expressing my frustration about it, in a creative way. I just don’t want to spend my time venting at this point. I have expressed my employment dilemmas to my friends over the years. At this point, I’d rather be joking.

Illustration for "Mack Stuckey" by Henry Chamberlain

Illustration for “Mack Stuckey” by Henry Chamberlain

Jennifer Daydreamer quote

Where does it take place?

It takes place in Seattle. Poor Seattle. The inspiration to write the book is my need to express myself in regards to the economy and state of housing and living in our city with a disappearing middle class. The story takes place in 2014, by the way, and so, any uptick of the economy happening today, I hope is really happening. I digress. Seattle happens to be the fall guy, the theatrical back drop of the story and so, we make fun of Seattle. Specifically, Fremont. We venture into Ballard, Downtown, and the U District.

How so?

For one thing, I create a feud between Ballard and Fremont, either real or imagined. I examine the tension that I think exists between the two locales because when you want to buy something practical in Fremont, like pens and a pad of paper there is only one or two small places to go. There are no standard drug stores allowed in Fremont (I think from building codes) so you have to take your car or the bus or your bike and dip into Ballard for practical needs.

What else is the book about?

Well, we describe the book succinctly on our Kickstarter page! Basically, I created a love triangle between a woman and two men, representing the upper, middle, and lower classes. I don’t come right out and say that in the book, because that would be too explicit, but that is one of the themes. I think there is something for everyone in the book, if you like humor, a sexy romance, or interest in the local icons. I try my hand at what I call comedic erotica.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to in the last few years.

After drawing comics, I was inspired to write a screenplay because that imprint, what was it called?

Minx.

Yes, Minx, from DC Comics, asked me for some ideas. They cancelled the imprint. One of my ideas was for a dystopian novel about the separation between a guy and a girl and killing in the army, that someday I should write. They really did not like it, too macabre, and then Hunger Games comes out later. I remember believing them at the time that the story pitch is not good, so its a reminder to believe in myself. I wrote the screenplay for the humor submission that they did like. Then Minx was cancelled. I never had a contract, just a “that’s funny, I like that one.” So, I spent about a year studying how to write a screenplay and it took me about 1.8 to finish it, because it was my first screenplay.

Where did that leave you?

With one foot halfway in the door! It left me with one manager who switched companies and his job position and so he could not represent it. Then I found an agent who read it, she is known in the industry and so I felt lucky. She was encouraging. She said I needed edits and she gave me her manager contact and said to try and do edits with him and then resubmit it to her. But her manager nixed it. By the way, I respected how he communicated with me, as he got to it, read the script promptly and let me know his opinion. Everyone I submitted it to over a year’s time or so, was very nice, frankly. I know there is crap that happens in Hollywood, but, somehow, I felt encouraged by people in the business I was in contact with. Most did not have room or time to read it and some commented that my pitch was great and so to keep at it. So, I got my foot in the Hollywood door about an eigth of the way. A toe.

Interesting visual, one toe clinging to a door. But, seriously, it put you in an interesting situation. You were in the thick of transitioning from comics, moving beyond comics.

It was fun to try. I felt a cartoonist could get a foot in the door because comic book movies were taking off. I had an agent/lawyer to make some pathway, also, when I submitted, so I was not completely unprofessional and just cold called everyone. I think the writing contributed to writing Mack – the more you create the better you get. Mack has taken 2.5 years to write and I still have some details I want to round it out with. Its basically done. Besides those projects, I have spent a lot of time writing and sketching out a four book Young Adult Fantasy Series which I am eager to launch on social media. For this YA series, I really think a book agent, editor or editors and publishing company is necessary. You need help to keep detail accurate when you are world building.

After Mack, I have one very odd book, I have to get off my chest, then I will launch my YA series. I have spent a year on it. Its not complicated like writing a story but I am scared of publishing it, and so, I have to publish it. I’m scared as I have to dip into some religious and societal explanations. I had an out of body experience or an altered state from drawing my mini comics long ago and it was not until recently when I studied Jung in detail and some Jungian psychologists that I realized there is a biological explanation or a science explanation for it.

Lots of room to dig deeper.

Usually the explanation in our society, is something spiritual or “occult” and so I am eager to lay out my idea to disprove the occult notions, that there may be a more reasonable or logic based explanation. I have not completely ruled out a spiritual component. I think there is a spiritual component, I understand the shamanic explanation for something like that, but I think there is a middle ground, because the explanations from psychologists are so clear and sound. There’s compelling commentary by Oliver Sacks on YouTube (13.45). Maybe you can link the video for our cartoonist friends because it’s interesting if you draw comics.

Yes, consider it done. It will run right below these comments.

Great!

What Oliver Sacks has to say I am relating to my experience in the book. I think the brain is activated because of the archetypal nature of comics. What archetypal nature is, should be explained more but there is not room in this intervew to go into that kind of detail.

“There is another part of the brain which is especially activated when one sees cartoons. It’s activated when one recognizes cartoons when one draws cartoons and when one hallucinates them. It’s very interesting that that should be (so) specific.”

–Oliver Sacks

Are you still drawing comics? Where would you say you are today in relation to comics?

I love comics. I am following my heart and my heart wants my YA series to be prose – just words – and my illustrations. And so, no, its not comics. I would like to draw comics and be in anthologies, but there is no time at the moment. I am really focused on the projects listed above. I have the door open on comics, the door is not closed. Same with, you know, doing another humor book like Mack. When I was in high school I was the kid that made fun of all the teachers and drew riffs on them and passed them to my friends in class. I have a humor side and I have the side that loves to create long fantasy.

Anything else you’d like to add?

One last word. We make fun of some drug usage in Mack but I don’t do drugs. I am a very very square cat when it comes to things like that. It’s important for me to be clear on this because I don’t like my out of body experiences nor my illustrations to be accused of being “drug influenced.” Because I think fantasy story and art is related to healing and I want to contribute to that. I want to explore more in the future on the connection to drawing comics and naturally based hallucinations.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Thank you, Henry!

Be sure to visit Mack Stuckey right here. To go directly to the Kickstarter campaign on thru 8/28, go right here.

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Filed under Comics, Humor, Interviews, Jennifer Daydreamer, Kickstarter, Satire, Seattle, writers, writing, Young Adult

Seattle Focus: The Comedy Underground: Jay Montepare Headlines Lots of Laughs

Jay Montepare, Los Angeles based stand-up comedian

Jay Montepare

If you’re in Seattle, or plan to be, you need to head down to the Comedy Underground, located in historic Pioneer Square. This Saturday night, June 27th, I caught Jay Montepare headlining lots of laughs. It stands as a shining example of what you can expect. Each night is different with quality acts throughout. Just check out the Comedy Underground website for more details right here.

I was reminded of this time I tried to describe to a very uptight person a moment of comedy magic and she wasn’t having it. This was a Q&A session with Will Ferrell. The person, overcome by jitters, got a bit choked up as he asked his question to the superstar comedian. It was a split second decision, and Ferrell was right. He proceeded to answer the man in a choked up voice. He wasn’t mocking him. He had simply honed in on something funny. It was no use trying to explain this to my prim and proper friend. Maybe if she’d been there. This leads me to my visit to the Comedy Underground. It was a night full of honing in on some very funny stuff.

The Comedy Underground, Seattle

The Comedy Underground, Seattle

The headliner was Jay Montepare, a Los Angeles based stand-up comedian. He’s done a ton of work and is well regarded in comedy circles. He’s known for being the host of Ellen Degeneres’ “Ellen’s Design Challenge” on HGTV. You can get his comedy album, “Jay Montepare: The Sound That Jokes Make,” on iTunes and Amazon. Visit him at his website right here.

If you’re easily offended by some friendly poking fun at, then this will not work out for you. But, if you can take a joke, then you’re in for some dazzling comedy. Jay began his set by summing up for the audience some observations he’d been making while waiting to go on stage. For instance, he was quite amused by a woman in the front who seemed to be compulsively supportive of each comic’s performance. He pegged her as the ultimate soccer mom ready to provide orange slices to anyone in need of some Vitamin C. Then there was the guy who looked like he’d just been transported into a human body and had no idea who he was. Yes, sad but true, and quite laugh-worthy.

Travis Nelson

Travis Nelson

The great thing about Jay was how relaxed and in the moment he was throughout his set. He had come to play and he had brought a lot of toys with him ready to let fly from his fevered mind. The same can be said for all the comics that night. Everyone demonstrated solid improv chops. I’ll go down the line starting with the opening comic and host, Travis Nelson. He has a real charm about him and seemed open to share just about any hilarious detail about his life. His theme for the night was bears and he may very well be on his way to setting a record for bear references.

Anthony Harlem Blu

Anthony Harlem Blu

Next up was Anthony Harlem Blu. Now, here’s a comic who was also quite charming, disarming, and ready to go for the jugular. As an African American coming from New York City, he said, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was impressed with all the diversity to be found in Seattle. Take the neighborhood of Bellevue, wow, that must rank as the richest and whitest place he’d ever seen in his life. There was more, and it all rang true and was very funny.

Brett Hamil

Brett Hamil

Brett Hamil is a very funny guy. He opened with a complaint about leaf blowers and then turned that on its head. His complaint was that the leaf blower was trying to do his job over Brett’s drunken body that had somehow stayed the night and was splayed on a leafy lawn. Hamil has a combination of whipsmart delivery and self-deprecating humor that is very funny and endearing. Another priceless moment in his set is his revealing that dating a yoga instructor doesn’t really mean incredible sex. No, in reality, she’ll keep you hydrated and repeatedly correct your posture. Yes, Brett Hamil is a comedy treasure.

Mike Masilotti

Mike Masilotti

Mike Masilotti introduced himself as the guy you met and gave you your ticket when you first arrived. His main theme was cats. He felt bad for a cat who got lost. It was a tough situation. If it were a dog, that dog would be rescued and served up a nice warm blanket to keep cozy. But not so much for a cat. Mike has a very nice handle on his timing. He lures you in and then follows through, truly a wicked sense of humor.

Kortney Shane Williams

Kortney Shane Williams

Kortney Shane Williams demonstrated a very free form style. He is an excellent example of how a confident and professional comic can just keep talking, seem to take things over the edge, fall into nonsense, and make a beautiful comedic landing. He somehow managed to mix the subject of tackling with childhood, prison, and anger management. I really wasn’t sure where he was going for a moment there but his delivery kept me laughing. And then it all made sense and I was laughing even more. Williams has a all-around daring and heart-felt style.

I finish up here by saying that everyone brought their A game and it was wonderfully brought home by headliner Jay Montepare. He took the audience down many directions and all were hilarious. Much of it was silly stuff that sure sounded like it was coming directly from his own life. One of the funniest, and perhaps scariest, observations was his recalling one night at home watching the reality show, “Ganglands,” only to discover that the rough crime-ridden Echo Park being featured was the neighborhood he’d just move into. And there on the screen was his house, and there he was throwing out the garbage! Well, often comedy hits close to home.

Be sure to visit our friends at the Comedy Underground right here.

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Filed under Comedy, Comedy Underground, Humor, Seattle, Travel

Review: ‘Disillusioned Illusions’ by Greg Stump

Fantagraphics-Greg-Stump-comics

You know those optical illusions where you see an illustration of a boy fishing in a boat and then, once it’s flipped around, you see a bearded lady? Well, how about a vase that, once two shadows pull away, you see two living and breathing silhouettes of a couple of wiseguys? And how about if, once free, they commence to endlessly chatter about various things? Welcome to “Disillusioned Illusions,” the debut graphic novel by cartoonist Greg Stump. This sort of humor is brave and harder to pull off than it might seem. It does one thing in particular that requires skill and a certain temperament: it messes with you, tries your patience, and dares you to see it through to the end.

Panel excerpt from "Disillusioned Illusions," by Greg Stump

Panel excerpt from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

Now, I read and go out and see my fair share of absurdist humor and theater. I get the joke. Good or bad, this sort of thing is more likely to try my patience than not. Stump’s book reminds me of Dash Shaw’s “Bottomless Belly Button,” also published by Fantagraphics. It too is a prime example of something out to test the reader, see how far it can go with subverting expectations. In the case of Shaw’s work, the reader must be willing to take a leap of faith with intentionally arty/bad drawing and meandering plot, and is ultimately rewarded with an offbeat story. But, first, they are forced to decide to stick around as opposed to coast along with something more familiar. I mean, say, Batman is never going to force you to decide. Well, at least the intention is not there.

Panel excerpt from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

Panel excerpt from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

And so, these two wiseguys banter back and forth. The layout and composition is decidedly minimal. And to what end? Is it only to try your patience? Or is it also to stack together something interesting? Or, still, maybe it’s all meant to exist as this offbeat amusement. Let’s look closer. Oh, wait, let’s work with the idea that each silly moment of farce is building on to the next. The two guys begin by figuring out what their roles are. They appreciate the fact that they’re in a “graphic novel.” They realize that graphic novels are supposed to be cool and marketable. And, the longer, the better. So, they begin by padding the content and altering the page count.

The two wiseguys bicker over whether one should wear a vase as a hat. And then a new character, identical to the first two, is brought in to attempt to spice things up. His name is Rodney and it seems his main purpose is to underscore how little plot there is. In the course of events, you do get the feeling that Stump is bringing in anything and everything that might come across his mind. He definitely evokes a frantic and unstable improv comedy set.

Page from "Disillusioned Illusions," by Greg Stump

Page from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

Give any artist enough room and maybe they begin to reveal something about themselves or at least about their process. In the case of Greg Stump, he is a notorious kidder. He will pull your leg until he pulls it right off your torso. And then he’ll swing your severed leg above him as he yells out a battle cry. But he is also a meticulous craftsman. Remarkably, what you end up with here is a lot of very funny dialogue and a plot that does grow in a genuinely intriguing and entertaining way. And, most important of all, you will laugh.

All in all, I have to admit that this book grew on me. When it comes to wacky humor, I am open to just about anything. And I conclude here that perhaps it doesn’t matter if the reader or Stump has the last laugh. Because, yes, there is that prankster element running throughout. But the saving grace is an inventive spirit that also runs right along with the smart aleck foolishness. And there are a number of twists and turns as, indeed, one silly element stacks upon another. For those who love offbeat and experimental work, this will definitely appeal to you. Furthermore, just like an optical illusion, there is more here than first meets the eye.

“Disillusioned Illusions” is a 356-page paperback, published by Fantagraphics. You can find it by visiting our friends at Fantagraphics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Greg Stump, Humor

ECCC 2015: Top Shelf Productions and Shannon Wheeler & Mark Russell

IDW Publishing at Emerald City Comicon this year brings a wide variety of comics goodness. I wanted to point out that Top Shelf Productions, now an imprint of IDW Publishing, will be at booth #1225, where you can meet the creative team behind the hit satire “God Is Disappointed in You,” Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler! The book is very funny and informative. Read my review right here.

"God Is Disappointed in You," by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

“God Is Disappointed in You,” by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler is a cartoonist best known for creating the satirical superhero Too Much Coffee Man, and as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Find him here. Mark Russell is a writer and a cartoonist. His writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, The Nib, and Funny Times, among other places, and his cartoons are featured regularly at Nailed. Find him here. And, of course, you can definitely purchase “God Is Disappointed in You,” from Top Shelf Productions, right here.

Top Shelf Productions

I have a soft spot in my heart for the ebullient quality of Shannon’s cartoons. I include above a video interview I did with him at last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. Seems like the perfect blast from the past to share with all of you. Below are the details on the panel with Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell:

Saturday, 2:00 – 3:00 Room Hall C (TCC 301)
God is Disappointed in You (The Sequel), with Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler—Last year’s standing-room-only hot ticket returns — now with even more Biblical bewilderment! God Is Disappointed in You, published by Top Shelf, is the tongue-in-cheek “condensed” version of the Bible you never knew you needed — hilariously modern, but surprisingly authentic — packed with cartoons by Eisner-award-winner Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, Too Much Coffee Man). Join him and author Mark Russell (writer of DC Comics’ upcoming Prez) for an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate “ten-minute Bible.” PLUS: a taste of the Audie-nominated audiobook, read by Dr. Venture himself, James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros), and an exclusive announcement about the upcoming sequel!

For more details on the IDW schedule at ECCC, go right here.

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Filed under Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Emerald City Comicon, God, Humor, IDW Publishing, Religion, Satire, Shannon Wheeler, The New Yorker, Top Shelf Productions

LA Journal: iO West and the World of Comedy Improv

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Comedy is a serious business. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s a dangerous business too. Why else would some people rather have an eye poked out than stand up on stage and let it all hang out in the world of comedy improv? One of the best places in the whole wide world to answer such questions, and so much more, is iO West.

I laughed, and learned, so much from my visit to iO West. And it left me with plenty to process and incorporate into my own life, comedy-related or not. Let’s just say that what goes on in improv applies to life in a myriad of ways. Want to be a better problem-solver? Improv has got you covered. Want to be more creative? Improv all the way. Oh, yeah, want to be a better comedian, actor, and/or writer? Improv! Lucky for you, iO West is not only the place to see improv, it is also the place to train in improv. It also happens to be the place all the winners go to, like Amy Poehler. You know, the coolest and most successful comics and writers on the planet.

Go with your first instinct. That’s the golden rule. You think you’ve got something funny to say? Say it! Blurt it out and see what happens. You can see how that would apply to other aspects of your life. Everything under the sun, really. Don’t be afraid to go with your first thoughts. That’s what I got to see at a high level of skill. These were performances put on my teams of comics. Each team takes the stage and begins with a cue from the audience. They’re given something to work with and then create a narrative. How about the scintillating theme of…condiments? Or the alluring topic of being called a…schmuck. What is a schmuck, really? Well, a loser. This process of making with the funny is known as “Yes, and…” or “The Harold.” What it all comes down to is that this kind of contact sport comedy is as good as its players.

Heyday

Heyday

King Ten

King Ten

I took in a couple of sets from two fierce and hilarious House Harold teams, Heyday and King Ten. The key is trust. Each player makes a leap of faith that what he or she blurts out will be caught by another player and will either continue or be redirected or will be discreetly obliterated.

The object of the game is to not think, or not overthink. Do that when you’re writing. Just write. You already know this. But it always helps to remember that. You just do it. You edit later.

An improv team is both writing on the fly and editing on the fly. Heyday and King Ten are master storytellers able to create whole worlds from a single audience suggestion. Each team is made up of stellar players, like Heyday’s Mort Burke. I knew I’d seen him before somewhere. I saw him at the Seattle Improv Fest a while back. I really appreciate his droll style. If you’re performing at iO West, you’ve got the chops after many years of hard work, like Karen Graci, who is part of King Ten and is also an instructor at iO West. She has a distinctive bubbly vibe to her. Well, like I say, each player has his or her own unique qualities.

For me, I would love the danger of performing on stage. You would feel naked on stage, wouldn’t you? Ever have that dream where you’re naked while in a classroom full of students? Usually, you’re also taking a final exam. What does it mean? You want to bare your soul? You want to be, if you aren’t already, a nudist? How about: Everything is peeled away and you’re being tested. I have that dream a lot and I like it. I think it means I want to challenged. Reminds me of a comedy show I recently saw in Seattle and one set had a comic incorporate a confessional narrative with actually stripping down to nearly nothing. There’s a need in performers to expose a greater truth, let people see them raw. Yes, comedy is a serious business. It’s also an empowering business. Brings me back to the concept of “Yes, and…

iO West is located at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you need to go here. Did I mention the great drinks at great prices? Yes, you can order from the comfort of your own seat while watching the show too. If you want great comedy, if you want a taste of the real LA, then visit our friends at iO West right here.

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Filed under Comedians, Hollywood, iO West, LA Journal, Los Angeles, Seattle Improv Fest

Review: ‘I Don’t Get It’ by Shannon Wheeler

I-Dont-Get-It-Shannon-Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler has been for many years the much beloved alternative cartoonist, famous for his over-caffeinated comics, “Too Much Coffee Man.” And then he went where many cartoonists have attempted to go before but only a smidgen have been heard from since…The New Yorker!

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Filed under Bob Mankoff, Book Reviews, Books, Boom! Studios, Cartoons, Comics, Shannon Wheeler, The New Yorker