knock, knock a quick peek into New York’s comedy scene
As told by Max Silvestri, Emily Heller, Nimesh Patel, Mark Normand and Matt Ruby. Created by Chloe Fitzpatrick.
I named it “Knock knock,” isn’t that stupid? It’s not, not stupid.
Table of Contents 1. 2. 3. 4.
Max Silvestri of Big Terrific Emily Heller, co-host of The Afterlife Nimesh Patel, co-host of Broken Comedy Mark Normand & Matt Ruby of We’re All Friends Here
Max Silvestri on Big Terrific I first met Max when a friend of mine, Sydney, asked if he would call her sister for her birthday. (Her sister was a huge fan of his very funny Top Chef recaps on Eater.com, a blogging project he’s had for 6 years and recently landed him a spot on the official Top Chef cruise.) Max responded to this request with great enthusiasm, saying, “You don’t understand, I’m not doing you a favor. This is the first time this has ever happened to me, I’m so excited.” Instead of just calling her right then, he made a note in his phone, prepared something to say and called her on the exact day of her birth. When he called, he was on tour in Chicago, opening for John Mulaney. He asked Mulaney for advice, who said, “Oh, I’ve never done that. I would be so awkward that by the end of the conversation, they would not be a fan of me anymore.” He told me later that he felt like he was in middle school and was about to call a girl for the first time. Max Silvestri is the host of Big Terrific, a weekly comedy show in Williamsburg. It was originally hosted by the dream team; Max Silvestri, SNL’s Jenny Slate, and Gabe Liedman. After Jenny and Gabe moved to Los Angeles, Max continued to hold down the beloved comedy fort at Cameo Gallery. Recently, Max and Gabe reunited for Big Terrific’s sold out five year anniversary show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (Jenny couldn’t make it). Max loves Mad Men, was a big computer geek in high school, and is a very funny comic and writer. I was so elated that he agreed to talk with me. Can you describe the setting? We are in the backstage area of Cameo Gallery, a music venue on North sixth street in Williamsburg. It is really a backstage for musicians equipment, not a backstage for comics so it is basically a pile of broken stools and drum sets and drum stools and graffiti and garbage. And there’s really nowhere to sit and certainly no amenities that might define a backstage. There’s a big metal stairway that goes up to apparently a sound production studio, though I’ve never seen it and also a bathroom I guess for performers and people performing but it is disgusting and has a shower. Which none of us have ever used. But it would be pretty funny if we did.
So, I really like the show. It was one of the shows that I had always wanted to go to when I didn’t live in New York. Oh, that’s so nice, thank you. I was wondering a little bit about the logistics of it, like who produces it and puts it together and things like that. At this point, the physical production is pretty minimal, obviously. We don’t put on sketches, we don’t have props, so the psychical production is handled by sort of a producer or PA – I guess she’s a producer, Sammy, so she handles at this point room particulars and bringing comics up and off and lighting them and making sure things are working on a production stand point. The rest of the shows – the sort of higher level logistics are sort of split between me and a producer/booker named Caroline Creaghead who- she sort of helps out with the show, I mean we kind of – I mean, she sort of full on produces a lot of shows in New York. She produces and hosts Sunday nights at Union Hall, she used to produce Eugene’s show, and she has a few monthly shows, Tell Me A Funny Story, and those things she full-on produces. Because we had been sort of running things for years and because she’s sort of very busy, she sort of offered to help out. And then when we do bigger things, like when we did the five year anniversary, she really like took the reigns and produced that. But for this weekly show, it doesn’t really need a lot of production. We kind of maintain a spread sheet with booking and then she fills it in with names, we start talking on Tuesday or in the case of today, its like “Ok, what do we have for tonight?” and she’s like, “Oh, I heard from this person that this person is in town.” And we kind of figure it out last minute. So, you guys just had the 5 year anniversary show at Music Hall of Williamsburg a few weeks ago. Have you had other celebration shows or anniversary shows? So, we had one other show at Music Hall, but it wasn’t really tied to an anniversary, it was just kind of like, “We should do this!” It was in like August of 2011 I think, and that was like, “Why not? Why haven’t we done this?” And we’ve celebrated other anniversaries here a couple of times, but always last minute. Like, last year Gabe and I looked at the calendar and I was like, “I think this is when we started.” And we had a pretty informal show. But this fifth anniversary was really the first proper show we’ve had. Ok, cool. And you guys were just young dudes and a lady when you started.
Yeah, we were 25 and 26 when we started the show. Is that a young age to say, “We’re gonna do this,” and to have enough confidence to start a show? No, I don’t think so. I mean we had all been doing stand up since we were pretty young, we had all sort of started in college and I didn’t move to New York until a year after college, but they went to Columbia, Gabe and Jenny. I don’t think they ever performed downtown or professionally while they were in college, but they were doing improv in New York. And I don’t know, that’s the fun part of being really young is sort of unearned confidence and ambition and I think some of it kind of flames out or offends people that these kids think they can go out and just do it. Also, what we were doing wasn’t particularly ambitious. We had hosted shows before at nice venues and they had had a show every other week and I had a monthly show and we were like, “Oh, we’re too lazy to do a weekly on our own, but if the three of us do it together, it doesn’t seem as daunting.” And it was just in the back of a record shop when we started. I mean, there was a nice café and bar space, I don’t mean to sound like we were standing among crates of records. It was, you know, as nice as this. It seemed very easy. It wasn’t like we had to sign paperwork, it was just like, “Ok, we’re gonna do this now and show up and there will be a mic here and hopefully we drink for free.” So, it was a little daunting I guess, but that’s just kind of how New York works is like young people come in and no one really knows who they are and you just hope that you do good most times and you can get older, better, more successful people to do your show and help make it seem like a more valid thing. And you guys have moved around, but you seem pretty loyal to this neighborhood. I kind of am. I like Williamsburg and I understand all the like criticisms and jokes about it, but like every neighborhood is like that. I think it’s a perpetually young and interested neighborhood that likes going out a lot and changes a lot. Like, I really enjoy – I don’t like change a ton and I’ve stayed here seven years. But I like that it’s – every year there’s a different crop of people you see on the subway it’s not like it’s getting older. It’s like some neighborhoods, you see families with their children growing up, but here it’s constantly changing and I think that its- personally, I really enjoy that and I think it’s also very good for a community of people who like to go out and are into doing things and into doing comedy. And as I’ve gotten older, I want to go out less and I don’t really want to leave my neighborhood and that’s sort of how I felt about Manhattan. It was like, all of the shows were in Manhattan and we were like, “Well, none of our friends live there and we certainly don’t live there.” Why would we ask everyone to go to the Lower East Side, a neighborhood we were increasingly not fond of, to do the show? Like
why are we all coming from a some other place? And Gabe and Jenny never lived in Williamsburg and they’re not as big on this neighborhood, but they’ve loved keeping the show here. I mean, they lived in Fort Greene and kinda Cobble Hill sort of the whole time. But I’ve always lived in Williamsburg and I always kind of wanted to keep it here. Yeah. It’s kind of like a tiny college town. It is, yeah. There’s always young people or older people with money who like going out. So either are good fans of the show. But we’ve seen – It’s funny, like doing the show this long, I haven’t moved, but I’ve seen – there’s been like crowds of people that will come- people that have gotten really into the show. Like, I won’t know them necessarily, but I’ll recognize like, “Oh, this group of friends. They come almost every week,” but they age and they stop coming. And you know, maybe there’s a particular time in your life when you have a group of friends and you’re all free on Wednesday and you wanna go out, but like somebody gets a late shift job, a couple breaks up, one person moves out of the neighborhood, its like, things change. So you almost see shifts of people in the audience. I know you like Mad Men. I do! Though I haven’t seen this week’s. That’s ok, I’m not going to spoil it for you. But I wanted to show you this picture that someone sent to me today. Oh my god, I saw that on the internet yesterday! So incredible. Is that real of him or is it like- I mean, I know it’s really him, but I wonder- He’s fascinating. Him more than anyone on that show I would like to hang out with. Not as a friend, regularly, but I would like to have an afternoon to pick his brain because he seems like- I read like a GQ interview or something with him a couple years ago and I think he really like plays by his ownReally? I listen Pete Holmes’s podcast a lot, which you know because the first time we met, I told you about how he had been calling you ‘gay handsome.’ Yeah, yeah!
He said that when the Nerdist group and the Mad Men cast were bowling together, Pete was kind of poking fun at the Mad Men cast and he might have gone too far with Vincent because he slapped him on the back really hard. Pete did? Or Vince-? No, no, no. Vincent slapped Pete. Wow. That’s funny. Yeah I think that’s going to be a TV show or something. So, you did see the premiere though. I did. Yeah. What do you think about Betty? What’s happening? I feel bad for her still. I can’t tell if she’s heavier or less heavy than she was last year. She looks a little better. But mostly the whole – the weird rape joke and the attachment to - I was really drunk while I was watching that episode and also my DVR screwed up, so I didn’t have the first 17 minutes, so we then watched the first 17 minutes after and it was like a very disconcerting way to see the episode because we didn’t really understand who the neighbors were, whether they had actually been in Hawaii, what happened there. I was really disoriented the whole time. But Betty – I really hope that, I really do think Henry’s a good egg and I really do hope that Betty can be happier. Yeah, me too. I think everyone on the show is going through a pretty serious crisis right now. I would say so, yeah. I mean, interesting drama. I do feel like Don had a good year and this is probably going to be a worse year.
I know but like, RIP Lane Price. I know, right? Whatever happened to that guy? Just kidding.
Big Terrific Word Association:
Greg Johnson: Funniest. Jenny Slate: Funniest. No! You can’t say that every time. No, I literally do think – I think Greg, Gabe, and Jenny are the three funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Which Gabe? Gabe Leidman. Alright, well I won’t tell the other one about that. Ok. Michael Che: Slow. John Mulaney: Nice. Dave Hill: Slow. Joe Mande: Nervous. Nick Turner: Loud. Emily Heller: Birthright. Her birthright story is so funny. Gabe Delahaye: Mad. Pete Holmes: Laugh. Gabe Liedman: Funniest.
Emily Heller on The Afterlife, with mentions of Fresh Out & comedy in gen. Emily Heller and I went to a gallery open house at the Clock Tower Gallery at Air On Air to talk about her show The Afterlife and comedy in general. We thought Bjork would show up. Can you state your name? My name is Emily Elizabeth Heller. Don’t quote me on that. Everything else is fair game. …And one of the guys from Girls just walked by. Which one? The guy who plays the old, gay dude who’s dating Elijah. Really? Yeah! A little while ago. Oh. I thought it was gonna be the cute one. Oh, no. Which one’s the cute one? The guy who’s dating Shoshanna. Ray. Oh. You think he’s cute?
Yeah I really do. Mmmm. You’re not into it? Alex Karpovsky? No, not really. And you can quote me on that. Emily, how did you get into comedy? Well, I knew it would lead me here someday. That’s why. No, I – - I took a class in college. So you had a stand up class? Yeah, at UC Santa Cruz, they had one. And it fulfilled the Gen-Ed that I needed. Yeah. So I was gonna be- my sister asked me to be the maid of honor at her wedding and so I was like, “This will help me write a good speech.” And then I got an A+ in the class, which was the only A+ I ever got in college. And …. Some friends of mine who had taken the class with me, we started driving up to San Francisco from Santa Cruz to do open mics. And then I moved to San Fransisco and started doing it there. Cool. And then when did you move here? I moved here August of 2011. After three years in San Fransisco. So, yeah. I’ve been here for about a year and a half. Ok. Well, that’s not very long. No, not very long at all.
Whoa! Yeah. But you just blew up! Yeah, that’s what’s happening. That’s what’s up! It’s going really well. It could have gone really badly. I’ve seen it go really badly for other people. But – like I have friends who moved here from San Francisco who just like stopped doing it all together, or just like got out of open mics, but I had done enough stuff in San Fransisco that when I came here, I had some credits and that like helped me bypass some of the like open mics and stuff. Hi! Can I have white please? I’d like that also. Thank you! I want to make sure it records me tipping. I’m on record right now, I don’t want to be on record being stingy. That woman is half naked. Oh, wow. And not one of the fun halves. So, do you know Chenoa, the producer of your show The Afterlife, from San Francisco? Yeah, she was someone I saw around. She used to come to shows at the Punchline a lot, which is where I would perform. And I didn’t- I didn’t really remember her name. Because it’s Chenoa. And that name is crazy. And… when I moved here, I knew I wanted to start a show. And so first me and George wanted to run a show together. And then Josh Gondelman and Aaron Judge got in touch with me, and then we just decided all four of us would do it together and we knew we wanted a producer and I reached out to someone who produces shows here and she put me in touch with her. And so that’s when we really started to work together and became friends.
So, are you on Avalon? Are you represented by anybody? No, I’m represented by Mosaic. A woman named Molly Mandel. Chenoa wasn’t…. it wasn’t because of her connection with Avalon because when she started working with us- I don’t even thing she was working there. The way it works is that – it doesn’t really matter that she’s with a different management company than I’m with, everyone works together on stuff. I didn’t have a manager until after I did Montreal this year. So I started to meet with people after that and then I made my decision in like September. When was Montreal? Montreal was in late July. It was a really crazy week for me because it was the same week that my John Oliver set aired on Comedy Central, which is the first time that I did stand-up on TV, and then that aired the Friday night that I was at Montreal, which was just like so crazy, so fun, it went really well and then like the week that I came back, I started filming this web series that still hasn’t come out yet, but with like—Jeanene Garafolo’s in it and Reggie Watts and it’s really crazy. Whoa. When’s that coming out? That should be out in the next couple months. We’re still editing it. It’s taking forever. Are you editing it? No, my brother in law is directing it. Who’s actually, he’s one of the Lonely Island guys. Oh, which one? The one who—he was actually the one who was on Girls. Oh. Yorma? He’s your brother in law? That’s sweet.
Yeah. Yeah. He’s married to my sister. He’s been with my sister since I was 14. So long before—he’s been with her since before they were famous or whatever. So yeah, he—he kinda made that happen. But, we’re – he’s so busy that we’re kinda just like waiting for him to get back into town before he can edit it. What’s that about? That webseries? Oh, man. I don’t know if it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s definitely- I learned a lot while doing it. It’s --- I just play a – It’s kind of like an interview show, but not really. I’m just like a tarot card reader and I read tarot cards and it’s like totally improvised and a complete mess, but hopefully it’ll be good. It’s very- that’s a really cute fake dog. What if that was real? What if that’s what all dogs actually looked like? What did you study at Santa Cruz? I studied the history of art and visual culture. So I should really know what all of this is about. And I don’t. In retrospect, I wish I had made my own major. I studied art history, I didn’t really do anything with it, except it taught me how to make analogies and think critically. I think it generally made me a more rounded person, but not something I’m doing anything with now. Yeah. Did you do any women’s studies stuff? It was kind of like the dominate culture there, which I’m really grateful for, so a lot of my friends were feminist studies majors and I took Intro, my senior year because my friend was T.A.ing and I was in here section. So, it wasn’t my focus at all. But it’s in everything there. Is that part of the ‘thinking critically’ in art history? Yeah, that’s a huge thing in post-modern—There’s that guy. Oh, you missed him. He’s walking by here now. By the window now.
Who are you talking about? The guy from Girls! He’s gone. Well, yeah – kind of. The way that the – our history program—the reason that it’s called art and the history of visual culture is that it was kind of divided into people who were into studying capital A art and people who were ya know – into the construction of the idea of capital A art, so it was a lot of post-colonial studies, and most modern, and Dada and anything else that was really sort of like—and like crafts and ya know— sort of viewing everything as art. And I think that the best class I ever took was about race in American visual art, that was like the best class I ever took, and that was taught by someone who wasn’t an art history PHD, he had his PHD in American studies. And so it was like – it was really more a cultural class than it was like, “What does this painting mean?” It was really good. But yeah- it’s a liberal arts school. I went to the farmers market there one time. Oh, really? You probably saw my old dorm-mate playing accordion, shortly before he got arrested for stealing sex toys. What! When did he do that? After I graduated. I was so mad I wasn’t there for that ‘cause he was such an asshole. There was this guy who lived in my dorm freshman year, who-- he was a real asshole. He was an anarchist. I got him to admit one time that if anarchy ever happened we’d be ruled by warlords. And anyway, he used to shoplift because all anarchists did, but— it’s fine to shoplift food, but he went to this like, mom and pop, lesbian owned sex toy store and stole these like butt plugs with [s] crystals at the end of them… and yeah like an eighty dollar butt plug and I found out about this because there was a news paper article about him getting arrested because they looked at the security footage and they were like, “Oh, I know that guy. He plays accordion at the farmers market.” And so they just went to the farmers market and arrested him! [Laugh] I was so happy. He was such an asshole. He used to smell girls’ hair a lot.
Non-consensual smelling. Exactly. First day of school, he came into my room uninvited and just started flipping through my CD case, which tells you how old I am, and was like, “Wow. You have really shitty taste in music.” And I was like, “Go fuck yourself.” I mean, I did. But that’s – what did he listen to? I’m glad he got arrested. I had another question for you, but now I forgot it because of that story. Was it about my beauty regime? Was that it? Because it is rigorous. What is it? Uh, sleep ‘til noon. Um, wear pajamas till 4:30. Umm… I bet your skin is really well rested. Mmm-hmm. Are you hydrated most of the time? No, no. I’m always dehydrated. That’s another key feature of my beauty regime is constant dehydration. Drink only coffee. Stay up ‘til four. How do you make money while doing stand up? This is like the first time in my life when I’ve been kind of only making money on stand-up and not anything else, because for a while when I was living here, I was temping in offices, so I would go to like clerical work. And for a while I filled in for someone on maternity leave as a receptionist for a few months. But now I – I’m the warm-up comic for Totally Biased, which is a show on FX, so that pays me a little bit of money- it pays me like barely enough
to sort of live on and then I’ll get an occasional college gig and occasionally New York shows will pay, a lot of them are free shows though so they don’t pay, but- college shows, I’ll do every other month, or I’ll get the random acting gig or things like that. What are you acting in? Girls? Haa! I wish. Not too much, I have one line on Amy Schumer’s new show. That’s cool! Yeah, so that was fun. She was so sweet. It was a really good experience. Even though I had to get up at six am and wear my winter coat inside for two hours. Is that show in New York? Because I know Gabe Liedman wrote for it, but he moved to L.A. Did you see him? The guy from Girls? Oh my god. I just made eye contact with him but it didn’t register. Come on. Speaking of celebs, I listened to your podcast with Gabe and you guys were talking about RuPaul. I have a friend that works at Logo. I did warm up for a couple Wanda Sykes tapings during the election season and it was horrifying. And RuPaul was at one of them and I had to keep the crowd entertained while he was sitting on stage and I was like, ‘No one’s looking at me!’ Wait I actually listened to a podcast where you talked about that. RuPaul wasn’t there when I was there. But you said he was just off and then on?
Yeah he was just like this. He looked like a spynx and then when the cameras came on he broke his pose, like turned the robot off and then turned it back on. Do you think that’s what Tyra’s like? No. Tyra’s nothing like RuPaul. Did you meet her? No, I didn’t. I don’t think she’s nearly as smart as RuPaul, you know what I mean? But I also think she’s probably I don’t know. I don’t know if she has self control. She’s probably got a lot more people whispering in her ear. He was more- he was riffing, he was super quick, he was really on it. So, what’s this class? What’s this profile have to be? Does it have to be about feminism? No. Do you want it to be about feminism? No. I don’t care. But, no. No, it doesn’t have to be. I told you, my friend of mine did a workshop – it was kind of about feminism – but it was more about how comedy can be – because the artists as so much agency, it can be a really great way to tell stories that don’t usually get told in mainstream media. Totally. And it’s a way to get people interested in things you say. They’re not interested in the subject matter, they’re interested in the form. Because they think it will make them laugh. I think it’s super powerful for that. But, I don’t take what I do as seriously as other more social-justicey comics. I think being goal oriented with your jokes is effective for certain things. I think about this a lot because I’m in one of the most evil industries there is, but also one of the ones that need change the most, so I’m always curious about what people’s strategies are for how they want to say what they’re gonna say, how much to compromise, how much not to compromise, and it’s like – I really
like the fact that I’m no longer in that bubble in comedy, because that’s what Santa Cruz was like, it was like everybody believed what I believed. But now I’m surrounded by people who really help inform me of how the rest of the country thinks about stuff. Because most comedians are not in it because they have a righteous social justice message, they’re in it because they’re funny and unmotivated to do anything else. Do you think being around people that aren’t Santa Cruz people affects your comedy? Yeah, probably. I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t take for granted the people who see things the way I do, although I do think it’s effective to speak on stage as if I do. Like, it doesn’t make sense to go up there and say, “Just so you know, I think women are equal. Now to proceed with my joke.” It’s better to be demonstrative about that sort of thing. I do think that I take that into consideration when I write my jokes is that I really want to reach people who don’t agree with me already in a way that’s not overtly challenging. I try to sneak it in rather than be like, “You’re in or you’re out with this.” Are you for real or for fake on OkCupid? I’m for real on OkCupid. I will e-mail you my username if you are that curious about it. It’s a weird thing. I get a lot of messages from people who have seen me perform. Now that I’ve been doing the Totally Biased tapings, I get a lot of people who have seen me there. Or… I actually went out with this guy for a while who saw me speak at a panel on Women In Comedy. And I kind of only went out with him just because he was at a panel on women in comedy. Like, voluntarily. Tell me about Gay People Smoking Weed dot Tumblr dot com. Well, that came about because I was smoking weed with this gay guy and I thought it was really cool. And I did- I had this lofty idea that- you know how it’s like gay people are only sort of only allowed to be defined by that, you know? And I really wanted to start a blog that was just about gay stoners just to be like, ‘Identity is multi-facited!’ and I also just thought it was funny that it was gay people smoking weed. I don’t know what it was about it. My friend Natasha who’s trans, when I found out she was a stoner, I thought it was so interesting and I don’t know why,
I’m sure she was probably like… I don’t know, it was probably too lofty. I really wanted it to be just gay people smoking weed, but I couldn’t get any submissions. So then it just became a catchall for stuff I didn’t want to post on my professional tumblr. And just like cat pictures that I wanted to say something about. The thing that I wanted to say being, “I love this!” I’ve been smoking a lot more pot recently. That’s a recent development? Kind of, yeah. My roommate smokes a lot of pot and so it’s always around and she gets its from California. So. I don’t know, I don’t have a job! What other ones do you have? I also have “Suck My Dick New Yorker.” That’s me and my brother. He does all the theme songs for my podcasts. Is the other lady on your podcast Adam Conover’s girlfriend? Yeah! I used to like- I used to want to write comic books and stuff and I was and am a really big fan of her work. And when I met him, I was like, “You’re girlfriend’s Lisa Hanawalt???” and I made him introduce me to her. And I also wanted to do a podcast, but I didn’t want to do one with another comedian because I had done one in San Francisco with my friend who wasn’t a comedian and I like that dynamic. And I wanted to differentiate it, too. Because I feel like there’s a lot of podcasts that are just comedians talking to just other comedians. And for when comedians come on, I wanted someone who would have fresh questions for them. And she was just really into the idea. And it was a fun way to make her hang out with me more ‘cause I’m such a big fan of hers. So I’m basically just in their relationship. We started the podcasts before Adam invited me to do the show with him at UCBeast. And how long have you been doing Fresh Out? Adam was doing it for a while before I started. He was doing it monthly at midnight on Saturdays and then when Totally JK left, which was Joe Mande’s show, the slot was open, and Adam had such a good relationship with the
theatre that he just asked for it and they gave it to him. And he just asked me if I would come on board with it. And the work is so minimal for me, compared with the other show that I produce, which is just like, it’s a lot more personal time promoting. And UCBeast, people just come. Well, thanks for coming out. Thanks so much for talking with me. Yeah. If you have any other questions, just email me. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see Bjork, but.
Nimesh Patel on Broken Comedy Can you describe the setting? We’re at a Thai Resturuant at 15th and 8th in New York City, in Chelsea. It’s real romantic in here. I’m having the Drunken Noodle. It’s a rice noodle dish with basil and it’s really good. Good choice. Thank you. Can you tell me about your show? So the show is called Broken Comedy. It’s at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn. Starts at 9 on Mondays. I run it with my good friends Michael Che and Mike Denny. It’s the best comedy show in New York City on Monday nights. What was it--? Time Out said it was the third best-? According to Time Out Magazine, like three weeks ago… Just that week. Yeah, just that Monday, we were the best thing to d- We were number three out of five- Right in the middle of the things. “Y’all should probably go to this. You don’t have to.” It’s the bronze metal of shows. Sometimes you get big names. Yeah like this week, Aziz dropped in! That was crazy. He just dropped in, did thirty minutes.
Where did he come from? How did he get there? So, Che is like comedy famous. He’s the next Pryor. Sincerely, I mean that. So I guess Aziz saw Che at the Cellar last night and Aziz said, “Alright, I’m gonna come by and do your show.” And I think can use this show to showcase comedians that people don’t know, but that they should. How long have you been doing it? We’ve been doing it for about- we’ve been at Matchless for a little over a year now. Probably a year and four months. Before that, we were at this place called Sandbox. Also in Williamsburg. It was like the basement of an independent, Fed-Ex-like shipping company and the basement was converted into a lounge. And we started there. And Denny- Mike Denny started the show and he asked me and Che- he had taken a liking to our comedic styles or whatever and we’re all – Che and I aren’t dickheads. I mean, we’re all dickheads. But there’s a lot of dickheads in comedy and we aren’t like – we crack on people, but it’s not like in a mean way. We’re not like… You’re nice guys. We’re nice guys. So, Mike Denny had taken a liking to me and Che and asked us to be regulars on this show that he was starting to produce and we were like, “Yes, obviously.” Because you know, it was free guaranteed stage time every x night of the week. So, when it started, Denny was hosting and Che and I were doing a lot of spots and that quickly evolved into us alternating hosting. Why did you guys switch venues? When we initially started, we were sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery because our friend worked in marketing there, so they provided us Brooklyn beers at cost. And Sandbox didn’t have a liquor license. So the guy was concerned that if we started promoting it, you know, it would draw a lot of attention, this and that. So, a lot of other differences with the venue, they canceled on us a bunch of times, so we got real frustrated and so we were like, “Alright, well I guess the show is done. But Denny, through his persistence and luck, found Matchless and they
were looking to do a comedy show on Mondays because normally they would have a rock show but only two or three people would come. And Denny knew the owner, so they invited us to do a show. So we started slow, in January of 2012 with like 10 people, mostly comics sort of thing. And then gradually we started building up and Che got some heat on him and we were making heat in the world of New York City comedy and now it’s where it is today. Che and I didn’t use to co-host. Whenever Che’s here, that’s how we’ll do it. But a lot of times, Che or Denny will be coming from a different spot or one of us will be coming from a different show- So, a lot of times, I’ll host and I’ll do the first fifteen minutes by myself or we’ll have a guest host like Jermaine Fowler, Kevin Barnett, Seaton Smith, to have fun with us on stage. Because a lot of shows – I’m not saying they’re stuck up, but it’s like – we try to be like – it’s our show where it’s like, “Just come to our show! Just come to our party! Let’s hang out.” So, the show wasn’t always like us co-hosting, but I remember one night, it was really shitty. There was like 8 people there and I’m on stage trying to close it out and then Che had just come from another spot and he pulled a chair on stage and we just started talking and having a conversation and for whatever reason, that lit the room up. You could just tell. And that was really fun. So we were like, “Ok. We’re gonna do this every time.” It’s fun. It’s a really fun show. And now, Aziz dropped in! So we’re on the map. Who else has dropped in? Todd Barry’s done the show, Judah Fredlander’s done the show. Hannibal comes. Probably once a month or once every six weeks, he’ll come and do whatever he wants. But a lot if it- like Aziz was definitely Che, a lot of it is definitely Che. He’s got a lot of fame ahead of him and we’re so grateful and happy for him and it’s a beautiful thing. You were making jokes on stage last Monday about him saying, “I’m the one getting everyone in here.” Oh yeah, that’s just us fucking around. Like I remember one night, it was light. And I was talking to him on G-chat and he was like, “How was it?” and I was like, “light.” And he was like, “Why? What happened?” and I said, “You didn’t tweet it!” And he said, “Oh, you’re gonna blame me?” But no- I mean, a lot of people will come because as Che’s star rises, the show is only gonna get bigger. But a lot of people now- if one of us does Hannibal’s show the night prior, people will come because they saw us there. And Hannibal has helped us out a lot in that sense, ‘cause
he’s always like, “Yeah, I’m gonna be here.” A few weeks ago, someone accidentally blogged that he was gonna be on the show, and he wasn’t supposed to be on it, and a bunch of people came and were like, “Is Hannibal gonna be here?” And I was like, “Uh…. Maybe!” And he ended up coming, so it was great. But Hannibal’s been awesome in that sense. Have you seen a big growth in audiences? I mean I wish we could measure it, but we started getting a lot of people coming to the show after February. In February, I had my birthday party and there were a lot of people there, like friends and family, and then I think what happens is lot of times, people just see a room is full and then they’re like, “What’s going on in there? Oh, it’s a comedy show?” And then every night after that, we’ve been disappointed if the room isn’t like packed. And then Che was writing on SNL for a few weeks. And some people came because of that and were like, “Oh, an SNL writer is gonna be there?” And it’s just like – now it’s consistently packed when we’re at Matchless. It’s great when a lot of people are laughing because that room is very conducive to sound. A lot of times it’s a very touchy crowd. Like, our regulars will laugh. But I just want to get to the point where it’s all people that like us. But we’ve had packed out shows where people are just heckling and being drunk, we’ve had nights where everyone’s on board and laughing, so the room is fickle – but I think a lot of times when I host it might be my mood is reflected if I’m in a bad mood or maybe it’s just something the audience doesn’t like, like maybe it’s too hot. But Monday was great. It was awesome. Monday before that, I thought it was okay. I mean, it was one of those nights when it was really like, you had to fight the audience. You saw me! I was like, “What happened? Why are you guys acting like this?” But it is what it is. Can you tell me about your co-hosts? Yeah, so Che’s like my closest friend in comedy. Che’s awesome. Obviously, if you want to know about Che, just google Michael Che and you can find anything you need to know about him. Denny is honestly one of the funniest guys I know. He cracks me up all the time. He’s out of his mind but in the best way possible. He’s a funny guy and he cracks me up. He’s not as social as Che and I, but he’s got a great girlfriend, he’s always nice – the nicest guy
there is. Denny used to host, but sometimes Denny would just dive right into material and sometimes you can’t do that when people are just staring at you. But now he gets to do 10 minutes every week. Denny’s the best. I thought you were talking about like Jermaine, Seaton, andOh! Talk about them! Oh, well they’re just guest hosts. Whenever I haven’t seen them in a while or whatever I’m like, “Come hang out and just guest host.” You were there last week when Jermaine came up. We know each other’s material well enough that we can just talk and riff and have a conversation, so we can just catch up like that and work on bits together and stuff, so it’s fun. Last week, I heard Jermaine say he thought he saw something about champagne on Che’s facebook, and he was like, “I only came because I thought it was your birthday.” Ha! Jermaine’s an idiot. I don’t think he really thought that at all, but Bar Matchless is really cool and they hook us up with drink specials and things like that. But every once in a while, Che will get the inclination that he wants to drink champagne. So, we’ll buy champagne and just drink it. A few weeks ago we had a party called “For No Damn Reason.” That was the name of the show. We didn’t announce anyone on the line-up. Everyone was like, “Who’s coming?” We just had champagne and drank and had fun for no reason. Like I said, we want our show to be a fun time. Not like – we’re not taking it so seriously that people can’t talk to us and hang out. We play hip-hop and get drunk and eat weed. We like to hang. Chill. Build that sort of community. It feels inviting. Yeah! That’s the point, right? Like, come hang out with us! We ain’t shit. Just come. Drink. Buy me a beverage. It’s really just to get free drinks from people. Don’t you get drinks for free?
Yeah but there’s nothing like a free drink that you earned. Do you have any specific memories? SO many awesome times have been had at that show. One of my favorite was when – we have candles in the room, like there are candles along the walls and one night our friend, he’s a comedian, Freddy Sheffield, who has a huge afro, he was leaning back and his hair caught on fire when Phil Hanley was onstage. And he put it out and nothing happened to him and then Phil handled it so well because it was a big commotion. Everyone was like, “Oh shit!” and now there’s hair smoke in the air and Phil Hanley just goes, “That was really selfish, man.” So, so many great memories. New Years there was so fun. It was packed. We had two bottles of champagne and we partied all night.
Broken Comedy word association: Sean Donnelly: Hilarious. You can’t say hilarious. Why! It’s the truth. Aparna Nancherla: Excellent joke writer. That’s not one word. Joe List: I love that dude. You can’t do one word. Joe DeRosa: Polished. Nick Vatterott: Surprising. Always. Phil Hanley: Nice. He’s the nicest dude. Jeffery Joseph: Dad. Damien Lemon: Natural. Emily Heller: Take a shower, Emily.
Mark Normand & Matt Ruby on We’re All Friends Here I showed up at the Creek around midnight on April 20th. When I handed my very real ID to the man at the door he looked at me and asked, “How old are you?” “Twenty one,” I answered. He looked at me again. “Are you?” The venue had been shut down to the public for the night. Tens of comics were partying in honor of the national marijuana holiday, so it seemed reasonable for this man to be wary of letting in the chubby/nervous version of Juno. I explained that one of the comics had given me permission to step inside and after looking at my ID a few more times, he told me I was going to have to wait outside for Mark Normand to approve. After about fifteen minutes, Mark stuck his head outside the door and waved me in. He pointed at me while looking in the bouncer’s direction. “Journalists,” he said and shook his head. The show was called We’re All Friends Here. It’s a monthly show at The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City. It’s a very unique comedy show where the hosts, Mark Normand and Matt Ruby, ask a few comics to put them in contact with their closest friends and family. These friends and fam send the hosts what they might consider to be ‘dirt,’ embarrassing memories, personal antidotes, or deep dark secrets about said comic. Then, Mark and Matt invite the comic on stage and to discuss what they’ve found. Toward the end of the show on this particular night, a man toward the back of the room stumbled in, stood for a second and then fell to the ground. The show ended early. Mark and Matt met me in the “podcast room” at The Creek to answer some questions.
Can you describe the setting? Mark Normand: You know what this place looks like? It looks like if a TV set designer was supposed to put stuff in a guy’s room. There’s chains on the wall, there’s a dream catcher, what is that? A wind chime, a drum base. Matt Ruby: And the guy who spends the most time in here of anyone is having a seizure upstairs right now. Mark Normand: That’s a good point. That was probably the most frightening comedy show I’ve ever been to. Matt Ruby: And then the seizure happened. Mark Normand: Nice. Also, your bouncer is a stickler. Mark Normand: Yeah, what’s up with bouncers? Matt Ruby: You know what I don’t like? They gave him a list of people and it wasn’t in alphabetical order. Mark Normand: I noticed that! It’s like you’re playing word jumble all of a sudden. Matt Ruby: He was probably too nice a guy to actually bitch about it, but I would be furious. Mark Normand: That’s true, you would be furious.
Matt Ruby: If that was my job and you gave me a list of names, I’d be like, “Hey can you put these in alphabetical order?” Can you take eight seconds worth of time so I don’t have to take 45 minutes worth of time later on? Mark Normand: This is why I love Ruby. You’re bored out of your mind with this- to me, I think this is the most interesting thing about him. This is why I like Ruby! Because of this shit! Like, I didn’t even think twice about the alphabetical order, he’s been dwelling on it for hours! Hours! Outraged! OUTRAGED! Matt Ruby: For the guy! At the door! Because I saw him page through the list, I’m like, “they didn’t give it to you in alphabetical order?” He just looks up at me and goes, “No, they didn’t.” And then back down. And he gave me this look that said everything. Mark Normand: Oh my god, that’s great. Matt Ruby: He can’t voice his opinion. Mark Normand: You’re the voice of the people. Matt Ruby: I’m the voice of the person who can’t speak up. Mark Normand: Right! Even when they don’t want you to be, you’re the voice. I just love- we had a three hour show, guy whose probably dead, we’re high out of our minds and he can’t stop talking about the list. Alright! Lets get to the interview. We’ve been in here for three weeks. Ok. Can you guys tell me about the Creek a little bit? Mark Normand: Oh, god. That’s like saying, “Tell me about the Peloponnesian War.” There’s so much! I can’t believe I pulled that reference out of my ass, by the way- that’s like eighth grade social studies. Ok. Basically the Creek is like New York’s comedy club house, you know? We can do stuff like this- There’s weed everywhere, the
doors are locked just for the comics, if you want to do a show, you tell Rebecca, she’ll put it on for you. There’s no money exchanged. It’s cheap, it’s fun. You can hang here if there’s nowhere to go, there’s Christmas parties… Matt Ruby: It’s a place for people who don’t fit in anywhere else, so they just come here. Mark Normand:Yes! There’s Thanksgiving dinner here every year and it’s free. Matt Ruby: It’s like the one fraternity will take anyone. Mark Normand: Right. Even the frat guys, she’ll take! Although she doesn’t like them as much. Matt Ruby: Is this a podcast? What are you doing, Mark? Mark Normand: Right! Sorry! Basically, the Creek, it’s a hub. It’s a hub. It’s an alternative hub. You’re gonna edit this, right? Yes. Mark Normand: So it’s not gonna be us talking about the list for a half hour. No, but that was good stuff! Matt Ruby: Yeah, that was great! I’ve got a whole new five minutes. Mark Normand: Yeah but what’s the article? Is it about us kvetching or is it about the show? It’s about the show, but about you guys, too.
Mark Normand: Alright, alright. See, I didn’t know that. How do you guys know each other? Mark Normand: Ah, comedy? New York. Doing sets. Open mics. You were the one- the whole show was his idea. He creates things. Matt Ruby: The Creek was - [Rebecca] wanted to do more comedy shows and she asked me if I wanted to do a comedy show and it was the same week that we were both down in New Orleans for a comedy festival and I had seen him do stand up in New York and I was like, “Oh, I’ll ask him, it would be fun to host a show together.” And he agreed and I don’t think we realized that –Apparently, we have some chemistry together. But at the time, I don’t think we realized that at all. Mark Normand: No, not at all. Matt Ruby: Because we seem very different, but we’re very understanding of each other’s differences. Mark Normand: Right! Something must have drawn you to me or me to you. Matt Ruby: I thought you were good! I thought you were funny. Mark Normand: Yeah, but – I think it was more than that. Matt Ruby: Yeah, you didn’t seem as full of shit. Although, you’re full of shit all the time, I think I sensed that underneath that you were more real than other people. Mark Normand: Yeah. I think I can be. Matt Ruby: You can be. I think you give people what they deserve.
Mark Normand: Well, that sounds pretty good to me. That sounds noble. You made it sound like an insult was coming. Matt Ruby: Yeah, well, give it time. Mark Normand: Ha ha haaaa. That’s funny. No one sees the genius that I see. Matt Ruby: What a compliment. Mark Normand: Well, ya know. I mean, I’m going deep. Ya know, I’m on the bottom floor here. But, there was something. There was something. I mean, you’re sitting on stage for an hour and a half with a guy, the whole timeMatt Ruby: You’re ok talking about anything. And I like that. Mark Normand: Oh, yeah. I like that, too. Matt Ruby: And for this show, I thought it would be good. Mark Normand: Right. And it’s a great idea. He came up with this idea, he’s come up with the ideas for other shows. He’s the idea man. Yeah, you guys have done a lot of projects together. Mark Normand: Oh, yeah. We’ve done videos… The Amish thing. Matt Ruby: Love the Amish thing. Plug that. Watch the Amish thing!
Mark Normand: Yeah. It’s a great idea. Yeah. Good idea. Matt Ruby: But the bad execution is almost what I love about it. Like the chase scene, it’s great. Mark Normand: That’s gonna be one of those things, like if we make it, in thirty years, people are gonna be going, “Look at this thing they made when they were younger!” Matt Ruby: I also think if you showed a room full of people that video, they would start laughing. Mark Normand: That’s true. That’s true. The thing is- my parents, they have me on Google alert –they know every show, every credit, and they watched that- Never brought it up. Not once. Do they listen to this show? Mark Normand: No, no. This is a little too heavy. You don’t let them. Mark Normand: No, no. Hopefully they don’t know about it. But I mean, Conan, or if I’m on TV, or an interview in a magazine, they’ll read it. Never miss it. But the Amish, nothing. What do you guys like most about the show and what do you like the least? Matt Ruby: I think people come out to our show and they’re more interesting than they are on other shows. They tell the truth. It’s sort of like an environment that’s been created where if you don’t reveal something or be a little bit more intimate about stuff, you look like a jackass.
Mark Normand: Or boring. Matt Ruby: Yeah. So I kind of like that it sets this challenge to people to be interesting and confessional and admit things. Mark Normand: And also people come up, like, “Can I please do the show? Please let me do the show!” And it’s like, “You wanna come up and talk about how you were molested?” And they’re like, “Yes! Yes!” And it’s like, “Alright. Great.” That’s why we do comedians. Matt Ruby: And it’s fun to be on stage for an hour and a half and the show kind of ebbs and flows and you feel like you should be a little more patient as opposed to, you gotta be funny every few seconds. Is the audience usually all comics? Mark Normand: It’s usually half and half. Tonight was all comics because of this things we’re doing. What is this thing? Mark Normand: It’s a 4/20 party. Oh, ok. So it’s so people don’t know what you’re doing. Mark Normand: Yeah. Exactly. Well, I think – Levenbach, this guy Jeremy Levenbach who books a big show in New York, said it well, he said, “If people talked about what they talk about on this show in their act, they’d all be ten times funnier.” And I think that’s a good point. Its like, comedians – we’re doing an act, we’re doing a routine, so to have people say, “I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna say that and I don’t care if I’m doing well, it’s like, I just want to get this shit out.” And that’s nice to hear. And I think we’re being honest and on stage, I think we’re both doing an act. So I think it’s nice to be- I feel like I’m more like myself on this show than any other show. And that’s
nice and yeah it’s just a fun show. I mean, I listen to podcasts. I wanna hear what people – their deepest shit. It’s like, you know when you listen to Maron, and it’s an hour of, “Where ya from? How’d you get into comedy?” And then there’s like a five minutes section of like, “Your dad beat you?” or “You hate Jews?” Talk to me about that. We try to make the whole show that. I mean, it’s five minutes on his, but we try to make it the whole thing. Matt Ruby: Sometimes it gets antagonistic with the guests or you feel like you’re fighting with people. There’s gotta be something I dislike more than that. There was that one with Ray Combs Jr. where he gotMark Normand: You listened to that one?! Oh, man! That was one of the best ones ever. I mean, I was just sweating in my chair. Yeah, I bet. That was scary. Mark Normand: He had it out for me from the get-go and he’s admitted that later. I’ll tell you what I don’t like, I dislike the fact that no one’s coming to the shows! These shows should be packed. I feel like if we had big names on or somethingMatt Ruby: That’s the other thing is – it’s not famous comedians like on other podcasts, but that’s sort of why they’re so interesting. Like, there’s a real hunger for these people to get out there, so it’s like, “Yeah, put me on!” Do you think airing some of these grievances helps their comedy writing at all? Mark Normand: I think a little. Like, I think if they say something and it gets a big laugh. Matt Ruby: Some people have gotten bits out of it.
Mark Normand: Because the reason you’re scared to talk about it is ‘cause you don’t want to be like, “Yeah, so my dad killed died in front of me.” Silence. “Alright, nevermind! I wont talk about it again!” But if you get that one laugh on this show, then you’re like, “Maybe there’s something here.” Matt Ruby: Oh, I’ll tell you another thing about the show is I think it teaches you about the connection between tension and laughter. Like, if things get really tense, it doesn’t even need to be that funny, it just needs to be something that releases that tension and then the whole room explodes. Because everyone wants that awkwardness to be pierced and then when you have the right line that does it, then it - And that kind of laugh when you get it is kind of like addictive. Then, other laughs feel cheap. Like, if you build up a lot of tension and then release it and it’s this whole catharsis, then it’s like a simple misdirection misdirection joke after that is almost too easy. Do you guys ever feel like you want to start talking about your own stuff? Matt Ruby: We did an episode. Mark Normand: We interviewed each other. Where is it? Mark Normand: It will come out. We don’t want to just throw this out there and have people just go, “What’s this?” We want people to understand, “This is crazy! They’re interviewing each other!” Like it’s gotta be a thing, ya know? Can’t just be one of the other ones. But that was a good one. I don’t think I felt like I got out what I wanted to get out. Matt Ruby: We can do it again. Mark Normand: We can do it again, yeah. You can get it out right now.
Mark Normand: Really? How much time do you have on that thing? But yeah. Show’s fun. We’ve done shows with fifty people, we’ve done shows with two people. We’ve been doing the show about four years. Longest running show at the Creek. It seems like in general, this is a pretty long running show. Mark Normand: Yeah. Especially for this place- getting people in here is tough. Matt Ruby: But it’s a show that I don’t think could have been done anywhere else. Mark Normand: That’s true. Yeah, but we don’t really have big names so I think that’s kind of what’s- People are like, “Who’s this? It’s a weird idea, but why do I want to hear about this guy?” But it’d be fun if you were listening to an interview about Sinbad. How fun would that be?
We’re All Friends Here word association: Damien Lemon: Smooth Dan Soder: Big Joe Pera: Farm Amber Nelson: Lips. That’s what I think of. Charles Gould: Jew Joel Walkowski: Gentile MR: I saw Beverly Hills Cop 2 today, you know who Walkowski reminds me of? Judge Reinhold. MN: Hmm. MR: He’s got a whole Judge Reinhold thing going on. MN: A look? Cause he doesn’t act like him. MR: It’s a disposition. MN: Reinhold is very put together, Joel is like a cave man. MR: Alright. MN: I’m just saying. MR: No, no. MN: Well, I guess they have a similar look maybe. MR: It’s a disposition thing. Sort of goofy and friendly. MN: He is goofy and friendly. Michael Che: Hat. He’s always wearing a hat. James Adomian: Gay. That’s true. Kevin Barnett: Jazz. That’s a little stereotypical.
A quick peek into NYC's comedy scene.