Posts Tagged comedy

film review: I Am Battle Comic

When the USO offered writer/director Jordan Brady [I Am Comic and I Am Road Comic]  an opportunity to perform stand-up comedy to the troops in the Middle East, he decided to take his camera along on the tour which included stops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bahrain. The result is a heartwarming, funny and honest glimpse into a USO tour. Brady intersperses tour footage with interviews with various comics including George Lopez, George Wallace, Jennifer Rawlings and Shawn Halpin [a U.S. Marines veteran].

It can get lonely in these desert countries so remote from the American experience [there is a tiny Dunkin’ Donuts in Kuwait and a Pizza Hut in Afghanistan!] and troops savor entertainment. The USO distributes care packages and letters from school children. The comedians hold meet and greets and hang out in mess halls with troops. Jennifer Rawlings explains: “It’s really about sitting down in the chow hall listening to the soldiers like a mom, like a sister, like a friend and hearing their stories.” An emotional Slade Ham recalls that Sgt. Jose Valez became a fan in 2003 and gave new people arriving on base copies of his CD. After Valez was killed in action, Ham received a package with the unit coin and the patch off Valez’s jacket. He says: “If I get to take that kid away from that situation … why not? How many chances do you get to do something that cool?”An officer sums it up quite well: “being so far away from America it takes us back to America for a few hours.”

It’s such a rewarding experience that many comedians return repeatedly to entertain the troops. I Am Battle Comic provides tremendous insight into this experience as well as showcasing entertainment’s powerful ability to connect and inspire.

Here’s the link to screenings for I Am Battle Comic. 100% of tickets sales to these screenings support military charities. On June 2 I Am Battle Comic will be available worldwide on VOD.

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: comedian [and founder of stand-up showcase Broad Appeal] Christa Weiss


I met the very funny, smart and lovely Christa Weiss when she was performing at V to Shining V. Graphic designer by day and stand-up comic at night, Christa Weiss started Broad Appeal– a comedy showcase that consists primarily of female comics–a year ago. Broad Appeal celebrates its first anniversary at The Armory in Somerville, Mass. on Thursday, October 8, 2015.

Amy Steele: How did you get into stand-up? 

Christa Weiss: I’ve watched standup since I was a little kid and I’ve always loved writing & performing. Standup always seemed kind of inaccessible to me when I was younger because I grew up in a smaller city and had only seen it on tv. The first comedian I saw live was John Stewart in a giant ampitheater. It was amazing but actually pursing standup seemed impossible. When I moved to Boston I started going to live shows regularly at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. Seeing comedy in intimate setting made me realize it was something I could realistically pursue. I started going to open mics and got addicted immediately.

Amy Steele: What do you like about being a comedian?



Christa Weiss: I love writing and performing and being able to say exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. I work in a creative field during the day, but my work is largely dictated by what my clients want, so it’s really nice to have full creative control. I love silliness but I also want that silliness to mean something. I love being able to combine the two. 

Also, many of my closest friends are comics and it’s nice to be surrounded by a community of like-minded weirdos. Comedy is kind of the Island of Misfit Toys or the new punk rock, depending on how optimistic you’re being. 

Amy Steele: It’s been discussed often that women aren’t funny although Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Nikki Glaser, Mindy Kaling and tons of others make it clear women are definitely funny. Still late night talk shows, stand-up and the comedy world remain dominated by men. Why? (As an entertainment/music critic I think women aren’t appreciated in many areas of entertainment though stand-up seems particularly harsh.)

Christa Weiss: Haha. People are defiantly a lot more vocal about their opinions of female comedians. (Fuck you, the Internet. Go call your Mom.) I think there are a lot of reasons. In general, if a woman wants to go into the performing arts they generally lean more towards theater or music. I think that’s mostly personal preference. On top of that there’s a lot of logistical things. Being in a male dominated environment can be very intimidating to some people. The college I went to was 75% male so that was never really an issue for me. 

I think the gap is starting to close, which is great. There are more women doing comedy than ever. However, that’s not always represented on stage or TV. I think a lot more people realize that women can be funny to more than just other women, but the entertainment industry is a business, and not one that particularly wants to take risks. If a straight white guy always brings in money, I don’t think think they see the need to change the formula. 

Amy Steele: Why did you start Broad Appeal? What has the reception been like?

Christa Weiss:
A few reasons. There are a lot of really strong female comics out there and I really want to showcase their talent. A lot of places are afraid to put more than one or two women on a show, for fear that it’ll be too….womany? Unfortunately, this means there’s less work to go around. It seems crazy to me, but you’ll almost never see a show with the acts 50% male and 50% female without someone making a big deal about it.

I thought it would be fun to do a reverse of that- book mostly women and one or two ‘token males.’ I wanted to create a female-focused show that guys would also want to go to. Sometimes all female shows have a ‘girls only vibe’ which is fine, but if you want to prove that women are funny its not a great idea to not bother inviting the part of the audience you’re trying to prove something to. 
I’m happy to say that the show has been really well received by both men and women, comics and audience members alike. I make it a point to showcase strong acts with unique points of view and none of that ‘fighting with my husband about leaving the toilet seat down’ type of thing. I get a broad (HA!) audience of cool open-minded people from many different walks of life, which is exactly what I was going for. 

Amy Steele: What can people expect at the Broad Appeal anniversary show on Thursday?

Christa Weiss: I run a showcase style show, with a female headliner. We’ve got an amazing lineup for Thursday with Bethany Van Delft, of Comedy Central and NickMom. We’ve also got Dan Crohn from Last Comic Standing as well as several fantastic comics who’ve been in some amazing festivals like the Boston Comedy Festival, WICF, The Seattle International Comedy Festival and Bridgetown. 

The Women in Comedy Festival (WICF) will be there recording the show and doing interviews with the comedians after the show. We also lightly sexually harass the male comics but they all know what they’re getting into and it’s all in good fun. Also there will be candy. The candy bowl is very important.
Amy Steele: What challenges do women in comedy face?

Christa Weiss: Comedy is hard for everyone, male and female. I think the challenges you run into as a female comic are a little different. You have to work a lot harder to get people to take you seriously. If you’re the ‘token female’ on the show you kind of represent all women, which means there’s a lot a pressure to do well. If a guy bombs, he sucked, if a woman bombs all women suck. 

Amy Steele: Which comics do admire?
Christa Weiss: Maria Bamford, Chelsea Peretti, Patton Oswalt, Mike Birbiglia, John Stewart, Sarah Silverman 

Amy Steele: What comedy specials and sitcoms would you recommend?
Christa Weiss: Maria Bamford’s Special Special Special is amazing. Instead of being filmed at a club, it’s filmed at her house and the only audience members are her parents. [AS note: directed and produced by Jordan Brady who also directed I Am Road Comic. Read my interview with Jordan Brady.] Feelin Kinda Patton by Patton Oswalt is one of the first comedy albums I got really really really into. The movie Sleepwalk With Me, directed/written/starring Mike Birgbilia is based on his storytelling and gives you some great insight on what it’s like to be a comedian. [AS: agreed. Very good.] The Sarah Sliverman Program is ridiculous and amazing and if you’re into history, Drunk History is hilarious. I’m also a big fan of animated stuff, so I love Home Movies, Bob’s Burgers and Rick and Morty. 

Broad Appeal Comedy Night One-Year Anniversary takes place Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 8pm at Arts at the Armory, Somerville.

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: Hamish Linklater [The New Adventures of Old Christine]

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINEHamish Linklater plays Matthew, the somewhat goofy, co-dependent brother of Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on The New Adventures of Old Christine. If you haven’t seen the show, Matthew is endearing and sweet, an uber-geek and devoted to his sister. (Of his character, Linklater told me by phone: “I like that he dresses in clothes I like to wear too. He’s fun. They give me a lot of fun stuff to do. The writers are really generous with me.”) Their relationship borders on absurd and almost too close at times, but is always hysterical to watch. Christine struggles with personal and professional challenges while dealing with those around her: Matthew, her tween son Ritchie (Trevor Gagnon), her ex-husband Richard (Clark Gregg), and her best friend Barb (Wanda Sykes). Certainly the appeal of The New Adventures of Old Christine rests on Louis-Dreyfus, who holds a special place in our hearts as Elaine Benes of <em>Seinfeld</em>.

“I’ve learned about a fraction of her vast encyclopedic store of comic knowledge,” Linklater admitted. “I’m in the preface section of Julia’s book of comedy wisdom.”

Kari Lizer created The New Adventures of Old Christine and she also writes a majority of the episodes, which is rare in Hollywood. The New Adventures of Old Christine is female-centric: the show focuses on a Prius-driving divorced sexy mother lacking self-editing skills. She plays by her own rules. Christine competes with younger and richer women. She’s making different mistakes than she did in her twenties and she’s imperfect and unapologetic. Christine is someone you can relate to, empathize with, and root for from week to week. I’m 40-years-old and single. I’ve never been married, nor have (or plan to have) children and I adore the show.

“It is necessary for the voice and sensibility of show that we have [Kari] and even if her name isn’t on a script, every line is going through her. She’s the voice of her show. You have to have one set of ears and one voice that’s setting the tone. And having Julia as our lead, is like being in a kingdom with two queens,” Linklater enthused. “It’s amazing that we’ve been going for five years for this long. They just work so clock-worky. We don’t have any Diva nonsense or ego nonsense.”

Louis-Dreyfus has been Emmy-nominated for the past four seasons for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She broke the Seinfeld “curse” by helming a successful television series. Going into the fifth season, The New Adventures of Old Christine  should be fantastic as the same cast has worked together for so long.

“It feels like we’re just starting to reach our stride,” Linklater told me. “It’s kind of exciting, like being on an exceptional basketball team, it’s like we’re getting to that place where you know other people’s moves and know their sweet spots and are getting better at making comedy.”

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINETHE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRLinklater has been acting in plays since childhood. His mother, Kristin Linklater, is a professor of acting at Columbia University and founded Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. He lived at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s summer home) until he was 12-years-old. He recalls sleeping in Teddy Wharton’s bedroom and seeing ghosts. The series Ghosthunters featured The Mount in an episode and Linklater told me that the show barely touched on the spookiness of the mansion.

“It was a wicked haunted place,” Linklater said.

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book review: When You Lie About Your Age The Terrorists Win

I believe that a vehicle is for getting from point A to point B, not for making point A and point B.

Let’s face it, feminism just isn’t cool anymore. My friend has a daughter who currently goes to Vassar, and in a women’s studies class the professor asked how many students in the room would call themselves feminists—and—three students raised their hands. At Vassar. (And one of them was a guy. At Vassar.)

[writer’s note: I went to Simmons College, Class of 1991, and certainly considered myself a feminist and hardly anyone ‘dared’ called themselves a feminist for fear of the connotations the word provoked. Very sad that things have not changed in nearly twenty years.]

When comedian/writer Carole Leifer [Seinfeld] turned 50, she decided to write down her thoughts and share them in a book. I’m a good 15 years younger than her, so I could relate to some things and other things I’m not quite there yet. I don’t have children. I’m not gay but I have gay friends. I’m not Jewish but spend a lot of time in Brookline, Mass. [I’m sarcastic and from the East Coast] I’m a vegetarian. I’m a feminist and an animal rights activist. I’m liberal. My point is that a good writer will bring you into her world. Leifer succeeds at times and at other times, I just thought she was treading water or re-visiting familiar territory i.e. “I think you can stop. I’ve heard this one before.”

Leifer addresses: hiding your age; cars as “statements”; how she found out she was gay at 40; her love of animals; body changes as one ages; her breast cancer scare; feminism; things men should know; fake breasts; Judaism; her father; New York; being comfortable; doctors; therapists; class reunions; and numerous other age-related and non- age-related topics.

She delves deepest into her relationship with her father. Although he worked as an optometrist, she explains that her father had always wanted to be a comedian. Leifer had been taking adult b’nai mitzvah classes when he died. She still carries around a list of jokes he carried in his wallet. At another point, she addresses when her doctor thought a lump in her breast might be cancerous. She had just started dating her partner Lori and the panic merely strengthened the fledgling relationship. Finally there are the normal trials and tribulations of being part of a couple. Leifer became a vegan, yet Lori continues to eat meat. Leifer wants to be buried in New York, while Lori envisions eternity in her California family crypt. Leifer adds some comedic moments to these serious elements of her life and there are some hits and some misses as with any comedy routine.

I knew Leifer did stand-up and wrote for Seinfeld , dated Jerry Seinfeld back in the day etal. Other than that I didn’t know much about her. I’ve learned a few things from this book but still do not have a strong grasp of her persona. I’m disappointed. I wanted to laugh more I guess and while I got a few chuckles out of it here and there, When you Lie about your Age, the Terrorists Win is not particularly momentous. It is a fast-paced, light read. Much more effort could have gone into this book. The brief chapters read like monologues for, well, a stand-up comedian.

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