How to Be Funny: 7 Comedians Give Awesome Advice


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Being a comedian is hard. Being an aspiring comedian is even harder. To help jump start your career in comedy, we’ve compiled a list of established comics giving advice on how to write, perform, and make it in the funny business. Most of this advice applies to any occupation, so read on and get inspired.

1. Jerry Seinfeld Explains How to Write a Joke

2. Bill Burr on How to Jump Start a Comedy Career

3. Ricky Gervais on Writing What You Know

4. Judd Apatow on How He Got Started

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Stephen Merchant Everett 1920

Cringe Humor

10 Moments That Prove Stephen Merchant Is a Master of Cringe Comedy

Stephen Merchant brings the awkward to Comedy Bang! Bang!.

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They say that behind every squat, successful British writer-producer is a lanky, six-foot-seven bespectacled co-creator. All right, maybe no one said that ever, but it certainly applies to the duo responsible for some of the most awkward moments in television history. Masters of cringe comedy Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short — along with many other moments that caused viewers to avert their eyes and squirm in their seats. Even when flying solo in shows like Hello Ladies, Merchant can provide just as many unbearably uncomfortable moments as an incompetent talent agent, an inelegant pick-up artist or just a bloke sharing a story about being turned down by a nightclub doorman.

To get you ready for Stephen’s appearance on tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are some of his funniest cringeworthy moments.

1. Performing Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty,” Lip Sync Battle

When you have to sway a crowd and you’re built like a flailing-arm inflatable balloon man, you gotta play to your strengths. So when tasked to perform Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” on Lip Sync Battle, Merchant proudly bared his midriff, upper thighs and soul in a cutoff T-shirt and flared leather chaps. While we applaud his self-confidence, we don’t have the inner strength to be caught dead doing that.

2. Discussing his first Golden Globe win, The Graham Norton Show

It’s hard to imagine a time when The Office was something of an underdog, but the original UK version was just a plucky upstart when it won its first Golden Globe. Unfortunately for the then-unknown Gervais and Merchant, their long, awkward walk to the stage was punctuated by the announcer mispronouncing their names and Stephen’s head getting cut off for the front page photo.

3. The Oggmonster, The Office

Although Gervais’ David Brent was the poster boy for The Office, Merchant only appeared twice in the original series as Gareth’s gangly pal Nathan, AKA The Oggmonster. Even more ungainly and off-putting than the Assistant to the Regional Manager, Oggy is pushed to tears by David Brent’s relentless joshing about his appearance. We feel for ya, Oggy.

4. Nudie pen, Extras

In this very NSFW clip from Extras, Merchant plays the highly incompetent agent Darren who, between failing to get acting work for Gervais’ Andy, is caught in flagrante in the company of a novelty nudie pen. Inappropriate, unprofessional and utterly humiliating given the focal point, his moment of self-gratification is somewhat vindicated when assistant Barry is caught doing the same thing.

5. Trip to Rio, The Ricky Gervais Show

Debuting as a radio program in 2001, The Ricky Gervais Show was among the first wildly successful podcasts and spawned countless comedy audio programs in the years since. Co-host and whipping boy Karl Pilkington was the breakout star, but Merchant supplied a heapin’ helpin’ of embarrassment with cringeworthy anecdotes, including this story of his trip to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Hopeless nightclub pick-up artist, Hello Ladies

Without Gervais on the roster, Merchant shined as hopeless romantic Stuart Pritchard in HBO’s Hello Ladies. Showcasing his true-to-life awkwardness around women, the sadly short-lived series upped the cringe-ante that he and Gervais injected into The Office — and this torturous nightclub scene is perfect proof.

7. Eager wedding guest, Hello Ladies

As we all know, weddings are a meet-cute hotbed, but it definitely requires optimal positioning. Unfortunately for the viewer’s nerve, Stuart is keenly aware of this. Persistent past the point of rejection, he monopolizes the line to congratulate the newlyweds and wedges himself into a table with single women. Eagerness has never been so unsettling.

8. Denying Warwick Davis a loan, Life’s Too Short

Having to turn down a friend in need is so unbearable, most of us will compromise our comfort with favors just to avoid it. Not surprisingly, Gervais and Merchant — playing heightened versions of themselves — don’t have an issue with sidestepping support for diminutive actor Warwick Davis when he asks the successful team for a loan.

9. Behind-the-scenes dance party, Extras

Yes, it’s Stephen dancing for the second time on this list. But honestly, it’s never not cringeworthy.

10. Nightclub zinger, Conan

Single life is unanimously the worst, but it can be easily mitigated through fortune and stardom. And while Stephen Merchant is a household name among comedy geeks, his notoriety has yet to hit the radar of certain LA nightclub doormen. Appearing on Conan, Merchant shares a story of trying to get into a nightclub but being thwarted by the bouncer at the door with a devastating putdown.

This Week

This Week on IFC: Judy Greer Visits CBB, Benders Sobers Up and Gigi Strips Down

The fun starts Thursday, October 15th, starting at 10P.


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This week on an all-new Benders, Paul (Andrew Schulz) decides it’s time to renounce beer and give the sober life a whirl. There’s a first time for everything, right? And if it gives him a chance to one up Anthony (Chris Distefano) in a new hockey division, that’s even better. Meanwhile, Karen (Lindsey Broad) hosts a book club and it goes about as well as you’d expect. Who knew book clubs don’t have keggers? See what unfolds this Thursday, October 15th, starting at 10P.

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Then on Gigi Does It, everyone’s new favorite bubby decides it’s time to tackle her body image issues. And what better way than to volunteer to pose nude for a local art class? Brace yourself for Gigi’s inner (and outer) beauty Thursday at 10:30P.

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Finally, Jurassic World and Married star Judy Greer stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! to show off the unique auditioning skills that have helped her to score roles in every movie and TV show. Plus, Kid Cudi gets into a hockey rivalry. Maybe a Benders crossover is in his future? Find out by tuning into Comedy Bang! Bang! in its NEW TIME SLOT, Thursday at 11P

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Comedy Crib   Sound Advice – Season Trailer – IFC

Saturday Net Live

10 Hilarious Web Series with SNL Stars

Catch your favorite SNL stars on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Even in its 40th year, joining the cast of Saturday Night Live is still the best way to know you’ve made it in comedy. But while we get to see these stars shine every Saturday night, most had a long road to 30 Rock. Every cast member had to do something to get noticed, and some still find other opportunities to showcase their distinctive comedic chops while they’re still on the show. Web series have quickly become a way to stand out for SNL cast members past, present and future. Before you catch the SNL season premiere, check out a few of the funniest Web series to feature writers and stars from SNL, many of which you can watch right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

10. Sound Advice with Vanessa Bayer

Bayer perfects her chirpy idiot character here as a PR flack for famous musicians, who’s more concerned with her ex-husband than giving good advice. (Watch every episode of Sound Advice on Comedy Crib.)

9. Notary Publix with Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant

Along with Portlandia‘s Candace and Toni, McKinnon and Bryant may be responsible for bringing back the shoulder pads in this hard-hitting look at the exciting life of notary publics. (Watch Notary Publix now on Comedy Crib.)

8. If I Was In It with Will Stephen

Will Stephen is a new addition to the SNL writing staff this season, but he showed off his acting chops with this Comedy Crib series about two “self taught film students” who explain what they would do in famous movies like Jaws and The Matrix. (Watch If I Was In It now on Comedy Crib.)

7. Pursuit of Sexiness with Sasheer Zamata

This series about two friends navigating life, love and sex in the city helped get Zamata noticed by SNL. The rest is history.

6. The Bu with The Lonely Island

The Lonely Island ushered in the era of the SNL Digital Short, and helped make YouTube what it is today, but before they hit the big time, they were just three guys making goofy videos in their living room. The Bu, which ran as part of the popular Channel 101 showcase in Los Angeles, was their first viral success.

5. 7 Minutes in Heaven with Mike O’Brien

Mike O’Brien shuffled through many iterations during his SNL tenure. Cast member. Writer. Digital Short mastermind. He also had a Web hit with this absurdist interview series where he chats with guests like Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and even the Insane Clown Posse while inside a closet.

4. Fresh Perspectives with Beck Bennett

Before his SNL run, the majority of people probably recognized Bennett from his popular AT&T commercials, in which he talked down to groups of children. Supposedly, Fresh Perspectives, a Web series with a strikingly similar premise, helped him land that gig.

3. Carpet Bros with Tim Meadows

SNL writer Matt Piedmont enlisted Meadows to star in this Funny or Die series about a group of carpet selling brothers who never seem to get around to actually making a sale.

2. Funny People Reading Books with Simon Rich

Author and former SNL scribe Simon Rich reads from his book Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations in this Comedy Crib series where funny folks like Megan Amram, Dave Hill and more share their literary masterworks. (Watch Funny People Reading Books now on Comedy Crib.)

1. FCU: Fact Checkers Unit with Bill Murray

Bill Murray is more folklore than man these days, and this episode of the Funny or Die series about an elite team of fact checkers does little to dispel that notion. It’s not entirely clear if Murray even knew he was on camera, but the result is a video that allows us all to feel like we got to hang with the elusive buster of ghosts.


Read Carrie's Book

Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Is Out Now

Carrie's moving memoir is out now.

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Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is out now at fine local book shops and at online retailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

The book, a “deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music,” is getting rave reviews. The Washington Post writes that, “It’s impossible not to like Brownstein” in their review of her “engaging and witty” memoir. The AV Club called the book “engrossing,” adding that “for fans of Sleater-Kinney, it’s immensely compelling, particularly because Brownstein writes crisply, insightfully, and without vanity.” She even dedicated the book to her Sleater-Kinney bandmates (and Portlandiaregulars) Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker.

Pick up a copy of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in stores today, and be sure to catch Carrie on her nationwide book tour at one of the dates below where she will be joined by specials guests like Questlove, Amy Poehler and more.


WORD Bookstore at Saint Vitus Bar

In conversation with Questlove


Barnes & Noble Union Square

In conversation with Gaby Hoffman


Philadelphia Free Library at The Merriam Theater

In conversation with Aidy Bryant


Pitchfork at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


BookPeople at Central Presbyterian Church

In conversation with Liz Lambert


Vroman’s Bookstore at Pasadena Presbyterian

In conversation with Amy Poehler


Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

In conversation with Dave Eggers


Powell’s Books at The Newmark Theatre

In conversation with a Special Guest TBA


Elliott Bay Book Company at The Neptune Theater

In conversation with Maria Semple


Drawn & Quarterly at The Rialto Theatre

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon

In conversation with Johanna Schneller

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