DID YOU READ

Chris Gethard on the Best Comedy Advice He’s Ever Heard

chris-gethard-comedy-drop

Posted by on

As any comedian will tell you, getting laughs on stage is no easy feat. But getting laughs in a coffee and crepe shop? Unless you’re good—no, make that great—it’s next to impossible. For IFC’s web series Comedy Drop, Chris Gethard was able to pull it off. To find out how, we spoke with Chris about joke writing, dealing with nerves and the best comedy advice he’s ever heard.

Aside from Comedy Drop, where was the strangest—or most interesting—place you’ve done stand up?

I’m a fan of music and have become pretty locked in with the local punk scene, and have been asked to host a number of music shows as a comedian. This is fun, but it’s also tough because no one really wants to listen to a comedian at a rock show. I hosted a show for WFMU once – and WFMU is definitely a literate, smart, laid back crowd – at the Bell House. They went ape shit on me. One guy stood four feet in front of the stage and every time I tried to speak shouted the words “PLAY FUCKING MUSIC.” These were like, dorky record collector types. I couldn’t believe they had that much rage in them.

Where was the first place you ever performed?

I’d been doing improv and sketch for years, and my friend Joe Mande started pushing me to try stand up. He invited me to do his show down at Riffifi, which was a great bar that had stand up shows every night. It was a really fantastic place to perform. I felt safe there, and knowing my friend Joe was hosting the show and looking out for me made me feel okay about it, though I was intensely nervous.

Those nerves reflected themselves in a specific tick – for some reason, I kept putting my hand in my back pocket. It was a compulsive fear based thing, I didn’t realize I was doing it. The jokes went okay – it was my first time, so they weren’t good by any stretch, but I didn’t feel awful about it.

My friend Joe got on stage and immediately started tearing me to pieces for putting my hand in my pocket. He riffed for like two straight minutes on what I possibly could have been doing – had I lost the punchlines to my jokes back there? Was I picking something out of my butt? His improvised commentary on my physical demeanor on stage got roughly 100 times more laughs than any joke I actually told.

I didn’t do stand up again for like eighteen months.

Performing in front of crowds—especially ones not expecting comedy—has to be tough. Do you have any rituals to shake pre-show jitters?

At this point, I am happy to say I’m at a place where I can remind myself that nothing really matters and failure is fun. I both succeed and fail on stage on a regular basis, and I honestly think being met with silence is a fun process and I know it leads to a lot of growth. So that makes jitters sort of null and void. Nothing matters.

How do you approach joke writing? Do you hunker down and write, or does inspiration need to find you first?

All of my jokes are generally storytelling style, which means I usually have to live life and keep my eyes peeled for the weirdness my days throw at me. Then I go on stage and tell the stories in loose formats, keeping my ears open to what crowds respond to and seeing if my angles and opinions on those things strike a chord. Then I refine my viewpoints on them and tighten them up and look for punchlines. I really only write by getting on stage and talking and refining, as opposed to sitting down and writing. It takes a long time but it’s my style.

Is a joke ever fully “ready,” or is it always “in progress”?

Always in progress. I have an improv background, so I’m always really happy to cut and run and look for new punchlines along the way.

What is the best piece of stand up advice you’ve ever heard?

There’s so much advice that goes so far, both from people I actually know or just by knowing my history and hearing stuff passed down through generations. Here’s one that actually had a profound effect on me: Mike Birbiglia recently told me to start with the joke. That sounds simple, but for a storyteller I’m always slogging through exposition. That’s sometimes how idiotic I am. “Oh right, start with the funny part and they’ll get hooked in sooner. Makes sense.” But you do build these jokes that have all these moving parts, and you think people need to know all this context to understand, and they don’t. Really if you can get them laughing, they’ll then buy into the context. Start with the context and you might lose them before you get to the joke. Reading this back makes me realize how much I should already have known that, but I’ve been writing more complex stories lately and getting tangled up in them. Mike is easily one of the best storyteller comedians out there and he saw it, pinpointed it, and handed me a note that is going to save me months and months of figuring out why I can’t get jokes as tight as I want them.

What’s a joke that makes you laugh, or smile, every time?

The Louis C.K. “Give Me Back My Jacket” joke always gets me. I would love to be able to tell a story this well.

Watch More
JaniceAndJeffrey_102_MPX-1920×1080

Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

JaniceAndJeffrey_106_MPX-1920x1080

IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

Watch More
IFC-Die-Hard-Dads

Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

Watch More
IFC-revenge-of-the-nerds-group

Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

geowash_flat

Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet