DID YOU READ

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

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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.

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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

car notes note

This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Dark Arts

Foot Fetish Jesus And Other Nightmares

Meet the minds behind Comedy Crib's latest series, Quirks and The Mirror.

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The Mirror and Quirks are really, really strange. Deeply disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful. But you really don’t need to read a synopsis of either of the aforementioned shows to understand the exact variety of nightmare-bonkers comedy these shows deliver — that’s why the good lord made links. Instead, take a peek behind the curtain and meet the creators.

Quirks

Let’s start with Kevin Tosi. Kevin does the whole show by himself. That doesn’t mean he’s a loner — Kevin has a day job with actual humans. But that day job is copywriting. So it’s only natural that his suppressed demons would manifest themselves in biting cartoon form, including “Foot Fetish Jesus”, in ways that somehow speak to all of us. If only all copywriters channeled their inner f*ckedupness into such…expressive art.

The Mirror

Onward to the folks at Wham City Comedy.

These guys aren’t your typical comedy collective in that their work is way more left-field and even elevated than your standard digital short. More funny weird than funny ha-ha. They’ve done collaborations with musicians like Beach House, Dan Deacon & Wye Oak, television networks (obviously), and others. Yeah they get paid, but their motivation feels deeper. Darker. Most of them are video artists, and that explains a lot.

See more of The Mirror and Quirks on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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