‘Tell Your Friends’ Premiere

“Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!”
by Terri Element

This past Thursday September 22nd, I attended the screening of “Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!” at the Paley Center for Media, with a panel discussion following the film. The film followed an alternative comedy show entitled “Tell Your Friends” in a basement location in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The film is interspersed with interviews of various comedians about alternative comedy, such as Colin Quinn and Janeane Garofalo, who frequently perform in alternative rooms.

One of the main questions posed to a number of comedians in the film was what the term ‘alternative comedy’ meant. They unanimously rejected the term “alternative” comedy, saying that comedy is all just comedy. However, everyone who was interviewed in the documentary also expressed their viewpoint that they felt a difference in the feel of the types of shows that alternative rooms produce, as well as the audiences who come to see them. So if not the term “alternative”, what do we call it, if anything? There must be some sort of term to describe these types of shows that are clearly different than that of a comedy club. On the other hand, are shows and comedians that perform in (mainstream?) comedy clubs not alternative? Are we saying comedy shows in comedy clubs are for everyone? Does that become a putdown to them? Furthermore, many comedians who perform in comedy clubs also perform in alternative rooms as well, as we see in the film.

The comedians in the film expressed their feelings that the alternative scene is a lot like a laboratory where they get to play, experiment and explore more with their material, where it doesn’t have to be polished. In fact, the unpolished may even become a version of polished in that environment. There is more of a relaxed feeling of freedom to the shows. The acts are not always obviously funny. However, many are at least amusing and unusual. Sometimes you will react with the thought, “What the hell was that?” to certain acts, while the person sitting next to you may think the same thing about another act that you love and get.

The thing that impressed me the most about (this taste of) the alternative scene is that there seems to be something for everyone. Not every act is going to be everyone’s flavor, which seems to be not only acceptable, but almost preferable. You will see a variety of different acts in an alternative show, which is represented in this film. There are great “straight” comedians that you would see at a comedy club in Manhattan any night of the week, such as the M.C. of the show in the film, Liam McEnearey (as well as the moderator of the panel discussion after the film) and Christian Finnegan. There are also acts mixed in that you wouldn’t typically see in a Manhattan comedy club. One such example is the musical act of Rob Paravonian. Another example is sketch, including the adorably lispy Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler reenacting the first phone conversation ever. According to their sketch, this first conversation was between Pocahontas and John Smith, which quickly turns into phone sex. There are even comedians whose acts become a multi-media presentation such as Leo Allen, who used Powerpoint in his act to test how good a sense of humor you have. Then there’s the hypnotic Reggie Watts, whose “musical”/synthesizer/Beatbox act I can’t totally explain in writing. It’s just something you have to see. And just as an aside, I highly recommend seeing him.

The question of what alternative comedy is still remains, and is one of those questions like “What is art?” that we will probably never really be able to definitively answer, but will have fun trying.

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Interview with Susan Kate Heaney, star of ‘Mop- oholic’

Some people collect stamps, some people collect shoes, some people collect cars (Jay Leno), and some people collect..MOPS. Well, not some people – but rather actress Susan-Kate Heaney, the star of the one-woman show ‘Mop-oholic’ which premieres on Monday, September 12th at the People’s Improv Theater.

YS: Where did ‘Mop-oholic’ come from?

SK: A few years ago I started doing improv and focusing more on comedy and then developed this comedic show.

YS: This show originated from a previous one-woman show.

SK: I was doing a one woman show about a crazy family and a weird bride and Deanna and I were talking and she was going to direct the show, and we were having some margaritas I think and somehow it came up that I have collected mops my whole life and they’re my friends since I was five years old – they each have a different name and personality and career, and she said ‘why did you not write a show about mops?’ so that’s how the mop show came about.

YS: When did the mop obsession begin?

SK: I was five years old and I was at my aunt’s house and so lonely and bored, and I went out back and there was a mop leaning against the side of the house with her hair and she was instantly a person to me. I could see her face and these big eyes. I said ‘oh my god, a friend!’ So that was when it started and I became obsessed. I would get one mop every year for Christmas and my birthday and college graduation.

YS: What type of reaction do you get from people?

SK: For me it was like, ‘I don’t wanna tell people about the mops’ because so many people didn’t actually know about them. For friends who do I think it’s a mixed (reaction). Some people think it’s cool and some people think it’s weird, and other people I don’t think… understand it. People will say ‘oh, you can just pick up something and talk to it?’ I could pick up a salt shaker and it could be my friend.’ No, this is a serious, deep, life-long love.

YS: What does your husband think of this hobby?

SK: He very much supports me in the mops and kind of gets a kick out of it. I think when I first brought him home to meet my parents, I took him to my childhood bedroom where all the mops were staying at that point, and I think he was a little bit overwhelmed for a second because they lined the walls of my childhood bedroom, so that’s a little bit of a shock.

Next up is my chat with director Deanna Raphael:

YS: How did you and Susan Kate meet?

DR: We met through my sister, and we were talking and she told me about these mops and it was a wild story that I continued to get more interested in. We started the process by going over what her relationship with the mops were, how were they specific. I was really interested in what brought her to these mops and to keep a super positive and happy person, it’s really like people always kind of say, like if I describe the show, people always say ‘so she’s crazy, right?’ No, she’s really a lovely, wonderful person and she’s so sweet. But we kind of did get to, there’s a little outsider part of her that connected to this imaginary world that is really very much alive for her even today as an adult.

YS: How would you describe the show?

DR: I think it’s very charming, very funny, very different. We’re gonna do a little ‘Chat with Mops’ section this round of shows, so if you have a mop that you might want to learn more about, you can bring it to the show and Sue-Kate will do a little talk afterwards and she can tell you more things than you would ever wanna know about your mop. What country she’s from and what job she does and who she is on the inside.

‘Mop-oholic’ starring Susan-Kate Heaney premieres on Monday at the People’s Improv Theater.
For more information please check out: https://www.facebook.com/mopoholic

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Interview with Emily McGregor of Comediva.com

YS: Who created Comediva.com?

EM: It was originally Erika Cervantes, she was the founder of the website, so this has been her brainchild for a while. She started it because she’s primarily a writer, and she was pitching some scripts around and they were comedy scripts with pretty broad humor, but the note she kept getting was ‘they’re not male enough.’ So it’s kind of like, ‘well, if these scripts aren’t male enough and don’t fit at (networks), where can they go? There’s no female comedy location, there’s not network where they can go.’ So she created Comediva to create a space for female comedy.

YS: Is there a big female comedy movement?

EM: Yeah, I’d say so. I think there’s a big female comedy movement. We call it the post-Tina Fey era, because she really did bring a lot of attention to female comedy. The same with Amy Poehler and now Kristen Wiig – they’re really pushing it forward. Tina Fey said recently when she got her Mark Twain Award, ‘ I can’t wait until I’m not numbered, like ‘I’m the second woman to win this award or I’m the first woman to win this award. She’s looking forward to a time when there’s not a number associated with that. Obviously there have been female comics since the beginning of cinema like Lucille Ball, they haven’t been as prominent and they’ve been more the exception rather than the norm.

I think there’s a movement for this, we’ve connected with a lot of the local comedy scene in LA scene here, worked with a lot of stand-up comics, go to the shows. There’s definitely a need for this space, so I think definitely a lot more will pop up. We’re not threatened by that competition because there are millions and millions of people on the Internet.

YS: What’s next for Comediva?

EG: I think as more and more of those movies come out – ‘Bridemaids’ was very successful so I’m sure more will come out , it will become more of the norm and women will be seen as a group that, yeah we can bring in a lot of viewers and money for Hollywood and then we’ll be able to get our content out there.

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