Interview with Mike Lawrence

Comedian Mike Lawrence is certainly making his presence felt in 2013. His debut album ‘Sadamantium’ dropped on the 28th, and tonight he hosts the premiere party for his debut The Half Hour on Comedy Central at the Creek and the Cave at midnight. I caught up with Mike to discuss the struggles of being a young comic and if blogger criticism is good for the industry.

AC) What is the meaning of ‘sadamantium?’
ML) Adamantium is the metal that Wolverine’s claws are made out of, and I’m really depressing. It’s a pun, that’s it. I spent a long time thinking of different album titles, mostly comic related, like ‘Unstable Molecules and Infinite Crisis,’ and none of them were funny on their own, and this one kind of is. The whole idea of me as wolverine on the cover, I just thought ‘this is awesome.’
AC) What’s the process like of growing as a comedian and then putting together an album?
ML) The process was getting rejected and not getting booked and then doing a ton of open mics and awful, awful shows until they slightly got better and I slightly got funnier. Flash forward to now and having done a few TV appearances and it just seemed like the right time to do an album.
AC) When did you decide to record the album?
ML) I think that was the thought in doing the half hour for TV. Here’s the main thing: I think you’re ready to do an album when someone tells you that you are and when someone’s willing to make it. I did not want to be one of those dudes who self-releases and the album art looks like something you’d see at the Make-Your-Own T-shirt Store. Definitely having Comedy Central say ‘let’s do this thing,’ that was obviously what I needed. If they believe in me that lets me believe in me.
AC) How do you feel about members of the audience blogging their criticism when they don’t like a joke?
ML) I’ve been thinking about this a lot and going back and forth and I think the conclusion that I’ve come to is that I believe that criticism and commentary are valid for any art form, and I don’t think that comedy should be immune to criticism. Often times comics are bullies themselves and children and we get afraid and all that. The reality is, you know, we’ll often say ‘if you don’t like it, just leave,’ but that person just spent 50 dollars. If you look at an audience of 100 people, at least 40 or 50 of them went because someone else wanted to go, you know? So they’re kind of stuck there. I just think the criticism is good, it’s valid. People can Yelp review restaurants, they can go on Amazon and write customer reviews. Why would we be immune to that? We’re not and we shouldn’t be. I don’t understand why us as comics have to get so defensive. I think often times when people are like ‘But it’s COMEDY,’ it’s not a blanket defense for everything. You can’t just say that all the time. It’s also interesting because what comics often say in defense is ‘yeah, but it’s funny.’ There still has to be some kind of accountability, too. I don’t think that it’s a censorship issue, I think that it’s an empathy issue. Realize your words do have power. Your jokes do make a difference and they can make people feel terrible about themselves.

Catch Mike Lawrence’s album release and Comedy Central Half Hour viewing party at the Creek and the Cave tonight. 10pm

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Sean Kent

By Terri Element

Sean Kent with hat
Sean Kent

“My girlfriend…every night she lays on my shoulder and says, ‘I feel so safe’. And in my head, I’m like, ‘You shouldn’t. If a bunch of ninjas come in right now, there’s not really anything I can do about it.’“
Sean Kent has been a resident all around the country. He was born and raised in Austin, after which he lived in California, Seattle, and is back in Austin again. He started his career intending to be a serious actor. One day for fun, he performed stand-up at an open mike near where his day job was at the time. He fell in love with it right then and there. That was 17 years ago, and he has been performing ever since. Kent has a low-key conversational style in his act that makes you feel like less of an audience member and more like a friend or therapist.
The thing Kent likes most about stand-up is that unlike acting, you don’t have to wait for work, you can just do it. He likes that the comic is a one-man band: the actor, producer, director, etc. The comic has control over the content.
He also loves the repartee that he can develop with an audience. Beyond the actual laughter, Kent says he loves that he’s sharing moments of genuine happiness. Furthermore, he loves that with comedy, the audience can recognize something that they’ve thought of, but haven’t quite been able to put their finger on it until the comic has articulated it.
Kent develops his material from conversations. He takes a germ of an idea from conversations that he’s had and then develops the idea onstage. He doesn’t write down the material, but instead hones the material by recording his shows and repeatedly reviewing the material.
Kent recently returned from his second tour of the Middle East (with comics Paul Hooper, Kristen Key, and Matt Davis. Kent says that he had an exhausting, but amazing time there. He toured 5 countries in 18 days. His days started early in the morning and ended very late at night. Kent’s time was spent traveling to the various bases that he and his fellow stand-up comics would be performing in, meeting the soldiers on the base, and then performing. Kent spoke of how poignant it was to meet the people at the various military bases, and how much they have sacrificed.
Kent is about to star in a reality TV show that is still in the works. He cannot reveal too many details about it yet, however, he does say that the show follows his life. It stars himself and three other guys, and will be out in the fall on A&E. He also has an upcoming album, “Taste My Dream”. For tour dates and other information about Kent, visit SeanKent.com.

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Mel Brooks: Make a Noise

Mel Brooks is full of energy. That’s really all you need to know. He’s a living embodiment of the expression ‘age is only a number.’ At age 86 he shows no signs of slowing down, and certainly brought a wealth of excitement to his audience at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday night. Mr. Brooks was beamed in from Los Angeles via Skype for the New York premiere of his film biography ‘American Masters Mel Brooks: Make a Noise.’ The film, a Robert Trachtenberg production, is part of THIRTEEN’s American Master’s series.

The evening was a stroll down memory lane for the audience, as we took a look back at the work that has made Mel Brooks who he is today. Mr. Brooks was interviewed for the film by Robert Trachtenberg, and had no shortage of anecdotes to discuss, both professional and personal. As a fan of comedy, it’s fun to go through Mel Brook’s film portfolio, because one  forgets just how many great films he has been a part of.

His most memorable films by and large are History of the World Part I, Blazing Saddles, and High Anxiety. We got a glimpse of Mel as the energetic director with a sense of humor who liked to shake things up. Mel Brooks has made his living doing what he wants when he wants, all in the name of slapstick humor. Brooks juxtaposes the success of his body of work with the pain he went through early on while struggling to maintain his comedic presence. You get the sense that Mel Brooks is not easy to work with because he knows what he wants and doesn’t stop until he gets it, and is by his own admission… a pain in the ass. As he states during his reflection on writing for ‘Your Show of Shows,’ at one point he sat and cried two years. That’s not something you hear a lot about from successful directors, the struggle they have with maintaining their creative genius, and how that effects their personal life.

As we’re taken through the behind-the-scenes analysis, we get hints of what makes Mel Brooks tick. It’s the opportunity to satire something, whether it’s silent films, westerns, Star Wars, or Robin Hood. If Mel Brooks can make a joke out of it, he certainly will. This culminates with one of Brooks’s most famous work, The Producers, and the idea to make a purposely poor musical whose focal point is a parody of Hitler. At one point, Trachtenberg asks Brooks when he first became aware of Hitler and why he was compelled to make a mockery of him. The simple answer is to give Hitler the same treatment he gave to the Jews: Mockery and ridicule

‘Mel Brooks: Make A Noise’ is the sit down conversation with Mr. Brooks that his fan base been waiting for. It’s a symbol of his status as one of the founders of modern American comedy, and we’re given the reassurance that’s there’s still more to come. It premieres tonight at 9pm on THIRTEEN and is available on DVD May 21st from Shout Factory.

Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks via Skype at 92Y

 

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