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Alibi Picks

Crazy Legs Heads to Burque: Chris Fonseca is ready to laugh

It was the '90s, and comedian Chris “Crazy Legs” Fonseca was at the height of his career. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a youth, he uses a wheelchairhence the nickname “Crazy Legs,” which is often the starting point of his comedy. With his dry humor and well-crafted one-liners, Fonseca “was on every sitcom in that decade,” he says, but “I started to drink, and things changed.” Fonseca, now two years sober, is prime for a comeback.

Positioning himself in this new world of comedy based on social media has been an interesting transition for the comic, but he says, “Comedy hasn’t changed. Where we get comedy has changed, but comedy is still comedy. I make people laugh, and that’s always wanted.” Now touring much more frequently, Fonseca brings his wit to The Stage Aug. 14 at Santa Ana Star Casino (54 Jemez Dam, Bernalillo). The 21+ show gets underway at 7:30pm. Cost is $10. Opening for Fonseca are John Mark Gard and Albuquerque’s own Keith Breckenridge. The Stage @ Santa Ana Star, Bernalillo • Thu Aug 14 • 7:30pm • $10 • 21+ • View on Alibi calendar

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Comedy Matters

Robin Williams and the death of our captain

I named this column Comedy Matters because I truly believe it does. It matters to the junkies and alcoholics who frequent open mics to work through their demons on stage. It matters to the headliners and road comics who travel from club to club each night for a living. It matters to writers and Hollywood execs who make millions off the laughter that rumbles in darkened theaters. It matters to cancer patients, widows and kids. Comedy strikes us over the head or starts slowly in our belly and bellows out of us warming our innards with a rush of happiness. So when a comic dies, we hurt. And today, we’re hurting because the world lost a great one.

Robin Williams started his career in San Francisco in the 70s and quickly became one the most absurd joy makers in the comedy world. His big break was when he landed the role of Mork in “Mork and Mindy” in 1978. He transformed into a prolific actor and comedian, appearing in films such as Dead Poets Society, The World According to Garp, Good Will Hunting and so many more; too many to list.

But this isn’t just about his qualifications or list of his films. He affected people in many ways. His fans loved him for his insane and wild energy. Comics loved him for how dedicated he was to comedy and how sweet he was despite his fame. He was a good man, a beloved man, who struggled with depression and an addiction to drugs and alcohol for the past forty years. On August 11, his struggled ended. Investigators believe his death may have been a suicide and to anyone who knew him or his history this would not be a surprise.

At the news of William’s death, Michael Ian Black tweeted, “We lose at least one great comic to suicide or ODs every year. Our jobs are to communicate, but we seem to not know how to ask for help.” Comedians don’t control the market on depression and substance abuse, but it seems to be a common theme amongst them. These issues manifest on stage to applause and laughter but they continue off stage and they grow and fester and strain relationships. And people die and then there’s nothing we can do.

Robin Williams brought a joy to the world that he couldn’t find internally. His family and friends are mourning. His wife and kids are shattered by his loss. And his fans will find it hard to replace this legend. Be in peace captain, we’ll miss you.

Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian.  She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at The Box.  More information can be found at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.

Comedy Matters

He and She and You

Married to comedy

A healthy, if not entirely sanitary, marriage
courtesy of the artist
A healthy, if not entirely sanitary, marriage

When beginning a career in comedy the question most often asked is, “How do you write a joke?” It varies of course. There are comics who tell stories, there are comics who use one-liners, and then there are comics who are more abstract. But jokes, no matter what form, usually consist of a premise and a punchline. For Teresa and Doug Wyckoff of The He & She Show, the premise is the two of them and the punchline is marriage. The Wyckoffs will be performing their new show at The Cell (700 First Street NW) on Friday, July 25.

“We were dating, as comedians, in Maui, and we found that over time a lot of our jokes were about each other, our relationship and relationships in general,” says Teresa. “So we decided to combine our comedic superish powers and do a relationship-themed show.” The Wyckoffs got hitched recently, and so their new show explores the shift between dating and marriage. During the show they solicit marriage advice from the audience. Thus, part of the show is stand-up and the other half is improv.

Some advice is crazy, some is incredibly dirty, and some is just a desperate question on how to make it all work. They never know what they’ll get and that’s part of the fun of it, but “even the worst advice can be funny and we reserve the right to make fun of any advice we receive,” says Teresa [Wyckoff].

“We take marriage advice from the audience. It's interesting, because every city ends up having their own 'theme' of common streams of marriage advice. Sometimes one town is naughtier than another,” says Teresa. Some advice is crazy, some is incredibly dirty, and some is just a desperate question on how to make it all work. They never know what they’ll get and that’s part of the fun of it, but “even the worst advice can be funny and we reserve the right to make fun of any advice we receive,” says Teresa.

Having only been married for a year, the Wyckoffs are calling this their Newlywed Tour. The tour marks a huge change in their livesmarriage and moving from one coast to the other. Originally from Oregon, “We [sold] all our belongingswell, what doesn't fit into a small Toyotaand got rid of our house and most of our trappings. After we hit all 50 states we will then move to NYC to pursue comedy there,” says Teresa.

But besides delving into their life changes the Wyckoffs have nobler goals. “If [the audience] relates to our struggles in marriage and relationships, and sees us laugh at those issues,” says Teresa, “maybe that can help them laugh at theirs also and realize we're all in this together.” Local comedian, husband and father to three children, Eddie Stephens, will join the Wyckoffs as they joke about the difficulties and joys of marriage. As we all know, relationships are hard. Like anything in life that’s worth it, relationships take a lot of effort and sometimes they become tense but, as Teresa says, “Laughter tends to suck all of the tension out of any situation.”

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Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at The Box. More at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.

View in Alibi calendar calendar
The He & She Show: A Live Stand Up Comedy Date Night

Friday, July 25, 8pm

The Cell Theatre
700 First Street NW
theheandsheshow.com, teresa@TheHeandSheShow.com
Tickets: $20 general, $15 seniors and $10 students
Recommended for mature audiences.
Comedy Matters

Andy Kindler on What Makes a Comic

Andy Kindler has his doubts about your Twitter stardom.
Suan Maljan
Andy Kindler has his doubts about your Twitter stardom.

Twitter, Vine and YouTube have made people a lot of money. Comics take advantage of these digital platforms for their work and, for many, careers in comedy have been launched. However, “A 300,000 Twitter following isn’t going to make you a good stand-up,” says Andy Kindler. The comic, who regularly plays himself on IFC’s “Maron,” insists on the necessity for performance in comedy.

With the advent of social media, Twitter especially, comics can spread their written material far and wide. They frequently get immediate results, and some of the lucky ones are offered jobs based on their writing.

This is vastly different from being vetted in comedy clubs by live audiences and comedy peers. “You may have a funny Twitter feed, but that doesn’t mean you have an hour’s worth of material you can perform,” says Kindler. “The fact that you could be famous fast is appealing, and sometimes ambition outsteps where [new comics] are at artistically.”

It’s not the technology but the instant gratification it offers. At times this may give a person too much confidence in their comedy abilities. Can someone suffer from too much confidence? Definitelyand it ruins the performance.

Comics who perform receive instant and often stinging feedback from audiences, booking agents and club owners. “I don’t believe in a hierarchy in comedy. I was treated really badly by the people who were the powers that be. I hate that part. The first day you do comedy you should be respected. But,” he says, “that doesn’t mean you have to be hilarious the first time. The more you do it the more you can repeat it successfully.” Standup is hard and, as Kindler notes, can really only be perfected through constant performance.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that technology is negatively affecting comedy. But Kindler makes a valid point that some people erroneously call themselves stand-ups. Comedy writing is importantbut standup isn’t just about the writing. It’s a performance, and either people are going to laugh or they aren’t. Comics have to be prepared for that. “What I definitely love about comedy is that it is egalitarian.” Unfortunately, Kindler notices, “a lot of people are narcissists. There’s no desire to become better through a trial by fire in a comedy club.”

A master at self-deprecating comedy himself, Kindler says, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. I love doing comedy because of the self-deprecation.” That’s where the crux of the matter is. It’s not the technology but the instant gratification it offers. At times this may give a person too much confidence in their comedy abilities. Can someone suffer from too much confidence? Definitelyand it ruins the performance.

Kindler does not suffer fools and is known for his harsh critiques of the comedy world in his annual State of the Industry address at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal. He describes his audience as “people who are aware of the bullshit of society.” He’s often the focus of his own jokes and engages the audience in authentic personal ways. He says, “I want people to realize that standup isn’t just a presentational thing, but you’re entering a person’s mind.” Kindler headlines the Sexpot Comedy Show at The Oriental (4335 West Forty Fourth Street) on Friday, May 30, in Denver.

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Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian. She performs all over the country and runs three monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour, Proof and Process at La Tortuga Gallery and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at ArtBar. More at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.

Comedy Matters

Accordion to Tenuta You All Are Sex Slaves

“Hey stud puppet, listen to this.”
“Hey stud puppet, listen to this.”

When a female comic performs she is breaking gender norms. Her mere presence onstage asks the audience to do away with stereotypical binaries of male strength and female weakness. Thirty years ago, Judy Tentuawho’ll be performing in Albuquerque at Embassy Suites (1000 Woodward NE) on May 9was pioneering a new kind of female comic. Part of a new wave of female comics that didn’t just implicitly break stereotypes by purely existing, she aggressively delved into taboo topics of sex and feminism.

In the late ’80s, Tenuta was a consumable and mildly mainstream, friendly version of the sex-positive feminist revolution. She was mainstream enough to score a Dr. Pepper ad campaign but still revolutionary with her brass attitude and absurd, erotic performances. Her slightly ironic self-proclaimed titles of “Love Goddess” and “Aphrodite of the Accordion” heightened her onstage character. Tentua had sass. She adorned herself with flowing dresses in a classic Greek style to accentuate her role as goddess. Fluctuating the pitch of her voice up and down octaves, Tenuta would regularly declare the audience her sex slaves, calling them “stud puppets” and “pigs.”

Tenuta toured regularly with the legendary and oftentimes controversial George Carlin. Unlike Paula Poundstone and Rita Rudner, both very successful comedians of the same era, Tenuta didn’t confine herself to observational humor and puns. At this time, the US was arguing about the public persona of the female, which of course included sexuality, and here was Tenuta amidst it all talking about her IUD. When Tenuta went on stage and publically expressed her sexuality, it was rebellious and groundbreaking. Tenuta’s work remains relevant because women comedians who have the gall to be openly sexual, like Amy Shumer for example, are still shamed in some ways. Female comics today owe her some gratitude.

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Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian living in Albuquerque. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows sin Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and The Comedy Storytelling Show at La Tortuga Gallery. More information can be found at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.

View in Alibi calendar calendar
2014 Mother's Day Komedy Xtravaganza

Friday, May 9, 9 to 11pm

Embassy Suites
1000 Woodward NE

Tickets: $33-$95 at holdmyticket.com; 18+
Comedy Matters

Coding Humor

A professor, a reporter and comedy

The draw to comedy is strong. It angers us, offends us, heals us and for some of us, it defines an entire life. Psychology professor Peter McGraw and journalist Joel Warner study comedy extensively in their new book, The Humor Code. These two men are profoundly drawn to comedy and travel the world to try to understand it at a deeply human level.

In the Humor Research Labor HuRLin Boulder, Colorado, McGraw developed a concept about comedy he calls the Benign-Violation Theory. “Humor only occurs,” according to his and Warner’s explanation in The Humor Code, “when something seems wrong, unsettling or threatening (i.e., a violation), but simultaneously seems okay, acceptable, or safe (i.e., benign).” They use various jokes to exemplify their theorysuch as, “Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Because it was dead.” A monkey falling out of a tree seems to be benign but it turns into a joke when it is revealed that the monkey is dead, a very clear violation.

In the book, McGraw and Warner travel the world testing this theory and asking questions about what makes something funny. This all began with McGraw wanting to try comedy for the sake of science, “so I took him to the Squire,” says Warner. The open mic at the Squire in Denver is notorious for being the most difficult in the country. Or as Warren explains in The Humor Code, “As a local comic put it to me, ‘If you fail at the Squire, not only will you fail hard, but then you will be cruelly mocked.’” As expected, McGraw failed horribly. So badly, in fact, that not only did he break the mic, but after his set the host of the show said, “That’s a sweater vest he’s wearing, not a bulletproof vest. So go ahead and shoot him.” This failure bothered McGraw. He had applied his theory to create jokes and yet he wasn’t able to secure laughsand so began his quest with Warner to test his theory further and perfect his execution of it.

The Humor Code

“The conversations are broader out in the real world,” says McGraw. “Academics are interested in minutiae. But comics are interested in the big questions like: What does it mean for something to be too soon? I got a lot of inspiration from those kinds of conversations.” The structure of the book reflects the kind of conversations McGraw and Warner were having on their travels. “Each chapter deals with a specific question,” says Warner. “Who is funny? How do you make funny? Can you find humor where you least expect it?” Through this process his questions about comedy deepened. Although McGraw still focused on his B/V theory, in this book it becomes much more of a way to look at how to frame discussions about comedy than a prescriptive or formulaic way to construct humor.

Joel Warner and Dr. Peter McGraw in Osaka, Japan
Joel Warner
Joel Warner and Dr. Peter McGraw in Osaka, Japan

Like any good theory it is still under debate and testable, but B/V does seem to hold up in various contexts while providing a nice framework to ask those deeper, broader questions. In The Humor Code, the theory’s application around the world isn’t what’s most interesting or valuable. What makes this book fascinating are the moments we see McGraw on stage working through his material and creating comedywhether he’s failing at an open mic in Denver or getting laughs from a major comedy crowd at the Just for Laughs fest in Montreal, which he just so happened to work his way into even though he had only done comedy once before.

Comics ask themselves, “Who the hell do I think I am, trying to make people laugh?” They often debate vigorously about what is and isn’t funny. They defend their stances or shift their thinking about comedy. The feelings and philosophies comics have about comedy are based on acutely visceral reactions to being on stage. McGraw took to the stage, tried comedy and used himself as a case study. That alone was a bold and noble move toward finding and defining what makes humans laugh.

---

Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian living in Albuquerque. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and The Comedy Storytelling Show at La Tortuga Gallery. More information can be found at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.

The Humor Code:
A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny

by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner
hardcover, $26
Simon & Schuster
Comedy Matters

Fear and Self-Loathing

Dave Ross and comedic anxiety

Dave Ross feels things.
Megan Baker
Dave Ross feels things.

Everyone knows comics are an anxious, fearful bunch. In fact, a recent article on The Independent’s website claimed to prove the link between comics, anxiety and mental illness. It of course immediately went viral in the comedy community as comedians took a sort of pride in finally being diagnosed. Accepting this trait in comics and talking about it on and off stage lends a sort of credibility to comedians. The question is, at what point is it self-destructive to buy into the idea that psychosis is synonymous to comedy?

Self-proclaimed nervous guy Dave Ross, a standup comedian from LA, wonders about this same thing. Ross is about to go on tour and confesses, “There are a few shows I’m worried might be like the one in Blues Brothers where there’s chicken wire and people are yelling ‘You’re a pussy,’ and every time I tell a story they’re like ‘Fuck you’ and they try to kill me. But I’m stoked for all the shows really.” Ross, who will be at ArtBar (119 Gold SW) on Tuesday, April 8, delves into the psychotic proclivity of comics in his standup and his podcast “Terrified.”

In many ways, this is the impetus for people to do comedy, because being a comic is a great way to find power in your weaknesses, fears and anxiety. “I think everyone is afraid, but I think a lot of people aren’t honest with themselves and the people around them about their fears,” says Ross. “And I think that’s because the world, and more specifically America, has drilled it into our heads that it’s not ok to be afraid of things.” In his podcast “Terrified” he covers this subject extensively. Analyzing fear and “air[ing] it out takes the power away,” says Ross.

However, Ross agrees that obsessing about fears is also a good way to foster those weaknesses in an unhealthy way. “I talk about anxiety less and less on stage because at a certain point it doesn’t help,” says Ross, “If you’re just talking about it over and over and harping on it and you’re still anxious after years of talking about it and you’re not getting better, then what’s the point?” Perhaps it’s not that comics are more inclined to have anxiety, but that we’re more inclined to be truthful about it. And then we either self-implode or heal, either harp on it or work through it in five-minute increments onstage in front of strangers. I think ultimately that’s the connection between mental illness and comedy: unabashed and unapologetic truthfulness.

It’s Dave Ross, You Guys

Tuesday, April 8, 8pm

ArtBar by Catalyst Club
119 Gold SW
Fabebook event page
Tickets: At door, $5 for members, $10 for non-members
21+
Alibi Picks

Paula Hearts Jokes: Paula Poundstone at the Lensic

Watching a comedian move seamlessly between pre-written material and off the cuff banter with the audience while maintaining control of the show, making everyone laugh and improvising most of their setwell, it’s sort of like seeing a unicorn. There’s a very distinct possibility that Paula Poundstone is a unicorn. The comedian is known for her impeccable crowd work, which I witnessed when I first saw her perform in the 1987 TV special “Women of the Night” with Ellen DeGeneres and Rita Rudner. The way she incorporated the audience into her act changed the way I saw stand-up comedy. She provokes the audience with adamant personal questions, mocking their responses, but in a playful and free manner that never quite seems confrontational. With a new CD out called I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them In Boston, Poundstone can be heard on NPR’s “Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!” See her live at the Lensic Performing Arts Center (211 W. San Francisco) in Santa Fe tomorrow evening at 7:30, and witness as she guides the audience through a series of quick comebacks and witty one-liners. Tickets run between $27.50 and $35. Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe • Fri Dec 13 • 7:30pm • $27.50-$35 • 21+ • View on Alibi calendar

PHOTOS

An Education Without Borders

Winning photograph speaks volumes

Winning photo by UNM art education graduate student Junfu Han
Winning photo by UNM art education graduate student Junfu Han

An older Latina woman stands clutching a telephone pole painted with colors of the American flag in a border town of the Southwestern United States. She’s expressionless except for a squinting of her dark eyes during the midday sun. Her gaze is slightly off camera and a silver cross is half hidden under her blouse. Her left wrist is bandaged, yet she doesn’t seem broken. Rather, she's solid and stoic with an unassuming strength. The author of this photograph is Junfu Han, a UNM Art Education graduate student and the winner of the 1st Annual International Education Week photo contest.

During the week of Nov. 11, UNM’s Global Education Office hosted International Education Week, and unlike previous years, this year’s event included the photo contest. The week focuses on the benefits of studying abroad and celebrates the diversity of UNM students. Photographers entered the contest, whose theme was “International Experiences,” with portraits, landscapes, architecture, street photography, abstract or experimental pictures. Han’s striking composition of the Latina woman in the Chihuahuita community in El Paso, TX was declared the winner with its portrayal of American mythos and Mexican experiences on the border.

Comedy

Seize the Comedy

Mile High in the 505

Jordan Doll
photo by Tatiana Timmins
Jordan Doll

A few months ago, I wrote about Denver’s successful High Plains Comedy Festival, which spotlighted such high profile alt-comics as Reggie Watts and Kurt Braunohler. Denver, just a few hours up I-25, is becoming a major port of comedyand with its success, Albuquerque’s comedy scene grows, too.

Producer and comic Dawn Schary recently created Carpe Diem Comedy, a standup show at Imbibe (3101 Central NE) every first Thursday. It’s the only monthly show in the Nob Hill area and is already bringing in high quality talent from the burgeoning Denver scene. Schary’s stage persona is foul-mouthed and often brutally honest, but as her day-to-day self, the comic cheerfully explains, “My vision is to connect nearby comedy scenes, and to make ABQ an obvious place to hit on a young comic's tour.”

Nathan Lund
photo by Crystal Allen
Nathan Lund

For this month’s show, comic Jordan Doll travels down from the Mile High city to riff on monsters, video games and wizards. On stage he skillfully tackles paranormal scenarios, a theme he carries into his comedy podcast “Werewolf Radar.”

Fellow Denver comic Nathan Lund, one-fourth of the comedy group Fine Gentleman’s Club, also takes the helm at Carpe Diem Comedy this month. Watching Lund onstage is like watching a very well-read mountain man expertly navigate a laser beam fieldhe weaves smartly through jokes about his weight, politics and passive-aggressive lovemaking skills.

Functioning as a bridge between ABQ and Denver comedy, the Nov. 7 Carpe Diem Comedy show is a blend of extremely absurd, silly and politically charged comedy. Show starts at 7pm and is absolutely and magically free.

Carpe Diem Presents 1st Thursday Comedy

Thursday, Nov. 7, 7pm

Imbibe
3101 Central NE
imbibenobhill.com, 255-4200
FREE

Today's Events

Cine de la Epoca de Oro: La Perla at South Broadway Cultural Center

Screening of the film starring Pedro Armendáriz and María Elena Marqués. Part of the Mexican Classics series.

Latin Sin Wednesdays with DeeJay Louie at Dirty Bourbon

Corrales Growers' Market at Corrales Growers' Market

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