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 lives—marriage and moving from one coast to the other. Originally from Oregon, “We [sold] all our belongings—well, what doesn't fit into a small Toyota—and 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.”
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.
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? Definitely—and 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 important—but 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? Definitely—and 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.
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.
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 Tentua—who’ll be performing in Albuquerque at Embassy Suites (1000 Woodward NE) on May 9—was 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.
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.
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.