Seven Minutes with Ian Abramson

ianabramson copyMost comedians live for laughter. They fine-tune their timing and expertly tweak their material according to an audience’s reaction. So what happens when you take away everything that sustains them? What if there was no audience?

Comedian Ian Abramson wondered the same thing, and thus Seven Minutes in Purgatory was born. The comedian’s hugely popular show was recently picked up by Comedy Central, and the stage show comes to Moontower next week featuring comics from the fest. I spoke to Ian recently about the show, writing for The Onion, and why improv and stand-up don’t always get along.

Tell me a little bit about the origins of Seven Minutes in Purgatory.

Certainly: Seven Minutes in Purgatory is a show where the comedians perform to a camera in one room, and the audience watches in a separate room. When I was in Chicago I was thinking, “There’s this relationship between the audience and the performer,” and I thought it would be interesting if you got to see what a comedian did when they didn’t have anything to respond to.

Were you the guinea pig for this, or how did you first get it together?

I produced it with a man named Matt Burn in Chicago. We sat down and talked through it, and we built a whole show’s worth of comedians doing seven minute sets to try this out. The way that that played out is I hosted and then I brought up comedians. So I was the first person to do it, but by the end of the night, eight people had.

Did you come to any scientific conclusions about who would succeed at such a thing?

Right off the bat what was interesting to me — something we didn’t anticipate — was just that people get a kick out of it. The people that are showing up for the show know what the show is, hopefully, and if not, hopefully it becomes clear what they’re doing. That means that anyone that’s sitting down to watch the show gets a comedian saying, “Man, this feels so weird!” and that gets a big laugh. Because the audience is living that moment-to-moment with them, if anything it makes the audience more aware of the fact that they are part of the show. They’re keenly aware of the fact that they’re sitting there watching the show, and their response to it is part of that experience. That was an interesting thing that we wouldn’t have thought would happen, but that was one of my favorite parts of the show.

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Tweets of the Week from the Moontower Class of 2016

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This edition of Tweets of the Week features some of the best and brightest from Moontower’s class of 2016. For more, subscribe to Moontower Comedy 2016, a Twitter list featuring many of the comics performing at this year’s festival.

Moontower Class of 2016: Sean Donnelly

sean_donnelly_headshot_800x600Letterman, Conan, Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central Half Hour vet Sean Donnelly combines self-effacing narrative with infectious, Everydude optimism. In addition to performing at top clubs across New York City and festivals across the world — including his upcoming debut appearance at the 2016 Moontower Comedy Festival — Donnelly just scored a Comedy Central script deal for a series based on his experiences as an Upper East Side underdog.

 

I do a podcast with Dan St. Germain called My Dumb Friends, which is on the All Things Comedy network. I also have a web series coming out for Comedy Central called The Sneaker Trip. I interview comics as they buy a pair of sneakers. We talk about our childhood and getting into adulthood through sneakers. The first one is with Roy Wood, Jr., and we’re editing it now. I’ve been on the road a bunch, I get up a lot at the Comedy Cellar, and things are going great!

A script deal is the earliest form of a TV deal. What happens is you go in, you pitch your idea, and they start you off with a script deal. They pay you – or in my case they pay me and another comic, Danny Solomon – to write a script for them that could potentially be turned into a pilot, and then a TV show. Continue reading

Moontower vet Joe Zimmerman hits Cap City tonight, Comedy Central’s Snapchat channel soon

joe zimmerman headshotMoontower veteran Joe Zimmerman‘s resume already boasted a Conan set, Last Comic Standing appearance and Comedy Central Half Hour special. Last week Comedy Central announced that his new Animal-Lolz series has been greenlit for its Snapchat Discover channel.

How did Animal-Lolz come about as a Snapchat series?

Comedy Central was reaching out to people, asking if they had any ideas for Snapchat. They’re doing fewer web series, and putting all their web series energy into the Snapchat channel. I guess all the data is telling them it’s the next big thing, and they’re getting a lot of traffic through their channel.

I did a Comedy Central Corporate Retreat based on nature and wildlife at UCB East. They said they liked my animal stuff, and we started talking about my doing fun Animals Facts and jokes about them. They suggested getting one of their animators [Charlie Hankin] to cut back and forth between me doing stand-up and an animation of the animal I’m talking about. Continue reading

Broadcasting from Moontower: Podcasts and Radio Shows Taping at the 2016 Fest

In addition to stellar stand-up shows, parties and special events, Moontower is thrilled to present our full lineup of podcasts and radio programs, some of which will be broadcasting live from the fifth annual festival. We’ll see — and hear — you in a few weeks!

Friday, April 22nd

Opie with Jim Norton 

OpieandJim Who: Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Jim Norton

What: Hugely popular SiriusXM show broadcasts live from Moontower and will feature some of the biggest names at the fest. Guests for Friday’s show include Mark Normand, Chris DeStefano, Jesse Joyce, Colin Jost, and Kurt Metzger

Where: TBA

When: 2pm-5pm

 

The Bonfire bonfire

Who: Big Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder

What: Comedy Central radio program where the comics cover a variety of daily topics, share their best stories from the road and give fans a chance to call in and chat. Guests TBA.

Where: 800 Congress (map)

When: 4pm-7pm

 

Sklarbro Country SBC

Who: Jason and Randy Sklar

What: Weekly comedic takes on the worlds of sports and pop culture. Guests TBA.

Where: Speakeasy, 412 Congress (map)

When: 5pm-7pm

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Josh Adam Meyers talks Moontower show, new Comedy Central property Goddamn Comedy Jam

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Josh Adam Meyers knows every comedian secretly wants to be a rock star. After a false start at the CW, his L.A.-based Goddamn Comedy Jam — comics perform a set, then a song backed by a live band — was picked up yesterday by Comedy Central. Before the show makes its way to Moontower this month, Meyers recalls some of the Jam‘s highlights thus far.

Bill Burr – Bill has been the biggest supporter. A big part of the reason we’ve gotten where we are is because of him. He has fun with the costumes, even when I keep telling him, “You know you don’t have to dress up!” He’s been the drummer of Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen, Motley Crüe, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC…

10906268_806713979414467_4584591271532267557_nKyle Gass – That was the third show. He just showed up and did a couple Tenacious D songs and one of his originals. And then he came back the following month as well. We’re still trying to get him and Jack, and I think one day we will. But it was still one of those moments where you think, “Okay, something’s actually happening here!” Continue reading

Dave Attell on 25 Years of Comedy Central Specials

dave attell comedy central-thumb-296x222-369914Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Comedy Central, formed April 1, 1991 via the merger of HBO’s The Comedy Channel and Viacom’s competing Ha! Along with breakout series including The Daily Show, South Park, Chappelle’s Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and Broad City, Comedy Central has ensured stand-up specials remain at the programming forefront. Former Insomniac host Dave Attell, whose Comedy Central Presents, album Skanks for the Memories and hour Road Work special are among the network’s 25-year highlights, explains why specials are so important for both developing and longtime comics.

Up until that point it was really just doing a TV spot on a late-night talk show, Letterman or Leno. Comedy Central Presents was another thing. That was the first long-form, 23-ish minute option. It was definitely a cooler vibe in terms of pressure. There weren’t the same standards as the networks.

Then they started giving out the hour specials. Up until that point, HBO was what everyone was pulling for, and really no one else was in the business of the hour special. So that was cool, because a lot of us don’t rate an HBO special. That’s a very select group of specials. Continue reading

Nick Mullen Has a TV credit

NickNick Mullen has made a name for himself on the internet with his dark, uncompromising sense of humor. Whether writing infuriating op-eds as Nicole Mullen, a dim-witted, outspoken mom, pranking businesses as Clarence Elmore on his Help Me, I’m Old podcast, or petitioning fans to Free Steven Avery (and make me the official Addidas spokesperson), he’s made a career out of pushing boundaries. I caught up with Nick in advance of his Moontower appearance to discuss living in NYC, the challenges of being a full-time comic, and why he’s one of four people David Cross follows on Twitter.

How’s New York?

It’s all right, I guess. Fuckin’ pizza pie.

Are you performing a lot?

Yeah, I am. Thought it’s harder to get up here. People think you get up all the time in New York and it’s true for like 35 people doing comedy.

Who do you see out there?

I see Kurt Metzger pretty often. Me and Kurt are pretty cool. We’re both working on a show. But yeah, I don’t really hang with anybody. Dan Soder. And then a couple of guys from D.C. I’m friends with. I see Jake [Flores] around.

And are you doing standup full time?

I’m doing standup and pursuing writing stuff. The business changes. You can’t really have a career as just a comedian unless you’re a headliner and there’s no path towards me headlining right now. I don’t have any fucking credits. Although Fox News has been putting me on Red Eye with Tom Shillue as a panel guest. They have guests on and give them topics to riff on. Yeah, it’s pretty loose, man. It’s pretty fun. It’s a TV credit. It’s something you can put on a poster for fuckin’ one nighters. Continue reading

Moontower Class of 2016: Jesse Joyce

Jesse_Joyce_800-320x320-1455229229Jesse Joyce frequently toured with the late Greg Giraldo, who brought Joyce aboard the Comedy Central Roast franchise as an annual writer. Now also a @midnight staffer, the Tonight Show vet and Last Comic Standing semifinalist performs multiple nights across the 2016 Moontower Comedy Festival.

I’ve done ten Comedy Central Roasts, TBS, a couple on ESPN, a few Friars Club ones now. Flavor Flav was my first one.

It’s not like it pays my mortgage or anything, but it’s a fun thing to do.

I tweet out the unused jokes every year afterwards, and HuffPo and a couple others always pick it up as “Hey, here are some jokes Jesse wrote that didn’t get in!”

And a lot of them are reusable. You write a good Artie Lange joke and it doesn’t get used, you just keep it in the folder of, like, “Fat Drug Addicts.” And there will always be another one that the joke will kind of work for. Continue reading

Moontower Class of 2016: Annie Lederman

C9B7E7FF-9606-5D3E-9CD2C39B698CA4FFA castmember of MTV’s hit Girl Code, dryly disarming Annie Lederman has appeared on Chelsea Lately, @midnight and even voiced hippie radio producer Cheryl in Grand Theft Auto V. Though she’s toured with Moontower vets Marc Maron and Jim Norton, next month marks her inaugural trip to Austin.

Girl Code I auditioned for the first season. The audition was weird. When you do talking-head shows, they’ll ask you a question like, “What was your first period like?” Then you have to go, “My first period was like a crimson-wave tsunami!” or whatever. Then they animate blood pouring out of a shark’s mouth or something. I didn’t know that, so I was just “Oh, I dunno. It was a rough time for me.”

I bombed it and didn’t get it, and just thought, “Oh well. Who cares?” Then it blew up and I was like “[Gloomily] I didn’t get Girl Code,” all jealous and miserable. Then in season three, they just gave it to me. Continue reading