Harrison Greenbaum won the 2010 Andy Kaufman Award after a live competition last night at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City.
The award, created by the father of the late Andy Kaufman, "honors Andy Kaufman's creative spirit while simultaneously shining a spotlight on promising performers with the potential to impact the evolving culture of comedy." Past winners are Suzanne Whang, Kristen Schaal, Reggie Watts, Brent Weinbach and Blaine Kneece.
I profiled Harrison Greenbaum earlier this year. Last night, after winning, Greenbaum told me:
"I'm still in shock. Andy was (and continues to be) such a huge influence on me that to be recognized by his family and friends, as well as industry professionals, as embodying Andy's spirit is just mind-boggling. I just feel so ecstatic and honored right now."
This was his submission video, which also represented the set he performed in the competition:
Comedy Central's inaugural "Comics to Watch" showcase of new talents will be hosted by Christian Finnegan, with the spotlight put on the following stand-up comedians:
with special guest James Smith
The intent of "Comics to Watch" is for Comedy Central to show support for comedians who have not yet appeared prominently on the network, and showcase them to the rest of the industry. Many of them already have been featured in one way or another here on The Comic's Comic.
What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
When I wrote about comedian Harrison Greenbaum co-hosting the first-ever official Times Square live New Year's Eve webcast, perhaps a few of you said, who's this kid? But if you lived in New York City's comedy scene in 2009, you probably knew exactly who he was, because he performed seemingly everywhere last year. Did you know, however, that he really is still a kid, fresh out of college? Did you know that he interned for the Internet's Julia Allison and NonSociety and lived to tell about it? Did you know he's already a member of the Friars Club? Hey. How about I stop asking questions without giving you answers. To the Q&A!
Name: Harrison Greenbaum
Arrival date: Dec. 29, 2008
Arrived from: Boston
When and where did you start performing comedy? I was actually a magician before becoming a stand-up comedian. I began doing magic when I was 5 and started doing comedy magic professionally when I was 12, performing at various private functions and public shows around Long Island, where I grew up. In college, however, I realized I was using magic as a vehicle for my comedy -- my passion was really for the comedy and the joke writing. If I use that as my starting point -- that shift from comedy magic to stand-up comedy -- I've been performing stand-up comedy since 2004. My development as a stand-up comic was definitely in Boston.
What was your best credit before moving here? While living in Boston, I performed in the Boston Comedy Festival and the New York Underground Comedy Festival, had a weekly show at the Sage Theater in Times Square (I started it while on summer break in New York and continued to co-produce it from Boston, booking the acts, managing the website, and helping with key decisions, sometimes doing the show by jumping on a 4 p.m. bus to New York the night of the show, getting back on the bus by 12:30 a.m., and being back in Boston by 5 a.m. so that I could make my 9 a.m. classes that day), and was a regional semi-finalist in RooftopComedy.com's National College Comedy Competition. I was also (and still am) writing for MAD Magazine (I had my first major article published while I was a senior at Harvard).
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I was still trying to make up my mind between moving to NYC or L.A. post-graduation when I got the opportunity to go to L.A. as part of a school trip my senior year of college. We had nights free to do whatever we wanted, so I spent my nights performing at the comedy clubs in the area. While at the Improv, I had the opportunity to pick Joe Rogan's brain about whether or not I should move to NYC or L.A. and he had some really good advice: "You move to New York to create and develop your product (your comedy); you move to L.A., once you're ready, to sell it." (I'm paraphrasing a bit.) I think he was dead-on. Not only are there more comedy clubs and alternative rooms in New York than there are in L.A., but they're closer together and more reachable by public transportation. As a result, you can get more stage time here not only because there are more clubs and alt venues but because you physically/geographically can do more spots each night. I've done 10 spots on a busy Saturday while in New York (all without driving); that's just not possible in L.A. There are also mores places in New York to work on your stuff away from the eyes of the industry, which means you have more opportunity to take chances with your comedy. On top of that, my family lives in Long Island, so I can see my family whenever I want. That's definitely a huge bonus.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? I actually didn't make the move to New York City until I had enough paying gigs lined up for it to make sense to make the move. During the months leading up to my college graduation, I started lining up dates in New York, so I moved back home to Long Island with performances in and around the city already scheduled. That was June 2008. By December 2008, I was doing enough paid gigs that the move to New York City made sense financially, artistically, and career-wise. (Financially, I could do more gigs if I lived in the city, especially ones that were booked last minute, and this increase in revenue from those gigs balanced out -- if not exceeded -- the increase in living expenses I would have. Artistically, moving to New York meant I had an increased ability to get on stage, plus being able to live alone in my own apartment gave me the space and freedom to write more, to create more, and to live a comedian's hours without disturbing anyone. Career-wise, living in the city made it easier to have meetings, rehearsals, and auditions during the day and shows at night, which was important, too.) As a result, I moved to New York City with paid gigs already lined up -- in fact, the day I moved into my apartment, I had to take a break from unpacking to do a paid spot at a comedy club.
Looking for a new way to celebrate New Year's Eve that involves Times Square but does not have to involve too much Ryan Seacrest and/or Kathy Griffin and/or Griffin making jokes about Seacrest and Anderson Cooper? Turns out the folks at the Times Square Alliance have decided to put on their first-ever streaming Webcast from their central midtown Manhattan location for six-and-a-half hours on Dec. 31, starting at 5:50 p.m. Eastern and continuing until 12:20 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2010. You can get more information as well as a widget to catch the action on the Times Square 2010 New Year's Eve page.
They'll have five co-hosts and a team of bloggers on-site, and one of the co-hosts is a young stand-up comedian named Harrison Greenbaum. This is not the photo of him hearing the news, but you can imagine his excitement. Actually, you don't have to imagine his excitement, because I've asked him about his new gig. Tell 'em, Harrison!
So, tell me about your new New Year's Eve gig! I'm actually one of five co-hosts, as opposed to one of the bloggers. I'll be broadcasting live from Times Square for over 6 hours, from the ball being lifted at 6 PM to post-ball drop at 12:30 AM. As a co-host, I'll have my own camera crew, field producer, and security guard and will be at different places in Times Square throughout the night. The bloggers, on the other hand, will be blogging and Tweeting from within the Hard Rock Cafe, screencapping the live broadcast and supplementing our live broadcast that we'll be doing live outside.
Who are the other co-hosts? I'm the only male co-host -- the other four co-hosts are female. I haven't met them yet (except for two of them, who I met very briefly at the callback); we have our first rehearsal on Monday. As far as I know, though, I am the only one with a comedy background and definitely the only stand-up comedian in the group.
How did you get selected? Was this because of your role in producing and promoting shows at the Sage Theater? There was a three-part process for being selected: there was the initial submission, followed by an audition, followed by a callback. (The audition and callback were really fun, consisting mostly of improv based on situations that we as co-hosts will be involved with during the broadcast -- for example, "This guy will be playing a drunk reveler. Interact with him for 2 minutes. And, GO!" We even got to do a mock countdown!) I did have my show at the Sage Theater on my resume, but it didn't have any influence or effect on my getting cast.
And how does this New Year's Eve compare with your experience last Dec. 31, or any previous one for that matter? Last New Year's Eve, I was at a friend's party, trying to take it as easy as one can on New Year's, since I had six shows scheduled for the next night. Having six shows on Jan. 1 turned out to be an accurate indicator of how busy I ended up being for the rest of 2009 -- I'll have done close to 730 shows by year's end. So I hope that being part of the first-ever world-wide webcast from Times Square will be as accurate an indicator of the kind of stuff I have to look forward to doing in 2010!
Here's what the Times Square 2010 New Year's Eve video player looks like -- without added chat boxes for Twitter and Facebook folks. You can go to the page highlighted at the top of this post and grab yourself the appropriate widget.
Want to know who moved on from Tuesday night's preliminary rounds of the stand-up contest for the 2009 Boston Comedy Festival? Well, here you go (and according to this news, apparently some comedians I know, and some comedians I don't know but know are funny, also did not advance to the semis, not to take anything away from the comedians I know who are funny and did advance! get it? got it? good!):
Not all contest preliminary groups in the Boston Comedy Festival are created alike. That's the first thing that has to be said for prelims 3-4 last night. In the late show, you could make a case for at least eight of the 12 comedians to make it through to the semis, but there only were slots for four. As for the early show, well, that was a tougher show to grade, because quite a few comedians were off. Andrew Norelli, going up seventh in the order, used this as his opening remark to the audience at the Hard Rock Cafe: "I know we're making it look like it's not fun, but it's fun!" Also, each of the first four prelims has proved problematic for comedians attempting to deal with the wireless microphone -- grabbing it from the stand, at least one comic per group manages to turn the mic off, and thereby momentarily derailing their sets. Tech proficiency can be just as important in delivering and connecting with the audience. Please make a note of it. Thanks. With that, let's get to who advanced and why...
Norelli acknowledged the early roughgoing and proceeded to get the audience on his side by talking about steroids in baseball, and how other drugs might make it better. A routine on massages went from happy endings (predictable) to massage talkers and the inanity of the phrase, "Push the stress out your arms." He also has a good retort to porn stars who claim they don't know who he is as a comic, as well as people who claim they're broke but still have plenty of money.
Dustin opened with a passing remark to the stage: "Nice ramp. I would've brought my wheelchair if I had known." Tonight's show had plenty of comics noting their surroundings, by the way. But no one else in the contest had to deal with waitresses dropping the checks during their contest set. Dustin still managed to get their attention by talking about vibrators -- "OK, the lonely girl has spoken!" Dustin noted in reference to one shouty audience member -- and jokes about sex and work and things you don't want to hear in bed. I'd heard it all before. It still worked.
Hunter could have had a terrible set by opening rather loud on the mic, but once he focused his routine on one lengthy bit about the many enticements and redeeming qualities he offers the ladies -- namely, everything they tend to like and act like -- got his vocal delivery in a more appealing rhythm that worked. "I'll be by that instrument after the show," he said, in case you wanted to take him up on that offer. Good luck.
O'Reilly also overcame a mistaken gametime decision. For reasons only he can explain, he decided to stop his routine in the middle to engage in crowd work with retired women in the front table. Crowd work that didn't go anywhere. And this was in the middle of O'Reilly joking about sex. His jokes about being a bastard do provide him with a solid line, however, that he can use for callbacks and laughs.
Others in this group deserving mentions of one sort or another: Jono Zalay wore an American flag sweater but didn't explain it, instead delivering a routine about feeding cocaine to rats and monkeys (it's for his studies). Dustin Chafin was rough around the edges, which works better in NYC where he lives now than in the Hard Rock in Boston (especially with the retired ladies up front), and went with midgets, redneck jokes, Bush is dumb, and a good line about how Obama can look more patriotic (hint: Apollo Creed). "Yay!" may not be the most effective catchphrase to utter every 15 seconds. "Big" Alvin David and Kendra Cunningham both had a fun presence, and plenty of crowd support, but couldn't translate that into winning sets. Shawn Donovan picked his doctor just for the name and comedy premise alone, but needed to sell it better. I can see why Myq Kaplan liked Donovan's style (Donovan even borrowed Kaplan's phrase and inflection to deliver one punchline?!).
OK. Moving on...