Julian McCullough made his network TV debut last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and if you're curious as to why Stephen Colbert was Tweeting about it earlier, then perhaps it might behoove you to attend a taping of The Colbert Report and watch McCullough perform beforehand to warm-up the studio audience.
In his first network TV credit, McCullough lets us in on his feelings about Uggs, studio apartments, kittens, and having appendicitis (especially without health insurance). Fun times! Mostly. You'll see. McCullough is charming and quick on his feet. Which is weird, since when you say someone is quick on their feet, you're not actually talking about their feet, but about the inside of their heads.
My friends at The Laugh Button and The Syndicate threw a special midnight show at CMJ last month with Comedy Central, and asked if I'd like to chat with some of the comedians. I said sure. We set up shop in the basement of Comix, dreamed up the impossibly creative title "The Comic's Comic at Comix," and invited the comedians into our lair.
Let's welcome Julian McCullough into the lair now, and since McCullough has experience conducting interviews for Comedy Central's Jokes.com, I decided to get reflective in episode three, asking him for advice on making this series even more magical. Did you know Julian McCullough was named New York's Funniest Stand-Up in its 2008 contest? True story. Maybe some of his magic will rub off on me. Hopefully that's all that rubs off...roll the clip!
Would you like to see more interviews like this, or perhaps even better than this? You're in luck! We've got more to come. If you'd like to get involved, let me or my friends at The Laugh Button know.
Production wrapped last month on a dark new independent film, Circus Maximus, starring Julian McCullough as a struggling screenwriter and Mario Cantone as the studio producer who's demanding his writer finish his script in a week or else. The results get weird and very NSFW. The cast is rounded out by Kevin Corrigan, Sal "The Stockbroker" Governale, Joe Gannascoli, Rachel Feinstein and Bianca Hunter. It's in private screenings currently. But you can watch the trailer right now.
Some comedians try to pretend they're not being taped for television and never acknowledge that it's anything special, just the same jokes you'd hear. Other comedians let you in on the game, and sometimes even play directly to the cameras, or say out loud when the commercial breaks should be happening.
At Julian McCullough's half-hour Comedy Central Presents taping, the stand-up often doled out tips to audience members and even the TV director. For this clip, in which McCullough discusses the best pick-up lines, he stopped first to ask an audience member to borrow his/her cell phone. We catch up with the bit here. Roll it!
Are you suffering from withdrawal of seeing how crazy the white people were who worked in advertising in 1963? Well, you are in luck. Particularly if you want to see actor Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell on AMC's Mad Men) become the latest guest on Pop-Tarts and Wine, the new online series from comedians Sean O'Connor and Julian McCullough. In the series, O'Connor is supposed to interview women who are musicians and trick them into dating him (see how it started with Kelly Crisp of The Rosebuds); this time, however, he's trying to get Kartheiser to take him on as a wingmen. They're going to need new suits. "You have a floral print." Priceless. This video is slightly NSFW. Directed and edited by Ralph Arend. Roll the clip!
If you were to ask me at the start of the 2008 New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest, who I thought would win, well, someone did, and before I could say "John Mulaney" (whoops, he's not even in the contest? wait, what? oh, right, Mulaney is headlining at the Punchline in San Francisco this week, so he already had plans), I thought, Julian McCullough was the only Carolines club comic returning from among the 2007 contest finalists, so, yeah, him. McCullough did win the $2,500 prize last night at Carolines, along with a week of gigs at the club and an additional spot opening for one of the New York Comedy Festival headliners.
"I'm going to move to Hoboken with this money," McCullough joked while holding the large cardboard fake-check, in between sincere sentiments about his fellow competitors. "I want to thank Carolines. They've changed my life over the past two years."
McCullough told me afterward that he already had a festival gig opening for Susie Essman at Carolines this weekend. Which makes me realize that picking the winner of this contest is simple! Last year, winner Wil Sylvince had a festival gig before the contest; this year, 'twas McCullough. So if you want to win in 2009, get yourself booked in the fest first!
As even McCullough pointed out when he opened his finals set, stand-up comedy contests don't mesh well with stand-up comedy personalities. "Take the hardest job in the world and pit us against each other," he told the audience. And this contest has some work to do, too -- it uses the same audition process as Last Comic Standing (preferring appointments over open calls), which gives an advantage to comedians who know the system and the Carolines staff; and the name, well, the name of the contest, "New York's Funniest Stand-Up," is about as much of a misnomer as Grammy's Best New Artist. Actually, it'd make more sense if they called it New York's Best New Stand-Up, because even if the stand-up has worked for years, he or she is new to the New York City scene and industry and at least that separates that title from the many great and funny stand-up comedians who live in the city. That said, it's great that the Carolines-produced festival addded the contest to its lineup, because it's one of those events that helps make this week in NYC comedy more special and unique than any other week.
Want to know who I think New York's funniest stand-up is? Want to know how everyone else did in the contest? Keep reading...
One of my newspaper alma maters, the New York Daily News, devoted much of its Sunday features section to comedy, thanks in part to this week's New York Comedy Festival, but also to how much comedy has impacted politics this campaign season. There's a story from Caroline Waxler about how comedians might react to an Obama presidency, brief interviews with fest headliners Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan and Carlos Mencia, a profile roundup of the 11 finalists in the New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest, and a look-back at some quotes from Bernie Mac, who appears posthumously in the new movies Madagascar 2 and Soul Men.
A reliable source informed me that these are your first five comedians advancing to the finals of the 2008 New York's Funniest Stand-Up contest:
Nate Bargatze, Esther Ku, Julian McCullough, Stone & Stone, Reese Waters
Comedy Central's Comedy Central Park was such a big success last Friday that by the time I got to the outdoor venue, there was a line to get into the line to get into the place to see Stephen Lynch, Mike Birbiglia and Julian McCullough. You could hear them just fine from a football field away, but you really had to be there to see it. I'm not a big fan of outdoor comedy as a general rule, but Comedy Central Insider's recap with photos sure makes it look like it was a lot of fun for the 5,000-plus in attendance for the free show. Bonus, it was Birbiglia's birthday. And they gave him pizza cake! See!
Summertime, and the comedy is easy to find, even outside here in New York City.
Central Park SummerStage offers its first "Comedy Central Park" of the season tonight with Stephen Lynch, Mike Birbiglia and Julian McCullough. It's free!
Down at Tompkins Square Park, NY Laughs offers its second free summer of laughs, with shows June 29, July 13, July 26, Aug. 10, Sept. 19 and Sept. 28. Ted Alexandro kicks things off in the first show, which has an early start time of 6 p.m.
In case you haven't been following the Internets, ABC News recently struck up a partnership with its Times Square neighbor, Carolines, for a weekly interview/performance segment called Carolines on GMA Now. Club owner Caroline Hirsch also takes part in the segments and often has her own questions for the comedians. It appears as part of the magically mysterious third hour of Good Morning America, which doesn't appear on the regular ABC television network, but rather on some digital cable systems, mobile phone networks and definitely online. ABC doesn't like to offer embedded video, so instead, we've got links to share.
The mix includes both headliners working the club that weekend (natural cross-promotion) as well as up-and-coming New York-based stand-ups. Sometimes there's a performance in the ABC studio with a small audience (that's a tough room!). Sometimes not. Last week's segment had a rather revealing interview with Mike DeStefano.
“We’re thrilled to be teaming up with ABC News' ‘Good Morning America NOW’ on this new program,” Hirsch said in the official press release earlier this spring. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our lively and entertaining programming on ABC News NOW -- across all of its platforms -- broadband, cable and mobile.”
Carolines closed out its second annual March Comedy Madness on Tuesday night with two very intriguing Final Four matchups. One half of the bracket pitted boyfriend against girlfriend, while the other half could best be described as the single white guys uncomfortable with the ladies division. Comedians performed with a scoreboard clock ticking behind them, as well as his or her competition sitting and/or standing on the side of the stage.
First semifinal: Boyfriend against girlfriend, aka Reese Waters vs. Liz Miele. Waters (pictured) went first and, after a hesitant first 30 seconds warming up to the crowd, he really delivered with a fresh and funny take on Obama vs. Hillary and picking between a black man and a white woman, spinning it in turn on the audience's choice between himself and Miele. Miele's best jokes, coincidentally, came late in her five-minute set with bits about dating a black guy (though she never name-checked Waters specifically).
Second semifinal: Single white guys uncomfortable with the ladies, aka Dan Hirshon vs. Rob O'Reilly. Hirshon went with awkward and insecure, while O'Reilly went with overcompensating overconfidence. Hirshon also talked about his Jewishness with bits about failing an audition for an extra in The Departed and working at Bertucci's. O'Reilly opened strong with an act-out joke about having sex and being farsighted, then kept talking about sex.
The finals: Waters vs. O'Reilly.
But first, 2007 March Comedy Madness champ Julian McCullough returned for a guest set while the semifinal votes were tallied. An odd decision for two reasons: 1) McCullough hit strong, making the finals a bit weird because the audience now would subconsciously be comparing the finalists to him, and 2) when the finals kicked off, O'Reilly and Waters would restart not only cold, but also without any of their better jokes from their earlier sets to use in a new 10-minute set.
That said, O'Reilly went dirty and racial, whereas Waters followed with a more personal approach talking about growing up black and poor. Waters made that connection with the audience (not that they were made up of poor, black people, but that he made audience members feel more comfortable about laughing, and therefore voting for him), and won. The Carolines contest format made me think about the San Francisco and Seattle comedy competitions, in that anyone can advance in an early round with a great joke or short set (for Carolines, the initial battles were decided by a 1-minute bit and a decibel reader!), but that comedian with a solid 4-5 can collapse in the finals (where in Seattle and SF, you've got to prove you have another solid 20 or more minutes).
So O'Reilly finishes second for the second year, and Waters, for his victory, gets a paid week opening at Carolines, a trophy and an interview with ABC.com and ABC News Now.
Earlier this month, ABC News Now featured McCullough. Here's a link to the video (embedding? anyone?). I'll upload the video with Waters when it becomes available. Also, fun to note in McCullough's performance that they have him play to such a small crowd in a TV studio. That's always a fun time, isn't it? But he does get them going eventually. And Caroline herself is there, too!
Last year's runner-up, Rob O'Reilly (pictured), makes a return trip to the Final Four tonight, and shared some insight with us about the process and the particular peculiarities:
"This year it's me versus Dan Hirshon on one side and Liz Miele vs. Reese Waters on the other side. Interesting side note is that those two are dating. Weirder side note is that so are me and Hirshon.
We do 5 minutes in the final 4 and 10 minutes if you make the finals."
The early rounds got judged by a laughometer (or laugh o'meter, or Laugh-O-Meter, depending upon your pronounciation preferences), while tonight's semifinals and finals decide winners by audience ballot. The showdowns begin tonight at 9:30 p.m. at Carolines. Will the fact that O'Reilly and Miele recently both taped Live At Gotham give them a competitive advantage? You'll just have to go and find out!
Today is the final day for open voting for the ECNY Awards, which used to stand for Emerging Comics of New York, but now just is ECNY to honor other kinds of comedians, sort of how KFC decided it was much more than merely Kentucky Fried. The awards ceremony is Jan. 28 at Comix. And the show promises to be a hoot. Jon Friedman hosts. Look for live performances and pre-taped magic, and for a sneak peek, I caught up with ECNY's producers as they got some of the nominees on camera. So I got them getting them on camera. Here's a fun snippet with The Apple Sisters...
Who will be getting your votes? Perhaps more importantly, who'll get my votes? I'm on the "Industry Committee," which means not only do I get until Jan. 20 to place my votes, but also that the Industry Committee's votes count for half of the total -- perhaps they got that concept from Dancing With The Stars, in which the judges get 50% of the say, the audience the other 50% through call-in votes. Since I still have some time before I fill out my ballot, perhaps you can help make the case for your favorites or get me to take a second look at someone I may have overlooked.
As it stands, my thoughts are...
The New Faces of Comedy showcase is Montreal's version of the Best New Artist Grammy. Most of the 16 stand-ups selected for this week's showcases have several years of experience onstage, but they're new in the eyes of industry scouts, because this is the first step up the festival ladder. A few of the acts don't yet have agents or managers. Is that a good thing?
Maria Bamford (one of this year's Masters performers) and I talked briefly about this yesterday. I saw a comedian get an agent and manager -- which quickly resulted in a spot on Conan and headlining club dates -- out of the Aspen fest this winter. Worked out good for him. But Bamford, who once got two new representation offers out of a festival, said it can almost be like last call at a bar. "Who's the hottest one left here?" she said in one of her trademark voices. "And then the relationship has nowhere left to go." So there's that side of the coin, too.
The comics here aren't thinking like that, though. They're looking to be discovered.
How are they doing?
Last night, I caught half of the New Faces, and several members of the first group devoted most of their time trying to connect to the local Montreal audiences at Kola Note (which should be noted, is the most remote venue at the fest -- perhaps another reminder that the New Faces have a ways to go yet). Michael McIntyre (who sounded a bit like Stewie from Family Guy, but not, despite the fact that the FOX show and cast is also at the fest) joked about the local pedestrian signals with his own version of Monty Python's silly walks. Mike E. Winfield said "you guys have the most arrogant homeless people I have ever seen." Tom Segura said: "I was walking in your sex shop district...what do you call it? Oh, Montreal." A couple of the NYC comics in the showcase, Julian McCullough and James Patterson, brought the city with them -- McCullough talking about his Brooklyn neighborhood ("no, not that part") and contrasting the on-field performances of Barry Bonds and Darryl Strawberry ("He'd snort the first base line!"); Patterson on moving to the South Bronx "because my girlfriend wanted to study music -- she played the jazz rape whistle." Nikki Glaser managed to skewer the sponsoring MySpace and won the audience over with some off-color material. Pat Candaras exhibited a Lewis Black attitude if he were a frustrated grandmother. Mike E. Winfield had the look, if not the material. Sheng Wang was a hit with his wit and his closing bit tilting the phrase "you could do better" on its head. Matt Braunger brought this showcase to a close with a very strong personality and a funny bit about killer owls. But really, host Tom Papa had the best sets of the night in between acts, showing the New Faces how it's done.