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 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.
I first met Nikki Glaser in Montreal, where she was one of the "new faces" at Just For Laughs in 2007, but you may have first heard and seen Glaser either as a contestant on Last Comic Standing, her performance on The Tonight Show (Leno edition), or her role in the 2010 documentary, I Am Comic. Unlike many comedians, she moved to NYC from Los Angeles, instead of the other way around. She has a weekly podcast with Sara Schaefer called You Had To Be There, and this summer, Glaser will release a stand-up comedy CD through Rooftop Comedy. If you're not a fan of her, you soon will be. Let's get to know more about her!
Name: Nikki Glaser
Arrival date: September 2010
Arrived from: LA via St. Louis
When and where did you start performing comedy? I started comedy in the Midwest (St Louis and Kansas City, MO) in 2004.
What was your best credit before moving here? The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I moved to LA right out of college, and after nearly three years there, I wanted to try something different. I loved the scene there and the group of comics I came up with, but I feel like LA is a place to go after you've either a) have a job, b) figured out exactly what you want out of the business. I wasn't there yet. So I moved back home to St. Louis where I worked the road steadily for over a year and built my act. Eventually, I needed more than the Midwest comedy circuit could offer, so New York was an obvious choice. I had visited there a ton and had a lot of friends who made the transition onto the NYC scene fairly easy.
Continuing today's theme of ladies who are comedians and underwear, here's a short video featuring Amy Schumer, Rachel Feinstein, Nikki Glaser and Marina Franklin in nighties. Why? I'm guessing it's because they filmed a stand-up comedy special together. But if you want to guess it's because this is what ladies who are comedians do for fun together, then that's on you.
Roll the clip!
Punching the Clown is neither a documentary nor a concert film, although it does star musical comedian Henry Phillips as Henry Phillips, a satirical folksinger, and it does incorporate much of his live act into a 91-minute narrative that manages to be both a lighthearted comedy and pointed parody of Hollywood.
The film, which won the audience award for best feature at Slamdance, as well as honors at multiple other festivals, opens its official cinematic run tonight at the Quad Cinema in New York City.
Let's take a look at the trailer, which includes a word or two to make it not safe for work. Roll the clip!
As Phillips describes his career arc to the late-night radio disc jockey, we see how Phillips decided after one hell gig too many (at a restaurant run by Eddie Pepitone), to ditch the road and move in with his failing actor in Los Angeles, and through one miscommunication and misunderstanding after another, finds himself failing upward. Phillips has others measuring his career against a more successful musical comedian named Stupid Joe (Mark Cohen), who audiences love for his many fart songs. The cast also features Chris Fairbanks, Nikki Glaser, Ryan Stout, Derek Waters, Mike O'Connell, and several Second City Alumni, including Paul Willson, Wade Kelley, Steve Sheridan and Sean Masterson.
Here's a scene at a party in the Hollywood Hills, with Phillips, Glaser and Stout, oh my!
More fun facts! Phillips and co-writer/director Gregori Viens first collaborated together on a 1997 documentary on the L.A. coffehouse open-mic scene, after meeting in 1993 when Phillips performed his first "open mic night" at the old Highland Grounds.
Viens and Phillips will be attending screenings this week in NYC, for brief Q&A sessions afterward at the following dates and times: Viens at 7:20 p.m. tonight Oct. 22; Viens at 7:20 p.m. Saturday Oct. 23; Viens at 3 p.m. Sunday Oct. 24; Viens at 7:20 Monday Oct. 25; and Phillips at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 26.
Here's one more quick clip to sample, in which Phillips explains his status as a musical comedian.
In real life, maybe you audition a few months ago for a comedy competition that's going to be televised everywhere in America and beyond. Maybe your audition goes well. Maybe it goes well enough that you get asked to perform again at a live audience showcase, and then that goes well enough that you receive a red-ticket envelope to perform again in Hollywood. So maybe, just maybe, you're excited to see yourself on television and so are your friends, family and loved ones. So what happens when you and they turn on the TV and, an hour later, are wondering, did we and they blink and miss you? Hold that thought.
Because we're living by TV producers' rules. And in Last Comic Standing's seventh season, even when they say it's not business as usual, it's still show business. Last week, they edited the New York City auditions together to allow some comedians to get better treatment than they should have, while putting others in the background to tease you. What's doing for round two in NYC?
Well, first, host Craig Robinson tells us what happened previously on LCS, which was that nine comedians received tickets to the semifinals. Wait a minute! Nine??? That cannot be right, no matter how you edit it, because they let 12 people through on the night I watched live and in person, and apparently another 12 in the other showcase, so already, you and I know that there are going to be some comedians who were happy a few months ago, but who are going to be much less happy tonight.
Cue the actual and the artificial tension!
Brian McKim -- for people born before the Y2K bug wiped out the first version of the Internet, you may know him as "The Male Half" of Shecky Magazine -- gets the first uncredited one-liner of the evening, followed by a montage of comedians we should expect to be seeing later in the hour. By the way, if anyone has been watching all of the pre-season promos, Robinson is sneaking in his proposed catchphrase mantra for the season: "Be about it!"
We officially start the night off with Jerry Rocha, from Dallas, who says he has been a professional stand-up for eight years, and vows to hug anyone and everyone if he doesn't advance. He jokes with the judges about his racist uncle who doesn't quite get racial jokes. Our judges are given the superimposed title of "Comedy Jurist" this evening, which sounds much more foreboding than before, when they were judges. Now they're judges and jury? Me no get it. But me still likey Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo, so me no stop recapping. Calise Hawkins apparently is from Illinois (I know her as a Jersey girl, where she lives now, while you simply know her as a single mother with a big Afro!), and she takes us into her home with her daughter, and how adorable are they? Kindler isn't a big fan of her material about a homeless guy on the subway, but he and Giraldo both think she's a good performer, and Leggero enjoyed it, so Hawkins gets another chance to perform. Mike Vecchione jokes about his New York City cop look, and I know and you know and we know that he is funny, and even Leggero, who happened to see Vecchione the other night at the Comedy Cellar agrees. Who wants a pretzel?
Zed is the future of stand-up comedy? Somebody better tell Ron Lynch about this competing comedy robot. "Is this a character you're doing?" Giraldo asks. A woman has a whip on the sidewalk. For some reason. Kindler talks about clowns and jugglers, and jokes about all comedians starting out as novelty acts. You remember Lenny Bruce the sword swallower, right? Kindler prefers seeing a comedian sweat. Take that, deodorant ad!
Kyle Grooms doesn't have to worry about that. He did an Obama impersonation in the early TV ads for this season, and he does it for the judges, too. Giraldo says he is not a fan of impersonations but knows that that's not a big part of Grooms' act, so no worries. He's through.
Nikki Glaser was a last-minute substitution for Paula Abdul on tonight's edition of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which was an even bigger bonus for Glaser, because not only would this give Glaser her first late-night TV debut (supposing her network debut came during Last Comic Standing in 2007), but also because the live audience tonight was hot and loved her set.
Will update with the Hulu.com video later Wednesday when it becomes available (updated: click here and go straight to the start of the fifth segment at minute 32). Until then, enjoy this clip and others highlighting some earlier, older versions of bits Glaser performed tonight.
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.