7 Questions with: Rich Braun, Libbie Higgins & Chad Wallace

Three comics, seven questions, asked monthly. This time out, we bother Rich Braun, Libbie Higgins and Chad Wallace.

What types of mindset are ideal for creating good comedic bits? Do you work best with deadlines? Do you writing under pressure? Or do you work more productively when life’s playing nice? Have you worked something that’s happened that day into a set?

Braun: For me, there are two parts to writing. The first is the idea, which tends to happen when I’m going about my daily business and something strikes me as funny, or irritating, or otherwise “off.” I usually put a note on my phone with as many punchlines as come to me in the moment. After that, it’s a matter of forcing myself to sit down and flesh the rest of the bit out. Inspiration can happen in any mood, but when I’m doing the work of writing, I kind of need to be happy and in a somewhat-confident mindset, which is less common than I would like.

Deadlines are rare for somebody at my level (I’m not doing that Netflix special any time soon), and I hate deadlines, but I have to admit they make me get the work done. The few times I’ve needed to have something ready for a specific date, it’s forced me to be productive.

There have been a few times when I’ve been able to take an event that’s happened that day or within the past few days and quickly create a bit out of it that I might try that evening, but those bits were far from polished.

Higgins: I feel like I create my best bits when I’m not trying to intentionally write a bit. When I’m just hanging with other funny people and we are riffing off each other or when I’m creating an online video, that’s when I can stop worry about the process of thinking of new bits or jokes. It’s the ideal way for me to come up with a bit because I’m not judging myself and what I’m coming up with. There really is no time for that when you’re just doing it improv style. I don’t do well under pressure. In fact, a strict deadline will make me completely shut down. I often will work something into my set that may have happened the same day, and they tend to get the bigger laughs.

Wallace: Having the mindset that any and everything around you is a potential bit. Just be in the moment. You could be at work, home, Taco Bell… if a conversation or situation makes you and another person laugh, something’s there. I think most comics will say there best jokes “write themselves”; they were lucky enough to either remember or write down what happened and shaped it into joke form once on stage. Deadlines, being on a showcase or the minutes before an open mic… those get my adrenaline pumping and the creativity going. The positive about working with deadline is a little pressure forces me to write more because good comedy comes from producing a ton of material and finding the good jokes. The negative is I’m tempted to try jokes that I just came up with minutes before a big show, which usually do horribly. When life’s playing nice I tend go have experiences so I can have stuff to talk about on stage. If something “funny” happens to me it ends up on social media instead on stage. Talking about something fresh to me comes off as ranting and I’m no Louis Black or Bill Burr, I’ll leave that to the experts.

Similarly, describe your experiences with open mics and how important (or not) they are in how you shape a set, or incorporate new material?

Braun: Open mics are huge. Repetition is huge. It’s like practicing a golf swing at the driving range. It might be boring or painful doing the same jokes to the same roomful of comics every night for several weeks, but it’s the only way I know to hammer out a bit.

I usually have a different goal for each mic, depending where it is or what I’m working on. I use certain mics to work on stuff that’s unfinished and raw, because it’s a great chance to be on stage saying those words out loud and looking for the rhythm of a joke. Even if the audience doesn’t laugh or isn’t listening, there’s value in working through the bit with a mic in my hand and lights in my eyes.

Like a lot of comics, I use the mics at Funny Bone, Helium, and Laugh Lounge to do stronger bits that I’m at least 80% happy with. That’s partially because there’s an audience that’s there for a comedy show and you get some real world experience with a bit, and partially because I want to do well in front of people who book the clubs.

Higgins: Open mics are an important and necessary part of my process. I need to see how people will react to stuff that I think will work. I will think that something is hilarious, only to find out that the jokes needs tons of revision and tons of time in front of an audience. The most important part of an open mic, for me, is to be on stage and feel all the really uncomfortable feelings that I get while I’m onstage. I have some very serious stage fright. I need the repetition of going on stage while feeling anxious and scared and then realizing that I survived it.

Wallace: I’ve been fortunate to have the privilege to run the open mic at the Heavy Anchor (The Comedy Shipwreck). Having that stage time every week allows me to not only work on jokes but allows me to have a stage presence that you have to learn from experience. Testing material with multiple crowds is very important in order for it to work on any given night. At one point, St. Louis had an open mic on every night of the week and that was when I had the most growth as a comic.

Do your sets involve topical humor, i.e. based on the news, politics, current events or “now” pop culture? Or do you enjoy working with more evergreen types of material?

Braun: I mostly stay away from political or topical humor, which is a shame because if there’s one thing the world needs, it’s another middle aged white guy giving his opinions on hot button issues!

But I don’t write political jokes because it’s so hard to do it in an original fashion. How many more ways are there to make fun of Donald Trump?

Comedy has to have a point of view, and it’s hard to find a unique take on topical issues. I love comics who can do political humor and do it well- the ones who can find that joke that’s not already been done 100 times and make you laugh regardless of whether you agree with them. I just lack that ability, so I stay away from it.

I tend to stick to stuff about my self, my family, relationships, things that I’ve experienced, or things that I think are odd in the world. There’s always some element of me in there.

Higgins: I will throw a current events joke in the mix every once in a while, but I stay the heck out of politics. We get enough of that nonsense on social media. Sometimes I will drop a quick bit in if it’s something that happened very recently, but it’s not planned and will just be off the top of my head.

Wallace: I’m a mixture of both. I have some jokes that are about family and relationships which never get old but I’ll change tags to reflect what’s trending. I admire comics that can joke about current events. I hope to be one of those comics one day.

Any recollections of your first set? Went smoothly? Better left in the past? What stands out weeks, months, years later?

Braun: My first set was a success in that I lived through it, even though I wasn’t funny and I had to force the words out of my mouth.

The thing that really stands out in my mind from that first mic was that certain comics made it a point to be helpful and encouraging. Specifically, Chad Wallace, Cameron Keys, and that night’s host, Ryan Dalton. I’m eternally grateful to them.

Higgins: My first four-minute set was at an open mic. It’s been about four years since that dreadful night. I had been attending mics for months, just to watch, trying to size up the scene and get my nerve up. I worked and worked on my four minutes for quite a few weeks. I thought my jokes were top-notch hilarious work. I quickly discovered that I knew nothing about writing jokes or delivering them I’ll never forget the awkward and uncomfortable laughs I got that night. I am cringing and breaking out in hives just reliving that moment.

Wallace: My first set was at the Westport Funny Bone open mic and I didn’t bomb! I got some solid laughs and left feeling accomplished. What stood out was the preparation. I put a weeks worth of writing into that set and it set the tone that you have to work hard to get a quality finished product.

If given the choice, would you prefer to: deliver a technically solid, polished, rehearsed, all-cylinders-firing set to a middling-into-it audience; or would rather offer up a loose, spontaneous, messy, circus-wire performance to an appreciative audience?

Braun: I want them laughing. I’m all about audience approval, so in the moment I’ll take the messy set to an audience that loves it.

When I listen back to the set the next day, I hate myself because even though they were laughing, I might have messed up a punchline or rambled too much on a setup, or some other technical thing that irritates me. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m bound to hate my performance no matter what, so at least let them laugh.

Higgins: My brain tells me that the safer choice would be to have a very solid, polished set. My anxiety definitely would choose a well-rehearsed, polished set, as well. But my heart would choose a loose, improv, tons of crowd work kind of set. My favorite ,and some of my best sets, are those that include spontaneous interactions with audience members and reactions to things happening in the room. That kind of set can be terrifying because of the unknown, but can be the most rewarding for me.

Wallace: First starting out, I was that well-rehearsed, stick-to-the-script, word-for-word guy, but as I became more comfortable on stage the looser my sets became. You never know what type of crowd you’ll get, so it pays to be able to adapt to the crowd.

The set’s over. People are milling around the room. What’s the best way to compliment a performer’s set? What’s the best comment that you’ve heard of late, whether it be a compliment or a smart observation? How much do you wanna hear from patrons, as opposed to other performers?

Braun: The best compliment to me is always, “You were really funny.” If they mention something specific that struck a chord with them personally, even better.

Higgins: Even though it’s often hard to hear compliments and I often feel very awkward while on the receiving end of one, I still need that validation at times. I think a good way to compliment someone on their set is to tell them one thing that you really liked about it. Or tell them which joke made them pee pee in their pantaloons. The best comment I’ve heard recently was from Christine Compas. She said, “When you are just being your authentic self on stage that’s when you really shine.” It was such a beautiful compliment because isn’t that what we all want?

Wallace: Best compliments are the simple ones: “I had a good time.” “You’re funny.”or the ultimate ” I laughed so hard I farted. Best comment of late was “You told the absolute truth” I did a set about being single and he related with every viewpoint I had. I don’t mind hearing from patrons because they’re our customers and their feedback gives me the opportunity to get better connecting with the audience.

When are your next, planned public performances?

Braun: I’ll be at Kool Beanz in Granite City, IL on July 7, and in The Legacy Room at Reinhardt Circle in Jefferson City on July 14; I’m doing History Schmistory on July 22; and on July 31, I’m headlining at Jackson Street BrewCo in Perryville, MO.

Higgins: July 5 at 8 pm Helium/ Funniest Person Semi-Finals; July 7 & 14, at 10pm, Improv Shop for an improvised kids show not for kids; July 25, Funny Bone Showcase.

Wallace: Each and every Monday, I host “The Comedy Shipwreck open mic” at the Heavy Anchor at 10 pm. On Friday, July 13, I have the Nothing Special About 43 birthday show at Heavy Anchor, feat. Chris Cyr, Christine Compas, Tony Gardiner and JC Sibala.


Tour Stop STL: Your Uncle’s Girlfriend

On Monday, June 11, the Heavy Anchor will host another edition of the weekly open mic, Comedy Shipwreck, helmed by Chad Wallace at roughly 10:00 pm. A special treat’s in store early, though, as an indie tour shares the venue with a 9 pm start time.

Dubbed Your Uncle’s Girlfriend, the tour features New Orleans comics Laura Sanders and Kate Mason. After a stop in Memphis, St. Louis’ gig will be the second on their June tour swing.

The bio for the show reads like so: “Laura and Kate grew up mere hours apart in Columbus and Pittsburgh, respectively, where they honed their loud voices, love for mushy foods, and ability to fake confidence to avoid ridicule. They met in New Orleans where together they host the beloved weekly open mic, Bear with Me, at Twelve Mile Limit. With over 15 years of stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy experience between the two of them, their credits include being featured on Fox’s LaughsTV, Limestone Comedy Festival, and Denver’s High Plains Comedy Festival. Laura’s comedy album, Oh God Please Like Me, debuted at number one on the iTunes comedy charts.”

Writing from home in NOLA, Mason notes that “this is a single tour, but we would like to do more in the future, so it could end up being a recurring one! We’ve built the tour through friendships with comics in other cities. We’re really lucky to have this network, because each show becomes like a trust fall with the local indie comedy scene. We’re so excited to see who local show producers have picked to be on the shows with us, and get to know each city’s local comics even more.

“This tour is actually a friendship anniversary for us,” she adds. “Laura moved to New Orleans in the fall of 2015. We dodged each other for as long as we could, but by June of 2016 we were unable to deny that friendship was inevitable. Laura started hosting the mic on Monday nights at Twelve Mile Limit around the time we became friends, and I jumped on board a year later.”

The pair look forward to road life.

“One thing that I think is surprising to many people,” Mason adds, “is how amazing comedy shows are in cities that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with great comedy. People tell us how impressed they are by shows in New Orleans all the time, and I think the same goes for a lot of small-mid size cities across the U.S. People are producing incredible, creative shows with fantastic talent all over the country, and you don’t need to pay a lot to see it.”

(In fact, the this Monday’s gig is a “donations accepted” affair, so open your wallet to the sum that moves you.)

Here’s Kate Mason at work:

And here’s Laura Sanders:

Everything else you need is found on Facebook.


7 Questions with: Hillary Anger, Lucas Hinderliter & Shon Don

Our goal each month to: a) present a nice Q/A feature on three very different comedians, at varied points in their career and with unique goals; and b) to get that live on the first of the month. On the latter, we’re one day late. On the former, we struck gold, with three comics discussing their craft from very singular perspectives. Enjoy the following piece with Hillary Anger, Lucas Hinderliter and Shon Don.

What types of mindset are ideal for creating good comedic bits? Do you work best with deadlines? Do you writing under pressure? Or do you work more productively when life’s playing nice? Have you worked something that’s happened that day into a set?

Anger: My best mindset is when I get triggered about something going on in my life. When this happens, I write a set straight from beginning to end, and otherwise things are sporadic and slow going. I work horribly with deadlines, both in comedy and my job. I’m a professor at Wash U., trained as a psychologist, and do research on topics about business psychology. My best comes out when I have all the time in the world, which is when ironically I work my fastest and most efficiently. Deadlines and pressure make me feel like I’m “working for the man,” so to speak. As a professor, I’m lucky not really to have a “boss.” Technically, I work for the dean, but he doesn’t know where I am at any given time or what I’m working on, so it’s very independent. It’s hard for me to write a set and perform it the same day because I try to rehearse a lot before going on stage. My best comes out when I’ve read a set out loud to myself 10 times beforehand, over the course of a couple of days. I’m basically the opposite of improvisational.

Lucas Hinderliter

Hinderliter: I think the best mindset to write comedy, for me, is after I’ve been entertained myself. After seeing a funny show or a great concert, I always feel inspired to write more and create something that will make others feel the way I just did. I don’t really write a lot about my real life. I typically just try to take common observations and situations and twist them in a way that makes them funny. And as far as deadlines, the only thing I’ve had to write under a deadline is this Q/A and, well, you see how that’s going.

Shon Don: I’m at my best creatively when I’m in a hood headspace. I wouldn’t say that I work best under pressure but I have performed well when the heat was on. When life is kicking my butt, I can come up with a good premise, but there’s a disconnect keeping me from a fully realized joke. Anytime I’ve worked the day’s goings-on into a set, it’s been freestyling and crowd work.

Similarly, describe your experiences with open mics and how important (or not) they are in how you shape a set, or incorporate new material?

Anger: Open mics are the only viable option for material that isn’t ready for a showcase. I do mostly open mics because I’m still new to the scene. But I have young kids, and it’s hard to get out at night because most of the mics are during family time. My most frequent one is the Crow’s Nest, which is after the kids’ bedtime. Crow’s Nest is a supportive environment, but the wild card element can be intimidating because it forces you to improvise after your set.

Hinderliter: Open mics, to me, are very important. They are a great place to take risks and try stuff that you wouldn’t typically do on a booked show where the stakes are higher. The more open mics you do, the more you become confident in that risky material until it’s no longer risky, but just another joke that you know works. The open mic process in general sucks, but that’s just part of the game.

Shon Don: Open mics are awesome. I wish I could do more. I love the camaraderie, and comics interacting. It’s the gym where we go to train. Since real life keeps me from hitting more mics, I have to do a lot of formulating in my head. That leaves a lot of material that I could be shaping & working on in limbo because most jokes need to be bounced off of a crowd at a mic.

Do your sets involve topical humor, i.e. based on the news, politics, current events or “now” pop culture? Or do you enjoy working with more evergreen types of material?

Hillary Anger

Anger: My sets are intensely personal, and I don’t do anything about current events or really anything that isn’t about myself. When I started, I was worried about being “relatable.” My first mentor in comedy told me that I needed to bring the audience to me, rather than come to them. So I try to be authentic and see if anyone thinks that is funny. If they don’t, at least I had fun with it.

Hinderliter: I haven’t watched the news since my high school current events class (shout out to Mr. Bennett) like five years ago, so I don’t even know what’s topical. My jokes usually come from taking a common phrase or situation, and making them absurd.

Shon Don: Both. I like talking about race, sexual orientation & things like that. Some folks avoid talking about that stuff, so why not? I try not to do it the same ol’ same, ol’ white folks do this & black folks do that. But I feel like if there’s an elephant in the room? Hell, let’s laugh at it. Now that we’ve laughed together & de-mystified it, lets examine it. I mean, I don’t go reading the news for material, but it helps to keep a pulse on what’s going on & what’s relevant. Then on the flip side I have crazy kids & crazy family like everybody else, so lets laugh about our wacky neighbors together, too.

Any recollections of your first set? Went smoothly? Better left in the past? What stands out weeks, months, years later?

Anger: It was a shock when my first set got laughs! How addicting! The topic was crazy things I’ve done in life just to see what would happen next. The material was more raw than a lot of what I’ve done since then. Some of it was about mental illness, and I realize now that I need more space to unpack that for the audience to come with me on a journey. That said, the one time in a showcase that I took 10-minutes to unpack a long piece on depression, no one thought it was funny. But I’m still glad I did the set.

Hinderliter: My first set went alright, mostly because I was using common joke formulas and doing a lot of shock humor. Years later, I’ve gotten better at recognizing what is an original premise and what has been done before.

Shon Don: Looking back, my first set was mediocre. But at the time, it felt unbelievable. It went about as smoothly as a first set can go. I got a few laughs, way too much fat on my set-ups, but I didn’t bomb so in my mind, I was Chris Rock-funny y’know? Haha.

If given the choice, would you prefer to: deliver a technically solid, polished, rehearsed, all-cylinders-firing set to a middling-into-it audience; or would rather offer up a loose, spontaneous, messy, circus-wire performance to an appreciative audience?

Anger: Definitely the former. I mentioned earlier being the opposite of improvisational, and rehearsed is most comfortable for me. As for whether the audience is appreciative, that matters to me only in an ambivalent way. Comedy is never going to be my day job, and so I have an easy time disconnecting from the audience’s reaction I’m lucky already to have my dream job, being a professor, and I’m doing comedy for self-expression more than for someone else’s reaction to it. At work it’s quite the opposite. Teaching MBAs, I can be on stage for eight hours a day, sometimes five days straight, and I need positive energy in the audience to make it work.

Hinderliter: The majority of my material depends solely on the wording and delivery. Straying from the polished, rehearsed lines risks the audience not clearly understanding what I’m trying to say. I try to deliver material in a way that seems like I’m telling it for the first time but for the most part, I stick to the script.

Shon Don: I would prefer a loose-spontaneous explosive set that gets a great response. But only for the sake of the better crowd response. Essentially the question begs, would I prefer to have talent or skill. I think my skill as a student, writer, & performer outweighs my raw talent to walk onstage, say whatever comes to mind & make it instantly funny. I’ve worked at this & I want that to be appreciated. Thats why we call it a craft. At the end of the day though, its all about that crowd so if I have to go off script to get em, I will.

The set’s over. People are milling around the room. What’s the best way to compliment a performer’s set? What’s the best comment that you’ve heard of late, whether it be a compliment or a smart observation? How much do you wanna hear from patrons, as opposed to other performers?

Anger: We live in a “white lie” society, where people tend to be polite to the exclusion of sharing negative observations. So I take most compliments with a grain of salt. To me the best real compliment is laughter during the set, and the most helpful feedback is dead silence. It’s only real friends who give you the feedback you need to get better. My best friend in comedy will sometimes ask innocently how I think it went, and then I know something was wrong.

Hinderliter: The best way to compliment a performer is to just tell them what you really thought. Whether it be from the audience or another performer, feedback is important. The best comment I’ve heard after a show is a guy came up to me and said “I got what you were doing up there,” implying the rest of the audience didn’t.

Shon Don: The best compliment is when people see you & start laughing all over again at a joke & retell it. “Omg, that one about your barber…”. Those are the best. One guy told me that he loved the way I took really hard topics to talk about & made em funny and relatable. That meant a lot to me because it was like he got it. Some of my jokes are just Dick Van Dyke tripping over furniture. A lot of my stuff is deeper-meaning type stuff. A lot of my jokes punch stereotypes on the jaw if you take time to unpack them. I love hearing from the crowd. It’s dope. I’m humbled by it. Respect from my peers matters a lot too. From the crowd I wanna hear that I killed it. From my peers I wanna hear the little nuances that can make a good joke great.

When are your next, planned public performances?

Anger: I’ve started hosting a new showcase called Basil Spice Comedy, along with Ella Fritts, where we take over a Thai restaurant on a Thursday every two months or so. It gets planned around when a very funny person is in town to feature, so we aren’t sure when it will be next. We may add an open mic component. I’m going to be in the Helium Funniest Person contest, with no expectation of doing more than having fun on the main stage! Other than that, it’s open mics a bit spontaneously whenever I can get time away from the kids.

Hinderliter: The Water’n Hole in Augusta, Illinois, June 9, and Brennan’s Comedy Penthouse on June 10.

Shon Don: I will be in the Funny Bone Comedy Competition this year, dates TBD. I’m performing at Hey Guys in Fairview Heights on June 15th & 16th, featuring for Matt Holt. I will be in Kokomo Indiana June 29th, and Elkhart Indiana June 30th with comedian Stick.

Here’s our April conversation with: Randy Cash, Meredith Hopping and Ben Johnson.


Eric Brown Discusses His New(ish)”Patterns” CD

Eric Brown, despite the responsibilities needed to move over a holiday weekend, was kind enough to supply some answers to questions about his new(ish) comedy album, Patterns.

A comedy album. Is this an idea you wake up with one day? Or is it a slower-developing notion, which develops as you put together an hour’s set?

For me it was a slowly-developing notion. The reason I decided to record it was because my life was changing a lot and I was writing a lot of new material that reflected my current life. I was feeling guilty because I had worked so hard on all the material that was slowly becoming irrelevant and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I had pretty much quit doing all of those jokes and assumed they would just die a quiet death. Then one day I was in the shower and it occurred to me that I could record them and commit them to a project and that would be like a viking’s death for them. Kill them rather than letting them fade away. So I went for it.

And, to get this out of the way, you’ve probably heard “why do physical CD” a thousand times by now? So… why do a physical CD?

The physical copy is a bit dated in terms of stores and normal consumerism but on the road it is a chance for people who enjoyed your live set to help you out. If you’re in their town, sleeping on a couch or in your car and they know they can help you by kicking you $5 or $10 for a CD then they will. I sell buttons and they’re “pay what you want” and I’ve made as much as $10 off of one button before. Physical CDs are a less awkward way to let people tip me for the (hopefully) funny live show they just saw.

How much are you on the road these days? What towns are working for you? How has your touring shifted or changed in the past year, or so?

I go on the road about a week every 4-6 weeks. I currently have a full time job and it’s flexible, luckily, but I still have to be in town to make sure things are going smoothly. That said, I’m pretty much traveling anywhere that I can make a profit from when I get back home. This year so far I’ve been in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio. In late June I’m book in Cleveland, New York (state) and Pittsburgh; and late July I’m doing a tour through the south with my buddy Garrett Smalley.

As far as how it has changed, I am more picky with what I will drive to now because my time is more valuable than it was a few years ago when I would go anywhere for anything. I’m currently building the new hour and going on the road for a week is basically comedy boot camp so I’m trying to stay as busy as possible at the moment while balancing all of life.

Not actual family.

You have a real DIY approach to touring, if reading your social media correctly, to the point to staying in some pretty dodgy couch-surfing situations. Any anecdotes stand out, in particular?

I am very DIY because I’m too broke not to be! The strangest experience I’ve had was I found a place to crash through a website called Couchsurfing (which everyone should use to travel cheaply). Patrick Trowbridge and I were in Tulsa, OK and we stayed at a house that was mid-remodel. That doesn’t sound too bad except it was in the exact middle stage of a remodel. There was no carpet, holes in the walls, holes in the floor, dust everywhere. It was really awful actually. The owner of the house warned me that it was pretty rough but I assumed he was exaggerating. He wasn’t. I couldn’t breathe for two days after due to drywall dust floating everywhere.

It felt like a murder scene to be. I’ve quit drinking alcohol in the last few months but was still drinking at the time and I suggested to Pat that we get “very drunk to make this work.”

Let’s get to the album, specifically:

How’d you build the material? I.e., talk a bit about how different pieces have to come together for a thematically-sensible 60-minutes?

I built the material from 2012-2016 with no intention of it being an album; I was initially writing the material to fill 5-10-15 minute spots over the first several years of performing comedy. As some material stayed around for successful repetition and other bits fell to the way side, when I started wanting to record something (as referenced above) I just picked my favorite material from my first four/five years of stand up and found an order that worked. It’s chronological in a sense, for example, my son is three-years-old early on in the album and is six by the end.

It’s a collection of stories and bits I formed over years; how the structure really started clicking was by taking the hour on the road for about a year. There were several iterations before I settled on what I committed to the project. The hardest part was finding where to put the Walden bit. I open with it on the album but that wasn’t my original intention, I just couldn’t ever find a place to put it that didn’t feel weird so I moved it to the opener since it stands on it’s own anyway. Almost like a pre-track to the album in a way.

Technical stuff might be of interest to some readers, e.g., what’re the mechanics of recording, mastering, etc.? Is getting material onto Spotify a breeze, or a pain?

The mechanics of recording are something I don’t know much about, to be honest, I am lucky to have helpful and talented friends like Jeremy Hellwig and Mike Petrowich that made it all come together and not sound like garbage (except for my jokes). How we set up the room for recording audio; a direct line from my microphone to the PA and into a laptop and Jeremy placed Zoom digital recorders around, one in the front and one in the back of the venue to get room tone and audience reaction. We recorded two shows and both were recorded the same way.

For mastering, Mike took all the raw tracks referenced above and mixed them into two hour long versions of my album. The early show and the late show. We then sat together for about 6 hours playing with audio levels and editing the two shows together so that it would be the best version of each bit from whichever show. Some material hit harder in the early show and some hit harder in the late show so we chopped it all together to make it sound like I’m much funnier than I actually am.

As for getting it on Spotify, Itunes, etc., it’s incredibly easy, actually. There are many services that will handle digital uploading for you. I used Distrokid, which I recommend to anyone trying to get anything available digitally. I just uploaded each track, filled in some information and then submitted it with my payment and it was active a week later. The hardest part about Spotify so far has been getting my account separated from some smooth jazz musician also named Eric Brown. It’s a common name and unfortunately my Spotify pages gives the impression that we are the same guy. I’m working on getting it fixed but they’re taking their time.

What’s your favorite comedy record, yours notwithstanding?

Probably Weird Al – Bad Hair Day. I know you wanted a stand up album but I got this CD for Christmas in 1996 and t’s just as funny now as it was then imo. It was my introduction to dark comedy (“I Remember Larry,” “The Night Santa Went Crazy”) and absurdity for its own sake (“Everything You Know is Wrong”). That album is the foundation for most of my comic sensibility. To be compliant to the question: Kyle Kinane’s  “Whiskey Icarus” never gets old.

(Here’s your link to “Patterns,” via Spotify.)


This Weekend’s Cinema: “After Hours”

As dark comedies go, Martin Scorcese’s 1985 classic, “After Hours,” is about as dark as they come. The film’s slated for half of this weekend’s doublebill at the Tick Tock Tavern (3459 Magnolia, 63118) alongside the complementary feature “Judgement Night”; both films are free and begin screening at 2 pm. The pair of films provide the second installment of the Saint Louis Video Society‘s “Survive the Night” sub-series, given over to films in which characters descend into night-long adventures of terror. Sounds hilarious, eh?

Well, here’s a deeper scoop: “In a Manhattan cafe, word processor Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) meets and talks literature with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). Later that night, Paul takes a cab to Marcy’s downtown apartment. His $20 bill flying out the window during the ride portends the unexpected night he has. He cannot pay for the ride and finds himself in a series of awkward, surreal and life-threatening situations with a colorful cast of characters. He spends the rest of the night trying to return uptown.
(US, 97 mins)”

Here’s the spot for an obligatory trailer:

The Ultimate Primer: Fatal Bus Accident’s Beowulf

Seldom will this site post things of a bragging nature, but we feel comfortable in staying that this piece will serve, as the headline suggests, The Ultimate Primer of Fatal Bus Accident’s upcoming presentation of Beowulf. The production’s set for June 2 at the Improv Shop and info can be found by clicking this “hotlink.”

The quick version of the evening is described by FBA like so: “We are doing Beowulf, the oldest English story and second most famous English story about Denmark. Unlike literally every movie adaptation, we found a way to make it better, instead of worse. Get excited.”

For further information, we sent a series of questions to the show’s four creators: Jeremy Hellwig, Amy Milton, Stryker Spurlock and Jon Venegoni. In reading through them, you’ll get a sense of how this upcoming stage play came together and what to expect on the night of production, though Spurlock’s appear to clash with the others with some regularity. Within the context of all four, truth will be found.

What’s each of y’all’s background with Beowulf? Favorite story? Saw the movie(s)? “What’s Beowulf?”

Hellwig: Stryker and Amy started talking about doing a Beowulf adaptation over a year ago. I didn’t know much about the story, so I picked up the phenomenal graphic novel adaptation by Santiago Garcia and David Rubin. After finishing that, and doing some Wikipedia research, I became concerned that 1. The story is kind of terrible, and 2. I had no idea how the hell we were going to do it onstage. So, I asked Amy and Stryker how much they knew about the story. Stryker had seen the movie in 2008, and Amy read it back in high school or something. They literally knew less about it than I did. After some deliberating, we decided to scrap our original idea of doing a straight adaptation with our recurring characters playing characters from the poem (think Muppet Treasure Island, or when Family Guy adapted Star Wars) and instead wrote a show where the story of Beowulf happens to our characters (think the times that Bugs Bunny or The Animaniacs stumbled into a classic work or moment from history). Beowulf is a really old poem, in fact the oldest known story in English. In it, a monster attacks, a hero arrives, he kills the monster, then he fights a couple more monsters until it is over. Tolkien loved it. It is extremely influential. It is also a really dumb story that is structured more like a crappy video game than an actual story.
Milton: I read it as an undergrad, half-remembered how ridiculous it was, and didn’t give it much more thought until we started writing the show.
Spurlock: In 2007, I wrote a short story. A big time Hollywood manager told me it felt like Beowulf. So I watched the motion-capture cartoon and it was dogshit and I was offended. I wanted us to adapt it as revenge.
Venegoni: I had to read Beowulf in my Senior Literature class. I remember thinking it was water trash. I think I saw the movie in 3D and it gave me a headache.

Who are some new faces to appear in this episode? What are their roles and why did they seem good fits for said roles?

Hellwig: We have 4 guest actors in this episode. Meredith Hopping is making her first FBA appearance as Grendel’s Mom. We thought she would be really great at playing a character that is alternately passive aggressive and extremely angry, so we wrote the role toward those strengths. Nick Tacony is playing a couple different peasants in this episode, which are his first FBA speaking roles (he previously played a wolf). We thought he could look the part and do the accent we wanted. Casey Paulson will be playing Beowulf and Emily Hickner will be playing the monster Grendel. In both cases, they 1. don’t look the part at all, which we thought was funny, but 2. we knew they could pull off the exact kind of energy that we needed for the roles. After a week or so of rehearsals, all of them are already amazing in their roles.
Spurlock: This month, our cast consists of Emily Hickner, Meredith Hopping, Sam Lyons, Casey Paulsen, and Nick Tacony. I shannot tell you who they’re playing, but if you’re familiar with Beowulf and these performers, it should be obvious. As with everyone we cast, they are chosen by God to fit their roles perfectly.

Let’s dial things back, actually. Episodes and the like. If I’ve missed the last, say, four or five shows (confession: I’ve missed the last four or five shows), how difficult will it be to reacquaint myself with the feel and vibe of FBA?

Hellwig: It shouldn’t be difficult at all. We have serialized/recurring elements to the show, but we always work hard to make sure new audience members will be able to follow everything that happens. Plus, this is pretty much a standalone episode, and there will be narration. You don’t have to know anything about FBA or Beowulf to enjoy it.
Milton: Since the show is only very lightly serialized, you should be able to drop back in without confusion. The main changes in the past 9 months or so are 1. We’ve gotten better at writing around one central idea instead of trying to mash disparate ideas together and 2. We’ve gotten much more explicit about the fact that Jon’s character is a bird.
Spurlock: Not difficult at all. FBA is a font of wonder, for everyone to enjoy, whether they’re newcomers or old fans. Though you should feel absolutely ashamed for missing our best 4 or 5 episodes.
Venegoni:  First of all, I forgive you for missing the last four or five shows. I still love you. Since then, the show has grown a mustache, and you missed the episode when Skully got abducted. You will be fine! It’s always written to be accessible to everyone every episode. The advantage of seeing each one provides little easter eggs. It’s fun. Good stuff.

Writing for these is done how and by whom? Do guest performers have some improvisational room within this? Or would you like them at least somewhat-grounded in the script?

Milton: We usually spend a month or so writing as a group, and once we have a script, we do readings with the cast. If a guest performer has a better way of phrasing a line or an idea for a joke that fits with the rest of the script, we make the change. We work hard on the scripts so we like to stick pretty close to them, but we cast the people we cast because we want to hear their ideas and trust them to bring something to the characters.
Hellwig: Every show is written by Stryker, Amy, Jon, & me. Amy’s answer is better than the rest of what I had typed, but I would like to add that one of the most exciting parts of producing this show is seeing actors make unexpected decisions, such as accents, lines, or suggestions for their costumes, that make the show even better.
Spurlock: I write every script in my head and dictate it to the other three members of FBA, who tirelessly type for me. They work in shifts. They are good typers.
Venegoni: It used to be all them and I only did music and interrupted dialogue with silly comments, but they slowly guilted me into helping with writing the plot. We all contribute and argue equally. I’m really lucky to work with such talented writers. They have taught me a whole lot and have always been receptive to my ideas.

To what degree will elements like live musical accompaniment or pre-recorded video have play within this Beowulf edition? Or do we need to attend to find out?

Hellwig: We have one video segment. Also, Jon will be live scoring large portions of the show. We’ve had Jon play a decent amount of music in the past, but this will be our first time utilizing a score. As always, there will be a running slideshow the whole time.
Spurlock: We’ve all signed an NDA on this.
Venegoni: I am so excited and nervous for this one. I plan on live scoring the whole thing using my keyboard, iPad and loop pedal. I’m also in a narration role this time, so you’ll see me

This post is brought to you with the support of the Saint Louis Video Society.

True lightning round:
a. Single moment that stands out to you, either as performer or viewer, for whatever reason, be it profundity or hilarity?

Hellwig: My favorite single moment was Amy getting punched in the face by an eagle while “I’m Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado played over heavy metal drumming and bird shrieks.
Milton: We had a show that was centered around the Pope (Pope Toby, played by Keith Hughes) visiting, and Jon converts to Catholicism because it sounds fun, but then he finds out about Hell and original sin and is distressed to find out that he is not a good boy because “good boys isn’t real.” I like that we were able to do a comedy show about religious participation that dealt with the pros and cons pretty fairly (in my opinion) without getting preachy.
Spurlock: During January’s Fatal Beach Accident, Ryan Dalton played Officer Holstein, the Cop Who Is Constantly Shitting His Pants. He threw turds at us and many people in the audience screamed, which brought me great happiness.
Venegoni: Performing FBA at Flyover Festival
b. Single performance by a guest that’s a standout in your mind?
Milton: This is a hard question because we’ve had a lot of great guests, but I’m going to go with Cameron Keys as Prime Minister of the World, Dr. Columbus Whaley, D.D.S., who has only appeared on video. Coincidentally, Cameron is the stand-up guest on the Beowulf show.
Spurlock: Andrew Mihalevich is one of our most versatile and dependable guest actors. In March, he played The Faun, a thief who haunts our stage, and he excelled at it.
Venegoni: Tom Cook killed it last show playing Alb Balbert.
Hellwig: This is so hard to answer. Oh wait, Amy said Cameron as the Prime Minister and I have to agree.
c. Story line (or even wisp of a thread of a gnat’s thought of a storyline) that was scuttled, but screams for a return?
Hellwig: Stryker will probably disagree with me, but we haven’t done a time travel heavy episode in a while. That’s an aspect of my character’s backstory that I am always trying to bring back.
Spurlock: We’ll do time travel over my dead fucking body, Jeremy. I will say no more, because every idea I like eventually gets used. As I said earlier, I am the sole author.
Venegoni: The mouth will rise again.
d. With all due respect to former space, what makes the current space “work” for the show?
Hellwig: The stage is much bigger, and there are overhead mics. I love Heavy Anchor, and I still do Sorry, Please Continue there, but FBA often has too many characters onstage to have them all using hand mics. Also, the main stage at IS seats a lot more people. We stuck with Heavy Anchor until we were consistently filling the room, then moved on to a bigger venue. Oh, and lastly, we didn’t realize how much nicer it would be having the projector screen to the side of the stage. It’s a lot easier to see the PowerPoint slides without stage lights shining on them.
Milton: The main advantage of the new space is the stage, which is larger and mic’d so we don’t have to have 5 corded microphones on stage with us while trying to do a play.
Spurlock: No one walking behind us to use the bathroom. A bigger stage to accommodate my big ole dick. And of course, tons of Improv Shop Boys to use as human furniture.
Venegoni: Heavy Anchor was our first home, and they allowed us to grow into what we are today. I can’t thank them enough for being the most amazing people and allowing us to do whatever. we. wanted. to. do. We got to fly drones in their venue with guests inside and had a drone attack on stage to kill a character. It’s hard to express how rare it is to find a place that will allow you the liberty to do such a dumb thing. They helped us to get to the point where we outgrew the venue. Improv Shop has treated us better than we could ever have imagined. Their setup at the venue has brought a level of production value that we couldn’t have imagined having access to. We are so happy in our new home.

And for any, where can folks find more information on this show, this concept, etc.?

Hellwig: The facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1874308115970459/
You can get tickets at http://theimprovshop.com/calendar/
If someone wants to learn more about Beowulf without having to read it, all the movies are dogshit and unhelpful. However, this made for tv cartoon from the ’90s is actually very helpful https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=QKjcoFZmKuA
Hey Stryker, what’s the link to the youtube channel?
Spurlock: The YouTube has not been updated in a while, but this is the link. Look upon the great works. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5OkBOURMKxofHH5Zdg36yw.

This post brought to you by the Saint Louis Video Society, dedicated to enriching the cinematic selection in St. Louis through screenings and, eventually, a lending library.



Mallrats in Midtown: Strange Brew Moves to UCBC in June

A couple of months back, the Webster University Film Series announced plans to move its long-running Strange Brew cult film showing from the Crown Room at Schlafly Bottleworks, though a new home was undetermined. At the time, the Schlafly space (long a hub to lunch meetings, internal Schlafly promotions and community events) was about to undergo a size-reducing renovation, due to brewhouse needs.

As it turned out, Strange Brew, long presented by film enthusiast Jon Scorfina, would run a couple of more months at the space, with May’s “Django” the final showing.

In June, everything’s changing for Strange Brew, save for the fact that a brewery will still be involved; “Mallrats” will be the first screening at Strange Brew’s new home in the Grove, at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company’s sprawling facility at 4465 Manchester.

“Schlafly has been incredible in hosting Strange Brew for over a decade,” Scorfina says, “We’ve had so many fun screenings at the Bottleworks and hated to move the venue, but they recently remodeled the Crown Room and it is now too small to meet our needs. Were exited to recreate a similar environment at Urban Chestnut, less than 10 minutes away from the old venue, with a awesome barroom and great beer. Plus, we’re no longer competing with live music at the same time.”

(In full confession mode, my own attendance at the event was always immediately followed by a trip into the main barroom to watch Miss Jubilee for a set, or two, but the sound bleed-through was always there, true enough.)

STLcomedy.com is brought to you by the support of St. Louis businesses like Eat Sandwiches: www.eatsandwichesstl.com.

Scorfina doesn’t quite date back to the days when the then-Cinema in the City was hosted at Beatnik Bob’s in the City Museum. But he has been “hosting the event since 2007 (and it’s) still one of my favorite things to do. We take chances on cult films that you don’t see pop up as often at the Tivoli midnight movies and it is always exciting to see the audience who show up for the movie, especially if they’re super fans.”

As for the selection of “Mallrats”: this time it’s personal.

Scorfina, “as a former Crestwood mallrat, I couldn’t be more excited to relive this part of Gen X culture that is slowly fading away with the rise of Amazon. The malls are soon to be ghost towns. As far as ‘Mallrats’ I also suffer from never being able to figure out those stupid Magic Eye posters so this movie ‘gets me.’”

Tickets for “Mallrats” are $5 and available at the door. And here’s your obligatory trailer!

Editorial Note: in coming months, stlcomedy.com is going to push content outward a bit, still covering standup, sketch, improv, storytelling and variety shows, but also touching on cinema and and theatre, when appropriate. So, basically: don’t flip out. Back to regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow, via Fatal Bus Accident.


Everything You Need to Know About Saturday’s “The Mom Show!”

Kelsey’s Mom

By Thomas Crone

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13. The day before Mother’s Day is Saturday, May 12. This is the more-important date, as Kelsey McClure’s prepared a second edition of The Mom Show!, hosted again by Blueberry Hill, within the cozy confines of the Duck Room. It’ll feature a tightly-reined, 120-minutes of entertainment, as described by McClure below.  (Event info.)

The Mom Show! is part of McClure’s continuing production work under the banner of Comedy Here. In the Q/A below, we discuss this show, in particular, but also her plans for coming events, current writing practice and some other odds’n’sods of interest.

I’m interested in going to your show. But I don’t understand how it works. Can you run me through the basics?

Sure. Mom Show! is a celebration of Moms. Imagine you’re watching Conan but instead of Andy Richter Conan’s co-host is his Mom. Think Jimmy Fallon with yes, you guessed it, his Mom. There are four interviews, all with a Mother/Child duo, a stand-up set and a segment I’m calling Story of the Mom where a few select Moms will spin a wheel with a variety of topics and share a personal experience. The show starts promptly at 8 p.m. and will wrap by 10 p.m. in consideration of bed times.

Last year’s poster.

Was this a concept adapted from another one, elsewhere? Another one here? Or did this escape your brain, as-is and ready-to-show-run?

I was listening to the Tig Notaro episode of This American Life where she talks about the joke her Mother-in-Law wrote and then wound up telling on stage at Largo when the idea started to overwhelm me. My friend Sarah and I were both doubled over in laughter and tears and I said, “All I want to do is a show with my Mom.” She looked at me point blank and said, “You should.” I drafted a pitch, she gave it a quick review and within minutes sent it out. Not a week later I had the date booked at Blueberry Hill Duck Room. I had a very basic idea of how the show would play out but mostly I just imagined Tig and Carol (the Mother-in-Law) coming over for lunch and us bouncing ideas off each other.

Thinking back on last year’s event, what really “worked” about the event? What would you like to see this year?

It was in fact the first show and it was also the first time after a show I’ve produced that the bartender came up to me after and said, “You have to do this again next year.” There’s been well over a hundred shows at this point too. I knew I had something special and it was insane to think someone else thought so too.

Mom & Kelsey

The chemistry between Mother and child makes the whole show. I billed it as a comedy show but wasn’t entirely sure it would be funny. As a standup comic I felt like I was setting myself up for familiar but my very basic understanding of improv reminded me, entertainment is always funny.

I honestly can’t say I had a favorite segment, there were momentous times during each one. What impressed me, other than the Mothers, who all but one had zero stage experience and absolutely crushed, it was the  audience. They were engaging and respectful and incredibly patient. Three-quarters of the people onstage that night hadn’t been on a stage since they walked across one to graduate, or for a few, ever. So the show doesn’t run with the same urgency as a comedy show. It’s much more relaxed, the whole process is happening right in front of you rather than just the final product.

This year we have American Sign Language interpreters for the show as one of the Mothers involved is deaf. So what I really want to see is how the show evolves and adapts through a form of communication. I haven’t seen sign language at a comedy show that wasn’t at The Fox or Pageant so I’m excited to open up an entertainment option for those who are hearing impaired on a smaller more intimate scale. I hope it brings out a more diverse audience and also reminds those who are frequent show goers how we can take for granted the thing we all desperately rely on, communication and understanding, especially when it comes to doing so with our Moms.

Let’s back up a bit. Tell us about your general show-running in town right now. What have you been working on? What types of shows interest you, as a producer?

I was running a multi-media friendly open mic that was the apple of my eye. Unfortunately the venue is no longer available so the search for a new space is on. 90-Minute Mic was every last Friday of the month in the garage at Gezellig (now in transition to become a pizza spot) that welcomed all acts but comedy was certainly encouraged. With it being on Friday it leaned to a walk-up audience so comics weren’t repeating jokes to the same crowd and comedy was being introduced to an audience that may not know to look for it.

I’m done seeking out comics to produce traditional standup shows. There’s more than enough people doing that in St. Louis now so I get to take my turn enjoying stage time, rather than creating it.

I think one-off, experience-based shows is the way to go. It’s been what’s happening in St. Louis in terms of music for awhile now and I feel like an idiot for not picking up in it. People love tribute bands. Comedy tributes no so much but they’ll take a risk on a beer and comedy show or themed show way before just going to hear someone tell jokes. Plus I’ve been bored by the traditional standup format since what feels like day one, and have been finding new ways to spice it up. For example, Giggle & Guzzle: A Comedic Beer Pairing is a standup show that pairs beer with comedians. It’s like a beer dinner but sub comics for courses that I’m producing at The Improv Shop for St. Louis Craft Beer Week. I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate glitter cannons and fog machines into comedy but nothing has truly inspired that mayhem yet.

It feels as if you’ve traveled a bit of late, plus you’ve been day-gigging here and CoMo. Have you been enjoying some time for the craft of writing jokes, or have you been seeking out that time, of late?

I have been making time to write. A year ago I was dead set on recording an album. I set a date and booked gigs in LA to follow as an incentive to get it done. My goal was to knockout the album and then see if I could pull off those same jokes in LA. I wanted to find out if I was just funny in the Midwest or if I had a shot at actually going full comedian on the West Coast.  I didn’t want to do a traditional album and couldn’t settle on the format so I ruled out the album. I was also deathly afraid it’d be a pity plea. I was afraid that the crowd would be out to support me because they owed me a favor or something and not my jokes. I was afraid if I recorded the album in another city nobody would show up and that if I recorded it in St. Louis it wouldn’t be authentic. It would be a Kelsey’s greatest hits, material everyone has heard, already laughed at and asking them to come out and listen all over again would be too selfish of me. You can absolutely tell on a recording when someone is laughing to be kind and considerate to the performer and when they’re laughing because what they’re processing is funny. I didn’t want the former and didn’t think I could avoid it.

So: yes. I’ve been writing. I’ve been seeking out gigs and taking my time on new material. I want to produce fewer, better jokes just the way I’ve been producing fewer, better shows. I’m trying to figure out if I’m a comic or a producer because I can’t be both.

What else, generally, should we know about this gig? The 5Ws and H we’ve got, but why is this the ticket for Saturday night?

Mom Show! is a night out that’s quite literally like no other show in St. Louis. It’s clean comedy without the label. It’s an opportunity to enjoy a night out with the family that doesn’t involve a buffet line or having to put on a slacks. It’s quick, it’s early and it’s not going to break the bank. My Mother and I are incredibly different individuals, as are all of the duos on stage. It’s an opportunity to see how compromise can be a celebration and not settling. I promised not to swear and Mom promised not purchase matching outfits.


Chris Denman Discusses We Are Live’s New Thursday Comedy Show

The Southtown Pub, or more specifically, the affiliated Nano Pub (located just one door down on South Kingshighway), is now home to a weekly comedy event, compliments of We Are Live. The radio show, podcast and production company is featuring a blend of styles and approaches to the weekly, Thursday night gig, with a classic, three-standup lineup the rule over the first couple of weeks.

Ala this Thursday, May 10, when the WAL Thursday Night Comedy lineup will include: Larry Greene, Bobby Jaycox and Angela Smith.

Travis Terrell (left) and Chris Denman (right). Provided by We Are Live!

We typed back-and-forth with one of the We Are Live principals, Chris Denman, who hosts the daily WGNU program with Travis Terrell. He gives us the scoop on the event, itself, the scope and mission of We Are Live and, to conclude things, a doggone long list of his favorite local performers.

What’s your elevator pitch about We Are Live, as an overall brand? To what degree do you feel that live shows are a needed component of that overall brand?

We Are Live! is a growing entertainment and media brand that includes morning radio, podcasts, event management, content creation, promotion, and regular live comedy shows. Live shows are important for growth, I believe. We’re not big enough to just hang our hat on being a morning radio show in Saint Louis, and we are fans of a live experience being part of who and what we are. We are so lucky to have a great group of listeners, friends, and regular attendees that spread the word when we’re involved with something. If that didn’t exist, I would feel much different about the work, stress, and financial backing live events require. I feel like its a tangible way for us to say thank you to people for enjoying our radio show or podcasts. Once things settle down a bit, we’ll be doing more regular live performances through live podcasts and comedy shows, outside of putting them on. I was told by an executive, who formerly worked at Williams Morris Endeavors, that his client has grown from live shows that people enjoy, I’ve taken that to heart. The particular conversation I’m referencing really gave me faith in some of the shows we’d done and plan on doing for live audiences.

When planning on producing a new, standing, weekly showcase, what are your needs, exactly? Obviously, a room with chairs and access to beer, but, beyond that, what types of elements are you looking for, re: vibe, feel, etc.?

Honestly, for me and where we are at as a business, location is vital. Southtown Pub is somewhere people that like us and like to have fun will go if you provide them with something interesting to do; maximum effort is still required, but its less of a sell to someone. In Saint Louis your event, show, fundraiser, etc. isn’t always competing with some other show that is similar, you’re competing with a professional baseball team that draws 40k people downtown on a Tuesday or even competing with their neighborhood bar’s specials. Creating something that people feel is worth their time is really important. Additionally, working with a partner like Sam Ruby at Southtown, who is genuinely excited about using the space as an exciting piece to expand their offering to the public is super important to me, personally. If you have someone who half-asses their commitment to you, doesn’t do their end of the promotion necessary, or does not truly believe in it themselves, I do not have time to waste on something that isn’t being given the proper attention. So, it’s important to establish upfront that although we’re putting something together, the bar has a few things that are important they’ll need to accomplish also. We’re putting our best effort out there to make sure the show is well attended and staking our reputation on the comics that are booked, may sound cheesy, but its tough to beat a good team effort.

Going weekly: that’s ambitious. Who is curating this series? Yourself? Yourself and others? Any worries having a deep enough bench here to keep each show fresh and varied?

It definitely is! It’s a ton of work, but I think once everything is lined out, we’ll have four different shows, potentially with three different folks running them. We will maintain two Thursdays out of the month with two slightly different show concepts. Chris Cyr and JC Sibala will be taking one of the Thursday’s for what will surely be a very entertaining regular gig. I’m contemplating a few different show ideas with a couple of others that we’re not quite sure on just yet. So far I have put most of everything together, but my co host/business partner Travis Terrell will be taking on more of a creative role as we roll out the final set of shows, and a few other folks pitching in. Its really impressive how much everyone wants to help; I’m looking forward to it. As far as worried… no, I am not; this is something we’re really passionate about, and I tend to get pretty hard-headed about things I really care about, so there won’t be any lack of trying thats for sure. I do think its important to keep things fresh, but I also think there is such a growing pool of comics and comedic talent here that if we work hard and stay creative ourselves, we’ll be more than fine. Additionally, I’m proud of the network we continue to build. While The Nano Pub is a smaller space, the right-size talent that has an off day, or is looking to book a last-minute show, we’ll be that home as well. After doing two nights of our roast tournament there last year with full crowds both nights, I really think we have the ability to keep it unique and eventually a bit of a destination.

And not to make this piece a collection of worries, but is there any sense of saturation in the market? In essence, when planning something like this, how aware are you of the other indie shows taking place around town?

Comedy feels like its booming and if it bursts; St. Louis won’t feel it until five years after, right? There are several clubs, countless bars, and so many great venues that allow people to get up and do their thing. I think the way to avoid saturation is to know who you’re asking to come to your shows. While we are small compared to a large FM radio station or even a traditional powerhouse AM radio station, we still have an audience we bring to the table that enjoys our events and isn’t necessarily familiar at all with the comedians we will book. If I was attempting to get the same 100 people to come out each Thursday, I feel that would end up being a failed venture. Opening up the doors to new audience members each week is key and will continue to be our goal. Asking people to bring a friend who’s never been and making sure everyone has a fun time so they come back, that’s the key. Reminding people who tune into our radio show when we have a popular athlete or columnist on them in the morning, that “Hey we’ve also got this cool comedy show we’re putting on, you trust our judgment, you listen to us for three hours every morning, oh and hey you get discounts on Urban Chestnut Beers… come out and kick it for a bit.” I think ultimately, yes, we will have regular visitors who just enjoy the vibe of the place and the quality of comics that are there. But, I’ll constantly be marketing to new sets of eyes and ears to make sure we have a fresh turnover of new people enjoying Thursdays in South City.

Without getting you into trouble through omissions, who are some of your favorite STL-based comics right now? What about them catches your attention?

I’m gonna list too many for you to use, but man I’m being honest. I love seeing all these people just get better and better; 99% of people I’ve had the pleasure of booking on our shows, I’m fans of in some capacity. Here’s a way-too-long list of talented people.

* Libbie Higgins, the way she makes people realize they have an aunt or a neighbor that does exactly what she’s describing is priceless.
* Duke Taylor, who makes me smile really really big when he’s on stage. The dude is just up there enjoying it.
* Rafe Williams, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen versions of his sets, and I laugh every damn time. I want him to be a huge star, I think he’s an amazing representative of the comedy scene and what’s good (and highly talented) about it. He can work a room full of corporate folks from West County or a small room with a more indie rock feel to the crowd.
* Bobby Jaycox, he tricks people. They’re like hey there’s this guy I’d like my daughter to date on stage, he’s not gonna say anything surprising… then bam!, you’re doubled over because he’s making fun of children from Jefferson County.
* Tim Convy, he puts his writing talents and stage ownership to amazing use. He’s got this smug look on his face and hits you with just the right amount of obvious with a well thought out joke.
* Chris Cyr, the man has the perfect amount of faux pas that almost makes you cringe, he adds that into a meandering story that keeps everyone super-interested. I said this before we worked together, I think he gets 20% funnier every time I see him.
* Tina Dybal, she has gotten so effective at being descriptive and tells you exactly how the night is gonna go. You’re gonna laugh and think about the exact situations she describes as it pertains to your life, friends, and experiences.
* Nathan Orton, easily one of my favorites. Self-deprecating tone while you’re still looking at him like “this guy thinks he’s smarter than me, doesn’t he?” I genuinely love how he can work a white or black room. He does such a great job of getting an audience to enjoy him and I respect that as someone who enjoys different types of rooms or comedic experiences.
* Angela Smith, she targeted me with a joke where she flipped a Ghandi joke into my sexual preferences with women. She can write the hell out of a joke.
* Larry Greene, I’ve seen him twice, he reels you in and you feel stupid if you’re not enjoying the hell out of what he’s saying.
* Matt Wayman , so calm on stage and he uses that to his advantage, I love his delivery and he almost walks the audience to a big laugh. They’re like ‘”hey we’re here!!’
* Kenny Kinds, who makes everyone laugh, all he has to do is shake his head in disappointment at himself. He’s the perfect “too tired to deal with your BS” comic.
* Jon Venegoni – I mean this in the best way possible, he’s like Michelangelo from the Ninja Turtles just bonged a beer and is here to eat pizza and make you laugh, and he’s all out of pizza.
* Spencer Tegtmeyer, his style is great. Really enjoy his timing. Also, when he makes the crowd realize they’re being hypocritical or ridiculous for groaning at one of his more biting one liners.


Q/A with Chris Ward of KDHX’s loudQUIETloud

Local man discusses his radio program and personal amusements.

loudQUIETloud was okayed when? And aired when, for the first time? How long had you been in queue for show? Had you been doing a lot of fill-ins?

My first official show was March 10, 2014. Here is what I played. I had first subbed for Ryan Heinz on Coin Operated Radio, may it rest in peace, at the old Magnolia Avenue Studio, while I was also Director of Marketing. I did a demo and put in an application. Once we made the big jump to Grand Center, the then-executive director called me aside to let me know I would finally have my own show. That was on a Friday. “I won’t let you down!” I distinctly said, no joke. Like a too-eager, rosy-cheeked Jimmy Olsen. I was over the moon. Then I was fired the following Monday morning as marketing director. But I kept my radio show, and have been doing it ever since.

Your background prior to KDHX? You came here specifically for a gig at the station, yes?

I moved to St. Louis in 2011, specifically to be interviewed for the marketing director job. Having zero experience, I was a perfect fit. My background was in print media: I was a staff writer and editor at Wizard Magazine and ToyFare Magazine, before they folded and/or became Robot Chicken. I also wrote a pretty well-received Barack Obama comic book biography. It sold 10,000 copies and I made $200. I was also a Certified Pharmacy Technician in Springfield, IL where I worked around narcotics, and I then worked at Jimmy John’s where I worked around narcotics before I got the job at KDHX.

Shows are curated in myriad ways, from pluck-off-the-shelf-the-night-of- types to those who have every second planned out. Where’s yours fall on that continuum?

I used to plan every single show out in a spreadsheet down to the second. Now that I’m comfortable on air, I never do that. The ideal show is to wing it completely and go where my mood takes me. In a live show in front of a crowd, you can read the audience and play off them. But I’m playing to the vacuum of space. I have no idea what’s landing and what’s not. And it sort of doesn’t matter. I hope that it causes someone to feel something, I don’t necessarily care what. I have had people tell me “when you played that song or said that thing, that’s exactly what I needed.” I’ve had people tell me “quick fucking talking.” I’ve had people say “You don’t talk enough.” I just want to put on a show, as opposed to just having a show. It’s FM radio in 2018, it’s like “whadda ya got for me?” Put on a great show, you know? There are a million options to do anything else. I’m at 11pm on a Monday, for Christ’s sake — take it or leave it. That’s my perspective. I’d rather be the best or fail spectacularly, there’s no reason to be audio driftwood or background noise. I just go into it feeling that, whatever I do, it might be what someone needs to hear at that time and resonate — whether it’s funny, or depressing, or earnest, or annoying, or irritating. A guy told me “I love listening because it’s like a train is about to go off the tracks at any second and I don’t know when.” That’s the balance I try to strike. A weird thing that has happened is I have extreme social anxiety now because of being so “on” in that way. There is almost never a time when I want to be at some public function, when I used to all the time. I used to love it, and now I super don’t. That could be my age, too. I get very freaked out and it’s a huge source of stress. I’m very much an introverted extrovert, which I didn’t know was even a thing until I learned about it and was like “AHHHH… yep. That’s it.” I think if someone who only knew me from the show met me, they’ve have a very different impression of me. Also, I never want someone to meet me. I just want to be at home.

What guests have appeared on the show and still register with you, in terms of how their appearances went? Which is to ask: who are your memorable guests and why?

Guests are weird, because … I don’t know. It’s hard for me to find a rhythm with guests on my show to play off each other in a natural way. Occasionally, someone will click. Jeremy Essig gets it, because he does a lot of radio shows and he’s a professional. Allen P. Williams is one of my favorite guests, and is hilarious and absurd. This is going to sound biased, by my girlfriend Melanie drops by occasionally and we play off each other really, really well. Like in a Howard Stern/Robin Quivers kind of way. She’s amazing. I do miss doing in-studios with bands, it’s been a while. I liked Cloud Nothings, David Bazan, Kishi Bashi, and Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. We were able to goof around and they really got it. I hate interviews where it’s like “what artists inspire you?” I would rather argue about the best Frosty at Wendy’s. No one gives a shit about your music writing method. That’s not good radio. Getting angry about ice cream is good radio.

Your show seems to veer on interesting plane, in which it could operate as more of a standard, play-some-tunes show, or it could be a bonkers, sound experiment. Understand that you’ve had conversations with the station about where that fine line might exist. How do you ride that line?

To the station’s credit, they get it. They get what I’m doing and they’ve said as much. They’ve been really kind. And if my hand has been slapped, I try to be respectful if I feel I’ve earned it. I’ve been salaried staff there before, and I know what it’s like to try to keep KDHX running…the last thing I want to do is give them a headache for no reason. They get that it’s a show I’m putting on. I’m doing bits. It’s rooted in sincerity, but I’m doing a character, to an extent. I’m doing radio. Anyone who knows radio history knows I’m just ripping off Howard Stern, or Bob Reuter, or Phil Hendrie, or National Lampoon anyway. I’ll NEVER be those guys. They’re the best there will ever be. So I idolize and channel the spirit of what they do, and then I just try to be authentic to myself. It got bad when Trump was elected, I was relentless with screaming about him for weeks, and a guy called and said “I’m not going to give you money anymore if you insult our president” and I said “good, fuck you.” And hung up. And some people DID pull their funding dollars because of the relentless Trump bashing. But just as many people joined the monthly giving club because of it. You don’t have to listen to my show, you can just listen to another show. There are like 80 to pick from. That’s the beauty of KDHX. There was a concern at one point by management that I was being too divisive, because our mission is to build community through media. But my thought is… whose community? My community, the people I love in my audience I know are listening, are under attack, the way I see it. That’s the community I want to build and support — weirdos like me. This is our two hours to be weird. This is our two hours to say “fuck you” if we want. Or to say “here is an extended slide whistle solo, because today was a good day.” I like the manic nature of it. I was definitely told at one point “we love what you do…we want you to go right up to the line, but not cross it.” Well, “where is the line?” I asked. “We don’t know,” they said. Then we just sort of looked at each other. So that’s the rub. The average Howard Stern hater listens twice as long because they want to say what he’ll say next. It’s a show. It’s entertainment. Unlike Jaime Allman, I don’t drink my own Kool-Aid and become the embodiment of my own sad caricature. It’s a bit, but at the same time I won’t bullshit you either. I’m also maybe one of the few DJs who was a broadcasting major, and I’m not saying that to sound arrogant but to say I have a deep respect for the medium. And you have to know what the limitations are to play within them. “The devil knows the Bible like the back of his hand,” sort of thing. The Bible being the radio rules and regs. But I love that, because without something to push against there’s no creative challenge. Is it illegal to play a song called “Assassinate the President”? Actually no. Is it in bad taste? Depends on who you are I guess. And I didn’t write that song. I’m not saying those things. It’s on Spotify, and it meets their terms and conditions. Don’t shoot the guy pressing play. Don’t shoot any guys, for that matter. We’re just putting on a profoundly stupid show here by design. Maybe don’t think about it so hard. Maybe if I’m getting under your skin, that’s on you.

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What are your other favorite shows on the station and what about them do it for you?

I’m not just trying to bullshit, but just about every show has something so special I wish I could bottle forever. I know that is sappy. The entire station means so much to me. My friend Scott and I still text each other, randomly, “It’s 4 O Clock on a Blursday” though they, sadly, stopped their show. And we probably always will. Every show has these little iconic things about it that are just part of my life forever. But let me narrow in on one: C-Sides with Rick Comello. And here’s why. Rick is on after me every Monday at 1 am. One of the most positive people I’ve ever met. When I’m leaving, he’s coming in 1 am to 3 am. It’s really weird to form an actual friendship based on the 5-minutes a week we’re switching over shifts. And that’s all we see each other. But I look forward to it every single week. And not once has Rick played a song I know. The names of the bands, and the songs, are the most batshit insane thingsyou’ve ever heard. “Sleepytime Gorilla Music.” What the fuck is that? I’m just in awe of his devotion to a generally thankless time slot, and the kind of person he is, especially since he has a really early morning job! I work in the morning, too, and it’s not easy after that shift. I’m like “How do you do it man?” And Rick says “Oh, I just call it ‘Tired Tuesdays’.” Like…really? You just give it a silly name and that gets you through work the next day?? Guy is incredible. The next pledge drive that comes around, show a little love to those Dead of Night guys. Because they’re wonderful human beings.

As I don’t know: what kinds of performance have you engaged in? Bands, yes. Any improv or standup or storytelling? (Have seen you at Sorry, Please…,  but figure there are some/many things I’ve missed.) In short, your stage experiences over time have included: ___?

I think I was on the very first “Sorry, Please Continue” at Foam, which was then called something terrible I can’t remember…you’ll have to ask Jeremy Hellwig, Kenny Kinds, and Kris Wernowsky. I think I might have suggested they should just call it “Sorry, Please Continue” because they kept saying that during the show. I can’t verify that, or remember it too well. But I definitely said “this is like the Moth Radio Hour meets Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and that description stuck. I’ve done a few of those shows, and I’m never a good guest. I’ve guested on the best show in North America, which is Fatal Bus Accident. People should know it’s a fucking honor to be on that show. I was terrible on it, but I was so nervous because it’s so wildly beyond anything I’ve seen before. For a few years, I did a show with Jeremy Essig called “Loser: A Live Action Game Show” at the Heavy Anchor, which was very loud and very stupid and annoying. Those are all things that just don’t come naturally to me, so we retired it. I’ve tried stand up, and I ain’t great at it. Stand Up is the kind of thing where, like, if I worked at it really hard I might be able to pull it off and be good. I don’t mean that in a snobbish way like “Oh, I could do that.” But I mean I really feel like I could if I put in the work. But I don’t want to work at it. I don’t want to go to open mics and have social anxiety for 40 minutes and bomb in front of 10 people for seven years. Stand Up is fucking hard, and I admire anyone who puts that work in and gets up there but it just stresses me the fuck out. I’m also obsessed with stand up, and the history of comedy so it’s, like, who am I to have the ego to say “I can run with that crowd, and be that good some day.” That’s like “my band is gonna make it!” You’re not. You’re not gonna make it. It I’m better at writing, and I enjoy it more. I know my wheelhouse. I don’t need another thing I have to work at that stresses me out. But when the time comes that comedy demands another white man’s unique perspective on life, I might get a tight 5 together.

Lightning round:
A book to read: Wayside Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
A magazine that you still pick up in print: Cat Fancy
A national comedian who makes you laugh: Norm MacDonald. Always Norm.
A recent scandal that bums you out: What’s this shit about “no added sugar” to Capri Suns???
A recipe: Toast an Eggo Waffle. Put a Snickers Ice Cream Bar in the middle. Fold it. Take a bite like a taco. Don’t ever tell me pot hasn’t ever brought genius ideas into the world.

Which reminds me: what’s this about you and pizza?

I have a strictly underground pizza operation that will soon be public. You’ll know when you know.