Monday, November 30, 2009

Woman of A Thousand Voices

I fulfilled a dream last month that I had since high school: I saw a live performance by Anna Deveare Smith. She is doing a run at Second Street Theater called Let Me Down Easy, extended through January. She's great at embodying characters and capturing their mannerisms with minimal costume changes. She takes years interviewing people around the world to put a show together. She is known for reciting transcripts from these interviews, so the dialogue sounds especially authentic because it is just that.

Let Me Down Easy was a moving piece exploring people's feelings and ideas about their health, health care and death. Despite the subject matter I was able to thoroughly enjoy some chocolate chip cookies. I sat in the balcony next to a woman holding a script with a book light above it, constantly drawing lines through words on the page. I wondered if she was helping to rewrite the current show or just squeezing in some homework. Afterwards I wrote Ms. Deveare Smith a note to let her know what her performance meant to me and asking her for professional advice on solo shows. I haven't heard back. YET. Maybe I never will. If there's one thing I learned from her hard work it's that cookies are the best way to let me down easy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That Might Become a Joke

Performed at Hostel International for the first time last night. Of all the hostels in this city that spring comedy shows on unsuspecting foreigners, this one takes the cake. It was so clean and spacious. It also featured travelers from such corners of the world as Texas, Mexico, Whales and Alaska. In other words, they spoke English. Even the Swedes could follow.

These rooms are the best for abandoning material and making a friend. Because unless you create a rapport with the visitors, you don't know why they're not laughing (Angry? Sad? Bored? Stupid?) So in between jokes I did crowd work to get more enthusiasm. Sometimes just riffing can lead you to a joke you never knew you had.

My exchange with a sniffling Australian:

Me: You're holding Kleenex. Do you have a cold?
Aussie: Yeah, I don't know what to take. I don't understand American medicine.
Me: And yet, you speak English. "This one says, 'treats a cold...' what does that MEAN?!"
Aussie: There's too many different kinds, I don't know what to use.
Me: That's true. You can get your medicine in pill form, liquid form, tea form, burger form.
Aussie: (quizzical look)
Me: That's what I tell myself when I'm at McDonalds. "Mama needs her medicine."

Special thanks to Ruhbin Mehta for having me on. Mad Dog Mattern had a really fun set where he challenged himself to have a one-on-one with each of the 15 audience members. He discovered a possible half-brother, a feminist from China, a 12 year old Swedish heckler, and a man whose beard cures diseases.

Hostelling International
891 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10025

Vox Poppin'

Emily Epstein to Statue of Liberty replica: "You in the back, Ma'am, the one in green--you have a question?"

Had a good time hosting Rachael Parenta's Vox Pop comedy show at the coffee house by the same name in Ditmas Park. We had a fun show. Pat O'Shea unveiled new sideburns, Charles Star emerged from babydom to make a special appearance, Paul Goncalves got all Marc Maron-y on stage (essence of), Rachael popped off her shortest jokes in a fast-paced end to a fun set, and Luke was the closer. I tried to weave the real life observation of a dog that was in the back of the coffee shop into my jokes about breeds. But I went back and forth with the pet-owners about whether it was a Boston Terrier or a Frenchie, and finally the shop-owner urged us to move on because he wasn't supposed to know about pets in the first place.

Sorry to be the whistle-blower. It's my job to point things out.

Another funny moment was this bespectacled couple in the middle of the room that was loathe to participate. Luke asked general questions of the audience and after the two didn't answer any he concluded that they did not speak English. They insisted they did, and then they just sat like stones. In a warmly-lit coffee shop with everyone around you shouting answers, there's no need to be afraid. It only supports my theory that people with glasses are weird.

Vox Pop
3rd Saturdays at 9:00PM, FREE
1022 Courtelyou Rd, Brooklyn 11218
(Dec 19th features Rob Cantrell!)

Setting the (Beauty) Bar High

Here's Luke performing at Vince Averill's and Jesse Pop's show at Beauty Bar. The very show I lamented forgetting about a couple weeks ago.

Luke had a fine set, Vince was great as usual, and I got to meet Mike Kosta and Ilana Glazer for the first time. I laughed particularly hard at Brent Sullivan, who recently appeared on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham. He has one joke about the first time he ever made himself laugh. It begins, "You know how some people have those faces that are so ugly, it just really makes you mad?" The set-up holds a lot of promise and does not disappoint. Brent has an unusually calm, slow-paced delivery that reels you in, and then he drops a hilarious punchline on you from out of nowhere.

Beauty Bar
Sundays at 9:00PM
231 E 14th St, 10003

Happy Sanksgiving

I had an early Thanksgiving meal with my good comedy buddy, Josh Sankey.

You might recognize him from every commercial ever made. I have a single boob in this shot. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I'm not a cancer survivor. My other one is hiding shyly behind Josh. Come on out, my darling. There's nothing to be afraid of.

Speaking of breasts, look at that turkey! The spread was amazing.

What you don't understand is that in front of the ham was a bowl of sweet potatoes with sugary pecan brittle on top. The stuffing had apples--APPLES--and there were three bowls of cranberry sauce. Mine was the bomb (home made with pears and orange zest), but it was overshadowed by a large Goliath bowl full of SAVORY cran sauce. You heard that correctly. Hot, salty berries. Put that in a gravy boat, and call me Susan.

This nice lady slaved over a hot stove to make one of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen.

She asked me if I wanted some white meat or AN ENTIRE TURKEY LEG.


I didn't know any of the guests so it was fun to meet so many new people. Everyone had a different story about how they met Josh. "I know him through this guy I met in a bar,"..."I'm his agent,"..."He was my mover once..." I couldn't even remember how I met him; I just was magically on his dinner mailing list. After bumping into him at auditions I decided to trek up to "Camp Wayne" in Jersey City. He's a pretty special guy with an infectious playfulness who is one of the hardest working actor/writer/comedians I know.

Eat a whole turkey leg, meet some strangers and have fun this holiday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lounge Lizards

After hearing stories of people performing in laundromats and gas stations, and after having lived through performing in basements and on the street by a subway station, I have one more for the history books. I performed in the lounge of a high-end apartment complex in Times Square.

The first cool thing about the night was that I saw Laurie Metcalf in the lobby. She stole glances at me about three times as if to say, "You do recognize me, don't you?" All celebs do this. They can't help it. By the way, she does not like to be called, "AUNT JACKIE!!" The second cool thing was that it was next to the Hershey's store, so I had Twizzlers for dinner. I just stared off and let them dangle from my mouth, like a horse eating hay.

I also found this pack of hockey puck-sized Reese's cups. WORLD'S LARGEST. Only fifteen dollars. You know, what you would pay two people to have lunch.

The show itself was fun. The layout of the room was two different waiting areas. The audiences could not see each other, and without a mic, you felt like you had to project your voice in two different directions. It reminded me of doing dinner theater where you have to keep entering rooms to entertain people. Jeff Ashworth, Nick Cobb, Gilad Foss and I had lots of fun and well-received sets.

Performing on the street still takes the cake. I was right outside of a Subway entrance, and every five minutes there was a mass exodus of "audience." I couldn't get full bits out. I just did moving crowd work. "You look like Einstein! Fred Flintstone, what are you doing wearing shoes? Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman I presume?"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coffee? Tea? Me?

Worked out plenty of new jokes at Luke's Show in Harlem last night. The turnout was decent, with every audience member engaged and ready to laugh. The venue is a coffee shop which makes it hard to deal with people that DON'T want to watch a show. "Oh you go on and do your comedy thing. I'm just going to talk loudly on my cell phone. Marsha? HI! A comedy show just started inches in front of me! Is it funny? I don't know! Let me check! (pause) No, no one's saying anything! It's really quiet in here actually!"

Perhaps I worked out too many new ones, because there were those long gaps of silence that no amount of playful ad-libbing could save. The only remedy would have been stock material. Afterwards, Luke, Nick Cobb and I rode the train home, dissecting which bits need work. Luke said, "If you had asked me before the show how much new stuff you should do, I would say, 20-30% new material, and 80-70% stuff that you know works." Well I DIDN'T ASK YOU. At least I got one quiet lady to quietly laugh at a new bit about babysitting.

Society Comedy
Mondays at 8:00PM
2104 Frederick Douglas Blvd (at 114th)
New York, NY 10026

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Mic Sounds Nice

I attended the Gotham Open Mic and won a free spot on Jessica Kirson's New Talent Showcase. How can YOU get a chance to win? Take one of Jessica's classes / coaching sessions, regularly attend the mic, give feedback to other comics, and stay until the very end. All of these things seem stupid to the new comic. I see it a lot at mics I host--the greener the comedian, the less time they want to stay and watch someone else. They're usually too nervous to pay attention or too eager to get back home. Sometimes they want to leave because they think that's what "real comics" do--appear too important to need to stick around. And sometimes they don't want to hear bad comedy. When it comes to feedback they are too proud to receive it and too self-conscious to offer it to anyone else. They also don't want to take a stand-up comedy class. This I understand--I don't believe in stand-up comedy classes as a necessity to get better. Neither does Jerry Seinfeld. But a lot of people could benefit from advice, as I did with a 1-on-1 session.

I like this particular mic because it's a chance to have receive honest critique in a positive atmosphere. A lot of the feedback contradicts itself, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. But it's always offered with the best intentions. The mic is led by Yonah Ward Grossman, whose funny reminder e-mails are reason enough for being on the mailing list.

For more details on all open mics, check out, the best open mic list there is!

Missing a Gig

Last night while checking my e-mail I realized I was scheduled to do Vince Averill's and Jesse Pop's Beauty Bar show a week ago. I failed to put it in my calendar, and so I completely missed it. That's a horrible feeling for a comedian. Not only does it make you look unprofessional but it is a missed opportunity to get better. Every minute of stage time is crucial to growth as a comic. Remember how Kris-Kross felt when they missed the bus? It's like that.

On the bright side, I did fold some socks that night.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Let's Not Beat Around the Bush

In my spam folder I got a message marked, "SPAM" in the title. Well, at least they're honest. As for the rest of the subject line, I do not plan on calling to confirm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Baloon Boy and Mom Go Into Hiding

Or is it just another publicity stunt?

Ask Abbi: Hit the Bricks

Chris of writes:

Why do comics traditionally stand in front of a brick wall to do standup?

I'm not sure I know what you're talking about.

Do you mean, why do they stand when doing stand-up? It's in the job description.

Or why do they traditionally stand in front of a wall? Well, buildings have walls. It's hard not to do stand-up in front of a wall unless you're performing under a circus tent. But even tents have tent walls.

If you're asking specifically about the bricks, well, I don't know that it's a tradition per se. I mean it's not as if this was a prerequisite or an archetype of what it meant to do comedy decades ago.

And it's not like really established comedians do it.

I shouldn't even answer this question. I mean it's just not a concept I'm familiar with.

Feel free to post your questions for Abbi in the comments section, to be answered in a later post, or write curlycomedy (at) with "Ask Abbi" in the Subject.

The One That Got Away

Sometimes you don't get the commercial you audition for. Actually most times. And you get used to that. But I auditioned for one in particular that I thought would be really fun. This one had a prop microphone in the auditioning room. And you had to pretend to be a stand-up. Me likey!

We had the option of reading the American role and the UK role, if we could fake a British accent. Can I fake one? Chim-chimeney chim-chimeny chim-chim-charoo!

At the callback (CALLBACK? YES!) they told us all to stop kidding ourselves and just do it with our normal US dialects. Fine. We were given several different "bits" to read as a comedian. Great. Then we were asked in, one by one, and David Steinberg was in the room, smiling a patient smile. An I-Direct-Curb-Your-Enthusiasm-And-May-Remember-You-For-Future-Projects smile.

"'re from the TEE-VEE. Me Abbi. I like to reading for you now." I kept stuttering and lost my cool. He told me to relax and start again. I flubbed the line in a different way, tensed up, apologized, and the mood in the room dropped. The other people evaluating my read were somber. I switched gears and I went with my own stand-up and got a laugh. THERE. But alas, I didn't get the job. And when I see it on TV it's going to remind me of the time I got flustered over a big name. This better be the last time! And by that I mean The Hoff had better not dabble in commercials.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seeing Red

I got a last-minute call to fill a spot on SRSLY LOL, a show created by H. Alan Scott, run by Bryan Wilson and Gary Hannon (and there's a funny guy running sound named Grady who's part of the show). On my way there I ran into Gilad Foss and Sean Donnelly outside of a convenience store. Sean offered me cashews. I say, "convenience store" and not "bodega" because there was no Latin music playing, and I didn't see any cats.

I went up first, and Gilad went second. Sean dropped in to watch, and Vicki Ferentinos and Ophira Eisenberg were on deck. There was a drag queen in the house with a huge red afro and gray tights, like the ones I was wearing. I told Gilad that I wished I had said something to her, "Usually I have the biggest hair in the room..." He noticed her too and wondered why he hadn't commented on her during his set. In hindsight, she was pacing alongside the stage, snapping her fingers every so often, and people who want to be part of the show are sometimes better off left alone, if you want to get any of your jokes out. But hats off to my first Abbi impersonator. Now I know how Madonna feels.

As we rode the train home, Gilad bowed his head and murmered, "That red-headed lady is staring really hard at me," I looked around, and sure enough, piercing us with her clear eyes was Ginger Spice looking very perturbed.

I was so startled I burst out laughing, and she promptly looked away and disappeared.

Tuesdays at 9:30PM
Metropolitan Bar
559 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, 11211

Monday, November 9, 2009

Melt Your Blues Away

My only gig this weekend was emceeing the aforementioned "Mommy Needs a Cocktail" event at Melt in Park Slope, BK. It turned out to be pretty fun, and featured the storytelling of Randi Skaggs and Jen Lee, poetry by Michele Madigan Somerville, and comedy by my homey from another Momey, Carolyn Castiglia.

Jen opened up with a great mother-daughter bonding tale of seat-searching in Starbucks and offered a discount for her writing class to all attendees. Michele followed with an ode to MILFs and dozens of other hilarious phrases that acronym could stand for. Randi took her turn, and I had been warned that she was sharing something serious. I was told jokes might not be appropriate before or after her piece. Don't tell that to a comedian. After I listened to Randi's story of postpartum depression I instinctively volunteered to spank her child for her. "I offer my services in Target all the time, but no one ever takes me up on it."

I had pulled pork sliders, cheesey hors d'oeuvres, free chocolate and went home with a goodie bag, so not bad for a Sunday night. It was a change of pace from the average restaurant show because there was no loud music to compete with, and the room was full of patiently attentive people who came to be entertained. Lots of pregnant ladies in the room, but I refuse to acknowledge it on stage if I haven't confirmed it before hand. I am paranoid because I guessed wrong once. This just in: ladies do not like to be asked if their pregnant when they're not NOR do they like to be told afterwards they have impressive beer bellies.

Photo credit:

Where a Man Can be a Kid

Most of my weekend was spent planning and executing a birthday celebration for Dr. HUBStible. He was asked to wait on the corner of 6th Ave and Broadway where he received a package from a mysterious spy (our friend Greg). The package had a bandana, a camera and a message: I had been kidnapped and he too was being taken hostage. He was blindfolded with the bandana, his picture was taken, then he was guided through the busy streets of Times Square to Dave and Busters with people shouting "Happy Birthday" along the way (he had a sign on his back, and only one person shouted). Upon arrival he saw a table full of friends. "Surpriiiiise!" He had dinner and cake, and piles of tickets later, he went home with lots of loot. In addition to his non-performing friends, comedians Brendan Fitzgibbons, Lance Weiss, J-L Cauvin, Nick Cobb, Becky Ciletti, Lisa Kaplan, writer Chris Serico and singer/songwriter Kohli were there to join in on the fun.

I opted for Dave and Buster's because hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese is too creepy. Plus you're too big for all the attractions. Besides, who wants to eat at a restaurant whose spokesman is a RAT?! "Have your children meet our vermin." Did anyone at the pitch meeting find this unappetizing? Was the cockroach costume too hard to sew?

To complete the action adventure theme, I took him to see The 39 Steps on Broadway. I joked on Twitter, "I wonder who will play Hitchcock's cameo..." but lo and behold, they squeezed in a funny Hitchcock appearance after all. The play was hilarious, and a nice end to a fun weekend.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Does Your Mommy Need a Cocktail?

I am hosting a super fun event on Sunday called "Mommy Needs a Cocktail". This social night of storytelling and networking is the brainchild of Brooklyn's powerhouses Ellen Bari and Melissa Lopata. Melissa is the author of

Click here to buy tickets.

Goodie bags, networking, laughs, free food and drink.

Time : 4:30 to 7pm
Date : Sunday, November 8th
Cost : Tickets are $10 online & $15 at the door
Place : Melt Restaurant, 440 Bergen St (bet 5th ave. & 6th ave.) Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interracial Happenings

Luke and I performed on Liz Miele and Reese Waters' new show at Local 269 last night. If you don't know who they are, maybe you haven't watched a show called Comedy Central's Live at Gotham. The theme was interracial dating, featuring Adrienne Iapalucci, Brandon Victor Dixon, and a short film we made on the subject called, "This is How We Do It." In addition to having fun sets, it was cool to see the movie for the first time. Other performers from the film like Mo Diggs and Cathleen Carr, were in the audience to support.

My only regret is I had Rae Dawn Chong hair last night. The kind from Soul Man. Ugh. But I made the most of it.

"That's the daughter of Tommy Chong. Do you think anyone's disappointed to know that one of America's most beloved stoners has the last name CHONG? I mean besides all the Chinese people in the world? We work-a hard for our stelly-o-types! (pointing to an Asian man in the audience), He told me to do that. He said, Make sure the R is pronounced like an L or they won't get it."