End of June Beginning of July in Paul Ash Comedy

Something special is going to be shown soon

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR1JruVHjNc&w=560&h=315]

Here’s where you can see Paul Ash in the coming two weeks

Monday June 24th, celebrating Bon Fete and my daughter’s birthday with Krash Production’s Something Funny’s happening at Blue Dog hosted by Ali Hassan and featuring Jon Bennett of Australia (Fire in the Meth Lab, My Dad’s Deaths, Pretending Things Are A Cock).  Also on the bill are Jason Yearow, Dan Derkson, Karl Knox, Emma Wilkie, Gino Durante, and Tim Riel (Ottawa)

Tuesday June 25th has a double happening, one for both languages – first up at 8pm is GladiaCOM 3.  Mathieu Dignard host’s the French version of BattleCOM at CoOp Katacombes (doors at 7:30pm) at 1635 St-Laurent.  This month’s Battlers (or Gladiators) are:
François Tousignant ( Champion du Gladia-Com II)
Marie-Lise Dominguez
Maxime Lacoste-Lachance
Jonathan Guérin À Beauharnois
Reda Saoui
Claudy-Marc Moreau Duvivier

At 9pm Grinders Comedy Night at Theatre St-Catherine kicks off and Paul Ash will be there to close the show.

The week ends with something very special.  Conversion is a film project that Paul Ash was very proud to be part of.  Written by (and co-starring) Kate MacDonald it was directed by Domenic Marceau and, though it’s not a comedy film, features many from the Montreal Comedy community.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJUMecJb8Pk&w=560&h=315]

Dan Derkson, George Hamilton Braithwaite, Faisal Butt, Asaf Gerchak, Demelza St-James, Joel West, Stefan Peterson, Kris Dulgar & Morgan O’Shea (plus many background cameos!)ONE NIGHT ONLY!

After years of hard work, we’ve decided to punch convention in the junk and do our own damn premiere! We could have done a screening earlier, but we wanted to be able to do something truly special- something that was worthy of all the effort that was put into the project by so many of you.CONVERSION tells the story of two thirty-something friends who head out on a Friday night to escape the drudgery of their daily grind. Unfortunately, they miss the last subway home and circumstances lead them into an increasingly strange series of misadventures with incresingly strange people. Contact with the night’s idiosyncratic characters proves entertaining, frightening and ultimately enlightening. F SQUARED MEDIA presentsC O N V E R S I O Nstarring PAUL ASH & KATE MACDONALDGEORGE HAMILTON BRAITHWAITE HEATHER NANGREAVES & DAN DERKSONdirector of photography D.J. MATRUNDOLA edited by BEN GOLOFF sound design by KYLE STANFIELD music by MICHELE MARTINproduced by KATE MACDONALD DOMINIC F. MARCEAU D.J. MATRUNDOLA PAUL ASHwritten by KATE MACDONALD directed by DOMINIC F. MARCEAUFeaturing music by: Hypnoskull, Xeno & Oaklander, Byetone, Orphx, Subliminal, Ramleh, Ait!, Slater’s Sons, Hyperbottom, Dianes in Danger, and more!Running time: 92 MinutesScreening will take place in the Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, Door A1379 Rue Sherbrooke OuestMontreal, QC H3G 2C6CanadaFREE ADMISSION (Donations accepted)

Sunday June 30th
A Very Comedy Nest Canada Day
Comedians from different parts of the country unite in a stand-up show that celebrates being Canadian.  Hosted by bilingual Just-For-Laughs/Juste-Pour-Rire veteran SÉBASTIEN BOURGAULT, with Montreal’s JOEY ELIAS (CBC’s Just For Laughs), Toronto’s MATT SHURY, Halifax’s PAUL ASH (The Comedy Network’s Great Canadian Laugh-Off), and some international perspective from New York’s DeANNE SMITH (The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), plus surprise guests!

Tuesday July 2nd Paul Ash hosts the Kick Ash Comedy Show as one of the Kings of the Mountain.  Also on the show are:  Mo Arora, Jason Yearow, Shawn Stenhouse, Stefan Petersen, Eric Arsenault, Paul Worrel and Dan Derkson and closed out by Jess Demers!

Thursday to Saturday (July 4th – 6th), keeping the hosting train going, Paul Ash will be hosting for K. Trevor Wilson at The Comedy Nest in the AMC Forum

Conveniently, also at the Comedy Nest is July’s BattleCOM, the 6th BattleCOM show at the Comedy Nest!  Battling are Greg Hamilton (OTS, Thunder Tickle), Terence Bowman (RFV, Improv Ronin), Tim Riel (Ottawa), Walter Lyng (Pitching Knife Fight and Drop the Gloves, last month’s Grand Champion), and Mathieu Dignard (GladiaCOM).

Comedy Nest July 5th

Comedy Nest July 5th

Press Relase: End of April Beginning of May

Paul Ash Comedy

For General Release:
These next few weeks many great opportunities are available to see Paul Ash in a variety of differently styled shows.

Monday April 22nd

There’s Something Funny Going on at Blue Dog

There's Something Funny Going On At Blue Dog

There’s Something Funny Going On At Blue Dog

This weeks show is taken over by red heads! Save for a few non -reds you can expect an almost all red head show!
Hosted by Mike Costello with Amber Harper-Young, Paul Ash, Kate Conner, Tobin Thompson, Emma Wilkie, Leonard Yelle and Headliner Jess Salomon!
9pm, Blue Dog, 3958 Boulevard St-Laurent, Montreal, Quebec.  PWYC.  Beer special: 2 Sleemans for 8$
Stick around afterwards for great tunes from the 70’s-90’s! (but mostly 80’s)

Tuesday April 23rd

Funny Side Funny Side of Parenting

8(ish)pm

Liquid Lounge, 5028 Sherbrooke West, Montreal, QC.  PWYC.

A standup comedy show for parents, or anyone who would like to be a parent someday, or anyone who has ever had a parent.  Featuring Kate Conner, Mike Costello, Paul Ash & Leah Zylbering.

Thursday, April 25th

Punchlines

8:30pm at CFC
6388 rue St. Hubert, Montreal, Quebec.  $5So for those of you who don’t know the drill, we’ve got some hip hop acts, we’ve got some comedy acts, and a shit load of fun!

Punchlines

Punchlines

Hosted by Paul Baluyot
Featuring live painter Sharon Ep1c

COMEDY LINE UP:
Emma Wilkie
Paul Ash
Matt Shury
HEADLINER
Mo Arora

HIP HOP LINE UP:
Defective Collective
The Art Cons
Clarity
SHOW CLOSER
Cannonhead

Friday, April 26th

The Show of Champions

Chez GeekChez Geek: The Show of Champions (First Annual COMEDY SHOW)

PRIVATE SHOW (which means you can bring your own BEER or DRINKS!)

host:  MATT SHURY (Toronto)

  • SCOTT CARTER (Vancouver)
  • JASON HATRICK (Young Guns of Comedy, Montreal)
  • PAUL ASH (Halifax, Creator of BattleCOM / GladiaCOM)
  • TIM RIEL (Ottawa)
  • KRISTIAN RHYMER (Toronto)

Chez Geeks: 1663 St-Denis, Montreal, Quebec.  Only 10$ for a night of laughs you’ll never forget.

RSVP NOW- Limited Seating for this Private Event!
If you are doing FNM and PRE-RELEASE of Dragon’s maze, you get 5$ off! (it’s a perfect filler until the Midnight Release)

Friday, May 3rd

BattleCOM

BattleCOM

BattleCOM

10:30pm, Comedy Nest, Pepsi Forum ( corner of St-Catherine / Atwater, at Atwater Metro)

The latest installment of this epic geek showdown of comedy.

6 performers face off against each other to see who can gain the audience’s love and support.  It’s not needy at all.

Two of the battlefields are:
1) What’s the creepiest thing about MMO games?
2) What is the meaning of life?

Saturday, May 4

Special May the Fourth birthday extravaganza for the amazing artist Sharon Ep1c.  Private Party, dirty BattleCOM, super entertainment.

Ep1c

(Sorry, by invite only)

Tuesday May 7th

Kick_Ash_light.pngKick Ash Comedy Show (the rebirth)

Back by popular demand, in a much better location, it’s the seminal Montreal comedy open mic.

Launching this now bi-weekly comedy show is
host: DAN DERKSON

  • Mo ARORA
  • Scott CARTER
  • John ST-GODARD
  • Molly BRISEBOIS
  • Emma WILKIE
  • Darren HENWOOD

and closing PAUL ASH

Still free, now at Liquid Lounge, 5028 Sherbrooke West, Montreal, QC

 Wednesday- Friday May 8th & 10th

GAVIN Stephens & Friends NERDY & DIRTY COMEDY TOUR

N&D3 smallFeaturing Gavin Stephens
with: Dan Derkson
Paul Ash
Adam McFawn
Tim Riel
David Acer
mini-BattleCOM

Wednesday, 8pm
Comedy Nest Montreal, Pepsi Forum
$12 / $8 for students (or those in costume)

Friday, 9pm
Mavericks, 221 Rideau Street, Ottawa, Ontario
$15

May 9th to 12th

OTTAWA COMICCON

For the weekend encompassing Thursday May 9th to Sunday May 12th Paul Ash and Dan Derkson will be moderating panels at the Ottawa ComicCon!  In addition to that, we’ll be demonstrating BattleCOM with two minibattles (with special guests Ian “Futurama” Boothby and Sean “Wordburglar” Jordan and maybe more!)

Ottawa ComicCon

Watch @egoslut and @paulashcomedy on Twitter for updates.

#KickAshSaves #SaveKickAsh

This post is different from any I’ve done, and very different from anything I expected to do.  This is the obituary of a comedy show.  I’m posting this, because there’s been a number of stories circulating, accusations being made, fingers pointed and I want people aware of how things have happened from my perspective.

text smallOn Friday March 8th I received a text from Pierre, the owner of Andrews Pub.  Pierre bought the pub a year ago last November, long after the Kick Ash show started at Andrews Pub (the third venue for the Kick Ash show).  The Kick Ash show has existed for approximately four years here in Montreal.

Pierre speaks European French, English isn’t his first language and since my French is fairly bad I’ve generally only dealt with him through intermediaries.  He’s never come to see a show, so it comes as no surprise he doesn’t know me.  That did not stop me from being shocked – felt like I was kicked in my gut to read:

Hi.   its pierre.  i canculed your show  in my pub. Cause  i hear a lot of bad thing about you.  i cant keep you in my place.

I don’t claim to be a saint, but I try to live by a simple philosophy, treat others like you want to be treated.  I try to figure out the motivations of people, especially those I don’t see eye to eye with.  Hearing that there’s a “lot of bad things” being said about me, that I’m the type of person that the owner “can’t keep” in his establishment flabbergasted me.  I can’t imagine what horrible things he’s heard about me that should see me banned from a bar, any bar.

During the time of Kick Ash, Andrews has been written of several times including in web reviews and the Montreal Gazette, all favorably.  The Kick Ash Show (somewhat infamously) bore witness to a young man’s decision to not commit suicide – spawning the hashtag #KickAshSaves .  Now I’m being told that with all the positivism that we brought to Andrews Pub, I’m unwelcome – that I’m some sort of moral leper that can taint the atmosphere of Andrews Pub.  How would you react?

It’s not fair to say it was unexpected.  There had been signs.  Taking it back to last spring, a girlfriend of a one of the comics was coming around.  She was enthusiastic about the show.  She complained to me that she didn’t have a job, and one of our favourite bartenders had left Andrews, so introductions to the senior bartender (someone she knew from her time spent at the venue watching the Kick Ash Show) were made and she was quickly hired.

Things progressed normally, for awhile.  Then there was a change.  I later learned that the new bartender had broken up with her comedian boyfriend.  A campaign of hate started.  First it was just heckling (escalating to a vicious rant directed at Asaf Gerchak during one of his last Montreal performances before moving to Australia).  I also received feedback from many sources:

  • Callers inquiring about the show being told it was cancelled
  • Out of province performers (and travelling companions) refused service for out of province ID
  • She’d stand outside the bar, and tell people not to come in on her smoke breaks, because the comedy show was crap
  • An entire table was refused service, because one person (the driver) ordered water (the full order was two pictures of beer and a water – denied)
  • Free beer for the comedians was cancelled
  • The pay schedule, based on drink sales, was unilaterally changed, and then changed again, each time being reduced
  • I heard stories of her ranting about how horrible comedy was, to anyone who’d listen.  Part of one of these stories ended up being recorded and I got to listen to it.
  • One comedian, a professional live painter who tours with music festivals (who’s been kind enough to immortalize the Kick Ash Show) got word back that people were questioning the authenticity of her work (her livelihood) and these rumours were traced back to… you guess who – the bartender who serves hate.
  • Flyers I paid for and had printed were seen in garbage cans
  • During one show she disappeared for over a half hour.  We lost patrons looking to drink
  • She (not the owner) continually threatened to cancel the show
Painted by Sharon Ep1c

Painted by Sharon Ep1c

Her rudeness and threats grew, she affected turn out at the show and she intentionally tried to kill bar sales while the show was going on.  Finally I contacted the owner for a sit down.  I explained to him our difficulties, and he said he understood.  Shortly thereafter we had some new bartenders in on our show night.  The show grew again, the vibe was happy, forgiving and welcoming.  I’d brag and say it’s one of the best open mic’s in the city.

Then I got the text that said the show was cancelled.  I was stunned, particularly since the last show had gone so well.  We had near 50 patrons, all enthralled in the show.  The line up was great, including a new host and headliner – winners of the King Of The Mountain.  I was told drink sales were very good.  Why would such a benefit to the establishment be so unceremoniously axed?

I asked if we’d get a farewell show, and was told it was finished.  The Kick Ash show has run for 4 years, 3 locations.  It’s been a lot of work with no real financial gain.  The primary joy I’ve gotten out of the room is seeing and helping new acts, giving encouragement and stage time to those I like and making sure everyone got a fair chance.  I was accused of stealing my light, my mic and cable.  I had been in the habit of leaving them locked in the bar – and at times had found my gear used and abused.  I made it clear, it was my equipment.  I had also had one of their speakers fixed so I didn’t need to cart in my own speaker and amp each week – something I didn’t even get a “thanks” for.  Maybe I should take a rest.  BattleCOM deserves more of my time.  Still suggestions and offers of rooms came in.  There were some places that didn’t see me as a social leper.  I started a look around.

Then I found out.  The day after I picked up the last of the Kick Ash things at Andrews Pub, there was a comedy show at Andrews.  This was planned.  There was still some advertising for the Kick Ash Show up around the city and online, and someone was going to capitalize on it.  That person?  The bartender who hates comedy.  The room I built up is now being run by the person who’s tried to kill it for the last 6 months.  The show’s host was the only person I ever banned from the Kick Ash stage.

Another person who seemed involved is a friend who’s not in comedy but in Media Development.  He’s working on a concept and had asked my advice.  I had previously directed him to people with talents he needed, and he’s been thankful, because I’ve done right by him.  He had taken his new idea around to various locations after we chatted but had come back to Andrews.  His idea is neat.  He wants to live stream comedy shows, as well as archive the material for future use.  I told him he’d have to get permission from the performers involved or maybe he could do it on another night at Andrews.  Just keep me in the loop.

I wasn’t in the loop.  The plan was to do the show on a Wednesday, but I had loaned out my mic and light to a friend – and they showed up to no equipment.  My friend claims that the following week he was given a day’s notice, by the bartender and owner, that he could do the show on Tuesday – and that my show wasn’t there anymore.  I’m hurt he didn’t reach out.  We’ve texted each other a few times now, but haven’t had a chance to sit down face to face.

Now there is a new show in the space I developed.  A show that doesn’t pay comics like Kick Ash did.  A show that records and streams performances, which, according to the comedians I spoke with – no one was asked for their permission.  They may be under the impression, as there is no cover the bar is a public space and if you do anything in public, it’s fair game.

I have many fond memories of Andrews, of most of the staff, many of whom are my friends BUT I want to ask the comedians, and people who enjoy watching comedians – is that how you’d like to be treated?  Some of you have been asked to perform at Andrews, some already have since the turn over.  I don’t want to forbid anyone anything.

“Stage time is stage time.”  “Hell, in NYC there are pay to play rooms.”  The reason pay to play rooms exist in NYC, is because people are willing to pay to get on stage.  Here in Montreal, do you want paid shows to go away?  Do you want to start a room where the community doesn’t care if someone else comes in and undercuts you for it?  If you said no to that, then please say no to performing at this new Tuesday night show at Andrews Pub.  Say no to supporting it, to buying beers at that venue while their Tuesday night show exists.

If it’s moved to another night, like my friend said it was supposed to be on, I’m fine with that.  Use that stage time to get better, but protect your image.

I’m still on the fence about restarting Kick Ash again.  I’d like to know I have the community’s support.  I’d actually like to know there is a community that has pride in itself.

Yours, Paul Ash

Yours, Paul Ash

How To Stand-up Comedy Contest (part III)

Kick Ash November 2009 CJ WaterhouseIn this, part three about stand-up comedy contests, I’ll explain how I run my monthly comedy competition, Kick Ashiest, as part of the weekly open mic The Kick Ash Comedy Show.  Again I’ll be explaining the reasons for the choices I make. The Kick Ash Comedy Show is a weekly open mic starting 9pm every Tuesday in Andrews Pub, located at 1239 Guy, Montreal, Canada.  Acts either get asked to perform by me, or book with me by sending a message to the Kick Ash facebook fanpage. The monthly competition is Kick Ashiest, a play on the show’s name, which is a play on my name.

KAshiestFKick Ashiest

Kick Ashiest (Kick Ash’s monthly competition) runs every 5th week.  From the previous 4 King of the Mountain shows I pick my favorite two performers each week.  I occasionally ask for feedback from friends who attend the show but generally I try to take note of those that make a special connection with the audience.  It’s my choice, but hey, it’s my name on the show.  I never tell anyone that they are auditioning for me, and I’ve not corrected anyone who thinks the audience vote for King of the Mountain selects the Kick Ashiest participants (well, until now).

The goals of this competition are:
1) to show my confidence in new acts
2) to put together the best show of the month, and let people know it is the best of the month.

How it works

The show is set up with a host (most often me), an opening act, followed by those in the competition (in a predetermined, random order) and ending with a closing act while scores are tabulated.  The show ends with me naming and awarding the cash prize to the winner.

Expert Judges

Expert Judges

Scoring works on two points.  An audience vote and judges.  Yep, judges.  Most comedians who dislike ‘contests’ top three peeves are: judges, judges and vomit on their shoes.

“I’m a comic’s comic.”
“Judges don’t understand the craft.”
“Comedy is subjective, if they don’t like what I do – how can I win?”

What many comedians forget, is that every time we go onstage we’re judged.  Every joke we tell, audience members judge, if they like the joke, they laugh.  If they don’t, we get silence.  Selecting two specific people to be judges doesn’t change that, it just makes it two specific people.  That said, I ask certain people to be judges.  People I know, or who are recommended to me, as involved in the arts or even specifically comedy.  I’ve had pro comics, comedy bloggers, news host, burlesque performers and musicians all work as judges.

Judges judge on two attributes:
1) Material: how well written are the jokes?  How original and unique a take does the performer have?  Does the material flow from one subject to the other in a seamless fashion?
2) Stagecraft: how comfortable is the performer onstage?  Do they interact well with the audience, are they natural onstage or awkward?  Do they know how to use a microphone?  How professional do they seem, have they taken notes onstage?

Each attribute is scored out of 5, each judge adds the totals for each performer together for a potential of 10.  The two judges’ scores are added together for a total out of 20.

Audience vote:
The audience, via ballot, vote for their two favorite acts.  The reason behind voting for two was covered in Part II of this article.  As the closing act performs, I quickly tabulate the audience votes. Bonus points are added to the judges’ scores:
most votes: +5
second most: +4
third most: +3

So, if someone so wows the judges to get a perfect score, as well as wows the audience to get the most votes – the highest score attainable is 25.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen.

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

Why?

I chose the acts, because I like the acts.  I get to see the show I want to see.  I show confidence in the acts I like.  I want them to know I believe in them.

There are two judges, to account for differing tastes in comedy.  Just like every audience member, each judge will view each competitor based on their own merits.

Audience bonus points enter an element of wild card.  If someone can bring the entire audience behind them, they have a better chance of winning.

Added to the show are an opening act and a closing act.  The opening act prevents anyone from feeling like they are first up.  The closing act gives us time to tabulate the scores so we can award the winner the prize.

Did we say prize?  Maybe this is people’s why; $50!  Yep, living the dream.

The Kick Ash Comedy Show is every Tuesday, at Andrews Pub, 1239 Guy in Montreal.  Show time is 9pm sharp, doors open at 11am.

How To Stand-up Comedy Contest (part II)

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

Tuesday 9pm at Andrews Pub

In this, part two about stand-up comedy contests, I’ll explain how I run one of the two different competitions which are part of  The Kick Ash Comedy Show.  I’ll also explain the reasons for the choices I make.

The Kick Ash Comedy Show is a weekly open mic starting 9pm every Tuesday in Andrews Pub, located at 1239 Guy, Montreal, Canada.  Acts either get asked to perform by me, or book by sending a message to the Kick Ash facebook fanpage.

The two competitions are Kick Ashiest and the subject of this article, The King of the Mountain.

King of the MountainKing of the Mountain

King of the Mountain runs each week that isn’t the Kick Ashiest (the show’s monthly competition).  In a nutshell, the audience votes for the favorite two acts to come back the following week to act as host and closer (and earn a little cash).  This competition started because I was beginning to feel host burnout.  Each week, with the same regulars I found it hard to keep it fresh 52 times a year.  Rather the continually asking others to host a show with my name on it I turned it into a competition. Occasionally winners selected cannot perform the following week so I step in to fill their role and I act as the defacto replacement guy.  Also, I sometimes schedule myself a spot and get voted in as a King of the Mountain too.

The two primary goals of this competition are:
1) to have acts advertise to their networks (friends, family and fans), raising awareness of the show brand, getting a few more butts in seats.
2) have the winners feel recognized, and given a chance for advancement.
3) encourage audience members to remember the names of performers they like

A game of king of the hill in progress

a group of 3rd graders enjoying a game of king of the hill

The competition’s name comes from two sources., the city of Montreal’s name and a sadistic kids game.  Montreal is a contraction from French “Mont Royale” or “Royal Mountain”, the city’s most prominent landmark (next to Chez Paris Gentlemen’s Club).  King of the hill, for people who grew up with protective parents, is a “game” where children would pick a high spot (such as a hill or the top of the monkey bars) and whoever  held that spot at the end or the longest, by pushing down and tripping their competition, was the king.  (Losers could be identified by needing to wear hockey equipment and eating via straws).  By combining those two things we have King of the Mountain.  Every performer who goes onstage is eligible, including those who won the week before – so it is possible to build a streak.  King of the Mountain thus refers to comedy king of Montreal.

How It Works

Every nonperforming member of the audience receives a ballot through the show. (Other comics are encouraged to come support their friends).  The host is tasked with reminding the audience about the competition throughout the show and the names of those competing.  On each ballot, the audience members are asked to write down their favorite two acts, the order doesn’t matter, the spelling doesn’t matter – but it has to be two.  After the show, I collect the ballots, and within the next few days contact the two acts that received the top most amount of votes.  They have the option of returning the following week for a paid spot, either as host or to close the show.

Strengths

Why do I run it this way?  Having an open ballot encourages the performers to bring out people to the show, more friends = more votes (unless your friends don’t vote for you because the all secretly hate you).  Choosing a second performer means they’ll have to honestly pick someone alongside their friend.  A written ballot is hidden, so there is no public “clap off” or humiliation to the acts.

 Weaknesses

vote-ballot-boxThe main weaknesses to this format are related to the ballots.
1) Ballot stuffing has occurred, but generally has been easy to recognize when one person has dropped in a number of extra ballots.
2) Booking two comedians who share a social circle, is a little dangerous.  If their friends decide to preselect who’ll they’ll vote for and not judge it on the performances they see that night – it’s a bit dishonest and unfair.
3) A comic could potentially suggest to his friends to use their second vote on the worst act of the night.  To my knowledge, this has never happened, and would be hard to co-ordinate to have a large enough impact.
4) Trust.  I’m the sole person counting votes.  If people don’t trust me to be fair and honest, then why participate?

Impact On The Show

Currently, I would say this format has been a positive impact on the show.  Generally new performers are more excited to perform, audiences have seen an elevated level of quality from the comedians, so word of mouth advertising has increased.  Newer performers who win are given the opportunity to stretch themselves by closing the show or hosting for the first time.

Most of all, people are paying attention to who’s had the longest streak.  The current streak record is 4 shows…  Who’s going to beat that?

Yours,
Ash

How to Stand-up Comedy Contest

Ask Ash: What’s the best way to run a comedy contest that everyone will agree is fair and balanced?

Judges small

Quick Answer: It’s impossible.

Now for the long answer… (Part I of II)

2011 Montreal Contest

2011 Montreal Contest

A lot of performers hate comedy contests; “they’re unfair”, “they’re rigged”, “it’s a popularity contest”, “they’re judged by people who know nothing about the craft of comedy”, “it’s an artistic medium, so personal taste is being judged – not skill”, “the zombies are attacking”, “I never win”…  many many complaints.

It’s good to recognize comedy contests for what most of them are; publicity opportunities.  Most contests can be divided into two types: regular advancement ritual, or one-off awareness event.  Both of these types of contests are attempting to raise awareness of not only their brand (club, festival or charity) but also for the performers involved.

Many working pros today list amoung their credits appearances at Seattle International Comedy Competition, The Great Canadian Laugh Off, San Francisco Comedy Competition, Just For Laughs Homegrown Competition and Last Comic Standing – it’s a way to elevate and legitimize your work.  These major contests draw press as well as industry scouts and usually have someone to manage press interactions, arrange interviews and make sure that information is going out – not only to advertise their event but to help promote those performing (and doing well).

Regular advancement rituals usually (but not always) are limited to local comedy clubs, and open mics.  Generally, new comics (or long time open miccers) are given the chance to strut their stuff in an effort to move up to guest spots, pro gigs, weekend work and a small bit of cash.  Yuk Yuks’ Great Canadian Laugh Off final week is open to international acts but the contest runs months prior in their clubs around the country with finalists from various cities coming together to compete in the semi-finals and a chance to make it onto the finale ‘winner take all’ show.  Winners are presented with a contract, cash and a chance to tour the country.  That’s way cooler than going into your boss’s office for a performance review.

One-off awareness events tend to be either fundraisers, part of an awareness campaign or on the business side, a bit of a cash grab.  When an organization wants to raise funds for a project or charity BUT can’t afford a single large name comic (or can afford only a single comic of status) they sometimes decide to fill the night with up and comers / open miccers who’ll work for free (or the chance winning a prize).  This benefits the organization in keeping their costs / outlay down, and it benefits the comedians in a chance to be seen by an audience that may not typically go out to open mic shows, and for the winner – a small press bump or at least a credit to assist them getting bit of paid work.  Even when a smart business savvy person (or organization) decides to run such an event in an effort to earn personal cash, they have to arrange press, sponsors and raise the profile of the event to make it worthwhile for the comedians to come out.

Annual competitions like Just For Laughs Homegrown or the Seattle Comedy Competition draw performers from around the world who compete mainly for the bragging rights – pitting themselves against the best who are selected to perform. The three things to remember with both of these types of contests is judging is subjective, no one forces you to participate and like any opportunity, it’s only as good for you as you make it. When you are part of a contest it’s important to take advantage of any resources they give you.

  • Volunteer for press access.
  • Make sure you have a package ready for interested parties (the more upscale the competition, the more you should put into your package).  For small competitions, usually a business card is okay.  For international competitions with representatives from prouduction companies, networks and agencies present, have a DVD show reel, resume, headshot and a spec script(s) (both printed and pdf) prepared to hand out.
  • Work your offstage skills, showing that you’re good at handling self promotion and are an asset to the competition (and any future bookers)

Part II will focus on how I run two small competitions at my little open mic in Montreal

Yours, Ash

 

Can You Name A Comedy Writer Who Has Won A Nobel Prize?

(originally written March 6, 2008)

I wrote this in response to a friend who asked me “Do you feel that comedy is underrated as an art form? (You’ll see why I’m asking this on my blog.) How is it similar to more “serious” arts? How is it different?”

I do feel comedy has been underrated, even ghetto-ized to a degree.  Partially because so much bad comedy has been produced that the great comedy is swamped by it.  Bad comedy seems much more acceptable to the populace in general than say bad drama.  Then again, there are soap operas. 

 

Gingers

Onstage in Halifax

Good stand-up comedy is similar to more “serious” arts in that it asks it’s audience to think.  It’s major difference is it’s immediacy to it’s audience.  The audience gets to respond immediately, and the performer knows if he’s gotten a reaction.  Brevity is a pinnacle of art.  Whether an artist can get their point across with a single brush stroke or a single frame out of a roll of film – it’s always that moment, that realization, that connects the artist’s thoughts with his audience.  Good stand-up comics provide many vignettes (jokes) to present mainly one point of view.  How briefly they can express them, boiling the words, actions, expressions down to the barest of minimums and yet be completely understood is it’s own reward. 

If a crowd get’s you, really gets you, laughs at your jokes while you perform them and maybe, just maybe looks at some things in a different way, who the hell needs a nobel prize.

Ask Ash: Bulletproof

The question I was asked (several different ways) was “do I have to be bullet?” “what did I do to piss you off?”, “can’t you get someone else to go first?”, “I’m better later in the lineup”, “but I got people coming to see me…”  Okay, those last two are more statements not questions, but they amount to the same complaint: “why do I have to go first?”

Bullet [boo l-it]; noun

  • first (non-hosting) spot on a comedy show
  • from the idiom “bite the bullet”:  to force oneself to perform a painful, difficult task or endure an unpleasant situation
  • slang “bullet” as ace, or ‘one’ card

Comedy Nest December 14, 2012On a typical (non serial) professional show (2-4 comics), the person taking bullet is pretty much undisputed.  Usually the bullet goes to the person with the shortest time:  In the case of a two person host/headliner show, it’s the non headliner; three act show, again, the non headliner or the host; four acts – the person doing a showcase (7-10 minute) set.

On a showcase, contest, or festival set, where most all the comics are doing nearly the same amount of time the choice of who goes first should not be taken lightly.  For the purpose of this article I’m going to express the choices I try to make when picking a bullet for a common open mic and explain why.

To understand the reasoning of having a strong bullet slot on a comedy show, it helps to understand its impact on a show.

  • A strong bullet performance proves to the audience that the show is worth sticking around for
  • In the perception of some audience members, the host doesn’t count as part of the show, so it is important to start with an experienced / strong act
  • shows with consistently weak opening acts will find their regulars (and those drawn by word of mouth) coming later, further impacting the show and the venue negatively.

The bullet should remember they are not really the “first” act.  The host has gone on first, and their job has been to take a group of individuals and make them an audience – the bullet does not go up cold.  That said, the host has a limited amount of time to do all the tasks that help make the show go better and having a first act that knows how to comport themselves can make the difference.

Let’s look at some of the factors that go into choosing a bullet performer:

  • Consistently strong performer
  • Capable of engaging the crowd if necessary
  • Stylistically different from the host

A booker (or the person who paces a regular show) looks to bring in an audience for the full show.  If a show is front loaded with weaker, less popular acts, audience (and potential audience) members will regret coming early and plan to only come late in the future.  Potentially, people unimpressed with the first acts could get up and leave seeing nothing worth staying for.  This can lead to bad word of mouth and bad press for the venue and show.  To alleviate this, a smart booker would choose to have one of his top 3 acts open the show, which draws people to the show’s start.  A late audience member complaining that they missed their favorite act because they showed up late is word of mouth advertising attesting to the quality of show and recommending getting there on time – a double win.

As a performer, the detriment of going first is added pressure to deliver a good set.  The easiest way to deliver a good set is to use tried and true material, but for seasoned acts, the purpose of performing in an open mic like environment is to try new material.  As bullet you have less time to experiment or test newer material.  You still can work new material in by book ending (surrounding it) by some of your better tested jokes, plus smart bookers tend to give a little more time to quality bullet comics.  Professional comics have to perform no matter how they’re feeling when scheduled (well, they could call in sick if they can find a replacement, but comics who don’t perform ‘because they don’t feel like it’, end up losing potential work as well – because said practice isn’t really “professional”), so performing bullet spot as an unexpected pressure is good practice to learn how to adapt and work when you feel less than fully prepared. A good booker will not pace the same person over and over in bullet, bullet spots should be balanced with spots later in the show (including close).

Now when the show has been paced and you tell the booker (or host) things like:

“I’m better later in the line up”
They hear “I’m not good enough”

“can you switch me with…”
They hear “I don’t trust your judgement”

“I got people coming to see me…”
They hear “I couldn’t be bothered to tell them to get here on time”

What you should hear when you’re asked to take bullet:

“Hey, I think you’re pretty good.”

Yours,
Ash

Ask Ash: How to write a (comedy) review

“I saw that show and give it three stars.”  How frustrating is it to read a show review like that.  How do I know I agree with the reviewer?  No idea.by Sergio Aragones

I’ve had only a few frustrated writers, reviewers, audience members ask me how to write a review for a comedy show, but I’ve heard way more artists complain about a bad, inaccurate or vague review.  So, for both sides of the fence I’d like to outline some of the best facets of a good review.

How do you write an effective comedy review?  What do you need elements should you identify.  How descriptive of a comedian’s set should you be?  What were the atmosphere and venue like and did it affect the show.  Let’s examine some guidelines (again, this is just my opinion, but I do believe you’ll find it helpful) to writing a good (comedy) review.

  1. Set the stage.  Describe the location, the atmosphere.  Name who you are reviewing and your expectations from past work.  This could be as simple as saying “I went to see comedy veteran Jim McDonald at the Comedy Vault.”  It depends on who you think your audience is, if you think they are familiar with the ‘Comedy Vault’, and if ‘Jim McDonald’ has a widely known reputation.  It is sometimes best to act as if your audience will be unfamiliar with your references.  Put in emotional references and descriptors.  If a venue makes you feel a certain way each time you go there, if it reminds you of anything that may put you (the reviewer) in a certain frame of mind, it is good to mention.  If you’re familiar with the comedian’s work, what you’re expecting, their style – even references.  If you only know them from word of mouth, how long it’s been since you’ve seen them.  All of these factors can affect your state of mind, and how you will report on the show, they also will allow a reader to judge how you’re approaching the show compared to how they’d approach it.
  2. Describe the work.  Here you should describe the meat of the show.  Did the comedian(s) meet your expectation?  What sort of atmosphere did they create?  What was the material subject matter?  It is important to note that you should never, ever, put a punchline in a review.  Glossing over subject matters yet stating how you reacted is much better; “Jim McDonald let loose with a story on tricycles that blew me and the audience away.  Laughter rippled through the crowd as his simple charm and rural witticism reminded us all what it was like to be three.”
  3. Criticism is more than complaint.  If something in the show is not to your liking, don’t be afraid to express it – but explain why.  It is possible that something you disliked would be a reason someone else would like to go.  “I was disappointed to not hear Jim’s great joke about etch-a-sketches, in total I don’t think he did any of the jokes from his first album.”
  4. Summary.  Summarize what you thought of the show as a whole, if you’d recommend it, if there were caveats to those recommendations.  This is to be your opinion, know why you made it and be able to express it.
  5. Be accurate, nothing spoils a good (or bad) review more then misspelling the name of the artist (or venue) involved.  Dates, showtimes, names – all these things can easily be verified IF you didn’t take notes the first time through.
  6. If you’re reviewing an ensemble show (showcase, open mic, sketch) it sometimes can be overwhelming to review everyone.  Watch the entire show, but pick out only two or three acts who you think deserve the individual attention (for good or ill).

Now review some shows, doing so is a great practice in writing, plus you’ll also get a better grasp of how to pace your own sets and who knows, maybe you’ll encourage someone to go see something live.

Yours,
Ash

Kick Ash Comedy Show Tuesday Oct. 23rd

The Mona LisaKick Ash kicks off again next Tuesday with our King and Queen of the Mountain – Emma Wilkie and Chris Sandiford!

Also on the bill are:
Stephanie Ein
Carlin Potter
Nour Hadidi
Jason Hatrick
Patrick Millerd
new Montreal resident Matt Shury
and Rena Hundert (of On the Spot)

Free show, cheap drinks, great laughs!

9pm show start, be early for a good seat.  Andrews Pub, 1239 Guy (below St- Catherine, near Guy Metro)