Tag Archives: Interview

This Friday, Meet Courtney Reynolds!

Over the summer, Annual staffer David Luna took a road trip to New York to record and interview Courtney Reynolds. Courtney is a stand up comic working in the city, he hosts the show If You’re Reading This Quit Your Day Job, every Thursday at Bungas Den.

You won’t want to miss this original Annual video made in collaboration with the Something Art Collective, so check back here on Friday morning!

fullsizerender-2

Advertisements

Open Those Doors and Enjoy What You’ve Made – Checking in with Sea Tea Improv

A few years ago, Briana Haynie compiled a series of oral histories about the founding and development of Sea Tea Improv. Over the past year they ran the most successful kickstarter for a comedy theater ever and on August 20th they officially opened their doors to the public! We spoke to Julia Pistel, a founding member and managing director of Sea Tea Improv, in the fleeting calm that would follow opening weekend…

IMG_1442

As a founding member of Sea Tea, how does it feel to come this far?

Amazing. It has been so intense for the last year—the founders and owners are just trying to catch our breaths and enjoy what we’ve done. It’s funny, I was going through some old emails—someone was asking us for milestones—and I don’t remember this, but some of our founders were talking about opening a theater one day. Back in 2010 that was unrealistic, so it’s really something we’ve been working slowly but very steadily towards for seven years. It’s really exciting to have those doors open and get to work.

I imagine the role of Managing Director changes from theatre to theatre depending on size and content. Describe your role as the Managing Director for those who may not know what that is.

Let me start by not answering your question and describing the Artistic Director first, and then I’ll describe the difference between the two, because that’s where it gets interesting.

The Artistic Director, as we see it, is to make sure that everything that is happening within the theater is excellent. Of course, that can mean a number of different things. It can be the best improv you’re ever going to see, it can be some really experimental stuff, it can mean including a lot of people. His job is basically to make sure what happens on the stage is reflective of the quality that we want to see and bring to Hartford and Connecticut.

My job as the Managing Director is very different. It’s to keep the doors open, keep the place running and make sure we stay alive. What my job covers right now is a really interesting question because I’m in transition. Until last week, the main focus of my job was to make sure the construction project got finished. Now that it is done, my job is managing the staff that’s working and running the theater; building community relationships and connections to help build out the audience; to keep an eye on the big picture, making sure everything under the umbrella is getting done; and making decisions about what our priorities are as a company to make sure we are fulfilling our mission.

Continue reading Open Those Doors and Enjoy What You’ve Made – Checking in with Sea Tea Improv

Safe in an Unsafe Space with Toby Muresianu

Toby Muresianu is “a very funny engineer” working in California. His show, Unsafe Space, brings together comedians and experts to discuss pressing issues that face us today.  David Luna recently spoke with Toby about the show and his approach to politics and comedy.

How’s the year been for you as an entertainer in the most entertaining year of our contemporary history?

I’ve had a lot of good, entertaining years in my lifetime, but this is probably the most ridiculous, in terms of politics. It’s entertaining. I feel like I’m a pretty boring person. I always enjoyed things being more boring and safer and better for more people rather than exciting but also terrifying. People always tell political comedians “You must be so glad that there’s lots of material with terrible politicians!” and I’m like yeah, but I’m a person first. I’m not that greedy that I’d rather live in an awful country with plenty of fodder for material.

How long have you been doing stand-up?

About 14 years now. I got off to a slower start. I was one of those guys who did it once a month, and then I got into it gradually, more in earnest around 2006. I started when I was a freshman in college so most of my focus was on studying and college stuff.

Are you pursuing comedy full time? What are your personal goals as a human being?

I had been an engineer at Microsoft for a couple of years, and then I left to do app development and stand-up comedy. I’ve done that for a number of years. Sometimes I’d be making my living doing comedy and not focusing on apps, and sometimes that would flip-flop. It’s always been a bit murky. I’ll take side jobs, engineering on a comedy podcast, working for Uber and then blogging about it. Generally, I’ve been a comedian more than anything else, doing tangential sidework related to comedy since 2009. The idea of “full time comedian” is kind of murky. I could make a living if I stayed on the road all the time, but recently I’ve been staying in LA more to focus on stuff here.

What have been your most fulfilling experiences as a comedian?

In 2013 I did the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time; I did an hour long solo show. Doing that and having a big crowd some days, just for me, that was the first time I’d consistently do an hour. I’d done it sporadically before that, but this was the first time it was my full show. I’m doing an hour every night, not filling it with crowd work. It was all material that I’m proud of, not throwing in hacky jokes to fill the time.

I was also running a show at the time, a compilation show. I was running two shows a day; it was a very hard experience. You’re in charge of promoting a show, everyone who comes in is coming exclusively to see you, and when you have a shitty set you take it personally because there’s no one else to blame it on. You’re responsible for it when it’s finished, but on the flip side, when it goes well, by the end of run you’re firing on all cylinders and it’s really rewarding.

13340457_10206303126444609_2089982146_o

What are you involved with at the moment?

I always bite off more than I can chew, which is a blessing and curse. Right now, my big project is Unsafe Space, which is a live show and a podcast that I co-produce with my friend Lou Perez another comedian. It’s a live show where people do stand-up on controversial topics, and then there’s a response from experts in the field and a discussion with the audience.

Continue reading Safe in an Unsafe Space with Toby Muresianu

A Biography Calculated to Drive You MAD – An Interview with Bill Schelly

In 2015 Bill Schelly completed HARVEY KURTZMAN: The Man Who Created MAD And Revolutionized Humor In America a book which he spent four years writing. Harvey Kurtzman may not be a household name, but his creations certainly are, and Schelly outlines their importance as such:

[MAD created] satire of popular culture figures, political figures, products, the consumerism that was rampant after [WWII]. Everybody had to have their new toasters or cars with fins or whatever. Satires of consumerism is one of the major things that MAD did, of course this was picked up by Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons and everything else. Harvey Kurtzman’s influence in humor is incredibly important… Think about it like this, here you are, some kid in a little town in the south. Yet, a magazine that’s really subversive can reach you at your little corner store, and every kid can get this for ten cents. It slipped completely under the radar and was available for purchase to a million people, every issue. It’s quite an interesting way of getting underneath the repressive forces of society.

We recently spoke to Bill Schelly about the journey of chronicling Harvey Kurtzman’s life and massive catalogue of work.

Kurtzman and Bill

What in your personal life brought to you Harvey Kurtzman prior to writing the biography?

I’m a baby boomer that grew up in 60s, so I’m an old guy that was exposed to MAD coming after Harvey Kurtzman had left. But in the early 60s they were reprinting a lot of his issues in the MAD paperbacks. A lot of those paperbacks were brought home by my brother and then by me, so I was reading comics created by Kurtzman and his collaborators when I was a kid. As I got older, I started reading Little Annie Fanny in Playboy; when you’re going through puberty it’s particularly… interesting. As I got older, and seriously interested in comics, I started reading some of his actual issues of MAD that I got my hands on, and his more serious work in war comics.

As you note in the book, they took Harvey Kurtzman’s name out of the reprints in the paperbacks. Did you seek out his work specifically, or did you notice a theme in what you enjoyed through life and in his work?

I got involved in the early stages of Comics fandom in the 60s and people were researching who did the old comics; many of them weren’t signed. I found out that Kurtzman had done those MAD paperbacks that I so enjoyed. I started connecting the dots between that and Little Annie Fanny and his other works. Suddenly, I realized this guy had done tremendous work that I really loved and was superior to others around him, so I realized this was a pretty remarkable person and started seeking out more of his work.

Continue reading A Biography Calculated to Drive You MAD – An Interview with Bill Schelly

Timing: A Conversation with Gabriel Gundacker

In December of last year I visited Chicago for the first time.  I got a taste of greasy-delicious food, street music, magnificent architecture, and passionate protests against a corrupt mayor and local government. This was my kind of town. After a long day, Taylor Goebel and I got to sit down and chat with a fine mind, the gifted comedian and musician…

GundackerFishColor

GABRIEL GUNDACKER

David Luna: Were you raised religious at all?

Gabriel Gundacker: Lutheran.

Taylor Goebel: You still into that?

GG: No, I never liked church, really. It always seemed like work, you know? I don’t think I ever really bought into it.

I remember you had to get confirmed. And there was this time where my pastor was like, “God’s been around forever”, explaining this concept to me. And I was like, “How? I don’t understand. How has God been around forever?” So she’s like, “that’s good, you’re asking questions. I like that.” And then she moved on. I was like, “What are you talking about? You’re congratulating me, but you didn’t answer my question. What do you mean God’s been around forever, how could we possibly know that?”

And she was like, “I like that you’re asking. These are good questions.”

DL: And then she never answered?

GG: Well, obviously because there is no answer.

I got confirmed, and she was like, “Gabe’s great, because he asks questions whenever.” And I was like, “No, I’m not right for this, very clearly.”

Continue reading Timing: A Conversation with Gabriel Gundacker

Performing for an Audience That Doesn’t Know They’re Watching – An Interview with Bob Pagani

Last month we published an article detailing how Andy Kaufman faked his death. Shortly after this we received a message from Bob Pagani, co-creator of The Slycraft Hour and the man who witnessed meeting between Alan Abel and Andy Kaufman. He told us that not only had he witnessed it, but he arranged it. We got him on the phone for an interview and he dished on hoaxing the media, his relationship with Andy Kaufman, and that fateful meeting.

You’re a—would the term be “professional media hoaxer?”

I don’t know about the professional part. That implies money right? I’ve done a lot of it, yeah, over the last bunch of years, the last thirty years or so… or more actually. From when I first met Alan Abel and a thing or two I did when I was younger.

How did you become a hoaxer, and when did you realize you had a knack for messing with people?

When I was a kid, I grew up in the Bronx and I went to Catholic school. In Catholic school everything was “this is this” and “that’s that” and “thou shalt and thou shalt not.” They kind of teach you to live in a Leave it Beaver world. It’s all very “exactly how it should be.”

But my dad was very cynical about stuff. He fixed appliances for Westinghouse; he was the guy who would come in if your washing machine broke. He used to take me to work with him and people would always go, “Oh, you’re showing your little boy what line of work to go into?” and he would say, “No, I’m showing him what line of work not to go into.” He was very cynical about big corporations long before most people were and would tell me things that completely contradicted what I was learning in school. Over time you come to realize he’s more right than they are.

Continue reading Performing for an Audience That Doesn’t Know They’re Watching – An Interview with Bob Pagani

The Lessons of Gusbandry with Alicia J. Rose

Alicia J. Rose has directed music videos for such bands as Cake, First Aid Kit, and Bob Mould. Now she has made the leap to episodic storytelling with her premiere web series, The Benefits of GusbandryThe series explores the relationship between Jackie and River, a straight woman and her Gusband (gay-husband). They aren’t married, but they’re so close they might as well be.

BUTTSFALLBOG-2

To kick things off, you said you were editing Episode Two when I called. How’s that going?

Editing Episode Two has been going really well. It’s such a sculpting process, the making of an episode. We wind up getting things we wouldn’t expect, and the things that you got that you thought you knew work or didn’t work. But in the end, you make it the most clean and mean machine you can, and you really work with the comedy that’s there and make it as funny as humanly possible. That’s where we’re at.

How many edits have we done now? This is our third or fourth. Our third time on Episode Two. There will probably be another three–something like that. We just got the phase where it doesn’t have music yet, but it’s going to start going to people for music, for sound, for ideas and notes as we tighten up the edit, but that’s part of the process.

When you’re editing an episode and you put together the initial cut before it gets cut down–I know the intended episode length is around eight to 12 minutes–do you find that they’re longer? Do you have to make a lot of cuts to keep it short?

I think Episode One started at 13 or 14 minutes and we got it down to eight. Episode Two started at 13 minutes, and we’re also going to get it down to eight. I think when you write, you write like you talk. But when you actually edit things together–or when it’s performed live and you’re filming it–it gets put through the filter of the human brain. When you’re actually cutting it, you just try to cut out the “ums” and the “ahs” and the messy stuff. Big things come out–things we thought we would need, things we thought were crucial to the episode. Turns out they weren’t, and then other things that are crucial get amped up. It’s really pretty fascinating. I love it.

The show is inspired by your relationship with your own gay friends, or “gusbands” as they’re called–

Gusbands, baby!

What made you decide to tell this story?

I think the question really is: How did I figure out what my story was? This is my story, and it took me a while as a filmmaker to figure out what story I wanted to tell from a deeply personal, feminist point of view. It took some soul-searching–including going to Thailand and Cambodia with my number one gusband, Lago, earlier this year–and realizing that he is such an important, primary part of my life. Our relationship really is the most consistent relationship I’ve had with a man in a long time. He just happens to be there when the heartbreak happens, or I’ve lost a job, or whatever. He’s been there to really help me pick up the pieces and move forward. I’ve had other gusbands before him who’ve treated me similarly, and these relationships are the life’s blood of my existence. Really, they’re at the base for my sanity. Truly.

Figuring out that that was my story was the tricky part. I just live it–it’s my life. As a filmmaker I’ve made tons of music videos and lots of short-form work. I’ve been really jonesing for a chance to get to tell a longer story but still utilize the short-form storytelling method as a way to do it–because I’m good at that. I’ve been work at that for past five to seven years. Once I clicked into gusbandry as the core of where I was coming from, it was like unlocking Pandora’s box. I have had so many ideas, and I have so many more ideas that haven’t even played out yet, which is the fun part.

Gusbands Cast

Continue reading The Lessons of Gusbandry with Alicia J. Rose