Tag Archives: kickstarter

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

Advertisements

Crowdfunded Comedy: Reviving Print Humor with The American Bystander

The Annual wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for crowdfunding, so we aim to boost up other comedic projects whenever possible.

 The American Bystander is a new humor magazine that came to publication following a successful Kickstarter campaign last November. They’re just about finished with the second issue and need your help to bring it to print. Last week we spoke to Michael Gerber, a founder and publisher of The American Bystander.

In your publisher’s letter from Issue 1 of The American Bystander you wrote “It isn’t even really a magazine. This is willfully re-launching the Titanic, knowing full well it will sink…” Do you still feel this way going into issue two?

Well, it’s funny because people have asked about that. I was partly trying to play against type because those letters are like the statement of principles in Citizen Kane. A guy sits down and scrawls the way that they’re going to change the world, and I really felt like that was not the right mindset to be going into this with. The first thing that you should know about me is that I’ve been trying to do a magazine like this since I was 22 years old and I’m 46 now. I’ve seen them come and go and I know a lot about how The [National] Lampoon worked.

Maybe five years ago, I heard from a friend of a friend that Rob Hoffman, one of the three people who founded The National Lampoon, was very ill and was probably going to die. So I called him up out of the blue, he didn’t know me from anybody, and I called him up and said “Mr. Hoffman, I just want to thank you because nobody knows that you were the person who put together the money, put together the deal, worked with Matty [Simmons] to get it all set up so Henry [Beard] and Doug [Kenney] could do their work. Nobody knows how important you were” The difference between The Lampoon and every other humor magazine before and since has been someone like Rob Hoffman at the front.

I’m no Rob Hoffman but I guess I wanted to say in that letter that we want this to turn into whatever our readers want it to turn into. If that means that it’s a grand success and has a lot of money to spend and heralds in a new golden age of this material, great! If it turns out to be just one issue or two issues, that’s okay, too. Because we’re really just following what the audience seems to want.

Issue #1 of The American Bystander
Issue #1 of The American Bystander

The typical way that people do this is they come up with a business plan and a way of repeating what the Lampoon guys did, which is pump it up into something huge and sell out after five years or whatever, and walk away never having to work again. That’s a very contemporary way of looking at things; “I’m going to start a humor magazine so I can get rich.” That’s not how Punch was started; that’s not how Mad Magazine was started. For anything that lasts over a decade you have to have a different kind of attitude. So I was poking fun at that vain, glorious situation. But I was also trying to check myself to sort of say “the point of this isn’t in five years to have The American Bystander’s version of Animal House. The point is to follow our staffers and say what do you want to do? What’s interesting and challenging? What does the world need? Not what can we sell for a big pay day.” We know what that is and we know it’s what already exists out there. It’s the lowest common-denominator stuff. By saying that, I want to say to us on a managing side and to the contributors: Look, we don’t expect to walk away millionaires from this. We expect to make beautiful stuff and that’s what we expect from you. And that’s what we expect from our readers too. We want them to enjoy it on that level, not be perceived as something we’re selling to advertisers. Their attention and their eyeballs. That’s very different than a corporate magazine or a corporate website, and I want to start out with that idea.

Continue reading Crowdfunded Comedy: Reviving Print Humor with The American Bystander

#BringBackMST3K

There are about 5 hours remaining on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Kickstarter and if you’re one of the few who haven’t taken the time to donate I highly suggest you do.

Before I developed the ability to form concrete memories, my dad and I would watch MST3K, more accurately, my dad would watch it and I would babble on the floor, probably stacking blocks or whatever fad was big at the time. Once middle school rolled around the SciFi Channel (currently known as Syfy for some reason) was airing reruns on Saturday mornings. I immediately recognized Tom Servo and Crow, my underdeveloped baby-mind had managed to store away the robots from the interstitial scenes, though the movies were lost on me. At this point in life I simultaneously hit puberty and graduated from Saturday morning cartoons to Saturday morning movie riffing. Every week I was out of bed and in front of the TV by ten, sometimes getting up early enough catch the tail end of whatever work-out infomercial had bought time on the station. I read about how to build the robot puppets on the mst3k website, I dreamed about writing in to join the MST3K fan club as advertised in a graphic that often popped up in the corner of episodes. I assumed this now led an empty P.O. Box with a new owner because I understood the concept of reruns. This story lacks a real ending, like any cheesy movie, it just drags on until Scifi stops airing the show.

Tonight, the #BringBackMST3K Kickstarter campaign comes to a close and will likely reach their goal to fully fund 12 episodes and a Christmas special. This website wouldn’t exist without kickstarter so as always, I encourage you to go donate and help bring MST3K to a new generation of weird kids. You can donate by clicking here and then at 5pm PST there will be a live Telethon from the Nerdmelt Theatre to wrap up the campaign, so why not make an evening of it?IMG_2654

Kevin Cole

An Interview with Sara Benincasa

In The Annual #10, we shared an interview with comedian Sara Benincasa. With the advent of her new podcast, “In the Casa with Sara Benincasa,” we thought we’d better introduce our online readers to this stand-up comedian/YA novelist/memoirist/storyteller/web editor-in-chief who advocates for mental health wellness in LGBTQ youth. She also has an adorable dog named Morley Safer. Yes, she does everything.

sara copy

Emily Perper: So how are you?

Sara Benincasa: I’m good! I usually get up at 5:30, which is crazy. I blog—I’m the editor-in-chief of a site, an entertainment-humor site called Happy Nice Time People. Happy Nice Time People runs on an East Coast schedule, so I have to be blogging starting at six a.m. So I get up and walk the dog. I actually got up a little late today because I had an interview that wasn’t until 7:45 with Sirius XM, so that was very exciting.

EP: This is good, because I felt a little bad—“I hope I’m not getting her up really early on a Saturday and ruining any sleeping in plans.” What was your Sirius interview?

SB: It was The Judith Regan Show on Stars. She was this very powerful publishing industry person for a while, and then she transitioned to radio. Now she has this radio show, and it was fun; it was really fun.

EP: Were you talking about [your new young adult novel] Great?

SB: I was talking about Great. And I was talking about my Kickstarter, too, so that was neat.

EP: Good. I’m so glad you’re getting the word out about the Kickstarter. I believe in it. I think we’re going to make the goal. Notice I’m using “we.” I’m obviously very invested in this.

SB: You’re on board! I appreciate that. I really hope so. (Edit: We did!)

EP: I was actually going to ask you about Happy Nice Time People, because you just started that gig, right?

SB: I did. I just started a few weeks ago. I just wanted something steady, because the nature of my career is that—and this is true for a lot of people who freelance—I get a job here, I get a certain amount of money; I get a job here, I get a certain amount of money. I spend a lot of time chasing down checks from different places, and I just thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a steady gig so that it’s not feast or famine all the time?” It’s like I have something that I can rely on. Hopefully one day that’ll be unnecessary because I’ll be so fucking rich, but it seemed like a good idea, and I like the site. It’s fun; I like the content.

Continue reading An Interview with Sara Benincasa

Be a Part of “This Tour is So Gay” – An Interview with Sara Benincasa

Sara-B-landscape You may know comedian and author Sara Benincasa from her stand-up tour, “Agorafabulous,” or her hilarious, honest memoir of the same name. She’s interviewed Donald Glover and Margaret Cho in a bathtub, written countless humor articles and advice columns, and runs Happy Nice Time People, a website devoted to humor, pop culture and current events. This spring, she published Great, a modern-day, Hamptons-set, gender-bending retelling of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic The Great Gatsby. She is an advocate for mental health wellness and the LGBTQ community. She also came out to her dad on Father’s Day (she forgot it was Father’s Day). Right now, Sara needs your help. She’s SO CLOSE to meeting her Kickstarter goal for “This Tour is So Gay,” a comedy-storytelling-service tour dedicated to reaching LGBTQ youth. She only has five days left. Read more about the tour in Sara’s own words, check out her Kickstarter, and donate anything you can.

Sara Benincasa: I’m so excited about the Kickstarter. It’s called “This Tour is So Gay,” and the idea is that I would go on a comedy, book and service tour. So, in each city I visit, I’ll tell funny stories, I’ll sign some books, and I’ll do some community service for a local group that helps LGBTQ kids—hence, this tour is so gay. It’s just a fun way for me to travel around the US and Canada and tell stories and also do some good. I won’t make a profit off it—it’s 15 cities, 15 grand.

When you factor in the fact that Kickstarter gets a percentage, Amazon gets a percentage, and you have to fulfill the rewards, which cost money, too, it’s not actually as crazy high an amount as I felt when I first set that goal.

The Annual: Can you think of specific instances when you were growing up when something like this would’ve been important or would’ve helped you in some way—some sort of storytelling slash advocacy group?

SB: Oh, yeah. When I was in high school, I used to gravitate towards the adults who just seemed cool and open. I’d like to be one of those adults for a young person today, for lots of young people. I get lots of letters and emails about things to do with mental health and LGBTQ issues. Some of the stuff that kids tell you is just heartbreaking, and I thought it would be pretty cool to try and help in some fashion—and combine it with being on stage.

TA: Do you have specific stories in mind that you’re ready to tell or are you going to come up with those on the road? Or is that something you’re not even thinking about [yet]?

SB: I have so many stories that I could tell—I’ve been practicing storytelling for a while now at different shows around L.A. and before that, in New York to an extent—so I think what I’m going to do is I’m going to feel it out in each city. We call it taking the temperature of the room. So I’ll take the temperature of the room and look around and see, “Does this seem like an audience that’s really engaged and wants a longer story? Does this seem like an audience in which a very sexual story would go over well, or would that be inappropriate with this audience?” I’ll figure it out as I go along.

TA: Is there a city that you’re super stoked about visiting? I know you have to love all the children equally, but secretly is there one?

SB: I have to love all of my babies equally! I’m really excited about Toronto because I have family in Toronto and I haven’t been there in a while. I’m really excited about Vancouver because I’ve never been to Vancouver. I’m stoked to see my friends in Denver; I’ve never been to Denver. There are cities on the tour that I’ve been to before—Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, D.C., et cetera—but I’m excited about the ones I’ve never been to, like Seattle. I’m doing Bumbershoot—I’m doing a show called “Literary Death Match” at Bumbershoot where authors compete for prizes. So I’m trying to set up a “This Tour is So Gay” date at a bookshop or a little theater while I’m there. I’m psyched for that. I’m really excited for that.

Be sure to check out our full interview with Sara Benincasa in the next issue of The Annual, where she talks about her tips for creative success, her upcoming pilot for USA, her crazy schedule and Sitting Atop A Pile Of Your Money (unrelated to her current Kickstarter, we promise). And take a look at This Tour is So Gay, because it’s perfect.

– Emily Perper, Editor-at-Large

Crowdfunded Comedy is a new feature that aims to highlight humor based projects on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The Annual would not exist if it weren’t for strangers on the internet who believed in us enough to make a pledge, now we’re sharing the comedic projects that we believe in.

Support the Annual and receive humor every bimonth for only $20 a year!

Kevin Cole: Woody Allen is 77!?

kevintumbles:

Were you aware of that? You might not be. After all, he was only 76 yesterday.

Sarah Silverman’s a year older. Richard Pryor’s been gone for some time, but he’d be a year older if were he still with us.

Oh, and appropriately enough The Annual reached it’s goal of $1,500 just this morning. Perhaps the Comedy Gods smile upon December 1st, it would certainly seem that way. 

It’s strange to articulate how this feels, which creates an emotional layer of strangeness upon strangeness. I’ve never done something like this before. When pitching a new humor magazine in a world where print is on the decline there’s a level of uncertainty as to whether or not your project will ever see the light of day. This paired with my Allen-grade Neurosis that would tap on my shoulder, five days into the campaign, 45% funded and tell me there was no way we’d raise the remaining $900 in time. Yet The Annual has surpassed our goal with 13 days remaining. 

It feels incredible. It’s what I imagine Dan Harmon felt like after Remedial Chaos Theory was so well received. Suddenly this strange humor magazine written by a bunch of relative unknowns has some degree of a following, enough of a following to validate it’s physical existence. 

The Muppets once sang that “If just one person believes in you…” and now more than ever that song rings true. One person on the Kickstarter staff believed in us enough to make The Annual their Project of the Day. Every person who gave whatever amount, and every person who didn’t but just as easily spread the word around. The Annual wouldn’t exist without these people and I am immensely thankful for these people. People who believe in comedy and laughter. This is starting to get sappy, but I owe that to the donors right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to work uncovering Obama’s college transcripts and passport information, as promised. 

Happy Birthday Woody, Sarah, Richard, and anyone else celebrating a birthday today!

Kevin Cole: Woody Allen is 77!?