Here are some recent videos I’ve been making. All except for the stand-up reel were shot with a Canon T3i and edited with iMovie and Garageband.
Bro Angeles: Taco Truck
A comedy sketch inspired by Portlandia.
I made this video using a real e-mail from work.
Glengarry Glen Ross Monologue
Here’s a monologue I’ve been doing at theatre auditions. Caution: Dramatic Language!
Stand-Up Comedy Reel
Here are some highlights from my stand-up comedy. Caution: Frank discussion of male anatomy.
Professor Damrosch and The Cinnamon Broom
I find that the best way to find comedy material is to catch things I find myself reacting to whether in conversation with others, conversations with myself, or even emails I write. I have a series of questions below to help you remember things that had an impact. I’m sure if you have an intense reaction to anything in your day you can make it funny. How? Write about it for ten minutes or talk about it for five. It might not be hilarious, but it might open the door to a few laughs. You might want to try writing and or talking about any of the below topics to yourself as well as to a friend (i.e. have a conversation or maybe even write a letter). I find the comedic voice comes out best when communicating.
- What made you angry today?
- Who was rude to you today?
- Who was nice to you today?
- Who was an asshole?
- Does bad language bother you? Why?
- Or if not, why is your mouth so filthy?
- What did you see today?
- Did you learn something new? If yes, tell the rest of us. If no, what were you doing all day?
- What would you have liked to say today that you didn’t have the chance?
- Did you start the day being excited about anything?
- Did you have any memorable conversations?
- How do you feel and why?
- Who are your enemies and how do you fight them?
- Did anybody catch your eye today?
- Did you talk to them? What did they say?
- Did you see anyone that looked really ugly? What made them ugly?
- Did you talk to yourself in the mirror today?
- Did you have any conversations that really bothered you?
- Did you have any conversations that got you so excited you couldn’t shut up?
- Describe the state of the world today in no more than three sentences.
- Who did something stupid today?
- Who did something amazing today?
- Who impressed you?
- Who disappointed you?
- What went flawlessly today?
- What ruined your day?
- What saved your day?
- Any songs stuck in your head?
- Any people stuck in your head?
- Any pieces of dialogue stuck in your head?
- Read anything that bothered you?
- Did you say “oh shit” at any point during the day? What was it in reference to?
I don’t know much about stand-up comedy, but I’ve been circling open-mics long enough to offer anyone interested some tips for beginners.
First of all, if you’re reading this. I bet you’re wondering if you should sign up for a stand-up comedy class. My advice? Don’t. Save your money for recording your first album, taking a bus to your first gig, or eating a decent meal and just go to open mics.
First of all if you don’t know what an open mic is: An open mic is a comedy show where comedians sign up and perform. Usually everyone has around five minutes. They’re usually at bars, restaurants, odd hours at comedy clubs, coffee houses, and sometimes black box theaters. Open mics can come in many flavors: open mics for comedians, open mics for poets, open mics for musicians, or a mixture of all three. Each one is run differently in terms of getting on the list to perform. Some open mics you can show up 90 minutes, an hour, or a half hour ahead of time to get on a list. Generally, the more popular an open mic, the earlier you have to arrive to sign up for a “decent” spot. Some open mics you can just email to get on the list. And there are open mics where you show up fifteen minutes early and put your name into a lottery to perform, not knowing when or even if you’ll hit the stage. Sometimes you’ll have to pay a cover charge (something like $5) to perform at an open mic, sometimes you’ll have to pay a cover charge and be required to buy a drink, sometimes you’ll just have to buy a drink (water, soda, beer–all usually around $5), and sometimes it’ll be completely free.
A note about drink prices: A lot of restaurants and bars have open mics to drum up business and the 1 drink minimum just makes it worthwhile for the establishment to have a comedy night. While the beer prices might be on the reasonable side ($4-5), if you order a soda or bottle of water don’t be surprised to also be paying $4-5. I’d advise against complaining about these high drink prices because it’s also buying stage time, it’s cheaper than a comedy class, and its the only reason the place is open to having you perform. Plus, it’s never good to be on a bartender’s bad side. I’ve never seen an argument over drink prices end well. And also, it’s general practice to tip the bartender a dollar for any drink. Hey. who knows, get in good enough with a bartender maybe he or she will let you use the space for a comedy show of your own.
New York vs. Los Angeles
In New York most of the open mics I went to charged both the cover charge and a drink. Often times part of the cover charge went to a raffle (something like 1 prize of $40 and 1 prize of $20) to keep comedians around for the whole show. I thought this worked well, but also meant each open mic could put you back $10. I also noticed the trend in New York was to email ahead of time to get on the list. Then a couple days before the show, the list would be emailed out. Most places also had a couple stand-by spots that you could sign up for right before the show, but they weren’t guarantees. This wasn’t the case for all open mics in NYC, but to me it seemed to be the trend when I was there (back in the day).
In Los Angeles, a lot of the mics tend to involve either signing up an hour (or more) ahead of time or adding your name into a lottery a half hour or fifteen minutes ahead of time. I haven’t seen that many cover charges and usually just have to buy a drink (or other item depending on the menu). I have to confess I tend to only frequent open mics at The Hollywood Hotel, just because I can take the L.A. Subway and don’t have to worry about parking (and it’s a fun place). There’s a lot more out there, so my knowledge of the L.A. scene is limited.
Where do I find a list of open mics?
Badslava.com has an extensive list of open mics for both comedians and musicians all around the country. I find the reviews to be helpful, but aren’t 100% accurate. One bad night can result in quite an animated review.
In Los Angeles, I find this site offers a helpful list of open mics: www.thecomedybureau.com although Badslava also works well for L.A.
What should I prepare for an open-mic?
You should prepare around five minutes of material. For me, I notice this generally works out to 4 or 5 bits. If you don’t know what a bit is, it’s like a group of jokes on a similar theme, funny story, impression, or brief character. Sometimes bits can be longer than five minutes, although starting out for me they usually run 1-2 minutes. Some examples of famous bits include Jeff Foxworthy’s ‘You Might Be A Redneck’ jokes, Jerry Seinfeld comparing a job interview to a blind date, or Lewis Black talking about the weather in Minnesota.
Some people like to perform their material fresh on the stage, but I’d recommend rehearsing a couple times so you won’t be at a loss for words, although you can sometimes come up with some gems when you’re speechless. Don’t worry about bringing notes or a “set list” (a list of titles of your jokes) with you onstage. At open mics, that’s allowed and very common. Although, I tend to feel more confident and perform better if I don’t bring any notes with me. I think communication skills are enhanced when retrieving information from your brain as opposed to a piece of paper.
Should I try a joke I just thought of right before I go onstage?
Yes. These are often my best jokes. That’s what open mics are for, trying new material and polishing old material.
Are there crazy people at open mics?
Yes. But take a look in the mirror. Seriously, this seems to be a big fear. But I wouldn’t sweat it. Most people go to open mics to work on performing stand-up, those who use it as therapy or an outlet for whatever storms rip apart their souls are in the minority.
Wait open mics sound like just audiences of comedians, will they laugh at me?
Comedians seem to a lot tougher than performing for an audience of “normal” people, but they will laugh. Some people think if you can make an audience of comedians laugh than you have a solid bit. But sometimes comedians laugh at things other audiences would be offended by. Each open mic audience is different. Sometimes “normal” people show up. You’ll be held in high esteem if you set relatively close to the stage and laugh at others.
How do I know when to stop talking on stage?
Usually a minute before your time is up the host will flash a light at you. In today’s day and age, the light usually comes in the form of an iPhone being waved. If you continue longer than anticipated, the host will keep waving the phone and slowly approach the stage. Since there are 20 or more people waiting to perform, it’s best to stick to the time guidelines.
What bad things can happen at an open mic?
- People will talk during your set. Don’t be offended. Remember the audience is mostly comedians, many who spend a lot of time at these things and see this as an opportunity to socialize, critique sets, or chat with the bartender. If people are talking really loud, the host usually says something. But if it doesn’t stop, it’s good practice to work on performing through a distraction.
- Nobody will laugh. It seemed funny when you rehearsed in the bathroom, what the hell happened? Be prepared to get no reaction whatsoever. If you think performing over people talking is rough, try performing over silence. It’s extremely distracting and can cause you to forget jokes, falling into a pit of stammering apologies. But, hey, at least people are paying attention. You know why people are afraid of public speaking? This is it, this is bombing. Getting used to bombing will definitely help you get over any fears of performing comedy. It might help to look at it this way, everyone at an open mic has bombed or else they wouldn’t be at an open mic. Welcome to the club. Just keep your cool, stick to your act, and the five minutes will soon be over.
- You’ll be in the bathroom when you’re name is called. Or they just skipped your name on the list. Whoops! Just quietly approach the host and politely inform them what happened. Most people will be cool with popping you back in the list.
- You’ll forget your jokes. Bring your notes onstage. Write your set list on your hand. Ask the audience questions. Sometimes there’s a reason you forgot a joke.
- The mic stand will break. This happens all the time. Just hold on to the mic and if you don’t know where to put it when you’re done, wait for the host to get to the stage. If it breaks during your set, make a joke about it or at least acknowledge it. From the audience’s perspective if something goes wrong and the person onstage doesn’t address the dilemma, the dilemma becomes more distracting.
- The mic will stop working. A lot of these old microphones have connections that are a little on the loose side. Sometimes you just need to push the wire back into the microphone. If the mic goes out and there’s no solution in sight, ask the host or anyone for help. Maybe the space is small enough for you to just project your voice. Either way, just address the problem and the audience will go along with you.
- None of the other comedians will talk to you. This might not be a bad thing. I generally have a hard time socializing at open mics and think this is a real weakness of mine. First, don’t be offended if people don’t approach you. It’s not a dance. While many comedians are never short of words on stage, some of them are quite shy off stage. If you want to connect with other comedians, be proactive: congratulate them on their sets “great set, man!” or ask them what other open mics they go to and if they have any shows coming up. Then do what I do, friend them on Facebook and never acknowledge them again. You could also bring a pal or two with you.
- You won’t know where to sign-up. It’s a safe bet you can sign up with the bartender. But otherwise just ask anybody in glasses clutching a spiral notebook.
- Everyone will leave before I get onstage. I notice this more in L.A. where the open mics tend to be longer than NYC. Some comedians will arrive shortly before their slot then leave shortly after. While others are little more generous, hardly anyone besides the host and the bartender stays for all 3 plus hours. In New York, I noticed open mics would do a cash raffle at the end of the show to keep the starving comedians in their seats. I’d say expect at least three people paying attention to you with an equal amount buzzing around during your set. Yes, many times there will be more people, but it’s a game of low expectations. If you find a good open mic you might be performing to a full house.
What should I work at an open mic?
- New material
- Polishing old material
- Getting comfortable (confident) on stage
- Keeping your cool while bombing
- Keeping your cool while being distracted
- Talking with the audience
- Being ‘present’ with your material as opposed to simply reciting it
- Socializing with other comedians
- Developing a solid 5 minute set
- Recording a video of a solid 5 minute set you could show people who book shows
Stand-Up Comedy Classes
If your still set on taking a stand-up comedy class, there are benefits but I’d say the main ones are:
- Being held to a schedule of writing material
- Networking with other students/comedians
- And depending on your teacher, learning a good technique (which may or may not be the best technique for your voice) of generating material
I saw some of President Obama’s recent roast of the Republican Party and thought he came off as a seasoned Insult Comic. Here’s my impression.
Here’s some choice segments from a standup set I tried at SuperEgo’s December 24th open mic at Broadway Comedy Club. I have deleted out for my benefit and yours my constant checking of my notes as well as other elements which may have cast me in a bad light.
I really enjoy doing standup and I think it’s one of those things that take a lot of time of actually doing it as opposed to studying how to do it. It’s such a brief art form and reliant on the audience that I I just have to do it. Over and over again. The open mics can be painful when you forget what you say or don’t get laughs but these failures–I HOPE–help me develop a thicker skin as well as a technique.
I’ve found out that I have more fun developing an “idea” of what I want to do as opposed to a script. The “idea” has to be detailed and rehearsed a few times, but I find if I try to memorize jokes, I get on stage and just recite jokes. It looks and feels stiff. if I go up there with a little bit of danger and room to breath I can “be in the moment.” I can think while I’m performing as opposed to just remembering. But this also gives me a larger chance of having nothing to say once I’m in front of people. It’s like life.
Wow, this youtube video description is really pompous.
Here are some clips of me working out some standup bits at open mics. I make fun of such sacred things as The Bible, President Obama, and Facebook.
I first started studying and performing improv comedy around 2000. There are various ways to improvise on stage, here are the main ones that come to mind: short form (sometimes called “Theatre Games”), long form (typically a 20-45 minute show based off a suggestion or two), stand-up comedy/hosting (ad libbing or riffing with a crowd), and improvising in a play when something goes wrong ( a dropped line, a misfired sound effect, scenery falling, etc.). Improv can even help you in any stressful situation. Stressful situations are worrisome because the future is unknown. Well, in improv the unknown future is used as a foundation to develop techniques to make the most of the present.
Whatever way you end up improvising, here are some techniques and tips I’ve learned and try to use (primarily onstage, but sometimes in the ‘real world’):
Agreement. Agree with whatever’s given to you by either your scene partner, uncontrollable events, or whatever it is you’re playing with. If you’re in a play and someone calls you by the wrong name you can mention that it’s your middle name, you can say you haven’t been called that in ages, etc. Audiences love when a snafu is addressed and incorporated. You can’t lose. A common way to teach the technique of agreement is “Yes and” where you say “yes” to what your partner offers you and then add to it. This is a good way to make party chit chat more amusing.
Person 1: You have a great haircut.
Person 2: Yes, thank you, I did it myself and would now like to cut your’s so we can both look amazing.
A lot of people assume you have to be negative to be funny. And there’s a lot of funny self deprecating/hyper critical comedy out there. But don’t be afraid of positive comedy, the comedy of agreement, the comedy of embracing what is present. It will be even funnier to agree with someone or something than to negate it. Negation is often frowned upon in the improv world. It can kill a scene.
Example of “negating”:
Person 1: You have a great haircut.
Person 2: I look horrible, you’re crazy. Go away.
If you’re the victim of someone negating you onstage, turn it into an agreement.
Person 1: Yo have a great haircut.
Person 2: I look horrible, you’re crazy. Go away.
Person 1: OK, let me just finish packing my suitcases. I don’y know where I’ll wind up, but you’ve always guided me well in the past.
Don’t Go Crazy/Don’t Try To Be Funny/Reacting Vs. Creating. I learned this lesson through crash and burn. In improv its easy to have funny ideas in your head that don’t go with what’s going on in the scene. It’s OK to use your ideas to start a scene or to fix a problem, but I find it’s always better to go with the flow of a scene instead of trying to overpower it with your ideas. If you think your idea fits into the scene use it, if it doesn’t–save it for another scene, another show, a comedy sketch, or an amusing email forward. For example if you’re doing a scene and you think it would be funny to just start yelling in French and making poop gestures (whatever those may be), its going to look more out of place than funny. Save it for your Fringe festival show. A good technique is just to react with what’s in the scene by listening and not worrying about generating material. You’ll be surprised at the ideas that come to you if you just listen and react. One of my favorite improv class exercises is the “Boring Scene” where two people do a scene and they can’t do anything they consider amusing. Often times, the improv coach or instructor will make a buzz sound whenever someone starts to be funny. It sounds dull, and a lot of these scenes take place at bus stations and waiting rooms, but they always come across as hilarious to me. I think because it removes the pressure of generating ideas and you just focus on reacting. This may not seem like it applies to Stand Up and Hosting style ad libbing or improv, but sometimes riffing with the audience can be as entertaining as a few bits.
Singing, Music, Dance, Movement, Mime Work. It’s easy to improvise with just two people talking. Any way you can get out of this mold is a sure fire way of amusing the audience.
Use Your Audience. Some audiences are timid, some aren’t. If your audience seems cool nothing pays off like using a suggestion they offer, dropping their names, or commenting on noises coming from the audience of theater (when someone sneezes, God Bless them, when a heating pipe starts to bang, mime calling the landlord to make a request for repair). Audiences like feeling involved.
Eye Contact. Make eye contact with your scene partner (and in some cases your audience), this will help focus. You don’t have to keep it for the whole scene but you should start a scene by making eye contact with your partner.
Names. Give your scene partners names if they don’t have one already. Likewise, in a real world situation using your conversation partner’s name is a good way to snap wandering minds to the present.
Do Stuff. If you give yourself things to do in a scene (tie shoe laces, wash dishes, any action) it will help the scene. It only works however when you don’t talk about what you’re doing. For example tie your shoe laces and talk about what a great lunch you had. Comedy!
Relationships. Keep the scenes about you and your scene partner, don’t make them about things the audience can’t see. You can add details but keep the scene about your relationship with your scene partner. Do you guys like each other? Is one of you high status? Decide these things early on but be willing to go with the flow or correct miscommunications.
Person 1: Come on sis, let’s start acting like grown-ups.
Person 2: Reginald, I am your mother, I wish you’d stop treating me like your sister. Although I did enjoy the Jelly Bracelets for my birthday.
Person1: Come on sis, let’s start acting like grown-ups.
Person 2: Whoah, this whole time I thought I was your mother, what did you put in this coffee?
Juxtapose. I think it’s always easy to get a laugh with juxtaposition. If you play against the audiences expectations you’ll probably get a laugh. Examples: I have a character Sealegs McGoo who’s an old sea captain and grumpy. As a gag, I made him the author of an advice column, so during shows he pulls out letters to read from wayward souls seeking guidance . Also, my character Chuckles The Birthday Bear–a children’s party performer– is always looking for a pack of smokes he lost.
Due to popular demand I have once again decided to offer my famous improv class.
Course: Improv Level Yes!
Prerequesites: Improv Level Zip, Improv Level Zap, Improv Level Zop (or equivalent)
Class Size: Limited to 27
Price: 300 Euros (Paypal accepted, but please add 27% to cover fees and snacks)
Instructor: Jeremiah Murphy, B.A. and 30 years old
Do you like to make people laugh? This seven and a half week class will examine the art of improv through my own perspective. Using games that involve clapping, taking off one’s shoes, slapping the floor with open palms, kindergartenesque hip-hoppery, and finger snaps, we as a class will gain confidence and comedic skill. Please dress in jeans and twice worn undershirts. Be prepared to move around under fluorescent lighting.
After this class you will be able to:
- Improvise a scene
- Form a backline
- Sweep edit
- Cook duck
- Play theatre games with less embarrassment than before
- Drive Class D Vehicles on Interstate 30
- Pay for more classes
- Eat Dairy
- Hang out at The Triple Crown
- Complain about how I talk too much in between exercises
- Expound the virtues of art
The class will culminate in a 16 minute show at my apartment for my cat.
About your instructor: JEREMIAH MURPHY traveled to Chicago once in 1999.
- Please prepare an audition monologue that describes something that happened to you or your roommate using irony and sarcasm.
- Pay the course fee.
- Join us!
- Pay for another 7 exciting levels.