Mini Q+A with Iris Bahr

Iris Bahr is a critically acclaimed writer, actor, director, producer and novelist. Having starred on numerous television shows (for full credits see imdb.com) , she is best known for her recurring role as Svetlana (which she wrote and directed for Mark Cuban’s Hdnet) and her recurring role on Curb your Enthusiasm, where she plays the Orthodox Jewish Girl that gets stuck on a ski-lift with Larry David. Her critically acclaimed solo show, “DAI (enough)”, in which she plays 11 different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters, had an extended hit run Off-Broadway and won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as 2 Drama Desk and UK Stage Award nominations for Best Performance and Sound Design. She has performed DAI around the world, including at the United Nations for over 100 ambassadors and delegates. Her first solo show, “Planet America”, received an LA Weekly nomination for Outstanding Solo Show and is currently in development as a feature film. Her critically acclaimed third solo show, I LOST YOU THERE, just completed a run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Follow her!

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Tears.

Describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

Overnight gig in Connecticut, I was at a hotel where a massive Narcotics Anonymous convention was going on, which involved lots of edgy folks leaving every few minutes to smoke cigarettes.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Don’t date another comic.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”? 

It involves either walking away or Karav Maga.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Daddy issues.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Keep creating.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Give up.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Classy.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

It has definitely helped finding some light when dealing with profound loss and grief.

What single word always cracks you up?

ointment.


Iris Bahr is a critically acclaimed writer, actor, director, producer and novelist. Having starred on numerous television shows (for full credits see imdb.com) , she is best known for her recurring role as Svetlana (which she wrote and directed for Mark Cuban’s Hdnet) and her recurring role on Curb your Enthusiasm, where she plays the Orthodox Jewish Girl that gets stuck on a ski-lift with Larry David. Her critically acclaimed solo show, “DAI (enough)”, in which she plays 11 different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters, had an extended hit run Off-Broadway and won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as 2 Drama Desk and UK Stage Award nominations for Best Performance and Sound Design. She has performed DAI around the world, including at the United Nations for over 100 ambassadors and delegates. Her first solo show, “Planet America”, received an LA Weekly nomination for Outstanding Solo Show and is currently in development as a feature film. Her critically acclaimed third solo show, I LOST YOU THERE, just completed a run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Follow her!

How to write a funny tweet

Real talk. You want to be funny on Twitter. But how do you do it? Back when we first wrote about how to write a funny tweet, we had only 140 characters. Now that we have twice as many to play with (!), so we thought we’d double the number of articles on this topic, too!

 

Being funny on Twitter is very similar to being funny IRL. Twitter is a terrific place to: See what resonates with an audience, find YOUR audience, get practice writing jokes. You may find that if a joke lands well on Twitter, it will also land well in your standup set or in your script. And. That. Is. #UsefuLInformationForYouToKnow

 

In your phone, keep a notebook page dedicated to funny tweets. You can even title the page “FUNNY TWEETS.” My page is called TWEETS, IDEAS, SKETCHES because I abhor labels and I like to keep it open as to what my random musings will turn into.

 

On that page, you can digitally scribble every passing observation that strikes you. The note you take down doesn’t have to be funny. Just write what grabs you as truthful or piques your interest.

 

At this point, your thought is a lumpy piece of dough. Before you can share it with the world, you will get out your rolling pin, shape that baby up,  and then put it in the oven. (I haven’t baked bread since Girl Scouts, but probably that’s roughly the sequence of events?)

  1. The Dough: A thought that makes you laugh and feels truthful, even in its lumpy form.
  2. The Rolling Pin: Give it a set up and a punchline.
  3. The oven: Put some hashtags on it so it becomes part of a larger conversation.
  4. Feed bread to strangers on the internet: See how people respond. If people reply to you, that may be an opportunity to add tags to your initial joke! You know you’ve made a fun tweet when other members of the Twitterverse dive in and play with you.

Okay, so that’s how you get inspired. But what form will your tweet take? Here are a few genres of tweet that may slay:

  • Internal monologues, especially when written like a script:

  • Comparisons (again, this is really good show vs. tell):

  • Comparisons (again, this is really good show vs. tell):

  • Captions: Some photos just beg for elaboration.

  • Honest, sardonic, sad, socially responsive tweets, such as the constant gifts that Aparna Nancherla bestows upon the Twitterverse. I don’t know what to call the “genre” here, so I’m making Aparna her own genre. Read her tweets and you will see why.

 

Since I’ve got you here, let’s talk about how to structure a Twitter joke. The additional characters mean that you can express yourself more naturally, without resorting to letter-words (u c what i mean?) and awkward abbreviations. Say it out loud a couple of times before you tweet it to make sure the reader can hear your voice, as if you were performing the tweet live.

 

You don’t have italics, but you can convey timing and expression with all-caps, some-caps, and no-caps, as well as with too much or too little punctuation. Voilá, all-caps as a stand-in for yelling:

And lack of punctuation to indicate utter resignation:

Sometimes it’s funnier — I can’t explain why — to just dispense with punctuation altogether, or to just not really end a sentence because you ran out of craps

Hashtags are another modern-day form of punctuation you can play with. Feeling the urge to tweet, but not the inspiration? You don’t have to come to Twitter with a brilliant idea. You can roll up to it with a wide-open, blank brain. See what news events and hashtags are trending, and treat that as a brainstorm extravaganza!

For instance, as I write this, #NationalBowtieDay is trending, which reminds me of my friend’s dad, who always wears bowties. He is a classy gent. That, in turn, reminds me of how people have stopped having manners and being classy. Makes me think of…. Okay…. Here is the lumpy dough version of my future tweet:

Bowties are about class and a type of man* who is rare in this day and age.

That feels truthful to me, but it’s kind of a lumpy thought. I need to knead it. Here’s the rolling-pin version, as I attempt to give it a set-up and punchline.

I dedicate this #NationalBowtieDay to the men out there who know themselves well enough to say, Hey. I’m just gonna spill ketchup on a tie anyway, so why not upgrade to a bowtie? To thine own self be true, gentlemen.

So I took the idea of respecting a man in a bowtie and asked myself, why do I respect this person? Well, maybe it’s because he’s a dork, and he knows he’s a dork, and he keeps it real with himself.

But this tweet is not ready for the oven yet. It needs to be shorter. Trying again:

I dedicate this #NationalBowtieDay to the men out there who spilled ketchup on their ties so often that they just. stopped. wearing them. Knowledge is power, gentlemen. To thine own selves, be true.

Okay! I like that! It keeps my initial idea of “classiness” intact by including old timey sayings like “knowledge is power” and my amended Shakespeare quote: “To thine own self, be true.” It honors the initial germ of the thought that men who wear bowties are kind of going against the grain and being a little subversive by not wearing ties, yet still managing to be old-fashioned and more classy than the times require.

I put a couple of periods in there (“just. stopped. wearing”) because I want you to hear how I would read it aloud. Now that I’ve put my tweet in the oven and shared it with the strangers of the Twitterverse to see how they receive it! If I get some funny gifs back, I will definitely retweet them because I am obsessed with a well-placed gif.

Here’s the tweet I made just for you! See how it fares! Twitter is live theater, folks, so I make no promises:

Your turn! Tweet your funny-ified thoughts to the world and mention us, @goldcomedy, so we can share in the fun you are creating!

*Womyn and genderfluid folx also wear bowties. Sometimes they wear the BEST bowties. For the purposes of my tweet, I am focusing on the traveling-salesman image of an old-timey gent in a bowtie.


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and performer. She can be seen on Netflix in the acclaimed series “Explained” and has hosted HQ Trivia live in front of millions of players internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter @emmatbomb on Instagram

How-To Start Your Own Comedy YouTube Channel

Picture it. The date: Spring, 2015. The challenge: Fresh off a firing, I told myself to do something I enjoyed, even if it was not for money. The result: I launched “Stay Golden,” a YouTube channel of weekly original videos inspired by The Golden Girls. We’re talking mashups, interviews, rankings, lists and original scripted comedy (and more).

In the three years since that first video, I’ve produced over 90 videos, gained over 9,200 subscribers, started turning a profit, became a certified YouTube content creator, branched out to hosting Golden Girls Bingo in NYC, and got paying creative work. All of this came out of the channel that I still run today.

 

YouTube is a valuable platform for comedians at every stage in their career and should be in your creative arsenal. From showcasing your gigs to making your own content, YouTube will be a spotlight on all things you! With no money down, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on how to launch your channel in an hour or less. These are the basics to get rolling on YouTube.

 

What Kind Of Channel Do You Want To Be?: YouTube channels, like movies, tend to fall into categories. Stay Golden is a combination of comedy, entertainment, and vlogging inspired by the show. I make videos ranking every episode, mashups where “The Golden Girls” meet shows like “Game of Thrones,” and one epic five-hour loop of Dorothy Zbornak screaming “Condoms, Rose!”

 

The idea of a channel is to showcase your funny, your way. You could do comedic monologues, write and star in sketches on trending topics, develop a full-on web series based on your own life, or use the channel to upload videos of your live performances. And there’s so much more!

 

You can be one of these things or all of these things. The key here is to have a clear vision, at launch, of what you want to do that makes you feel confident and excited for your new channel.

 

Setting Up Your Channel: We can get this done in under five minutes.

 

  • Already have a gmail account? Congratulations, you are 50% done with this part already. Log into YouTube using your gmail address. Visit your account settings to change the name of your channel.
  • Don’t have a gmail, or want to make a new one for your channel? Go to YouTube.com and click “create new account.” Fill out all required information. Your email is not your channel name; the “first and last” name fields make up your YouTube handle.

 

The key here is your channel name as a part of the setup. If the channel is about you, whether it is vlogs or videos of performances, consider making it your name. If it is sketches, scripted shows, or other comedy, make it your show’s name. Pro tip: Be sure to search the name in YouTube first to see if its already in use. If you need to change it, you can do this anytime in Google+.

 

Channel Art: These will be the first two images viewers associate with your channel. There is your banner and thumbnail. Think of these two items as your visual business card. They work together to tell the story of you and your channel.

 

  • Thumbnail: Also known as your logo. When thinking about your channel, what is the image that comes to mind? “Stay Golden” uses our name and a picture of a slice of cheesecake. If the channel is all your stand-up material, use your face as the thumbnail.
  • Banner: I talk about Golden Girls all day. My banner is their faces with information about my show. Banners are larger than thumbnails and take up the top of the channel page. Use bold colors and uncluttered images to catch viewer’s eyes. Relate it to what you do. And keep it simple. If your comedy is all about kittens, don’t put your dogs in there too. It doesn’t make sense.

 

Remember more than half of viewers watch YouTube on their phone. Your art needs to be clear enough to look good on smaller devices. Pro tip: You can use free services like canva.com or snappa.com to make these graphics in a snap. They come with drag-and-drop templates, fonts, and styles.

Uploading Your Videos: Whether it is original content or a recording from your last five-minute standup set, the process is the same. After clicking the camera icon in the top right corner to upload your video and hit these four hot spots:

 

  • Video Title: You have to call it something. No video will ever get published on YouTube without one. Titles range from the silly to the straightforward. I like to number my videos so viewers know there are more out there to watch. Pro tip: Keep titles under 70 characters so they show up in searches without getting cut off.
  • Description: This is your area to chat it up! Tell people what the video is about. Plaster it with all your social media links and your website; tell people where they can find your next show.
  • Tags: These are search keywords related to this video and your channel. They help you show up in searches. Fun Fact: Don’t add too many tags a single video. If a video has more than 15 hashtags, it may get automatically left out or searches. We don’t want that.
  • End Screens: People are loving your videos. Laughing it up. Wanting more! Use end screens to give them what they want: More of your awesome content! End screens link directly to your other videos and encourage viewers to subscribe.

Promotion: Launching a channel will expose you to a brand-new audience you might not otherwise be in front of. To broaden your exposure, you should promote your channel across other social media platforms. Share your links on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (if you’re on them). Don’t overlook other options like Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and Reddit. For example, I post every new video in the Golden Girls subreddit and get tons of views. Pro tip: Remind people to subscribe to your channel whenever you link to it.

 

Why YouTube Is Important: Comedy is a hustle. I am constantly submitting to shows, pitching producers and trying to get writing published. Let’s be real. It can often leave you feel lonely, stranded, and rejected.

 

With Stay Golden, I don’t have to wait for acceptance. If I have an idea, I make it. YouTube means creating without permission. You don’t have to be booked to tell jokes or commissioned for a sketch. You set up a camera or your phone, do your thing, upload it, and make your own audience. You take control and power of your voice by making your own opportunities.

 

Stay Golden has over 1 million views, 99% coming from total strangers. I think about the shows where I’ve performed for an audience of nine people or how hard it can be to get friends to come out for a show on Tuesday at 11 pm. YouTube breaks down the barriers of time, location, and space.


Courtney Antonioli is a performer and storyteller living in NYC. She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. She hosts monthly Golden Girls Bingo at QED and does too many Tough Mudders. You can find her at @stolafprod.

How to collaborate in comedy with literally anyone ever

Sure, I do solo comedy. But I’ve been collaborating in one form or another for the majority of my life: sketch, improv, choreography, directing, producing, and working in writers’ rooms. I like both ways of working, and I think the best thing you can do for yourself is know how to do either one.

 

Finding a great writing partner, producing partner, or any other sort of comedy collaborator is a worthy goal. Working with someone else can make your creative life so much richer.

 

It can also make it a lot more complicated because now, instead of only navigating your own hang-ups, craziness, bad moods and assorted mishegas, you’ve also got someone else’s to contend with.

 

Add to that, there’s no playbook for a working relationship with your funny friends.

 

So I’ve written a little primer for you, replete with tips and tricks to remember as you bring collaborators into your (previously solo) process—and alphabetized for maximum adorableness.

Always encourage your collaborators and let them know when they’re doing a good job.

Between you and me” — Or maybe not. Gossip is toxic and will always come back to haunt you.

Constantly check in on deadlines to make sure that your partner knows what is due, when.

Deadlines are the only way. Create them for yourself. Little ones and big ones all along your path.

Everyone you meet is a potential collaborator. Treat people with respect (until they really blow it and then GTFO).

Forgive small mistakes. We are all learning. Learn and move forward and help your collaborators to do the same.

Give all of yourself to your projects or don’t bother doing them. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Have fun working together with your friends. When it stops being fun, notice — and make changes.

It’s okay to put yourself first. Make sure that you are not giving too much and getting nothing back. This should be an equal exchange.

Just say no to people who make you feel like garbage. You don’t need a collaborator who belittles you. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Kick butt. Celebrate. Relax. Repeat.

Lone writing is not a bad thing. It’s great to take a break from collaborators sometimes and do it all on your own. You’ll learn a lot. See which way you prefer.

Make friends with people whose energy and work ethic you admire. Talent is nice, but over time, work ethic and positive energy will take you further. Seek out people who are talented and have an indefatigable spirit.

Nobody knows you better than yourself. Speak up about your needs creatively, financially, and in terms of time management. Don’t let alpha personalities silence you, and don’t step on the voices of others either.

Open yourself up to your writing partner’s ideas. Accept notes. They will make your work better.

Put yourself in the shoes of your collaborator. How is s/he seeing this situation?

Quality over quantity when it comes to rehearsal and writing time. You can get a lot done in a short, focused period of time and surprisingly little done when you’re unfocused or your team is too chatty to do any writing.

Read. It makes you a better writer.

Stop comparing yourself to your collaborators. Their strengths complete your weaknesses and vice versa. You had the good sense to work with them, and that’s a skill unto itself.

Take care of your body. Don’t rehearse and write till all hours of the night. Sleep makes you more awake and therefore more talented and more FANCY.

Untangle complicated social problems as soon as you can. Don’t let bad energy fester in your group. Talk it out and get rid of it. Put the work first.

Vent your grievances to your journal or practice role-playing with another trusted friend before having a difficult conversation to your collaborator. Words matter.

Wait until the show is over to celebrate. It’s not over till it’s over. Stay focused. Eyes on the prize.

Xerox your scripts well before your rehearsal so that everyone has copies and you’re not scrambling for a Staples. By Xerox, I mean print. (Work with me here, people. X is a tough one.)

You are always learning, even though you’re already a superstar. Stay humble.

Zip Zap Zop is still a fantastic warm up for your sketch or improv group. Don’t knock it. You’ll never outgrow a game that’s all about focus.

And those are the ABC’s of Collaboration!

Tell us: Do any of these tips remind you of a good story? Let us know (keeping people anonymous, though. See the Gossip note above….) Failure and success stories welcomed!


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million players internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram


Tips from a teen: 7 pieces of PURE GOLD ADVICE for teen comics, by teen comics

Being young comes with its own set of challenges. Waiters ask you if you want kids’ menus, you get carded at R-rated movies, and parents just don’t understand. While these situations are frustrating, they also have their upsides (chicken nuggets for dinner, anyone?). And in comedy, where so many things are upside down, that frustratingly unusual perspective is a huge asset for teen comics.

 

Because it’s true. Adults don’t understand — which means kids like us have the comedic chance to explain it all. A lot of our favorite comedians started their careers in their teens, like Tiffany Haddish and Josie Long. And lots of teens are starting out in comedy right now!

 

But howww? I hear you. Well, what do I know? I’m just a teen standup comedian. Here’s how I see it.

 

Get inspired by a role model…

Teen comic and Inspiring Person™ Avery Lender says that her favorite comics are the ones who manage to be funny in ways that she’s not- comics like Dave Chappelle and Donald Glover, who are opposite from her style, but funny nonetheless. However, she loves female comedians best. Mindy Kaling, in particular, is a role model–she is a writer with her own tv show, her own book AND she was on The Office…talk about #goals! Female writers in particular help Avery see how to construct a joke and bring her own personal spin on it. And finding your own mentors will help you, too.

…or, better yet, a mentor

First thing you need is a doorway into that crazy world of comedy. Now more than ever, teens are helping teens get into comedy and slowly taking over, one millennial-run industry at a time! Just kidding. Sort of. Teens are helping each other out: they are even writing books on it, like Young, Funny, and Unbalanced, the book from the Kids ‘N Comedy team. If you don’t want to commit to a whole book about it, check out their blog!

 

Don’t “find” the time … MAKE the time

Finding time to do just about any extracurricular activity is hard. Comics, especially teens, have to be extra dedicated to squeeze it in between sports, college applications, and homework. We don’t recommend it, but Alyssa Stonoha says she even used to do her homework “like, in between classes.” Not great for grades, but potentially great for comedy!

 

Figure out what builds your confidence. Then do that. A lot.

Even if it’s just making your mom laugh, like Avery Lender, finding something that makes you feel funny is a great confidence boost. And that boost will keep you going when things get challenging. We comedians, in particular, are our own biggest critics. Even Mindy Project legend Chris Messina says he doesn’t find himself “particularly funny.” So spend time filling that emotional bucket with self-confidence so you’ll have it when the well runs dry.

 

Negotiate late night gigs with your parents (or find daytime ones). As a certified teen, you probably aren’t allowed in bars yet. Don’t despair! There are other options. Weekends are great, and so are comedy clubs who allow teens to perform (like the Broadway Comedy Club). Also, remember that mentor we mentioned earlier? Introduce this person to your parents. Even if she’s not old enough to be a chaperone, you can invoke the safety of the good old buddy system.

 

Remember who runs the world. But we don’t run comedy … yet. YET.

Being the ‘token girl’ in comedy can be hard. Even Avery says that she doesn’t “think girls are encouraged at all to be funny.” The important thing in comedy, like in life, is to remember to ignore anyone telling you you can’t do it. Sexism can look like a lot of different things, from the classic “women aren’t funny” to eye-rollingly stupid catcalls to even backhanded compliments from other women (see: “you’re so brave to do that” and “I love how you don’t care what anyone else thinks”). When in doubt, gird your emotional loins and prove ‘em wrong. Nevertheless, PERSIST!

 

Write what you know…carefully.
If your comedy is based in your personal life, be aware of how it might affect anyone you talk about. Being funny and being mean aren’t (necessarily) the same. If your jokes are about things like “peanuts and lizards and sexual harassment,” like teen-comic-turned-adult Alyssa Stonoha, keep private things private, or at least change the names to protect the innocent.

Love it!
No one ever said comedy was easy. Remember that you have plenty of funny years ahead of you. Not getting a laugh won’t kill you — but losing your passion might. Stay funny, ladies!

 


 

Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. She is currently a student of Competitive Swordplay (member of Fairfield High School Fencing Team.) She is also an alumna of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series!

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How To Get A Job As A Digital Producer

…with Ana Breton, digital producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. 

Ana has 7+ years of working in film production. She was a camera operator for the movie “In Football We Trust,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. On the side, you can find her working on comedy videos with The Box, the all-female comedy talk show at The People’s Improv Theatre. She was a member of UCB’s Digital Team The Council and the all-female Digital Team LASH. She was born in Mexico City, speaks Spanish & really likes tacos. Follow her!


What’s your job/job title?

Digital Producer at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Did you always want to do this job? 

Digital producing is a fairly new job in television. I didn’t always know it existed, but I was interested in all the things it encompasses: producing videos, contributing to our social media accounts, building our show’s website, making a lot of behind the scenes content. I love letting people peek behind the curtain of the show.

What do you love most about your job? 

I love watching our show live! There’s a very special energy in the studio on Wednesdays.

What skills are most important to have for your job? 

Being versatile! In one day I could: produce a full video, take photos for the show, and/or contribute tweets for our show’s account. You never know what you’ll be doing that morning!

Are those skills that can be developed in other jobs, even outside of comedy?

Absolutely! There’s no school or major that teaches you how to produce online content. You learn bits and pieces from other jobs and experiences, and for me, it all came together here.

What are the challenges in your job related to your being outside the straight-white-dude norm? 

TV and film continue to be run by mostly white men. I feel lucky to work in a diverse environment, but even then your voice can be drowned out sometimes. My advice: Be confident in your point of view, and make sure it’s heard. If we want to change the media landscape, we have to continue to chip until we’re seen and heard.

What is the most important thing a teen or young job-seeker can do if she wants YOUR JOB? Well, not YOUR job, but a job just like yours. 

If you want to work at a political late night show, read up on politics and brush up on joke writing. Reach out to people you’re a fan of; you’d be surprised how many would be interested in mentoring you. Find internships or production assistant gigs, and most important, never give up!

What is most challenging about your job?

Because our show is a political late night show, we are constantly hyper-aware of what’s happening in politics. That can be exhausting. It’s important to take breaks from the news cycle some days!


Ana Breton is currently a Digital Producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  Ana has 7+ years of working in film production. She was a camera operator for the movie “In Football We Trust,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. On the side, you can find her working on comedy videos with The Box, the all-female comedy talk show at The People’s Improv Theatre. She was a member of UCB’s Digital Team The Council and the all-female Digital Team LASH. She was born in Mexico City, speaks Spanish & really likes tacos. Follow her!

 

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5 kinds of funny songs you should write

I love performing comedy. I’m actress and a singer with a little theater, guitar-playing, and poetry, plus a crum-ton of television-watching in me. I love scripts, words, rhythms and rhymes. But I never saw myself as a standup. Problem was, when I started thinking about performing, the types of comedies being produced and cast by other people usually left something to be desired: Parts for women.  Or—and this is the most important—parts for me.

 

I decided I could wait around until somebody producing a funny project needed my exact type to fill out their cast, or I could take control and write some material I could bring with me anywhere I could bring my guitar. The first comedy song I ever wrote was a parody of ‘90s singer-songwriters called “Jewel’s Got My Gig,” and I started to be asked to perform it at friends’ variety evenings or as a pre-show to events.

 

I got asked a lot. People started commissioning me, I developed sets, and soon I realized that music is a glorious way to open the door to the world of comedy. Whether it’s a room full of toe-tapping club patrons, or thousands of video views, music can connect with people over and over again. Honestly, I don’t think I could do regular standup. My version of standup is funny music.  

So if you like to sing, laugh, and write your own material, here are five categories of funny songs to try.

1. Parody songs

A parody song generally takes the existing melody and style of a popular song, and changes the lyrics in an unexpected and hilarious direction. You’ve probably already written one without knowing it, when you substituted your younger brother’s name in a lyric, or put your favorite inside joke into your school’s fight song. Pick a song lyric and think of a funny way to change it; watch a bunch of Weird Al (the parody master) videos, and let your comedy pen fly.

 

My favorites:  

“Weird” Al  Yankovic, “Amish Paradise” 

 

Jimmy Fallon and Paul McCartney, “Yesterday” (Scrambled Eggs)

 

2. Story songs

Folk songs have been telling stories for literally ever. Societies evolve by oral traditions, and songs are remembered by both the performer and the audience. In the ’60s, the form evolved with pieces like Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”; now, concept albums from artists like Eminem and Beyonce take the idea of telling stories to a new stratosphere. Why don’t you start by spinning a yarn (with a beginning, middle and end) and seeing where the rhymes and rhythms lie? Imagine your rapt audience at a campfire or a rap battle—as long as they want to know what happens next, you’re telling a story.

 

My Favorites:

Tenacious D, “Tribute”

 

Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra, “Girl From the Renaissance Faire”

3. Character-based songs

Some funny songs are funny not because of the lyrics themselves, but because of who or what is singing them. If you have a character you like to play, think about a funny situation they might find themselves in, and a what they might say in that situation. The narrator of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” is a kid who can’t say her S’s, and that’s all it takes to make the whole song charming. Pick your funniest character and let ’em sing!

 

My Favorites (okay, one of them is me!): 

Joanna Parson, “Subway Musician”

 

Rachel Bloom, “Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song” 

4. Inappropriate love song

The world can never have enough love songs, and a great way to put a twist on an old impulse is to write a love song that gives your audience a little shock. When Chance the Rapper, Kenan Thompson, and Chris Redd start singing “Come Back, Barack,” we’ve been prepped for a romantic R&B ballad — we don’t expect them to beg the President to come back to the White House. But we love it when it happens. Who or what do you adore so much, you could just burst into song?

 

My Favorites:

SNL, “Come Back, Barack”

 

Sir Mix-a-lot, “Baby Got Back”

5. “Rant” song

Okay, so you have a problem; something that drives you crazy, that you could go on and on about. That can make people uncomfortable in real life. But chances are , when you put it to melody — or even talk OVER a melody — people will be charmed. Or they may be open to a new opinion (like Lauren Mayer’s thoughts on sexual harassment prevention: ). If we learned anything from Lili Taylor’s character in “Say Anything,” it’s this: complain in musical form and you’ll at least triple the number of people willing to listen.

 

My Favorites:

Scrubs (TV show), “The Rant Song”

 

Rob Paravonian, “Pachelbel Rant”

 


Joanna Parson is an actress, musician and writer who has been performing in the New York comedy and storytelling world for a bunch of delightful years. Her songs have been heard on public radio and at comedy clubs like Caroline’s, Gotham, and LA’s Comedy Store, and through her Lady Band shout-outs: @ladybandnyc. TV: Red Oaks, Law and Order: SVU. www.joannaparson.com  Follow her: @jtparson


 

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10 funny over 45: Female comedians making good TV great

I’ve been performing comedy, doing storytelling, and writing since 2007. Back then, I couldn’t find anyone else in what felt like a 100-mile radius who did what I wanted to do.

 

This was, at first, a huge challenge. It was like I knew what funny was — I could point it out of a lineup — but somehow, with no Gold Comedy to guide me, I couldn’t quite get there. So what did I do?

I turned to my most reliable, oldest, available friend: Television. This was my visual learning library. I could study women comedians crushing it every week to help my own work get better. Ten years later, I still do, and I notice that I gravitate towards shows with female comedians over 45. I chose eight who make up a master class in a variety of comedic styles to serve as virtual mentors to comedians at any stage in their careers.

 

Here they are, in no particular order — because each is amazing and hilarious in her own way.

 

1. Jessica Walter

Where to find her currently: Arrested Development (Netflix), Archer (Netflix)
Walter knows how to make hideously self-obsessed characters oddly irresistible. How? Through humor, of course. As matriarch Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development, she created magic with nothing but an arched eyebrow. And as the voice of the animated Malory Archer — a role she got because her agent heard they were looking for a “Jessica Walter type” — she doesn’t even have the benefit of a visible eyebrow; she just uses layers of tone, attitude, and perfect timing to create characters that are unlovable, yet unforgettable.

 

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Where to find her currently: VEEP (HBO)
While its truth universally acknowledged that Louis-Dreyfus became a comedy superstar on Seinfeld (NBC) and impressed everyone with her follow-up, The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), it wasn’t until she unleashed the foul-mouthed Selina Meyer that she embodied her true goddess status. Like Walter, Louis-Dreyfus knows how to add a dash of charm to a cauldron of awfulness and end up with funny. Her mastery of delivery and throwing her entire body into the moment means that even (or especially) the most hideous behavior — Selina abusing her staff, neglecting her daughter, even being annoyed at her own miscarriage — results only in greater and greater hilarity. She embodies “commitment to your bit.” It’s no wonder she won six consecutive Emmys for her work in this show (she has won ten in total).

 

3. Allison Janney

Where to find her currently: Mom (CBS)
Six feet tall and deadpan AF, Janney sidesteps punchlines and pratfalls; her greatest laughs emerge from her most straight-woman scenes. To learn from her humor, watch her utterly earnest execution: She never winks, never stands outside her character, never lets on that she’s playing a part. In fact, she’s often the window for the viewer. In broad comedies, she plays it pretty straight; As Tonya Harding’s abusive mom in a deftly over-the-top biopic, she brings an incandescent calm to — is this a theme? — the world’s most hideous stage mom, which is why the role brought her a Golden Globe nod.

 

4. Donna Lynne Champlin

Where to find her currently: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Rachel Bloom is the big story of this show — she took her “one-woman-sketch-comedy” schtick from YouTube to TV’s favorite dark-musical-sitcom (okay, TV’s only dark-musical-sitcom), but I’d like to make a case for Donna Lynn Champlin as Paula Proctor. Champlin brings the funniness to a show that is often dealing with non-traditional comedic themes, like mental health issues, alcoholism, and codependency. Champlin finds the beats inside some pretty gallows humor — pushing her friend Rebecca to continue obsessing over her ex while ignoring her own deteriorating home life out of fear that Rebecca will no longer need her if she stops pursuing the ex. Champlin provides the opportunity to look nonjudgmentally at complex issues that are allowed to come from someplace real, even if that is a sad place.

 

5. Catherine O’Hara

Where to find her currently: Schitt’s Creek (Pop, Netflix)
Younger audiences may be finding Catherine O’Hara for the first time in her film work, but you should be looking her up on Schitt’s Creek as Moira Rose. A former minor TV star who married into fantastic wealth, Moira finds herself falling on hard times. She is spoiled snob who is out of touch with what she calls “real people”. Audiences should hate Moira, yet O’Hara makes her endearing and funny. How? By building a full world for Moira through details and character logic. Even when logic is absurd (and it is), like saying her town should pay for after-school care because manicurists can put on the wrong colour and make you late, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. O’Hara has built context for Moira. From her wall of wigs to her inability to do simple tasks like cooking or “fixing a wobbly chair,” there is a life for this woman that extends beyond the 30-minute runtime. O’Hara shows that building context builds character.

6. Dale Soules

Where to find her currently: Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Supporting actress can sometimes feel overshadowed by their leading counterparts. Some would argue that means the supporting cast get to play the better roles, like Dale Soules as Frieda Berlin in OITNB. Frieda is a quiet, deadly presence, one of the “golden girls” backing up Kate Mulgrew’s Red; on the rare occasions that she speaks, she reveals truly terrifying breadth of knowledge about … truly terrifying things. Soules, like O’Hara, roots her character in a distinct perspective that carries her throughout the series. When Frieda explains “murder math” — would you rather dig one six-foot hole or six one-foot holes? — she does so plainly. Soules centers her humor in blunt delivery, without needing exaggeration or physical addition (though the neck tattoo is a vivid touch). It is a simple question, right? Soule’s humor is subtle. Like Allison Janney, her delivery is deadpan and understated.

 

7. Tracee Ellis Ross

Where to find her currently: Black-ish (ABC)

On Black-ish, Ross plays a mother of five with a demanding career as an anaesthesiologist handling social and cultural challenges like the election, racism, and LGBTQ issues. That massive framework sits inside the 30-minute, single-camera structure. Being on a traditional primetime television comedy means Ross has to be quick, with tight delivery and intention. There is not room for asides or extemporaneous additions. Like when her character, Rainbow, finds out her son is a Republican, she has to convey a lot of comedy and emotion in the hot-second reaction shot. Ross generates confusion, surprise, sadness, and shock in that hot second by using all available tools — body language, gestures, expressions, and voice. It’s no wonder she’s running up the trophies!

 

8. The Ladies of Lady Dynamite (Netflix)

Where to find them currently: Lady Dynamite (Netflix) (duh)
Lady Dynamite is a show filled with amazing female comedians. Before playing Dagmar on the hit series, Bridgett Everett toured with comedy festivals around the globe and performed a regular cabaret show at Joe’s Pub in NYC. On Lady Dynamite, she brings her big personality to the role of Dagmar, one of Maria Bamford’s terrible best friends. Meanwhile, Mary Kay Place gets to be the world’s most earnest straight person as Maria’s mother Marilyn, bringing a nicer version of her Big Love character into a completely zany environment and making her entirely believable by just reacting honestly. And Mo Collins manages to out-testosterone Ari Gold as Maria’s agent. This show is a gold mine of funny ladies over 40.

 

BONUS ROUND: Here are a list of a few women in the next handful of years that will be eligible for the list! Sutton Foster (Younger), D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Kimberly Herbert Gregory (Vice Principals), Kathryn Hahn (Transparent, I Love Dick), and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black). Watch them now so you can see it all happen.

 

Have any to add to the list? Let us know!



Courtney Antonioli is a performer and storyteller living in NYC. She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. She hosts monthly Golden Girls Bingo and does too many Tough Mudders. You can find her at @stolafprod.

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5 ways to fight stage fright: comedians’ edition

I felt my first twinge of stage fright at eight years old. I’d been performing since I was four, but it hadn’t yet occurred to me to be scared. I just knew that if I played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on my tiny violin, I’d get a chocolate bunny afterward. (My first “concert” was on Easter.)

 

But four short years later, something changed. I was playing my violin in the same local recitals, but my feelings were decidedly more intense. Now I had a visceral fear for my reputation and a burgeoning pre-pre-teen terror of looking idiotic, as well as a primal terror of being eaten for lunch by a roomful of strangers.

 

This was the beginning of real stage fright, and I feel the same way today, at 32.

 

It hasn’t stopped me from performing. I gave up the violin long ago (I was terrible, you’re welcome), but at times in my twenties I was doing five sketch comedy shows per week. I love performing, but it comes at a price. For some of us, stage fright is a lifelong scene partner.

 

I have not overcome it, but I’m learning to dance with it, “backwards and in heels,” like Ginger Rogers.

 

Here are my hard-won suggestions for performing with stage fright. I hope they help you feel more freedom onstage so you can perform with more joy!

Talk to one person

While performing, if I get too focused on the number of people in the room, I just pretend I’m talking to my best friend, Leah, because she is easy to please and will laugh heartily at even my stupidest joke. When you talk to one person in your mind, but in action you speak to a room of people, they will feel the intimacy of what you’re doing, and you will mitigate your terror of being eaten by marauding strangers. Imagine a hundred Leahs laughing at your jokes and cheering for you!

Make your goal bigger than your fear

What do you want from your audience? If you are running for class president (I hope you do!) and using your comedic chops throughout your campaign speech (I hope you do!), consider that you are persuading your audience to do something (to vote in their best interests!). Keep this goal at the front of your mind. Every time you get nervous and feel stage fright pull you under, return to the goal you set of persuading your audience. You can write the goal at the top of your notes to look back on when you’re scared. Your fear will pale in comparison to your commitment to the thing you most believe in.

 

Focus on…your feet

When I look back at my experiences of terror onstage, there’s one constant: My feet scrunch up and I forget that I am standing on a floor that is holding me. I feel instead like a floating head, cut off from air. Feel your feet planted and spread out in your shoes. Think about your feet before you get onstage, and return to your feet when fear starts to claim you.

 

Focus on…your tummy

When I experience stage fright, my lower belly stops moving altogether and my shoulders hunch. As you practice your stand-up or your song in the school play, make sure that you are thinking about your lower belly. As soon as it stops moving, you won’t be able to have any fun. Fun is very hard without breathing! As soon as your lower belly inflates, your shoulders will straighten. From that lifted, open posture, everything is possible again.

 

Practice makes…a little less stage fright

The best time to prepare for stage fright is while rehearsing. In your preparation, factor in stage fright. Create an environment similar to the one in which you’ll be performing. Make sure the above techniques are with you as you practice for the big day. The more you face your fear, the less powerful it will feel, like shining a light on the monster under your bed and finding out it’s actually that pile of mismatched socks you forgot about.

A final word

You are nervous because you care. How wonderful to be doing something, anything, that gives you butterflies! Here’s to your exciting life! For more about what stage fright is and why it happens to good people, check out this adorable animated TED talk.

 

Inspire us with your stage fright triumph stories by tweeting us @GOLDcmdy!


Emma TattenbaumFine is a comedy writer and actor who recently hosted HQ Trivia in front of nearly 400,000 people internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and
a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emmawww.emmatattenbaumfine.com @emmatbomb on Instagram


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Don’t get mad, get funny (also, get mad): How to write political jokes

When I first started standup comedy, I never meant for my title to become “Elsa Waithe, Comedian and Activist.” I didn’t set out to do political jokes or political comedy. I just wanted to get on stage and talk about the things that made me mad and the things I found weird. Come to find out that a lot of the things that made me mad were the government and social justice issues.

 

But once I started, I noticed something. After a show, people would come up to me and tell me how funny I was, but more importantly, that they never thought of a particular issue in the way I presented it. Way before trans bathroom bans were part of the national conversation, I used to joke about how difficult it was for me to simply pee in peace. Many people would tell me that they never imagined the public restroom was such a challenge. I soon came to realize that what I was doing was political comedy—or really, turning my comedy into activism. In fact, comedy and activism—or politics and jokes—are BEST FRIENDS because laughing at people is an easy and effective way to strip away their power.

 

When most people hear the word “activism,” they think protests, rallies, and marches—but activism can be defined as any activity that promotes or directs social, political, economic or environmental change designed to improve society.

 

So can that happen on a comedy stage? Of course it can!

 

The purpose of comedy is to make people laugh. The purpose of mixing comedy and activism is to get people to laugh and then … think! I like to think that a good joke about absurd differences between groups (white and Black, men and women, gay and straight and other) not only makes us laugh but makes us think about why those differences even exist in the first place. I like to say that blending comedy and activism is a good way to “add lube” to the socio/political conversation.

 

Political comedy and comedy activism are as old as time, past Shakespeare and all the way back to the ancient Greeks. We’ve all done it. The teacher is mean? You and your pals take the edge off his cruelty by mocking his weird voice. Jon Stewart and The Daily Show have spent decades holding up a mirror to American politics so we can truly see its ridiculous nature. Sam Bee, a Daily Show alum, hosts her own show, Full Frontal, which is a master class on comedy and activism. She introduces and informs her audience on the issues of the day, lets her stance be known, and then skewers idiot politicians and public figures.

 

A good joke about social ills can be an illuminating and galvanizing moment. It was an open Hollywood secret that Bill Cosby was a sexual predator, but it wasn’t until Hannibal Buress made a joke about it that over 50 women came forward to accuse Cosby. This was ultimately Cosby’s undoing. We often laugh at things that are, in some way, rooted in a painful truth; the laughter is the shovel that gets under the roots and brings that truth into the light.

 

So now, let’s learn how to write a political joke.

 

  1. Decide what grinds your gears.

You need not be a political tactician to write a political joke. You just have to be annoyed at something. Ever find yourself ranting angrily about a new bit of red tape? Or maybe upset with a seemingly incompetent Orange Gargoyle businessman turned “politician”? This is all fertile joke soil. Start with the very unfunny feeling that something makes you mad/sad/fearful of (fill in the blank politician/law).

 

  1. Take aim—at the right target.

A good political joke “punches up.” That means you want to go after the big guy with the power, not the small-fry. So if you’re writing a joke about homelessness, your target isn’t the homeless person, but rather the oppressive policies that cause homelessness. A good way to check if your are “punching up” is to ask yourself if you were part of the group/topic you’re joking about, would you feel supported by the joke, or would it leave you feeling even more powerless? And if your intent is to make someone feel bad, are you making the right person feel bad?

 

  1. Write it backwards.

Used judiciously, sarcasm is an awesome tool in the political writer’s toolbox. Good sarcasm can expose truth and ridiculousness. Think of how Stephen Colbert throws himself, without ironic detachment, into a character who’s a huge fan of the right wing. Maybe you write about how much you love Trump’s Twitter account because it make you feel smarter. Maybe you totally dig the new Nazi uniform of white polo shirts and khakis. Take that thing you hate; try to put yourself in the truth of loving it; see what happens.

 

  1. Make it personal.

Think you can do a better job than the idiots in Congress? Tell the audience how. Who would you ban instead of Muslims? Where do you think a wall should be built? Let the audience in on not just the fact of your outrage, but where it comes from, and where it can take you. Remember, you are one of many comics joking about the unjokeable in this weird world we find ourselves in. What’ll make you stand out is your unique take.

 

  1. Don’t expect a revolution.

Making a difference or changing a mind is a hard thing to gauge. So don’t go out on stage expecting to whip everyone into a frenzy, march out of the club, and storm the White House. Sometimes audiences will love your critiques, and other times your material will fall flat. Either way, stick with it. We often shy away from social and political issues because they are difficult to discuss but a good joke lowers defenses and offers a side door into challenging topics.You never know who’s listening.


ELSA WAITHE (founding instructor) is a standup comedian from Norfolk, VA now living in Brooklyn, NY. Her comedy is a mix of lighthearted jabs but critical jabs at attitudes and issues around homosexuality and race—and herself. She’s been featured on This American Life, hosted the monthly comedy show “Affirmative Laughter” at The Experiment Comedy Gallery, and performs all over New York. @elsajustelsa

 

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