Charles Dickens’ holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” was first published on this day in 1843. We celebrate the story’s 168th birthday today! Dickens wrote the book during the early Victorian era when England was experiencing a renewed interest in forgotten Christmas traditions and when new traditions such as the Christmas tree and Christmas cards were starting to gain popularity. The story was an immediate success and has never been out of print since it was first published so many years ago. It’s also been adapted to the stage, film, opera and a whole host of other media, including this condensed, customizable eCard version courtesy of the folks at JibJab. Read the rest of this entry »
Category Archives: Comedy
Seventy-eight years ago today, prohibition, the national ban on the sale, production and transportation of alcohol that was in place from 1920 to 1933, was repealed. Thus making today “Repeal Day.” Over the last few years we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in this very interesting time in American history. Speakeasy-style bars, classic cocktails with hand-cut ice cubes and the popularity of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire are all evidence of this trend. I have to admit, it’s hard to resist the romanticism of getting dressed up, going to a dimly-lit, subterranean gin joint and knocking back a sazerac while vintage jazz plays in the background.
Prohibition, obviously had some negative effects on American culture: organized crime grew rapidly as mafia groups got into the bootlegging business; the economy suffered as government funds were allocated to enforce prohibition; and it virtually destroyed the fledgling U.S. wine industry as lower quality grape vines with thick-skinned grapes that could be transported more easily replaced quality grape vines causing many winemakers to leave the United States for other wine producing countries or to get out of the wine business altogether. Also, ironically, alcohol-related deaths soared as Americans drank more than they ever had before prohibition. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomorrow, October 25th, is Pablo Picasso‘s 130th birthday. As most of you surely know, Picasso was a Spanish painter who co-founded the Cubist movement in the early part of the 20th Century. His full name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, a name that pays homage to various saints and relatives and is quite challenging to say in one breath.
From an early age he had an interest in drawing. His father, Don José Ruiz y Blasco, was a painter who specialized in painting naturalistic portraits of birds and other game who felt that formal artistic training was important. So, from the age of seven, Pablo’s father trained him in figure drawing and oil painting. One popular story says that Picasso’s father discovered his son painting over his unfinished sketch of a pigeon at the age of thirteen and declared that his son had already surpassed him as an artist, whereupon he vowed to give up painting forever. When he was 16, his father enrolled him in the Royal Academy of San Fernando, Spain’s foremost art academy, but young Picasso disliked formal training and quit attending classes. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomorrow is legendary comedian/social critic Lenny Bruce‘s birthday. Had Bruce not died in 1966 of “acute morphine poisoning caused by accidental overdose” in his home in the Hollywood Hills, he would be celebrating his 86th birthday. Despite his success, Bruce led a tortured life and he used comedy as an outlet for his frustrations with, not only his personal life, but with American culture in general.
He had good reason to be frustrated, his performances often ended with him being taken away in handcuffs by police officers who deemed his comedic style obscene and offensive. Social criticism and obscenities are commonplace amongst today’s stand-up comedians, but this is due to the pioneering work of Lenny Bruce and the multiple injustices that he was forced to endure. It’s clear when one looks at comedians before Bruce and after. Just compare Bob Hope or Bob Newhart to say Richard Pryor or George Carlin. The difference is night and day and neither Pryor or Carlin would have achieved the level of success that they did, without Lenny Bruce blazing the trail for them. He pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable and challenged his audiences to think about the world around them and essentially changed the face of stand-up for the latter half of the twentieth century. Today, tons of comedians use risqué language, outlandish behavior and controversial subject matter to drive their material. They don’t have to rely on what’s “safe” or predictable, they can push the boundaries and every one of those comedians owes something to Lenny Bruce. Read the rest of this entry »
I grew up in the Las Vegas punk scene, and I don’t like being told what to do. My name is Bryan Bruner, and I am, among other things, a stand-up comedian. For the past year I have been producing shows with room-mates and friends everywhere we could, as long as they were nowhere near 1) a comedy club or 2) any type of bar.
Do it yourself.
When I was 17 years old I fell in love with punk rock. I bought a guitar and before I knew it, I was in a band called The Kickball Champs. We were sh**, but we had a PA, a rehearsal space and a gas generator, and that will get you booked anywhere in the Nevada desert. We were lost when it came to harmony, melody and rhythm, but we knew how to put on a show. Our gigs in drainage ditches and abandoned mine shafts drew 300-400 ragged punk-rock kids every weekend, and we had the energy and confidence to make it seem like something akin to a concert. We knew what the kids wanted. We were tapped in. Read the rest of this entry »
You may recognize Ryan Stout from his time as a go-to host on the MTV network or even more recently as a reoccurring guest on Chelsea Lately. Ryan is one of today’s hardest working stand-up comics and this week he will be headlining at the Grit City Comedy Club in Tacoma, Washington starting this Thursday, September 29 and going until Saturday, October 1. Be sure and pick up your tickets here before they’re gone!
You’ve headlined in Kirkland and Tacoma and you have played Seattle while opening for Bob Saget. Do you have any fond, bizarre or horrible memories of the Pacific Northwest?
I’ve always loved the Pacific Northwest’s ability to sit and focus on the show. It’s not a skill that people have in every part of the country, but one that my performance requires. So, I’m always thrilled to come back.
As a teenager in Northern New Mexico you trained in the great art of drinking with a German student. Did this training benefit your life on the road?
First of all, teenager is a broad term. I was 18, which is deemed adult-age. Second, I didn’t know that drinking with a German student was an art.
Drinking on the road can be a terrible trap. You can end up getting black-out drunk six days a week, for free, nine weeks in a row. These days, I might have a drink or two and call it quits. But, even that amount, every night, is 14 drinks per week. Most medical insurance providers would take “14 drinks per week” under consideration when developing a policy. Read the rest of this entry »
Ever seen a canine comedian? How about an acrobatic house cat? Well, if you live in Oceanside, California, you are in luck because Popovich Comedy Pet Theater is coming to town next week on Monday, September 26 and Tuesday, September 27 to the Star Theatre. This show is part of a tour that’s going to hit California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah. So even if you’re not in the Oceanside area, you can see them in Eureka on Wednesday, October 19 and Thursday, October 20 at the Eureka Theater and in Hoquiam, Washington on Thursday, November 3 at the 7th Street Theater. Tickets for these shows can be found here and information on all the other shows on the tour can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »
The San Francisco Bay area has become a hot bed of great comedic talent. This blog has featured comedians like Will Franken, events like the San Francisco Improv Festival and venues like the Purple Onion in the past and now we’re excited to highlight another incredible venue for live comedy.
The venue is Rhythmix Cultural Works, a beautifully renovated 150-seat theater that’s just five minutes from downtown Oakland in Alameda. They host a wide variety of events: live dance and music performances, art exhibitions and education, cultural exchange programs and even bingo. What we’ve really been noticing, however, is that they’ve been hosting top-notch comedy shows such as their monthly Rhythmix Comedy Jam and the upcoming preliminary week of the 36th Annual San Francisco Comedy Competition. Read the rest of this entry »
Are you a fan of Saturday Night Live? Or, for that matter, any of its offshoots, like 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation? This programming is made possible by a specific secret — and increasingly, not-so-secret — weapon of comedy: Improv.
Yes, improv made this exchange between Tim Meadows and Christopher Walken possible.
Speaking of Tim Meadows, he’ll be headlining the San Francisco Improv Festival with his improv trio Uncle’s Brother! Also leading this two-week Bay Area improv takeover are flash mob pioneers Improv Everywhere, who you might remember from hilarious stunts like this one: Read the rest of this entry »
Now in its sixth year, The Milwaukee Comedy Festival, which starts tomorrow, promises a wide variety of comedic styles; from stand up to sketch comedy to improv to video sketches. It’s Wisconsin’s largest comedy event and offers nine different shows over four days. Comedians from all over the country send in submissions, meaning organizers literally have to watch hundreds of videos, selectively picking only the cream of the comedic crop. Read the rest of this entry »