Tag Archives: Comedy Central

#45 – Attend Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival

I have done pretty much everything you can think of in comedy.

I’ve toured the country with comedians, written stand-up specials, booked comedians for competition shows, written jokes for hosts, produced short films, hosted a podcast, and even gone in front of the camera.

The one thing I had never done was go to the prestigious Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival.

I’ve always wanted to go, but because I work all over the spectrum in television and not every show I work on is a comedy, no show has ever paid for me to go. And it’s super expensive to pay out of pocket.

Through luck, timing, and a recommendation, I was hired by Just For Laughs to be a set vetter for the festival.

Comedians always talk about how big Montreal is for their career, and some comics would literally kill to get in there. The same is pretty true for producers, writers, managers, and agents.

I’ve worked as a set vetter before, but in a much smaller capacity. When I worked on “America’s Got Talent” I helped comedians with their sets for auditions and tapings. I only worked with a handful at a time. In advance of Montreal I got assigned roughly 65 comedians. There was about 200 comedians in attendance at Montreal who were taping sets. I ended up working with nearly all of them.

Comedians were assigned a network they would be taping for, a set length in minutes, and a venue they’d be taping at. Each of the six networks we were filming sets for had different guidelines of standards and practices. Prior to a comedian filming a set, the comedian had a warm up set the day prior where I watched them perform their intended set to give any last minute notes. In advance of that, I worked with the comedians via phone, text, and e-mail when they provided a transcript of their intended set.

One of the venues I was set vetting at is called The Comedy Nest and it's inside the old forum where the Montreal Canadians used to play. They built a mall inside and kept center ice and some of the seats still in tact.

One of the venues I was set vetting at is called The Comedy Nest and it’s inside the old forum where the Montreal Canadians used to play. They built a mall inside and kept center ice and some of the seats still in tact.

The list of comedians I was assigned was like a Mount Rushmore of comedy living legends. Louie Anderson, Lewis Black, Bobby Slayton, Greg Proops, Tom Green, Andy Dick, Brian Posehn, Jo Koy, and many others who are just coming in to prominence like Tone Bell and Cameron Esposito.

Here is one of the amazing comedians I got to work with, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Here is one of the amazing comedians I got to work with, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

It felt weird to get assignments like Louie Anderson, Bobby Slayton, and Lewis Black because I’m 30 years old and they have been doing comedy longer than I have been alive. Guys like that could have very easily been stand-offish, but they weren’t. They were receptive and willing to work to make their comedy even better than their already crafted brilliance.

There are always some people who are difficult to deal with, and interestingly enough it was never the legends. It was the people who THINK they are legends. Fortunately the problem children were few and far between.

I arrived in Montreal on Saturday July 23rd and came back to the United States on Sunday July 31st. Each day started with a 5pm meeting with the set vetting and programming team of JFL. My first show was at either 7:30pm or 8pm with a second show at either 9:45pm or 10:30pm. Id usually wrap up vetting sets around midnight and then head to the Roast Battle viewing party or God Damn Comedy Jam show before a 1am meeting that usually lasted until 2:30am.

The God Damn Comedy Jam took place in the backroom of a church, which was an extra special touch for the show.

The God Damn Comedy Jam took place in the backroom of a church, which was an extra special touch for the show.

Before 5pm and after 2:30am I was free to do whatever I wanted, but often that involved chasing down comedians I needed to speak with about their sets.

I did manage to try poutine one time while in Montreal. Canadians love their fries. And I love their country.

I did manage to try poutine one time while in Montreal. Canadians love their fries. And I love their country.

The 1am meeting was without a doubt the highlight of my work experience in Montreal. Six of us would gather to discuss the comics we saw that night and paced each shows gala tapings for where each comedian should perform in the lineup. Order of a lineup is something the average comedy fan might not be aware of its importance. Among other things, certain comedy styles go better when placed after other styles and vice versa.

This was a lineup from just a normal warm up show at Theatre Ste. Catherine. With normal shows this stacked, the galas had a lot to live up to.

This was a lineup from just a normal warm up show at Theatre Ste. Catherine. With normal shows this stacked, the galas had a lot to live up to.

The 1am meeting was so completely opposite of a typical meeting. Ignore the fact that it was taking place at 1am, but we also conducted the meeting over drinks, and inside a room where the only thing separating us from hundreds of the biggest names in comedy and entertainment are two doors.

When Blake Griffin asks to take a picture with you at 330am you do it. Or in this case when he doesn't ask you, you still do it. Blake was hosting shows all week and was amazingly funny.

When Blake Griffin asks to take a picture with you at 330am you do it. Or in this case when he doesn’t ask you, you still do it. Blake was hosting shows all week and was amazingly funny.

Each night a comedian wandered into our conference room. Whether it was Jimmy Carr, Elon Gold, or Jessica Kirson it was a welcome distraction that added to the fun.

The thing I loved most about the festival was getting to see international comedians on a regular basis. I had never seen Jimmy Carr before, and he’s someone I have followed for a few years because he’s huge internationally.

Russell Kane is another British comedian who stole all the laughs from the festival. Getting to see someone like that whom I had never seen before was a real treat, especially when he told me that he made a point to crush it this time around after being disappointed with his showing at the festival four years prior.

And then there was comedian Dave Hughes from Australia, who I would never have been exposed to. His style of comedy really forced me to listen to his words because of his accent and how he pronounced words. I can half listen to comedians from the States and predict where the bit is going to go. With the international acts, it’s not as easy because styles from other countries are different.

The U.S. dollar is worth so much more in Canada, which came in handy when I visited the casino.

The U.S. dollar is worth so much more in Canada, which came in handy when I visited the casino.

I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing, but I did walk through Old Montreal, which has gorgeous nostalgic architecture. And as per usual when I’m in a new city I visited the casino. Beyond that, I stuck around the three-mile radius of the festival, because there was just so much going on in the immediate area.

One of the few venues I went to that wasn't a place of comedy. The Marche Bonsecour in Old Montreal.

One of the few venues I went to that wasn’t a place of comedy. The Marche Bonsecour in Old Montreal.

I didn’t have many moments of discomfort in the 8 days I was there. Comedy is my third language. Unfortunately French isn’t my first or second. I really only had a few instances of feeling awkward when someone in the city didn’t speak English and only spoke French. For the most part, everyone in Montreal speaks both languages. My most profound emotion was without a doubt pride. It felt great to be experiencing Montreal with a number of friends who were doing big things during the festival.

Watching my buddy Jamar Neighbors perform each night as part of The Wave on Roast Battle for Comedy Central was pretty dope. Seeing Jesus Trejo attend the festival as part of the 2016 New Faces group was really special. And seeing Gina Brillon perform each night as part of the Ethnic Show and work with her to tape a set for the Howie Mandel Gala filming for the CW was remarkable. Gina and I started out together nearly a decade ago back in the SiTV days when I produced a show called “Latino 101.” To think we came from doing Latino shows to working together at Montreal was a pretty epic experience.

The look on my face in this picture is pretty much how I looked the whole week, big eyed.

The look on my face in this picture is pretty much how I looked the whole week, big eyed.

I could write 10,000 more words on my experience at Montreal, but I’ll save that for another time, because other career things happened in Montreal, which I will share in future blogs. There really was a magical feeling over those eight days. I am writing this over a week after I have returned from the festival and I barely feel like I have recovered, not only because I barely slept but because it’s hard to come back to reality after non stop excitement nearly every moment I was there. Now as for those other career things that happened while at Montreal…I know, cliff hanger…

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#31 – Write End of Year Review

I could write a traditional end of the year blog, which states all my accomplishments from the past year while discussing what big things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Most writers do that and that’s not original. Plus, let’s be honest, we fuck up more than we succeed. So, below is a list of the things I am proud of and not so proud of from 2012.

I will mention, however, that I am extremely happy with where I am presently in my life. I certainly wasn’t in the same mind set last year at this time when I started this blog. My intention was to showcase my writing and creativity twice a week. I wanted to post every Monday and every Thursday. I borrowed that schedule from Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast schedule because just like Marc when he started his podcast, I was not in a good place. I couldn’t get any TV or journalism gigs and was seriously questioning what the fuck I was doing wrong after getting a quick start to my career from ages 18-24, and hitting a bit of a bump at age 25. Instead of moping around I took action. After just a couple of weeks into the new year, Men’s Fitness Magazine hired me, a comedian brought me in on a pitch at Comedy Central, and other opportunities kept piling in as I continued to post on here. I resolved that the more self-created work I put out there, the more others were willing to approach me with opportunities, because they saw I was hustling and wanted that same hustle on their team. So, Trevor and I created a sister site www.DispleasureVlog.com and a TV pilot with Bert McCracken. As a result of my busyness, this blog suffered and I was lucky if I could post once a month. I still intend to keep this thing alive, and even have plans to create another personal project that I am a bit frightened to take on in the new year.

So, if you’re in a shitty situation, my advice to you is to take action and quit bitchin. You have more control over your aspirations than you think.

In the meantime, here’s my 2012 Year in Review. First, the dumb shit I did:

Stupid Shit I Did in 2012

  • Jumped out of an airplane (I didn’t experience the rush everyone else feels, nor was I nervous, so the risk of death wasn’t worth it to me)
See how calm I look.

See how calm I look.

  • Drunkenly raw-dogged a chick (Don’t worry, ladies, I’m clean. I got checked. And don’t worry, Mom, I’m not a Father)
  • Ended a friendship with someone I produced two TV shows, and a short film with who was like an older Brother to me (Mostly his fault)
  • Lost a new friendship because of my ego, lack of communication and one drunken night (Mostly my fault)
  • Was difficult to work with on occasion (Many apologies to my producing partner Trevor)
  • Fell asleep in a Las Vegas strip club with a stripper on my lap (Being awake for 48 hours straight still was no excuse)
Went to Vegas a lot this year. I love it more with every trip.

Went to Vegas a lot this year. I love it more with every trip.

  • Went a 3 month stretch without visiting family in San Diego (That’s shameful given that I only live 1 hour 45 minutes away in Los Angeles)
Not sure why I spend so much time away from this in San Diego.

Not sure why I spend so much time away from this in San Diego.

  • Unintentionally chose work over a girl I was dating (Not the first time, and probably not the last time I’ll do that)
  • Had sex with a co-worker (Not the first time, and probably not the last time I’ll do that)

Things I’m Proud I Did in 2012

  • Jumped out of an airplane (Regardless that I didn’t feel a rush, its pretty damn cool to be able to say, “I jumped out of an airplane”)
  • Participated in a scientific experiment (My body is a freak of nature, so I’m glad I was able to help people with my shared chronic illness)
  • Trevor and I convinced Deadmau5 to shoot an impromptu video with us
  • Got a tattoo on my foot to honor my Grandpa (Don’t worry he’s still alive…as of this entry)
  • Got a job on America’s Got Talent (More than any other show I’ve worked on, this one has taught me many things, and it kept my streak alive of working on a TV show every single year I’ve been in LA)
This job has taught me so much I can't even begin to explain.

This job has taught me so much I can’t even begin to explain.

  • Gave up drinking alcohol and caffeine for the first 3 months of the year (I made up for it the following 9 months)
  • Shot a TV pilot with Bert McCracken, lead singer of The Used
  • Got my weight down to 149 pounds, the lowest in my adult life, officially losing half my body weight from its highest point at 300 pounds (I’m now probably around 160, because living at 149 just wasn’t healthy)
149 lbs looks good on me, but probably wasn't living too healthy to maintain it.

149 lbs looks good on me, but probably wasn’t living too healthy to maintain it.

  • Worked as a Writer for Men’s Fitness Magazine (What other job allows you to interview Lou Ferrigno one day and on the next day write about four different kinds of cheeses?)

http://www.mensfitness.com/training/build-muscle/how-does-lou-ferrigno-stay-so-fit

  • Was a Guest Speaker at my Alma Mater (They molded my writing ability and I got to do the same for future writers)

http://instagram.com/p/J3X-xysaKk/

  • Stopped dating a girl and actually remained friends (Never thought that was possible)
  • Pitched TV show ideas at 4 different networks, and 20 different production companies (For the first year in my career, I didn’t have to use a gimmick to bust through the front door)
  • Started this blog
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