Today on THE COMEDY PROPRIETORS we hear from BECKY YAMAMOTO, MINDY RAF and myself on what it takes to run our variety show SUPERCREAM SUPREME! and the celebration of the show’s one-year anniversary on Thursday.
Where did you grow up?
BECKY: I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in California. Otherwise known as Chinatown II. I’m just saying I grew up around a lot of Asians. I assumed the rest of the world was like this.
MINDY: Michigan. Right around (makes mitten with one hand and points with other) here.
GLENNIS: Durango, CO – the worst dressed town in America. (According to the Wall Street Journal. You know, the fashion experts.)
Was comedy in your blood at a young age?
BECKY: Yeah. I think I was a born joker. Whenever we had to do a family picture with my extended family, I’d always make a face and if the person taking the picture even paused, the family would yell, “Becky! Stop making a face!” I wasn’t always making a face, but even now they do it and I’m grown.
MINDY: Yes, though probably not intentionally early on. I do remember performing an interpretive dance to ‘she’s like the wind’ in my living room and killing it—as far as laughter goes.
GLENNIS: I got my sense of humor from my dad. He taught me every cheesy joke I know and how to make it look like you’re blowing in your thumb to lift your hat off your head. I’ll show you guys what I mean on Thursday…
How long have you considered yourself a performer?
BECKY: I guess 8 years or something. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when.
MINDY: Always, can’t remember not thinking of myself as a performer.
GLENNIS: I guess when I got cast in my first show in the Durango Community Theatre I really considered myself a performer. It was Annie. I was Ophan #12 but that show gave me a real ‘tude.
What was your first performance like? Where was it?
BECKY: My first performance was in my parent’s living room to Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” with homemade ribbons. I was a born ribbon dancer. Even now, when I get nervous before I go out, I tell myself that I shouldn’t worry, it’s like performing in my living room all over again. But I guess if you’re talking about a performance in front of audience members it was at iO West. I performed my first ever sketch show with my friend Tia Ayers. We wrote it and put it up together. It was really fun and scary all at the same time.
MINDY: Formally: The Elephant’s Child—first grade, Pine Lake Elementary. I was the elephant child—along with 60 other kids—we all shuffled on stage and said our lines simultaneously. But crying on cue and holding my stomach so I could sit in the air-conditioned clinic during summer camp was probably my first major performance.
GLENNIS: I suppose my very first performance was at age 5. I was playing in the sand box behind my parent’s house and a reporter walked by and asked if she could do a human-interest piece on me… if you can call it that. She was basically just looking for a picture of a local kid doing something cute to fill space. Not a lot of crime in Durango. Anyway, when she asked how old I was and I said 8 and she believed me. What an actress!
Where was your first NY performance?
BECKY: It was at the Parkside Lounge at an open mic.
MINDY: For stand-up: it was bringer show at a Gramercy Gentlemen’s club. I think if you saw the comedy show you got into the strip show later for free. There was a giant pole in the middle of the stage. So. . .yeah.
GLENNIS: My very first show was doing short-form improv at NY Comedy Club in a group called The Grownup’s Playground. It was… unique. I met some of the most amazing people there and had a great time overall, but the whole experience felt really amateur (and we had to pay to perform) so I sought out the UCB and started taking classes.
How long have you been running your show and how often do you do it?
Well, it’s been a year now! And we run it once a month – the third Thursday of every month.
What prompted you to want to produce and host a show?
BECKY: I wanted to do a neighborhood show with friends and invite people we love and create a place where we all feel comfortable to get up and be funny.
MINDY: I really like hosting and love the idea of being able to produce and set the tone of the show. Wanted to work with other like-minded performers/producers who wanted to have a space to play and experiment, but most of all create a positive and fun environment for both the performers and the audience.
GLENNIS: I wanted to foster a fun and supportive environment for everyone, but especially the ladies. I’m not sure why all my projects are lady-centric, but I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. I love boys I just feel like they have enough support out there.
Why did you specifically choose a variety show?
BECKY: Because that’s what I do. I do a variety of things: stand-up, characters, music stuff and it’s what I like watching.
MINDY: There are so many ways to be a comedian, to be funny on stage, and I think from the beginning we wanted to make sure to include any and all.
GLENNIS: I agree with all of that! Especially having come from a background in musical improv I didn’t want it to feel strange to get up and do a song mid-show.
What are the most difficult aspects of running your own show?
BECKY: I think I always worry about getting folks out. We are lucky enough to have our little friend fan base. I always hope we’ll have new people show up.
MINDY: I think booking the show is challenging, mainly because it’s only once a month, 3 guests. There’s a long list of people we want to have on, and that always keeps growing. I guess that’s a good thing. I also think it’s a challenge to be a producer and performer—to split your energy, wear both hats.
GLENNIS: Compared to other projects I’m working/worked on this show is fairly low maintenance, but booking everyone I love (both as friends and as performers) on the show is a concern. Working with a difficult venue can add stress as well, but I’m pretty adept at balancing my creative and logistic mind.
The most rewarding?
BECKY: It is so great when our show is up and everyone on stage and in the audience is relaxed and happy and having a good time. I love that feeling.
MINDY: When a performer on the show tells me how much fun the show was for them or how much they really appreciated the positive energy the show gives off. That makes me feel like we did our jobs that night. And, of course, a meaty and energized crowd is always nice.
GLENNIS: The cupcakes! Sorry, no. But I really do love those cupcakes, Becky. The most rewarding is feeling like we’ve built a little community of people from stand-up, improv, sketch and the downtown theatre world. It’s fun meeting new people and a great show with lots of laughs (and cupcakes) is always rewarding!
What do you hope people take away from your show?
BECKY: Comedy shows are fun. I think a few of my friends are scared of comedy shows because they have a certain view of what they think comedy shows are. I had friends come to a show thinking it would be people picking on them and then making fun of them in front of everyone. I understand that fear. I’ve been made fun of before at a show, but not every comedy show involves some jerk on stage pointing people out in the audience and telling them they suck. What was I saying again?
MINDY: Oh I think I answered that in the first sentence of the last question. Mainly want audience and performers to be think, “that was really fun! And I was never bored! And I’d love come back again!”
GLENNIS: I hope people take the good vibes from the show and carry them for at least a few hours. I’d also love for new comics to come to the show and feel, not only that they can do this, but that it looks like fun and that they MUST do this! Who knows – you could be the next Maria Bamford but you’ll never know until you try!
What should people look for/be wary of when finding a space for their show?
BECKY: I think the best way to find out about a space is to ask people who already have a show there and find out the pros and cons. Oh and I think for comedy, it’s best if you get to have the space for at least a couple hours. It’s hard if you have a full lineup on either side of you.
MINDY: I think making sure there are no distractions in venue is key. I like a stage that’s somewhat isolated from the bar/social area. Knowing your needs/limitations tech-wise is always important. If you want to be able to play videos/have live music, make sure that’s an option and that everything’s working as it should. Also, who at the venue you’re working with is important. Are they going to promote? Is the person reliable, will they respect you and your show?
GLENNIS: Respect for your show and comedy in general is huge. Performing comedy in a music venue might mean they kick you out mid-show to get a really sweet band on stage and that band might just be really sweet, but you need to be respected and able to finish your show. I also think you need to assert yourself from the beginning to let them know that while you’re there to have a good time you aren’t dinking around when it comes to the show’s logistics. I love that word. I hope I’m using it correctly.
What tips would you give to anyone wanting to put up his or her own show that we haven’t covered?
BECKY: Be strong? I mean yes, be strong. Some shows will be tough. At least that’s my experience, but remember why you started the show in the first place.
MINDY: Knowing the show’s niche, being able to articulate it in a couple winning sentences, knowing how to do some basic PR, those are all important. But also it’s important to do what you love and what YOU find funny! Oh—and sorry if this sounds cheesy— but be nice! When you produce a show you interact with a lot of people, especially performers you will work with and see again and again. I think being nice goes a long way. Nobody wants/needs negative energy. Be nice!
GLENNIS: A great hook, flyer and name are pretty key ingredients. Make sure you, or whoever is hosting the show, knows what they’re doing. My favorite host in the comedy scene is Sean Donnelly (The Lil Seany Boy Show). He is an amazing host: always has a quip about the previous act which shows he’s paying attention (not just standing in the back bull-shitting) he keeps everything light and funny and keeps the audience in check if they get rowdy. As far as production goes, stay on top of your game. If you’re going to run a show then you can’t drop the ball on anything. If that means bringing in one or two people to help with certain tasks then so be it. And finally go see what’s out there not only to find and book new acts, but to show that you’re a part of the community and you’ll start seeing that support returned.
Do you work a day job? Can you talk about running a show, performing, working and how you balance all that?
BECKY: I work part time now but I used to work full time and that was tough. For me the thing that was most tough back then was operating on 6 hours of sleep every day, which some people are okay with, but I prefer more sleep time. Most of the time I’d be at work trying to figure out a set list and sending mass emails. I’d use their copier to print flyers. Actually there were some perks to working full time in an office. The only thing that was tough was not getting caught and the fact that I was supposed to be working. It’s easier now with a part time job. I don’t balance as much at once.
MINDY: I worked freelance for a long time in radio, writing, etc. I stressed out when adding together all my checks every month –sometimes it was a scramble. Right now, in addition to working on the book, I do admin/office type stuff during the day and stress out about not having enough time to write each month —so it’s always hard to find that balance. Time management is something I’m constantly trying to master. I do a lot of different things that require different energies and environments, and it’s hard to not want to do them all, all at once. I think learning how you work best is important too. Maybe you need a computer that doesn’t have internet access. Or maybe you need to be at a diner and have background noise and onion rings around at all times to work. Or maybe you need a day job because you get more done with built in structure.
GLENNIS: I make a living doing voice overs now, but I worked in an office for 8 years and the balancing act eventually took a toll on me. I got Shingles, which is an old person disease and then, during a show, burst a blood vessel in my eye ball. INSIDE my eyeball. I was a wreck. I was putting too much importance on this job I could have given two shits about and it was affecting my performing and life. In hindsight I should have gotten a more flexible and understanding job, but saving money and quitting worked too. Working in an office is great because you have unlimited office supplies and a printer for your show’s flyers (please, who doesn’t do that), but it can be very stifling. Make sure you use it for what it’s good for but have an exit strategy! (And if you need help with that I offer really stellar consulting services.)
What are some of your other favorite places to perform in the city?
BECKY: Whenever people would ask where I perform, I’d say, name a bar and I’ve been there. No, but last night I performed at Bedlam Bar. That was awesome. I used to love Mo’s–that might be a nostalgic thing. Luca Lounge is pretty nice and cozy and I loved our show at Legion and I love our new space at Royal Oak.
MINDY: UCB, PIT, Arlene’s Grocery is a surprisingly really fun place to do comedy. Moonwork, Joe’s Pub, the Zipper Theatre was an amazing venue, was sad when that closed. Pianos.
GLENNIS: I really miss Mo’s too. What a great space that was. Current spaces: UCB, 92Y Tribeca, Luca Lounge is really cozy and I love the vibe, Legion’s space is great and I’m also looking forward to Royal Oak!
What else are you working on right now?
BECKY: I’m working on my new solo show tentatively titled “Jesus Ain’t No Showboat, but I am”.
MINDY: I’m working on a YA novel right now—in revisions—revising—so that’s taking up most of my time. Also, did a Kickstarter project (kickstarter.com) to make a live record as my musical alter-ego Leibya Rogers, so finishing up the record now as well. And Chrismakah shopping.
GLENNIS: This blog is my baby so it takes up a lot of my time, but I love it. I’m working on my solo show “Disco Balls: Into The Light (The Quest To Be Fabulousballs)” which means lots of writing, rewriting, meeting with my director (Kate Tellers), recording the music, voice lessons… it’s a lot but I hope it will be well worth it! I’m also about to start planning my wedding and I’m dead-set on training my dog Gilda to do some amazing trick so we can get on Letterman. Maybe howling in harmony? I’ll let you know.
What ladies are you watching right now? Who do you think has a strong comedic voice?
BECKY: I have been watching standup on Netflix, It’s Always Sunny, Iconoclasts, and sadly a lot of reality TV and cooking shows. I love Kathy Griffin. I never know what she’s going to say but I always know how she’s going to say it.
MINDY: There are so many ladies doing truly awesome stuff right now. Adira Amram and Carla Rhodes are both are so strong, unique and thrilling to watch. Carolyn Castiglia is a great writer and amazing producer : hosts like no other— really has mastered how to both do her material and totally energize the crowd. Just saw Katie Hartman’s one woman show and it was so great—her characters are so off beat and smart writing. Katina Corrao, Livia Scott, Ann Carr, are all tremendous performers and really talented actresses. I’m always impressed with Margot Leitman, Leslie Goshko, Michelle Collins, Giulia Rozzi, Sara Schaefer and the way they make telling a well-crafted, funny story seem so effortless. I could go on and on— a dozen more names just popped into my head—of course my Supercream co-hosts Glennis McMurray and Becky Yamamoto are both so amazing and multi-talented. Becky’s such a great writer and actress and hilarious and honest on stage. Glennis impressed me early on with her brilliant musical comedy—but then I saw her one woman show at UCB and her character’s and acting totally blew me away. She’s also a pretty rockin’ DJ!
GLENNIS: Thanks, Mindy! Love you ladies to death. As far as the rest of the gals out there I think this blog serves as my voice so everyone I feature and will feature in the future (alliteration!) is on the receiving end of a Glennis comedy crush. I have very eclectic taste in music because I can find something good about almost everything and I feel the same way about comedians. Maybe that means I have less discerning taste but that’s not really my goal. I want to see your act and take the good, not the bad and see the human behind what you’re doing. I’m very interested in why we choose to do what we do and I think if you look at performance that way you can find something great about everyone. There are so many strong voices out there right now I might just say the only people I don’t have any interesting crushing on would be lady-hating ladies. That, to me, is just sad and counterproductive.
Anything else you’d like to say?
BECKY: I’m going to see Pee Wee Herman’s show on Wednesday and I’m very excited.
MINDY: GLOC is awesome! Much needed, and wonderfully executed! I’m honored to be able to ramble on here.
GLENNIS: I’m just floored at the response this blog has received which I think means it’s hit a nerve. It’s exciting and I look forward to what the future will bring on the old G.L.O.C. blog! And if I haven’t featured you or written you yet about a feature just know that I’m balancing this and everything I mentioned in my “currently working on” rant so I will get to you. Also know I don’t mind a gentle reminder of what you’re working on – email me about any and everything: your show, video, column ideas, questions, etc at contactgloc[at]gmail.com!
Catch MINDY, BECKY & ME at SUPERCREAM SUPREME!’s one-year anniversary show at our new venue, ROYAL OAK (594 Union Avenue – L to Bedford), this Thursday, December 16th at 8pm. Guests include Leslie Goshko, Ilana Glazer, Jeff Cerulli and a performance on Theremin by Jen Rondeau.