Reel Focus Comedy Showcase 2015 – Sierra Katow

Photo credit - Saad Amer.
Photo credit – Saad Amer.

I’m so sad to see this year’s comedy showcase come to an end; but all good things must come to an end. We will end the week with a bang by “passing the mic” to a newcomer to the comedy scene, current Harvard student Sierra Katow.

Thank you Sierra for your contribution to our blog this week.  I want to begin by first asking what do you think is the hardest part about being a female comedian?

 

When I first started, I always looked very different from all the other comics at open mics: 5’ tall, girl, Asian, teenager. People tended to remember if they’d met me before, so it felt easier to make an impression. However, as I became more serious about comedy, I realize now that it’s limiting and hard as hell to be a woman in the comedy world. There are so many men in comedy that it feels like it’s their place and when you look around in a room full of comics and don’t see anyone who could be you, it seems like you don’t belong. This is, of course, all bogus. I think one of my biggest challenges has been getting over that intimidation and realizing that I can hold my own as a comic. There are always small comments that I have to ignore, but I think there is so much happening for everyone in comedy now and seeing people like Amy Schumer and Whitney Cummings really make an impact on the comedy world makes it feel possible!

How do you come up with material?

 

I’m still figuring out the best way to come up with material and write comedy. I keep notes on my phone and make sure to record ideas whenever I can, which is a tactic a lot of comedians swear by. Then, I’ll try to sit down and form actual jokes from the sporadic ideas. Sometimes I’ll keep my phone by my bed and actually wake up to find that I wrote really strange ideas down. One note just says “Bbertha” (yes, that’s not a typo) and I still can’t figure out to this day what I meant by that. I still just have a lot of gibberish saved on my phone that haven’t yet turned into jokes but hopefully someday I’ll be able to use them!

What career aspirations with comedy do you have -stand-up only or film and television too?

 

I really love performing stand-up, so I want to continue with it and go as far as I can. I’d certainly love to explore film and television. I really haven’t done anything with either film or tv outside of stand-up related television type things, but I’m open to anything. I’d also like to keep writing comedy in some form, even if it’s just for myself.

 

What advice do you have or those who are considering a career in comedy?

 

I’d say go for it if it’s what you love. It can be terrifying, and I’m currently in college, so I still haven’t begun to really feel what it means to do it full-time. It took me awhile to convince myself to go for it. Nearly everyone I go to school with will have a nice job, working somewhere that pays a regular salary, so it often feels like I must be doing something wrong by turning down stability for telling jokes. But I would tell anyone who wants to do it to just get started right away. Open mics are readily available for anyone who is willing and even just writing funny things on Twitter or in a blog, no matter who is reading, is a great way to start. Of course, it’s important to watch all sorts of comedy because laughing often makes me more motivated to turn around and make others laugh! Also, the comedy world seems to be constantly changing and advice can get outdated fast, so take mine with a grain of salt!

 


Reel Focus Comedy Showcase 2015 – Comedian EB4Real

EB4Real

 

 

 

 

There is so much to choose from on television and the big screen that I am often times overwhelmed by what to watch. I usually opt for dramatic or adventurous shows and I have my favorite dramatic actors and actresses that I love to watch. I’m usually so wrapped up in looking for a great drama that I forget about how important comedy is to television and film. Comedians play an integral role in making us laugh whether they are on stage, on television, or in a motion picture. Continuing this week’s comedy showcase, we are going to ‘turn the mic over to’ a rising star in comedy – EB4Real to tell us more about his career as a comedian.

About me. . .

‘Hi Reel Focus readers. My name is Eric Brown but I go by the stage name EB4REAL. I was born and raised in San Diego, California and as far back as I can remember I have always been funny – if I must say so myself.  To be precise, I have to say that I became interested in making people laugh around 12 years old. I would play this game with my friends that we over here on the West Coast call “snappin’ in the street.” For those that don’t know what this is, snappin’ is when you go back and forth ‘snappin’ on your friends, finding things about them to joke about – their clothes, their looks, their hair. We also would play a game called “playin’ the round table” which is roasting game similar to ‘snappin.’ Aside from these games I played with my friends, I used to go to school and amuse my school friends with my jokes. I was quick-witted and when my teachers said something to me, I would have a hilarious comeback that would often amuse my friends and annoy my teachers. So as you can guess, I was a class clown in school. I am a natural born jokester and I recall when I was 18, my girlfriend Carmen – now my wife – couldn’t stop laughing at me and asked “How many jokes do you have?” My response to her was “I have a million of ‘em'”and they still haven’t stopped coming out.

How I got my start. . .

Fifteen years ago, I decided to take this natural gift to make people laugh and turn it into a profession. I wasn’t someone who kept up with the comedy scene or with who the famous comedians were; but, I knew deep down inside that I was a comedian and I wanted to share my talent with the world. At that time, I did my first 3 minute open mic at The Comedy Store in La Jolla, California. I admit that I waited impatiently outside for 3 hours to make my debut but when I finally hit the stage, it was a fun experience that I have cherished ever since. I would say that this first open mic was when my professional career as a comedian began. That first open mic is behind me now, but since that first audition, I started to write and work on more material once my son was school aged.

My Style. . .

My style of comedy is what I would call down home comedy – I observe people and things in everyday life and joke about it. My comedy is mature and meant for a sophisticated audience. I admit, being a comedian is not an easy profession. I often find that my biggest challenges are that there are too many cliques and not enough support to help me grow and develop my talent. The industry is very subjective but that doesn’t stop me from pursuing my passion.

My career aspiration. . .

There are many levels of performing stand-up comedy and it’s just about getting regular stage time for an audience who appreciates my brand. I am a big fan of Tyler Perry’s productions because he offers opportunity for exposure. In the future, I would like to explore a role in a romantic comedy either on television or on film.

My Advice to aspiring comedians. . .

DON’T DO IT!!!! (laugh) Just kidding but this is a difficult profession and if you’re going to pursue comedy as a profession then my advice is to get into the industry be serious about it. Don’t do it just because you enjoy watching comedy. That doesn’t mean you belong on stage. This is my passion, my way of life and the reason I wake up every day and keep pursuing it. I enjoy making people laugh and if you want to survive in this industry, you should too.

 

For more information on EB4reel, visit www.eb4real.com.

 

 


Reel Focus Comedy Showcase 2015 – The Improv Atlanta

The Improv Stage
Photo courtesy of The Improv Atlanta

 

Comedy has been a significant part of acting and theater since the ancient Athenians.  They often performed on stage using two types of masks to convey human emotion:  tragedy andcomedy tragedy mask comedy.   This week, Reel Focus will highlight comedy in its second annual comedy showcase.  We will feature The Improv Atlanta comedy club, comedian Eric Brown (a.k.a. EB4real), and comedienne, Sierra Katow.

The Improv is more than just a comedy club; it is a household name in the world of comedy.  Some of the most famous comedians we know today got their start or became a well-known act by performing on its stage.  Here to tell us more about The Improv comedy club located in Atlanta, Georgia is Stephen de Haan, President of Andrews Entertainment District.

Stephen, thank you for sharing this information with our readers.  First, tell us this comedy club’s connection to television and/or film, past or present. 

Budd Friendman
Photo of founder Budd Friedman courtesy of The Improv Atlanta

The Improv was founded 50 years ago in New York City by Budd Friedman.  Throughout that time, The Improv has been a proving ground for talent not only with its own TV program An Evening at The Improv on A&E, but also with original Improv staff members moving into film & TV, with one later becoming the head of HBO.

Who are some well-known guests that have made appearances or have gotten their start with The Improv

The Improv has always been where great comedians get their start.  Jay Leno, used to drive in from New Jersey hoping to get stage time at the Improv.  Others famous comedians who started at The Improv include Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Andy Kaufman just to name a few.  Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting Marlon Wayans and George Wallace in May for five shows and greats like Jim Breuer and Kevin Nealon booked for later this year.

George Wallace
Photo of George Wallace courtesy of The Improv Atlanta

How does The Improv compare to other local comedy clubs in Atlanta? 

The Improv is truly a national comedy brand with 24 US locations all striving to provide the best comedy experience available.  That goes from the amazing national headlining comedians that we fly in, to the large variety of food and beverage offerings, to the quality of the showrooms themselves.  We still make a poignant effort to support the local comedy community such as working in tandem with Laughing Skull Lounge to host the finals of their annual comedy festival.

How is The Improv preparing aspiring local Atlanta comedians for stardom? 

Performing at The Improv is a huge milestone in the career of a successful comedian. We offer open mic nights on Wednesdays as well as eight week stand up comedy class taught by nationally acclaimed comedian Josh Harris from NBC’s Stand Up for Diversity. Both opportunities help boost public speaking skills, become a funnier more confident person and strive to be a professional com

Marlon Wayans
Photo of Marlon Wayans courtesy of ChuckyFoto.

edian. The Improv hopes to continue to give upcoming comics a fantastic platform to hone their craft and deliver amazing laughs to our crowd.

 

For more information about The Improv Atlanta, visit www.theimprovatlanta.com.

 

 

 


Reel Focus Comedy Showcase 2014 – Marshelle Woodland

Marshelle
In the previous showcase, I featured a top-notch comedy venue here in Atlanta, Georgia.  With this blog, I have decided to feature a homegrown comedienne who will tell us about what she has faced starting a career as a comedienne.  I have teamed up with Marshelle Woodland who is currently a promoter but began her career as a stand-up comic.  She is now collaborating with promoters nationwide to create one of the largest comedy festivals in the United States.  Marshelle is no stranger to difficulty but in spite of this, she manages to balance her budding career as a comedienne, a promoter and a mom.

Marshelle, this showcase is dear to me, not only because of your touching story but also because you are from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.  I really am touched by what you are trying to accomplish with developing the largest comedy festival in the United States.  Tell us more about your ambition.

Before doing what I do now, I was laid off from the United States Postal Service.  Even though I am still suffering mentally from my forced retirement from the United States Postal Service, this forced retirement is what led me to start as a comedienne and eventually progress my career into promoting shows. I had to learn the hard way how to promote shows – and, I’m still learning. Humor has definitely helped me get through this ordeal and help to heal others who are also suffering from mental illness.

After many years of doing competitions, doing market research, and hearing from other comedians about how they would run a competition/festival, I came up with some ways that I can do similar events. I am currently planning a Guinness World Records attempt. The plan is to form the largest comedy festival in the United States. The goal is to collaborate with 100 promoters across the USA. Each promoter is to find their own organization to give a portion of their proceeds to. I came up with this idea for the largest comedy festival some time ago and I tried to pull it off in 2010. I approached some of my closest friends in comedy to help me out. It wasn’t a financial success; however, it gave me the platform that I needed to get me where I am now.

Most people refer to me as an activist and I have been called a humanitarian. I support causes that fight against homelessness and mental illness. I feel strongly about these topics because I am homeless and I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Because of my background and my experiences, I have decided to give back to these types of organizations once I have achieved my career goal.

This is a very sad thing to hear regarding your homelessness but your resilience in this struggle is very inspiring.  How do you manage to find humor in the midst of such hopelessness?

I meet so many people who are in my position or worse. I think about how much worse it could be for me and my family if I wasn’t educated. One thing about being a comedian, we can make a joke out of almost anything. As long as I can remember I’ve had the ability to make people laugh at their worst moments. I am that person that will get up at a funeral and make you smile and laugh at the memory of the one who has passed. I just thank God for blessing me with the ability to make people laugh, especially during trying times. My sense of humor and creativity is also inspiring me to develop a movie about my life. I’m constantly told by those who know me well that I should walk around with a camera recording my life for a reality show. I’m strongly considering this, too.

It is very hard for women to make it in certain aspects of entertainment and with WIFTA one of goals is to push for greater, positive representation and inclusion of women in entertainment, especially in those underrepresented areas.  As you know comedy is one of those underrepresented areas for us as women.  Tell us why it is important for more women to be involved in comedy and tell us about the obstacles you have faced as a woman trying to put this initiative together.

I fell in love with comedy by watching Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson on television. I was impressed with how Carol Burnett would talk to her audience after the show. Getting up in front of people to talk is hard enough; now, add telling jokes and that is a challenge within itself.

It’s extremely hard for women in comedy, especially if they have children. For myself, being a mother of 9 – that’s right I said 9 – I knew with the lack of family support I would never be the next well-known female comedian. Comedians have to travel a lot in order become well-known – at least that’s if you’re planning to make a career out of it. You have to spend many hours hitting stages in your own city first and countless other cities thereafter. Traveling outside of your own city to help your career in this industry is an absolute must. This means hours and hours of stage time in order to be considered for booking with pay.

I was criticized by my own family for just doing local shows because they wanted me to do more outside of my hometown. But I knew that since I had problems finding a babysitter just for local shows, traveling to other cities was definitely going to be out of the question. So, I knew from the very beginning that this challenge had to be accomplished another way. I moved from doing comedy shows exclusively to doing more promoting because I saw it as another way that I could put smiles on peoples’ faces. Just as with being a comedian, I knew this new role was also going to be challenging. However, the advantage that I have as a promoter is that I have the choice of who I want to book and the type of shows I want to put on. Besides this, I could make much more money as a promoter. Female comedians experience many problems getting stage time more often than males. The way I see it, as a promoter I can always put myself on stage.

Even with so many well-known female comedians today, most people will say their favorite comedian is a male comedian. Because I love comedy so much I don’t really have a favorite. I consider myself a prop comic. I like making creative props or using some type of item to enhance my jokes. I have been told by many comedians, that I’m not even considered a comedian anymore. This is because they don’t see me hitting the stage like I used to. That’s crazy thinking; once a comedian – always comedian.

Finally, I just want to end by saying that I think there are couple of reasons why every woman should take an opportunity to try out stand-up comedy. First, it will help them in their relationships. A woman with a sense of humor in a relationship goes a long way. Second, if you deal with kids or have children of your own it will help you to cope with that tough job.

 


Reel Focus Comedy Showcase 2014 – The Punchline

punchline_01

 

Just how do you get your start on shows like Saturday Night Live or Jimmy Kimmel Live? Precisely – I don’t know either.  But I imagine that it may have something to do with starting out at a comedy club.

Being in the entertainment industry is hard enough, but you want to tell jokes; better still, you want to be a female who tells jokes.  Well, breaking in is no crystal staircase but rest assured that there is somewhere in the metro Atlanta area that can help you get your start on the yellow brick road to stardom.  The Punchline comedy club is one of Atlanta’s premier comedy clubs located in the heart of Sandy Springs, Georgia.  I am collaborating on this blog with the comedy club’s Managing Partner – James ‘Jamie’ Bendall – who will inform readers on how they can get their start in film and television by starting on stage right here in Georgia.

 

Is Punchline a good place to start for women who want to get into the entertainment industry?

I think the Punchline is as good a place as any for a woman who is interested in getting in to the entertainment industry.  Certainly from a stand-up perspective, Pam Stone started out as a server at the club and went on to become a sitcom star.  We’ve had women who started here move on to manage other comedy clubs or become tour managers for well-known concert acts.

 

What sets this comedy club apart from the competition here in Atlanta?

This is always a bit of tricky question.   From my perspective, we don’t have any competition here in Atlanta.  What I mean by that is there are other places that do comedy, but they offer a different product in a different kind of setting.  We are one of the few survivors who are still in their original location and are still considered to be one of the best comedy clubs in the country.  Look at our physical space.  We are only a comedy room.  We don’t have a holding room.  We aren’t inside another business.  The art, the performers, and the audience come first and only in our room.  The acts we book are the most diverse in terms of style, than any other room in town, and I’d put the acts that we book among the most successful touring comedy clubs.  In fact, last year we had one run where we had three female headliners in a row on back to back to back weekends – something I doubt took place at any other legitimate comedy club that is our size last year.

 

What are the requirements for getting into this club and performing?  Is being funny enough?

Being funny is always enough.  Beyond that it depends on what capacity the person is looking to get on stage.  If you are looking to be a host, then it’s important to be funny, but you’ve also got to understand what your other jobs are in terms of making sure the show runs well.  In that respect, funny plus a little business savvy is a good combination.  The closer you get to being a headliner, the more it’s important to be funny but also to really understand how your business works as a comedian and learn how to get people interested in buying tickets to see you.  We prefer to, and candidly have the luxury to be able to, book funny comedians every week.  First and foremost, I want our customers to be happy and entertained.  My personal sense of humor rarely enters the equation.  The thing that people forget is that careers move in cycles.  The acts that are hot now may cool, and someone who struggles to fill seats now can get hot in the future.  Carrying around personal grudges because of who plays where or who gets booked and who doesn’t is a completely wasted exercise in my view.

 

Are there classes or coaching sessions that can help develop skills at Punchline?

There is any number of classes that people can take to help them shorten the time it might take them to become a beginner comedian.  We’ve had Jeff Justice associated with the club for a long time now, and he’s probably the most well-known of comedy teachers in Atlanta.  Jeff teaches here at the club and I also speak on the topic of humor in general.  I think that comedy is one of those skills that you ultimately need to work on from the stage.  Getting up and doing it will help a person transition from what they learned in class to trying to put it in to practice.

Are there other comedians besides Pam that started here that are now doing television or film?

We are the only club in Atlanta that has had all of the who’s who of comedy on their stage.  Everyone from Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and David Chappelle, right on through Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Robin Williams.  Modern superstars like Louis C.K., Bill Burr, and Amy Schumer also call the Punchline home. Even alternative legends like Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Bill Hicks, and Doug Stanhope have also headlined The Punchline.  Among the more notable comedians who were associated with The Punchline early in their careers are Jeff Foxworthy, Tim Wilson, J. Anthony Brown, and Reno Collier.  The Punchline has a history and a legacy that will never be matched in Atlanta.

Logo courtesy of Jamie Bendall