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 and 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.
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.
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
edian. The Improv hopes to continue to give upcoming comics a fantastic platform to hone their craft and deliver amazing laughs to our crowd.
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.
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!
The Afterthought – Reel Focus blogger’s initial reaction to a new television show, new film release or television show season premiere.
I really like watching some of the shows on TVOne particularly the show Fatal Attraction, which reminds me of the television show on Oxygen called Snapped. I can also catch some of my other favorites such as Unsung, A Different World and Martin Lawrence on this network. While recently watching my favorite shows, I kept seeing promos for a new show called Born Again Virgin. I must say, commercials do have a hypnotizing effect because upon watching the promo initially, I had no intention of watching it. However, a few days prior to the show’s premiere, I couldn’t resist the idea of watching it – at least once. I also discovered that this is a show filmed in Georgia so I had to show my support for it.
My Synopsis of Episode 1 – “No New Friends”
Although the main character, Jenna (Danielle Nicolet) is practicing celibacy, the show ironically opens up with her dreaming of erotic ecstasy with a man by the name of Donovan (played by singer Tank). She is awakened by her friend and roommate, Kelly (Meagan Holder) who catches her in the throws of ecstasy with a pillow while she is sleeping. Jenna is upset with Kelly for interrupting her during her only time that she is allowed to escape from her self-imposed decision to not have sex. The show is primarily about Jenna and her issues with sex but we do also get a glimpse into the lives of her roommates. Kelly is a successful businesswoman who is great at what she does but continues to suffer from the glass-ceiling effect. Despite being like “one of the boys” and being just as competitive as men are in business, she is still facing career blockages that men usually don’t face in business. A new co-worker, Gina (Valerie Payton), who was recently hired at the firm takes interest in being OBF’s (office buddies forever) with Kelly and tries to persuade her to be more feminine and lady-like. Jenna’s other roommate Tara (Eva Marcille) is also dealing with career issues. She is an aspiring actress that can’t seem to catch a lucky break. The class that she attends for improvisation is completely stupid according to her, not to mention creepy. The episode concludes with Jenna hosting at her apartment a session of her virgin-only class that she recently joined. The teacher of the class, Renee, is played by a familiar face that we have seen here on Reel Focus, Tinashe Kajese (click link to see her article). Tara and Kelly burst in on the meeting and Tara, who is practicing being more open, reveals to Jenna’s class that she is not a virgin nor is Jenna and that Jenna has been with many men but is now reclaiming her virginity. This disgusts all members of the class and all of them leave except Angel (Chrystee Pharris) who is a 35 year old virgin that wants to experience sex for the first time and wants Jenna to prepare her to attract a suitor. Ironically, after helping Angel get fixed up, she loses her virginity to the same man that Jenna secretly craves – Donovan.
My Synopsis of Episode 2 – “Go Hard or Go Home”
In the next episode, we get to see more of Jenna’s profession. She opens up the episode with the decision to start adding video messages to her blog. This results in a lot of unrelated video messaging added to her sites from subscribers. Jenna’s roommates are continuing to go through career woes. Kelly gets her hand on a big contract promoting a video game by Omari Wilkes’, a famous basketball player. After beating him at his own video game, he decides that he doesn’t want to do business with her firm. Devastated, Kelly, who is mocked by her co-workers and her boss for allowing such an important contract to slip through her hands, goes to the gym to have a heart-to-heart with Omari to insist to him that she is the right promoter for his new video game. Luckily, he gives her another chance to represent him. Tara is so determined to get her acting career underway she calls up Lisa Woo, another TVOne star on the show “Hollywood Divas,” to help her get a reality show gig lined up. Tara takes her phone and video tapes herself doing outlandish things in order to convince Lisa that she can have her own reality show called the “Tara Dome.” After Lisa sees her video, she tells Tara to give up on the reality show business because it takes away opportunities from current reality stars like herself. The episode ends with Jenna finally receiving a legitimate blog video message from a troubled girl. She records a message for the teen telling her how to deal with the issue of celibacy.
The Afterthought – My Take on the Show
Just like with any new show, this show has promise and deserves a chance. The writers seemed to focus on African American women’s issues in a funny way. One major issue that stood out for me is the issue of being torn between being “lady-like” and a competitive professional business woman. Two other issues that were raised were the struggles of trying to be an entrepreneur as witnessed in Jenna’s character as a career blogger; and the issue of trying to be successful in the world of acting as witnessed by Tara’s character. The cinematography was great and of course I was excited to see scenes of Atlanta scattered in between scenes. Overall, I think the first few episodes introduced the characters well but I am hoping that as we get to know more about the ladies that the plot will thicken and the tension will build each week.
IMDb Show Synopsis
Jenna (Danielle Nicolet), a 34 year-old up-and-coming blogger, decides to become celibate when she finds her body count is starting to trump her age. Using her blog as encouragement for her newly adapted sex diet and also as a sounding board for her girlfriends’ often amusing “sexcapades,” Jenna is determined to make the blog a success and transform her friends in the process.
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