The Comeback

HBO Home Entertainment
Street: 08.04

I had heard a lot about this mockumentary-style half-hour comedy starring Lisa Kudrow when it began to get the “cult-status” buzz. The premise is a reality TV show following Valerie Cherish as she makes her comeback into sitcoms as the horribly miscast and misplaced “Aunt Sassy” among an apartment full of hot, horny college kids. The social commentary on sexism, ageism and the farce of reality TV is so spot-on it often becomes infuriating rather than thought-provoking. However, Kudrow is brilliantly funny, and the comedy will sneak up on you. A little slow to start, it does begin to pick up the pace after several episodes, with her makeup artist Mickey (Robert Michael Morris) stealing every shot he’s in. Don’t get into this hoping it will be Friends, or it will be keeping up with the, well, you know. Add the bonus of airing originally on HBO and you get all of this totally uncensored. In its own right, it’s fun to see Kudrow back with a tongue-in-cheek look behind the scenes, scoring some “watch it twice” level of dry humor any writer, actor or film nerd will enjoy. –Rachel Jensen

Get Hard

Get Hard

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Street: 06.30

Everything about Get Hard is pure comedy gold. The film is directed by Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder), starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, and guest stars a full cast of hilarious who’s whos.  Ferrell and Hart are endearing and complimentary to both their comedy and performance styles. This is your typical buddy comedy where the goodguy has been framed, but has to learn a lot about himself and the real world in order to triumph over corruption, albeit, with some very classist and racist undertones. The majority of the comedy comes from the fish-out-of-water approach that made Trading Places such a huge success 30 years ago, but adds a modern commentary on the prison system, bank corruption, and ingrained stereotypes. It’s worth watching just for the scene where Hart and Ferrell end up at a very gay brunch spot, and make some new friends. This isn’t for the weak, and it’s earned its R-rating, but it’s a good, solid comedy with quite a bit of the feels. Plus, the combo pack let’s you have three viewing options: Blu-Ray, DVD and a digital copy. –Rachel Jensen

Workaholics

Workaholics: Season Five

Comedy Central Home Entertainment
Street: 06.23

I love binge-worthy shows, and Workaholics is definitely one of those. The juvenile antics both at the office and their rental pad by Adam, Blake and Ders is a great way to chuckle through a weekend. Season Five brings the boys back with 13 episodes of doing some of the dumbest things guys in their twenties do. We all know these guys, or, possibly are these guys. Always trying to one-up each other, their shenanigans this season include backyard wrestling with some hilarious un-PC characters, a swimming competition gone bad, and plenty of drugs, drinking and ditching work. Littered within are thought-provoking moments, like when Adam finally realizes that his porn viewing-habits might have social implications, or when the boys learn the hard way not to pretend to be gay just to crash a Pride party. Throw in some awesome guest stars like Ben Stiller and Jerry O’Connell, and Season Five is still wickedly funny enough to get through in one sitting. –Rachel Jensen

Sugarfuzz

Sugarfuzz Intimates

Lingerie Bag
sugarfuzz.com

This bag is so pretty that my inner princess is screaming. Simple in design, these satin lingerie bags from Sugarfuzz, a local Salt Lake City company, are meant to keep your personal unmentionables discrete. The bag comes with a matching laundry bag for safely cleaning your frilly things, and that’ll help you keep yesterday’s bra you went clubbing in away from tomorrow’s date-night-silky lingerie set when you are traveling. These bags are a pretty decent size for an overnight bag or a week’s worth of items to take on a vacation at 10.5 inches wide by 17.5 inches long. There’s plenty of space inside to carry around anything that your heart so desires—your lingerie, a mix tape for your sweetie, sexy adult toys, your little black book—go wild.

I was able to fit approximately 1/3 of my full panty drawer in this silky number, and I’ve got some big drawers (wink wink). The bag is very well constructed, with no hanging strings or un-hemmed seams. It’s got a drawstring closure, so no risk of accidentally zipping up the zipper with delicate lace caught inside, ruining your favorite undies. At the ends of the ribbon closure are sparkly clear beads for added dazzle. I sampled the shiny, shimmery powder blue bag and it reminded me of Princess Elsa. If you have small children who would also be reminded of Frozen, this may need to be well hidden or used to keep less, um, adult things in. I didn’t want to throw the laundry bag in the washing machine, for fear of ruining the pretty matching satin ribbon edges, and I couldn’t find laundering instructions on the bag. I also thought about storing the bigger silk bag in the mesh laundry bag for safer storage to avoid any risk of snags, but that could have been lingerie-inception, and probably would’ve ripped a hole in the space-time continuum. Currently, I now keep some of my favorite girly things in it on top of my dresser, it’s decorative addition to my decor, and no one is the wiser even if they are looking right at it.

As a woman of a certain age who has been invited to many bridal showers and bachelorette parties over the years, the first thing that came to mind when I saw this was how much it would make a fantastic gift for a special occasion. The bride-to-be always gets a whole new closet full of sexy intimates, why not give her the perfect gift of something to store them in safely? Forget the gift wrapping altogether—the Ivory bag is perfect for gifting any type of pre-wedding surprise, and the best part is that whatever is hiding in it can be hidden all the way up until the wedding night. I can also see the very practical uses of implementing this when jet-setting, to keep those pesky TSA prying eyes from peeking at your personal belongings as they rifle through your stuff in the name of freedom.

You can choose from five colors: Ivory, Black, Lavender, Pink and Powder Blue. Each bag has the same embellishments and high-quality stitching you can expect from luxury handmade items. Forget the gift wrapping all together—the Ivory bag is perfect for gifting any type of pre-wedding surprise, and the best part is that whatever is hiding in it can be hidden all the way up until the wedding night.The bags can be purchased for $42 on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/SugarfuzzIntimates, and on their website at www.sugarfuzz.com.

Manimal & Automan

Manimal & Automan: The Complete Series
Shout! Factory

Street: 11.10.15

 

Bad ’80s television has never been so good. These short-lived TV shows originally made their debut in 1983. They were made by legendary creator Glen A. Larson, who also brought audiences the original Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, and Magnum P.I. These were slightly before my time, unless they ran into syndication in the late ’80s early or early ’90s. Most millenials, would be in awe of ’80s scifi that isn’t done in irony, ala Kung Fury. Blending the best in science fiction, cop drama, silly special effects, and copious amounts of synth music, both shows are as heavy on outdated pop culture references as they are on unisex mullets. Each of these shows are either awesomely bad, or horribly good, depending on your opinion.

 

I started my blast from the past with Automan. I do not think that describing it as unintentionally hilarious does this justice. The humor is written in, and in perfect ’80s fashion is forced and finished with a playful wink. This 13 episode series comes from the producers of the original TRON and the effects, for the most part, are equally impressive. Automan’s glowing suit is straight out of TRON, although the special effects budget on everything else seems a little shaky. He’s a hologram, which also gives him near magical powers. The ’80s were a different time, where computers were cutting edge, becoming more accessible, and their capabilities were apparently limitless. Using only a modem, some basic coding, and the amount of memory that wouldn’t even power one of the apps on your smart phone, Walter Nebicher, (played by THE Desi Arnaz Jr.) was able to create a fully programmable and ever-present superhero—Automan. His only weakness is that he needs to ‘recharge’ his power from time to time—he holds less of a charge than your cell phone, apparently. Well, that and his accomplice, ‘Cursor’—a little ghostwriter–looking light up spot guiding him, is extremely rapey for an intangible object.

 

Automan and Nebicher stumble on a series of conspiracies befalling the L.A.P.D. With high ranking officials being kidnapped and pretty young secretaries being murdered in a cover up, it’s got some pretty heavy plot lines for such a campy show. Then they all begin to fall apart. The stories are absolutely ridiculously fun—as if they were rejected early James Bond scripts. I couldn’t tell if they were purposefully campy, or just tried to inject obvious humor into the action. Here are some honest thoughts I jotted down every time my jaw-dropped in shock from all of the awesome: “Why are they wearing ski gear and bikinis?” “Those are the biggest walkie-talkies I have ever seen.” “Is he really getting into a fight with a pimp over being able to use a phone booth?” Those are only some of the gems you will yell out loud upon the first viewing.

 

On a technical level, it is shot with a single camera—like a soap opera so you get to see very stilted and odd editing as well as strange looking tight reaction shots and conversations. This show is absolutely amazing in everything it is, and especially everything it isn’t. They don’t make TV like this anymore, and for a good reason, which is a shame because it is addictingly entertaining. Most of all, Automan provided the best line I have ever seen in any action series. When a gun is pointed by one of our over-the-top villains, someone shouts: “He’s going to hurt someone with that gun!” I was also pleasantly shocked when I noticed that one of the bit-part thugs in the first episode was none other than a much younger Captain Spaulding, Sid Haig.

 

Switching gears over to Manimal—an even shorter lived series released the same year as Automan. The entire eight episodes cut out the in-your-face humor and attempt to go a darker route. Though, it tries to be more serious and more gritty, it propels the same awkward editing, bad acting, and campy special effects to make this another one that’s so-bad-it’s-good. To break the monotony, the lead cop in this drama/action fare is Detective Brooke McKenzie (Melody Anderson). She is allowed to be a tough, capable cop plastered in heavy ’80s blush, that looks like a shellacked ’80s version of Jennifer Lawrence. As she tries to blow the lid off of a crime ring that got her partner shot, she begins to notice that random wild animals seem to almost be aiding in her investigation. Enter the very dapper, very animalistic looking Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale). He’s not as ridiculously beefy and classically handsome as Automan, but I’m convinced that there were no shortages of sandy blonde men with obscene jawlines in the ’80s. Throw in a former Bond girl as the first villain into the mix (Ursula Andress), and there are a lot more pretty people in this series. No offense to Mr. Arnaz Jr.

 

The beauty in Manimal is some wonderfully awkward acting and editing, as well as some really awful body morph effects when the Professor changes into a giant black panther. Imagine an ’80s live action version of Thundercats, then add some polyester fur and silly looking claws and whiskers. Stir that around with lots of predictable synth music (other than the randomly licensed Michael Jackson that makes an appearance), and this is actually a fun ride. The plot makes little-to-no sense, and no sane person would ever jump to the conclusion that the Professor is a shape shifter who is willing to help her. Just as quick as the plot develops, Det. McKenzie unravels it, and anti-climatically thwarts the bad guys.

 

I’ve got to give this show a little bit of credit by not jumping to the stereotypical Eastern European crime lords that were ever-present in the decade. It’s a little awkward to see Middle Eastern crime bosses before that was a thing, especially since the leader in question looks uncomfortably a lot like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If the main goal was to keep the show foreboding and sinister, the blatant Jaws reference was probably not really the best way to go, nor was the thinly veiled references to Sigfreid and Roy. However, if you want to watch a cheeky blonde professor turn into a pissed-off-looking Manimal (and trust me, you do) over and over again, then you have to check this out.

 

Manimal & Automan not just simply old TV shows you can pull up on Netflix and giggle to, this is an actual investment for some lost television that has been unsoiled by the modern advances in special effects and film making. It’s not just so bad it’s good, it’s so bad that it is goddamn amazing. This is the kind show you’d kill to make with your buddies over a weekend when you’re bored. Thirty somethings will love it for it’s similarities to the old crappy Saturday morning shows we used to be into. It brings back memories of both The Brady Bunch and Kolchak: The Night Stalker in its style. Twenty somethings will finally be able to definitively see what people actually wore in the ’80s, when it wasn’t ‘ironic’. Both of these groups can watch it with their parents who will then go on and on about how this was the golden age of television before the Kardashians ruined everything. Get this set, buy this set, borrow this set. You will not be disappointed, because being disappointed is half the fun.

Professional Comedians

Ask any comedian, and they will tell you that comedy may look easy, but it is actually very hard work. As an entertainment form, it is demanding, time-consuming and it can take years for comedians to develop their talent before they start to see any kind of payoff. Yet, we have a pretty large group of entertaining individuals in the state who do this week in and week out. In the final installment of our three-part series on Utah comedy, SLUG sought out three of these hard-working comedians who were willing to talk about the ins and outs of getting up onstage and staying there. We met up at a quaint little late night pancake and waffle house to discuss what it takes to really call yourself a professional comedian.

The Comedians Providing Platforms for Comedy

 

Jason Harvey gives advice for aspiring professional comedians.There are more than a handful of professional comedians in the Greater Salt Lake City area that regularly have shows, set up the opportunity for showcases and organize open mic nights. We narrowed down comedians running three shows that have been around for different stretches of time: Comedy and Other Opinions, You’ve Gotta Be Kidding and Adrenaline. These are shows set up by comedians geared toward comedy lovers that showcase different aspects of the genre. They blend stand-up and improv, provide insight into how quick-witted comedians can be and showcase the guts and intelligence that it takes to call yourself a professional comedian.

Jason Harvey is no stranger to what it’s like to be a hard-working professional comedian, he’s been getting up on stage and entertaining Utah crowds for more than six years. In addition to regularly performing on shows all over the state, Harvey has also set up his own hit show and had a hand in getting other venues off the ground. He started out as most comics do by continuously hitting open mic nights starting with the go-to at Wiseguys Comedy Club every Wednesday, only missing one or two opportunities to get on stage in the first year. It took six or seven months of getting his stage chops until he was ever booked onto someone’s show. Now, he’s got his own monthly special with Comedy and Other Opinions, which is now being featured at the new Club at 50 West downtown and has been going strong for two years.

Eileen Dobbins is a newcomer to the scene who has just hit her 18-month mark for doing stand-up. In that short time, she’s been a fast-rising star. She received the honor of becoming a finalist in the Salt City Comedy Competition at Club at 50 West and like Harvey, she started at Wiseguys open mic on Wednesday nights. Dobbins was about nine months in before getting booked on her first show, Travis Tate put her on a show in Tooele on Valentines day. “Sometimes being a single loser pays off!” she muses. Dobbins started her own monthly show, You’ve Gotta Be Kidding about five months ago. She’s also been seen on Dungeon’s and Comedy and Harvey’s Comedy and Other Opinions. Notably this October she competed at the She Devil Comedy Fest in New York City.

It has been four and a half years since our last comic, Christian Pieper started his comedy career. At the time, he was living in Provo and driving to Salt Lake to do comedy due to the lack of venues in Utah County. He tried to start a show in Provo at Muse Music Cafe called “Cat Fashion Show With Jokes” which lasted about seven months. “My goal was to do something in Provo that would be real comedy” he says. It was at a time when the venue for Wiseguys in Provo had just shuttered its doors. The idea for Cat Fashion Show was “walking the edge” where Provo people would still have a good time and feel comfortable, but get to experience a real comedy show outside of a University or theater troupe. He tried to do a late-night talk show, and he realized that, unfortunately, it wasn’t compelling enough. “I can’t do a show that’s just based on that personality.” Then he tried to produce ‘The Comedians Couch’ where he interviewed amateur and professional comedians as if he were their therapist. Fast forward to where he’s at now, just coming down from the high of being on the Bob and Tom show. Pieper can be seen performing regularly at Wiseguys, both opening for nationally renowned professional comedians, and doing his own once-a-month show, Adrenaline.

How To Start Out As a Comedian

Christian PieperHarvey, Dobbins and Pieper started out in comedy the same way most professional comedians in the state do—by getting the courage to get onstage at an open mic night. These nights are typically free, where aspiring comics can see how it’s done, and seasoned comics can try out new material. If you know where to look, you can find an open mic night nearly every night of the week at multiple locations, ranging from bars to college campuses. Harvey remembers some of his open mic experiences. “It felt like you were at a strip club without strippers,” he says. An open mic is the best way to see professional comedians performing their most raw, untested material.

Any comic at any open mic has the chance of killing it onstage or failing miserably. When you do comedy in front of your friends and peers they know you and your personality and will understand your humor. Pieper says, “Comics need to learn how to do that in front of real people.” He recommends that as soon as new comedians are ready, they should try to get on get on shows or open mics that have a real audience, such as the Wiseguys open mic. “I think that if you’re starting out, that is the best place to go, because you have a limited amount of time and that is the most important thing as a comic to start out on. It’s ‘I have two to three minutes. How can I be as funny as I can be in two to three minutes?’”

The most important thing with using the short amount of open mic time is to learn how to write solid jokes, figure out timing, and develop punch lines. Pieper has additional advice: “A trick that worked for me early on, that I think people should try, is that If you’re having trouble getting stage time in front of real audiences, which is really common when you’re starting out, you can get stage time in front of other comics. You can go to Mo’s and get 5 minutes, you can get on other small shows, but if you want to get in front of a real audience, go to music open mics, poetry open mics, go to coffee shop open mics where you are the only comedian there and can go up on stage and tell jokes. Those are real people.”

Rookie Mistakes

Eileen DobbinsPieper and Harvey both agree that many comics try to start out with really shocking material from the gate to get noticed. “I think that people sometimes act like comedy is just like poetry, it’s some way to express yourself,” says Dobbins. “But when people are paying money to see you, they’re not actually there for you to express yourself, they are there for you to entertain them.” The comics each agree there is a fine line between being edgy and alienating your audience.

“Too many people try to do the dark humor right off,” Harvey says. “Too many people want to be Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks.” It’s true that many comedians will start out emulating their comedic idols. “Carlin did comedy duo for a long time and was a squeaky clean comic for years,” he says. Many comics should start out doing silly material with the focus to entertain, he thinks. Pieper continues on that note, “It works at open mic to say dark, shocking things and the crowd will laugh. If it’s even a little bit funny, it will kill. And then you go in front of real people and that’s just not what they’re looking for” he says. You want to remember that you don’t want to terrify or disturb your audience. “You’ve gotta be bookable.” With all three of these comedians having experience in booking a comic, Dobbins has additional advice to remember. “People have paid money and are there to feel better.”

The best advice for anyone who wants to be a professional comedian is that, “You have to be undeniable,” says Harvey, who let this pearl of advice from Matt Besser (Improv for humans) sink in. Pieper adds to it, saying, “And it sucks, because I want ‘pretty good’ to be enough. But it’s not. And that’s why it takes 10, 15 or 20 years of hard work and dedication to actually make it as a comedian,” he says. “If you’re good looking, you can be a model. But comedy doesn’t work that way. It’s an art form.” It is one thing to be a fan and a consumer of comedy, but it takes more hard work to become one. “Some people start doing comedy because they see Louis CK and they go ‘I want to be a comedian, too,’” says Pieper. It’s great to have a level to aspire to, but newcomers should realize that they are watching someone who has perfected it as an art form. “You have to be in it for the long haul” Pieper says, in agreement with Harvey that a career in comedy is not instantly gratifying.

All three of the comedians have each been through this process of self-realization to get to where they are now. “I’ve stopped writing sexually premised jokes, I don’t want to tell dick jokes anymore,” says Harvey. Everyone you see onstage goes through a phase where they figure out what they want to use for material, the trick is that you must grow out of using ‘hack’ as a tactic. Pieper says, “Hack doesn’t just mean you’re doing someone else’s joke or a premise that has been done to death. Hack is anytime you’re not original.” He often hosts open mics at Wiseguys, so he speaks from experience. “It happens all the time. I’m at an open mic, watching, and someone does a joke that gets a laugh,” Pieper says. “I don’t know that someone else has done that joke, but I know that it’s easy enough and impersonal enough that someone else could probably do that, and probably has. If that’s the case, it’s not original.” Any comic can tell you that stealing jokes breaks the number one cardinal rule of comedy, but really doing material that hits home takes a little something extra. “I think that originality is more than not stealing jokes, it’s being a real person,” says Harvey. “It’s being honest.”

What to Do When It Gets Rough

Eileen DobbinsThen, there’s what happens when a comic bombs, and all comics have bombed. They have all had to admit at one point when they weren’t ready for 20 or 30 minutes of stage time. Harvey says, “When you’re starting off, you’re so gung-ho.” Pieper adds,“You’re a hot shot.” And Dobbin laughs, “I still think I’m a hotshot!” However, they all have those moments where not only did the audience not seize up in laughter, but they were dead silent. “I think bombing is important. It’s one of the most important things you can do as a comic because it is the honest reaction of where you are at,” Harvey says. “I ate shit and it felt terrible. I realized I need to work harder and I need to write better jokes.” It’s actually not the worst thing that can happen, as bad as it sounds. Dobbins agrees, “It forces you to write better material,” she says.

Pieper recounts a moment he had about nine months into his comedy when he was doing a show in Idaho. Within the first three minutes of his set, he had gotten zero laughs when a girl in the audience yelled out “You’re not funny!” He realized something important- that he wasn’t prepared. He remembers that he got 30 minutes of silence, his whole set. “You get off stage, you’ve got the tears welling up in your eyes, and you think ‘well, that’s as bad as it’s going to be.’ And I haven’t been afraid onstage since. I didn’t die.” It’s almost a rite of passage, after that first time a comic bombs, there is only one direction, and that is up.

The comedians recount some of the harder sets they’ve endured, and that it really does happen to everybody. “Once you do stuff like that, there’s nothing that’s going to hurt you,” says Pieper. There may be more times, many more, that even seasoned comics will fail to get the audience where they want them and will get minimal laughter. After that first time “It doesn’t hurt anymore, it’s an unpleasant reminder that it can happen” Harvey points out. Dobbins admits that she hasn’t hit that point yet. “It hurts like hell,” she says. “The waves of rejection that wash over you—you’re like, ‘I’m drowning. That’s it, I’m going to let go and sink into this abyss of depression and all of this rejection.’” She’s massively positive about it, though. All it takes is one person to like you to make you want to go back up. “But then you have a good show a couple of weeks later,” says Dobbins. “Nothing feels better than coming down off of the stage and knowing that people thought that the stupid jokes you made up in your mind were funny. That’s the best feeling.”

Virtually all Professional comedians have been heckled. They’ve been called names onstage. This only ends up making them better, but only if they are ready for that challenge. “I’m so glad nobody put me on a show six months into open mics,” Dobbins says. “I wasn’t ready. It would’ve been devastating.” Starting out getting big showcase sets, or paid shows too early in the game may not actually be helpful, though newcomers get excited for that moment. Harvey says, “I’ve seen it ruin people because I’ve seen their creative writing process stop.” It depends on the new comic gauging their own level of readiness, and being honest about it. Harvey has advice on this matter, “It’s important to not only listen onstage to the laughs you get, record your set, and pay attention to the other comics and the laughs they are getting.” When you hit a point that you can bring the audience along for the ride, just like those you are opening up for, you know you’re ready for bigger things.

Professional Comedians: What It Takes

Jason HarveyAfter the rookie mistakes and the inevitability that, as a comedian you will bomb at one point, then it’s a matter about honing your skills onstage. “That’s the one thing, if you want to get better in comedy and it’s something you want to pursue then it’s something you have to be committed to writing as often as you can possibly write and going up on stage as often as you can possibly get up onstage,” says Harvey. He says that it’s important to know how to rework jokes, know what to keep, what to scrap and what to completely change.

Pieper thinks there are different levels of dedication. “It depends on what your goals are, if you want to just do comedy and have fun doing it as a hobby, keep doing it,” he says. “If you want to be a professional comedian then you better work hard, have some talent, and stick with it. And you better not bomb all the time.” Everyone has their own learning curve, there isn’t any class or manual that can prepare you for the real deal. “There’s lots of different avenues you can pursue” he says. Pieper has hit a point pretty early on in just over four years where he’s traveling for shows and making more of a name for himself. “If you’re a little bit funny and you work hard, you can make 40 grand a year hustling all over the country and having a horrible life style.” Despite how important hard work can be to professional comedians who thirst for success, Pieper warns that one’s hard work doesn’t always pay off. “If you’re hitting stages for years and nothing is going anywhere for you, maybe comedy is not for you,” he says.

Harvey recounts his own journey and how he continues to grow onstage. “Sometimes I’ll write a joke that I’m proud of and I feel like it’s progressed from the last bit of jokes that I was writing,” he says. It’s a process, and it works for him. Pieper has a similar process. “Every six months I look back and watch sets from six months ago and I’m like, ‘That was dog shit, I’m a lot better now.’” he says. Although he says that not everyone is cut out for comedy, he does think that you should realistically gauge your own abilities and progress. “If you’re still getting better, then why quit?” He adds, “I think that there’s a point that people get to, a level where they are reliable comedians that you can put on any show and they’ll do well. That happens at a different point for different people. As long as you’re progressing toward that and you’re willing to be patient, it might take several years, but you’ll get there.”

Where To Start

ChristianPieperIf you are looking at getting into the stand-up business, you’ll want to start out researching local comedy. Find a few buddies to go with to an open mic of your choice. Be prepared to see all levels of comedy, and decide if that is the best atmosphere to start out in. After going a few times to see what others are doing, prepare a good solid two to five minutes of material. All it takes at that point is the guts to get onstage and remember it.

Utah has several comedy clubs that cater to all things in the genre. However, if the club scene starts out as too intimidating, there are also diners, coffee shops, and small bar shows you can check out as well. Ask amateur and professional comedians for their best spots they know of, or do a little research into what is closest in your area.

The Utah comedy scene is actually a pretty close knit group of very supportive individuals. They are willing to answer questions and provide feedback to newcomers. If you have ever wanted to get out there and see what it’s like, there’s no better time than the present. Whether it is supporting a local show by being in the audience, or trying your hand at a few minutes, you may be surprised at how much fun these shows can be.

Get the scoop on SLC’s burgeoning comedy scene by checking out SLUG’s coverage of local comics, and make sure to trek down to the Urban Lounge on Dec. 17 for our first-ever local comedy Localized showcase!


For more information on standup comedy in Utah, check out the other pieces in this series!

Diverse Comics: Something for Everyone in the Utah Stand-Up Scene

We Live For Funny: The Evolution Of The Utah Comedy Scene

Localized: Comedy Showcase

December brings together eight of Utah’s funniest comedians for the first stand-up comedy Localized showcase. The absolutely FREE show is one night only at Urban Lounge on Dec. 17, brought to you by Spilt Ink, High West Distillery, Uinta Brewing and KRCL 90.9 FM.


It’s a shame to find out that some people don’t know that Northern Utah has had a consistently thriving stand-up comedy scene for well over a decade. Our great little state has churned out some amazing comics over the years. Eight of the funniest Utah comedians will share the stage to not only entertain but also enlighten the masses on subjects ranging from awkward dating to hilariously bad depression—and all topics in between. Nothing is off limits with these comics—not even an “orphan funeral”—and that’s admittedly how the best comedy is done. Tapping the best of the best, these eight comedians are as unique as the material they bring to the stage.

If you have never been to a live comedy show, you have never had the full experience of the art form. Just like a live rock show, there is a connection between the comedian and the audience—a bond that forms through laughter. “If you go with other people, there’s a sort of connection you can make that you can’t with other things,” says Natashia Mower, the petite force of laughter who recently won a City Weekly Arty award for “Best Stand-up Comedian” and has helped launch new comedy shows in the state, including the weekly Funny Fridays at Sandy Station. She believes that sharing laughter and creating new experiences brings people to comedy shows. “You’re enjoying something in the moment, together,” she says. Jason Harvey, who’s been bringing his brand of funny to Utah audiences for six years, digs a little deeper into this idea of that connection. He says, “[It’s about] being able to connect through laughter and being able to laugh with your friends, just like you were able to do when you were growing up—but you’re an adult and you still get to do it.”

Anything can happen at a live show, and no two will ever be the same. No matter how polished the jokes are, the audience plays a huge part in the experience. Eileen Dobbins, who runs You’ve Gotta be Kidding Me—a panel show that pits comedians and other entertainers against each other in a battle of who can lie better with a straight face—says that “no two performances are exactly alike.” She points out live comedy’s role in helping to not only bring people together but also to cement culture. “When you see a comedy show, you’re fostering something creative and awesome in your community,” she says.

Even those who are regular performers can frequently be seen on the other side in the audience. Nicholas Smith, who started out as a heavy metal musician, got into the stand-up game about three and a half years ago when he needed a new outlet. Since that time, he has been a larger-than-life force on stages all over Utah, including Dungeons and Comedy, which brings together comedians who roll the 20-sided die in a side-splitting version of D&D. “I go to comedy shows because I genuinely love the art form,” he says. “A live experience is very different from watching a performance on a screen. It’s much more visceral and exciting—anything could happen.

Local comedy shows may not draw in arenas full of fans—yet—but the observations and humor of Utah’s comics are just as polished and funny as the power players. “There’s going to be something for everybody,” says Jay Whittaker, a member of the Geek Show Podcast and a favorite on panels at Salt Lake Comic Con. “I guarantee you’ll like all of us,” he says, mostly serious, while laughing. These jokers are skilled entertainers, still hitting the beaten path of numerous comedy superstars before them, week in and week out. There is something even more authentic when the comedy is grown out of our own backyard and our communal experiences. Mo’s Diner open-mic organizer and Comedy Carnivale founder Christopher Stephenson has been making people laugh for 13 years since he was a fresh-faced 18-year-old who did his first show on a dare. He talks about being a huge Michael Jackson fan as a kid. “He’d always talk about escapism,” he says. “Comedy, especially, is very relatable. I want to do that for people.”

With the availability to stream a comedy show at the click of a mouse, comedy as a genre is picking up steam at a level that hasn’t been seen in years. Many of the comedians working stages now had to uncover comedy in their own ways, as the accessibility just wasn’t there for a long time. Melissa Merlot, a favorite on the Utah comedy circuit for over 10 years, drew her inspiration from some of the greats, like Tracy Ullman. She remembers being younger and in awe of how easy some comedians made their performances look. “I remember seeing Gary Shandling hosting the Aspen Comedy Festival.” As she recounts, the audience was just horrible—a comedian’s worst nightmare. “He was so obviously ticked off, but he just turned everything into a joke and made everybody laugh, and I thought that was so impressive.”

Utah transplant Joy Lane also recounts how her passion for comedy began. “My first crush was Johnny Carson,” she says. She would smuggle a little black-and-white TV into her room to watch him at night. Growing up on the East Coast and visiting New York, a 12-year-old Lane ran up to Carson and told him that she loved him. “My mother rushed me away and said, ‘How do you know that man?’ and I said, ‘That’s the man on TV every night,’ and she’s like, ‘Well, how do you watch him every night?’” She was busted, but obviously lived to tell the tale. Similarly, Dobbins happened to be a Mormon home-schooled in Montana. “I didn’t even hear stand-up until I was in my senior year in high school, and it was Brian Regan,” she says. Dobbins is pretty sure that comedy didn’t even exist in Montana until that moment. “I didn’t know what stand-up comedy was, but this guy was just talking about my life stuff.”

The passion of these entertainers is apparent the moment they walk onstage. Comedy is hard work. You don’t have closed-door jam sessions, so each joke has to be perfectly crafted by performing it live, failing time after time until it finally gets the desired response. The pure drive to keep getting onstage and perform is deeply rooted in a love for comedy as a genre and an art form. Smith, who is often wildly irreverent onstage, loves the ability to have a chance to talk about dark (understatement) and demented (also an understatement) ideas. “It’s a great vehicle for my creative energies,” he says. “I love putting out my strange ideas for others to sample and make connections with complete strangers. It can be really brutal and alienating, too, but those times when I’m landing jokes and people are willing to go on a strange, dark ride with me fills me with religious ecstasy.”

The love for the stage among this ragtag group of eight is abundantly clear. Stephenson recounts the thrill he gets to keep him going: “The adrenaline rush when you’re onstage and the audience is laughing so hard you have to stop,” he says, “it’s like the best drug I’ve ever done.” In a similar sense, Whittaker says, “There are times that I’m so frustrated throughout the week that I just can’t wait to get up onstage and get it out.” It’s great, he says, “because you’re amongst a family that understands where you’re coming from.” All the comics seem to agree. “The best part,” as Mower puts it, “is the variety we have and the people I’ve met.” With such variety, you’ll never know what to expect. Stephenson says, “Come with no expectations. Leave your expectations elsewhere. Have an open mind and follow along with the story.” Their stories will become new references in your stories, and who knows? Maybe the next person to inspire new generations of comics will be right here in our own backyard.

You can check out some great local comedy podcasts—like Sketch Sandwich, Stupid Questions with Jason Harvey and the Geek Show Podcast—anytime on your favorite platform like Stitcher or iTunes. To really get the feel for the talent of the comedy scene at large, check out the weekly live shows featuring these wickedly funny comedians and others around the state: Weekly shows like Funny Fridays at Sandy Station feature a revolving arsenal of both local and out-of-town comedians, and monthly variety shows such as Dungeons and Comedy at Muse Music, You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me and Comedy and Other Opinions at 50 West Club & Cafe provide new content at multiple locations from Provo to Ogden.


Read More About Utah Comedy

We Live for Funny: The Evolution of the Utah Comedy Scene
Diverse Comics: Something for Everyone in the Utah Stand-up Scene

Come check out comedians Joy Lane, Jason Harvey, Eileen Dobbins, Nicholas Smith, Natashia Mower and Christopher Stephenson with headliners Melissa Merlot and Jay Whittaker for a free show Dec. 17 at the Urban Lounge. Bring a friend and find out what really tickles their funny bone—you may learn a lot more about them than you ever wanted to know.

Trevor Kelley. Photo Courtesy of 50 West Club

Trevor Kelley

Utah is a big place full of funny people, but few are as unique and passionate as Trevor Kelley. Just off of a busy five-show stretch opening for David Koechner at Club 50 West, Kelley has been one of the hardest working comedians in the state, hitting stages across Utah on a regular basis. He’s a genuinely likable guy, with a flair for voices, and wins over audiences with his playful sets. Though Trevor Kelley may immediately look a little bit different than many other comedians, the only thing that sets him apart once he gets onstage is the height of the microphone. He took a break from his busy schedule to talk with SLUG over a few microbrews, and really lay out his lofty goals, immense love for comedy, and his plans for using and developing his talents.

 

Hitting the Stage

Trevor Kelley. Photo Courtesy of 50 West ClubTrevor Kelley started out as most comics do, by making a decision to throw his hat into the standup ring and try out open mics about five years ago. “I didn’t even really do standup,” he says. “Five years ago, I was working in IT and I hated my job and I hated my life. I was like ‘OK, I’m in a position where I can really give this a shot and go for it.’” At the time he lived in Provo and would make a trek up north every week to hit open-mic stages. After that became more and more difficult due to the time and travel, he found an improv group in Provo called ComedySportz and, within three months, had earned his way onto the stage.

 

He’s always had the advantage of being comfortable when onstage. “I was one of our top guys,” says Trevor Kelley. “I did shows every weekend, sometimes two shows a night. I have hundreds of shows under my belt. So being onstage is something I’m really comfortable with,” he says. He went on from ComedySportz to form the improv group Crowdsourced Comedy, which does weekly shows on Thursday nights downtown at Club 50 West, where he was convinced to join the Salt City Comedy Competition. “I wrote a new set every week for that, and it really helped me mold myself,” he says. His improv background helped him in keeping the energy and flow on stage, and he went on to place third in the competition.

 

Trevor Kelley has been involved in performance art ever since he was in high school, from the school’s news crew to film class. “I was always the class clown and joking around to make people like me.” He recalls a memory of his buddy back when they were in the 6th grade when they’d tell “dumb stories” to each other. “I remember him making me laugh so hard that I was crying and couldn’t breathe, and that was the first time I wanted to be funny and figure out how to be funny. That was the first time I wanted to be a comedian.” Trevor Kelley grew up watching standup on a weekly basis with his parents. They would enjoy Bill Cosby (though Kelley adds, “may he rot in hell”), Norm MacDonald and Carrot Top. Monty Python’s Flying Circus and SNL were a really big deal in his house. Soon after, he started making funny movies, skits, and participating in the talent show. “I knew that was the key to being popular, which is what every kid wanted.” Both of his parents, as he puts it, are really big comedy connoisseurs. “My mom has always been my biggest critic,” says Trevor Kelley. “She doesn’t really like my dark humor.” Today, his wife and family are still big supporters of his comedy.

 

Ambitions of Grandeur

Trevor Kelley. Photo Courtesy of The Club at 50 WestHis dark humor can be a little self-deprecating at times, which is the way he breaks the ice when he’s onstage. Trevor Kelley is in a wheelchair, and it’s something that he does like to play with in his material. “I have learned that it has to be addressed, I have to break the ice and go ‘It’s OK to laugh at this and to acknowledge this. We don’t have to pretend anything here,’” he says. “It is important to me to bring people out of their comfort zone a little bit. Mainly just because, being in a wheelchair my whole life, I’ve been treated a little bit differently and that’s something that is a social construct. In the effort to treat disabled people like they are normal, you end up treating them differently. Some people really resent it. I just see an opportunity to educate people, I guess.” Trevor Kelley addresses his every day life in his comedy, and it becomes very human and relatable, not to mention hilarious. “I think it’s an advantage, really. A tool.”

 

The fact that he doesn’t see himself as much different than anyone else helps him have the ability to laugh at himself, and at life. “The way I grew up, my parents raised me no differently, to a point. They’re good people. They were tough, too.” He shares that while his mother helped him, his dad let him learn and push through the struggle. “The downside of how they raised me is that I never realized how actually limited I really am. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was 14, I would have straight up said an NBA player. I didn’t know! I just didn’t know. So my self-image is very normalized.” In a sense, Trevor Kelley feels that he was allowed to have ambitions of grandeur. “You can call them delusions, because that’s what they were!”

 

Trevor Kelley has a way of really helping the audience visualize his stories, making the comedy hit perfectly. “It’s a skill that I’ve always had, and I think that’s what drew me to improv.” He says he first learned how to do this from his dad, who would tell stories and make up characters. “I definitely got that from him. I’m always playing.” He realized he had come up with a back story about his cats and anthropomorphizing them, which led to one of his funniest sets he performs in his standup. “One of the main things I’m really good at is voices, accents, impressions and stuff like that. It was always a struggle to figure out a way to incorporate that into standup. I know something’s funny, but I don’t always know why. The thing I had the hardest time with is contextualizing jokes.”

 

Moving Forward

Trevor Kelley with members of the Crowdsourced Comedy crew.Trevor Kelley is busy, still doing both the weekly improv shows, and his solo standup act. “Right now I’m doing everything I basically can. I have a Youtube channel—Short Bus Bordello—and an improv group—Crowdsourced Comedy—and I write my own sketches and stuff all of the time. I’m just trying to do as much as I can.” He wants to eventually make it out to L.A. and pick up opportunities there. “I feel like—and I’m sure every comedian feels this way—that if the right person sees me, that would be it. So I’m trying to be in as many places as I can.” He’s been extremely interested in voice work, picking up a few local gigs on podcasts and promotional kickstarters. “What I need to do is get to L.A. where the opportunities are and just grind the shit out of it.” There isn’t a lot of that type of work in Utah, and the little that there is can be hard to come by, says Trevor Kelley. “At heart, I’m just a kid who watched too many movies and played too many video games, and that’s why I can do all of these voices.” He says, “It’s just having fun for me. When I’m onstage, I’m just joking around and hanging out with a bunch of people and we’re all just having fun together.” He’d eventually like to also get into some serious stuff, and try his hand at theater or film.

 

His passion truly shines when he speaks about how he views his role as a comedian. “I think all of us are somewhat insecure. Comics are always the kind of people that need that reaffirmation from other people. There’s a high you get from doing really good at a show, and that’s what keeps me coming back.” If it’s the comedian’s high he gets from laughter that keeps him doing it, it is his love for the genre that keeps him doing it well. “Comedy is just one of the few things I actually genuinely care about,” says Trevor Kelley. “You can argue with people and debate with people, and you will never change their mind. But if you make a joke about something, and they are like ‘oh my god, that is stupid!’ you can really affect a big amount of change. It’s a good way to make people think, and it’s the best vehicle for change that there is. […] If you think about it historically, it’s often the comics that are pointing out what is not OK. You don’t have to yell at someone and present them with all of these facts and have this huge debate for that to work, you can just make them realize it without having a conflict.”

 

You can see Trevor Kelley this Thursday, Nov. 19 perform with Comedy and Other Opinions at Club 50 West in downtown Salt Lake City. This special holiday edition is a food drive fundraiser where admission is a non-perishable food item to help hungry families this winter. He also performs live every Thursday night at 7 p.m. with Crowdsourced Comedy at Club 50 West. You can also check out his Youtube Channel, Short Bus Bordello, with original material and short skits.

Trainwreck

Trainwreck
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Street: 11.10.15

 

I make it no secret that I have a huge comedy crush on Amy Schumer. Now that Trainwreck is out on DVD, Digital HD and Blu Ray, I am spared from having to go see a romantic comedy in a theater with dozens of adorable couples on date night. Sometimes, I just want to sit at home with beer and watch a romcom by myself with my cats like a normal human being. Trainwreck pairs an all-star cast with excellent writing, and twists the tired tropes so often seen in romantic comedy. Instead of a good girl meeting a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, we get to follow around Amy (appropriately played by Schumer) who is the kind of girl that doesn’t settle down, drinks and parties hard. She’s a feisty writer that works for a (hilariously) misogynistic magazine, and is competing to be one of the “cool girls” that just behaves like one of the guys. So, she’s basically like lots of girls who didn’t get married in their early 20s and instead got a good job and were a little disillusioned with the whole “monogamy” thing. It was almost like watching my own biography at times.

 

Rest assured, Trainwreck is not your typical romantic comedy. Think of it more as the kind of comedies you usually see fronted by guys who hit a point in their life when they have to grow up, and then switch the genders. Amy is just a girl in a point in her life where her sister has a family, her dad is very ill and her dream job is turning into a nightmare. She meets a good guy and has to decide if she’s willing to be part of a relationship or continue her “trainwreck” life. Oh yeah, and it’s funny as hell. The unrated version has some moments that are pretty out there, so I can only imagine what had originally been left on the cutting room floor. For instance, imagine the most obnoxious lover with the most ridiculous safe word you’ve ever heard of. Then, make that potential lover a minor. In theory, it sounds horrible, but I actually had to pause the Blu Ray because I could not stop laughing.

 

Aside from the fact that Trainwreck is one of the funniest films I have seen in a long time, the bundle package made everything worth it for one reason: John Cena. The supporting cast is phenomenal, with help from Lebron James, Colin Quin, Tilda Swinton and even the weirdest of appearances from Daniel Radcliffe, but Cena is a stand-out. He plays Amy’s “kind of boyfriend” and everything that comes out of his mouth is so over-the-top homo erotic, it’s amazing anyone could keep a straight face. The bonus features include an additional five minutes of him spouting off line after line of insults in a theater, proving that not only can this pro-wrestler act, but he’s also fast with the comedy. I typically find that most bonus features seemed tacked on, but the add-ons here were enjoyable. Not only do you get Cena’s extra ranting, you get more of a Line-O-Rama from others such as Schumer and Quin. There’s also the essential gag-reel, deleted scenes and commentary for those die-hard, behind-the-scenes kind of fans. As an additional dose of nostalgia for all of those who clearly remember the ’90s, Method Man makes an appearance as a nurse in the old folk’s home, and we are treated to a wonderful additional five minutes of him explaining the “Secrets of the Wu” to Norman Lloyd, who would now like to be the new Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

 

If you are a fan of comedies—and not just the “romantic” variety—you wouldn’t be disappointed by a long shot if you just picked up the whole package. This is one for the girls, the guys and all of those still trying to figure out how to “adult.” If you are single and dating, you’ll appreciate the revolving door of men Schumer parades around. For those in relationships, you’ll nod your head while trying to not make eye contact during the scenes where things feel painfully real. If you’re over the whole relationship thing yourself, then you’ve got a kindred spirit in both Quin and Schumer’s characters. There’s something for everyone in here, and it’s definitely the kind of comedy I can watch over and over, which is becoming rare. Grab a friend or Tinder date, some Jim Beam and make it a “Trainwreck and chill” night.

Aspire Eyewear

Aspire Eyewear

Aspire Eyewear

Creative Lens
aspireeyewear.com

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