Ted Russell Kamp [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And welcome back to another beautiful Wednesday here at Trainwreck’d Society. While I am usually always so excited to share interviews with you fine folks, today I am particularly excited for a somewhat singular reason. Not only is our guest today and amazing and talented human being, but we have a musician back in the house, Folks! It’s the wonderful Grammy award winning musician Ted Russell Kamp, Everyone! For those not in the know, TWS was essentially just a music blog. That was where I laid my original roots and will always be proud of the fact. But, the main reason I started this site was to move into other categories. Now here we are, close to 700 interviews later, and musicians just don’t show up as much as they used to. I guess we are starting to change that, right now!

Ted Russell Kamp is a long time bass player, songwriter, guitarist, just about everything you could imagine. Regular readers of the site will remember that Ted appeared on our 2020 year end lists for both a song as well as his amazing album, Down in the Den, which landed at #40, as well as our favorite track from the album “Home Sweet Hollywood” landing at #45 on our Top 100 Songs list. And Folks, while it is very early on, it is damn near safe to say that we will be seeing more from Mr. Kamp at the end of 2021. Our man has a new record coming out on May 7th that I was fortunate enough to get an early listening to and, Folks, he’s only getting better. Being his 13th album is proof that Ted is in no way aging out and continues to put out fresh shit on an extremely fast pace.

So Folks, be on the lookout for his album, Solitaire, available everywhere on May 7th (we will be talking about the album more in the future, I guarantee it), and please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Ted Russell Kamp!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of music? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I started playing trumpet in the 4th grade in the school band. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and at the time it was New York state law that every student had to join the choir or start and instrument. At the time I was deathly afraid of singing, so I started with an instrument. My dad actually played in some big bands when he was in college so I asked him if I could just use his old trumpet. And that’s still the trumpet I play on a lot of my recordings.

When I got to High School, I got a bass guitar and started playing in rock bands and the high school jazz band. I was hooked for life.

What was your first paid gig in the world of music? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

I had been playing bass for a year or two, so I must have been a Sophomore or Junior in High School. A Senior bass player who I really looked up to, asked if I would sub for him and play a gig with a band he worked with. They were mostly guys in college and they had a small-town festival in a field a few towns over from where I lived. They were a New Wave band and I remember learning Duran Duran, the Cure and Howard Jones covers. I had heard some of that music but was not a fan. I was a classic rock guy and mostly avoided music with too many synths. I really did my homework but was so nervous I could barely deal with it. They were older than me, cooler than me and I think I got paid $25 or $50. It was a huge deal and it was the first time I played in a band with people I didn’t know.

Back when you were able to tour the land doing shows all over the place, what were some of the more off the path types of cities and venues that you performed in that most people may not realize are wonderful towns for live music?

I love traveling and trying to get to know the people and heart of every city I go to. Some of my favorites are the small cities you don’t hear about until you get to them. Tuscaloosa Alabama is great. Norco California. Amal Sweden is another. Nokia, Finland. Some of the best gigs are when you go to a small town or city where they don’t get much live music so your arrival is a big deal you become the big show in town. You really feel the heart of the people and the deep appreciation that you don’t often get in big cities.

You have a new album coming out in May that is already shaping up to be one of my favorites of 2021. I’ve enjoyed your work for years, but Solitaire feels special for some reason. Can you tell us how this record came to light? What made you want to put these tales out into the world?

Solitaire is my 13th record as an artist and front man. I played and recorded it by myself, almost entirely in my home studio, The Den, during the last half of 2020 in the COVID quarantine. This is record deals with the isolation me and many of us have felt this last year so there are more than a few sadder and more introspective acoustic songs on it. Overall, I’m an optimistic type of person so I also wanted to have some songs of hope and inspiration on the record because we are all trying to find ways to stay sane and pull through. I have definitely had ballads on my records before but this album as a whole shows a moodier and more introspective side to my writing and playing. It’s as much of a classic folk and singer songwriter record as I have ever made and it really shows my folk influences like early Dylan, Guy Clark and Nick Drake.

 

 

One track from Solitaire that has really hit me hard on a very personal level is “Birds That Sing at Dawn”. For reasons that I don’t really care to get into, this one hits me, Man. I’m curious to know what it is like to deal with this scenario. When people personalize your already very personal lyrics to themselves, how does that make you feel? Is it a good thing in your opinion? Why or why not?

I wrote this one with Brad Raisin, who is an artist i have played bass on a bunch of his records over the years. He actually loved my record Flying Solo and started to learn one of the songs on that album so he could start playing it. It’s “The Way Love Burns”. So, his messing around with that evolved into this song. Then he sent me a recording and i tweaked it a little more to get it to what you hear on this version. I love this one. A relationship has fallen apart and the narrator is left reliving the memories and trying to start again. He’s up all night thinking and drinking and wondering what’s next. That’s someplace we have all been.

I’m honored that you relate to it and that this song stands out to you. One of the things I try to do with certain songs is to give a lot of detail and feeling but keep it vague enough that listeners can see themselves in a song. We’ve all had lonely times like that and worried about what we did wrong and missed a better time. I hope this one helps you through those memories.

You received a well-deserved Grammy last year for working with the legendary Tanya Tucker on her wonderful album, While I’m Living’. We always like to ask our statue holding friends this one question: Where do you physically keep your Grammy? And does its location have any sort of symbolic significance?

That was a truly amazing and inspiring record to be a part of. Not just working with Tanya Tucker, who is a legend, but also being in the room with Brandi Carlile, Shooter and the rest of the team. It felt magical from beginning to end.

I didn’t know this, but when it’s an artist and not a band, not everyone gets an actual Grammy statue. I believe the producers, engineers and artists get a statue. The musicians get a pretty awesome commemorative certificate. My wife framed it for me as a gift and it’s hanging in our living room.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

This record comes out on May 7. I won’t be doing any touring of course but I’m excited to get this music out into the world.

As of now I am booking a tour in Europe for February of 2022 and then I hope to do some traveling and playing with Shooter Jennings next year as well on my own.

I also have a few records that I will be producing and we are figuring out the best way to start them while in quarantine.

Aside from that, I just hope to keep making music for a living whether that’s playing live or in the studio.

And you know I’m going to keep writing songs and putting out records.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My wife is a high school teacher and is just starting her own podcast about education and critical thinking. It’s called Think or Thwim and the first episode just got put on Spotify a few weeks ago so she is really excited about it. I have been working in the studio recording and editing her first few shows and I even wrote a theme song for it. We laugh a lot while we are working together. Since our professional lives are usually completely different, it’s great that I can use my musical and studio skills to help her.

 

Gabriel Theis [Interview]

 

Hello, Folks! I hope you all had a nice spring break. We took a little time off to move our headquarters to Anchorage, as we previously discussed. And if I’m being honest, I truly needed a break. But, we shall show you that the wait was worth the….well, wait. So here we go!

Today we have a wonderful interview with a bright young filmmaker that we are so excited to have on the site. It’s Gabriel Theis, Everyone! Gabriel has been working in the world of film and television in several different capacities over the last few years, and has made great strides to becoming one of the greats. His latest project is one that was brought to my attention by our dear friend, cinematographer Brad Rushing, and we are so happy he did. This project is known as The Curse of Professor Zardonicus, a film about a young man who recruits a film student to help him prove the existence of an urban legend. It is a truly intriguing story that I am so excited to check out, and possibly share with you all here.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the newly beloved filmmaker, Gabriel Theis! Enjoy!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of film? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

 My father was a film critic, so cinema was ubiquitous in our household. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been hooked on movies, classic and new, arthouse and blockbuster, really good and really bad (my list of guilty-pleasures is insane).

So because of that, I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, even when I was too young to really understand what that meant.  I had no idea how films were constructed, all the nuances that go behind a successful production. If I’d had any appreciation for how difficult filmmaking could be, or how much failure I would experience in that quest, I might have been discouraged.

But, too late now. It’s the only thing I could imagine for myself, which has been an absolutely essential mindset. If I had the ability to really consider another career choice, I might have given up by now and gone on to become, I don’t know, a doctor? Accountant? Something more financially reliable as a career path. But filmmaking is too ingrained in my identity now, so I’ve never considered trying something else, even if that might have seemed like the more logical move. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of film? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

My first gig was being a Production Assistant on the “Sicko Mode” music video. I was a sophomore in college, and got the gig through one of my film professors (appreciate it, Professor Houk).

It was a 16-hour shoot day, and was the first set I had been on where the camera wasn’t something that anyone could get at a Best Buy. I went from making amateur short films to being on set for a music video featuring two of the most high-profile artists of my generation.

So it was both exciting and overwhelming at the same time, for exactly the reasons you’d expect. I got some extremely helpful pointers on being a production assistant, though, and the crew was very patient with me, knowing how green I was. 

The number of things I learned on that shoot was so long, I couldn’t possibly list them all here. It ranged from learning what a line producer was, to what Travis Scott’s favorite flavor of Fanta was. But the lessons I carried with me were all about work ethic and maintaining the rhythm of a functioning set.

While I’ve never produced a project of my own at that scale, the principles remain the same, of always being alert and prepared for a problem to arise, of staying in your lane and never interfering with someone else’s responsibilities.

So shout out to Drake and Travis Scott, my old bosses. And especially a huge thanks to Travis Scott, who was part of the reason why the music video was being filmed in Houston.

 

 

Can you tell us a bit about your exciting new project, The Curse of Professor Zardonicus? What made you want to bring this story into the world, and what can people expect to see?

The Curse of Professor Zardonicus is… honestly, I still have a hard time explaining exactly what it is. And that’s part of what I loved about making it.

Simply put, it’s a mockumentary dark-comedy about an eccentric young man who recruits a film student to help him prove the existence of an urban legend named, you guessed, “Professor Zardonicus.” It was shot with my colleagues, Alec White and Lucio Vasquez. While there are people to thank, including the rest of the cast, and many people who helped with production, most of the film was shot with just the three of us. Lucio was the Director of Photography and Editor, Alec played the lead character, as well as serving other services such as being a casting director. Without either of them, there simply wouldn’t be a movie. And without the enthusiasm to overcome all of the challenges to produce a film with such limited resources, I don’t know how we could have gotten it done.

Dating back to my freshman year, I had known that Zardonicus would be my debut feature film. Since it’s a mockumentary told from the perspective of a college student, it had the perfect framing device for my limited resources. It was also a chance to satirize the found-footage genre, and “monster-hunting” shows.

It was going to be a comedy, through and through. But then, as I started writing the screenplay, other themes started to creep in, ones about mental illness and conspiracy theories. The screenplay was written long before Qanon became a household name, I can’t imagine a more appropriate sociopolitical context for the film to be released.

We were never sure how audiences would respond, and that anticipation was the most suspenseful aspect of production, at least for myself. With such an off-beat sense of humor, frankly weird lead character, and bizarre title, I knew we had limited our audience. But John Lennon once said “being yourself may not get you a lot of friends, but it’ll get you the right ones,” and the same philosophy applies to creative endeavors and their audience. While Zardonicus has had a polarizing response, the people who have enjoyed it seemed to have had a unique experience watching it, and formed a very personal relationship with the film, it’s themes and characters. And that alone makes it worth it, even with the endless amount of frustration and disappointment that can ensue when you’re producing a film.

If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any famous figure from American history, who would it be?

I think the best biopics cover specific events of the subject’s life, rather than try to condense their entire life story into a single film. With that being said, there’s always been a specific moment in Charles Manson’s life I would love to cover, and that would be his relationship with Beach Boys’ drummer, Dennis Wilson.

It seems that most people are aware that Charles Manson was associated with the Beach Boys in some vague fashion, but his relationship with Dennis Wilson was so much deeper than many people realize. They didn’t just do drugs together, they lived together, they worked on music together. Charles Manson is actually a co-writer on a Beach Boys song, “Never Learn Not To Love.”

But, most disturbing of all, Charles Manson’s relationship with Dennis Wilson was the catalyst for a key turning point in his life, one that would set him on the path to really becoming “Charles Manson.”

So, that Beach Boys song? Manson didn’t realize that Wilson would rewrite his lyrics. And when he learned that, he… didn’t take it well.

He literally handed Dennis Wilson a bullet, and said: “Every time you look at it, I want you to think how nice it is your kids are still safe.” And then… Dennis Wilson beat the shit out of him.

Then, later on, Manson would order his followers to go to a house and murder a record producer who turned him down. Except, that producer had moved out. And the new resident was… Sharon Tate.

The more research I did into their relationship, the more of a narrative I could see. These two infamous figures, representing two very different cultural movements of the ‘60s. Dennis Wilson, one of the Beach Boys, was a key figure in the development of Charles Manson, who would change the cultural perception surrounding the “Free Love” movement forever. 

 

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Currently, I’m helping to develop a science-fiction screenplay with cinematographer Brad Rushing and director Shaun Paul Piccinino. I’m also in post on a horror short-film, The Face You Took Away, which we expect to be releasing around late April, early May.

If you’d like more updates, you can follow me on social media. When I’m not developing my own projects, I’m working on others, and I’m honestly just grateful to be working on sets after the misery of 2020.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Last night was the Golden Globes ceremony. While I’m not typically impressed with awards shows, there was an amusing bit where a bunch of kids are asked about movies, and give these very cute, silly answers.

But then the interviewer asked them, “who is Chadwick Boseman?” And every single kid shouted Black Panther!

It was such a moving way to honor Chadwick Boseman. It also took me back to when I was their age, seeing Tobey Maguire as Spiderman, or Christian Bale as Batman. It was a beautiful moment to remind us of just how much value cinema has in our lives, and how much they can inspire the imagination.

 

Sean Donnelly [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And welcome to another exciting week here at Trainwreck’d Society. We are keeping the laughs going this week my kicking things off with a very hilarious human being. It’s Sean Donnelly, Everyone! Sean is an absolutely hilarious come NYC-based comedian that I have been hearing about quite a bit over the last few years. In fact, much like our recent guest Steven Rogers, I happened to learn about Sean’s existence through our old pals Mark Normand and Joe List on Tuesdays with Stories. This is how it works, Folks! When the comedy community supports one another, word gets around. And boy was I happy to learn about Sean’s incredible act!

Sean, much like the rest of the world, also has a wonderful movie podcast entitled DYM that I sincerely cannot recommend highly enough. Alongside fellow hilarious person Andrew Fiori cover so many different facets of the world of film. It’s a true delight. The description of the podcast on The Laugh Button site is also very spot on: “Never before have two 40-something, bearded white guys made such an impact on pop culture.”

So, Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Sean Donnelly!

 

******

 

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

My first paid gig was a road gig. It was a joining bachelor/bachelorette party in Jersey. I did 30 minutes of crowd work. The lesson I took away from that day was to always make sure you stay in the moment.

I always like to ask comedians who (used?) to travel across the globe making people laugh this one question: What are some of the more obscure cities and/or venues that you have enjoying performing in? What are some places that most people may not realize are wonderful places for live comedy?

One of the best places I have been to which a lot of people probably don’t realize is great is Madison, Wisconsin. It has Comedy on State one of the best clubs in the country. Smart college town where people have a sense of humor about themselves

 

 

Besides the fact that it is practically required for every comedian to have a podcast, I am always curious to know the origin behind fine shows such as yours, DYM. So what made you want to put this show out into the digital either?

Me and Dan St. Germain ended another podcast called My Dumb Friends and I wanted to do something different from that. I am obsessed with movies so I figured that would be the best way to go.

If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any figure from the days of comedy past, who would you choose?

I would have to choose Patrice O’Neal because he was the best to do it and he was a super interesting guy that a lot of people don’t know about.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I will be in an episode of a show called Girls 5 Eva on Peacock which should be coming out soon. Oh and please check out my radio show on Sirius called Celebrate every Wednesday at 4pm!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My girlfriend.

 

Becky Braunstein [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And welcome back to a Friday edition of Trainwreck’d Society! As we foreshadowed earlier this week, TWS is now based in Alaska! Anchorage for now, but soon be moving out into the burbs of Eagle River. It’s been a long ass week, but we are getting settled in at the new HQ. And speaking of Eagle River….

We have Becky Braunstein with us today! Becky is an absolutely hilarious human being who just so happens to hail from The Eag (I’m calling it that now) and currently resides closer to my own personal hometown in Portland, Oregon. She is absolutely hilarious, and one of the best voices in comedy today. Much like many of our other past guests, I happened to catch Becky on numerous podcasts and decided to give her a listen. And, as it should be obvious because we only have very funny people on this site (comedian wise that is, although there are exceptions), I LOVED her act. She’s poignant, truthful, and most importantly of all, straight up hilarious.

Becky was kind enough to tell us a bit about growing up in The Eag (It’s going to stick, watch it happen), her entrance into the world of comedy, and so much more. Be sure to follow her on the socials, and check out beckybraunstein.com to see what she has coming up. Enjoy!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

What a question. I want to say, “The usual – I didn’t have any friends as a kid,” but that’s not an answer unless you’re intimately familiar with the most common recipe for a comedian.  I’m funny because of that experience, I guess, and I’m able to express it because of my mom. She’s one of those people who was just always funny. She had a funny way of putting things, and I think her voice comes out of my mouth when I do standup. As far as getting into comedy, the desire to perform was always there, and I’ve been an actor much longer than I’ve done standup comedy. When I was a kid, my goal was to get the hell out of the small town in South Dakota that I lived in, and I accomplished that pretty early on by moving to Eagle River, Alaska at the age of 10, so I suppose it first became a viable career direction after I tried out for a community theater play on a whim, made them laugh a lot at the audition, and got cast in one of the main roles. I was always under the impression you had to be serious and glamorous and skinny and dramatic to be an actress, and was just as surprised as anybody when I found out, like, wow – people find me amusing just the way I am. That feeling you get when you perform and people really like it and they react? That’s really, REALLY addictive. I lived in Alaska, so I just did theater and improv comedy, because that was all we had. There wasn’t a standup scene when I lived there, so it didn’t even occur to me that standup was something I could do. Then I moved to Portland, Oregon because I got diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer and needed better medical care. I wanted to move outside to pursue my career and opportunity and all that too, but the cancer thing really pulled the trigger. I hadn’t performed in several years, and then I got hit in the face with how short life is, and decided to get back onstage. I think I got into standup just because I wanted to perform but I didn’t want to have to coordinate with other people – HA! I’m a lone wolf. I started doing standup in Portland, and I’m glad I did, because it’s an excellent place to get your foundation. Audiences here make you think, and they know when you’re not giving your best.

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impact your work to date?

Hoooo boy, you know my true first actual paid gig in standup technically was a small live show in Portland that was co-headlined by Kristine Levine, who was sort of a Portland comedy legend before she moved out of state, and Jessa Reed, who I think also used to live here – funnily enough, she and I both ended up doing half hour specials in the same TV series (Unprotected Sets). Kristine asked me to host the show, and I was like all business, like preparing and practicing and sweating buckets, and thinking about what to say, and I just had no idea what it was going to be like. I was so uptight and I learned immediately that to be a good host, you had to at least seem like you were just going with the flow. I still remember sitting at the table with Kristine and Jessa, and Kristine was describing me to Jessa, and she said, “You know when you watch somebody when they’re first starting out and you just know they’ve got it.” That was a huge boost of confidence for me, and it took me a few years to be able to relate, but I do know what she meant by that now, I see it in newer comedians and it makes me think of her. And then, before the pandemic, I opened for Tom Segura at two sold-out tour shows in a 3,000+ seat theater, which must be what it felt like to stand in the middle of the Roman colosseum, and the first night I thought back to that show before I went out on stage. 

 

 

So, as many of our readers know, Trainwreck’d Society will soon be relocated its “headquarters” to your former home town of Eagle River, Alaska. I was wondering if you could give us just a brief synopsis of your time growing up in this area? Did you draw any sort of inspiration to join the world of comedy from living in this region?

Wow, what can you say about Eagle River, really? It’s still a very small town, and it used to just kind of be a Blockbuster, a Carrs (what the rest of the world would call Safeway), a 7-11, and a whole bunch of mountains. I lived in the mountains part. Then we got a WalMart, where I had my first ever job, as a people greeter. Yes my whole job was to say hi to people and give out carts, and get cussed out when the alarm went off and I was supposed to ask to see their receipt. They offered me 25 cents an hour more to be a cashier, and I refused because I didn’t want responsibility. My store manager once told me that Sam Walton was “smiling down on me.” Living on a mountain is very conducive to comedy, because you grow up with a perspective that is fundamentally unique, and you have to learn to amuse yourself. We got one trick or treater in the 17 years we lived there. He got the whole bag of candy. I think he’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company now. My brother and I used to ride our bikes down the mountain into town to hang out with our little friends as teenagers, and it’s amazing we didn’t die. I used to burn holes through the bottom of my shoes trying to slow myself down when my brakes melted down. Risking my life for Blockbuster and 7-11. I never had a Blockbuster card, which I’m proud of. I saw what happened to other people who had one. They always ended up having to rent the movies for the group and then got stuck with the late fees. No effing way. Weird shit happens to you in Alaska, and you get desensitized to it. I had a bear come to my front door one day, and I was telling somebody about that, just pretty matter of factly, and they were like, holy shit you need to do this on stage. Apparently bears don’t ring doorbells in the lower 48.

And you eventually made your way closer to my own beloved homeland, down to the great city of roses, Portland, Oregon. We have featured many folks who were from, or started out, comedy in the PDX area (Sean Jordan, Amy Miller, Matt Braunger, etc.) but have since moved on, and in some cases, back to Rip City. So, I am always inclined to ask what you love about the comedy scene around there? What sets it apart from the other regions you have worked in?

First of all, I still have no idea why it’s called the Rose City, second of all, all three of the people you mentioned are super cool people who are important to me. Sean grew up in the next town over from me in South Dakota and was probably the first person from that state who was ever nice to me, Amy there’s not even enough space to tell you how much of an impact she’s had on my career, and Matt stopped by to do a set on my show when we were just getting started which was a huge deal – and he’s just a great champion of Portland comedy in general. Portland is a great city for comedy for so many reasons, but my favorite is that audiences here appreciate scrappy, homemade, did-our-best-with-what-we-have type shit, like my show. That kind of environment is so good for creativity because they want you to take chances and do something different, and a lot of the time even if it doesn’t work, as long as you commit it’s still entertaining. Another great thing about Portland comedy and for sure what sets it apart from other scenes is that while of course there’s always some degree of fighting and drama as in any dysfunctional family, we’re unusually supportive of one another. We all know each other’s acts and we’re always the ones laughing the hardest in the back of the room when somebody does something new for the first time. Obviously not every single comedian in Portland is like this, but we do have that reputation. In the TIme Before, I used to do a lot of out of state festivals, and everywhere I went, people would comment on how the Portland comedians are all just in love with each other. They couldn’t believe how much we were in each other’s lives. In New York City, I was telling another comedian backstage at a show that in Portland, we all sit in the house and watch the other comedians at the main club’s weekly open mic, and he laughed for like five minutes when he realized I was serious.

Can you tell us a bit about your show Becky with the Good Jokes? How did this come to be? And can we expect a triumphant return when (if) the world ever gets back to “normal”?

How did Becky with the Good Jokes come to be? WELL. Let me tell you. I was performing at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival (RIP <3) and one of the organizers texted me and said, hey, you get to host your own show. We need a clever name really quick so we can put it in the program, any ideas? And in the space of about ten seconds, I said, how about Becky with the Good Jokes? (In case someone ends up reading this in the year 3021, it was a reference to a very famous line in a song by Beyonce, who was a very famous singer in the 21st century. She might still be, you never know. Beyonce might live forever.) They loved it, printed it, and I thought, hey this is my show, why don’t I turn this into an experience? It was kind of a depressing time in the world, and I wanted it to have some element of happiness, so I made these gift bags for audience members who were willing to get up and share some good news from their life. I was just so excited and we had such a great lineup, and I think my natural excitement just blazed through, and people seemed to really like it. Guy Branum said to me on his way out, “What a delightful little show.” And I thought, holy shit if Guy liked it, we have to do this again. So I started doing it monthly at a really weird venue in Portland called the Funhouse, which is like a creepy clown themed bar and performing space. It felt like a huge gamble because it’s an expensive show to produce – we bought a banner, and confetti – there’s a confetti finale – and we pay all the performers, including a musical guest, then there’s little gift bags for each performer, prize bags for audience good news sharers with my face on them (enjoy some on my instagram) and I do carefully curated preshow playlists, my tech producer runs sound and lights, AND there’s a late night show style video bit at the start of each show. Jesus that is a lot of work, now that I think about it. It’s just myself and my producer, I make all the bags and stuff myself, and then I have a stage manager and a door person, and that’s our scrappy little pirate crew. We sold out the premiere, and that was a relief, and we always used to get a pretty good crowd. I like hosting. I like being able to do whatever, and go with the flow, and interact with the audience. Little running bits that make the show unique. Okay fine, I guess I miss it somewhat. It’s so much work though, you wouldn’t believe it. Will it return post-plague? We’ll see. A million dollar budget and a 50-person crew would be very helpful. Netflix? Hulu? Paramount? Who’s got me here? Tell me that wouldn’t be the cheapest show you ever produced.

 

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

WOW, do you ask everybody this? Oh man, this is heavy. What does the future hold? Here’s a different answer than if you’d asked me in January 2020. I’ll try to be a serious person and answer a comedy/acting/entertainment industry relevant answer and not say a smartass thing like “haha probably just a shit ton of cold pizza and insomnia.” I’m really happy to be doing more acting, and I hope that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I wish I could tell you to tune in to my new tv series or whatever, (cross your fingers; write your senator) BUT this year I am on a couple of shows for a scene or two where you’ll be like, “Oh, I know her. Fun.” Which is kind of incredible in and of itself for a covid year, and I’m really grateful to have been able to work, thanks to the Portland film crews taking covid safety protocols so seriously. Which – attention industry people – is ANOTHER EXCELLENT REASON TO FILM YOUR TV SERIES OR MOVIE IN PORTLAND, not to mention the tax credits and incentives. What can you tune in and watch right now for free? I have a youtube channel on which I’ve been posting short comedy history story videos with funny animations and stuff, which take SO much time and work (I’m noticing a pattern here) but are really fun and I’m very proud of them. I think it’s fair to put them in the ‘zero dollar budget but still entertaining enough that this should have a million more views than it does’ category. If you knew how much work they are, you’d be even less modest than that. It’s all happening, at youtube.com/BeckyBraunstein. 

If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any figure from the days of comedy past, who would you choose? 

Oh, NOW I get my unlimited budget. I actually do have an idea like this that I’ve been kicking around for a while now, and it’s someone I would love to play in the film, but that’s all I want to say, because I might just get my shit together and actually do it. So who’s my second place if that one falls through? This is the hardest question to really answer though, because I’m pathologically indecisive when it comes to my projects. It took me four years before I started my own live comedy show, which is unusual. I think most comedians attempt that in year 1 or 2. I got some really good advice from Seth Rogen a couple days ago, who, when I asked him if it’s worth putting energy into whatever idea you have at the time even if you’re not all about it, or if you should wait until you have the perfect idea, told me, “I firmly believe you have to LOVE your idea or you’ll burn out on it.” I didn’t want to hear it, but I think he’s right. I kind of wanted someone to just tell me, you have to just hit the gas on whatever ideas you have or you’ll wait forever hemming and hawing over which one is the perfect one, and you’ll never find it. But deep down I know that if I’m not obsessed, it won’t survive the week. So back to the biopic, okay, idea 1 gets rejected, and they’re like, Becky what else you got? Hm. I kind of like the idea of a gritty realist behind the curtains film about Harold Lloyd, who was a very famous comedic silent film star that kind of changed the state of comedy in film because he had a much more subtle, realistic acting style than the other actors at that time. He made a bunch of comedy films and did his own stunts, including hanging from a clock tower – you just have to see it. He got part of his hand blown off in a PR stunt involving dynamite (yikes) and kept right on going with a prosthetic hand, and you would never know it unless you look really close. He definitely wasn’t a perfect dude, but he was sure as hell interesting. Let’s read Jack Huston, Paul Rust, and David Krumholtz for Harold. We’ll film it in grayscale. We’ll film it silent! But it will be all the real life stuff that was going on. I would totally watch that.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I was just working on a really stupid, ridiculous animation for my next comedy history video, and it made me laugh hysterically, so I hope that means people will enjoy it. I mean if you don’t find your own stuff funny, how could anyone else?

 

Go/Don’t Go [Film]

 

“After an unknown cataclysm, Adam is alone. The sole inhabitant of a vacant, unchanged world, or so he thinks. While attempting to stay grounded in the desolate landscape, visions come to him—the fateful night his best friend Kyle introduces him to the love of his life, K. As Adam’s mental state starts to unravel, he is plagued by lingering questions and uncertain realities about his world. His grip on what’s left starts to slip away—sending him spiraling towards a series of unforeseen consequences and unexpected truths.” – October Coast PR

 

******

I will always be a sucker for the theme of a post apocalyptic world. My immediate fascination with the entire subject may stem from the fact that I know for god damned fact, I would probably give up almost immediately. I’d find the nearest liquor store and just have a nice time for about a week before eating the misery removing bullet. I know I couldn’t hack it. Regardless of that fact, I just love seeing these types of scenarios play out. Regular readers will probably assume this right away based on our dense coverage of the Fallout video game series. I love that franchise because it is always so unique in the way it handles the endless scenarios that could play out. And you know what else has a unique twist on a world lived post apocalyptic? That’s right, the thing I should have probably been discussing throughout this entire paragraph, Go/Don’t Go. I really, really, dug this film. I even loved it for reasons beyond my initial yearning to watch it. I shall explain:

 

 

Regular readers know I love stand up comedy. Comics have made up the majority of interview subjects lately. So, for those in the know, I fucking LOVE me some Nore Davis. He’s one of the best in the biz right now as far as I am concerned. So when I saw that he was third billed in this film, I was 100% in. Now, possibly a spoiler alert but will be recognized right away, he’s not in the film much. He is amazing when he is on screen, but the film really isn’t about him. He plays a somewhat crucial role, but it’s not about Nore, really. And you know what, within twenty minutes of starting Go/Don’t Go, I forgot that this was my initial draw! Writer, Director, & lead actor Alex Knapp literally pulled me in and captivated me to the point that I forgot what drove me to the story in the first place. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me personally, this is a very big deal. 

 

 

 

 

Alex Knapp’s take on a life lived post apocalyptic, and that yearning to hold onto the past and burying down deep the self actualization that the ones you love are gone and are not coming back, but clinging onto every last detail of the before times is unique and downright brilliant. The story is obviously the thing that drew me in (after Nore, of course) but it behooves me to talk about something that I sadly don’t bring up enough when doing film reviews. Go/Don’t Go is a BEAUTIFULLY shot production. It felt like after each cut, there was some sort of incredible imagery being displayed. I know we don’t normally get to deep in the weeds about the technicalities of a film, and tend to lean towards performances and the writing (which were ALL wonderful), but I have to shout out cinematographer Frankie Turiano for his work on this film. Go/Don’t Go was only officially released 12 days into 2021, but it’s definitely a contender for one of the best films of the year.

 

“Go/Don’t Go” is currently available digitally wherever you purchase great films. For more information, visit kamikazedogfight.com

 

 

Anna Roisman [Interview]

Hello Folks! And welcome back to another fine Wednesday here at Trainwreck’d Society. Just as a disclaimer, I wanted all you fine readers to know that today marks the day that we return to being an American based blog. That’s right. After Just over 8 1/2 years, TWS has relocated back to the states. Posts from our final location will commence on Friday, but it is suffice to say that it will not be the Embassy Suites out side of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Although, I do recommend their breakfast sandwiches. Very good.

Any way, the real reason we are here is showcase some words from the insanely hilarious and immensely hilarious comedian of the day, it’s Anna Roisman, Everyone! Anna is a beloved comedian and writer in the world of comedy. Her work has appeared on everything from MTV, College Humor, and People Magazine. I will be the first to admit that I first became aware of Anna’s brilliance on a platform that, which is technically supposed to be used, actually sort of made me sad. Yes Folks, it was that damn Twitter.com again. But, when so many of the people from the world of comedy follow somebody, and their presence is just so damn hilarious, it’s too easy to become a fan of somebody so damn talented.

So Folks, I am going to take my jet-lagged ass back on to bed, but I felt it absolutely necessary to get these fine words from one of the best voices in comedy today. We are so excited to have Anna Roisman grace our digital pages today. She’s a multi-faceted human being, but a one of a kind hilarious. You’re going to love what she has to say. So enjoy some words from the great Anna Roisman!

 

******

 

What initially inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you wanted to do since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I initially wanted to be an actor and fashion designer “on the side.” HA! I said I’d be in movies and TV and design clothes since I was very young. So I kind of always had the acting bug. Sunday nights in my house growing up were my show nights where I’d put on a show and have my younger siblings be my backup dancers. They were anything from Spice Girls lip sync shows to horror movies. As I got older and started doing theater, I was always cast as the comic relief parts. Never the ingenue, which pissed me off. I enjoyed making people laugh, but still! I’m a leading lady! At the time I didn’t think of “comedy” as a career. I wanted to be on sitcoms though. I started making funny sketches in college and shooting stuff because I was a TV Production major. I was writing spec scripts and I knew it was something I was into. But I moved to NYC to try and audition for theater and film after college. It was then that I found myself in comedy. I felt like an outcast in the musical theater audition rooms. I was like, what am I doing here? I felt much more comfortable doing comedy and realized I could do that and then head back to broadway someday. The dream doesn’t die! The path just changes!

What was your very first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

My first paid gig in the world of comedy…that wasn’t a drink ticket… hard to remember! I actually got a job making a music video for a comedy youtube channel a long time ago and they gave me an awesome budget. I had produced and written a few sketch videos of my own with a comedy partner, so having a company trust me with a budget to make them something that I pitched was very exciting!! I had a friend help me who worked at the time for College Humor because I knew he had contacts and we put together an awesome shoot. It was 3 locations, a full shoot day, I wrote it and starred in it, and it felt like a dream?! And I even walked away with a paycheck. I learned quickly that those experiences don’t happen all the time!! I thought, oh I’ll just continue producing these videos and then I will be able to quit my restaurant job! Nope, that was naive. I learned a lot about what it takes to produce a music video and I’ve made some since, so it was a really cool experience.
I always love to find out what are some of the more obscure cities, venues, etc. that comedians have gone up in that may surprise people to know that it is actually a wonderful place for comedy? Especially after the last year, I feel like it may have gotten a bit more strange. So, do you have any places that have intrigued you, before or during the end times?
I thought standup was like, over forever, after the first month or so of the pandemic. The Zoom shows weren’t the same vibe. Then I did a standup show at a drive-in diner place in Astoria and it was the most fun I’d had in ages. Maybe that was because I hadn’t left my apartment? But it was a really fun time and cars would flash their lights everytime they liked a joke of mine, and it felt amazing to be up on a stage of some sort. It kind of opened my eyes to *new spaces* if that makes sense. Also, I used to do my show The Unemployed Show from my couch in the ‘before times’ like 3 years ago, and this couch has been an amazing stage for me then, and now! So yes, my couch.
Beyond the fact that it is pretty much essential for a comedian to have a podcast these days, I am very curious as to what inspired you to create the extremely original, and absolutely hilarious podcast, Unemployed with Anna Roisman? And for our readers who may be unaware, can you tell them a bit about the show?
Sure! We just dropped our 50th episode, which is hard to believe! So back in 2016 I lost my very cushy day job of 4 years at a Venture Capital firm and they gave me a severance package which I had never heard of before. So I was still being paid, and had all this free time. Life was glorious! (Sort of.) So I started a fully produced live stream show from my apartment called “The Unemployed Show.” It was mostly Thursdays at 3pm and we wore pajamas and drank alcohol and I interviewed other unemployed creative people. We played games, we did segments, it was amazing and it became a huge part of my life. After doing 50 live episodes (you can see them all on Facebook!!) I decided to end the live show because, surprise, I got a job hosting HQ Words, the new show on HQ Trivia and I was working 7 nights a week. I knew I didn’t want to give up on the brand of Unemployed because it was something I created and loved. But I was working too much to produce it. So I decided to launch it as a podcast, a few months later. It’s more tamed, we’re not drunk in pajamas, but it’s a space for me to get to know people through the jobs they have worked over the years. It’s fun to hear about people’s stories of getting fired, quitting, crazy co-workers and bosses, and anything else they want to share! Sometimes we have strangers call into the podcast who are unemployed and we give them a pep talk. It’s so much fun and it’s so interesting to hear about people’s journeys and how they handle times of unemployment. You don’t have to be unemployed to be on or listen to it! But if you are? Welcome to the club, we got you.
I would also love our readers to know more about Anna Dyed, a wonderful clothing line you have put out. Can you tell them a bit about how this line came to be, and how they can get their hands on some of it?
Hahaha wow I didn’t think this would make it into the questions! Love it. At the beginning of the pandemic I really wanted to buy all of the tie dye sweat suits I was being targeted on Instagram. The issue was I had no job then and they were all like $300. So, I was like, maybe I can just do this myself. I am very crafty and I draw and stuff. I knew I could do it. So I tested out a few different sweatshirts for material, and found the one I like, and I made myself some stuff! Then I made my mom a sweatsuit, and my sister, and before I knew it people were asking if I was doing this for other people. So I thought it has to be called Anna Dyed because that’s just funny to me, and I made a little instagram @AnnaDyed and I take orders through DM. I can only do so many at once because I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn. So I do them as a “drop” and fill the orders. It’s been too cold to dye now and I duno how much longer I’ll love the trend, but maybe I’ll do some fun pieces this spring?! We shall see…
What else does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
The future is something I try not to think to hard about. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this year, it’s that anything can be swept up from under you. So I try to make sure I have multiple projects going at once, and I pray that some of them will sell and get made!!! I’d love to plug a few things – please check out the podcast!!! “Unemployed with Anna Roisman” wherever you get podcasts! Subscribe to it, and I promise you’ll find something you love about it. Also you can watch me hosting HQ Trivia or HQ Words on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET where you can win money. Lastly, my boyfriend Jared and I have produced a bunch of shot-for-shot movie parodies in the pandemic that we’re really proud of. We did The Notebook in our bathtub. It was insane and almost broke us up! The latest one is the movie Seven, but we called ours Eight. So definitely check them out, alongside my soup recipes all on my Instagram: @AnnaRoisman.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
The last thing that made me smile was this sour cream & onion dip I made to go with a bag of kettle chips. Remember sour cream and onion dip? I’m talkin’ the shitty like powder kind. It’s glorious and it made me smile, and that’s important to remember nowadays!!!

My Name Is Pedro [Film]

 

“This award-winning film, from first time director Lillian LaSalle, explores the seemingly impossible journey of South Bronx Latino educator and maverick, Pedro Santana, a former “special ed” student, whose mantra is – every kid can learn despite their circumstances. . A New York Times profile of his “Out Of The Box” teaching techniques, thrusts him into the spotlight, which creates great opportunities for change but also has its downside – public school politics which, despite the cries of students and parents alike, threaten to take him down. A documentary with unpredictable twists and turns, it harnesses a compelling message of optimism, hope and tragedy.” – EG-PR

 

******

I have to begin by stating that I had a clear bias going into watching My Name is Pedro. In short, as you read above, it is a beautiful documentary about a teacher who actually gives a shit. Now, I know it seems as though this should be a regularity because, why else would they get into the business of shaping the youth, right? But sadly, it’s not that simple. Just think about the idea that there was a man who cared so deeply for the lives of the children he had contact with every day, was deemed worthy of having an entire New York Times profile done on him, and then a whole documentary? This is symbiotic to the fact that there are some real problems in our public school system that need drastic changes, and at the very least some real attention.

Not too dissimilar from our actual government, corruption and downright narcissism run deep in the public school system. This is a full blown fact that is clear as day in My Name is Pedro. It was actually sickening to see the “loyalty amongst thieves” mentality that was rampantly attempting to keep this great man from doing real good in his community. But what was more awe-inspiring was his perseverance to continue pushing on, and attempting to go beyond the call of duty to affect the lives of those who need it most. To be frank, Pedro Santana was a Christ-like figure. As are all good teachers who actually give a shit, and pour their heart into the act of developing the future.

 

 

Producer and Manager Lillian LaSalle has already had an insanely impressive career running  her company Sweet180. And while the subject matter that she worked on as a director in My Name is Pedro could seem like a slow pitch softball toss up, I believe that something needs to be said for what she helped bring to the screen. I speak personally as a somebody constantly seeking out documentaries are equally heartwarming and heartbreaking, My Name is Pedro absolutely nails it! And LaSalle deserves a lot of the credit. Obviously, the editing of a documentary can have a huge effect on how people view the film as a whole, but the vision of what the film will become laid in her hands, and she absolutely killed it.

As corny and hack as it may seem to sound, I will say it….we need more Pedro Santanas. As a guy who has been living alongside a teacher over the years, I know there are horror stories to be known. Also, as corny as it is, the children are our damn future! If there is ever an arena that needs not to be politicized, can we please make it the educational field? Seriously Folks, My Name is Pedro should not only be required viewing for all teachers, but every person who thinks they are worthy of serving on any school board of any kind. This is a film that will provide detailed examples of what to do, and sometimes more importantly, what not to do.

 

My Name is Pedro will be available on VOD and DVD on February 23rd in the US, Canada, and the UK. VOD options include Amazon, Apple TV, GooglePlay, YouTube, Vimeo On Demand, and FandangoNOW.

 

Steven Rogers [Interview]

Hello Folks! We are kicking off the week here at Trainwreck’d Society with some wonderful words from another absolutely hilarious human being. It’s Steven Rogers, Everyone! I’ve wanting to get Steven on the show for quite some time. I came about his comedy through constant recommendation on a weekly podcast that I never miss entitled Tuesdays with Stories, hosted by our friends and past guests Joe List and Mark Normand. They even have a nice little (will, actually, “big”?) nickname that you will have to find out about yourself one of these days.
Steven Rogers has been a staple of the New York comedy scene, and has even recently worked with the likes of Brian Regan on his latest Netflix comedy special. Rogers is one of those cats that true comedy fans know is somebody who is going to bring some serious light into whatever it is you are viewing that he is involved with. Whether it’s him making one of my favorite jokes about anxiety directly in front of a late night comedy show, where such a matter (used?) to be taboo, and making one of the funniest dudes in Late Night laugh hysterically, or just his delight mannerism on the sometimes trash website that is Twitter.com. He also has a wonderful podcast that he will talk bout below.
And for fans that may want to get a glimpse of what will be his new comedy record, He is running a Zoom showcase of it on March 6th. You can find out more details at his Linktree. I’m most definitely (go to try to) be there, and so should you! Until then Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Steven Rogers!
******
What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. My parents are big comedy fans and I remember watching a lot of comedies with them when I was young, and my Dad and I watched the Three Stooges and Looney Tunes constantly, but the thing that changed it all for me is when I watched stand-up with my parents the first time. I remember watching my parents crack up and how much fun everyone was having and thinking “Whatever this is I want it.”
What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?
I’m not entirely sure. Honestly, money is the last thing on my mind when it comes to comedy. That’s not something I say with pride by the way. I just care about the jokes and getting to be on stage. I will say, the paid shows have taught me to give them my best and not to experiment so much that I’m screwing over the audience and venue. Like all comics I get very excited about trying the new stuff and growing my material, but I learned you do that over time and don’t shove it all into one night, you’ll look unprofessional and drive yourself crazy.
I always like to ask comedians who (used?) to travel across the globe making people laugh, this one question: What are some of the more obscure cities and/or venues that you have enjoyed performing in? What are some places that most people may not realize are wonderful places for live comedy?
I obviously love all the places I’m lucky enough to perform in, all the comedy clubs I work treat me very well and are so fun to work. I did find out last year one of my favorite places to perform is on a round stage where the audience is all around you, they call it, “Theater in the Round”. Not sure if it’s because the audience is surrounding me, but I was moving a lot more so everyone could see me, and I had way more energy, It just made the shows different and brought a lot more out of me. It’s something I hope I get to do a lot more in my career.
And beyond being a necessity these days for comedians to have a podcast, I am always curious to know about the origins of truly original shows such as yours, Panic Attacking. You’ve even had some friends & past guests of TWS like Sarah Tollemache, Myq Kaplan, Joe List & more on the show! So, what made you want to bring this delightful show out into the world? And what made you decide on the format?
First of all thank you for plugging the podcast so I don’t have to *cough* Patreon is only $5 a month *cough* Panic Attacking is so much fun to do and I truly love making this show with my co-host Andrew Schiavone. We have wonderful listeners who are (as silly as it sounds) like a family to us. The show came from my friendship with Andrew, I met him when I moved to NYC and we hit it off pretty rapidly and would laugh so hard in our chats together that I knew if I was going to do a show with anyone it was him. We tried a few ideas and they were all forced, but the main thing we always ended up talking about was how stressed out and anxious we were, so that became the show. Now we’re almost 100 episodes in, we interview anxious comedians occasionally who talk about how they handle their mental health, but mostly the show is trying to look at anxiety and mental health through a comedy lense, make everyone feel a little bit better, and laugh a whole lot.
If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any figure from the days of comedy past, who would you choose? 
Brian Regan. Hands down. He’s truly one of the best comics out there. “Your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian.” Gets used a lot, but Brian Regan truly is just that. I’ve been lucky enough to know him personally and he’s just the most generous man on the planet. He works so hard and cares so much, and his crowds and body of work shows that. He inspires me every time I see him on and off the stage, and someone needs to get cracking on this film and show the world how funny and how great Brian Regan can be and is!
What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
I hope for a lot and expect nothing. I’m hoping to do a lot more appearances on late night/TV, but right now I’m working on my first album which I hope I will get to make soon! (I run it on Zoom, March 6th at 8pm) That being said for the love of God please check out my YouTube and Panic Attacking Podcast.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I did an outdoor show last night in a backyard of an apartment in Brooklyn. It had snowed recently so they had to shovel it all out so they could put on the show. It was sold out, and I was just telling jokes to a big crowd, IN THE SNOW. It was the perfect combination of what comedy should be and currently is. I had so much fun and the set went well and it really was just a reminder of why I got into this and why I will never stop doing it. I’ve smiled since then obviously, but it was a better answer than “my playstation”.

Jake Flores [Interview]

Photo by Trevor Graham Rathbone

Hello Folks! And a happy Friday to you all. As regular readers may have noticed, we have been fortunate as of late to have some absolutely hilarious people on the site who work in the world of comedy. And today is absolutely no exception. It’s Jake Flores, Everyone!

Jake is an amazing comic and podcaster. As he discusses some what below, for die-hard comedy fans, the name Jake Flores is synonymous with DIY comedy. He has built a huge following through his act and with the popularity of Pod Damn America. And more importantly, he did it HIS way. Now, of course sacrifices have to be made, he is just human after all. But what I have always found impressive about Jake, beyond just being absolutely hilarious, is an obvious glimpse of diligence on his part to always do the right thing. He says what he thinks, but not in a ridiculous Trumpian kind of way, you know?

Jake is also a brilliant writer, having written for The Observer and other outlets. And his 2014 album Humours is such an amazing hour of hilarity that I would personally put it up there with some of my favorite albums of the last ten years by the likes of Amy Miller (Solid Gold), Sean Jordan (The Buck Starts Here), or Sarah Tollemache (Voluptuous Boy). He also has yet ANOTHER podcast, which he will tell you about below. He is an absolutely hilarious and was generous enough to share some words with us here today. And for that, we are so grateful. So, please enjoy some amazing words from Jake Flores!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

When I was a kid I was pretty antisocial. Wasn’t great at making friends, school stressed me out, but I watched a lot of TV. I think a combination of old sitcoms like Taxi, really tightly written shows like The Simpsons and News Radio, and then later on just straight stand up on Comedy Central planted a lot of the seeds in me. When I was a little older I wanted to play punk music. I liked the subversive nature of it and the fact that you could do it yourself without much money. I was terrible at music though, still am, but was told in school I was a good writer. Eventually I found out about open mics and all these elements sort of came together. When i first started out I wanted to do with comedy what punk did with music: take it out of the big bourgie venues, make it edgier in content. I think it worked. Much like punk music, my early comedy also was unlistenable.

 

 

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

I think the first time I ever got paid was at a bar called Beerland in Austin TX. It was a music venue and the show was run by some scenester types who were expressly intent on taking comedy out of the clubs. Nowadays like literally every bar has a weekly stand up show, but back in 2007 this was an entirely new concept. The DIY thing really stuck with me. Everyone at the comedy club open mics was just sort of waiting for some manager to come and tell them they were allowed to work the club. I think we were all assuming they had some kind of monopoly on the elements that made stand up work, but to see it happen in a dive bar I realized that you really just need a mic and maybe some drinks. I also remember realizing that the audience is different people depending on where you do it, and I liked the scene crowd more than the strip mall types.

I always like to ask comedians who (used?) to travel across the globe making people laugh this one question: What are some of the more obscure cities and/or venues that you have enjoying performing in? What are some places that most people may not realize are wonderful places for live comedy?

I fucking LOVE touring for exactly this reason. Last time I went to Memphis they had no proper comedy clubs, but a BANGER bar scene. It kind of seemed like everyone was just in it for the love of the game since you couldn’t really headline a Funny Bone or whatever around town. I also had a great time in a small college type town in northern California called Arcata a couple years ago. I also keep having these really fun shows at this place called Leftwoods in Amarillo TX because there are like 6 people there who like me and the bar will let you go long on a monday and sleep in the built in condo. The room where you crash is literally connected to the bar so you can just go buck wild and then go hit the bricks. Great time.

 

 

Besides the fact that it is practically required for every comedian to have a podcast, I am always curious to know the origin behind fine shows such as yours, the wonderful & renowned Pod Damn America podcast. So what made you want to put this show out into the digital ether?

It’s funny, in politics people always accuse each other of being really cynical and grifting for cash and fame, but PDA is really a labor of love. I’m not trying to use it to become a cable news pundit or something. I started it because I’d always had an interest in history and socialist politics, like since I was a kid. I went to a magnet high school where a teacher gave out Howard Zinn books to kids when they graduated. I had a lot of run-ins with the cops, and then later in college I studied a little sociology. But I put all this stuff on the back burner when I got into comedy.

In the process of pursuing a career, and really thinking about what that means, while simultaneously working really gritty day jobs, I started to think about class politics again. Being able to seriously pursue something as dumb as stand up comedy is a lot easier if you’re rich, so there’s a class element to it that directly conflicts with all the meritocratic stuff we’re told about it. The funniest person doesn’t always make it in this business, it’s usually the person that has the most free time to put in, which costs money. So I was thinking about this stuff a lot, and then Trump got elected and I decided I wanted to catch up on my education because it felt too absurd to be a comedian and not be putting any work into understanding how that happened.

But reading theory and history and shit takes a lot of time that would have tanked my ability to do comedy on top of working all the time, so I turned it into a comedy project. Really I just wanted to make a comedy show out of my study group, and monetize it if I could. I kind of wanted to make a materialist version of what Duncan Trussel does with his podcast, where he talks about what woo woo metaphysical stuff he’s reading every week. Anyways all of this ended up working because I got lucky with this thing where I pissed off Homeland Security and they came to my house and was able to funnel the buzz from the viral story about it into the show.

And basically the same question for your latest pod, Why You Mad. You’ve actually had some friends & past guests here at TWS on the show, including Steve Hernandez & Myq Kaplan. So what made you want to bring this intriguing show out into the digital world?

WYM also happened pretty organically. Luisa [Díez] is a pal of mine and I’d had her on PDA a couple times to talk about the comedy/politics discourse and I think we just kind of realized we had good chemistry. Steve Hernandez actually suggested we make a side project, and I decided to pitch it to Luisa because the more I thought about it the more I realized we have really similar views on the certain things that we center around on the show. We’re both applying our understanding of art and art history and theory and all that stuff to the stand up game in ways that I don’t think other people in our circles are really willing to do. I admire her integrity a lot and I really enjoy coming to her with ideas that my own scene has made me feel crazy for thinking and then hearing her go “No man, of course it’s like that!” Honestly this show keeps me sane. Also, being latino is really complicated in this day and age and it means a lot to me to be able to talk about that with someone who’s involved in my world. I moved to New York from Texas and I really lost a lot of those connections, so talking about that stuff on our show has been a boon to my mental health. WYM is really cathartic for me. I guess I put a lot of work into PDA and try to really make a shiny technically valuable product with it, but WYM is where I let my hair down and really express myself. I’m glad I have them both.

 

 

If you were greenlit & received an unlimited budget to create the biopic (series, film, etc.) of any figure from the days of comedy past, who would you choose?

Honestly? Boring answer, but Lenny Bruce. I’m a big fan, and like him, I also had a run in with the state over comedy, and am a leftist. What’s crazy about him is all these conservative types try to claim him these days, and I just don’t think they understand what he was talking about at all. Free speech is really complicated and it gets twisted by people a lot, but back in the early history of this country it was a left wing cause, and Lenny was a damn beatnik. I would love it if someone told his story in a way that engaged with how his beliefs clash with what the free speech movement is all about today. 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I might try to write a book this year. Or maybe a screenplay. But honestly I’m sitting pretty until comedy comes back. I plan on spending the rest of the pandemic reading theory and trying to use my comedy chops to make it funny or easy to listen to or whatever. That’s it. Listen to PDA and WYM and if you’re an internet freak sign up for our patreons and Twitches and Discords and stuff. I’ll get back to touring when it’s safe.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I live in this shithole loft and I’ve been fighting the city and our landlord to get our heat turned on and to fix the leaks in our roof and that sort of thing. This has been going on for years while I was out on the road. Anyways recently I got the place looking kind of nice, got them to put a stove in for us. The main thing is I had this tarp hanging from the ceiling catching roof water, and I was finally able to take it down the other night after they fixed the roof. So I went outside to smoke a cigarette and I was looking at the empty Brooklyn streets, now that all the rich artist types have fled back to their suburbs and whatnot, and I was really taking in the moonlight, and then that song “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlyle came on my spotify mix. That shit made me laugh.

Happy Face [Film]

 

“Estranged from his manipulative cancer-stricken mother, Stan, a quixotic 19-year-old, dons a disguise and joins a therapy workshop for disfigured patients in a misguided attempt to reconnect with her. But when his deception is revealed, Stan, who is desperate to gain coping skills to care for his disease-ravaged mother, offers the afflicted patients a bargain: he stays with the group, and in exchange he teaches them how feel good about themselves : by using their “ugliness” as a weapon against our beauty-obsessed culture.” – October Coast PR

 

******

By synopsis and just general film normalcies, there are a lot of obvious events and emotional responses that you can expect to see and have whilst watching Happy Face. And it’s for good reason. At its core, the film is almost exactly what you think it is going to be. If you are a cryer during films, you will cry tears of both joy and sadness. You will feel that heart-warming sense of joy for character accomplishments. But….there’s always a “but”, right? Another aspect of the film, which may be obvious to some folks, is the very dark sensibility and humor that is encompassed in this film. The film does not seek to sedate you with clouded misery, nor does it yearn to uplift your spirits to an immeasurable height. It short, the film is more truthful than that. It’s a dichotomy between knowing oneself & being proud of who you are, and understanding that sometimes the world is absolute bullshit. The idea that good things always come to good people is absolute trash and should not be believed. Instead, find your joy in the world, accept that painful things will happen, and life will pass you by and you can then die hoping that you have more fond memories that dark ones. Dare I say, put on a “Happy Face”, and keep moving through this world!

Anyway, off my proverbial soap box, I would still declare that Happy Face is an exceptional film, and one of my favorites of 2021 thus far. Filmmaker and co-screenwriter Alexandre Franchi brings an absolutely beautiful story that is powerful, a bit shocking at times, and most importantly, true to itself and the message that is being conveyed.

 

 

Leading man Robin L’Houmeau turns out a tremendous performance that is deserving of all the adoration that an actor if his ilk should receive. I can not overstate that enough. His performance in Happy Face is undeniably great. But (there’s that “but” again) I have to say that it is the ladies of the film that truly worked their magic in this film. Debbie Lynch-White plays a tough yet nurturing and frightened character in such a way that I have never seen before. And Alison Midstokke was probably the one give me the most feels and laughs throughout the film. Truly two incredible performances amongst a sea of amazing performances. To include first time performer David Roche who lit up the screen with every moment he was on screen.

Seriously, Folks, you are going to want to check this one out. You will not regret it. Keep the tissues close and your mind open.

 

Happy Face is available now, streaming just about everywhere including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu,  Direct TV, Dish Network and all major cable providers.