New Music Tuesday: The Wood Brothers – Kingdom in My Mind [Album]

 

Over the last dozen years or so that I have been listening to music with the intent of putting words to digital pages, I have had the great fortune to cover multiple releases from artists that I adore. It’s pretty great. Who doesn’t get ecstatic about hearing a new record from one of their favorite artists? It’s arguably more exciting than hearing a brand new artist and unknowingly falling in love with them. Sure those early days are exciting, but when the ones you already know and love have some new and incredible to share, it’s pretty damn great as well. But there is a conundrum that needs to be addressed when it comes to music reviews. It’s not really a terrible issue, but it is an issue nonetheless. And that would be, if a band creates an album that is so good, and evokes so many feelings and emotions and the yearning to make so many bold statements about how much you love this work and may consider it their “best work to date”, and then you realize…..you said the same thing about the LAST album they put out. Almost verbatim, actually. And that is the proverbial pickle I have found myself in listening to the absolutely incredible album Kingdom In My Mind from the beloved modern blues/folk rock heroes The Wood Brothers.

One thing I tend to do when I am gearing up to write about another album from an artist or group that I have already showcased here at TWS is to go back and read the last review I did. In this case, it has been two years (almost to the date!) since I talked about The Wood Brothers’s previous album One Drop of Truth. And lo and behold, I believe I could have probably done a copy & paste, and just changed album and song titles, and it would have all been true. Now, I obviously don’t mean this in a derogatory sense, I hope you that isn’t your takeaway, as it would mean you never read my previous review, and why would you not have done that? No, the issue is that a band like The Wood Brothers is ever evolving, bettering themselves, yet holding onto the elements of their own personal sound that have and will continue to make them so wonderful. Their ability genuinely infuse blues, rock, and folk music that interwinds with just about absolute perfection in such a manner that you can’t help but be impressed is absolutely beautiful. And the storytelling. Oh, the fucking storytelling! It’s truly phenomenal. And yes, I have said these same things in one form or another in a previous review, but the more I think about it, the less I care. The honor of knowing and enjoying a band that continues to evolve in the way that The Wood Brothers is an absolute delight and I refuse to feel any sort of guilt about enjoying a band that has a common trait of continuously taking their signature sound, and just making it better with each release. These cats are phenomenal, and Kingdom In My Mind is a phenomenal album.

 

THE WOOD BROTHERS

 

Now, while I did spend quite a bit of time explaining how I don’t entirely care about repeating some information, I do feel like my obsession with providing something new to the solid few readers who are here come hell or high water. I mentioned in my last Wood Brothers that I had the opportunity to see the band at Pickathon out in Happy Valley, Oregon in 2012 and it was incredible. But just to throw out a little bit of a fun fact: this was actually the second time I had seen drummer Jano Rix live. About 4 years prior, I first saw Jano flicking the sticks for The Gabe Dixon Band at Berbati’s Pan in Portland, Oregon, and was in love with his work from that day forward and was so excited to see him performing in this new Americana element that seems to fit him so damn well. And for regular readers, you will recognize the name Gabe Dixon form either his incredible solo work, or the fact that he is also a past interviewee guest here at TWS. And even more inside baseball knowledge for you: The Gabe Dixon Band was opening for none other than another prior TWS interview subject, the great Justin Nozuka. Isn’t it fun how everything can tie into a coincidental spider web of wonderful talent? There. I feel better, I gave you something a bit different for that proverbial ass.

But in all seriousness, Folks, Kingdom in My Mind is an absolutely amazing batch of songs that tell an incredible story of love, power, and the beauty of new beginnings. And while it’s damn near impossible to choose a favorite track, if hard pressed I would choose “Don’t Think About My Death” simply because it fuses just about every genre of music that is damn near imaginable, and is a prime example of how The Wood Brothers can really just do it all. Primarily it may be more rock n roll centric track, it’s as soulful and gospel like as you could really want. It’s a perfect track, on a pretty much perfect album. And I simply cannot recommend this gem of an album enough. It’s so damn good.

 

Kingdom In My Mind is available now wherever you purchase or stream music (please consider the purchase idea). The Wood Brothers will be partaking in an extensive North American (and Dominican Republic) tour starting January 29th.

Lana McKissack [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! If you all could bring yourselves back to think all the way back to the year 2019, you may remember a wonderful interview we did with the co-creator and co-star of the incredible series Dark/Web, one Michael Nardelli. Well, we are so excited to share with you all some words from another brilliant star from this series, and so much more, the incredible Lana McKissack!

Prior to Dark/Web, I was honestly unaware of Lana as a performer, but needless to say that after seeing her in this incredible story unfold and her incredible performance within it, she has quickly become a favorite and is definitely somebody to watch out for in the years to come. She has been in the game since she was but a child, and has quickly progressed to be one of the best in the game. She has an exciting new project coming to you all soon from the world of horror which we all know and love to so much. We are so happy that Lana was able to take some time to answer a few of our questions. So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the brilliant Lana McKissack!

 

*******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something you have always dreamt of doing as a youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

Being born and raised in Los Angeles, it was kind of a given that I would at least dip a toe into the entertainment industry. Most kids I knew at least went on a few commercial auditions before deciding if they wanted to take it any further. I fell in love with performing from the time I remember being alive. My parents were incredibly supportive of me and enrolled me in the youth program at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute when I was five. I’ve never looked back!

What was your very first paid gig as a performer? And where there any sort of lessons learn from this experience that you still utilize in your work today?

I did a handful of commercials when I was a toddler, but the first paid gig that I have concrete memories of was a Hershey’s commercial. They kept telling me that I didn’t have to actually eat the candy bar, but as a child, I obviously completely ignored that and ate bar after bar. I was horribly sick (and wired) that night. I’d say I learned my lesson, but I did literally just polish off a Snickers…

 

 

At a very young age, you appeared in my favorite segment of my favorite anthology films of all time, the great Four Rooms. How was it working under the direction of Robert Rodriguez at such a young age? How was your experience overall working on this project?

I loved every moment of working on Four Rooms. I was ten years old, and I got to play on set for three weeks with a bunch of amazing actors and one of the most talented directors in the world. I have very fond memories of chatting with Quentin Tarantino at craft services, doing karaoke with Tim Roth at the cast party, and Robert Rodriguez taking us on a Toys”R”Us (RIP) shopping spree when the movie wrapped. Robert was, and is, such a creative, brilliant, and kind person. We still chat from time to time, and I continue to be amazed by his work. I am also still in contact with Danny Verduzco, who played my little brother. He’s not in the business anymore because he’s out there making the world a better place, but he’s still as fun and sweet as he was as a kid.

I was recently made privy to a series you worked on entitled Dark/Web that it is absolutely brilliant. We have previously spoken with your co-star and one of the show’s co-wrtier/producers Michael Nardelli actually! So, I am curious to know what drew you to this very surreal and insane story? What made you really want to break this thing open and be a part this world?

When I auditioned for Dark/Web, I had never seen anything like it. It’s such a unique story in a format that, as far as I know, had never been done on TV. It felt so new and fresh, and also quite mysterious. The cast of the main narrative was not given the scripts to the anthology episodes, so while we were told the gist of each story, we were kept in the dark about much of the show. I know so little about the actual dark web so watching the whole series legitimately freaked me out. Having said that, it was such an amazing thing to be part of and I’m so proud of how it turned out.

 

 

One genre of film that you have done some amazing work in is the world of horror, including the forthcoming film Countdown from writer/director Justin Dec. We are huge fans of the world of horror around here. With that, I am curious to know what you enjoy the most about working in the world of horror? And what sets it apart from the several other genres you have worked on?

Honestly, my favorite thing about working on horror sets is the lunch break. Nothing tickles me more than standing in line with a monster and a few corpses, watching a partially-severed arm attempt to use salad tongs. It’s surreal and bizarre, and I love it. Apart from that, I wouldn’t say it’s hugely different from other genres I’ve worked in. No matter what the tone, I think most actors try to take every project seriously, while still recognizing that our jobs are ridiculous and usually quite fun.

You have done so much incredible work in the world of television, film, music, and more. So with that, I am curious to know what your favorite medium is to work in? If you were only allotted the chance to work in one field for the remainder of your career, which would it be?

What sick world is this in which I can only choose one?! I’m gonna loophole the hell out of this. Okay, so…I really love doing theater, and I do love music, but both of those mediums can somewhat be combined into tv/film. I could do a live taping of a musical on tv, so HA! Oh but wait, I still want to do movies too. So maybe I can be in a meta film about the live taping of a musical on tv? Yes, I’m sticking with that.

 

 

If you were handed the opportunity to portray any legendary figure in American history in their biopic, who would it be? Why?

Hands down, Mariah Carey. I look nothing like her, but I just love her so much and I find her fascinating. I really want to reenact that episode of Cribs, in which she works out on a VersaClimber in stilettos. What. A. Legend.

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

Hopefully more of the same! I have voiced several very cool animated characters in projects that will be coming out in the next year. Animation takes a long time and is usually shrouded in secrecy, so I can’t give any specifics, but know that fun things are on the horizon! If you’re still in the holiday spirit, you can rent my film A Christmas Movie Christmas on iTunes/Amazon/YouTube/Google Play. Countdown is available now on digital and on Blu-ray/DVD on January 21st. And please keep your fingers crossed for a second season of Dark/Web. We all really want to do it!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

That Snickers bar I just ate. They don’t sponsor me, but if they want to…

Sunday Matinee: Reality Queen! [Film]

 

 

“In the tradition of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, and inspired by today’s obsession with reality TV and social media stars, writer-director Steven Jay Bernheim’s clever mockumentary fixes on a Paris Hilton-esque heiress named “London” who is struggling to regain fame after being pushed out of the limelight by three Kardashian-type sisters named “The Kims.” London’s life is a self-indulgent maelstrom of product endorsements, talent managers, pet psychics, private jets, fashion shows, yachts, and a celebrity posse. Despite her wackiness, she ultimately makes it back to the top of the heap. This parody of America’s infatuation with fame raises the question: are these celebs-for-no-reason marketing geniuses, or are they just the accidental beneficiaries of the American public’s stupidity?” – October Coast PR

 

******

For our first Sunday Matinee of 2020, I think we have found a real satirical gem that truly represents one of the most horrifying aspects of modern American living today. Yep, reality. Well, more appropriately, “reality”. Being a person of a certain age, I’ve managed to watch this thing known as reality television simply take over the planet. And it’s truly horrifying. At first it just seemed to be a silly thing that might appease a few people for a few years. But it never quit. And even has television began to overtake the world of film as the writer’s best medium of the time, reality television is still a very real thing that is not going away. When did this happen? When did it this form of “entertainment” truly solidify itself into the American zeitgeist? Well, I’m here to tell you that there is a satirical film coming to your eyes soon that has the answers we seek. It’s Reality Queen!. And while it is a hysterical and a well made piece of satirical comedy, it’s also insanely truthful and a terrifying insight into a tragedy that isn’t going away any time soon.

Reality Queen! is first and foremost, god damned hilarious! Filled with brilliant performances, it is a masterwork of satire and a delightful poke at the fabulous lives that we should despise but for some reason are truly attracted to because the majority of us will never reach the ungodly amount of wealth that seemingly undeserving people have obtained, for no good reason. For those of us who are cynical of these lifestyles and the television programs that enable this madness, this film is a brilliant stab at the privileged nonsense we despise. For those who don’t see the reason to worry about the disgusting nature of this trash, this is probably not for you. Or maybe you will just think it is real? It is a very well done film, and so insanely accurate that it could really simply slide itself into the A&E cable line up and nobody would bat an eye, and people would demand more.

 

 

Reality Queen! boasts incredible co-stars and celebrity cameos from the likes of Denise Richards, who gives my favorite performance since appearing in Malcom Ingram’s Tail Lights Fade. Other appearances include the legendary boxer/part time cannibal Mike Tyson, the brilliant comedian & actor Charles Fleischer, and one of the last appearances from the beloved and dearly missed John Witherspoon, who I still can’t believe has left this earth so recently. But while all of these performances really added to the film in a grand way, it is definitely the film’s lead role that deserves the most attention, just as her character would like. Julia Faye West simply knocks it completely out of the proverbial park with her performances as London. When it comes to a satirical look at the life of the rich and “fabulous”, I have honestly never seen a better depiction than what she brings to Reality Queen! I honestly cannot think of one bit of criticism that a person could realistically give to this performance. It’s as close to a perfectly crafted character for this particular project as required. Sure, it’s not exactly Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, but one could argue that, on different plains, it is equally important. I’ll certainly stand by it.

 

Reality Queen! is available on DVD and Digital as well as in select theaters across the U.S. NOW!

 

Saturday Special: Agent Jade Black [Film]

 

“Rescued from the international sex trade as a young girl and trained as a secret government assassin, Jade Black must go after a rouge former agent with the same background who has developed a biological weapon and plans to unleash it on the world, starting with the wealthy and powerful men behind the very same human trafficking operation they were both rescued from years earlier.” – October Coast PR

 

******

There seems to be a resurgence of sorts from the world of high powered action films in 2020, and I will definitely say I am not mad at it. And it seems to be leaking into the world of independent cinema, as Agent Jade Black is not the only film of its caliber that I have checked out in the sort time this year has been going. But, it was certainly the first, and I truly cannot say a bad word about it. The film is actually brought to the world from some of the creators of a 2018 film that was WAY better than it even should have been called The Jurassic Game, which landed in our Top 20 Films of 2018. And Agent Jade Black takes that same level of intensity and moves it into the world of secret agents and unlikely heroes that you would have to be without a pulse to not enjoy. It’s a fun piece of cinema.  Plain and simple, and I recommend it to all!

Now, I’m going to stop beating around the proverbial bush and get to why I really loved Agent Jade Black…..

 

 

KATIE BURGESS IS BACK!!! Folks, I have had no qualms or concerns about telling you all that I see this incredible actress as the future of cinema. And the fact that Agent Jade Black is a full blown vehicle to showcase Katie’s incredible talent is alone a reason why I would watch this film repeatedly. Burgess is young and full of life and has the potential to be one of the biggest stars in the world has known. I first noticed her in a film where she stood out amongst her acting peers, and simply crushed it, even if I didn’t entirely care for the film itself. And then Burgess lured me in to the aforementioned The Jurassic Games, and here we are again! And it’s safe to say we are seeing Katie absolutely light up the screen once again in this action drama that is not to be missed. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again so it is on record: Katie Burgess could be the future of Hollywood. Her potential seems limitless, and I am so excited to see her move into the mainstream world, and possibly pick up some roles that showcase just how talented she truly is. The first time I saw the trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, one of my first thoughts was, “This film needs Burgess.” Imagine the incredible combination of Katie Burgess in a Gerwig modern classic? Here’s to the hope that this, or something similar, will one day rear it’s beautiful head.

Alight, I guess I can stop sucking up to Hollywood’s next biggest star to again let you all know that Agent Jade Black is a fantastic film, and you should all check it out as soon as possible. Terry Spears directs an absolutely wonderful collective of performers and stunt workers. And while we have known Katie to be able to shine in a film even if it’s not the best written piece of material, I dare say that this time around her talent is guided by a wonderful and entertaining story that is well produced, clean, and just so damn much fun. Check it out!

 

Agent Jade Black is available on VOD and DVD wherever you buy or stream great films.

 

Derek Wayne Johnson [Interview]

 

Hey Folks! It’s officially the end of our first week back in 2020, and we are pulling no punches when it comes to making a triumphant return! Today we have a man who I would have once mistakenly far too simply called a brilliant documentarian. Which I have learned would be absolutely foolish, and I owe our guest a serious apology for this. Sorry Derek! It’s filmmaker and actor Derek Wayne Johnson, everyone!

To be fair to myself, Johnson has done some pretty great work in the field of documentaries, including the film that first drew my attention to him, which would be John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs. It’s a MAGNIFICENT film. I went on the hunt for films like this recently after having the wonderful opportunity to review a brilliant doc about the now late and always great filmmaker Larry Cohen. And what I discovered was a wonderful produced film in Underdogs, and was very anxious to get the film’s creator to grace our digital pages.

And as it often comes to be, we learned so much for about Johnson that we ever expected, as he was kind enough to give us some very insightful and thoughtful A’s to our Q’s. For a little insider knowledge, we never really know how Folks are going to respond to our (sometimes intrusive seeming) questions, and we are ALWAYS delighted when these incredibly talented (and obviously very BUSY) artists are willing to give so much thought into what we had to ask. Needless to say, Derek does not disappoint in this absolutely wonderful interview I have for you below!

So, Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the brilliant Derek Wayne Johnson!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something you have always dreamt of doing as a youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I’ve been wanting to make movies since I was 3 years old. The first movie I remember seeing at the cinema was The Karate Kid Part II and I was mesmerized. Growing up on VHS tapes, movie rental stores and cable TV, there were so many influences. Something about movies and storytelling captivated me. While most kids were doing whatever it is that kids do, I was dreaming up scenes, shots, characters and stories while my imagination ran wild.

I started making short films in high school and that carried over to film school at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, LA, the productions moved upstate to Shreveport. Being an hour and a half away from Shreveport while making films at SFA, I got my foot in the door on Hollywood and Indie productions.

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

I wasn’t paid to make a movie until I was in my 20s, but my first official paying job was taping football practice every day my senior year of high school. The summer in between high school and my freshman year of college I was offered a job at my local radio station as a Radio Producer, to which I accidentally kept the phone lines On-Air one night and the whole town listened in as I talked to one of my buddies about girls and how bored I was. Thankfully an honest elderly lady called the station and alerted me of my mistake.

But I would say my first gig on a higher scale in entertainment, and certainly my first Hollywood gig, was as a recurring extra on a TV show called Thief starring Andre Braugher, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Mae Whitman. I was a senior in film school at SFA at the time and would drive over to set and absorb as much knowledge as I could. The main thing I learned from this experience was to never tell your friends and family that you were an extra, being that when they tune in to see you on TV and only see the top of your head out of focus in the background, it’s disappointing.

A couple of years ago you had an incredible documentary come out entitled John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs. I am curious to know, although it seems somewhat obvious, about what inspired you to develop this project about the legendary Mr. Avildsen?

l never intended to make documentaries but have always been a fan of them. For example, I loved I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale and The Kid Stays in the Picture and His Way, among others. I stumbled upon John Avildsen’s YouTube page while studying interviews of some of my favorite directors while preparing to shoot my fourth feature film, as a way to get inspiration and learn a few pointers before production began. While listening to an old interview of John I noticed it was posted from his personal page, so I sent him an email. The email was half fan/half business as he was one of my directing heroes and made my two favorite films of all-time, Rocky and The Karate Kid. I couldn’t believe it when he emailed me back.

From there, we began a friendship to which I offered him two scripts to direct. He turned me down, but not before I paid him $1,000 to script doctor the first one. Realizing the opportunity I had in my hands and not willing to give up, I asked him if I could make a documentary about him. He said yes, and then we were up and running. He and his films completely changed my life so this was a way for me to repay him for inspiring me as a kid and as a filmmaker. By the way, he told me a couple of years after I paid him $1,000 to script doctor that he never expected me to actually follow through, but he kept his word and critiqued and tweaked every page. It was the best investment of my life.

 

 

You have done so much incredible work as an actor, writer, director, producer, and more. So with that, I am curious to know what your favorite format is to work in? If you were only allotted the chance to work in one field for the remainder of your career, which would it be?

I am first and foremost a director and that is the field I excel in and would choose if I could only choose one. And it would be in narrative feature films. Don’t get me wrong, I grew to love documentary filmmaking, but my true calling and passion is narrative feature filmmaking. As a kid, I wanted to be an actor and a director, but I realized that acting was more of a way for me to make connections, get an agent and get noticed.

I always say this: As a kid I wanted to be Indiana Jones. As an actor, I wanted to play Indiana Jones. But what I grew up to realize is all that time I really wanted to be the filmmaker who MADE Indiana Jones. To me, telling a story in 90 to 120 minutes is a high art form, but I don’t mind an occasional documentary if that is the medium the story would work best as. Case in point, my latest three documentaries: John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic and STALLONE: Frank, That Is. But, I cannot wait to get back in the director’s chair on a narrative feature.

If you were handed the opportunity to create and portray any legendary figure in American history in their biopic, who would it be?

This is a tough one. Since I no longer am an actor, I must say that as a filmmaker I would want to tell the story of…geez, I just can’t think of anyone at the moment! Haha.

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

Recently, my producing partners and I formed Cinema 83 Entertainment, focusing on feature films, and Cinema 83 Documentary Films which focuses on documentaries. We intend to balance productions in both mediums of narrative features and documentaries and I am currently hard at work on rewrites on my feature scripts. However, we do have a couple of documentaries releasing this year including 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic, narrated by Sylvester Stallone, and STALLONE: Frank, That Is about Sylvester’s Grammy and Golden Globe nominated brother Frank.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I was going through some emails this morning and found one from Sylvester Stallone from a few months back where he said to me, “You are a man with the soul of an artist.” That made me smile and it reminded me to keep moving forward and tell stories that need to be told in the way that only I can tell them.

 

 

Joseph D’Onofrio [Interview]

 

Happy Wednesday Everyone! We are continuing 2020 with another incredible interview that we are so excited to share with you all. Today’s guest is an absolute legend on so many accounts. Many of you all will instantly recognize him from one of the greatest films of all time, in which he played the younger version of Joe Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito, known as Goodfellas. Well over the last 30 years, the great Joseph D’Onofrio has grown right up into a full blown star with over a 100 credits in film and television alone.

In most recent years, I have noticed Joseph making special appearances in some of my favorite films of recent times such as American Fango and Who’s Jenna, the latter of which will be discussed below. And in the past, you have probably caught his work in classic like the brilliant horror film Bloody Slumber Party, brought to you by our past guest Larry Rosen. As well as reoccurring roles on series such as 30 Rock and Are We There Yet?, and wonderful performances in films like Price Check, written and directed by another past guest, Michael Walker. And there appears to be no slowing down, thankfully for us!

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the legend himself, the great Joseph D’Onofrio!

 

******

 

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this project that you still value to this day?

I did a Commercial. It taught me about character and  how important it is to treat everyone with respect and reminded me how I value integrity.

I love the 2018 film you appeared in entitled Who’s Jenna? It was a true delight. So how was your experience working on a project like this one? Was it as much fun to work on as it was for viewers towatch?

It’s was great to do this movie cause i played a geek. I love when i get to play something i never did before.The Director was great.. I did a lot of research about geeks. I would love to play a geek again !!!

 

 

Another brilliant film you worked on was a horror film directed by our new friend Larry Rosen entitled Bloody Slumber Party. We absolutely LOVE horror around here, so I am curious to know how what you like about the world of horror? In your professional opinion, what do you believe it is that sets this genre apart from the others?

I love horror movies !! I just finished a movie called Ghost In The Graveyard. I played a Deputy it was so fun. I can’t wait to do another one.I love to act being scared !!!

 

If you were given the opportunity to star in the biopic of any legendary figure from world history, who would it be?

Lou Costello would be a good one. People always say i look like him and i love to laugh and do comedy. Another would be Buddy Hackett.

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

I’m doing a lot of stand up comedy. Plus I have a bunch of films coming out. you can look on iMDB and check them out. I also have a couple of TV pilots. Follow me on Instagram @josephdonofrioofficial and friend me on Facebook

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I woke up.

Ryan Singer [Interview]

 

Photo by Matt Misisco

 

Hello Folks! And welcome to our introduction to 2020. It’s almost needless to say that less than a week into the new year, things are going pretty damn strange. Surreal even. Australia is on fire, and we appear to be headed into WWIII. And the memes just keep on a flowin’. So with that in mind, I feel as though our first guest of the year is a prime example of what we need to remember in the new decade. Two things to remember, Folks: Laugh. And THINK. And today’s guest is the kind of person who is an absolute mastermind at making us do both! It’s the incredible comedian Ryan Singer, Everyone!

Singer has been absolutely killing it in all things considered comedic in this modern day and age. From doing stand up sets all across the land, to his brilliant books, to his incredibly unique presence in the world of podcasting. Much like our dear friend and past guest Shane Mauss, Ryan is a hilarious human being who is not afraid hit on such controversial subjects of such as the conspiracy theories we know we all want to believe but some can’t seem to wrap our fragile little government-owned minds around…but are open to learn more. Also in most recent news, Ryan official denounced the use of chocolate as a form of sustenance. And I am here to say that I fully support this decision. I completely agree with him, and admire his bravery in embracing this topic.

So Folks, welcome to 2020. Here is to hoping that the chaos can dissipate like fog burning off around the afternoon son, but also to the hope that when the world does finally explode, we can look back in our final hour and believe that we may have a had a few good laughs in there. And it will likely be folks like Ryan Singer who will have brought that joy into our lives. So please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant comedian, Ryan Singer!

 

******

 

When did you first realize that you were a hilarious human being and that you wanted to make people laugh for a living?

As a kid, the only thing I really cared about deep down was making people laugh, especially adults. I realized at a young age that if you can make people laugh that is the quickest way to get into their heart, so to speak. I would say the beginning of my comedy career started on our family’s answering machine. Back in the 80’s you could record for the length of the tape, so my messages were upwards of 3 – 4 minutes long of me doing impressions of Elvis, George Bush Sr, Gandhi, and Robin Leech. My parents and their friends thought it was funny and no one ever left a message because they couldn’t sit through the whole message. My Dad would tell people that I did the best impression of an Elvis impersonator. That’s when I knew I could make the grownups laugh. But, it was until later in life that I realized I could write my own jokes for stand-up that I decided to give it a go.

 

Whenever we have touring comedians on the site, I always like to ask this question: What are some sort off the beaten path cities that may surprise people to be actually really great places to do comedy? Beyond the well-known LA and NYC gigs, what are some places in the “fly over” states that you have had great shows in?

Well, I started my comedy in the “fly-over” states, so I am very much at home in those cities and there are so many great comedy scenes all around the country that most comics I know who live in LA or NYC are chomping at the bit to get to these “real” audiences that come to those shows. For the last 9 years or so, I’ve predominantly made my living by doing these cities, towns, and comedian-run shows and they are usually of the one-nighter variety. These organic scenes that popped as a result of the chain comedy clubs taking over most of the independently run comedy clubs in cities have been the backbone of stand-up for a decade or longer now. I would argue that this has been one of the best things that happened to modern stand-up comedy because the chain clubs are all run through the agents who aren’t connected to the overall comedy landscape in a meaningful way because their agenda is to put people through the chain clubs to make themselves money.

That’s not to say there aren’t cities that still have great, independent clubs, but I mostly work these independent rooms nowadays with a couple clubs still in the mix like Go Bananas in Cincinnati, Wiley’s in Dayton, Ohio, and a few others. Southern Ohio has a soft spot in my heart because I started there, but there are other GREAT comedy cities like Lincoln, Nebraska, Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta, Georgia, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nashville, Tennessee, Des Moines, Iowa, Indianapolis, Indiana, and so many more. There’s a crew of comics who have been running shows in Oklahoma City for years that are always amazing and other smaller cities that really make your comedy heart swell with love of the craft.

Like every comic, I love a great room and so many younger and older comics have cultivated amazing scenes all over the place. In 2011, a friend of mine, comic Jarrod Harris, and I tried to do a tour documenting these “organic” scenes with 20+ city tour where we filmed along the way. Long story short, we’ve had multiple editors dropout on us during the process and it never made its way to a finished product. But, it was our earnest attempt at showing people that the so-called “fly over” states have beautiful comedy scenes happening outside of the industry’s eye. Maybe some young kid who reads this will want to edit it, who knows. I could talk all day and night about this particular question so I guess I’ll stop it there. But, comedy is alive and so, so well.

 

You had a reoccurring role, alongside or friends and past guests Dave Anthony and Troy Ruptash, on what I consider to be one of the greatest comedic show of all time, which would be IFC’s Maron. I am curious to know how your experience was working on this fine program? Any fun antidotes that made working on the program as fun to work on as it was to watch?

Getting to work on that show was a real dream come true for me. It was my television debut as an actor the first time I was on that show and an experience I’ll never forget. The first time I was on, I was in a scene with some other comics – Dave Anthony and Anthony Jeselnik and we were at a comedy festival hanging out for the scene. We were riffing some lines and it turns out the first line I ever had on TV would be something from the riffing take, “That’s a lot of pussy.” I’ve always had a soft spot for bad words and I couldn’t wait to tell my Dad that my first lines on television were, “That’s a lot of pussy.” Out of context, it may sound strange, but if you have seen the scene you’d understand. It was so fun to go back a couple times after that and work in scenes one-on-one with Maron, too. I toured with him for a handful of years as his opener, so we have a pretty good idea of how we interact and since I was playing myself it was great fun. I remember one time, the Director of the episode “The Request” Michael Jamin gave me the direction to, “Be more Ryan Singer,” after a take. I had met him a few times before at comedy shows, so we knew each other a bit. So, after the next take he said, “Be a little less Ryan Singer.” I’ll always remember that as my favorite direction I’ve been given on set.

 

 

As is practically required these days, thankfully so as a comedy fan, you have a podcast! A recent episode of your show Me & Paranormal You actually features our friend and past guest Shane Mauss, who seems like a perfect fit for this type of show. Can you tell our readers who may not be familiar with the show a bit about it? What made you want to make this happen?

I’ve been doing Me & Paranormal You for just under six years now and I still love it. I’ve always loved the unknown, the paranormal, and the supernatural. I had a few paranormal experiences that really prompted to me start the podcast, so I could try to dive into finding out more information about others’ experiences to feel less alone in my own experiences. I think that’s what we all want, ultimately, is to find community and feel like we aren’t crazy for knowing what we saw or experienced. I’ve found that most people, if not all, when they really sit back and think about it have had some kind of unknown or unexplainable experience in their life that leaves them confounded.

I’m on a journey to make sense of those moments and to try and show everyone in a way that heavily involves me keeping my sense of humor that they’re not crazy for believing the high strangeness that they witnessed. Shane and I clicked immediately when we met years ago at the Rooftop Comedy Aspen Comedy festival. We’ve been buds ever since and he’s probably the most frequent guest on the podcast. One of the most popular episodes I’ve ever released is a 3 parter where he walks me through smoking DMT for the first time. It’s pretty wild. Shane is a seeker of information and truth, but his chosen path to find these truths of the universe lie on the road of scientific discovery and that makes him a great compliment to me as I am firmly on the path of “woo” discovery.

There is immense crossover in these two fields and even in the modern western world where we tend to bow down to the new high priests, the scientist, there is so much unknown in our universe that we are ultimately searching for the same thing – truth. I find that when people realized they’ve had experiences with ghosts, Bigfoot, or other unknowns, finding community with others who share these will help to stem the tide of the scientific shaming that most people face when being open about their experiences.

I’ve learned that our regular LA readers can catch you at a fairly regular show called “Underbelly” that you host with fellow hilarious comedian Chris Garcia. Can you tell our readers a bit about this show and how it started? And where do they need to go to catch his genius in person?

I have a love affair with Underbelly. The show started in Cincinnati years ago by comedian Mike Cody. As the only comic from the southern Ohio scene that moved out west, I waited until Chris Garcia moved down to LA from SF to start the show. I met Chris years earlier and knew he was the perfect person to run the show with for many reasons, his brilliance amongst them. It is a show that we’ve been running for probably over 6 years now and stand-ups are not allowed to do stand-up on the show. So, there is music, sketch, characters, slide shows, and anything else you could possibly think of doing. It is always wild, wonderful, and unpredictable.

Having Chris as the co-host has contributed to my joy so much because of how effortlessly funny he is in anything he does. He seems to have a real zen quality about him when he performs and he can do it all – comedy, music, character, just anything really. He’s got so much natural talent and such a great work ethic and respect for comedy that it shines through every time he’s on stage doing anything. Underbelly has really been a traveling show of weirdos over the years and we’ve moved venues more than a few times. Right now we are putting the show at a place called Oeno Vino in Atwater Village. We are trying to find a regular time slot, but with Chris and I’s increasingly busy schedules and travel it has been hard to really lock in one day a month for it.

 

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

The future is thankfully unknown to me. I’ve started a second podcast with my friend Angela Lovell, who is a wonderful and hilarious psychic witch called This Is Where the Magick Happens. It explores the occult, witchcraft, the paranormal and a lot more. It’s been a ton of fun so far. I’m doing a lot more paranormal investigations the last few years and have been a part of a couple documentary projects that are still in production. I am also working on a paranormal comedy memoir, developing an animated show that combines my loves of comedy and the paranormal, and just trying to learn how to walk through walls amidst it all.

It’s strange where this life takes us, but awhile ago I told the universe that if it laid out my path I would follow it no matter where it led. I just want to live the fullest life I can trying to chase down the mysteries of the universe and what I’ve experienced and have a ton of laughs along the way. I’ve been really lucky. I mean, it is stupid how lucky I’ve been to meet the people I’ve met, have the experiences I’ve had, and I just try my hardest to be grateful for all of it. Also, the goal is to have the first comedy special on The History channel, maybe it will air right after Ancient Aliens.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I just recently bought some cacti and succulents to see if I could learn how to hear them communicate. Its a long story, but there’s a great book called The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby that explores the knowledge gleamed from shamans in the Amazon and it inspired me to kick up my relationship a notch with plants. I have taken to reading a little to them and talking to them to help them thrive. They make me smile when I talk to them.

 

To learn more about what Ryan has coming up, and when he will be in a city near you, head to ryansinger.com