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Tuesday
Jun232009

Inside With: New Young ComediansBy: Andrew Singer

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TAKE OUT THE BACK SEATS The New Young Comedians are Aalap Patel, Chelsea White and Matteson Perry | Photo via The New Young Comedians

The long-term success of a standup-variety showcase usually depends more on its producers than its performers. Although the members of New Young Comedians (Aalap Patel, Matteson Perry and Chelsea White) haven't known each other very long, they've landed squarely in the New York comedy scene with their monthly showcase at Karma Lounge. After meeting separately at various open mics around town, the trio created their own show and split the responsibilities evenly, if not appropriately, to match each person's skills. The Apiary recently caught up with the eponymous new young comedians to discuss their craft, the creative momentum they've built and the benefits of removing the back row of seats before opening the house. On Wednesday, The New Young Comedians will celebrate their one-year anniversary. Their answers were edited for space and clarity.

How has your show evolved and improved over this past year?
CW: For one, we have a banner now that we hang up on stage.
MP: The show itself hasn't changed a ton. What has changed is how we promote it and how we organize. It's much quicker to put a show together now. One thing that's great is that it's gotten a fairly good reputation, so we have a lot of very good comics who would like to be on the show. But it's not like every show gets 5% better. It's up and down, which is really frustrating. You just never know what will affect people coming out.
AP: We've been putting more pressure on ourselves to come up with new material. The emails we send to our performers are set up nicely with the Facebook invite, show times, link trading and other pertinent details. Each month, we put new things into place to reach out to more potential fans. We have these wonderful videos that Chelsea cuts.

How do you pick your lineups?
AP: We try to take into account and have different types or styles of comedians on each show, so that it's not like five really high energy dudes in a row. It's nice to start with someone who's low-key, and then you follow with people who are more energetic, building up to the headliner. We're still working on the exact formula.

Why did you decide to collaborate on a show rather than giving it a go as solo comedians?
MP: When you're a young comedian and you do a lot of open mics, there's really no big goals or markers of progress. You just go up every week, you tell your jokes to comedians, they chuckle or not, and then you do it again the next night. Having a monthly show creates a milestone every month to work on. A lot of times, it's a similar audience, so you want to develop a good five or 10 minutes of new material, which you can then try out and get feedback. I think it's really good for young comedians to start a show to have that goal because it gets really monotonous otherwise. When we don't have a show for another few weeks, it's harder to motivate myself to go to the open mics.

AP: When I was first starting out, I would go out to an open mic and bomb, and then I'd go home and feel super depressed. It becomes a lot easier when you have friends in the comedy community. Maybe if you come right out the gate being an incredible comedian, people would immediately want to work with you. But I feel like putting on a show is a whole way of helping the comedian community a little bit. If you put comedians on who are further along than you, or more developed and better than you, it's a bit of a challenge to push your own sets so that you don't look like a fool. It makes you want to improve and do better. Also they have given us some advice and helped let us know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. So it's okay to roll through some bad shows because there will be more redeeming shows as well soon enough.

CW: I really wanted to do a show because I wanted to improve my hosting skills. I really enjoy having that opportunity. Also having a show raises your name recognition within the comedy world.

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What are the main differences between doing a set versus hosting a show?
CW: We rotate hosting each month. Being a host, I'm not as concerned a lot of times thinking about which joke I'm going to do. Maybe I should be. The main concern is that your job is to get the audience excited about the next acts and make all the other comedians look good. It's a lot less about your own jokes and material and more about setting up the right atmosphere for comedy. And also making sure they have enough cookies.
MP: Yeah I think hosting and producing a show is kind of stressful, because if you bomb at a show, that happens sometimes. But when people you booked aren't getting the laughs you know they deserve from an audience you brought in, you feel very guilty about it, especially when you're hosting. You're in the worst possible environment. You're the first person on stage. You're just the host, so people aren't necessarily paying attention. It's interesting to see which jokes work in that environment, and you can work on a little crowd work. If someone's talking a lot, it's the host's job to go out there and take that bullet and tell them to be quite so that the comedians don't have to worry about it.

What other projects are you working on?
CW: We just finished filming a web series about life in the open mic scene that will be released soon. We're showing how jokes come to be and the interactions and relationships between other comedians and how that may affect our material.

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MP: We shot a few episodes with a friend of ours who's a director. It's called "Open Mic," and we hope to do a lot more. When I tell people I do comedy, they're always interested to hear what it's like, because it's a very strange subculture that most people don't see. People know what it's like for Jerry Seinfeld to be on stage, but the general public doesn't know what it's like at these crappy open mics where it's a half-full room with a bunch of comedians trying to make each other laugh, and they're all kind of depressed because they're not doing a real show. And then you go home, and you have some idea, and how it becomes a joke, and then you tell it to your friends, and they don't get it, and you try it out at the mic and keep working on it. So the show's kind of about that. It's kind of like Flight of the Concords, a look at people who aren't successful at what they do.
AP: Also the three of us and one of our buddies John Wells will be touring together in the fall for a week.
MP: In addition, I'm working on becoming a screenwriter. I actually did that first and then got into standup. So I'm always working on that stuff and writing scripts. I think standup has really helped that skill.

In what way has it helped?
MP: For one, standup's an outlet for things that can't go into a script, and then sometimes you'll come up with a funny joke on stage that could work as dialogue for a specific character in a script. I write comedic screenplays, so any time you do that, you're working on that skill of being funny. It's also a way to not be by yourself, at your computer writing all the time.

Anything unusual ever happen at an NYC show?
CW: At Karma, you're always dealing with interesting scenarios, because they're not solely a comedy venue, as I guess are most of the places we're doing comedy in the city. A couple of months ago, some guy who had a show after us came down, and during one of our performer's sets, he started adjusting the volume and setting up his turntables while the comedian was still on stage, as if there was no one in the room but him. On his way out, as we finally helped him understand that there was in fact a show going on, he tripped over the performer's mic cord.
MP: He also tripped over my iPod cord and broke my iPod.

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Do you have any tips to improve the overall show experience?
AP: Here's a secret that we just recently learned. When people come to comedy shows, nobody wants to sit up front, so you end up with a bunch of people in the back and the sides, and you end up with that U-shape, and then the middle and the front is empty. So we decided -- and I hope that people use this at other shows -- to take out all the seats from the back, and you put them away. Eventually people only see a limited number of spaces, so they start sitting up front, and then you pull out more and more chairs slowly, and then you fill the back up as necessary. And that'll avoid having a huge dead spot in the middle.

Which types of comedians appeal to you the most?
AP: We like comedians who are very smart and silly at the same time. Ones who have very distinctive styles who are extremely honest, and we don't feel like they're putting on a front. You feel like you're hearing exactly what they believe, and there's no fabrication. It's also nice to hear someone who can riff really well.
MP: When I see a comedian who can do things I can't, that always impresses me. For instance, I'm generally pretty quiet, so when I see someone who's theatrical and loud, I always remember that.

--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard" and blogs for OutHipHop.com. He recently wrote about sketch comedian Chris Booth.

THE PLUG
• The New Young Comedians celebrate their One-Year Anniversary Show WEDS, JUNE 24 @ 9PM at Karma Lounge | $5
See all the NYC videos
The New Young Comedians Web site

Reader Comments (2)

Probably one of the best interviews ever.Come to the show guys and gals! There's free pizza from 7:30 to 8!
June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAalap
that interview gave me a warm fuzzy feeling - yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! :D (now i'm going to type the word 'blog' because it's required!)
June 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenkwok

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