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Wednesday
Jul012009

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part X

We sat down with the improv group Convoy and sketch group The Birthday Boys and had them talk about influences, origins, and sketch vs. improv. We broke that massive interview down into weekly chunks. The following is the final chunk of that series.


ALEX F/CONVOY: I have one last question for you guys…how do you guys deal with a guy that wears shoes like that? (re: MIKE M ’s white sneakers) I would quit!

TIM/BDB They are the main source of tension for us.

ALEX F/CONVOY: This is going to be written up in text, for The Coming? Then I just want to state Todd has been farting this entire time. It’s been unbearable in this corner because Todd Fasen of Convoy has been farting.

Mike H/BDB: I don’t think it’s been that bad!

TODD/CONVOY: Thank you.

ALEX B/CONVOY: The sound has been throwing me off.


Convoy has a weekly show Thursdays at 11p, The Birthday Boys do a show the first Wednesday of every month at 8p. For more info on these groups check out http://www.myspace.com/birthdayboyscomedy and http://www.myspace.com/convoyimprov.

-Joanna Calo

Wednesday
Jun242009

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part IX

We sat down with the improv group Convoy and sketch group The Birthday Boys and had them talk about influences, origins, and sketch vs. improv. We broke that massive interview down into weekly chunks. The following is chunk nine of that series.


What other local comedy groups do you like?

TIM/BDB: Kiss From Daddy, Neil Campbell and Paul Rust.

TODD/CONVOY: Brett Gelman and Jon Daly are pretty fucking hysterical

ALEX F/CONVOY: Being around there, be it friendship commitment, or you legitimately want to, you see a lot of stuff. And I’d say half of it is interesting, or good. I haven’t seen their new show but I liked the Apple sisters when they came through before.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Donna and Danielle (Let’s Get Awkward)

JEFF/BDB: Jennie Pierson and Amanda Sitko were great in our monthly shows, their show Best Friends was awesome and we've become great pals with them. We love Heather Campbell and Charlyne Yi. We fell hard for The Apple Sisters when we did Sketchfest NYC and they just moved to LA, lucky for us!

DAVE/BDB: Good Neighbors are good.

ALEX B/CONVOY: What’s that?

DAVE/BDB: They’re a really funny group of USC guys with a big web video presence.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Oh they hosted Harold night a few weeks ago.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Tom McMillan and those guys, right?

DAVE/BDB: Yeah. Actually, can you stop the video real quick? (Aside) Not sure if they’re from USC, probably.

TODD/CONVOY: Tom McMillan is just a guy that went to USC. I don’t think he’s in Good Neighbor. Oh, George Lucas must be in Good Neighbor, cause he goes to USC.

ALEX B/CONVOY: If George Lucas is in it, their videos should be great. Actually, their old videos are great, their new videos are terrible

ALEX F/CONVOY: Too much CGI.

What about-

MIKE M/BDB: They Re-, oh.

Oh, sorry. Were you going to say something?

MIKE M/BDB: No, go on. I was going to make a bad joke.

LAUGHTER

ALEX B/CONVOY: Hang on hang on I want to hear the bad joke.

MIKE M/BDB: I was going to say “they re-release their old videos with new footage.”

All: Ahhhhh

ALEX B/CONVOY: I’d say that was a mediocre joke.

Mike H/BDB: I’d say it was bad.

ALEX B/CONVOY: It was an apt observation of how crappy the re-release of star wars was.

ALEX F/CONVOY: This is kind of a generic question, but I think it’s interesting…if you had to say who your influences are, and especially if we remove Monty Python, kids in the hall, the state…what would you say?

(Birthday Boys react, oh shit)

(Simultaneously:)

DAVE/BDB: My mom.

TODD/CONVOY: My mom

(They high-five)

ALEX F/CONVOY: It doesn’t even have to be comedic, but who would you say has influenced you?

CHRIS/BDB: Did we remove Mr. Show?

ALEX F/CONVOY: No.

(Birthday Boys react, YES!!!)

TODD/CONVOY: Without repeating!

MH I’m a Simpsons fan, through and through. That’s my biggest influence I think. It shaped how I look at comedy and how I even talk.

Matt My formative years were Simpsons …

DAVE/BDB: You guys have common interests, one of the things we come back to is like Americana, or the feeling of the 50 s or 40s or doo wop music, stuff like that. Not that that’s a comedic influence, but it’s such a great genuine place to come from, I consider that informative on our comedy.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Like The Saturday Evening Post?

DAVE/BDB: Yeah

TODD/CONVOY: Like the “white after labor day” sketch that you guys do.

DAVE/BDB: Norman Rockwell.

ALEX F/CONVOY: The only thing I ever quote, and I do this when I coach or teach…did you guys read Born Standing Up (Steve Martin’s autobiography)?

DAVE/BDB: Yeah.

ALEX F/CONVOY: If you haven’t, it’s so great, one of the best books I’ve read in a while, it’s so interesting to see how he came up and he has this little anecdote where he's on the tonight show they do this weird little esoteric bit and Carson turns to him at the commercial and says “you’ll use everything you ever knew”. And I read that and I was like YES. Everything. Like every little piece of every comment anyone’s ever made like using that, how everything influences…and like watching that white after labor day sketch, there are several different specific things I could point to as touchstones in that sketch that I knew as…it’s platoon, it’s back to the future, it’s this and it’s that, and it’s this and it’s that. And it felt like one whole sketch, not just like “oh, you guys like references?”

DAVE/BDB: It’s the emotion and the sentimentality…

CHRIS/BDB: Thank you for saying “use” and not steal.

TODD/CONVOY: Because it informs (the) sketch rather than it being about those references.

Matt/BDB: I also heard a writer quote which was “everything you know should be in everything you write”.

Everyone is impressed.

ALEX F/CONVOY: Did you hear it from yourself?

Matt/BDB: I read it in my diary.

TODD/CONVOY: Also his screenplay is like a thousand pages…

Matt No, it’s 20 pages and I’m worried about my education!

ALEX B/CONVOY: Have you ever seen the pop culture and philosophy book series? There’s one that’s The Simpsons and philosophy, it’s like philosophy lessons using examples from The Simpsons, like isn’t Flanders MORE moral than Reverend Lovejoy?

TIM/BDB The Doh of The Simpsons?

ALEX B/CONVOY: It’s The Doh of Homer. There’s an article in there about Lisa and American anti-intellectualism and they get into the fact that The Simpsons was, at one point, a very intellectual show…

MIKE M/BDB: HEY. I work there.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Shhhh shhhh. But now it’s just utter, utter garbage. But the book made the point that The Simpsons was able to, in a way a lot of shows aren’t, make references where the joke wasn’t dependent on the reference but if you got the reference it enhanced the joke. And I think that things like the labor day sketch, since we were just talking about that, if you’ve seen Platoon it makes the end funnier. But if you haven’t seen platoon, that sketch is still funny.

ALEX F/CONVOY: Same as Hot Fuzz or Shawn of the Dead. If you take out the comedy from either they function as a lethal weapon movie and a zombie movie. And there just happens to be these amazing jokes as well. That appeals so much, there are multiple things you can find funny, but all you need is one level…

ALEX B/CONVOY: You can laugh at the joke, and feel superior to the guy sitting next to you for getting the reference. But at the very bottom you just get to laugh at the joke, no matter what.

MIKE M/BDB: I think our idols are the smart guys who can balance those things…Robert Smigel , Bob Odenkirk, Conan O’Brien, I think all those guys do such a good job of making things silly and fun but also putting in smart references that you don’t necessarily have to know.

Matt And then later when you come to learn who was behind it, like George Meyer at The Simpsons, people who were very influential to this group of writers. I also credit sitcoms, cause I used to watch so many sitcoms, you learn formula from that. Like from Home Improvement…there’s a formula to that.

TIM/BDB Well you learn transitions from that! You pull a hammer across the screen, and that’s how you do a transition!

Matt/BDB: And you learn that Norm MacDonald was a staff writer at Roseanne, he probably shaped a lot of that. Learning like who was actually involved…

DAVE/BDB: And in a completely superficial sense I also love just like great entertainers… like the Marx Brothers, things like that. Guys that just occupied an entire screen…

TODD/CONVOY: Like Charlie Chaplin…


Convoy has a weekly show Thursdays at 11p, The Birthday Boys do a show the first Wednesday of every month at 8p. For more info on these groups check out http://www.myspace.com/birthdayboyscomedy and http://www.myspace.com/convoyimprov.

-Joanna Calo

Wednesday
Jun172009

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part VIII

We sat down with the improv group Convoy and sketch group The Birthday Boys and had them talk about influences, origins, and sketch vs. improv. We broke that massive interview down into weekly chunks. The following is chunk eight of that series.


ALEX F/CONVOY: (So) you guys make a lot of videos, and I’ve never seen a video of yours I didn’t really really like. So is that, like, sort of what you want to do? Videos? If someone was like, alright, pals, it’s video or stage, what would you do?

CHRIS/BDB: I think there’s, I don’t want to say a rift, but some of us are like, like myself, really like the videos, but some of us like the stage. It balances out.

DAVE/BDB: There’s a general eagerness to create, Just like you guys said, coming up with the idea, getting it to script form, and getting to portray it ourselves…whether that’s a web medium, TV…pitching feature idea, whatever, that is to me, and I think the group as a whole, really enticing. But what’s interesting is that while you’ve come at it from this improv/performance standpoint, a lot of us were screenwriting majors, saw ourselves as writers in a room or editors…and like coming to UCB, performing around town has broken that shell. So like now we want it all.

ALEX F/CONVOY: Todd and I were history majors, and Alex was a physics major…there’s a part of you that, until just recently, there’s an element like: okay, this is “fun”, very little thought went into, like “how can we turn this into a thing?” And the more I interact with people, (I realize), I just want to make stuff. Like if you guys were still in Ithaca, where there’s little to no chance of making it in the TV business…the people who would be doing that no matter what the circumstances, that’s the best. And I feel like if you guys were in the Antarctic you’d still be doing this. And that totally differentiates between that and “I’m at the showcase, and I hope someone sees us”

DAVE/BDB: And I don’t think we’d exist as a group of 7 if there we didn’t feel that way. Because it is the most fun way for us to create comedy, pitching to a group of people. It might not be the best way to advance a group, but it’s THE most fun way for us to create comedy.

TODD/CONVOY: When we even started, when I came back to LA after college, I didn’t want to act, I wanted to be in the music industry, but for me I always like performing, convoy was just started to have fun. The two of them they had a sketch site, Police Cat.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Which had ulterior motives, and because of those motives failed! We tried to put that show up at UCB, we got a Spank slot before they had Spank slots. Seth Morris was like, ah, I think you two can do better and turned us away! But it was probably for the best because we ended up working on other stuff.

TODD/CONVOY: And that led to Thirty/30, too.

ALEX B/CONVOY: And I want to be very clear, Seth Morris was very kind, and right. I don’t’ want to portray him as some kind of comedy Nazi.

TIM/BDB That was Police Cat?

ALEX B/CONVOY: Yeah. And we still have so many bumper stickers, if you guys want any.


Convoy has a weekly show Thursdays at 11p, The Birthday Boys do a show the first Wednesday of every month at 8p. For more info on these groups check out http://www.myspace.com/birthdayboyscomedy and http://www.myspace.com/convoyimprov.

-Joanna Calo

Tuesday
Jun162009

Heather Fink in LA!

The wonderful and talented Heather Fink got into LA yesterday. Your best bets to catch her are at UCB's Comedy Death Ray tonight at 630 (already sold out!), or immediately before ASSCAT this Sunday at 6pm. She does have a full show line-up so be sure not to miss her while she's here.


This stand-up gig is better than that f-cking restaurant job.

As a side note, our incredibly talented friend Rory Scovel is also in CDR tonight, so if you already have advance tickets, we're jealous.

If you want to stay up to date on the latest shows in LA, become a fan of LA Comedy on Facebook.
Wednesday
Jun102009

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part VII

We sat down with the improv group Convoy and sketch group The Birthday Boys and had them talk about influences, origins, and sketch vs. improv. We broke that massive interview down into weekly chunks. The following is chunk seven of that series.


That sort of relates to a question I had. Being a comedian, you’re really a performer. Do you want to be actors? And related to that- while you guys are sort of in different places of this as your career, what do you hope will happen in the future?

JEFF/BDB: I was going to ask if you were actors or if you wanted to be in college.

ALEX B/CONVOY: When I was in college I first wanted to be a professor until…

ALEX F/CONVOY: No, first you wanted to be ghostbusters.

ALEX B/CONVOY: This is true. But Vassar has a thing where you can make your own major. And I tried really hard to major in paraphysical research. As it related to ghosts and unexplained shit. I sat down with my pre-major advisor, like before classes started. Like the first week of my freshman orientation he asked me what I wanted to major in and I said “I want to major in paraphysical research, you know like telekinesis and spiritual apparitions”. And there was a long awkard pause and then he looks up and says “there is not a single class at this college that can help you do that”. So I ended up majoring in physics. But I wanted to be a professor for a long time and it wasn’t until like halfway through my junior year that it became clear that I would get sick of writing papers.

ALEX F/CONVOY: A friend of ours sort of convinced us to give it a shot- and we drove out here in the same car, after graduation, cross country…

ALEX F/CONVOY: Speaking for myself, I think I have too much of a controlling instinct to just want to be an actor in someone else’ s sitcom, I don’t think that would be satisfying for me. The whole creation thing, making something that sounds like what I like and is what I like, which is why in this show – we shot a pilot over the summer that was OUR thing, we did work on it with a few people – it was interesting to a. find out A. how that works and B. that was so amazing to do because it was like this is going to be our thing!

DAVE/BDB: And in case people don’t know, we’re not talking about a web show, this was a Comedy Central pilot.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Yeah so the parts of that that were the most fun to do were the parts that we had total control over versus the stuff that comedy central made us do, like their notes and stuff. You guys had talked to them for a while, right? Alex F/Convoy: ter your showcase show.

DAVE/BDB: It’s still in the infant stages but yeah. It’s cool because they seem to embrace new voices, writer/performer voices. And that’s great. So we’ve both done shows at the comedy central stage, which I think they try use as a venue to help build relationships with performers but also to advocate for their own things and get executives to shows.

MIKE M/BDB: How has that opened up doors for you, the pilot?

ALEX F/CONVOY: The whole last year (has been different), because we worked on the pilot with Tom Lennon and Ben Garant (from The State, Viva Variety, Reno 911!, etc.).

TIM/BDB How did that happen?


ALEX F/CONVOY: The writers strike left those two gentleman with very little to do so they started coming to comedy shows, like Cagematch…

ALEX B/CONVOY: The writers strike is the greatest thing that ever happened to us. I’m very sorry for all the catering guys that were unemployed, but it was great for us.

ALEX F/CONVOY: Those guys have been just crazy supportive and awesome and we owe a lot to them. Especially for us as people who watched The State, and Viva Variety…

ALEX B/CONVOY: It’s been some sort of weird perverted childhood dream. I remember when Tom first came to a Convoy show, he came backstage and it was like, holy shit Tom Lennon’s here!

TODD/CONVOY: At first it was like “who is this guy who’s coming back stage?!”

ALEX F/CONVOY: Who is this dude?

ALEX B/CONVOY: Who’s this dude with the frosted hair and the weird moustache?

TODD/CONVOY: And then he left and I was like, (hushed) was that Tom Lennon!? And we actually hadn’t done a great show that night and he came back and thought it was a good show.

ALEX B/CONVOY: We owe the whole Comedy Central thing to those guys, those two guys saw our show and saw some potential in us, and talked us up to their manager and their execs over at cc and so we’ve been lucky to have basically comedic sugar daddies to hold our hands and guide us through the dangerous waters…. And who we’ve become friends with!

TODD/CONVOY: The whole thing was very weird. Ben and Tom started coming to our shows late summer last year, but then all of a sudden: January Comedy Central saw our show and wanted to meet with us, and then we had a meeting at the end of February, we came up with the idea for the show like ten days before we had to pitch them. To have no ideas, then all of a sudden come up with an idea and then ten days later have them say “we want you to make a pilot!”…and then the writing process obviously took a lot longer but it was all really fast. It was like, whuuu, I’ll quit my job now!


Convoy has a weekly show Thursdays at 11p, The Birthday Boys do a show the first Wednesday of every month at 8p. For more info on these groups check out http://www.myspace.com/birthdayboyscomedy and http://www.myspace.com/convoyimprov.

-Joanna Calo