Jen Kirkman said she knew she wanted a podcast of her own when Marc Maron started WTF. She was always a fan of his, and had loved the idea of podcasting since she first listened to Ricky Gervais’ podcast in 2004.
But she was worried: “I’m the kind of person that I get an idea, then I worry about the equipment and whether people think I’m copying.” Friends asked to do podcasts with her, but it wasn’t what she knew her podcast would be – “it’d be me babbling.”
Jen’s been around the podcast scene for years, and you’ve probably heard her in any number of a million places. Matt Belknap (co-host of Never Not Funny) had an interview-style podcast for A Special Thing records that she was on; she’s been on WTF, she was on Jason Nash’s podcast.
I first discovered her comedy on Paul F. Tompkins’ “The Pod F. Tompkast.” Paul was the only person having her on regularly, and once that started, she pretty much only did his podcast. “He didn’t ask me to do that,” Jen said, “but I didn’t have that many stories to go around and I wanted to make sure I had a story ready for him to have on his show.” She loved being his guest, but said saving her stories for him kept her from doing her own thing. When he stopped the show, it gave her a push to start “I Seem Fun.”
Then, two years ago, a friend bought her a mic for her birthday, told her to plug it into her iPad, download an app, and just do it. She was worried – she thought, “This is way too late… it’s going to look like I copied everyone else” – but quickly realized it was fine. It didn’t have to be what she called “a totally unique idea” – it could just be her talking. Matt Belknap helped get “I Seem Fun” on iTunes at first, and now the team over at All Things Comedy helps keep the podcast a well-oiled machine. (That was until recently, when Jen took a brief sabbatical, moved to New York, and buckled down to write her second book. “It hasn’t felt right to sit down and podcast from NY. I feel like I’m on a two-month little vacation from my normal life. I’m just kind of hiding out and having a rebellion.”)
You probably already know (and love) “I Seem Fun.” If you like Jen’s standup but haven’t listened to the podcast yet, you’re missing out. Also: it’s right up your alley: “My goal with the podcast was: If you like me, here’s more about me.” It’s a great supplement for diehard fans – and a great place for Jen to dive into stuff that doesn’t have a home in a standup set: “On stage, I can’t get that much into detail or go that much into boring stories, or start doing things that don’t have a punchline.”
The podcast has also proved how diverse her audience was, especially when people email her to say what they’re relating to. “When people ask, ‘Who’s the audience for this?’ I have letters and proof.” Emails from fans prove that there’s a ton of people who are divorced, or feel different from other people their age, because they’re not having kids or getting married. And it’s not just “because they’re partying all night.” Those emails show there are “a lot of people who are very different from me, but very similar to me in that way.”
Jen recently tweeted that she was proud of how many men come to her shows and have her book. “It makes me happy,” she told me. “It means my stories are universal and I’m not saying things that only women or divorced people or people without kids understand. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I know the comics I like. I’m not always in their demographic; we’re not the same gender sometimes, the same race sometimes. But I like them because they’re taking me into their world. Funny is funny.”
Funny is funny, and Kirkman is funny. I’m a straight, white male who’s never been married (or divorced, obviously), so some TV execs might not think I “fit the demographic” of her fans. But they’d be wrong. (Also, don't think I didn't cry along with Kirkman the entire Joan Rivers episode.) And the fan turnout at her shows proves how wrong they are.
“I’ve heard ‘no’ so many times with show ideas I’ve had. I’ve been told, ‘We’re looking for the male demo 18-34, and we don’t think they’d watch it.’ People tell me, ‘Oh, it’s a ladies show,’ and I say, ‘No, it’s not.’ I know I’m right. I know people would watch a show about me, whether I’m starring in it or something else. Being a woman, being 40 … every human feels those feelings. I take it as validation for everyone who’s ever said ‘No.’ A lot of them know nothing. They tell me what America wants, and I go to America every fucking weekend. I tell them, ‘Don’t tell me what America wants.’”
“I don’t smoke weed anymore,” Murray Valeriano told me, “but if you ever have a free afternoon, you should get stoned and watch the 1970s cartoon Hobbit movie.”
I can’t say whether or not that’s a fun afternoon, but I can say that Murray and I both hated the first two Peter Jackson Hobbit movies. (Don’t even get me started.) I talked to Murray about his podcast Roadstories and his traveling standup show Comics on Surfari while he was killing time before a Writers Guild screening of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.
Murray’s a great guy and a hilarious comedian who’s been doing it full-time since the late 90s. He’d never met Janeane Garofalo, but heard she quit her day job at a certain age. When he hit that same age, he quit his day job, too, and the rest (as they say) is history.
On Roadstories (also available on iTunes), which has been a part of the All Things Comedy network since August 2013, Murray talks to comedians “about life on and off the road and everything that happens in between.” It sounds like it could be too niche, and feature real “inside baseball” talk that only other comedians could understand. But it’s not inside baseball at all. It’s exactly the type of stories that make you feel the pain of how awful road gigs can be, and the type of stories that add to the admiration of comics who grind it out on the road in front of some truly terrible audiences.
Murray started Roadstories after a long stretch of travel dates. Sitting around the Improv with a bunch of fellow comedians, they all started sharing stories about the awful gigs they just fought their way through. Murray said, “I thought, ‘This is fun, man. I should do something with this.’” He got the idea to turn it into a podcast after listening to Never Not Funny, and recorded his first episode back in 2009.
After taking a year off – “that’s the year podcasting exploded and Maron came out”– Murray fired up the mics again and brought Roadstories back to life.
“It’s so much better the second go-round,” Murray said. “Podcasting is such an amazing thing we have going right now. It’s completely rule-less. You can do whatever you want. If I want to have Jimmy Pardo on my podcast every week, I can have Jimmy Pardo on my podcast every week. If I want to talk about dark, disgusting, sexual fantasies, I can do that. If I want to preach from the bible, I can do that.”
Murray says the whatever-you-want-it-to-be nature of podcasting is one of his favorite parts of the gig. He and I both hate late night talk shows with prepared questions and prepared answers. That’s why he doesn’t really prep his shows – he wants comics to tell stories that they’d never tell on television.
That freedom to say whatever you want has let him be more open on Roadstories, and also in real life. Murray says that’s “a double-edged sword” because it generates the comedy he likes (“real, emotional, from-the-heart comedy”), but can also sometimes “lead to a set where it feels like it’s 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon at a therapist’s office.”
You can catch Murray’s stand-up at any of his Comics on Surfari shows. The name, a play on a 1960s term where people traveled the world and went surfing; the tour is made up entirely of comedians who surf (and Murray was quick to point out that these guys aren’t “fairweather surfers, who only surf when it’s Saturday and 80 degrees” – these guys are all out there in January in freezing water).
Comics on Surfari tours up and down the West Coast, surfing during the day and doing shows at night. Murray says the tour is built around 7 core comedians: himself, Monty Franklin, Joe Sib, Andrew Norelli, Graham Elwood, Tim Lee and Andy Wood. If you want a good show, check out one of these gigs – all 7 guys are the real deal.
“It’s headliners opening, headliners middling, and headliners headlining,” Murray said. “I think the MC spot is very important, and it gets overlooked here a lot in America. When one of our guys goes on stage to MC, that’s when the show starts.”
Comics on Surfari started when Murray was “freezing his ass off” at a Denver bus stop in the middle of February. It was 21 degrees outside, and he thought, “There are clubs on the coast. Why am I not working San Diego in February? I can surf in the morning, and do shows at night. There are clubs all over California.” He approached Graham Elwood and a few other people, and they were all on-board. Their first show was at the Irvine Improv, and it sold out.
The next Comics on Surfari is at the Brea Improv on December 10. Not a surfer? Don’t worry. The show isn’t surf-themed – it just so happens that all the comedians love to surf.
“It’s really just an excuse to surf and do stand-up,” Murray said. “That’s all it is. If you were to look at us, if you didn’t see our tanlines, we don’t fit the stereotypical surfer. I’m a stay-at-home dad. Joe Sib is a punk rocker-turned-comedian. Tim Lee is a scientist-turned comedian.”
Not only is the show NOT surf-themed, but it’s sort of amazing how poorly surf jokes go.
“I remember Andy Wood was hosting one of the first shows,” Murray told me, “and I was saying,’“Stay away from surfing jokes, because they don’t really fly.’ He opened with four minutes of surfing jokes, and found out that was true really quickly.”
You can get tickets to the next Comics on Surfari at the Brea Improv HERE. The best way to find out about upcoming shows is by searching “Comics on Surfari” on Facebook, or by emailing email@example.com to join the mailing list or to ask questions.
It was 11pm in their Eastern time zone and I was worried I'd be waking them.
Mike picked up the phone very alert so I felt confident. I asked if his mother Nancy was right there and she was, so I requested to be on speaker phone. I don't know exactly what I said, but I stumbled through every detail with my voice quivering, trying to keep it together talking to these strangers. Who oddly, after only a few conversations though up to this point, felt like family.
I asked them if they'd like to come to Los Angeles and attend a comedy podcast festival for the weekend. This was Wednesday evening, and they would be leaving Friday morning to come to LA if they said yes.
They said they had to think about it.
Really, they needed to make some plans for their lives in Virginia while they'd be gone and get medical clearance from her doctors. This was important as she'd be traveling with Stage 3b lung cancer, 'just below Walter White's kind' as Mike explained they were told. They were between chemo/radiation regimens and had some extra time on their hands to kind of...think. I knew this from a Facebook post I saw from Mike on Monday.
I made a couple calls, gathered close friends for help, and started a private GoFundMe to get enough money in the next 24 hours to buy them: Nonstop round trip Virgin Air plane tickets, transportation around LA, and 3 nights in the gorgeous hotel in Beverly Hills where the LA Podfest was held. LA Podfest, I might add, were kind enough to give them VIP everything for the weekend.
They were cleared for a go, thank goodness, or I would've looked like, well an ass, to a lot of people. Mike and his mother spent the weekend in LA rubbing shoulders with not only their favorite comedians and podcasters, but they were able to meet a large group of people from all over the world that they'd only known over the internet to some degree. These other fans of podcasts, other amateur podcasters, and all around die-hard comedy fans; they become friends after time, showing up in the same twitter feeds, common message boards, or maybe you walk into the same room wearing some of the same comedy merchandise and just nod at each other. You might even say these people become family at some point. It was a success, and I think an insane amount of memories were made on the trip. When they were leaving to go back home I definitely looked like I had just watched The Notebook.
Ok, so fast forward to now. Why am I telling you this?
Mike and Nancy have been supporting Estoy since before it was Estoy. It was just Greg and I making shirts for hours and we didn't even have a business name. And they've continued to support Estoy until they couldn't anymore because they need a good amount of money ($150k) for her treatment and possible surgery. Their GoFundMe Page is getting some traffic, but I'd like to really give back in some way. Talented Artist Guy Tensen (Shame Chamber, Doc Lob) made a great design, I added a phrase to tie it all together, and we put it on a shirt! The profit from the sale of each one will go to them directly to help with their treatment.
Please do me a favor and order one of these for you, for a friend, heck, show a hater some love and get one of these delivered to them.
Seeing a 25-minute set from Jerrod Carmichael (@NotoriousROD) is a great deal for $8. Add a 25-minute set by Maria Bamford (@MariaBamfoo) -one of my all-time favorite comedians- to the show, and that $8 becomes a steal. Add in ANOTHER 25-minute set by Wil Anderson (@Wil_Anderson)?
My friends, that’s the definition of an embarrassment of riches.
If you're bummed that you can’t make it to Wil’s show on Monday with Dave Anthony at The Steve Allen Theater, this is an awesome alternative. Don’t think you’ll get enough comedy on Monday? Come and get more of Wil on Tuesday!
This Tuesday night (Dec. 2), all three comedians are performing at the NerdMelt Showroom in L.A: “Three Comics. Long Sets. No Host. Straight Up Stand-Up.” Seeing great comedians do a tight 8-minute set is fine; seeing them perform a longer 25-minute routine is waaaaay better.
People in LA know the NerdMelt Showroom as one of the best standup spots in town. People outside of LA know how great it is, too, because of Comedy Central’s (awesome) show The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail. And Tuesday, experience it in its full glory along with three of LA’s heavy-hitting local comedians.
You may know Dave from his debut album Shame Chamber. You may know him from either of his podcasts, Walking the Room or The Dollop. Or maybe you know him from his role as “Guest Charlie Number One” on FOFOP. No matter where you know him (and love him) from, it’s safe to say it’s somewhat of a surprise for Dave.
“I thought my career was over 5 years ago,” Dave said. “The Kickstarter campaign was obviously beyond anything I ever imagined. I’m still trying to take it in.”
Dave says he owes the success of his Kickstarter (which he calls “pretty incredible”) to how small the world is now: “The most surprising thing to me is that I have an audience of people who want me to come and perform.”
A lot of that demand comes from Dave’s great comedy, but a lot of it also comes from the international audience that his appearances on TOFOP and FOFOP have built. It’s a bit of a two-way street, though, as Wil has opened Dave up to a new world of comedians, like Stewart Lee and Dylan Moran, and new types of standup you don’t see in the US.
Dave says the show he’s working on isn’t different material because it’s going to be done in Australia. It’s personal, so it translates anywhere. But it’s something special that Australia might appreciate more than audiences in America.
“It's material I mostly can't do in American comedy rooms,” Dave said. “People get weirded out by too much honesty here.”
Dave’s set at the Trepany House isn’t close to his finished hour. He says he’s still working on the overall structure, and has about 20 minutes locked in right now. So what can you expect from his set on Monday or his hour in Melbourne? Dave says the hour is about “my anger issues, how I got that way, how they manifested, and what I did about it.”
If you’re reading this and you live in LA, you better be there. If you miss this, you'd better be dead or in jail… and if you're in jail, BREAK OUT!
Greg Behrendt and I were printing shirts and experimenting with cut-and-sew in his garage in 2012. We were designing and releasing a lot of new shirts and outfitting Greg's band with a high fashion punk aesthetic. It was fall time in Los Angeles, the Monday before Thanksgiving, and Black Friday ads dominated all media. People were camped at the Best Buy on La Brea for a week already.
I had a surplus of random blank shirts and shop rags, so we printed variations of the new designs from Walking The Room and The Reigning Monarchs. I think we printed our first female tees then too. We dug into Greg's last private collection of Uncool DVDs, old comedy tour posters, and memorabilia. We put it all on sale at midnight and called it the 1st Annual #BlackWednesdaySale, tongue fully pressed into cheek.
The traffic was more than we'd ever seen for the site, it emptied our shelves. The Post Office HATED us. The people behind us in line hated us more. It was validation that we might possibly be good at this fun thing we were doing that excited us.
The tradition was born, and this year is no different. I'm very proud of the special items we have hitting Estoy all the way through Cyber Monday.
I've put together a brief guide below featuring only some of what we have planned. Starts 12am Midnight PST Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
- Walking The Room- NEW shirts, as well as some limited 'Greatest Hits' releases. Also, a CIY (color-it-yourself) poster and we'll be selling original scratch prints and samples used in the original runs of WTR shirts. And maybe a calendar.
- The CrabFeast- Brand new shirt, signed poster, new mugs, as well as discounts on past items.
- The Dollop- First ever shirt! And very limited Dollop 6-packs (inspired items from memorable episodes).
- Your Mom's House Podcast- New shirt release, ya know what I'm sayin?
- The King Sweater- New pink and silver tee, with some limited gold test prints.
- Kira Soltanovich Show- New Tshirt.
- Iron and Wool- New tie release and discounts.
Black Friday Releases:
- TOFOP- Cool new shirt with free giveaway for First 100 orders.
- Jen Kirkman- Hand-printed poster.
- FUNDRAISING shirt and poster from Walking The Room/The Reigning Monarchs to benefit cancer treatment for a devoted podcast listener.
Set your alarms, or make coffee and stay up. There's no leaving your house or waiting in line. Just stay in your PJs and stop by Estoy on Wednesday to take care of holiday shopping for the comedy fan/nerd/superfan/listener in your family!