Robert Wachs, co-founder of the legendary New York City comedy club The Comic Strip, died last week of pancreatic cancer at the age of 73. His career as a force in the entertainment industry endured half a century.
A manager for Eddie Murphy for more than a decade, as well as producer of several of the comedian’s starring vehicles, Wachs opened the Upper West Side comedy club in 1975, along with partners Richard Tienken and John McGowan. Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, and Sam Kinison were among the comics who performed there in the early stages of their careers.
Eddie Murphy, an as-yet unknown teenager, attempted to sneak onstage to audition his act in 1979. Wachs kicked him out–but saw potential and allowed Murphy to perform the following week. Less than two years later, he was a featured cast member on Saturday Night Live. Wachs went on to produce two of Murphy’s stand-up TV specials and a number of successful films starring the comic, including Eddie Murphy Raw, Coming to America, and The Golden Child.
A native New Yorker and longtime entertainment lawyer, Wachs had been working on a musical featuring the songs of Paul Jabara.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg, stand-up comedy | Tagged Billy Crystal, chris rock, comedy, comedy clubs, Comic Strip, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Wachs, Sam Kinison, stand-up comedy | Comments Off November 11, 2013
There’s a reason why “funny” rhymes with “money.”
At Manhattan Comedy School, where some of the the industry’s most popular comedians have honed their craft, more and more people in corporate jobs are signing up to learn how to write a joke, deliver it, and get onto the stand-up stage in New York City. Lately, an increasing number of those corporate professionals are coming up to the mic from the finance field.
This interesting trend may be one response to an economy where “unsatisfied workers on Wall Street and elsewhere seek a comedic outlet,” reports a recent FOX Business feature, possibly because everyone needs cheering up over decreasing job opportunities and dwindling bank account balances.
The new influx of students hold positions at investment banks and other major financial industry companies like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, says MCS founder and owner Andy Engel. While some sign on with the goal of enhancing their careers, others are ready to take the plunge into becoming stand-up comedians on a full-time basis.
Now available for more than a decade, MCS’s eight-week course has always attracted not just would-be entertainers, but professionals including doctors, attorneys, and sales representatives who want to polish their public speaking skills and improve their client presentations. The skills and aptitudes they learn under the tutelage of seasoned comedy industry vets–like Corey Kahaney, Wali Collins, and Karen Bergreen–are invaluable to anyone who wants to be more effective when they appear in front of an audience, whether it’s a single patient or a roomful of conference attendees. In fact, most of the students, whose graduation ceremony is in the form of a live stand-up show at the storied Gotham Comedy Club, have a day job they intend to keep–while being much more entertaining at it.
If dealing with the the stock market is getting you down, register today for the next Level 1 MCS course, starting Tuesday, November 19th. Hurry, before a bunch of those Wall Street vipers grab all the spaces.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy | Tagged Andy Engel, career enhancement, changing careers, comedy, Cory Kahaney, finance, FOX business, Gotham Comedy Club, karen bergreen, learning stand-up comedy, Manhattan Comedy School, new job skills, stand-up comedy, Wali Collins | Comments Off November 6, 2013
What are you doing on Saturday, November 9th? If you are, ever have been, or want to know if you’re funny, you should be going to Manhattan Comedy School‘s FREE Comedy Seminar, “You Can Do Stand-Up Comedy.” This afternoon event is packed with valuable information you can use whether you want to improve your public speaking skills, ramp up your sales presentations, or get started in stand-up comedy. Thanks to the four industry pros who run the session, it’s also wildly entertaining.
The topics they’ll cover include:
Learn all this stuff from seminar leaders Wali Collins (Letterman, Comedy Central half-hour special, The View, host of events for President and Michele Obama); Cory Kahaney (HBO, Comedy Central, Letterman); Harrison Greenbaum (Spike TV, WE, SIRIUS Satellite Radio); Karen Bergreen (MCS instructor, Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, New Joke City, author of “Following Polly,” with rave reviews from the New York Times and Oprah); and Jimmy Faila (ESPN, Today Show, and his own radio show “Off the Meter” on Westwood One), plus Andrew Engel, Founder of the Manhattan Comedy School and comedy producer.
There’s also a Q&A session. Representatives from the Manhattan Comedy School will be on hand to provide information on the 8-week course taught at New York’s top comedy school. The graduation show for this class is a live performance at Gotham Comedy Club, where students receive a FREE broadcast-quality DVD.
Manhattan Comedy School’s FREE Comedy Seminar
“You Can Do Stand-Up Comedy”
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Check in at 11:30 AM
Gotham Comedy Club
208 West 23rd St., Manhattan
between 7th and 8th avenues
For more information, call 212-462-3200
You knew doing stand-up was a good way to express your feelings, but who figured it could save your marriage? British comedian John Bishop discovered that working his break-up with his wife into his set was fundamental in helping repair his relationship.
A hard-driving corporate professional in 2000, John’s long hours away from his family wreaked havoc on his seven-year marriage. He and wife Melanie had separated when he seized an unplanned open-mic opportunity, and used his time in front of the mic to assess his heartbreak. The combination of therapeutic release of complicated emotions and positive audience response launched his stand-up career.
But it was when his wife unexpectedly caught his act that John enjoyed the most gratifying audience reaction yet. On a visit to a club where he was performing, Melanie was astonished to find her estranged husband on the stage riffing on the hardship of being separated from her. Witnessing this new side of John, where he spoke openly about his feelings, marked “the moment she began to fall back in love with him.”
They reinforced their reconciliation with more traditional, if less entertaining, clinical therapy, and are now reunited and living with their three sons.
You may even be able to heal thyself: A psychology professor has identified parallels between stand-up comedians and psychotherapists. He suggests that stress reduction works in similar fashion to an effective joke, by setting us up to expect one outcome, and then presenting a different one that is incompatible with our expectations. Most comedians already know this, however, as their experience confirms that a joke that fails induces unbearable stress.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy | Tagged comedy, comedy as therapy, John Bishop, Manhattan Comedy School, marriage counseling, stand-up comedy, standup, stress reduction | Comments Off September 8, 2013
With everyone talking about Dave Chappelle getting so disgusted with a screaming audience at a recent Hartford, CT comedy festival that he cut off his set and spent his allotted time on stage smoking and reading a book, Donna Kaufman at iVillage.com decided to look at other cases where a comic didn’t stick to the routine.
She recalls the infamous moment when Michael Richards permanently destroyed his stand-up career with the wrongest retort ever; Andy Kaufman’s literary response to uncouth audiences; the Saturday Night Live host monologue that landed Martin Lawrence in the same rogue’s gallery as Sinead O’Connor and Charles Rocket; and Tracy Morgan’s ugly homophobic screed at a show two years ago that left him scrambling to do damage control.
And let’s not forget the explosion of enraged blog posts, cable network talking heads, and gender studies theses in response to Daniel Tosh’s rape joke last year. There was backlash, too, when Kathy Griffin joked about Demi Lovato’s history of self-harming, and Chris Rock tweeted a poorly received joke last Fourth of July. In August, after Russell Simmons posted a “comedy” video on his YouTube channel that portrayed Harriet Tubman making a sex tape to use for blackmail, indiewire.com was compelled to ask if there are any topics that are truly off limits.
The answer would seem to be “no,” since episodes of comic offense happen with a regularity that would put the Tokyo public transit system to shame. But is that because we continually adjust the parameters of what is distasteful? Have we simply become more sensitive to making sport of topics that we used to allow or ignore? Or is it because no one has yet figured out a way to make a comic snuff film?
Some things that comedians discuss freely now–cancer, bathroom habits, sexual peccadilloes–used to be talked of only in whispers, or were completely off-limits in polite conversation, not just verboten before an audience. And for many people, certain topics, words, and concepts still fall into the category of the unmentionable.
Yet it’s the job of the comic to test those boundaries, to get laughs where no comedian has gotten them before. Let us know when you’ve discerned the fine line between pro-funny and profane.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy | Tagged Andy Kaufman, comedy, Daniel Tosh, Dave Chappelle, learning stand-up comedy, Manhattan Comedy School, Michael Richards, offensive jokes, Russell Simmons, stand-up comedy, Tracy Morgan | Comments Off August 21, 2013
Guest of a Guest New York, the wildly popular New York City blog that covers the most exciting people, places, and events in town, has named Manhattan Comedy School as the home of one of the city’s six best comedy classes.
They note that students get to work with noted comedian Ophira Eisenberg as they learn the fundamentals of the craft. Then they have the opportunity to try their sets at one of New York’s top performance spaces for stand-up, Gotham Comedy Club.
Don’t miss what they’re raving about! The next class begins this Monday, August 26th–so you should register NOW.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy | Tagged comedy, Gotham Comedy Club, Guest of a Guest, learning stand-up comedy, Manhattan Comedy School, ophira eisenberg, stand-up comedy, standup | Comments Off August 21, 2013
More than 7,000 jokes were submitted to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year to try for the title of funniest. A public vote on the final 30 up for consideration resulted in an apparent landslide decision in favor of a pithy one-liner from stand-up comedian Rob Auton. Drum roll, please, as we present the winning wisecrack:
“I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa.”
This American’s research indicates that a Wispa is a popular candy bar in the UK, and that “Chinese whisper” is the British people’s name for the children’s game we call “telephone.” So a hearty ha-ha after establishing all that.
Check out the other entries, the vast majority of which are hilarious even without consulting Wikipedia. The list is a comedian’s textbook in how to construct a timeless, concise, and punchy one- (or two- or three-) liner. Even when spelling “color” with a “u”.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg | Tagged comedy, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, jokes, Manhattan Comedy School, one-liners, Rob Auton, stand-up comedy, standup | Comments Off June 25, 2013
An occupational hazard of being a comedian is dealing with hecklers. But you can’t count on OSHA to prevent these sometimes-drunk, always-annoying people from causing on-the-job injuries to your set.
That’s why you need to be prepared not to give in to their baiting. If you do, the heckler wins and liberty takes a blow. The key is to retain not only your cool, but your sense of humor.
Here’s a bunch of outstanding examples of comics, including Joe Rogan, Jamie Kennedy, and Louis C.K., who didn’t take interruptions to their stand-up lying down. They showed those PITAs who was boss, and entertained the audience at the same time. The best part? Everyone went home happy–except the heckler.Emily Rosenberg, stand-up comedy | Tagged comedy, hecklers, Jamie Kennedy, Joe Rogan, Louis CK, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy, standup | Comments Off April 9, 2013
So laughter is the best medicine after all.
Wounded soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their devastating experiences into uplifting comedy routines. Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor is a new documentary that introduces us to these remarkable veterans whose injuries changed their lives–but not their senses of humor.
Coached by a slate of top industry comedians, including Lewis Black, Zach Galifianakis, and BJ Novak, the four men and one woman in the program developed stand-up routines based on jokes that deal directly with their PTSD, chronic pain, and visible disfigurements that include amputated limbs and severe burns. They make cracks about bombs and terrorists and spouses dumping them once they got home. After crafting a set with their mentor’s guidance, each one graduated to a live performance in one of Los Angeles’ top comedy clubs.
A sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization, Comedy Warriors demonstrates how valuable humor is to the healing process for anyone who has survived an agonizing experience. An inspirational example of that is Warrior Bobby Henline, a veteran of Desert Storm who re-enlisted in the Army after 9-11 and sustained burns over 38 percent of his body after a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee. In his routine, he jokes, so much skin was grafted from other parts of his body to repair the damage that “I can’t tell my ass from my elbow.” Bobby hopes to partner with the Veterans’ Administration to share what he and the other warriors have learned to teach more returning veterans to use humor to cope with emotional and physical trauma.
You can donate to help bring the documentary to a wider audience.Posted in Emily Rosenberg, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy | Tagged BJ Novak, comedy, comedy documentary, Comedy Warriors, learning stand-up comedy, Lewis Black, Manhattan Comedy School, stand-up comedy, veterans, Zach Galifianakis | Comments Off March 9, 2013
Andy Engel, Founder and Owner of Manhattan Comedy School, as well as Director of New Talent at Gotham Comedy Club and at the new club Levity Live in Nyack, New York, just had his jam-packed brain picked by Maxim in a how-to piece that lets comedians in on the secrets of getting stage time. There’s also a nice picture of him, so you can identify him if you want to ask him yourself. Just buy him a cup of coffee or something, okay?
Andy explains that to become a successful comedian, your first task is to forfeit your entire social life. You need audiences to see you on that stage every night–ideally, several times in a night. If you’re a beginner, that’s not so easy to do.
But as Maxim knows, Andy’s the man to tell you how. Also a producer and scout for Ryan Seacrest and Mark Cuban’s new comedian-showcasing TV program, and an associate producer for legendary comic David Brenner, he offers up the pros and cons of no fewer than five ways you can land yourself that coveted spot on stage.
The list includes taking advantage of open mic opportunities, which don’t require you to stock the audience yourself, but are a brutal experience he likens to sexual practices that require safe words; performing at shows featuring new talent and amateurs, where you can network among other rising professionals, but you must show up with a minimum number of people to be part of the audience; and simply getting a job at a comedy club, where you’ll become a recognized face in the community, but may be viewed as just the help.
Andy’s final words of wisdom? “Be funny, be nice, and good things will happen!”
Learn even more at the FREE seminar at Gotham on Saturday, April 6th.
Posted in Emily Rosenberg, stand-up comedy, Uncategorized | Tagged Andy Engel, comedy, David Brenner, Gotham Comedy Club, Levity Live, Manhattan Comedy School, Mark Cuban, Maxim, Ryan Seacrest, stand-up comedy, standup | Comments Off ← Older posts