People sometimes contact me and ask, 'How do I become a writer?' I imagine that you two often get the same type of query from fledgling stand-up comedians. What do you tell them? What are the most important things to know about the artistic and the business aspects of comedy?
SKENE: We do have people come up to us a lot after shows, and I can just sense that they want to be a comedian. I tell them, the first thing you have to do is get onstage. (I'm always trying to talk people into getting onstage!) Go to open mics. Watch as much live stand-up as you can. That's the only way to know if you like it. You have to keep doing it! You can take a class, but that puts you about three months ahead of everybody else. Stage-time is the only way you can get better. You just have to get up there and do it. Singers can practice in their basement, actors can practice with other actors. Comedians have to get up onstage and practice in front of a crowd. It's more than just being funny and making people laugh; you have to be able to handle a certain amount of autonomy.
The Internet is really changing the game of comedy. Sites like YouTube, MySpace, FunnyorDie.com . . . anyone can throw up a video and suddenly become an online sensation, without ever having played a club. Since SHECKY has been online for 10 years, before the do-it-yourself comedy explosion, can you talk a little bit about how the Internet is affecting the come-uppance of stand-up?
MCKIM: I've been hearing this rumor that anyone can become a huge star by going viral, but I have yet to see it actually occur. There are things like Chocolate Rain, where people get notoriety, but these people are not headlining comedy clubs. People like Dane Cook and Russell Peters are gaining some sort of notoriety over the Internet, but they had the chops already. They already performed regularly. Bo Burnham is an interesting example. I forget exactly how he came to stardom. I understand that he handles the live performing very well and that he's capable and confident.
What's your take on the Boston comedy scene? Can it everreally flourish, since comedians seem to hone their chops here and then flee to New York or Los Angeles?
SKENE: We've been familiar with the Boston market since the 1980s. We used to go out to Sully's and the Sticky Wicket. We'd carpool, with Frank Santorelli. We've known everybody in the Boston market for a couple of decades now, and we never really lost touch with anybody.
The only reason people pick New York and L.A. is because those are the entertainment capitals. But, we've told comics for years to move to Boston. [Owner of The Comedy Studio] Rick Jenkins is doing a great job. He's bringing the industry to his comedians. He's very rare like that. Say a young comic is coming out of a smaller market like Dayton; we tell them to go to Boston or San Francisco. [Working in mid-sized markets like those cities] forces you to become good. And, to become recognized, you have to become good.
BRIAN MCKIM and TRACI SKENE | April 17 and 18 | Mottley's Comedy Club | mottleys.com
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