Tag: standup comedy

Big Fish Q&A with Baltimore Boy & Gawker Wunderkind Ben Rosen

2

Baltimore native Ben Rosen, 26, serves as ad operations coordinator at online media juggernaut Gawker Media,whose eight websites combined — Gawker, Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Kotaku, and io9 — get more monthly views than The New York Times. Rosen, also a dedicated standup comic (he was voted Baltimore Comedy Factory’s Funniest Person of 2010), graduated from the Park School in 2004, and later the College of Charleston with a business administration degree and a concentration in entrepreneurship. He now calls Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home.

At Gawker Media, Rosen works with two more Baltimoreans — look for their profiles later this summer in our series, Baltimore Boys of Gawker Media.

I talked to the funny young businessman about his work life, his standup life, the future of social media, and his all-important Baltimore roots.

What is your dream job title?

Standup comic/astronaut.

Down the line, is the progression of social media going to make us better social animals, more connected, communicative and compassionate, worse…or both?

It depends on what you mean by better. We’re able to share more of our lives with more people, but it’s no question that the art of conversation is dying. Drinks with friends in a biergarten will always trump lonely Facebook scrolling in a dark room. Still, you can’t pin the end of the human race solely on social technology. I blame the parents, the Republican Party, and Rick Astley’s dance moves.

Baltimore Comic Podcaster Brings Kevin Pollak Home

1

Actor Kevin Pollak (you know, A Few Good Men; Grumpy Old Men) knows standup — he started practicing at age 10. Famous for his spot-on impressions of intense talkers Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson and William Shatner, Pollak knows “the funny.” And our own funny local friend Geoffrey Welchman of the hilarious Inverse Delirium podcast, well, he happens to know Kevin Pollak. And now you can, too. 

Pollak performs at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium March 8-10. He recently performed on a new Inverse Delirium podcast, too — you can play the episode right now.

Though he’d never met Pollak, Welchman wrote a sketch with the actor in mind, knowing he was due in town for the standup gig, then emailed Pollak an invitation to participate in the podcast. We asked Welchman for behind-the-sound-scene details.

How’d you entice Pollak to join the cool show you craft in your basement?

He emailed back, which was a thrill, and asked to see the script, which was an even bigger thrill. Luckily I tacked on a second idea at the bottom — about an audition for voice actors, really just a premise. It turned out he liked that better than my script, so I quickly fleshed that second idea out and sent it, and he liked it and agreed to record it. All this took place in few days, and by the end of the week I had his recording in my email.

How long have you followed Pollak’s work?

Like many people, I knew of him first from his movie roles, particularly in two of my favorites, The Usual Suspects and Grumpy Old Men. I didn’t realize he’d started as a standup comic — I only became aware of his incredible impressions from his Christopher Walken bit in the comedian documentary The Aristocrats in 2005, and I began to follow him more closely.

Then a couple years ago, I heard he had started a podcast and I was hooked within the first few shows. He does rapturously long interviews with great comedians and actors (Judd Apatow, Rob Reiner, Laraine Newman, Adam Carolla, etc.). The great thing about his show is he talks to his guests as a peer rather than an interviewer, which seems to enable a relaxed flow, full of great stories.

What has he meant to you as a comic?

I really respect his abiding love for the craft of standup, and his smart-alecky tone. And of course, his impressions… But I have to say he made an even bigger impact as a podcaster. Listening obsessively to his podcast (along with Marc Maron’s and Doug Benson’s) for three months in 2010 inspired me to start my own podcast! So even though I went in a sketch-comedy direction, Kevin is one of my podcast heroes.

From Angry Young Man to Grand Visionary: Lewis Black

0

Saturday night, The American Visionary Art Museum honors comedian Lewis Black as the next AVAM “Grand Visionary”–a title previously awarded Desmond Tutu, former head of the NAACP Julian Bond and his wife, Pamela Horowitz, and singer-songwriter Donovan, among others. Award ceremony coincides with AVAM’s fifteenth anniversary gala, benefitting the organization’s terrific exhibitions and educational programs. A post-gala parade follows, with Lewis Black doubling as Grand Visionary/grand marshal.

Fishbowl talked to the comic about his surprise reaction to the heavy-duty title, and asked AVAM founder Rebecca Hoffberger outright, “So, why Lewis Black?”

“Many might say Black has a potty mouth. They would be right. But it is wholly attached to a Mother-Theresa-like, fierce passion for justice and care for others. Is it any coincidence that Lewis Black breathed the same Silver Spring air as fellow Silver Spring Maryland visionary, Rachel Carson, when she wrote, Silent Spring? I think not. Both underscore the escalating factors of greed that trash our environment. Rachel would have been smitten with Lewis Black, for in his own creative way, he continues the good fight. Only he makes us incontinent in the process! Plentiful good reason we are honoring him!” explained Ms. Hoffberger. 

Fishbowl: Is this award a surprise or merely destiny? What does it mean to you? Will you tell people you’re a Grand Visionary at parties or in line at Starbuck’s?

Lewis Black: I find it unbelievable that my name would be mentioned in a sentence with the name of Desmond Tutu, let alone that somehow we would actually be honored with the same award. It was more than a surprise, it was a shock. As shocked as I am, I do feel honored. It’s nice to know that people pay attention to your work, but to be recognized for it, is more than I ever expected. It leaves me a bit stunned. I do plan to make something in the line of a wizard’s hat with flashing lights that spell out Grand Visionary so that people will realize it, and I won’t have to bring it up in conversations.

FB: What did growing up in this part of the country do for your comedy, if anything?

LB: I am not sure how being born and raised in Silver Spring helped my comedy, but I do know that being raised in the suburbs of Maryland truly prepared me for space travel. 

FB: What are your impressions of the Visionary Art Museum, which of course embraces outsider art? Are you an “angry” outsider artist, in a sense?

LB: I have never been to the museum but have been online to get a glimpse and a sense of it. I will tour it when I get there and am looking forward to it. It’s extremely unique in concept. Stand-up comedy, in many ways, is a self-taught art. I don’t really consider myself an angry outsider artist at this point, as a comic needs an audience for laughs, so they are always reaching out for them. When I was younger, I probably was a very angry outsider artist which is why it took my career so long to get going.

FB: What do you like most about coming back to Baltimore?

LB: I truly like returning to Baltimore because I get to see my folks. And friends. And the ever changing, always the same, Baltimore. And the seafood. What’s most annoying is I can’t stay longer, as I am in the midst of rewriting a play. 

Black’s play, One Slight Hitch, will be performed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

Guides