The sketch comedy group Killing My Lobster has, over the last ten years or so, become a San Francisco institution. They put on an all-new show every six months or so, they've got an annual film festival, they even get arts grants. They recently branched out into more traditional theater, producing Peter Nachtrieb's Hunter Gatherers, which was both a critical and commercial success.
KML are performing an omnibus show at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco Wednesday night (tickets), so we thought we'd catch up with our friend Jon Wolanske, a writer-performer-producer in the group.
Killing My Lobster have been a fixture of the San Francisco comedy scene for quite some time. You've seen lots of SF comics (and some KML cast members) come and go... why stay in SF?
We stay in the Bay not only because we love the unique things this part of the country has to offer, but we believe this is the best place to create fresh original comedy in the country. we're kind of known for a blend of different flavors--silly slapstick, meta-humor, literary references, sketches that incorporate found text, and lots of nostalgic and sometimes sentimental humor. it's an odd mix, and based on where we have performed (Chicago, Manhattan, Los Angeles, Vancouver) we think San Francisco audiences are not only among the best when it comes to comedy, they tend to get our eclectic sense of humor the most. we also find that this is a great place to self-produce, where budgets can remain modest and you can still do a lot with that money.
What was it like to put on a real play, after years of sketch comedy reviews?
The play experience was pretty incredible from every aspect. I think the best part about it is that it was a natural outgrowth from what we do--because the playwright is a alumnus of the group, and the play itself--structurally, thematically, and in the end production, aesthetically--seemed to grow out of what we do really organically... it was as if one sketch or concept of a sketch was incubated and really stretched. the best part about it was that it showed we could grow as a producing organization into a new arena, and that our longtime supporters would actually go with us and give us that license to really try something new. Overall, it was really encouraging. and for me personally, playing a character who would have to kill a lamb onstage every night means i would never look at a schawerma in the same way ever again.
KML consistently embarasses other sketch groups with exceptional production values -- sets, costumes, a great band -- what's the role of that polish in the group's shows?
We don't do it to embarrass anyone--sometimes it backfires on us. but we feel that having high production values is a show of respect not only to the work, but to the artists who invest so much time in creating this original programming and to the audience, who we feel pays good money to enjoy a great evening of entertainment. We really enjoy thinking about every aspect of the show--from how a song that precedes a sketch sets up that sketch, to what the program looks like and how it can play off the theme of any given show, to what's in the lobby at intermission. So any sense of polish is there to really just enhance the overall experience of the
show's theme--and what the audience can take away from that.
What's the story with this big show at Cobb's?
We've been chatting with the good folks at Cobb's for a while about getting in there... they've been great about staying in touch--and this show arose as a fun way to preview the fall musical and to present some of our favorite recent and older sketches. We'd like to go back there again and do something where we create original content for that specific space--perhaps some stand-up from members of the group and some sketches we create specifically for there--but for now this show is an experiment to test run our fall musical material and see how we do in North Beach. Plus we always thought our material would really be enhanced by a two-drink minimum. Wo we're hoping for great things.
That I finally got the archives working, for the first time since we made the switch from tsoya.libsyn.com to maximumfun.org.
When a friend calls you up and says, "we're making a video for McSweeney's tommorow. Eggers asked if we could do it. You want in?" the appropriate response is, "yes."
That happened to me a few months ago, and this video, "Terror Cell," was the result. James and John Reichmuth of Kasper Hauser, Dave Owen of the SF Sketchfest, some other folks and me got together one day at McSweeney's headquarters to tape this sketch, which was written by Chris Eggers. Dave Eggers was on set, overseeing his troops, and Brent Hoff was running the show.
We basically re-wrote / re-improvised the sketch on the spot, it was a great time, and I didn't hear anything else about it for months and months and months. This was the end result. It's a mixed bag and in some ways reflects the hasty way in which it was thrown together, but I thought I'd share it nonetheless. I hope it will satisfy your insatiable appetite for short films in which I wear an absurd false moustache.
...think of this performance from Xzibit on Letterman. It's hardly a perfect record, but you have to admit, X really has something.
The Sound of Young America
720 S. Normandie Ave. #505
Los Angeles, CA 90005
It's real, and it's about to happen. This is going to be HUGE, folks, and I expect everyone in the TSOYA community to help spread the word.
Days away, friends, days away. PREPARE YOURSELVES FOR A MULTI-MEDIA ONSLAUGHT.
Guess what? The feed is up! I'll post an iTunes link when it's approved, and you will be expected to subscribe, review and reccomend to others.
This is brand new (check the Cory Lidle allusion), and it's fantastic. Budden has a bit of Redman, a bit of Jay-Z and a lot of talent. Def Jam has been doing him dirty for almost five years now, but if he keeps making music like this, he'll have a long career.
When you hear Joe you hear the conviction and diction
That open emotion, devotion is different
Real talk of when he ain't have a pot to piss in
He ain't have a car not one rock to glisten
I'm giving 'em non-fiction,
conning his addictions
Ya'll got the easy job, just listen
Our friends John Hodgman (right) and Jonathan Coulton (left) are hitting San Francisco tonight for a reading/event to celebrate the softcover edition of Mr. Hodgman's Opus "The Areas of My Expertise."
The event is at the brand new San Francisco branch of Cody's Books, on Stockton street downtown, at 7PM. I will offer my guarantee that it's the most fun you will have at a book reading this year. Perhaps the only fun you will have at a book reading, since most other book readings are hardly fun at all. Edifying, maybe.
Expect a new episode of TSOYA with John and Jonathan this week, as they stopped by TSOYA Studios in Los Angeles the other day to lay down some tracks.
Below, a sample of the possible hijinks from a Portland show... recognize Hodgman in the necktie, Coulton in the buckskin suit and coonskin cap.
Tom chimes in in the comments today:
I'm happy to report the SF Cody's appearance last night was great. TSOYA listeners should not miss out an opportunity to see John and Johnathan in person. There was music, humor, and quaffing of mature beverages. Note, it was standing room only by 6:30, so you might want to arrive early if you want to sit in the "splatter zone".
This is interesting but not as good as you'd think it'd be... I honestly cannot tell if the show opening is trying to be ironically cheesy or if it's just kind of cheesy in itself. I came across it and was immediately impressed by the line-up - a lot of things which I agree are "awesome" were listed, from the electronica group matmos to comedian louis ck, to producer allison silverman - but somehow I was surprised by how flat and boring some of the actual shows were. The interviewer has no real presence, and sort of has that fake casey casum type voice, and the "maximum fun", "sound of young america", etc etc, is so ...annoying / dumb ... I just have no idea if that's a joke that just doesn't work for me, or if they're not even trying to be funny. Still, there's some good stuff in there.
The weaknesses of the pilot were evident: Fey is no Mary Tyler Moore, for example. Believing Jane Krakowski and Fey were best friends was a bit of a stretch, since Krakowski's character traits seemed to be "pretty, useless, annoying." And as I've written here before, I think Rachael Dratch is wonderful, and really got shafted in the cast shuffle that put her out and Krakowski in.
But all of that having been said, I really enjoyed the first episode of "30 Rock." Here are some reasons why:
We'll see where the show goes from here. As far as "relatable main characters" go, Fey's about halfway there, if she can get another 25%, that'll be plenty good enough. Not everyone is MTM. Hopefully they'll be able to balance the ridiculousness of Baldwin and Morgan's characters with a bit of realism. And I guess it's possible that this new role for Dratch will work, though it sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Maybe I'm just dissapointed that this isn't her big break.
Who am I kidding? Here's the bottom line: as long as Tracy Morgan is making funny baby faces, count me in.