Fifty First Jokes

Thursday, January 6th, 2011, 9pm
Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Avenue (between Vista and Gardner)
$5 with reservation, $7 at the door
reserve seats at fiftyfirstjokesLA@gmail.com
You’ll hear them here first: Fifty of LA’s best comedians will tell the first new jokes they have written for the new year!

Five years ago, Claudia Cogan, John F. O’Donnell and Jiwon Lee came up with the idea for Fifty First Jokes, and the show played to a sold out crowd in New York City. The popular annual NYC comedy tradition is back again this year with shows in both New York and LA.

The LA edition of the show is January 6th, 2011 at the Zephyr Theatre and is hosted by Rob O’Reilly and Margie Kment.  Lineup includes Maria Bamford, BJ Novak, Dan Mintz, Paul Scheer, Eddie Pepitone, Chris Fairbanks, Kyle Kinane and 43 others! Seating is limited, email reservation requests to fiftyfirstjokesLA@gmail.com.
Full Lineup:
Allen Strickland Williams
Assad Motavesseli
Barbara Gray
Barry Rothbart
BJ Novak
Brandie Posey
Chris Fairbanks
Dan Levy
Dan Mintz
Dave Ross
Dominic Dierkes
Eddie Pepitone
Emily Maya Mills
Eric Andre
Grant Pardee
Heidi Hayward
Jake Weisman
James Adomian
Jamie Lee
Jay Montepare
JC Coccoli
Jeff Klinger
Jeff Wattenhofer
Jim Hegarty
Johnny Pemberton
Joselyn Hughes
Josh Androsky
Karl Hess
Kyle Kinane
Lindsey Jacobson
Luke Cunningham
Margie Kment
Maria Bamford
Matt Braunger
Mike Kostas
Nick Rutherford
Paul Scheer
Raj Desai
Rob O’Reilly
Robert Buscemi
Ron Babcock
Rory Scovel
Sean Green
Shawn Pearlman
Taylor Williamson
Tess Barker
Tony Sam
Walsh Brothers
Will Weldon
Zach Sherwin



Schtick or Treat

Zach Sherwin and I started the weekly standup show French Toast in June, and it’s gotten pretty popular. Hilarious comedians like Marc Maron, Maria Bamford, Nick Swardson, Donald Glover, and many more have done the show in recent weeks, and the audiences have been great.

Halloween night fell on a Sunday this year, and we wondered whether or not we could draw a crowd to a regular comedy show on that crazy night. So I talked to Matt Ruby and Mark Normand, two friends and really funny comedians in New York who started an amazing Halloween comedy tribute show called Schtick or Treat a few years ago. The show is done annually on or around Halloween, and comedians dress up and perform as other comedians/”comedy legends.”

Matt and Mark gave their blessings, and Zach and I did the the first LA Schtick or Treat on Sunday night to a packed room at Taix. We even had a table of people wearing sheets, I mean ghosts, who said “Booooo” in spooky voices instead of laughter or applause. At least I hope it was meant to be laughter!

We didn’t have to turn down any comedians who wanted to do the show, and even had some last minute spots filled by comedians who had planned on watching but decided they wanted to play too– Paul Danke (as John Belushi), Merrill Davis (as Joan Rivers), and Kevin Kataoka (as Dat Phan) went up spur of the moment and nailed it!

Zach went as Weird Al Yankovic and performed Eat It (with an extended rap part at the end!). I went as Sarah Silverman and loved the challenge. “It’s Halloween, do something that scares you a little.” I think I said something like that to myself. And it was really fun. I admire Sarah Silverman. I think she is hilarious, but I could never get away with what she gets away with talking about onstage (sometimes it seems like she can’t even get away with it), so it was fun to try it on for evening. Oh, and the pacing! Like a lot of pros who’ve been at it awhile, Sarah uses pauses and even extended silences to help build the tension before a punchline. For me, it’s still really scary to do that. Sometimes I’ll get nervous and rush the pauses that I wrote in, or fill in the gaps with extra unnecessary words that probably soften the punchline but ultimately makes me feel more comfortable onstage. It’s not risky. Sarah will take risks. She’s fearless onstage.

Josh Androsky as Eddie Izzard, Will Weldon as Bill Burr, Paul Jay as Paul F Tompkins and Lindsey Jacobsen as Sinbad were a few of my favorites because the comedians were paying tribute to other comedians who have inspired them. Sinbad might surprise you, but Lindsey Jacobsen told me it was the only comedian she was allowed to watch as a kid. Yes, I watched reruns of “The Sinbad Show” on the Disney Channel too. The first standup comedian I was ever aware of was a character in the Albert Brooks movie, Defending Your Life, which I saw when I was 7. Brooks goes into a comedy club in Judgement City and the comedian does a bit where he says “If you gotta fart, go outside!” It had an impact on me.

Cornell Reid and Barbara Gray paid a different kind of tribute to John Mayer and Carrot Top, and they were incredibly funny. I could go through the whole lineup and tell you why each one was fantastic, but there were 36 comedians. Check out the full lineup here.

This was my favorite Halloween ever. Thanks to everyone who chose to spend their Halloween night at Taix, let’s do it again next year!

Bonus footage: Carrot Top hits on Sarah Silverman at the after party

Plastic Surgery

I have some thoughts about plastic surgery. I got a nose job in 2005, a rihinoplasty, which is done for cosmetic purposes. A lot of celebs who have improved their noses try to say it had nothing to do with looks or vanity, that they got a septoplasty so they would breathe more easily. But a septoplasty is done inside the nose and should not change the appearance on the outside. Sorry, Jennifer Aniston, I don’t buy it, but I do like your current nose.

Why did I get a nose job? Or as some observant people ask me, “Why didn’t you get a boob job instead?”

I was 12 years old when I started hating my nose. It was all I saw when I looked at pictures, watched video of myself, or looked in the mirror. It was my biggest insecurity. It wasn’t too big or too small, and no one had ever made fun of my nose, not even once. I couldn’t exactly say why, but something seemed wrong. When I was 15, I went to an oral surgeon at the University of Iowa for a consultation about surgery to fix my jaw. I had an underbite–not a creepy one, I had compensated for it so that the top front teeth and bottom front teeth would touch but my back teeth wouldn’t. He told me that the way my jaw grew is the reason I have a wide, flat nose bridge and a chin “like Jay Leno.” Then he told me I needed a surgery where I would have metal screws put into my jaw and then wear braces for 4-6 years.

Luckily, before I got the metal screws and braces, my family moved to Washington. In Spokane, we found a brilliant orthodontist who achieved the same result with just one year of braces, no surgery, and a much better bedside manner than the jerk at Iowa. But my nose was the same.

In 2005, right before I started my last year of college, I had a rhinoplasty. My mom encouraged me to have a consultation. I joke about it onstage, how she offered to help me pay for it as a birthday present (and graduation present). She admitted to me that she had gotten her nose fixed in her mid-twenties after she saw a video of her that was filmed at her workplace. She had broken her nose at one time and didn’t think it was so bad, but after she saw the video, she got really bummed about her nose. She went to see plastic surgeon and said “So it’s probably all in my head, but I feel like I have the ugliest nose, and I don’t really want surgery so I just want you to tell me my nose is fine and then I’ll be on my way.” He responded with, “actually, it’s not in your head, you could definitely benefit from rhinoplasty.” So she probably said “Far Out, Man” because it was the 70’s. She got the surgery, and she has a great nose, as in the kind of nose that you don’t really notice because it looks good with the rest of her face.

That’s what I got too. Not a “perfect” nose, but a nose that looks real, fits my face, and doesn’t make me cringe. Most people couldn’t even tell the difference, but I could. After the surgery when the bruising and swelling finally went down, I broke my week long hermitage and ventured out to the bar to meet some friends who didn’t know I had gotten it done. I was not sure how to talk about it, so only my closest friends knew, everyone else just thought I was sick. At the bar, my friend Adam said, “Margie. I don’t know what it is exactly, but you look really great.” My self esteem grew, I became more self confident, and now I’m pursuing a career in comedy and acting, which I don’t think I would have ever had the guts to do back when I was so pre-occupied with my nose.

Yep, it’s vanity. And you could judge me and others for it, but I think everyone is vain in some way whether they’re willing to admit it or not. If women who get botox look in the mirror and are happier than they were before they got it, that’s what matters. I do not think everyone should “get work done.” If you have a bunch of stuff  you want to fix, chances are your time and money is better spent on therapy. But if there’s just that one thing that you feel like is holding you back and you believe fixing it will improve the quality of your life, then you have a good reason to seek a solution, whether it’s getting plastic surgery, joining a gym, taking an improv class, or joining a book club. But if you want to do it to please anyone else, then that’s sad. And in the case of plastic surgery, it’s certainly not worth the risk.

In case you are wondering, I don’t think I’ll have any more plastic surgery. Sure I have physical flaws (by society’s standards), but they don’t bother me on any level that interferes with my life, and I believe that aging naturally is beautiful.

Comedy: NYC vs LA

“So what’s better, comedy in New York or comedy in LA?”

Several people in LA have asked me that question. Last week when I was in New York, I was asked this question:

“What’s comedy like in LA? Do you miss New York?”

The third question is the easiest to answer. Of course I miss New York. It’s my favorite city and I bet it always will be. I also really like LA.

In New York, comedians like to repeat this advice: “Don’t move to LA until industry tells you to.” I don’t know who said this first or when, and maybe at one time it was good advice. But after living here for a year, I think it’s pretty off the mark. I think that the reputation of a place is always about five years behind reality. I remember hearing that comedy in LA is lazier and not as smart and that there’s not enough stage time available to really develop. If those rumors were at one time true, they’re not anymore.

It is true that the audiences are different in New York and LA. Audiences are more demanding in New York, and I like that. It sets the bar high and that’s one of many reasons New York is a great place to develop as a comedian. But LA audiences are not “easier because they are dumber,” which is another rumor that’s out there. I think LA audiences are more relaxed and willing to accept you as a good comedian because they are there to laugh, and that does make it easier to do well. I’m much more comfortable sharing more of myself onstage here, and that has helped my writing as well. It’s more specific, and I feel like it’s easier to write jokes in my own voice. Part of that is just progress, my third year of doing standup as opposed to my first or second. But I also think the supportive audiences have a lot to do with it too, as well as the supportive comedians who make up the LA comedy scene.

My first night in LA, I went to an open mic. The open mic system in LA is a lottery, so the host draws names out of a hat and you sign up for a spot when your name is called. If luck exists, then I have really bad luck when it comes to having my name drawn out of a hat. That first night, I was drawn dead last. Two and a half hours later, it was finally my turn to do my five minutes. Most of the comedians had left at this point, so the room was nearly empty. As soon as I got onstage, two more people came in the room. It was Jim Hegarty and Dominic Dierkes, two nice guys who introduced themselves to me earlier in the evening and made me feel a lot less awkward and alone. They had both gone up pretty early in the evening, but stuck around for an extra two hours just to see me. To be supportive. I will never forget that.

And if I wasn’t clear above, I am a girl and they are guys and they stayed to see me to be supportive. One thing I don’t miss about the New York comedy scene is hearing “Who did she fuck to get on that show?” Because I heard that phrase said about female comedians too many times in New York, and it’s gross and disrespectful. I don’t hear garbage like that in LA and it makes me happy. LA comedians are fans of each other. They even laugh at open mics, and when they go to shows it’s hard to tell them apart from regular audience members because they are also laughing and having a good time.

Why do comedians in New York seem less supportive of each other than in LA? The New York comedy scene is very competitive. Sure, comedians like each other and are friends with each other, but it seems like bitterness and jealousy come between friends often, openly or behind each other’s back. Taylor Williamson, who started in LA/San Diego, moved to New York, and is now back in LA, once explained his theory to me on why this happens in NY and not LA. In LA, the “heat” of the industry will be on a comedian for a little while and then it will move to someone else. While the “heat” is on you, you make progress that’s noticeable to others, and when it’s not on you anymore it’s ok because the tangible success you had, even if it was brief, is reassuring that you are moving forward. And other comedians don’t really have time to get jealous because the “heat” just keeps moving. And it often cycles back onto you again at a different time.

In New York, the “heat” concentrates on a few select people for a lot longer. When it gets hot enough, those people usually move to LA. Some continue to live in New York and build successful careers there, but they will still travel to LA fairly regularly for meetings. So most up and coming comics don’t get to feel “heat” in New York, and without tangible success to reassure them, it’s easy to get jealous of comedians who have success, especially if they have been doing comedy the same amount of time as (or less than) the jealous comedian.

By the numbers, there is more stage time in New York. There are more open mics and shows at alternative venues in New York and you can get up multiple times every night if you want, which is incredible. But if you were to tally up the number of shows at alternative venues in both places that are produced well and get real audience members, the numbers would be about equal. There are a lot more comedy clubs in NYC than LA, but there are lots of comedy clubs not too far away from LA, like in Orange County and San Diego that get great audiences and will give stage time to up and coming comics.

So which is better? Comedy in New York or comedy in LA? I think they are both great, and it depends on the person which is a better fit. If competition drives you, New York will make you better faster. If a supportive, welcoming environment makes you more comfortable onstage, LA is a better pick. For me, both are valuable and I need to get to New York more often than I do. I know really talented, cool people doing comedy in both New York and LA, and watching them develop their comedy onstage has helped me develop mine.

What about all the other great places to do comedy, like Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and other cities? Yes, I’m sure there are lots of great places to live and do comedy. I have only lived as a comedian in NYC and LA, so those are the only cities I can really compare.

If you are an up and coming comedian in New York, I think you should come out to LA and do some shows. Just a few days, a couple of weeks, or even a month. Don’t wait for industry to call for you, you can start learning about all that now so that when you are called for, you’re ready for it. And LA comedians should go to New York for a bit. There is so much to observe because so much is happening all the time, it’s easy to spark your creativity there.

Good comedy has a clear perspective and if you only stay in one place, it’s easy to lose perspective. Comedy has no rules, there is no set path for a career in comedy, but the more experiences we have, the more we have to joke about, right?

Joe Powers

I’m thinking about Joe Powers today. I think of him often, but today it has been 2 years since his accident. I am able to see the things people google to get to my blog, and besides “pregnant masseuse” and “peruvian parasite,” “joe powers accident” shows up pretty frequently. When I run into people who know Joe, they ask me how he’s doing. We live across the country from each other now, but I try my best to keep up with all his progress. I visited Joe’s parents in Oregon a couple of weeks ago and I got to see the home Joe grew up in. I had a really nice time that I won’t soon forget.

Joe and I did standup comedy together in New York City. In fact, he was my inspiration to start doing comedy. He’s the best storyteller I’ve ever known and we used to tell each other stories for hours, or when we were at work, email stories back and forth all day long.

On August 22nd (late at night, so actually the 23rd), Joe was at a party after a comedy show when he fell two stories off the roof of an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. I was not there. No one is exactly sure how it happened because no one saw it. At first, his friends thought maybe he just went home without saying goodbye, but one friend said that wasn’t possible because they lived near the same subway stop and Joe would have asked her if she wanted to go also. So they looked for him, found him, called an ambulance, and saved his life.

Joe’s bones have healed, but he is still recovering from a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). When I lived in New York, I would go to Queens about once a week to visit him at Park Terrace, a rehab/care facility. For the first year, Joe’s memory was very much impaired. But I knew all his stories, so I would spend the day retelling the incredible stories he had told me from his life. When his family couldn’t be there, I would stay a few nights at the Holiday Inn across the street and spend my days with him so he wouldn’t have to be alone.

But almost a year ago I moved to Los Angeles. Luckily, Joe made so much progress in his first year of recovery, he was able to move as well– to an amazing facility called the Northeast Center for Special Care in Lake Katrine, NY. His wonderful parents and siblings travel to New York to spend time with him, but if there’s a week that no one is able to be there, Joe is ok by himself. He’s much more independent. I got to visit him for three days in June for the first time since I moved. Since my last visit in September 2009, Joe was now pushing his wheelchair by himself, speaking more complex sentences clearly, and his memory was very much improved. We watched Last Comic Standing together and he even remembered some of the comedians on the show (the year prior to his accident is still the hardest for him to remember.)

He has been in recovery for two years now, and he continues to make significant progress. He is the kindest, most patient person and his attitude is remarkably positive. He jokes around a lot, and when he is ready to move on from the rehab facility, he would like to move back to NYC and continue doing standup. While I was there, Joe was preparing a list of questions to ask one of his fellow “neighbors” at the center. He wanted to ask him to name five realistic goals for the next 10 years and five “if I could do anything” goals. So I asked Joe what his realistic and “if I could do anything” goals were. He said, “To get out of my wheelchair, to use my left arm again, and to start doing comedy again. That’s it.”

I talked to Joe on the phone yesterday. He sounded good, he was hanging out with his dad. He has met all his speech therapy goals, and will receive more botox in his left arm and leg and additional baclofen that will help with relax his muscles so he can strengthen them and eventually walk and regain the use of his hand. Joe is left-handed, but he can do a lot of things with his right hand now, including send text messages, emails, and write words by hand.

I’m so proud of Joe. He has made wonderful progress, and it is inspiring to see him treat everyone around him with so much kindness and respect as he works so hard on his recovery. I am also inspired by his family, who are so supportive and encouraging.

For those people who are looking for more information, his parents do a great job of posting updates to http://www.carepages.com/carepages/JoePowers/.

This was taped a few days before his accident. Joe still remembers this joke!

Comic Con

This weekend I had a bunch of “firsts.” First trip to San Diego, first trip to Comic Con, first time seeing fifteen women in a group wearing identical Princess Leia slave costumes. I also saw my first hamburger eating contest which was weird and wonderful. Right before the winner started on his 14th burger, he tore open his t-shirt and the crowd cheered and chanted “Eat, Eat, Eat.” For the rest of the night I proceeded to “drink my calories” which is a phrase actresses in LA like to use. Only I wasn’t doing it because of body image issues, I was doing it because the hamburger eating contest made me lose my appetite. Wait, I vaguely remember eating chocolate mousse and then going back for seconds somewhere around my third course of white wine.

My favorite part of the weekend was seeing the Bob’s Burgers panel. Bob’s Burgers is a new animated sitcom coming to Fox on Sunday nights between the Simpsons and Family Guy. My boyfriend is the voice of Tina, a 13 year old hopeless romantic:
and the rest of the cast is made up of great comedians like Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, John Roberts, and Jon Benjamin. the creator is Loren Bouchard (Home Movies!!) and the show runner is Jim Dauterive (King of the Hill!) and I saw the first seven minutes and it’s so funny. Even the people in the room who aren’t dating someone involved in the show thought so too. It doesn’t air until January, but if we’re lucky, Fox will put that 7 minute clip up on Hulu or something. I would like to watch it at least 50 more times. They did put up a fun clip of the cast and producers doing press stuff at Comic Con:


Tonight I fly back to LA from a great week in New York and I feel good.

I’m also feeling good about this show tomorrow. Charlie Sanders and I have been producing “This One Time” since December and it’s great each and every time. If you haven’t seen it, tomorrow would be a good one.

“This One Time”
Wednesday, June 9, 9pm
The Zephyr Theatre 7456 Melrose (@ Gardner)

Comedians Charlie Sanders and Margie Kment host a night of incredibly true stories told by your favorite comedians from stand up, improv, and sketch. Life is stranger than fiction, and all good stories start with ‘This one time…’

Stories from:



TAYLOR WILLIAMSON (Live At Gotham, Last Comic Standing)

and of course, your hosts…
CHARLIE SANDERS and MARGIE KMENT, two people who found each other and thought it would be nice to give you a show.

Email to reserve your seats at thisonetimeshow@gmail.com.

And starting June 20th, I’ll feel really good when I start hosting a weekly show with Zach Sherwin aka MC Mr. Napkins:

Sunday, June 20th, 8:30pm
at Taix
1911 W. Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Maria Bamford
Dan Mintz
Kyle Kinane

I know, RIGHT?!