Getting the Story Straight

Is This Thing On? with Mike Carrozza

Mike Carrozza drinks milk Mike Carrozza. Photo Sarah Cotton.

Hey. This is my column where I muse about comedy (mostly stand-up comedy) and anything that tickles my fancy. Sometimes it’s a little ranty, but it’s still my thing. Let’s do this.

There are many different comedic styles and sub-genres. As someone who loves, practices, appreciates, and studies comedy, I do my best not to turn away any sub-genre, no matter how little it tickles me. This is out of fear that I’ll miss out on one mindblowing/potentially life-changing joke or bit.

I’ve always been this way and it started with my love of music. Specifically due to a song called “Cool Wit It” by Murphy Lee featuring most of the St Lunatics (off his first album Murphy’s Law). Try Googling it. TRY. Whenever I wants to send it to friends, I have to google it and travel to the fourth page of results to be sure that I’ll find the right version. That’s how easily that song disappeared. It was then I realized there truly are diamonds in the EXTREMELY rough (I actually enjoyed parts of the rest of the album, but some was difficult for 2014 Mike to endure. 2005 Mike was all about Murphy Lee though). Since that album, if I ever get into a new artist, I have to know their entire discography is readily available somewhere.

That being said, I’ve watched many comedy specials in a genre I don’t particularly care for. I endured an insufferably annoying laugh/audience, which I didn’t know could ruin a performance for me (oh, I’m one to talk. My laugh is insane).

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the storytelling sub-genre of stand-up comedy. Don’t get me wrong, I know I just talked about having to sit through genres I don’t like, but I fucking LOVE a good storytelling comedian. Some of my favourite comedians and influences are practitioners: Paul F. Tompkins, Kyle Kinane, Jimmy Pardo.

While my practice of stand-up is “have a silly idea, talk about it with a sense of wonder, encourage the audience to insert absurdity into their daily lives” (a philosophy shared by Kurt Braunohler whose mission statement on his album How Do I Land? isn’t far from mine), a storyteller will deconstruct a moment or situation into fine pieces to either let the moment breathe, allowing audiences a moment of realization or to digress into a new train of thought to ultimately return from their digression (example: Kyle Kinane’s “God of Thunder” off Whiskey Icarus, Jimmy Pardo’s Sprezzatura).

What’s most effective to me? A storyteller who enriches each piece with a deep detour into his or her thought process, yet also remains in tune with his/her audience to relate it all back to a bit of crowd work. Club comedians who perform their sets like jazz, without a setlist and using their audience as their instrument consist of what some might call the “purest” form of stand-up (though I may take umbrage with this). Big Jay Oakerson is great example of this. Jay takes a seat on stage then begins talking to his audience and when a subject comes up that is close to a bit of material Jay has prepared, he launches into it. He does it seamlessly. It feels like a long story. It’s only fitting that his first album is called The Great American Storyteller.

Speaking of great storytellers:

Scotland’s best export and Montreal’s own comedic tour de force, Darren Henwood does comedy much like Oakerson, his finger on the pulse of a crowd ready to dive into a bit of material once an opportunity arises, but with a strong energy and a mischievous grin.

Darren Henwood

Darren Henwood

Darren’s got a heart of gold, too.

THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 17th at the Bargain Basement (7611 St. Denis), there will be a charity Lowdown Comedy show. The show is being held to support a friend of Darren’s who has cancer. At $5 and a list of comics that’ll fill you with glee (hey! I’m on this show too!), it’s definitely going to be a good night.


Other things to do this weekend?

Why not head over to the Comedy Nest (2313 St. Catherine W) to see DeAnne Smith? She’s a good bud and probably the funniest person I get to work with. DeAnne has been extremely supportive to me and has influenced me in a great many ways, sending opportunities my way and really just being the best. Please also note the use of the word “influenced”. I mean that also as an artist and comedian who looks to his peers and superiors. If my wikipedia page were up about my comedy career, DeAnne Smith would be listed in my influences with Andy Kindler, Kyle Kinane and Kurt Braunohler. She’s there all weekend. Go party.

(For more storytelling, check out the Comedy Central YouTube series This is Not Happening hosted by Ari Shaffir.)


Everybody come to this:

The Laugh Pack Late Show
I am headlining the Segal Centre (5170 ST. Catherine) on January 23rd. I’m doing 30 minutes, filming it and sending the tape around to hopefully get into some festivals and stuff. For $5 you get to see Vlad Levitt, Andrew Searles, and myself all hosted by Keith Waterfield and Holly Gauthier-Frankel. Come laugh at me. Thanks.