Writing Jokes with Allie Goertz (@midnight, Everything’s Coming Up Podcast!)
There’s no bailing on a half-baked joke premise if my song doesn’t seem to be clicking with the audience.
[@alliegoertz on Twitter]
What’s interesting (or uninteresting) about Long Beach?
Long Beach is a particularly interesting place to grow up due to its diverse background and versatility. I grew up in middle class suburbia, my mom taught school in a lower income neighborhood where most students were ESL, I went to a predominantly white high school for three years, then a predominantly hispanic high school for my last, and the last place I lived was affectionately dubbed “The Gay Ghetto.” There is something for everybody in Long Beach, at least for a little while.
Is your mom still teaching?
My mom is nearing her retirement from teaching kindergarten, and my dad is a web graphic designer as well as a guitarist.
When did you first start playing the guitar? How did you learn?
My dad is an extremely talented guitarist and always encouraged me to play. I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old and have recently gotten more into it.
Can you talk about the origin story behind Cossbysweater? What got you into acoustic fan fiction?
Cossbysweater was my old moniker which I retired as soon as news broke out about Bill Cosby. At that point, I took the opportunity to publicly distance myself from his name.
In terms of my musical act, I released my first song “Comedians” three years ago on YouTube after playing it live for a number of weeks on Chatroulette. Surprised and inspired by the amount of attention it got, I decided to continue writing and publishing my music to YouTube. Eventually, I was approached by Adam Busch to make an album together. The release of “Cossbysweater” led to me being a part of the comedy scene in LA, performing my songs at various comedy shows.
How does performing a song on stage differ from performing jokes onstage? What fascinates you about combining music with comedy?
My music is comedic in many ways, but I would never describe it as straight up “comedy.” That being said, I have found that my songs work in comedy venues because the audience is prepared to listen to the lyrics more intently than say, a music-only show. While I don’t tell written material on stage, I have greatly enjoyed using banter and telling little stories in between songs as an additional means of comedy. I find my self talking more on more than when I started, and believe I will continue to head in this direction.
Some key differences between what I do and what stand-ups do are in the mechanics. I have guaranteed built-in applaud breaks as soon as my songs are done, and I always have the comfort of having a guitar on stage with me. I never have to worry about awkward pauses or silence. That said, I also don’t get the liberty of working with the room. There’s no bailing on a half-baked joke premise if my song doesn’t seem to be clicking with the audience. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but I think the key to either is to just enjoy what you’re doing and trust that the audience will follow.
How did you get your start on @midnight? What tips would you give comics that are trying to start working on a TV show?
I got my start on @midnight by publicly posting that I was looking for work. I had happened to know an executive producer for a new show starring Chris Hardwick that was doing test-runs at Meltdown and I decided to check it out. The EP, who had seen my online presence, suggested I apply for the job and I ended up getting it. My advice is to always always always ask for what you need. No one is going to know you are looking for work if you haven’t told them, and in my experience, people want to help each other out. Let people help you.
Why do some jokes work on the Internet and others don’t?
I feel like I only recently got a handle on my joke-writing sense of humor. Thanks to reading tweets of people much MUCH funnier than I am every single day, I’ve gotten a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. Twitter is an amazing tool because you really get to see whether or not people like your joke. Did it get likes? Did it get RT’s? If not, there’s a good chance you could have worded it better or that the premise won’t read (well). Some people are naturally funny but will never be good at Twitter, and some people are the exact opposite; they’re “Twitter funny” but not “IRL funny.” It’s a very interesting thing and I love thinking about it.
What’s on your horizon? Any projects currently in motion?
I just wrapped on my most recent project which was a Rick and Morty concept album entitled Sad Dance Songs. I am currently writing a pilot that I would love to shop around or get made (that’s the dream, right?) and have plans of a Weezer cover album.
Who is the funniest person you know?
Why are jokes funny?