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Found Art Nostalgia: I Miss My Old Brain

November 26th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I found this painting that I made in college on the wall at some old friends’ house in Richmond, VA this weekend. I haven’t seen it in years.

I actually got into writing and storytelling through visual art – when I was majoring in painting, I was obsessed with comics, Southern folk art and outsider art, Congolese power figures and sacred Voodoo and Santeria art. In voodoo and Santeria (as I understood it at the time), practitioners go into a trance and become the spirits they’re communicating with, and create altars in the home that are both doorways to a particular orisha and a living representation of the orisha itself, made from found objects.

I got really into writing stories on my work, making comic book pages out of junk I’d find in the woods and getting into a sort of trance-like state in the studio I had in my barn and letting whatever voice was talking take control of my hands until the thing was done. Eventually the words took up more and more of the the work and I just started writing. Then, telling a story wasn’t necessarily a craft so much as a thing that came out of a state, like a ship sliding out of a rip in the universe.

I think this was done on an old road sign that I found deep in George Washington National Forest. I know I got that image from an old comic, and I definitely recall writing all of this in one go, with a Sharpie. No drafts, no revising, crossing out, no wondering what the audience would think or trying to be likable. Just moving forward.

Here’s the piece:

sarah_painting

The text reads:

“On that dark day when the Sun rises in the West and decides to set in the East, these gargantuan striped giants will appear suddenly from ??Elsewhere?? and set to the business of devouring the earth. Neither animal, vegetable, nor man-made machine, they are insatiable, and know no reason or moral code. They only know that they must perform the impossible: fill their ravenous GUTS.

The Fantastic Four and the entire Marvel Universe subscribe to the belief that GALACTUS is the eater of worlds, but I tell you with the straightest of all straight faces that GALACTUS is a mere DUST MITE compared to these black-and-white beasties.

We could, and probably will, head for the hills or lie screaming in storm cellars with paper sacks over our heads during that fateful time, but it will only make our moment of consumption more frenzied and embarrassing.

We may as well die picnicking as pleading to a recently discovered God. Mankind will finally realize what the insects knew all along: Nature knows no right or wrong.

Our constant struggle with good and evil set us apart from the animals, but on that day, we will finally be free from that boring struggle and I just hope that more people than just me have the sense to enjoy it.

This used to have two bicycle fenders painted to look like the creatures in question, glued to the top. They broke off pretty quickly, though. When I look at this, I feel a blast of nostalgia for a time when I could disappear into a barn for several hours, sure. But I also miss having that degree of concentration, and that practiced flow. It’s take me about 90 minutes to write this post, and half of it is simple transcription.

Mostly, I miss my old brain: the one that knew when to think and when to get out of the way and let the art fall out.

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Be Careful for Brussels : the SPAM Comment Motherlode

November 8th, 2012 by D.Billy
"Greetings, fellow normal Internet users!"

"Greetings, fellow normal Internet users!"

 

Every blog gets the occasional spam comment, wherein a ‘bot poses as a reader. No big deal. You report it (or just ignore it), and you move on. But we just got ALL OF THE SPAM in one particular offender’s arsenal, submitted as one single comment, and I think it broke my brain. There are some really choice turns of phrase in there, though, and I thought y’all might enjoy having a look. I’ve bolded some of the bits that I really like. (And because it amuses me further, I imagine this all being spoken in a terrible, but very cheerful, Russian accent.)
 

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Recap: And I Am Not Lying at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA

September 16th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

The Crack-Up

We did a show at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA last week – sponsored by WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. They even recorded me and pulled together a cool little plug on the radio for it – you can hear that here: And I Am Not Lying: Live, Raw Storytelling.

We were joined by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, a bunch of folks who play the typewriter musically a hell of a lot better than I did it when I was dabbling in the genre.

The show sold out, which was a hell of a kick – there’s nothing like busting your hump for a month and seeing it pay off.

I’m booking all our stuff out of town now and arranging all the press, too. It’s always a hurricane of phone calls, emails and text messages, last-minute changes and just … STUFF. I’ve never once had a show where there wasn’t a surprise, a change, a sudden boulder of bullshit falling at the last minute like a turd-studded iceberg of waste from a crack in a passing jetliner. At this point, I get a little nervous when it doesn’t happen.

And getting people in the door is my primary source of stress. I’m trying to get to where I don’t take empty seats personally, but it’s a long, slow journey.

We’re not at the point where we can count on a sold-out show, or really any kind of turnout at all. People don’t know the name of the show yet, and I ain’t exactly a draw on my name alone. This isn’t like music, where people bring friends to see a band based on the genre.

You can say “hey man, there’s a really sweet reggae band playing tonight, let’s check ‘em out,” and you’ll get some good walk-in. With comedy, you can say to your friends “hey, this venue that regularly books comedians is having some comedians perform tonight. Let’s go have some laughs,” and you might get some decent walk-ins.

We have no established genre. The best thing someone can say to sell us is “hey, this guy that was on This American Life three years ago is going to say a lot of SAT words and also a lot of cuss words, and it may be really funny but it may also be kind of depressing. Also, they might have some people do burlesque performances in addition to other storytellers who also have a lot of feelings they would like to share.”

You’re not going to hear Conan O’Brien say “We’ve got a very charming and thought-provoking storyteller on the show tonight” anytime soon. People that aren’t into The Moth or This American Life think that storytelling is either standup comedy or some dude in a bowtie and a seersucker suit at a folk festival talking about growing up on the farm.

So when I see a line stretching out through the door of the club, through the restaurant and out the front door, curving around the block and around the corner I just want to jump up on top of the bar and spike a football. I always try to walk along the whole line and just drink it all in.

All these people made tonight their date night, their going-out night, and they did it because they wanted to be THERE, with us, seeing something a little new and weird. I wanna kiss every last one of them, at least until they start fooling with their phones.

The first half of the show was a dream. I’ve been busting ass on actual joke-writing to build a standup set ever since a tragic crash-and-burn a month or so back. And to deploy those jokes on a roomful of cheering, happy people – it was like riding a gold-plated surfboard down a sunbeam. Everything was cruising like a dream during the first half, every performer killing and the Boston Typewriter Orchestra rocking it …

Read the rest of this entry »

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Buy the Bagfull of Dicks

August 29th, 2012 by D.Billy

For that person you know who needs to eat one.

(Dick’s Hamburgers in Spokane, WA. Via dollbabytina on Mlkshk.)

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Michael Che at Caroline’s on Broadway, Tonight. I’m hosting, he’s headlining

August 9th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

All of a sudden, I’ve got the opportunity to host/open for Michael Che at Caroline’s on Broadway tonight, at the 10PM show. I kind of can’t believe it. I’ve been wandering around for months thinking “please, can I just catch a break,” and all of sudden here it is in my lap. That place is beyond legendary.

Michael Che’s one of my favorite comedians who will actually engage with me in person and online. One time we were drunk at the bocce courts at Union Hall and he started telling everyone that I was a professional bocce player, sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks. He got people to bet on us and then we lost HORRIBLY.

He’s a recurring cast member of “Bunk!” on IFC, and was one of Time Out NY’s three “Comics to Watch” this year.

Here’s a set that he did at our show at Union Hall last winter:

I’ll be there, telling stories and jokes in between professional comedians that people actually pay to see. It should be magnificent.

You can get tickets to the show here: Michael Che at Caroline’s on Broadway

Entering the code “COB10″ will get you $10 tickets.

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Discount Rainbow Lady Liberty at Columbus Circle

July 25th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

Productivity experts (whatever that even means) will tell you that it’s important to get up from the computer sometimes and take a break, let your brain reset a little. I usually eat my lunch at my desk, hunched over and chewing through Daily Show reruns and then around 3PM feel my brain start to separate from the walls of my skull as I daydream about being a lumberjack or hopping freight trains through an America that doesn’t exist anymore.

I went out and ate my lunch in Central Park today, and brother am I glad I did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have seen discount rainbow Lady Liberty here riding a tiny pink bike around and trying to fist-bump tourists:

lady_liberty

Here he is again, riding toward a bunch of adolescent girls, who screamed and scattered like pigeons when they saw him:

riding_away

This city never gets old.

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And I Am Not Lying: Live in Philly on August 4th

June 29th, 2012 by D.Billy

It’s time once again to take the And I Am Not Lying show out of town – we’re going to be cock-rocking the NPR crowd at Underground Arts in Philadelphia on Saturday, August 4th at 8PM.

Tickets are $10, available here: And I Am Not Lying at Underground Arts

We’ll be featuring storytelling from:

Jeff Simmermon
Cyndi Freeman
Juliet Hope Wayne
(a great profile on her here!)

Comedy by Andy Ross

Burlesque from Cherry Pitz and Legs Malone

And sideshow acts from Jelly Boy the Clown.

Here’s a poster:

Get pumped, Philly! We sure are!

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Wonder Woman Ties Up the Cheetah at And I Am Not Lying Live

June 13th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

Well, I’m tickled to all hell right now. We’re bringing the And I Am Not Lying live show to the Black Cat in DC on Thursday, June 14th, and I’m told that we’ve sold out the 8PM show. We’re adding a late show that night, with doors at 10PM. You can see more info on the Black Cat’s site here and get advance tickets here: And I Am Not Lying at the Black Cat, 10 PM show.

This is a photo from a show that we did last year at L’Etage in Philadelphia, just to give you folks at home a taste:

Runaround Sue, Brad Lawrence, Cyndi Freeman 3 (by Ryan Collerd)

This is Wonder Woman apprehending the Cheetah while Steve Trevor looks on with a stupefied, dreamlike amazement. I’ve never seen someone be more hesitant about their rescue in all my life. Cyndi Freeman/Cherry Pitz is Wonder Woman, Runaround Sue is the Cheetah, and Brad Lawrence is Steve Trevor. Photo is by the genuine, warm and spectacular Ryan Collerd.

As it turns out, we’ll be coming back to Philadelphia on August 4th, too. So keep watching the skies, people – we hope to see you really soon.

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Dream Suit

June 4th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I took this photo at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville over Memorial Day weekend. I want this suit (and shirt) so badly that I can taste it:

Dream Suit

I’m not sure if it would detract from a story, though. I kind of try to be as relatable as possible, and this might push it. On the other hand, if Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton and pretty much every other country star can pull off a brain-burning suit like this one in contrast to an “aw, shucks” personality, who’s to say someone else can’t?

Here are a two shots of Gram Parsons’ infamous Nudie suit, just for kicks:
Read the rest of this entry »

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And I Am Not Lying at the Black Cat, Washington DC, June 14th

June 1st, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

**UPDATE**
The 8PM And I Am Not Lying Live show at the Black Cat is now sold out. We have added another show that night – also at the Red Room at the Black Cat. Doors are at 10PM, tickets are still $12. You can get tickets for the 10 PM show here.
**/END UPDATE/**

We brought the And I Am Not Lying live show to the Black Cat in Washington, DC last year. And I don’t mind telling you that it was a lifetime highlight. The show sold out and everyone killed. I could have gotten shot by snipers on the way out of the club and not felt a damn thing.

So it thrills me to tell all you people that our sputtering cargo plane is going to crash back into the Black Cat’s mountain and spray the whole ZIP code with fuel. We’re bringing the planet’s first best and only comedy storytelling burlesque sideshow back to the Red Room on Thursday, June 14th!

You can get advance tickets to the 10PM show here: And I Am Not Lying at the Black Cat

Here’s a flyer and a cool trailer, text info on performers after the jump:

And I Am Not Lying - Live at the Black Cat

Read the rest of this entry »

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