Chat With a Comic: Zach Kagan

Zach Kagan has been doing comedy for two years and recently started co-producing a weekly show with Tommy Bayer, FBI/PhD at Mead Hall Comics and Games.

Kagan biked past an open mic at UC Santa Barbara every Tuesday night until eventually he just started doing it.

“I wanted to do it for a long time,” said Kagan. “But, like a lot of people, I was nervous.”

Kagan moved back to the Twin Cities in 2016 and started really hitting open mics that fall. One of the things that made Kagan more serious about comedy was his success on Twitter.

“I feel like I have to defend Twitter,” said Kagan. “It’s a good place to try stuff out.”

Kagan credits Twitter with teaching him how to write and condense jokes to make them better. With stand up, you’re learning the building blocks of storytelling. You’re making nothing into something.

One of the things Kagan really likes about working in comedy is the creative and funny people he gets to work with. But comedy is far from perfect.

“You have to accept that what you laugh at might not be what the audience laughs at,” said Kagan. “That’s where you need to put your ego aside.”

There are a lot of problems with comedy and one of them that Kagan wants to address is the voices that aren’t being heard. Kagan is very passionate about getting people into comedy. He said that there are so many people out there who are funny who deserve a shot at comedy. “It’s not that hard to be funny.”

“Being loud doesn’t necessarily mean you’re funny.” Kagan, being an introvert, wants to assure the quiet ones that they don’t need to butt up against those big personalities to be heard. “There are more subtle ways.”


Chat With a Comic: Shelly Paul

Shelly Paul feels a sense of relief when she writes a really difficult joke and it goes over well. She prefers a more personal style of comedy and it’s rewarding to have a joke that is extremely personal to be well-received.

Last year, when Paul’s grandmother died, she used comedy as way to get through it. Comedy is a coping mechanism for a lot of people. Like her style of comedy, Paul likes to listen to other very personal comedians. Among her favorites are Maria Bamford and Mike Birbiglia. She likes the storytelling aspects of Birbiglia’s work and admires Bamford’s personal and “completely her own” style.

Paul had always wanted to do comedy but, like many other comics, never really knew how to get started. When she did get started, it was through a friend who urged her to go to open mics, which she began to attend. At first, Paul thought maybe Hollywood was the place to go to become a comedian, but lucky for her comedy could be found in her own Minnesotan back yard.

The Twin Cities is a great place to do comedy. “It’s a small enough to get opportunities and it’s still liberal.” Paul also says that the community is supportive for women and queer folks but there is still a ways to go. One of the more difficult things for Paul has been being overlooked because her gender.

“That’s not something I want to assume but I have been told that that is reason for not getting booked.”

Other frustrations Paul has include not being treated like a real comedian and bombing. Bombing is hard and it’s personal. It takes a lot to put yourself out there in and not have your jokes land.

“It would be easy to quit and get pregnant and start a family but it’s my dream and I have the opportunity to be doing what I love,” Paul said in response to the question: what keeps you going after a particularly hard set.

“Just write jokes and try it.”

Paul’s advice for young comedians is to just do it. It’s nerve wracking but a lot of people don’t know what they are doing. Paul also suggested going to smaller shows to get a sense of what everyone else in the area is doing.

You can catch Shelly Paul at her weeking show, MDR Room, her monthly show, PSSY Cntl, or at The Plus in Eau Claire on February 22nd.

Paul co-produces PSSY CNTL with Rana May. It is a diverse monthly showcase for women, people of color and GLBTQ+ this takes place once a month at the Comedy Corner Underground. There will also be a very special New Year’s Eve installment of PSSY CNTL. Two shows, one night! Paul will be headlining the later show.

May and Paul also work together to produce MDR ROOM once a week at the Loring Pasta Bar along with comedy club alum and local comedian, Henry Fuguitt. MDR ROOM is a completely free showcase, which is like PSSY CNTL except they “let straight, white men on it.”

Full Bush Tour: Review

Nick Offerman talks woodworking, genitals and organized religion on his Full Bush tour.


At the State Theater in Minneapolis on Thursday night, Nick Offerman’s set started off rocky to say the least. Offerman kept referring to the University and stating that they had asked him to clean up his act. It was a funny bit, but it went on for so long that audience members began to wonder if he knew were he was performing.

The humorist, as he dubs himself, told stories and jokes as well as played music over the course of two hours. A little long, sure, but it was entertaining the whole time.

Although audience members were concerned that Offerman wasn’t aware of his surroundings, he made some pretty good jokes about the situation. Including a joke about the birth of the PG-13 rating coinciding with his own sexual awakening as a thirteen-year-old. This was not the last time that Offerman referenced his sexual adventures.

More than once, Offerman referenced his well-known wife, Megan Mullally. It was a nice change of pace from many comedians of this generation, who will many poke fun at their wives habits or just ruthlessly pick apart their marriages. Offerman worshipped Mullally on stage. One of the best stories of the night was the story of Offerman and Mullally meeting for the first time.

They met on the set of a play that Offerman was doing carpentry for as well as acting in.  When Offerman was reading his Mullally assumed the part was not cast and Offerman was standing in.

“Wow the plumber is pretty good, they should just have him do it.”

Offerman told stories about starting off in really difficult field where he had to work as more than an actor on a production and it was cool to hear about those humble beginnings.

Offerman stuck out his woodworking career and still makes things in his shop in Los Angeles. If there is every an apocalypse, Offerman plans to use his skills to meet up with former co-star, Chris Pratt and survive off of the land.

His woodworking served him well during this set in particular. He wrote a song about making his own ukulele and played it on the ukulele that he made. Anyone who thought that he had not made the ukulele, and Offerman states that there have been some, clearly did not listen to the song, in which Offerman states that he made the ukulele.

Although Offerman presented material that was unique and quite different to the character that most people know him from, Ron Swanson, his best bit of the night came early on and had me in tears. Everyone loves a good Christianity joke, but it’s even better when part of the bit is just pronouncing Jesus Christ slightly wrong.

Hearing Jesus Christ pronounced phonetically is so beautifully simple and endlessly hilarious. Offerman didn’t use the premise of Christianity to be pious or holier-than-thou. He used it to ridicule the fact that some people believe that they are better than others because they believe a different set of wack stories. As he was referring to the bible as though it was a New York Times Best Seller, Offerman compared sins to spilling.

Offerman miming shooting hoops with paper towel for people to wipe up their spills with Oprah Style: “YOU GET A PAPER TOWEL!”

Offerman proved himself as a comedian and as a singer-songwriter but most importantly as more than Ron Swanson, a man we know and love.

Review: The Characters – John Early

The Characters Netflix series is a series of short specials that features one sketch comic per episode and John Early’s episode we see Early as four wildly different characters.

In other episodes, such as Kate Berlant’s, the different characters stories intertwine whereas Early’s characters had nothing to do with each other.

Early began the show as an unsettling youth pastor with a middle part. The walls and speakers are orange and every time that character comes back the same orange tone is present. In the first scene we see Jason, the youth pastor as a teen with braces sitting silently in an all orange room with hundreds of pictures of men cut out from magazines taped to the mirror. This was an insightful opening scene because it set up the awkwardness of the character of Jason. Jason’s next scene is him in an orange restaurant with a redheaded woman. When asked his favorite food he said, “Lasagna…. If I’m being honest: pizza”

Another character that Early played was Vicky, a loud, Southern stand up comedian who based her entire set around looking for her denim. Most of her scenes take place in the green room with two other female comedians. She is wearing a purple silk shirt and matching eyeshadow. She keeps smoking in the room even after the production assistant tells her she really can’t smoke there.

The most intriguing character of the show was John, a dramatic financé who was throwing the engagement party for him and his husband. In this sketch, John gets in his head that the paid staff might actually be slaves so he spends most of the party trying to do all of their work for them and making the staff go out and enjoy the party. Other telling aspects of this character was his inability to let his husband speak. It went so far that when his husband was giving the toast, he pretended to faint and then opened one eye to see who was fawning over him.

The final scene of Early’s episode of The Characters showed three men in navy suits sitting on clear stools on stage. They were all lip synching to a soulful tune and their gestures made the performance much more captivating. There was a women on the corner of the stage who pretended to play both the flute and the trumpet. Although the it felt a little tangential, it was a goofy and satisfying way to end Early’s special.

The Characters is a unique show. There has been a surge in popularity in stand up comedy in recent years. It’s incredibly common for a new hour long specials to come out each month and Netflix produced a shorter show called The Stand Ups that is kind of similar to The Characters in the way that comedians are showcased a different comedian each episode. Sketch comedy is a little harder to find in mainstream media. The only other places that come to mind for watching sketch comedy is Saturday Night Live, Portlandia or Comedy Bang Bang. Being able to see a different element of comedy is refreshing.

Chat With Two Comics: Henry Fuguitt and Ryan Kahl

Ryan Kahl and Henry Fuguitt sat at a table at Acme Comedy Company on Monday night waiting to see if they made the lineup for the open mic.

Kahl has been doing comedy for six years now. He was living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin when he did his first open mic in Rochester and he continued to drive to Rochester every week for a year to do that mic. Now, Kahl has grown a show out of the open mic in Eau Claire and hosts Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s Stand-up Sundays Comedy Showcase with fellow comic, David Sitrick.

Fuguitt has been doing comedy for five years. When he was 17, he started listening to podcasts by people like Pete Holmes and he realized that comedy was something that he could do. He was 18 by the first time he saw live comedy and did his first open mic that same year. Fuguitt went to high school in Madison with Collin Klug, a former UMN Comedy Club alum and member of Boy Kisses and Klug helped him out when Fuguitt moved to Minneapolis for school He is now co-producing MDR ROOM with Rana May and Shelly Paul at the Loring Pasta Bar on Wednesday nights.

“Stand up is such instant gratification,” said Kahl. When you write a good joke and it lands, the reward is immediate. Kahl and Fuguitt bounce and build off of each other as they answered the questions. While laughter is instant and Kahl acknowledges that. Fuguitt focused more on the reward of seeing himself get better as he gained experience.

“The best I thought I was was nine months in,” said Fuguitt. He credited his drive to write with the enjoyment of the process and with wanting to be like the people he was seeing initially.

Fuguitt said that one of the coolest experiences he had in comedy was performing at the Madison Comedy Club on State.

“I got to perform in front of people who didn’t know anything about me except that I do stand up,” said Fuguitt.

Aside from the gratification of laughter and pride in seeing improvement, comedy is a difficult hobby and a difficult profession to make it in.

“This is a marathon,” said Kahl, multiple times throughout the interview at Acme. “People think ‘oh I’m going to do it for two years and get big.’ No, this is fleeting.”

“It’s not a meritocracy,” added Fuguitt. Doing comedy takes a lot of time and a lot of work. And sometimes you have to work with people you would never want to interact with otherwise, including hecklers.

“You get to fail so much,” said Kahl. “No other job lets you fail this much. Painters don’t get this, this is the only art that will let you fail this much.”

Failure is inevitable and inseparable from working in comedy. When dealing with failure, Kahl avoids going to the “shitty” mics and trying new material.

“Expect to fail and be fine with it,” said Kahl.

Learning to fail and to accept failure isn’t the only advice Fuguitt and Kahl had for beginning comedians.

“Do it because you like to do it because you’re not going to get positive reinforcement. Do it because you like it. Don’t do stand up if it isn’t you want to write movies, write movies if you want to write movies. Don’t do it because your friends are doing it,” said Fuguitt. “It doesn’t have to be your whole life. Try to be a functioning person.”

Chat With a Comic: Chloe Radcliffe

Chloe Radcliffe has only been doing stand up comedy for three years. This fall she was selected as one of TBS’s Comics To Watch showcase at the New York Comedy Festival. Many Comedians don’t see that kind of success so early on.

“It was immediately familiar,” Radcliffe said about her first open mic experience.

“I’ve had ten years of practice in an adjacent skill set,” said Radcliffe. She has experience in theater, debate and speech under her belt. Radcliffe had decided to give comedy a try after getting laid off from her “big girl” job at Target.

Radcliffe loves being able to connect with the audience but says she feels her funniest when she is joking around with her non comedy friends. She wants to achieve that bubbly giggly happiness with the audience.

“I like to create that loop of energy between me and the audience,” said Radcliffe. “I like it when the energy buzzes between us.”

Radcliffe gets her material through her life. Her jokes are based off of her stories or experiences that are intensely personal. She has a birthmark on the cheek that she likes to start her sets by talking about. Radcliffe is comfortable exposing a lot about herself and talking about it.

“It doesn’t weird me out to say that there is something I’ve struggled with.”

Comedy can be really hard and if there is a set Radcliffe is worried about, she reminds herself it is only ten minutes.

“Nothing is as important as it feels, good or bad.”

“I want my writing to get better faster.” The most difficult part of the art, for Radcliffe, is the time it takes to get better. The advice she received when she was just starting out was just to do it and as frustrating as that is, it’s true. She said new comedians will find mentors along the way.
“You’ll be so much smarter at three years than two, and five years than three, and I’m sure at ten years than you were at eight.”

You can catch Radcliffe performing on New Year’s Eve at Sisyphus Brewing with Maggie Farris and other shows around the Twin Cities area!

Chat with a Comic: Robert Fones

Five years ago, Robert Fones did his first open mic at Galactic Pizza.

Now he’s making plans to move to Los Angeles to continue work with Boy Kisses, a comedy group composed of Turner Barrowman, Drew Janda and Collin Clugg who are all currently residing in LA, as well as Fones. Although the weekly show at Universe Games is no longer happening, Boy Kisses is still doing video sketches and working together.

For Fones, and many others, staying motivated is one of the harder parts of comedy.
“Comedy requires that you’re always chipping away at something.”

Lately, Fones has been inspired less by stand up and more by other creative pursuits such as watching Fringe shows, going to concerts and finding ways to stay balanced. Fones believes it’s important to have a life outside of comedy.
“I think that comedy rewards this never-growing-up, Peter Pan, childish behavior that is not necessarily good,” Fones said. The advice he gives to combat that unhealthy mentality that tends to surround comedy is to make sure you aren’t neglecting other areas of your life and find some stability. For Fones, this meant signing a year long lease and taking more time to connect with old friends.

While Fones is exploring other avenues of comedy, he still admires stand up comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, John Mulaney and Maria Bamford. He is interested in the storytelling style and format of jokes. In fact, one of the moments when he realized that comedy was something he could do was after he told a story that made him realize you could really talk about anything through stand up.

So what’s great about Minneapolis?
There is no shortage of stage time. Comedians can get at least some stage time every night of the week if that is something that they want. Fones says that that isn’t as common in a bigger town. Fones also said that the kind of do-it-yourself comedy shows that are more common in Chicago are starting to happen around this area which is a really cool thing.

Comedy is intriguing and entertaining and terrifying. Fones attributes some realization that this is something he could do to the fact that there isn’t a set path for achieving his goals and he isn’t alone in his pursuit.

“Honestly the thing that made it something that I could at least try was seeing that there are a lot of very funny people, in town, who also don’t know what they are doing and are just trying to figure it out too.”

New In Town Review

John Mulaney’s first Netflix special, “New in Town” came out in 2012 and is still relevant five years later.

Mulaney starts his set off with a series of bits about his childhood. He stated that although he filmed this special at age 29, he still just looked like a tall child. His unique tone of voice and lanky limbs give him the look of a puppet and make the jokes about childhood extra poignant. He talked about his lawyer parents, his voice and the harshness of thirteen year olds. He stated that he will still cross the street to avoid walking past groups of eighth graders.

The transition to adulthood happened with Mulaney through doing a bit about driving and how bad that he is at it. After telling a story about a particularly dumb driving move, he said the other drivers on the highway were looking at him like they were “expecting a hundred year old blind dog, texting while driving and drinking a smoothie.”

The next set of bits centered around crime television shows and movies. Starting with Ice T and “Law and Order: Special Victim Unit.” He commended Ice T on how, no matter how long he has been with the SVU, he still is just as confused as day one on the force. He moved on to “Cold Case” to talk about how easy it would be to get away with crimes before science was involved. He said that all robbers had to do to not get caught was just to not be there when the cops got there.

Mulaney has many clever bits throughout his hour long sketch. One of the most relatable was his experience with Delta Airlines. IN this bit, Mulaney explains the lengths to which, Delta will go to ruin his life, ending with them framing him for murder. The moral of the bit is to show how life was better with his girlfriend ( she just suggested checking Sun Country).

Mulaney ends his first Netflix with the story of his first prostate exam. He leaves the audience with the advice:

“If you have been nervous your whole life, you should ask your doctor about Xanax because if you lie to him. he will stick his finger in your ass. And if you do suffer from frequent urination, you should keep it to yourself.”

Mulaney, as always, had incredibly strong writing. This is not unusual given his history writing for Saturday Night Live. His various voices and expressive movements made the already clever content even more vivid and engaging.


Review: The Characters – Kate Berlant

At 36 minutes, the Kate Berlant episode of The Characters was shorter than the most of the specials that Netflix runs. But The Characters is less of a Netflix special and more of a sketch style vignette of a specific comedian’s character work.

In this episode, we see four different characters played by Berlant: Brian, Denise St. Roy, Rachel and Youtube Host. The stories of these four different characters intertwine and intersect throughout the episode.

The focus of this piece is an eccentric modern artist, Denise St. Roy. Throughout the show she teaches a college class, gets interviewed by a critic and reveals her latest work. The other characters played by Berlant revolve around St. Roy. Rachel is her art manager whose gallery was bought for her while he was in law school. Brian is her husband who is possibly the most energetic and over the top softball coach, he opened his huddle with “God bless these girls, they know not what they do.” For one scene, St. Roy is watching a quirky nerd girl Youtube host and really connected as an audience member by laughing hysterically alone on her large couch while eating the largest bowl of mashed potatoes in the world.

The Characters was a really unique show. There has been a surge in media, especially on Netflix, of stand up in recent years. It’s incredibly common for a new hour long special to come out each month and Netflix produced a show similar to The Characters called The Stand Ups that focuses on a different stand up comedian each episode. Sketch comedy is a little harder to find. The only other places that come to mind for watching sketch comedy is Saturday Night Live or Portlandia. Being able to watch a different form of comedy is refreshing.

Berlant’s episode of The Characters was so well done and clever. Each of the character that she played were so specific and thought out that even though they were caricatures, they almost felt like someone anyone could know. There were such specific details that truly made the show.

The gallery manager, Rachel, behaved in a way that stereotypical young rich girl does. She have long platinum bang hair with straight across bangs and she was always correcting her staff on how things should be done and how things really are. In the unveiling at the end of the episode she said a very millennial phrase – “You’re my mom. Even though you’re not, you are.”

Denise’s home was covered in self portraits. When a pregnancy shot was shown, it was revealed that as a social experiment she named both of her twin daughters Jenny to see if they could develop separate personalities despite being recognized as only one entity. She then made a sharp noise and when only one of them jumped she pointed out the difference in their “fear mechanisms.”

Kate Berlant’s episode of The Characters embodies the madness of creativity, captures the soul of Youtuber culture and shows of the variety of work that Berlant is able to excel at.

Comedy Scene Social Hour November

As we fall into November you may be looking for something to do indoors, away from the Minnesota cold. Luckily, the Minneapolis comedy scene is booming and there is something to do every weekend. While the options are overwhelming, I’m going to give you with my top three must-see shows for November.

Kicking the month off the month of November, Comedy Corner Underground on the West Bank is hosting the University of Minnesota Comedy Club’s monthly showcase. The show begins at eight on Thursday November 2 and features sets from the club’s members as well as a headliner who, this month, is Andrew Friedman. Friedman is a comedy club alumnus and a well known Minneapolis comedian. The showcase is an excellent way to support student comedians and have a cheap Thursday night out.

Friday,  November 10, is the second Who is She? ever. Created by the University’s own Kate McCarthy, Who is She is a variety show hosted by a different character every month. This is an informal house show but it isn’t something that you want to miss. This month McCarthy has Shelly Paul and Greg Coleman performing stand up, Steven Kreager doing sketch, improv from GAY/STRAIGHT ALLIANCE and music from Joey and the Prayer. This a  free show from one of the greatest talents in the Minneapolis Comedy Scene.

Real Shit – A Comedic Storytelling Show is going to take place on November 23, so if you are looking for something to see on Thanksgiving that isn’t a movie, the Comedy Corner Underground is your destination. The show costs a mere seven dollars and features a variety of different comedians telling true and funny and truly funny tales.

Although these are by no means the only shows worth seeing in Minneapolis, they are certainly at the top of the list. These show are also some of the most accessible both in terms of cost and distance from the university.