Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 is over.

I don't know about you, but I really needed this year.

Last year I was just glad to see 2005 go. It ended a rough time which took me from a job I liked to a job I hated. It was the same job. I was also in a band more interested in spinning its wheels than making progress. My only real creative outlet was this blog.

The last 365 days changed everything. I took a comedy writing class which taught me I have the ability to achieve my dreams but I had to sacrifice. Once I was laid off from advertising the path became clear.

I started doing stand-up. First an open mike every two weeks. Then a bringer show every month. By the summer I was performing five shows a week. I've done 116 this year and I have seven more booked. I've done road gigs, pitched to networks and appeared on tv. I saw some of the biggest names in the smallest rooms. Most of my friends are professional comics and a few have lived with me.

The only disappointment was in entertainment. Movies and television weren't much to speak of. I guess there was more to do than to see.

Bill and I went to Vegas. Renee and I traveled halfway around the world to Japan. We survived a week long blackout. Now we're going to be parents. In 2007, nothing will be the same.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fantastic Four 2 trailer

Yes, I know the first movie wasn't all that good. It spent two hours giving you cool moments followed by the cheesiest garbage you've ever seen.

But watch this. The Silver Surfer fights Human Torch. That's it. Not a flash of clips, not a bunch of iconic stills, just one fight. And based on this, I'm saying "Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer" will be good. This and because Brian Posehn is playing the minister at Reed and Sue's wedding.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


I'm supposed to be in darkest Jersey now picking up Bill. I wonder if he knows that?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lotsa Guys Are Dead

They say it comes in threes. Or maybe we just stop counting.

Gerald Ford passed away yesterday. I'm not political but I liked Ford. At a time when the country was getting more intense, he had a laid back way about him. He didn't put on airs because, like most vice presidents who get the promotion, he didn't expect to be there. He did the best he could in the time he had and left with grace, clumsy jokes aside.

James Brown died on Christmas. I was introduced to James Brown like the rest of my generation; through Eddie Murphy. Like every great impression, it made me laugh first and research second. It's said Brown created hip-hop, supplying artists with loops for a solid decade. Listen to his albums and you'll see why.

And in the quietest news, Joe Barbera passed away last week. In the 1950's Joe took the money he and Bill Hanna made creating Tom and Jerry and opened their own studio. The cartoons they created were decidedly low budget but their characters became icons. The Flintstones. The Jetsons. Yogi Bear. Huckleberry Hound. Quick Draw McGraw. Scooby Doo. This was a studio that for twenty years could do no wrong. I loved how they treated Marvel and DC's characters with Superfriends and Fantastic Four. And as a Bilko fan, I have a special place in my heart for Top Cat.

All three will be missed.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Improv Olympic

On the suggestion of Mike Brumm, we went to ImprovOlympic last night. They call themselves the iO now , but the NY Improv calls itself the Broadway Comedy Club so who am I to judge?

I haven't seen an Improv show in a while and this was a great place to come back to the form. The cast I saw at "Whirled News Tonight" was positive, energetic, professional and full of great ideas within scenes. Because of the nature of improv, you never know if you're going to see a good show. Last night I saw a great one.

I forgot how theater everything is at improv. They're not focusing on laughs per minute or what the crowd is like that night. They don't have to. They live in the moment and in the scene. It's as different from stand-up as techno is to folk music. I still love the sketch form, though.

Friday, December 22, 2006


And got a signal. Kinda. It goes out every five minutes so I'll be succinct.

Flight was uneventful. Sets were good last night. Iron Man is an underrated superhero.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Taking Off

Renee and I are flying out to Chicago for Christmas. Her parents have moved since I last visited so we'll see what the wireless situation is there (the old place had a signal on two windowsills).

I'll post as best I can but Merry Christmas if I don't see you. Here's my new favorite xmas carol from Invader Zim. If you've never heard of this show, we should have a long discussion about its genius.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I'm watching Jerry Seinfeld's first HBO special "Stand Up Confidential". It's never been released on dvd so I'm watching a blurry VHS copy (thanks Alex!) It blends stand-up and sketch and features Larry Miller and Joel Hodgson. And it's not great.

Thank God for that. I'm sick of watching talented comedians succeeding. I've had it with people being better than me. I want to see good not great. I want to see the struggle. I want to be reminded it takes a very long time to gain stature. That's inspiring. Nobody's great right out of the box and that's the reason to keep fighting.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm Time Magazine's Person of the Year!

See? It says so.

I'm overwhelmed. Yes, it's been quite a year but I didn't think I deserved this honor. Of course, I'm modest. And you won't see me bragging about it. Except for right now.

Hooray for me!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Marvel Legends Addendum: Variants

Joe Franzem just gave me all the variants for the final series of Marvel Legends. This is a big deal.

While it wasn't easy to collect every figure (especially when the case rations went nuts) completists have it even harder. That's because Toy Biz also added variants in each series; figures that are slightly different and not even packed in every case.

Sometimes it's a different paint job.

Sometimes it's a change of hairstyle.

Sometimes they're unmasked versions.

And sometimes they're new characters.

I have barely a third of the variants produced. I may get more but I still consider Marvel Legends finished.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Marvel Legends 5: Buyout

I worked on IBM for four years. They weren't known for their desktops and laptops and it was my job to get the word out. I wrote a lot of ads and the division became so successful IBM sold it off to another company (starting a series of events that would lead to the end of my advertising career).

That's what happened to Marvel Legends. The build a figure gimmick performed astonishingly and, coupled with the superior articulation that launched the line, earned the notice of all the major toy companies. Hasbro got very interested.

Mattel had bought the DC license in 2003 so it was only a matter of time before Hasbro wanted to compete. Although G.I.Joe and Star Wars had been selling well for them, Mattel was still the bigger company. And with Marvel Legends the hottest line in the action figure category, Hasbro went right for it.

The announcement went out after Toy Fair. Hasbro promised to keep the Marvel Legends line going and showed pictures at the San Diego ComiCon. They were underwhelming to say the least. Reduced articulation, simpler sculpts and paint, no comic in the package and a raised price. However long Hasbro runs their line, it won't be Marvel Legends.

And that's why this is goodbye. Marvel Legends came along at a time I thought I was done with collecting. Four years later, I have 175 of them. Never saw that coming but man, am I sorry to see it go.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Marvel Legends 4: Build a Figure

As Marvel Legends grew, it became apparant the line could cover the entire Marvel Universe. But what about the larger characters?

Used to be action figures were the entry level for a toy line. The real money was to be made with vehicles and playsets (just look at Star Wars or G.I. Joe). But in the post Wal-Mart age, there's just no room for them on the shelves. Toy Biz learned this when they announced a new large size line of Marvel Legends. Retailers refused and hopes for characters like Galactus and Sentinels faded.

But Toy Biz had a flash of inspiration. What if the large character was split into pieces and each piece was included with a figure? They could drop the detailed base and keep the price point the same. As long as customers bought every figure, they would get an extra deluxe character.

It worked. It really worked. The entire series 9, which now included Galactus, flew off shelves. Sales doubled. And since collectors needed everyone in the line, figures were evenly packed in the case. In fact, Marvel Legends now sold so well, retailers ordered a new line called Marvel Icons. Marvel Icons were deluxe large size figures.

Tomorrow: nerdy nerdy Marvel Legends week comes to a close. And so does the line.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Marvel legends 3: Case Ratios

Marvel Legends was moving along well for two years. Each series gained sales, popularity and characters. Fan favorites like Nick Fury and Elektra were making appearances. Collectors were lining outside Toys R' Us every day at opening for first pick.

Toy Biz even added a second line for Spider-Man, tossing his complete rogues gallery into the mix. But there was an ugly side. An ugly side called case ratios.

When a toy company releases a wave of figures, they know Apocalypse won't sell as well as Wolverine. So, a case of 12 figures ships, there should be more Wolverines than Apocalypses. Simple, right?

The problem comes in the guesswork. And by the sixth and seventh series, Toy Biz guessed wrong. Cases were shipping with four Wolverines but only one Phoenix and Deadpool. Suddenly half the series was treated as rare, expensive figures. Fights broke out in toy stores.

The next series was no better. Apocalypse, Hawkeye and Vision all major characters were shipped one per case while the pegs were clogged with yet another Wolverine. And fans were ready to give up.

Tomorrow: A new idea that not only saves the line but pushes it into a whole new dimension.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Marvel Legends 2: From Cult to Classic

When the first wave of Marvel Legends appeared, fans were elated but cautious. In a shrinking market, how long could this line expect to last?

Toy Biz was pragmatic themselves. The first two waves were loaded with heavy hitters from Captain America to the Thing. Spider-Man and the X-Men, both well covered throughout the 90's were absent.

Toy Biz intended Marvel Legends to be collectors only. Instead of action features and wacky accessories, figures came with comic book reprints and detailed bases. But the series proved popular with both collectors and kids. So, by series 3, Wolverine and Magneto appeared. The line threatened to become the only way to collect Marvel figures, and almost impossible to find.

Tomorrow: Marvel Legends almost kills itself.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Goodbye Marvel Legends

It's Christmas so let's talk toys.

The 90's were over. That decade was the biggest for action figures. In 1990 I was starting college and more interested in guitars than superheroes. I only bought a couple of figures from Tim Burton's Batman movie. The company that produced them was a little start-up named Toy Biz and the next year they shifted to Marvel, rolling out a line of unimpressive superheroes. Walker and I picked those up almost casually.

Then two things happened. Toy Biz created an X-Men line (the first in history) and the X-Men cartoon premiered on FOX. Suddenly the company exploded. Within five years there would be lines based on Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, even Ghost Rider. Hundreds of characters I dreamed about owning as a kid were on the pegs for five bucks.

Other companies followed suit. DC widened their character selection with animated series figures from the Bruce Timm shows. Todd McFarlane started his own company to release figures of Image Comics heroes. Playmates launched Star Trek figures at the height of the franchise. And Kenner brought back Star Wars. By the end of the decade, I was not only a full time collector but I was working at Art Asylum, helping create toys myself.

But it all ended. Toy Biz shifted to wrestling figures. McFarlane made KISS and Metallica figures. And Star Wars focused on Episode I. Things dried up so fast I went from working at Art Asylum to working in a museum.

Then came Marvel Legends.

It was a strange experiment. Sculpting 6 inch figures with over 40 joints. Suddenly Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America were the most poseable figures anyone had ever seen. Even Japan didn't have toys this well engineered. For the next four years, everything would change.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Inside the Comedy Mind

Your friends are booked on the early show. You are booked on the late show. Their show has 50 people in the audience. Your show gets cancelled.

Somehow this makes you less of a person than them.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Both Iron Mans

Yesterday's post was gigantic. To give you time to finish it here's some more action figure animation. There are currently 203 videos that use this idea but this is the only one that uses Marvel Legends figures. Considering these figures have more than 40 joints, I don't know why there aren't more out there.

UPDATE: I didn't make this, Dave. Thanks for the compliment though.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Comedy Cellar

We decided to do some research. Ed Murray, Alex Grubard, Mike Drucker, Tim Warner and I took the night off and went to see every comic at the Comedy Cellar, five hours of stand-up. We had no idea what we were in for.

We got there early enough to see the end of their open mic. I hadn't been to a mic in a long time. Seeing people get up for the first time, not yet having the skills, reminded me of how far I'd come. The rest of the night would remind me how far I need to go.

Marina Franklin took the stage as MC and showed poise, grace and inflappability. I was an immediate fan. The mic didn't even work and she smoothly got it fixed before bringing up the first comic. She asked us what we did for a living and Alex mumbled, "work in a warehouse." It was like we were undercover.

Sixteen comics took the stage and it became a once in a lifteime event.

Julian McCullough opened with great joke writing skills and great crowd work. He went after a stone faced guy in the front row but it was so good natured the rest of the room was behind him. Lesson learned.

Lenny Marcus hated the crowd but his material was too good to hate him back. He made me realize someday a good response is not going to be enough.

Jim Norton was a drop-in with some of the filthiest material I'd ever heard. He had a cold but you'd never know it from his performance. In the moment, hilarious and topped himself with every bit. His closer was both disgusting and made me think I didn't get laid enough when I was single.

Gary Gulman just had a Comedy Central special and I really need to see it. He did only two bits in twenty minutes but they were filled with jokes that seemed to come from every angle. He loved us because we got one obscure reference and shook all of our hands on his way out.

Gregg Rogell is just as tight and quirky as when I first saw him ten years ago. I've been a fan of his style for a long time and I would have gone to see him on his own.

Keith Robinson closed the first show with some of the best crowd work I have ever seen. There was material in there but I couldn't separate it.

The Cellar has an interesting format. They don't ever end the show. Marina made an announcement that they'd take an intermission and if we wanted to stay we could. About half the crowd took off and were replaced but we weren't going anywhere.

Jessica Kirson is a saint. She's done "the World" a few times (bumped me once and apologized to me for two minutes) so she kept looking at our table. She went up to Drucker. "You're a comic right? At the Improv. You're all comics. You shouldn't have to pay the cover." She went away and so did the cover. We were stunned. We came as fans and she treated us as professionals. Then she got up and destroyed.

Pete Correalle was new to me but I'm making a point to search him out. His point of view knocked me down. He would throw out a setup and I had NO idea what the punchline would be. Loved his attitude as well.

Sherrod Small has a set that, according to Tim, has been working for a long time. And you can tell. It's bulletproof. Hit every fifteen seconds. I could barely keep up. He did one bit and it made me think of a great joke. Then he did that joke.

Dan Naturman's style just appealled to me. It sat comfortably between Jon Lovitz and Norm MacDonald and I was with him anywhere he wanted to go.

Jim Florentine has the greatest shirt ever. His set was greater and a far cry from his "Crank Yankers" characters. He was understated, with solid down to earth material on relationships. Affable and easy to listen to.

Shawn Wayans showed up. Did twenty minutes from a different place than anyone else. You could feel the L.A. comedic actor style in his set. It was full of act outs and character pieces. If he wasn't a drop in, he would have had the perfect spot on the show.

Dave Attell could have closed the show and it would have been incredible. I've become a huge fan of his joke writing lately and he did not disappoint. Everything was new but sounded as if he'd been doing it for years. The great thing about Attell is that he'll give you a hilarious joke right away. Then tag it. Then tag it. Then tag it. By the fifth tag, you're in a different place than you started. And he'll do that for EVERY joke. My respect for him grows every time I see him.

Then Dave Chappelle got up. Dave Chappelle. He had no material and killed for 45 minutes. He just asked for news stories and immediately spun them into jokes. I'd seen him back in college in my student lounge and thought he was okay. The years have been good to Dave. Whether it's success or the thousands of shows he's done since I saw him last, he was 150 times the comic he was then. And the most comfortable comic that night.

Ardie Fuqua followed all this at 2:35 in the morning and showed us how it's done. People were leaving in droves after Chappelle walked off but Ardie just did his act. And it was great. His energy and confidence just plowed through and anyone who listened couldn't move. He had a decent, responsive crowd for his entire set but the man deserves a medal.

We were still buzzing in the street at 3 a.m. After months of shows (I just performed my 101st the night before), we were jaded. Five hours in the Comedy Cellar restored our faith. I can't wait to get on stage tonight.

Here's Alex Grubard's take on the night.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iron Man

I'm working on a huge Marvel post and it looks like it won't be finished until next week (LOTS of pictures). While I'm working on that, you can listen to another theme song. Here's one for Iron Man that's just as catchy and just as short.

By the way, these are all from the 1966 Marvel Superheroes show. At the time, Spider-Man got Ralph Bakshi, the Fantastic Four got Hanna- Barbera, and the rest of the Marvel Universe got this cheapie. The animators actually cut up original Marvel comics and moved them around. In a way it's awful, but in another way you get to see actual Jack Kirby animation.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


That's the kindest way I can put my mood of late. I've got to go handle seven things that could be great or lousy. In the meantime, enjoy this song. It's 19 seconds long and stuck in my head for thirty years.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Shipping Delays

UPS has me by the balls.

I ordered the last two sets of Marvel Legends online Thanksgiving night. I thought it would keep me out of the stores during the holidays. Two days later, the figures were in every store. I bit my tongue and bided my time.

I supposed I could stand the wait. What would it be? Four days?

10. It's been 10 days. And a weekend.

It's supposed to come today. And I work nights so they can actually deliver this to my home. Of course I scheduled a lunch meeting. So I'm spending my morning staring out the window and expecting it to arrive as soon as I leave. I've left a note which will be casually ignored.

UPS has always made me pine for the ease and convenience of the post office. Why do we have alternatives if they're less efficient than the government sponsored version?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

All hail Ed Murray!

Just found out Ed Murray won the 2006 Laff Off last night at Sal's Comedy Hole!

I competed in the Laff Off just once and Ed beat me. Now I don't feel so bad. I would have seen the finals but I had two sets at "The World" and Renee brought her cousins in. Sounds like I missed a hell of a show with Tim Warner and Maddog right behind Ed.

Ed's always been good but over the last six months I've watched him become a comic I admire. He deserves the title and his own show. Congrats, Ed!

Go to his blog and wish him well.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Last night I MC'd the 10:00 show at "The World".

I'd only hosted once before (that out of town gig with Ed Murray and Jen Adams) so I was anxious all day. And I'm always kinda anxious.

But something happened while I was barking. I just relaxed. I stopped worrying about getting people in, how much time I had to be out there, all of it. I was just in the moment.

That continued when I got back. I went on at the end of the 8:00 and didn't think about my set. I just got up and talked. A crowd of drunken middle aged ladies were giggling at every word I said so I addressed it. I might have done two bits the entire set.

That warmed me up for hosting. As an MC, material is way less important than connecting with the crowd. I opened the 10:00 and the people were great. I gave them energy and they gave it back. I talked to them honestly and that's how they responded.

Everybody did well. I got to bring up Pat Dixon, Mike Drucker, Mike Bochetti, comics I love and they all killed. The crowd was there for them and stayed the entire show. I haven't had that much fun on stage in months.

If there's been one life lesson I've been forced to relearn over the years it's to let go. Stop worrying, stop living in the future, put fear aside and enjoy what's going on right now. Every time I do this, good things happen. I just wish I knew how to do it more often.