Raw footage for the TV series Chicago Slices. This tape features George at his workshop at Funny Firm. Funny Firm closed within a few years of this tape.
00:00Copy video clip URL B-roll, poster of a cartoon on a wall. The camera pulls out to see Tom Weinberg and staff at the Chicago Slices office. They are in the middle of an informal meeting talking about tape stock.
00:28Copy video clip URL B-roll, the shadow of a person walking down a sidewalk.
00:47Copy video clip URL B-roll of jewelry in a store’s show window.
00:55Copy video clip URL B-roll, the exterior of The Funny Firm.
01:24Copy video clip URL Discussion with the owner of Funny Firm, Greg, who is telling the videographer that he cannot release this interview just yet because he hasn’t officially signed the purchase deal. They then launch into the interview speaking as though there are no restrictions. The man says he’s just bought the place and he is tremendously excited. He says he sold his interest tw0 years ago and bought it back within the last week.
02:03Copy video clip URL Greg notes The Funny Firm is a comedy club in Chicago. They’ve been around seven years and have shows five to seven nights a week. They host music and national acts as well.
02:21Copy video clip URL Greg notes that they have a comedy school and that he taught comedy for five years in Chicago and in Los Angeles.
02:58Copy video clip URL Greg agrees with the idea that everyone is funny. In his classes he shows techniques to bring it out. When asked what he does if someone genuinely isn’t funny, the owner says he encourages them to explore other ways and venues to express.
03:30Copy video clip URL Greg says that for him, as a comedian, any subject goes. Nothing is sacred.
04:00Copy video clip URL Greg adds that comedy is medicinal. It’s therapeutic. It’s a need we have as humans and separates us from the animals.
04:41Copy video clip URL Greg gives his contact info and the videographer shares the TV station’s contact info.
05:04Copy video clip URL Interview with comedian and teacher Tim Joyce in the comedy club. Joyce shares that he’s just eaten “one of those Tootsie Pops that stain your tongue.” He concerned how it will look on camera.
05:44Copy video clip URL He says the class he teaches is not about learning how to be wacky or be a rodeo clown, he focuses on the writing of comedy. The workshop is about showing the difference between a good comic and a really good comic: the difference is in the writing of the material.
06:27Copy video clip URL Joyce notes that his students are made up of all kinds. Most are serious about being comics, others are merely interested in being better public speakers, funny at parties, or just meet people.
06:48Copy video clip URL When asked about one of his students, George Pollack, Joyce notes that Pollack is one of the funniest guys he’s met in years. He spouts one-liners without thinking. Joyce thinks Pollack can pull this off because he’s so “pissed off at the world.” He adds that he can see Pollack working constantly if he wanted to, but notes that to do that it takes getting out there, getting in front of people who book clubs, and being willing to be rejected 1,000 times until receiving a “yes.”
08:43Copy video clip URL Joyce says when a young comic doesn’t get laughs he often tells them that it happens to everyone, even comics at the top. He advises that if you’re on stage not getting laughs you just have to stick with it and never panic.
09:24Copy video clip URL Joyce says the exercises he gives students use similar to those given to writers: using hyperbole, simile, adding and embellishing a story you tell to make it funny. He also says his teaching focus on speakers not dropping the ends of their lines. He teaches them how to talk not like a comic, but like yourself — yourself to the fifth power, yourself much more energetic.
11:15Copy video clip URL Joyce says there’s no formula. He tries to get his students to talk honestly about their lives. “That’s were the good stuff starts.”
11:38Copy video clip URL Joyce says the his favorite comics are Dana Gould, Jake Johannsen and Groucho Marx. He says David Letterman, Chevy Chase, Robin Williams are also favorites.
12:17Copy video clip URL B-roll of Joyce facilitating the workshop, and b-roll of the attendees. Three men and one woman, more arrive later. George Pollack brings a chair up on stage and joins the workshop. Joyce tells the class a little about working on camera and how in a Hollywood movie often as an actor you are simply saying your lines to a piece of tape marking the eye line of someone you’re supposed to be speaking with. He tells a story of how this happened to him shooting a scene in a Patrick Duffy movie. The group chats and crack jokes.
15:05Copy video clip URL Joyce notes that the class needs to create a running order for Saturday’s graduate show. They discuss how to fairly determine the order of performances. Joyce asks for preferred slots or suggests doing a lottery pick out of a hat.
16:23Copy video clip URL Joyce says no one wants to be the opening act. “Our show is a showcase featuring nine people.” Joyce adds that he will be emceeing the show and doing a little routine. One students says he will be in the number one slot. Others chime in. B-roll of Joyce and the workshop attendees discussing how the upcoming showcase will flow and various logistics as they continue trying to figure out what the line up will be. The discussion is broken up by the videographer’s various starts and stops.
21:07Copy video clip URL Joyce talks about the importance of a comic’s introduction bio. He says it should not be self-deprecating, it should highlight the performer’s accomplishments.
22:15Copy video clip URL Close up of someone’s set list written on paper. B-roll of the workshop in progress, attendees discuss what should and should not go into an on-stage introduction. Joyce notes a person’s tendencies are to discount your track record. But you have to be a press agent for yourself. It won’t impress an audience to say “you suck.” Nor does it help to over embellish and lie. Just be truthful.
24:53Copy video clip URL Joyce continues working out the order of the showcase. Attendees note how long it’s taking to just get this list organized. The group then determines how long each person’s set will be.
30:09Copy video clip URL The group discusses how everyone is doing getting friends, co-workers, and family to attend the showcase. People are needed for the audience.
31:30Copy video clip URL A discussion commences on whether or not it’s difficult to convince friends to attend one of your comedy shows. The attendees say no, not for the first time. It’s harder to keep having them come back to future shows.
32:51Copy video clip URL B-roll of a lot of unguided discussion. Joyce suggests everyone do a dry run through of their material.
33:24Copy video clip URL The workshop attendees introduce themselves to camera: John Schulman, who says people can’t learn to be funny, you’re born with it. Jeff Petrowski, who says he works for Quaker Oats and took this workshop because his job bores him. George Pollack, who works at WT Holdings, a manufacturing company. He says he took this class because he was severely depressed and the class was less expensive than his psychiatrist. Michelle Bovet, who says she took the class because many of her friends tell her she’s funny. She notes she is currently unemployed, but hopes to turn comedy into her career some day. Michael Alexander says he is 25-years old and works in restaurant management. John Aldridge says he is a computer technician and that he took this class because he didn’t know what he was doing and he still doesn’t, but wanted to learn comedy. Phil Hoffman, who writes and produces commercials. He took this class to meet people and to use comedy as an outlet, a form of recreation.
38:27Copy video clip URL The videographer asks all the attendees to answer the question “Besides yourself, who do you think is the funniest in this class?” Hoffman says Mary, a woman who is absent today. Aldridge says he hasn’t been paying attention. Alexander thinks everyone is funny. Bovet says Tim, George, and Mary tie for the funniest. Pollack says he is the funniest and the second funniest. He adds that everyone is. Petrowski says Schulman is the funniest. Schulman says everyone is but that Pollack is twisted. He goes on to rave about Pollack’s timing and comedic ability.
40:18Copy video clip URL The videographer goes around asking attendees what makes George Pollack funny. Petrowski can’t think quick enough. Bovet says Pollack hits home. She can identify and relate to his observations. Alexander says Pollack is good at improvising. Aldridge jokes, “Which one’s George?” Hoffman says that Pollack has an honesty that is the best draw for comedy.
41:58Copy video clip URL Pollack is asked what makes him funny. He says he doesn’t know. Whenever he talked people laughed. He says as a kid he would get beat up if he didn’t tell the kids jokes. He would do impressions of Donald Duck. The bullies liked it and wouldn’t beat him up. He says he never received sympathy from his father. Comedy was his only defense against school bullies. Comedy was a form of self-defense. He goes into a routine about how even the nuns at his Catholic High School would torture him.
44:27Copy video clip URL Joyce conducts the workshop and prepares students for the dry run. He tells them he might stop them to critique, but that if they lose their place while performing just keep going. Even though the theater’s empty, Joyce tells the students to perform as though there is one. He says he’ll try to limit his notes until after they’ve finished their set. He asks, “How many here are terrified of Saturday?” Some raise their hand. He says there are no consequences if you’re not good, but the reality is you’ll do better than you think. You’ll do better the more fun you have with it. He notes that many people start asking, “what’s the least amount of time I can do? You should be asking what’s the most amount of time I can do.” He says if you’re having a good time on Saturday and thing you can keep going then do it. If you feel like you need to leave just say, “Thank you” and exit. He warns, don’t just walk off. You’ll get gratuity applause. Enjoy it.
47:50Copy video clip URL Joyce tells his students if you are nervous use it to your advantage. Don’t admit it to the audience, but if you’re shaking push the energy out. Keep track of your breathing. If you’re frightened, he suggests taking a break, walk around on stage with a smile. “Let the audience think you know something they don’t. Even if that secret is ‘I’m really scared.'” And have fun!
59:41Copy video clip URL Aldridge takes the stage and runs though his routine. Various shots of the performance and of Joyce watching and taking notes.
51:01Copy video clip URL Joyce critiques Aldridge’s performance. He advises how to indicate to the audience your set is ending. (Put the mic back on the stand.) He runs through his notes to Aldridge. The videographer starts and stops recording during the critique.
53:35Copy video clip URL Interview with Pollack. Pollack says he likes to just go up on stage and start talking. The fear of it being that it won’t be funny. He notes that for some reason things don’t sound funny when he says them twice. He figures he’ll need to use stock material on Saturday.
54:30Copy video clip URL He tells a funny story about dating a girl who dumped him for someone else. He says he could talk about that and about going to a Chinese restaurant, and falls into a funny monologue about the experience to illustrate his free form thinking: hello in Japanese is a paragraph long. It sounds like they’re screaming at you. Spanish sounds like the person is half asleep. He notes on Saturday he probably would talk about the Chinese restaurant. He may do t he same routine he does in today’s dry run, he might not.
56:10Copy video clip URL Pollack says he’ll probably do things he did before because he knows it’ll get a laugh. He notes people are defensive today. They didn’t know someone would be videotaping. He says he’s always been the last one to go up on stage because he’s always scared. He says the danger is not being on stage, it’s walking up to the stage before going on. “Once I’m up there and they laugh, it’s okay.”
57:55Copy video clip URL He notes that many of the others in class are more seasoned than he is. He says when he’s scared his stomach gets in knots and he gets hot all over. Then, he says, he gets on a high if the audience laughs. It’s a neat feeling. In comedy you receive instant reaction, instant gratification. He doesn’t get that in the day job he has. He says he’s not well equipped for life. He talks about the book “Thinking and Destiny: Being the Science of Man.” He says in the 1930s the author had an epiphany of what it is to be infinite, to go to Heaven or to find the way. Pollack says, “I want to know what that’s all about. I never thought about death till my dad got ill.” He says he’d wake up and realize, “this is the last April 2nd I’ll see my dad.” He goes on to say there were so many conflicts between them that the relationship was strained. But, he notes, there’s always love if you give it a shot.
01:02:44Copy video clip URL The tape ENDS in the middle of Pollack’s interview.