Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Ten Dollar Millionaire

I went to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner the other night, at my visiting nieces' request, and did something I have never done before but will probably do again.

I bribed the hostess so we could get a seat faster.

We had tickets to Fuerza Bruta at 10 p.m. (go check it out if you can, great, great show, visually exciting, unlike anything you have seen before) and it was almost 8 when we got to Bubba Gump, so we were pressed for time. The hostess told us 45 minutes to an hour wait. So we put our names in and wandered off, dazed and confused, a bunch of bewildered dummies surprised that there would be a 45 minute wait for a crappy shrimp dinner on Navy Pier on a Saturday night.

A few minutes later it hit me: I can get us a table. I had read an article in Esquire about using $20 to get you whatever you want, so of course I decided a ten ought to do it for the hostess at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

I walked up to her, and asked "How much more time for Mary, party of four?" As she glanced down at her book, I casually waved the folded up ten where she could see it but the gaggle of tourists behind me could not. She stared at me dumbfounded for what seemed like a minute, then turned to her co-hostess and whispered something. Then she looked back at me and said "I can seat you in 10-15 minutes." I eyeballed her like the huckster I was and said, casually (the way Chuck Norris might if he were bribing an Bubba Gump Shrimp employee) "Sure, ten minutes would be great. I'll be right over there." Over there being a nearby trash can. I hovered there, feeling like James Bond, always in view of the hostess, wondering if this was a good or bad example to set for my visiting nieces whose young minds may be influenced by my morally questionable actions. I think they thought it was funny.

Seven minutes later another hosty person seated us. I slipped him a fiver for good measure in the old fashioned way of bribing, palm to palm, disguised as a handshake. It was a thing of beauty. I felt like I was in an episode of The Wire.

And that crappy shrimp dinner tasted better than I ever imagined. I feel like I have a new-found power. I can get a seat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. any time I want.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Post Show Glow

Well, folks, 12 Angry Sketches wrapped up last Friday and, like all sketch shows of the past, now lives on only in our memories.

I love doing shows at the Skybox – they have actual lights and sound, and an actual stage, with actual entrances, and with actual backstage space for the actors and everything – but it’s kind of a shame when you are limited to one show a week for four weeks. It feels like you’ve just finally got up to steam before you’re packing a bunch of babies and hats into the back of your car and then running off for beer and cobbler pie.

A match made in heaven, my friends.

Brevity of the run notwithstanding, we had some good shows with some wonderful audiences and some excellent performers – many of whom we were working with for the first time on this little shindig – and got to perform some really silly stuff.

Some personal favorite moments:

  • Getting to shout at a bunch of dogs.
  • Hearing from audiences how much they loved the ‘Diversity Street’ song and dance number.
  • The lines heading into and out of the Cronlon scene (‘telegram for Mr. Cronlon’), just for their sheer ridiculousness.
  • Getting away with some horribly offensive lines by giving them to one Erin Morrill, who I’m convinced can get away with saying anything.
  • Seeing Greg Wendling in a dress, a sight which still haunts my dreams (fantasies).

We here at RvD have a one-night-only performance of ‘The Saga of the Viking Women and their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Great Sea Serpent’ to look forward to on July 29th. Other than that, it’s back to the writer’s room for us for our Fall show. Stay tuned, Dinobots, for more info, and thanks to everyone who came out for 12 Angry Sketches!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

15,000 Lines and Amanda Bynes

I was going to post today about Amanda Bynes retiring from acting. I was going to write something witty about how I was retiring from various things I do not love, like drinking Keystone Light, geocaching, anything to do with soccer, eating artichokes and reading my current boring book club book, The Condition, by Jennifer Haigh.

But I have a 15,000 line spreadsheet hidden on my monitor right behind this window, and it calls my name.

So, in short: who is Amanda Bynes?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Love Bath

What gets me in the mood for Monday?  I'm glad you asked. 

Every Monday morning, I take a Love Bath.

Oooh yeah.  Let's get the work week started, baby.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Super Psyched

Now that 365 has wrapped up, I finally get to see the new RvD show, 12 Angry Sketches. I forgot what an awesome cast we had assembled. Here there are, in all their awesomnity.

Nora Broz
Nick Cutelli
Chloe Ditzel
Mike Dobbyn
Mel Evans
Dean Gibbs
Susie Gutowski
Dustin Levell
Becca Levine
Erin Morrill
Nat Topping
Greg Wendling
Doug Werder

12 Angry Sketches runs at DONNY’S SKYBOX, Friday’s at 9 p.m. til June 25.

Call the Second City Box Office at 312-337-3992 or go to

$12, $10 for students.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dramatic Chipmunk

I have spent hours writing scenes that don't get nearly the laughs that this chipmunk is able to induce in only 5 seconds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Rain Falls On

Well, after a long bout with cancer, my dad, Carl Elliott, passed away today. He was 68 years old.

He was technically my step dad, so I can't say that I got my stunning good looks from him, or my glorious bald spot, but he raised me since I was five and over the course of my life I think I ended up with his demeanor. He was easy-going, friendly, and never got too worked up over anything, which I think are the best parts of me as well.

As a comedy writer, it's tough to try and strike the right chord between somber and funny. I have tap-danced around that line a lot over the past few weeks, even around my dad. He always laughed at my jokes, which is why I loved him.

And for those of you that are into inside jokes, here are two:

One is, my mom made meatloaf for dinner last night.

Two is, it was raining today at the time of my father's passing.

And you know what they say . . .

Monday, June 14, 2010

Congratulations Are In Order... one Mr. Joe Janes for completion of his 365 Sketches project.  Here is Joe, on the right, in a t-shirt featuring the outline of his head and glasses.

Talking to Joe while he's wearing this shirt is a strange experience.  I don't know where to look.  Do I look at actual Joe or outline Joe?

Writing 365 Sketches was a monumental accomplishment.  Producing them was also a monumental accomplishment.  And now, you can have a monumentally sized book with all 365 sketches by clicking here.  It is the funniest collection of outhouse paper you've ever owned!

I kid.  Naturally.  Who uses an outhouse anymore?

If I had my druthers, that t-shirt would be for sale too.  I would wear it to bed everynight.  Yes, that's creepy.  But it's true.

So, now that that show is over, we have 12 Angry Sketches to occupy your plugging needs!  We basically sold out this last Friday, and there are only two Fridays left, so get your tickets now.

AND, we're gonna be performing at the Neo-Futurists come July 29th for Film Fest IX: The Perils of the Neo-Futurarium.  More information to follow as we get closer, but we will be performing:

The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent )as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Great Sea Serpent)

So we all have that to look forward to.  Hooray shows!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

365 Sketches - We Did It!

Well, it was a little rough around the edges, but we made it through our 365 show last night, all in one piece.

I had a blast, from beginning to end, working with a super fun cast and bringing Joe's words to life, or at least something that closely resembled it. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat--which is only slightly longer than Nat had to perform "Still Life" when a music snafu made our three and a half minute scene into about a minute and half. I love live theater.

Here are some fun pics of the show that were originally posted here by Don Hall over at the 365 Sketches Blog. (Which reminds me, there are still four more nights of shows! Go see some by clicking here to get your tickets.)

Geoff Crump laments sending an email in all caps to the entire office in "Stop SHOUTING." From left to right: Geoff Crump, Mackenzie Yeager, Mike Bauman, Becca Levine, Chris Othic, Nat Topping.

Nat Topping shares a "funny" idea with his sketch comedy writing class in "A Thing I Wrote." From left to right: Mike Bauman, Chris Othic, Becca Levine, Geoff Crump, Nat Topping and Mackenzie Yeager.

Becca Levine smokes a pipe in the background as Geoff Crump tells why his "Unicorn" is better than Mackenzie Yeager's "Clap" in "The Unicorn and the Vengeance."

Geoff Crump and King Kong (Tamara Raphaeli) fail to impress a tough crowd in "The Eighth Wonder of the World."

My awards (which will probably mean nothing to you if you didn't see the show), as follows (and based on some stuff I heard from others after the show):

Best Line Not Written By Joe Janes: Geoff Crump - "Let me put my shirt back on!"
Castmember Who Seemed to Be Having the Most Fun: Mackenzie Yeager and her imaginary suit of armor in "The Unicorn and the Vengeance"
Best Display of A King Kong Rampage If King Kong Was Blind: Tamara Raphaeli
Best Transition Music of All Time That Should Have Been 30-45 Seconds Longer: Going into "The Eighth Wonder of the World" (A Very Short Night On Bald Mountain)
Best Scene That Should Have Been 3 Minutes Longer: "Still Life"
Biggest Surprise: We somehow actually sang Joe's clunky ass lyrics to "A Gospel Song For Atheists" and the audience loved it
Worst English Accent: Still Kevin Kostner in 1991's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"
Second Worst English Accent: Chris Othic in "The Curse of The Speckled Bullet"

I'm sure there are other awards to give that are too numerous to mention. And as a word of advice, I would tell anyone that ever considered directing and also acting in a sketch show that if you don't get yourself an assistant director from day one you are an idiot.

All in all, it was a great thrill. I want to thank my great cast, Tamara Raphaeli for stepping in at the last minute to help assistant direct and be the gorilla wrangler, Joe for writing the show, Don Hall for his superb producing skills, and Jess McCloud for stage managing under some insane circumstances.

This whole experience was like eating the finest meal at Skarki's. And when we carried off the Stanley Cup at the end, it was glorious. Totally glorious.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

365 Sketches - RvD Show Tonight!

Tonight RvD will make their contribution to Joe's 365 Sketches festival when we present "A Thing I Wrote" (on a double-bill with "Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear To Treadmill") starting at 8 p.m. Get your tickets here.

Back in January of this year, as Joe was wrapping up the project, us fine folks at RvD thought we would like to present Joe with a special gift. So in keeping with the spirit of his project, we decided to write a scene about how it all began. We called it "Day Zero."

Here are a few interesting tidbits I thought you might like to hear about before I post the scene below.

  • We wrote this in a round-robin style: one writer started and wrote a beat, then emailed it to the next, and so on. I think this scene feels pretty seamless but you might try to figure out where one beat ends and a new one begins. Even we aren't sure at this point.
  • The opening line of the scene and the closing are more or less what Joe wrote to open scene 1 and close scene 365 of his project.
  • There are a few references here and there to other scenes Joe wrote throughout the year.
  • There is a special guest star, whom I won't reveal here, but it was fun to ridicule them.
  • Yes, Joe is ridiculed endlessly.
  • The "Fearinator" sequence is actually a riff on Joe's post titled "TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD PLEASE STOP DOING IN YOUR SKETCH REVUE - NOW!!!" You should read it. Really.

And so now, without further ado, Robot vs. Dinsaur presents: "365 Sketches - Day Zero." (Please forgive the formatting of this scene as my meager blogging skills could not live up to the task of making it look presentable.)


Not Written by Joe Janes
0 of 365


(Lights up on Joe Janes in his office cubicle. He is packing stuff from his desk into a cardboard box previously used to store reams of paper. He looks sad. Mr. Williams enters carrying a thick, but not cumbersome, stack of files. The top file is in a very colorful, recognizable folder while the others are a drab manila. As they talk, Mr. Williams is only half-listening as he sits at Joe’s old desk and reads through the files.)


(Joe bucks up and feigns happiness.)

Yes, Mr. Williams?

How are we doing?

No complaints, Mr. Williams! This lay off couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. It’s the perfect excuse to get out there and do the things I’ve been too busy to do.

What will you be doing with your time?

I--I don’t--

You mentioned the things you’ve been too busy to do. Like what?

(Joe is stumped. He looks worried.)

Well, not to worry. I’m sure you’ll think of something. Say, here’s an interesting file. “Roger Casey found dead in his home after writing 364th sketch.” You write funny little skits sometimes, don’t you? You ever hear of this guy?

(Joe is still in his own world.)

Well this is the fourth pathetic little clown this week who attempted to write a sketch a day for one year that’s been found dead. All of them on Day 364. They should just stop trying. But I suppose you theatre types--resilient spirits and all. Anyway. Say, Joe, I’m very busy today. As a final favor, will you finish these files for me before you go?


MR. WILLIAMS gets up.

Well, I guess this is it for us, eh? Look, I’ve, uh, never been good at saying goodbye. So fuck you.

MR. WILLIAMS leaves abruptly. JOE pushes the stack of files onto the floor, sending paper flying everywhere. The colorful folder is still intact and it catches his eye. He opens it and looks inside. It contains:

A pen, a notepad and a Starbucks gift card? I see what’s going on here. Williams is trying to challenge me! Well, I’ll show that asshole! No one challenges Joe Janes to a possibly death defying task. I can write 365 sketches in a year! Hell, I’ve gone without sex for longer than that.

(We hear a rimshot. Joe pauses, as if he heard it but doesn’t know what it was.)

I mean, I could really make my mark. I could write 365 sketches, and they would be good sketches too, not cliché ridden crap like everyone else is doing. Hell, it might even get me laid!

(We hear a sad trombone. Joe definitely hears it this time.)

What is that? Who’s there?

(We hear the Porky Pig ending to Warner Brothers cartoons. (“Ba dee, ba dee, ba dee, that’s all folks”!) And then another comic sound effect.)

I don’t know what you’re game is, but (he picks up a stapler) I’ve got a gun. Actually, it’s a stapler, because I am against gun violence, but I’m holding it like a gun. And I will not hesitate to staple you. I am not against staple violence.

(A CRAZY MAN enters.)

Okay, okay, I say “PUT THAT STAPLER DOWN!” and then you say “YOU’RE A BAD STAPLER!” (laughs hysterically) Then dick joke, dick joke, dick joke, VAGINA! (laughs hysterically)

Who the hell are you?

Okay, okay, Who’s on First. What’s on Second. I’M ON THIRD! (Pause) WHO AM I? I SAID WHO AM I?

I, I don’t know.


Who are you?

What is this, A RELATIONSHIP SCENE!? (laughs hysterically) TAKE MY WIFE, PLEASE! (rimshot)

I think I’m going to call security!

Why did the chicken swim like a duck? Because Violets in Garlic Sauce! (rimshot) But that makes no sense! Soooooo—IT MUST BE A DADA SCENE!

Look, I don’t—this isn’t quite dada. Dada is actually a cultural movement that began in Zürich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked during--

Hey asshole! I’m the ghost of Roger Casey! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, I’LL BE HERE ALL WEEK!

Listen, I don’t know what’s going on here, but--

CRAZY MAN lunges at JOE, grabbing him around the neck. He rambles.

365! 365! 364 DID THIS TO ME BUT I NEED IT! I NEED 365!

You’re hurting me!

Something that’ll KILL ‘em! That will leave ‘em ROLLING IN THE AISLES! GIVE IT TO ME!! 365!!

Help! Somebody help me!

(Suddenly, there’s a bright light upstage. A figure stands in the light.)


(CRAZY MAN lets go and shrinks. He starts to slink off stage. Before he exits--)

Beware 364! Tip your waitress. Try the veal.

(CRAZY MAN holds up an applause sign, waits for applause, then exits. The bright light from upstage is extinguished, revealing a young African American WOMAN with long braided hair.)

Joe Janes, I presume. I love your alliteration.

What is going on? Who-who are you?

I’m the ghost of Suzan-Lori Parks, MacArthur Foundation “Genius” and Pulitzer Prize winner for my play, Topdog/Underdog.

But Suzan-Lori Parks isn’t dead. How can you be a ghost?

Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks, thank you, and, I’ll be whatever I want. What have you ever won, Joe Janes?

I won an Emmy once.

Primetime Emmy or Regional Emmy?

Well, I mean...

Look, Joe: I’m not here to talk about who won what Genius grant and when – I did, in 2001 – I’m here to talk about the incredible journey you’re about to embark on.

The lay-off?

365! The quest for that glorious number.

Oh, I don’t know about all that. I’m rethinking the whole thing after the attack of Roger Casey’s ghost.

It’s very hard to do, Joe, but it can be done. I should know; I did it. 365 Days/365 Plays. But writing 365 of anything is not for the weak of heart.

Um, I read some of those plays and really, they weren’t very good.

(Grabbing Joe) Quality doesn’t matter! A lesser writer crumbles at 364! As you’ve seen! But the reward...the reward is great, my friend.

Getting laid.

(Looking him up and down.) That’s probably not gonna happen for you BUT there is this: the next time you’re teaching a writing workshop at New York University, and one of your students says ”I have writer’s block,” you can say, ”Writer’s block?! I wrote 365 sketches in 365 days! WRITER’S BLOCK DOESN’T EXIST, ASSHAT!”

That does sound pretty great. An excuse to use the word “asshat.”

First, I need to show you something. Grab on to my braids.

Where are we going?

My secret hideaway, nestled high above the earth in the Himalaya Mountains!

(JOE grabs SUZAN-LORI PARKS’ braids. They are magically transported one way or another to SUZAN-LORI PARKS’ hideaway, which is a simple room in the Himalaya Mountains.)

Hey, this looks just like the Second City Training Center’s Teachers’ lounge.

It’s a recreation for your benefit because to be able to conquer 365 sketches you must first be able to transcend all of your fears. In order to have the mental strength to make it to 365 you must go on a soul searching expedition. Through that bathroom door marked “For Faculty Use Only” is what I call “The Fearinator.”

(Joe groans disgustedly.)

Lay off, it’s tough thinking of clever names. Once you have entered the Fearinator your trial will begin. If you survive the trial you will gain the mental strength required to tackle the task of 365 sketches. If you fail, well, you can still teach. Fare thee well, Joe Janes.

(She motions toward the bathroom door. Joe walks through hesitantly and on the other side is a bare stage. He stands for a moment, but no one is there.)

Hello? This isn’t so scary. It’s just a bare stage.

(The light suddenly go black and we hear some loud, fun scene change music. We also hear some actors moving chairs and setting a scene. When the lights come up, Joe is standing off to the side. BRET, TAMMY, BOB, TOM and others are seated in chairs and motion toward him.)

Joe! We didn’t think you’d make it! Sherry’s coming up the stairs now.

(JOE seems a little woozy and makes his way over towards the couch. Everyone is quietly talking. Sherry enters. She is wearing a bee-hive wig, torn clothing, and her make-up is a mess.)

What’s going on?

Sherry, all of your friends and family are here today to help you with your problem.

Problem? I don’t have a problem?

Sherry, this is an intervention.

Oh no. Oh dear God no, not an intervention scene!

(As the scene continues JOE becomes more and more exhausted, distraught, disgusted, and gradually weaker.)

We’re here to help you with your Amy Winehouse-itis. Your friends and family have become very concerned.

So I like to party a little, so what? I’m not hurting anyone. I do not have Amy Winehouse-itis.

No… the fake celebrity disease trick. My God, I’m stuck in a shitty scene!

Oh Sherry. What went wrong? I know things haven’t been the same since your father died from cancerous AIDS. And sure, we all like to occasionally get our slippery fur-box stuffed full of thick veiny cock, but you’ve taken it too far.

That’s pointless shock value… uuuuughh…

I’d like to say something SHIT COCK ASS! Sorry, my Tourette’s acts up when I feel stress. COCK SHIT FUCKLOAD! Sorry. I just hope my Alzheimer’s… where am I? Who are FUCKING SHIT FUCK are you people?

No… no more…

Sherry, me and Bret have been getting together every night to try and figure out the best way to help you. We have put in some long, hard nights.

We sure have Tom. Real looong and haaaaard nights pumping each other for ideas.

We have emptied our idea juice all over each other trying to figure this out.

Badly disguised homosexual overtones… please… make it stop!

(Everyone stops and looks at Joe.)

Joe, wouldn’t you like to say something?

No… no… this sketch… it’s too horrible!

Come on Joe, you have to participate in the scene.

Sher… Sherry… Obama’s healthcare reform will give you access to cutting edge treatment, if it ever gets passed. Am I right?

(The whole group laughs.)


(JOE can hardly even stand at this point.)

I can’t… the story is unfinished. It’s all shock and awe…

(Everyone ad libs “C’mon Joe, join in.” “Participate.” “Become one of us.” etc.)

(Struggling) And . . . another thing Sherry; You going out and . . . getting all messed up is about as foolish as . . . as our invasion of Iraq?

Nice try, Joe, but I think what you really meant to say was: It’s about as foolish as wearing your PANTS ON THE GROUND!

(The whole group, sans JOE, starts singing. JOE continues to wail and sob and scream.)

Pants on the ground! Pants on the ground! Call yourself a cool cat, lookin’ like a fool. Walkin! Talkin, with your pants on the ground!

(over their singing) No! No! Stop it--this is the worst scene ever! Nooooooooooo!

(The lights come down and more loud music kicks in. After a moment, lights up.)

Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Now we’re going to change things up a bit and do our semi-improv portion of the sketch show.


(The lights change again as JOE goes running back through the bathroom door. There are a few seconds of weird lights and sounds, like strange laughing and bad improvised lines, dick and fart jokes, and the like. Once Joe makes it through the door the lights come back up. He collapses, out of breath and sobbing.)

I couldn’t do it! I just couldn’t--fucking hacks!

But you survived! You are ready!

But I didn’t make it to the end of the Fearinator.

Oh, don’t worry, no one ever makes it through the improv portion. It’s only the real sketch comedy writers that are wise enough to leave when that crazy shit starts. So now you are ready.

Do you really think I can do it?

Yes. You have it in you. Just avoid cliches, observe your world to get inspired, and if you find yourself getting stuck, write a blackout. Or a relationship scene. You’ll probably write a shit load of those in the coming year.

Thank you, Suzan-Lori Parks. I’m ready. I am going to explore comic situations and relationships. The fish out of water will be my best friend! My contexts will clash like titans! I am going to write the best 365 sketches the world has ever seen! It’s going to be wonderful!

Sure, sure, whatever. But listen, Joe, there is one final test.

What’s that?


You have to have sex with this man in a chicken suit.


Because we bought a chicken suit and we needed to make use of it.

But, I don’t want to--

(Cuts him off.) For your art, Joe Janes! For your art!

(Joe sighs and makes peace with the fact that he will have to get fucked by a chicken.)

Good luck Joe Janes. I would say something funny as I exit, but I’m going to leave that for your rewrite. And I’ve never been good at saying good bye. So fuck you.

(Suzan-Lori Parks grabs her braids and flies herself offstage. Joe stares at the Man In A Chicken Suit for a moment.)

Hi, I’m Randy.

We’re not really going to have sex, are we?

(The Man in the Chicken Suit reaches over and turns on a radio on Joe’s desk. We hear “Let’s Get It On.” He starts dancing at a terrified Joe as lights fade.)


Monday, June 7, 2010

12 Angry Sketches: One Down, Three to Go

Booyeah.  Show opened, all the work has paid off, and we had a great opening night audience.  Now all that's left to do is perform it three more times.

Come see the show before it's too late!  Fridays at 9:00, Donny's Skybox in Chicago!

Friday, June 4, 2010

12 Angry Sketches - Master Post

For posterity purposes, RvD is pleased to present the master post for our Sketch Comedy:

Justice Gets Served
Fridays, June 4th - June 25th, 2010 @ 9:00 PM
Donny's Skybox
1608 N Wells
Chicago, IL
Cast List
Opening Announcement Post
Post Show Glow

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

12 Angry Sketches: Opening Friday!

The time is at hand, people!  A good four month's work comes to fruition on Friday night at 9:00 when 12 Angry Sketches opens.

Group rehearsals have gone well and we have one more tonight; we're teching the show.  It's been great seeing everything come together.  It's always nice when several months worth of writing, directing, line learning and prop gathering actually results in laughter.

Show details:


Justice gets served.

Fridays in June (4th, 11th, 18th, 25th) @ 9:00 PM

Donny's Skybox
1808 N Wells, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL

For tickets call the Box Office at 312-337-3992

Come, interweb friends!  Come in droves!