Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 8:55 a.m.
Photo courtesy Joseph Scrimshaw
Joseph Scrimshaw's latest work takes a deep look at the foibles that make us all tick, and he can thank the efforts of a Kickstarter campaign and more than 500 backers to bring it to life.
Scrimshaw's Flaw Fest will be performed four times over the weekend. All of these will be recorded and then edited together for release (in October for the backers and November for the general public). There will even be a "soundtrack" disc of songs inspired by show. Where did all of this come from? Let's find out.
Was the Kickstarter campaign gratifying, a bit scary, or both? Do you feel pressure now to come up with the goods for all of the "producers?"
Joseph Scrimshaw: The Kickstarter campaign was gratifying, scary, and also fun. I have never given birth, obviously, but I imagine a Kickstarter campaign is a tiny bit like that. Months of joy, discomfort, lots of pushing, and then there's this amazing, unbelievable thing that you've created. So, yes, it's just like childbirth except I made this baby with my partner Sara, all of the musicians, and 505 backers.
I don't feel pressure to create the comedy and the music for the backers, that's the joy part. To greatly overextend the child metaphor, actually getting to create the thing is like eating ice cream with your fully grown kid who has a good job and might even give you some money.
Do you approach a show you are planning to record any differently than a normal performance?
Definitely. I certainly want to play to people in the room, but also remember that ideally this will be listened to around the world, or at least in Canada and the U.K. So I try to watch out for local references and too many visual jokes.
There's also a fun bond that's created with the live audience when they know something is being recorded. I think audience feels like a part of something larger than just that one show. There's a fun permission to "fix" things.
Last summer, I recorded a standup comedy show about superheroes at CONvergence that I'll probably release some time in 2014. At one point I was supposed to say, "In many versions of Batman's origin story," but I screwed up and said something that sounded very close to "In many virgins of Batman's..." and there was a great moment of acknowledgment between myself and the audience. In a regular show, I might just keep going but for a recording you have to fix it. You have to acknowledge it, which is kind of awesome. A lot of people call this "sausage making." I'm just going to continue to overextend the metaphor and say "baby making." I want to make a comedy baby with the whole audience.
Is there any temptation to go into the studio to sweeten the recordings, like those old "live" albums where the only things live were the crowd noises and the high hat?
I might add high hats, but I certainly won't add laughs or anything. I've got four performances of the show. We'll probably edit different pieces of different shows together if there's a joke or story that's really electric from one performance, or if I screw up in a particularly entertaining way. I love to listen to very real moments in live comedy albums.
How did the idea of a companion soundtrack come together?
The show itself is sort of broken up like a themed music album. Each flaw is a story and each story is sort of like a music track.
One of the flaws in the show is something I call "stupid hope." When you're optimistic despite clear evidence that there is no reason to be optimistic. For many years, I had "stupid hope" that I could be a singer despite the fact that I'm tone deaf. I read a horrible song that I wrote when I was 14 called "Mr. Suckface." It's a sexy rock song about a helium balloon. No, really. I was 14.
So between those ideas, a music album seemed like a good idea. I also performed the show for the first time on Jonathan Coulton's JoCoCruise last February. A bunch of the musicians on the cruise responded really well to the show, particularly the ideas about music, and a lot of those musicians ended up writing songs for the album: John Roderick, Molly Lewis, the Doubleclicks, Paul and Storm.
The songs are coming in now, and they're great. "Wife Head" by John Munson is a kick-ass rock song about listening to your wife. "Eggs" by the Doubleclicks is a great comedy ballad based on a bit in the show about me struggling to be sincere while auditioning for a commercial about "eggs being awesome." "No One Can Hear You (When You Crouch)" by the Sevateem is a sort of electronica track about playing a James Bond video game.
All in all, it will really feel like a soundtrack to the comedy show: music from and inspired by the show.
Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy [of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and RiffTrax] are joining you this weekend. What are they doing in their opening slot?
A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants. Actually, they will only be doing one of those things. Bill and Kevin's main gig is RiffTrax, the great comedy movie commentary organization, and an off-shoot of that is RiffTones. Bill and Kevin have both created some great songs, including a version of HBO's Game of Thrones theme with lyrics and a song entirely about melting cheese. So they'll be doing some comedy and some songs and just generally warming the hell out of the crowd.
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