Articles by

<Allie Esslinger>

02/11/10 2:46pm


Jon Fisch is a staple on the New York comedy scene. Obviously, he’s a funny guy, but he’s also a huge fan of comedy. As a student of the art form, as well as one of its practitioners, last year he combined his twelve+ years of experience with his passion for the craft and created the In the Tank with Jon Fisch podcast.

Jon, Dan Allen, and Dan Shaki (all of whom are often mentioned in our Comedy Listings) teamed up in January 2009 to start the show. Each week, the trio interviews a different comic about the ins-and-outs of comedy, about the skills required for writing and performing, and about the current developments in the New York and national scenes. Now in its second season, the show has evolved into an in-depth look at comedy from a fun and informative angle that has been over-looked in the past. It targets aspiring comics and fans alike, and both communities have responded with appreciation and support.

In conversations with Jon, he laments the fact that there are, “…so many things people still don’t understand about stand-up.” With each new episode of The Tank, however, this group has been able to shed some light on the behind-the-scenes side of the comedy world by sharing stories and interviewing pros working all over the nation. With topics varying from comedy films, stage-time, and stage-wear, the podcast is becoming the go-to resource for learning about comics and the specifics of their careers. Some past guests include Todd Barry, Ted Alexandro, Laurie Kilmartin, and most recently Christian Finnegan. (Full list HERE.)

What started out as sort-of a grassroots show has grown into a talked-about production with a strong Internet presence and growing notoriety on the club scene. In the past, they have traveled between clubs in New York and Boston and also used the guys’ Astoria kitchens for tapings. As Season Two progresses, Dan Allen shared that the team is looking to upgrade its equipment and/or partner with AOL’s, which will give them access to an incredible studio. They will also be “upping the ante” with guests like Jim Gaffigan, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, and Louis CK.

As the first season showed us, the insights of the performers into the mechanics of the comedy industry is invaluable to comedians and entertaining to fans, and the formula seems to be working. Jon is the host of the show, and, like the MC on any given night at a comedy club, he focuses on the guests and the overall tone and pacing of each episode. Dan Allen is “Producer Dan”, for those of you who have listened to the show before. He takes on many of the off-air responsibilities as well as uses his own career’s anecdotes to add to the conversations. Shaki, as a newer comic, infuses his enthusiasm and humor into the questions and comments throughout each new show. The result is a show overflowing with true-life stories, fun interviews, a lot of talking about getting laughs, and, of course, the laughs themselves.

02/04/10 4:50pm


The house that Snooki and The Situation built made famous is now available for summer shares or other shenanigans. You, too, can dwell in the temporary home that J-Wow and Pauly D desecrated made famous for just $3500/night. Of course, that’s the off-season fee, and the rates will jump to $6500/night once the summer hits the Shore. The duck phone and other fun-iture are all still in place from the show so the costs are totally justified and won’t make you feel ridiculous or dirty once you’re there.

This excitement comes on the heels of the news that the Tanner home from Full House also hit the market in San Francisco this week. With so many opportunities to combine TV with our real lives, it can’t be too long until the financial crisis has subsided and we can hang out at coffee shops all day again.

01/29/10 2:32pm


Kari Ferrell, yes the Hipster Grifter of viral ’09 fame, is a new writer over at ANIMAL. The website was among the most attentive to the story and its anti-hero last Spring, which undoubtedly explains her affections in return, but we’re left wondering about the mutual appeal. Despite having almost a week’s worth of her postings to sift through, well, we just don’t really get it.

So far, we’ve been treated to a State of the Union Address drinking game and some incongruous (funny?) hyperlinks. There has been the obligatory “You probably don’t want to read what I have to say” manifesto and the less necessary “These con-artists are way worse than me” post. But, the thing is, we do want to hear what you have to say, Kari Ferrell. Or, at least, we kind of want you to make us want to hear what you have to say. Stop with this take-me-or-leave-me routine and show us your tried and true you-know-you-want-me side. That’s the schtick that got you where you are today. That’s what captivated us in the first place.

01/28/10 2:52pm


As our collective attention span— and the amount of it we’re willing to dedicate to grief and pain (much less that of other people)— diminishes, here’s a shout-out to people and organizations still rallying on behalf of those who need it.

Cheers to Good Samaritans, Haiti, and drinking for a cause all weekend long.

Love for Haiti:
Webster Hall, January 28
36 Hour fundraiser for Doctors without Borders
5pm Thursday-5am Sunday, 12 hours each night

also planned for Webster Hall:
Quarterly Arts Soiree (QAS)
Webster Hall, February 28
24 hour fundraiser for Orphans Int’l Worldwide Haiti

Haiti Relief Happy Hour
Stone Creek, January 28
Benefiting Partners in Health

Benefit Concert for Haitian Earthquake Relief
SOB’s, January 28
$30, 7pm Doors; 9pm Show
“Proceeds will be delivered to the people, videotaped, and uploaded on YouTube”

The “I’m with Coco” Benefit for Haiti
Comix, January 28
9:30pm, SOLD OUT (online auction still live)
Benefitting Planting Peace and Partners in Health

UCB Theater, 1/31/01
7:30pm, 10:30pm, $30
Benefiting Mercy Corps

Cupcakes for Red Cross
Magnolia Bakery, Everyday January-February 2010
$1 from every cupcake sold will benefit the American Red Cross.

01/14/10 10:57am


Ever since he published an article last week about H&M’s clothes-destroying practices as witnessed in Herald Square, Jim Dwyer has been busy keeping tabs on the wastefulness going on About New York. First came the good news that H&M vowed to stop destroying unworn clothing AND to donate it to charitable groups. Then came a much more generous story about The New York City Clothing Bank, a non-profit that secures against the fears of retailers by removing labels, storing their donations safely, and distributing them purposefully so as to avoid a ready-made knock-off enterprise. But, according to another Dwyer follow-up, good hasn’t quite trumped evil after all: Add New York City to the list of clothes shredders and—I don’t know?—poor-haters who’d rather throw away clothing than come up with a better plan.

Up until about a year ago, the goods and clothing seized in raids of counterfeit operations around the City were donated to various non-profits so that they might be re-distributed to people in need. According to Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York City Police Department, no requests have been received since December 2008 and, therefore, the Department authorized “witnessed burns” and industrialized shredding of dozens of tractor-trailer loads of clothing and other bootlegged goods.

Operators of the Clothing Bank insist they have made many requests for donations but that the goodwill seems to have disappeared. William Montana, who sits on the board, hopes that practicality will prevail and that the donations will once again be routed towards the City’s needy rather than the incinerator on Long Island. The stock of men’s wear in particular has depleted to a dangerous level throughout the City’s clothing banks (as women’s fashion is prone to more frequent turnover and availability).

Playing the devil devil’s advocate, Robert Tucker, a lawyer to clients like Steve Madden, Zac Posen, and Ed Hardy, points out how much money the City spends to combat copyright infringement and how wasteful, in turn, that money appears when the goods are returned to streets. Sure, Bloomberg has made prosecution of such infringement an administrative priority, but Dwyer points out that the US Customs and Border Patrol was able to donate $78 million worth of confiscated goods to various grateful recipients last year with the consent of the trademark holders.

The City has recently begun working with World Vision in an attempt to extend the charitable work of Customs, as well as cities like LA, Detroit (Detroit?!?), El Paso, and San Francisco. Browne promises that the Department will continue to donate whenever they receive requests, and Montana asserts his belief in the power of good intentions and cooperation: “If we can get people to work together, we can do a lot of good in the world.”

01/08/10 9:02am


Cynthia Magnus, a grad student a CUNY, stumbled upon bags of cut-up clothes outside of H&M and a Wal-Mart distribution center in Herald Square last month. Aghast at the corporate waste, she carried some of the bags home to Brooklyn to solicit help repairing the garments and then promptly tipped off the New York Times about the unnecessary litter.

Magnus told Jim Dwyer that it’s most common to find discarded items outside H&M. After research into the amputated gloves and the de-insulated coats, Dwyer reported on Tuesday that a Wal-Mart spokesperson claims the company usually donates its unsold items to charity and that H&M remains unresponsive in the face of at least 10 calls and emails. What’s more, is that Dwyer points out the close proximity of the dumpsters to New York Cares, a non-profit who gladly accepts donations of clothing on a daily basis.

High-end brands like Chanel once had a destruction policy for un-purchased inventory, but even they have put a moratorium on such heinous policies and have opened a handful of outlet shops for cheaper, off-season retail options in the past few years. What might be a measure to prevent the sale of these items is more likely a preventative measure to ensure that anyone who didn’t pay for them can’t wear them. And, actually, it’s an affront to the 18.5% of the City’s population who live below the poverty line: on the brink of what is shaping up to be a frozen winter, the blatant disregard for the City’s poor and under-dressed is astonishing, and the lack of knowledge and follow-through by these corporations concerning their product is unacceptable.

01/07/10 9:06am


Forget books, films, albums, fashion trends, television shows… all of it. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene summed up the last decade with its Top Ten List for Safer Heroin Use… and then printed 70,000 copies to distribute to the City’s addicts. What could be confused for a how-to guide—it’s illustrated!—is a 16-page safer-use maunal (which was promptly taken down off the website) with tips for preparing drugs and the veins into which they’ll be injected.

The strategy is part of a greater harm-reduction plan being implemented by NYC officials, but it has met with opposition from the state DEA as well as concerned council members and researchers. Judge for yourself with screen caps from Animal, The Post, and NBC New York. Could these pages help prevent the spread of disease, or are they more likely to take the guess work out of the process for some clueless, future users?

12/14/09 3:57pm


Robert Trujillo is an illustrator from Oakland who started Come Bien Books on Myspace in 2007. Back then, he and only a couple others comprised the core of what has become a multi-faceted media collaboration among writers and illustrators looking to create art in every way possible for other people of color. Today, there are at least 18 contributors to the Come Bien Books website and zine. It’s a growing community focused on providing art and reading materials—as well as role models—to young adults and children who don’t often see themselves reflected in mainstream media.

Tres, as he signs his works, now lives in New York, where he contributes to a number of projects around the city and online while he finishes a degree at the New School. Offline, some of the Come Bien team have joined together in the Trust Your Struggle Collective, where muralists, painters, and community organizations combine their efforts in the form of mural tours, workshops, and gallery installations.

Come Bien artists collaborate on projects ranging from posters to comic strips to graphic novels. Some of their most recent posts have focused on writers that have caught the contributors’ attention. Junot Diaz (written by Trujillo, illustrated by Jasmine Deras, layout by Joy Gloria Liu) focuses on the award-winning author and the effect his work has had on members of the community. With Costa Rica (written by Raina J. Leon, illustrated by Fatch Chapeyama) and Ethiopia (written by Ananda Khan, illustrated by Tiffany Eng), the benefits of expanding one’s experiences are highlighted through prose and illustration. One of our favorite elements of the products of Come Bien is the ability of the contributors to emphasize harshness and beauty simultaneously.

The site is also a great resource for information about writing and illustration contests, scholarships, and grants. In addition, Trujillo often links to like-minded zines and blogs, as he is constantly expanding and connecting the networks of artists he is a part of. Up next is a series on health issues that will not be sports-specific, as work targeted to people of color often is, but instead will touch on cooking and exercise in everyday life. Also forthcoming is a new installment to the “In the Wind” travel series, by way of an illustrated account from a woman recently returned from Senegal, and a new website. It’s sure to be one to bookmark, as Trujillo and co. continue their efforts to, “…stop talking and self-publish.”

12/03/09 2:29pm

Vodka Pills get you drunk

If ice-nine had been a seed crystal for any liquid other than water, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr’s Cold War weapons race parody wouldn’t have quite gotten his point across. If it had been a solidifying agent for, say, vodka, not only would his anthropological thesis likely have been denied (for a second time!), but he probably would’ve converted even more Hoosiers than his beloved Cat’s Cradle lays claim to today.

Why are we carrying on with this failed literary reference? Because a Russian scientist has developed a formula that turns vodka into a pill. Evgeny Moskalev, has made the first steps towards a literal cocktail of pills. His new technique works on liquids with up to 96% alcohol content, which includes whiskey, wine, cognac, and beer.

Look out, “dry” counties, which are probably prevalent in prime Hoosier countryside; “dry” vodka will be tricky to regulate. On the other hand, as The Times of India article likes to point out, it will be easy to monitor how much you’ve consumed. Right, especially since people never abuse pills that make them feel good.

We foresee some very confused college freshman that thinks he just crushed and snorted an Adderall to help cram for his English Lit exam. But, let’s be honest, who hasn’t wished that, just once, alcohol could go flowing up his nose to impress a co-ed, instead of out of it?

12/03/09 9:01am


We all know that the absolute best way to stay warm on the streets of New York is not a hat or a pair of gloves but a flask in our pocket. But the designers over at Wintercheck Factory have just made us re-evaluate the limitations of our pre-Julian thinking.

Who’s Julian, you ask? Julian is the GREATEST scarf ever. Each of the 13 color combinations are equipped with two no-rip nylon pockets, which can carry your keys, your iPod, or “approximately” six mini bottles of your favorite drink—you could mix a Grateful Dead in the bathroom of the movie theatre! Finally— form & function we understand.

Wintercheck is a Bushwick-based design company that creates accessories for your home and wardrobe. Founded by Kristen Wintrcek, the company operates throughout the borough. With plans to expand to the West Coast soon, right now is a special time for Wintrcek, who feels that each product developed and purchased is a mini-investment in both the company and the Brooklyn community.

For more information, you can visit the Wintercheck online store. Or, for a behind the scenes look at the Julian scarf, you can check out this video. Stay warm, Brooklyn!