Bill Johnson

Chris Ellis guides Meathands into our own Fresh Hell

Many thanks to all who came out to our Tag Team show this past Saturday! We had a great night mashing stand-up comics and improv comedy into one big show, and judging by the laughs, you seemed to like it too!

Last month, we sadly said goodbye to our director Bill Johnson but that doesn’t mean the end of the Magic Meathands striving to get better and better. We’re now pulling from a number of experienced improvisers to serve as temporary coaches during our rehearsals.

Our first is Chris Ellis, a longtime member of the The Trans4merz, an improv group playing regularly at Fanatic Salon and originally directed by improvisation innovator Stan Wells. He is also co-creator/director of the hit web-series Fresh Hell, the comedy/tragedy starring Brent Spiner as himself in a world where a mysterious incident has destroyed his career. As you might expect, guest appearances and cameos abound, among them Star Trek: The Next Generation co-star LeVar Burton and The Guild‘s Jeff Lewis and Sandheep Parikh. The series was created with Spiner and writer/fellow Trans4merz Harry Hannigan (According to Jim). Meathands alum Heather Brumley can be seen in the opening credits of each Season 1 episode, and cameos as a Trekkie Nerd in Season 2, now playing on YouTube.

Oh and Chris Ellis is also British. So if you notice an inordinate amount of terrible British accents in our shows, now you know why.

Here’s a Fresh Hell promo:

The above was cross-posted on the Magic Meathands blog. I’ve been a member of the Magic Meathands for over 3 years, performing over 150 shows of improvised comedy. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, give yourself a treat and catch one of our shows.

Magic Meathands: Goodbye to Our Director, Hello to Our Future

Bill Johnson sees something he has to go do. Shane doesn't like it, Marshall ignores it.

Sunday’s rehearsal was our final with director Bill Johnson. He was the original founder, teacher and director of the Magic Meathands improv comedy ensemble.

After 8 years of guiding us, he is leaving us behind to let us grow to the next level while he pursues his own opportunities.

Bill taught most of us for years and encouraged us to explore the absurd, the silly and the joyful. Because of that influence, the Magic Meathands have developed a dynamic, high energy that is unique among most improv groups. He also brought his focus to community outreach, making the Magic Meathands the only improv group in Los Angeles that regularly brings live comedy to the very people most in need of joy and laughter. Just this past Saturday, we played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Ocean Park Community Center, a facility in Santa Monica that serves the homeless and mentally ill. Next month, we’ll return to our friends at the Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services facility in Altadena, where they house over 40 boys aged 10 to 18. We first performed for them in early 2008 and continue to visit them several times a year. And finally, because of the variety of our audiences and venues, Bill developed a team of performers comfortable with audiences of different age groups and content preferences. Not too many improv groups have their own rating system for their shows, but the Meathands do to make sure audiences know what they’re getting into.

So yes, Bill created a pretty magnificent thing but the time has come for him to go. So now what?

Always passionate about reaching out to the community and helping children, Bill is pursuing a teaching career at a school in the Coachella Valley where he’s teaching math to struggling kids. Yes, math. We don’t get it either.

We also expect him to continue his writing. Bill’s first novel, The Dark Province: The Son of Duprin, debuted last year to great reviews. We’re told a sequel and another novel are in the works.

Meanwhile, the Magic Meathands have been preparing for this day for some time. Over the last year, we became a self-directed performing group. That means we all share the responsibility of running different parts of the show, instead of Bill serving as sole director and emcee every show. In turn, our shows have been evolving into a completely new format that is bringing out the best in our cast. Simply put, if you haven’t seen the Meathands in the last 4 months or more, you haven’t seen the Meathands!

Your next chance is the popular Family Friendly Show with Jump Start Comedy Improv at the Mary Pickford Studio on Saturday, April 14, at 8 PM! See you there!

The above was cross-posted on the Magic Meathands blog. I’ve been a member of the Magic Meathands for over 3 years, performing over 150 shows of improvised comedy. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, give yourself a treat and catch one of our shows.

Open Call for Laugh Makers, Joy Givers

The Magic Meathands Comedy Ensemble have really been picking up steam lately, which thrills me to no end.

Last night, as part of our expanding Comedy Outreach Project, we did an hour-long live show of improvised comedy for a group of women at the Alexandria House here in Los Angeles. We had tons of fun, and really look forward to our next show there in February. Tonight we’ll be returning to the Joy Center at the Hope for Homeless Youth in Echo Park. We perform there once a month and have made some great friends. It’s always a good time. The Meathands’ Comedy Outreach Project is a big part of the group’s mission, and our base of regular organizations that we visit is growing. We bring comedy to people who may not have the means to come to us. We bring laughter to the greater Los Angeles and Southern California community, instead of holing up in a theater somewhere expecting people to come to us. It is a tremendous gift for both us performers and our audience.

That’s not to say we don’t do the more traditional shows everyone can attend. Every first Friday of the month we perform at Mission IMPROVable’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, opening for the hilarious Waterbrains. We also have regular appearances at The Spot Café & Lounge in Culver City, including our popular Family Friendly Night every second Saturday of the month with Jump Start Comedy Improv. I’m extraordinarily lucky to have this outlet where I get to perform to a live audience usually once a week, sometimes more. Seriously, this is like manna from heaven for someone like me. (No surprise I’ve done well over 100 shows with the Meathands.)

I’m also getting to stretch other creative muscles. Through our recently launched sketch videos program, I get to write, produce, direct, and edit comedy shorts. Hey, I’m actually using my college education! What a concept! This program is sure to grow in the future, and we’re already talking about doing a web-series.

OK, so you get it. I love the Meathands and I’m a big suck-up. Yay for me. Well, if you’re in the Los Angeles area and this sounds like something you would also enjoy, we just so happen (complete coincidence, I’m sure!) to be holding auditions for new members. If you’re interested and are a comedic actor/improviser 18 years or older with training in performance level improvisation, email your resume to our director Bill Johnson. Workshop-style auditions will be held on Monday, December 6 at 7 PM. Callbacks will follow the next evening, Tuesday, December 7. See here for more information about being a main company member of the Magic Meathands.

The First 100

Famous Funnies #100 - Nov. 1942, Eastern Color (Image from CoverBrowser.com)

This probably merits a blog post. A couple of weeks ago, Bill Johnson and the Magic Meathands entered me into the Century Club by way of a good ol’ fashion comedy roast. According to Bill’s meticulous record-keeping, I performed 100 shows with the comedy improv group with meat for hands, as of our June 3rd show at The Spot Cafe, making me eligible for induction into the Magic Meathands Century Club.

I’m the sixth Meathand to reach 100 shows. And also according to Bill’s legendary Excel spreadsheets, I’ve broken the record for getting to 100 shows in the shortest amount of time so far – 1 year, 4 months, and a few days. My first show with the group was on January 29, 2009, although I had performed with them as a student before then.

I’ve had a complete blast performing with the Meathands, and I don’t see it ending any time soon. It’s just too much fun to give up.

Thank you to everyone that has come out to see one (or more) of our shows. It is always a huge honor when someone spends their valuable time seeing me make a fool out of myself on stage. And it’s such a kick to see our audience regulars come back again and again. It really tells me we’re doing something right. For those who haven’t made it out yet, I hope to get the chance to share this pure joy and fun with you soon.

And of course thank you to the Magic Meathands for letting me play and making me laugh.

For our show schedule, check out my last blog post here, or check in with MagicMeathands.com. You can also ‘like’ our Facebook fan page.

Improv Trilogy: Me & the Magic Meathands this Thursday & Saturday and next Thursday

3 Chances to Get Lotsa Laughs! Collect ’em all!

Corey Blake is a featured player in the next two Thursday night performances of the Magic Meathands at The Spot Café & LoungeThursday, April 9 & 16, 8:00 PM, $5.00.

Also, Corey joins the Magic Meathands as they crash another Student Medley showcase, also at The Spot Café & LoungeSaturday, April 11, 8:00 PM, $Free.

Don’t miss a chance to catch improv magic happen live on stage! Every show is completely different – that’s the magic of improv comedy: made up on the spot!

Corey’s hands now meaty and magicy

A couple of weeks ago, I was formally invited to become a full member of the main company of The Magic Meathands improv comedy ensemble. I was and am honored to be asked, and so of course I accepted!

For the past year, I’ve been studying under director Bill Johnson’s Magic Meathands training program and performing in the Saturday student medley showcases once a month. It’s a great environment to learn and grow. I highly recommend it. (And I don’t even get any kind of commission!)

Now, I’ll be performing with the rest of the very funny main company members on a fairly regular basis on Thursday nights at The Spot Café & Lounge in Culver City, as well as other performances to be announced. Keep an eye on the Magic Meathands’ calendar.

My first show as a featured player of the main company will be next Thursday, January 29th, 8:00 PM. Admission: $5. Again, that’s at The Spot.

I hope to see you there!

Playing with the big boys & girls

The Golden Hour Approacheth!

I’ll be performing with the main company of The Magic Meathands this Thursday at The Spot Café & Lounge in Culver City at 8 PM. Tickets are $5.

Over the last year I’ve been studying under this group’s director Bill Johnson. Some of you have been to the “student medley” shows on Saturdays once a month. This Thursday show will be among my first performances with this wonderful improv group as I (hopefully) transition into the main company.

Please come by and support me, so that they’ll be fooled into thinking I’m really funny.