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March 1, 2011

Balancing Act: A Chat with Boston's Tim McIntire, Comic and Club Owner.
by Kate Ghiloni - 0

Tim McIntire is one of the most prolific comics in Boston, gaining notoriety for his Thursday Night Fights at The Comedy Studio, his edgy hosting job for the Boston Music Awards, and for his comedy albums, Poor Impulse Control and Scatterbrain. Tim has written for Nickelodeon, been featured on National Public Radio and appeared on TV (Comcast Comedy Spotlight). The Boston Globe has called him a "comic on the verge of stardom," and the Boston Herald has called him "a breakout comic to watch." Tim co-owns Mottley's Comedy Club in Boston's Faneuil Hall. Mottley's is a sponsor and venue of this year's WICF!

WICF: How did you get into comedy?

Tim: I grew up watching standup on TV in the '80s, during the first big comedy boom. And then Heather Erickson wrote in my 8th grade yearbook that I was really funny, which was all it took to plant the seed. I wanted to do it so badly, I was chicken to go to any open mikes, if that makes any sense, so I went to college and got a BFA in acting instead. Then I was out of excuses, so in November of 1992, I went to the "Comedy Clinic" in Boulder, CO, and entered their amateur contest. It was this weird little club that had old school desks and a snack bar, and I came in 2nd out of 3 entrants. The guy who won told me about the Comedy Corner in Colorado Springs, my hometown, which had a workshop and a weekly open mike. I went up there in January of 1993, and I've been doing shows ever since.

WICF: Who were your early influences and who do you like watching now?

Tim: Well, when I started, my biggest influence was a local comic named Ann Abeyta, who is still one of my best friends to this day. She was totally fearless on stage — her nickname was Ann the Anvil — and I wanted to have her level of swagger. I still don't, by the way. Troy Baxley from Denver was also a huge influence, and he's still probably my favorite comic working. Early on, I got to work with some amazing comics like Ron Shock and Mitch Hedberg, and that was because I got the majority of my work from Judi Brown, who booked my home club and some road rooms, and who has gone on to be a major player in the industry. I pretty much owe Judi (and her then partner now husband, Steve Marmel) my career.
Tim McIntire performs at The Comedy Studio.
Watching now, in addition to Baxley, I really especially love Louis CK and Eddie Izzard (both of whom are 100% honest on stage, which is what I love the most in a comic), and I think Amy Pohler is a bona fide genius. Parks and Recreation is my favorite show, and I'm a huge fan of The Mighty B.

Locally (and I'm afraid to mention anyone, because I don't want to leave anyone out), Ken Reid, Kelly MacFarland, Lamont Price, and Ira Proctor are all comics I'll go out of my way to see, and I think Jenny Zigrino is destined for greatness. I think Carolyn Plummer really deserves a mention for being one of the unsung heroes of Boston comedy. I've seen her kill in A rooms and road rooms and private parties and everywhere in between, and in the last few years, she's really found her voice. She's old school in that she really pays attention to the craft of comedy, and it's nice to see that in a scene that sometimes tends to favor the awkward and ironic over good, old-fashioned hilarious jokes.

WICF: Who are you favorite women in comedy?

Tim: Ever? Lucille Ball (NOBODY was funnier, ever) Elaine May and Carol Burnett (have you watched reruns of her show lately? Totally holds up).

Currently working? Giulia Rozzi is one of my favorites, and I am consistently blown away by Maria Bamford. She's one of those comics that makes you feel like a total hack because she is so creative and nonlinear on stage. And I might be biased, because they work at my club, but I think Erin Judge and Bethany Van Delft have a really special chemistry together, in addition to being great comics individually.

WICF: In addition to comedy you've also written a crime novel. Tell me a little about it. What other kinds of writing do you do?

Tim: Well, it's a crime novel that features a road comic, so it was really just a chance to use my comedy experiences in a slightly different way.

I've also written a handful of short stories, most of which are pretty dark, like Coyotes. I also wrote something on working with Ann Abeyta called Animal Style. It's nice to use different creative muscles, you know?

Lately, I'm actually writing a lot of haiku (I can't believe I just admitted that in print). I've been reading some of the Japanese masters, and it seems to me that a good haiku and a good joke aren't really that different. It's a good way to keep the chops up without feeling any pressure.

WICF: You also co-own Mottley's Comedy Club — how did that come about?

Tim: I have a web forum (now mostly defunct), and there was a thread on there about what a great comedy club would be like. I talked a really big game, and then Jon Lincoln and Jeff Fairbanks, my partners at Mottley's, pretty much called my bluff. They said they were looking to open a club in Boston and did I want to put my money where my mouth is. So I was in. We lucked into a great space and a great partnership with Trinity, and the rest is history.

WICF: Mottley's loves comics, you make us feel so welcome. Was that part of why you opened it?

Tim: Absolutely. We basically have a business model that treats comics as partners rather than the hired help. At least that's our goal. We pay the comics half the door for every show, and our Thursday hosts and our weekend headliners get to book their own acts. That way, we all have the same financial incentive to fill the room, and the shows have a really organic character, which I think just makes for better shows, which makes for happier audiences. Our comics are really producers, not just performers. Hopefully.

WICF: And you recently added a Tuesday workshop and open mic for comics ...

Tim: Well, the workshop is pretty much based on the workshop back in Colorado Springs from when I started. At my home club back then, you had to do a few workshops before you were allowed to do the open mikes. It was a way to ensure a certain baseline level of quality, you know? You can't teach funny, but you can help people fix their jokes a bit and show them how to hold a microphone. Renata Tutko, who runs the workshop and hosts the Tuesday show for us, dug that idea and has really taken it and made it her own. I really believe that if you give new comics a good place to develop, they'll get that much better that much faster, which is good for them and good for us, because it's in our interest to have a nice little farm system of new young talent.

WICF: What are the challenges of being a comic and running a club?

Tim: That's a tricky one. It's difficult to draw a line between those two personas, and even more difficult when you consider that pretty much all my friends are comics, too. In some cases, it's easy — some of my friends are great comics who I'm more than happy to book at the club. In some other cases, I have comics I love as people, or who I love doing gigs with, but who aren't the kind of acts we use at the club. Most people seem to get it, but it's led to a few conflicts. It's also made it more difficult for me to book myself, because there's a lot of implicit quid pro quo with other bookers, and many of them aren't Mottley's sort of acts.

WICF: Tell me about Mottley's partnership with Rooftop Comedy.

Tim: We love Rooftop! They came to us and asked if they could install one of their cameras in our club. It was the easiest decision we've made. They get content, we get exposure, and the comics get great video of themselves. And to top it off, Rooftop's helped book some great shows at the club and we've been able to hook a few comics up with them in contests and promotions and festivals and such. Plus, they produced Kelly MacFarland's CD at the club, and they're (hopefully) recording another local comic this summer (don't want to jinx him by giving it away too soon).

WICF: You've been in Boston comedy for nearly 10 years. How has the Boston "scene" changed — evolved (or devolved if that's the case)?

Tim: It's definitely evolved, and most of the credit for that should go to Rick Jenkins and The Comedy Studio. To the extent Mottley's has had any effect, it's mostly because we're trying to continue what Rick started — helping a wider variety of comics and styles find a place to perform in Boston. We've gone from a situation 10 years ago where you'd pretty much only see the same 5 white guys at all the Boston clubs to what we have now, where you can actually see women, comics of color, gay comics, and comics who (gasp) aren't even from Boston. John Tobin should get some credit, too, for opening Nick's up a bit, and I'm particularly impressed by the generation of comics who are right now creating a pretty big independent scene as well. That's a whole different outlook than what existed when I was coming up, and it's brilliant.

WICF: Mottley's is one of the hosts of WICF, and the club has also hosted other festivals. What's the best part of festivals, for you, personally?

Tim: Mostly, it's a chance to see a lot of new comics all at once. I love festivals, but I personally am not crazy about contests, which is one of the things I love about WICF — it's focused on showcasing comics and not on making them compete with each other and/or trying to get them to stack the crowd with their friends just to make money. The WICF really seems to just want to celebrate some talented people, which is 100% what a festival ought to do.

Want more of Tim? Find him here:
Website: The McIntire Conspiracy
Buy his CD: Scatterbrain
Facebook: Tim McIntire
Twitter: @timmymac

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