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April 26, 2016

WICF Interviews: Comedian Josh Poirier Founded "Shaky Premises" After His Parkinson's Diagnosis to Produce Comedy Shows for a Cause
by WomenInComedy - 0

Josh Poirier hosting Shaky Premises at the Riot Theater
Interviewed by Michelle Barbera

On April 14th, I went to Jamaica Plain (a diverse and creative neighborhood in Boston, MA) to see the Shaky Premises-produced night of stand-up comedy at the small indie comedy spot, The Riot Theater. Comedian and producer Josh Poirer was hosting a night of stand-up and musical comedy to raise funds for Parkinson's research (April is Parkinson's Awareness Month). The benefit show was conceived by Poirier and produced with Dave Thomas in the weekly Stand Up-Break-In slot. The show features a mix of established along with those just "breaking into" stand up.

Headliner Dana Jay Bein, Featured comics Danielle Andruskiwec, Dan Crohn, Kwasi Mensah, Kate Procyshyn, Vinnie Pagano, Anthony Scibellli, April comic-in-residence Paul Landwehr, and Break-ins Susan Boitano and Chris Nolan
One of the night's comedians, Kate Procyshyn, suggested every comic be brought on stage to Sarah McLachlan songs, to evoke the pathos of the infamous MSPCA spots for which she provided the soundtrack and narration. The music choice set the irreverent but affectionate tone of the evening, as most of the comedians were friends of Josh's. Headliner Dana Jay Bein didn't shy away from addressing Josh's Parkinson's Disease in his set, thereby setting up Josh for one of the best punchlines of the night:

Dana: Nobody has my new album. Does anyone have my new album?
Josh: I have it.
Dana: The shaky guy was able to order it.
Josh: Well, I was actually trying to order something else.

I caught up with Josh after the show to talk to him about Shaky Premises, his other shows, and how Parkinson's has affected him and his comedy:


WICF: Can you tell me about the Shaky Premises concept?
JOSH: Shaky Premises is a concept that I came up with shortly after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and realized that I could use comedy to raise funds for research into a cure for the disease. It is going to be an on-going fundraising effort that I wanted to get off the ground during Parkinson’s awareness month and will continue to fit in a show here and there wherever possible, planning, hopefully to have at least a show every month or two. Basically it’s a blanket term to throw over different shows that I produce or that friends produce to bring awareness to Parkinson’s Disease and to try and raise some funds. It’s already proven fruitful with $219 raised during the first show. My goal is $1500 by the end of the year.

WICF:  You produce a number of other shows in addition to Shaky Premises. Can you tell us about them?
JOSH:  Interesting Points and Tight Five are two shows that I co-produce/produce. Interesting Points is and always will be my baby. It’s a tribute to my love of British-style panel shows, such as QI, Would I Lie to You, and Mock the Week, among others. It’s really just a bunch of comedians getting to riff off one another’s stories and things that they are “experts” in. The show started in January 2013 and we just wrapped our 36th show at ImprovBoston on the night that Shaky Premises debuted at the Stand-Up Break-In. I created that show, but enlisted David Thomas as a co-producer to help book it properly. The other show, Tight Five, which I co-created with Sean Clarke, is an improvised stand-up show where comedians make up five minutes of material on the spot based on Powerpoint slides put together by Sean and me prior to the show. Sean is great to work with, and a great friend and has been incredibly supportive throughout the whole process. We will see Tight Five under the Shaky Premises banner. I think we’ve had about twenty-five shows since 2013, and we'll be doing a Shaky Premises/Women in Comedy Month version of it on April 29th at 11PM at ImprovBoston. I also co-produced and am still involved with IB’s Stand-Up Throwdown tournament currently in its third year.  I have a bunch of other ideas which are in the works and you should see soon.


WICF: Any more plans for benefit shows?
JOSH: Yes, definitely. We have the one at IB on April 29th and will have another on 8/18 at The Riot. I am going to be working a lot closer with the National Parkinson Foundation to get the word out there and fit as many as I can in before I become a dad in October, and after as well. I just know my life is gonna change quite a bit once that happens.

WICF: How have other comedians reacted to your diagnosis?
JOSH: Very well actually, everyone’s been great. David Thomas hates me because of all the new material I’ve gotten from it. I was recently on the panel at the roast of Dana Jay Bein and gave them free reign to make fun of it, and wow, did they take up the challenge. I haven’t had a negative reaction yet, and even if I did, like Taylor Swift says, I’ll just Shake It Off.

WICF: How has Parkinson's affected your comedy?
JOSH: It’s given me a whole new avenue of material, that’s for sure. I’ve written about 10 minutes of new material just based off of the disease and my stories around it. But also, to be honest, it had made me a bit more gun shy to get on stage because it’s such a visible disease that I get self-conscious before I get on stage and it kept me from getting up there for about 6 months, until I said screw it, and now I feel better than ever up there, shaking and all.

WICF: What are some things about Parkinson's people might not know and should?
Josh: Parkinson’s is a disease that is probably within 5 years of having a cure. A lot of that is because of The Michael J Fox Foundation, the NPF (National Parkinson’s Foundation), and the PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation). The disease itself is insidious and affects every aspect of your life, and like snowflakes, very few Parkinson’s disease patient’s symptoms are the same. I have Young Onset Parkinson’s, which usually hits around the age of 40, but only accounts for 1 – 2% of the population of patients, most experiencing it after 65. Everyone knows about the tremors, what people don’t see is the exhaustion, the tightness of your affected limbs, and the pain that comes with it. It is also a very slowly progressing disease and will in time take most everything that requires movement (including speech) away from you, although that is a long way off for me and I’m not even on the preferred treatment yet, so I have a lot of good years ahead of me. I didn’t want this part to be all sad and maudlin, but it is a sobering disease that affects over a million people in the US and the more people know about it, the better. You can learn a lot from here.

WICF: How has impending father hood affected your comedy?
JOSH: It hasn’t yet, wait, holy s**t! I’m gonna be a dad!

WICF: In a previous conversation, you described Dana Bein as your comedy mentor. Tell us more about that.
Headliner Dana Jay Bein
Josh: Class act all the way and one of my best friends in comedy and in general. He was my first stand-up teacher at IB and gave me a lot of tips and tricks to make my comedy better. He is like a comedy force of nature, in that he blows a lot of hot air (sorry, the roast is still fresh in my mind). One of the best people to have on your side and always makes sure that he gives 100% in everything he does, and it inspires me to do the same. When it comes to mentors though, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Maria Ciampa, Kelly McFarland, and Will Luera, all of which in one way or another, kept me going in comedy.

WICF: How have you come up with your show ideas?
JOSH: In the shower (sorry for that image), but it’s true, being there allows my mind to shut off from the constant noise of the world and focus on comedy. Just like most American TV, I take a lot of inspiration from the Brits, they have a different take on comedy, where all the rules are pretty much thrown out the window and people are just allowed to be funny in any way possible. Sometimes I will come up with a name and a show will form around that, because sometimes a great name needs a show built up around it. I have one that I’m trying to get up on its feet again called Generationalities, where I have comics of different age groups give their take on the same subjects.

April 14th's full comed lineup: Danielle Andruskiwec, Dana Jay Bein, Vinnie Pagano, Dan Crohn, Anthony Scibelli, Kate Procyshyn, Chris Nolan, Josh Poirier, Kwasi Mensah, and Susan Boitano (Not pictured: Paul Landwehr)
WICF: What comedy are you listening to these days?
EMILY: Kyle Kinane (one of the best in the business right now), Patton Oswalt, Chelsea Perretti, Pete Holmes, Maria Bamford, Brian Posehn, and Brits Jimmy Carr, Russell Howard, and American Ex-Pat Reginald D. Hunter. I also love Noel Fielding, but he’s more of a sketch comedian than a stand-up.

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If you live in the Boston area, you can purchase tickets for the Women in comedy Month/Shaky Premises edition of Tight Five happening on Friday, April 29th, at 11 pm at ImprovBoston in Cambridge here.



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