12 Questions For Bentzen Ballers (part 1)

by | Oct 19, 2009 | MUSIC

The Bentzen Ball is a comedy festival in Washington DC 10/22- 25th. Curated by Tig Notaro and featuring great comics from across the city and country. Named after an unfortunate soul who supposedly died while watching A Fish Called Wanda the Bentzen Ball is not to be missed by any fan of comedy.

The Bentzen Ball is a comedy festival in Washington DC 10/22- 25th. Curated by Tig Notaro and featuring great comics from across the city and country. Named after an unfortunate soul who supposedly died while watching A Fish Called Wanda the Bentzen Ball is not to be missed by any fan of comedy. Comics include: Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Todd Barry, A.D. Miles, Aubrey Plaza and more. Check out www.bentzenball.com for information and tickets.

Below is an interview with Seaton Smith, Nick Thune, and Jen Kirkman all of whom you can see at this year’s Bentzen Ball.

Johnny Hugel: What film set in DC presents your ideal image of the city?

Seaton Smith: Being There (1979) .

Nick Thune: Forrest Gump.

Jen Kirkman: I think the Will Smith documentary Independence Day captures it the best.

What advice do you have for surviving these types of fests?

Seaton: Liquor

Nick: Bring a rain coat. Forget that you brought it. Buy a new one. Then, when you try and return the new one after you found your old one.

Jen: Surviving? I didn’t realize the comedy festival was going to be set in a jungle.

How do you kill time while traveling?

Seaton: Podcasts: tony kornheiser, bill burr, this american life, and the audio book of the alchemist. Also a lot of MF DOOM.

Nick: Usually, I get on a bus and tell them to take me to the nearest Circuit City. This has been a problem ever since Circuit City went bankrupt. I love exploring cities. Also, I like to bring a rain coat. Forget that I brought it. Then, buy a new one.

Jen: I take klonopin and sleep. When I’m awake I stare at fashion magazines and worry.

What’s your most recent horror story from traveling?

Seaton: I was supposed to be picked up from the airport but the students decided to forget about that so I had to figure out the St Louis subway system, which would have been fine, but I had to get change for a fifty, but because of the annoying TSA I can’t go back into the airport to get change. People turn into assholes when you ask for change!

Nick: Forgot my phone charger in my Hotel Room. I’m still in court with the Hotel… the legal process can be excruciating.

Jen: I got in a fight with a stewardess because she thought I was using an iPhone when I was just playing a hand-held game. She kept calling me “little girl” even though I’m a 35 year old woman. She was making fun of me to the other passengers as we were landing saying things like, “Some people are too stupid to know where an “off” button is so they deserve what they get.”

Who do you find funny but totally under-appreciated?

Seaton: Love. Or breaking into your girlfriends email account to see who she’s talking to because you’re in love.

Nick: Todd Barry.

Jen: Jerry Seinfeld.

When was the last time you discovered someone from the Internet that surprised you by making you laugh?

Seaton: I follow a twitter called “Shitmydadsays” it’s brilliant

Nick: Kyle Mooney

Jen: This has never happened. There was a video I really enjoyed of a cat who rode the bus every day for fun. No comedian has ever topped that.


What has been the impact of tools like Twitter and Facebook on your career and the projects you’re involved in?

Seaton: So far not much, I’m not using it right.

Nick: My family relationship has gotten worse since twitter came around. My mom still calls me everyday… I told her, “Just check my Twitter.” Also, I’ve been learning to balance micro blogging and actual work. Twitter is great for instant gratification. You can write a joke and see a response instantly. Writing a script or making a series, that’s a long term payoff. The long term pay off is bigger too. Although, for a comedian, having a tweet get re-tweeted… that’s probably what it feels like for a cop when he saves someones life.

Jen: I now can actually interact with people who normally I’m happy to just perform in front of. But now I can see that my fans don’t know how to spell.

Have you noticed a difference in the requirements of a performer vs what it may have been like when you first imagined yourself doing this for a living?

Seaton: Yes, I have to drink a lot more tea and wear scarves to preserve my throat. When I get sick the first thing to go is my voice. And it’s very hard to do standup without a voice. It’s kind of sad actually.

Nick: I think the main requirement is still necessary: BE FUNNY. Also, it seems comedians need to work a little harder now than before… a lot of things to keep up with. Do you have a blog? how often do you update twitter? are you making short films? Then, after all that, are you writing jokes for your stand up?

Jen: I knew it would be hard but I didn’t realize when and how success comes – would make no sense. But that’s the fun part of it. It’s like gambling. You just have to keep sitting in your chair and pulling the lever and eventually you’ll win or go broke trying.

Do you think someone from a small town with an interest in comedy would have an easier time getting attention today than when you started out?

Seaton: Getting attention? Yes. Getting positive attention? No.

Nick: Sure. Look at some of the kids who have careers because of youtube or other sites… I try not to look at them… but they are there.

Jen: Probably because of the internet they could but that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s like showing the world your boobs before they are fully developed.

What sources of learning would you point to as being imperative to your growth as a performer?

Seaton: Acting classes. that should be imperative if you want to be a great comedian.

Nick: Experience. I’m sure most comedians say this: Going up on stage and failing is what taught me. Also, I try not to watch other comedy. I want my comedy to come from a place of Comedy Ignorance.

Jen: The only thing that can help you learn is watching other performers, live and often.

What are you finding funny these days?

Seaton: Stephen Colbert. His character is perfect in a perfect situation. he’s having the most fun on television and with his publicity stunts he’s amazing.

Nick: Dogs make me laugh. Also, my outgoing voicemail message is pretty good.

Jen: Anything Larry David does.

If you don’t pull a Bentzen and die of laughter, what else do you have coming up the next few months?

Seaton: A LOT of colleges. But I have a fun local show that I run at a venue called “Fireflies” in Alexandria!

Nick: Fun Fun Fun fest in Austin, TX. Doing more segments I wrote for The Jay Leno Show… that has been taking a lot of my time.

Jen: I’ll be heading to Australia for a week in November with the show Chelsea Lately (I’m a writer and performer on the show) and I’ll be at the Warfield theatre in San Francisco on December 5th. Otherwise I’m just out and about in L.A. doing shows – people can find out on my myspace page. Myspace.com/jenkirkman


by Johnny Hugel
All images are courtesy of their respected owners and occur in the order of interview appearance.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

more in music

Sound Check: Fighting Gravity, DIIV, Oddisee, and Upchuck

It is a fantastic week to get lost in music. The docket for this week is looking like nothing but refreshing and fulfilling tunes, absolutely what I need to combat the mood this ungodly and violent heat has presented to our pacifist city. With this lineup there is a...

Chandler, Los Malcriados, & Flight Club: Sound Check

Hello RVA! This weekend the city is going to be popped and packing with some big bills with bigger acts. It is prime time to see the incredibly diverse talent the city is currently providing, along with some exciting out of town acts thrown into the mix. My name is...

Photos From the Strawberry Moon Show at The Camel

Photographer Benjamin Lahoussine captured a killer set by powerhouse shredder punks Strawberry Moon the other weekend at The Camel. Known for their high-energy performances and raw, unapologetic sound, Strawberry Moon delivered. Here are the photos for those that...

Sam Barber, Grails & Burns Burly west: Sound Check

A wild and varied week it will be, with concert goers having to pick their sound of choice this weekend. Down on the Friday Cheers stage comes a rotation of country and folk artists headlined by the increasingly popular sound of Sam Barber, backed up by Jake Kohn and...

3 Bands, 3 Words: Ratfight, Psyop & Cardiel at Cobra Cabana

The night is started off by one of Richmond's newest and proudest quadruplets, Ratfight. I ask the tattooed and mustachioed singer Colter Smalley for a word on their performance. "Fuck," he gives me simply. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWR6-Tgj-YI The group rings...

Photos from the Baroness & Ruby the Hatchet Show

Over the weekend, The Broadberry in Richmond was electrified by powerful performances from Baroness along with Ruby The Hatchet and Final Gasp. The bands delivered a night of heavy rock, leaving the crowd energized and buzzing. Here are the photos for those that...