AJ Finney
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AJ Finney

Buffalo, Missouri, United States | MAJOR

Buffalo, Missouri, United States | MAJOR
Band Comedy Comedy




"Cover story: What’s so funny?"

Humor looms in the unlikeliest of places. Who would have guessed a nearly 90-something sitcom star would prevail as the ha-ha hero of 2010?

Probably no one. That is, until the lovably off-color Betty White busted our guts as host of “Saturday Night Live” in May, a performance that fetched her an Emmy Award last week.

That was among a handful of hilarious television appearances for White this year, which included a beer-pong match against Jimmy Fallon on his late-night show and a Snickers commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl.

But life is funny like that. You never know where you’ll find a good joke, but you’ll always learn that laughing matters — especially for those who make a living off of someone else’s laughter.

“When we perform comedy, we get to bring happiness and joy to people, and that’s pretty much the best thing you can do in the world,” said Tim Marks, an improv comic and director of the Kansas City Improv Festival, which runs Sept. 10 through 18 at Off Center Theatre in Crown Center.

“I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but it’s close to that.”

Kansas City has become a prime place for getting a giggle on. It’s the hometown of several rising stars in comedy, including Jason Sudeikis of “SNL” and Paul Rudd of “Dinner for Schmucks,” arguably the funniest movie of the year. The summer’s other side-splitter, “The Other Guys,” features a third Kansas City original, Rob Riggle. All three swept into town, along with funnyman Will Ferrell, for a charity event in June.

Other kings and queens of comedy have stopped through lately, including Conan O’Brien, Chelsea Handler and Tyler Perry. More big-name acts are on the way this fall: Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K.

Local talent performs in a slew of improv troupes and comedy clubs, such as The Kansas City Improv Comedy Club, which opened in Zona Rosa in July.

We sat down with six area comics and improvisers to discuss the business of being funny, the biggest jokes in Kansas City (including one professional sports team) and why people still need humor.

Ink: What is the funniest thing about Kansas City?

AJ Finney: “The Royals.”

Susanna Lee: “Power & Light.”

Finney: “Kansas City does have the cheeseburger homeless guy on the Plaza.”

Tim Marks: “I was just talking about him last night.”

Finney: “Were you really? I saw him in Boulder, Colo., and almost punched him in the face. He came up to me and said, ‘I’m trying to raise a down payment on a cheeseburger,’ and I was like, ‘See this? This is a five. What the fuck are you doing here? How did you get from Kansas City to here?’ and he goes, ‘Oh, my girlfriend and I got in a fight,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t even have a girlfriend. How do you have a girlfriend? You smell like a mosh pit.’

Marks: “We do have a lot of successful comedians who have come out of Kansas City. Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Eric Stonestreet.”

What else is funny?

Mike Baldwin: “Poop is funny. That’s it.”

Finney: “I love watching babies fall down. I do. Have you ever seen a baby fall down? It’s like they’re surprised.”

Baldwin: “Poop, sex, relationships, drugs.”

Lee: “The unexpected.”

Marks: “Airline peanuts.”

Lee: “My cats are funny. My cats are very funny.”

Finney: “I think white trash is hilarious, when you really break it down. White-trash battle cries, the abusive husband. Not in reality. If I saw it, I’d be like, ‘That’s sad.’

“But the thought of having James come flying in in his ’77 Trans Am with a blue door and run it right into the side of his trailer, and his kid is sitting there crying, and the wife comes out and goes, ‘What the hell’s your problem? Why’d you put that goddamn trailer there anyway?’ I go, ‘Wow. That is awesome.’?”

Marks: “I think anytime someone thinks they’re really cool and really great, and they’re not, we enjoy so much to see them fall. It’s a different flavor when it’s a redneck. He thinks the Trans Am is fucking badass.”

Finney: “Well, the Trans Am is badass.”

Lee: “I am not going to dispute the fact that the Trans Am is badass. I will merely raise the point that any of these situations are funny if you can be removed from them. If you’re the social worker who has to go to that trailer and remove the kids … maybe not so funny.”

Baldwin: “Suicide jokes can be funny, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be cool with it.”

Lee: “But humor’s subjective.”

Baldwin: “That’s what I’m saying. There’s no end to that spectrum. I think a comedian can talk about anything and get away with it.”

Lee: “I think that falls more on likeability and stage persona than actual material. Because someone that the audience likes can get away with doing anything. I have a lot of likeability onstage, so I can get away with doing abortion jokes and whatever. A newer comic could not do some of my material.”

Is there anything off-limits in comedy?

Bobby J.: “A few weeks ago, I tweeted: ‘I just woke up. I’ve gotta take my grandma to an abortion appointment.’ Like 60 people had retweeted it, and maybe out of 60 people, one or two were like, ‘Oh, man, that’s so wrong.’ But I don’t care anymore.”

Marks: “But if she can’t drive herself, how is that wrong? You can’t put her on a bus.”

(everybody laughs)

Bobby J.: “It’s always those people, just one or two people that you’ll have at that show, and for me, I don’t care. I just go at it. Because I write my jokes, like, OK, I hope people hate this. It’ll be funny, but it’ll be like, ‘Awwwww.’?”

Marks: “I think there are topics that are harder to find the humor in, but it’s almost like an accomplishment, too, when cancer comes up and you can make it into something where the whole audience is onboard with you.”

Jen Roser: “But I think also there are things that certain people can get away with that others can’t. I think you just have to be comfortable with what you want to say. Because I think some people say stuff just for shock value and it comes off horrible.”

Lee: “I think it’s a bad idea for comics to tackle topics that they’re not comfortable with.”

How do you handle hecklers?

Baldwin: “Ninety-nine percent of hecklers know in their hearts that they are helping the show and there’s no part of them that are like, ‘I’m gonna fuck with this guy.’?”

Bobby J.: “They get a kick out of it.”

Baldwin: “All they know is when they yell something out and we yell something back, everybody laughs. Almost 100 percent of the time, if you have a heckler, they will approach you at the end of the show and want to shake your hand and tell you how awesome you were.”

Lee: “It’s your job not to get tripped up. You can’t have any weak spot onstage.”

Why do people need humor?

Baldwin: “Laughter is a lot like crying. It’s the same body reaction or whatever. It makes you feel better when you’re done.”

Lee: “It’s cathartic.”

Baldwin: “The world is a sad place, and the more sad the world is, the more likely people are to laugh at stuff. Because they need that release, and people don’t feel comfortable crying.”

Lee: “I think comedy removes people from a situation that seems so serious.”

Roser: “And it might take you away from whatever it is shitty going on in your life, and maybe for that minute of that 30-minute or hour set something hits you so hard that you laugh so hard that maybe you even cry. It’s just the fucking funniest thing. And it takes you away from everything serious going on. And that’s the greatest gift you can give somebody.”

Baldwin: “That’s a great compliment to hear from someone.”

Finney: “?‘I needed that tonight because there’s been so much going on in my life.’?”

Baldwin: “And you hear like, ‘Man, you just really helped me out a whole lot.’ I get goosebumps just talking about it. That’s how excited I am.”

How has humor evolved over time?

Lee: “Things that people found funny in the ’50s aren’t funny now because they’re no longer a shock to hear. But I don’t mean saying something just for shock value. The punchline has to have some pow to it. And so you have to find something that’s out of the ordinary, and what’s become acceptable in regular conversation has changed.”

Finney: “Lenny Bruce would not be shocking today.”

Baldwin: “You have to be tickled. To be tickled, it’s like a combination of the right amount of touch and the right amount of unexpectedness, surprise. You can’t tickle yourself.”
Funny business

Members from our humor panel shared terms from their careers in comedy.

Getting heat: When a comic starts getting attention from the public.

Eating it: Having a horrible show. Also known as “eating shit,” “bombing” and “taking one to the face.”

Killing it: Having a great show.

Slapping the goose: Doing no wrong by the audience.

Tagline: A punchline after a punchline.

Callback: A recalled joke from earlier in the set.

Alternative comedy: Deviates from the standard premise-setup-punchline structure of joke telling.

Opener: First joke. Should be the funniest in the set.

Closer: Last joke. Should be the second-funniest in the set.
What’s funny to them

Six Kansas City comics and improvisers take a crack at the funniest people, ?TV shows and words:

Funniest comedians who are still alive: Louis C.K., Paul Rudd, Bill Burr, Kyle Kinane, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Regan, Matt Braunger, ?Kristen Schaal, ?Dwayne Kennedy,? Jane Lynch, Jason Lee, ?Dane Cook

Funniest comedians who aren’t still alive: Andy Kaufman, George Carlin, Mitch Hedberg

Funniest comedians who are barely still alive: Patton Oswalt

Funniest TV shows: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The IT Crowd,” “South Park,” “Family Guy,” “The Daily Show, ?“The Colbert Report,”? “The Office”

Funniest reruns: “The Golden Girls,” “Mork & Mindy”

Funniest words: “Bastard,” “scrotal,” “foreskin,” “taint”

The Kansas City Improv Festival

What: The 10th annual showcase of local and national improv comedy

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18

Where: Off Center Theatre in Crown Center

Tickets: $7.50-$22.50 per night

Info: toofunnytofail.com, 816.842.9999

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Read more: http://www.inkkc.com/content/cover-story-whats-so-funny/#ixzz1U6Qf61os
- ink

"Ha Ha, Very Finney"

Stand-up comedy is a rough business that entails lengthy tours connecting obscure towns, seedy exit-ramp motels, and gigs at strip-mall venues with names like the Laff Factory Outlet and T.J. McYuckYucks. There are a number of paths to the top, including (1) Ed Hardy T-shirts and a watered-down Louis C.K. impression (see: Dane Cook), (2) shouting stolen Bill Cosby jokes directly at the camera without nuance or feeling (see: Carlos Mencia), or (3) being really appealing, brilliant and funny (see: Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman). Kansas City native A.J. Finney has been performing around the country for a number of years and has now landed a record deal. Starting April 20, he appears for a five-day run of shows at Stanford's Comedy Club (1867 Village West Parkway, in Kansas City, Kansas, 913-400-7500). He plans to record some evenings' performances for an upcoming CD. Is he funny? We trust Alan Scherstuhl, former Pitch theater critic and aficionado of funny things, who once said, “He’s funny, likable even between jokes and he lets each bit build until it explodes.” See Finney at 8 p.m. on his opening night. For tickets and additional show times, see stanfordscomedyclub.com.
Wed., April 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., April 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 22, 7:45 & 9:45 p.m.; Sat., April 23, 7:45 & 9:45 p.m.; Sun., April 24, 7 p.m., 2011 - Chris Packham / THE PITCH

"Q5: Comedian earns recording contract AJ Finney"

Leavenworth, Kan. —

AJ Finney is a former Leavenworth resident now a nationally-decorated comedian. Finney is beginning a five-day tour stop tonight at Stanfords Comedy Club at The Legends at Village West. He has shows tonight, Thursday and Sunday and two shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Call 913-400-7500 for ticket information.

1. You have just earned a recording contract to make a comedy album with Uproar Entertainment. Tell us about your career and how you gotten to this point with record deal?
I have been doing Stand-Up now for about seven years. In 2007 I was a finalist in HBO's Lucky 21 Competition, and landed a spot at The Las Vegas Comedy Festival. I was the producer of the Max and Tanna Morning Show on 99.7 KY until 2008. In 2010 I landed an audition for Last Comic Standing, also a spot at The World Series Of Comedy In Las Vegas, The Iowa Comedy Festival, Trial By Laughter, and The Seattle International Comedy Competion. I met David from Uproar at the World Series of Comedy, and he had shown interest in recording me. After I made it to semifinals in Seattle, the offer was made!

2. You negotiated to have the album recorded live at performances this week at Stanford Comedy Club in Kansas City. Why was that important to you have it recorded in Kansas City.
I felt it would be a better representation of me as a artist to preform near the place I was created. Kansas City is were I started doing stand-up, and Leavenworth is were I was born, and luckily for me, Stanford's Comedy Club is sandwiched between the two.

3. You were born at Saint John's Hospital and graduated from Pleasant Ridge High School and live in Leavenworth or Lansing until age of 22. What do you remember about your time in the Leavenworth community?
Family, good friends, 1920 Vilas, The Town Pub, Pullmans Restaraunt, lots of partys that I'm lucky to remember, a primer gray 1980 Camaro, my first job at High Noon Saloon, Mike’s Records and Tapes (Yes I remember when it was records), skateboarding at David Brewer Park, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Landing 4 Theater, The Kiddy Land Dinosaur, AJ Finney & Son's Construction, the Leavenworth Community Center, the Jackson Apartments, Homer’s Drive In, Food-4-Less at 3 in the morning, and asking a stranger at Cody park after a long night if they "knew who I was."

4 Were there signs during your younger years here in this community that you were going to be a comedian? I mean, were you the class clown or always known as a funny guy?
Oh yeah! I was a handful! In constant need of attention, and always looking for laughs. I also come from a family of long winded storytellers.

5 Your star is on the rise. What kinds of projects are in store for you in the future and how can hometown fans here follow your career?
I will be particapating in the 2011 San Fransico International Comedy Competition, The 2012 Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta, and planing for a Comedy Central appearance in early 2012. I can be heard most every Tuesday from 2 -7 on Black Sky Radio. (www.blackskyradio.com) And you can always check out my website at (www.ajfinney.com.

— Dale Brendel
Copyright 2011 Leavenworth Times. Some rights reserved - By Tim Linn Leavenworth Times

"AJ Finney's Brain Dont Work No Good"

AJ Finney is pretty fantastic. He’s high energy…that doesn’t come close to describing that! He’s a manic ball of comedy energy and instantly likable! I’ve gotten to work with him once, but I saw him again earlier this year at the Detroit Comedy Festival. He’s a super awesome guy who just released his new CD this week! He was nice enough to let me bounce some questions off of him. Enjoy!
I’ve gotten to see you a couple times now and I’m amazed at you manic energy on stage. How did your style come about?

I think over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable letting the audience see me for all my internal disorders. Were most people hide their insanity with medication, I embrace my eccentricities and employ improvisation as tool wrangle my ADHD. That’s not saying that my chosen lifestyle over the years hasn’t also intensified my already overactive imagination and anxiety issues.

You do well with audiences and your peers respect you a whole lot too. Are you planning on staying in the midwest or do you have plans to make a move to one of the coasts.

I will always consider the Midwest home, but I will go where I need to in the future. Right now I’m enjoying all the experiences the road has to offer like interesting conversations with strangers, canned beer, black outs, sleeping in my car, radio interviews, hecklers, art museums, hipster dive bars, waking up naked in a hotel lobby, malls, strip clubs, Canada, who’s in my bed…wait this isn’t my bed, all for 30-60 minutes of stage time, to battle for laughs and I love every minute of it.

You’re new CD is coming out this week…unless I’m mistaken about that! Tell me about it!The CD is titled “AJ Finney My Brain Don’t Work No Good” which was recorded live at Stanford’s Comedy Club in Kansas City, and is being released Tuesday July 26th on Uproar Records. It’s an explorative experience about how I interpret the world through my rusty bucket of wiggle worms, interlaced with stories of love, loss, rum, and my intense obsession with green beans.

You have a lot of festivals under your belt. Do you have any advice for people who are maybe doing one for their first time?

Submit to as many festivals as possible. If you don’t make it, hey apply next year or attend anyway as an audience member. If you get in have as much fun as possible. I’ve actually gotten more work from fellow comedians that I’ve met at competitions than I ever have by winning one. “Networking is the name of the game”

I find with the auditioning process for a festival or any big thing I tend to get in my head and psyche myself out. How do you stay level headed when you go out for things?

With festivals and auditions, do as many as possible, the more you do the easier it gets. Always perform with confidence. My opinion is they aren’t judging you’re material as much as they’re judging you as a person, do they like you?, can they sell you?..etc.

I’m proud of the fact that newer comedians read my site and I have access to picking the brains of some great comedians like yourself. What advice do you have for the newer people?

First off thank you for the compliment Mike. My advice to anyone starting off is to become completely obsessed with the art form itself, the history, the artists, the formulas, everything comedy. Realize your career choice is a marathon not a sprint, it takes time to develop your voice as an artist.
Where can people find out more about you?
- Mike Bobbitt / OFF THE MIKE

"AJ Finney: "My Brain Don't Work No Good" (Review)"

“The hardest part about killing a unicorn,” AJ Finney declares, “is sobering up after about three days and trying to explain to your neighbor why you’ve been shooting arrows through his motorcycle.” This is Finney in a nutshell: a self-affirmed idiot-boozehound with a penchant for drugs, sex and mayhem.

On his debut album My Brain Don’t Work No Good, Finney truly sees the humor in unfortunate situations. After undergoing a hernia operation, for example, he takes comfort in his Vicodin prescription. When he beds a woman with poor landscaping down under, he tells her to be proud of it (but to simply warn him). And when he reveals that he was dropped several times as a baby, he tells the audience they should laugh at his suffering.

Finney comes off extremely confident, never seeming unsure of his material’s power. Listening to the album in its entirety, it’s safe to say that Finney is 100 percent invested in and committed to his material. At times, though, Finney gets a little too cute. He refers to his brain as “a rusty bucket of wiggle worms,” and when trying to pick up a woman at a bar, he declares, “Welcome to heaven. Population: me.” These are lines that don’t to merit inclusion in Finney’s otherwise solid act.

AJ Finney: “The Infamous Canoe Trip” by dgadino

In this way, Finney’s pacing is a bit scattered. He’s a very lively and energetic personality; he talks fast and he has a unique inflection that works well for his voice. But at times, he breaks his rhythm for unknown reasons. This doesn’t hurt the album, but it doesn’t help, either. Despite these criticisms, My Brain Don’t Work No Good is a wonderful debut. The content on the album is so rich and nuanced that any objections one may have are rendered almost negligible.

Finney is a storyteller: a tad verbose at times, but that’s part of his charm. Finney milks his jokes for every ounce of comedy he can find. He doesn’t go straight to the punch line; he instead massages the bit, coaxing out the funny and taking us on a journey. As Finney says, his being on stage is “a bit therapeutic.” He’s obviously discovering himself while performing. As he’s going through this emotional journey, he’s taking us along for the ride. It’s a crazy ride, but it’s a fascinating one, as well.

You can now download AJ Finney’s My Brain Don’t Work No Good on iTunes. - LaughSpin


My Brain Don't Work No Good, Released on Uproar Entertainment 2011

Spice Rum
Ugly Woman
My Brain Don't Work No Good
The Bridge
Groin Hernia
Man Code
Beautiful B. Woman
The "Infamous" Canoe Trip
The Tattooed Lady



Earning himself a spot as a finalist in HBO’s Lucky 21 competition, A.J. Finney is quickly becoming recognized for his explosive personality and uncanny logic. He performed at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival, was the third place winner of Trial By Laughter, and was a semifinalist at the 31st annual Seattle International Comedy Competition. His CD "My Brain Don't Work No Good" can been heard on SiriusXM Radio, Pandora, and he was a "Featured Comedian" on 24/7 Comedy Radio. Finney is an effective story teller with an inclination towards pandemonium. His over the top imagination allows him to make even the most sensitive subjects tickling to his audience.