The (Not-Yet Power) Power Comedy Couple
The first thing I noticed about Michelle Slonim and Ben Rosenfeld was their complementary, almost-matching glasses frames. The second thing I noticed about them was that, like their complementary eyewear, they complement each other well.
Michelle is a comic and producer who knows how to make her own opportunities. She’s appeared on web shows for Comedy Central and HBO and on SiriusXM Radio and you can catch her and shows she produces all around the city at various comedy clubs and in people’s homes (more on that later!).
Ben is, you guessed it, also a comic. With a passion for writing he’s appeared on FOX’s Laughs, CBS This Morning, National Geographic’s Brain Games, NPR Weekend Edition, SiriusXM Radio, Rooftop Comedy and been featured as TimeOut New York’s Joke of the Week.
I sat down with this (not-yet power) power comedy couple to talk about how they make a living in the comedy business, their comedy passions, and how they met.
CJ: So, how did you guys meet?
Michelle: Oh, you love this story.
Ben: You start.
Michelle: So, we’re both comedians and we met at a comedy show.
Ben: That’s the short answer.
Michelle: We were on the same bill of the comedy show on the Lower East Side — and I remember kind of talking to him and, you know, it was a conversation that was decent. Then like a week later I saw him at another show and started talking to him again.
Ben: You were like, “You don’t remember me do you?” And I was like, “Nope.”
Michelle: So, yeah. I saw him again and he didn’t recognize me and like — who doesn’t recognize this face?
Ben: This is the time to mention that I have prosopagnosia, where I’m kinda face blind.
Michelle: It’s an actual thing.
Ben: It is! I recognize people eventually but I need to see them like five or ten times, or a few times but in the same exact context.
Michelle: I like to think that my personality is so sparkling that I would be memorable… but, anyway, the third time we met.
Ben: It was this Lower East Side music and comedy thing where it starts out like 7:00 p.m. and goes ’til 2:00 a.m. or so, and I always showed up at like midnight after all my other shows. I’d fall asleep there and then get woken up to my name being called at like 2:00am.
Michelle: And I remember seeing him there sleeping thinking it was hilarious. So I took a picture of him and I posted it on Facebook (which I never do) and I made fun of him during my set – half my set was just like heckling him.
Ben: And the flirting started from there.
CJ: You guys are couple inspirations…speaking of inspirations [oy, I’m NOT a comedian] who are your comedy inspirations?
Michelle: I really like Carol Burnett. She would do these fun characters. I remember she had one where she walked with her butt sticking out, and I would walk around the house like that.
Ben: George Carlin by far. His material stands the test of time. Some of his stuff from like 15 years ago is more accurate now than when he wrote it. That’s the ultimate goal and compliment, to make your jokes specific but so evergreen and to make a point. If the audience, two weeks later, or a couple months later, notices something you said in their life, that’s the stuff I really like.
CJ: So, how did ya’ll get into “the comedy scene”?
Michelle: I used to throw Jewish singles parties. I did it because I wanted to find a guy. I also did a one-person show called “Michelle’s Jewish Date Party” and it was about these parties. Then I found standup comedy. It’s shifted from Jewish singles parties to actual standup comedy.
Ben: In college, my freshman year roommate who became a good friend, was doing stand-up, and I’d go around with him giving him notes and ideas. A couple of years out of college, he was still doing it. I was doing management consulting and I was on a project in Philadelphia and he was living in Atlantic City. After work, I started checking out Philadelphia open mics and little shows so if he was going to come visit, I would know where to send him. After two weeks of watching Philly open mics, I went back to the hotel and wrote a couple of pages of jokes and sent it to him, and I was like, “Maybe you can use some of this.” And he responded, “It’s not bad. Why don’t you try it?” So I thought, why don’t I try? I don’t know anyone in Philly. If it’s horrible, who cares? I was instantly hooked and I did it the next week, and the week after that. It felt amazing to be in a place where people were actually listening to what I have to say.
CJ: How do you make a living doing comedy?
Ben: There’s like six or seven different things that I’m constantly doing that are all comedy related. I perform stand up. I have two comedy albums people can buy on iTunes/Spotify/etc. or hear on SiriusXM. I write jokes for other comedians and keynote speakers. I have a best-selling book out, “Russian Optimism : Dark Nursery Rhymes to Cheer You Right Up.” I act and do radio voices. I also direct and edit comedy sketch videos and people performing. I also build websites for comedians. So between all that stuff, I get by.
Michelle: I produce comedy shows in people’s homes (and also not in people’s homes). Growing up in Manhattan I loved going to house parties. I could see how my classmates lived, check out their interesting homes, and see what snacks they offered guests. This was way more interesting than using my fake ID to get into bars. Flash forward to adulthood: I’m a standup comedian, wish I still needed a fake ID, and still prefer house parties to traditional New York City nightlife. The seed for Drawing Room Entertainment was planted when a friend of mine was hosting a jammin’ music birthday party in his home. I asked if we could incorporate a comedy show into the evening. And we did! The band took a break and my friend’s stairwell transformed into a stage and the comedy show began. People loved the intimacy of it and afterwards a few people came up to me and asked if I could put together a similar show in their home.
CJ: Where are your favorite places in New York to go to see comedy? Or to perform?
Ben: I’m going to go with the politically correct answer of…wherever they book me. But I will be recording my third LIVE stand up comedy album this September 24th at The People’s Improv Theater on East 24th Street, so that’s where TodayTix users should come check me out!
Michelle: I like doing my in-home comedy shows. They’re so cool because I’m in someone else’s apartment, and it’s New York or New Jersey, and you see how people live. It’s intimate and people are having fun. And if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?
So there you have it — real-life love and laughs with Michelle and Ben. Ready to fall in love or at least laugh out loud? Conveniently, it’s TodayTix Comedy Month.