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The Pre-Show Rituals of 8 Famous Comedians

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Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Even the most practiced comedians need a moment or two to themselves before they take the stage to make audiences laugh. Here are the pre-show rituals of eight famous comedians.

1. LOUIS C.K. // SILENCE

“I try not to talk to people before I go on stage,” Louis C.K. told Laughspin. “Sometimes I’ll sit in the back of the club while the other comedians are on. But I’m not watching him; I’m watching the crowd and feeling the room. I get antsy. I don’t like waiting to go on stage. I get very anxious and it’s just uncomfortable. I learned that it’s important to seize on that instead of running away from it. So I stay in the back and bottle up the energy so that when I go on stage I’m more connected.”

2. KEVIN HART // RALLY CRY

Kevin Hart prides himself on his work ethic. He always reminds himself of his hard work and determination before he takes the stage. Hart huddles up his group of friends into a circle and leads the group in a rallying cry before every performance. He yells, “Everybody wanna be famous,” while his friends scream back, “But nobody wanna put the work in!”

3. SARAH SILVERMAN // SUGAR-FREE RED BULL

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Sarah Silverman’s pre-show ritual varies from performance to performance, but she likes to drink a sugar-free Red Bull before going on stage. “I got to the hotel, went on Google Maps and looked up the nearest vegetarian place,” Silverman told Schmooze Magazine in 2008. “I ordered and picked it up in a cab. Then I took a bath; I like to take a nice little soak ... I had my Diet Red Bull.”

A few years later, in 2013, Silverman changed up her routine, but still kept the Red Bull ritual going. “I write out a set list and yell at myself for waiting until the last minute. And I have a sugar-free Red Bull,” she told PrideSource.com.

4. AZIZ ANSARI // SPICY CHICKEN

Although his manner is easygoing, Aziz Ansari is extremely detailed when it comes to honing his skills as a standup comedian. According to a profile on Ansari in The New Yorker, he studies his past shows to try to find ways to make it better. “Ansari records each of his performances, and he usually listens to the last one right before the next one, taking note of which interjections are worth repeating,” wrote Kelefa Sanneh. And when he’s in Nashville, he likes to eat chicken from Prince's Hot Chicken Shack.

5. ELLEN DEGENERES // MINTS

Before each performance, Ellen DeGeneres likes to get her blood flowing with a few stretches—and she likes to smell good. "I like to shower. I like to shower first and comb my hair," she told E! News before hosting the Oscars in 2014. "I like to smell good. I'll put something that smells good on. My breath, I like to do a mint of some sort. And I'll do a couple of sit-ups and push-ups. That's what I do. And I stretch."

In addition, DeGeneres throws a mint in the air and catches it in her mouth before beginning her monologue during every episode of her daytime talk show, Ellen.

6. CHRIS ROCK // PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC

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Before he takes the stage, Chris Rock likes to listen to Parliament Funkadelic. He also gets his energy up by drinking Mountain Dew and doing hundreds of jumping jacks backstage.

7. CAMERON ESPOSITO // WRITING

While some standup comedians take great strides to meticulously craft their acts and performances, Cameron Esposito sits at the bar and furiously writes her set list before every show. “What’s cool about comedy is you can think about it like music,” Esposito explained. “Once you’ve developed the specific joke, that joke will have a one- or two-word name, just like a song. Before a band goes up, they write down the songs they’re planning on doing in a specific order. Comics do the same thing.”

8. DANE COOK // A BANANA

Dane Cook doesn’t need much to warm up before he takes the stage. While he doesn’t have a formal pre-show ritual, he has to have a banana before every performance. “I just always have to get potassium. I have to eat a banana, and that's about it,” he told The University of South Florida's student newspaper. “No pre-show rituals. Just a little potassium, and let's do this—where's the mike?”

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Shout! Factory
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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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