Courtenay's blog | Live Wire Radio

We've done it before. Invited you to one of our rehearsals. Well, we're doing it again. Our writers have been furiously penning some epic sketches for our fall season, and we're hoping to get some feedback in the form of laughter or, in the worst-case-scenario, angry pummeling with purses and bike chains.

Here are the deets:

What: Live Wire's Fall Sketch Rehearsal, a.k.a. "Does This Sketch Make Me Look Fat?"

Where: Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland

When: Friday, August 26 from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Price: $0

Grab some food and drink from bar bar next door, take a seat and enjoy! Just remember, this isn't a performance...what you're seeing here is our figurative underwear*...we'll be stopping and starting as needed and there might be swears and angry exchanges between our actors and our new director, who we recruited from the David O. Russell school of actor communication. (<--language totally NSFW)

Hope to see you there!

*Real underwear must be negotiated separately with cast members.

by Courtenay on August 25, 2011 - 12:23pm.

Live Wire Radio Seeks Comic Voice Actors.

- Do you have an agile voice and quick wit?
- Do you enjoy performing LIVE in front of an audience?
- Are you easy-going, with a one-page performance rider that includes a tuna sandwich and a hug?

Live Wire is seeking one male voice, preferably with radio or voiceover experience, to add to the cast of Faces for Radio Theater (our sketch comedy troupe) as well as other voices to fill in when needed. Faces for Radio perform 6-8 sketches per 2.5 hour taping.

We’re looking for experienced voice actors with strong comic timing and a stable of voices in their back pocket. Sketch comedy veteran? Great! Have some improv training? Even better! Enjoy pigs in a blanket? SO DO WE!!

If you’re interested in auditioning, please send an email to with the following:
- a jpg of your headshot and your acting/voice resume (cut/paste text as opposed to an attachment)
- an mp3 attachment or link to your voice or film reel
- a link to your favorite video of a cat falling off of something

We will then contact qualified applicants to set up an audition time.

If you haven't heard a show, we highly recommend listening before auditioning to get a better idea of what we do. Just choose "podcasts" from the pull-down menu of the website or visit iTunes and search for "Live Wire Radio."

Commitment: 2 shows a month on a Friday or Saturday night from Sept.-December and February-June. (Fall show dates are listed on our website.) Each show requires 1-2 rehearsals. Live Wire is a non-equity, non-AFTRA show.

More about our show:
Live Wire is a radio variety show that records in front of a live audience twice a month, and airs on OPB, and various stations in California, Washington, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The show features music, interviews and original sketch comedy, and reaches almost half a million listeners a year.

by Courtenay on August 9, 2011 - 5:34pm.
Lizz Winstead leads the workshop.If you were one of the people at the workshop, you know that we couldn't shut up. At least our fingers couldn't shut up...writing, writing, writing, editing and writing like crazy people right up until the doors opened at...well, at 8:30. So 8 1/2 hours. So sue us.

An experiment in speed writing.
This was a new experience for Lizz, and for the 20 writers who attended. Start brainstorming at 12:30, have a show structure by 1, then first drafts of sketches by 3, and final drafts at 5:30. Oh. That'll be easy. No problem.

Weeeeelll. Okay, first draft by 3:30, final versions. By 6. No, wait...7. 7:30. Final drafts by 7:30!!!  We mean it!

Lizz was taking no prisoners. If she asked for suggestions once we had a show structure and you raised your hand and suggested a new show structure? Shut down. First rule of writing under the gun: Make a decision and STICK WITH IT. Be decisive.

Unless a better idea comes along. We'd decided the show structure would be Sarah Palin's bus tour traveling the country...and we'd meet all the people around it in various places. Then Live Wire writer Tyler Hughs suggested that when we got to Wasilla, we should see a historical play by the Wasilla Community Players, wherein they covered various historical events from Palin's perspective.

"Brilliant. That's the new structure of the show," said Lizz.

So, lesson 2: Be willing to change your mind when lightning strikes. Got it.

The deepest cut.
If your sketch wasn't in first-draft mode by 2:30, it was cut and you were absorbed into another group. If your sketch wasn't in good enough shape by 4:30 or 5, it was cut. Ouch. Seriously, ouch. Lesson 3: sometimes your sketch doesn't make the cut. In that case, jump in and help others edit their pieces. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The show.
After the audience had waited for an extra half hour, "Sarah Palin's People's History of the United States" went up. Donald Trump's ancestor in a "Coonskin Combover" (TM Tyler Hughs)? Check. Ronald Reagan curing AIDS? Check. Paul Revere delivering a Dirty-Harry-esque monologue, wondering if he'd reloaded his musket? Check.

All in all, a great day and a discovery that even someone who's never written a sketch, given the right leadership and a terrifying ticking clock, can churn out some great material in no time at all.
by Courtenay on June 14, 2011 - 11:35am.
If you were hoping to spend the weekend with Lizz Winstead, writer, comic, co-creator of The Daily Show, well, you're in luck!

Lizz is coming to Portland for our show Friday 6/3, which is fun enough. (More info on that here.) But wait, THERE'S MORE. On 6/4, Lizz will perform her new standup show at the Alberta Rose (get tickets here.) But wait, THERE'S EVEN MORE!

What's the point of a writer's workshop if you don't come out of it actually having written something? And what if that something were a show? That you performed? THE NIGHT OF THE WORKSHOP? 

Holy cripes. Is it a lesson in working under a deadline? Uh, yeah. Is it a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have the former Head Writer of the Daily Show be your head writer and director for a day? Pretty much. Will it be a crazy, intense day of learning and work? Absolutely. You should come!

Date: Sunday, 6/5
Time: 12-8 workshop, 8 p.m. SHOW!
Cost: $75
Sign up here!


As co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show and Air America Radio co-founder, Lizz Winstead is one of the top political satirists in America. As a performer, Lizz brought her political wit to The Daily Show as a correspondent and later to the radio waves co-hosting Unfiltered, Air America Radio's mid-morning show, where she brought on board Hip Hop legend, Chuck D and political big brain Rachel Maddow.

Lizz's talents as a comedian and media visionary have been recognized by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly's 100 most Creative People issue and has brought numerous television appearances, including Comedy Central Presents, weekly segments on The Ed Show on MSNBC and The Joy Behar Show on Headline News and is blogging regularly at The Huffington Post.

Currently Lizz is developing shows for television, touring the country with her standup and writing a book of personal essays for Riverhead Press due out in late 2011.

by Courtenay on May 27, 2011 - 6:04pm.
Haiku Hottie We asked Mike Russell, cartoonist, film reviewer, man-about-town to come to our show on Friday and draw it LIVE! Mike had done great work at the inspired Comics Night at the Opera, and he had drawn me previously for the Cort and Fatboy show, so it seemed to make sense to see what he might do for an entire Live Wire show.

It was a great night for him to come to the show: sex-positive feminist icon Susie Bright was there, as was humor writer Mike Sacks, storyteller Beth Lisick, poet Matthew Dickman and musical guests David Bazan and Celilo. He captured the night pretty perfectly. Just click and you'll see. Thanks SO much, Mike!!
by Courtenay on May 2, 2011 - 8:53am.

Did you miss our last show 'til the end of the summer with John Roderick and Richard Russo? Well, you can hear the podcast. It was FUN. So if you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that in the spring this year we DOUBLED the number of live shows to two a month and moved to a smaller venue at the Mission for many of them.

Why'd we do this? Well, we're hoping to become a viable option for stations around the country, and the only way to do that is to increase the amount of content we offer. So we did. Because we're take-action kinda people.

Next season, starting in September, we'll ramp up and do the same thing, so please come along for the ride with us. Until then, we'll be posting updates during the summer months so you can keep up with our fascinating lives. I, for one, am planning not to garden or camp. And I'm really looking forward to that. What are you doing with your summer?

by Courtenay on June 15, 2010 - 4:41pm.
An open letter to the person in charge of new punctuation.
I have invented a new punctuation mark, and I am writing to ask you to consider introducing its usage into the American Punctuation Lexicon.
I would also like to check up on the status of the interrobang (also known as the quesclamation point). You may not remember it, but it was the combination exclamation point, question mark invented by ad executive Martin Spekter to help us with such sentences as “WHAT did you just say to me?!” and “Lindsay Lohan’s suing WHO?! Over WHAT?!” 
The fact that it was invented in 1962 and you’re still considering it doesn’t give me much hope for it, or for that matter, for the Irony Mark, or “snark,” – the backwards question mark that some are hoping can indicate sarcasm in our increasingly digital world. I think it sounds like a great idea. Whoever thought of it is a genius.
But onto my idea.  Get ready for it: The Friendly Period (exclamation point!)
Sorry. What I meant was, the friendly period! Period. 
Am I talking about an era of increased kindness? No. A new, more pleasant brand of menstruation? That will never happen.
I’m talking about a period that says, “That sentence, the one right before me, the period, is as affable as they come. That sentence, in fact, wants to buy you a beer.”
Here’s the problem: Increasingly, we’re using very cold, technological ways to communicate. No one wants to actually go through the long, drawn-out process saying hello and how are you on the phone, or, god forbid, having to see someone in person. There germs in every handshake, and people get bad haircuts that you have to lie about.
So emails and texts have become, for many, our primary means of communication. But reading something on a screen makes everything colder, so we try to warm up our communications with annoying emoticons, or, in my case, the gratuitous exclamation point. 
In a study entitled “Gender and the use of exclamation points in computer mediated communication,” (for reals!) Carol Waseleski (exclamation point!) deciphered that woman use exclamation points far more often than men in e-communication.  But it’s not because they’re more excited than men. Women use exclamation points online as indicators of a “friendly interaction.” We’ve been socialized to try to make people feel comfortable and to keep the peace. Hence sentences like, “Bill, I can’t wait to see the 4th quarter EMBO Report on the new 12-gauge ball bearings (exclamation point!)”  She’s not excited to see that report. She’s letting Bill know that she’s not angry they’re late yet. When she’s angry, she’ll use a period.
I used to abhor exclamation points, largely because I am not a perky person. 
I am a person who assumes a day is going to blow until the world convinces me otherwise in the first five minutes by handing me a 16-ounce skim half-caf mocha in bed, which never happens, so you do the math. 
So you can imagine my increased usage of exclamation points has proved to be extremely disconcerting both for me and for those who are forced to endure my emails and texts.
A sample sentence from a recent email:
Yay(exclamation point!) Dinner at McFuddernutters sounds great(exclamation point!)
In this case, the exclamation points are preventive – because the person receiving the email knows that I can be a sarcastic bitch, periods would have made it read:  
Yay. Dinner at McFuddernutters sounds great…I just hope their neverending salad bowl will fill the bottomless pit of despair I feel because I’m sitting in an establishment called McFuddernutters.
Now, what you might say is, “Hey, why don’t you stop being a sarcastic bitch, interrobang?” Good exclamated question. Answer: because I don’t want to, friendly period!
The friendly period would solve all these problems.  
Picture this: a larger, slightly squished period that’s big enough to see that there’s a half-moon of a smile three quarters of the way down its jolly round body. It’s simple, it’s not nearly as annoying as those bright yellow happy faces, and it’s stylish. Because what’s more stylish than black and white? Nothing, stupid. (Friendly period!)
I implore you, punctuation person…don’t make us wait 48 years for the friendly period to take off (friendly period.) We need help now in getting rid of the scourge of gratuitous exclamation points, and I, for one, would have significantly less punctuation shame in my life.
Please get back to me at your earliest convenience (friendly period.) Our future depends on it (irony mark.)
~Courtenay Hameister
by Courtenay on April 7, 2010 - 10:00am.
Last Saturday, Live Wire held a comedy writing workshop with John Viener and Alec Sulkin from "Family Guy." 

It was a casual couple of hours, but still very informative, largely in terms of how it works in a writer's room on a sitcom, getting your spec script read, and whether you want to be Jokestein or Structureberg on the writing team ("Jokestein's fun to hang out with, but Structureberg has a nicer house.")

And there was one special bonus to the day - a visit from Sulkin's girlfriend, Sarah Silverman. Alec and Sarah's relationship has recently come into the spotlight because of a rather personal story Sarah told on David Letterman. Alec responded to this story on Live Wire while Sarah sat quietly at the side of the stage. But Sarah jumped onstage for a portion of the workshop the next day, talking a bit about how her writers work. The two shows work very differently - Sarah has 5 writers who work out of her apartment in L.A., "The Family Guy" has 18.

The funniest story Sarah told was about her dog, Duck. They filmed the pilot of the show in Sarah's apartment, and then when the show was picked up, the production company built an exact replica of the apartment on a soundstage. The first morning, Sarah left her apartment, put Duck in the car and they arrived at the soundstage. When they entered the set, Duck looked up at her, hugely confused. "How the hell did we get home again?"

All in all, a very fun day.

Alec and John "teaching."

Sarah joins in.

Sarah with Tyler Hughs' son, Boon.
by Courtenay on February 26, 2010 - 1:42pm.
Do you enjoy sketch writing? Are you working on a comic screenplay? Or do you just want to inject some more humor into your writing? 

Live Wire is sponsoring a comedy writing workshop with John Viener and Alec Sulkin of "Family Guy." Join us on Saturday, February 20th from 1-4 at Curious Comedy Theater to learn more about the three-act structure, to do a little writing, and analyze some gags. 

Sulkin is a supervising producer and writer for the show and has been nominated for three Emmys.Viener is an actor, writer and director but has only been nominated for ONE Emmy. Awkward!
Workshop Details:
Comedy Workshop with Alec Sulkin and John Viener
Curious Comedy Theater
5225 N. Martin Luther King Blvd.
For more information, call 503-548-4920 or email

Click here to register! Hope to see you there, funny people.

by Courtenay on February 19, 2010 - 8:37am.
dress.jpgCOURT: Gosh, that was pretty.

JOHN: You're such a girl.

COURT: Shut up. I really enjoyed it. And I learned something. Based on the boys' disguises, it turns out that in 1790, fake moustaches acted in much the same way as Superman's glasses. Moustache? "Hey! It's a foreigner or a clown." No moustache? "OMG, it's my boyfriend!"

JOHN: This show made me question whether or not I am a triumph of masculinity.

COURT: Right. That was one of the stand-out lines of the show. "Our moustaches are a triumph of masculinity. Plumes of love." Other notable moments: possibly the only time in opera history we've seen two women in the cowgirl and reverse cowgirl positions on their male leads onstage, the amazing moment when the stage broke apart to reveal the 2nd act set, and Ryan MacPherson's standout comic performance. I have much more to say, but I'm spent! More later. Parting message: see it. Goodnight, Portland!


by Courtenay on February 5, 2010 - 11:22pm.