Stand Up! Records Stands Up for Laughs

Interview: Dan Schlissel
by Marshal M. Rosenthal

Stand Up! Records isn’t like the other labels nor tries to be. And that includes how you listen to what they have to play — it’s on vinyl. Need to know more? Let’s give President Dan Schlissel the mike.

Man Cave Daily
How did Stand Up! Records start?

Dan Schlissel
Stand Up! Records started as an offshoot of an indie rock label called -ism Recordings. -ism was started in my University of Nebraska dorm room in the wake of the indie rock boom of the early 1990s. I moved to Minneapolis just as that was petering out, winter 1998/1999. Shortly after the move, I got to cross paths with Lewis Black, and I pitched doing a CD. Lewis said yes, and the new venture for -ismist (had to be rebranded in 1996 thanks to a cease and desist from the punk band ISM) was born, though not renamed until the beginning of 2002. We quickly amassed comedians from that point, and it seemed time to get rid of the dead weight of a non-focused indie rock label, rebrand and move forward as a comedy only record label.

Man Cave Daily
What are you up to today?

001 Stand Up! Records Stands Up for Laughs

(Courtesy of Stand-Up! Records)

Dan Schlissel
Today, much like in 1999, I am focused on finding comedians that the general public doesn’t know yet. Whereas in the past, we were working with Black, Doug Stanhope, Maria Bamford, the Sklar Brothers and Marc Maron, now we are working with Geoff Tate, Danny Lobell, Ray Harrington, Alysia Wood, Dylan Brody and a myriad of other great up and coming talent. I look at my job not in the standard definition of a record label, but more of a curatorial duty. This is who I think the great new comedians of our time are, and they are working now. Hopefully, I have established it well enough to be trusted at what I do, the way I trusted Sub Pop or Amphetamine Reptile or Touch and Go to point me in the right direction for great new music.

Man Cave Daily
Do we “need” comedic recordings?

Dan Schlissel
I think that just about anyone out there can use a good laugh, really. The value is to see some truth that you thought might be unique to yourself, and see that reflected in the thoughts and jokes of someone else – that thought and humor are universal. The best kind of laugh is where you burn with the recognition of, “Hey, *I* do that!” To see that and maybe affect some change in your own behavior is a very strong thing, and it is rare. It’s also good to get a good, solid, Mel Brooks kind of laugh (To paraphrase: “If I get a hangnail, it’s a tragedy. If you fall into an open manhole and die, it’s hilarious.”)

Photo courtesy of Stand Up! Records

Dan Schlissel knows getting laughs is serious business. (Courtesy of Stand-Up! Records)

We’re a good choice because I make the effort to travel, keep my ear to the ground for up and coming talent, and work with that talent to make a high quality recording of their work. I care about comedy as an art form. I really don’t look at this as more “product” to move. I look at each release as its own free-standing work of art, and make an effort to present it as such through the recording process, the art, photography and design of the record as well.

Man Cave Daily
Why do you still put out recordings on vinyl?

Dan Schlissel
Vinyl is a personal thing for me. I have been issuing releases on vinyl for the history of my previous label, -ismist, and for Stand Up! Records as well. To me, a CD is an easy thing to do, and it’s cheap. You’re not necessarily proving much by doing a CD, although it is significantly more than a digital only release. Vinyl is an object that transcends most other physical media, because ultimately, you can reproduce the audio mechanically, without the aid of digital to analog decoders. There is a feeling of permanence to putting something on vinyl, and a continuum of recorded history that you are instantly a part of. On top of the “warmth” of the sound, there’s a certain “glitchiness” of listening to vinyl, surface noise, potential skips, etc that is great, and the amount of interaction and care that goes into keeping a collection and maintaining it that just brings you closer to the contents of said slab of wax that just can’t be replicated with a library of digital files.

Man Cave Daily
What’s the attraction of vinyl?

dan shots 02  Stand Up! Records Stands Up for Laughs

(Courtesy of Stand-Up! Records)

Dan Schlissel
I think there are two levels of the attraction of vinyl. For me, as a label, to see one of my albums on vinyl says I value it as much as I value the classics, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Steve Martin, etc, etc. My vinyl releases are classics, just like those are, and deserve the feeling of permanence that you only really get with a vinyl LP. The other, a collector standpoint — I want this because it’s rare and cool and may be worth money someday. I discount the standard record fan, because I think the market is mainly collectors and burgeoning collectors. I don’t think you get into vinyl unless you have some sort of “collectoritis.”

Man Cave Daily
Does the artwork also make a difference?

Dan Schlissel
To start with, the artwork is much larger than a 100 x 100 pixel image. It’s a larger and more beautiful version of the art at 12″ x 12″. That’s been gone over and over again in articles like this. A valid point, and one I don’t mean to be glib about by any means. There are instances where we actually change the art for technical or aesthetic purposes. Those become way more satisfying in the long run. I’ll give you an example, a release we licensed from another label. We got the license for Lewis Black’s, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues from Comedy Central. The art just looked like a brown paper wrapper. We were told that the reason for this was to make it look like a bootleg. It didn’t ring true to me because I collect records, and I know what bootlegs look like. We got permission to redo the art, and we did so, made it look like an Anvil case, put stickers on it, including one explaining that it was the same as the less good looking CD, and then made one record label blank and the other to say, Trademark of Quantity to emulate the old Trademark of Quality bootleg label. It was about the details, and I believe leads to a more satisfying package.

We bet the theme song's playing in your head right now.

We bet the theme song’s playing in your head right now.

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture. Visit his website.

Mark Setrakian in exo-suit with training robot used in the time challenge featured in the premiere episode.

Mark Setrakian in exo-suit with training robot used in the time challenge featured in the premiere episode.

Marshal found the sound of the future in Christopher Tyng’s 31st Century Beat and learned how to build his own battle bot when he interviewed Sy-Fy’s Mark Setrakian in Slaughterbots: Roll Out!

More from Marshal Rosenthal

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