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‘Funny Business’ by Seth Olenick

Funny photos: Greenpoint photographer captures comedians in the act

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The funny business must be booming.

When Greenpoint photographer Seth Olenick first envisioned making a photography book featuring his favorite funny people, he figured it would take about six months to a year and that he would capture around 30 comics.

In the end, the book, “Funny Business,” which is out now, took seven years from start to finish, clocks in at 200 people, and weighs nearly five pounds.

“One person just led to another,” said Olenick, who met many of the comedians in the book when he was working as the photo editor for “Heeb” magazine. “Once I started getting some of the really big names, then I realized that I could potentially get more.”

The end result is a mix of the field’s stalwarts, up-and-comers, and comics who were up-and-comers at the start of Olenick’s project and have since gained more fame.

In this sprawling contemporary comic cross-section, you will find Weird Al Yankovic peering out from behind his hair, Judd Apatow making a funny face, and Brooklyn regulars, such as Eugene Mirman and Max Silvestri, just generally being silly. There is also a large swath of comedians who have made their way to TV shows such as “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Saturday Night Live.”

This is not just a book of stand-ups, either. There are also photos of writers and directors, as well as actors who are better known for their dramatic work but have shown comedic range, such as Jon Hamm and Christopher Meloni.

“For me, it was more about getting people who have contributed to the comedy landscape, rather than just being stand-ups,” said Olenick, who celebrates the release of his book on Dec. 21 at Union Hall, where several of the people featured in the book will perform.

The photos themselves, which are each accompanied by a caption penned by the featured funny person, tend toward the absurd — such as Jim Gaffigan trying to discreetly catch a pink piggy bank, or Zach Galifianakis standing with a giant can of spray paint in front of graffiti on Banker Street in Greenpoint. They were mostly improvised with whatever was lying around, Olenick explained.

“I wanted something that didn’t look terribly forced,” he said. “I wanted it to evoke some sort of feeling — hopefully laughter.”

Seth Olenick celebrates the release of “Funny Business” at Union Hall [702 Union St. near Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, (718) 638–4400, www.unionhallny.com], Dec. 21 at 8 pm. $8.

“Funny Business” is available here.

Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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