History of Stand-Up Comedy and Expropriating Russian Assets

Sunday, March 27th, 2022

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What Happens Next is a podcast where an expert is given just SIX minutes to present his argument. This is followed by a Q&A period for deeper engagement.

Today’s topics are the history of stand-up comedy and expropriating Russian assets.

Our Speakers are Wayne Federman and Lee Buchheit.


Larry Bernstein:
Welcome to What Happens Next. My name is Larry Bernstein.

What Happens Next is a podcast where the speaker gets to present his argument in just Six Minutes and that is followed by a question-and-answer period for deeper engagement. Today’s discussion will be on two topics: A History of Stand-Up Comedy and Expropriating Russian Assets. Our first speaker will be Wayne Federman who will speak about his new book entitled the History of Stand-up. Wayne is uniquely qualified to tell the tale as he has been doing Stand-up for the past 40 years.

I hope to learn about how Stand-up got its start in America, the importance of premier booking venues, and how comedians break into the business now. I want to find out why so much comedy ages poorly and why some acts are timeless. Wayne teaches the history of stand-up at USC and am looking forward to hearing about some of the techniques that Wayne teaches his kids to break down the essence of a great comedic act.

Our second speaker will be Lee Buchheit who is the leading specialist on sovereign debt restructuring. Biden and the EU have frozen the Russian Central Bank’s investment in US Treasuries and European Government bonds. There have been rumors that Biden will confiscate these assets and give them to Ukraine to rebuild. Expropriating rogue states assets has consequences as Treasuries will no longer been seen as riskless assets for foreign central banks and that will undermine our desire to keep the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. I hope to learn from Lee about how the expropriation will affect Russian nationals and their holdings of American real estate and other financial assets. And how the intricacies of sovereign debt mechanics will limit Biden’s actions against Russia.

You can find transcripts for this program and all of our previous episodes on our website whathappensnextin6minutes.com, and you can listen on Podbean, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Let’s begin with our first speaker Wayne Federman.


Wayne Federman

Topic: History of Stand-up Comedy
Bio: Stand-up Comic for 40 years
Reading: The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle is here


I teach a class in the history of stand-up comedy. What is a stand-up comedy? What are we even talking about? Stand-up comedy is one person standing in front of an audience with the expectation of evoking laughter.

Laughter, it’s the mission statement of the job. You have to stand there all by your lonesome trying to make them laugh. It’s terrifying. When it doesn’t go well, we refer to it as bombing. It’s thrilling when you connect with a crowd and you go on this comedic journey together, and together is the key word. It’s an interactive art form. It’s very intense. I know because I’ve been doing comedy for over 40 years.

Now since stand-up has become commercialized, which is “oh I can make a living doing this,” there’s always been a premier booking. Back in the Vaudeville days, the premier booking was in New York City, the Palace Theatre. If you did well at the Palace Theatre, you could tour the country. It was a stamp of approval. After the Palace, there was the nightclub generation, the number one place to play during this era, that really would solidify you as a comedian that could go to Vegas and open for Mitzi Gaynor, if you did well at the Copacabana in New York City.

The Copa was the new Palace. And then television hits, The Ed Sullivan show, and then, Johnny Carson became the king of late night. David Letterman, Garry Shandling, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno all converge on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Other new venues pop up, an HBO special, a whole hour on cable television. Then hosting SNL was a big thing. There’s cable television, Evening at the Improv, and then the internet.

Starting in 2006 with Bo Burnham doing that little song from his bedroom in Hamilton, Massachusetts. He’s more popular than thousands of comedians who have toured these clubs for decades. Now we have podcasting, Barack Obama is doing a podcast with Marc Maron on WTF. Little podcast shows, not out of Studio One at NBC, out of his garage. And then streaming specials on demand. The company that embraced stand-up right now is Netflix, we get Bill Burr, Ali Wong, John Mulaney.

I’m gonna leave you with this, before we get to the Q&A part of this with young Larry. Stand-up comedy is a generational art form. It’s very ephemeral, it’s for this time, and the power of it dissipates as time goes on. And that’s because social norms, acceptable language, topics, and the way we speak changes.

Cutting-edge comedians were the funniest people ever, can seem out of touch, hackney or even unfunny to current generations. It’s the nature of the art form. So there you go. The definition of stand-up, how stand-ups become popular and those destinations, and why stand-up comedy doesn’t tend to age that well. It’s sort of like milk. It goes bad.

Wayne Federman Transcript:

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Lee Buchheit

Topic: Expropriating Russian Assets
Bio: Sovereign Debt Restructuring Specialist


Thanks, Larry. You’re asking what is the ultimate fate of the Russian Federation assets that the United States and the European Union have frozen? In particular, whether President Biden could, if he wished, confiscate those assets and make them available to the Ukraine government to help them with reconstruction. Estimates are 300 billion dollars of Russian Federation assets have been frozen. I expect most of it is in Europe.

There’s no question about the president’s legal authority to freeze those assets. It’s been done many times before Iran, North Korea and most recently Venezuela. There is some question about his ability to confiscate the assets.

I believe he has that legal authority. President Biden thinks he has that legal authority. He has indicated that he intends to take seven billion dollars of Afghan Central Bank assets that have been frozen and allocate half of them towards humanitarian work in Afghanistan but the other half he intends to give to the victims of 9/11 that have obtained court judgements against the Taliban.

There are a couple of crucial timing issues here. I expect the Biden team would resist earmarking the frozen Russian Federation assets for another purpose. If there were to be a settlement Putin will surely ask that the sanctions be lifted and his money returned. And were Mr. Biden to commit that money for another purpose that would take 300 billion dollars off of the negotiating table, and he might be reluctant to do that.

The problem is that the longer this goes on the greater the risk that private parties will sue the Russian Federation. If Russian bonds go into default, one could expect that there will be lawsuits by bondholders, and by investors who’ve had their property confiscated in Russia. And once those lawsuits begin and the frozen assets become subject to attachments by private litigants that vastly complicates the president’s ability to dispose of them. The best historical example here was President Reagan’s decision in 1981 with respect to frozen Iranian assets after the hostage taking in Tehran in 1979. 400 lawsuits had been commenced against Iran in this country and a proportionate number of attachments of Iranian assets.

The deal that Reagan cut with the Iranians was that all of those lawsuits were to be voided, all of the claimants sent to The Hague to present their cases before the US/Iran claims tribunal and all of the assets to be made available to the claim’s tribunal. Reagan was sued for having done that. He went to the US Supreme Court and prevailed but it was a very narrow decision. The concern that the US Government would have is that if you void those attachments, does that constitute a taking of private property without just compensation in violation of the fifth amendment?

We have this situation right now in Venezuela. President Trump froze Venezuelan assets. Private litigants have attached those frozen assets. The freezing order prevails but at such time as it is lifted those attachments would bite. That’s the timing issue. President Biden would be wise not to wait too long before deciding whether he is going to allocate frozen Russian Federation assets to some other purpose such as reconstruction activities in Ukraine.

Lee Buchheit Transcript:

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