When did you first think about trying standup?
I saw the Comedians of Comedy with Maria Bamford, Zack Galifinakis, Brian Posehn and Patton Oswalt in 2003 and it really inspired me. I started writing comedy around that time, but it wound up just being rewrites of Galifinakis bits. Mine were funnier, but it still didn’t feel right.
Unfortunately, I was so intimidated by the possibility of performing before a live audience that I didn’t even consider doing standup. Even after I started interviewing comedians in 2012, it sounded so far outside the realm of possibility that I didn’t consider it. Eventually I realized I could be just as bad as a lot of other comedians, so I decided to give it a shot. I think of myself as Gallagher without the watermelons.
Fast forward to July 2013 when I got fired from my job for being too awesome. I interviewed Alex Falcone and during the course of the interview, he mentioned that he was a teacher for a standup class. So I signed up, took the class and wound up debuting my first show October 25. To date I’ve performed 86 times and I’m still terrible, but it’s a lot of fun and I haven’t been banned from any open mics yet.
What advice would you give to new comics?
The first advice I would give is to not ask for advice for at least the first year, so stop reading this if you fall under that restriction. But seriously, don’t ask for feedback. You’re terrible and you will be for at least a year, if not forever. Record (video preferably) your performances when you’re fairly certain you can bear it and start by learning from yourself. Read as much as you can about writing comedy, surf the internet, find comics whose styles you like and try to write at least one joke per day. I generally sit down to write a joke or two and wind up writing for an hour or more. It’s very addictive.
And do as many open mics as you possibly can. You will know you’re getting decent when you start getting showcases. You’re probably still terrible, but people are seeing potential in you.
Watch a lot of open mic comics. If you like ANYTHING about a comic’s set, compliment them and strike up a conversation. You will get great feedback from fellow sufferers.
Avoid: dick, pot and other drug experiences, masturbation, sex, jokey jokes and excessive swearing. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Have fun, access your inner self, be genuine, relax, try to criticize up (high status people) and not down (bums, deadbeats and tea partiers). This is an amalgam of advice and observation I’ve gleaned over the past four months. Ignore criticism or negativity and glom onto compliments and optimism. Take a break if you’re feeling demoralized. Try something new every time you take the stage. Avoid clubs that bum you out. Try every club. Go to clubs that bum you out. Have fun. Try to avoid getting nervous, you’ll forget your jokes and not have fun. Try not to piss off or criticize your fellow comics for a while. There will be plenty of time for that later, but wait until you’ve got some allies. Don’t limit yourself by following a lot of rules that some nitwit posts on his website. He’s only been doing this for five months and is a babe in the woods. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Finally, treat this like a hobby and be nice to yourself. You have sucked at every endeavor you’ve ever set out to do, from tennis, to math, to driving a car. But eventually you get good enough to where it is fun, and you might even get good enough to make a couple bucks at it. Be patient, find positive people to be around and keep working at it.
What do you do when someone asks you to tell them a joke when they find out you’re a comedian?
I tell them all twenty of my fish jokes. If they want to hear more, I do all fifteen minutes of my other material. If they’re still laughing and listening, I tell them every joke I can think of that I haven’t written. I don’t credit those writers, so if you’re a comic, don’t tell me any of your jokes.
What do you do when you’re not doing comedy?
I watch television, write comedy, update my website, write self-indulgent pap such as this for my website, and I cruise facebook and twitter, posting about every single thought I have about everything. I suppose once I start my new job I’ll do that too.
Anything else to add?
You’re a great interviewer.