David M. Stern [Interview]

 

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Oh, do we have a great one for you fine reader(s) today! We have been fortunate to get some words from several television and film writers over the years, and today is definitely not an exception. In fact, we may have outdone ourselves with this one. Today we have the wonderful David M. Stern, a writer who has done some of the most influential work in the last 4 decades. His work ranges from starting off on The Wonder Years, moving on to The Simpsons (yes, the god damned Simpsons!), then to Ugly Americans, and so much more. He is seriously a genius, and we are so happy to have him on the site.

And to make things even better, I called in some help from a dear friend, and host of the Four Guys Drinking podcast, Scott Lawrence. Scott has a big ole brain just crammed with Simpsons knowledge, so he was the obvious choice to ask to throw us a few Simpsons related questions. So please enjoy a wonderful collaboration of questions with the amazing David M. Stern.

When did you decide to join the bloodthirsty business of television? What was your drive and motivation? And was it always writing that you wanted to do primarily?

My mother got me a journal when I was around 10 I think and I really took to it and began to appreciate the power of the written word very early. My brother Danny made it as an actor in Hollywood when I was around 13 and he would send me scripts he was auditioning for or parts he got along the way. Some scripts were incredible, some were award winning. But my favorites were the terrible ones because I’d read them and think ‘I can do better than this crap!’

You career was really kickstarted with your work on the first few years of The Wonder Years. Was it at all nerve-racking to become part of something so grand, at such an early stage in your career?

The Wonder Years was a total miracle job. I had only been in Hollywood for a few months. I met Neal and Carol, the creators through a mutual friend at the Circle Bar in Santa Monica. They knew I wanted to be a sitcom writer and they had already created Growing Pains. We really just hit it off on a personal level. They read a couple of the spec scripts I had written and gave me advice and notes. And then they told me that one of the ways they had made it in Hollywood was that they sent funny letters once a month to any producers they had met. I remember Neal asking, ‘how many funny letters do you ever receive from random people?’ The answer was zero. So it was great advice on how to get yourself noticed in a positive way and I took the cue and began sending them funny letters. Neal appreciated the effort and we began to pal around a bit, playing basketball together and stuff. Then a few months later, I was up at my brother’s house and saw the pilot for The Wonder Years, written by my new friends, on his desk. I snagged the script, xeroxed a copy and made it my religion. It was to this day, the best pilot I ever read. And at the tender age of 23, it was about the perfect show for me to write. I read it a hundred times and then I wrote a spec Wonder Years off that script as quick and well as I could, which was about 6 weeks. It was about Kevin’s first jr. high school dance. When I sent it to them, the show hadn’t even been cast yet. Long story short is that they really liked it. We went through a bunch of rewrites and things got a little hairy there for a little bit, in that I didn’t know if I would be able to cut it as a rewriter, which is really the job as a professional screenwriter. But, alas, I got it right finally and that episode become the 6th and final episode of the first season. The rest as they say, is history.

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What would you consider your greatest achievement during your tenure on The Simpsons?

I had a lot of proud moments on The Simpsons. Writing the season premiere of season two, “Bart Gets An F” was a real highlight. For a long time it was the highest rated Simpsons episode ever as it was the first time the show went up against The Cosby Show on Thursday nights. “Kamp Krusty” which was the season 4 premiere was another highlight. “Duffless”, which was the last episode I wrote on my first tenure with the show was also a highlight as I think it may have been the closest a first draft of mine came to the aired episode. But my favorite of all may have been “Principal Charming” about Skinner falling in love with Patty. That was a tough storyline but it came out really good and I inadverently created two characters in that script that still get a lot of play – Groundskeeper Willy and Hans Moleman( who was I believe originally named ‘Kindly Elder Gentleman.’

Did you every believe that The Simpsons would have the staying power that it has had?

Nope. I don’t think anyone did.

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A generation has grown up watching The Simpsons. What kind of impact do you believe it may have had on the way they live their lives?

Well, I think the simplest answer is that most people now understand and appreciate how cool animation is. That you can make comments in primetime using animation that never would have flown in a live action series. I also think that a lot of the satire of The Simpsons had, until that point, been only available late night. On Letterman and SNL. It brought that brand of sharp, cutting social commentary to primetime. Now it is mainstream.

What was it about 5 On With Alan Whiter that made you want to develop it for TV, as Ugly Americans?

Nice reference! Everything about it. Loved those shorts. Great, simple animation, I loved Devin Clark’s drawings. And the simple concept of monsters living among us in modern Manhattan, just accepted and kind of dumb and gross like everyone else. That essential comment of that series, I think, really dictated where I took the series on a much larger scale. That if Zombies and Werewolves did exist, society would quickly normalize them and soon they’d just be more everyday shmoes on the streets, trying to make a living and get laid and generally being stupid and common and flawed like everyone else.

This is an insanely personal question, which may not really have an answer, but I have to ask. I am a HUGE fan of Kurt Metzger. Did you hire him for Ugly Americans and/or what was it that he did that landed him that gig, which he was absolutely incredible at doing?

Anne Harris at Comedy Central brought him in. She is an amazing talent and knows everyone in New York. I didn’t know him or anyone else at the time. But as soon as I heard him I knew he was my Randall. I had to go to the mat for Kurt a little as he had no experience of any sort on VO work and there were others who were favored for the role, including Pete Holmes who went on to do a ton of amazing and hilarious voices for us. But I insisted on Kurt. He’s so great man. He owned that role. Brought a TON of his own stuff to the character. We’d write great stuff for him and then I’d tell him to riff on it in the booth. 3 out of 5 times, we’d go with his take on whatever it was. He was the perfect Zombie. I recently had an amazing dream about him being a zombie that I emailed to him.

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So what is up in your world now? Anything you’ve been working on that you’d like to plug?

Just wrote my ninth Simpsons, “Kamp Krustier”. Other than that just hustling for work man. Nothing to brag about at the moment. Soon though.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Norm Macdonald’s memoir – Based On A True Story. He’s the funniest I think. Him and Louis [CK].

Corbett Redford [Interview]

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I can hardly begin to explain to you all how much I truly adore our interview subject for the day, Mr. Corbett Redford. He is by far one of my favorite musicians, artists, and overall people I have ever had the privilege to meet both digitally and in person. He’s the kind of guy who simply gives off an essence of being a natural born sweet heart. A sweet heart, who also happens to be ever knowledgable about all things that are punk ass fuck, and writes hilarious songs about polyamory and living the life of a cat. He also touches on some very serious subjects, but still manages to create some wonderfully silly tunes. He is a brilliant artist to say the least, and we are so honored to have him on the site again, this time sharing some very nice words with you all.

Corbett has also branched off into the world of filmmaking. He is the man behind the Green Day executive produced upcoming documentary, Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk. And believe me, I can’t think of any other person more qualified than him to tackle this amazing subject. Corbett has lived and breathed the East Bay punk scene pretty much his entirely life. He IS the scene, and there is no way this film is not going to be amazing with his creative force in tow. I am so excited to see the final product, which is coming soon. So, please enjoy a few words with our old pal, Corbett Redford!

 

Tell us a bit if you will about the formation of the now legendary comedy/punk/rock/brilliant duo (turned band, and back to duo when applicable) group Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children MacNuggits. How did this group come to life?

My bandmate Dan [Abbott] and I were both aimless, weird young men when we started the band in 1995 – Dan was 18 and I was 22 – trapped in a detached suburb of Oakland, California called Pinole. There are many versions of the story of our formation – really, I would say most importantly, at the time we both needed a creative outlet that wasn’t limiting. We always thought of the band as less of a band and more of a platform to share ideas – be it through music, film, writing, or events.

And where did the name come from? It’s definitely memorable and original, but what was the inspiration behind it?

We both stoned on the way to our first show. We didn’t have a name for the band and we needed to think of one. At the time in 1995, Ebola had just hit the Congo. In Pinole, where we lived, per capita there was more fast-food available than anywhere else in the nation. Visions of both the disease of Ebola and the disease of fast-food were swirling in our wild and high minds, I guess. Dan and I are both satirists at our cores, I think.

I recently had Jello Biafra, formerly of Dead Kennedys, tell me that though he doesn’t prefer the “poppy” sound of our music, but he needed to emphasize that we had “the best band name ever” – that was awesome to hear.

BJE also happens to have one of the most energetic and impressive stage shows I have ever had the honor of witnessing. Whether it’s in a full band in a downtown punk club or a duo setting with Dan in a book store, you have an undeniably wonderful energy. So what is your process? What are you looking to convey to an audience in a live setting?

I can’t speak for Dan, but I always want for people to feel included or at least my hope is that no one builds us up to be “more important people” just because we’re on a stage and amplified. I go into a show to release my demons, to spill my heart – that is the selfish “personal therapy” part of it. But more important than that, I don’t want people to get some idea that what we are doing is anything that they couldn’t do themselves. I think Chuck Berry once said, “Rock N Roll ain’t rocket science.” I think that idea demystifies things – makes it easier for someone to feel included or that there is no difference between audience and band.

 

BJE at a book signing at Powell's Books in Portland, OR. Seriously, these guys can rock EVERYWHERE!

BJE at a book signing at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. Seriously, these guys can rock EVERYWHERE!

For those of us who have been following closely, you’ve been diligently working on an upcoming documentary called Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk. Without divulging too much (“spoiling” as the kids would say) can you tell us a bit about it is going? When can we expect to see the film? And more importantly, why did you believe people should be interested in this scene?

The film has been a wild three year ride. I turned 40 and had my first kid during the course of it all. We’re done with the edit and I am just finalizing the mountains of release forms – the last stage, as they say. We conducted over 150 interviews, gathered over 35,000 photos & fliers, and over 500 pieces of archival footage. The film is a beast – I hope people dig it when it is out. No exact release date yet, but shooting for somewhere around the beginning of 2017.

It’s funny you ask the question as to why I think people should be interested in the music scene we cover in the film. Yesterday, I watched the end of the film as I was culling through timecodes and paperwork. I stopped my sorting and it hit me – our film’s ultimate focus is about the human need we all have to find a place to belong. A place we feel safe to be ourselves. With the recent rash of fear and sickness I have had since the US election results, suddenly I felt a new urgency for people to see what we have created in this documentary – which is really a story about the road to the emergence of the non-profit music collective, 924 Gilman in Berkeley, California.

Safe community spaces like Gilman existing are going to be more important than ever for outsiders who need a place to converge under the dark cloud of Trump’s America.

What made you decide to move into the film world? I know you have shot dozens of music videos in the past, but what inspired the job into full blown documentarian?

Like songs or music videos, it is another way to tell a story. I had started a documentary about a different subject years ago with my long-time friend and collaborator Anthony Marchitiello (we recently formed the production company Capodezero Films together) and it hit some roadblocks. Years later in 2013, my old hometown friends in the band Green Day were looking for a director for a documentary project they wanted to do about the history of the scene they came from – and BAM – I was plucked from the ether to helm it. I could have never predicted it would take this long or that it would be such an extensive telling of the local punk music history of the Bay Area – but here we are. Not sure what comes after all this – nervous and excited to see what life brings next.

Photo taken from eastbaypunk.com

Photo taken from eastbaypunk.com


So, you have managed to slide yourself into the adult world suddenly, and became a father to a beautiful little boy. As a father, I am not ashamed to drop this stereotypical question to another father: How has fatherhood changed you? And what do you believe it has done to your creative self?

That is a good question. It has changed my entire way of looking at the world and thinking about my life. I haven’t always made the healthiest choices – bad food, to drugs & alcohol, to the kinds of overwhelming creative projects I take on. The birth of my son has made me strive to shoot for a more sustainable, manageable and focused life – the less stress I have, the longer I get to live to see my son grow. I don’t want to miss anything. Suddenly, the major thing on my mind is turning my health around and making better choices about what I get myself into. I owe this epiphany to him.

In the past 20 years on and off with this band, we have played over 2,000 shows around the US and even jumped the pond once. Being a father makes me want to be home as much as I can be – I love to read to him every night before he goes to bed. So touring a lot doesn’t feel like a priority anymore. But music, art, film – creating those things? Those things will ALWAYS have a place in my life.

Dan used to quote the Dire Straits song “Sultans of Swing” when we we talk about slowing down our non-stop touring, recording, filming, publishing… “Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene. He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright” was the lyric. I can see that being me. So long as my wife and son have food, shelter and access to medical care – I can meet with a band a few times a month to hammer out the kind of musical weird shit that is important to me. This film has been pretty all-consuming for the past three years… so it will be great for me to have some time again to focus on music once the documentary premieres.

Let’s get deep here: For as long as I have known you, whether digitally or when we run into each other in person, I’ve always thought of you as a sort of “spiritual guru” for me. Obviously not in a religious sense, but just as a person who has the wisdom I seek to understand. So, in light of recent events in the states, you know what I’m talking about, would you be willing to over some words of hope and/or encouragement? Basically, in your own opinion, what do we do now? And are we going to be okay?

I made a statement the other day online that I think might answer this:

“[I have been loving] seeing Bernie speaking on every outlet the past week. No loss of resolve. No fingerpointing. Just plans. And ideas. All encouraging us to stay strong. To be sticks in the spokes of Trump’s inhumane plans. I don’t know about you, but I’m heeding THIS man’s every word as we all try navigate through the next four regressive years. Now is the time to reach out to others who don’t have the same means or privilege that you might. Build more community and networks of support. Thwart homophobia and transphobia. Destroy sexism. Crush racism. Fight on, fight together. Fight the fucking power.”

Bernie changed my life. He was the perfect person for me to learn about at the most perfect moment in my life. His spirit NEVER breaks and it is so inspiring to me. He reminds us that there is ALWAYS work we should be doing to make the world a better place. ALWAYS. A Trump presidency will just be a hovering reminder that everyday we should be active in demanding a better world and curtailing the powers that be.

We will be okay. Things are going to get more shitty. But I feel that progressive populism will prevail over authoritarian populism in the next election and when it does… we will repair the dismantling Trump and his inhumane cabinet will inflict on the human condition and NEVER let them get ahold of the steering wheel again. We will one day live in an Utopian Star Trek future, dammit – or hopefully my son will. And their will always be orange Klingons trying to fuck shit up for the rest of us… we just have to stand together like Sulu, Uhura, Scotty… and even vanilla-ass Kirk did.

While I know you are still actively knocking out work on Turn It Around, but are you able tot ell us what might be coming next? I’m sure you will have to promote the hell out of the film when it is released, but are we going to be hearing more BJE in the future?

Promoting the film will be fun – I really look forward to sharing it with everyone. I really couldn’t tell you what is next. BJE might shake the dust off. I might start some new projects. Maybe I will form a band with my kid? Kids like songs about poop and farts – so do I.

Honestly, I do have a vision for a new musical project I have been dreaming of putting together with some great people here in the East Bay. Maybe that wil get off the ground…

I have a few ideas for short documentaries about local and unique subjects involving the area I grew up in here in California – one is about an old comic store where I grew up and it’s crazy history and the other is about this freaky art installation I would always see on the side of the freeway near Oakland. Not sure what is next, but I know something will pop up. Whatever it is, I want it to be simple and low stress.

Find our more about what I’m up to at:
http://capodezerofilms.com
http://eastbaypunk.com
http://bobbyjoeebola.com

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My son working on putting some of his first sentences together this morning. He gets so happy and proud when his mother and I understand him.

That’s all anyone really wants, yeah? To be understood.

 

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Martha Kelly [Interview]

 

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I recently fell in love with a brand new comedy that premiered earlier this year on FX known as Baskets. It is a series starring Zach Galifianakis, produced by Louis CK, and starring Louie Andersen as Zach’s mother. There was absolutely NO WAY this could fail with just these facts alone. Not to mention the premise of the show is god damned incredible. It was simply destined to be amazing. But, little did I know, there was going to be more. Yes, it is through this amazing show that I learned about the great Martha Kelly. A hilarious woman who simply blew my mind in her portrayal as the brilliant deadpan and sort of self-deprecating character named, well, Martha. I simply can not stress to you just how wonderful she is on this show.

And throw that, I learned that Martha is not entirely “acting”. Of course she is indeed acting, and doing great at it, but the character she portrays is very close to her own act as a stand up comedian, which I did not know she did as well. But, hot damn, I am so happy that I discovered her work. Her recent Comedy Central Half Hour Special is an absolute delight. I also managed to watch a plethora of videos of her work, and she has definitely moved to the top of acts I simply MUST see live for I kick the proverbial bucket. She’s a wonderful comedian, actress, overall human being. So, please enjoy a great interview with a great person, the delightful Martha Kelly!

 

Of all of the forms of entertainment there is to get into, why stand up? What drew you to this beautifully demented world?

I love stand-up because there are no auditions, rehearsals, or middlemen – you just write stuff you hope people will like, go to an open mic, and perform what you wrote. The audience gives you immediate gratification or rejection. To me, it’s the closest to a merit-based art form there is. If the audience likes you, you move up from open mics to booked shows and maybe someday quit your day job. You don’t have to convince casting directors or producers that an audience will like you – you just perform and see what happens.

What were some of your earliest influences? And what do you believe they would smell like after an hour special?

Some of my early influences were Rosanne Barr, Joan Rivers, and later Janeane Garofalo, Mr. Show with Bob [Odenkirk] & David [Cross], and a lot of other comics. I’d rather not speculate on anyone’s personal lives/hygiene.

You have been doing stand up for quite a while, and you are indeed a woman, so maybe you could give us some insight into women in comedy. Are we closer to losing the Boys Club mentality that has been projected onto the world of comedy? Have things improved at all? Basically, are we any closer to equality than we were 15 years ago?

I started doing stand-up in LA and then moved to Austin and did it there and have been lucky that both comedy scenes were full of really funny, good guys who treated women comics like peers and friends, not outsiders. I don’t know if there’s been a shift but there are definitely more women doing stand-up now than there were when I started, which is great. In general, it seems to me like there are tons of super funny newer comics of both sexes, which makes it really fun to go to open mics and renews my enthusiasm for stand-up.

Being a long time Austin resident, what are your opinions on SXSW? Have the changes in the set up bettered or worsened the experience for you? Or has being an on and again, off again resident desensitized you to the entire spectacle?

I like SXSW early in the week when all the stages are set up but there’s no garbage in the streets. The comedy shows usually get great crowds so I love that part. I don’t go to any of the parties or music shows because I’m a full-time dud.

What is the craft service like on Baskets? On a scale from 1 to Diabetes, how healthy are the choices?

Craft service on Baskets is terrific. We have a lot of healthy choices and plenty of comfort foods so that pretty much everybody on the cast and crew can find stuff they like.

Baskets -- Pictured: Marrtha Kelly as Martha. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Baskets — Pictured: Marrtha Kelly as Martha. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Speaking of Baskets, how did you enjoy your time on the show? What is set life like with such a diverse and hilarious cast essentially doing improv?

Being on the set of Baskets is one of my favorite things of all time. It’s been one of the greatest sources of joy in my whole life, second only to when my niece and nephew were babies and I got to spend every day with them. The cast and crew are a bunch of talented, good-hearted people who I love spending time with every day. Louie Anderson is great to work with. He’s always been really supportive and encouraging to me even though I’m no where near as good as him at improv. Jonathan Krisel is amazing. He’s brilliant and super funny and very sweet. There’s not a bad egg in the bunch really, except for Zach, who is a goddamn nightmare.

So what is next for you? I hear you are doing a Spider Man flick or something? Anything else you would like to plug here?

After we wrap season 2, I’ll start working on stand-up again to hopefully record an album in 2017. I might also go back to school to finish my BA in English, and/or get a job in retail. We’ll see how it goes.

When you look back on your extended career in comedy, what would you say you are most proud of?

I don’t know if I’m proud of a whole lot – I always feel like I should work harder/be funnier. But one of the things I’d wanted to do for over a decade was a Comedy Central Half Hour special and I got to do it this past summer. We recorded in New Orleans and the Comedy Central Half Hour people made it a great experience. Could not have asked for a better audience/venue/overall experience.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog and cat slapping each other this morning.

Troy Ruptash [Interview]

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I came to enjoy the work of the very talented Troy Ruptash when I first saw him perform as Marc Maron’s brother on Maron, which we talk about a bit in the interview. But, as I began to research more of the man’s credits, I soon discovered that he has a plethora of amazing work out there to be enjoyed. And I also learned that he has a very great story of perseverance and having to overcome so much to make it to where he has today in the world of film and television. He did some amazing work in films like Tortilla Soup and A Marine Story. Also, he will be appearing in the new HBO Original Series The Young Pope, coming the states soon. He is an amazingly talented man who can work in so many different realms, and definitely somebody to follow if you aren’t already.

So with that being said, let’s check out a few words from the great Troy Ruptash. Also, as a delightful added bonus, Troy has agreed to share with you fine readers a collection of some of his AMAZING art work. The boy also paints, as the old saying goes! Check it all out!

 

I have come to learn that you were once a thriving figure skater who came up just short of being on top…on purpose. And for some very dark and sad reasons. Would you care to tell our readers about what happened, and how did it eventually shape you into being the great person you are today?

I guess you’re referring to the time when I was ‘outed’ in the skating world. I was a competitive figure skater from the age of 9 or 10 until the age of 16. I was really beginning to excel in the sport and was competing at a high level ( 3rd in Canada in Novice Men’s, 2nd in Junior Men’s in Western Canada).

There was/is a lot of homophobia within the competitive skating world. I was a young… kid, really… coming to terms with my sexuality. Something happened where a few of my ‘close’ skating friends caught wind of a budding (clandestine) romance between me and another skater. Let’s just say they were not kind about it and basically decided that I was no longer worthy of their friendship. It was a very difficult time for me. I felt.. and was… incredibly alone. I didn’t have the fortitude at that time to face that kind of rejection from a world that was the only world I knew… and had been my ‘home’ for many years. Trying to cope with the amount of pressure I was now facing because of the level I was competing at .. together with that rejection from my ‘skating family’ was too much. I wanted out, but didn’t really know how to go about doing it, so basically I faked an injury during the 5 minute warm up before the final portion of a National competition. For those of you who have watched skating on t.v. .. it’s the 5 minute warm up you see that immediately precedes the actual competition. I came out of a jump… a well executed jump.. but then faked a back injury and withdrew from the competition. I never went back. I now say that it was the beginning of my acting career.
As difficult as they can be when they are happening, I believe that ‘dark nights of the soul’ are an integral part of shaping who we are as artists. One of my acting mentors once said… don’t relish or indulge your pain. Feel it… acknowledge it.. and then turn it into art.

And when did the acting come along? Was it something you always wanted to do? And what keeps you motivated and yearning to continue on as an actor?

I was in my senior year of high school. Living in Vancouver, BC. All my life I had been on the track of ‘competitive skater’. I hadn’t ever really thought about what else I would want to do. I never really thought beyond skating. I can’t even remember where I got the idea from.. but halfway through my senior year of high school I decided to audition for Ryerson Theater School in Toronto, which was/is considered to be on of the best schools for Theater training in the country. I had no experience…. I wasn’t one of those people who had acted since they were a kid and knew it was what they always wanted to do… I just … for whatever reason… decided that I was going to audition for Theater School… and I got in.

I think what keeps me motivated and yearning to continue today is craft. I once had a teacher tell a group of us students that it takes 20 years to become an actor. And that meant twenty years of studying… working… not just … 20 years of saying I’m an actor. In the last few years I feel like I’m really beginning to understand the wisdom and truth of that statement. I feel a connection to the craft of acting .. and a desire to continue to develop my craft as an actor in a way that I’ve never felt before. I’ve always been disciplined (largely in part because of my background as a competitive athlete) as an actor. I’ve always continued to take class… but in the last few years my understanding of what it means to have craft as an actor has hit a new level of excitement and appreciation. I thrive on it. I think it’s also the people who I’m now connected with (my artistic community) that keep me motivated and pushing on. I feel very grateful for the artistic community I am a part of.
You hilariously portrayed Marc Maron’s brother on his IFC Show, aptly titled Maron. As far as you know, where you playing closely to his actual brother? What was Marc’s direction in your performance?

Thank you for the kind words. Playing Josh Maron was one of those roles that really stands out for me in terms of my work experience. Up to that point I was always being cast in dramas. I love comedy and I especially love smart comedy… which I think Maron was. Josh was such a well written role. Every time I got a new episode I couldn’t wait to see what the hell was happening to him now. It was a great set to be on and working with Marc was really fun and rewarding. He actually didn’t get that involved in the direction of my performance. He was definitely involved and continued to tweak the writing of the role.. even while we were shooting, which I loved. As far as how close Josh was to his actual brother? It was never discussed. All I remember hearing Marc say in an interview once was that the show was a fictionalized version of his life.

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Your episode at the corporate gig was one of the most heart-warming yet hilarious pieces of television I have ever seen. What was it like to shoot something like that? Did it get emotional?

That was definitely one of my favorite episodes. I thought it struck such an incredible balance between funny, funny stuff… and heartbreak. I thought it was extremely well written and so much fun to do. The ‘truth circle’ and the whole color coded Hawaiian shirts bit was very funny! That episode was a blast to shoot and yes… it did get emotional at times. I think that’s what made the writing so good.. and that episode contains my favorite line Josh ever got to say when he says to Marc, ‘I’m not interesting enough to make money talking to people in my garage’

We tend to get a lot of Soap Opera stars on the site (not sure the coalition, but it’s cool). You did a good stint on General Hospital recently! How was this venture? Was it different than working on a primetime show?

You know when General Hospital came along I had never auditioned for a Soap Opera before. I didn’t audition for GH either. It came as a ‘straight offer’… which was definitely fun to get… even though at first I thought… ‘did my manager leave a message for the wrong client’?? Suddenly, out of the blue, I get offered a Soap Opera??

I had a blast doing it… and I’ve probably never been so stressed out in my life. I had heard how quickly they move in terms of how much material gets covered in a day, but I really HAD NO IDEA! Holy shit!! And I shot my 6 episodes over 1 week and as the week went on I got more and more behind in terms of being prepared with the next day’s material. I had one real nightmare of an evening when I got home late… was reviewing my material for the following day… and then, at about midnight realized that earlier in the week I had somehow only printed out half of the material that I was shooting the next morning. Suddenly I had about 20 pages of dialogue that I had never even seen… and I was shooting it in the morning! I literally thought… I have no idea how this is going to happen. I am going to be fired!

So when you aren’t working, what can we find you doing? What do you do for a bit of “Me Time”?

I love to hike with my partner and our two dogs. I love working on our house. We have a craftsman bungalow that was built in 1923 and it truly is my sanctuary. I love looking at art and reading. I love to cook for friends… and I love watching ‘my stories’, The Fall, The Night Of, Night Manager. So much good television being made these days. I also like to draw and paint.

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What would be THE role you would really want to do, but haven’t quite gotten to do?

I would love to play some historical figure. I’m too old for it now… but I always wanted to play Egon Schiele. (he died when he was 28… so… I think that ship has sailed). I love the research aspect of the work and I love transforming….. so the idea of researching and transforming into someone who actually existed is something I really long to do.

So, what is next for the great Mr. Ruptash? Any projects you would like to shamelessly plug here?

Always up for a shameless plug… so Yes! Actually I have several things that I’m very excited about. I’m in the upcoming Paolo Sorrentino HBO Series The Young Pope. I come into the series in the final two episodes. I think the series is going to get a lot of attention. Paolo is pretty remarkable.  http://www.hbo.com/the-young-pope

I shot a film in NY called Wildling with Liv Tyler and Bel Powley. The film is written and directed by a very gifted German filmmaker, Fritz Bohm. They are finishing that up now and it should be hitting the festival circuit at the beginning of next year. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5085924/?ref_=nv_sr_1

I did a small film a couple of years ago that I really believe in. I think it’s a very well made film by Hunter Adams called Dig Two Graves. It’s getting a limited theatrical release the beginning of next year. You can read a bit about it and check out a trailer here. https://digtwograves.com

And then I just finished shooting a very fun guest star on the new CBS show Training Day with Bill Paxton. Very fun role. That will be airing some time in March of 2017 I believe.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I have a morning meditation practice. I used to sit on the floor when I would meditate but the last while I’ve been practicing a mediation that requires me to sit in a chair with my feet flat on the floor. It’s a pretty involved meditation. Lasts about an hour and 15 minutes. I was doing it the other morning and at the end of it when I slowly opened my eyes.. one of my dogs had quietly crawled underneath the chair and was quietly sitting between my feet… I guess meditating with me.

 

And now for a little extra special treat for you find readers/viewers, Troy has been kind enough to share some of his amazing art work for us. It is truly incredible stuff, and deserves to be admired. So please enjoy, the art of Troy Ruptash.

 


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20 Great Stand Up Comedians with Less than 200K Followers [Exclusive]

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I have to preface this piece by stating two things.

Number 1: If you are already a fan of stand up comedy in any way, shape, or form, you’re probably not going to learn a damn thing here. You will probably know 100% of these people. So, this may not be entirely for you. I created this for the casual stand up comedy viewer. Basically, this is a list of comedians who I am consistently surprised that I have to explain who they are to co-workers, friends, etc. I personally wanted to have a full article that I can simply send to people when they are “looking for some stand up to watch”. So many of these great and talented folks below have specials on Netflix, a platform everyone fuckin’ has, but may not have been willing to dedicate an hour to somebody they don’t really know. I’m here to say, WATCH IT Donnie from sales! WATCH IT Gena from HR! WATCH IT! Again, comedians and huge fans of comedy will probably just disregard this article. Which is fine. So just to be clear, this is not an “up and coming” best list. These people have already came again and again (all pun intended).

Number 2: I don’t really give a shit about the Twitter count. I know this seems hypocritical, which is definitely not beyond me, since it’s in the fucking title. But, seriously, I don’t give a shit. I don’t think it is indicative or representing of the persons talent and/or popularity. So why did I use it as a ranking system? Well, I needed SOMETHING to make some order of the chaos. I didn’t want to just throw 20 people’s pictures on a page at random say, “Here. Like them.” No, I needed some kind of standard to set. I’m not positive if it truly works, but nevertheless, it is what it is. So, I went with comedians with less than 200K Twitter Followers. Why 200K? Well, it goes with 20, which is a good solid number. That’s about it. It’s basically an easy way to set some of my favorite comedians apart from their peers who EVERYONE fuckin’ knows, and who I am also a huge fan of. I absolutely adore Bill Burr, Louis CK, Marc Maron, Aziz Ansari, Amy Schumer, Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle, and on and on. They are crazy successful for good obvious reasons. They put in the work, and everyone knows them. This list below is a list of people that everyone SHOULD know, but I am always talking about to blank faces. And it has to stop!

So, that is enough for my preemptive strike against the potential naysayers. Now let’s begin!

 

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Bert Kreischer

Twitter count: 166K. @bertkreischer. If you are a fan of the Travel Channel, you may know him as Bert The Conquerer. In 1997 he was named Top Partier in the country at the top party school in the country, Florida State University, and was sub sequentially the inspiration to the 2002 hit comedy National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. His also a semi-regular on the popular Doug Benson hosted podcast Doug Loves Movies. He is always on the road, and quite possibly coming to a city near you! He’s also prone to taking his shirt off, and is probably the comedian I seem to hear most other comedians talk about. Bert has that likable spirit to him that is impossible not to love. Without every meeting the man, you can simply get that vibe that he would be a perfect person to be friends with, and a dude you could totally trust around your wife alone. And he also always showing up on random podcasts I love, and is always a delight to hear. Podcast: Bertcast.

 

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Ari Shaffir

Twitter count: 152K. @AriShaffir. Ari became popular with his delightfully offensive sketches known as The Amazing Racist where he manages to offend damn near everyone, especially the dummies of the world who thought it was unscripted footage. He is also the host and creator of Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, a brilliant show where comedians and entertainers share embarrassing and/or hilarious stories based around a certain subject. You can also find most of the episodes on YouTube. But I warn you, if you are new to the show, it is highly addictive and will send you down a very long rabbit hole, so give yourself some time. Ari is also not shy at all about his use of explicit drugs. Anything you need to know about mushrooms, Ari is your guy! Podcast: Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank.

 

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Iliza

Twitter count: 149K. @iliza. The artist formerly known as Iliza Shlesinger recent shorted her name just down to her first name, but it does not change the fact that she is one of the hardest working stand up comedians and television stars on the planet. In 2008 she took the crown on the hit reality show Last Comic Standing and has been a household name in the comedy world ever since. She has also hosted Separation Anxiety on TBS, alongside her adorable little dog perfectly named Blanche. She has two AMAZING comedy specials on Netflix right now, Freezing Hot and the recent Confirmed Kills. She also (told you she works hard!), has a great series of shorts on ABC Digital called Forever 31. Side note, her name is incredibly frustrating to type with autocorrect! Podcast: Truth & Iliza.

 

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Tom Segura

Twitter count: 85.4K. @tomsegura. Tom was one of those comedians I always know was around, and apparently a legend. And in all honesty, it took me a while to come around. That was until I heard him on an episode of Bertcast (see above) along with Bill Burr and laughed like an idiot alone in my car. So I finally watched his special Mostly Stories on Netflix, and he instantly skyrocketed in my mind as one of the best comedians working today, as well as onto my bucket list of acts I need to see live before I am consumed by alcoholism and can not longer see straight. Yes, he’s that fucking good. Podcast: Your Mom’s House.

 

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Theo Von

Twitter count: 65.6K. @Theovon. Theo Von was simply a Netflix discovery for me. He had a special, and I hadn’t seen it or really knew who he was. But, I’ll be god damned if I didn’t roll with laughter and searched for everything he has ever been a part of. His Netflix special is called No Offense, and is appropriately titled. My wife would later inform me that he was a very popular reoccurring star on hit MTV reality shows like Road Rules and Real World/Road Rules Challenge and all of their respected spin-offs. The guy has collected a massive body of work in television, but it is his stand up that I appreciate the most, hand’s down. Podcast: Allegedly with Theo Von & Matthew Cole Weiss.

 

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Tig Notaro

Twitter count: 65.5K*. Tig Notari was one of those comedians I would occasionally see and thought was very funny, but didn’t follow so much until I kept hearing about insanely popular documentary (available on Netflix) simply titled Tig that was largely about her battle with breast cancer which would lead to her making the choice to have a double mastectomy. She proved herself as such a brave person, who also happens to be so God damned funny. Tig is constantly referred to as a Comedian’s comedian, which I actually think is a bit insulting, although not meant with malice. She’s just so damn good at her job that she has gained a massive amount of respect

*Stats as of November 3rd, 2016. Tig has apparently left Twitter, for the moment.

 

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Ali Wong

Twitter count: 57.4K. @aliwong. Ali Wong appeared on an episode of WTF and simply blew me away. I was instantly intrigued to learn more about this brilliant comedian. And she did not disappoint on her recent Netflix special Baby Cobra. She drew a bit of attention because she did the show 7 months pregnant, which had never been done before. But, the real draw was just how raw she is in her act. It’s absolutely brilliant and stands on its own for sure. She definitely deserves props for breaking ground on a new idea, but it’s really about her amazing talent, and that is what I respect the most.

 

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Lauren Ashley Bishop

Twitter count: 57.3K. @sbellelauren. When it comes to Twitter, no one tops the Lady Bishop. She is consistently hilarious on this format, and obviously in her act as well. I actually had the great opportunity to see Lauren perform at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar back in 2010. And she absolutely destroyed as a comedian, and not just as a beautiful woman standing before I large group of sexually deprived men and women. She killed it on talent, and talent alone. Not to mention a few great bits about how Air Force PT uniforms are rape proof. I’ve been following her since that night 6 1/2 years ago, and will continue to do so as she comedies across the country.

 

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Trevor Moore

Twitter count: 48.8K. @trevormoore. As the undeniable frontman behind one of the greatest sketch comedy troupes of all time, The Whitest Kids U Know, Trevor Moore has proven himself to be one of the most well rounded funnymen of all time. You can find him, fucking EVERYWHERE. He had a stint as the “man on the street” on the Tonight Show, he tours the country with WKUK, he currently writes for a prank show on the Disney Channel, and has two of the greatest music centric Comedy Central specials of all time. Seriously, if you are uninformed of this brilliant man’s work, you have a shit ton of catching up to do. There are hours of WKUK sketches awaiting your viewing on YouTube, and his latest special, High In Church, is absolutely brilliant. As an added bonus, if you are someone completely saddened by the recent election results, please listen to “Time For Guillotines”. It is the perfect perspective. And I will say what I always seem to say, “Trevor Moore is one of my favorite people that I have never met.”

 

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Sherrod Small

Twitter count: 46.4K. Sherrod is another guy that you sort of just find everywhere! From VH1, to ESPN, and at clubs across the glove, you will find this man at some point. I will admit that the most in-depth attention I have paid to Mr. Small is on the podcast Race Wars that he co-hosts with Kurt Metzger. His very direct observations of the world are nothing short of brilliant. In the stand up and television world, Sherrod has made a name for himself as being incredibly blunt and honest with what he says. And most importantly, he’s god damned hilarious. And that is what truly counts. Podcast: Race Wars.

 

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Mark Normand

Twitter count: 36.3K. I honestly cannot remember why I got so infatuated with Mark Normand. I know I fell in love with his podcast he does with Joe List, Tuesdays With Stories, the first time I heard it, but I can’t remember why I started listening. But, I will say that I am extremely happy that I found his work. I’ve since watched just about every stand up or interview he has done. For the last few months, Mark has been opening for Amy Schumer across the globe, and is definitely in line to be the next big thing. He had a brilliant appearance on Louis CK’s Horace and Pete. His new special “Don’t Be Yourself” is on its way, and is guaranteed to be god damned delightful! Podcast: Tuesdays With Stories.

 

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Kurt Metzger

Twitter count: 30.5K. When it comes to comedians who simply aren’t afraid to “go there”, you simply can’t do better than Kurt Metzger. Kurt is a brilliant old school meets new wave sort of comic. His stand up is unmeasurable in so many ways, as well as incomparable to anyone else you have seen before. He’s publicly stated that he doesn’t really like to write for television shows and doesn’t give a shit about Emmy’s, but he has done some brilliant work in that field, and was nominated for 4 Emmy’s (for his work on Inside Amy Schemer). Just another example of a pure genuine Funny Person. He’s fucking hilarious. And lest we forget his brilliant performance and every single episode of Horace & Pete, which consisted of some of his own material as well as some brilliantly delivered lines from Louis CK. Not to mention his voice over work for Ugly Americans. This motherfucker just has it all. Podcast: Race Wars.
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Lachland Patterson

Twitter count: 24.2K. @lachjaw. Lachland Patterson is actually the only headliner I have seen in an actual comedy club. It was at a Funny Bone in St. Louis with my dad. We didn’t intentionally go to see Lachland, he just happened to be there at a convenient time when I was in town, and we wanted to watch a comedy show. And I will be damned if we didn’t make it for one of the best performances of anything ever. I believe it was a Thursday night, with only about 30 people in the house. Patterson even said during his act to a waitress, “It’s so dead in here, I can actually hear you working”, or something of that nature. It was also Cinco De Mayo, so seeing a crazy tall white dude talk funny for a while might not have been on everyone’s radar for the night. But, the dude killed it for the few of us, I bought is album, and I have been a huge fan ever since. He might have an unfair edge for a comedy club novice such as myself, but I am definitely willing to put his talent up against the likes of the millionaires in the business that everyone loves and adores. He did very well in Last Comic Standing, and for damn good reasons. In the long run, the dude is funny as shit. And what is what is important, right?

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Tiffany Haddish

Twitter count: 23K. @TiffanyHaddish. For those unaware of Haddish’s act, you will probably know her better from her crazy list of credits in the film and television world. She has appeared in over a dozen films, including the Key & Peele project Keanu, and probably three times as many television shows. But, your stand up is the most admirable of all. What I love about Tiffany the most, is her incredible diversity on stage. Seriously folks, I have not seen another comedian that can transfer from jokes about flying and go right into a joke about the sound that happens when your having sex in the doggystyle position. She has that wonderful knack to bring on the safe material along with pleasantly filthy. She’s a perfect comedian for this day and age, and you really need to know this brilliantly hilarious comedian.

 

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Johnny Pemberton

Twitter count: 22.4K. @johnnypemberton. Oh Johnny. Sweet sweet Johnny. For new readers of the site, we interviewed Johnny Pemberton almost three years ago here at Trainwreck’d because I was such a fan of his brief appearance in the hit comedies like  21 Jump Street, The Watch, and This is 40. I didn’t even know he did stand up until we landed the interview and then I became infatuated. He has since done so damn much amazing work. The biggest hit he has worked on might be his starring role as the literal son of Zorn in the hit Fox sitcom Son of Zorn. Which is extremely hilarious and should be adored by all. But, I was most impressed by his guest spot in Trevor Moore’s video for the song “High In Church” that is just absolutely hilarious. Also he is the reason I can’t walk past a clothing store and pronounce “Beautiful Wooool Suuuiiitttt” after his second appearance on Pete Holme’s podcast You Made It Weird. He is seriously just that damn funny. Podcast: Live To Tape & Twisting The Wind.

 

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Joe List

Twitter count: 18.5K. @JoeListComedy. I might have to honestly say here, Joe List is my favorite comedian. If we are talking historically, I might choose a Bruce or Pryor or Carlin, but as far as active comedians in this day and age, List would definitely top my list (all pun intended). He simply has that self-hatred enthusiasm I am always looking for in a comic. For my own taste, I truly believe he is everything that people seem to think Jerry Seinfeld is. I loved Seinfeld as a show, and I definitely love Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but I have never been a true fan of totally clean comics. I love Seinfeld’s persona, but I have never been a fan of his stand up. But luckily I have Joe List. He has the demeanor of a Seinfeld, but he is actually fucking hilarious (to me). He is probably the most openly insecure guy I have ever heard say anything ever, and I totally respect him for this. I seriously fucking love this guy. Podcast: Tuesdays With Stories.

 

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Geoff Tate

Twitter count: 13.7K. @geofftate96. I won’t claim some sort of history cred here and say that I always knew who Geoff Tate was since he started. No, I am another cat who found Doug Benson’s hilarious live movie-centric stand up show Doug Loves Movies that also appearances in podcast format, and have been an avid follower since discovering it. For those not in the know, Geoff is a very regular guest on this show, and is one of the major highlights of the program. He is so damn brilliant on this show, and he isn’t even doing bits! He’s just being himself, which is a naturally hilarious person. And then when you discover the work that he has intentionally created for the sole purpose of making people laugh, he only gets more hilarious. He’s also a perfect dude to follow on Twitter if you want wonderful anecdotes to most, if not al, of life’s regular problems. So that is good too.

 

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Tom Rhodes

Twitter count: 11.5K. @_TomRhodes. So, Tom Rhodes is actually that comedian that I have known for a very long time. The dude has been touring since I was born, so that could possibly be a reason. But, was also the star of one of a television show that was cancelled way before it was allowed to reach it’s groove. Rhodes is joined by the likes of George Carling, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Rapaport, and Jay Mohr as folks who had an amazing premise for a show in the 90’s that just didn’t pan out for middle America shitheads who only wanted to see different versions of Friends. Tom had Mr. Rohdes, which was a brilliant show that I can’t believe more people didn’t tune into. But as it always seems to be (you might notice a trend here, we love Stand Ups, that’s the main idea here), Tom is a stand up at heart. And he has never quit the road. He is still out there putting smiles on undeserving faces and giving one of the best stand up shows you will ever have the honor of listening to. Podcast: Tom Rhodes Radio.

 

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Liza Treyger

Twitter count: 8.9K. @GlitterCheese. When I think of Liza Treyger, I can only think of punch lines. This woman is definitely one of the greats when it comes to punch lines. When it comes to nailing a joke in the end, there is no better person that Liza Treyger. In every bit of stand up I have watched her do, she has absolutely killed it. I seriously love this woman’s act. And on the other end, she is also a mastermind of crowd work. She knows how to work with just about every crowd member who may be at one of her shows. Obviously she may expect some of the same people to attend a show she may be in, but she can work with whatever is in front of her. She is a brilliant comedian who definitely understands her place in the world, and is someone who deserves the the respect of so many generations to come, even if she may be the voice of this very specific generation that we have on our hands right now. Also, since we have mentioned it twice before, she has a brilliant guest starring role on Louis CK’s Horace and Pete. Dammit I loved that fucking series.

 

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Emma Arnold

Twitter count: 4.4K. @iamaroadtrip. I have to preface this last comic by stating that it is unprecedented that she is not the most well known comic on the earth. The material this lady puts out is absolutely hilarious and deserves the respect of everyone around her. Maybe it’s because she continues to live in Idaho? That is actually something I find admirable. Boise is actually a beautiful place if you give it a chance. But none the less, Emma Arnold is one of the most hilarious people I have ever heard say words to crowd of random people ever. She isn’t Bill Burr in any sort of way, but she seems to get the same kind of reaction from any crowd ever that Burr can get. It feels like people are just drawn to her, for totally understandable reasons. What it all boils down to…she’s funny. And that is all that really matters. Podcast: Emma Arnold Podcasts (Couples Skate, All Gone Now Spooky, My Boy Fridays, Take It To The Pod).

Dave Anthony [Interview]

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I am desperately obsessed with stand up comedy. I’m not certain if this has been made perfectly clear here, as I’ve only showcased a few comedians thus far. But, I really love the medium, and I find the folks involved to be the most interesting people alive. And Dave Anthony is one of the best in the business, whether you feel like you know him or not. He’s a pretty damn hilarious guy, and he also happens to be a very important figure on one of the greatest television shows to have aired in the last 20 years.

For the last 4 years, Dave Anthony has portrayed, well, Dave Anthony, in the amazing IFC comedy Maron, which is semi-based on well, Maron. Dave plays a “friend” of Marc Maron’s character, well, Marc Maron (alright, I’ll stop that, but it did work, right?). But, most importantly, he is a brilliant stand up comedian, which is what he will always will be, and should be, primarily known as. His chops as a stand up has made him a genius writer for television, and a genius in whatever he takes up in the world of being fucking hilarious.

Most importantly, he is fucking hilarious, and should be noted as such. So, please enjoy some wonderful words from what might very well be one of my favorite interviews I have done to date. I sincerely mean this. I really do admire this man, and I adore his work. And you definitely should as well! And after a the following words, I’m certain you will. Or maybe you won’t. Fuck it. Just read. Reading is good. Enjoy!

 

When did you realize you were meant to be a stand up comedian? What inspired you to join such a dark yet relentlessly hilarious way of life?

I have never wanted to be anything else. From as young as I can remember, I was trying to get my parents to let me watch stand up comedy. As I got older, I would try to stay awake to make it through Saturday Night Live, so I could watch Evening at The Improv. I didn’t have the greatest upbringing, so making people laugh was a big deal. And I think the poor upbringing gave me a darker outlook and allowed be to learn how to make stuff like that funny.
As just a simple fan of stand up, I am always hearing that we may be in the “Golden Age of Comedy”. Do you believe this to be true?

No, not even remotely. I guess you could say it’s the Golden Age in the sense that a lot of comedians are doing it and are funny. But who is talking about anything important. It’s mostly people talking about ghosts and watermelons. Not much that really truly matters. The alternative comedy world, as it used to be called, was created because comics wanted to get away from the clubs, do more interesting things, and talk about subjects that were unapproachable in a club. Now alt comedy is mostly people talking about things that have no substance. Or they are being weird. I’m fine with the weird but it’s disappointing to see the direction alt comedy has gone in. Mainstream comedy has and will always have the problem of not truly being able to tackle a subject. And when a comic does, he really breaks through. Chris Rock is a great example.

So, no, I don’t think this is a Golden Age. I think it’s a wasted opportunity. Much more is being done overseas with stage time.

I love to hear heckle stories, as I know for a fact that it is something I could never deal with. So, what is our favorite heckler situation? And do you have a tale of when you tore down a heckler, and/or a time when one got the best of you?

I’m never good at these stories. For a long time I was really horrible at dealing with hecklers when I first started. I would go from zero to enraged and it wasn’t funny. Just me insulting people. When I went to New York, I really learned how to shut them up and fast. I guess the best story was when I was at Comic Strip Live in New York. There were a few guys at a table being really loud. Insulting all the comics. I was going on later, so I had to watch these guys ruin the show and no one was doing anything about it. The comics weren’t saying anything, the bouncers weren’t doing anything. It was very weird.

So, when I go up onstage, I just rip into these guys. Really, really tore into them. Then when I got off stage, I was informed they were in the mafia. As they came out of the room, I was sitting in a booth, and they made a comment to me. I wasn’t the type to back down then, even when facing someone who could seriously hurt me. I called them “animals.” Probably not the best move.

They attacked me, trying to hit me, next thing I knew, I was on top of the table, kicking at their heads and the bouncers were breaking it up. They then were taken out. I stayed in the club until it closed. When I left they weren’t outside and I never heard anything else about it.

Random ass question: I know you have written for The Talking Dead, and are a huge zombie fan. We just spoke with John Migliore, who has famously performed a zombie over 30 times and in every “of the Dead” movie to come out in the last 20 years or so. So, same question for you…why zombies? What appeals to you when it comes to zombies? Is there a possible philosophical reason for this?
I’m fascinated with end of times situations. It may have been how I was raised, sort of figuring everything out on my own. There’s a fantasy part to it, envisioning myself out there, fighting for survival and being the one who could do it. It’s sort of the opposite of super heroes, right? They come in and save the world. The world is already toast and I’m just trying to make it. Oh, it’s my childhood.

Your role in Maron is without a doubt one of the finest supporting acts I have ever seen. Just fucking perfect, really. And then you found yourself as a writer on the show!? How did you land this role and eventual writing gig? Where you friendly with Marc prior to show, as I can only assume you were based on your on screen dynamic?

Wow. Thanks. I am always surprised to hear that considering how long I struggled in show business. Marc first brought me in as an actor for one show in season one. The producers really like how we worked together and talked about bringing me back in Season One but it didn’t work out. For Seasons Two, Marc wanted someone in the room who was a comic, could write, and had a, as he calls it, “curmudgeon attitude.” Also, he wanted a guy who had been on the road for a long time and maybe not had all that much success. Me! So, I was brought in as writer and because of our relationship in the writer’s room, tossing jokes back and forth, I ended up being in the show more.

I have known Marc since 1992. Yeah, the relationship is a heightened version of our real life one.

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When you look back on your time during this show, what would you say you are most proud of, if anything? Now that it is all over, what do you think of your work and the product over all?

The episode called “Racegate.” I think a lot of shows try to tackle race and they end up getting scared about how to approach it, which leads to watered down nonsense. We didn’t do that. We had a lot of discussions about it. I think it was the only time I yelled at anyone in the writer’s room. I really took my time to work on that episode, locking myself away in a hotel room for a few days. I did a lot of research and learned how black comics perceived the comedy world and why it is so different from how white comics do.

It’s hard for me to look back and my work and appreciate it. I know we did something unique, grounded, and, particularly for addicts, important. I’m proud of it and don’t think I’ll be allowed to work on something that true and honest again.

Through very little research, I have come to learn that you have done some work with the USO. So, what have your experiences been with the USO? Where did you travel to?

Ha! I just did one show. In San Diego. So, I can’t really speak to that. Drew Carey asked me to go to Faluja when it was really heating up over there and I just had my kid and was too scared. How about that? Total tough guy helping out the men fighting by cowering in his Los Angeles apartment.

So what is next for you, good Sir? Anything you would like to tell our readers about?

Oh, shit. I don’t know. I’m super into my podcast The Dollop. I’m working on a pilot that never seems to get done because of the podcast. Hopefully you’ll see me on some other shows. I’ve just sort of taken it easy since Maron ended but am gearing up to get back out there now.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I coach Little League. Yesterday, during a game, I told our second baseman to take five steps backwards. The batter hit a ball, which bounced in front of the plate, then flew to the second baseman. He didn’t even have to move and caught it. Then he started celebrating. Jumping up and down and running around. Everyone started screaming at him that it was a ground ball. He ended up not getting the out. It really made me laugh. I gave him the game ball for the catch and celebration.

 

Find out more about what Dave Anthony and check out The Dollop, at daveanthonycomedy.com.

NEMR [Interview]

nemr

I find it pretty incredible how so many of us American comedy fans have an unwarranted and sometimes unknown predilection towards thinking we are the only ones who can dominate the comedy world. Of course, it’s not unwarranted to state that we sort of invented the thing as an official format, although one could argue that the idea of standing in front of a bunch of people and desperately trying to make them laugh is a task that has spanned centuries. Hell, some people used to get their god damned heads cut off for doing what we now simply call “Bombing”. Point is, beyond the likes of John Oliver, Trevor Noah, or the “King of Cunt” himself Jim Jeffries, the whole world has something to offer. New comedy scenes are popping up all over the place, and are making their way over the pond and into our clubs and concert halls. And today or subject, Nemr is no exception.

Nemr has built his how brand of acclaim in his country of birthplace of Lebanon. I know, as Americans, when we first think of Lebanon, we think “funny”. But the Lebanese community has proven that the know a bit about what it means to be hilarious and who is doing it right. Because they love Nemr, and he is doing it right. He is not just a hilarious Lebanese comic, he is a hilarious comic who happens to be from Lebanon (technically, although he’s been in the U.S. longer that I have!). He has a brilliant act and is naturally funny in all the ways a professional stand up comedian should be. And we are so damn happy that he was willing to share a few words with you lucky ass reader(s). So please, enjoy our interview with the hilarious Nemr.

What drew you into the world of stand up comedy. Do you derive from the mentally unstable mindset like so many other artists in your field? Or something nicer, perhaps? And what keeps you wanting to stay in the game?

I first fell in love with Stand Up Comedy when I was probably four or five years old in San Diego. When my family left Lebanon it was because of war, so you can imagine it wasn’t the happiest of times. I was almost two years old when we came here but my earliest memories of laughter were of my parents watching Stand Up Comedy and filling the house up with laughter. Maybe it was the fact that I hated darkness, or maybe it was something unrelated and all of it was coincidence, but I always saw stand up as the one thing that always worked, no matter what the circumstances, a societal super hero. If you think about it, it’s kind of an antibiotic. Take too much of it and it becomes harder for you to laugh at anything and you need stronger and stronger comics. Until one day you die because nothing makes you laugh anymore. Except stand up just keeps getting better, so you keep living. As for what keeps me in the game is, well, there is still too much darkness, I have a lot more work to do.

Who were your guys growing up? What were some of your earliest influences?

Dana Carvey was the first stand up comic I ever reacted to by saying, ‘When I grow up I’m going to be a stand up comedian!’. I memorized a set for him that I didn’t entirely understand but I would repeat to anyone and everyone I came across. Also, Bill Cosby, I know that’s not a popular person to bring up today, but those were the first specials my parents watched and I would watch with them. That was when I was four or five years old. Then when we went back to Lebanon I continued old school. My mom had cassette tapes from her childhood in London of Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Don Rickles, all the greats doing stand up and I could not stop listening to them. Then when the internet happened it progressed. Bill Hicks was a major influence, then Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, Pablo Francisco and many others. Now it’s all of the above and Bill Burr, I have so much respect for Bill.

nemr-live


What would you say is the biggest difference between American audiences and those in the Middle East? Are there certain subjects you feel as though you have to stray away from?

I think the biggest difference is in the Middle East the audiences are much more sophisticated in what they’ve been exposed to. You don’t need to be politically correct or draw things out for people to get them there, everyone has experience so much life in so many different places that it’s surreal how real everyone is. In America it varies in terms of how out the bat real I can be, but I feel that pushed me to become a craftier more clever comic. To find ways to bring people up to speed to an idea, a concept, a tonality, in tens of seconds. There are no subjects I can’t discuss there, but I know there are many that America isn’t ready for here. But in time, the beauty of this adventure, I’ll have created subjects between the two worlds that nobody would have thought to even bring up, and that’s really what’s great about this. Not what you can or can’t say, but what you have or haven’t even thought was something to be said.

How do you feel your success in the Middle East is spilling over into the states? What are your audiences generally like on this side of the pond?

I love American audiences. Arab audiences here are very jaded and in many ways old school in their mentality, the majority having left two or sometimes more generations ago they carried prejudices with them that Lebanon has long overcome. What’s interesting is putting them in a crowd with Americans, side by side, when they see other Arabs, Americans, Asians, Europeans, black, white and everything in between, nothing does more to elevate everyone up to a celebration status of being together as opposed to being apart. I couldn’t do that without American audiences.

And to their credit, American audiences are incredibly powerful for comedy. They’re savvy, love and respect the art form, and absolutely support the hell out of you if you gain their respect. They’re the ultimate crowd. Arab crowds are the same but they have a lot of emotional baggage that Americans don’t have, I think the world really benefits when they sit in a room together, Arabs and Americans. Well, anyone with Americans really. I think you’ll see by this paragraph alone, I’m terrifyingly proud of humanity in general.

I understand you are a fan of heavy metal music. One of our staff writers is known at Metal Mattson, and can go on for days about it. He always likes to ask what people are listening and what would they recommend. So, I will ask it for him? Who are your bands?

Metal Mattson is obviously a very intelligent individual! I absolutely love heavy metal music. It’s very visceral, aggressive, passionate, brilliant and unpredictable. I grew up very heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine, especially Zach de la Rocha and his lyrics. They stood for something while sounding like nothing else. Later on it just got heavier. My biggest influences would have to be Death, Megadeth, Napalm Death, (so much death, how Lebanese) Sepultura, Kreator, Meshuggah, In Flames and Dark Tranquility. The coolest thing ever by the way, Dark Tranquility are playing the Gramercy Theater the day after my show, how surreal.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug?

Right now I’m at the point in my career where everyone congratulates me constantly for my success, but I don’t feel like I’ve done anything. So I can’t wait until I get where I want to. So please check NEMRCOMEDY.COM for all my shows and updates, and if you’re in New York I hope I hear you laughing at the Gramercy Theatre on Thursday. I hope as many people as possible follow me closely, it isn’t an adventure when you aren’t surround by incredible characters.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Earlier today actually I saw a girl, probably 3 or 4 years old, crying for ice cream until her father buckled and let her have some, but only after he wrapped her up and made sure she only had small bites because it’s incredibly cold here in New York, but then she started crying because it was too cold, and he said, ‘I told you!’ Of course this did nothing to stop her crying, so he told her if she didn’t stop he would eat the ice cream and as soon as he put it to his mouth she stopped and told him, ‘Daddy don’t’. Well that’s what made me smile, but that happened in my mind, what I saw was a dad annoyingly tell his daughter she couldn’t have ice cream and she cried.

 

To check out tour dates and more from Nemr, be sure to make your happy ass over to NEMRCOMEDY.COM