Barry Katz [Interview]


Folks, I have to preface this one by stating that we have an absolute LEGEND in the digital room today. I seriously can not stress this enough. The man you will be hearing from today is a man who has made some of the finest acts in entertainment possible, simply be being who he truly is. He is Barry Katz. He is a man with an eye for talent that is so sharp and so spot on, there seriously is no one to compare him to in his business. It is suffice to say that Barry Katz is the Barry Katz of the world of comedy and talent management.

Barry’s career isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of. Barry’s career is the stuff that hard work, dedication, and a keen eye for talent is made of. In fact, so many of the finest acts you know and love today would not be half of what they are if it weren’t for Katz. Through is representation and eye for talent, we are firmly aware of folks like Dane Cook, Jay Mohr, Bert Kreischer, Tracy Morgan, and the list goes on and on. He is a talent manager, yet he is so much more. He is the founder of the Boston Comedy Club in NYC, but he is more than that as well. He is also has a brilliant podcast that I have to say, is sort of along the lines of what we try to do here at Trainwreck’d Society, but obviously not on a Barry Katz level. It is called Industry Standard, and it is a brilliant look at some of the people who are running the (sometimes literal) show in the world of entertainment. Barry really goes behind the scenes with some of the amazingly talented producers, writers, and directors who are titans of the industry, even though they may not be household names. Of course, he is also known to have folks like Kevin Hart jump in as well, because Barry is a beloved figure like that!

Barry was so kind to support the TWS endeavor by sharing a few words with us. While we don’t feel that we have deserved the Barry Katz seal of approval or endorsement, the simple fact that he has been willing to acknowledge our presence at all is a huge fucking win for us. In is the exact sort of motivation that can make a person feel warmer inside than Bert Kreischer’s beat red, vodka-soaked face on a Friday night. We are beyond honored to have Barry Katz digitally speaking with us today. There were so many questions I wanted to get in with him, but unfortunately we had to narrow it down a bit to what I considered the essentials, as Barry is a very busy man, and we need him to keep on doing what he does in order for us to be entertained. So with that, please enjoy some great words from the legend himself, Mr. Barry Katz!

I understand you began your career as a stand up comedian in Boston before you moved to New York to focus on the business side of the comedy business. What prompted you to make the move? When did you realize that you had the talent necessary to become the success that you eventually became?

I think it was realizing that as good as I thought I was as a stand-up, I didnt feel that I had what it took as a writer to compete as well as I could as a performer…and I didn’t like being beholden to other people for my work. it was time to make the transition to the business side, which I quickly found out was much easier and came more naturally to me than writing great stand-up comedy routines.

Probably The Most important question we can ask anyone: How does what you do for a living make you happy?

Ultimately, being happy is a choice. you have to believe in yourself and your ability. The hard part comes when the things you do really well and make the most money doing, become less enjoyable…and the things that you do equally well, that make you the least amount of money become more enjoyable.


You have developed and brought to life hundreds of television shows and films in your career, and obviously, some of them aren’t going to last. And sometimes it’s just not fair, and that is why I need to ask about Action. This show was my first experience in the loss of a great show, so I finally get to ask someone behind this amazing show…..What the fuck happened?

Action was just to much ahead of its time and sometimes shows like that (see Arrested Development) just don’t get their due on the bigger networks because you are dealing with niche shows that dont appeal as much to the majority of the country. At the time it was cancelled, it was getting about 7-8 million viewers each week, which if it were today, would be a nice viewership. Back then there were no Netflix, F/X’s, IFC’s…and our only real shot at success was HBO, where it originally was supposed to be, but Columbia-Tristar couldnt come to terms with them, so Doug Herzog and his team at Fox scooped it up. True to form, Doug was a visionary…but at the time he was hoping that his network could rally the country around contrarian programming…but the country just wasn’t ready for a cast of unloveable and unhugable characters.

What inspired you to start your podcast Industry Standard? What was your initial goal when you started it, and do you feel like you have obtained that goal?

I would take meetings with studio heads, network presidents, household name producers, directors, comedian/actors—the biggest people in the entertainment business and then get in my car and realize that I was the only one in the meeting and no one got a chance to hear the pearls of wisdom and the view from behind the curtain that all of these people exhibited…that I had witnessed. Then I realized no matter how great I was as a manager on any given day—even if I helped an artist with their talent and mine to achieve a goal like SNL, I still only helped a few people—the artist, the network, the studio, the producers of the show—but I felt that the information that I was privy to and that people were willing to share with me was valuable to a larger audience…and so hence my goal to reach and assist as many people as possible. In a few short years, the show has reached the top 1/4 % of 375,000 podcasts and hopefully, will continue to inspire and help people while sharing the journey’s of my guests.


You have had conversations on Industry Standard with some of the biggest names in the world of comedy and entertainment. With that, have there been any guests that surprised you in some way? Through candor, openness, etc.? Basically, did you have any guests that turned out quite differently that you had imagine?

I know it sounds strange, but they all surprise me in some way or another with the things they say or do. People always ask me what shows I recommend, but its so hard to do, because they all relate to every business and every artist. David Copperfield isn’t just valuable to magicians, Kevin Hart isn’t important just to comedians, Ted Sarandos isnt just valuable to network presidents, Larry Moss isn’t vital to just actors and actresses, and Judd Apatow is certainly not only worthwhile for film and television producers. However, if I had to pick a few guests that surprised me with an unexpected turn in the interview…I’d say Larry Moss, Bert Kreischer, Jay Mohr (as me and as himself), Michael Madsen, the late Chris Thompson, Dionne Warwick, Reggie Hudlin, and Dr. Phil.

When you look back on your illustrious career, in so many different realms, what would you say you are most proud of?

I wish I felt that I was illustrious…but I think, at best, I’m -lustrious…or simply -trious. Regardless, I’d say my proudest moments are being able to facilitate with my talent and theirs…4 SNL cast members (Jay Mohr, Jim Breuer, Darrell Hammond, and especially Tracy Morgan) and a host that did the show twice in less than a year, including the premiere episode of one season. I think also, working with Dane Cook selling out 2 shows in one night in Boston and Madison Square Gardens—over 80,000 people in a week and producing his albums—two of which entered the Billboard 200 chart in the Top 5, which last happened once in the 70’s with Steve Martin.

If you were to put the Barry Katz stamp of approval on any emerging stand up comedians out there working today, who would it go to?

i dont think its fair to do that when there are so many talented young artists out there—but generally the artists themselves know who they are…and so do their peers. they are undeniable charismatic forces of nature who construct jokes with a flair for wordsmanship, rhythm, timing, and originality.

Listeners of Industry Standard will surely know about this by now, but can you tell new readers a bit about I Killed JFK? How did you become involved with such a strange and insightful project?

A friend of mine asked me if I would take a meeting with a guy who had some found footage that I would be fascinated by, so I took the meeting and what was described would be an understatement and it blew me away. So much so that I flew to Amsterdam to meet with the guy who shot alot of the footage and conducted the interviews to see if he would let me make my own documentary from all of his footage about the only person in history to ever admit to killing JFK. I’m a comedy guy, but I decided to take on the challenge of making this documentary…and it turned out amazing…and so I decided to see if I could get it out in there so the people all over the world could decide for themselves if they felt his story was believable. I’m happy to say I just received worldwide distribution through flame and a special theatrical release during the week of Kennedy’s 100th birthday in late May.


So what are you looking forward to the most in 2017? Anything you would like to plug here?

I’m mostly just looking forward to being able to continue what I love most—allowing the artists I represent to tell their stories and the stories of those that write for them when they dont write the words themselves…as well as telling my stories and the stories of other artists that I don’t represent and bringing them to a global audience.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My boys—I interviewed Jeanie Buss and because of her generosity, I was able to bring them to a few Lakers games where they sat close enough to smell the sweat of Luke Walton…and got to go back to the Chairman’s Club under the arena and meet a ton of players for the Lakers, the Cavs, and the Clippers—organically without pressure and hang out with three of my favorite people in comedy—Jay Mohr, Chris Tucker, and Dave Chappelle. To give your kids a gift that you never had as a child—based on the generosity of another…is one of the greatest feelings in the world…and if that doesnt make you smile…nothing on earth will.

I Killed JFK will be available in theatres for one night only on May 31st! Discover more at ikilledjfk.com.

 

Check out this haunting teaser trailer for I Killed JFK, available soon:

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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