Sam Tallent [Interview]

Hello Folks! And welcome to Trainwreck’d Society. Where for the last decade, we have had the pleasure of bringing you a plethora of interviews with some the best actors, writers, filmmakers, comedians, and beyond. It has been an absolute pleasure to serve. And now, I have to say that it is all over. This is it, Folks. After 10 years, I have decided to close our digital doors. It’s been great. And I am extremely proud of what myself and all the contributors to this site have managed to pull off. For everyone who has been reading on the regular for all of these years, again, thank you so damn much. This site started off as just a way to yell into the internet about movies at a time when I was only yelling into the internet about music. I plan on writing a big ole heartfelt goodbye in the coming weeks, so I’ll stop with the mushy shit for now, and get into the details of our amazing guest….

It’s Sam Tallent, Everyone! Sam is an absolutely hilarious human being with a DYI spirit that is extremely impressive. He is a road dog comic through and through, but also might be one of the most knowledgable and interesting folks in the game. He is also quickly becoming one of my favorite novelists of all time. Last year he released (self-released, just how we like it around here) the absolutely incredible book, Running The Light. As you all know, I love stand up comedy. I think it is one of the purest forms of entertainment there is, as it requires so little physically for the most part, but a whole LOT mentally. With that, Running The Light is definitely the best novel about stand up comedy you will have ever read. Now, the conundrum here is that I fucking hate telling people, “You’ll love this book, even if you don’t care about stand up”. Because while that’s true, it’s really not fair to Sam. The story in RTL is definitely outlandish enough that it could have been written by somebody with far less talent than, well, Tallent. But, I swear on children, this is one of the best pieces of writing I have ever consumed. But, the “even if you don’t like stand up” problem seems to deter people. It’s as if I recommended Tortilla Flats to people and said, “Even if you don’t like broke ass migrant workers, it’s such a well written book.” People may still read it! Well, that is how I feel about Running The Light. Sam Tallent has a skillset on par with a John Steinbeck and will only continue to prove as much in the years to come. Which is an affirmation that I will stand by until my untimely death.

Oh, and did I mention he is funny as hell? As most of you know, when it comes to having comedians on this site, we don’t generally allow those who are not funny. What the hell would be the point? I’ve always made it a point to make you all feel comfortable in knowing that if I have a comedian on this site, they are guaranteed funny. And Folks, Sam Tallent is guaranteed funny. I’m actually just two days out from getting to see Sam live and in person right here in Alaska! In fact, I believe as of this writing, the dude has to be at least on a plane headed this way, or already here suffering through his first sleep in the midnight sun. And you know what Folks, I already know he is going to crush. Guaranteed funny.

So, Folks, it is an absolute pleasure to say that our final guest on the site is one of the funniest human beings on the planet, and one of the best writers around today. I could not think of a better person to wrap this whole thing up with than Sam Tallent. My first two interviews were with a writer (Jess Walter) and a comedian (Timmy Williams). So what better way than closing it out with somebody who has mastered both. I am so excited to have Sam Tallent grace our digital pages today. And without further babbling, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Sam Tallent!

Have a wonderful evening, and a beautiful tomorrow.


What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you have wanted to do since your youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

My family valued humor above all else. Everyone was very funny in their own ways. My mom was acerbic, my dad was a ham. My sister is a sniper: her quips are acidic and cutting and perfect. My uncles and my aunts and my cousins – they all love to cause and receive laughter. My paternal grandfather was hilarious and ridiculous; I have so many memories of him and me and my dad taking turns making my grandmother laugh until she cried. Funny was a balm applied liberally when times were tough, both emotionally and financially. Even when my parents weren’t getting along, they still laughed at each other. All the people I love and need are funny: I don’t have any friends who aren’t funny. My wife is a stunning, brilliant doctor, but I highly doubt we’d be married if she wasn’t funny (we definitely wouldn’t be married if I wasn’t funny). Funny has just always been the most important thing. There’s footage of me doing stand up – “I just flew in and boy are my arms tired” type jokes – when I was 3 or 4. I parroted these hacky 80’s jokes for my aunts and uncles – whether they fed them to me or showed them to me on TV, I have no idea – but these tapes exist. So I guess I wanted to be a comic before I could read. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work to date?

My first paid gig was at Albums on the Hill in Boulder, Colorado. I learned that if you’re nice and funny and easy to get along with, people will book you for shows you don’t deserve, just as Brent Gill did for that gig. I still abide by that rule and now Brent is one of my funniest and closest friends. 

I have been following your stand up for quite a few years, and happen to know that you hail from the same small part of Colorado as our friend and past guest David Gborie, and that you two are as close as can be, and the stories you would tell on your podcast Shinin’ feel absolutely outrageous. With that in mind, how do you think the environment in which you grew up in affects your work to date? Is it always a constant reminder of where you have been and where you can go? Or is it simply source material for a life well-lived?

Growing up in Elizabeth, population 900, both David and I learned to make everyone laugh. You didn’t have the luxury of choosing your clique. The sample size wasn’t big enough to afford discernment. Parties were attended by cowboys, jocks, theater kids, nerds, burn outs, skaters, goths, preps, rednecks and the generally uninspired, all of them competing for each other’s attention. I don’t know if David would agree because we had different experiences due to the demographics, but I watched him evolve into the beautiful and admirable man he is today since we were 14, so I’m going to speak for him on this specific issue: I think that we each benefited from learning how to speak to the comedic sensibilities of disparate groups. As adults, we can make anyone laugh, and I think it was a skill we learned in our nonage sitting in basements and around bonfires cracking wise for every freak in town. 

We always like to ask comics who are regularly on the road this question: What are some of the more unique cities and/or venues that many people may not realize are actually great places to do comedy?

Cincinnati is pound for pound the funniest city in America. New Orleans is a great place to learn stand up. If I had to film a special, I would heavily consider Minneapolis and Milwaukee because the crowds are smart but they also occupy the center of the Venn diagram formed by drinkers who aren’t loud heckling assholes when they’re drunk. Portland, Maine is better than Portland, Oregon. The Comedy Fort in Fort Collins, Colorado is the best new club in the country. Comedians should go to Pensacola, Florida more because I want the scene to grow so I can eventually move there. Tuscaloosa, Kansas City, Omaha. Iowa City, Little Rock and South Dakota and Kentucky in general are much better than you’d assume. You can still raise hell in San Francisco. Also, never call SF “San Fran”, call it the City to impress locals. I want to spend more time in Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, Montana and Oxford, Mississippi. If I disappear, look for me in Key West or Chattanooga. No matter what happens, I will consider myself successful as long as I never have to perform in Gillete, Wyoming again.. 

Your book Running the Light is absolutely incredible. Obviously fans of stand up comedy will love it, but it’s also brilliantly written. So, what made you want to tell this story? Has the occupation of novelist always been something you’ve aspired to do?

Thanks, Ron. That’s very nice and flattering. Reading literary fiction is my favorite thing. If I could just read books, I’d be fairly happy. I’m confident to say that I have excellent taste in fiction. I was writing short stories, just tinkering, and I sent one of them to VICE. They liked it and they published a butchered version and it went viral in the comedy world. The success of that gave me the idea that maybe I could write, but I never intended to write that book. It came out of trying to write two other things and I got about 120,000 words deep on those before I met Billy Ray (the protagonist of Running the Light). And I know saying I met him sounds pretentious and bullshit but I had no intention of giving him life. I initially wanted to tell the story of his son, Jeremiah, the boy who was orphaned by him, and the first chapter of RTL was a vignette from that project, but as I wrote it, I realized I knew Billy Ray better than his son. The decisions he made were organic and he was easy to write; I never had to yank his strings or force him. So I just followed him on his mission and ten months later I had a book. And yes, if I’m honest, I have always aspired to be an author, which is weird to admit for some reason and I don’t know why.    

If you were given free range to create the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

 I’m not a big fan of biopics. I don’t like happy endings. I like stories involing very high risk for very little reward. Like a highly orchestrated and well thought-out jewel heist is less interesting to me than a guy who robs a gas station with an unloaded gun and gets away with $300. I guess if I got to do a biopic, I’d do a movie about a guy like this guy here in Colorado who modified a bulldozer and used it to destroy a bunch of buildings in his small town before he blew his head off. As a story teller (I can’t believe I just said as a story teller. Jesus Christ.), I think it would be fun to explore what brought him to that point where he’s behind the wheel of this homemade tank smashing up VFW’s and Wendy’s. How pissed off do you have to be to build a killdozer? There’s a lot of steps involved. That’s not like a dude who snaps and takes a gun to the post office. You have to build a killdozer. You have to source the steel, order the rivets. You have to learn to weld. I’ve never been so furious that I learned how to weld. The killdozer demolition of Granby, Colorado isn’t the result of a guy having one bad day, it’s the culminaiton of a lifetime of bad days. And I think there’s probably a very human story in all of those bad days that would be intersting to tell. 

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

I’m touring again, building a brand new. My dates and my book are on SAMTALLENT.COM. I’m going to start putting out other peoples books on my publishing company, Too Big To Fail Press, which was a dumb decision, but I have to put out at least one so I can know exactly how dumb it is. I have an Audible Original coming out this fall. It’s a 30,0000 word short story about a teenage bare knuckle boxer. It’s violent and bleak and hopeless and beautiful and I’m very proud of it. I’m swimming and lifting weights and cooking plant based meals for my friends and family. I’m celebrating five years of marriage with Doctor Tallent and feeling grateful every day for everything. I’m reading the entire catalog of New York Tyrant, RIP Gian. I’m half assedly working on my second novel. I’m reccomending the book Preparation for the Next Life to your readers because it’s the best book I’ve read in a very long time. My comedy special comes out September 7th. And finally, after an 11 year hiatus, I’m obtaining the last 8 credits I need to get my undergrad so that maybe, one day, I can make college kids at a small  and expensive liberal arts school read my favorite books and have them tell me why they suck. 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My wife just came home from work and did a half scoot/half run into the kitchen with her arms pinned to the side and told me it was called “the mini scuffle”. Then, on her way out of the kitchen,  she did it at full speed and informed me that version was called the “big mini scuffle”. 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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