Interview with Comedian Rus Gutin at The New York Comedy Club
In a Revealing Interview at New York Comedy Club, Rus Gutin Described How Stand Up Has Changed Over The Years.
What was your process in developing this special?
RUS: When I did LEGAL GUARDIAN for Comedy Records at New York Comedy Club a few years ago, it was the first time someone else besides me would be releasing something I did. SO it was an attempt to take all the material I had written since my son Rocco was born, dealing with all my anxieties towards being a father. and get it all in one place. I was very proud of it and how it all turned out….After I taped it though, my wife and I also decided to stick with the idea of having just one child. Our goal was to, “raise ONE Supreme Court Justice and be done with it.” But life had other ideas and my beautiful daughter Sofia arrived not too long after that. So while I had originally intended to move on to telling a different story as a follow up; my fatherhood pressures and anxieties doubled and so now I’m getting ready to tape all of that material as LEGAL GUARDIAN Vol. 2….
RUS: As far as my process, I approach each set (or monologue in my case) as a long song or section of an arrangement, that always has to have a beginning, middle, and end. I like to build them 15 mins at a time and after working each of the ideas for a year or so; I combine it all like Voltron with some retro-fitted transitions added. And I want to especially thank my manger Emilio Savone and New York Comedy Club for giving me the opportunity to work this way the last few years. They’ve given me plenty of room to run and experiment there. I’ve been very humbled by all their support.
Do you think stand-up has changed a lot over the years? (*I didn’t see the “YOUR” in this question the first time. So I answered what I THOUGHT the question was too. Haha!)
Do you think YOUR standup has changed a lot over the years?
RUS. Yes, ALSO incredibly so. I always had the high-energy monologue style, BUT it was crass and unrefined when I started for sure. After 9/11, I then became very politically driven and angry on stage. My goal was more to really push the audience to think and maybe even get upset. Eventually, I learned that neither I nor the audience was getting anything positive out of it at the end of the day though. And right around the time I realized nobody cared what my opinions about big subjects were anyway, I had my son. That is when my material really became laser focused on who I was and what my fears and pains were. I felt a shift in how the crowds reacted to me and I simply liked how I felt after the show better too. I felt like I actually was connecting with people as opposed to lecturing them. I still do love to write jokes about politics, but more for my own amusement or podcast appearances..
What happens if they don’t laugh?
RUS: For me, it depends. Because I really go pretty fast and get pretty intense once I get going. So IF the crowd isn’t into it, SOMETIMES I enjoy that there’s nothing that I or the crowd can do to stop the freight train and I take it all the way to the end and leave very loudly and awkwardly. But so long as long as I knew I went for it, did what I rehearsed and left it all on the field, I enjoy going out in a blaze of glory… BUT that said, because my style is so smashmouth, I’ve also been known to just stop mid-sentence and say “sorry for getting so upset, goodnight.” and just walk off. Haha!!
5. How often do you perform comedy per week?
What are you favorite comedy clubs that you perform at?
RUS: It’s a 2 part answer, but 1.) Quite simply, NEW YORK COMEDY CLUB. Emilio Savone and Scott Linder, along with Andrew, Kristina, Oz and the whole staff have completely re-invented this amazing room that was a relic even when I stared out 18 years ago. Back then if you leaned on the bar too heavily you were afraid part of it might come right off! And beyond the physical transformation, it was their passion for comics and creating a positive environment to work on material and hang out. That’s what I think really brought the scene right to them. AND THEN, they added the amazing AMY HAWTHORNE as the booker, who is my old friend from The Comedy Store, which was their most clutch move yet. She has had her finger on the pulse for a long time and she always knows exactly what shows and comics to have on. Whenever I am on my way to NYCC, while I’m excited to perform my set, I’m even more excited to see the line-up she has for the night. Heavy hitter after heavy hitter, so you gotta bring your A game. She loves comedy and it shows.
RUS: Part 2 of the answer though has to be about LA though, because it was FOR SURE my show at the The Comedy Store in The Belly Room upstairs AND being on “Comedy Juice” at The Hollywood Improv in the Main Room where I believe I truly came into my own as a comic. I try to get back once or twice a year and hoping to be there again in the Fall.
How often do you write jokes?
When did you feel like you were a pro comedian?
RUS: Even though I’d been around a few years at that point in NY, not until I moved to LA in 2005-ish and eventually had a weekly show at The Comedy Store in The Belly Room called, “FRIDAY NITE LIVE”. The Store taught me very quickly that everyone there was really funny and could write killer jokes, but it was the comics that you left feeling like you actually got to know them that made it big every time. And when I and my wife were expecting my first kid, I felt safe there to share all of those fears on stage. Whether it worked or not. As long as it was honest. That’s where it clicked for me. I’m eternally grateful to The Store and that particular era of comics who adopted me into their “comedy collective” for teaching me to stop writing jokes and to start writing my own story.
How did you know you wanted to be a comedian or did it just happen?
RUS: I have wanted to be a comedian since I was about 4 or 5 years old. My life’s work has always been going towards the goal of having my own hour specials on HBO like George Carlin did.Who would you say are your influences in the comedy world?
What is one of your more embarrassing memories from childhood?
What are the most important rules you live by?
RUS: Notorious B.I.G’s “The Ten Crack Commandments”
What was your favorite book as a kid, and what does that say about you?
RUS: When I was a kid and even now, I was a ferocious reader of any comic book I could legally get my hands on. I also LOVED The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars novels too. But maybe my favorite reading “experiences” when I was kid were Stephen King’s “Misery” and “IT”. I was WAY too young to be reading those books and am not sure why no adults thought to stop me. BUT holy shit, did they freak me out in the best of ways. And I found “Misery” totally hilarious, which is pretty disturbing on SO MANY levels. BUT I guess it does explain my style of humor a bit too, now that I think about it.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Given your feelings about the state of our culture, how do you avoid despair?
What three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
Do you have any quotes that you live your life by or think of often?”
RUS: “Good looks will open doors for ya, but good hair will blow em off the hinges.”- Sam Malone (just kidding, I’ve been watching A LOT of old Cheers reruns on Netflix lately)… There are a few: (1). “The only regrets I have in life are the risks I didn’t take.” (2). “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” (3).”Drink when you wanna remember, not when you wanna forget.” and lastly, (4). “No one’s loved and lost like Frank has.”
How to handle hecklers from the stage?
What advice would you give your younger self?
What most important lesson you learned in comedy?
Advice to your younger self just starting in comedy career?
RUS: You don’t need to do new material all the time. It’s okay to work on the same material for a while and let it grow. Make it better. Get it right. I left a lot of material behind for no good reason other than writing new stuff just for the sake of writing new stuff. Just like wine, you have to let a bit breathe a while. The audience won’t know if a bit is 10 years old or 5 mins old so long as you do it with honesty, gumption and precision.
How long do you spend developing new material?
Why is there so much sadness—depression, addiction—in the comedy world?
RUS: Ask me such a deep question, I will give a deep answer I suppose… Because you truly can’t have comedy without pain. Most people see a guy slip on banana peel, fall on his ass, and laugh. What a comics sees is that that guy who slipped cracked his tailbone and will require surgery and years of physical therapy afterwards. And that’s exactly what it is. You can’t have the laughs without the pain. And I think comedy attracts very ultra-sensitive and vulnerable people who have a lot of pain in their past like me or maybe their present. And they simply can’t help but take in ALL the emotions and energy around them in the world, like a lightning rod. And we take that energy and deliver it to the crowd, and they laugh and we connect and we feel good for that 15 mins or so…. But then it’s over, the crowd goes home and you’re all alone again. BUT all the while, still taking in all those emotions and energy ALL the time. Everyday. Whether you want to or not. Whether you have a gig or not. Which can be VERY daunting emotionally and heretofore comes at a cost. The way Matt Murdock/Daredevil can hear every single thing around him ad nausaeum until he trained himself to block it out. I struggle with depression and panic attacks to this day even though I have a great wife, house, career and family. So I think this profession simply attracts a certain kind of “sensitive mutant” or “person” like me.
What’s your drink of choice?
Greatest cartoon of all time?
(*Kid Rock: Who is an animal in the wilderness I would NOT like to be for the day BTW.)
So the stereotype of comedians being horribly depressed and neurotic is true?
Do you ever get tired of being a comedian?
So at the end of your day, what’s your ultimate goal?
What would you say troubles you the most about the world today?