Big Apple Comedy with Big Hearted Rob Little
Interview Conducted and Transcribed by Gary Miller
Comedian Rob Little Gets Naked, Gives Back to Charity, Not Quite in That Order.
Best Comedy Tickets Talks with the jovial comedian about his love for all things funny, performing oddities, travel stories, and giving back to the community.
BCT: Growing up, what kind of comedy were you into? What shows or comedians did you watch?
RL: Well I loved all comedy! Anything I could get my hands on! But the two comedians that had the biggest influence on me were Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy. I don’t think I really knew of many more comedians at that time other than George Carlin but he was way over my head. I had all of Bill Cosby’s and Eddie Murphy’s tapes growing up and would just listen to them over and over again. Once I discovered Johnny Carson I would do anything I could to stay up late to watch him. I thought he was amazing and I would pray that he would have a comedian on every night.
I also remember watching a show that Rodney Dangerfield hosted where he would introduce new comedians. I saw Bill Kirchenbauer and Jack Coen (Coen went on to be the head writer for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno) they would always crack me up.
I was also introduced to Weird Al Yankovic. My dad would constantly make up different words to songs and then Weird Al came out and would have whole songs parodied. When I hit high school I was obsessed with Sam Kinison. I got to go see Sam Kinison right after high school and I don’t remember laughing that hard in my life. I actually peed my pants. I was also obsessed with Chris Farley. When he joined SNL someone came to school after he was on and said, “OMG, there is a new guy on SNL that is just like you.” So of course I loved him. I’ll never forget the day he died, I was getting out of work in Detroit for GM and had to pull over in my car and started crying. He was a comedic god in my world!
BCT: I love that bit in your bio about being fired from IBM, what brought that on where you decided to really pursue comedy?
RL: Well I always wanted to be a comedian. When I was about 5 years old my family took us on a trip up to Mackinac Island in Michigan and we stayed in a motel that had HBO. My parents thought my sister and I were asleep and they were watching one of George Carlin’s specials and they were laughing so hard they were crying. I was actually awake watching with them. I don’t remember the special at all but I remember how it made them feel and I knew right then and there that was what I wanted to do with my life.
I grew up in a very small town though where we only had one stop light and probably around 1500 people. I never really thought I would ever get to be a comedian, it was just a dream. So I had a very cool computer teacher that got me excited about computers. I went to college for that and then my first job out of college was in downtown Detroit. That was a whole new world for me being from a farm town. What was awesome though was that my apartment was right next to the biggest comedy club in Michigan, Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle (which is where Tim Allen got his start). I started going up and watching the open mics and I would ask comedians how they got started. I finally met a comedian that taught a class (Bill Hildebrandt) and it wasn’t a class on how to be funny but more of how the business works. It was a two day class and the following week he put me up and it went great!
March 8, 1998 was the first time I went on and I celebrate it like it’s my new birthday! Two years later I had jumped a few jobs and ended up at IBM. I knew that this job was only going to be a temporary job before I quit and started doing comedy full time. So when I finally booked myself so far out that I couldn’t be at work anymore I decided to hack into the companies email system and sent out an email to the whole company all over the world. The email told people that they should quit their jobs and follow their dreams. “I’m quitting to be a stand up comedian and here’s my website.” I Hit send and immediately got emails back saying, “company email isn’t for personal use”, and I was like, “I don’t care, I quit!”.
BCT: What’s your thought process or preparation for a show?
RL: I really don’t have one. I could be chatting with you and they would say, “Rob you’re on”, and I could just walk up and start doing the show. I might be concentrating more if I’m working on new jokes but even then I usually take a topic and improvise it on stage. It seems like when I’m forced to come up with things on the fly, I write better that way. I wish I was as meticulous as someone like Jerry Seinfeld but I know my strength is performing not writing. That’s why I’m not ashamed or afraid to bounce things off of other guys for ideas. You really have to be comfortable on stage to try to write this way.
I always want to put on a good show so I make sure I have bits before and after that new premise I’m trying so I don’t leave the audience unsatisfied. I have always been a crowd pleaser but I rarely have comics that say they love me or my style. I think I come off like I’m just talking to the audience up there. I never sound like i’m doing bits and I think it is very difficult to come off that way. I have been told I make it look easy but I really respect people that do that because it’s anything but easy. To make a joke that you have done hundreds of times sound like it’s the very first time you have ever said it, that takes a tremendous amount of skill that a lot of comics do not have. Most you can tell they have said that joke a million times because even they are bored with it. I really respect and envy guys that are great writers so I hope those guys can see the work I put into performing and can respect me in some way.
BCT: Do you have any tips for people just starting to travel in comedy (ie. How to pack efficiently, airport stories, anything you’ve picked up along the way)
RL: Wow, I have never got this question and it’s probably the one that would be most helpful to comedians than anything else. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that will be different for everyone and you just have to experience it. I’ve had so many crazy airport stories. I have been on planes that have had to emergency land, every weather problem possible that could happen, I’ve had to spend the night in several airports, I’ve missed several flights for all kinds of reasons, I’ve had luggage completely damaged and lost. I’ve also had fun travel things happen to me such as meeting celebrities, upgrades, free flights, I’ve met some amazing people and some very cool flight attendants. I saw a lady have a baby on a flight! I’ve been on flights where people thought I was the celebrity and treated me as such.
As for packing if you are bringing a carry on, be prepared for them to take the bag at the end of the jet bridge because for some reason there isn’t enough room in planes for them anymore. I would say bring an iPod with music and games on it. Bring a book or magazine. I would highly recommend Readers Digest. Most people think it’s an old person magazine but I love it because the stories are short and there is always something funny and some meaningful stories that can be taken as uplifting. I would highly recommend getting one of those “positive” books that you can get an airport. Believe me, you are going to have a lot of time alone where your mind wanders and you can get super depressed because you are missing out on family functions, or holidays, or kids events or that you wished you were farther along in your career. Reading these books that are positive and motivating will keep you out of the dumps. At least they do for me.
BCT: What are some interesting people you’ve met or things that have happened to you while touring?
RL: Wow, this question could produce so many stories that I could probably write a book. Anything from meeting my favorite comedian, Brian Regan, and acting like a high school girl around him. I had Air Force Amy from the HBO show “Cat House” who worked at the Las Vegas Bunny Ranch in the front row of a show I did in Little Rock where we became “Besties” (her words not mine) after the show for a few months.
The story I like to tell the most is the craziest weekend of shows I have ever had. This is how the weekend played out.
Friday I booked a Church show which I had to be squeaky clean and raise money for the church. Then on Saturday I did a nudist colony which I brought my ex-fiance to and we did the tour of the huge camp/living grounds nude, but when it came time to do the show they told me I couldn’t be nude. If you are performing and getting paid it doesn’t matter what the performance is, if you are nude it’s considered erotic entertainment and they didn’t have a license for it. So I walked up on stage nude, asked them if they were ready to start the show, then said hold on, I got dressed and then did the show making fun of everyone. When I was done I got naked and jumped in the pool. It was a blast! Then on Sunday I performed at a swingers club opening for a porn star. I did like 20 minutes and then she did her own style of a show.
Talk about having to be very versatile and being able to play to any kind of audience. What a wild ride!
BCT: How did you come about starting your charity?
RL:It started because my birthday is Christmas Eve and my family is very small. We never get together to do Christmas anymore. It’s usually just my mom and I together during the holidays. So, I just said instead of moping around and doing nothing, lets make Christmas week a about volunteering. Let’s help out others. Sure, it’s a nice thing to do but to be honest it’s more for us as a family. It makes you feel great to help others. Sometimes I feel I get more out of it than the people I’m helping do. So the week came and I set up a different thing to volunteer for every day. I worked at a food pantry, I volunteered at a thrift store, I donated blood, and I helped at the Red Cross. It was a lot of fun but then a friend mentioned that I should adopt a family in need over Christmas. I loved that idea because I have no kids of my own and lets be honest, Christmas is the best when you are making kids happy!
I found a family that had five kids and were really struggling to get by. I asked for donations online and raised around $3000. I then matched the raised amount and went nuts buying the kids gifts and then paid a ton of the family’s bills and paid about three months ahead on all their bills so they could start to catch up with everything. I also had tons of donations, one of the donations was from the local community health organization. They built a ramp on the front of their house for their disabled son and also put a lift in their van for them to transport their son. It was unbelievable what I accomplished so fast and how many people wanted to help. This family couldn’t have been more appreciative and we laughed and cried happy tears the whole day. It made me feel amazing and I continued to do it for years to come with each year getting bigger and bigger!
I think there are lots of people that want to help with things like this but they don’t know where to go or what to do. I was no different from these people other than I just got out and started asking questions and organized the effort. I couldn’t’ be more grateful to everyone that helped me along the way!
BCT:With your charitable interests, what are some special things you’ve seen with using your comedic talent to really give back to people?
RL:Well this is probably my favorite. A few years ago I was on Last Comic Standing. I didn’t make it far but they called me “America’s Happiest Comic” and I had some great sets on the show. After it had aired I was asked to be someones “Make-a-Wish”.
A girl outside of Cleveland had an inoperable brain tumor. She wanted to meet me because she had never seen a more positive comic. I was so honored and excited to meet this girl. I was interviewed by many TV/Radio/Newspapers about this event and how I felt about it. I remember one guy asked me, “How do you feel that she picked YOU to be her Make-a-Wish?” And I said, “I think she wasted her Make-a-Wish! Brad Pitt could be here right now. She could have just emailed me and I would have shown up!”
It was an amazing visit. The girl was around the same age as me and pretty much grew up in the same exact environment as myself. Similar families and similar small town. We had so much to talk about. I was only supposed to spend a day there but I ended up spending the whole weekend with her.
Unfortunately, her doctor changed her medications and her mother contacted me that she is not the same person anymore. It changed her personality completely. I lost touch with her but I’ll never forget the time we spent together. She was an amazingly upbeat person with all that was happening to her. I felt very honored that she invited me into her life.
BCT: Can you describe the feeling you had in being picked on The Price Is Right?
RL:Well it was funny because I had a feeling I was going to be picked. When you go to the Price is Right they have you wait in a long line to get into the show. While you are waiting they take in 10 people at a time and do a mini-interview with you. They go from 1 person to the next asking you where are you from and what do you do. If you aren’t interesting in that brief moment they move on to the next person. They stayed with me for a few minutes asking me all kinds of things after I said I was a comedian. I tried to be really fun during that time. When they were done talking to me the guy turned around to his assistant and gave her a look. She wrote something down and then I had a feeling at that moment they were going to pick me.
I wasn’t there for that though. It was my friends dream to go to the Price is Right and I took her fully hoping that she would get picked.
It’s funny when they call your name to come on down because you can’t hear the announcer only the people watching on TV can hear him since it’s so loud in there. So they have 4 or 5 people on stage holding up HUGE CUE cards with your name on it. I have never gone by “Robert” in my whole life. It has always been Rob or Robbie, but they use your given name for legal purposes on game shows. Well when they held up the cards with “Robert Little” on it I turned to my friend and said, “Wow, there is someone else with the same name as me!” She was like, you idiot it is you, GO! So I jumped up and ran down. The funny thing was I just had opened for Drew Carey at the IMPROV in Hollywood not long before that.
It was a lot of fun but you seriously can’t hear a thing in that studio and when people are looking back at their friends and trying to move around to find them, they know where they are but the cameras are all in the way so I they have to move to see their friends.
Oh! The other question I always get is, “Was the big wheel really heavy,” and yes it was but I spun it pretty good. I ended up winning a car stereo that I sold on Craigslist.
I showed myself winning it on the Price is Right on craigslist and when the guy came to pick it up he said, “Holy cow you are the guy in the video”.
I was like, who else did you think was going to be selling this?