I decided to see a comedy show in NYC. We went to a show a show at the Broadway Comedy Club at the 9 PM show on a Friday. The energy in the room was filled with people from around the world. It was prime time the crowd was completely sold comedy show.
I’ve been living in the Netherlands for the past 4 years and was feeling a bit homesick and needed some comedy in my life. After the show, I sat down with Angela Cobb and we discuss all things comedy in the Big Apple.
1. What other jobs did you do before starting stand up comedy?
I’ve done a little bit of everything. Office jobs, flyering for Broadway shows, hotel front desk, PA work, and recently I had a really fun gig working Social Media Week as a registration and event assistant.
2. How did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
I think, albeit subconsciously, I always sort of saw myself doing it. It just took until 2009 for it to actually happen. Even when I did slam poetry in college, people would bump into me on campus and say things like “oh you’re the comedian…oh, I mean poet.” Or when my team went to nationals for slam poetry in college, it didn’t matter that I’d done a serious duo piece with a teammate using the Titanic as a metaphor for how social media has isolated us, all I heard from other teams that entire weekend was: “you were so funny in that other piece the team did!” So I think people always have seen me as the “comic relief” in situations, which, for the most part, is fine with me.
I’ve always wanted to do something with writing and performing for most of my life, so this seems to be a perfect blending of the two, in terms of best utilizing my assets.
3. If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing?
I honestly have never had a “practical” career ambition. It was always something in the arts for as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t pursuing comedy, though, I’d probably hope to be doing something in music: singing, drumming, etc.
4. Where are some of your favorite places to perform?
Aside from the comedy clubs I mention below, I honestly really dig spaces that surprise me, or unconventional performance spaces. Sometimes I’ll have certain expectations about a place, and it ends up going 1,0000 times better than I thought it would. For example, I recently headlined a Tiki bar on Long Island, and it was honestly one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done. It’s fun to both watch comics make any situation work and do that yourself too.
5. Who are some of your favorite up-and-comers in the comedy world?
In terms of newer people, I’ve seen recently: Mia Faith Hammond, Alex Gardes, Paul Dagliolo, Matt Fishman, Nick Nicosia, and Rachel McCartney. And then there are people who I wouldn’t consider new, but I think are on the verge of really breaking through and doing big things: Bob Hansen, Kristin Seltman, Wilson McDermut, Jenn Wehrung, Alex Fosella, and Michael Clayton.
6. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Don’t be hard on yourself. There’s plenty of people in this business willing to do that for you.”
– Frank Vignola
7. When did you feel like you were a pro comedian?
It’s kind of a combination of the first time I got paid to do it (which I think was January of 2012) and the first time I ever headlined a room and did a full 45 minutes (February of 2014).
8. How often do you perform comedy per week?
It varies from week to week, but I try to get up as much as possible. I need to get up more though, which I’m aware of. I try to perform at least a minimum of four times per week.
9. What are your favorite comedy clubs that you perform at?
Broadway Comedy Club, QED, The Stand.
10. How do you deal with hecklers?
I’ve been fairly lucky in that I don’t really have many “heckler horror stories.” I generally just try to ignore them if I can, and if I do deal with them, I do it in such a way that it doesn’t come off as angry or too aggressive, because the worst thing a person can do is freeze the room up and make everything tense for the entire audience, just because of one jerk. I do seem to have a certain quality about me that, if I make fun of someone, they can sense my intent is not malicious and I guess they find me like able enough that they see I’m not trying to talk down to them.
11. What advice would you give your younger self?
You aren’t going to die at 30, so you may have to wait to achieve some of your goals.
12. How would you describe your brand of comedy?
Self-deprecating with a side of smartassery and scattered intellect.
13. What do you talk about in your act?
I’ve always been very autobiographical. That’s what comes most naturally to me. I most enjoy talking about the things that are happening in my life and things that have been said to me or the inner things I may be trying to come to terms with at that time in my life. I’m very truthful in my act. When I joked about being a 25-year old virgin…I was, in fact, a 25-year old virgin, for example.
14. How did you develop your style of stand up? Who were your influences growing up; both from the world of comedy and elsewhere?
I did what came naturally to me, which was to be autobiographical and very self-deprecating. I was a lot more self-deprecating when I first started than I am now because how I feel about myself has changed a little over the years. So I’ve always tried to make my material reflect the changes I may be going through in my life. I also think my crowd workability is something I’ve developed over the years because it’s something that one learns by doing it over and over again. So in that respect, I think my style has become much more conversational. I’m still self-deprecating, but I would say my assessments of myself are a lot more realistic than they used to be.
My influences are pretty eclectic. Oddly enough, I wasn’t really influenced that much by stand-up comics, which I think in a way was good, because I wasn’t really trying to emulate a specific style when I first tried it. I was raised on comedy and it was very important, but it was more things like The Three Stooges, Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman, Monty Python, classic sitcoms, and I’d be lying if I said The Beatles weren’t also a comedic influence on me. My family, too, is very funny.
15. I love to interview comedians, Can I ask what happens when you are in front of a crowd, and no one laughs?
That happens to the best of the best. It’s unavoidable. I think comedy is a lot like driving, the more and longer you do it, obviously, the more opportunities you have for things to go wrong…or to get a speeding ticket. People who do comedy once every few months or so, it’s easier for them to do well because they are not doing it consistently, night after night. Great quality can be hard to repeat. For me personally, if a joke doesn’t go well, or no one laughs, I’ve been doing this long enough to realize that comes with the territory. If that happens, I think it’s good to acknowledge it in a funny way and try to shift gears and see what kind of joke will land in that particular room. When I was new I took a comedy class taught by Frank Vignola, and he’d always stress the good point that comics “need to have a few pitches because if they’re not liking your fastball, you can throw a curve ball.” And I think that’s very true. It’s important to be quick on your feet and able to feel out how you can get the audience back if you’ve lost them with a certain joke that did not land. I think what’s most important is to stay as confident and comfortable as possible in the situation because an audience can smell it on you when you’re no longer in control of them and the room.
16. What made you decide to be a comedian? Were you born funny?
I’ve always loved comedy and had been told I was funny for a long time. And I’d always been involved in writing and performing in High School and college. However, stand-up is a little different in so far as getting the opportunity to try it for the first time. It’s not like high schools have “stand-up clubs” that you can join like you can say, marching band. So what ended up happening was I did slam poetry in college and I did a lot of funnier poems. So after I graduated, two guys who did stand-up in college asked me if I’d help them with this four-week comedy competition they were running. And that I’d get to try stand-up. And that was it. I did it four or five times in Upstate, NY before eventually coming down to the city.
I don’t know if a person can be “born” funny, per se, but I think I’ve had a good comedic instinct for as long as I can remember.
17. When can people see it?
I think from a very early age, people at least saw that I was entertaining and not camera shy. I guess they also found me funny. I was a very outgoing kid, and my parents were big into home videos, so I think that helped.
18. Is there anything else that you wish to promote?
Depending on when this interview is released, I have the grand finale show of “Fun Size & Venti”, which co-produced and co-host with Cindee Weiss on Tuesday, May 29th at Baileys Corner Pub (1607 York Ave) 8:30 PM FREE SHOW.
I’ll be appearing on the “Mornin’” show on Compound Media on Monday, June 18th…that starts at 10:30 AM.
Additionally, I host and produce a monthly stand-up comedy and storytelling show at QED in Astoria called “My First Time.” The next installment of that is Wednesday, June 20th at 9 PM $10 Cover.
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Written by Joseph Santiago
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