Interview with Stand Up Comedian Brian Scott McFadden
Written by Laura High
I was very excited to interview Brian Scott McFadden. I saw Brian perform stand up when I was eighteen at Comic Strip Live. He was absolutely hilarious. His set always stuck with me. So here I am, many years later, interviewing him at Comic Strip. His credits include: The Late Show with David Letterman, and The Late Late Night with Craig Ferguson. Follow him HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/bscottmcfadden“@bscottmcfadden
Laura: How long have you been doing stand up comedy?
Brian: Too long. Way too long. Over twenty-five years.
L: How old were you when you started?
B: Early 20s. Did a lot of open mics with struggling comedians.
L: When did you know you wanted to be a stand up comic?
B: When I was five. Not joking. My family was in show biz. My father was a comedian. My grandfather was in Vaudeville. Mom did water-ballet.
L: How long did it take you to feel like you knew what you were doing?
B: Tonight. I think it clicked tonight. Glad you were here to see it. You know I’ve been waiting for it happen, and tonight it did in front of twenty-nine people. First night I was genuinely funny.
L: How much do you perform weekly?
B: Voluntarily? I just do it out of guilt. Believe me, I don’t want to. I try to dissuade them from calling. But I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. Like, Louis CK is, “Where is Brian? Brian is Elvis.” Not Elvis Presley, Elvis Grbac.
L: How long does it usually take a joke to go from an idea to a polished bit?
B: Completely varies. Actually, none of my stuff works. Get back to me. I’m hoping in 2017 one of my jokes gets a response. That’s the goal. I just need to visualize. That’s what they say. As long as you have positive energy, you’re fine. You can just sit at home and do nothing but think good thoughts and stuff will just happen.
L: If you could give any advice to new comics, what would it be?
B: Get out of the business today, tonight, yesterday. I’m only partially kidding. Just leave the industry. Don’t think about it. Go into welding. Something artistically fulfilling that people will support. There is no other art form where you have an antagonistic relationship with your audience. There’s no heckling in welding. No one is going to yell “You suck” at the copy machine. People pay money to come to a comedy club to make a performance worse.
But let’s see. Do every set. It’s a boring answer, but it’s true. Do every set, then quit the business. Because just when you think you’re going to get something, you don’t. Avoid your dreams. I have a dream, like Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a dream that all these young comics will quit. I have a dream that I will quit and leave like the Pied Piper. I’ll lead all the comics out with a flute. Is that what it was, a flute? Yes, I’ll lead all the comics out like the Pied Piper did with the rats. I shouldn’t compare comedians to rats. That’s unfair to rats.
No, I encourage everyone. Become a performing chimp. I just need as much work as I can get. They are really good. You millennials: isn’t there any other form of self expression you can do? Just go home and blog. Trump is complaining about Mexicans. I’m complaining about young comedians. I’m going to build a wall around comedy clubs.
The world needs more comedians. Well not more, just better. So get better; don’t suck at this. Stop sucking. Don’t do that. Write new material. Do a joke once and then never do it again. Louie CK does a joke once and then it’s done. He just releases it into the wild.
L: How often do you bomb?
Tricky question. Not as much as I try to do. Audiences aren’t cooperating. I try to make jokes weaker. Make it more wordy; lose any sense of a punchline.
L: How much did you bomb in your first four years?
A lot more than I’m doing now. First time I went on, I crushed it. I thought, “I can retire now.” I was a prodigy. For sure, this was a sign that I never have to work harder on this first four minutes. The next time I performed I bombed horribly. It was a train wreck. I walked out on my own set. I was yelling at myself to get off the stage. I thought, “Maybe I’ll have to work at this.” I’d like to think I’ve made some improvement. Before it was one bomb every three shows. Now I’m just bombing. Once in awhile I’ll have a good show.
L: What’s your favorite bombing story?
It was a gig in Jersey with two other comics. It was some bar where there are Bigfoot sightings. People there make the people from Deliverance look pleasant. We got to the bar and there was a poster of two hot girls in bikinis that said: “Female Jello Pit Wrestling,” and in very small print under that, “And Comedy.” This is not going to go well. We go in and the bar is filled with pirates, people with hooks for hands, and bikers. They wanted the women. The producer, thought, let’s put the comics on first. The audience were these testosterone-pumped guys who had to sit through three guy comics. They wanted women hurtling jello. It was all downhill from there.
L: What do you love to write about the most?
Not a specific topic. I notice something that’s off and I write about it. I love voices and characters. I love watching how people act. I love writing about show biz. Observational comedy of the industry. Comedy is the modern Colosseum. We have jokes instead of swords. We can’t sacrifice Christians, so we have comedy. We’re jesters. We are one step above the guys who used to be killed. Do you know what Bear Baiting is? It’s when they put a bear in a pit and killed it in front of an audience (refer to the picture attached to the article.) I’ve died more on stage then bears.
L: You really incorporate a lot of voices and characters into your stand up. Where does that come from?
B: My Dad, Bob McFadden. He was a voice actor. He was one of the voices in ‘Thunder Cats.’ He was Snarf. I picked it up from him.
L: What do you think is the hardest part about being a stand up?
B: Just doing it. But for me, being good at it is really difficult. Being bad at it is very hard for me. I try. I put in hours of work as I said to re-write my set to get less laughs and throw my timing off. I’m like Steph Curry with the jokes. I do like really fascinating joke drills. You know what I mean? I have people throw out phrases while I’m on stage to try and throw me, but I still crush. Just universally killing almost every night. So for me one of the hardest things is to maintain some level of humility in the glow of my own magnificence. It’s really hard to do. And that’s not something that a lot of other comedians struggle with. But when you have a problem that’s unique to you, you feel more isolated and alone. Like, a lot of comedians can’t say that. ‘Cause a lot of comedians don’t do this well. But the bad shows for me are so few and far between. So, just coming to terms with my own level of excellence.