Monday, December 13, 2010

Interviews I did with some comedians I like

(These interviews are supplementing a thing I wrote for Splitsider - will be posted week of December 20, 2010 -.... just to give my three readers some context.)


Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

Uh oh, here's my big reveal. I do actually sprinkle one-liners and topical material throughout my set. I like to include some longer jokes and some shorter ones just to keep the audience enraptured. "This girl can change the length of her jokes? Now I've seen it all!" In fact, I think sometimes a one-liner can still be very revealing about someone's backstory. That's something I'd love to see more of: a one-liner comedian with the pathos of a Marc Maron.

But enough about other people, I do have grand intentions to mine even more personal material until I become a giant emotional Voltron. In the meantime though, I have an introverted, overthinky (technical term) filter that I use to put a spin on things I see or experience. People like it if you talk about yourself directly, but my stage voice, no matter what I talk about, is mainly derived from my inner monologue, ramped up with an inhuman amount of wordplay. I like to make light of things like depression, alienation, loneliness, rejection, anxiety, and disappointment because my neuroticism isn't too proud to laugh at itself, not to brag or anything. Well, a little bragging.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?

Pass. Just kidding. I think in taking dark and uncomfortable subjects, my intent is either being self-deprecating or taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to what I'm saying. But I am super sensitive so I tend to feel sorry for fake people or objects in my jokes, and tell some jokes with a lot of guilt. That can be tricky. I never set out to be edgy, but I do tend to look at things in a very cerebral way, so many times, I can distance myself from the raw emotions associated with a bit. Then again, the biggest problem with personal material is when people don't laugh, it's hard not to take it even more personally, and the tears of a clown don't pay the bills (believe me, I've tried).

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?

Not really, I think sometimes I shy away from doing my personal material because I feel like people won't get it. But honestly, the stage sometimes feels like a safe place to talk about things because people have to at least hear you out. Sometimes I will get an "Awwwwww" instead of a laugh, and I ask that person to be escorted out of the venue. I don't need your pity!

Apart from stand up, I also do a lot of longform improv, and you learn that being truthful and grounded can be eminently more watchable than being a hollow straw man held together by shtick. I've found that to be very true, but sometimes my overanalytical mind is afraid to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so I hide behind puns, plus being silly onstage is addictive so ideally, I like a mix of the two. Get really heavy, and then two rapid-fire poop jokes to regain equilibrium.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?

Blogging in the shadows of more successful bloggers, and filling out online surveys to break up the day. Plus all my peers in a psych class I took in college told me I use humor as a defense mechanism so there's no escaping it entirely for this lady (pointing to myself, but not with my thumbs).

I haven't seen the bit myself, but I read on The Comic's Comic that you're a self-proclaimed introvert. How has this personality type affected/influenced your introspective comic style?

I think it's wholely defined my style. I'm a pretty quiet person, and it takes me awhile to open up to people. I'm working on manufacturing a more social personality that I can use to make new frenemies and influence strangers, but in the meantime, I'm in my head a lot, and it makes for a lot of ideas through the filter of feeling uncomfortable and awkward.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).

I have a website coming out in a few weeks. I don't think you're supposed to pre-announce websites, but it will live at In the meantime, I'm on Facebook and Twitter.


Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

I guess I could say that it's just the way I'm wired, but I haven't always been that way. I have done topical humor and one-liners, but since I started doing comedy I've gone through my share of emotional rites of passage, and after all that, it turns out that I find reward in getting personal on stage.

It's easy to feel alone, and it's easy to think that no one gets you. But I've found that when I dig through my life and take it to the stage -- I've found that people respond in a way that lets me know that not only am I not alone, but there are people in the crowd who needed the kind of laugh I go for. And the more people laugh, the less they feel alone and the more of a communal thing the whole show can become. I've had people come up to me after a show and say something along the lines of, "I don't like how much I could relate to what you were saying." That's when I know I did something good.

I don't like crowds that know how to behave at a comedy club because then it's like preaching to the choir and the laughter feels cheap. It feels too manufactured and false. My favorite sets are the ones where people love one bit, and then recoil at the next. It's more honest.

And, I guess...I like the bits that don't always get laughs because they challenge me to be better on stage. Jokes will come and go, at the end of the day, I'm the constant. So I'm what needs to be good.

Sometimes it's not such a good way to think.

Sometimes I wonder if I see the crowd as that girl I loved who said she loved me, but she couldn't be with me because I couldn't provide the stability she needed. I am a 31 year old man who stands on stages and tells jokes for little-to-no money. It's not enough for the crowd to like me, it's that I have to get inside of them and make them fundamentally second guess their idea of stability. I want to reverse engineer their brains. I want to deprogram what they think is funny. If they're laughing so readily, it's not fun. Where's the challenge? Of course, when I say it like that, it sounds somewhat delusional and even spiteful.

Eh. I'm in a good place though.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?

When you get into uncomfortable subjects, people really have to trust that you're not doing something for the sake of getting a laugh. Realistically, getting the laugh has to become subordinate to the topic itself, which can be counter intuitive for a comedian. There are knee jerk laughs, the kind that you laugh at as a reaction, but they don't really leave a long term feeling in someone. I try to swing for the gut when I'm on stage. Once you open up a crowd at that level, they are more willing to go along with something that may not be traditionally funny because they trust you more. The problem with that is that once you hit for the gut, you gotta keep it at that level because the people can smell when you're going for a cheap laugh. If you get a crowd to trust you and you violate that trust, it can really reveal just how little you deserve to have their time.

I wrote this on my website not too long ago, but these days, being on stage is about building a tension in the crowd and then finding the way to relieve it at the end of what you say. That doesn't mean there's necessarily a punchline at the end, it just means people laugh because I relieved that tension correctly. If you can't relieve that tension, then the people get bloated with a sort of existential gas that they didn't want inside of them in the first place -- that's when the show takes a downward spiral.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?

I've been talking about my mom recently. That's tricky because on the one hand she's such a fucking train wreck and talking about it on stage is therapy, but the flip side -- maybe if I stepped back from this moment and tried to gain a better perspective on what was going on, I might be able to help her deal with what she's going through. I think she's bipolar, but it's definitely co-morbid with something that's unknown. She's a very draining person, but when she drains you she refills you with a sort of dread or sadness. It's that kind of sadness that gets inside of you and coats your insides like an oil spill, and all your good emotions line the beach like dead fish and birds covered in anxiety-laced oil.

I dunno if that makes sense.

When I'm talking about her, my emotion at that point is fear. I don't like to write with fear as my motivation.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?

I don't know. When I stopped doing comedy for over a year, I wrote a lot of short stories. I know that I have always had that nagging feeling of, "there's something wrong with everything." Writing allows me to intellectualize that basic feeling. In the last four years, I have probably filled up at least 30 of those 70-page notebooks. So if I didn't have comedy, I'd probably have one of those jobs where I eventually go crazy and kill co-workers, and when the authorities searched my apartment, they'd find all of the journals filled with the ramblings of a mad man.

I read this quote in an Austin360 profile of you: "One of my earliest jokes was that I wanted to be a philosopher, but I got into comedy so people would take me seriously." How has that attitude shaped your comic voice?

I like jokes that are so true that they transcend political affiliation and prejudice and social standing and etc.. and have no agenda other than the truth. I like the jokes that are based in a truths that everyone experiences. I like a joke that violates a persons ability to think they're different from everyone else. Whenever I hear someone say something along those lines, I think, "why didn't I think of that." And that makes me happy because (a) I like to be surprised by a good joke, and (b) it makes me think to myself, "how much of life is happening right in front of my eyes that I don't even see?"

I love a good truth-joke. At it's best, that's what philosophy is to me: comedy.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).

Well, there's:

Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

as far as the types of jokes I do, I guess I find more comedic fodder in personal anecdotes but I'll never shy away from a good one-liner or topical bit... it's just that topical bits often have an expiration date whereas a good abortion joke can last a lifetime.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?

making dark, uncomfortable subjects funny can be a challenge.

e.g. there was this awesome leukemia joke I used to tell that never really got the laughs I thought it deserved... it made me want to become a scientist and discover a cure for leukemia so that other people would find it funny, too.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?

yeah, absolutely... I'd give you examples but I censor my writing even more

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?

teaching English as a second language to terrorists

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).

Photo: Ralph Arend

Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

Well, it happened accidentally. I auditioned at the Comic Strip in NYC in my second year of comedy and their one note for my comedy was I needed to be more autobiographical. I used to just write jokes about pop culture and fake observations. I was 20 and I took their word as comedy canon (it is not!) and I have pretty much only written these personal bits since. It started as a way to be accepted and now I really don't know how to write the other stuff anymore. I guess I use that in my other writing. Man, I wish I could have a killer Miley Cyrus chunk. Maybe I'll date her and have the ability to write about her.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?
I had a nervous breakdown about two years ago, left NY, went home to NJ. I still did stand-up and I kept trying to articulate what I was going through and I couldn't make it funny because I found none of it funny myself. I essentially was using stand-up as a platform to talk about how much I hated myself, audiences very rarely enjoy watching a guy be self-loathing with no humor behind it. That was a big deal for me and it made my other jokes stronger because I had to dig myself out of holes for about a 3 month period.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?
Oh yes! I revealed on stage about this religious retreat I went on in high school. I went in hopes of getting TOTALLY LAID! But what happened is I was sideswiped by people at my high school to make me a good person. I was a bit of a bully, I've always been really quick-witted and able to tear down people's self-esteem....a perfect sign that I must have really high self-esteem. (sarcasm) Anyway, this group of students who I knew all told me how bad I made them feel for an entire weekend. If that wasn't bad enough, the end of it, they read a letter my parents wrote to me out loud in front of 70 people I went to high school with, that talked about all of my secrets. Like my little brother dying when I was 10. So, I talked about this on stage and it was really weird. I didn't intend to tell this story or anything, it just came out. My brain does whatever it wants and I just go along with it.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?
I originally wanted to work in music in some capacity. I don't have any real musical ability, but I got ears! I worked for this record label 'Tuxedo Park Records', that my friends owned and got fired for drinking two medium sized bottles of Peppermint Schnapps and ruining one of our bands showcase set. I wish that wasn't true, but it is. I can joke about that because it wasn't me who did that, it was drunk me!

I heard this quote from you on an episode of We're All Friends Here: "I live a hyperbolic lifestyle. Everything has to not be real." How has this philosophy influenced your comic voice?
That's my brain getting me in trouble. I like doing We're All Friends Here because I like just talking and being funny. I mean all of my jokes are based on Truth, but at the end they are mostly just the truth (lowercase T.) I've always been focused on keeping a shield around who I really am. I never really liked my friends meeting my parents or talking about where I grew up. So, even if my dad and mom don't understand me, they don't have to. I like them a lot, but people don't need to know about that. I feel like people who watch my stand-up have a better understanding of who I am than my family does. Is that weird? It sounds weird saying it. This question was not about my parents.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).
I like people following me on twitter. They can do that at
My best friend Julian McCullough and I have a webseries at called "Sean & Julian" :
Then on Monday Nov 1, my webseries "Sean and Meghan" comes out. It was produced by Fremantle Media (they do American Idol) and it's about a couple who move in together to save money rather than love. It stars myself and Allison Williams (who just got cast as a lead in the new Judd Apatow HBO show.) It was written by Ralph Arend and Sean O'Connor (me), It was Directed by Ralph Arend. You can find that at!


It was always a lot easier initially to tackle personal topics for comedy. You want to seem like an authority without coming across like a clueless, out of touch douche bag. That's my worst fear, so I excavated material from a topic I knew well: me and my heeee-larious flaws. In the process it really became a cathartic experience and I can honestly say I don't need any sort of therapy outside of AA and colon cleansing.

When I get a little too bleak with my relationship woes, some very odd suitors will approach me after a show with the intent of turning my frown upside down. (sex). These individuals include dock workers and graveyard shift gas station attendants or other people who've seen me on American Chopper. As much as I enjoy strange encounters devoid of respect, I was totally joking on stage.

Well, I have a bit I love to tell about needing to use Smooth Move Tea every once in awhile and how the name of the product is pretty much false advertising. It gets this great, gut reaction laugh from people but after a show, everyone knows I suffer from IBS. On the bright side, my colon therapist, Sharon Stone, gets a lot of business because for some reason people remember her name.

Comedy is slowly moving over for some of my other passions which have inadvertently been ignored for roughly 8 years. Working on screenplays, music, macrame, and listening to Led Zeppelin are rapidly shifting back into focus in a very bizarre conglomeration. I also really, really, really love Bahn-Mi sandwiches and Tom Waits.

Please look out for me on truTV's Dumb as a Blog, and my website. Facebook and Twitter can suck it.

(, )


Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?
I'd say it's because I'm no good at writing one liners and writing topical material has never appealed to me. One month later, if that, the joke is done. I like creating something that could become timeless. If it's a huge story or event, I will filter it through myself and talk about the experience I had while experience that story or event. We're all people. I like hearing about what people go through, so I choose to share with people what I go through.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?
Many difficulties. The one thing about being 100% myself onstage is that it taken a long time to get to the point where I'm comfortable being 100% onstage, and I don't think that I'm 100% there yet. The harder you strive to be original, The longer your path will be, but it will also be a more rewarding journey. The subject matter that I choose isn't because I want to shock or frighten an audience, I talk about what I talk about because I want to challenge the audience. The one thing every human being has in common is flaw. We are all flawed. It is our essence. My subject matter may at times be "dark" or "uncomfortable", but I believe they are things we all go through. Laughing at these things is accepting them, and accepting is progressing. Relationships, politicians, I phones, movies, bands, reality TV shows, sex scandals, controversial forms of meat, wars, candy, these things come and go. It's an ever revolving cycle of life. What does it revolve around? Human flaw. The one thing about us all that is constant. We will always make mistakes and as a result of these mistakes we will have experiences. Why do this if you aren't going to make an audience laugh in a way they've never laughed before? I want to make my audience laugh at something they never expected to laugh at. We are funny. I want to forever expose the beauty of human flaw.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?
Yes! I'm a deep cauldron of secrets. Everyone needs a secret or 2000. I have a lot of suppressed information. This is a huge flaw of mine that I intend on addressing soon. Probably onstage. Sorry Skeletons o' mine!

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?
Journeyman. Just journeying around being a man. Helping old ladies cross the street in Seattle, Working on a fishing barge off the coast of France, Helping a small village in Slovakia defend itself from the Russian mob, Making love to a lonely widow in Nepal after re shingling the roof of her villa and showing her 5 year old boy how to score a goal from midfield, Stealing the crown jewels back from the cat burgular who stole them from the tower of London...That sort of thing.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).
I don't put clips on youtube much at the moment, so please do follow me on twitter @mrseanpatton. My website will be up very soon and I will tweet about it! [UPDATE:]


Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?
Well, to be honest, I've always done what felt comfortable because I'm too lazy and scared to try anything else. Other than that, I'm not really invested in topical issues and have never been able to pull off one-liners very well. I have yet to try prop comedy -- which you forgot to mention -- so perhaps that's what I'll ultimately end up doing. (fingers crossed)
But basically, I've always just let myself vomit up words and what's come of it is the comedy you see on stage today.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?
Unfortunately, no matter how well you've personally dealt with dark issues, people aren't always going to laugh at them. The only thing that can smooth rough subjects out is honesty, because somewhere, somewhere in that honesty there is humor. That humor can be buried too deeply for stand up sometimes.
Outside of a teeny tiny bit of exaggeration, most of my material is true. I have this old rape whistle bit that makes fun of rape whistles, not rape itself, but people hear the word "rape" and freak out. They tense up. Because they're stupid. But also because it's a scary word -- too scary for most people. I only do that bit if the crowd isn't a bunch of wimps.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?
I second guess everything; I'm neurotic. Sometimes I sound lonelier or more pathetic than I mean to. I have a great life and great family and friends, but talking about how happy you are isn't that funny. I'm okay with things that are sad, because that's how I deal with them: I make fun of them. People don't always assume I'm okay in real life though. Some sets will include one too many sad bits and the audience will turn on me and really think I'm this sad sack of a human. Like, "listen, you were funny, and now you're just sad, why is this happening, etc., etc." I don't realize it until it's too late ...and then I go home and cry and cut myself. Kidding! I don't do that. Just the crying.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?
I think I'd still be in Chicago, married to some fat dude and popping out children in a dumpy suburb. I'd be the funniest mom at Gymboree and have a taco night at my house, but still probably drink way too much. Like the lady on Intervention that would chug airplane-sized bottles of booze in her minivan while going about her day-- that'd be me, but funnier and not as depressing.
And maybe I'd have a fun sewing blog on the side.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).
All I care about in life, ever, is that you follow me on Twitter. So there's that, and my own site that's kind of boring and braggy. I've got a YouTube page too. Just follow me on Twitter, PLEASE GOD PLEASE I NEED FOLLOWERS BECAUSE THEY VALIDATE MY SELF WORTH!!!


Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?
My material is personal because it's natural for me to write what I know. I've written a few topical jokes here and there but it's my own stories and perspective that never go out of date.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?
I'm still trying to figure this out. There are times when crowds love that I've chosen to take a tragedy from my own life and find the humor in it. It's a great way to live life, to a lot of people. Others find it to be uncomfortable and perhaps disrespectful to those who experienced that tragedy with me, or say, those who caused it. And they can become more uncomfortable as my set unfolds. I find this to happen more often (but not always) with older crowds. They might even go as far as to say, "Lighten up!" Or, "I think you really have problems." I DID have problems. Then I told thousands of people about it and I feel better. It's rare that you're alone in an experience in this life. This concept is further proved to me every time I tell a seemingly personal/ individual or unique thought/ experience to a crowd of people laughing. Their laughter and comments tell me that they, too, have thought what I thought or experienced a similar moment. It's just that not everyone feels the need to say it in a mic, but I think they appreciate when I do it for them.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?
What's done is done! haha

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?
I always wanted to be a veterinarian or doctor. But the fact that I couldn't keep interest or attention in my high school AP Bio class is just one indicator of many that I am not fit for the medical profession. My bedside manner would be terrific however. I think I would like to be a secretary of a cool company or a personal assistant. I love answering phones, writing notes, collating papers, getting people coffee. Staples would give me a boner if I were capable of getting one. There are just endless opportunities for organization there. Oh and The Container Store. Holy shit. I love it.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).
Twitter: @BethStelling

Photo: Elizabeth McQuern

Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?
I do a little of all. Anything I find funny really, but the personal stuff seems to last longer, and frankly, it's easier to remember because it's already in my brain. I'm not very smart. Also, comedy as therapy blah blah blah.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?
Well, sometimes club audiences have a little trouble going there with you and you have to hold their hand a bit, but usually there's no problem if there's enough jokes in there. But I just talk about what's interesting to me. I get bored pretty easily. It's never been a conscious thought like, "Oh, I need some more 'dark' material here, or an uncomfortable story there."

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?
Oh, all the time. But that usually means I'm going somewhere interesting, for me, and hopefully the audience too. And I've given up on ever letting my parents hear my comedy. It would kill the poor souls.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?
Dying in a cubicle somewhere. Or street preaching about aliens in my stomach.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).


1) Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

I’ve always preferred personal material. A part of me believes I’ll get a sitcom that much faster. Hahahhaahhaaaa.

I just want all of us to get along. Which means we should all be able to talk about anything, right? But some of the uncomfortable stuff is just easier to talk to with strangers than say, my parents.

It’s just very liberating to get my personal thoughts out of my head and into yours. And the more personal the better. I thought that would change (getting so personal) once I went to a therapist, but it’s only gotten worse. Maybe talking about myself makes me self-absorbed, but I have to make sure I’m up there being interesting for myself too, and not just for you, and that only seems to work with the stuff that’s mostly about me and what’s in my head. And with the personal stuff I can dig deep – that kind of material never seems to have an end in terms of how far you can dig. I’ve never been one to talk much about politics or topical stuff. And as I become a more experienced performer, my style changes, but my joke material doesn’t have to. Maybe the way I tell that joke changes, which means I get to keep that joke for a longer period of time than say if I talked about Snookie. Also, I don’t want to talk about subways.

I enjoy telling the truth on stage, and stretching that truth out as far as I can. When people approach me and ask if I’m the comedian with scoliosis or with the Bolivian child, it feels good, like they know me a little. And by the way I still do one-liners.

2) What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?

I don’t appreciate the judgmental stares. They make me sweaty on stage and I probably just showered.

Working out those dark and uncomfortable subjects can be tricky. Some stuff works immediately just because it is so personal and awkward, and people can’t deny that they relate in some way. But some material, equally uncomfortable, may not work and now I’ve just shared something personal that didn’t get a laugh. But that’s just a sweet challenge (I try to look at it that way) that can make things a little more interesting, in terms of figuring out “how can I make this work?” Like maybe it does really suck (the joke, not me) or maybe I just need to go further and make it that much more uncomfortable to make it funny.

I love tackling dark or uncomfortable subjects. I never looked at myself as being that kind of comedian (so thanks for acknowledging that). There’s a part of you that feels cool or brave for just going “there.” But you need a kind of “self-checking system”. Like, I went through a phase where every “uncomfortable” joke I wrote ended in sex or poop (or both -- don’t ask). You don’t want to do that, especially if you want to get on a late night talk show. Also, I find that it’s always easier in New York to talk about dark or personal subjects, where, for example, most people are in therapy or have been to one or are considering going to one. In some parts of this country people just don’t get the therapy material. They still think I’m psycho for seeing one, so I have to go back to talking about being tall. Or four-wheeling (I’ve only done it once, but I’m ready to do it again.)

So when you get only three people in the audience laughing, it just makes you really appreciate those three people (and #&%@ everyone else). But sometimes I just wish people would relax. If I’m telling you that I’m not having kids because I’m afraid I’ll have them and still like my sister’s kids better, that just means I really like my sister’s kids. It doesn’t mean I’m going to beat mine.

I still can’t believe you don’t think I write one-liners.

3) Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?

Telling people I’ll like my sister’s kids better than mine?
No, not yet. I’m still pretty careful about what I share on stage. But that could change one day. And wouldn’t you like to know.

4) If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?

That makes me sound so adult-like. Weird.

Possibly running marathons. That seems like a great outlet. And you don’t have to hit any kids to do that.

5) Where can fans find you and your work online?
I started a blog about a year and a half ago, and so far I’ve written one entry. So check it out!

It’s on my website,, where you can watch some of my videos. And check out my schedule there too. You can also find me on twitter or facebook

Photo: by Anya Garret -

Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

A lot of that has to do with evolution, doing what it takes to survive comedically in New York. I started and Florida and was doing well enough there, but came to New York to get better. The only thing was, a lot of my stuff bombed. Then I''d be talking to comics before and after mics and shows I'd bomb it and talk about my life with other comics, realizing that stuff was way more interesting than what I was saying onstage. I was delivering it better too.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?

It can be a hard sell in the shorter sets where you don't get to really build stuff up. When you jump into a joke about being molested four minutes into a five minute set in front of a bunch of people that don't know you it can be a little daunting. There are certain things I tend to leave out of shorter set that I can put in a longer set. I thin a lot of times, with dark subject matter it's all about how you sell it. I try to put some energy into it, show that I'm still affected by what I talk about, try to make an honest connection. There are a lot of comics that use "rape aids" as a punchline, talk about starving Africans and abortions and poop without any emotional investment. That stuff can hurt what I do, but it also motivates me to do what I do to the best of my ability.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?

Absolutely. And a lot of that stuff hasn't been done at shows. I'll test anything out at an open mic, just throw the stories out there regardless of how punched up they are, and sometimes I'm either not caring enough to make it work or I feel like I'm not good enough to do certain jokes. There are things I can talk about now that I couldn't talk about two years ago. If I'm really passionate about something though, I'll always go back to it.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?

I was a poet for eight years before starting comedy. I used to write really sad shit, way sadder than the stuff I do now (at least with humor, there's some hope). I was also studying to be an English teacher. So I'd probably be doing that, writing sad poetry and teaching other people how to write sad poetry. I'd be telling kids funny stories during class but never get the confidence to do it anywhere else.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).
www.facebook/themikelawrence, and twitter at themikelawrence.

Why have you chosen to tackle personal material rather than topical bits or one-liners?

I started with bits. Straight setup to punch bits. You need to know how to do this first. But after a while, I started to throw little stories into the act, stories that kept growing the more details I felt comfortable adding. Also, being personal on stage keeps me involved and invested in putting on a good show. If it's just a joke that doesn't work, I don't take it to heart as much as when someone doesn't like a whole story. There's more of a connection when I know I've gotten personal on stage, more of a reason for me to keep doing this. When it's just setup and punchline, it starts to feel like mathematics instead of art and I start to lose interest now. Not to say the one-liner guys aren't artists. Just a different approach. Some people like crossword puzzles and the reward of cracking a code, some people like doodling and seeing where it will lead.

What difficulties, if any, have you encountered in taking dark or uncomfortable subjects and making them funny?

Trying to remember that I'm not telling these stories to close friends and figuring out how to prepare people for what's in store. Making sure my character is clear before I launch into something off-color.

Has there been anything you've second guessed revealing on stage?

I told a story about having a gay friend "check" me for a hernia while rolling on ecstasy while my parents were in the audience. At least it was a good show and people were laughing. That's the last time I can remember being truly nervous about saying something. I don't care what strangers think of me, but when it's family it's a different story.

If you didn't have comedy as an outlet, what do you think you'd be doing now?

Probably an unrewarding day job while playing music on the weekends. I always had fun playing in bands, despite being a terrible musician.

Where can fans find you and your work online? (list any websites, Twitter/Youtube accounts, Facebook fan pages).


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Onion's Funniest Depression Articles - Part 2

The Onion just gets it.


Blanke, 28, an unemployed former gas-station attendant who has battled debilitating bouts of self-loathing and despair for most of his adult life, is reportedly so deeply immersed in his own selfish little world that relatives and acquaintances find it nearly impossible to be around him for more than a few minutes at a time.
"Tom's got this web page he keeps, and sometimes a month or more will go by where he doesn't do any updates, except for really short entries like 'Peed in a jar today rather than leave bed,'" friend Alicia Reynolds said. "But then, sometimes he'll get on these jags where he'll write, like, 20 pages in a single day—hilarious, over-the-top stuff about how every one of us is a white-hot energy source extending to every corner of the universe."

According to reports, top BHP researchers began having doubts about the drug during the early development stages, when they realized they couldn't do anything right ever ever ever, and that none of the pharmaceutical-industry leaders cared whether they lived or died. But work on the project continued, despite BHP's growing conviction that Cyntrex would be the worst product in pharmaceutical history.

(Video): FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

Made by Pfizer, Despondex is the first drug designed to treat the symptoms of excessive perkiness.

Pfizer Launches 'Zoloft For Everything' Ad Campaign

Pugh warned that Zoloft use may cause side effects such as agitation, erratic behavior, restlessness, difficulty speaking, or shaking of hands and fingers. He added that Zoloft can help those suffering from agitation, erratic behavior, restlessness, difficulty speaking, and shaking of hands and fingers.

Continued Wenger: "It can be pretty tough to live with Chad, especially when he's all clinically depressed over some girl who dumped him. But it's important to remember that it's not his fault: There are chemicals in the bipolar sufferer's brain responsible for the disturbances in mood. I can't remember the names of them offhand, but I'll know them by next week's exam."

Sad Sack Purchases Screenwriting Software

Norgren, whose script ideas were literally too sad to print here, said he likes films with smart dialogue and characters who overcome obstacles, such as Finding Forrester, A Beautiful Mind, and Juno.

Temp Hides Fun, Fulfilling Life From Rest Of Office

"If somebody complains about how bad it sucks to work overtime five days straight, I just nod and agree," said Braxton, who spends his weeknights at parties, at concerts, and playing basketball in the park. "No point in rubbing in the fact that no matter how busy things are, I leave at exactly 5 p.m. every single day. If anyone asks me to stay later, I just say my agency doesn't let me do overtime."... In spite of his happiness, Braxton said he makes sure always to project an air of dissatisfaction, in both facial expression and posture, while in the office.

Shortly after returning home, Videk, feeling himself inexorably drawn into a vortex of despair, made his way to the upstairs bathroom, where, despite having no need to use the facilities, he sat on the toilet for approximately 20 minutes to avoid all human contact. The last seven of those 20 minutes were spent trying to ignore the pounding and whining of his teenage daughter Robyn, who pleaded with him to unlock the door so she could "get [her] face on."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mort Sahl in TIME - August 1960

If there hadn't been a Mort Sahl, there wouldn't be a Jon Stewart. I'd add an "arguably" in there somewhere, but that statement feels like something I'd feel comfortable setting aside the time it would take to etch it in stone.

I won't pretend that today, Mort Sahl's topical, often political material isn't almost impenetrably dated, but I also can't deny that his attitude, cadence, candor, and wit transcend any specific bits that may be lost in translation. I didn't really start this blog to talk about political or topical humor (not that anything I do ever persists in the spirit or intention with which I started it), but Sahl's irreverence and aversion to bullshit appeals to me.

Aaaannnddd... midcentury American (counter?)culture is an inexplicable interest of mine. I'm reading Gerald Nachman's Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s (the introduction is available to read in its entirety on Google Books) right now, and the way the hungry i (a San Fransisco comedy/music club) and its resident performers and atmosphere are described makes the place seem like an estuary of budding cultural trends. Its proprietor, Enrico Banducci, discovered and nurtured some of the most influential comic talents of the last 6 decades - providing an environment where no subject was taboo and no censorship (or heckling) was tolerated. Sounds like any mic or room these days, but when you consider that Lenny Bruce's undoing was his 1950s obscenity trial (he said cocksucker a few times on stage! I'm scandalized just typing it), the hungry i's significance becomes evident.

In trying to convince him to audition at the hungry i, Mort Sahl's girlfriend told him that "the audiences are all intellects, which means if they understand you, great, and if they don't, they will never admit it.". Pretentious hipsters have always and been and will always be. Say what you will about that mentality, when a hipster likes something, he or she (androgynously, with feigned disinterest) supports it... and supports it waaaay before and in a much cooler way than you do. I know nothing of the place personally, but after listening to an interview with Rebecca A. Trent on The Comedy Nerds podcast, I feel she and her comedy club, The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City seem like the modern incarnations of Enrico Banducci and the hungry i.

Check out this 1960 TIME magazine profile of Mort Sahl and his contemporaries (Nichols and May - favorites of mine, Shelley Berman, Bob Newhart, Jonathan Winters, and more):,8816,939769,00.html

Everything's there. His material is quoted sparingly, but the piece sums up everything about why I love him. When I think about the comedy of the 1950s and 1960s, I wonder if my perception is romanticized. Everything I know about the era is, I'm sure, part exaggeration, part creation myth... but that doesn't hamper my being enamored of a place and time I can never visit, save via video/audio clips and in books.

Just wanted to share that with my two readers.

* I may be writing a more in depth thing about Seriously Funny on Splitsider eventually. Will post that link if it ever happens.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Splitsider Contributions

Splitsider is an awesome new comedy blog to which I've just contributed a two part piece about humor in print.

Where Have All the Humorists Gone?, Part 1: Robert Benchley, S.J. Perelman and the Decline of Modern Humor Writing

Part 1 is about seminal humorists Robert Benchley and S.J. Perelman, their influence on Woody Allen and today's television comedy writers and print humorists, and their essays' modern foils.

In part 2, I interview comedy writers Scott Jacobson (The Daily Show, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk), Rob Kutner (The Daily Show, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien), Mike Sacks (Vanity Fair, And Here's The Kicker, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk), and a very funny new humorist named Hudson Hongo (whose work/name kept popping up during my research, so I just HAD to contact him) - and asked them about their influences, beginnings in humor writing, goals, and transitions to other media.

I'm working on another piece for the site which is in keeping with the theme of this blog. It's about comedy for sad people... pretty much.

In related news: I've been feeling really productive and optimistic lately. I hope this isn't the gentle manifestation of a manic episode. Also... I don't trust placidity.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lucas Molandes

Lucas Molandes is one of my favorite comics right now - and not just because he looks a bit like the late (and very funny) Freddie Prinze. He's a charismatic, hilarious sad sack... which I love.

Follow him on twitter: @lucasmolandes

Funny + Depressing Tweets : Volume 2

And some from me (the first one's got a really AWESOME pov shift! Good job, self.):

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gawker.TV guest contributions.

Three so far:

A Modern Guide to Old Timey Comedy

Lost Comedy Pilot: "The Show" No One Ever Saw

Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk: an Interview with Author Mike Sacks

I'll have another up some time this week called I Need Laughs - A Week in the life of an NYC Comedian. It's about a documentary by Matt Ruby.

And in the coming weeks, I'll be contributing to an awesome comedy blog. Details presently.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mike Lawrence - Montreal Just For Laughs - New Face

Mike Lawrence is hilarious and depressing and brutally honest about his life and shortcomings. Just the kind of comic I love. Check him out.

My First Gawker.TV Submission

.... was also my first Gawker.TV rejection! And that's still pretty awesome.

Here's the ill-fated submission:

Did you guys see the opening of the paint can? Whose hand do you think that was? What was the significance of robin's egg blue paint in 1965? Is it me, or does the blinking seem a bit anachronistic? Way to drop the ball, Weiner!

It was too short - and therefore, gently rejected. The video was created by the very funny Nathan Smart. You should all follow him on Twitter.

The second piece I submitted was posted earlier today:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Onion's Funniest Depression Articles - Part 1

They're funny because they're true! The Onion's fake news is more honest than any reporting I've ever seen.

Local Man Might As Well Just Give Up

Calling Ludauer's existence "a hopeless case from the start," Bulone called upon fellow community members to support the panel's recommendation that he immediately surrender to the gnawing void he has for years tried to keep at bay.

Doctors Find New Way To Prolong Meaningless Existence

"I used to be blissfully unaware of my pathetic, pitiable state," said Klingbell, whose Noexitoxythalynucleothylinase treatments have restored her mental faculties. "Now, the doctors say I can live on without any purpose whatsoever for years, trapped helplessly within the bleak prison of shattered dreams and blasted hopes that has been my life."

U.S. Populace Lurches Methodically Through The Motions For Yet Another Day

The populace's minor victory of continuing to participate in the meaningless charade that is their lives, sources said, was rendered all the more futile by the inescapable realization that they must do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and so on and so on unceasingly until the day they inevitably die.

Study: Depression Hits Losers Hardest

According to the Stanford study, losers are five times more likely to suffer from negative sexual self-images than non-losers, usually because they are fat and ugly, and nobody in their right mind would ever want to date them. Further, negative feelings such as despair, self-loathing and hopelessness are three times as common among go-nowhere lowlife losers than among normal people who are not worthless as human beings.

Utter Failure To Spend Rest Of Day In Bed

Observers attribute Mayhew's utter failure of a life to a variety of factors. His lack of any employable skills makes him ill-suited for all but the most degrading menial jobs, few of which offer a living wage, leaving him in constant poverty and debt. His lack of health insurance, coupled with a diet consisting almost exclusively of Saltines and Tang, has contributed greatly to the deterioration of his physical and mental well-being. And his substandard personal hygiene, caused by his low self-esteem, as well as his enormous emotional neediness, make him extremely unattractive to members of the opposite sex as a potential romantic partner.

Area Man Has Sad Little Routine For When He Needs Cheering Up

Despite his passion for bizarre little rituals that apparently keep him from tumbling into complete despair, over time Mendic has been forced to retire some of his habits, such as, for the love of Christ, playing Minesweeper.

Son, We'd All Like To Lie Around All Day Being 'Clinically Depressed'

Justin, do you know what could make you feel better right off the bat? Raising your blinds and letting in some light. Because, I mean, I can believe you feel clinically depressed in that room of yours—I would, too! Anyone would. It's dark, it smells, and there's mounds of clothes and books all over the floor. Get out of bed, open the window, and do a little picking up. Accomplishing a small task could do a lot to restore your self-confidence.

More links to come...

Chevy Chase - National Council for Mental Health

...From a 1976 episode of the sketch show Tunnel Vision. It seems uncannily modern for its day, no? The sad thing is that the social ill this video is parodying - the marginalization of and undue shame associated with mental health problems - still exists today.

So don't go embarrassing yourself with depression. Take a shower. Get yourself together.

Patton Oswalt - Sad Boy

This bit comes from Patton Oswalt's My Weakness is Strong. It's phenomenal. Besides that he describes what depression is like accurately and hilariously, what I love about the Sad Boy bit is the dog analogy. For a lesser comic, the dog portion of this bit would have been a bit in and of itself, sovereign of a larger context. Not so with Patton. He's amazing. Watch this and everything else he's done.... professionally. I don't want to enable any stalkers.

Unemployed 20-Something Totally Validated By Marginal Celebrity's Fleeting Acknowledgement of Her Existence

Preface: This really happened. After it did, I wrote the piece below and sent it to Todd Hanson who responded with this:

You are REALLY OVERREACTING. I am not even REMOTELY anything you could call even a MARGINAL "celebrity." But thank you so very much for the compliment just the same.
Your piece was funny.
good luck out there,


Unemployed 20-Something Totally Validated By Marginal Celebrity’s Fleeting Acknowledgement of Her Existence”

August 2, 2010

CHICAGO, IL – In an atypical break from ennui, part-time babysitter, vintage apparel retailer, and occasional freelance writer, Chicagoan Rebecca O’Neal, 23, shared good news with her unimpressed Twitter followers early Monday morning: The Onion’s Todd Hanson had become peripherally aware of her insular existence.

After stumbling upon O’Neal’s sycophantic and stylistically hilarious online review of Hanson’s contribution to And Here’s The Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers On Their Craft, a book largely unfamiliar to non-comedy nerds, Seattle area man Peter Greyy posted its link to Hanson’s Facebook profile. Hanson, in what has been interpreted as an equal parts earnest and sarcastic response, replied, “I have decided beccaBeccaBECCA [Rebecca O’Neal’s online username] is my new favorite writer.”

Reflecting the indifference of the majority of O’Neal’s Twitter followers, @mallrat87 had this to say of Rebecca’s elation at Hanson’s acknowledgement, “@becca_oneal: Who is Todd Hanson?” Users of, the web forum on which O’Neal’s review was posted, equally rabid comedy fans and sharers of Rebecca’s apparently esoteric tastes in humor, bandied congratulations on their web peer. In a private message to O’Neal, AST user R-Rated wrote, “OMG! Todd Hanson saw your post! You’re totally internet famous now!”

Rebecca, happy to know a review she had expected to go unread and ignored found its way to Hanson, expressed her surprise and joy to her mother, who beamed with confusion and pride. “Becky is so talented. I’m glad that Hanson fellow thinks so too. He seems like an important man. I see copies of The Onionat libraries sometimes. Maybe now she’ll leave the house more often.”

O’Neal assured reporters that there was a “fat chance” of that happening as she blogged about her unlikely brush with celebrity.

Funny + Depressing Tweets

And one from me:


To submit funny, depressing videos, links, essays, etc - email