Talking with Joe Mande about the Final Totally J/K, ‘Parks & Rec’, and Moving to LA
With Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” and Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” playing over the soundsystem, the atmosphere was decidedly somber at the UCBeast last night. As the goodbye message on the chalkboard schedule read, Joe Mande was “LEAVING 4 L.A.!” As was announced on Wednesday, Mande was hired as a writer for Parks & Recreation, so after years of being a fixture of the New York comedy scene, he was moving. And as a result, Totally J/K, the stand-up show he has been hosting with his friend Noah Garfinkel for five years, was ending. Right before the final Totally J/K, I got a chance to speak with Joe about his new job and leaving New York:
Thanks for agreeing to talk with me. I’m sure it’s a crazy night for you.
No problem. Thanks for doing this before the show – before I got drunk and emotional.
When do you head out?
How are you feeling?
I’m very excited but it’s weird. I wasn’t expecting it. We’ll see. Obviously, I’m excited but there is a lot of stuff to figure out.
How long have you been seriously considering the move?
Yeah, I applied for the job and I didn’t hear back for a while and then I got it. So I definitely wasn’t expecting it.
Have you been thinking about jobs in LA for a while?
No. I know I didn’t want to move to LA really but I thought I might as well apply to what I think is the best show on TV. And yeah, I got the job [laughs]. So I have to do it now.
How long have you lived in New York?
Previously, you mentioned being hesitant to move to LA, where you’d have to confront the business side of entertainment. What made you pull the trigger?
Except for Noah and [John] Mulaney, and a couple other people, [Max] Silvestri, [Gabe] Liedman, everyone I know lives out in LA now, so that’s part of it. But also, this is a great job and I need to take it. If I could stay in New York with something comparable, I would, but there isn’t really anything comparable.
Do you have a favorite Parks & Recreation character or one you’re most looking forward to writing for?
I’m on the road a lot with Aziz [Ansari], so Tom is going to be fun to write for. And I’ve been told I’ll be good for April’s voice; I’m kind of a sourpuss. And yeah, Ron Swanson is one of the best TV characters ever. You know, the whole thing, I’m just psyched.
So, you were a big fan beforehand?
Yeah, I love it. I love the show. And I have friends who’ve written on it. So yeah, it’s going to be great.
How long have you been doing Totally J/K?
Five and a half years and this is the last one [laughs], out of nowhere.
What has it meant to you?
Noah is one of my best friends and this was just an outlet for us to kind of dick around and, in a weird way, get the worst jokes out of our system. We would try terrible stand-up out, and occasionally we would find a good joke and work it into our acts but otherwise we would just dick around and have our friends come and perform. I mean, I’m going to miss it, but it is also really stupid. It has been five years of pure stupidity.
In general, what do you think you’ll miss most about being a stand-up in New York?
The shows. You can do more shows and they’re better here. Going into this job, I know I’m not going to be doing much stand-up for a while, with the hours and everything. I’m going to miss being able to do multiple shows a night and just really work on material. If there is one way to be forced to go to LA, this is the way to go.
So this is completely changing your career trajectory.
It’s weird. I did only stand-up for years and just recently started doing a few TV writing jobs and really liked it. So yeah, this could totally change my career. I’m starting work on Monday and my half-hour special is on Friday so it’s a really crazy, ridiculous week.
And you’re moving completely across the country.
[Laughs] Yeah. Yeah.
How long have you known?
I found out this weekend. I didn’t want to Tweet about it because it’s hard to do that without coming across as smug. But I just did it because I didn’t want to just disappear and people be like, “What?”
And then twenty episodes down the line, they just see, “Written By: Joe Mande.”
Actually, what happened was since this is our last show and at first I tweeted, “This is our last show, this week,” and a bunch of people kept asking me why. I say a lot; it was probably like it was probably like 10 people, but it was enough for me to be like, ‘I might as well say why I’m leaving.’
Do you have anything special planned for the last one? Any really bad jokes?
We’re going to go real deep on the List of Nothing – deep cuts, tonight. We’re going to show old videos. Honestly, I’m really emotional; I don’t think I’ll be able to do stand-up, so we’re just going to play videos and do the List of Nothing. We have special guests coming by, so it’s going to be good.
As Joe mentioned, instead of stand-up, he and Noah played a bunch of silly videos. Like this one that looks like it’s about Sinbad but is actually about wrestler John Cena:
Joe remarked that Todd Barry was the first good comedian they ever got to do the show when it first started; however, each time he is on, all he does is shit on the show. Last night, he shit all over the show.
Of course, there was Joe’s six favorite examples of the Andy Rooney Game. Here’s one they played:
John Mulaney went last. He was sad that all of his Jewish friends have moved to Hollywood for some reason.
The show closed with the List of Nothing, which is a list Noah and Joe have kept over the years of bad jokes. It is the best and worst thing in the world.
ROSA PARKS AND RECREATION
The list, the night, and Totally J/K ended with “SUPPOSEDTORY,” a joke Mande admitted was too bad to explain. Sounds about right.