Splitsider

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Sean Patton on the Country's Thriving Local Comedy Landscape

Whiplash Comedy - UCB TheaterSean Patton is at a point in his career that every rising comic eventually reaches: expanding his act for his first one-hour special. This fall, he's independently shooting his first hour in native New Orleans, after having risen up through the NYC standup scene and TV world, with recent appearances on Inside Amy Schumer, Maron, and @midnight under his belt. Patton also recently performed on Splitsider's A Night at Whiplash, sharing the stage with the likes of Janeane Garofalo, Michael Che, Eugene Mirman, and more. I recently had the chance to interview Sean Patton, discussing his performance in the Whiplash movie, recording his first hour special, and the bustling comedy scenes in New Orleans and other major cities across the country.

How did you get involved in the Whiplash concert film?

I’ve been doing that show, that Monday night show at UCB, Whiplash live. It was originally called Crash Test. It was Aziz [Ansari], Rob Huebel, and Paul Scheer’s show. And then those guys went off in the fame world. And Jeremy [Levenbach], who was booking their show at the time, continued booking it and called it Whiplash after a while. I’ve been doing it since he started doing it as Whiplash, which was, I would say 2008, 2009.  And Leo [Allen] left for like a year in 2010, he was in LA most of that year, and I hosted it on and off. So I think Jeremy was nice enough, he was like “Well, Sean’s done it a lot. We should really let him be on the movie.” To answer your question in one sentence, Jeremy Levenbach is a nice guy.

What was the taping like?

It was crazy, because everyone was so good. I mean everyone: Sheng [Wang], Janeane [Garofalo], [Michael] Che and Jared Logan. Everyone was so funny. And I was going last for no other reason than I just had the most drawn-out story. Yeah, it was great. It was amazing. It was one of those tapings where everything went right. I was just watching comic after comic have the set of their year, and it was good to be a part of that. It was awesome to be a part of that.

Sounds great. What are your other projects coming up? You said you were shooting a show called Best Bars.

Yeah. I have a show called Best Bars coming in on Esquire network. Esquire’s been sort of pandling up to me, before they decided to buy a TV network. And now they have a TV network. It’s a show called Best Bars. It’s exactly that. Jay Larson, a wonderful, great comedian and myself, we travel the country drinking in bars and they point a camera at us. We survived week one. I’m probably a functioning alcoholic now. But, you know, it’ll be a good show, and it airs June 25th. So pretty fast.

Are you working on material for a second album coming soon too?

I’m actually shooting my first-ever hour special independently in November. I come back to New York this week and I’ve got a lot of dates booked over the summer. So yeah, I’m basically working on the next hour right now.

Awesome. Where are you planning to shoot that?

In New Orleans. I don’t really know the venue yet, but I’m from New Orleans, and it actually has a pretty vibrant, amazing comedy scene now. It didn’t have that when I first started. But now it’s amazing. I want to be here to shoot it.

How would you say your standup has changed, if at all, from The Half Hour and your first album to now?

The Half Hour, we shot those last February and it aired last summer. That was a different sort of thing, what we taped. That was some of my first material I ever wrote. It was like, "I wanna get this recorded." It’s still something I was proud of. It was sort of an additional benchmark of like, “All right, here’s my first half hour I ever wrote that was ever good.” And now, with the hour, I’m attempting more of a personal… more of a “Hey, this is who I am now. You can either love it or hate it, but hopefully you’ll laugh at it either way.” It’s a very honest hour. Not that my half-hour wasn’t, but this is more of a “Here are my thoughts.” Me being completely unedited.

I saw you on the web series This Is Not Happening. Is it more storytelling like you did on that?

Actually yeah. That series is so amazing. Comedy Central picked that up for a TV show, that’s smart of them to do. But yeah, it’s a lot more like that. Real experiences translated into a performance. I’ve never been good at observation because I’m too busy staring off. I’m a daydreamer. Daydreamers are all terrible at observation. I just have to tell you the things I’ve either daydreamed about or the things I’ve experienced as a direct result of walking around daydreaming and sort of stumbling into. That’s kind of what you’re gonna get.

In your first special, you also do a lot of physical comedy on stage. How do you translate that for an album recording?

For an album, it’s hard. I think that’s why now I’m just going into shooting an hour that you can watch. An album, it’s very hard to translate to, and it sometimes just doesn’t. I feel that even the best-written jokes in the world, if you’re just kind of standing there saying them, there are so many comedians that I adore that after 20 minutes, no matter how great the material is, if they’re not giving you something that visually stimulates you as well as mentally, which is hard. Visually is part of mentally; your eyeballs are connected to your brain. It’s sort of the more ways you can really express what you’re thinking, the better. So to answer your question, an album recording, yeah, it’s difficult to tell. But video is my strength.

Anything else you want to add or talk about?

The only thing I would say is it’s a very special time for standup. It really is. There is a lot going on across the country, not just in New York or LA anymore. Cities like New Orleans, Austin, Denver, Portland, Chicago, Omaha and Wilmington, North Carolina [Laughs]. It’s crazy. There’s great comedy everywhere, and go see it. There’s something special happening right now. It’s an honor to be a part of.

Are there any comics you think are doing something really great right now or up and coming?

Sure. I would say The Grawlix in Denver. That’s comprised of Adam Cayton-Holland, Ben Roy and Andrew Orvedahl; they are a Denver based comedy trio, but they also perform individually. They are just constantly on the verge of greatness. Mark Normand, who is also a comic from New Orleans who lives in New York, shot a Half Hour this year. He’s awesome. Neil Stastny, he’s also a comic in New York. Omaha, Nebraska has a group called Prom. They put on a festival now every year, it’s a handful of guys. They’re all amazing. There’s so much going on, it’s hard to even get started. It’s everywhere. Every city. Everyone should check it out.

Have you met most of these comedians when you’re touring?

Yeah, meet them in different cities and at different festivals. I’m biased because I’m from here, but in New Orleans now, there’s a dozen or so great comedians down here and a great show every single night that you can see. And that’s new for this city. But it fits perfectly in New Orleans, a city that is all night life and fun, debauchery, and comedy just fits in there perfectly. If you go to New Orleans, look up the comedy scene.

Emma Soren is a writer from Chicago living in Philadelphia.