This Week In Web Videos: ‘The Comedy Nut ‘
Created by Gregg Zehentner (The Nut, himself), Pat Stango, and Clayton Gumbert, The Comedy Nut doesn’t seem to be much of a novel undertaking at first glance. A weird interviewer makes straight men feel sort of uncomfortable — that’s our premise, and it’s one that everyone from Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick to Zach Galifianikis’s morose cynic in Between Two Ferns are very familiar with. What makes The Comedy Nut unique is a subtle lampooning of the trope we’ve all come to know and love.
How did you guys get your start in comedy?
Pat: So, me and Gregg went to college together at NYU and worked on a comedy magazine together, called The Plague, and then we both separately started doing comedy outside of school. I ran a comedy sketch variety show called Don’t Touch Me There.
Gregg: Maybe three or four years after college, I started a comedy rock band called Fortress of Attitude and we toured the country a couple of times. That was what I was mainly into during the mid to late 2000s, touring with this comedy rock band and writing comedy screenplays.
Pat: And then when Gregg moved back to New York, it became more of a house band.
Gregg: That’s right, everyone learned how to play instruments. That’s not true, they don’t know how to play anything.
Pat: Gregg’s the only one who knows how to play.
Clayton: I grew up in Pennsylvania and went to Penn State and then, when I moved to New York City, I actually got hired as a nanny. During the day, I would nanny and then at night, I would do comedy and take improv classes and do standup. From standup, I met a few people who actually knew Pat. I might’ve even ran into Pat before we actually met, and from there I started going to Don’t Touch Me There and met everyone and would do little parts in their videos. Eventually, I was added as a member and when we were hanging out they asked me if I wanted to help them with this script, that’s how I started writing it with Pat.
How did the idea for this show come about?
Gregg: At Don’t Touch Me There, before the show, Pat and I were just kind of joking around, asking each other nonsensical questions. And we thought that was really funny and decided to do it as a character after one of the comedians did their stand up sets. At first we didn’t even tell them what we were going to do, we just told them that after their set, something was going to happen, “So just go with it.” So, I would come out and ask them these questions and it was funny to watch them eventually realize that they were nearly impossible to answer. Questions like, “Do you do more stand up jokes about your mom or your dad?” and eventually, as we kept gaining momentum, we realized it wasn’t just asking stupid questions it really was just being stupid.
Clayton: I think the other thing we liked when we came up with it was it seemed like a joke to us, the big trend in comedy nerd-ism of people being really into comedy and just all these comedy podcasts and comedy shows about comedy.
This trope of the weird-ass, super dry interviewer seems to be timeless. Is it timeless or is there a way to do it wrong?
Gregg: I hope that we are the people to make it unviable for everyone else.
Pat: I think this is the last one.
Clayton: Yeah, we want to make sure no one else can make any kind of money off of it.
Gregg: I think it is pretty timeless, even looking back to someone like Carl Reiner doing the 2,000-Year-Old Man thing, isn’t exactly the same as this, but is still a pretty clear spoof of wanting to hear someone’s opinions on something and then just getting ridiculous answers. Or even something like Jiminy Glick.
Pat: Our hope is that one day we get to interview Jiminy Glick. I also think that with something like this, where you have the trope of an interviewer asking these ridiculous questions, you need to have an angle, like in Between Two Ferns the angle is that Zack Galifiniakis as the interviewer is kind of a dick and in The Comedy Nut, we’re going for the idea that he’s such a fan of this that he becomes really annoying but he’s still a really nice guy, we’re not trying to make fun of the guests. So we’re kind of still trying to do that dry interviewer style but without having it be mean-spirited.
It’s also different enough from the self-deprecation of the classic SNL sketches where Chris Farley interviewed celebrities.
Clayton: Right. The Comedy Nut just loves it so much that’s it’s painful. He’s like sitting next to gods in his mind, he’s just so happy. The idea is that jokes are like magic to him.
What else are you guys watching on the Internet right now?
Pat: Lot of cat videos. I guess Jimmy Fallon, isn’t that kind of what we’re all watching on the Internet now? I end up finding a lot of comedy on Facebook and Twitter, just watching things that my friends post.
Clayton: It’s weird because there’s [very few] serialized things on the Internet right now. I guess we just kind of watch whatever you say to on your column.
Gregg: This is from a couple of years ago but I will still go back and watch Yacht Rock from Channel 101.
Pat: I ended up watching like 20 of those Epic Rap Battle videos on YouTube the other day and they were pretty hilarious.
Gregg: The funniest thing I’ve seen on the Internet is the guy who does the impression of Mike Randazzo from WAMX.
What’s next for The Comedy Nut? Are you guys going to do more episodes?
Pat: We’ve been talking about it. We’re definitely going to do a whole another batch of them, and we’re setting up those interviews now. We film them at Clayton’s apartment, which is cool. Just a lot of the exact same jokes from all of our previous episodes. Also as a band, we’ve written a new album of comedy songs so we’re gonna be recording those in a studio and then eventually making music videos for that song, for however long that takes.
Gregg: Look out for it in some amount of time in the future!
Clayton: We’re like how George R.R. Martin writes his books.
What advice do you have for people looking to break into the digital comedy space?
Pat: I guess first try to go back to before YouTube was big and post a video there. Also, try a lot of new stuff and if you’re able to: get a decent camera.
Gregg: Try to find out what really affects you emotionally and then do something about it. Not something that’s really hot right now or something you think would get a million views, you’ve got to do something that you’re emotionally attached to.
Pat: Look out for our next video, which will be a parody of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction moment.
Clayton: And be nice to everyone. Also become friends with Michael Che.
And now…your three reasons to watch.
The Comedy Nut Show: Sean Donnelly
Try as you might, it will be hard not to laugh at Zehentner’s Nut. He essentially combines Steve Little’s degree of blind fandom on Eastbound with the interview preparation of an ADD-addled 7-year-old. It’s quite good.
The Comedy Nut Show: Nick Turner
Simple and subtly satirical. Try saying that three times fast, HAHA! But, really though, these are all big factors in why the show works.
The Comedy Nut Show: Mark Normand
I’ve met comedy “lovers” who aren’t much more discerning than The Nut. As a commentary on the catchall, “comedy is so funny”-type mega fans, this resonates.
Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.