The Year in Interviews

bob-odenkirkIn 2014, the Splitsider team did over 150 interviews to get the inside information about your favorite things in comedy. Here’s a collection of the year’s most notable quotes from our conversations with some of the best people involved in comedy today.

COMEDY CAREER ADVICE

Mike Birbiglia: “It takes an absurd amount of endurance to succeed in comedy, because you’re just failing for years and years and years, and you’re not getting the things that you want. I feel like if you’re persistent, eventually you get what you want, but it’s generally about seven years after you thought you were going to get it, and thought you deserved it.”

Bill Burr: “I think all that pressure stuff and all that crap is just about how much you decide to pay attention to it and give it weight and credibility. The guys who really are successful don’t listen to it.… If you want to maintain sanity, that’s how you have to go through it. Because the only person who knows what you should be doing next really is you.”

Bill Connolly: “You might have a really bad show but I think that’s good because it’s constructive and keeps you grounded — makes you realize you’re not perfect and have to keep working. It gets you over that fear of constant failure and as improvisers we get over that fear pretty quickly. If I have a really bad show I’m like, ‘Wow that sucked’ and I just move on.”

Chris Laker: “There are some people that get there quicker than others, but really, at the end of it all, we all hung out with our friends and told jokes, and after 40 fucking years you look back and you say ‘That’s what I did.’ It doesn’t really matter. It’s weird how we get tricked into using the measures of the people that we despise. I feel like 90% of the people making money off of comedy who aren’t comedians are pieces of shit. But we do what we have to do. It’s all good to make money, and people want to make money. If somebody gets a commercial, good, that’s great for you. I’d love to get a commercial or whatever. But it’s no measure of success in comedy. None of it is. It’s the people that will show up to see us, and how funny you are when you tell jokes for an hour. That’s really what it’s about.”

Carmen Lynch: “I guess I realized I wasn’t taking enough risks on stage or having any fun. I wasn’t really focused. I’d just been expecting things to happen because I thought that’s how it worked. But there’s no one behind you, telling you what to do. You have to do it all yourself, and I still constantly have to remind myself of that.”

Patton Oswalt: “It’s always about finding the balance between the emotional and the funny. How deep do you go, how flippant do you make it? You gotta find the balance.”

Mike Sacks: “I’d recommend that for any comedy writer: don’t be an asshole. There’s too much competition as it is. Make it easier for yourself. So many people make it harder than it has to be.”

Dan St. Germain: “I always feel like you can take other people down a lot easier and a lot more guilt-free if you put yourself in front of the firing line first. I’ve just been wrong so many times before. Nobody got into this because they were a paragon of rationality and courteousness and shit-togetheredness. I maybe know a handful of comics that I would let babysit.”

Matt Walsh: “I think you want to work with nice people. So if I don’t really know someone, but I know they’re nice to work with, I think that’s probably the first requirement: no jerks. People who are funny happen to be a lot of the people I know, so it’s kind of perfect that I tend to travel in the comedy circle. It’s actually ideal because it is like an invisible studio where you can cast all these talented people from this community, and they’re all very successful and working and nice.”

 

FILM

Jason Nash on Jason Nash is Married: “I just wanted to make something funny that was real, and I wanted the tone to be real. I didn’t want to hammer jokes home. I just wanted it to be how it is when you’re hanging out with people. And then I wanted it to have heart.

Steven Wright on the difference between film and standup: “Oh, it’s different because standup, obviously they can see you and everything, and seeing you is part of the whole thing, but it’s basically obviously just the words, the sentences. In a film thing, you have so much other stuff happening that you have a wider canvas to paint on. The words are important but also the picture, the other actors, the music, the pacing, all those other things come into it. I find I like all of them, but film is more complicated. It has all the elements of all art. It’s the only medium that has all art in one thing: picture, sound, music. It’s like a little art school all in one project. So it’s different in that sense. Something can be just seen, and it’ll maybe be funny. And it doesn’t have to be as funny constantly. Standup has to be constantly funny. I’m not complaining, I’m just describing it. You don’t all of the sudden show a slide of a beautiful field. Or maybe you could, but then that’s how it’s different.”

 

GETTING YOUR START

Wyatt Cenac: “I don’t know if you, as the person, ever finds your voice. I feel like that’s a construct that other people place on you. Maybe it depends on the type of comedy, but I feel like if it is personal stuff, it’s kind of evolving all the time.”

Damien Lemon: “It doesn’t matter when you start, it’s just the fact that you started that’s the best thing.”

Chelsea Peretti: “It’s kind of a magical time when you’re doing open mics and hanging out with your friends talking about comedy and you’re all in it together.  Then you go on these different paths.  It can be more isolating where people are always on the road or shooting, so when I do get to hang out, I do hang out with a lot of comedians still.”

Adam Reed: “You know, I think YouTube is the way to go now. One of our animators, by himself, drew, wrote, and did all the voices for a 20-minute, full-length animated cartoon about the band One Direction and put it on YouTube, and it got something crazy, like 16 million views, which is probably more than Archer has gotten total. So I think YouTube is a great new platform because network execs have people that actually comb through YouTube and sites like that looking for new content creators.”

Beth Stelling: “I was always trying to figure out who I was as a comedian. At first, I was quiet, deadpan and, now, as I’ve gotten better, I’ve become a little closer to my personality.”

Tracey Wigfield: “And say ‘yes’ to everything, no matter how shitty the job seems or how adjacent to what the thing you eventually want to be doing it is, like if you’re writing the Twitter account for American Airlines or if you’re picking up dry cleaning for someone. There’s no one way to get to the job you want. I’ve found, for me, it never hurt to – just any opportunity that came my way – to just say ‘yes’ to and to try it because the worst thing that happens is you learn, ‘Oh, this is not something I want to be doing.’ And write all the time. Also, don’t say ‘yes’ to opportunities like Girls Gone Wild. Just write as much as you possibly can because you can only get good at something by doing it a lot.”

 

GOALS

Cameron Esposito: “I always want to be honest. I never want to be doing dishonest things, but also I have a weird haircut and a non-normative sexuality and I’m a woman, so I’m not necessarily plug-in-able to a network sitcom. Like nobody’s looking for me, and because that’s true, I kind of have to make my own stuff and that’s a huge blessing and it’s frustrating as hell because I wish that somebody would come help me and pluck me out of obscurity, but it’s just not going to happen. So the cool thing is that I get to maintain a little bit of control and I get to decide what I’m going to put out there and I get to have fun with it and that’s rad and that’s also just exhausting.”

Paul Scheer: “I just want to continue to do good stuff and not get caught in the trap of doing the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to be one of those people. I feel like you see a lot of comedians or people who have been in comedy and were really successful at one point but then they stop seeing what’s out there and interacting in comedy. That would be my biggest fear. I don’t want to become like that. I hopefully will stay as relevant and keep creating with the people I love working with and just doing a lot of different stuff, whether it’s something that’s very unexpected and very different.”

 

IMPROV

Scott Adsit: “There’s a bit of a fraternity in The Second City alumni that we all kind of have a shared experience and so it always feels like a reunion. Even sometimes when I haven’t worked with someone before. It still feels like a school reunion.”

Brian Huskey: “I was also surprised, when I started taking improv classes, by people trying to be actors. I just assumed everyone else was like me, ‘I’m gonna do it just to do it.’ I was like, ‘Oh, you mean this will lead to something? That seems weird.’ I just assumed everybody was gonna take either a pottery class or an improv class. But there were some people who really wanted to be actors. And then I did too.”

Bob Odenkirk: “I just think this improvisational explosion has just got to become something else. And I’m not sure what it is and I think that maybe it’s storytelling because you would just think that an audience that’s seen a lot of improv would go, ‘That was fun. What do you have that would stick with me a little longer?’ A lot of the reaction you get from an improv show is all about that discovery moment. That’s only good for that second that it exists. It’s lot of fun, but I just imagine everybody going, ‘What else can we do?'”

Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair: St. Clair: “Something that’s really nice about the UCB is, and I really credit Amy and Ian and Matt and Matt for doing this, it’s all about helping each other, in a way I feel like nobody else does in Hollywood.” Parham: “If you’ve ever taken an improv class, the whole point of the scene is to make your teammates look good. You support the shit out of whatever anybody on stage is doing. And that’s how people roll in the business too, as far as UCB goes. You hire your people, they show up, and they give 150%.”

 

LIFE ADVICE

Jonathan Katz: “Sometimes you’re just on the verge, you’re about to have a fight with your spouse and you realize it’s just because you’re hungry.”

Elizabeth Laime: “Nurture what loves you back and do it for the fun of it. These are things I’ve learned from podcasting that I also apply to my regular life.”

J.B. Smoove: “Bottom line is take your goddamn time through life.”

 

MISCELLANEOUS

Leo Allen on his Whiplash memories: “One time, Moshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach did this bit where Brent would heckle Moshe in the bit from the audience. It was a planned bit, and they had done it a bunch. At our show, one woman in the audience thought that Brent was some guy in the audience, she didn’t recognize him. He was heckling Moshe. She lept to Moshe’s defense. She was like, ‘Shut the fuck up!’ It was hilarious.”

Cole Bolton: “You can see a joke that you’ve written or a joke that you’ve edited or a joke that you had no part of and just really liked, you can see it on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, and you can see people’s reactions to it in real time. Which, a lot of times is awful, and I don’t want to do things simply because I think they’re popular; I want to do things because they’re satirical and because they’re good and because they’re funny. But one of the things it has done is make me see that some of the things that I write or that other people write really do seem to have an impact on people’s day, really do seem to make their days better, hopefully, or speak to a point which they believe, but maybe they hadn’t been able to articulate.”

Pete Davidson: “Nobody wants you to do well from Staten Island. Nobody from Staten Island wants to see you do well. Unless it’s your mother, and even then, she doesn’t really want you to do that well.”

Billy Eichner: “I really see her as a very vital artist who is constantly challenging herself and doing new things, and I’m there for life with Madonna. Unless she kills a bunch of people and even then, we’ll see.”

Nathan Fielder: “I’m endlessly fascinated by how if you just talk to someone long enough, how almost anyone — probably everyone — has something that’s shockingly interesting, it’s just about trying to see if they’ll talk about it or seeing whether or not it’ll come out. I mean, everyone is really fascinating — every person on the earth, probably. There might be a few not so fascinating people.”

Ron Funches: “Oh, I’m sweet and nice. But don’t fuck with me.”

John Hodgman: “The point of Secret Society is over time the people who were attending the show would come to trust that I would give them a good show, whatever it was, and that we would all have fun together in a fellowship of friends, but that would do something that friends do not do. We would keep each other’s secrets. And I’ve said many things in that basement that I was scared would be revealed, but no one has ever broken their silence.”

John Mulaney: “I started to hear it [Mulaney] might not be picked up by NBC the week it wasn’t picked up, and I knew that I was also planning to propose to my girlfriend. And I was like Wouldn’t that be funny if that all happened on the same day? So then I proposed, and then we got a call that the show was passed on. [laughs] But it was an amazing day. I mean, it was kind of perfectly planned, because I still think of it as one of the best days of my life.”

Yannis Pappas: “If everything else dries up, I’ll be 50 years old in some club in Long Island. I’ll put the dress on and be like, ‘Alright, hand me a wig.’ I’ll pop in a cigarette, I’ll be like, ‘Look. I want half my money up front, but you gotta give me the money cash. I’ve been in this business 30 years. Somebody come here and crack my back. Stretch out my knee. Let’s do this.’ I love it! I’ve got no plan B.”

James Reichmuth on the underlying themes of Kasper Hauser’s comedy: “That’s been a major theme: Striving. That’s been since the very beginning and I think it could be embodied. Like, we have an image that we’ve never used of a tattoo with the five Olympic rings but below it, it would just say, ‘Almost.’”

Janet Varney: “We all get kind of mired in our own bullshit in terms of our day to day ‘What’s annoying me?’ or ‘What’s hard today?’ or whatever, and every once in a while you just have these flashes of ‘Oh my god, I’m just so lucky. Who cares if I’m sitting in traffic? I’m so lucky.'”

David Wain on talking to his children about his work: “Look, there’s some really weird dirty videos of me delivering fellatio to Santa Claus’s wife, but you’re gonna have to understand that your dad’s a weirdo.”

Joe Zimmerman: “CDs are dead.”

 

PERFORMING 

Maria Bamford: “At the time or even like six months later you go Oh that bums me out, and I’m not sure if I can tell anybody, because I still feel bad about it and embarrassed about it. But once you get a couple people to laugh at it who are outside your circle…I think confidence comes with repetition. Once I repeat a joke so many times it kind of takes the power away from me and the event itself.”

Kate Berlant on nerves: “Yeah, so I guess it’s weird that I still have that feeling, but I do. I do embrace it. I do remember a period where for a couple of months where I didn’t feel nervous. I didn’t like that feeling. I feel like the nerves are sort of essential. It’s a good scary.”

Kurt Braunohler: “I did improv for a really long time, and I did sketch for a really long time, and now I’m doing standup, all of it has kind of come together to help me with acting. Standup has really just helped me with the confidence of I can make a joke and it will be good. And then the improv is a huge factor. Just being able to really listen in a scene and find those little moments.”

Dane Cook: “It’s all business, and it’s all trying to stay true to the one thing you want, which is getting laughs, entertaining those fans who are helping you pay the rent, and having a damn good time while you’re doing it. Because truly — I don’t know if you’ve performed comedy — when you’re on this side of it, it is the greatest feeling in the world to wake up in the morning and know you have a show that day. I promise you it’s worth all the hell that anybody can rain down on you in a comment section to get up onstage to release the stuff you’re feeling and to also get that human interaction and that response. It’s the greatest.”

Rhys Darby: “That’s sort of exactly the kind of comedy you want to achieve — off-the-cuff, improvised stuff built on something that’s been scripted, then you bounce off of it and see where you can go with it, and when you do that, the people that are involved in the scene have no idea what each other’s going to say. Then something will just snap you and you’ll crack up. But it’s that moment that’s cracking you up that is the gold that’s going to crack everyone else up, so you’ve got to try and hold that.”

Rachael Harris: “I like playing characters that are flawed in some way, that don’t have the best coping skills. I have a lot of empathy for people that were never really taught a better way of correcting someone else. … I think I empathize with these characters. And in that same regard, I think I play more characters that are still flawed but maybe flawed in different ways. They have different resorts to anger. … I’m actively seeking scripts and more dramatic things that are not necessarily angry but call upon me to bring a different side of myself.”

T.J. Miller: “Yeah, I’m finding that it really sometimes can be an uphill climb to do accessible material and absurdism.  The more absurdist I get the more the audience has to be there.  Otherwise it’s not quite, it’s not the best.”

Paul F. Tompkins: “What I do with impressions, I try not to be mean-spirited. To me, it’s just about being silly. Taking this person that I can reasonably approximate their voice for the purpose of comedy and put them in a weird situation. It’s not really based on their lives that much. It’s not really about exploiting who they are and what they do.”

Alan Tudyk: “Some people play idiots well. My brain has an idiotic vent. The thoughts that come up tend to be stupid, things that stupid people would say.”

Sheng Wang: “You hit strides every now and then where you feel like you’ve figured out comedy. And then, you feel like there’s no way you’re gonna stop writing all these great, funny jokes. You’ve got the formula now in your head or something. You know how to write jokes. And then, either something happens — you stop for a little bit or it’s just not funny anymore, and you have to build the momentum up again to get into that groove. But once you get into that groove, one day inspires you to work harder for the next day.”

Jake Weisman: “It’s kind of the only thing I’ve every done that clicked immediately in terms of loving it. It takes a long time to get good but the addiction of it — just the immediate response you get from crowds or even lack of response — is so gratifying.”

Joe Wengert: “I’m always very terrified of the people I’m performing for and that’s an extension of how I feel when I’m not performing.”

 

PODCASTS

Nate Barzgate on WTF with Marc Maron: “Yeah, I mean you got a hundred million outlets, you know? And the late night set is like you do it once. You do a set where the podcast is an hour, you get to expand and itʼs on there forever. Iʼll have people come out to shows, and they come from hearing me on his podcast. Heʼs been a huge, huge help for me. Not only saying nice things about me, but he actually gives me work.”

Matt Belknap: “It’s cool to be able to give people a narrative experience in these sections of their lives where they’re doing something else. I think that’s always going to be valuable. People will always be looking for something to do in their car.”

Ben Blacker: “I wouldn’t have started the Nerdist Writers Panel if it had already existed. I really wanted to hear working writers talking about the nuts and bolts of writing television as well as anything else. The goal was always to have novelists and comic book writers and feature writers and songwriters on there, so I’ve been able to do a little of that over the years.”

Ian Edwards on WTF with Marc Maron: “Like in almost every episode Marc becomes a better person. Episode-by-episode, he sounds like he’s becoming a better person. I’ll just be meeting somebody who’s going to, you know, become a better person as I talk to him. Not because of me, but because he wants to. It becomes all about him. That’s actually – if you go through the podcast with Marc Maron, he’ll talk to you a little bit, and you’ll have to wonder how you’re going to respond, but at the same time he’s just going to talk for a while on his own.”

Pete Holmes: “It feels good to talk to one person and let all these people listen. There’s a release to it, I know for me there is.”

Mark McConville on Superego: “I will say getting back to it, I think we tried to get a little smarter about ‘let’s record more stuff and have a bank of sketches.’ So, we do have a nice surplus of stuff that we can kinda put out slowly. In the past, we’ve been, ‘It’s Saturday. The new episode is up Monday. We have to record something in the next 48 hours and get it up.’ We have been in that position before.”

Tom Scharpling on the return of The Best Show: “We’ll find out what we can do with this other area that we haven’t had a chance to explore. I really want to make a run at it and see what it can be. See what I can turn this thing into. I feel like I pushed pretty hard on the show in a lot of ways, but I don’t think I’ve pushed the way I plan on pushing.”

 

SCENES AND CITIES

Jackie Kashian: “I would say most cities are under-the-radar, because most people think of New York and LA and they think Chicago and Austin, but there’s amazing comedy going on in Madison, Wisconsin and Bloomington, Indiana. We’re definitely in a golden age of standup comedy, it’s a frickin’ renaissance out here. The audiences have seen so much standup comedy that they know when something has been covered, you know? The audience can see where the joke is.”

Sam Morril on NYC: “I think it’s great, I think it’s so competitive, and there are so many great comics, that it keeps you on your game. It can be scary, you can drown in all the comedians, but at the same time, there are so many opportunities here to become better, and that’s why this is the ultimate gym for a comic.”

Sean Patton: “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.”

Colin Quinn: “The alternative scene had its strengths; it came around for a reason. And the club scene had its strengths, and it came around for a reason. In the old days, it was just the club scene, you know? But the problem with the club scene is, too many times if you’re a hack you can do well, and if you’re trying to be thoughtful, you do badly. So the alternative scene developed, and the alternative scene is positive because it’s not just high-energy hack stuff. The downside to the alternative scene is it gets a little too soft, so you don’t have to get laughs all the time, and that can affect your performance.”

 

SKETCH

Fred Armisen: “I think in 10 or 20 years from now, we’ll all look back at these sketch comedy shows that are coming out now, and we’ll notice that they all had a look and a sound and rhythm. We’ll go like, ‘Remember that style from 2013-2014 that was like this?’ We’re too close to it now, but it’s gonna happen. You’ll even be able to make fun of it.”

Michael Che on SNL: “It’s a comedy show, we’re on your side. If no one’s laughing at the joke, we feel way worse than you do for watching it. We already know if something’s not working. We feel it — it’s brutal. We know how hard we work, and also the degree of difficulty to put on a show like Saturday Night Live is so high. The same time we find out that something’s not funny, you find out it’s not funny. It’s not like we get to go to a focus group or we get to edit and change it after people have seen it — it’s live, it’s up immediately. So there’s a reason why nobody else is doing 90 minutes of live comedy on TV every week. It’s fucking hard, so when people just shit on it as if it’s an easy thing to do you’re like ‘Fuck you, you’re dumb.’ This is how I feel, I’m sorry.”

Tim Kalpakis on The Birthday Boys: “I think it’s a result of the Internet. Ten years ago suddenly everyone had access to making a sketch and I think that, while we’re a TV show and the boom is happening now in sketch comedy, I think it just came through revitalization of sketch as a form that people were more interested in, because it was at everyone’s fingertips. Then we kind of circled back around where now you can do it professionally again.”

Nick Kroll on Kroll Show: “The more that you watch, the more that you see how interconnected things are and how many things are crossing over and that worlds are intersecting or that things are coming up in multiple spaces and culminate in a fashion that – I think our goal is to make something that’s really the funniest show you can make but also that is really satisfying. The more you watch it, the more I think it becomes satisfying as a whole.”

Matt Piedmont on writing longform comedy vs. sketch: “It’s a different discipline where sometimes you have to unlearn when you’re writing longer form. It’s okay to kind of take your time and let it develop a little bit more. In sketch you have to keep moving as quickly as possible and sometimes that’s a bad thing in longer form stuff.”

 

STANDUP

Aziz Ansari: “For the shows we just did there was like zero scalping; there were no tickets on StubHub or anything like that. That was really cool, because I feel horrible when people tell me they spent like $120 on their ticket on StubHub. That’s a bummer to hear, especially if you’re a performer who is intentionally trying to keep your ticket prices low. I don’t ever want the tickets to be so expensive that only people who are super well-off are able to come, you know? I want to give everybody a chance to come.”

Dave Attell: “My most favorite shows were the ones where I come up with stuff, you try and push your material, something happens in the crowd, and you turn it a gem – that’s what makes it fun. I’m towards the end of the road, so I’m fine with it. It’s sad though because the audience is such an important part of it. My crowds are great. I love my people. Audiences just have to realize they are as important in the development as anybody else. Just showing up isn’t enough.”

W. Kamau Bell: “[Totally Biased] certainly made me appreciate standup comedy a lot more. It’s a much more intimate and direct experience. It’s really fun to not to have to hit my mark in the same place every night. It’s also fun to work on jokes: that’s a really fun part of being a comedian, getting to raise a joke from infancy to adulthood. You don’t really see that on TV.”

Jerrod Carmichael on his HBO special: “My intention is to have fun. My intention is to have people think and feel challenge, so I wrote I as honestly as possible. And then the rest is just room for these organic moments that happen between me and the audience that we captured, so I just approached it like a fun set.”

Chris Distefano: “Standup’s become like an obsession, you just need to get onstage. I try to look at it like being a professional athlete. If those guys don’t practice, they’re just not going to succeed. Especially not doing standup in New York, like if I’m not doing it every night, pouring my whole life into it, then what’s the point of even doing it?”

Ophira Eisenberg: “In standup, you are never vulnerable on stage—otherwise you will be eaten alive. You can talk about a time you were vulnerable or joke about vulnerability, but you yourself cannot be vulnerable. And with storytelling, that’s how you engage your audience, other than having a well-crafted, interesting story. You just have to write something that’s very meaningful to you and that’s story-worthy, and you engage the audience on an emotional level by allowing yourself to be vulnerable.”

Rachel Feinstein: “I definitely felt like I was becoming myself through it. A lot of standups starts with stories about stuff they’re embarrassed about or ashamed of: rejections, all the different moments in people’s lives that they might want to erase. For comedians, that’s the beginning of a joke, and it’s what makes you distinctive from other people. So that’s what you’re searching for. So those kind of mangled misses and failures and messed-up moments, that’s your act. That’s the best stuff. So I definitely feel like I learned to accept myself through that, because I tell stories about things that used to make me feel weird or out of place, and now they’re jokes. They were exactly how I gained acceptance from random strangers.”

Janeane Garofalo: “I am far more comfortable on stage, which is just inevitable. It is something that I feel very confident and easy-going about, even when I bomb, which still breaks my heart when I bomb, but it doesn’t make me want to do it any less. So I’m far more comfortable in my own skin on stage than before, and also my material has matured as I’ve matured.”

Chris Gethard: “I would bomb just trying to tell these real long stories because they just felt like standup with no punchlines. So I just kind of committed, I wanted to get good at it. It was something I always wanted to do. I grew up being pretty in love with standup and found improv along the way. So I really dedicated myself to doing it right.”

Gary Gulman: “One thing I learned from Tourgasm is whatever the cost, don’t stay in a bus. Stay in a hotel. It is exhausting to travel in the same thing you sleep in every night. There’s no relief.”

Jim Jefferies: “There’s a formula in standup comedy: The more offensive the joke, the funnier it has to be. It’s simple math.”

Jared Logan: “I think that when you do The Half Hour people take you seriously as a professional comic. They’re like, “Okay, this guy’s a pro.” But it’s not any one thing that helps you get stuff. You’ve just got to be constantly be going for the next step.”

Joe Mande on Bitchface: “I mean I’m happy with the material on it or whatever, but I was just stuck at work, sitting there, and it really turned into something quite weird. I don’t know if it’s the smartest idea, I’ll tell you that. [Laughs.] It’s not a money-making venture for sure, but it was something that was funny.”

Kurt Metzger: “I’m opposed to new guys who have a nicer website than their actual act.”

Big Jay Oakerson: “I’m not afraid to go silent if the crowd doesn’t laugh at something I say, or if I say something so mean to the person, even though I’m trying to be funny. I’m not afraid that they’re gone for good. I always think I can get them back. It comes from the patience of staying in the pocket: not getting frazzled. At those moments I even turn it to the audience and be like, ‘Well, what happened here? Where did we lose? What was the problem?’ And then hopefully someone speaks up and they’ll tell you and I can explain myself and make that funny and do whatever I can do. I would never apologize. And I’d say 9 times out of 10 I’m able to kind of pull that back in and get them.”

Brian Regan: “Well, what’s interesting for me is that I don’t really earmark anything for retirement as much as I earmark stuff to be new. I always like to keep adding to my show, and when you come up with something new, something by default has to fall from the wayside, and just subconsciously you tend to release jokes that you’ve been doing for a few years.”

 

TABOO SUBJECTS

Morgan Murphy: “Every comedian has a voice. For reasons I can’t figure out, I tend to talk about subjects that some people think are taboo. I think that there is a way to make anything funny. I would much rather be criticized for having a bad joke than for having a good joke about something someone thinks I shouldn’t have a joke about.”

Amy Schumer: “There’s some things I wouldn’t go near. But as long as you’re coming from a good place and you just want it to be funny and it’s not just for the shock value, then I think it’s okay. I don’t ever joke about something because, ‘Oh, I’m not supposed to do this.’ I’m not like ‘Nothing’s off-limits!’ I don’t feel that way. I want people to laugh. I want to make them feel better; I don’t want to offend them.”

Dan Soder: “Hack kills. It’s easy to kill with the same premise. But it’s hard to kill with an original premise. I think really good comedy always look at the most fucked up thing and they’re like ‘How can we make this funny?’ … Depending on how fucked up it is, it could probably be just as funny.”

 

TELEVISION

Matt Albie: “Then at 11:30, it’s show time. You know, there’s a saying: ‘It doesn’t go up because it’s ready, it goes up because God loves Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip with all of his heart.’ I don’t believe in God, but I believe in that saying.”

Eric Andre on working with Adult Swim: “Like, I can’t fuck on camera. I can’t show my balls. But creatively, no. They’re like the most nurturing, anything goes kind of network. They’re the best place to be.”

Maria Bamford on developing a new show: “We’ll see what happens. And that’s just a lot of salad. A lot of eating salad in Beverly Hills. That’s where I’m at in the developmental process. I get a lot of free salad. It’s pretty great.”

Neal Brennan: “There’s too much good stuff on. There is literally too much good stuff. I always tell people I hope to get some horrible illness that makes me bedridden for a year so I can watch all these shows.”

Tim Carvell: “It was incredibly hard to leave The Daily Show just because they’re such a great group of people and my friends, and Jon Stewart was incredible to me and to Oliver. He’s a great boss. So yeah, it took something extraordinary to leave.”

Andy Daly on Review: “It’s just a matter of asking, ‘Would that happen? Do I buy it? Do I believe it? Would he really say this? Would anybody really do this?’ and then justifying it and really knowing your characters well enough — particularly the character of Forrest well enough — to understand whether something he would do is justifiable within his identity. And it’s hard. What it takes is just a hell of a lot of rewriting.”

Adam Devine: “There’s a mainstay in comedy where people are either depressed or horribly mean to each other, and we talked about that when we were writing the first season. We made the conscious effort that we’re not going to write that show. We’re going to write guys who get weird and have fun. I do think the chemistry helps, and people can tell that we’re actually having fun while shooting the show and that we’re best friends and we hang out all the time. I think that works a little bit.”

Ilana Glazer: “Comedy Central has been killing it in the past couple of years. They really are one of the best — my favorite example for cable being nuanced, intricate, and fucking amazing. I mean their curation has been amazing, and each show has such well-rounded content within it. I think a lot of networks might not do well because they don’t take enough risks with shows. I feel right now especially that Comedy Central is taking a lot of risks, and that’s paying off.”

Dan Goor: “The biggest lessons we learned at Parks, we learned that it was important to have all the characters like our main character and to have our main character be good at his or her job, so we definitely instituted those things at Brooklyn [Nine-Nine].”

Tymberlee Hill: “What’s wonderful about this is that everybody comes at this from the same place. Now I’ve gotten kind of used to it because we’ve done it for so long. But it is wonderful to see A-list stars, people who can act their ass off, they walk in and they’re like, ‘What am I about to do?’ Everybody is on the same level when you start a day at work on Drunk History because nobody has ever worked that way before.”

Michael Koman on Nathan For You: “We’re all people with consciences. Everyone on the crew is very quick to say if something feels like it’s at a person’s expense. There’s an illusion when you’re looking at it on television that Nathan’s doing more to put somebody in an uncomfortable position, but there’s also the reality that they’re on the set of a television show and there’s cameras right there.”

Hari Kondabolu: “Like, ‘Ugh, I’ve been talking about this forever, it feels like something I would’ve written years ago!’ But then having Kamau tell me, ‘You only feel that way because you and your friends have talked about this for years.’ Nobody has ever put something out publicly that expresses this kind of frustration. It’s like, ‘Wow, there’s this brown guy, bluntly talking about brown things in an angry and funny way and that’s apparently okay now.’ Again, whether it had any impact can’t really be judged right now. But it is interesting to note that brown people weren’t really allowed to talk for ourselves until like five years ago. Being able to have a platform like Totally Biased was amazing.”

Thomas Lennon: “Here’s what I’ll say at the risk of embarrassing everyone in the cast: I think that everyone in Reno 911! is playing a very slightly bizarro-universe version of themselves. Everyone is playing a version of themselves that could have happened, had they been left to their own devices and not gotten into comedy.”

Marc Maron: “Everybody who does creative things, certainly in this medium, you think, ‘Well, I’d like to direct.’ I had the opportunity here, and I had a crew that I really trust, both production-wise and in terms of the guys behind the cameras and everything else. I have a relationship with them, so I think it would be a fairly supportive opportunity to do it.”

Stephen Merchant: “8 episodes, that seems like a good length of a season. Personally, I find the idea of 22 episodes overwhelming. It’s too much. It’s too much TV on only one subject. And not only that, those 22 episodes might then become 6 seasons, 8 seasons, I find that very daunting. And the network model with the commercials and all that stuff I guess that’s going to fade away. I like this idea that you can get in and out and tell a story and wrap it up, as they did with Breaking Bad or The Wire. Because I think we’ve seen it again and again, good shows forced to run. They’re forced to find ways of keeping things alive when in actuality they should actually wrap up.”

Adam Newman: “I just want to hold the record for longest standup diarrhea joke on TV. I would love to hold that record. I don’t know if they get a trophy for that, but I’d love to be the holder of that record.

Derek Waters on Drunk History: “Alcohol is nice to celebrate when you finish your vision. It should be the ending, not the beginning. You know what I mean? Why it works for our show is because it makes you feel smart. It makes you feel like you know everything.”

Jessica Williams on The Daily Show: “I love when it’s something that I feel passionate about. Even though we’re being satirical, it can still come through that it’s something that I feel very strongly about, and that this particular opinion is something that I really, really don’t agree with. I love to do pieces that kind of address that.”

Hilary Winston: “I always loved The Muppets. The Muppet Show was so underrated because they literally could be singing about The Vietnam War and, you know, they’re puppets and it was amazing.”

 

THEORY

Todd Glass: “I don’t think comics have to be depressed people, I think that’s a misunderstanding. But I think you have to move to the beat of a different drum.”’

Jacqueline Novak: “One of my theories is that women are actually more capable of laughing at others’ experiences that don’t mirror their own. If you have a room full of people, women are completely comfortable laughing at whatever, Louis C.K. talking about masturbating by means of his friend sitting on his ass or whatever and creating pressure on his dick. You know what I mean? Something that’s particularly male. To make a bold and general statement, I think women have a better sense of humor. Men on the whole are less comfortable laughing at something that doesn’t directly mirror their experience, and that could in theory be because they haven’t been forced to as much. It’s almost as if the women should be allowed to retract their laughs in order to point out to the men, ‘You only think you’re better because you see that ‘everyone’ loves you, but that’s because we’re open to loving you.’ It’s like, ‘So I’m being punished because I laughed at your joke about your balls? Your gender is perceived as funny to all because I was able to slide my own consciousness into having balls?’ I’m being punished and the dude’s like, ‘I’m funny.’ No, I’m able to SEE  that you’re funny, and you’re unwilling to extend the same.”

Rich Stevens: “I think comedy is the last form of socially acceptable aggression.”

Wayne White: “The minute you put something on a pedestal it’s not funny; the minute you knock it off, it is funny. So it is sort of a conundrum to say humor is sacred. I guess what I mean by that is it’s valuable because it’s a survival tool we all need, so anything that keeps us alive – and humor really does – is sacred. It’s also a very effective way of getting at the truth, and that seems to be the sacred thing too. And it’s the opposite of what we think is sacred, which makes it sacred, you know? All this pious seriousness – ‘Oh holy holy seriousness!’ – what are you so serious about? Shouldn’t we all be here for joy, isn’t that what everyone wants? It’s a form of salvation that lifts us up out of this constant dread we all have, the dread of being alive, this existential realization that this is finite. That’s crushing! And humor saves us from that, so in the sense that it’s a salvation it’s a sacred thing. But the minute you start talking about it like that, it kind of dissolves, the fun dissolves.”

 

WRITING

Megan Amram: “And I really do love having this, I guess, social issue, that I want to use comedy to help bring awareness to. First and foremost, I want people to think my book is funny, because I’m not writing a manifesto. I’m writing a comedy book. I also have writers who are older than me and have been doing it a long time who told me ‘When you write something, try to write about something that you care about, because you have been given a great opportunity to reach a lot of people. So, you should write about something important.’ And I really took that to heart.”

Andrès du Bouchet: “The thing that surprised me the most about Hollywood in general is how little writers are respected and are essentially considered no different than the catering staff or whatever. And that’s a Hollywood-wide thing. On our show, we’re given a little more pull and influence. But that was the big shocker for me.”

Elliott Kalan: “The reason you want to move up in an organization is so that you’re always being challenged, you’re always being presented with new things, new ways to grow the skills you have, ways to get new skills, and new opportunities and problems, and things that you haven’t encountered before. I’m the kind of person who, if I do the same thing for too long, then I start to get frustrated. Getting this job has been a godsend because there’s the excitement of being challenged by a new situation that you haven’t been in for. I come home at the end of the day and I’m like, ‘That was great! I really did a lot of new stuff today and I’m interacting with people in a new way.’ It’s really exciting.”

Adam Resnick: “Well, I’ve never set out to write something, thinking, ‘This can’t be mainstream. It’s got to be different and inaccessible.’ I just try to write things that excite me. And my voice is my voice. But you do have to balance that with the realities of making an income and making money for whoever’s paying you.”

Bill Scheft: “When I first got the job, and to this day it is the only piece of specific advice Dave ever gave me, he said, ‘Don’t write a joke over four lines. I don’t care how funny it is, but if it’s over four lines it won’t fit on a cue card.’ In the 23 years since, everything has compressed. Now, he will rarely do a monologue joke over two lines.”

Michelle Wolf: “It teaches you to write a very concise punchline. I didn’t have a job from January of 2013 to January 2014 and in that year I just wrote jokes on Twitter everyday, all day. Some of them I’d take to mics that night and other ones I would just throw away, but it really taught me how to write a good punchline. It gives you a sense of immediate gratification. But also some of my favorite bits have come out of dumb tweets. I think it’s really helpful. Some people disagree.”

 

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