For the past 15 years, Comedy Central’s half hour specials have showcased the future stars of standup. Looking back, the early years of Comedy Central Presents included memorable sets from the likes of Mitch Hedberg, Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Dane Cook and dozens more. Re-branded The Half Hour in 2012, the series continues to feature the best up-and-coming comics in the country.
For many comedians, it’s that history that makes doing a half hour special so significant. While a half hour may once have been a comic’s first major exposure, comedians now have many ways to build an audience. Almost everyone who taped a special this year does non-standup comedy as well, branching out into the worlds of podcasting, sketch and improv, web series, acting, and more. In this new series, I sat down with each of this year’s 16 Half Hour comedians to talk about their specials, their careers, and their generation of comedians. Each interview will also feature an exclusive clip from the special. All the interviews can be found here.
Baron Vaughn's talents can be found in many genres; he played Leo on USA's comedy drama Fairly Legal, he explores philosophical ideas on his podcast, Deep S##! w/ Baron Vaughn, he's done two sets on Conan, and he released his first album, Raised by Cable, on AST Records. I caught up with him over the phone to talk about eclectic lineups and only taking interesting paths.
How did your taping go?
I really enjoyed my taping. I start doing standup in Boston, so in a sense it was a bit of a homecoming for me. Actually, the place that we taped was around the corner from the first place I ever did standup, so it was very important to me to go have a meal in that restaurant that the comedy club is in before my show. Jonah Ray and I ate there and talked comedy before our tapings.
Also, I really liked my night. I was the night with three people, a triple taping, and when I would look at the lineups, they had the headshots of all the different comedians that were paired together. And, in my opinion, every one looks like they're in a band. Like, the duo headshots are how about, like, “Guys with facial hair? What about two brown people with blue eyes? Black guys with glasses?” And then my night was kind of, "A Latina —she's interesting; black dude—I don't know what he's about; and also Brody Stevens [who taped a special that will be used for his upcoming Comedy Central show]. Who knows, it's gonna be fun." So I felt like my night was, "Who knows? Night" and I embraced that.
What did doing a Half Hour mean to you, either practically or symbolically?
Well, symbolically, it's a right of passage. It's nice to be told that what I'm doing counts, and to be given this opportunity means, “Hey, people are paying attention to you. Keep going,” which is always nice and encouraging. And then at the same time, watching those early versions of Comedy Central Presents—and I've been watching Comedy Central since before it was Comedy Central. There were two channels. I remember there was The Comedy Channel and HA! That's how you had to say it, because it had an exclamation point at the end – “Haaaa”. And then there were a lot of a shows like Lounge Lizards and Two Drink Minimum that kind of bled into when Comedy Central started, so I was watching all of these shows and watching all these comedians. And so I would like to think that I am in the place I should be in my career as was the same for other people who did Presents at their time. Like, where I am right now is where Brian Regan was when he did his. So that's cool to know I'm on the same path as a Brian Regan or a Louis C.K. or a Dave Attell or all these different, brilliant comedians that we all know and love. But everyone's kind of moving up. And that's the other thing, from a practical sense. I've shown myself I can do a half hour on television. I can do an hour at a club. Again, I'm where I'm supposed to be and that's always a good thing to kind of check in and be like, “Alright, I'm on the right path,” instead of being like, “Wah,” which sometimes I do a little too much. READ MORE