Tag Archives: Comedy Central


Here, There and Everywhere • Chris Hardwick Brings the ID10T Festival (and a Lot More) to Shoreline

Chris Hardwick is The Flash. He performs simultaneous sets at comedy clubs on opposite coasts. He guests on Fallon and Kimmel on the exact same night. He does phone interviews three at a time by talking out of both ears. He stirred your morning coffee and scrambled your eggs. He’s actually sitting next to you right now. Or at least, he was. But really! Chris Hardwick may well be the hardest working man in comedy these days. You might know him as the host of Comedy Central’s @midnight. Or NBC’s game show The Wall. Or AMC’s Talking Dead. Or mastermind of the Nerdist podcast. Or as a prominent stand-up comedian. Or … as The Flash. And as if all that wasn’t enough to keep Hardwick satiated like a stoner at IHOP, well, he’s already moved on to the next plate of chicken and waffles—organizing/hosting the debut ID10T Music Festival and Comic Conival.

ID10T (pronounced I-D-ten-T) will take place June 24 and 25 at Shoreline Amphitheater, and will feature music from the likes of Weezer, Girl Talk, Lord Huron, Crystal Castles, TV On The Radio, OK Go and Animal Collective, as well as the comedy of Demetri Martin, Michael Che, Garfunkel and Oates, Nikki Glaser and Michael Ian Black, to name just a select few.

But Hardwick’s rise to comedic prominence was a long and winding one, starting way back in the seemingly distant era of early 1990s MTV as the co-host of Singled Out. (Yes, that Singled Out, starring Jenny McCarthy.) He took his lumps along the way as a heavy-drinking, out-of-work gamer, before kicking booze and turning that same obsessive energy toward his craft. To say it’s been an about-face would be an understatement: his Nerdist podcast has more than 5 million subscriptions alone, at this point. In hopes of digging a little deeper, Submerge caught up with Hardwick while he enjoyed a little downtime at his home in Los Angeles.

You’ve been in the comedy game for a long time now. Does the fact that you can now blend a major festival with all of these things you’re interested in, from music to Comic-Con, speak to the current state of comedy?
It speaks to the state of comedy, but it also speaks to the state of, for lack of a better term, nerd culture. Pre-2000 it was considered too niche to cross over into anything else other than regional comic-con, so I think it says a lot of culturally where we’re at.

And there’s also a renaissance of comedy happening right now. Because we’re in an age where you don’t need one of three big networks to determine whether or not you’re funny enough. We have social media, podcasts, YouTube, Snapchat and a million ways for people to get their voice out there. I think part of what we traded for that was when I was growing up there was really just super comics. You know, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Sam Kinison, Steve Martin! We don’t have that quite as much now because there’s so much more comedy available, but I think it’s worth the trade-off. It’s certainly something we try to do on @midnight. We’re proud of the fact that we show you 16 comedians every week … It’s very important for me to create platforms to put more comedy into the world.

What’s your relationship with political humor in the current climate? Personally, I kind of live by it. I need to get Colbert in several times a week; I need to make jokes about death and dying; black humor. But I know that’s not for everyone.
My stand-up is not political at all, and part of the reason is because everything I do with Nerdist, Talking Dead, The Wall is very inclusive. And unfortunately we live in a time when anything political immediately divides people. But I do think that comedy is such a valuable tool to subvert authority and shine a spotlight on things you’re not happy with. In some cases, comedy is the only weapon we have—a good non-lethal weapon. There’s a sort of humor backdoor into people’s brains where if a joke is funny enough, it can actually create more understanding and conversation than if somebody just came up to you on the street and started talking to you.
Particularly you’ve seen a shift in late-night—Colbert and John Oliver and Samantha [Bee] and Trevor [Noah]. It really is what’s powering our culture right now. But I’m not a political comedian. My voice just isn’t [one] that has a particularly great take on political stand-up. And the other reason is that there’s a very short shelf life on political comedy. If you put up your comedy special and it’s all political or current events, a year later no one can really watch it because the references are all stale.

I didn’t know that you had to get sober until I read a Wired piece from a few years back. I had to get sober too, and I was intrigued by your personal story. I was hoping you might talk a bit about your past lifestyle and what got you out of it.
The only thing I ever did was drink. I smoked weed a couple times in college and I never liked it because it just made me paranoid. I was already such an anxious person. I could never do cocaine because if my heart started beating fast, I would fucking go right to the hospital. But I drank a lot; I am an alcoholic. I do not have a healthy relationship with alcohol. But the truth of the matter is that label is only part of the story. That is a symptom of what is really obsessive behavior. So after several years of sobriety, what I realized was that things that I was doing in my own life, [be it] relationships that were particularly dramatic, or creating conflict and having to deal with it, it was like “Oh this is a recurring pattern of a personality disorder.” It has a little bit to do with drinking, but the drinking was just one manifestation of that. So I really do have to stay on top of it and go, “I think I’m obsessing about this thing the way I do,” unnaturally or catastrophizing. It’s something I will always manage. It’s debatable whether or not I can say to myself “I conquered it!” I’m OK with that. And because I respect that it has more power than I do, I’m always aware of what it is. And in some cases I try to use it to my advantage, which is probably why I work as much as I do. It is what it is. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, or maybe a little of both; it’s just the way some of us are wired.

It absolutely is. Getting back to your career, I think you’re a really excellent MC and host. But in the spirit of honesty, while I have nothing but good things to say about The Walking Dead, I always found the concept of something like Talking Dead overload, like a symptom of the 24-hour news cycle or something. But now I view it more like the postgame show of a baseball game. What’s your view of a show like Talking Dead and all the spinoffs that come with it?
I think we’re in this age of cultural narcissism where we are so accustomed to getting exactly what we want whenever we want it, that if [people] don’t like something they just think it shouldn’t exist for anyone. My feeling for a show like that is it’s really all about pulling the community of fans together who wanna talk about and celebrate and decompress from the show. It’s true that I’m not critical of the show like, “Well why did they do that? What the fuck?!” There’s a million places you can see negativity. One of the tweets I get sometimes is like “You’re just sucking AMC’s dick ‘cause they pay you! You don’t wanna talk shit!” I don’t do that about anything! They never told me I can or can’t say something! I love the show, I’m a fan of the show, I’m friends with everyone on the show, so let’s talk about stuff that we like. Let’s celebrate fandom. It’s not a takedown show. And if that’s what they want, great! There’s a million other places you can get that. For me it’s about allowing the community of people who’ve just seen something that might be very emotionally upsetting or disturbing to them, talking them back into their lives and celebrating things that we like … I used to call my friends after Lost all the time and go “What the fuck was this?” It’s water-cooler stuff.

I think there’s a knee-jerk reaction from people like myself where we might assume that producers at major networks are looking for anything they can do to bolster ratings, while we may not realize that the people running the show are into it, because clearly you’re actually into the content.
I am into the content, and I think that’s one of the reasons the show works. I wanted this job really bad. I [asked myself] after I’d been sober for a few years, what do I want to do in my career? I was just auditioning for jobs to survive, and most of them were terrible. So I was like, “You know, I’m already not working, so I’m just going to pursue jobs that make me happy.” So I did that and I started Nerdist and all that. For the first several years there was a lot of “you’re a fake nerd, this isn’t real, you’re capitalizing” conspiracy theories.

I honestly think it’s because you’re good-looking and don’t fit the stereotype.
I think I’m an average white guy. I wouldn’t devote this much of my life to something if I didn’t care about it. It makes me happy that we live in a culture where that’s an option, because it wasn’t always. So there’s no grand conspiracy. No one is fucking with you. Everyone’s doing the best they can. Of course a TV network wants to get ratings because that’s how they stay on the air, but at the same time they can get ratings without having this evil plot to take advantage of you. I think people look at a network or a company or a website and they just see this faceless entity that is only there to take advantage of them. [But] I really see the human element. This is not a two-dimensional thing. These are people, they have emotions, they care about things just like you and I care about things. And I think that’s ultimately what I try to do.

I wanted to end on something tasteless. If you could sleep with one superhero, who would it be and why?
[Laughs.] Boy, that is a tough question. It might be Professor X, because he could trick your mind into thinking it was the best orgasm you’ve ever had in your life. I feel like he could really do amazing things and it would be [an] emotional experience.

The first ever ID10T Music Festival and Comic Conival, hosted by Chris Hardwick, takes place June 24 and 25, 2017, at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. General admission tickets start at $65 single day/$99.50 weekend with festival seating tickets running $99.50 single day/$175 weekend. Find out more or buy tickets at Id10tfest.com.

**This interview first appeared in print on pages 18 – 19 of issue #242 (June 19 – July 3, 2017)**

A Journey Into the Unknown

The bizarre worlds conjured by visual artist Erik Hosino

There’s something dichotomous about visual artists. Take for instance, art displays in coffee houses. The artist comes in and revisualizes the space, and patrons have the opportunity to scan each piece as closely as they’d like. But the artists themselves needn’t be present. On one hand, their work is upfront and exposed. But if the performance doesn’t need the performer, there lies some mystery. From the viewer’s perspective, it can seem as though the artist might feel isolated from new audiences, but it’s quite the opposite.

“It feels interactive to me and helps me get my artwork to such a wide array of people, just to see what they think of it,” said Erik Hosino, an artist nearly native to Sacramento who’s been displaying his work at Temple Coffee.

“One of the great things about hanging art at a place like a coffee shop, especially in a place like Midtown, is you really get a slice of the population. You get everybody from lawmakers, people at the capitol, to young hipster kids and everyone between,” Hosino said. “I’ve been flattered to see people who buy my artwork are not just this age group, this type of person, that I’ve actually sold artwork to young people, old people, white collared, all over. So in that sense I get that interaction.”

Hosino has been living in Sacramento since before he turned 1, and has been drawing throughout his entire life.

{“Release”    Pen & Ink/Watercolor}

{“Release” Pen & Ink/Watercolor}

“The extent of my formal art training honestly doesn’t go too far beyond high school and a few classes at the junior college,” Hosino said. “I think the fact that I took to art at such a young age has kept me inspired to keep doing it.”

A huge part of that inspiration has come from studying well-known artists like Edward Gorey and his masterful pen-and-ink illustrations. Hosino’s work has been compared to Tim Burton’s numerous times, both sharing a similar darkness, also found in Gorey’s work.

“I’ve had people look at my artwork and think, ‘Are you depressed? Because you paint a lot of stuff about death and skeletons,’ but honestly it’s quite the opposite for me. I think that by sort of accepting death and celebrating it as a part of life has made it less taboo, and therefore it’s never felt weird to depict it whether in an explicit or more symbolic way. But because I am sort of drawn to the mysterious, I think that darkness and dark subject matter does lend itself well as fodder for my artwork.”

{“Awkward”   Pen & Ink}

{“Awkward” Pen & Ink}

Since an artist is rarely present if you by chance see their work hanging somewhere like Temple, the next inevitable step a curious viewer would take would be to look up the artist online. If you search Erik Hosino, one of the first things you’ll come across is a website called Superheroes for Hire, or as Hosino puts it, “The thing I’ll look back on my death bed and kick myself for.”

The idea started out as a project for a class. In his late teens, Hosino had this idea for creating an agency of B-rated superheroes, banding together their lackluster talents to try to find work. The project was praised by his teacher, which inspired Hosino to develop the idea a little more. He sent the piece to Comedy Central and a few other networks. Comedy Central got back to Hosino and asked him to redraft the idea a bit. At the time, Hosino was about 20 years old, and with the motivation level of a 20-year-old and some unexplainable hesitation, he let the opportunity slide and never followed through.

“Now that I’m older and take my art more seriously in a lot of ways and am a lot more disciplined and passionate, I hate that I did that,” Hosino said.

While it was a heartbreaking setback, Hosino has kept the project alive in a smaller capacity. The website has an interactive feel to it, allowing the visitor to scroll through the various superheroes for background on their minimal capabilities, and a comment section for superhero service requests.

“It was a total lesson learned. I try not to beat myself up for it because I was young and I was straight-up stupid about it, but inspired me to keep the idea up,” Hosino said. “It only exists in that incarnation now, but in some ways it gives me some happiness to know it’s not totally dead.”

{“Mother Mary”    Acrylic}

{“Mother Mary” Acrylic}

A good starting point to get a broad sense of his style would be checking out his collection called Strange Places, a book released in January 2011.

“I’ve had people come to me and say they want to buy either a print or original, and maybe they couldn’t afford the original or the one that they wanted was sold. Strange Places was partly a response to people’s desire to have a collection, just a sampling of my artwork,” Hosino said.

Hosino’s style is a blend of odd, imaginative and eerie. Bodies with bulky shoulders and torsos and pencil-thin arms and legs; dark scenery with curled tree branches or cavernous dark spaces. A mix of imaginative and morbid—all very slight, enough to set a somewhat creepy tone but not fearful. The book gives a good example of his versatility. Each style requires a different medium to create.

{“Breakfast, Interrupted”   Pen & Ink/Watercolor}

{“Breakfast, Interrupted” Pen & Ink/Watercolor}

“If I want something chaotic or fluid, that’s where watercolor comes in; and if I want something really controlled, really tight pen and ink lines help achieve that,” Hosino said. “By day I’m a graphic designer, although I’ve been drawing a lot longer, the designer in me informs the way I work as an illustrator. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. The illustrator in me often longs to be more spontaneous and organic, but the graphic designer in me longs for structure, planning and cleanliness and often times gets the better of me.”

It seems almost as a way to subconsciously merge both sides that Hosino gravitates most toward watercolor.

“I love the organic way, when I work with pen and ink and watercolor—which is a common combination for me—I’m very controlled with my pen work, and I let the watercolor play as much of a role as I do,” Hosino said. “I spent a long time trying to get a good command of watercolor, and it’s only recently I grew to accept it’ll kind of do its own thing. Not only did I accept it, I embraced the fact that I can control what I can control when I’m drawing, but when I put down that watercolor it adds a whole organic way to my illustration.”

Letting go of a little control has become one of Hosino’s main strengths within his artwork.

{Chalk It Up Square 2013    Sponsor: Raley’s}

{Chalk It Up Square 2013 Sponsor: Raley’s}

I’ve found those kinds of pieces that people gravitate mostly to of mine are the ones where they are interacting with it and filling in the blanks,” Hosino said. “That’s one thing people enjoy about my artwork and wasn’t intentional at first, but when I omit certain details to appease, people have come up and said, ‘Oh man I’ve been staring at this piece forever and trying to figure out what’s going on,’ and sometimes they fill in the blanks on their own, other times they like the fact that it remains unknown to them.”

See Hosino’s art for yourself at Temple Coffee’s downtown Sacramento location (1010 9th Street). It will be on display now through Dec. 12, 2013. Peruse the artist’s Web presence at Erikhosino.com.

SubmergeImages200DPI 1-c

SEE Inside Amy Schumer: The Live Tour • May 2, 2013


Amy Schumer is easily one of the fastest rising female stars in comedy. Her girl-next-door looks meets raunchy comedy routine has worked out well for her. She’s been on all the late-night talk shows (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Conan, etc.), featured in the biggest publications (Rolling Stone, The New York Times, etc.) and her one-hour stand-up special, Mostly Sex Stuff, was Comedy Central’s second-highest rated special last year. On April 30 her own show (also on Comedy Central) premiered called Inside Amy Schumer (you can watch the hilarious first episode at Comedycentral.com/shows/inside-amy-schumer). For the last couple of months, Schumer has taken her act on the road, and on Thursday, May 2, she’ll be at Crest Theatre, located at 1013 K Street in Sacramento. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $32.50 before fees, available online at Tickets.com. This would make for a fun night out with a group of friends or a great date night, although probably not a great first date as most of Schumer’s material deals with sex and other generally awkward topics that might just be too weird for a new couple. Or, heck, maybe it’ll be a good show for new couples to attend. Might as well just get those morning-after-pills-jokes out of the way early!

Pray-tell Mitch Fatel

Why are you Magical?

Comedian Mitch Fatel is adorably awkward and relishes in making people laugh by sharing his degenerate thoughts on dating. Pervy perceptions of female undergarments and anatomy have been comically conveyed through this stand-up dude on Comedy Central specials and made available on his CDs Super Retardo and Miniskirts and Muffins.

In 2009, Fatel finished 10th in Comedy Central’s Stand-Up Showdown (just after Dane Cook!) and also released his first DVD, Mitch Fatel is Magical, last fall. Now, in 2010, Mitch is visiting comedy clubs to offer fans his “magical” show.

Mr. Mitch chatted with Submerge about the origin of his authentic comedic character, the performer’s drug, signing vaginas and visiting Sacramento’s The Punch Line Feb. 25-28, 2010.

You so perfectly ponder the common queries of young people. Is Mitch Fatel making a killing from carefully orchestrated character development? Or, is this just who you are and it just works out as a happy accident that you have an inclination toward such carnal comedy?
I never sat back and wrote a character. It’s not as crafted. How do I explain who I am on stage? If you look at comedy or performing as a drug, I think that who you are on stage is the purest form of who you are in the world, boiled down to its most pristine state. I believe that that is who you are, so when people say, “Is that a character on stage?” I actually say the character is more who I am off stage. The person that I am on stage is the purest form of me. But nobody can be who they are on stage all of the time. When I went on stage, “he” was there and I just let him come out.

You feel most comfortable when you’re on stage?
I actually don’t feel comfortable at all in my life, unless I’m on stage. I’m usually very uncomfortable”¦ I love being up there and it’s my alternate home and the home that I choose to feel safest in. Which is much like a Twilight Zone episode. I really always do wonder who I’d be without the stage. I don’t know who I would be. It’s weird.

You compared the stage to a drug. Your jokes seem largely compared to ones that would be shared in a drinking situation. Are these experiences that you joke about real personal experiences?
Everything in my act is based on something that happened. That’s not to say that it’s exactly true to form. But they’re things that I’ve seen. Everything in my act has someone, had something that led me to thinking that.

When you want to ‘talk like a drug,’ I feel like whenever I’m in a relationship for an extended period of time, I start having less experiences to talk about and ultimately when I’m lonely and miserable and not in a relationship, that’s when I write the best stuff, because then I’m definitely having more experiences on the road, I’m definitely meeting more girls. Relationships tend to put you in a happy place that I don’t think performers usually belong. Happiness in some instances—ironically—is a killer.

Strange how that works—you have to suffer through your art.
It’s worth it. At least, I don’t mind doing it. I mean, it makes me so happy. I’ve been in relationships and I’ve been happy, but quite honestly I’ve never felt that it was as satisfying as being in this business.

I’m curious about the title of your new DVD and the show that aired on Comedy Central on Sept. 18, 2009 Mitch Fatel is Magical. Mitch, Why are you magical?
It’s based on a joke in my act, a true story about a girl at one of my shows that came up to me and said, “I want you to take my virginity. I’m a virgin.” I was shocked and I said, “Why would you want me to take your virginity? Why me?” she said, “Because I think with you it would be magical.” So later that night I wore a wizard’s cap.

You have a show at the end of this month at The Punch Line. You have new material that you’re working with this year?
I have 35 minutes of new material now.

What’s going to be different about this year’s Sacramento show besides the new material? Will you be signing boobies and kissing babies this year?
I will always sign boobies and butts. And actually I signed my first vagina in Ontario, Calif. So, if anyone in Sacramento wants to beat that, they’re more than welcome to.

My act has become really, really pleasant, and I’m so happy with it. Mix of probably about 25 to 30 minutes of classic material and 30 to 35 minutes of new material mixed in”¦ It’s very pleasurable to watch fans come up, and be like, “Oh my God, we thought we knew that joke and you’ve got that new tag there.” It’s one of the beauties of comedy. An old joke will come out and fit itself into a new joke, and I’ll put it in there and it’s a little shout out to the old fans that know it and the new fans who have no idea what they’re getting. I always like to mix and match.

But no matter what, I’m always making people unhappy. People will say, “How come you don’t do bra and panties?” “How come you don’t do the muffin joke?” “How come you don’t do the magical joke?” Unlike a performer who’s singing a song, comedy has to stay very fresh. You constantly have to add. For my own sanity, I need to go up on stage and have new fun stuff to do. I’m working on a new bit that I’m premiering this week and I hope it makes it to Sacramento.

Is there anything you remember about your performance here in Sacramento at The Punch Line last year?
[Laughs] Yeah! I remember that there was a crazy girl. A crazy girl that came back to the hotel room and kept trying to knock on the door to get in.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to in your Sacramento stop this year?
That girl not knocking on my door.

I’ve got to be honest, and I don’t want to bullshit anybody and say that I like one market more than the other. I will say that the West Coast, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles areas, are my towns. I have a lot more fun in one of those towns than one where I don’t feel a connection to the people.

What is the question that you hate being asked?
Let me think which one I hear a lot by interviewers”¦ “Are we gonna see you in a TV show?” Because in my mind I’m like, “Well, yeah! If I get a TV show.” My stock line, which is true, is: If it comes, it comes. If not, I’m happy. I love it, telling jokes for a living. TV would be secondary. I never got into this to be a TV star. I got into this to be a comedian. It’s what I love doing. I just want to make more and more people laugh.

You’ve released two CDs and a DVD and they’re in digital form on iTunes. You post videos and fan phone calls on your Web site. You’re pretty tech savvy. As far as technology and comedy are concerned, what’s the next step? Is there going to be a Mitch Fatel iPhone app? Fatel Mobile?
That’s funny that you say that because someone did approach me with doing a Mitch Fatel iPhone app. I told them to work on it. So, sure, they’ll work on it.

I’m not as technically savvy as you think. I have a team that takes care a lot of that stuff. I design stuff and come up with ideas to help them with it. But I’ve always believed a comic should do what he does best, which is writing new material, and should have a team around me to put that stuff together. All I have to do is give them content. I put the creativity and the fun into it.

Mitch Fatel is Magical is set to re-premier on Showtime in June, 2010, in its unedited, beep-free entirety. In the meantime, stop by The Punch Line Feb. 25-28 to see the magic in person.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

Dane Cook’s Art of Hustle

Dane Cook has reached the kind of stardom usually reserved for rock stars. It’s a height that most stand-up comedians never achieve, though not for lack of trying. However, it’s the sort of success that hasn’t come without its pitfalls.

Though Cook’s name has become ubiquitous in comedy circles, it wasn’t that long ago that he was a comic like many others, trying to figure out the best way to reach people. In the late ’90s, he began using the Internet as a tool to spread the word, and as it turned out, that word spread like wildfire.

“I really looked at it as a way to create a grassroots following,” Cook says about his first forays into using the Internet as a promotional tool. “You’re talking about 1998 that I started spending a lot more time on the computer. At that time, I was watching a lot of documentary stuff on bands in the ’70s and how certain bands took over. What I was really learning from it was the hustle factor of, like, getting flyers and what it means to paper the town”¦ The next thing you know, I’m sitting online, saying, ‘OK, if I create a Web site and add links to my comedy, maybe I can start reaching out to people.'”

Back then, the use of newfangled gadgetry as opposed to pounding the pavement may have made purists sneer with disdain. However, “Maintaining purity”—whatever that means—is not one of Cook’s main concerns. What he cares most about is putting his content in the hands of those who want it.

“I don’t really know what purist means,” Cook says. “I think it’s like the language of our country; it’s ever evolving. People say, ‘Oh, the way we speak now isn’t as articulate [as it used to be],’ but you know, the language we spoke when we first landed on Plymouth Rock was an abridged version of Old English. It’s an ever-changing thing.”

Those familiar with Cook’s work know that he’s taken the same non-traditionalist slant to his stand-up. Manic, absurd, perhaps downright goofy—Cook has run the gamut with his comedy, never lingering on a particular style. This is something the comedian takes great pride in.

“I talk to comedy—quote, unquote—purists, and I say that I don’t know what pure comedy is,” Cook explains. “Are you talking about standing still and delivering one line? Because Jack Benny may have done it one way—some guy holds a violin and the next guy does slapstick. I always seem to find the other side of whatever the purist’s conversation is.”

Maybe it’s his willingness not to take the traditional route most comedians have taken, or perhaps it’s the level of fame he’s acquired, but Cook has become a controversial figure not only amongst stand-up fans, but also amongst his fellow comics. Nevertheless, he’s still packing arenas all across the country. The latest leg of his world tour, Isolated Incident Global Thermo Comedy Tour has just kicked off in Las Vegas. The tour is in support of his most recent comedy album, Isolated Incident, his fifth, which was released in May 2009. Cook says he wanted the album, which he calls “a bit of an homage to Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy,” to be a sort of push and pull between dark and light.

“I wanted it to be like, track one would be maybe something about my family, vulnerability, something really sweet, and then I wanted it to go to something really dark and vulgar, maybe sexual, and then I wanted it to go back to something about my pop,” Cook says, though he adds that the final product was a bit different than he had originally intended. Still the ups and downs of his rise to fame and the tumult of his personal life shine through Isolated Incident.

“I found that was my life for three years: dark, light,” he says. “Success: I’m on Letterman. The next day, boom, cancer, my mom just got sicker. Or, ‘I’m in Time Magazine, 100 most influential, how great is that? Who would’ve thought I would ever be in that.’ And the next day, it’s like, ‘These people are starting a rumor about you. They’re saying that you steal.’ How do you deal with the constant blow by blow? And that’s really what I wanted the whole album to have. I wanted it to make you laugh, but I wanted it to be light and heavy.”

The remainder of the tour will take Cook out on the road until a New Year’s Eve show in his hometown of Boston, where he will celebrate his 20th year of stand-up. Hate if you want to, but don’t be surprised if Cook keeps laughing anyway.

I watched the Isolated Incident special that aired on Comedy Central on Youtube. Someone had posted it up there. Coming up on the Internet, now that you’re established, does that sort of thing bother you at all?
It’s just another channel airing your content. It’s another way for people to discover you and have an opinion. This is the tricky—there’s a lot of layers to this conversation, because there’s money involved. The question becomes, OK, is it financially hurting artists? I don’t think that there is a right way, or just one manageable way, to have this conversation, because someone on the other side is going to say it’s hurting the artists, but at the same time, I’ve seen a lot of independent artists who may have not had the airtime, so to speak, if they didn’t have such a strong Internet crowd passing their stuff around. There’s value in all of it. The key really becomes, “What do I want from it?” If that’s the question that you’re asking, I’d rather have fans enjoy something than keep it to myself and feel that it’s only for sale”¦ Someone from a highly regarded band might say, “Oh, I’m losing millions of dollars.” And I understand that, but I think that it’s a great source for passing around material”¦ This is the way people share content. When you were a kid, you gave a cassette to your friend and you’d say, “Listen to this. It’s called Guns N’ Roses. There’s a song on there called ‘Mr. Brownstone,’ and I think it’s about drugs,” and 10 people are listening to it. The next thing you know, Guns N’ Roses is the biggest band in the nation. Maybe that ripple effect is from a couple of kids passing around a cassette.

Your latest comedy album, Isolated Incident, certainly seemed like a different side of you. You had to deal with the death of your parents a little while back”¦
A lot of my comedy over the years was outward, in: observational or absurdist or something physical that I saw that I could recreate and share. Isolated”¦ was the first time I was impacted so deeply in my heart by tragedy, that I realized, “OK, I’m not going to go around it, because then I’m a phony.” I’ve never had anything that heavy happen to me, to that extent. I had my dark periods when I was a kid—some family stuff like anybody that was pretty brutal—but for the most part, my comedy was about joy. There was a lightness, and even the twisted dark shit in there was almost from an optimistic slant. So, here it is; I experience these two years of hardcore, traumatic situations with my family, and I realized as it informed my stand-up that a lot of people had been through cancer and a lot of people had been through these backlash moments in their lives. I thought I would approach that, and this might be a great chance also to put the camera down in one place, confine myself to a smaller stage—less about movement and more about language—and let that camera, with its stillness, look right at my eyes. I can’t move around too much, because, you know, the eyes are the window to the soul, and I wanted people to see that pain and how I came above it and found humor even in the darkest spots”¦ This was an isolated incident in my life. You’ll never again lose both your folks to cancer; you’ll never again have your star rise as high as it did and also have the backlash and the innuendo. No matter how many times the roller coaster ride will go up and down during the course of a career, it will never happen for the first time again”¦ It informed my comedy, and I feel really fortunate that when I read the e-mails after it [the Isolated Incident special for Comedy Central] aired, a lot of those kids who were coming drunk to my college shows 15 years ago were saying things like, “Hey, I felt like you were talking to me 15 years ago, and I feel like you’re talking to me now.” It sounds weird to say now, coming up on 20 years [of performing stand-up comedy] that I feel like I’ve grown up with a generation of fans, and it’s probably the last great gift that my mom and dad could’ve given me in an impossible time to say that, “You know what, Dane? It’s OK to change and to mature a bit.” I can still be silly or off-the-wall and vulgar; I can still be pensive. I can still bring all those things to my stand-up, but I never brought vulnerability. It’s a good place to be.

The one bit I liked from the special was when you were talking about finding your mom’s number in your cell phone’s address book, which is such a uniquely modern dilemma. How did you go from that moment to eventually be able to find the humor in it and turn it into a joke for your act?
For a situation like that, it really came to me so simply. I had my mom and my dad’s number in my book there, a year after I lost them both, and it was this weird moment that I was looking down at the phone and I was”¦just having this conversation with myself: Is it OK to delete them? Those numbers”¦there’s nobody there anymore”¦ It just occurred to me, “What if I called it? What could happen?” And suddenly I’m laughing to myself over this silly little conversation that I’m having with myself, and then of course, like most things that I think of that I think are funny, I say to myself, “I bet a lot of people might understand this.” I bet there are a lot of people who have lost somebody special and don’t know what to do in that moment, and it’s hard and heavy and sad.

It’s such a simple joke. I remember somebody saying to me, “It could have gone so many different directions. Why didn’t you build on it this way or that way?” It was almost like this person was saying that they were let down by an opportunity to turn this into an extravagant bit. And I was like, no, that’s the simple beauty of it. It’s just a moment we all have, and what if she answered? That’s what I said to myself, and that’s what made me laugh and feel lighter, and that’s what people—most people—appreciate about that joke. It’s a timeless joke, if I can toot my own horn. A hundred years from now, somebody’s going to hear that, and whatever form of communication we’re using, we’re always going to lose somebody, and there’s always going to be somebody’s time to let go.

You mentioned the backlash against you, and not only did you have to hear it from fans, but also from your peers. How does it feel to get that sort of backlash from your peers? Does that affect the way you go about your business?
It’s a little bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot of innuendo, and there’s a lot of stuff that people put up on the bathroom wall that’s just myth. Haters are vocal; we all know that. The people who blog negativity aren’t sitting there in their three-piece suits with a smile on their face, enjoying their lovely lives. People who are relatively happy don’t carry an axe around waiting to bury it in somebody’s back. But that goes with the industry. I understand that that’s the dog eat dog mentality, and also from my peers, comedians are some of the most fragile and fascinating people I know—and very competitive”¦ So you look at a guy like me, who shot to this new level—or new, old level, not since like a Steve Martin or Dice—and you realize these are the guys who are going to try to take my legs out from under me. They’re going to be the ones who are going to say a lot of shit, and you know what? I’m not going to fight back”¦ History will unfold the way it’s supposed to, and I will continue to keep on doing what I do, which is listen to the fans. On the other side of that, I’ll say that when you do talk about my peers, the people who I could talk about with you are wonderful and reach out to me. Chris Rock has called me and said some of the most incredible things, and I admire him. I had lunch with Steve Martin, my hero, about three weeks ago. I’ve sat with Bill Cosby and talked for 45 minutes”¦and he said some incredible things about my stand-up, and I could go on. So, my peers, the ones who I admire, have reached out, and they’ve been very supportive. Eddie Murphy sat next to me at my Good Luck Chuck premier. I don’t know Eddie Murphy; I’d never met him. He just showed up at my movie, and in the darkness of my movie, about 10 feet away from me on the other side of the aisle, I heard [imitates Eddie Murphy’s laugh]”¦ I heard fucking Eddie Murphy laughing at me. So if you want to talk about people who are talking crap about me, or how I feel about that, bro, I heard Eddie Murphy laughing at me. Whoever these minions are who want to picket me or be envious, let them. If that’s what got me to where I’m getting, that I can sit next to Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock or have lunch with Steve Martin or Bill Cosby, I’ll take the hits.

Dane Cook interview October 2009

Lewis Black Comments on American Myths and Legends

Straight Talk

You know what they say: Laughter is the best medicine. A divisive government, treacherous economy and two wars weigh heavily on the minds of most Americans as we approach another presidential election, hoping that no matter who’s elected, he’ll be able to turn things around. With the world seeming so dire, perhaps the only way to deal with it is to try to find the humor in it. But for some, the comedy of Lewis Black is probably a bitter pill. Author, playwright, actor and stand-up comedian–Black’s resume extends far past his appearances on The Daily Show and as host of Comedy Central’s The Root of All Evil. But more important than his accomplishments, Black is a keen observer of politics, and his sharp commentary takes shots at members of our government on both sides of the aisle. On his way to Purdue University, Black took time from his perpetual touring to answer a few of our questions.

I’m sure you’ve probably answered a lot of questions about this, but I saw that you went to perform for the troops in the Middle East at the end of last year. What was that like?
It seems silly to say, but it was sort of life changing.

How so?
I had not been exposed to the military. You realize that we’re insulated–we’re not only insulated from the war, but we’ve been insulated from our military. For all the lip service that’s paid by politicians, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what these people do. And if they really paid the lip service, they’d be more careful in where and how they used people like this. They’re extraordinary individuals on many levels, and they [politicians]–from the bottom up–they don’t pay enough attention to them. They don’t provide them [the troops] with what they need. It’s just amazing.

Was it all what you’d expected it to be?
It wasn’t. It was stunning how much more in touch the military seemed to be with their men than the politicians in this country seem to be with the people they’re supposed to be governing.

In that light, does it upset you when you hear politicians telling Americans that they’re supposed to support the troops?
I don’t mind politicians saying, “Support the troops.” What I mind is when they act as if we don’t. It’s disgusting. You can’t use that anymore. You can’t say, because someone doesn’t want to have a war, that they don’t support the troops. You can’t say it. You may have been able to say it during the Vietnam era, but you can’t say it anymore. It doesn’t hold. It holds no water. It’s a myth. It’s a lie. You can’t say what McCain said about Obama. You can’t say it. That shit’s got to stop–some time in my lifetime–because it’s counterproductive, it’s stupid and it’s divisive.

I wanted to talk with you about the conventions. Did they sway you one way or the other, which way you are going to vote in November?
Yeah, it made me think about moving. It’s unbelievable. I really do feel that with the addition of Sarah Palin, it’s fiction. It’s like watching a movie.

What was your initial reaction to McCain picking Palin to be his running mate?
My initial reaction was what I’d always thought, which is anybody could be vice president. You can’t tell me that she’s the most popular governor. Really? Of Alaska, you fucking idiot–an alcoholic’s paradise. Please. To watch people who don’t know her talk about her–like Giuliani. They don’t know anything about her. Both sides spin their crap; it’s like, just be honest about stuff. You’ve got one group of people talking about the future, and the other group living in the past. What about now?

Something Giuliani said in an interview after his speech was that McCain’s choice of a running mate was looking toward the future, while Obama’s was looking to the past. I thought that was interesting comment in light of what you’re saying.
The whole thing is phenomenal. I have somewhat of an understanding of why he [McCain] made the choice he made. Him picking her is like watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, only she [Palin] is not quite as qualified as Jimmy Stewart.

To be fair, what did you think of Obama choosing Sen. Joe Biden?
It’s an interesting choice if you can get him to shut up. He talks too much. Obama had to pick somebody with experience. If someone’s going to die in office [laughs]–I mean, literally, you have to. I truly felt like if Obama wanted to just win, he had to pick Hillary [Clinton], no matter what the consequences. But the Democrats don’t want to win. They never want to win. They just don’t seem to want to. The logical choice is Hillary, whether you liked it or not, but if you wanted to win, as a ticket as a party. They don’t seem to want to govern.
What I find most appalling is their lack of response. What [Sen. Joe] Lieberman did was reprehensible on any level. So for the party that this schmuck represented, for this idiot to go speak for the other party, what are you saying to all of the people who voted for you? And what is the party saying by saying, “Oh well, what are you going to do? That’s Joe.” It’s not funny. It’s disgusting. I just find it odd that they don’t respond. Democrats don’t ever seem to know how to respond.
It’s nonsense what the Republicans are saying at this point, but the fact is, since the Democrats don’t have a proper response, it makes you go, “How intelligent are you?” Come up with something. Be direct.

What do you think the Democrats should do next if they somehow manage to lose this election?
I think they should rename the party. Come up with a new name, a new logo and go through a re-branding process. That’s all they can do. I mean, really, after eight years of this, if you can’t win the election, just disband.

Are you going to miss President Bush when he’s gone?
No. You can tell already. Look, it was nuts before, and now it’s even more crazy. As a comic, you can’t write the stuff that they’re doing. They’re writing it for you.

Has your job almost been too easy over the past eight years? Are you kind of looking forward to a challenge?
In a way, but it’s been hard to find the funny in it in a lot of ways. As funny as it is, it’s hard to treat it as if it is funny, because it’s really unbelievable.

How do you think history will judge this president [George W. Bush] now that his reign is almost over?
After they get over the laughter and the tears in just trying to record it, I think history will stand agape at what he did. He made a concerted effort to go back to 1956. If television was in black and white, I might have bought this, but it’s in color and it’s digital. It’s a mindset that should have never been in power.

Do you think that if he managed to succeed, that if he’d actually rolled the clock back to 1956 that we would have been better off?
Well, no. I would’ve been suicidal, having lived through it once, but it certainly would have made more sense. It would have made it seem more rational.