By his own admission, chasing the stage wasn’t Joe’s idea. Coworkers pressured him into performing, because he was always cracking wise at the office. A former journalist and advertising writer, Joe is a comic who has appeared on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and been a part of the Just for Laughs festival.
Rooftop writer Nathan Timmel shot him these questions regarding his first release with the label.
NT: how long have you been performing, how long did it take you to find your voice?
JD: This summer it will be 14 years since I was first forced onstage by my coworkers. I think around 10 years in I started to feel the consistency in my material, but the people who’ve been listening to me for a while say it was there early on. Ask me again when I hit the 20-year mark, that’s when the real fun will start.
NT: Where was the disc recorded, and over how many shows?
JD: May 2014, 3 shows over 2 nights at Brokerage Comedy Club in Bellmore, Long Island. I’ve done hundreds of spots there so I had a good comfort level.
NT: The bonus tracks: what was the thought process behind removing those specific jokes from the set and attaching them to the end of the disc?
JD: Rooftop did a great job with my insane requests to blend together jokes from all three shows – sometimes word by word – to make it sound like a complete headlining set. I boiled it down from about 75 minutes, then sent them charts & graphs that looked like the chalkboard from Good Will Hunting. The bonus tracks were jokes that I liked but didn’t fit in with the rest of the set. And what the hell, who doesn’t like bonus?
NT: You write a sort of love letter to NY though several of your jokes; you describe it in a way that allows non-natives to relate. Do you feel NY has heavily influenced you as a comedian, or is it the fact you’re a comedian that allows you to view NY through observational eyes?
JD: I didn’t hang out in NYC when I was a kid, so I’m still fascinated by the stuff you get used to seeing in an average day. You get blasé when a rat runs by holding a bagel in its mouth – I don’t think that happens elsewhere. But until you get used to it, it’s a constant assault on your senses, including your sense of decency.
NT: You hint of politics in your set, without going into “taking sides.” How far away do you see America being from the legalization of marijuana nationwide?
JD: I think there’s no turning back at this point, and that’s a good thing. To deny free adults access to something that’s less harmful than aspirin is nonsense. When my friends say, “But don’t you think legalizing medicinal marijuana will lead to casual use?” I tell them, “Yeah – THAT’S THE PLAN.”
NT: Marriage equality?
JD: What other people do is none of my business. I don’t feel threatened, because successful same-sex relationships are just as alien to me as successful heterosexual relationships.
NT: I would almost describe your comedy as… “Surprise left turn.” You hear the setup, and then the punchline is out of left field. I don’t want to give away specific punchlines, but the “homemade bong” comes to mind, as does a moment with the couple on the first date. Would you agree with that, and/or how would you describe yourself to someone preparing to listen to your disc or see you live?
JD: It’s interesting what I’ve learned about myself from my act – it turns out I like confusing and misleading people. We’re lucky I’m a comedian and not a crossing guard or air-traffic controller.
NT: You joke openly about medications, depression, OCD; how close to home is that part of your set?
JD: As much as I love “jokes,” it feels like the longer I do this, the deeper into my own life the act has to go. When a comic talks about something that’s true, it makes a different connection with the audience. I’d rather someone come up to me after a show and say that they could relate to personal stuff than some hilarious “talking-GPS” bit.
NT: Single when you recorded the disc… found a mate yet?
JD: Nope. But expecting better results once I bump my Tinder radius up from “8 feet around my apartment.”
You can download First Date with Joe DeVito from the Rooftop Store.