The King is back! No longer just a commemorative plate on the wall of your Grandmother’s double-wide, he’s taken the form of a real live tree! Thriving in the British countryside, this tree makes all the ladies heart skip a beat! I know what you’re thinking, “That tree looks more like Abe Lincoln.” That’s what I thought too!
Friend of Rootop, Nathan Timmel is releasing his third album. He was kind enough to answer my questions about his efforts and personal material focusing on family life and the struggle to create it.
RT: How long did it take you to generate the material for this album? How do you feel it compares to your previous efforts?
My last CD came out in 2008, so it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of four years to compile the material. If I remember correctly, the one before that came out in 2004, meaning I’m a either a very slow writer, or I’m meticulous.
As far as comparison with previous releases, I cross my fingers that it’s better. Not because anything I’ve done before is “bad,” but my hope is I’m continually improving as a comedian.
RT: Your album is titled Only Slightly Offensive. Have you had any run-ins with offended audience members? How did you handle it?
It’s very rare that I’ve had customers offended, outright heckle, or complain because of a joke in my set. I think–or maybe I hope–that when people enter a comedy club they understand that everything said is in good fun. I called the CD Only Slightly Offensive to hold on to that sensibility, because whoever is listening to it won’t be doing so in a comedy club environment. The title is a play on words, with “Only” and “Slightly” meant to offset one another, hopefully catching the eye. “Wait, is it offensive, or isn’t it?”
There are a couple spots on the CD you can hear the audience give a good groan. It’s the groan that is mixed with laughter, where they’re thinking “I can’t believe he said that” while they giggle. They get that what I’m saying might not be the most politically correct thing in the world, but that I’m not attacking anyone or being hateful.
That said, I’ve discovered that there is always something that will offend someone no matter how innocuous the joke. I received a negative remark on a comment card because of a joke about the possibility of my daughter having a food allergy; years ago I had an audience member scream “Prisoners are people too!” and storm out of the club because I suggested America should use prisoners for landmine clearing in Afghanistan.
What I’ve discovered regarding handling such moments is that the audience is generally on the performer’s side. It’s a case of mob rules, and in a comedy club the mob is there to laugh and have fun. Yes, there can be a stick in the mud who wants to pout because they didn’t like something, but that’s on them. If they’re not in the mood to giggle, there’s not much I can do about that.
RT: You decided on self-releasing this album. Was that process easier or harder than you imagined? What was the biggest challenge?
With modern technology, self-releasing is easier than it’s ever been. The challenge is that because of modern technology, self-releasing is easier than it’s ever been. (See what I did there?)
The problem is legitimacy. It can be somewhat difficult to get taken seriously without a label backing you. As a whole, many people and institutions like the validity backers offer. In the music industry self-releasing is done every day. In the world of comedy, it seems a little different; “Why should I trust you’re funny? You did this yourself.” I attack that stigma by making a professional album. I hired a professional photographer and used a graphic designer for the cover. It wasn’t recorded using my phone, I tied directly to the sound board so my voice would always be crisp. This isn’t something I burned on my computer at home, it has a quality look and sound to it. If someone is going to spend their hard-earned money on me, I want it to be worth it for them.
RT: How would you describe your brand of humor to someone who has never heard you? How long did it take you to find your voice?
I’m generally a storyteller, and I can be exceedingly personal at times. I find it easier to write about my experiences than I do to sit and try and make something up, and by being honest I can (hopefully) avoid doing material that’s already been done (e.g. how many comics have a joke about wearing a red shirt at Target? How many crack wise about “Safe Lists” with their partners that go: “I had Jessica Alba on my list, she had her personal trainer on hers!”) Occasionally I’ll have a throwaway joke involving something topical, but you’re not going to catch me on stage these days making GW Bush jokes, something that makes me cringe since we’re so far removed from that time period.
My voice… that one’s tricky. I think a comedian’s voice is something that changes as he changes. When I started performing, I had just been cheated on and dumped. My humor was very dark back then. Now I’m married and have a child and I’m upbeat and happy. I think my voice and material is a reflection of wherever I’m at in life, and best case scenario it’s going to keep growing as my life keeps changing.
RT: You talk a lot about your wife in your comedy. What does she think of all this? Specifically, you doing stand-up, your material, mentioning her in your act? Is she supportive?
I got beyond lucky in my marriage. It’s a comedy cliché, I know, but I met her because of comedy. She was in the audience, heard me do a personal set about my family and upbringing, and felt “a connection” (her words). So, she knew what she was getting into; “OK, this idiot talks about his life on stage, and I’m in his life… I guess he’s going to talk about me now.”
Every so often she asks me to shitcan a joke for the evening, because her parents or grandparents or boss or someone is in the audience, and I respect and do that for her. But when I’m on the road, she generally has no qualms about what I’m saying. The people in the audience don’t know her, and will most likely never meet her, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Overall, she is beyond supportive. She has a Master’s Degree and swims in the business world, making me the yin to her yang and all that nonsense. We balance well.
RT: You go into great detail about your struggle to conceive. Have you found this opened you up to a different audience? Has the baby material led to any interesting opportunities?
Discussing infertility on stage has been… you have no idea how many people go through that struggle. I didn’t until I started talking about it on stage. When I would joke about trying to get pregnant, so many supportive people would share their story with me after the show. They would explain how long it took them, and in many cases have a very happy ending.
Now that my daughter is here, I’ve joined the cult of parenthood. It’s like buying a car; suddenly you notice the very model you bought everywhere. I had no idea how many people had kids until mine came along.
RT: Do you feel like comedy has taken on a new meaning as you’ve transitioned from a single man to now?
Unfortunately, yes. Comedy used to be me expressing myself; now there’s a business aspect to everything. When I was single and without responsibilities I could take anything offered; now I have to look at each one and do a cost-benefit analysis. Being a dad means you have to provide, and sometimes that means time over money. If after gas and food I’m not walking away with much, the extra day with my daughter becomes more important.
RT: As a new dad, how has the child impacted comedy for you?
When I was starting out, I watched people I found hilarious walk away from comedy because they got married and had a kid. I couldn’t wrap my head around it; I had no clue how anyone could leave the road behind. I’m nowhere near close to doing so myself, but now I get it. I get the longing, how much you miss your child when you’re away from them. It makes taking certain gigs or runs difficult; “OK, I don’t want to be gone for 3 weeks solid…”
RT: If you were to look back in 10 years, how would you want to remember this album?
Hopefully fondly. I’ve always loved the movie Bachelor Party, and I’d like to think Tom Hanks looks back on that film with a wry smile. It’s a drunken sex comedy involving nudity, drugs, prostitution… nothing you’d picture Oscar winner Tom Hanks in, but hey, there he is. If in 10 years I can look back at this and go, “Well, I sure talked about my wife’s naughty parts a lot, didn’t I?” and be OK with that, I’m good.
Buy Nathan’s new album Only Slightly Offensive
Keep up on all things Timmel at his website: nathantimmel.com
If I were this guy, I’d be making a run for the border. To a land of good Mexican food…Canada. Let’s be honest, disgruntled workers have been doing things far more disgusting to the fast-food you and I consume on a daily basis, for the last 50 years. Big whoop! But now that there’s proof, a social media nightmare has begun for the Chalupa slinging giant. Yo quiero a new job!
“Very psyched to have interviewed up and comer, Jay Leno for my podcast. Jay got me started in stand up when he bought a joke of mine for The Tonight Show. We talked about stand up–how he got started, his early hell gigs- got some great stories — and how he views stand up today–I think what comes through in the interview is at his core he still sees himself as a stand-up first and foremost — it was a really fun conversation that went in some unexpected directions–he was cool and has no idea I keyed his vintage Alfa Romeo … it should buff out.”
A teenager who owns over 300 exotic pets? Looks like this young man has a future behind bars…Animal enclosure bars! Oh goo! When I was a teenager, all I had to do was take out the trash and to get me to do that it took two older brothers putting me in a double-chicken-wing. “Twist my arm why dontcha!”
“My podcast is up and running and this week we have a 2-part interview with my good friend – the hilarious, Lewis Black. This is a really cool interview because it’s Lewis not just being funny but giving us an insider’s look on how he got to where he is (homeless and living in a dumpster). He talks about how he started in comedy, his time at Yale Drama School, being a playwright, how he developed his comedic voice and the best way to stiff a hooker on her fee and NOT get killed by her pimp. The man’s a genius! Enjoy the podcast and spread the word about it to your friends please. And if you don’t have any friends, maybe you should stop listening to podcasts, change out of your sweats and join the human race.”
After over 200 episodes, Rooftop’s broken take on the news, has branched out and can now be seen on Hulu. Hosts Brian Kane and Sean Keane can now rub elbows with your favorite clips from SNL, Katharine McPhee’s Smash and Splash, a new celebrity diving competition show. Here are a couple episodes to make your day brighter.
On Thursday, March 14th, 2013, I logged on to Facebook like it was any other day. I scrolled down the innocuous news feed of people talking of how there was only “One more day until Friday!!” and extolling the virtues of coffee, when a status update floored me. A former MWR representative from Kuwait posted, “I am shocked and saddened to learn my good friend Scott Kennedy passed away in his sleep last night…” There may have been more to it than that, but my mind was already too numb to read further. Scott was gone? Just… gone? The concept was too foreign for my mind to digest. He couldn’t be gone; he was my friend. Friend’s don’t die, death is something you hear about other people experiencing and grieving over…
I met Scott years and years and years ago, in the “delightful” little burg known as Modesto, California. Scott was headlining a comedy show; I was the middle act. The club was downtown, a location in the middle of an ever-evolving revitalization project where new stores were surrounded by old Bail Bond shops. Affluent yuppies stepped around bearded homeless men with little concern as they marched into the trendiest of trendy clubs.
Scott and I bonded over a mutual appreciation for one another’s comedic chops, as well as a passion for civil rights. I say “civil rights,” because if you didn’t know it, Scott was gay. He wasn’t in the closet by any means, and in fact, talked about his orientation in his act (and on television), but it was nothing he led with. No, Scott would drop that bomb right in the middle of his set: “Oh, by the way, this big, burly man that’s been talking football, family and relationships? Yeah… he’s gay.” Sexuality wasn’t something Scott wore on his sleeves like a less talented comedian might do—using “gay” as a crutch to get cheap laughs—no, Scott went up and performed comedy, winning the audience over using his wit and observational eye. Only many minutes deep into his set did he let the audience in on his secret, and it challenged the hell out of what stereotypes people thought “gay” was. Which, Scott would tell you, is exactly why he tailored his set the way he did. With his magician’s reveal, Scott became the everyman; “Why, he could be my brother, cousin, uncle…” It was a fantastic way of combating homophobia, albeit by not even mentioning homophobia or being confrontational. If anything, it was designed to be an afterthought. Which is made it all the more subversive, brilliant, and effective.
After those shows, Scott and I kept in… probably somewhat-annual touch after that; maybe checking in every 13 months or so, just to say “Hi,” and then like happens so often in the comedy world, we just forgot to reach out to one another. Somewhere in the couple years between exchanges, Scott got involved in military tours, and that is where his legacy will shine. Were I a better researcher, I would look up the exact number of times Scott put himself on the line to make sure the men and women who serve knew they were appreciated. As it stands, I know the number is north of 50, which means calling him this generation’s “Bob Hope” would not be too far off the mark.
I was lucky enough to tour Iraq with Scott in 2010, and it was unlike any other experience I had ever had. Scott was a man born without ego; everything he did was for the troops. No matter the situation, he was ready to perform for them. In a war zone, nothing is done under optimal conditions, but that didn’t matter in the slightest to Scott. “How can we give the soldiers the best experience possible?” was all he wanted answered. If there was an outpost in need of distraction, if there was any single person who needed to be reminded they were appreciated and cared for, Scott wanted nothing more than to make sure they got a show. His dedication to those in harms way was unparalleled.
I cannot for the life of me remember how it happened, but at one point on the tour, one of us referenced the Family Guy episode where James Woods exclaims, “Oh, piece of candy!” Like many little things that make up the best in friendships, that became our calling card. It was a running joke for the rest of the tour, and for months and months after, a random text would hit my phone, “Oh, piece of candy!”
My deepest empathy is with his family at this time.
Scott was a good man, and will be missed.
I am proud to have known him.