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Andy Woodhull Interview

In many ways, Andy Woodhull is just a comedian with a degree in geology and a dream. Yet he’s come a long way from juggling his 9-to-5 lab job and the demands of being a comic always on the road. Andy’s garnered some considerable cred as a comedian, appearing on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, performing at the renowned Montreal Just For Laughs festival, and winning the Best of the Midwest competition at the 2011 Gilda Radner-honoring Gilda Fest. Rooftop is happy to announce the release of Andy’s second album, Lucy, showcasing his ventures into manliness, dating, and more. We recently chatted with Andy about the Chicago comedy scene, his writing process, Butterfinger’s sneaky corporate loopholes, and more.

Rooftop Comedy: What was it like getting your start in the Midwest?

Andy Woodhull: Well I started in St. Louis, right after college at The Funny Bone there. I took a couple comedy classes and then moved to Chicago about a year later. I went to some of the open mics in Chicago, but I got most of my stage time at Zanies in downtown Chicago. I did a couple clubs in the suburbs and I would go back to St. Louis a lot and I just tried to do comedy as much as I possibly could. I was working in a laboratory—my degree is in geology—so for the first five years I was in Chicago I was working in a lab and then trying to be on the road as much as I could. It was crazy. Sometimes, I would drive to gigs and then drive back to Chicago, sleep in my car in the parking lot, and then work in the lab. Then I would drive to the show again the next night.

RC: I imagine that lifestyle reached a breaking point after a certain time.

AW: I did it for about five years and eventually it got to a point where I was on the road a lot and I was getting super drained from all the driving. It almost comes out to be two full-time jobs when you’re doing it that much. The last year I did it I was on the road probably 45-50 weeks a year, somewhere in there. I was working almost every weekend.

RC: The past few years have seen an influx of stand-up clubs into the improv/sketch-heavy city of Chicago. Do you think this is affecting the comedy community there?

AW: I think that lately there have been a lot of successful comedians coming out of Chicago, like TJ Miller, Kyle Kinane, Kumail Nanjiani, and Hannibal Buress. All of these guys are coming out of Chicago and then at the same time, Chicago is the third-biggest city in the country and there has been only one club downtown for maybe 30 years. So I think it makes more sense that more stand-up clubs are moving in. I think it’s going to be great for comedy in Chicago too.

RC: Was there a specific moment or show in your career that really pushed you to pursue comedy full-time?

AW: I think I wanted to do it fulltime from the beginning and that was always the goal to not have a job and just to do stand-up. It was just so fun and I loved it right away out of St. Louis. I didn’t quit my job until I won the Butterfinger comedy competition in 2008, where I wrote a joke about candy bars and ended up winning this contest. I quit my job right after that. They gave me 365 Butterfinger coupons and I was like, “I don’t need to work anymore”.

RC: Have you redeemed all the coupons?

AW: Yeah they’re all expired—the ones I didn’t use. I don’t even like Butterfinger that much, but I gave a lot of them away. The funny thing about the coupon is that you still have to pay tax. So each Butterfinger wasn’t exactly free—it was 9 cents.

RC: Last year you won the “Best of the Midwest” title at Gilda Fest. How was it performing at that event?

AW: It was very cool. This year was a lot bigger than it was last year. Last year, when I won it, I really didn’t hang out that much. To give some levity to my win, when I won, the Best of the Midwest was on a Wednesday and I had a show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday. After the contest, after I had won, I got in my car and drove overnight to Sioux Falls—13 hours in the car or something like that. That’s a good way to not get a big head about a contest win.

RC: Your new album is titled Lucy, after your beloved black Labrador. Do you think Lucy appreciates the honor?

AW: She has always been a big fan of my comedy. She used to come out on the road with me sometimes. Maybe it was overly sentimental to name the album after her, but I’m not really good at making up names. I knew I’d never be sick of that name and also I have a joke on the CD about Lucy.

RC: That one is a stand-out for sure. Listening to it, you get the sense you’re having a lot of fun telling the story, adding embellishments and tags here and there to fully paint the picture.

AW: That’s kind of how all my bits evolve. I’ll write something or I’ll have an idea and I’ll do it once and then they’re pretty fluid. I don’t normally have jokes that are done and then they’re always that way. I have a couple short ones that are like that, but the longer jokes I’ll often try to add to and take them in different directions—it keeps them kind of fun.

RC: Why did you want to release an album now?

AW: I guess it’s because you kind of want to graduate material—for me, anyway. It’s probably different for everyone. You also want to make that money! I started having jokes that I wasn’t wanting to tell anymore. When you get to that point, I like to make a CD or an album or whatever, because then those jokes serve a purpose. They’re there forever. They’re not just forgotten—if that makes any sense.

Andy Woodhull will be performing at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago June 25-30. Be sure to follow Andy at @AndyWoodhull. Listen to some free tracks from Lucy at the Rooftop Comedy Shop

WATCH DAVE WAITE PERFORM ON JIMMY FALLON

We were thrilled to hear the news that Dave Waite would be making his TV debut this week. The Cincinnati native did not disappoint when he took the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon stage. We’ve got Dave’s full set after the jump, in which he talks about his (lack of) skills with the ladies, substitute teaching, working for Delta airlines, and more. Great job Dave! Be sure to follow Dave @DaveWaiteComedy and check out his Rooftop album.

Mike Brody Interview

Mike Brody is a very easy-going guy, but make no mistake: if you’re an AC/DC cover band and you pick a fight with him, he will fight back (on Facebook at least). Mike is a hilarious Minneapolis-based comic with a palpable on-stage energy that makes him a pleasure to watch. Mike is the official comic for the SyFy network’s Ghost Hunters and regularly headlines clubs and college campuses across the country. We recently chatted with Mike about his new album, his love for punk music, spending a very comfortable night on Alcatraz, and more.

Rooftop Comedy: How did you get started in comedy?

Mike Brody: I did my first year of comedy in Iowa in a town called Cedar Rapids. I was going to school in Iowa City—the University of Iowa. Cedar Rapids is about 20 miles north of that. There was a comedy club called Penguin’s Comedy Club and that’s where I started. I went and watched an open mic and then I decided I should try it. Actually, a friend of mine had gone up and done comedy and he killed and he wasn’t funny at all. So I thought I could do that. Because it’s Iowa, there was maybe one open mic a month in that area. So I did that for about a year and there just wasn’t that much stage time. I actually moved to LA first. I don’t think I was naïve thinking I was going to get famous after doing it for a year, but I just wanted to do something crazy. I moved there, ran out of money. I saw a commercial on TV for paper towels and I literally thought, “Who can afford paper towels?” and I was like, oh, that’s not good.

RC: Then you moved to Minneapolis. That seems like a really supportive, talented community of comics.

MB: It’s always been that way—from Louie Anderson in the ‘80s to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys in the ‘90s. There’s just a long history of really good comics in Minneapolis. Same with music and everything. There’s just something about the arts in Minneapolis that just pervades everything and is pretty cool.

RC: Do you have a favorite track on your album?

MB: You know, my favorite one on that is the ADD/C story. [Laughs] That one is the most me, the most neurotic, not spending my time well—getting into a fight on Facebook with a tribute band. That story is 100% true. I transcribed what they wrote to me on there. That joke sums me up best as a person: just putting my energy into the wrong things and overblowing everything. It’s kind of cool because ADD/C is a real punk band and they’re not that big yet, but they’re really awesome. So I like talking about them. It makes me feel cool.

RC: Did the band show any appreciation for you defending their cause on the merciless battleground of Facebook?

MB: They did. The drummer friended me on Facebook. They must have been Googling themselves because I put up a blog post a long time ago when it first happened. He emailed me and was like “Hey, you don’t know me, but I’m the drummer for ADD/C and I just wanted to say thanks. We read it and thought it was hilarious. Thanks for sticking up for our honor”. Now, when the CD comes out, I’m going to send them a copy. They talked about me in the punk scene too. “This guy Mike Brody—he did this”. I thought it was so awesome. I’ve never felt so cool. I’ve been a dork my whole life. I got name-dropped by a punk band. That’s the pinnacle for me.

RC: As the official comic for the SyFy network’s Ghost Hunters, you got to stay overnight on Alcatraz. What was that like?

MB: Yeah I got to spend a night in a cell. True story: I was a bachelor at the time and the bed I slept on Alcatraz was an original bed and it was more comfortable than the bed I had in my apartment in the Twin Cities.

The thing about the Ghost Hunters thing is I didn’t even mention it in the CD because a lot of it is very specialized. A lot of time, when I do these conferences, I’ll go do 45 minutes on ghosts and then I’ll go and help them lead the tours and see the whole event. They’re like ghost trekkies, if that makes sense? I’ll go up on stage and be like, “Remember in Episode 38, at 45 minutes…” and they’ll be like “Oh yeah!” If I did it during a regular set, people might go, “What the hell is he talking about?”

RC: I feel like that genre tried to inch into the mainstream, with shows like Fear on MTV.

MB: There’s a lot of them that are really popular. They keep getting more and more extreme. It started off with Ghost Hunters. Then there was Paranormal State. Then there was Ghost Adventures, where they’ll yell at the ghost. They’ll go in and be like, “Who wants to rumble?!” There’s Extreme Paranormal, where they go to witch doctors and they’ll cut heads off chickens and stuff. Pretty soon it’s going to be UFC Ghost Fighting. I don’t even know what it’s going to get to, but it keeps getting weirder and weirder.

RC: How are the crowds at these events?

MB: They’re super enthusiastic. They love it. You get a lot of repeat customers at these events across the country, but often you’ll get completely new people. You can always tell the new people right away because they’re not sure what’s going to happen. They’re not a comedy audience per se. They’re there to see ghosts and stuff like that. It always goes super well. The minute I get up there, they’re all super into it.

RC: There’s a funny video circulating of you pulling a prank on a bachelorette party that showed up two hours late to your show.

MB: I was headlining the Comedy Caravan in Louisville, KY. It was probably halfway through my set—I was the last comic of the night and a bachelorette party came in. You know how sometimes in music, people will skip the opening bands? It doesn’t work that way in comedy. Comedians are a team: the opener, the middle, and me. It’s our show. We’re not against each other so it kind of offends me that people don’t show up to see everybody. I thought it was disrespectful, so I found out they were in the parking lot. I heard that they were coming in. I told the whole crowd, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do. Don’t tell anybody when they walk in, don’t even let on, but I’m going to say a password”. I think the password was “farfegnugen”. “I’m going to say farfegnugen to signify that they’re coming in and I’m going to wait until they all sit down and then I’m going to say ‘Thank you! Good night!’ and then walk off stage as if the show’s over, the minute they all sit down”. It worked perfectly. I started laughing halfway through it, but it was fun. The crowd loved it. They were so excited to be a part of it.

RC: You also mention on your album that you’re neighborhood gives out weather warnings called “Small Dog Wind Advisories”.

MB: I live in downtown Minneapolis, which, if I had to make a comparison, it’s kind of like the West Hollywood of Minneapolis. It’s very gay-friendly, very quaint, and a lot of little dogs blowing down the road. It really does paint the picture, doesn’t it? It’s not bad enough for humans, but if you go outside with a little dog, you might lose it.

[Photo courtesy of Shannon Porter Photography]

That’s Not What I Meant is available now at outlets including iTunes, Amazon, the Rooftop shop, Pandora, Rdio, and more. Mike will be hosting his official CD release party on May 17 at the Joke Joint Comedy Club in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Watch Keith Alberstadt Perform on Letterman

Rooftop comics just keep popping up on late night TV and we’re certainly not one to complain. On Friday night, Keith Alberstadt stopped by the Late Show with David Letterman. Enjoy Keith’s full set after the jump, in which he talks about time-traveling in a wine store, getting through a bad break-up, learning some new dating tricks, and more.

Keith has been one of our favorite comics for a long time. In 2010, Rooftop Comedy Productions released Keith’s album, It’s Pronounced Jenkins. The following year, Keith went on to be one of the finalists in CMT’s Next Big Comic. Be sure to catch up with all of his Rooftop clips and follow him @KeithAlberstadt. Great job Keith!

NICK GRIFFIN INTERVIEW

Comedian Nick Griffin is somewhat of a machine. He’s really in his element when he’s on the road, headlining everywhere from Mason City, Illinois to San Francisco and back again. Along the way, he’s managed to wrack up an astounding 16 late night television appearances, bringing his salty, cynical, and hilarious material to the national stage. The idea of downtime is somewhat lost on Nick, so he fills his days writing TV pilots and working on his horror movie screenplay. On April 3, Nick will release his second album with Rooftop, Shot in the Face, building off the success of his previous title, Bring Out the Monkey. We recently chatted with Nick about his work ethic, love of horror films, and being called “less happy” than Marc Maron–by Marc Maron.

Rooftop Comedy: When did you record Shot in the Face?

Nick Griffin: I did it in 2004. It was in Columbus, Ohio. I wasn’t even planning on recording, but I think another guy on the bill said he was recording and he said, “You know, if you want to, you can just record after me”. It ended up being a really great show and I really was happy with it and I didn’t have a CD at the time. I was one of those geniuses that didn’t think selling CDs after shows was cool, so I waited until CDs had pretty much gone out of fashion before I started. Anyway, the show went really well and I had all this new material I really wanted to get out, but I really hadn’t spoken to any record labels. So the reason I wanted to re-release was I recorded it myself and I sold it after shows. So people haven’t had access to it unless they were at one of my shows. So I thought it was a good idea because I was really happy with the way Rooftop did my first one and how they worked with me.

RT: How does Shot in the Face compare with Bring Out the Monkey?

NG: I think there’s a lot of parallels going on. I think being a comic or an entertainer or whatever you want to call it, it’s always hard to keep relationships together, so there’s a lot of that in there. I think I did this CD probably two years after my divorce, so there’s a lot of that in there that was kind of the material that really helped me elevate my game. It’s sad that getting divorced had to happen, but the divorce material is what got me on my first Letterman spot. They just really liked how I framed it in my act and so there’s a lot of relationship material. I think it’s a little bit angrier than Bring Out the Monkey. I don’t know if I’m just more medicated now than I was, but it’s definitely a little angrier.

[Nick Griffin’s most recent Letterman spot, from February 2012]


RT: Some 16 late night appearances later, that first Letterman spot did you a lot of good. 

NG: Yeah, like I said, I did that first Letterman spot and it went really well. I actually got a little development deal with Letterman’s company right after I did my first Letterman spot and then I just started getting a lot more people interested. I was probably 17 or 18 years into the business before I got my first TV spot. I had a lot of stuff saved up and that’s still the most fun for me. I love clubs, but when you’re in the middle of Boise, Idaho on a Thursday, you’re wondering why you’re doing this. When you get to go on Conan or Letterman, it really makes it worthwhile.

RT: Any pre-show rituals before you go on stage?

NG: I always check my notebook and write out two or three of the newest jokes and make sure to remind myself to get through them on stage. You can get lazy on the road and not work on your act as much and I’m just trying to prevent myself from doing that even as I continue to go on after all these years. Just reminding myself to do the new material is one thing I do.


RT: You’re also somewhat of a horror movie enthusiast.

NG: I am. I unfortunately haven’t sold any [screenplays], but I’ve written four or five movies. I had an older brother, who’s only three years older than me and when we were kids, there was a late night show on Fridays that they called Friday Fright Night and they had a host and they would introduce these movies. We’d watch them all the time and it just got into my DNA. With all this time on the road, I’m just trying to figure out what the hell to do and I just thought, you know, as a goof, let’s try to write a horror movie and I did and it was just fun to do it. I haven’t sold it or anything, but I continue to write them and someday hopefully something will happen.

RT: Do you have similar writing practices for comedy and horror? Or are they completely different monsters?

NG: It’s kind of a completely different monster. I mean, I can’t start a screenplay until I have a beginning and an ending and that’s what I’m always looking for. It’s rare that I come up with just a little scene or something. I do come up with horror ideas, just walking around.

RT: Marc Maron once called you possibly the only comic that’s less happy than he is. That’s quite an honor?

NG: Yeah I’ve done WTF a couple times and I moved to New York when I was 22 or 23 and he was there. I just have a horrible walk-around face. My daily walk-around face does not look particularly happy and it’s often misconstrued as being depressed or whatever. I get as depressed as the next person, but I don’t think Marc Maron  knows me well enough to make that statement, but we’ve spent some time together and chatted about getting divorced and struggling and all that. I did a live WTF in Brooklyn and that’s where that came from.

RT: Do you like doing podcasts?

NG: I’d like to do more. I haven’t done a ton of them. I spend so much time on the road. I get asked, but I don’t end up doing them just because I’m always on the road when they’re doing them, but I love doing them. I think they’re a blast and they’re cool and it’s a great way to get your material out there.

Shot in the Face will be available on April 3. You can pre-order the album and get 15% OFF at the Rooftop Comedy Shop with the discount code: ShotInTheFace. Shot in the Face will also be on iTunes, Amazon, Pandora, Grooveshark, and wherever you can find good comedy.

Watch Moshe Kasher on Conan

Moshe Kasher stopped by Conan last night to chat with Mr. O’brien himself and do some stand-up as well. Moshe has a new memoir out and it’s getting a ton of acclaim. Kasher in the Rye details Moshe’s bouts with teenage drug addiction, crime, and his ultra-Orthodox Jewish father. Moshe, a frequent Chelsea Lately contributor and comedy festival regular, is a long-time friend of Rooftop. In 2009, Moshe released Everyone You Know is Going to Die with Rooftop Comedy Productions, and the album garnered him the “Comic of the Year” title from iTunes.

First up, Moshe got some couch time with Conan and Andy Richter to offer some lessons on ultra-fringe, ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Brooklyn. The key take-away? If you think you’ve reached the outer-realms of society, you haven’t gone far enough.

Moshe also performed some stand-up for the audience. He covered what it’s like to be a child of two deaf parents and a few pointers on getting the “deaf discount” at the movie theater.

ANDY HENDRICKSON INTERVIEW

Andy Hendrickson is a burgeoning powerhouse in the comedy world. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard him on either the Bob & Tom Show, or on Sirius/XM Radio. Not only is he a showcase winner at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Andy has performed at TBS’ The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and was a finalist at the Great American Comedy Festival.

He’s calling his newest release, Underacheiver, his first “real” CD. Underacheiver will be released March 13 wherever fine comedy is sold and streamed.

Rooftop had Nathan Timmel dial Andy up and chat about the disc, comedy classes, and finding your comedic voice.

Nathan Timmel: Easy question first: where did you come up with the title Underachiever?

Andy Hendrickson: A friend suggested it, actually, because I have a chunk of material about my family, and how every one of them is an overachiever. My oldest brother is exceptional; he went to the Naval Academy, became a Navy Seal, and went to Harvard.

NT: So you are the Black Sheep of the family then; you are the underachiever.

AH: Yes, I would be the slacker of the family.

NT: Where was your album recorded, and over how many shows?

AH: I recorded it up in Ottawa, Canada. There’s a great club up there called Absolute Comedy. I had two shows on a Friday night to record the material, and luckily I got it all on the early slot because the late crowd was a little drunk and rowdy, so I didn’t use any of the audio from that take.

NT: What kind of set up did you use?

AH: I hired a local sound engineer who works with bands and theaters. He used a simple three-microphone setup: he wired the stage mic, and then a left and right mic to capture the audience.

NT: How many years in the making was the material for Underachiever? Is this your first CD? 

AH: [Laughs.] Well…there’s a CD that exists from three-years into my career, when I was desperate for money, that if I could buy back every copy and burn it? I would.

NT: [Laughs.] We all have one of those – a “starter” CD. Every comic gets way too excited early in their career and records something, then pushes because they’re so proud of themselves: “I’ve got a CD! I’m a real comic!” Then years down the road you give a listen and you shake your head and say, “Holy shit, what was I thinking?”

AH: Exactly. At the time, it made sense. I had just started doing comedy full-time, and was only featuring, and needed money desperately. So I put out a 25-minute disc and tried to keep my head above water by selling it. So that one doesn’t count.

I put out one in 2005 or 2006 called It’s Ready, and I have a little 25-minute sampler on my website that I give away… so to me, this is my first real CD—it’s the first one I’m truly proud of. It has all my best material, and I have my voice now… I’m really excited about this one. Which is weird, because as a comedian you generally beat yourself up over everything, but I’m really proud of how this turned out.

NT: Talk about your voice: how far into your comedy career are you, and how long did it take you to figure out who you wanted to be on stage?

AH: I went through many stages; imagine your teenage years. You’re trying to fit in, and you don’t know if you’re going to be a skateboarder, or a heavy metal guy, or a jock. The same thing applies to trying to figure out who you’re going to be on stage. I used to… [laughs] I used to do a “dumb stoner guy” character when I first started out. Then I was really silly, acting out on stage a lot.

I’ve been doing it about 13 years now, and I think it took 11 years to just be me on stage, which is a dry, sarcastic guy. And that’s who I am, it’s what I am off stage. I just had to go through all the trying-on of personas just to be myself at the end of it all. Some guys are lucky, and they find it early, but it took me a while to figure out.

NT: Did you go through that phase where you’d work with someone, really like what they were doing, and accidentally adopt their quirks?

AH: Oh, absolutely. I was middling for Daniel Tosh years ago in Cleveland, and I really enjoyed his stand-up. I was watching every show, and on the last night found myself delivering my jokes with the same kind of tempo Tosh had. I remember catching myself and thinking, “What the hell are you doing?” It was still my material, my jokes, but his delivery had rubbed off on me.

NT: I’ve heard a lot of people do that after working with Attell; his voice is so distinct, his delivery so unique, that after a week with him you’ve picked up his cadence.

AH: I guess it’s similar to spending a couple months in the South, and after a while you just start slipping little colloquialisms they use into your own speech patterns.

NT: Let’s talk about you’re becoming a comedian: was there a light bulb moment in your childhood where you said, “I want to be a comedian,” or is it something you discovered later?

AH: I was exposed to stand up at a really early age. I used to live in Hawaii, and there was a comedian named Poi Dog my family would listen to. He did a lot of jokes about Hawaiian culture… I would have been around eight. I didn’t really know that’s what I wanted to do at the time, but I guess I was always a cut-up. I eventually moved to Atlanta—after college—took a comedy class, got my first taste of the stage and getting laughs, and loved it.

NT: Every comic out there seems to have a passionate opinion about comedy classes; would you say they helped you, or that you wouldn’t recommend them?

AH: To be honest, I thought it was very helpful. It all depends on your personality, and I was petrified by the idea of getting on stage. So to invest my money in a six-week class, and knowing at the end of it I had to get on stage, which is something I was very frightened by, the class was very helpful. I mean, I had financially locked myself into it; it was like skydiving. Once you’re up in the plane, you gotta jump. Taking a class also gave me a sense of structure as well. Some guys, like me—underachiever—need that push. Other’s don’t. I also knew that at the end of it I’d have that 5-minute set I could take with me to open microphones.

Andy currently resides in New York City. You can follow Andy @AndyHendrickson.

Underachiever comes out March 13 and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and the Rooftop Comedy Shop. You can also stream Underachiever through Pandora and Grooveshark.

WATCH MATT KNUDSEN ON CONAN

Matt Knudsen is a classy gentleman. He buys only the best for his wife, whether he’s picking out jewelry, buying a mattress, or scouting for a swanky new apartment. We were so happy to see Matt stop by Conan last night, where he did a great set and talked about his gentlemanly ways, personal grooming, workout habits, and more. Watch the full set below and be sure to catch up with all of Matt’s clips on Rooftop. You can follow Matt @MattKnudsen. Kudos on a great set Matt!

BILLY WAYNE DAVIS INTERVIEW

Billy Wayne Davis describes himself as the thinking-man’s hillbilly. If that’s the case, consider us a thinking man because we’re huge fans of his warm delivery and, of course, that unmistakable drawl. Billy hails from Nashville where he got his start, building up buzz before taking his comedy around the country and sharing the stage with some of the biggest names out there. Billy’s themes draw on relationships and Southern stereotypes. He turns the uber-PC mindset of Seattle (where he currently lives) on its head, with hilarious stories as a result. We recently chatted with Billy to talk about his new self-titled album, dealing with hecklers, and people’s redneck expectations.

Rooftop Comedy: You got your start in Nashville before making the move to Seattle. When and why did you head to the Northwest?

Billy Wayne Davis: It was 2006, when I met my now ex-wife and she got a radio job in Seattle and I’d never been west of Texas. We had just been dating and she said, “Do you want to move out here with me?” I thought it’d be perfect, because I’d seen a lot of people developed out there and it was just a totally different point of view than what I was getting in the South and I thought that would be better for my comedy than anything.

RC: What was it like to make the adjustment from the Nashville comedy scene to the one in Seattle?

BWD: The biggest adjustment is that there was a lot more rooms. So, that was an easy adjustment to make, because there’s so much stage time in Seattle compared with Nashville or cities in the South. There’s already an established comedy scene with a rich history. Nashville is tough because it’s a music town. So you get a lot of people, when you’re doing stand-up, saying, “Why don’t you have a guitar?”

RC: It’s funny you say that, because in other cities, indie music seems to go hand-in-hand with alternative comedy.

BWD: I hope it does. I think you’re right because the indie scene there, since I’ve left, has picked up and become much cooler. A lot of neat stuff is going on there and Zanies Comedy Club is in Nashville and it’s by far one of the very best clubs in the nation. So I was very spoiled to start there. You’re getting an “A” Room. A headliner is coming through every week, so you get to see the best in the country and the room is just amazing. When I started there, there was a lot of little rooms that kind of died out after a while. People got better and a lot of people left. So it kind of dwindled, but I think it’s starting to pick up. There’s some guys there doing some pretty cool stuff.

RC: Now that you’ve been settled in Seattle for a while, have you seen in trends or developments in the comedy scene there?

BWD: When I first got to Seattle, there were more comics just going one direction. “Well, I’m just an ‘alt-comic’. That’s all I want to do”. I never understood that. There’s so many different types of rooms and you can do all of them. Whereas now, everyone realizes you need to be able to go into any room and that’s just going to make you a better comic. Now, comics are like “I just want to be a comic and do as much as I can”. I think that’s better for comic in general.


RC: Are you thinking of moving out of Seattle?

BWD: I’m moving to LA very soon, but it’s taken me 9 years of doing comedy to get there. I didn’t want to rush it. I want to be ready, when I’m down there in that over-saturation, where you stand out and you’re ready to handle everything.

RC: What are you really looking forward to this year, comedy-wise?

BWD: Moving to LA—I’m pretty excited about that. Releasing this album. Barry Blakenship did the artwork. He went above and beyond what I expected. He’s super talented and I can’t mention him enough.

RC: Do you ever feel like people expect you to play up the redneck comedian persona?

BWD: Oh definitely. Once they hear my accent, they go to stereotypes and think of certain things. Once they hear what I’m actually talking about, they think, “Okay, he’s not going to do those kinds of jokes”. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with stuff like that. I think Jeff Foxworthy is one of the best comics ever. He’s just solid. He just found something that really, really worked and you can’t be mad at him for that, but people are. The first couple times I went to LA and someone in the industry saw me, I could tell they weren’t really listening to what I was saying. They just saw, “Oh, this is how we could sell him”. I’m like, “No, you can’t sell me like that”. I got a lot of cards saying “You got to contact the Blue Collar guys”, and I’m like “I don’t really do that”.

RC: Who were your favorite comics when you were growing up?

BWD: I’m fortunate enough that my parents were really into quality comedy—it’s what I like to call it. They liked people that were good. My dad was a Richard Pryor fan, so I grew up knowing about Richard Pryor. I actually named my son Pryor. He’s a huge influence. Jonathan Winters I loved. I didn’t really know about Bill Hicks until I started doing open mics and then you know you fall in love with him. Guys like [Doug] Stanhope, Ralphie May, and Louis CK and Dave Chapelle and Ron White—those are guys I was really influenced by.     

RC: You’ve become pretty adept at dealing with hecklers and you even included the drunken shouting of an audience member on your CD.

BWD: I hide my frustration on stage pretty well, because, people who know me can tell it really gets at me. But I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. It doesn’t matter what part of the country or if it’s a nice comedy club, there’s still some jack-hole who thinks, “I’m gonna level the show”. But I learned a long time ago that he just wasn’t handsome. If you give them enough rope, they’ll hang themselves. Then the audience will turn on them.

Billy produced this great short video to promote his album, co-starring two adorable Chows–err, exotic lion cubs. Nice work Billy!

Billy Wayne Davis is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Rooftop Comedy’s shop (where you can sample some tracks for free). Be sure to follow Billy on Twitter @BillyWayneDavis.

TOM CLARK INTERVIEW

Tom Clark hails from Wisconsin originally, where he got his start performing at clubs all over the state and in the Chicago area. He then made the move to LA, where he’s been one very busy comedian ever since. On any given night you can find him performing all over the greater LA area, bringing his sharp, yet warm observational style. He also moonlights as part of a record-breaking improv team at iO West and has racked up some serious screen credits with Outsourced, The Closer, and others. We recently chatted with Tom about balancing stand-up with script writing and improv, taking inspiration from Big, and why he just has to meet Dave Foley.

Rooftop Comedy: You’re from Milwaukee originally. Is that where you got your comedy start?

Tom Clark: Yeah, definitely the Skyline [in Appleton, WI] and the Comedy Café in Milwaukee. The Comedy Club on State Street. Those three were my main clubs. Then there’s also Zanies down in Vernon Hills and St. Charles and Chicago. I had a day job for my first five years, so I was able to go to those clubs and drive back and go to work the next morning.

RC: You’ve also done quite a bit of improv work around LA. Do you still try to balance that with your stand-up shows?

TC: Yeah I’m in a group right now called Old Milwaukee, which is made up of guys I used to know in Milwaukee, that now live out here in LA. We perform twice a week at iO West. We’ve actually been the Cage Match champion for the past 66 weeks, which is a Cage Match record. So I still do it quite a bit and it’s something I really like. It sort of goes hand in hand with my stand-up because I incorporate a lot of improv in my stand-up.

RC: Have you ever dabbled in writing for scripted comedy?

TC: I actually wrote a pilot recently for the improv group I’m in and I’ve been, I guess they say, shopping it around or whatever. We’re giving it to people to read. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted my sitcom to be about, so I did write that. But I have a hard time because sometimes you write something that’s good that’s original and they’re like, “Well, write a spec script”. I’d rather work on my own stuff. I write sketches. I’ve written a couple screenplays. I actually optioned one—a guy in Utah bought it. He was trying to make family-friendly oriented comedy and he’d liked what I had written.

RC: What was it about?

TC: It was in the spirit of Big. It was about a kid who gets hit in the head with a baseball and gets knocked out in the little league championship game and it costs the team the game and he wakes up 20 years later and finds out that as a result of losing the game, the fortunes of the whole town have changed. So he decides to put his whole team back together and challenge the rival town in order to garner everyone’s respect and everything. It was one of those things where we had actually written a few log lines for a company and it’s funny when you write a log line for something that doesn’t exist yet and then they’re like, “Oh yeah, this one is great”. Then you actually have to sit down and write it.

RC: With your recent acting credits, how did you get selected for the parts? 

TC: I auditioned for them. The Outsourced one was actually through Ken Kwapis, who directed the pilot of The Office and used to direct Larry Sanders and stuff like that. He had me in Outsourced and then when he was doing [Big Miracle], he called my agent and said, “Hey, I want to get Tom for this part”. It was really originally just a one-word part. Then, when they flew me out, they had written an additional two pages for the scene. The unfortunate part is that I went to the screening last week and they did cut my scene out. That was kind of a bummer. It’ll probably be on the DVD. The nice thing is Ken is working on two more shows. One of the shows he’s working on is Sarah Silverman’s new pilot. He’s also working on something with Tony Shalhoub and Greg Daniels, who helped create The Office. That could lead to some really great stuff. [Ken] is very nice. He actually emailed me to let me know that my scene got cut out. I don’t think a lot of directors would take the time to do that for the 77th lead.

RC: Any big creative goals on your to-do list for the year?

TC: I do want to shoot my pilot. Regardless if anyone wants to buy the script, I think I just want to shoot that myself this year. It’s about a brewery in Milwaukee so I might even go back to Milwaukee and shoot it. That’s one of my goals. My other goal is sort of weird. Next weekend, I’m working in Salt Lake City at Trolley Square and at the other club in West Valley, Dave Foley is working. Everyone, when I started out, said I look like Dave Foley, so I think it’ll be funny to meet Dave Foley.

Tom Clark will headline the Skyline Comedy Café in Appleton, Wisconsin April 5-7. Be sure to follow Tom on Twitter @TomClarkComedy. Tom’s album, Jokes I Have Written and Performed, is available through iTunes, Amazon, and Rooftop Comedy’s shop. You can also stream Tom’s album on Pandora and Grooveshark.