Yakov Smirnoff got his big break in America thanks to Mitzi Shore, who not only put up the Soviet immigrant in her home behind The Comedy Store in 1977 but also gave Yakov’s father a full-time job, too. Smirnoff himself became a big star during the Reagan years, starring opposite Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson, recurring on NBC’s hit sitcom Night Court, and getting his own Showtime special and short-lived sitcom. What a Country! He also performed several times for Ronald and Nancy Reagan, including a headlining gig at the 1988 White House Correspondents Dinner. In the 1990s, Smirnoff found a new professional home in Branson, Missouri. He still performs in Branson two months a year, when he’s not back in LA where he’s a Comedy Store regular, or out on the road with his new Happily Ever Laughter tour. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it!
Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili began podcasting out of their apartment in Queens in March of 2005, three months before Apple recognized podcasting officially on iTunes. “Keith and The Girl” quickly became one of the most popular podcasts, and by 2011, they’d launched a VIP service that garnered some 50,000 paid subscribers, who pay monthly or annually for access to 10 additional podcasts and bonus content. They have written two books together, 2010’s What Do We Do Now? Keith and The Girl’s Smart Answers To Your Stupid Relationship Questions, and The Ultimate Podcasting Guide in 2014. They’re still at it broadcasting several times a week, and caught me up on everything in honor of their 14th anniversary as a podcast. So let’s get to it!
A classically trained theater major who grew up in New Orleans and Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Lyric Lewis took her degree from Syracuse and headed straight for Hollywood, where she auditioned for The Groundlings. Over the course of several years, Lewis worked her way up the ranks, eventually reaching the cast of the Sunday Company. Then in quick succession, she landed a spot in the CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, Just For Laughs New Faces Characters, and a role in the reboot of MADtv for The CW. That didn’t last, but she rebounded with a role in the NBC sitcom A.P. Bio, prompting Entertainment Weekly to call her your new comedy crush when A.P. Bio debuted in 2018. Lewis also has appeared in FX’s Baskets, and Comedy Central’s Drunk History. She sat down with me inside The Groundlings training center before season two of A.P. Bio premieres to tell me all about her comedy journey. So let’s get to it!
Steve Agee had a bizarre enough life behind the camera before he ever got his first big shot in front of it thanks to Sarah Silverman. Agee edited footage for MTV’s reality shows such as The Real World, then got a job writing for Jimmy Kimmel Live, where he’s responsible for launching the famous Kimmel bit, Unnecessary Censorship. Since co-starring on the Sarah Silverman Program, Agee is recognizably cast as “that guy” on sitcoms such as “New Girl,” “You’re The Worst,” and “Superstore.” He currently cohosts a podcast with E! late-night talker Busy Phillips called We’re No Doctors. And Agee landed his first leading role in a feature film, the new indie movie Boy Band. Written and directed by the Levinson Brothers, Boy Band is about a late-90s boy band that got old and fat without realizing it, with Agee’s bandmates played by Seth Herzog, Jordan Carlos and Dave Hill. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!
In 2019, Dane Cook is heading out for his first full national tour in six years, and he’s calling it his Tell It Like It Is tour, playing venues such as the Wang Theater in his hometown of Boston and Radio City Music Hall in New York City. How is it now for Dane Cook? Cook sat down with me in The Comedy Store’s podcast studio this month to talk through his comedy and personal demons, as well as go back with me to his historic and pioneering rise through social media in the mid 2000s, culminating in HBO specials, double-platinum records, selling out Madison Square Garden, hosting Saturday Night Live twice and starring in major motion pictures. He was the comedy star of the late 2000s. Dane Cook has been through a lot since then and come out the other side. And he’s ready to talk all about it. So let’s get to it!
Henry Rollins was the legendary frontman for hardcore punk band Black Flag in the 1980s, then his own Rollins Band into the 90s and early oughts. Rollins also has written more than two dozen books, appeared in movies such as Heat, Lost Highway and Bad Boys II, on TV in Sons of Anarchy, as well as hosting series for National Geographic and the History Channel, and putting out several spoken word specials. Rollins currently hosts a weekly radio program on KCRW and co-stars in the new SyFy series, Deadly Class. His newest talking show, Keep Talking Pal, premiered on Showtime in 2018 and is available now everywhere via Comedy Dynamics. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!
Sam Richardson is best known for playing Richard Splett, the only optimistic voice in Selina Meyer’s administration on HBO’s Veep. Richardson spent summers in his childhood across the globe in Ghana with his mother’s side of the family. But he’s also a Detroit native through and through, getting his comedy start as a teen taking classes at Second City Detroit, and later co-creating and co-starring in two seasons of “Detroiters” with his best friend, Tim Robinson, on Comedy Central. You’ve seen Richardson in a variety of roles on screens big and small over the past five years. In 2019, he’s part of Veep’s fond farewell from HBO, as well as the premiere season of “Champaign, Ill.,” on YouTube Premium, where he co-stars with Adam Pally as members of their best friend’s entourage who lose their best friend and everything else. There’s a lot to get to. So let’s get to it!
Shaun Latham found the key to his successful comedy career not in Los Angeles or New York City, but in Indianapolis. That’s where he developed the most in recent years, and found a home with the Pat McAfee Show podcast and a hit web series, 20 Dollar Chef, through Barstool Sports. Latham, who went on the road opening for Gabriel Iglesias and got his first TV credits on Fluffy’s Comedy Central showcase, Stand-Up Revolution, recently did make the move to the Big Apple, where he is hosting his own SiriusXM talk show weekday mornings on the Barstool Sports channel, and preparing to get in the ring for Barstool’s Rough and Rowdy 7 Super Brawl in Atlanta. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!
Gaby Dunn is a journalist, comedian and actress, who with comedy partner Allison Raskin, wrote, performed and produced the successful YouTube comedy channel “Just Between Us,” with more than 700,000 subscribers. Their young adult novel, “I Hate Everyone But You,” was a New York Times best-seller. Dunn’s podcast, Bad With Money, was named one of the top 10 podcasts of 2016 by The New York Times. Gaby has turned her podcast into a new book, “Bad With Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together.” It’s out now. Gaby pulls back the curtain on the real economics of making money, or failing to, while making YouTube videos and other social media content. So let’s get to it!
Fred Armisen was one of the longest-serving cast members of Saturday Night Live, spending 11 seasons as Fericito, Prince, Barack Obama and more. He has since gone on to star in eight seasons of Portlandia on IFC, two seasons of Big Mouth on Netflix, another two seasons of Documentary Now! on IFC, one season and counting of Forever on Amazon Prime Video, and put out his first solo comedy special in 2018, Standup for Drummers, on Netflix. That doesn’t leave him much time to lead the band for Late Night with Seth Meyers. But a third season of Documentary Now! premieres in February 2019, and there’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!
Gina Brillon was born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and already knew she wanted to be a stand-up comedian before she grew up, starting her career when she was still 17. Brillon became the first Latina winner of NBC’s Stand Up For Diversity competition in 2012, and since then has held sitcom development deals not only with NBC, but also with CBS and ABC. Brillon tours regularly with Gabriel Iglesias when she’s not headlining comedy clubs on her own, and she recently began what could be a recurring role on ABC’s hit sitcom, The Conners. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!