Of all of the characters in Mike Birbiglia’s wonderfully true and funny film, Don’t Think Twice, Chris Gethard’s runs closest to his own. Gethard began taking improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade when he was only 20, and quickly became a darling of the UCB community, eventually starting a beloved improv team that saw one of its members — his friend Bobby Moynihan — leave for Saturday Night Live. Unlike both the movie and the title of Gethard’s one-man show, Career Suicide, Chris has continued to flourish. He has a stand-up comedy album, a book, and hosts a hit podcast, Beautfiul/Anonymous. On TV, you’ve seen Chris Gethard in supporting roles on Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, and The Office; and on the big screen in The Heat and The Other Guys. He’s taken The Chris Gerhard Show from the basement of the UCB to Manhattan cable access to two seasons on TV with Fusion. This August, he’s taking his one-man show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But first he sat with me to talk about his journey.
So let’s get to it!
Christian Finnegan co-stars in a new weekly show on A&E with Sherrod Small called Black and White, where over the course of the first eight episodes, they’ll deconstruct today’s headlines through the prism of race relations. Finnegan and Small cracked wise about less serious matters for years as part of VH1’s Best Week Ever. Christian talks to me about finding his way into stand-up comedy, how Jim Gaffigan provided him with an early break — Finnegan serves as a consultant and frequently guest stars on Gaffigan’s TV land series. Perhaps Christian’s earliest big break came by appearing on Chappelle’s Show, and we also talk about how sometimes the career path we were looking for was right in front of us the whole time. So let’s get to it!
The annual Del Close Marathon brings the founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade together along with thousands of performers from around the world, celebrating their late improv guru Del Close by improvising comedy shows around the clock for a three-day-and-night weekend. In its 18th year, the UCB4 – Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh – opened the proceedings with a legitimate press conference, which allowed me to ask questions not only of them, but also to founding member and Saturday Night Live alum Horatio Sanz, plus actor John Gemberling, TV marathoner and Snapchat wizard Gil Ozeri, and Thank You Del documentary filmmakers Todd Bieber and Julie Gomez. So let’s get to it!
Here’s what I know about Yannis Pappas. He’s a native New Yorker. He’s gotten shot. He’s a sneakerhead. He’s Greek. In fact, so Greek he has performed in character as Mr. Panos, which is not to be confused with when he performs as a Puerto Rican transsexual named Maurica (More-eeesa). Pappas moved to Miami to help launch the Fusion cable network as co-anchor of the TV station’s live primetime news program, then moved back to NYC year later, where he has hosted the AOL original series, 2 Point Lead. He filmed a half-hour for Comedy Central in 2014, and his first stand-up comedy CD, Let Me Be Yannis, is out now. Who is Yannis, though, and how much of Mr. Panos and Maurica is still inside of him? I tried to find out. So let’s get to it!
Robert Kelly plays the Heathens drummer Bam Bam on Denis Leary’s FX series, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, which begins its second season this summer, and popularized the double-meal deal, Bang Bang, playing Louis CK’s brother Bobby on the award-winning FX series, Louie. He hilariously chastised me for combining the two things, Bam Bam! Bang Bang!! More importantly, though, Bobby caught me up on how he got clean and sober 30 years ago as a teenager living just north of Boston, emerging as a love of art, women and comedy. He tells of how he formed an improv group that auditioned and welcomed a young Dane Cook, culminating in their historically hysterically bad gig at Boston Garden, how Bobby started over again in stand-up, and rooming with Bill Burr when he moved to New York City. Robert Kelly only recently found his own true comedy voice, and has doubled-down on it – not only selling his 2014 stand-up concert film on his own site and terms, but also founding his own podcast network, Riotcast. You Know What Dude? Bam Bam. Bang Bang. Either way, Robert Kelly is always up for a great chat. So let’s get to it!
Welcome to our 100th episode together of The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First. This isn’t like the other episodes, and not just because it’s our 100th episode – I mean, is any sit-down with Doug Stanhope normal, exactly? Even though Stanhope and I haven’t sat down together in more than five years, he called me out the second he saw me across the room at the end of his own podcast at the inaugural Skankfest in Long Island City. “He’s going to ask me questions,” Stanhope announced to the crowd. “And I’m going to dodge all of them.” And yet. Stanhope graciously sat down with me between drinks on the back patio of The Creek and The Cave and answered more than a few – the others, he simply yelled, “It’s in the book!” That book is “Digging Up Mother: A Love Story,” out now, with a foreward from his famous friend, Johnny Depp. Depp wasn’t around this past weekend, but Stanhope did dig up Rich Vos for a fun cameo that really puts me in my place. We're going to Keep It 100...So let’s get to it!
Gary Gulman is the tallest funniest Jew I know, and I’ve known him personally since 2004, when he competed on seasons two and three of NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Gulman went to Boston College on a football scholarship but found his end zone in stand-up comedy a few months after graduation. He has recorded three comedy albums and three hour-specials for TV consumption – his latest, the brilliant “It’s About Time,” debuted this spring on Netflix. It’s about time I sat down with Gary and shared more of his life story with you. So let’s get to it!
Jay Oakerson’s first TV credit was on BET. Big Jay started stand-up comedy in all-black rooms in Philadelphia, and now he’s playing to everyone while often relying on his sharp wit to riff with the crowds in the moment. He hosts an all-crowd-work series “Big Jay Oakerson’s What’s Your F@#king Deal,” on the NBC digital comedy platform SeeSo, and his previous credits include multiple stories on Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, and appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Comedy Underground with Dave Attell. Big Jay currently co-hosts “The Bonfire” on SiriusXM satellite radio every Monday and Wednesday with fellow comedian Dan Soder, and also co-hosts the Legion of Skanks podcast with friends Luis J. Gomez and Dave Smith. They’re throwing their first anti-comedy festival, Skankfest, this June in Long Island City, NY – and Big Jay Oakerson’s first hourlong TV special, Live at Webster Hall, is premiering on Comedy Central. So let’s get to it!
Matt Balaker is writing a book about Greg Giraldo; scratch that, he’s writing THE book on Greg Giraldo, as there hasn’t been a proper biography about the outrageously witty stand-up comedian since he died in 2010 at the age of only 44. Balaker, a comedian himself, has interviewed more than 25 people close to Giraldo – from his former managers, friends, comedians, and his widowed ex-wife – and successfully received Kickstarter funding to finish the Greg Giraldo Book, along with a co-author Wayne Jones. Balaker sat down with me to explain how he got involved in this project, what he’s learned along the way, and asked me to share my own thoughts on Giraldo. So let’s get to it!
Kevin Bartini is a stand-up comedian and writer who audiences see first when they attend tapings of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central. Bartini also has warmed up TV audiences for The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and sometimes now The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He also hosts The Movie Preview Review podcast (part of the ShowBriz Studios network), and spearheaded the years-long effort to successfully rename the New York City block George Carlin grew up on as George Carlin Way. Bartini is in a new Off-Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream timed to help us ring in the summer of 2016. So let’s get to it!
At 83, Dick Gregory remains an active comedy legend, logging more than 200 stand-up gigs a year. Gregory changed the game in 1961 when he performed at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Chicago, and the notoriety of becoming the first black comedian to play to white crowds led him soon thereafter to become the first black performer to sit on the couch with Jack Paar when he was host of The Tonight Show on NBC. His 1963 autobiography was a best-seller, and in 1968, he received the fifth-most votes for President of the United States as a write-in candidate. He has remained politically active and topical to this day. Dick Gregory sat down with me in the green room at Carolines on Broadway before going onstage, and told me not only about how racism impacted his life and career decisions before comedy, but also how Hefner changed his life, and finally, his thoughts on the passing of Muhammad Ali and the prosecution and persecution of Bill Cosby. Yes, Dick Gregory went there. He’s as thought-provoking as ever. So let's get to it!