With the 2016 election careening toward Judgment Day, Lewis Black is back on Broadway this fall, giving voice to the grand majority of Americans and citizens worldwide perplexed at our politics and our political discussion. Black is performing “Black to the Future” Monday nights on Broadway, and heading out on the road for tour dates across the country in between, delivering his comedic rants and interacting with fans both in his live audience and livestreaming online. Black called in to ShowBriz Studios to talk about what’s happening now, and how he found his way from playwriting to stand-up comedy, through three hosts of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to now. So let’s get to it!
Gary Owen is the only white comic to host BET’s Comic View, and many years later, he’s bringing his whole family to the network in the reality series, The Gary Owen Show, debuting in October 2016. Not something you might have expected from a kid growing up in a trailer park with an abusive stepfather in southern Ohio. Gary always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, but he enlisted in the Navy straight out of high school. It was only when he was stationed in San Diego that he could use his leave hours to hit the comedy clubs there and in Los Angeles for open mics. He talks to me about all of that, how he sustained himself in the decade between getting a role in the Jamie Foxx movie Held Up and his eventual success with House of Payne and the Think Like a Man films, and how the death of his brother from a drug overdose changed Gary’s outlook on comedy. All of that, plus Gary’s decision to have his black wife and mixed-race children on camera with him in BET’s The Gary Owen Show. So let’s get to it!
Hosting duties are nothing new for Ben Gleib. He’s been doing that since he was a teenager, rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars and their children in Beverly Hills High School. Gleib’s college talk show became a national sensation thanks to The National Lampoon, eventually scoring him a TV pilot on FOX produced by Lorne Michaels. After appearing hundreds of times on panels with Chelsea Lately and The Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda, Gleib has hosted the Game Show Network’s Idiotest for the past two years. You’ve heard his voice on the big-screen in the animated hit, Ice Age: Continental Drift, as well as hosting his own podcast, Last Week On Earth. His first stand-up comedy special, Neurotic Gangster, premiered this summer on Showtime, and Gleib sat down with me during Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival to talk about his journey. So let’s get to it!
Godfrey was born in Nebraska to Nigerian parents who had fled that country’s civil war in the late 1960s.Godfrey grew up in Chicago, which is also where he started pursuing comedy – despite his pre-med psychology degree at the University of Illinois – and where he filmed his newest hour of stand-up comedy, Regular Black, for Showtime. You also may have seen Godfrey in memorable roles on the big screen in Zoolander, Soul Plane and Johnson Family Vacation, or the small screen as the 7-Up spokesman, multiple episodes of Louie, and before all of that, a Bravo reality show that followed aspiring actors that also included future Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. Godfrey talks to me about all of that, plus working with Bill Cosby, in a lively if not also distracting conversation amid the hubbub of Union Square pedestrian traffic.
So let’s get to it!
Ms. Pat’s early career sounds a little bit like the role Sally Field’s in the 1988 movie about comedy, Punchline, except only Ms. Pat grew up in a bootleg house in Atlanta, became a mother of two by the time she was 15, sold drugs, was shot twice, and arrested multiple times all before she met her future husband at 19. Her husband brought her stability. Her comedy brought her joy and a newfound purpose in life. How she made that transition, from a big break opening for Katt Williams, through her first time appearing on radio’s Bob and Tom Show, through 2015 where she appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central’s This is Not Happening. All of that, and how far Ms. Pat has come just in the six years since her first trip to Montreal as a New Face in 2010, she shares it all with me now.
Since our chat, Ms. Pat has received a put-pilot commitment from FOX to make a half-hour sitcom about her life, starring her and executive produced by Lee Daniels and Brian Grazer.
So let’s get to it!
Bert Kreischer is my special guest today, in an episode recorded in front of a live audience at the 2016 Just For Laughs festival in Montreal. He literally is the “Life of the Party.” That’s the title of his 2014 memoir — it describes how Bert's life changed as a sixth-year senior at Florida State University when Rolling Stone magazine visited and profiled him. That magazine article became the basis for the film, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, starring Ryan Reynolds as a buffer Bert. Kreischer currently hosts two different TV series for the Travel Channel: Bert the Conquerer, and Trip Flip.
Kreischer talks with me about how Oliver Stone and Will Smith served as his entry points to show business, how his first attempt in stand-up went awry before he found Barry Katz and his Boston Comedy Club, and proves himself to be as much a lover of comedy as he is of life and travel.
So let’s get to it!
Variety magazine named Cameron Esposito one of the 10 Comics to Watch in 2016, and there already has been a lot to see of Esposito this year – from her appearances on the big screen in Garry Marshall’s final film, “Mother’s Day,” to the small-screen on IFC’s Maron, performing stand-up on The Late Late Show with James Corden, and her first stand-up special, Marriage Material, on SeeSo. She’s got two other movie roles that brought her to Sundance this past winter, in “Operator” and in “First Girl I Loved.” With her wife Rhea Butcher, Esposito hosts a live comedy showcase and podcast each Tuesday at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles, Put Your Hands Together, made a webseries for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls called She Said, and will debut their first scripted series together, Take My Wife, this August on SeeSo. If that’s not enough, Esposito is writing her first book as well as developing a TV series for FX. There’s a lot more to her story, and I recalled some of it that even made news to her.
So let’s get to it!
Hari Kondabolu and I go back to the scene of his very first big break, showcasing for the 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and HBO, how that all happened, and how he managed to take a year off afterward to earn his master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Kondabolu since has enjoyed time writing and performing for late-night TV with Totally Biased, and just this summer launched a new podcast, Politically Re-Active, with his former boss, W. Kamau Bell. Kondabolu also just released his second stand-up comedy album, Mainstream American Comic, is working on a documentary about Apu from The Simpsons, and has a deal to develop his own TV series for TruTV. We talk about all of that and more, so let’s get to it!
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!