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The Comic's Comic Presents Last Things First

Last Things First asks comedians and funny performers about the historic lasts and firsts in their lives as their comedy careers have blossomed.
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Dec 26, 2022

It’s the end of 2022, which means it’s time once again for my annual year-end check-in with Jason Zinoman, critic at-large for The New York Times. Jason and I talk about the top trends we saw in comedy this year, the best up-and-comers in stand-up, the craziest ways comedy intersected with politics. And after all that, could we determine a Most Valuable Performer for the year? It’s our Comedy MVPs of 2022 episode. 

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Dec 19, 2022

Mike Bridenstine is based in Los Angeles, was raised in Iowa, but it was his time in between in Chicago that helped form him and his friendships as a comedian. Bridenstine has written a book about the rise of the alt-comedy scene in Chicago in the early 2000s, which included his role in starting up a stand-up and video collective called Blerds — among them: Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Kinane, T.J. Miller, and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Since going Hollywood, Bridenstine’s credits have included multiple national TV ad campaigns, Adam DeVine’s House Party and The Eric Andre Show. He has just released his second stand-up comedy album, “Hustle,” and sat down with me to talk about his career and how pivoting his podcast during the pandemic helped get him back into the game.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Dec 12, 2022

Kenice Mobley is a comedian from North Carolina, now based in Brooklyn, NY, whose star has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. Mobley landed on Vulture’s Comedians You Should and WiIll Know list in 2021, made her late-night debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and performed at the Netflix Is A Joke Festival in 2022 as part of the “Introducing…” showcase. She also launched an Instagram Live and podcast called Make Yourself Cry. Now she’s more fully introducing herself to the world with her debut comedy album, Follow Up Question, out now via Blonde Medicine. Mobley joined me over Zoom to talk about how she pivoted from studying psychology to performing comedy, her work with a nonprofit seeing how comedy can change hearts and minds on critical issues, and what has made her cry along the way.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Dec 5, 2022

Billy Wayne Davis is a comedian who has performed on Conan, Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central, lent his voice and producing skills to SquidBillies, hosted a travel doc for CMT, Morgan Spurlock Presents Freedom! The Movie , opened for Sturgill Simpson, and worked with Sacha Baron Cohen on both Who is America? and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Davis has just released his second stand-up comedy festival, Testify, which premiered exclusively on the Moment platform in November 2022. He sat down with me to talk about taking risks in comedy, his previous experiences in and around Seattle, fatherhood and his new special.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Nov 28, 2022

Jeff Dunham is undoubtedly the most successful ventriloquist comedian of our lifetime. The 60-year-old from Dallas made his first appearance on The Tonight Show back in 1990, competed in disguise as “Pi-Rat” this fall on The Masked Singer, and in between, he has released 10 comedy specials. Six on Comedy Central starting in 2006, followed by a primetime NBC special, two Netflix specials, then back to Comedy Central during the pandemic, where he debuted a “Completely Unrehearsed Last-Minute Pandemic Holiday Special” for the Friday after Thanksgiving 2020. His 11th special, Me The People, came out this Black Friday, also exclusively on Comedy Central. Dunham sat down with me to talk about his career and the state of comedy/ventriloquism.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Nov 21, 2022

Kurt Braunohler started performing comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City in 1998, and took an experimental filmmaking improv group to the Edinburgh Fringe long before meeting Kristen Schaal — with whom Kurt would start a variety show called Hot Tub, win awards and kudos at festivals from Aspen to Australia, and eventually begin his own solo career as a stand-up comedian and actor. He has hosted a game show on IFC, hired a skywriter to puff out the letters HOW DO I LAND?, jet-skied down the Mississippi River for Comedy Central, and appeared on shows such as The Good Place, Bob’s Burgers, and movies such as The Big Sick and Barbarian. In 2022, he released his second stand-up special, Perfectly Stupid, which premiered on the Moment platform before getting wider distribution. Kurt spoke with me about that decision, as well as the other big decisions in his life and career.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Nov 14, 2022

Frankie Quiñones is a stand-up comedian and actor best known for his character work. Frankie stars as Luis on the Hulu series, This Fool, which was just picked up for a second season. He also co-starred in a web series that got bought by TBS, The Dress Up Gang, put out his own stand-up and sketch special on HBO Max, Superhomies, has begun recurring as cousin Miguel on the FX on Hulu comedy, What We Do In The Shadows, and just launched his own podcast, The Frankie Quiñones Show, presented by Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network and iHeart Radio. Frankie joined me over Zoom to talk about creating characters such as Creeper and Emo Primo, his real-life relationship with This Fool co-star Chris Estrada, and more.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Nov 7, 2022

Born in China, Jioaying Summers first came to America for college in Kentucky speaking no English, then went to Hollywood looking for stardom. Summers has found it so far already on TikTok, where she has gained more than 1.2 million followers, and has created her own stage, The Hollywood Comedy, where she and other aspiring comedians can develop their voices. Since the pandemic, Summers has released a half-hour special as part of “Comedy InvAsian 2.0,” available on Prime Video, and hosted a stand-up showcase, LMAOF, for OnlyFans. Summers will perform at the 2022 New York Comedy Festival, running her hour, “Tiger MILF,” and she spoke with me in Los Angeles ahead of that.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Oct 31, 2022

Mike Farah was the first producer hired at Funny or Die, and he has been a vital part of the upstart digital production studio since 2008, when Funny or Die was still known only as an online comedy video platform. The company has produced the critically-acclaimed Brockmire for IFC, Emmy-nominated Billy on the Street, the Peabody award-winning American Vandal for Netflix, the Emmy-nominated Sarah Silverman series I Love You, America for Hulu, and the feature films, Between Two Ferns: The Movie for Netflix, and Impractical Jokers: The Movie for Warner Bros. In the fall of 2022, they’ll present Pickled, a celebrity pickleball tournament hosted by Stephen Colbert for CBS and Paramount+, as well as WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story, a feature film biopic spoof that premieres on Roku. As CEO since 2016, Farah sat down with me in his Hollywood offices to take a look back at all the twists and turns in Funny or Die’s history.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Oct 24, 2022

Tenacious D. Flight of the Conchords. The Lonely Island. We have plenty of examples of goofy guys getting together and making mirthy music. Where do the Wolves of Glendale fit in? Eric Jackowitz and Ethan Edenburg both came out of South Florida rock bands, and after performing for the Todd Glass podcast, formed a comedy band called The Cooties who were New Faces at Montreal’s Just For Laughs in 2017 and performed on Conan before fizzling out. Eric and Ethan then added Tom McGovern, a former dueling piano player from New York City who performed on the 2021 season finale of American Idol. The trio formed Wolves of Glendale, who already featured in the 2022 Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival. They met up with me before a gig at El Cid in Los Angeles to talk about where they’ve been and where they’re heading next. 

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Oct 17, 2022

Subhah Agarwal is a bicoastal writer and stand-up comedian who grew up outside of Chicago, where she first started hitting open mics while still in high school. Subhah has written for Comedy Knockout on TruTV, The Jim Jefferies Show on Comedy Central, and Arsenio Hall’s live 2022 talk show for Netflix. She made her late-night TV debut telling jokes on NBC’s A Little Late with Lilly Singh, and acted in shows such as Westworld and General Hospital. She has released her first comedy album, “Dog Show,” via Blonde Medicine, and sat with me to talk about explaining her comedy career to her immigrant parents, breaking out of the open mic scene, writing for other comedians, and finding her own voice.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Oct 3, 2022

Yvonne Orji first came to our attention as Molly, Issa's best friend on Issa Rae's HBO series, Insecure.

The Nigerian-born actress and comedian hasn't let the end of Insecure keep her down, though. Since the series wrapped at the end of 2021, Orji has put out her first book, "Bamboozled by Jesus," hosted the Yearly Departed comedy special for Amazon Prime Video, hosted the International Emmy Awards, and hosted a reality dating show for HBO Max, My Mom, Your Dad. Orji sat down with Decider to talk about her second HBO stand-up comedy special, Yvonne Orji: A Whole Me, what's changed in her life in the two years since her first special, Momma, I Made It!, how she's able to separate her work from her worth, and how casting other actresses in her special is good for everyone.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Sep 26, 2022

Forty years after his first screen credit as Modell in the Barry Levinson film, Diner, Paul Reiser is enjoying a career renaissance, co-starring in the biggest series on both Netflix and Amazon in Stranger Things and The Boys. Now in his 60s, Reiser has returned to his first love, stand-up comedy, embarking on a nationwide tour in the fall of 2022. Reiser sat down with me to talk about stand-up then and now; rebooting Mad About You and then now co-starring in a Hulu comedy about reboots, called Reboot; making passion projects that might not get seen nowadays thanks to streaming platform algorithms; making Beverly Hills Cop movies with Eddie Murphy, and how it all comes back to The Comic Strip in the end. Or doesn’t. 

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Sep 19, 2022

Liz Miele started doing stand-up at 16, got profiled by The New Yorker at 18, and earned her first TV credit on Comedy Central by 22. Miele has produced and starred in multiple web series, and written a book, “Why Cats Are Assholes” which came out in 2021. She has released four comedy albums, and the video versions of two of them have racked up millions of views apiece on YouTube. In September 2022, she released her newest special, The Ghost Of Academic Future, also on YouTube. Miele sat down with me to talk about being an early adapter of technology and taking risks as a comedian, launching her own tech startup, and adapting to how you never know what or when something might go viral thanks to ever-changing algorithms.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Sep 12, 2022

Jinkx Monsoon is a comedian and singer best known for becoming the first performer to win two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, first in season 5 in 2013, followed by the all-winner all-star edition in 2022, where she was crowned “Queen of All Queens.” She began touring annually over the holidays in 2018 with fellow Drag Race star BenDeLaCreme, and you can watch The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special on Hulu. Jinkx has released multiple albums, been the subject of two documentaries, and has appeared on TV shows such as Blue Bloods and AJ and the Queen. In 2022, Jinkx filmed her first solo comedy special for Comedy Dynamics at the Tribeca Film Festival, and is the creator, writer and star of the sketch comedy series, Sketchy Queens, debuting on WOWPresents Plus in September 2022. Jinkx joined me over Zoom to talk about the evolution of her life and career, and what comes next.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Aug 29, 2022

Michelle Ortiz was born in Los Angeles but studied all over the world, including the Moscow Art Theatre School, and classical opera in Germany. A participant in both the ABC and CBS diversity showcases, Ortiz broke through first as a cast member on the reboot of MADtv for The CW — where she impersonated the likes of Kim Kardashian, Melania Trump, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, and Dora the Explorer. Ortiz also has appeared on I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, Mom, Life in Pieces, Gentefied, and When Nature Calls with Helen Mirren. In 2022, Ortiz has a new chance to shine as Maggie in the Hulu comedy series, This Fool. Ortiz sat down with me to discuss how she found her way in the world and in comedy.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Aug 22, 2022

Alice Fraser first studied law in Sydney, Australia, but found comedy and the Footlights while getting her Master’s degree in rhetoric at Cambridge, and honed her stand-up skills in New York City’s open mics and comedy clubs before returning to Australia as a comedian. You’ve likely heard Fraser’s voice before if you’re a fan of The Bugle. She also hosts a weekly spin-off podcast, The Gargle — and in the first year of the COVID pandemic, she wrote and performed a daily satirical news podcast, The Last Post, set in an alternate dimension. She’s also co-hosted best-selling documentary audiobooks on Audible, and her 2020 stand-up special, Savage, was released as an Amazon Original on Prime Video. Fraser sat down with me between shows in her 2022 Edinburgh Fringe run of her latest hour, Chronos. We had an enjoyable and educational discussion about the harsh economics of stand-up comedy, whether you’re taking your show to the Fringe or just trying to pay the bills and support a family.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Aug 15, 2022

The creator and star of HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” Robin Thede and her crew already have enjoyed 13 Emmy nominations and one Emmy win heading into the 2022 awards ceremony, as well as 2020 honors from the TV Critics Association for outstanding sketch/variety series. Thede grew up in Iowa, studied broadcast media at Northwestern and made a brief stop at The Second City before going Hollywood. She scored supporting roles in short-lived sketch shows for Mike Epps and Affion Crockett, but much of Thede’s early success came behind the camera as a writer — for the BET Awards, Real Husbands of Hollywood and The Queen Latifah Show. Thede broke through as the first black woman to serve as head writer in late-night TV for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, then got her own late-night show, The Rundown, on BET. When that show abruptly ended, it opened the door for Thede to take her talents to HBO, where she not only has shone brightly, but also helped pave the way for success with past and present fellow castmates such as Quinta Brunson and Ashley Nicole Black. Thede sat with me to talk about all of that and more.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Aug 8, 2022

Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher grew up near each other in Atlanta but only became a sketch comedy duo while attending NYU together. As BriTANicK, they’ve made viral videos for YouTube, Cracked, CollegeHumor and Funny or Die, catapulting them onto Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch list in 2013. They’ve acted together How I Met Your Mother, Much Ado About Nothing, and the indie comedy film Balls Out; they’ve written together for Saturday Night Live, as well as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Goodwin Games. They’ve been the voices of the Cartoon Network. And now in the summer of 2022, 14 years after they first took to the comedy stages of New York City, they’re back performing live once more, taking their best sketches to the Edinburgh Fringe festival. But first, they sat with me to talk about their journey.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Aug 1, 2022

Originally from New Jersey, Anthony DeVito is a NYC-based comedian who has performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, released a half-hour special on Comedy Central, and a full special, “Brain Noise,” in May 2022 on YouTube. DeVito was a writer and sidekick of Sam Morril on MSG's People Talking Sports and Other Stuff. He followed that up by writing for Netflix’s The Break with Michelle Wolf, which also led him to writing jokes for Wolf when she delivered the keynote at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner. You may have heard him talking about his relationship with his grandmother on This American Life, but you may not yet have seen or heard his one-man show, “My Dad Isn’t Danny DeVito.” He’s taking that show to the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe festival. But first, he sat with me to discuss his life and career. 

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Jul 25, 2022

Emily Wilson is a comedian and actress based in New York City who performs stand-up, characters and funny songs. Wilson hosts a weekly comedy showcase in the East Village called Tuesdays at the Red Room. But you may have seen her before and not realized it —  Wilson competed on The X Factor in 2011, when she was only 15 — and that experience is mined for her one-woman show “FIXED,” which she is taking to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022. Before that, though, Wilson sat down with me to talk about what happened after The X Factor and how it’s formed her as a person and as a performer.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Jul 18, 2022

Lance Reddick stars as Renzo, an egotistical human warrior who has liberated the planet Farzar from evil aliens — it’s all part of the new Netflix sci-fi animated comedy series, Farzar, created by Roger Black and Waco O’Guin, whose previous animated projects include Brickleberry and Paradise PD. Black and O’Guin have been making outrageous comedy since meeting in college at the University of Georgia, and I spoke with them about their journey from Yucko The Clown on Howard Stern to animation, and with Reddick about pivoting from prestige TV to prank comedy.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Jul 11, 2022

Kylie Brakeman is an actress and comedian who broke through during the pandemic, as millions have found themselves laughing and sharing her videos where she faces the camera as one of many high-energy characters just trying to make sense of the world we live in now. From the strength of her videos on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, Brakeman has landed writing jobs on Peacock’s The Kids Tonight Show, as well as the Discovery Plus series Kicking & Streaming. Brakeman is showcasing her character live and in person at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Kylie Brakeman Presents: Linda Hollywood’s Big Hollywood Night. But first, she sat with me to talk about her life and career thus far.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Jul 4, 2022

The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Jackie Fabulous grew up in The Bronx but went to law school in Southern California before deciding in her mid-30s to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. After some initial TV credits on Arsenio and Last Comic Standing, her comedy path began to become truly fabulous after she competed on America’s Got Talent in 2019. She moved back to The Bronx just before the pandemic, and since then has performed twice on The Tonight Show, booked gigs on Showtime’s Flatbush Misdemeanors and HBO’s That Damn Michael Che, and recorded her first hour-long stand-up special, Menoplause, released in July 2022 via Comedy Dynamics. Fabulous joined me over Zoom to talk about her life and career. 

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

Jun 27, 2022

Jordy Fox Ellner is the head of film, TV and podcast development at All Things Comedy, the production company launched by comedians Bill Burr and Al Madrigal. Ellner started as a comedian himself in the late 1990s in Los Angeles, where Mitzi Shore made him a doorman and eventually a paid regular at The Comedy Store. His career transitioned in 2006 when he took over the fledgling comedy division at MySpace, and when that platform fell out of favor, he found refuge at Jokes.com and Atom.com, which eventually led him into the fold at Comedy Central, where he rose to become VP of talent and development before leaving in 2020 to join All Things Comedy.

If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

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