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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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The Comic's Comic Presents Last Things First
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Now displaying: Page 1
May 6, 2024

Zoë Coombs Marr is an Australian comedian who won Best Newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2012, then returned four years later to win Best Show in Melbourne and receive a Best Show nomination in Edinburgh in 2016 for Trigger Warning, which she performed in drag character as a misogynistic male comedian named Dave. Coombs Marr brought Dave out of his “coma” in 2023 to comment obliviously on everything he’d missed during #MeToo and “cancel culture.” The show she did in between those efforts, Bossy Bottom, was released as an Amazon Original on Prime Video in the spring of 2020, just in time for pandemic lockdown viewing. Now she’s back with a new show that promises to talk about “Every Single Thing In My Whole Entire Life” and she sat down with me over Zoom to talk about how her early efforts, both comedic and dramatic in Sydney, coalesced into a stand-up career, the importance of creating “Dave,” and how her stunt marriage to comedian Rhys Nicholson may have inadvertently prompted Hannah Gadsby to begin writing her game-changing show, Nanette.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

May 1, 2024

Janine Harouni is a Staten Island native who began her stand-up comedy career in earnest only after moving to London, England, in 2012. Harouni experienced her first viral success as one-third of a sketch group called Muriel whose YouTube fame prompted deals with both the BBC and Quibi, and she’s also appeared onscreen in a recurring role on ITV’s Buffering and a much more supporting role on the big screen in The Batman. Her first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Stand Up With Janine Harouni (Please Remain Seated) directed by the late Adam Brace, earned her a Best Newcomer nomination in 2019. She returned four years later with a more personal and provoking hour about her impending motherhood, Man’oushe, which earned her a Best Show nomination from the Fringe in 2023. Harouni has taken Man’oushe back home to the States for its first big American tour, and sat down with me between shows to talk about her life, career, family, and what she has learned along the way.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Apr 23, 2024

Dave Merheje is an award-winning Canadian stand-up comedian and actor who co-starred in the Hulu series, Ramy, and recently co-starred on the big screen opposite Daisy Ridley in the film, Sometimes I Think About Dying, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and is available now to buy or stream. As a stand-up, Dave won the Just For Laughs 2011 Homegrown Comic competition, made it to the finals of the 2013 Seattle International Comedy Competition, and won the Juno Award for Comedy Album of the Year in 2019 for his special, Good Friend Bad Grammar. He also had a special included in Netflix’s Comedians of the World showcase. Dave joined me over Zoom for a wide-ranging conversation that touched upon forming friendships with other comedians in a competitive industry, which not only helped him land a role on Gerry Dee’s Mr. D but also Ramy Youssef’s Ramy, how it feels to see his friends succeed, what it means to make specials or shows just for his native Canadian audience and what it meant to include his family in his Crave special, I Love You Habibi. We also dished on some of his earliest gigs, which included a regular on-air presence on MTV and landing his first TV credit in Australia years before he ever ventured Down Under. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Apr 19, 2024

Neal Brennan’s first big claim to fame came two decades ago when he co-created, wrote and executive produced Chappelle’s Show with his friend Dave Chappelle (with whom he’d previously collaborated on Half Baked). Since then, Chappelle has become both the biggest stand-up comedian in the world and a lightning rod for criticism. Brennan, meanwhile, has released three stand-up comedy specials of his own, and directed acclaimed specials for Al Madrigal, Michelle Wolf, and Seth Meyers. Crazy Good, Brennan’s fourth special, and third for Netflix, premiered in April 2024. Before that, he sat down with me on April Fool’s Day to explain why it’s foolish for us as a society to put our faith and trust in comedians to be our sources of news and/or moral leadership.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Mar 28, 2024

Rob Haze is a comedian from Atlanta who currently makes his living in Los Angeles performing stand-up and writing for comedy shows on TV — among his credits are Sherman’s Showcase, the ESPY Awards, Kevin Hart’s year-in-review specials for Peacock, sketch comedy for Bleacher Report, stand-up on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and most recently, an appearance on the late-night CBS comedy show, After Midnight. Haze released his debut comedy album in 2019, and in March 2024, his second album, Frontin’, is also available with bonus features on video via YouTube. Haze sat down with me to talk about his path from Atlanta to New York City to LA, and what he has learned from watching his peers along the way. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Mar 14, 2024

Cara Connors grew up in Chicago but began her comedy career in Toronto, where she studied with The Second City, created and starred in original series for CBC, provided social media humor for the series Workin’ Moms, and earned herself a New Faces slot with Just For Laughs. Since moving back to the states and settling down in Los Angeles, Connors has been seen on E! in the series Dating #NoFilter and launched her own queer-friendly live comedy show, Straight For Pay. That’s also the name for her one-person show that received rave reviews from me and others at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe, and has become both her debut stand-up comedy album and special.

The album came out in 2023, the special in March 2024 via Comedy Dynamics.

Connors sat down with me over Zoom, where we talked about the process for getting onto the cast of The Groundlings, how an American comedian starts her career in Canada, finding her true voice onstage and off, her perspective on comedians like Meg Stalter while working the Edinburgh Fringe alongside her, starting over in L.A., how she almost performed on NBC’s Bring The Funny primetime comedy competition series, and the importance of hosting and producing her own live show.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Mar 8, 2024

Caitlin Peluffo is a New York City-based comedian who played soccer in college and explored a degree and career in the art world before diving into stand-up comedy. A decade later, Peluffo has performed on three different late-night shows on CBS — The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and most recently After Midnight with Taylor Tomlinson. She grew up outside of San Francisco, and went home to record her debut album, “Dirty Bird,” at the San Francisco Punch Line. On the eve of its release, Peluffo met up with me over Zoom to talk about what it was like taping her album in front of her parents and extended family, how she found a different path to success in comedy — a joke from her very first time onstage ended up in her act on Colbert — how her TV appearances have differed from each other, and what it’s like to be a “dirty bird” in comedy these days. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Feb 28, 2024

Bill O'Neill is an actor and clown from Los Angeles whom you may recognize most readily from his frequent appearances in commercials as a Wendy’s employee. But O’Neill’s career goes back to his early teen years, when he scored a major speaking role in the 2008 film, Drillbit Taylor. A member of L.A.’s burgeoning clown community, he co-starred with his fellow clowns in the 2019 late-night FX series, Two Pink Doors. Last year, one of those clowns, Natalie Palamides, helped direct O’Neill’s latest project, The Amazing Banana Brothers, which took the Edinburgh Fringe by storm and earned him a nomination for Best Newcomer of 2023. O’Neill spoke to me over Zoom as he prepared to take the show to New York City for a limited off-Broadway run in March 2024. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Feb 21, 2024

Zach Zucker is a clown-based comedian and actor who splits his time between Los Angeles and London, where he has become known as the ringmaster for Stamptown, a variety show and production company he created that has helped develop and bring other shows from the United States, the U.K. and Europe to the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond. He also teaches clown workshops around Los Angeles. Born in New York and raised in Chicago, Zucker talked to me about his own path, which began with classes at Second City while still in high school, then moving to LA at 18, where he parlayed an internship at the UCB Theatre into an internship for Sacha Baron Cohen. But it was his next step, spending two years studying at École Philippe Gaulier in France, that set Zucker on his current path. It’s where he met his comedy partner, Britain’s Got Talent winner Viggo Venn, which led them to the Fringe, where he created his alter-ego, New York’s greatest bad comedian, Jack Tucker. Jack Tucker is getting his first solo run off-Broadway this winter at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City, and Zucker talked me about how it’s going so far trying to introduce “Jack” to American comedy club audiences, plus he offers some advice for Americans thinking about making their way to the Edinburgh Fringe now. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Feb 14, 2024

Jason Sáenz is a comedian who grew up in Virginia, began performing improv in D.C., and became a fixture in New York City’s comedy scene — where he wrote for a house sketch team at the Upright Citizens Brigade, performed stand-up, and went viral for his “Saenz Signs” —  which eventually got him New Faces at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival, and a ticket to Los Angeles to work on the MTV show, Ridiculousness. But that was just the tip of the ridiculous iceberg for Saenz, who got a job handling the personal social media accounts of Steve Harvey, met a young woman, fell in love, and then fell through a skylight on the roof of his apartment building, leaving him a paraplegic. As they used to say in the intro to MTV’s The Real World: True story! And true to his story, Jason is now ready to talk about all of it. Both onstage, where his new show “The Wheel World” enjoyed two sold-out performances at the Lyric Hyperion in January 2024, and right here on my podcast. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Feb 7, 2024

Chris Grace is an actor who grew up in Texas, went to school in North Carolina and started his comedy career in earnest in New York City through The People’s Improv Theater. Grace has appeared on TV in many shows, including This Is Us, Broad City, and he enjoyed a recurring role as Jerry on NBC’s Superstore. He starred as Christian Gray in the off-Broadway touring production of 50 Shades! The Musical: The Original Parody, and is a longtime cast member of heralded musical improv troupe Baby Wants Candy. Grace has joined Baby Wants Candy and its offshoot Shamilton at the Edinburgh Fringe for the past decade, and last year wrote and starred in his own one-man hit show, Chris Grace: As Scarlett Johansson. Grace joined me over Zoom to talk about his comedic superpowers, why he chose The PIT over UCB, how it’s possible to perform six shows in one day and not lose your mind, why AI might actually help make live comedy more valued, and what comes next for Grace as a stand-up comedian and an actor. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Jan 17, 2024

Renee Gauthier is a stand-up comedian, writer, and producer based in Los Angeles who came out of her hometown Chicago comedy scene in the early 2000s. Her first big break came when NBC cast her to play Victoria Beckham’s personal assistant in the reality series-turned-special, 2007’s Victoria Beckham: Coming To America. Gauthier has performed stand-up on Last Call with Carson Daly as well as Stand-Up In Stillettos, competed on Last Comic Standing and worked the panel on Chelsea Lately. As a writer/producer, she has worked on Ridiculousness, RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Funny Dance Show, Lip Sync Battle, The Masked Singer, and wrote the presenter banter for the 2024 Golden Globes. She also recently released her first full-length stand-up special, High Blood Italian, in 2023 via Four by Three. Renee sat down with me over Zoom to talk about her early experiences dealing with the show business industry, getting to have a hand in iconic performances such as Tom Holland’s choreographed lip-sync to “Singing In The Rain” and “Umbrella,“ and what it looked and felt like behind the scenes during the 2024 Golden Globes. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Jan 10, 2024

Filmmaker Kristian Mercado has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Billie Eilish and Bad Bunny. Since 2020, Mercado also has become one of the biggest names comedians turn to to shoot their stand-up comedy specials — starting with Hannibal Buress: Miami Nights, and going on to direct Sam Jay: 3 In The Morning, London Hughes: To Catch A Dick, Ilana Glazer Presents Comedy on Earth, Phoebe Robinson: Sorry, Harriet Tubman, Aida Rodriguez: Fighting Words, Michael Che: Shame the Devil, Taylor Tomlinson: Look at You, as well as Tomlinson’s forthcoming special which he filmed for her in 2023 that’ll debut in February 2024. Mercado just celebrated his feature film directorial debut with If You Were the Last, which premiered at South by South West and got picked up for distribution by Peacock. It stars Zoe Chao and Anthony Mackie as astronauts stranded in outer space with nowhere to go and nothing to do, and yet they’re both married to someone else. Now what? Rom-com ensues. Kris and I spoke about this movie, his early start in music videos, making comedy specials special, and how he might approach one of his next projects, a biopic of Cheech and Chong. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Dec 28, 2023

New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman has joined me every year since 2015 for our own traditional December To Remember the year in comedy. On the one hand, I try to pin Zinoman down on who we might vote for if comedy, like sports, awarded an MVP for the Most Valuable Performer.  But we always also get into the meaty issues, themes and headlined the year. So what made 2023 special for comedy? And which comedians did the most this year? There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Nov 28, 2023

Jen D’Angelo is a comedian, actress and screenwriter in Los Angeles. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she graduated from Northwestern before heading to LA and joining the UCB system as a writer and performer. Her stand-up credits include appearances on @midinght, Last Call with Carson Daly, and Adam Devine’s House Party. D’Angelo also worked with Devine as a performer, writer, story editor and producer on Workaholics — she has similarly pulled double duty in front of and behind the camera on Cougar Town and Young Rock. Since the start of the pandemic, D’Angelo has really come into her own as a feature film screenwriter, scripting Hocus Pocus 2 for Disney+, Totally Killer for Amazon Prime Video, and Quiz Lady for Hulu. And during the Writers Guild strike of 2023, D’Angelo often went viral on social media for deconstructing the disparities in show business today. She sat down with me over Zoom to talk about how she got where she is and where comedy writers and comedy films might go from here. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Sep 11, 2023

Chris Turner is a stand-up comedian and freestyle rapper from England who made his debut as a solo artist at the Edinburgh Fringe with 2014’s Pretty Fly, which won the Amused Moose People’s Choice award. Turner made his New York City debut five years later with 2019’s White Boy — later that year, he uploaded a 6-minute clip of himself improvising a live rap based on audience suggestions at The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, Calif. That video, “White Boy drops unbelievable freestyle rap,” has earned him almost 18 million views. Now based in NYC, he’s a regular at The Comedy Cellar. In 2021, he performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and received a standing ovation. That, in turn, helped earn him a gig in Las Vegas as a resident member of the new Cirque Du Soleil production, Mad Apple, at New York-New York Hotel and Casino. And that’s part of the story that informed Turner’s 2023 Edinburgh Fringe show, Vegas, Baby!. Turner sat down with me during the Fringe in Edinburgh to talk about his beginnings in the UK, his move to America, and everything in between. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Aug 29, 2023

Actress and comedian Sasheer Zamata may be most familiar to comedy fans from her four years on Saturday Night Live, but she has kept busy on-screen since then, too — co-starring for two seasons on Hulu’s WOKE, and for the past three seasons on ABC’s Home Economics. She’s also due to co-star alongside Kathryn Hahn in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe series, Agatha: Coven of Chaos, for Disney+. Sasheer sat down with me earlier this summer before the actors went on strike, talking about her early days and nights improvising with Nicole Byer, working for Disney as a mascot in college, how her SNL time prepared her for what has come next, including her decision to release her second stand-up comedy special, The First Woman, with 800 Pound Gorilla Media and YouTube.

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 24, 2023

Courtney Pauroso is an LA-based actor, writer and comedian, who traveled the world and the United States as the child of a military family. She co-wrote and appeared in Two Pink Doors, a series of 5-minute shorts for FX, directed by Dr Brown, and has appeared onscreen in projects such as Jackass Forever, Reno 911, Key & Peele, and 2 Broke Girls. She’s also a former member of the Groundlings Sunday Company and Washington D.C.’s Synetic Theater. After bringing her clown show, Gutterplum, to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 for a sold-out run, she returned in 2023 with something even more ambitious, Vanessa 5000, a show about a sex robot gone rogue. Courtney sat down with me between shows 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!

Aug 10, 2023

Jared Freid is a stand-up comedian based in New York City whom you’ve most likely heard on one of his two highly popular podcasts — U Up?, a dating and relationship series he co-hosts with Jordan Abraham of Betches; and The JTrain Podcast, where he welcomes fellow comedians to help him answer questions and give advice to listeners on all sorts of topics. Since appearing as a New Face at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival in 2017, Jared has performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, hosted shows on both Snapchat and Spotify, released a stand-up album in 2019, as well as a half-hour stand-up special on his own YouTube page in 2021. His debut Netflix special, 37 & Single, premieres in August 2023. But first, he spoke with me over Zoom about how he carved his own path in comedy through writing columns, what it’s like hosting live-streaming shows from The Comedy Cellar, and how he’s already living his comedy dreams. 

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 3, 2023

Martin Urbano is a comedian who grew up in southern Texas on the border with Mexico, but he’s based now in New York City, where he has found much of his success since being named a New Face for Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival in 2017. That includes performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The CW’s annual Howie Mandel Gala, and Will Smith’s comedy showcase for Roku, This Joka. Urbano was part of the 2019 revival of National Lampoon Radio Hour: The Podcast, and has written for both The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon as well as Danny’s House on Viceland. He also has hosted such projects as “Comedy Amateurclass” for Chris Gethard Presents, and his own brands of game shows, “Who Wants $2.69?” and “Why Would You Ask Me That?” He also played a featured role in This Fool on Hulu as the other Julio. His latest gambit is an “Apology Comeback Tour,” where he somehow manages to cancel and redeem himself onstage within the same hour of jokes. He’s taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2023, but before that, he sat down with me to talk about his life and the state of comedy today.

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 28, 2023

Kiran Deol is a comedian and actress whose show business career began auspiciously enough when she followed up her college thesis with a documentary short, Woman Rebel, that was shortlisted for the Academy Awards. As an actress, she co-starred in the 2019 NBC sitcom, Sunnyside, and before that, chalked up numerous guest-starring roles on shows such as Modern Family, The Mindy Project, How to Get Away With Murder, New Girl, The Newsroom, Weeds, and Grey’s Anatomy. As a comedian, she co-hosts a weekly show Thursdays in Los Angeles called Peacock, and has performed on Gotham Comedy Live and Hulu’s Coming to the Stage. She’s also a regular on the podcasts Lovett or Leave It and Hysteria. She joined me to talk about her latest project, a one-person show called Joysuck that follows the aftermath when a stranger tried to suck the joy out of her life by smashing her face with a bottle. Deol is taking Joysuck to the Edinburgh Fringe, but first she’s talking to me about it, as well as why Hollywood has sucked the joy out of being a working writer or actor enough for both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA to go on strike.

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, 2023

As president and chief distribution officer of Hartbeat Productions, Jeff Clanagan runs Kevin Hart’s LOL! Network — which includes radio programs and podcasts on SiriusXM, as well as short-form content, TV shows and movies with partners such as Peacock, Roku, Tubi, and PlutoTV. He’s also a producer on projects such as Die Hart, Hart to Heart, Olympic Highlights, So Dumb It's Criminal, and tours such as Nick Cannon’s Wild ’N Out Tour and Kevin Hart’s most recent Reality Check tour. Clanagan was previously CEO of Codeblack Films and Codeblack Digital, which is where he first began working with Hart as he transitioned from Comedy Central specials to concert films Laugh At My Pain and Let Me Explain, the latter of which earned more than $32 million at the box office. He sat down with me following Hartbeat Weekend in Las Vegas, where they hosted live recordings of Laugh Out Loud Radio shows and filmed tapings for the revival of BET’s ComicView stand-up showcase series.

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 13, 2023

Christina Catherine Martinez is a writer, actor, art critic, comedian and Los Angeles native who was named in 2020 to Vulture’s Comedian You Should Know as well as TimeOutLA’s Comic to Watch lists. Martinez has performed on FXX’s late-night showcase, Cake, and has written for Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show. She is the creator and host of the live comedy talk show Aesthetical Relations. Martinez sat down with me to talk about how she got involved in LA’s burgeoning clown community, and how she separates her outer selves, the art critic from the comedian, and the comedian from the clown.

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 3, 2023

Sophie Zucker was the youngest writer on staff at The Daily Show when she started in 2023, only to find herself and all of her colleagues out of work this summer due to the ongoing Writers Guild strike. Zucker got her comedy start in New York’s Brooklyn scene, forming a sketch collective called Ladies Who Ranch. She picked up her first gig onscreen in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and followed that up with parts in The Other Two and the film Late Night. But she really broke through as both an actress and writer playing Abby on Apple TV’s Dickinson. Zucker spoke with me about her climb up the comedy ladder, how she and her colleagues felt at the beginning of the strike and what she might hope to see at The Daily Show when she returns, as well as her preparations to take her one-woman show, Sophie Sucks Face, to the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe.

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, 2023

Morgan Jay is a first-generation American, the son of an Italian man who was a famous pop star in Argentina before Morgan was born. Morgan got his start in comedy upon arriving at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and eventually dropped the normal set-ups and punchlines for a guitar, crowd work and improvised songs. He has built up a following of about 1 million on TikTok, and he released his newest special, Live At The Village, at the end of May 2023. Jay spoke to me about overcoming the stigma against musical comedians as well as becoming popular on TikTok, what it’s like to receive a DM from Nick Cannon while you’re performing in Scotland, and his experiences performing on TV shows such as NBC’s Bring The Funny and MTV’s Wild n’ Out. 

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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