Jason Zinoman is the comedy critic for The New York Times, and has written a new book about David Letterman which will come out April 2017. But first, Zinoman joined me once again to close the book on 2016. Who was the Most Valuable Performer in comedy in 2016? Who were the stand-out stand-ups? We discuss the year's work by Amy Schumer, Kate McKinnon, Jeff Ross, Maria Bamford, Tig Notaro, Donald Glover, Reggie Watts, Chris Rock and Louis CK, plus stars on the rise such as Rory Scovel, Kate Berlant, and John Early. And Zinoman also challenged me to define whether our current comedy boom is still booming, or whether the bubble is ready to bust. So let's get to it!
Nina Conti is the only child of actors – her father, Tom, is a Tony Award winner and Oscar nominee. As for Nina, she began her career as an actress at the Royal Shakespeare Company before her mentor Ken Campbell convinced her to become a ventriloquist. Nina won the BBC New Comedy Award in 2002, best show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2008, and has performed in many British TV shows since, as well as the HBO comedy series, Family Tree, with Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Chris O’Dowd. She’s made two documentaries, “Clowning Around” where she trained as a clown performing in a children’s hospital, and “Her Master’s Voice” where she took her mentor’s puppets to the official Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky. She spoke to me about vocal and theatrical acrobatics, which she puts on full display with great charm in her new improvised show, In Your Face, at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York City for a limited time only. So let’s get to it!
There’s only one Sinbad the Sailor in fictional lore, and only one Sinbad worth knowing about in the funny business. There really is nobody quite like him, and we’ve seen it since he broke through in a big way on Star Search in the 1980s, through his role on the NBC Cosby spin-off sitcom, A Different World, through hosting It’s Showtime at the Apollo, through four separate HBO specials in the 1990s, and even through a short-lived reality series on WE TV and even a round with Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice more recently. He seems to be winging it up there onstage, but always crushing. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say he’s been jingling all the way. Sinbad sat down with me between shows at Carolines on Broadway to keep it 100 and then some. What does he have to say about Cosby, Trump, Redd Foxx and more? So let’s get to it!
Kevin McDonald is one of the original founders of The Kids in the Hall, the legendary sketch comedy troupe that started in Toronto, then became internationally famous over five seasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s thanks to HBO and later CBS. McDonald’s recurring characters included The King of Empty Promises, and Sir Simon Milligan, the host of the horror-themed TV show, The Pit of Ultimate Darkness. McDonald has guest-starred in many actual TV shows over the past two decades, reunited with Kids in the Hall for multiple tours (most recently in 2014), toured as a duo act with Scott Thompson, and gone solo as a stand-up, sketch comedy teacher and all-star guest improviser. He now has his very own podcast, a variety show called fittingly enough, Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald Show. So let’s get to it!
Jessica Kirson has a captivating stage presence that bowls you over with laughter, whether you’re a schmuck in the front row or one of the so-called celebrities on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. Kirson has a featured role onscreen and behind the scenes in the new Robert DeNiro movie about an aging insult comic called, The Comedian. She has also appeared on The Tonight Show, Last Comic Standing, The View, and Comedy Central, and guest starred this fall on the new CBS sitcom, Kevin Can Wait. I can’t wait to hear more about Kirson’s past, so let’s get to it!
Kirson also just launched a new podcast with her friend Frank Liotti, all about food addiction, called Fat Pig.
One of the all-time greatest cast members of Saturday Night Live, Dana Carvey found his comedy greatness early, winning the San Francisco Comedy Competition when he was 22, then co-starring in a sitcom with Mickey Rooney and a young Nathan Lane, and a bit part in This Is Spinal Tap. Carvey joined SNL at the age of 31 and revolutionized the show’s impersonations by becoming President George H.W. Bush. Carvey also chopped broccoli, pumped you up with Hans and Franz, played Wayne’s sidekick Garth in Wayne’s World, and was and still is the Church Lady. Isn’t That Special? Yes. Yes, it is. Carvey came back in 2016 in a big way, presiding over a comedy game show on USA called First Impressions and releasing a new Netflix special, Straight White Male, 60.
It’s my pleasure to catch up with him, so let’s get to it!
Yousef Erakat has upward of 10 million YouTube subscribers for FouseyTube and won the 2016 Entertainer of the Year honors at the Streamy Awards, and yet he said during his acceptance speech at the Streamys that he might also be the most hated personality on YouTube. And still, he reads the comments. Yousef sat down with me to talk about how he went from theater classes to vlogging to prank videos and now to movie theaters. He appeared onscreen in 2016 in Tyler Perry’s Boo: A Medea Halloween, and stars in the new YouTube Red romantic comedy, We Love You. It’s out Nov. 22. So let’s get to it!
Dan Levy started comedy at the age of 9 and was competing at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen while still a college student at Emerson College. Levy has toured with Aziz Ansari, John Mulaney and Whitney Cummings, and his 2012 album for Comedy Central, “Congrats on Your Success” debuted at #1 on iTunes. He co-starred on HBO’s Enlightened, and has hosted two shows in the past year, the stage show “Baby Talk” for JASH and the stand-up showcase show “Coming to the Stage” for Hulu. He’s currently a writer for ABC’s hit sitcom, The Goldbergs, and his first hour comedy special, Lion, premieres in November 2016 on Seeso. So let’s get to it!
Before we ever heard about Trevor Noah in America, Loyiso Gola was the star of his own TV satire in South Africa, Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola. He appeared in a PBS documentary in 2014 hosted by The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj called Stand Up Planet, and now in 2016, Gola is ready for his global close-up. His first stand-up special, Live in New York, is the first solo comedy special presented by Vimeo, and Gola sat down with me just after the New York Comedy Festival to talk about his journey and how to create your own comedy scene no matter where you are in the world. So let’s get to it!
Rory Albanese joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart shortly after graduating from college in 1999, and rose from the ranks to become executive producer by the time he left in 2013, and was the showrunner for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, also on Comedy Central, where you also started to see him more in front of the camera as a contributor and panelist. He released his first half-hour stand-up special in 2010. So what’s next for Albanese? I asked him, so let’s get to it!
Nicole Byer first captured the comedy world’s attention as part of the improv group, Doppelganger, which also featured future Saturday Night Live player Sasheer Zamata. Byer co-starred in a late-night sketch show on FOX produced by The Lonely Island called Party Over Here. She’s also appeared on Lady Dynamite, Transparent, 30 Rock and the movie, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Nicole’s relationship with MTV began with appearances in webseries, then on TV with Girl Code and Ladylike, and now her own starring series based on her life, Loosely Exactly Nicole. She caught up with me before her first-season finale, so let’s get to it!
Norman Lear is a television legend. Writer, producer and creator of all-time classic sitcoms of the 1970s – including All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude. Lear made satire tackling race, class, and gender inequalities and things that matter to people, at a time when nobody else on TV dared to do so. At one point, he had five of the top nine TV shows in America. Lear left TV to found the progressive organization, People For the American Way, and later purchased the actual Declaration of Independence so Americans of all ages could still see it. Now 94, a new documentary about him from American Masters, “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and it’ll make its broadcast debut Oct. 25, 2016, on PBS.
So let's get to it!
You first saw Joe Rogan on the classic NBC sitcom NewsRadio, then later as host of the competition show Fear Factor. Now not only can you see him commentating on UFC fights, but also hear and see him on his hit podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. His latest stand-up special, Triggered, is exclusively out now on Netflix.
Rogan recounts the key moments in his career, from making the leap of teaching taekwondo to stand-up comedy in Boston in the late 1980s, to surviving his first failed sitcom experience in Los Angeles, lessons learned from an infamous takedown of Carlos Mencia and sticking up for the underdogs, to building his own electronic independence via message boards and podcasts. So let's get to it!
Miranda Sings has been telling Haters to back off since she first uploaded a hilariously bad cover of Aretha Franklin’s Respect in late 2007. Since then, she has accumulated more than 7 million YouTube subscribers and one billion views of her videos – more than 5.1 million Instagram followers, 3.67 million Twitter followers and 2 million Facebook fans – and just launched an eight-episode series called Haters Back Off! On Netflix. She’s the brainchild alter-ego of singer Colleen Ballinger, who has millions of fans and followers for her real-life pages, too. She developed her funny new Netflix series alongside her brother, Chris, and it co-stars Angela Kinsey and Steve Little as Miranda’s mother and uncle, who are blindly devoted to helping the homeschooled Miranda achieve her dreams of stardom. How did Colleen Ballinger pull this all off? She tells me her true story of talent, hard work and determination, so let’s get to it!
Derek Waters is the co-creator and star of Drunk History, which has won both an Emmy and a Sundance Film Festival award and is now in its fourth season on Comedy Central after appearing on Funny or Die and HBO. A fifth season is forthcoming. But Drunk History wasn’t even the first successful webseries from Waters; he previously collaborated with Bob Odenkirk and The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg on “Derek and Simon,” which actually was an HBO pilot before it became a webseries. And before that, Waters co-starred on a network TV sitcom for ABC (“Married to the Kellys”). If that history sounds confusing sober, just wait until you try to retell it drunk. Or just ask Derek Waters yourself. Like I did. So let’s get to it!
Cue the bugle sounds and put your puns where we can see them, because Andy Zaltzman is my guest today. Zaltzmanis a critically-acclaimed comedian in the UK where he has been performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 1999 and collaborating with John Oliver since 2001 — they created the hugely popular podcast, The Bugle, in 2007, only stopping earlier in 2016 when it became acutely apparent that Oliver’s Emmy-winning work on HBO’s Last Week Tonight had made him too busy to continue working with Zaltzman. Zaltzman is relaunching The Bugle on Oct. 21, 2016, with a rotating lineup of all-star guest cohosts featuring comedians from around the globe. He also has brought his interactive political comedy show, Satirist For Hire, to the United States for the first time — he’ll be taking requests in advance from audience members via email and performing unique satire for audiences across North America in the month leading up to the 2016 elections. Zaltzman sat down with me after his New York City tour stop to talk satire, crickets, puns and more. So let’s get to it!
Today’s guest, Tony Hendra, began his career at Cambridge University with the famed Footlights as the comedy partner of Graham Chapman, and starred in the annual revue with Chapman and John Cleese. He came to the United States as a duo act with Nick Ullett, appearing multiple times on The Ed Sullivan Show and Merv Griffin, before splitting up and taking a job as the first editor hired by the founders of National Lampoon. While there, he made the Lampoon’s first album, Radio Dinner, with Michael O’Donoghue, and followed that up by giving John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest their first starring roles in the Lampoon’s off-Broadway hit, Lemmings. Hendra appeared in This Is Spinal Tap, playing the band’s manager, co-created and co-produced the British TV satire, Spitting Image, and served as Editor-in-Chief of Spy Magazine from 1993-1994. He has written four books, including the posthumous memoir of George Carlin, “Last Words,” and for the past several years has led a new satirical operation called The Final Edition. He’s just put out a new comedy album with the Lampoon, “Are There Any Triggers Here Tonight?” There’s a lot of great comedy history and stories to get to, so let’s get to it!
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!