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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: 2021
Aug 2, 2021

Rob Barnett has been a radio DJ and program director, pivoted to TV as programming director for MTV and VH1 in the 1990s, pivoted back to radio to launch CBS Radio’s “Free” FM in the wake of Howard Stern’s departure, hiring Adam Carolla to replace Stern on the West Coast stations, then left to do his own damn thing online by founding My Damn Channel, where he funded original projects by Harry Shearer, David Wain and Don Was, and recruited folks such as Grace Helbig, You Suck at Photoshop, and Beth Hoyt, and funded more than 30 other original comedy series working with people such as Josh Gad, Maria Bamford, Illeana Douglas, Gilbert Gottfried and Coolio. Barnett also briefly worked with me and The Comic’s Comic. Fourteen years after launching My Damn Channel, Barnett has translated the life lessons he has learned in hiring and recruiting talent into a new line of work as a headhunter, and just published his first book on the subject, “Next Job, Best Job.” Barnett sat down with me to share stories about how radio, TV and Internet media used to work (or not work), and what he has learned about show business 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!

Jul 26, 2021

Tig Notaro has both survived and thrived in the decade since she first disclosed her breast cancer diagnosis to a live audience in Los Angeles in August of 2012. Notaro has released three stand-up specials, two on HBO and one on Netflix, in addition to a road-trip special for Showtime, while she also was the subject of a documentary for Netflix. She poured some of her life story into her own series for Amazon Prime Video, One Mississippi, and wrote a memoir, “I’m Just A Person.” She has been nominated for two Grammys and an Emmy, gotten married and became a mother to twin boys. Notaro has more recently reached new heights with a regular role on Star Trek: Discovery, replaced a disgraced comedian in post-production on the hit Netflix zombie movie, Army of the Dead, and now has turned one of her stand-up performances at Largo into an animated special for HBO called Drawn. Notaro joined me to talk about making Drawn and reflected on her career up til now, so let’s get to it!

Jul 19, 2021

Julia Scotti is a comedian who has enjoyed a career resurgence in her 60s, performing on America’s Got Talent in 2016, and in 2020 as part of the Showtime comedy showcase, More Funny Women of A Certain Age, alongside the likes of Caroline Rhea and Carol Leifer. She currently stars in a new documentary from filmmaker Susan Sandler called Julia Scotti: Funny That Way. The film examines Scotti’s transition into womanhood, which happened only after she quit a 20-year career as a male stand-up. Scotti sat down with me over Zoom to talk about why she quit, what it felt like to come back to comedy 10 years after quitting, and the hurdles facing comedians of a certain age and certain gender. Can the comedy industry get its own act together? We talk about that, too, so let’s get to it!

Jul 12, 2021

Iris Bahr is a comedian, actress, playwright and author, born in New York City and grown up in Israel. You have seen her in a variety of supporting roles onscreen in the 21st century — most recently in 2021 as a spa nurse in HBO Max’s Hacks, and as a rehab roommate on ABC’s The Conners. Bahr’s other TV credits have included guest spots on Friends, The Drew Carey Show, Star Trek: Voyager, 9-1-1, Good Girls, as well as her own comedy series on Mark Cuban’s HD-NET called Svetlana, plus a recurring role as Rachel Heinemann on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2006 alone, she co-starred in the original pilot for The Big Bang Theory, co-starred on the big screen in Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and debuted her one-woman show, “Dai,” which earned her a Lucille Lortel Award and two Drama Desk nominations. She has written two books and co-authored a third, the Curb-inspired advice manual, “The Book of Leon.” Bahr spoke to me from Tel Aviv about her life and career, as well as her character podcast, X-RAE, which first introduced her to me in 2019. So let’s get to it!

Jul 5, 2021

Raised in Wisconsin, Pete Lee began his comedy career in Minnesota before moving to New York City after he made his TV debut on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend. It would take a few years after that to get his first Comedy Central half-hour special, and another five years to get his chance to perform on the Late Show with David Letterman. Other early credits included VH1’s Best Week Ever and truTV’s Comedy Knockout, but he has since become a favorite regular on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Lee tells me all about the circumstances in which he scored both of his late-night debuts, as well as his early nights at Acme Comedy Co., what he’s learned from Nick Swardson, Doug Stanhope and all sorts of stand-ups for whom Lee represents a change of pace. All that, plus stories about partying with Prince and Dave Chappelle, but not together, and the inner workings of his first hour special — Tall, Dark and Pleasant — which premieres in July 2021 on Showtime. So let’s get to it!

Jun 28, 2021

Rory Scovel is a stand-up comedian, actor and writer who came out of the Washington, D.C., comedy scene, and has managed to incorporate the lessons of improvisation into his stand-up throughout his career, from comedy competitions to late-night TV sets to his latest effort, the comedy documentary, Live Without Fear, filmed by Scott Moran out now on YouTube. Scovel also currently co-stars in the Apple TV+ series, Physical, opposite Rose Byrne. His previous credits include creating and starring in the Comedy Central series, Robbie, a Netflix comedy special, as well as appearances in the film I Feel Pretty, and sitcoms such as ABC's Modern Family and NBC's Superstore. In March of 2018, Rory decided to find out what would happen if he fully improvised an hour of stand-up for six straight nights at the Relapse Theatre in Atlanta. The results of which can be seen in Live Without Fear. How does he do it? Scovel tells me, so let’s get to it!

Jun 21, 2021

Rose Matafeo is a comedian, writer and actor from New Zealand who began her comedy career at age 15. In 2018, her stand-up show Horndog won the top comedy prize at the Edinburgh Fringe, and she subsequently recorded Horndog in posterity for HBO Max in 2020. She has become a fixture on TV panel shows in the UK, and you may have seen her as a contestant on the popular program Taskmaster, or performing her stand-up on Conan. She also starred in a feature film, Baby Done. For her latest trick, she has co-created and co-written her own starring sitcom vehicle, Starstruck, in which she finds herself in a rom-com collision with a famous movie star. Starstruck almost got sidelined by the COVID pandemic, but its first season has aired on the BBC and HBO Max, with a second season (and more) already written! Matafeo spoke with me about quarantining in New Zealand for five months while wondering if her TV show would actually happen, the relatively young age of the New Zealand comedy scene, memories from Montreal’s Just For Laughs, and why comedians think of other people as civilians. So let’s get to it!

Jun 14, 2021

Josh Johnson is a stand-up comedian and writer from Louisiana who began his comedy career in Chicago. Since moving to New York City, he has performed on late-night TV via ConanThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City, Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup, and a half-hour special on Comedy Central. He has written for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and currently writes for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. In June 2020, Johnson releases two major projects: an ambitious 33-track mixtape called Elusive, and his debut hour special, Trevor Noah Presents Josh Johnson: # (Hashtag), which premieres on Comedy Central before moving to Paramount+. Johnson caught up with me over Zoom to talk about the problems and opportunities afforded by the COVID pandemic, including the making of his mixtape and his special, as well as what we might expect or hope for the comedy industry as a whole coming out of the pandemic. So let’s get to it!

Jun 7, 2021

Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello began collaborating as comedy and life partners after meeting in 2007 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and Magnet Theater in New York City. Their early efforts included a webseries for Broadway Video’s Above Average Productions and a one-man show, The Paul Downs Experience, at the UCB in 2010. Since then, you’ve seen their work together or individually in the Comedy Central sitcom Broad City, miniseries Time Traveling Bong, a showcase special for Netflix’s The Characters, and the 2017 feature film, Rough Night. Behind the scenes, they’ve worked on The Other Two, Awkwafina is Nora From Queens, and The Babysitters Club. Their most recent achievement is Hacks on HBO Max, which they co-created, co-write, and on which Downs co-stars. Paul and Lucia sat down with me to talk about comedy mentoring from one generation to the next, how they and others have become stars without first becoming stars within the UCB orbit, and how getting into character to surprise a monster truck rally in Maine somehow also gave birth to the idea behind Hacks, perhaps the best new TV comedy of 2021. So let’s get to it!

May 31, 2021

Flula Borg is a German actor, musician, comedian and DJ who began making his mark on American audiences in 2015 — that’s when he broke through out of YouTube to become one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch, as he starred in an NBC pilot and co-starred in the smash hit movie, Pitch Perfect 2. Since then, Flula has popped up in a variety of supporting roles on shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Good Place, collaborated on videos with Sir Mix-A-Lot, Ed Helms, and Dirk Nowitzki, and toured on the road with Conan O’Brien and Team Coco. That was before the pandemic hit. Over the past year, Flula has worked with Jägermeister and Save Our Stages to rally support and money for live entertainment venues. Flula will have an even bigger profile this summer as he plays Javelin in the big-screen superhero flick, The Suicide Squad. Before that, he happily spoke with me a little bit about his work with corporate sponsors, his early days in America, collaborating with Grace Helbig, and along the way, we inadvertently came up with a pitch for Flula’s first comedy special and/or series for Team Coco and HBO Max. Call us, Conan! So let’s get to it! 

May 24, 2021

Fresh out of Houston to Flatbush, Brooklyn, Kevin Iso’s friendship with fellow young comedian Dan Perlman led to making YouTube video slice of life sketches with their funny friends. They went from “Moderately Funny” to Showtime. In between, Iso’s stand-up landed him a showcase spot on Adam Devine’s House Party on Comedy Central, as well as This Week at the Comedy Cellar, a recurring role on Hulu’s TV adaptation of High Fidelity, and a writing gig on That Damn Michael Che for HBO Max. 2021 will see if Iso can really break out, as he’s the co-creator and co-star of his own series, Flatbush Misdemeanors on Showtime. Iso sat down with me to talk about managing his expectations on his way up the show-business ladder, so let’s get to it!

May 17, 2021

Originally from Boston, Sam Jay is an Emmy-nominated writer and critically-acclaimed stand-up comedian. After being named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch in 2018, Jay made her Netflix debut on The Comedy Lineup and released her first album, “Donna’s Daughter,” with Comedy Central Records. Jay’s 2020 Netflix special, 3 in the Morning, was one of that year’s best. As a writer, her credits include the Emmy Awards, the MTV Movie & TV Awards, and until the end of 2020, Saturday Night Live. She left SNL to create, write and star in her own talk show for HBO, Pause with Sam Jay. Each week, Jay hosts a party at her apartment, where she and her guests explore different difficult topics, and then she hits the road to interview strangers about it. Jay invited me over via Zoom to fill me in, so before you hit pause, let’s get to it!

May 3, 2021

John van der Put is a magician and comedian from the UK much better known by his stage name as Piff the Magic Dragon. Piff has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, toured with Mumford and Sons, fooled Penn & Teller on television and charmed the United States on America’s Got Talent. Piff has held court for the last few years as a headlining act on the Vegas Strip at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Variety named Piff of the magazine’s 10 Comics to Watch in 2019, and in the summer of 2020, Piff won the inaugural TBS Tournament of Laughs competition. In the fall of 2020, the Flamingo moved Piff into its even bigger 800-seat theater, although he could only sell 20 percent of the tickets due to pandemic protocols. Over Zoom, Piff told me about all of the stages magicians have to go through before they even hit the stage, the economic barriers to entry and success for elite magicians, and how the other Vegas headliners made Piff feel welcome when he first arrived in America — plus how he paid them back by including them in his TV gigs. So let’s get to it!

Apr 26, 2021

Dana Gould is a stand-up comedian, writer and performer who wrote and performed on The Ben Stiller Show and spent eight years as writer and producer on The Simpsons. His stand-up special, I Know It’s Wrong, was one of the best specials of the 2010s decade. In 2016, Gould created the IFC comedy horror series, Stan Against Evil. In 2021, his latest project is a webseries called Hanging with Doctor Z, with Gould in the starring role as the Planet of the Apes character hosting a talk show with modern-day celebrities. Gould caught up with me over Zoom to talk about his love for performing as Dr. Z on multiple levels, how his message to the comedians at Just For Laughs Montreal in 2015 still resonates personally with him today, and more. So let’s get to it!

Apr 19, 2021

Erica Rhodes is an actress and comedian who got her start at the age of 10, performing on the nationally syndicated public radio hit, A Prairie Home Companion. Rhodes began her stand-up comedy career two decades later, inspired by a bad audition. But things have looked up for her since then. She has guest starred on such sitcoms as New Girl, Modern Family, and Veep, put out her first comedy album, and competed on the NBC series, Bring The Funny. Her first hour-long special, La Vie En Rhodes, is out now via Comedy Dynamics, filmed in the summer of 2020 in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl to an audience of 400 cars. Rhodes and I talked about the unique nature of adapting her hour for COVID-19 conditions, finding her voice, writing for Medium, and what she learned about herself in the past year, experiencing career highs and personal loss during the pandemic. So let’s get to it!

Apr 12, 2021

Maronzio Vance has appeared on Wanda Sykes: Wanda Does It, Jamie Foxx's Laffapolooza, Last Comic Standing, and The Tonight Show, and put out a half-hour special on Comedy Central, back when those credits seemed to mean something. Vance has released a double-album of comedy called 20, out on Blonde Medicine, laced with his understated style and cutting wit. The album’s title refers to the 20 years he has spent in Los Angeles since leaving his native North Carolina. We talk about how the pandemic has changed his hair, as well as his outlook on life and comedy, with words of wisdom from Patrice O’Neal, Katt Williams, Mike Birbiglia, Christopher Titus, Paul Mooney, Daniel Tosh, Arnez J, George Wallace and more — plus the backstory and potential future of his working relationship with basketball star Ron Artest. Or Metta World Peace. Or perhaps both of them? So let’s get to it!

Apr 5, 2021

Ester Steinberg started performing stand-up on the lunch tables of her high school in Tampa before attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. While living in Los Angeles before the pandemic, she produced and hosted a regular comedy show in the Kibitz Room of Canter’s Deli, co-starred in the Oxygen reality series Funny Girls, and got New Faces at Just For Laughs Montreal in 2015. She has since appeared in episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Adam Ruins Everything, and released a comedy album, “Hebrew School Dropout.” In 2021, she’s out with her first stand-up special, Burning Bush, filmed outside the Rose Bowl during the pandemic just weeks after she’d given birth to her first child. We talk all about that, how she managed to put together a new hour under quarantine, double standards for sexiness among comedians, and more. All roads lead to Rome, so let’s get to it!

Mar 29, 2021

Eric Andre may just be America’s, if not the world’s greatest prankster (with all due respect to Britain’s Sacha Baron Cohen and Canada’s Nathan Fielder). After first rising on the comedy scene as a stand-up, Andre first made waves in TV with appearances on Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23, 2 Broke Girls, and Man Seeking Woman. But it was his chaotic Adult Swim anti-talk show, The Eric Andre Show, that made his name in the business. Netflix released his debut comedy special, Legalize Everything, in 2020, and has followed up with Andre’s bonkers big-screen achievement, Bad Trip, which co-stars Tiffany Haddish and Lil Rel Howery as the three comedians act crazier than humanly possible in front of unsuspecting Americans up and down the East Coast. It’s both wild and wildly funny. Andre talked to me about the magic of improvising with complete strangers, the importance of showing Black comedians successfully pulling off pranks, and how Lil Rel’s traumatic first day of filming actually convinced Tiffany Haddish to join in on the fun. So let’s get to it! 

Mar 22, 2021

Danny Jolles is a stand-up comedian best known for his role acting and singing as George on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. His other TV credits include Hulu’s Ramy, Comedy Central’s Corporate, Netflix’s Aunty Donna’s House, and Quibi’s Royalties. As a stand-up, Jolles was a New Face at Montreal’s Just For Laughs in 2017, and followed that up with a performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jolles filmed his first stand-up comedy special, Six Parts, in a variety of unusual locations, including a surf shop, hair salon, art gallery and a gym. We spoke about the making of that special and putting it out on YouTube for free, his younger days in online sketch comedy with the likes of Jack Quaid and Matt Rogers, the secret to booking national commercials, and the lasting impact of Adam Schlesinger and Kevin Barnett. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

Mar 15, 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, RushTix provided special ticket offers to subscribers for live events including comedy shows, concerts, and theatrical productions in the San Francisco Bay Area. The lockdowns across America in March 2020 changed everything. Jill Bourque pivoted RushTix to become a provider solely of live-streaming comedy shows centered on allowing fans to interact with their favorite comedians. Other companies have similarly pivoted during the pandemic. Comedians Ben Gleib and Steve Hofstetter tried something different, creating the Nowhere Comedy Club (headquartered in the very specific somewhere of Gleib’s home) to replicate the live comedy club experience for fans anywhere and everywhere. As we mark one year of pandemic lockdowns, I spoke with both Bourque and Gleib about their separate efforts to keep comedy alive online, and where they see the industry going from here. So let’s get to it!

Mar 8, 2021

Christina Anthony is an East St. Louis native who came up through the Chicago comedy scene. Anthony joined The Second City, where she performed with e.t.c. and the touring company, and co-wrote three award-nominated sketch revues for the legendary comedy institution. But she almost never got the recognition she deserved in Chicago or Los Angeles, and was ready to hang up her acting career before responding to one last audition call. Her perseverance has paid off, as Anthony won the role of Aunt Denise on one episode of ABC’s black-ish, which led to a co-starring role as Dee-Dee on the spin-off sitcom, mixed-ish. Anthony sat down with me to talk about her path, not giving up on your dreams, and speaking up for a better, more inclusive comedy community. So let’s get to it!

Mar 1, 2021

Gary Anthony Williams has been improvising since the 1980s, when he was part of an Atlanta troupe called Laughing Matters. You’ve seen Williams on TV shows such as Boston Legal, where he played a crossdressing lawyer, or as Abe on Malcom in the Middle. He also co-starred on The Soul Man on TV Land, and provided voices for animated shows from The Boondocks, American Dad!, Doc McStuffins, and Bless The Harts. He currently co-stars on Netflix’s The Crew with Kevin James as the guy who makes the car go. Williams joined me to talk about his life and career, founding a short film festival during the digital boom, and whether the craziest improv he’s ever seen came while performing on Whose Line Is It Anyway? or while announcing The Eric Andre Show. So let’s get to it!

Mar 1, 2021

Dan Ahdoot is a stand-up comedian who has performed on The Tonight Show, and developed TV shows with FOX, CBS, NBC and Freeform. But Ahdoot is enjoying his greatest success now, with recurring roles on not one but two Netflix hit series — as a car salesman for “Karate Kid” Danny LaRusso in Cobra Kai, and as an engineer working for The Crew with Kevin James. That’s not quite what his parents had in mind when he was studying pre-med at Johns Hopkins, but it’s worked out quite OK. Ahdoot joined me to talk about working in the pandemic, his past experiences on series such as Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ and Kickin’ It, how far he’s come since Falafel Phil, and his own podcast, Green Eggs and Dan. So let’s get to it!

Feb 22, 2021

Identical twins Keith and Kenny Lucas were born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, separating only to attend different law schools at Duke and NYU. They reunited after both quit the law to pursue a comedy career together, with a stoner persona that eventually got them a Netflix special in 2017, The Lucas Bros On Drugs. They’ve also enjoyed writing and performing with the sketch group Friends of The People on truTV, and their animated series, Lucas Bros Moving Co., on FOX, as well as appearing in roles on 22 Jump Street, The Grinder, and Lady Dynamite. In 2021, you’re getting to see a more serious side from Keith and Kenneth, as they’ve completed a 10-year journey to bring the story of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton to the big screen in the film, Judas and the Black Messiah. The brothers joined me over Zoom to talk about working with their friends, how the death of Kevin Barnett impacted them, and what it means to not just be an armchair revolutionary. So let’s get to it!

Feb 15, 2021

A comedian, actor, and writer, Patton Oswalt has been making people laugh professionally since his late teens. He first became known to millions as Spence on the sitcom The King of Queens, and brought the alternative comedy scene to the screen thanks to The Comedians of Comedy tour, which begat a 2005 movie produced and distributed by Netflix, and a Comedy Central series. Since then, you’ve seen him on TV in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Justified, Veep, Happy, Veronica Mars, BoJack Horseman, Will and Grace, and on the big screen in Blade: Trinity, Big Fan, Young Adult and the voice of Ratatouille. He’s currently heard on ABC’s The Goldbergs, and Peacock’s A.P. Bio. Oswalt won both the Emmy and the Grammy for his 2016 stand-up special, Talking For Clapping, and received nominations again for his 2020 special, I Love Everything. Oswalt caught up with me via Zoom to talk about performing comedy virtually during the pandemic for RushTix, and walked with me down memory lane as we reminisced about adapting to the evolving technology during the digital comedy boom. So let’s get to it!

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