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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: 2024
Jul 2, 2024

I spoke to Sam Reich on this podcast back in the fall of 2020, when he was in his first year running Dropout, the subscription-based streaming platform he founded as a follow-up to CollegeHumor where he had worked for much of his adult life. Four years later, Reich and Dropout are ready to graduate to the big leagues, with one of their shows already selling out Madison Square Garden for a live event months in advance, and other shows eligible for the first time for Emmy consideration. Reich talked to me this time about what it’s like seeing his name on an Emmy ballot for the first time — he hosts the game show Game Changer — and why Dropout now is producing and releasing comedy specials. Dropout’s first comedy special from YouTube star and VidCon founder Hank Green debuted in June 2024, with more to come, including two shows Reich saw in 2023 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Sam sat down with me over Zoom to talk about all of that, and how he successfully runs a streaming platform when the rest of the industry feels upside down and backward.

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

Jun 24, 2024

Hank and John Green began influencing online viewing long before we tied the word influencer to social media, launching their Vlogbrothers YouTube channel on Jan. 1, 2007, 17 years, 3.77 million subscribers and almost a billion views ago. Three years later, the brothers founded VidCon, the first and largest global gathering of YouTubers, growing since 2010 to include video pioneers, stars and would-be stars on YouTube, Vine, Facebook, Twitch, Instagram, TikTok and whatever comes next.

Hank Green also co-created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a YouTube adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that in 2013 became the first webseries to win an Emmy (for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Original Interactive Program). Hank, who majored in biochemistry in college, then earned his master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana. Hank has mega millions of viewers these days — watching him host the educational Crash Course series or SciShow on YouTube, or following his exploits on TikTok, Instagram and X/Twitter. 

Although you may have laughed more than once at his videos, Hank Green never toured as a comedian until he decided to present his diagnosis and recovery from Hodgkin lymphoma as stand-up. His debut special, Pissing Out Cancer, came out in June 2024 as the first of six comedy specials for Dropout, the subscription streaming platform that rose out of the ashes of CollegeHumor. Green joined me over Zoom to talk about making his debut comedy special, making it for Dropout, how he can still enjoy making videos for any brand of social media in 2024, and what he expects to see when he attends his first VidCon in four years at the end of June in Anaheim.

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

Jun 17, 2024

At the age of 49 — three decades removed from an FBI drug bust that sent him to prison, and 24 years into his career as an ex-con turned stand-up comedian — Ali Siddiq was still seeking his big break in show business. His debut special, It’s Bigger Than These Bars, found him back in a Texas jail performing for inmates, but it came and went on Comedy Central after a few airings in 2018. The following summer, NBC put him in primetime where he competed against a similarly then-unknown Matt Rife on Bring The Funny (Siddiq won that round). But come 2022, Siddiq, just like Rife, found himself on his own, producing and releasing his next stand-up special straight to his YouTube channel. And just like Rife, Siddiq’s career and fame have skyrocketed since. The Domino Effect: Part 1 has earned more than 15 million views in just over two years, and landed Siddiq on multiple year-end best of 2022 comedy lists. But unlike Rife, Siddiq’s viral fame has yet to lead to a lucrative Netflix deal, even while he continues to rack up massive viewership on YouTube.  The subsequent two chapters of The Domino Effect (with some 20 million combined views and counting) have followed Siddiq as he tells the rest of the story of how he grew up in the Houston projects, wound up selling drugs, and eventually getting busted at 19. The fourth and final chapter, The Domino Effect: Pins & Needles, premiered last month on the subscription platform Moment (making him Emmy-eligible), and drops for free on his YouTube channel just in time for Father’s Day. 

Siddiq sat down with me to talk about how far he has come without taking a Netflix deal or leaving his hometown of Houston, and how Father’s Day hits different for him now that he finds himself as a successful comedian trying to raise both an adult son and a teenager who will never truly understand the struggle he endured. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!

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!

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