Jonathan Katz won Comedy Central’s first-ever Emmy Award for his critically-acclaimed animated series, Dr. Katz, in the mid-1990s. He followed that up with a Peabody Award in 1998. Twenty years later, he’s entertaining us anew with therapy sessions with his famous funny friends in a brand-new Dr. Katz: The Audiobook, for Amazon’s Audible. But before he ever began his comedy career, he led a wonderfully weird life that included becoming best friends with playwright David Mamet in college, writing songs and the story for one movie (House of Games) with him, and touring as the musical director with the one and only Robin Williams. I paid Dr. Katz a house call to sit down and hear all about it, as well as how he lives with MS, in this very special episode of Last Things First. So let’s get to it!
Elayne Boosler’s comedy career began by working the door as the hostess at the original Improvisation club in New York City in the 1970s. For over forty years, she has appeared on seemingly every talk show ever on TV, has written and starred in five of her own one-hour Showtime standup comedy specials, written and directed two movies for Cinemax. She self-financed that first special, 1985’s “Party of One,” because TV networks would not let a female standup have a special. In 1993, Boosler was only the second woman to perform at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and the first comedian to be televised live on C-SPAN. She’s now putting out a boxed set “Elayne Boosler – Timeless”, which includes four of her iconic specials plus a brand-new CD of stand-up. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Tails of Joy – the animal rescue non-profit she founded in 2001. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!
Maeve Higgins was a bestselling memoirist and comedian in her native Ireland when, at the age of 31, she decided to move to America. So immigration isn’t just the subject of her hit podcast, Maeve In America: Immigration IRL, but also a first-hand experience. She co-hosts Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk on National Geographic, as well as the weekly comedy showcase Butterboy in Brooklyn with Aparna Nancherla and Jo Firestone. She has written for The New York Times and The Irish Times, and her new book – MAEVE IN AMERICA: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else – is out now. We talk about our respective Irish heritages, what it’s like teaching comedy in the Middle East while ISIS is around the corner, and much more. So let’s get to it!
Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes first met on a podcast, and ever since, have developed a wonderful working relationship. Holmes first pitched the idea for Crashing to Apatow on his late great TBS late-night show, and I caught up with both the stand-up comedian and the writer/director/producer on the set of HBO’s Crashing at The Comedy Cellar, where they were filming an upcoming episode for the comedy’s third season. Apatow and Holmes told me why Pete makes Crashing different from all of the other TV series about comedians, how they keep it real onscreen and onstage, and much more. So let’s get to it!
Zainab Johnson had other plans for her life, perhaps professional basketball or teaching, before a tragic accident changed her life and her worldview. Johnson tells me how she absorbed the lessons of the comedians she hung out with before jumping into comedy herself. So far, so good. After being named a New Face at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival in 2014, she has appeared on HBO’s All Def Comedy, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Arsenio, BET’s Comic View, MTV’s Acting Out, and AXS-TV’s Gotham Comedy Live! She’s also developing a TV series with the help of Wanda Sykes. So let’s get to it!
In 2011, Rafinha Bastos was named the most influential person on Twitter. Not then-President Barack Obama. Not the Pope. Brazilian comedian and TV personality Rafinha Bastos. Bastos has upward of 12 million Twitter followers now. He sat down with me during Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival to talk about how his dreams shifted from journalism to basketball to comedy, how free speech isn’t so free in Brazil, and how he’s following in the footsteps of Gad Elmaleh and Bassem Youssef in making a name for himself as an English-speaking comedian, too. Bastos will have a new Netflix comedy special out in September 2018, while he also hosts Ultimate Beastmaster alongside UFC star Anderson Silva. So let’s get to it!
Paul Mecurio is seen every night by audiences of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, as he warms them up before the CBS cameras turn on for taping. Mecurio graduated from law school and started out on Wall Street, though, before ever discovering his passions for comedy and getting a big break by selling a joke to Jay Leno. Mecurio has known Colbert for more than two decades, as he was one of the original writers hired for The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn back in 1996. Along the way, he has won an Emmy and a Peabody. He also played a role in a notorious live radio stunt by Opie and Anthony. He's now got a new Off-Broadway show a couple of blocks away from his day job on Broadway called Permission to Speak with Paul Mecurio, where he interacts with the audience to engage in their stories. The show opens today and runs through August 15, 2018. But first he gave permission to speak to me and tell some of his own stories. So let's get to it!
Allan Havey is a comedian and actor who hosted a late-night talk show for the Comedy Channel (before it was Comedy Central) called Night After Night with Allan Havey. You might not have heard much from him in the 1990s and much of the 2000s. But he’s certainly enjoying a renaissance in the past decade, since acting in the 2009 Steven Soderbergh film, The Informant! then continuing with appearances in Louie on FX, followed by The Office, Mad Men, W/Bob & David, The Man in the High Castle, Bosch, GLOW and Billions. Havey has continued to perform stand-up comedy all these years, from the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach to The Comedy Cellar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. In the summer of 2018, he’s taking his act across the pond to the UK and a monthlong stint at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But first he’s talking to me. So let’s get to it!
This is a special edition of Last Things First, recorded live during Clusterfest 2018 in San Francisco. Comedy Central was kind enough to ask me to host a series of Clusterfest panels for the media that they called fireside chats. In this session, I welcomed the Roastmaster himself, Jeff Ross, and two-time Roast Battle runner-up Matt Broussard to talk about the art of roasting, the development of Comedy Central’s Roast Battle series (which tapes its third season this July), and the upcoming Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis. So let’s get to it!
Sam Grittner is one of the best comedians on Twitter. Don’t take my word for it? OK then how about Rolling Stone, Huffington Post and famous comedians such as Weird Al Yankovic, who are among the tens of thousands who follow him and have put him on best of lists in four of the past five years. Grittner also created the parody account @tonightongirls in 2013 and served as lead writer for Internet Action Force, a short-lived comedy video experiment by the New York Post. He hosts a monthly show in Brooklyn that donates all its proceeds to charity. Time to Feel Good, while also talking plainly about mental health and addiction. So let’s get to it!
Paula Poundstone started her comedy career in Boston in the late 1970s before taking her act and her life on the road to San Francisco. Poundstone broke through in a big way in 1984 when Robin Williams asked her to perform stand-up on the episode he guest hosted of Saturday Night Live. She would go on to film two comedy specials for HBO and one for Bravo, become the first woman to deliver the keynote address at the White House Correspondents Dinner back in 1992, write columns for five years in the 1990s for Mother Jones magazine, and become a fixture on the NPR quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, where you can still hear her regularly. In 2017, she published her second book, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search For Human Happiness. And in June 2018, Poundstone invited me into her home in Santa Monica to sit with her dog and many cats to see if we could find some more happiness to share. So let’s get to it!
This is a special edition of Last Things First, recorded live during Clusterfest 2018 in San Francisco. Comedy Central was kind enough to ask me to host a series of Clusterfest panels for the media that they called fireside chats. In this session, I welcomed Sasheer Zamata, Roy Wood Jr., and Mark Normand. We joked about whether comedians should ever apologize, about getting advice from comedians at the top of the ladder as you’re climbing it, and preparing for the next big thing in your careers. All that and more in this episode of The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First, so let’s get to it!
Romesh Ranganathan was a math teacher before devoting his life to stand-up comedy in 2012. Since then, he has found great success in the UK, nominated for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, and with TV appearances on Live at the Apollo, many panel shows, and his own BBC series for two years, Asian Provocateur. For his next trick, Romesh came to America to see if he could duplicate his comedy success in the States and filmed it for a new TV series, Just Another Immigrant, which premieres in June 2018 on Showtime. Of course, he’s not just another immigrant, but he wanted to show us what it’d look like if he were, uprooting his wife, three kids, and Sri Lankan mother from West Sussex to Los Angeles. So let’s get to it!
This is a special edition of Last Things First, recorded live during Clusterfest 2018 in San Francisco. Comedy Central was kind enough to ask me to host a series of Clusterfest panels for the media that they called fireside chats. In this session, I welcomed Jim Jefferies, Rachel Feinstein, Nikki Glaser and Sam Morril, and we quickly got into the headlines of Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee making public apologies, whether comedians should ever have to apologize, and how comedians can work together. All that and more in this episode of The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First, so let’s get to it!
Nemr grew up in San Diego and then moved back with his family to Lebanon, where he almost singlehandedly introduced the Middle East to the idea of live stand-up comedy. He definitely introduced many American comedians to Middle Eastern audiences over the past decade and more, and he has since toured both there and here in the States as a headliner. You may have seen him on CNN and Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and NEMR put out his first American stand-up special, No Bombing in Beirut, in 2017 for Showtime. He sat down with me at ShowBriz Studios to talk about growing up in two completely different cultures and starting comedy scenes from scratch. So let’s get to it!
Joshua Jean-Baptiste and Edson Jean met as students at New World School of the Arts in Miami, where both learned how to become multi-hyphenates in this new world of show business, as actors, playwrights and filmmakers. Jean’s college thesis, the short film The Adventures of Edson Jean, was licensed by HBO, and he has appeared in TV and film projects including Moonlight, War Dogs, Ballers and Bloodline. With Jean-Baptiste, the duo pitched a digital series about Haitian-Americans growing up and living in inner-city Miami called #Josh. They won Adaptive Studio’s first Project Greenlight contest for a digital series, and the product, GROWN, debuted in late May on Complex.com. So let’s get to it!
Mark Viera has entertained audiences around the world with stories of growing up, getting married and raising kids in the Bronx. Viera has released a Showtime special, “Tales of a Nuyorican,” opened on tours with singer Marc Anthony and comedian Gabriel Iglesias, and performed everywhere from cruise ships to the Leathernecks of the U.S. Marine Corps. Viera sat down with me to talk about his career, about the ups and downs of selling and reselling a network sitcom based on his own life, and about Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks on truTV, where you can see his comedy stories brought to life. So let’s get to it!
Who is Nell Scovell? She's the creator of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, first staff writer hired for SPY magazine, second woman ever to write for The Simpsons, and one of only a handful of women to ever write for David Letterman. Scovell's other TV credits include Murphy Brown, Coach and The Muppets. She also wrote jokes for President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and co-authored Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's memoir, "Lean In." Now Scovell has written her own memoir, "Just the Funny Parts...and a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking Into the Hollywood Boys' Club." So let's get to it...Get me Nell Scovell!
Jim Florentine rose to fame with his bestselling recordings Terrorizing Telemarketers and by voicing the wildly popular character Special Ed for Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers." Florentine has won an Emmy for his work on HBO's "Inside the NFL" and had two Billboard top-ten comedy albums within a single year. He used to co-host That Metal Show for VH1 and continues to host the Metal Midgets show on Ozzy’s Boneyard channel on SiriusXM Radio. Jim released two comedy specials in 2016, I’m Your Savior, and A Simple Man. Now in 2018 he has a new book out, “Everybody Is Awful (Except You!).” So let’s get to it!
Jim O'Heir is an Emmy-winning actor and comedian best known for co-starring as Jerry Gergich on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. He’s a Chicago guy who trained at Second City in the 1980s, then thrived in an independent improv and sketch group called White Noise, which took him out to Hollywood. O’Heir enjoyed tons of small guest-starring roles on TV for the past two decades before landing his big break with Parks and Rec. Now he’s hosting “Lullaby League,” an a cappella singing competition that debuted this April via YouTube and PopTV.
Louie Anderson won an Emmy Award for his performance as Christine Baskets in FX’s Baskets. He previously won Emmys two decades earlier for his voiceover work in his own animated series Life of Louie. He’s also hosted Family Feud, made a memorable early splash in the Eddie Murphy movie Coming To America, and was part of Rodney Dangerfield’s 9th Young Comedians Special. He just released his latest stand-up special, Big Underwear, as well as a new book: Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it!
Brandon Rogers is a YouTube star with four million subscribers and one Streamy Award to his credit. He has starred in two webseries, Sam and Stuff for Facebook, and Magic Funhouse for Fullscreen. Brandon was a New Face at Just For Laughs in 2017, and he stopped by my studio while he’s on his first live comedy tour this spring. So let’s get to it!
In the movie Most Likely To Murder, Adam Pally wants everyone in his hometown on Long Island to believe he’s still the king of his high school, now making it big in Las Vegas when in reality, he’s still stuck working as a bathroom attendant. Over a holiday weekend, he drags them all into his murder-mystery comedy, including Rachel Bloom, John Reynolds and Vincent Kartheiser. The film premiered at SXSW 2018, and will be released May 1 by Lionsgate on demand and on digital platforms. I sat down with the cast, as well as with the writers Doug Mand and Dan Gregor, to find out what stories they told their friends and families back home to explain their fledgling comedy careers before they were stars. So let’s get to it!
Bo Burnham is the quintessential YouTube comedy star. While still a teen, Bo went from recording funny songs in his bedroom to best-selling artist with Comedy Central. Burnham become a successful touring stand-up comedian as well as an actor, appearing on the big screen in Funny People and The Big Sick, and starring on the small screen in MTV’s Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous. After directing two of his three comedy specials, he turned to directing others, including Jerrod Carmichael’s 8 and Chris Rock’s Tamborine. Burnham has now written and directed his first feature film, Eighth Grade, which debuted to raves at the Sundance Film Festival. The film depicts the agony of surviving middle school and social media pressures as an eighth-grade girl in 2018. Burnham sat with me during a screening of the film at SXSW to talk about his own experiences with social media, and what it all means. I’m honored to welcome him as the guest for my 200th episode of Last Things First. So please sit back, enjoy and spread the love of this podcast far and wide, and let’s get to it!
Rachel Bloom is the creator and star of Crazy Ex-Girfriend on The CW, for which she has won the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Award for best actress in a comedy series. Bloom’s first big break in musical comedy came in 2010, when she made a music video celebrating author Ray Bradbury. Along the way, she has written and/or performed for Allen Gregory, Robot Chicken, and BoJack Horseman. She's taking Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on a live theater tour this spring, and she next co-stars in Most Likely To Murder, a movie written and directed by her husband, Dan Gregor. He joins in our discussion, so let’s get to it!