Adam Conover is a comedian and writer best known for the truTV series Adam Ruins Everything, which he created and hosted from 2015-2019. Conover’s comedy career began while still a student at Bard College, where he was part of the sketch comedy group, Olde English, along with future Bojack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Olde English performed at the HBO Aspen comedy festival in 2007, and in 2012, wrote and released the feature film, The Exquisite Corpse Project. Conover also began writing and making videos for College Humor, where his 2012 parody Mitt Romney Style has earned more than 64 million views and counting on YouTube. College Humor also helped give birth to Adam Ruins Everything. Conover sat down with me in Los Angeles in February 2020, just as he began his newest gig as host of the Nickelodeon game show, The Crystal Maze. We spoke about the heady early years of Internet comedy videos, and how Facebook and other factors brought it all crashing down, even before the COVID-19 pandemic took the comedy industry by storm. So let’s get to it!
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything in March of 2020, thousands upon thousands of comedians suddenly experienced the existential dilemma that comedian Mike Birbiglia had depicted in his 2016 movie, “Don’t Think Twice.” Birbiglia himself didn’t think twice, however, quickly starting a nationwide fundraising campaign called Tip Your Waitstaff, with proceeds going to the employees of comedy clubs suddenly shuttered for who knows how long. His conversations with other comedians has prompted Birbiglia to start his own podcast, Working It Out, in which he and other stand-ups riff on premises with hopes of turning them into full comedy routines. Birbiglia already has successfully mined his own life and observations into four one-man shows, Sleepwalk With Me, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Thank God For Jokes, and The New One. The first he adapted into a feature film; the latter three he filmed for Netflix, and the newest one, so to speak, also is a new book that includes more poetry from his wife, J. Hope Stein. You may have heard him tell his stories on Ira Glass’s This American Life, or also recognize Birbigs from the movie Trainwreck or from his TV roles in Girls, Broad City, Orange is the New Black, and Billions. So let’s get to it!
Calise Hawkins is a stand-up comedian and writer based out of Jersey City, where she raises her daughter, Asha. You may have seen her stand-up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC), Russell Simmons Presents Live At The El Rey (Comedy Central), Stand Up in Stilettos (TV Guide Channel), and Nick Mom’s Night Out (Nickelodeon). She was a cast member of Oxygen's Funny Girls and has written for multiple shows on Comedy Central and the Disney Channel. Among them: Disney's Walk The Prank, Disney's Just Roll With It, Adult Swim's Soft Focus, Comedy Central’s @midnight, Comedy Central's Hood Adjacent, MTV’s Totally Clueless, Girl Code, Charlemagne’s Uncommon Sense. For her 40th birthday in 2020, she recorded and released her first comedy album, “Calise Hawkins is 40 AF.” Hawkins spoke with me over Zoom about helping other comedians in show business, learning to help herself, single motherhood, how Hollywood writers room experiences left her feeling insecure, and what she learned in the making and writing of Comedy Knockout on truTV. So let’s get to it!