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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Erin Jackson had quite the 2020, starting it by performing on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and ending it by filming a set for Netflix as part of the second season of Tiffany Haddish Presents They Ready, alongside the likes of Tony Woods, Dean Edwards and Godfrey. Jackson came out of the D.C. comedy scene in the early 2000s, had Ellen DeGeneres encourage her to quit her day job, and previously appeared on two different seasons of Last Comic Standing, as well as Live at Gotham and CONAN. Jackson released her first comedy album, “Grudgery,” in 2018, and joined me over Zoom to talk about her life and career and developing a Netflix-ready set during the pandemic, so let’s get to it!