Interview with Lynn Shawcroft, Mitch Hedberg’s wife

[caption id=”attachment_23033” align=”aligncenter” width=”398” caption=”photo by Brandon Mikolaski”]Lynn Shawcroft and Mitch Hedberg[/caption] With his unfortunate passing in 2005, Mitch Hedberg has gained almost a legendary status in the comedy world. His jokes are quoted constantly and the influence of his writing and delivery are undeniably stamped on the current landscape of stand up comics today. His widow, who is also a comic, Lynn Shawcroft wants to keeps Mitch’s legend alive and spread it to even more comedy lovers through re-launching MitchHedberg.net with unseen footage, notes, and more. Preparing for a live re-launch show in LA, Shawcroft took some time to give some more details on the site as well a few other Mitch Hedberg developments including the fate of the cult movie that Hedberg wrote and directed Los Enchiladas. In doing research for this interview, one small detail that was very interesting to me: On Wikipedia, when you type in ‘Lynn Shawcroft,’ it goes right to Mitch’s page. I think I had a minimal Wikipedia page, but I haven’t done a lot. So, this is funny, on Twitter last year, I got a tweet from wiki-something like, “Are you Lynn Shawcroft, Mitch Hedberg’s widow?” and I said, “Yeah, why?” “Well we’re getting rid of a lot of Wikipedia pages and yours isn’t relevant, so we’re going to hook yours up to Mitch’s.” Wow. There weren’t being nasty. I’m sure that’s just what they do, but, yeah, I know it’s a weird thing; it just goes right to his [Mitch’s page]. ‘Would Mitch be mad at me?’ is the question. I think they were just trying to link to a better comedian, I guess. You don’t really think Mitch would be mad at you, would he? Not at all. No, no. I was only joking. I’m going to tell Wikipedia that, “If he knew, it would be serious.” He wouldn’t care at all. What’s your fondest memory of Mitch? I think, from a person who loves comedy, first, seeing him do a headlining set and going, “Oh my God, he’s amazing!” You know, there’s different levels of that. Falling in love is always great. We met and sort of fell in love; He was in Toronto. We met, then he went back to New York and I thought, “I like him.” Then, he came back and visited me and he said, “Why don’t you meet me in LA at this date in the terminal in LAX and you can come on the road for me for a bit?” I did and we just stayed together right after that. That was a fond memory. We did a lot of things. We bought a home together, traveled together. One thing I think is amazing about stand-up, one of the gifts it gives, is you get to travel the country. I’m from Canada, but I’ve seen the [United] States so comprehensively and it’s because I was married and I worked a lot and we got to work together. You can talk to so many other comedians that are like “road dogs” and they hate it. I think the road can be brutal. It really can be really hard. Like a lot of times we were on the road, Post-9/11, and flying at that time. He would be booked in Seattle at a college and then in Florida the next day. He was so overworked. We worked so much. When we used to bitch, he used to honestly really say, “Look at what we get to do. We get to fly around. We don’t have a lot of alarm clocks.” You know what also helps? Being in a relationship. I think if you have someone at home in your life, it can be brutal. When you’re on your own, it can get lonely, but, I think, in a marriage, for good or bad, that’s how it works. You know what I mean? We got to spend a lot of time together, then have days off and hang out. So, I really miss him for sure. That’s amazing; having your partner on the road. Yeah, you hang out with your best friend in hotels and then go do fun stuff like see haunted houses. Not to take away all of the stress involved in running around and keeping on top of it all, but it was amazing. Like, I got to Nashville eight times. I love it. Do you think that there’s a silver lining in Mitch’s passing after all these years? To tell you the truth, the things that you have to trick your head into to even deal with a person’s death, like the weird “we all die,” like all the things that you have to do to try to survive and be a human being again are just tricks. You just miss someone. I wish Mitch was alive. I wouldn’t care if he wouldn’t even talk to me again. I wish he was just here to reap the benefits of what he did because I think so many people love him. Absolutely. I think what’s cool is that there was no machine behind him. He isn’t touring, he isn’t on any TV shows, and his comedy is just being spread around. So it’s kind of magical to see something like that. It’s sort of organic and that’s why I’m excited about the site. I want to share stuff with the fans and then, also, just on a personal level, I felt like Mitch taught me a lot and even in his death, he taught me a lot. I know that might sound corny. You can be as corny as you want. You go through all the different fucking horrible levels. But, I think his comedy will live on. If you look at Mitch’s comedy, he never was political and he never really talked about pop culture. He purposely wrote his jokes to last a long time. He talked about products and everyday things, but I think he consciously wanted his jokes to not be “super-dated.” You can listen to them still. I think he did a good job with that. That’s certainly one of the big aspects of Mitch’s comedy, it’s timelessness. Yes. Like, he never talked about Britney Spears and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you can still listen to his CDs. I think even younger people can listen to it. That one joke, even a thousand years from now, that he had about “following your dreams” that will never die. That will always be hilarious. Yeah, don’t you think it’s weird? I mean, he had all these jokes, but every once in awhile he almost had a philosophy. That’s a joke and it makes sense, but it’s a philosophy. You’re right. I love that line. Mitch Hedberg on Letterman (with following dreams bit) How else do you think Mitch will live on in comedy as so many people refer to him as a legend? I know. I think when people die or they die tragically or something like that, I think that helps create “legend” and “mystery.” Still, I think he was kind of mysterious. He died in 2005, which was right at the cusp of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. So he isn’t out there every single day with a million things, but I have a ton of footage and so many notebooks that I’m going to start sharing; but still, there’s a finite amount of it. I think he was definitely mysterious, but also interesting and original. What do you think would have happened with Mitch had he had access to Facebook and Twitter and all these other social networking things that other comedians take advantage of today? Well, he was a really private person. He kind of understood that holding back was a good thing too, but I think it would have helped and changed the way he did his job. He wouldn’t have to had worked so much or as hard. I don’t know if you’re a fan of Doug Stanhope’s or not… Of course. He [Doug Stanhope] has been able to do such amazing things [with social networking]. He’s been able to pinpoint his audience, go out, even take a month off whereas Mitch was continuously on the grind. I think it would have definitely have helped him in that aspect, but I think he still would have maintained a level of privacy. I saw a quote on Twitter the other day that was like, “Mitch Hedberg died in 2005, but was recreated in Twitter.” I think his work would have been great for things like that, but I think he would still have maintained a level of mystery. I think all of that just speaks to him being timeless. I don’t think any of that would have changed Mitch much. He might have reached a broader audience, but I still go to random parties where I talk to people about comedy and they ask, “Do you like Mitch Hedberg?” That’s one interesting thing too. He worked really hard, but, at the end of the day, he had three CDs, a special, and some Lettermans, which is a lot, but a lot of comedians have a lot of things. I think it’s more with someone at a party telling one of his jokes or passing a CD on. The Internet did help him. When he was alive, he knew that people were burning and downloading for free and he loved it and that really helped him. It is still amazing that there’s no big horse of marketing behind him other than his own material right now. As the rise of his “cult” status has been so organic, do you think that he will be remembered as a pioneer for comedy? Certain people like to have that label “alternative comedy” that kind of came about in the mid-90s during Mitch’s time and do you think he’ll be credited with kind of starting that? Yeah, I think Mitch could be labeled as that, but he was actually a “road dog” and a true stand-up. I think, and this is where I have to stand up to the plate and work with it. I get so conflicted speaking for someone that’s not here and I think if I do a good job and put up a good website and maybe make a good movie and write some great things, people will actually understand where he stood in the comedy business as well as people that were just fans of the jokes. I can show what he kind of meant to comedy. For some reason, his name is starting to come up with a lot of other super talented joke writers, but what was it that made him special? I’m glad that you’re doing that and making that clear. I remember I was in college and I took an exhaustive Hitchcock course, like there’s only four more Hitchcock movies I haven’t seen and it was the most hilarious moment and we spent all this time talking about his theory and the intent of his movies and all this digression about film theory in general and then, in the last class, we met Hitchock’s daughter and she just said that her dad wanted to make an entertaining movie and that’s it. That’s really interesting that intellectuals and other people in the arts want to know the theory and the process behind it. Maybe, the daughter didn’t know. Who knows? Right. Who knows? It’s interesting; the intent of the artist and then how he’s received later. Do you think that Mitch’s comedy will be seen as groundbreaking or was just he really good at writing and telling jokes? Well, see, that’s the thing. I think there are schools of people. I think people are like, “Yeah, man. He just smoked a joint and fucking showed up and was the stoner,” whereas there’s an element of truth to that, Mitch was a proponent, obviously, of drugs on some level, but also daydreaming, he was a very “follow your dreams” type of guy. Still, he worked his ass off. He was focused, you know what I mean? He also wasn’t an educated type of guy. His high school wasn’t intellectual, but he channeled it, like he was a brilliant guy, into the exact right thing. He, in his life, was basically a cook, like, you know, a dude with long hair. Stoner, a young cook, and then he was a comedian. He worked, worked, and worked really hard and ended up being considered brilliant and known as this great guy. I’m still trying to figure how he ended up being able to use whatever he had, whatever his intelligence or daydreaming was, and was able to focus it into that. He didn’t read a lot, but he worked really hard. I think he fell in love with comedy and words. Do you hear, as you go to comedy shows, perform yourself, echoes of Mitch in this generation of comedy? Yeah, I think he influenced a lot of people and a lot of people don’t want to say it, not because they don’t want to appreciate Mitch, but because of people that say he copied him. Sometimes, if you listen to his jokes, he would refer to himself as a joke writer. I also think he had kind of a rock n roll vibe, sexiness. I mean, I think so. You see it a lot now when you see a lot of comics hanging out with rock stars. Mitch tried to create his own thing and he did it one fan at a time. The good thing is that I have my opinions and I knew him so well when I was married to him, but he wrote a lot about this himself. We can get a million opinions of what people think, but he wrote down a lot of things, which is why I’m so glad. He wrote what he was feeling when he did certain shows or what he thought of comedy— and I’ve got the notebooks and I’m going to share them on the website, so they’re in his own words, which I like. So, you’re relaunching MitchHedberg.net with all of this never before seen footage, material. Why now? When he passed away, the site was just kind of a regular old site with pictures and sometimes we would put a new post up and; and we sold a t-shirt and a CD. I didn’t really want too much. I didn’t really think about it. So his parents kind of took it over and they sold t-shirts and CDs and stuff like that and I don’t have anything to do with that. All this while, I’ve been, “How shall I…?” It seems like just such a big daunting thing and about eight months ago, his parents said, “our friend wants to take over the website,” and I wanted to step up to the plate because I don’t want it to be just about merchandise. I wanted to start the curation of it and show and share his notebooks. I have a lot of clips that haven’t ended up on YouTube. It’s taken about six or seven months. I have hours of footage, so I have some stuff edited up and his notebooks. He used to write to gel pen companies, “My name’s Mitch and would you sponsor me?” and I have these really cool notes that he wrote and I thought this is a good place to start. And, it’s not trying to sell the fans anything. It’s just “here’s some cool stuff and I wanted to share it.” It’s also a healing process. It’s fun and I’m excited. That sounds a little like Seinfeld’s new website. Have you seen it? Someone just telling me about that. It’s super slick and great. Seinfeld has three bits up a day that there’s video of and that’s it. There’s no blog, news, or anything else. There are tour dates and those three bits and they’re from all different periods. I feel that you’re kind of heading that way with the site, letting Mitch’s material speak for itself. Yeah, exactly. I found a few clips on YouTube and I’m going to put up some stuff I’m editing cause right now, it’s all just clips of Mitch doing stand-up. There’s nothing like “Do you know how to drive a car?” and, well, I don’t have that, but just clips of him as a human being. Then, I’ve asked anyone who wants to write stories to write stories, the fans to put up stuff because you never know, there might be pictures up there or anything. What else specifically should we expect on the site? It’s not going to be super slick. It’s very clean. You guys posted the landing page, but there’s going to be a lot of his notes. I’m excited about the live relaunch show at the Steve Allen Theater in LA. What should we expect? It’s going to be kind of intimate and I made some cool stickers and I printed off one of Mitch’s original handwritten set lists, so everyone gets one of those. I’m just going to go through the website and I’m going to show some clips that aren’t even going to be on the website. I have this 10 minute thing and then there will be performers. You have Nick Thune, Garfunkel and Oates, Karen Kilgariff, who are all great? Any specific reason? I’ve known Karen for years and I e-mailed her and asked, “Do you have a story or something about Mitch?” She said yes because she hung out with Mitch a little bit. And then I’m going to have a couple people help read some stuff that are on the site. And then I got Garfunkel and Oates because the guy who built the site is their friend and I was thinking if I’m talking about Mitch a lot and showing videos, like, I don’t want to ask a comedian to go up and tell their jokes and feel uncomfortable, like, “here’s my jokes about Obama.” I figured that they might be a different act and they’re together and it’ll be fun. When I put out his CD a couple of years ago, we did five shows in five cities simultaneously that night for the CD release. Everybody was, in some way, connected to Mitch whether they worked with him, like Al Madrigal was there, Todd Glass, and Doug Benson, and then other shows where they put him [Mitch] on. I hate asking people and putting them in a position, but if it’s connected and they knew him, it’s great. Hearing that you did five shows for that CD release, are you going to have other dates and other cites for showing the website? I don’t think so. Mitch made a movie called, Los Enchiladas and I’ve been to several places and theaters, showing that and sharing clips. This year, I’m working on releasing that. So, this’ll be the one live show for the launch. Unless anyone else was interested, I would definitely do it, but I think it was just this one to get it a little bit of excitement for the site. So, Los Enchiladas is finally going to come out this year? It’s been taking a long time. There was a kid who found a copy and put it on a torrent site and I didn’t work on it, so it’s a bit more complicated. I was talking to his manager and we’re working on getting the music license for it right now and then release it. What is the Innocence Project and why is this the charity for the live show? The Innocence Project is a set of lawyers that help people in prison get released through DNA. It’s kind of amazing. The reason that I picked it is I don’t really want to attach Mitch’s name necessarily to a charity without his consent, something like, “The Mitch Hedberg Something.” But, I remember him and me talked about this, so it’s a low-key thing cause I’d rather just give the money to charity and then maybe in the future, if I do attach Mitch’s name something, I’d love it to be kind of like a scholarship or something like that. Something that will give back to the arts; maybe sponsoring a comedian. He thought that if you got to live your life and be in the arts, it was amazing. So, something like that would interest me. Are there any other Mitch-related projects in the works besides the site, Los Enchiladas? Yes. I’ve been meeting and am sort of in negotiations about working on a documentary. I’ve had lots of meetings over it and definitely, I will start working on a documentary in the next year. I think the website will be a good preface to it and there’s lots of footage and cool stuff. I think it’s a good time for a Mitch Hedberg documentary. The recently released Bill Hicks documentary has gotten a lot of press. I agree. I think a comedy documentary can be made as there’s a lot of footage and I think there’s interest. It’s not too hard of a sell. You don’t have to get into a million theaters. It can open in small theaters and then there’s Netflix. Also, I’ve been approached to do a book many times and, as you’ll notice, every comedian is writing a book right now. So, I’ve kind of waited and I’ve been thinking about working with a writer. So, maybe a book, but definitely a documentary this year. He will not be forgotten. One last question: Do you have any more plans on doing stand-up for yourself in the near future? Yes. I would love to. Here’s what my problem is: I worked with Mitch a lot and opened up for him and sort of look back sometimes and regret, and sort of felt guilty about like everyone thinks, “ohh, it’s his wife,” even though I was a comedian when I met him and I didn’t grow as much as an artist as I should. Then, since he passed away, I’ve gained a lot of confidence and I want to do it again and now, I realize, you have to ask people all the time to get on stage, so I’m in the process of that, but I would love to do more touring and stand-up and stuff like that. For more info, check out mitchhedberg.net.
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Exclusive audio interview: Jim Norton talks Weiner, Tracy Morgan, addiction

I sat down with comedian Jim Norton at his home on Sunday to catch up on all things current, where his career is headed and much more. We talked about New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s photo scandal, about Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay tirade and about Jim’s new projects, which may include a new book and a television pilot centered around Norton’s sex addiction. You can listen to the entire 40-plus minute, uncensored interview below. Enjoy! [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/nortoninterview.mp3] You can catch Jim on the road hosting The Anti Social Network Tour with Bill Burr, Dave Attell and Jim Breuer. For dates and details, go here.
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Interview: Nick Cannon returns to stand-up comedy in style

Coming on the heels of the television premiere of his first-ever stand-up comedy special Mr. Showbiz this past weekend on Showtime, Nick Cannon goes wide with the digital release of the album version today (Buy here). You’ll be able to snag the album from New Wave Dynamics in all retail stores by May 31. And this is all while the dude is hosting his own daily morning radio show, Rollin’ with Nick Cannon on New York’s 92.3 NOW FM as well as executive producing and starring in MTV’s new reality series Son of a Gun. We got the chance to chat with the multi-talented performer about returning to his roots in stand-up comedy, balancing his craft with being married to one of the most famous women in the world (not to mention, just becoming a father to twins) and why he’s not concerned with what the critics may think of him. Check it out! A lot of people don’t know that you started doing stand-up comedy when you were just 15 years old. Did you feel like you wanted to do this album now, or that you had to do it make sure people knew about your history? I’m a comic. I’ve always been a comic. And that’s what I’ve always aspired to be. So, I mean, I’ve had some successful sidetracks, you know— the acting career, music, hosting, even all of the entrepreneur efforts that have been really successful for me. So a lot of people know me for those things. And you know, even my personal life is kind of overshadowed by what my real craft is. So, I felt like I needed to actually show people that this is what I do. And actually once you get that and grasp that, then all my other efforts and anything that I do in entertainment will probably even make more sense. At the end of the day, I’m just a comedian. Yeah, and we get to see and hear some of your early stand-up footage on the album and special. That was actually an audition for the Apollo I did in North Carolina. Like, the winner of that got to go to the Apollo in New York. And that was one of the first times I was on stage in front of people that wasn’t a church audience. The way I got on stage first, is you know, in front of - I was opening up for my dad, who was a preacher. So, then front that point, you know, I was probably professionally doing my thing, like you know, getting paid seven dollars a set at the Improv in Hollywood and actually traveling a little bit on the road at like fifteen years old. When you started out, you performed with guys like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, right? Yeah, man. And Chris Tucker. All those guys started really young, and I would see these guys and they would be like ‘Yo, why’s this kid in the comedy club?’ And then they would kinda take a minute out of their time because they were like wow, he’s fifteen and trying to do this. And they when they started, they were fifteen and trying to do it. So they would always give me little words and wisdom and stuff. I remember I was right there on the brink when Chris Tucker just started to take off— just right when Friday popped, right after that time, and seeing him and people like know, and even Eddie Griffin and like you said Chappelle and Rock, they were always just there. Like watching their success and watching their work ethic kind of inspired me at a young age. Was there one guy in particular that kind of took you under his wing? Chappelle was really like that. I opened up for Chapelle when he went on the road in 2005. I mean obviously he put me on his show. I mean, he made that famous phrase “Fuck Nick Cannon. Nick Cannon’s ‘ilarious.” He kind of looked out for me on many different levels. He showing me and helped me embrace the craft of being a stand-up. Are are you still in touch with any of these guys? Oh, absolutely. I’m definitely in touch. You know how comedians are. They kind of live in their own world and then when you see each other at the club or at an event, that’s when you kind of catch up. Probably not every day on the phone with these guys, but they definitely still are people I admire, look up to, and every now and then will call for advice and those types of things. Are you concerned at all with what the comedy community is going to think of your first stand-up album? Not really, ‘cause I know I’m funny. I’ve been funny. However they take it they take it. I’ve been successful being funny for a long time. Comedy has always been therapeutic for me. And I feel like that’s the beauty of being a stand-up— is that it’s raw and uncut and you get to say whatever you want to say and once you say it, who cares? It’s like, who cares how the people, or the critics or all those type of people may see it because the proof is in the pudding. If there’s laughter there, then you know who was funny. And that’s the beauty of comedy. It could be as subjective as you want it to be and have your opinion, but as long as you get a laugh, that’s what it’s all about. And the laughter is there, so, I welcome any kind of criticism because we all get criticized. We’ll be criticizing till we die but what’s really the point? I like that you don’t shy away from talking about your wife, Maria, on the album. Yeah, I mean, I definitely didn’t want it to be the Mr. Mariah Carey show, but I definitely knew that I had to talk about it. I mean, it’s my life. And that’s what my comedy is about. So, there’s going to be some things about me growing up, there’s going to be some thing about me being a husband, becoming a father, but then it’s going to also be my perspective, and my point of view on what’s going on in the world. I think it’s the same thing with every comic. Some people do their comedy about how much they hate their wife. You know? And that’s their act. I mean, mine is about how much I love my wife and that she’s my dream girl, you know? So, it’s no different from anyone else doing stand-up. You have to be real and authentic to who you are. Does Mariah have any input as to what you say about her onstage? My wife has the greatest sense of humor in the world. And some of the times I write my best material around her. She’s very funny, and knows how to not take life and you know all of this entertainment stuff seriously. So, she’s the coolest when it comes to that. Yeah, it seems like she has a good sense of humor. Right, absolutely. Yeah, she’s all into it. Let’s talk, if you don’t mind, a little bit about you becoming a dad. I mean, obviously your life has changed drastically… Yeah, in the last few days… So how are your days spent now? Are you changing diapers? What are you spending the most time doing right now? Yeah, my week’s just diaper changing and trying to get as much sleep as possible. Trying to get on their schedule. I mean, I already don’t sleep but I’ll get up in the middle of the night changing diapers and all that stuff. A lot of feeding. I really don’t take part in that part of it, I just oversee that whole thing. I can’t really do much there. I don’t have any milk. So Mariah is breast feeding? Yeah, absolutely. I saw a picture of you online. You’re obviously squeezing in some time to work out. A little bit, little bit. I gotta be able to protect my kids, man. You talk a bit on your album about your verbal fight with Eminem. Are you guys ok now or what? Yeah, man. I mean, to me, at this point, even when you see I talk about it in my stand-up, it’s like I don’t really take it seriously anymore. If that dude ever did have any ill will towards me or my wife, it’s like, you know, I forgive him, I love him for it. I’m supposed to love my enemies, so I can’t even be worried about that. I’m enjoying my life too much to be mad at anybody, really. We talked about how you got started in very early. And you talk a little bit about your upbringing on the special. It sounds like you came from a pretty supportive, pretty close family. So many times, stand-up comedians get their start because they come from a dark background. But it doesn’t seem that was the case for you. Yeah, I was reading this comedy book and they were talking about all the things you have to be like to be a good stand-up— and you could tell it was written by, I think it was written by a white female. She was like you have to have some type of hardship, you have to have an opinion, and all this stuff, and then at the last second, she says unless you’re black because - and the entire statement was all of those things come with being black. I mean, at the end of the day, no matter how you believe my upbringing was, or how it was perceived in the media, I’m still a black man in America. There’s still that natural chip that we have on our shoulders, or whether it’s truly validated because of the way society is. I mean, I grew up in a typical low income African American household. So, if you see my comedy, that’s where it comes from. And I think that the majority of, you know, comedians, of my generation kind of experience that. So, I mean cats like Katt Williams and Kevin Hart— we kind of all have a lot of same similar experiences. That makes sense. So what, after the special airs and after the album comes out, what are your stand-up plans? I’m getting back on the road. I’m ready to do another one. So you’re not joking around. This wasn’t like a one-off thing. You’re going to start doing this again. Yeah, once I got back in it, I was in it for the long haul so I’m ready. I’ve already got my new set together. I’m already an hour strong. So I’m ready to get back on the road and start perfecting that, get it to two hours, and, you know, do what I gotta do to get ready to film my next special. What was it that finally got you either motivated to start doing stand-up again? I have been doing it. It wasn’t a secret. I would always go to the Improv, or whatever comedy spot and just go up and do it. I hadn’t been on the road. I wasn’t going out booking dates. And a lot of that has to do with my schedule. This was the first time I was able to really go and rock theaters and colleges. I had to get myself in the mindset to be prepared for that and you know, just to go out and live like a regular comic lives on the road. And at the same time, I’m married and having several other jobs, running a television network, you know, my morning radio show, all that stuff I have to do. So I had to strategically say ‘alright, I can go out you know, every other weekend. I could go do this. If I happen to be in this city, is there a club that I could go and be at?’ So, it was a lot of that. It took a while to wrap my head around that. And I had to get in that comic space; you gotta be in a certain type of headspace as a comic, and write jokes every day. I had to make sure I allotted enough time for that. I would wish you luck, but honestly don’t think you need it. Thank you, man. I appreciate it anyway. There’s nothing wrong with getting luck. For more info on Nick’s comedy, check out nickcannonmrshowbiz.com. To buy a copy of Mr. Showbiz, click the image below!
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Review: “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”

In theaters June 24 As a Conan O’Brien fan who followed The Tonight Show ordeal as closely and obsessively as Internet access allowed, I’d describe the last two years of the host’s career as: a) hectic and b) well documented. Everybody interested in knowing what went down at NBC and in the Conan and Leno camps does; there’s even a book about it— The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. So when you hear there’s a Conan documentary coming out, it’s hard not to think, “Don’t I know this story already?” Having seen Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, the new film by Rodman Flender chronicling the late night host’s post-Tonight Show live tour, I now feel sufficiently able to answer that question: no, you don’t. The movie picks up where author Bill Carter’s aforementioned book leaves off — with Conan, The Tonight Show a not-so-distant memory, regrouping with his circle of confidants to plan his next move. The camera follows Coco and co. as they write, rehearse and perfect the road act that will serve as their post-NBC-trauma, pre-TBS deal palette cleanser. But unlike Carter’s book and the rest of the coverage surrounding the Tonight Show debacle, the film isn’t interested in a play-by-play retelling of events. It’s about how it felt to be at the center of a giant media firestorm, and what it’s like to pick up the pieces after unexpected events and difficult choices turn your world upside down. The answer, in Conan’s case, was to throw himself into what he loves: comedy and music. “I’m happiest when I’m with comedians or musicians working things out,” Conan says at one point during the documentary. He’s telling the truth, because one of the biggest treats about this movie is getting to see that joy in its purest form. We feel it when he’s auditioning backup singers, re-writing the lyrics to Wille Nelson’s “On The Road Again,” jamming his way through rockabilly tunes and trying on a spot-on replica of the leather onesie Eddie Murphy wore in his now-classic stand-up comedy concert film Raw. You realize that this is the stuff he desperately needed to get back to after months spent haggling with network suits and lamenting the 11:30 pm dream that wasn’t meant to be. Flender was granted total backstage access. This isn’t sound-bite/press release Conan. It’s a frank look at an entertainer in a raw state. “Sometimes I’m so mad I can’t even breath,” Conan tells Flender. These sit-down interviews are candid and straightforward, but the truly revealing moments come when O’Brien is captured just being himself. We see it all: Conan riffing with his writers, chewing out his assistant for messing up his takeout order and belittling Jack McBrayer during a tense, pre-show hang session that he’s annoyed about having to participate in. Conan’s diva-like behavior definitely has shock value, but you’re also left sympathizing with someone who’s expected to be all things to all people at all times. In a surreal moment, O’Brien compares his situation to that of Anne Frank. The point is. Conan isn’t always pretty, and we get to see that. A more fun moment involves Conan scoffing at a proposed meeting with TBS, making a joke about how soon he’ll be taking meetings with the Oxygen network. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a must for die-hard fans, but it’s also a great documentary for anyone who’s ever wondered what it’s like to hit the road as a professional entertainer, to have a legion of loyal fans watching your every move or to be at the center of a media machine. When Conan announces the tour on Twitter, and then watches as each date rapidly sells out with the show’s content far from solidified, we sense the pressure he feels to deliver. But we also feel his excitement at the prospect of being in front of an audience again. Nothing crazy or unexpected happens in the course of the film – by the time the movie starts, those plot twists are already over and done with. This movie is about what happens after the shit has already hit the fan, what a person lets go of and what that person holds on to. And it’s about a performer for whom stopping just isn’t an option.
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Interview with Doug Stanhope: ‘If I could, I’d quit comedy’

The scene opens: There’s a man impaled… “on a spinning dildo. He’s in a straight jacket, hanging upside down. The only way he can keep the dildo lubricated is to drink Castor oil out of a large rat feeder, so he shits himself greasy to keep that dildo lubricated. Because if the dildo ever goes unlubricated, his asshole will start to stick to it and then his whole guts will spit out of him like cotton candy.” End of scene. That’s when Doug Stanhope is jarred out of his latest murder fantasy—this time the victim is an audience member at one of the comedian’s shows who has decided to film the performance with his cellphone camera, instead of just enjoying the experience of being there live and in person. Stanhope can’t stand “tourists of life.” And on his new album and DVD Oslo—Burning The Bridge To Nowhere, he’s all too happy to tell us about some of the things that go through his head while he’s onstage; the bit above can he heard on the delightfully titled track, “Spinning Dildo.” I got to chat with Stanhope recently about his new project and thankfully I got to delve deeper into his mind. We talked about his mother, who he says offed herself after years of debilitating disease; we chatted about the concept of love and romance and why, despite him being such a celebrated figure in stand-up comedy, he’d be thrilled to never stand onstage again. You’ve said more than a few times during your shows that your personal life is pretty good now and you barely know why you’re even doing comedy anymore. Yeah, the more you say that, the more people show up. In my head I’m careening toward the bottom but in reality I’m doing bigger shows all the time. I’d rather do nothing. If I could retire I would. A lot of comics will say, ‘I can’t go two weeks without being onstage.’ I can go the rest of my life without being onstage. On the new album, you tell the audience how much you hate recording CDs and filming DVDs, but compared to most comedians, you have a huge body of recorded work. That’s just it. I’m writing out of a sense of fear. People will say, ‘Oh I heard that shit,’ so I need to make a new DVD, people heard it. I can’t go back to London without a new hour. So, it’s not joyous at all. I got the whole Dave Attell thing —not the self hatred, but the insecurity and the judgment you think is being passed that probably isn’t even there. People probably don’t spend too much time thinking about it. But in your head they are. In your head they’re all fucking critics and they know every fucking word you’ve said before and how you’ve said it. That’s always the worst part about putting out any kind of recording. There’s always bits that are way better now. And then there’s the old bits you were doing so long that you have to get rid of them on tape, so that you’re now re-learning them so you can put them on tape, but you’re bored of them. Then you forget half the punch lines because you haven’t done them in eight months and you’re like ‘damn, everything sucks now!’ You don’t worry about that with a regular gig. You don’t sweat the gig. But this gig we did for the album we did it on 36 hours notice so I didn’t have any time to sweat it. [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/stanhopedeadpeople.mp3] Yeah, I feel although all of your albums are pretty raw, this one is even more raw. Yeah, it’s even more raw because it’s fucking Oslo and you’re just weeding through the material that will even work there. Half the shit you do doesn’t work in Europe even though they speak the language. In the States, if I’m going into a hole I could pull my head out of the ground. You can’t do that over there, because you get three minutes into a bit and you realize the payoff is something that’s completely American-centric and it’s going to fucking die and its three more minutes to you get to that part. And people are like, ‘no just do your material. We understand it. We have Friends.’ Yeah, just watching an episode of Friends really isn’t going to clue you into what I’m talking about. ‘We get everything American over here’ they say. Not at all. It is what it is. I’ve never liked anything I put out. By the time you put it out you’re so fucking tired of doing it. Inherent in getting it polished is getting sick of it. It gets to the point where it doesn’t make sense anymore, you don’t know why its funny or why people are laughing and then you start hating the audience; you become like Glenn Beck, you’re hating them for liking you. You do a long bit on the new album where you basically deconstruct the traditional idea of what romance is… Yeah, romance and love isn’t predicated on fucking. They’re two different things. You can be romantic, but it has nothing to do with buying diamonds and fucking one person for the rest of your life and all this fucking madness. You’re in a longterm relationship. So, what is romance to you? I don’t know. We have a great relationship. We’re very juvenile. I lure her into the bathroom after I’ve taken an horrific dump under the guise that one of the dogs is bleeding from one of his paws or something. I buy cap guns and shoot them in her face. We’re fucking silly and ridiculous. We get along great. [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/stanhopegokart.mp3] How long have you been together? Almost six years. There’s no jealousy problems. We actually like each other. There are so many people who are with someone they never fucking hang out with; most relationships are so fucking duplicitous. Most people live in them rather than admitting that their relationship is going nowhere. And they end up like your fucking parents, staring at each other in a cold gloom—‘Well, I have to go to work… well, I have to clean the house.’ My mother married my father because it was what you were supposed to do. And then later in life when we were kids he told us, ‘I think your mother married me because it was the thing to do. He was a very simple and sweet guy. It was the early ’70s and I asked her about that. And she said, ‘yeah, that’s it. It was the thing to do.’ It’s incredible to me, the things that people do, just because its what people before them did. We’re the only people alive right now. We can make up our own rules. This entire world could be different by just deciding its different. Like, hey we’re alive. Why do these rules apply? Those people are dead, they had a reason for this. Even the Founding Fathers shit. Well, that might have worked at the time but it’s a different world. We’re alive so let’s fucking start from scratch. It would be great if generations started by themselves— like when the last guy dies, that’s when the first kids are born and everyone starts from scratch. I know you read about that teen from Oregon who killed himself onstage after an open mic performance. As soon as I heard about it, I thought of you. Yeah, I just wanted to repeatedly post it online for people who missed it. And the song he sang too… “Sorry About The Mess” is the name of the song he played. It’s fantastic. It’s horrific and sad. But Jesus, if there’s a way to go… it’s everything you want to do to an audience. You mean horrify them? Yeah! People say to me, ‘oh you speak truths onstage.’ Bullshit, I’m not changing anybody’s mind onstage. But to horrify someone like that; that could change someone’s life. I think it’s fucking beautiful. Yeah, I thought it was very “Stanhope.” Too late now. It’s already been done. There’s really no ballsier move. My mother killed herself, and that was the single bravest thing I’ve ever seen anyone ever do. And it came from a scared woman. I’m doing a bit about it. She had emphysema and was dying and drowning in her own fluids so she ate a shitload of morphine and said goodbye. I have to make a bit out of it. Make it funny. I’ll leave it at that. I’ll save the details. You were close to your mom, right? Yeah, but I really didn’t like her much towards the end. She became a horrible, horrible person— for whatever reasons; they might have been good. She wasn’t evil. But when she said it’s time for me to go, there was no one saying, ‘but you have so much to live for!’ She couldn’t even leave the house to continue her hoarding. She was a hoarder but she didn’t have the fucking lungs to go to the dollar store. Between back pain and that, she was just physically a fucking wreck and that lasted for like a decade. But she was the one person who was talking me into doing comedy before I even tried. I’d call her on the phone being all goofy and shit and she would say, ‘you should do this onstage. You’re funnier than these fucking people on TV.’ She was always behind me. But how you could die at 63 and not have a single friend in the world? When she died, there was no one for me to call— other than my brother, who she called before to tell him, ‘this is it.’ How do you not have anyone in your life? There’s a reason for that. I was the only person she liked, to my detriment. She thought everyone else was an asshole. She would complain about the way my brother was raising his kids. I was like, ‘hey mom, you really shouldn’t be talking about how to raise kids.’ In hindsight we turned out well in spite of a lot of it. But, I don’t want to Margaret Cho-up your interview. How do you mean, by talking about your mom so much? Yeah, I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about it. I hate when people onstage talk about ‘my family is so crazy, my mother is so this’….no one wants to hear that. But may be it’s ok if we kill her at the end of the bit. I have a feeling you’ll figure out a way to talk about your mom in a way no comedian has before. Fortunately, I’ve never had a child. Because that always destroys a comic. Louis C.K. is probably the only comic I could name off the top of my head that’s had any material about being a parent that I’ve laughed at. Where it doesn’t seem like it’s ruined him. Almost every comic, once they have kid, you used to like them and now you don’t. It’s like friends; once they have a kid, you can pretty much count on a card at Christmas. Why is he sending me cards? I used to get my coke from that guy and now he’s sending me cards? Talking about your crazy family is like airline material. There’s no way you can do airline jokes. I’ve done a couple. But as soon as you say ‘airline,’ you’re hack. It sucks when there’s something that’s eating your soul but you can’t do it because it’s hack. That’s one of the problems living out here [small town in Arizona] in the middle of nowhere and playing rock clubs. I don’t see comics on a daily basis. I don’t know what’s being done. I’m not involved in comedy so it fucks with your head. You’d see that in Carlin in later years. He’d have some fucking fantastic bits but then it would be like, ‘is he doing a Crocodile Hunter bit?’ And of course, he’s the king so we’ll let it slide; you didn’t hear that from Carlin. Let’s just hear the good part again. Because you know Carlin wasn’t hanging around the Improv drinking cocktails saying, ‘oh yeah I’m working on a bit like that, too.’ I’m out of the loop like that. [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/stanhopejizz.mp3] Which is good in a lot of ways. Yeah, I mean I don’t really have my finger on the pulse. Jo Koy is a good reference for unfunny comedy these days even though I’m not sure what he does. I saw 30 seconds of him on a commercial once. That’s the only Comedy Central I watch—whatever commercials you get as you’re going back into South Park, because I’ll fast forward through most of them on DVR. And I see a commercial: ‘hey next week on Comedy Central, it’s Jo Koy’… and you’re like, well there’s a new reference for who sucks. It was like that for Frank Caliendo for me, too. I used to tape the Fox football pregame show when he was part of that just so I could watch him so I can hate him. So I could feel the comedy bitterness. It’s always fun to have someone to hate. I don’t mean any of it. I never did call Kyle Cease back. He sent ingratiating emails, and I know that I would fall for it. So I just ignored it and let the whole thing die. I’m not a guy who’s thinking this whole fucking business makes any difference. It’s fun to snipe about stuff. It’s fun to have a rivalry with Dane Cook, if you can call it a rivalry. For me it was a fun Yankees vs Red Sox kind of thing. We met at the San Francisco comedy competition in 1995. I had that garage band attitude, like, ‘I knew he sucked even before you knew who he was. You guys don’t even know, jumping on the band wagaon saying Dane Cook sucks. I was saying that even before anyone knew who I was talking about.’ But he was always there. From the competition, then to Variety’s Top 10 Comics to Watch, it was me and Dane Cook. At the Man Show auditions, it was down to me and Dane Cook and another guy before Joe Rogan got the ok to get out of his contract and do it. Dane Cook was always kinda right there. It was fun to hate Dane Cook. It’s not my style of comedy. It just boiled down to that. ‘Oh, You don’t like zucchini?’ No, I don’t. ‘Well fuck you, what vegetable to do you like? You don’t know vegetables!” It’s not really personal. But it’s fun to make it personal. And I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings too bad by saying Kyle Cease’s mother should die or whatever. It’s so ridiculous. We’re just fat girls singing karaoke. That’s all we are. Everyone. We’re just fat girls trying to get attention singing karaoke. Who gives a shit? It’s so dumb. I want it to be fun again. It’s no fun once you take it seriously. I’m having fun when I’m not doing comedy. I can quit this. That’s the only thought that keeps me going. It’s that thought that makes me happy— just walking away from it. Just quitting. For more info on Doug, check out dougstanhope.com. To order the new CD/DVD, just click the image below.
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Interview: Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric chats on DVD and more!

tim_eric300Brilliant, absurdist sketch comedy freaks Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim gave us a fifth season of genius this year and their Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! DVD (out now!) brought even more tender morsels of awkward humor than I could have even imagined. Tim & Eric are an acquired taste. Their Adult Swim staple is filled with endless jokes about child molestation, bodily fluids and physical violence – and it is not for everyone. Each 11-minute episode makes you cringe while laughing uncontrollably. I assure you it is a glorious experience. Season five was totally on point, and took viewers on a more darker ride than usual. They definitely pushed the limits, but I have yet to meet a fan of theirs who wasn’t totally on board. The guys are often accompanied by awesome celebrity guests; season five included Richard Dunn, Rainn Wilson, Zack Galifianakis and Paul Rudd. Rudd’s portrayal of himself … watching, well, himself dancing, was one of my favorites sketches of the season. Steve Mahanahan and his Child Clown Outlet sketch sparked my excessive use of my favorite one-liner this season … “I touched a clown and now I’m going to jail.” But why buy the DVD, you ask? I can see a ton of these clips on the Adult Swim website! You’re, right, reader – you can. But with the DVD you get some awesome added features like extended cuts of some of the best sketches, and delectable outtakes/gag reels that are just as odd as the real deal. As strange as it sounds – it’s nice to see them break once in a while and laugh like real human people. And karaoke. There is karaoke involved, you guys. As if getting the DVD to look over wasn’t enough, I was told that I got to interview the guys about the DVD. And then I shit myself (See!? Totally my brand of humor!). Below is my interview with Tim (technical difficulty meant Eric and I were unable to converse). So, why should people buy this DVD? I mean, you can find just about anything for free on the Internets. TIM: Well the DVD is easily portable. You can bring it with you in a knapsack if you’re going somewhere. And it has extra features. Like goof-‘em-ups and all that junk where we couldn’t keep a straight face. And lots of behind the scenes stuff showing how we make the show. So this season was obviously a lot darker than the previous one. Was that intentional or did that just happen naturally? TIM: We got more confident over the series, in our voice and characters, and ideas or references for those who had been along for the ride – they could see some resolution to it. There was way more context there than there had been before – so with those ideas we could run with it. Have there ever been sketches you worried about writing or had a hard time with? TIM: Nothing’s coming to mind. We always spend a lot of time on ideas before they need to be shot. So a lot of that decision making comes out in the first stages. A lot of ideas just die on the board. What is that writing process like? TIM: It’s us and three other guys (editors and a show producer). There’s no money to pay anybody and keep writers on, so we keep one or two days of brainstorming and amass this big, giant document. That’s about half of it. The other half is done when we’re putting the script together— adding old ideas, and leaving space for improv. You two have obsessed fans. Creepy ones. TIM: Yeah, we were at a hotel the other day having a meeting by the pool. Because that’s what we do in Hollywood. And a bus boy came up to us and was kind of geeking out. It was a nice hotel in LA so you’d think they were used to that. But he was just like “fuck it” and asked us for a picture. You two met in college and have worked together ever since. Do you ever get sick of each other? TIM: Nope! MK: NEVER?! TIM: Nope. It’s always fun. You guys have always had such awesome guests on the show – do they come to you or do you try to hunt them down? In the first few seasons it was always our friends, but then people started coming to us. We’re really selective with who we work with. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Will Forte works great in our world. John (C. Reilly) obviously worked out for us. So are there some people who have come to you and you get to tell them no? TIM: Yes. Did that feel fantastic? TIM: Oh yeah. There is one, in particular … I won’t say who it is … but it was pretty awesome to say no. What have been some of your favorite sketches? TIM: The Cinco iTanner, Male Broach and Food Tube. Those worked together really well. What’s next? TIM: Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. It’s going to be a wild ride! Snag yourself the complete season five of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! by clicking the image below!
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Jen Kirkman: Hail To The Freaks

Jen KirkmanI first became acquainted with Jen Kirkman’s work through the epic Funny or Die web series Drunk History, where a subject would drink insane amounts of alcohol before sharing a history lesson that would later be acted out verbatim. While Michael Cera’s portrayal of Alexander Hamilton will always hold a special place in my heart, Kirkman’s interpretation of the life of Oney Judge, a slave, is totally top notch. That comedic storytelling ability is readily apparent on her sophomore album, Hail to the Freaks. Following some spontaneous banter with the audience – as a side note, beginning a comedy album with unscripted material is wicked ballsy, to boot, so she gets mad props for that alone – Kirkman launches into some personal anecdotes about her wedding. Though wedding tales can be insufferable, her off-the-cuff, colloquial delivery makes these stories feel like shared hilarious moments among friends, rather than a tired comic routine. That intimate connection is the biggest strength of this album, which is uber hard to cultivate outside of a live performance. Instead of a one-way relationship between comedian and audience, Kirkman’s routine is conversational in tone. It’s self-deprecating, engaging, meaningful and relatable. Not to mention, you know, really funny. Though much of the album centers on those personal moments, be they wedding tales or the trials and tribulations of weight gain, the Chelsea Lately regular does occasionally offer social commentary to great effect. In her discussion of gay marriage, for example, she utters perhaps the best critique of Obama’s position I’ve ever heard: “I’m very mad at Obama, I think he’s a big nerd.” It’s not a particularly vivid statement, nor does it really make much sense, if you think about it. But man, what a great insult. You can’t tell me you’re not imagining Obama wearing taped plastic glasses and suspenders now. And, along those lines, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her hilarious yet blood-curdling take on Sarah Palin’s existence. Just like a horror movie, she explains, Palin’s not just gone for good after her loss in 2008: we’re in the tense lull before the monster returns with a vengeance to win, destroy the country— all that jazz. [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/kirkman.mp3] Even if her political pontification occasionally borders on cynical, she manages to keep those moments just shy of irredeemably pessimistic— as frightening and soul-killing the prospect of a Palin in power is. Overall, Hail to the Freaks shows how a conversational tone is an asset for a comedy album, even if the medium is less intimate than a live performance. So take a listen and see if you feel like you’ve made a new friend. Snag yourself a copy of Hail To The Freaks. Just click the image below!
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Andrew Norelli: A Cut Above Stupid

Andrew NorelliIf Andrew Norelli raced for a living, he’d drive a dragster instead of an Indy car. Hey, he prefers straight lines to curves. He seldom veers off the worn but proven path to laughs, but the skill to take the audience on an amusing ride from Point A to Point B makes Norelli an interesting and entertaining comedian. On A Cut Above Stupid, his new album from Uproar! Entertainment, he simplifies the complexities of life and injects mirth into the mundane. Consider him a comfort comedian for these discomfiting days. Like many of us, Norelli just wants the idiots to stop asking dumb questions, customer care associates to provide more than lip service and the technobrats to log off for one !#@!* second to allow the 2G stragglers to catch up to the 4G lead pack. “I could figure out how to double space on Microsoft Word, if you’d stop touching it. I had it,” he grouses about the constantly updated software. Yes, he may be in character, but if so, Norelli sure acts haggard well. Without looking at life through morose-color glasses, he sees the humor in the quotidian quirks, the family and celebrity twaddle that commoners ignore or miss. Really, he sounds like a guy who needs a nap or a beer, but please, no massage— too stressful (listen below). [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/norelli.mp3] Norelli delivers hilarious insight into these precarious times, when we wish clubs had a four-drink minimum to help us swallow the uncertainty. At the end of track No. 6, “The SAT Test,” Norelli slams the affluent bellyacher who chafes at the unfairness of suddenly being “boatless.” “You know those people,” he continues, “[who] say they’re broke, then you see their ATM receipt. ‘What do mean you’re broke?’ Dude, you’ve got a comma.’” Rich, Norelli, rich. Buy A Cut Above Stupid on iTunes or click the image below.
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Interview with Rob Riggle, ultimate Renaissance comedy machine

Comedian Rob Riggle is everywhere. He’s on the big screen, the small screen, and stages across America, and now, on a webseries produced by AXE Shower Gel and Comedy Central Digital, hosting the AXE Dirtcathalon. Punchline Magazine got a chance to catch up with Riggle and his amazing story of how he came to do almost everything (sketch, stand-up, acting, improv, etc.) all at the same time. You have three separate bios on your site. Do you ever just look back at everything you’ve done and just feel amazed at how far you’ve come? That’s very nice of you to say, but I don’t look back. You gotta keep going forward. Really, it’s amazing. You come from the Midwest. You grew up in Kentucky and you went to the University of Kansas. Do you ever think you’re like one of those Horatio Alger “rags to riches” American dreams stories? I like this. You really romanticized it. I do love this country for many reasons. I had a dream to be a comedic actor and I grew up watching Caddyshack and Stripes and all these wonderful movies and I just thought those guys were so funny and so amazing and I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” You wanted to be “one of those guys”? Yeah, you know, that’s a wonderful thing. You put a little hard work into it. In life, you get what you put in. That’s it’s. There’s no silver bullet. There’s no magic combination. It’s just hard work and maybe a little talent and you catch a break here and there, you get an opportunity here and there, make the most of it, and you hope it works out. I’m still curious, as cheesy at this might sound with everything else I’ve asked you this far, but why was comedy always your dream? Yeah, I don’t know exactly. It just called to me. I did remember when I saw Trading Places and I remember when I saw Caddyshack or Meatballs or any of these great comedy movies. I remember being just so entertained and so mesmerized by some of the performances and thinking that that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I enjoyed it and I think that’s what drove me to, one day, try to be that. I remember the joy that Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy and people like that brought me. I can remember quoting them for days and weeks and months and years. Quoting them and quoting them and thinking how awesome that was. Given that opportunity, I wanted to be that guy too. I wanted to do stuff that was funny and hopefully memorable. I get a real big kick out of when people come up to me and quote lines back to me from movies that I’ve done. That has to be a great feeling. It’s like if I saw Bill Murray, I’d go up and quote lines to him, you know? It’s very flattering and I’m very grateful. I do have to take a moment here. You were in the military for almost 20 years. Thank you for your service to our country. Thanks. I’m still in the Reserves, actually. Twenty-one years. How then do you manage your time? You’ve come all this way with comedy and you’ve had a very illustrious military career as well. How do you balance something like that? Right now, I’m in the Reserves, so provided I get in my proper amount of drill days per year, then I have a “good year” is what it’s called. So long as I get in my days, I’m good. I’m getting very close to getting out. So, I should be out probably sometime around this time next year. You’re going to retire a Lt. Colonel after being in several movies and all these Funny or Die videos. It’s going to be one hell of a party. So, you got a degree in film and theater from the University of Kansas, why did you decide to go in the military if you knew comedy is what you wanted to do? Well, I also had my pilot’s license when I was in college and, at the time, I took a test called the AQTFAR, an aerial aptitude type test. I took this test and the Marines said I scored high enough on it that they’ll give me a guaranteed flight contract. When you’re a young man and about to graduate college and you’re a theater and film major, it means you’re going to be a waiter upon graduation, or, if you’re lucky, a bartender upon graduation cause no one just graduates from college then walks across the street and go, “I’d like to be in movies now.” You have to have a day job, usually for a long period of time. So I was looking at being a waiter or a bartender upon graduation or I could join the Marine Corps with a guaranteed flight contract and be the next Top Gun. So I thought that sounded a little sexier at the time, but then, as it turned out, as I went through Basic Training, Officer Candidate School, went through all that boot camp, and got to flight school down in Pensacola, FL and eventually continued on in Corpus Christi, as I worked my way through the flight school pipeline, I realized that once I pin my wings on, they got me for eight years and that seemed like a lot back then. That’s my whole life and I wanted to try acting and try comedy, you know, I gotta try it. If I don’t try it, I’d always regret it. Right. If I try and I fail, it’ll suck, but, at least, I’ll know. So, I told them I didn’t want to fly anymore and I became a ground officer, which reduced my commitment time, but it was better than right years. I fulfilled my contract as a ground officer and then went and pursued comedy and I’m glad I did. Even in being a ground officer, how would you allocate your time? After I left flight school, I was sent to North Carolina and I served there for two and a half years and then I was getting out. My contract was up. I was done and I was actually going to move to Chicago and I was going to study at Improv Olympic or Second City, I didn’t know which one, I just knew I was going to Chicago to do long form improv like all my heroes: Belushi, Akroyd, all those guys. That’s where I was going. The Marines said, “What would it take for you to stay in?” and I had just been promoted to Captain at that point and I said, “If you can get me to New York or Los Angeles (cause we have a little public affairs office in those places), I would extend on active duty.” They called my bluff. The next day, I had orders to New York City. So, I moved to New York City and I was a Marine seven to five during the day, then, at night, I would leave straight from the Marine office and go downtown to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and I would take classes, do lights and sound for people’s shows, anything I could do to be around the theatre. I would hang around with guys from my improv classes and we would write sketches. We would perform on any empty stage that would have us. Eventually, I started to teach down at the UCB and all that stuff was in the evenings and that was seven nights a week. All my weekends, I was at the UCB constantly trying to learn, trying to absorb, just take in as much as I could, meeting other comedians, meeting other writers who turned out to be life long friends and I still play with them and perform with them to this very day. As a matter of fact, Paul Scheer, Rob Heubel who are from Human Giant, the three of us were on the same improv troupe at the UCB for 7 years. Tonight, I’m going to the UCB Theatre here in Los Angeles and we’re doing a show that we did back in New York called “Facebook” That’s where you take an audience member’s Facebook profile and improv off that, right? Exactly. Back in New York, way back in the day, the original name of the show was “MySpace”. I mean, I still do improv whenever I get a chance. I don’t get paid for it, but we do it because we love it. Absolutely. We love each other and we love doing improv. I always held this belief about comedy that if you’re going to perform it, you can’t be in it for the money. You have to be in it for the love of it because you’re not going to make any money at it for a long time. That is a cold hard fact. You gotta love so much that if you wouldn’t do it for free, it’s probably not what you should be doing. As I’m a stand-up comic as well, here in LA, performing for free kind of goes without saying. Yeah, exactly. But, if you work at it long enough and hard enough and get where you want to be, the money will come. You were a Marine from seven to five, then you were at the UCB seven nights a week. How do you have the energy for that? You know, you do a lot of things when you’re a young man, right? If you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it. Did you feel coming up through the UCB prepared you for things later in your comedy career like the Daily Show, SNL, the Office? Absolutely, 100 percent. I believe the UCB is hands down one of the best training grounds for whatever you want to do. If you want to be a writer, if you want to be an actor, if you want to be a stand-up even, believe it or not, it’s just a wonderful place to go learn because you get stage time, which is crucial. You learn what works in front of an audience and what doesn’t and why. You start surrounding yourself with a community of comedians and writers and it’s also just a great place to be seen. There’s managers and agents and casting directors are all over the UCB Theatre in New York and in LA. It’s a real good community and it’s a good place to start. Do you think it’s almost like a movement at this point? UCB, alternative comedy? I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know how I’d frame it like that. I just think a great training ground and a great proving ground. A great place to grow your roots and also grow your wings. Oh, I sound like my dad, right? They’re there for a reason. I have nothing but positive things to say about the UCB because I feel like I grew up there comedically. I got to get up and do shows. I had shows that were very successful and shows that tanked. You know, you have great days and you have bad days, but it’s all learning. Again, I still have people I met there that I still work with to this very day and I can see myself working with them for the rest of my life because they’re wildly talented and we enjoy each other’s comedy. The reason I ask about UCB being a movement is that a lot of people that aren’t aware that the UCB even exists, that there’s such a thing as alternative comedy. Here in LA, there are people that only know, as far as comedy goes, about the Hollywood Improv, Laugh Factory, the Comedy Store, and that’s it. They deny themselves. I’m a stand-up too and I love stand-up and I enjoy it a lot, but improv is something special and when it’s done well, it’s really fun to watch people who know what they’re doing. It’s a really a good time. It also feels a little safer than going out on the stage all by yourself, especially when you’re starting out. There’s almost very little difference between some booked shows and some of the open mics here in LA because you’re still performing for comics and it’s rough. It can be great sometimes, but, either way, you, as a performer, have to go through it. A working stand up comic friend of mine was telling me recently that bad shows never stop. You’ll always keep having bad shows. It’s just the frequency of it will go down if you keep going up and keep working at it. That’s a fact. Sometimes, it’s out of your control. I’ve done stand-up shows that have gone average and you think to yourself, “What was the deal with tonight?” Sometimes, it’s you. Sometimes, it’s them [the audience]. There’s a lot of factors that go into a good show that you kind of just take for granted. That’s accurate though; the bad shows get fewer and far between.
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You did sketch and improv for so long, how did you get into doing stand-up? I was on the Daily Show and I shared an office with John Oliver for almost three years and John Oliver is an amazing stand-up comedian. And, he was always on my case, telling me that I gotta do it and I finally said OK, you’re right, I’m gonna do it. So he kind of pushed me into getting out there and, you know, I would go around New York to the Slipper Room, the Piano Room, UCB, any place that had stage time and I would get up and do five minutes here and five minutes there and eventually I was able to build a set. Is that set what you do now or do you still write new material? I’m always developing material. Not enough, lately. I’ve been writing screenplays and stuff. You know what it’s like being a stand-up (ed. note: writer Jake Kroeger performs stand-up in LA), you have your notebook, jotting down premises and then you’ll flesh that out later and then you come back and think, “Why did I think that was funny?” Though, sometimes you look back and see that there was something funny there, “I can work with that.” Then, you’re doing it six months later and then you find what was funny actually worked. You just found that little detail that needed to be there for it to work. Absolutely. You’re doing the road now, correct? Yes. Do you think being in the military has mitigated how lonesome and grueling that can be? Yeah, definitely. It was absolutely a good training ground. Road stories with comedians are always a big deal and how depressing it can get, but you must have a pretty high tolerance for it. Well, I’ve been deployed before and I know what it’s like and also, I’m kind of a square because I’m married and I didn’t get into stand-up until after I was married, a little later in life. Most of those comics when there out there on the road, they’re in their 20’s. They’re single and they’re getting loaded, meeting girls, you know, and it’s a good time. For me, I go to my hotel room. I go to bed. I go to the clubs and do my gigs. Then, I go home and that’s it. So it’s not quite the wild ride that everyone else is having. You’ve done the Daily Show, SNL, stand up, viral videos. Take us, if you would, through the trajectory of where you want to go comedy wise and how it’s been? Well, I would love to be the lead in a movie. Eventually, someday, I would love to have that opportunity and other than that, I want to keep doing what I’m doing, which is comedic acting. It’s so much fun when you get to work with really funny, talented people. If I keep doing that, that’s all I need and I’m a very happy man. How do you “switch hats” between all of these things: sketch, stand up, improv, acting? At the end of the day, it’s still comedy and you’re making people laugh, but it’s a different skill set. It’s like being a baseball player. When you’re in the field, you have situation awareness. If they hit a “pop-up,” you know how to handle it. If they hit a ground ball, you know where you’re going to throw it, and when you’re at the plate and it’s time to bat, it’s a totally different thing. It’s still in the same genre of baseball, but it’s a different skill set and you gotta know how to hit the high ones and how to hit the low ones. You got to have all those skills down, but it is all under the umbrella of baseball. I think the same thing goes for comedy. You’ve got the big umbrella of comedy, but then, underneath that umbrella, you have stand-up, sketch, comedic acting, story-telling, writing. you know, there’s all kinds of things that fall under that. It’s just different skill sets and I think, as a comedian, you need to have as many of them as possible. You’re doing so many projects right now, building the Rob Riggle brand? I don’t look at it as building the Rob Riggle brand, but I definitely look at it as an opportunity to work. That’s all that I can ask for, but I hear that too, “You gotta come up with your own thing, your own brand, da da da…” So it’s yes and no. If it’s something good, people buy into it, gets traction, gets you recognized, then that’s great, but it doesn’t mean that it works for everybody. Generally, what I’ve found and what I believe to be true is that if you just go out and do good work, the best you can, things tend to follow. Things take shape the way they’re supposed to. There’s no magic formula. There’s no silver bullet answer to the combination of success. It doesn’t work like that. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. There’s a ten year overnight success. That’s pretty common. I love how with comedic performers when they break out, people think they’re just brand new, but have been working at it for 15 years. I think people watch American Idol too much these days and think it’s going to happen overnight like you can just walk off a playground and be a superstar. If it happens, it’s one in a million. It’s the exception and not the norm. The norm is: you work your balls off, you don’t get paid much, you don’t get appreciated much, as a matter of fact, you get fucking out right abused. If you have enough tenacity, you might catch enough breaks that you actually get what you want. You said that there is no answer to making it in comedy. I think that you have a little bit of an answer. You do all these different things we’ve mentioned throughout, do you think that’s what it takes to make it? No, I don’t necessarily that is what it takes. I think hard work is what it takes. Generally, people want it to come to them, but it’s never going to come to you. Unless you are one of maybe 10 people in this world that are on a very small A-list, people actually write movies and produce movies for you, everything else you have to go get yourself. Like your most recent project, The AXE Dirtcathalon. What exactly is it? The good people over at AXE Shower Gel are relaunching their brand and they wanted to do it in a fun, unique way. So, they created this series called the AXE Dirtcathlon. It’s basically a game show meets a reality show on the web. We have four, hot, young, sexy couples competing against each other in these bizarre challenges that we’ve created for them, so that they get very dirty in the process and whoever wins out of this challenge gets a trip to Spain to be a part of that festival where they throw tomatoes at each other so they can get dirty all over again and if you go to Axe.Atom.com, you can watch these webisodes and you can even win prizes yourself.
How did you get approached for this project? They just called. They called and asked if I’d be willing to host and I said, “yeah.” You can catch more of Rob at the AXE Dirtcathalon here and find out where he’s performing next or what big blockbuster comedy he’s in at RobRiggle.com.
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Interview: Sandra Bernhard loves being her—and we would, too

Sandra BernhardComedian, singer, writer, mom and all-around kick-ass broad Sandra Bernhard took some time out of her insanely busy schedule to talk to us about her newest album, I Love Being Me, Don’t You? (out June 7), fictional girl fights and Roseanne Barr. Pre-order the album on iTunes. I listened to your album. Oh good. It’s so fun. I’m curious how much of that is prepared and how much is just you having a good time in a room full of people who obviously adore you. That night [October 2010 at the Castro in San Francisco], which was this concert of kismet, they just happened to be professionally recording it. And I just happened to be on and plugging into my improvisational goddesses and just went on a tear. So, so much of that night is really a one-off that I could never re-create again. There’s that moment where you’re like, “They’re obviously not recording me tonight, because they never record me when I’m doing well.” Exactly. I had no idea that they were recording it. I guess that made it even better, because I felt like I was free to say whatever I wanted. And therefore it was being recorded, and you want to capture those nights, because those are the best nights. Do you go in with…you said you probably couldn’t replicate it, and there are lots of different reasons. Crowds obviously change the way a performance can go—but is there a lot that you go in prepared with? Oh sure. It’s always important for any performer to have an actual act, you know what I mean? I don’t know anybody that could improvise an entire show every night. If you’re just a little bit off or the crowd’s not with you, you freeze. So, of course. I have a lot of different acts. I have some acts that are with a full band, so they’re more prepared and big pieces and big musical numbers. Then there are the nights that are like the night I did in San Francisco where I have my guitar player and it’s more casual. But even on those nights I have fall-back material, and a point A to point B. You’ve got to have that outline as an artist to get through the night, because as I said, if you freeze up, you’re done. I’m curious how much over the years the way that you go into these things has changed. You’ve become one of these iconic figures, so you’ve got to assume that most of the time the people who are coming to see you are the people who already love you, so you know you’re going to have support there. Right. That’s true. That makes me feel more responsible. Because if somebody’s come back to see me year after year, I don’t want to cheat them. I don’t want to phone it in and be like, “You’ve heard this a hundred times.” I’m constantly pushing myself and challenging myself to write new material and try to be on the cutting edge, because there’s a lot of new performers, there’s a lot of people out there. You’ve got to stay in the game and be prepared and willing to do the work. I always try to do that. It’s really important to me. I know the covers on the album [Melanie’s “Beautiful People” and a hybrid of Pink’s “Just Like a Pill” and Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly”] are beloved covers that you’ve done before. Will those change as well when you start touring with this? Oh yeah. I’m always looking for new songs that I’ve always enjoyed over the years, and then some of my original tunes. I’m constantly churning up the musical aspect as well. But I do come back to some of the ones that people like, because if you go to see Stevie Nicks, you want to hear “Rhiannon.” You’ve got to walk that fine line, except when you’re doing more comedic monologues, you’ve got to keep that a little bit fresher. How did ever decide on Lita Ford for a cover? I just love that song. Even though when you look at it for the surface value, you think, Oh, this is a tacky song, there’s just something about the Runaways and the early days of women in rock and roll, and they continued to be out there doing their thing…there’s something heartbreaking about it on a certain level and emotional. I don’t know, I just always manage to find the underpinnings to a song like that and relate it to all the kids that listened to it and all the kids that made out to it. There are so many layers to a great rock song, so I always tap into that. And I feel like she was sort of rare. She was this one chick among all these rocker guys when that song came out. Exactly. There she was in her leather and her bustier. She was kind of groovy and weird and I don’t know, she’s cool. I like to pay homage. I have to ask if your girlfriend has heard the album. Um, no. But she kind of knows all my material. She knows that I can go off on tangents. I’m always curious…you are obviously not someone who I would describe as afraid to express her opinion—you talk about your girlfriend, you talk about your friend Iman, you talk about the people at the Kaballah Center…. You’re still a real person. When you go home, is it like, “Oh, that’s just Sandra doing her thing,” or is there hell to pay when you go home and your girlfriend knows you’ve talked about you guys being in therapy or her being uptight and reading over your shoulder? (laughing) Well, you know, I’m sure there’s always consequences to everything, but we’re all on the same page, and I don’t think I ever cross that line with my family. Hopefully people understand. But that’s a very fair question. Well, I’m wondering also—and this may be a question of just age, too—if your daughter ever listens to your stuff. She does, but not really. She’s not that interested. She kind of goes like, “Uh, Mom, whatever.” She’s in a different headspace—she’s a preteen. I think she’s just preoccupied with other stuff. We’re very close, and she loves me, and we talk about stuff, but I don’t think she’s that interested completely in what I do at this point. She comes to my shows and she likes to be backstage and run around, but she’s so like…whatever. And it’s a much healthier way to be. Do you think she has any leanings toward showbiz herself? I think she’s starting to express some interest in singing and acting. We’ll see how far that goes. We’re just sort of letting her do her thing. One thing I noticed about this album, and I’m curious if it’s intentional or not—it’s not that political. There’s the stuff that you say about Obama, which I have to say, personally, I completely appreciated, because I don’t think that’s a very popular view right now. Right. Well, you know, I’ve been political. During the last election I was very political. I think during the Bush administration there was a lot more to talk about for people like me because I felt very threatened by what he was doing. I think I needed a major psychic break from talking about it. The cards are on the table. Any thinking, sentient person knows, you have one way of looking at things or you have another, and I think my way of looking at it is a much more rational way. I just can’t fight that fight every day, and onstage, especially if people are coming to see me, people are coming to see me. It’s not like I’m in Vegas and people are wandering in from the casino and I have to watch what I’m saying. I feel like it’s just not really worth the exhaustion to talk about things that drive me crazy about the Republicans at this point. There was some stuff that you said about Sarah Palin a couple of years ago, there was some backlash to that—and again, like I said, I think of you as a pretty fearless person, but you’re also a person, so I wonder if that has any impact on you. Yeah, it did, it did have an impact, only because the people that are out there are very threatening, and they threaten violence, and they’re just scary people, so it’s like, I want to put myself on the line? The outcome was the outcome that I wanted. She kind of faded into the mist—maybe she’s resurfacing now. I mean, it’s obvious what she’s about, and I don’t feel like I need to put myself out there. It’s not like I’m on Bill Maher where we’re having a political conversation. When you’re onstage by yourself, you have to make things funny, you’re up there by yourself. I am a woman, I mean, there are different levels…sometimes it’s just not worth it. If she ran again, do you think she’d become something you talked about again? Well, I would certainly…I would have to sit back and watch how far it all went. In terms of Sarah Palin, I feel like she’s been talked about, and she’s exposed herself and exploited her family and, I mean, there’s really nothing left to say that’s really in the realm of humor. It’s this weird personal thing that she’s played out, and I think it’s very narcissistic. I don’t want to contribute to celebrating her negatively or positively. She has a film coming out apparently that she’s producing where she shows people trashing her. If that doesn’t say it all about somebody, I don’t know what does. I don’t want to be involved in that particular weird scene at this point or any point in the near future. You talk about being on Twitter, and you obviously tweet a lot. You make a funny comment about it—it is this weird kind of, “Yeah, we don’t want to see people in real life, we just kind of want to tweet at them from afar a little bit.” Right. I’m wondering if you ever hear from people that you talk about onstage, whether it’s on Twitter or otherwise…like, you’ve made some comments about Kathy Griffin, and you were talking about Arnold Schwarzengger, and I wonder if you ever hear…like, is Kathy Griffin tweeting at you? I never Twitter about people. You can’t fully…once again, it’s not like you’re onstage or in a conversation on a talk show where people see you going back and forth with someone. You’re doing it from a void. And if you just say in 140 letters “This person’s an idiot,” of course that’s going to stir up a hornet’s nest, which I’m not interested in doing. And PS, by the way, I don’t have any battle with Kathy Griffin at all. I simply said she has borrowed from me along the way and she’d be the first to admit it. And what she does has taken it in a whole different direction, but I know that did influence her. And sometimes it’s like, hey, you know, I don’t want to cheapen what I do. Sometimes people take it in a direction I don’t agree with, but I do a more sophisticated kind of performing, and that’s how I like to do it. But there’s definitely no battle. Well here’s the thing: If you look online at that video you did with Rob Shuter, it doesn’t look like there is. I feel like what happens is, people love battles. They’re so desperate to find people who are sniping with each other like the Housewives of New York, New Jersey, Orange County, that that’s what they always want to see and they forget that there’s social criticism, that there’s a way of saying things that’s not about starting World War III, it’s about saying, I know this person. I feel like this is the influence and this is how I approach it. I’m not taking the piss out of Kathy Griffin, because I don’t want to. I don’t have the need to do that. She’s very successful, she’s a woman, she’s out there, God bless her. Good, yay, another funny woman who’s got the temerity to stick it out and become a success. So on that level, I support her. She’s not doing anything, y’know, really bad or disruptive. It’s just a difference in style, and that’s all I was commenting on. [audio:http://www.punchlinemagazine.com/audio/bernhard.mp3] You mention on the album that Arts and Crafts [Bernhard’s play with Justin Vivian Bond] didn’t have a home yet, and obviously it played here in New York City at Joe’s Pub, so congratulations on that. That was more or a less a night of bringing in producers and stuff. We still don’t have a home. We’re still working on that. We’re looking to meet with a director/producer or a theater company or somebody who will develop it to the next level and put it up at a theater. It’s a long process. I’m super busy, and Justin Bond is very busy, so we’re trying to merge our schedules around meeting with people and making it all happen. That’s a work in progress. And when you’re trying to get something to happen, you still have to make money, so you can’t put the brakes on the rest of your career because if something isn’t generating money, it’s sort of a weird double-edged sword. And anyway we’re working on something I want to see happen for sure. I typically think of you a one-woman thing—when I think of your albums and shows and all that you’ve written. Is the process of collaborating with another person, especially a friend, something you particularly enjoy? Oh yeah, and I’ve done it in the past. I’ve written with my girlfriend, I’ve written with friends, yeah, it’s really important to have that break of just not constantly having to do your own work. It’s exhausting. I write my own material, so you need those breaks in between and it’s great to collaborate with people that you’re friends with and projects that don’t always see the light of day, but there’s something very fulfilling about continuing to push it in new directions. Speaking of being exhausted, you’re about to start an international tour of this album? Well, you know, it’s not all just going to happen at once. We’re rolling it out during the year. June is very busy, because I have a couple of dates before Town Hall on June 8, and Town Hall’s a big, big show, I have special guests coming in. And then I’m going to the West Coast, I’m going to Napa, and then I’m doing the entire Gay Pride weekend in San Francisco. I’m doing two nights of my show, but then like two other nights of stuff that’s just associated with Gay Pride, so that’ll be a busy time. It’ll roll out during the summer and out through the year, yeah, we’re tying it in with the album because that’s a great platform when you perform live to sell things. So, I mean, that can kind of go on for at least the next year if not more, because it’s not like you’re trying to push a single of an album, so it makes the shelf life a little bit longer. Is that harder to do now? You have a 12-year-old daughter, you’ve been doing this for a long time—is it something you still enjoy? Oh yeah, I do. I really do enjoy going to new markets, going back to cities I’ve been to. We always try to stay in a nice hotel, we always try to eat great food, so even though it’s work and it’s pressure and it takes a lot of focus, some of the stuff around it—you get to see friends you haven’t seen in awhile—I always enjoy it. And it always ends up being an enriching experience. You meet fans, people who’ve come back again, it’s like this great thing. Did you read Roseanne Barr’s recent piece in New York magazine?. I have read it and loved it and really think she is as always on the cutting edge and so smart and so daring and really has continued to tell it like it is. She did it for 10 seasons on her show. And having been a part of that and having seen how she worked and how much energy and effort went into that along with the emotional sidebar of it all—no pun intended—um, yeah, I loved that piece. I thought it was right on. So it was accurate to your experience on the show? Well, my experience on the show was very different. I would come and go. I got to come in and have a great time. It was all on her shoulders. She was the one where the buck stopped and she created it and it was her life that she put it on the line every week. That’s a big responsibility. I guess I could do it, but I don’t think anybody could do it again because I don’t think they’d let a woman do it again. And that’s kind of what she said, too. That Roseanne was a first and a last. I think she got in under the wire. She happened to hit at a certain time with a certain opening in the universe and she made shit work. I honestly don’t think it could happen again. For more info on Sandra, check out sandrabernhard.com. You can pre-order the new album on iTunes.
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