Category Archives: Interviews

The Greatest Debate with James Adomian & Anthony Atamanuik

Over the phone I heard two voices I had gotten to know quite well through a series of political inspired debates on Youtube, now set on touring the nation in an ultimate display of our polarized popular ideologies and universal absurdity. Within the first few seconds, I was hooked. And by the end of it I felt the surge of political revolution, and the increasing momentum of the triumphantly original and iconic Trump vs. Bernie 2016 Debate Tour. If soon there is to be a sibling to Mt Rushmore constructed in out time, may the faces of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, James Adomian, and Anthony Atamanuik loom over the forests of the American Midwest.

How did the the first debate come about?

Anthony Atamanuik: I was doing Trump in New York, and I knew James had been doing Bernie for a while. We’d been friends for years, and we’d always done impressions and characters around each other in New York and LA. Actually, James texted me one day and said, “Hey, man, we should try to do this together.” It ended up that we had a good synthesis of a show we could do it at, Whiplash. From there it sort of snowballed because there was a lot of interest.

James Adomian: [Anthony] had the great idea to film the show at Whiplash and have [Anthony Sneed] filming it. It was a pretty popular video on YouTube and from there people were like, “We want to see the whole hour!” or “When are you gonna put it on TV?” So we’re doing what we can, which is a big tour.

I love how you guys are marketing it. I’ve been following closely and a lot of my friends have been as well. I know you guys are going to D.C. Where else are you excited be touring?

JA: Well, we’re very excited to be doing New Hampshire. We’re doing two different cities right before the primary, and we’re going to be right there at the New Hampshire primary.

AA: In the heart of it, right where it all happens, in Manchester.

JA: I think there’s a good chance both Trump and Bernie will win their primaries that night. And that will be perfect.

AA: That will prove that we can finally get our plan of starting the Psychic Friends Network back up and running.

How long have the two of you known each other?

AA: 2008?

JA: Something like that, yeah. It’s been eight years.

AA: Yeah, eight years. Both Obama terms.

How did you meet—just gigging in similar places?

JA: The Del Close Marathon happens at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York every summer, and they have all the craziest, funniest shows late at night. I think we met at a 2 a.m. show called Match Game 76.  

AA: He was Orson Welles, and I was a young John McCain who was just freed from Vietnam.

Adomian Texting

Continue reading The Greatest Debate with James Adomian & Anthony Atamanuik

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More Surreal: An Interview with Rich Fulcher

I lack an eidetic memory, so in order transcribe these phone call interviews I must record them through an app on my Apple product. My laughter was present throughout 80% of the conversation, because this man understands absurdity. The fact that the recording was audible despite my perpetual cackles and sniggers is nothing short of a miracle. In fact, the man I inter- viewed is a miracle. You probably know him from British television or from all the times your
keys and wallet go missing.

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What is your earliest memory?

Oh, God. I remember somehow being in trouble, and I was told to go in my crib, or playpen (is that was they call it)? Apparently, I rode my tricycle off the base where we had just moved because I was so excited that it was flat, so I went all the way to the main gate, and security picked me up and they drove me back. We were moving at the time, so my parents sort of lost track of me, but I just kept going on my trike, and I think I was relegated to my room for a while.

So you were a military brat?

Air Force brat, yeah. Get it straight.

Did you have to make friends over and over? What was that like?

A lot of entertainers are military brats because they have to adjust. You either, like, withdraw into a shell, get beat up or become a bully, or you try and adjust as quickly as you can. I always felt sick to my stomach whenever I went to a new school, and I would try to be a bit goofy. It would depend on the class, but I would either be a class clown or a, you know, a goofball. You know. You know how it is. I think the same thing happened with Louis Anderson.

[Laughs] No, I don’t know, I just said that randomly. Jim Morrison was a military brat.

Do you feel any sort of extra patriotism? Do you feel connected to the structure of our country because of your upbringing? Or –

The structure?

[Laughs]

I looove the structure of the US. It’s sooo well put together.

I mean more like the system. Do you care about elections and politicians?

You know, actually, I’m really into politics. A lot of it is just because I like to hear arguing. I love good arguments and debates, so I’ll watch like MSNBC and stuff all the time. It’s sort of like sports for me. But as far as being extra patriotic, I used to be more like that and then I just sort of became a little less… crazy.

When you go overseas you realize the good things and the not so good things about the U.S.

What are some of the not-so-good things that you’ve realized?

Well, it’s still a really young country, so it’s still a little uptight. It’s still a little up its own bum. It’s a bit puritanical. Anything sexual comes out in a weird way because it’s sort of repressed, so whenever you repress it in one way it comes out, like, bestiality. It’s not just treated as a normal thing. Like a country that’s been around for a thousand years has a different sort of attitude about stuff like that. But the good thing about the U.S. is it’s always changing and it’s always innovating, so you can never be bored.

If you want to be a ghost, you be a ghost.
Put yourself on the web.
If you want to do porno, you can.

Of course. Do you have any religious beliefs?

Do I? Not really. I think you die and dissolve somewhere.

Like oblivion or an eternal nothingness?

I think you go into like a big bucket of borscht, and everybody is cooked in it, and then it’s periodically poured onto the Earth, mostly through Russia and parts of Lithuania. No, I’m not even going, “Just in case, I’ll believe.” It’s like I’ve sort of lost that energy. Like “Ugh. I don’t see much proof of this.”

Continue reading More Surreal: An Interview with Rich Fulcher

Not Some People: an interview with Nick Vatterott

Some people aren’t easy to get along with or worth knowing. Some people are complete dullards, trudg- ing through life without any sense of ambition or creative ability. Some people are just unpleasant and boring as all hell. The person I spoke to over the phone on October 4th, 2014 is not some people. He is kind, he is smart, he is important. He is…

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What is your earliest memory?

I must have been three years old. I think it was the first time I ever saw snow or something like that, and I ran outside in my pajamas and started running in the snow.

That’s actually really delightful. Would you say that reflects your day-to-day character? Are you joyful all the time, running into new situations with excitement?

I think I’m always interested in running into the snow. I’m always interested in running into whatever. “What is this thing over here? What is this? Let’s try this out.” And a lot of the times I’m not always prepared for it. I’m just in my pajamas, and I probably should have done more homework.

When you were 10 years old, what did you see yourself doing as an adult?

Having a beard. I didn’t really know. I still cannot grow one, so that’s never gonna happen. I think I wanted to be a Nintendo programmer at that point and a professional basketball player shortly after that. In fifth grade I had to fill out a “what do you want to be when you grow up?” [questionnaire], and I wrote on this thing, “stand-up comedian”. Years after I went away from that, and then eventually came back to it. But I always loved comedy. I didn’t understand why people weren’t watching comedy all the time.

What got you started with Second City and doing improv in general?

The first real comedy thing I did was an improv group in college. A buddy of mine was approached to start an improv group at the University of Missouri. He asked me to be a part of it, and then I wrote a humor column for the newspaper at that time. Those were the only two things I wasn’t doing terribly at the university. Second City had come through our town, and I had tried an amateur stand-up contest at the local comedy club, and I had visited Chicago, and I was like, “I gotta get out of college. I gotta do something. Let me just go to Chicago and just try this, see what happens and then take it from there, regardless of what happens.”

People had always been like, “You should do stand-up.” Even at parties, they would be like, “Oh, you’re like a funny guy. You’re like, really funny. You should do something with that.” And I’m like,  “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. I should also be Michael Jordan too, right?” And they’re like, “NO!” [laughs maniacally]

How often do you write?

When I moved to Chicago I’d go up and do five minutes, and I realized that a lot of the same people were there the following week. This is how I know all those guys: Hannibal [Buress], and Kumail [Nanjiani], and Pete Holmes, and [Kyle] Kinane, and a million other people that are just super awesome and influential. I felt I couldn’t do the same material in front of all those guys as I just did the week before. You’ve got to know your audience. If your audience knows your material, there’s nothing in it for them. And I’m talking about The Lion’s Den, the one specific show every Monday night. I felt I could use every other open mic and every other show the rest of the week to work on material, but for that Monday night show I tried to do five new minutes every week. And I did that for years.

Then I got hired on a cruise ship and I was gone for four months, so for the first time since I started comedy I didn’t write five new minutes every week because I didn’t have an outlet to perform them. I started moving and traveling more, and then I started focusing my writing on more scripts, sketches and working on various other projects. Some weeks are just more than others, how motivated can you get that particular week. But I feel rhythm is like the biggest thing. It was because I was in a rhythm of writing five new minutes every week, that’s why that happened. Once you break that rhythm, it’s really hard to get that momentum going again.

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In 2011 you won the Andy Kaufman Award. It’s my understanding that those who win the award get to spend five nights with Andy at his mansion in Bavaria, where he has been living in secret for all these years. What was that like?

It’s great. You get to go to Bavaria, but you never get to actually meet Andy. He’s always wearing a completely full blue body suit, and he’s generally underwater the whole time. I had dinner with him as he sat in the aquarium at the far end of the table. We had lunch while he was at the bottom of the swimming pool—he’s got some sort of oxygen device.

Do you think he’s actually alive still? Did you read about Bob Zmuda and his new book?

It’s more fun to believe that he is. It’s more fun to believe in Santa Claus than to not. If he’s alive, I think this is the year that he reveals himself and he comes out and he tells everybody that he was Bob Zmuda the whole time.

Let’s transition to some sports talk.

Finally!

How do you think ISIS will do over these next few months, and how will they affect the other global players?

I get that they’re in a building year, this year. They’re in a transition year. I think they’re more into—I don’t know. They don’t have their priorities correct, you know? To be perfectly honest, their uniforms are garbage. They’re not very good for running around in and kicking and throwing and jumping and running. They’re very restraining. They’re gonna get caught on a lot of things, and I just think they really need to rethink their entire uniform if they want to have a chance to get any sort of athletic achievement.

Do you think there will ever be an event that ushers in an era of peace or even a gradual transition to global tranquility, or will we always be hungry for war?

It’s funny how like ISIS is so bad, but al-Qaeda is against them. We are actually on the same side with al-Qaeda, as far as our perception of ISIS goes. Hitler united a lot of the world just because people were united against him. Sadly, it’s almost like there needs to be some sort of terrible thing that the world that unites against. I think alien invasion is gonna do it. I think aliens are gonna invade, and finally we’ll get together with everybody else and be like, “We gotta beat these aliens. Oil? That doesn’t matter, the aliens drank it all, so now we have nothing to fight about.” We unite against the aliens, and then all the leaders unite and say, “It’s all peace and we have ice cream forever.”

Do you have any major aspirations unrelated to comedy or entertainment?

I would like to do something good. Comedy is a constant set of frustrations. If you’re not happy when you’re poor and at an open mic, then you’re not gonna be happy when you’re rich and doing arenas. That is sort of like the number one lesson. Every time you get to a next tier, it’s just a new set of frustrations. At an open mic you just wish you could do shows. As soon as you start doing shows, then you’re like, “Well, this is frustrating. I’m not really getting paid to do it.” And then you start getting paid to do a club: “Yeah, this is frustrating, I’m not really headlining. I wish I was headlining.” Then you start headlining and then you’re like, “Well, this is frustrating, the club keeps telling me that I’m not a draw the whole time, and they won’t book me back because I’m not a draw.” And then you’re finally a draw, and then you’re like, “Well, now people just keep bugging me on the fucking street. They yell my catchphrase at me the whole time I do my show.”

In one year I saw Bill Cosby and Dave Chappelle. I saw them within a month of each other, and they both got heckled. It’s like, “Wow, it never ends.” I think at one point, you’re just like, “I should go to Africa and dig wells. I should try to fix the homeless situation in at least one city and give people the medicine they need.” I think I have an odd-wired brain, and if it was wired one way different, I’d be the homeless guy trying to play cards with pigeons on the corner. There’s a pill that guy can take that will make him think normal again. To me I almost feel like that’s more rewarding than the low points of comedy.

Also: Professional space-jumper. If I could just jump from space into Earth and get paid for that some how, that could definitely be dope.

If money were no limitation, what would you be doing right now? I would just guess space-jumping.

Space-jumping, yeah. I wanna get paid for that. I would only do it if I get paid, you know?

I’d probably spend more time with my family, as lame is that sounds. I’d fly them out more; I’d fly home more often. It’s unfortunate that money is a factor to that.

I think rocket-pack around Tokyo. I would love to build a giant Godzilla, and then I’d love to rocket-pack defeat him and then just be a hero. I think more outlandish, month-long pranks where no one really knows what happened. More alien sightings, Bigfoot sightings. I just want to mess with everybody’s minds. I think that would be very entertaining.

I wanna save homeless people. I want to help out those who are unfortunate. And those that are fortunate, I want to take down. With pranks.

What things in life give you the most pleasure?

Sadly, comedy.

Good.

I’m a sucker for people being good to each other. Like, any video where strangers are good to each other, I’ll sort of get tiny choked up, you know? I’ve just lost so much faith in humanity that when I see it, it’s just a great reminder.

Pinball is my huge thing right now. I’m a pinball addict. There’s a Walking Dead and Great Lebowski pinball machine coming out soon that I’m super excited about. I don’t know if anybody is as excited about it as I am, and I don’t have a lot of people I can talk to about it. There’s something about pinball that just fits with my personality. People are often like, “But you don’t have any control over it.” No, you’re wrong. It’s sort of like chaotic darts. It’s chaos, but you can sort of control the chaos a little bit. You have some say in the chaos. At the end of the day, there are just things that are beyond your control, and it’s just how you adapt. Part of me just loves the idea that everything is just ridiculous and crazy and completely bonkers, and you have some control over it, and, Jesus, when three multi-balls are going on, it’s just bonkers-town.

WebYar1

What is your deepest fear?

My deepest fear is that I didn’t utilize my time for the things that are most important. While I feel that I’m generally, consistently conscious of that and aware of my use of time, I don’t wanna look back and be like, “That was an unimportant thing.” I don’t want to look back and be like, “I spent too much time on Twitter. All that time on Twitter was a phone call I could have made to an old friend. Time I could have used to spend with my loved ones, with my family.”

With the internet you can now have more control of your career by “gaining a following” and all that stuff. I feel like we as comedians, we do a lot of things that we feel are necessary or they’re part of the “do everything we can to make this possible career work.” I feel like a lot of the things that we feel are necessary are actually a distraction. Sometimes I sit there and go, “If I took all the time I’ve spent on writing blogs and podcasts and Twitter and my web page and all that stuff, never spent one second on any of that stuff, how many screenplays would I have done by now?” It’s hard to step back and look at Twitter and be like, “I did a real good Twitter feed.” Even if I don’t sell it, I think I’d have more sense of accomplishment of writing something that’s meaningful, that I think is good work.

You have been given one week left to live. What do you do with your time?

I think I’d take everybody that I want to spend time with on my last week, and we—I think we’d all just jump from space together. I’ve sort of lucked out. When I was working on the cruise ship for Second City—I loved that—I lucked out. I got to go see Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Greece and Rome. I got to see all that stuff. I’m so lucky to have done that. So as far as traveling goes, I feel like I just want to find that one cool place. Maybe we all just go to Chicago, and drink and have fun. I don’t really want an itinerary. I just want to hang out. I do want there to be pinball machines everywhere. I just want to drink and play pinball and hang out with people. I think that’s probably what it would be; I would go to Chicago, I’d try to do shows every night, I’d try to get my favorite performers to play with me, and I think we’d just drink and play pinball the whole time. I’m trying to think of that last moment. I think walking into the lake…see how far I can walk into Lake Michigan. “Goodbye, everyone! I’m going to Canada by way of Lake Michigan!”

Nick Vatterott’s album For Amusement Only is now available on Comedy Central Records. You can learn more about Nick by visiting his website and following him on Twitter @NickVatterott

Interview conducted by David Luna
Artwork by Kevin Cole, David Luna, Yarissa Luna

Continue reading Not Some People: an interview with Nick Vatterott

Two Distinct Holidays: Celebrating Secular Xmas with Connor Ratliff

Connor Ratliff is a writer and improvisor in New York City. He is best known as a member of The Stepfathers, the warm-up comic for The Chris Gethard Show and the host of The George Lucas Talk Show. Ratliff’s holiday special (made with the help of Chris Gethard Show cohorts Keith Haskel and Rob Malone), The Spirit of Ratliff, goes online December 21. Ratliff is agnostic and perhaps the most passionate fan of Xmas I’ve ever met.

In your Tumblr post detailing the origins of the Spirit of Ratliff EP, you never spell out the word “Christmas.” When we transcribe this interview, should we do the same?

I think so. It’s funny, I was talking to someone last night and they were asking me about the whole special and the EP—I remember as a kid, people would say they didn’t like it when people spell “Christmas” with an X. I don’t know what the actual origin of it is, but I remember hearing so much the people didn’t like it because they felt it was X-ing out Christ, and they felt it was sacrilegious. That seems like a hostile act, whereas we were writing the songs I was making a point of what I celebrate being secular Xmas rather than the religious holiday. Even though they’re obviously connected, I do believe they are two distinct holidays that people celebrate.

It’s a visual shorthand, even though they’re pronounced the same way. I never say “Xmas” as a word. The X in Xmas is pronounced “Chris.”

The Spirit of Ratliff special is a spin-off of the Spirit of Gethard specials. In the past it has felt as though Chris [Gethard] was at the whim of whatever Keith Haskel and Rob Malone had planned, will this special have a similar feel or will it be entirely different?

I was making a joke that the first three Spirit of Gethard movies were like the first three movies in the Bourne Identity trilogy, and this one is like that fourth Bourne movie that Matt Damon wasn’t in and Jeremy Renner was. It’s of the world, but clearly not the same. Not a straight continuation.

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Andy, Don & Dan

Daniel de Visé is the author of Andy & Don, a book that chronicles the lives and friendship of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. De Visé, who is Don Knotts’ brother-in-law, brings over 20 years of journalism experience to his research and writing. We had the chance to speak to him about covering one of television’s most renowned comedies and its stars.

The book is about Andy [Griffith] and Don [Knotts]—is it focused on their friendship throughout life or just [The Andy Griffith Show] and their friendship within it?

It’s about their friendship throughout—but remember, they weren’t friends until they were in the third decades of their lives, and the middle 50% of the book is about the show. That’s such a massive part of their friendship and what people care about. I try to start with each man’s birth and go all the way to their death.

So it’s like a double-biography.

It is a double-biography. It’s funny—an early reviewer of it accused me of writing a formulaic double-biography, which is hilarious because I didn’t know there was a formula. I apparently followed it unwittingly.

Daniel De Vise

How do you find the balance between both subjects?

The balance came easily, because I started by focusing one long chapter on each man’s childhood. Once they’re together, there’s all those chapters where they’re both participating. Once they’re apart again, later in their lives, each man did so many different things that I found myself focusing 50/50 on each of them. It would have been tricky if one had done a lot less, but they were both so active throughout their careers. It was easy to keep it moving on both of them.

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Performing for an Audience That Doesn’t Know They’re Watching – An Interview with Bob Pagani

Last month we published an article detailing how Andy Kaufman faked his death. Shortly after this we received a message from Bob Pagani, co-creator of The Slycraft Hour and the man who witnessed meeting between Alan Abel and Andy Kaufman. He told us that not only had he witnessed it, but he arranged it. We got him on the phone for an interview and he dished on hoaxing the media, his relationship with Andy Kaufman, and that fateful meeting.

You’re a—would the term be “professional media hoaxer?”

I don’t know about the professional part. That implies money right? I’ve done a lot of it, yeah, over the last bunch of years, the last thirty years or so… or more actually. From when I first met Alan Abel and a thing or two I did when I was younger.

How did you become a hoaxer, and when did you realize you had a knack for messing with people?

When I was a kid, I grew up in the Bronx and I went to Catholic school. In Catholic school everything was “this is this” and “that’s that” and “thou shalt and thou shalt not.” They kind of teach you to live in a Leave it Beaver world. It’s all very “exactly how it should be.”

But my dad was very cynical about stuff. He fixed appliances for Westinghouse; he was the guy who would come in if your washing machine broke. He used to take me to work with him and people would always go, “Oh, you’re showing your little boy what line of work to go into?” and he would say, “No, I’m showing him what line of work not to go into.” He was very cynical about big corporations long before most people were and would tell me things that completely contradicted what I was learning in school. Over time you come to realize he’s more right than they are.

Continue reading Performing for an Audience That Doesn’t Know They’re Watching – An Interview with Bob Pagani

The Lessons of Gusbandry with Alicia J. Rose

Alicia J. Rose has directed music videos for such bands as Cake, First Aid Kit, and Bob Mould. Now she has made the leap to episodic storytelling with her premiere web series, The Benefits of GusbandryThe series explores the relationship between Jackie and River, a straight woman and her Gusband (gay-husband). They aren’t married, but they’re so close they might as well be.

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To kick things off, you said you were editing Episode Two when I called. How’s that going?

Editing Episode Two has been going really well. It’s such a sculpting process, the making of an episode. We wind up getting things we wouldn’t expect, and the things that you got that you thought you knew work or didn’t work. But in the end, you make it the most clean and mean machine you can, and you really work with the comedy that’s there and make it as funny as humanly possible. That’s where we’re at.

How many edits have we done now? This is our third or fourth. Our third time on Episode Two. There will probably be another three–something like that. We just got the phase where it doesn’t have music yet, but it’s going to start going to people for music, for sound, for ideas and notes as we tighten up the edit, but that’s part of the process.

When you’re editing an episode and you put together the initial cut before it gets cut down–I know the intended episode length is around eight to 12 minutes–do you find that they’re longer? Do you have to make a lot of cuts to keep it short?

I think Episode One started at 13 or 14 minutes and we got it down to eight. Episode Two started at 13 minutes, and we’re also going to get it down to eight. I think when you write, you write like you talk. But when you actually edit things together–or when it’s performed live and you’re filming it–it gets put through the filter of the human brain. When you’re actually cutting it, you just try to cut out the “ums” and the “ahs” and the messy stuff. Big things come out–things we thought we would need, things we thought were crucial to the episode. Turns out they weren’t, and then other things that are crucial get amped up. It’s really pretty fascinating. I love it.

The show is inspired by your relationship with your own gay friends, or “gusbands” as they’re called–

Gusbands, baby!

What made you decide to tell this story?

I think the question really is: How did I figure out what my story was? This is my story, and it took me a while as a filmmaker to figure out what story I wanted to tell from a deeply personal, feminist point of view. It took some soul-searching–including going to Thailand and Cambodia with my number one gusband, Lago, earlier this year–and realizing that he is such an important, primary part of my life. Our relationship really is the most consistent relationship I’ve had with a man in a long time. He just happens to be there when the heartbreak happens, or I’ve lost a job, or whatever. He’s been there to really help me pick up the pieces and move forward. I’ve had other gusbands before him who’ve treated me similarly, and these relationships are the life’s blood of my existence. Really, they’re at the base for my sanity. Truly.

Figuring out that that was my story was the tricky part. I just live it–it’s my life. As a filmmaker I’ve made tons of music videos and lots of short-form work. I’ve been really jonesing for a chance to get to tell a longer story but still utilize the short-form storytelling method as a way to do it–because I’m good at that. I’ve been work at that for past five to seven years. Once I clicked into gusbandry as the core of where I was coming from, it was like unlocking Pandora’s box. I have had so many ideas, and I have so many more ideas that haven’t even played out yet, which is the fun part.

Gusbands Cast

Continue reading The Lessons of Gusbandry with Alicia J. Rose