by Ryan Meehan
Joey Diaz is one of the best character actors in Hollywood. You may recognize him from his performances in films like “The Longest Yard” and “Baseketball” as well as television shows such as NBC’s “My Name is Earl” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”. He’s a popular touring comedian, and his “Joey Karate” videos on YouTube became an instant smash among mixed martial arts fans because of his startling ability to predict fights. He currently does a podcast called Deathsquad with California filmmaker Brian “Redban” Reichle, and he’s also this weekend’s special guest in our summer series of 5 Questions.
1. I heard something you did for Rawdog on Sirius where you said that you were in prison for quite some time, and then when you got out you turned to standup. Could you explain a little bit about how you were able to turn that corner and end up with a career in comedy and acting?
How did I turn the leaf from criminal to Comedy? Believe it or not I’m still a criminal in a way, I just refocused that type of energy to Comedy. Let me explain. I always wanted to try comedy after I read, “Ladies and Gentleman Lenny Bruce”, but like everyone else, I didn’t know where to start. Summer of 88′ I get sentenced to 4 years in a Colorado prison. Sometimes something bad has to happen to see the good. While I was locked up I realized something I knew for a long time, I was funny. I could make everybody laugh in there, whites, blacks, hispanics, the guards, it didn’t matter. So on movie night while they would set up the projector, the invicts would make me get on a stage of sorts and do a routine. I would talk about the prison and the different characters in there, I would destroy the place every Thursday night. One morning while I was in the Library one of the monitors approached me and asked when did I find time to write? I answered that I didn’t it was all improvised on stage, he couldn’t believe it. When I got out I always thought of that moment. I got out in February of 91 but didn’t get on stage till 93. I was still doing bullshit crimes till about 95 shit like moving drugs, stolen merchandise, street level type scams nothing too deep. By 96 I realized I did have talent and I was going for it, in the time it took me to plan a score or a drug deal, I could write a joke or think of something positive, that was the philosophy. Sometimes I sit here depressed that I’m not doing this or that movie but in reality, how lucky was I? I got to perform at The World Famous Comedy Store with some of my idols. I got to do TV shows, I got to do movies with James Coburn, Dick Van Dyke, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, its amazing but twenty years ago I was caught in the system. I saw a picture of Dean Cain and myself in The Dog that saved Christmas on the ABC family website and I thought to myself, If they knew how many houses I really robbed would they have this picture up? I was playing a criminal in the movie but the question stands.
2. You do a podcast with Redban on uStream. How much do you think technology has changed the way people receive comedy? And do you think that it has affected the way people go see live comedy shows and in what way?
I do think technology has helped comedy and hurt it at the same time. People have more access to more variety. But at the same time people just have to click a button to see you which in a way eliminates the LIVE performance. A tape can be edited but live comedy is the shit. For a guy like me I do better live anyway, my full patua doesn’t come out well on tape or at least thats what I think.
3. Judging by your Bedtime Stories series on YouTube, you’ve had some pretty crazy experiences in your lifetime. Some of these stories are extremely intense. Could you ever see yourself putting out a book of material that would work better in print than if told on stage at a comedy club?
With the kind of stories I’m dropping I’ve learned first that its better if I write it out, I’ll get it down. I never tell the same story the same way twice. There are alot of variables, how stoned I am, how mad I am (Passion is my driver), if I’ve told the story before. I have a tape on Youtube that Ari Shaffir put up from a show we did about Acid stories. That was the first time I told it in a long time and it came out great because it was all improvised, feel free to watch it, but with that story I feel that is as good as it will get. I am working on a book of blogs, the stories are written on Myspace about my life which started as a writing exercise. So get ready for a Madflavor book on the horizon.
4. What is your favorite Comedy club to perform at? And what is it about the energy at that particular club that fires you up so much?
At this point in my career, I really don’t have a favorite comedy club anymore. It was the Comedy Store for 10 years, because of the energy and what I would learn from that stage and how it would put your comedy in check. My second all time was the old Houston Laff Stop, that was a CLUB, the room, the audiences, the City as a whole. Other favorites include the Addison Improv, The Comedy Underground in Seattle(GREAT CLUB), the old Riddles in Chicago, the old El Paso club. Hey I lied, my new favorite clubs are, The Brea Improv, and for working out The Ha-Ha Cafe.
5. What’s up next for Joey Diaz in the next year? Any projects that we need to know about?
Upcoming for Joey Coco Diaz is not much, I got two movies coming out, “Born to be a Star” and “The Dog That Saved Christmas Vacation”. I’m in the process of writing a One Man Show, also putting the book together. I was doing a Play for the first time but got fired, fuck them! I’m also working on a special type of CD/ DVD to be released by the end of the year. You could hear me on a few Podcast, Popcorn Mafia, Deathsquad , Joe Rogan’s, who knows I might start doing one of those too.
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