by Ryan Meehan
Now based in Los Angeles and originally hailing from Philadelphia, Josh Denny displays a unique brand of comedy that can carry no label. Described by many veteran comic greats as having a “cartoon mind,” you never know what you will get at one of his shows, whether a serious look at the ridiculous, or a totally ridiculous look at the serious. Combining the perfect blend of East Coast Grit and Midwest Wit, Josh’s comedy is a hybrid both unique and genuine. and, he’s our guest this week in 5 Questions.
1. Where is standup comedy as an art form heading into the summer of 2011?
Fucking Scary Man. There really are some pretty radical extremes out there. It seems like there are splitting factions in comedy right now, those that are trying to be creative and original, and those that are trying to be consistent and relate-able. I think the strongest comedians right now are the ones that can be both clever, yet still be relate-able. That’s what I’m trying to do anyway. I’m really bummed to see how a lot of comics reacted to the Tracy Morgan deal recently. So many “artists” were so quick to throw out an opinion of his comments being inappropriate. Better be careful, because that can happen to any of us at any time. I wasn’t at the show, didn’t hear it, but even reading it in text I thought it was pretty funny.
2. Could you share your worst experience “bombing” and describe a little bit what happened and where it may have started to go wrong?
It wasn’t the worst I had bombed but it was the most memorable. I was doing an all black room in Minneapolis that was run at a local night club. I actually had a great open doing material that I knew would work, and I got a little too comfortable, and went off on this bit about hating the phrase “African American.” It was a classic example of getting in the pocket and letting your guard down, and I put a bit out there that wasn’t developed or ready. The crowd turned instantly, and I even got a 10 minute lecture from the host on the political correctness of the term. The problem was that I forgot to make it funny. A lot of times when we attempt to make a statement with a bit, or a part of our act, we can get caught up in the message and forget to lace it with well written jokes. It was a learning experience for me, just as it was probably a learning experience for Tracy Morgan and Michael Richards, and any other host of comedians that put their ideas or feelings out there before they were actually crafted into funny and ready.
3. How would you describe the perception that most people have of a working comic?
It really depends on where you are in the country. When I was performing in the midwest and living in Minneapolis, my perception of a working comic was someone that toured and made a living doing shows, whether clubs or one nighters. Now living in LA, my idea of a working comic changed into “what are you writing, or starring in; how are you making it?” It’s a very humbling change. I went back to Minneapolis recently to do shows, and people were still talking shit about who was in with what booker, and who’s headlining, etc. None of that shit matters at the next level. It’s true in everything you do. No matter how good you are at something, there is always someone out there that will small you by comparison really quickly. You’re headlining Ohio? Call me when you’re on Conan. You’re on Conan? Call me when you’ve got a best seller like Jim Norton or you’re doing arenas like Louis CK. By the way, do you think that Jim Carrey or Robin Williams give a fuck about who’s doing arena’s right now? Too busy making millions on movies and winning awards. Or do you think Robert De Niro or Al Pacino have seen anything that those dudes have been in? At every level you get to, you have to stay humble keeping in mind that there is a world of people kicking your ass at the next level up. You have to truly decide if you want to stay a small fish in a big pond, or compete at the next level.
4. What’s the most annoying thing that you’ve had to deal with as a standup comic, onstage or behind the scenes?
You’ll usually hear about bookers or club managers or agents or the industry in this question, but my honest answer is the fucking comedians. I love comedy and HATE comedians. We’re so high on our own bullshit. By nature, comedians are condescending people, but it’s turned into this intellectual dick measuring contest bout who’s shit is more avant garde, or who is more ALT. I used to joke with my buddies in the old Verbally Vicious days that Alternative comedy meant “alternative to comedy = not funny.” As I’ve grown, I like a lot more comedy that in considered ALT, but some of the shit is just terrible. I can’t watch a lot of musical comics, or guys that talk about weird conspiracy shit, or guys that just shit on the regular stuff that everyone else likes. I’m a comedian, and I think I have perspective on people and the world, but I also like football and a good Nickelback concert from time to time. Most comedians are just way to sensitive for a guy like me. I’m originally from the Philadelphia area, so everything funny growing up usually resulted in someone getting shit on or their feelings getting hurt. I’ve actually made grown men pout from breaking balls in the midwest and in LA. I just don’t get that at all.
4 1/2. What’s off limits when it comes to “dark” material for you?
Absolutely nothing. Just don’t do any material that you won’t stand behind if you get called out on it. I actually really hate SAFE material. If you go onstage and you talk about boring mundane bullshit like what your kids did today, or how annoying your wife or girlfriend is I might rip the piano wire out from the grand at the Improv and strangle you with it, 80’s guy.
5. What’s going on with you Josh Denny in the next twelve months? Still trying to put out the “Album that just won’t take.” We’ve been trying to record my new CD for the past 6th months, and it just keeps getting messed up somehow. First recording in January I just wasn’t prepared for, we had a mediocre turnout, and did it in a less than ideal venue (too much bar noise, not a clean recording). I re-wrote a new 20 minutes in the last 6 months, and tweaked another 20 that wasn’t ready the first go. I had an ideal set in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago where we attempted to record the album and was psyched. Then the power went out in between first and second show, and we lost everything. I was so pissed that I completely half assed the 2nd show, knowing that we lost the album opportunity. I feel really bad about putting that shitty effort in for fans and friends on that 2nd show, but I hope if they’re reading this that they can kind of understand. In the meantime, I’m working on the next round of material and working on some film scripts that have been laying on my desktop for a year that need to be finished.
Make sure to check out Josh’s Facebook page for updates, and follow him on Twitter @JoshDenny.
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