by Ryan Meehan
Comedian Ted Alexandro has been called “one of the funniest comedians working today” by Time Out New York, and has opened for Louis CK at the legendary Carnegie Hall. His two decades in the funny business has earned him late night appearances on David Letterman, Conan O’ Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, as well as “The View” and two Comedy Central half-hour specials. Along with Hollis James, Ted has recently produced the webseries “Teacher’s Lounge” and he’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: So you talk about social issues a lot in your standup act as well as in interviews…Can you pinpoint the moment in your comedy career when you started to think of yourself as a comic whose focus was social issues, or did it happen progressively over time as you were able to work the room better?
TA: I don’t think of myself as a comic whose focus is social issues. It’s part of what I do as a comic. I talk about things that interest me or strike me as funny or odd, social issues are a part of that. I’m drawn to topics that engage me on some emotional level. Sometimes it’s an issue, like marriage equality, but sometimes it can be about something seemingly mundane. I think as I’ve gotten older and more comfortable in my skin on stage and off, I’ve become better able to synthesize my point of view into my act, no matter the topic. When I was younger, I didn’t have the desire or the ability to deliver a joke about abortion or war but as I grew as a person and a comic, I was able to make those things funny and enjoyed the challenge of trying to do so. But it has to be funny. I don’t have any desire to get on a soapbox or convert anyone. It always starts from “There is something flawed in this logic that I want to expose” and then how can I do it in a funny way?
FOH: Is there any technology that exists today that you could see being a potential threat to the industry of standup? In your mind, will there ever be anything that can compare with being in the room of a comedy club?
TA: I think technology has probably enhanced comedy. Going back, cable television helped comedy because there was more standup being broadcast. The generation before, you had to wait to see someone on Carson or Letterman. So cable helped make comedy more available. Then the internet really exploded the ways to get content out there. You tube, facebook and twitter have all made a huge impact in terms of fans having a direct and personal link to their favorite comics in ways that never existed before. But, as you said, nothing compares with being in the room. The reason comedy has lasted, and continues to expand, is because it’s a unique shared experience to be in a roomful of people and laugh. The technology can’t replace that.
FOH: You’re a sports fan and a comedian, so as simple as this might seem I have to ask you: Do you believe in competition of the arts?
TA: I think there’s healthy competition in the sense of another artist inspiring you to become better. Coming up in the NY comedy scene, I would watch guys like Dave Attell, Dave Chappelle, Greg Giraldo, Chris Rock, Todd Barry and they constantly inspired me to go home and write. Brian Regan was always one of my favorites, too, and I loved watching him whenever he came through NY.
I wasn’t watching these guys thinking “Who is the best? Chappelle? Attell? Rock? Regan” The tv industry fabricates competition but that doesn’t appeal to me. I find that kind of contest mentality ridiculous, though that’s the paradigm the industry pushes everywhere you look. “Next Top This” or “So and So’s Got Talent.” That’s not to say that appearing on those shows can’t help your career but it doesn’t interest me. I don’t see comedy or the arts as a contest. Sports has a score so there’s a winner and loser. The arts are subjective and to force them into a contest format is absurd, in my opinion.
FOH: Who are your favorite comedians to work with on the New York circuit and why? Which one do you seem to really click with when it comes to discussing the politics of your professon?
TA: It’s hard to name favorites because I have a new favorite every night in NY. There are so many great comics. I’ll see someone I haven’t watched in a few months and I’ll think “Wow, he’s great” or “Wow, she’s fucking hilarious.” The guys I mentioned earlier had a big impact on me as I was coming up. Now, there are so many… Gary Gulman, Nate Bargatze, Michael. Che, Sarah Tollemache, Joe List, Jim Tews, Carmen Lynch, Dan Soder. Dave Attell makes me laugh the hardest. He makes me feel like a kid in school when you’re first hanging out with funny friends and laughing so hard. He just makes me laugh in that way where you lose it. You’re hitting other people and belly laughing.
FOH: What’s the best room to perform in on the East Coast?
TA: I don’t know that there is a best room. I like the variety of different vibes in different spaces, it makes you a better performer to adapt to whatever environment you’re in on a given night. The Comedy Cellar in NY is special because of the history and it’s a small, intimate room with low ceilings. It’s electric. Plus, you never know who is going to pop in. I’ve been there on nights when Louis CK, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle all stopped in. One night, Rock was on and the Miami Heat walked in. It was bizarre. That doesn’t really happen anywhere else.
FOH: What’s up next for Ted Alexandro in the twelve months that follow? Any monumental plans that we should be aware of?
TA: I’m gearing up to shoot my new hour special. We’re figuring out where it will air and all that stuff, which is exciting. I also have a web series, “Teachers Lounge,” that I co-created with my writing partner, Hollis James. We shot four episodes for the web and we’re hoping to sell it as a tv pilot. There’s a promo for “Teachers Lounge” on my website. It co-stars Lewis Black, Judah Friedlander, Judy Gold, Ted Leo and Janeane Garofalo. I’m excited about that.
Official Website: http://tedalexandro.com/
Ted on Letterman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arSH063yDvg
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