by Ryan Meehan
Comedian Joe Machi was born and raised in State College, Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State University. Before becoming a comedian, he worked as a customer service manager for a supermarket and a human resources assistant for a media company. Machi decided to try stand up and moved to NYC in 2006. He quickly passed for late night at New York’s Comic Strip Live. He subsequently passed at four other NYC Comedy Clubs including Stand Up New York and Caroline’s on Broadway. In 2010 Machi won the NY Underground Comedy Festival’s Emerging Comic’s Contest. Three months later was a finalist in the New York Comedy Festivals NY’s Funniest Person Competition. In 2011 he was runner up in the Boston Comedy Festivals New York Comedy Contest which earned him a trip to the Boston Comedy Festival. He was then profiled in the NY Daily News for making the Elite Eight in Caroline’s March Madness Final Four Competition. In 2012 Machi was selected by Country Music Television to participate in their “Next Big Comic” Competition but could not compete because he had worked for CMT’s parent company. Machi has become a staple on New York Comedy Club and alternative comedy shows. His influences include everyone he’s ever talked to, and he’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
RM: So take me back to this day – It’s Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 and you’re backstage on the set of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. What’s going through your mind at that moment? Were you pretty confident it was going to go as well as it did?
JM: I threw up on my ironing board the night before. I had only nine days’ notice that I would be on the show. There were a number of rewrites to please the NBC Standards and Practices department. They had not approved my set until two days before… So I only got to practice the finalized set three times in front of a crowd. I felt like my last six years were riding on this. When I got called back stage two minutes before my set it seemed surreal. I couldn’t believe I was actually reaching a goal. That was the first time I wasn’t nervous. Jimmy pumped up the crowd and my first joke hit. From then on it was just another show.
RM: What makes for a really comfortable room when it comes to performing standup and it comfort always a good thing? In other words, are there some times where discomfort can create a positive comedic atmosphere?
JM: I try not to fight being nervous. As long as it’s natural and I can still do my job it doesn’t matter. Besides…Does it ever work for anyone? When someone tells you not to be nervous? For my act it works well because a lot of my perspective is awkward anyway. A lot of good comedy is about building and releasing tension. When I’m nervous it shows. I think the audience can relate to that. It’s always good when a crowd relates to you.
RM: You caught my attention as a panelist on “RedEye With Greg Gutfeld” (Fox News 3AM EST/2AM CST) and on any given night you could be seated next to someone who is a legitimate professional political analyst as opposed to a comedian. Does that intimidate you a little bit and does it at all put more pressure on you to be funny? How do you think you’ve done answering Andy in the halftime and postgame reports so far?
JM: I’ve been pretty nervous because everyone else has been on the show far more than me. It’s like I’m in a conversation with four people who have been friends for a long time that I just met. They’re talking about each other’s kids and I’m like “what’s your favorite color?” My mentality is ‘don’t fail’ instead of ‘have fun.’ That makes it difficult to have a natural conversation. Once I get passed that I can be a good contributor. Everyone on the staff has been pretty understanding. I’ve had some decent one liners and good feedback. I hope they keep booking me so I can get comfortable and start to grow.
RM: In your bio it says that you have become a staple on New York Comedy Club and alternative comedy shows. Do you ever view yourself as an alternative comic?
JM: It’s complicated. I think there are alternative comedy shows more than there are alternative comedians. I think the club model of standup comedy makes a lot of mistakes that give comedy a bad name and underserve people who want to hear stand up. The biggest is the drink minimum. I understand charging a cover because comedy clubs want to make money. But with the drink minimums (and drink prices) it’s hard to have a night at a comedy club under $50 per person. This is beyond the reach of a lot of people who otherwise would enjoy spending a couple hours at a comedy club. When something costs $50 dollars there’s a lot of pressure for the audience to laugh and there’s a lot of pressure the club to make sure the audience laughs. This leads to safer acts getting the spots. These comedians aren’t necessarily bad.. but they aren’t necessarily ground breaking. It also means it’s harder for comics who may be very good but don’t have recognizable credits to break in. Americans want to see either someone famous or something hip. I don’t think clubs understand this. That’s why it’s mostly foreign tourists other than on the weekends. Why could clubs sell out in the 80’s but not now.. because it was ground breaking. Now people enjoy the shows.. but how many times can you hear someone say they don’t understand women?
That’s where alt rooms come in. There you can take more risks and they take more risks on booking. There are a few top alt shows that will have standing room only crowds coming to see acts some clubs won’t touch. My act is unusual so I find a lot of success at alt shows. I do ok in clubs. I think it’s really important to work clubs to learn how to make people laugh at things no matter where they’re from.
RM: What is something in the entertainment industry that you’d really like to do but haven’t had the opportunity to do just yet? What stands between you and achieving that goal?
JM: I would like to do some acting and someday have my own show. I’ve auditioned for things but honestly have spent more time remembering my lines than being the character. I still work a day job and finding time to learn lines, do comedy and work is getting harder and harder. My goal is to get good enough at stand up that I can support myself with stand up. That will free me up to work on more projects.
RM: What’s up next for Joe Machi in the twelve months to come? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JM: I’m working on a call back for Letterman. I did well enough that they’d like to see me again… But not well enough that I’m passed for a spot. I’m trying to write some new jokes that are accessible for the 11:30 crowd. That and to just keep writing and working on show ideas.
Joe’s Oficial Website: http://joemachi.com/
Joe on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/comedianjoemachi
Joe on Twitter: https://twitter.com/joemachi
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