by Ryan Meehan
During the summer of 2014 Andy Woodhull was the first comedian to make his network television debut on the Tonight Show: Starring Jimmy Fallon. He has also recently appeared on Conan, Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen, and Gotham Comedy Live on AXS. In 2009 he appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham. Andy has appeared at many comedy festivals and contests including, the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, The Maui Comedy Festival, Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, and The Great American Comedy Festival. He has been featured on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom radio show, and was a semi-finalist in CMT’s “Next Big Comic”. He won the Best of the Midwest Competition at Gilda’s Laugh Fest in 2011. His 2012 album release “Lucy” was named top 10 comedy albums of the year by comedyreviews.com. Andy is a former resident of Chicago, where he was named one of four comedians to watch by the Chicago Tribune. We are excited to have the very funny Andy Woodhull as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: According to your schedule, you’re currently in The Bahamas at the moment…What are you up to down there? Has it rained at all since you’ve been down there?
AW: It has rained, but this is a two week gig. There has been a lot more nice weather than rain. I’m at an amazing resort that I would probably never get to go to if I wasn’t doing comedy. The club is called Jokerz Wild, and is at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. It’s pretty amazing. I’d feel like a bragging asshole if I talked about it anymore than that. I’m lucky to be here. This is a gig I look forward to.
RM: What is your earliest memory of making someone laugh; and what was so rewarding about the feeling that you got from that achievement which led you to pursue further opportunities where you could make others laugh as well?
AW: Wow! That is a great question that I have absolutely no answer for. I wish I did, but I’m also glad I don’t. I think I laughed a lot my entire childhood, and made my family and friends laugh too. It would probably be a grim childhood if laughter was so rare that the first time you made it happen it was a memorable achievement. In high school I would memorize Seinfeld bits and whole monologues from Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. I would do those for my friends, but I think it annoyed everyone more than it made them laugh though.
I don’t think I was confident that I could make strangers laugh on a regular basis until I’d been doing stand up for like ten years. I started doing stand up after I finished college. I had my first real job, and I went to my first open mic night. It was a slow build from there. I always wanted to be a comedian, but didn’t know there was a system of clubs, and there were comedians making a living that weren’t famous. At that first open mic I couldn’t believe regular people were doing comedy. I was so dumb. I really thought there were like eight comedians in the U.S.
RM: What’s the biggest difference between performing at a comedy festival as opposed to doing a weekend’s worth of shows at a comedy club? Is there any variation in how you sequence a series of bits for a contest in contrast to what would usually be a standard headlining set?
AW: There are two big differences between doing a club week and doing a festival. The first is time. At a club you have to do 45-60 mins, Festival spots are usually 10-20 minutes. The other big difference is at festivals, you get to spend a weekend with a bunch of other comics. During a club week it’s usually just the Headliner and the Feature act sometimes the MC hangs out too. At festivals there are anywhere from 15-40 other comics, and they are almost all the absolute most fun people to hang out with. I love hanging out with other comics. I’ve been doing this for twelve years, and I can only think of maybe three comics that I didn’t get along with. Festivals are cool, because once you get to a certain point you never see your friends on the road unless you’re headlining competing clubs in the same city, so a festival is often my best chance to hang out with some of the people I came up with.
Contests are similar to festivals because you get to hang with other comics, but they can be a drag because you are competing and comics are competitive. That takes a lot of the camaraderie out of it. Contest sets are usually short. A club set has to be a show, so I spread out all the best jokes. In a contest I just do my 2 or 3 best jokes. My advice (I’ve lost more contests than I have won so it may be shit advice) to people doing contests is always, “Don’t save jokes for the next round”. You might not make it there.
RM: Back in early May, it was announced that you were on a short list of comedians that had been selected to have their own “Half-Hour” special on Comedy Central in the upcoming year…How did you find out that you had gotten the gig; and what was your initial reaction to the news? How soon afterwards did you start thinking about the material that will make up that special and where it will go?
AW: I was doing a weekend of shows in Little Rock, Arkansas and my Agent called me and told me I got it. I was super happy. I still am. I sent a submission to Comedy Central last November with the half hour I wanted to do, so it wasn’t like I got it, and then I had to figure out what to do. I’m going to do something similar to that submission. A lot of the jokes are better, there are a few new ones, and I’ve dropped a few duds.
RM: Your new album “Step Parenting” came out back in March…How does the material on that record differ from that which appears on your 2012 album “Lucy”? Who designed the cover of that LP; and what is that piece of artwork supposed to represent?
AW: Every one of these questions is at least 3 questions. You should rename this segment “10 essays”. The material on my new album is completely different than “Lucy”, but both albums are about what I was doing in my life when the albums were recorded. I like to think my new one is better, because it would suck if I was getting worse.
My wife did the cover design. If you want to see more of her work check out her website (patriciawoodhull.com) She is amazing, and can do stuff on commission if you want a painting. She does realistic or abstract portraits, she did a painting of my great aunt’s childhood home for her 100th birthday, she can also paint your pets, as you can see from the cover of “Step Parenting”.
The artwork is a joke. The title of the album is “Step Parenting” the cover is a family portrait of a dog and 2 kittens. I guess it’s supposed to represent me and my step daughters, but really it was just supposed to be funny.
RM: What’s the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to you on stage? What did you do to work your way out of it; and if it happened tonight do you think you would react in the same manner? Why or why not?
AW: I was doing a show at a yacht club (yacht club is a super big stretch for what this place was) in Michigan. You had to drive your car onto a ferry to get to the island that the club was on. I was at the club with the feature act, and the locals were telling us about how the place was haunted. Then there was a huge thunderstorm that rolled in and knocked out all the power. Only 6 or 7 people showed up for the show so we told the guy running the show that he should probably just cancel it and pay us. This is what I call a comedy snow day, it’s unfortunate but sometimes you plan a show, you book comics for a show, then no one shows up. The comedians still need to be paid because they’re there and willing to do the show, but with no audience there’s really no point, it just isn’t going to be good. It could be Chris Rock performing his greatest hits, and it’s still not going to be good in these conditions. The guy is about to pay us so we can leave this haunted yacht club, and a lady who was listening in on our conversation pipes up and says he should make us do the show for the 6 of them since he has to pay us anyway. The six people all go to their “yachts” get flashlights then come back and sit in the dark shining flashlights at us while we do our sets. If that happened today I’d like to say I would just refuse to do the show and leave without the money, but I probably could still use that money, so I’d probably do the same thing.
RM: You’ve said before that your brand of humor is primarily autobiographical in nature…Are there any stories from your life that you don’t feel comfortable sharing on stage? If so, is it because you don’t think that they would necessarily be funny enough for a comedy set, or because you are worried that they would disrupt the flow of the show itself or how you were delivering the material?
AW: I think the only things I hold back are things that aren’t funny, or at least I can’t find a way to make them funny. Like, I wouldn’t try to do a joke about how I spent 2 weeks at a resort in the Bahamas getting drunk and swimming in the ocean every day, then sobering up just enough so I could get paid to do my all-time favorite thing (stand up) at night. It would just seem like I was rubbing it in about how great my life is. I have held back a couple things because the people in my life that were involved in the story that gave birth to the joke don’t feel comfortable with me telling it. Earlier in my career I was a jerk, and didn’t care about that. Now if my wife or my kids heard me doing a joke that they were in, if they didn’t want me saying it I would drop the joke, or find a way to tell it where no one would know it was them I’m talking about.
RM: What’s the most inaccurate misconception people outside of the industry have about the world of stand-up comedy? Why do you think so many people believe that’s the case; and do you think that viewpoint will change within your lifetime?
AW: I’m not sure I know the answer to this. A lot of people think we are all sad clowns. I don’t think that is true I know a lot of comics that are super funny, and also had great childhoods with supportive families. I’m not sure that is a viewpoint that even needs to change. I am not burdened by any comics’ stereotypes.
Maybe this is a better answer: You did not just give me five minutes of material. That is a big one now that I think about it. I meet a lot of people that say, “Hang out with my family for an afternoon that will give you some material”. Maybe it would, but for the most part people like to think they are a lot wackier then they really are. I’m a comedian and I would never say “Come hang out at our house, that is where all the funny stuff is happening…”.
RM: Which portion of the comedic writing process would you say that you struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of the joke writing procedure would you say allows for your biggest strengths to shine; and why do you think you excel at that particular skill within your craft?
AW: This question seems like a great opportunity for me to really compliment myself. I’m great at all joke writing! I excel at all of it. I would say my only problem is sometimes my jokes are just too funny. Sometimes you need to let the audience breathe and my jokes are so good they can’t. That is my biggest weakness I kill a few people every night from asphyxiation from laughing too hard.
My favorite jokes are the ones that make people change their mind about something. Start with a premise the majority of the people in the audience disagrees with, then by the end of the joke they have completely changed their opinion on what you are talking about. I like to think I have one or 2 jokes good enough that I succeed in doing that. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Bill Burr’s latest special on Netflix. He does it in almost every joke, and it’s amazing.
RM: When do you know that it’s time to eliminate a bit in your act that has been successful for some time? Do you have a certain set of criteria for evaluating jokes that could potentially be nearing the end of their life cycle?
AW: It happens naturally. Unlike super famous comedians, I have no pressure to turn over material, because everyone doesn’t see all my jokes as soon as they become available on TV or the internet. It took 3 years for me to write an entire new act, and I expect it will take that long again. I still do the best jokes from my old album on occasion. They probably sound a lot different from the album version because jokes evolve over time. The longer I do them the more tags I think of, and the tighter they become. Once they stop evolving that is when they aren’t fun to tell anymore, but the good ones last a long time. My half hour special will have jokes from “Lucy” and “Step Parenting”.
Did that even answer that question(s)? I don’t have an expiration date on jokes. I think I don’t even realize it when I stop doing them, but one day someone asks about them and I have a hard time remembering them.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AW: I’m still going to be hitting the road hard. Please come out and see me do a live show, buy my new album, and watch my special on Comedy Central. I hope there are more big things that happen, but nothing I can plug right now. In comedy it is best to always be working on a few different things.
Official Website: http://andywoodhull.com/
Andy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewwoodhull
Andy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andywoodhull
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