by Ryan Meehan
Brandon Wardell is a Los Angeles based comedian. He started doing stand-up comedy in DC at 17, did it for four years, then moved to LA in 2014. Wardell is featured on Bob Odenkirk’s album, “Amateur Hour” and later went on tour with him. Brandon also recently opened select dates on Bo Burnham’s Make Happy Tour. In Los Angeles, Brandon Wardell is a regular at shows including The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen, as well as venues like UCB and the Hollywood Improv. In addition to stand-up, he has written pieces for VICE and the Washington Post, raps with his friend Drew Millard under the name Nice Boys (their mixtape “Yeezus” drops this summer), and is available to DJ via Spotify playlists under the name Teen Party. I am very excited to have Brandon Wardell as my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: When and where did you do your first stand-up set? What was the majority of the subject matter you discussed during that first few minutes; and what was so intriguing about the world of stand-up that made you want to get back on stage and do it again?
BW: My first set was at a now-nonexistent mall comedy club in Arlington, VA called the Comedy Spot. I had a joke about looking like Tegan and Sara and then forgot everything I was gonna say but everyone assumed me forgetting my set WAS the set so it was best case scenario. Getting enough laughs the first time made me wanna do it more.
RM: At what point in time did you actually find out that you were going to be included on Bob Odenkirk’s record? Could you talk a little bit about how the guidance he has given you has allowed you to let yourself be a better comic?
BW: I found out the night we recorded it. I got asked via email the week before, did the set, and after Bob did his set, he was like, “Hey buddy, how do you feel about being on the album?” and then we took the cover photo. I haven’t talked to him in like a month, but anytime we’ve talked about comedy, he always says some profound helpful shit. I talk about rap a lot onstage and he’s warned me not to get too niche and just be a “rap comic”. The day-to-day of the tour was really great and he’s really generous with advice.
RM: Speaking of guidance, you did this very interesting piece back in June for VICE Magazine where you asked comics such as Todd Glass and Jonah Ray to give advice to their eighteen-year old selves…If you could give any piece of advice to your 18-year old self, what would it be; and more importantly do you think your eighteen year old self would take it to heart?
BW: I’d probably say skip college entirely and move to LA a little earlier, since LA values, maybe even fetishizes, youth. Also, I’d tell myself to write more. I’d like to think I’d take it to heart, but also 18 year olds are stupid so I dunno.
RM: What was the most important thing you learned about having control over an audience by watching Bo? Can you ever see yourself putting on a show that is that labor intensive and spastic yet so incredibly well thought-out?
BW: I mean, he has such a built-in passionate fanbase so they’re gonna be on-board with most things. But seeing what he does with that is really amazing. And playing to his crowd specifically is encouraging because it’s like “Oh, this is a crowd full of people that I think would pay to see me if I was famous”.
I can’t imagine doing something so elaborate on Bo’s level; he’s a genius. I do wanna play with the medium though, and do some multimedia stuff. I always try to play a video or something if I’m doing a set at Meltdown or something.
RM: Where do you stand in this current ongoing discussion regarding political correctness in comedy today? Do you think that certain comedians who are upset about the level of feigned outrage may be actually making the problem worse by discussing it this much, or do you think it’s necessary for individuals working within the industry to continue to address the situation until the PC police back the fuck off of comedy for a while?
BW: The thing is, bloggers are reactionary babies, but so are comedians. Comedians can be really shitty about handling criticism that’s sometimes legitimate. It feels like that scene in Anchorman where Steve Carrell yells “Loud noises!”.
RM: What do we need to know about Nice Boys; and how long have you and Drew been working on the material which eventually became this record?
BW: Drew Millard and I are both bad at rapping, but we got a buncha producers/features like Mike Posner, Ricky Eat Acid, Kitty, and hopefully more. It’s a just a garbage mixtape that we’re putting out just for fun. We both asked different friends to send beats or do a verse. Every song was made in the span of a night. Every beat is awesome and then Drew and I ruin it.
RM: You’ve said that hip-hop is your biggest influence on your comedy in terms of bravado…Other than Drake, which rapper’s confidence do you think tends to show itself the most in your work and why?
BW: Lil’ B is a big influence in terms of literally just being himself and having fun. Cam’ron is really funny. Kanye is obviously a confidence blueprint.
RM: How would you best describe your current relationship with the writing process? What aspect of that procedure would you say is your specialty; and which portion of the practice of joke construction do you struggle with the most?
BW: I never really sit down and write, which maybe I should. But most jokes just come from me hanging out with friends and talking shit out. I have Evernote on my phone and just type shit that seems like a potential joke.
RM: Do you ever get lit before shows, or is that something that you generally try to avoid?
BW: 50/50. I have no problem performing high if it’s a good show; performing in a weak room high is a nightmare so I generally try to avoid that.
RM: If you couldn’t answer that it is equal parts both, would you say that your particular style of comedy is more of an art or a science? Do you think that your response to that question might be different ten years down the road?
BW: I’m young and idealistic so I’d say art, but ten years from now, I’d probably say science. Some of my favorite comics approach jokes like math problems. But right now, I like being loose and fucking around and treating it like an art.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
BW: I should be recording a stand-up album later this year, some standup TV spots should be happening, just filmed an episode of Paul Scheer’s really funny show Filthy Sexy Teen$ on Monday, Nice Boys mixtape this summer, I’m on Nicole Richie’s VH1 show in July because my friend Jensen Karp writes it, and I’ll continue writing freelance shit for VICE and Four Pins. Hopefully more touring too. I’m really itching to tour again.
Official Website: http://brandonwardell.net/home
Brandon on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brandonwardellofficial
Brandon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/brandonwardell
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