by Ryan Meehan
Alex Edelman is a Boston-based comedian whose one-man show “Millennial” won the prestigious Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer in 2014, the first American to accomplish that since Arj Barker won it way back in 1997. He’s had the chance to open up for some of the industry’s heaviest hitters, such as Simon Amstell, Patton Oswalt, and Gary Gulman, and he recently did a couple of dates in Berlin and Moscow with Eddie Izzard. We are very lucky to have him as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you were younger, what was so special about the art of stand-up comedy that made you want to keep watching it without being familiar with its intricacies? Was there any one specific performance that you remember seeing which really drew you into the medium?
AE: I was 12. I remember sneaking into the 2001 version of a Boston gig called “Comics Come Home” at the Orpheum Theatre. Which I thought at the time was pretty badass, but it’s a charity gig that Denis Leary puts on to benefit the Cam Neely House, so it turns out that I did something pretty asshole-ish by sneaking into it, but the comics were incredible. Quinn, Gaffigan, Regan, Patrice, Steve Sweeney, Lenny Clarke, et al.
RM: Vulture.com listed you as one of its fifty comedians to watch in 2015…Who are some of the other comics on that list that you have had the pleasure of working with; and how do you go about creating a distinct style for yourself when it seems as if there is an endless supply of comedians in the lower 48 states?
AE: I know so many of these guys and they’re fucking great. It’s impossible to pick favorites, but I love Kevin Barnett and Kate Berlant and Adam Conover and John Early and Bridget Everett. Shelby Fero and Jo Firestone. Jermaine Fowler. I’m literally just listing this list. I know like every standup on here. Real favorites from further down, guys I’m psyched to see every time I see them are folks like Hari Kondabolu, Josh Sharp, Phoebe Robinson, Brandon Wardell, Seaton Smith… I’m just listing again.
I don’t know actually about distinct styles. I used to worry about that, and now I don’t, weirdly. I just find that I have higher standards for the jokes that I’m willing to make onstage nowadays. I think that counts for a lot, honestly.
RM: What’s the most significant difference between the way you approached the new show (Everything Handed to You) and the manner in which you compiled the subject matter for your first show “Millennial”? Was there anything in particular that you went out of your way to avoid or really zero in on improving this time around?
AE: Millennial was more of a ‘material’ show with an external structure to make it seem very connected. I think it sort of played to my strengths given my standup background. EHTY was a show that was written with a less obvious, less external, narrative structure. I’ve never written a narrative show so I decided that I wanted to do that because I was told by someone I respect that writing towards my weaknesses would make me a better comic. I still have a ways to go narratively, but ironically, I think EHTY was better received by critics and audiences.
RM: How would you best describe your current relationship with social media? Do you ever worry about “wasting” jokes on sites like Twitter that you could potentially save to use on stage; or do you tend to be able to separate those two things pretty easily?
AE: I never worry about wasting. I like social media. I have different relationships with each medium. Twitter is a liveblog for jokes and commentary. Facebook is a form of diary entry and content plugging and curation. Instagram is a scrapbook for adventures and stuff. I love social media but I don’t spend a TON of time on it. Some jokes make it from Twitter to stage in the same way that some observations and remarks I make in real life make it to stage.
RM: There’s a common belief held by a lot of comedy fans here in the States that a lot of Western Europeans (most notably those in the United Kingdom) have a very odd sense of humor…As someone who’s done his fair share of recent work across the pond, would you agree that there is a pretty noticeable difference in what they find funny on a macrocomedic level? In other words, how does your set list for doing a show at Laughs Boston vary from the way it may look when you’re performing in the UK, if at all?
AE: I think that belief comes down to the idea that Europeans have different styles of comedy in addition to standup. It’s why they can embrace comics like Sam Simmons and, I don’t know, Doctor Brown. I wrote a piece in The Guardian on how I found that British sensibility. My set lists are the same. It would be a bad idea for me to talk about British stuff I know nothing about. I also don’t love talking about groups of people or stereotypes, I far prefer to talk about my own experience as encountering that group or being part of that group.
RM: What was the best part about your most recent Glastonbury experience?
AE: Performing there was so goddamn fun. It was a huge tent, and it was empty when I started and full when I finished and I just had a great time. Stuart Goldsmith, who’s an excellent MC as well as being a great comic and podcaster, told me how to play the room. It was one of my favorite festival sets. As soon as I was done, though, I had to hustle over to the train station because I was opening for Amstell at Regent’s Park in London. It was a nice day.
RM: If you had to compare your stand-up comedy to the work of one living hip-hop artist, who would it be and why?
AE: I’d compare it to Drake. And it would compare unfavorably. But I like his vulnerability and introspection and technical know-how and ability to work cross-genre. There’s a fairly underground New England rapper named Spose that I love. He’s pretty posi, funny and I’m a big fan. He’s got a great comic voice.
RM: Which portion of the comedic writing process would you say you struggle with the most? Conversely, which portion of that procedure would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular aspect of your craft?
AE: I think some of the things I really want to say onstage aren’t funny. Not jokes that don’t work, but just statements that aren’t funny. Things about young people and the way we’re viewed. Things about Israel and Palestine. Things about political discourse. Preachy shit. What you do is aim to make all of that subtext in a story. When I’m at my best, I’m really, really good at that. When I’m at my worst, I’m boring.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AE: I’m filming an hour-long special in the next few weeks. I’m doing a few festivals. There’s some scripted stuff going on and I’m thinking about writing the third hour. I don’t especially want to, but new stuff is piling up a little and there are some fun bits that didn’t make it into the last hour that I’d love to iron out.
Official Website: http://alexedelmancomedy.com/
Alex on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlexEdelmancomedian
Alex on Twitter: https://twitter.com/alex_edelman
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