by Ryan Meehan
The high energy, take-no-prisoners comedy of Alex Pavone is not to be missed. An honest storyteller, Alex uses his Italian background and tales of colorful acquaintances to weave a laugh-filled web of comic excitement. Born and raised in Woodbridge, Ontario, Pavone has been making crowds laugh since 2007. Recently, Alex opened for MADtv’s, Bobby Lee, was a comedy panelist on MTV’s “Cocktales”, and was featured on the best-selling Yuk-Yuk’s audiobook ‘Road Warriors and Rarities’. While Pavone’s stage act needs to be seen to be believed, his is definitely a star on the rise. He’ll be performing the 8 and 10PM shows this upcoming Friday night (May 6th) at The Standing Room and the midnight shows at The Stand NYC Friday and Saturday, but he was kind enough to take some time out of his busy week to be our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: What was the first stand-up special you watched that made you really want to try your hand at comedy? Which aspect of that particular individual’s act did you feel like you connected with the most; and how did you feel that this was an art form you might be able to relate to on a very personal level?
AP: “Delirious” by Eddie Murphy on VHS. I found it at home when I was in my last year of high school. We had one of those DVD/VHS combo things, and I put it in and loved it. Eddie was so engaging in that special, very talented. The stories about his crazy family and his upbringing was something I could definitely relate to at the time. Before I even stepped on stage I was always the guy in my group of friends who would be the designated story teller. When I was out or at a party and somebody was like “Yo, remember that time..? Alex, tell that story about…” So I always had that going for me.
RM: When you first got your start a decade ago, what were some of the things you talked about on stage? How has your joke-writing process evolved since those first few shows, and in what area of your writing have you seen the most improvement over that time period?
AP: Well it was nine years ago (laughs) not quite a decade. I was talking about some of the same stuff; girls, drugs all that, but now that i’m almost 30 I’ve experienced a bunch of new stuff that I like to talk about: Moving to another country, getting older, my financial problems, I’m a little bit more adult, but not quite, as I still act like a kid. I write a lot on stage – I’ve always been that guy – I’m not a great writer in the sense where I sit down and come out with great jokes, like a lot of awesome comics in this city. I go on stage with ideas, and write a lot when I’m up there. The most improvement I’ve seen in the last couple years is just trimming the fat on stories or jokes, getting to the point, and obviously being more confident with silence. Taking it all in, understanding there doesn’t have to be a laugh every 5 seconds, and being comfortable with that.
RM: How much do you tend to work off of your ethnicity in an average feature-length set? Have you ever had to abandon that base of material during a show where it’s not hitting very well, and conversely; have you ever used more of it than you initially expected to because the bits were absolutely killing?
AP: Not that much, to be honest. I mean, being Canadian in NYC I talk about that, but as a first generation Italian-Canadian I have some great stories from my childhood and family. However I don’t talk about it that much, although it’s something I would like to do. Yeah, I abandon material when I was doing bad for sure, but I also abandon material when I’m doing well. I go off script a lot and trying to be in the moment up there…that’s when I’m having most fun – when I’m not thinking about it and just going with the flow.
RM: In a 2013 interview with NowToronto.com, you were described as being “cocky” and the author suggested that you were “high strung”…For those who haven’t seen you perform, how accurate would you say those descriptions are three and half years later? Is that “restless energy” something that is pretty consistent with your personality, or are you always slightly turning things up a little bit on stage to get the crowd more involved?
AP: (Laughs) Yeah, I would say that’s a pretty accurate assessment of me as a comedian and a person. I’m always a little on edge, regardless of the situation I’m always anxious and hyper, I’ve always been that way. On stage I turn it up for sure at times, its an exaggerated version of me to an extent, but realistically that’s me up there, I still get nervous when I go up, in a good way and that energy is how I cope with it.
RM: Around the New York City area, many comics such as yourself do multiple sets at different locations in a given night…What are some of your favorite venues to work within the five boroughs; and which club(s) have you really grown to like more over the past eighteen months?
AP: I would say I perform in Manhattan the most and clubs like The Stand and New York Comedy Club are my favourites. The Standing Room (previously the Laughing Devil) in LIC is becoming one of my favourite places to perform, its small and intimate. UCB is obviously a great place and with multiple bar shows all over the city, I enjoy performing everywhere. I’ll be doing Gotham for the first time in June, so I’m pretty excited about that.
RM: Have you ever felt like cutting your teeth in Canada has given you an advantage or put you at a disadvantage as opposed to comics that got their start here in the States? Have you noticed much of a difference in the way audiences respond to comedy on each side of the border, or are the crowds for the most part pretty similar in nature?
AP: I feel it has been an advantage for sure. You can get up a bit more in front of real audiences when you first start out and its quicker to move up the ranks, because its a smaller scene. Also the lack of a star system and industry to some extent is beneficial. There really isn’t pressure, and nobody is watching you. I feel over here there are a lot of eyes on you constantly. In Canada you can grow as a comic at your own pace, without the pressure which I feel gets to a lot of comics here. Who’s doing what, who’s talking about who, et cetera…In Canada nobody talks about anybody (laughs) so its easy to just focus on the comedy. On the other hand once you hit a certain level you can plateau, become stagnate and that’s where living in the states has its advantages.
RM: You’re a part of the “Netflix Campfire Podcast” which is still in its infancy stage at the moment…What sets this show apart from other comedy podcasts focused on entertainment; and how would you best describe the format of the program?
AP: Yeah we aren’t even a year old and its been fun. Sam Rubinoff, Menhuin Hart and Rosebud Baker are all buddies and get along, so it was just easy to start a podcast, we enjoy hanging out. I think what sets us apart from other entertainment focused comedy podcasts is that we watch the movie but don’t necessarily even talk about it after, which is pretty funny. The podcast is more about personal stories, so it’s hard to explain but here’s an example: The first episode we watched “Toy Story” and the whole podcast was talking about our favourite childhood toys growing up, how they broke, if we lost them, etc. Its just fun and were having a great time.
RM: Which negative trend that currently exists in comedy do you think is most detrimental to the industry as a whole? Do you think this tendency is something that can eventually be corrected, or will it always be a problem within the comedy community?
AP: I have no idea, there’s a lot of good things a lot of bad things in every industry. I cant really focus on any of that and I try and stay in my lane, always. Comedy is not easy – both on and off stage – and I try and stay as positive as possible, even though that can be difficult at times. I try and surround myself with people who have the same mentality as myself. If people start talking trash about anything, I try and dip out and find a conversation that’s usually non comedy related, that’s my strategy.
RM: If you had to predict what your Blue Jays’ win total would be come seasons end, what kind of number are we looking at here? It’s early yet, but do you foresee this as being a team that could make the postseason like they did last year? If so, what do they need to do before the trade deadline to take the next step and finally get back to the World Series?
AP: I am not too worried about the slow start right now, I’m not gonna give you a numbers total, but I will say this: I have faith in this years team even more so then last year. They have all the tools to get to the World Series and now from the experience they gained last year, the sky’s the limit. I’m sure by the time the deadline hits, management will know the strengths and weaknesses of the ball club and I have faith that the organization will make the right moves. I’m confident in a long post season run, and I think we have a great shot this year to go all the way.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AP: Not really. (Laughs) I’m going to try and do more spots and just keep doing comedy. I’m a pretty boring person if you were to see my life on paper. In terms of my life, watch as much sports as possible and try and have a good time outside of comedy, that’s important. I also realize I put U’s in favourite, but that’s how we spell it in Commonwealth nations, so just so you know I’m not totally illiterate.
Alex on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alex.pavone.7
Alex on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mralexpavone
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