by Ryan Meehan
Brandon Scott Wolf is a Brooklyn-based comedian who was most recently a staff writer for NBC’s “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris.” He is also the creator of the #1 Online Site for dating Brandon Scott Wolf –http://www.datebrandonscottwolf.com/ – as well as the the #1 Online Site for fighting Brandon Scott Wolf – http://fightbrandonscottwolf.com/ , a co-host of the Always Been Silly Podcast, and a co-founder of the Empire Biscuit Comedy Festival. Brandon’s comedic work has been featured on “Ellen”, FusionTV (ABC/Univision), Russia Today, “Sunrise: Australia’s #1 Breakfast Show,” USA Today, The New York Times, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, GQ, The Huffington Post, Mashable, Sirius XM, MTV News, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, and countless other news outlets, radio stations, and TV shows around the globe. Over the last few years Brandon has performed stand-up regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City where he is currently a featured performer. His other stand-up credits include TBS’s “Lopez Tonight”, CollegeHumor Live, Carolines on Broadway, and a variety of festivals including Just For Laughs Chicago, The Brooklyn Comedy Festival, and UCB’s Del Close Marathon. In the past Brandon has also contributed to Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”, Funny or Die, and little else to society. Nevertheless, we are thrilled to have him as our guest today in 10 Questions.
RM: When did you first begin writing bits with the intention of telling them in front of people other than your friends and family? How did your first time on stage go; and what were some of the things you now realize you were initially doing wrong?
BSW: After a few months of writing for my university’s humor magazine when I was a sophomore in college I started thinking “If my jokes worked in print, what’s stopping them from working if I say them out loud?” The answer, which I soon found out, was that writing comedy is wildly different than performing comedy. The first time I performed stand up was during an open mic in a study lounge that featured a ballerina, a magician, and a slam poet. I performed for about 15 minutes to probably less than 10 audience members and afterward I thought “It won’t be long until I’m on Comedy Central.” In hindsight my set was a choppy, almost punchlineless, drawn out disaster. It was also a start. A choppy, almost punchlineless, drawn out start, but a start nonetheless. Since then, I learned to tighten up my jokes and to actually have punchlines.
RM: What is the most significant manner in which your process of writing jokes has changed since then; and what is the single biggest breakthrough you had as a writer that changed the way you view that practice as a whole?
BSW: My writing process hasn’t changed much since college. I’m constantly jotting ideas down throughout the day whenever they pop into my head. Then I’ll sit down to revise and rewrite them whenever I have free time. I think the biggest breakthrough that I’ve had since I started writing jokes though is that consistency and a strong work ethic lead to success. Having a positive, forward-thinking mindset is incredibly important. Put in the effort now if you want to succeed in the future. Thinking like this has lead me to a lot of great professional opportunities like writing for and performing on TV. Then again, thinking like this has also gotten me booked to perform in a shoe store and then that shoe store cancelled on me the day of the show… so I guess who knows?
RM: Being a writer for a television show must be difficult because you essentially have a host of people in a room who – in a sense – are doing everything in their power to make sure their material makes the cut above all others…What advice would you give to people who are writing comedy in a group setting for the first time; and how important is it to do your best to try and leave your ego at the door so that the staff gets the best jokes for the talent and the program they are presenting?
BSW: If it’s your first time in a TV show writers’ room and you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you don’t belong it’s important to realize that you were hired for a reason and that reason is this: “You’re a great writer and you have a lot of talent.” At this point that’s a fact. You’re a professional TV writer. But also at this point, it’s important to remember, you’re not the only person in that room. You’re surrounded by a lot of other incredibly talented people and you have to work with them. Write what you think will work, be open to constructive criticism, and take every opportunity to collaborate. Don’t do what you think will be best for you. Do what you think will be best for the show.
RM: How did working for “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” differ from all of the writing gigs you’ve had up until that point? At any time during the show’s run did you ever feel an overwhelming sense of pressure given that it was on network television?
BSW: My first staff writer position was with Best Time Ever, which meant that instead of emailing in jokes as a contributing writer and hoping the show’s head writer would take the time to read them I actually sat in the room with the head writer during table reads. That was a huge difference. It was phenomenal being a part of the process. Seeing what landed, what didn’t, and how the show evolved over its run. There was always pressure to produce the best hour of TV that we possibly could, but BTE had a top notch, supportive staff that worked really well together so I never really had that moment where I was like “This is overwhelming. I think I have a stomach ulcer. Why am I working in TV?”
RM: On April 20th you headlined a show at Caroline’s as a part of their “Breakout Artist” comedy series…Since the show took place on the eve of what many consider to be the national stoner holiday, did you feel like greater portions of the crowd seemed to have partaken in that hazy activity more than some of the others; and from a performance standpoint, what’s the best part about that venue and the confidence that environment is able to provide when you step in front of that diamond-patterned backdrop?
BSW: I’m not sure how many audience members were celebrating 420 that night, but I will say that one of them came up to me after my set and said “I was so blazed that I physically could see your jokes,” and I was like “Glad to hear you enjoyed the show.” And from a performance standpoint, Caroline’s is a special venue. It’s a comedy staple in New York City. Performing there is big and feels just as big. There’s an importance to that room. When I was on stage it felt like I was living through a milestone. Not everyone gets to be a Breakout Artist at Caroline’s on Broadway, and I’m beyond proud to say that I’ve been one.
RM: How often a week do you typically get up; and with so many mics and shows in the NYC area how do you make decisions regarding where to perform? Are those selections based more on things like relative location and how much it would cost to get from show to show, or are they dependent on how much new material you are looking to try out?
BSW: When I’m not busy with writing projects that bleed into the evening hours I try to get up at least once per night. On an average week in New York City I’ll perform anywhere from 5-to-12 times, but what matters most to me is being able to grow as a comedian. I’m happy as long as my set today is better than my set yesterday. I said this to a friend recently and I’m standing by it: “I may not be growing as a person, but I’m growing as a comedian.”
RM: Was the “Fight Brandon Scott Wolf” site something that you created so that individuals of both genders could get physical with you? If you had someone who had heckled you at a comedy show that contacted you and legitimately did want to get in the ring with the BSW, how do you think you’d handle the situation? Any word from Floyd Mayweather yet?
BSW: FightBrandonScottWolf.com is a website that I’m using to challenge Floyd Mayweather, and only Floyd Mayweather, to a sanctioned boxing match. I’m not using it to “get physical,” hook up, or date anyone… and that includes Mayweather. DateBrandonScottWolf.com, on the other hand, is my personal online dating site. And as of right now, Floyd hasn’t created a profile on either.
RM: Was the creation of those websites something that was done more because you thought the ideas were hilarious, or more due to the fact that a lot of comedians today feel like they need a vehicle other than their stand-up by which to sell the product of themselves as a comic?
BSW: When I launched DateBrandonScottWolf.com it was 100% because I thought it was a hilarious idea. I didn’t intend for it to be an actual online dating site. Same with my fighting site. I didn’t intend for it to be an actual online dating site. Even to this day those ideas make me laugh and that’s why they were created in the first place.
RM: You had an interesting Facebook post at the end of April where you said “Every family get-together ends with people saying ‘Good luck with comedy’ to me”…Do you think the opinion of some people who say things like that will ever evolve with regards to viewing stand-up as something that takes a great deal of work and serious thought to do effectively as a career? In other words, in fifty years do you think we will see a decrease in the number of people who see the art of stand-up comedy as more than just “horsing around”?
BSW: I actually think that the phrase “Good luck with comedy,” can be interpreted on multiple levels depending on how it’s said. When I was starting out it sounded negative or dismissive even like “Psh… Good luck with comedy. You’ll never be a professional,” but over the years it has more often than not become a “Good luck with comedy. I can’t wait to see the next project you’re working on. Let me know when you’re headlining around here.” I obviously can’t speak for any other comedians, but I believe that professional growth changes the perception of those who aren’t in the industry. After a few years of hard work “little skits,” become “sketches,” and family get-together become less so about proving to aunts and uncles that you can be a comedian because you are a comedian.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we need to know about?
BSW: I have a few exciting projects in the works that I can’t really talk about right now, but what I can talk about is my satirical alt food blog @emptyplatesofny where I post pictures of empty plates after I’m finished eating off them, a description of what I ate off of them, and a brief quote from each of them about their lives. Yes, talking plates. I’m aware that it sounds crazy and yes, it is crazy, but I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m also having a lot of fun co-hosting the always been silly podcast with my friend Anthony O’Connell where we talk with fellow comedians about their silliest stories. Previous guests have included Sasheer Zamata, Mark Normand, and Aparna Nancherla. And for updates on the projects I can’t really talk about right now, follow me on Twitter@BrandonEsWolf. Also, follow my mom @Goulashyum. She would love that!
Official Website: http://www.brandonscottwolf.com/
Date Brandon: http://www.datebrandonscottwolf.com/
Fight Brandon: http://fightbrandonscottwolf.com/
Empty Plates of New York: http://www.thepicta.com/user/emptyplatesofny/40898289
Brandon on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrandonEsWolf
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