By Brighid Mooney – BeingTheRemag.Com – December 2004

      Comedian Greg Proops may be best known as the wisecracking, bespectacled improviser on the long-running hit TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but to those familiar with his work off screen, he’s also one of the most intelligent and articulate stand-ups working today. Armed with a plethora of baroque vocabulary, and varied references to both pop culture and politics, Greg throws down smart, scathing comedy informed by today’s most ubiquitous news headlines as well as all of the peculiarities inherent in modern day culture. In between an endless parade of stand-up gigs, Greg also has his own bi-weekly internet show on Audible.com and has recently starred in Drew Carey’s Green Screen show on the WB. Greg tours regularly with the Improv All Stars, frequently hosts his own chat show at the LA club Largo and has been around the world and back countless times to perform his inimitable brand of sarcasm drenched stand-up comedy. After an inspired set at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City, Greg took some time to talk with Being There about improv, stand-up and the singularity of being a nasally white guy with glasses.

As a comic, you have to tackle a lot of contentious issues and you’re allowed to make fun of pretty much anything. Are there any things that are off-limits?

      Yeah. I won’t bully people who can’t defend themselves. Like, I’m not gonna make fun of the homeless or, you know, anything like that. But I think I take on figures who are public figures that are open to being derided. They’re often political figures. They have recourse. I wouldn’t smash on anybody who has no way to defend themselves, that would be wrong. Taste is not my barrier. It’s more of a moral thing than a taste thing.

What would you say are your greatest strengths as a performer?

      Well, when I’m good my greatest strength is that I’m in the moment and I can extemporize. I think that’s my greatest strength. That’s when I’m going good. If I’m not up my own butt or angry or drunk, or there’s an anger, that’s… You’ve seen me in various states. Sometimes I can focus when I’m drunk.

What are your greatest weaknesses?

      Self indulgence. I let myself get angry.

Over what?

      The crowd. Their existence is an affront. I get mad when people are stupid or yell out or stuff like that or someone’s not listening. I’m making a conscious effort last night and tonight to not be that way. You might have noticed, I’m being really pleasant and effervescent and letting people like me and going slow. I’m not hammering people into the ground for walking in a few seconds into the show, which is my normal mode.

I kinda miss that.

      It’ll come back. I mean, I’m here all week. It’s just, I didn’t want to start that way, cause I don’t want to be the agita. I don’t want an ulcer. It’s Christmas, B.

Your stage presence is marked by a lot of confidence, so do you have any insecurities as a performer?

      Yeah, you know, I wish I was a better performer, you know. I wish I was more focused and was a better writer and had more marshaled thoughts and was more organized. But it’s like in comedy, you know, that’s vital. I think I am confident. You have to be confident, that’s the key to comedy. Even a diffident, unconfident character comic is confident in their diffidence. You know what I mean? You can’t ever let the audience perceive that you’re not in control, in my opinion. My favorite comics are always in control, like George Carlin and, you know, Chris Rock. Whoever. Dave Chappelle, Lily Tomlin, you know. Lily Tomlin is like a ballet dancer, if you’ve ever seen her. She goes from one topic to the next and is really well developed with her opinion.

What about as a person? Do you have any insecurities?

      I have a lot of insecurities, I’m not going to tell you all of them. I could look different, you know, I could sound different. I have the usual ones that everyone has. I wish I wasn’t me, you know. I wish I was, you know, someone cooler. But at the same time, in my 40’s, I’ve come to realize that your weaknesses are your chips, that’s what you’ve got. All the things that you kind of dislike about yourself are the things that make you different from everyone else. I don’t know how new agey that sounds, but it’s very actory. But it’s true. Jeff Davis – you know Jeff Davis from the group, tall, great hair, vibrant – he’s gone and Drew’s gone to some sort of coach, an acting coach, and his thesis, I think, I’m misquoting, believe me, is – and don’t ask me for his name or any kind of relevant information – that your weaknesses are what make you unique and therefore are your strengths, you know what I mean? Like I have a funny voice. My voice sounds funny. I look funny. And those things might be not so great if I was a professional football player, but because I’m a comedian they’re really valuable. I was doing a voice gig today and the reason why I had the voice gig is because I sound this way. I wouldn’t have got it if I didn’t sound this way. So as much as I hate it, and wish I … you know, you really do embrace those things, I think. Maybe if not embrace them, then accept them. Well, I’m a nasally white guy with glasses, but there aren’t a lot of nasally white guys with glasses who can do what I do. Groucho Marx, who is, I think, the funniest person who ever lived, adopted the character of Groucho with his brothers. And someone said about him, I can’t remember who said it, “he looked funny, he walked funny, he talked funny.” When Groucho Marx comes in, you’re already excited, because he’s so fucking funny. When Bill Murray comes in, he hasn’t said anything yet, you’re already ready for Bill Murray because you know him, you know. And that, it can be said, is the epitome of, to have a persona that strong.

You’ve done stand-up and released comedy CDs, and been on TV and in movies. What would you still like to do?

      Hmm. Play Broadway or the West End. West End of London. Or, New York, I’d love to do that. But I’m happy doing what I do. We did a lot of gigs with Drew this year on the road and stuff and they’re really fun. And I get to go out with every configuration of the boys. For instance, Monday, me, Kathy [Kinney], Sean [Masterson], Jeff [Davis] and Chip [Esten] are going to Bethesda Naval Hospital to perform for the troops, or Bethesda Naval Base, and then we’re going to some hospitals and stuff to see the wounded. And that’ll be really cool. So I get to do a lot of things, really, you know, golly, we played Carnegie Hall this year, I mean, I can’t really complain. But I also played the Laugh Stop in Houston, the Funny Bone in Atlanta, you know, Ellensburg, Washington, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Paris, Milan, all this year. Christchurch, New Zealand.

You’re on a new improv and animation show on the WB, Drew Carey’s Green Screen. What is the status of that right now?

      Interesting question. That question opens a semantic minefield. The status is we’re not cancelled, we’re on a November Sweeps hiatus, possibly indefinitely. Some other shows you may have noticed, such popular WB favorites as Blue Collar Comedy, have also been tabled for the moment. Blue Collar will certainly come back, but we are not so certain to come back. So, that’s the limbo. Ron Diamond at Acme Animation is in the process of finishing the rest of the shows, so they do exist, like the X-Files. We aired four, I think there’s eight more, or something like that. Eight or nine more. So I can’t tell you. We weren’t doing monster numbers, but I don’t think we were gonna do monster numbers because of where we were and when we were. Once again up against Will and Grace and Survivor and everything. But I thought the show was, well, I’m giving you a long-ass answer, but we might be back. And we might come back somewhere else. That happens, too, on TV. If we don’t come back on the WB we might come back on Comedy Central or something.

Does knowing that the animation is going to be added in later affect the way that you improvise the scene?

      Well, I wish it did. The truth is none of us had any idea what was going on. We knew that they were gonna animate later because we were on a giant fucking green screen. But we didn’t know what we were doing. We had, as I told the cast, a terrible creative latitude. We were given no notes other than don’t swear and we had no meetings to speak of. Well, the cast would meet sometimes, but that was it, so what you’re seeing up there is five days of us just hacking away in front of a live crowd. If we’re given the opportunity to do it again, which is to be fervently wished for Drew as much as anybody, we’ll be a little more mindful of the animation process, and serve that area of comedy more. You know what I mean. Rather than just saying weird things like it’s a banana, maybe actually think a little bit about what’ll be the visuals, you know, and the other things. That’s what I’m hoping. That was a long, boring answer. Basically the answer is no.

Does working with the same people so often make it easier to do improv?

      Yeah. The familiarity gives us confidence. The improv itself keeps it edgy enough so that we don’t know what the fuck we’re gonna say or do, so that element counteracts whatever comfortableness might exist. You’ve seen us live, and you know we don’t do what we do on TV, everybody does it a little different. You might see Drew do Shakespeare, you know what I mean, but we don’t, we try to keep it, I think the interesting part is we amuse each other. If we were bored of each other’s jokes then there might be a situation, but we find each other very funny. Except for Colin, he’s dead weight.

Are there things that you constantly go back to during improv? If you get into a tough situation that you do a certain thing?

      No, I’m not a good enough improviser. I don’t try to think of stock things to bring back, there shouldn’t be stock jokes you can do. You don’t know the scene, so you’re pretty much on your own. You know, it’s fairly honest. It’s fairly honest. We try to do new stuff. You might see the same jokes in the tag game, but the rest of it is pretty honest. You’ve seen it enough to know that we actually do make it up.

Is it the same in your stand-up? There’s nothing that you rely on just in case?

      Well, I have material. If I need to I can go back to my material and perform it. But I like it better to let it flow, it lets me put the focus on nonsense, because I think people are burnt out on politics, the UK and Sudan. Well, because I’m so fucked up by what happened, I wanna be funny when I talk about it. It’ll take me about two months to get the anger out. Being angry is not that funny in the context of it, I don’t wanna just be a raving, angry liberal, cause that’s annoying. I wanna be a caustic, informed liberal.

In your stand-up now you seem to heckle the crowd less than you used to. Was that a conscious decision?

      Well, this past election was my political 9/11. And I decided, not even consciously, to let it go for a while. Let the audience enjoy themselves.

Except on Audible…

      That’s the one thing where I can allow myself to rant. I think that’s the nature of the show. I don’t know that I’m supposed to soft peddle that. Aside from the three bad reviews of my Audible website, like a child’s make believe radio show, I believe one of them said – not that I read them. I read that one – 20% of the crowd hates you no matter what you’re doing. It doesn’t bother me actually. I mean, I’d love it if everyone thought it was funny.

Have you ever been in a situation where a heckler got the upper hand?

      Yeah, several times. Once, years ago in San Francisco, there was a guy who was laughing really loud and I said to him, “you’re really laughing too loud there” and “what’s your deal?” And he had just gotten out of San Quentin where he had been doing hard time for embezzlement, seven years or something, and I said “fuck me” and he said “if you had been there we would have.” And he pretty much took over at that point. Funnier than anything I could have said. I just fell on the ground laughing. I’ll give it up if the crowd’s funnier than me. I think you have to be honest, pretty much, or angry. I’m usually fairly honest with the crowd. I’ll let them know what’s going on. I don’t mind it.

A lot of comedians, and artists, come out of a dark, troubled past that fuels their comedy. Are there any deep, dark feelings that fuel your comedy?

      There are and I’m not going to share them with you, but I would agree with that assessment in general. The New York Times today had two very poorly written reviews, one of the Peter Sellers TV movie and one of the movie Closer, the Mike Nichols film, and the TV movie review of Peter Sellers said most comedians are miserable, horrible, you know, whatever that other adjective was, people off stage, and the Closer review said most things about, you know, and I wanted to write to the New York Times and say most critics are really lazy and use generalities rather than specific arguments to inform their criticism. The idea that all comedians are miserable off stage is complete fucking lunacy. It’s lunacy. It’s complete lunacy. Most comics are, have something going on psychologically and I think that’s what powers the groove. Because the most famous comedians like Charlie Chaplin, whose mother was kind of an insane person, and Richard Pryor, whose mother was a prostitute, everyone thinks that that’s what going on; that they have some horrible scar that can never be healed. But I think in a lot of ways it’s something that – stand-up comedy is a really direct way of having contact with people. And a really direct way of expressing yourself. It’s not a book, it’s not classic art, as my friend would say, like a painting or even a TV show, there’s no distance in stand-up and I think that’s what appeals to the people who do it. Something in your psychological nature, obviously the shallow love of the many is important. But you’ve seen me often enough to know that if the crowd laughs that’s great, if the crowd doesn’t laugh that’s not cutting me down to size, you know what I mean. I don’t care. I care, I want them to always laugh, but it’s not stopping me from doing what I do. I absolutely have the shallow ability to deny what happened, and that’s what keeps me going. Part of every performer’s nature is the ability to accept the rejection and pretty much just pretend it didn’t happen and carry on.

In your stand-up you talk about the… intellectual shortcomings of Jessica Simpson. Have you heard there was an article that said she actually has an IQ of 160. I wondered what you thought about that?

      Where was the article?

I have no idea.

      Then who said it?

Her mom said it.

      Her mother said it?

I think it was Entertainment Weekly [I was wrong, it was Vanity Fair, as if that makes it more credible].

      And we’re to believe this is true? We’re to believe that Entertainment Weekly printed something her mother said and that’s a fact? I see. Well, that’s a very Dan Ratherian source you’ve got there. She may not be as stupid as she acts. I think she’s deficient in book learning, which isn’t a crime. However, knowing her as little as I do, simply through TV persona, I’m getting that she’s not improving herself, maybe as much as she’d like. Rather than try to diminish Jessica Simpson, who obviously is her own punchline, Madonna was sort of a disco dolly when she started, you know, and then you’ve seen her grow into this, you know, aside from the pretension and children’s books, she knows about art and literature and she’s sort of surrounded herself with people and kind of made an effort to improve herself. And don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m not saying everyone should be cultured in a classical way. For instance, look at Michael Jackson, you’ve seen him speak on TV, he couldn’t get a job at Taco Bell, with the skills he has, you know what I mean? He’s that stupid. He’s taken millions and millions of dollars and 25 years of complete financial freedom and made an amusement park, with sno-cones and shit. Notice it’s not a library. Like, go to Europe, you know what I mean? Study, study.

What kind of music are you into right now?

      Well, I’m filling up my iPod, so we’re going back to the day. I don’t have a lot of new stuff on it. I’m filling it up with albums and stuff that I didn’t have. A little Brian Eno and ambient albums from the 70’s that I didn’t ever own on vinyl, Music For Airports and Music For Films, a couple of little beat numbers, couple of old soul numbers from the 70’s. I really like ambient music and the music of the spheres, as it were. You know, the Thievery Corporation, that kinda thing. I’ve been listening to a lot of older stuff lately, you know, Sly and the Family Stone.

What kind of books are you reading right now?

      I was given two books, Pale Fire by Nabokov, Jeff Davis gave me, and I’m trying to read that, but I haven’t really cracked it yet, and my wife gave me As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, and I brought them both with me on this trip, and I’ve been reading… USA Today. But I gave Jeff Blood Meridian, which is my favorite novel, and so when I see him hopefully we’ll take it up. So that’s my book story and I’m sticking to it. Oh, I started Siddhartha, someone sent me, a sound person at the Laugh Stop sent me Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I got about three chapters, I got into the middle of it and I left it. The last book I read was, well, I read a lot of baseball books. I read a David Halberstam book about Ted Williams and his buddies from the Red Sox, I read that right after the World Series.

You wrote an article called “Sniggers With Attitude”.

      Yeah, they titled it “Sniggers With Attitude,” I didn’t title it that. That was the headline writer.

About the legacy of comics like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks. What do you think your own legacy will be, and what would you want it to be?

      What’s my legacy? Oh, Christ on a crutch. I don’t know. You know, I’m happy that people, that I have a few fans, and that there’s people that like me, I don’t like the word fan that much. I’m a fan of other people and so I appreciate it if someone, you know what I mean, in turn. I don’t think I’m gonna have a big legacy. I think my legacy is gonna be Whose Line to be honest, because I spent 14 years on the show and it’s impossible to erase television from people’s minds. Television is the great path, you know, to be able have my own show and that’s what people will remember. And if there’s people who know more from seeing me do stand-up or whatever, then that’s cool. I’d like people to say that I said what I thought, that I said what I felt. I’d like that to be my legacy. That I didn’t bullshit people. Obviously I mix hipness and vaudeville, I mix craft humor and subreferences, and I mix pretentiousness and stupidity. I’m trying to do that. I think that’s what Lenny Bruce did better than anyone else in the world. He took elements of vaudeville and shtick and burlesque and put hipness and information on top of it, and that’s what he is. To oversimplify utterly what he is. I’m not gonna be able to do that cause I’m not from the burlesque world, I’m from the improv stand-up world.

In that article you talk about how the might of stand-up comedy is the ability to enlighten and frighten.

      Did I say that? Oh, that’s very clever.

How do you think that affects comedy and what kind of power do you think it has?

      I don’t think everybody wields it, but I think it is the power of, the same power that literature has or music or art or cinema, to change people, to make people think a little bit and to motivate them. That’s what I think about the power to enlighten and frighten. I wanna be enlightened, you know, and I wanna be frightened. And I think everybody does. Safe stand-up comedy is not that exciting to me. I’d much prefer something to be completely weird and challenging.

In the same article you mention Richard Pryor’s ability to force us to confront issues like race, class and religion. What do you think makes stand-up comedy a good vehicle for confronting those issues?

      The immediacy, the informational aspect of stand-up comedy, the fact that you’re directly speaking to a live audience each night, of paying customers, gives you the ability, the platform to tackle those things. I think it’s the perfect place to do it. There’s too much safety in being a pundit on TV, sitting back behind your table and opining. No one confronts you on it and no one judges you on it. People say the most erroneous, false, horrible, fucking, you know, the Ann Coulters of the world get away with things that if they got on stage in front of a live crowd, and I don’t mean a live crowd of people who already like them, I mean a live crowd like this crowd tonight of a bunch of drunks who wandered into a club, they would be massacred for not having enough jokes. I mean, I realize she’s not a stand-up comic, I’m just saying that’s my take on it. The thing that I got living in England was you have to be able to explain your position, and articulately. You better know why you think what you think. And I have very little patience for people who don’t even know why they fucking think what they think. They just think it because everybody told them to or because they think they should. Like, Jesus good. Other things are bad. Like, I can’t abide that, because it’s stupid.

Do you think of stand-up comedy as a form of art?

      At its highest, it is. When Richard Pryor does Mudbone and homeless guys it is, yeah. When Lenny Bruce does Jesus going to church, it’s art. When George Carlin does, you know, one of his magnificent “God is an invisible man who lives in heaven” that’s art. When Lily Tomlin says, what is it, “when I was younger I wanted to be somebody. Now I realize I should have been more specific.” I think it can be.

Not always?

      No, cause it’s pop art. Not like every pop record is good, you know. Only every how many pop records are good.

What do you think makes stand-up the black sheep of the arts?

      People think it’s something that they could do or somehow it’s, because of its familiarity … I don’t know that it’s the black sheep but it’s certainly … comedy isn’t specific in people’s minds like cinema or sport. You would never say to an athlete there’s a guy in my office who can run the 40 yard dash in 3.9 seconds backwards and he should really be the tailback on your team. I don’t think they can do it as much as, they think they can do it, it doesn’t seem impossible, like throwing a fastball or hitting a golf ball or running a hundred yard dash or whatever or being a movie star, which seems impossible but is actually frankly easier than being a stand-up comedian in my opinion. Not a great movie star, not like Marlon Brando, but I mean a run of the mill movie star is no more talented than a good stand-up. There is no way you can convince me that Ben Affleck has more talent than Paul F. Tompkins or Greg Behrendt. You know what I mean. Just because he can put on a fucking funny suit and run around. That’s not talent. Anybody could do it. A monkey could do it. A genius like Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson or, you know, Faye Dunaway or whoever you can think of, that’s another thing. I think that’s why. Stand-up is the – it appears possible. Like you could get up there, like anybody could get up there. I mean, as if one could get up there.

What are your favorite stand-up albums of all time?

      I’m gonna leave a bunch out. The ones I grew up on are like Bill Cobsy, Why Is There Air?, Wonderfulness, To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With; Allan Sherman, who was a song parodist, My Son, The Folk Singer, My Son, The Celebrity; Albert Brooks, Comedy Minus One, from the 70s. George Carlin, Occupation: Foole. I think Button Down Mind is a masterpiece, you know. I think Ellen Degeneres’ record, her first one, is superb, a masterpiece. Albums are tougher than performers, cause someone like Jonathan Winters made some great albums but he’s not an album performer, if you know what I mean. Like if you saw him or got to spend time with him, that’s funnier than any album. But the album from 40 years ago was the way to deliver it, or 30 years or whatever. It kind of fizzled out in the 70s. But from the 50s, for 20-something years it was really the way to deliver comedy to people’s homes, cause they weren’t on TV as much. I’m leaving out a million albums. Is It Something I Said, Richard Pryor, Bicentennial Nigger, he’s made a million albums that are hilarious. Firesign Theater, they’re not stand-up, they’re comedy, they’re a group, I love their albums, from the 70s. Don’t Crush the Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, Waiting For the Electrician, or Someone Like Him. I listen to those albums over and over again. I really like them. Like the freak that I am.

What contemporary comedians do you think are the most groundbreaking right now?

      Now? I don’t know everybody. In England there’s lots of young guys. I’m also middle-aged so I’m not as in tune with the guys who are 22 that are kicking ass. So I’m not, you probably know more young guys than I do. Chris Morris did a show in England called Brass Eye, he was the most scabrous person I think I’ve ever heard, but he didn’t do stand-up, he does TV and radio. I love, I think Dave Chappelle is a terrific comedian. I haven’t watched his show that much so I can’t tell you what it’s like. I think Chris Rock is a terrific comedian. I’ll stop there. Paul Tompkins, is a particular favorite of mine. Patton Oswalt can be very good.

He’s going to be at Cobb’s with you, right? [for their New Year’s Eve show]

      He is going to be at Cobb’s. I’m on a bill there with Dana Gould and Patton Oswalt, and Dana Gould, although he’s not a full-time comedian anymore, he’s busy producing The Simpsons. I mean, he’s a genius. He’s one of the most superb comedians you’ll ever, ever see. The concept, the delivery, the punchline, he’s just, he’s articulate, he’s bright, he’s not abstruse, like me, he’s not campy. He’s terrific.

What do you think of comedians as philosophers, like Bill Hicks?

      Well, I think Bill Hicks did it well. I think Bill Hicks is a tremendous comedian and I go back and listen to him when I’m bummed out and try to renew my fucking will to live. Much more than I am, he’s – I’m more of a sybarite, I’m pretty shallow. I like smoking dope and nice clothes and taking trips and stuff like that. He was deeper, he was really looking for an answer. He grew up in a Christian atmosphere and it didn’t settle right with him. I can’t speak for him, I’m guessing from his material, what he said. He was really looking for the big answers. Why? Why? And that’s an unanswerable question, so. I thought he did it very well. I think George Carlin is a philosopher. I think George Carlin has gone from being a tremendous observational comic to being, to sound really pretentious, sort of like Samuel Beckett. He’s been able to distill his comedy down to thoughts and sentences. You see him on TV, like on Maher’s show or on CNN or whatever, sometimes he pops up, whenever, of course, there’s a discussion on profanity they drag him out of the woodwork cause he said cocksucker on TV. He’s able to cut to the chase and really articulate a very funny idea in a very few words which is economy. And I think he’s learned economy over the 40 some odd years of his career and for that I worship him. I’m not that comic, I’m verbose, I use verbosity, but I’d like to get closer to the ideas. Like when you say that I said the ability to enlighten and frighten, I think oh that’s good. I should be more like that. Clever and pissy instead of longwinded and boring. But being longwinded and boring is my strength, aside from being nasal and looking funny. No one else is as longwinded and boring as me, so I’m the one.

Do you consider the AudibleProops series to be a form of philosophic comedy?

      I’m certainly saying how I feel, I mean. Obviously it’s a joke, too. I’m laying down extra hatred in the show that I find humorous. It is my firm belief that by adopting a position of complete hatred toward everyone that you’re liberating the comedy. You know, like HL Mencken or Ambrose Bierce or, you know, Voltaire or whatever, their utter and complete contempt for man’s stupidity, it is hilarious. And I’m not comparing myself to them, and I’m not in their caliber, but the stance itself is an effective tool, in my opinion. I have to blather for 15 to 20 minutes a week, two weeks, without a sinuous point of view nothing could come out. No one wants to hear my fucking general observations on… Maybe it’s me, I mean, you know. I say, what, Britney Spears came out of the middle of a black lake composed entirely of Dr. Pepper or something like that. If I was just going like “Britney Spears is a ho,”that’s not funny. I have to go way past that to find anything funny. That’s a long winded answer. As one English critic said about me, my dirty little secret is I’m a giant, giant fucking liberal and a humanist and that’s a horrible, hideous secret I’m trying to keep from everyone. I’m not interested in people, but I don’t think people should be squashed.

You spend a lot of time on AudibleProops listing things that you hate. What things do you like?

      Baseball. Like or love? Marijuana, old movies, the show Deadwood on HBO, Cuban cigars, red wine, I used to love cigarettes, fancy clothes, Steely Dan, Cormac McCarthy, doing standup, all the people that I get to work with, they’re really cool. You know, Europe. Is that enough?

Earlier this summer, PJ O’Rourke wrote an article about how conservatives have given up the practice of arguing to change minds.

      Oh, that’s a good point. Where was that, in Rolling Stone or something?

The Atlantic Monthly.

      Oh, the Atlantic. Good for him.

Do you consider AudibleProops an attempt to change minds?

      Not at all. I think that like those people who wrote on the website, it’s a child’s show or whatever. The people who are opposed and can’t laugh at something that they don’t agree with aren’t capable of having their minds changed by comedy in that instance. I agree with what PJ O’Rourke said. They don’t try to change minds now, they simply state where they’re coming from and you can either accept that or fuck off into the night, and I think that’s a sad state of affairs. In England, it’s not a perfect place, England’s a very imperfect place, but the one thing they can do, although I would say they’re sliding toward fascism as we are, and it’s their liberal party that’s sliding toward fascism, their Labor Party, that represents people, is the party of war, the party of aggression, the party of suppression, is that English people are capable of arguing. You know, Orwell invented or articulated the concept of doublethink, meaning I accept two contradictory ideas simultaneously and I accept them both as truth. For instance, Jesus is love, I hate gays, or I believe in the teachings of the Christian Bible, I believe people should be killed that don’t agree with me. It’s that type of doublethink, I’m using two broad-ass examples, so no, I don’t think I can. But if you have a sense of humor you might enjoy a line or two in there somewhere. I don’t have a duty to present both sides of the argument. I did an event earlier in the year with Drew Carey and Garry Trudeau was on the panel, and Garry Trudeau has been a satirist for what, 35, 40 years, whenever Doonesbury started, and he said, they asked him do you think Campbell Brown, who is a complete, she’s, whatever, she had a TV news face, let’s put it that way. She hasn’t any more opinion than this sink or that chair, that she would express on TV. Which, of course, gets no respect from me. I wanna know where you’re coming from. I can respect Pat Buchanan, you know what I mean? I don’t respect him but I can respect that he thinks something, and he takes really weird polar sides sometimes, like Barry Goldwater did in his senility. Barry Goldwater all the sudden was a gay rights, hey, whatever, you know. If somebody asked conservatives, at a certain point, after 65, they go fuck it. By the way, do what you want! And William F. Buckley, drugs should be legalized! William F. Buckley believes all drugs should be legalized. In any case, I was leading toward something, and I’ve forgotten what it was…

What news sources do you rely on for your information? Like, what channel did you watch on election night?

      Various. I was with a bunch of people at a party on election night, an election party. And we brought champagne and we opened it anyway, because we were very confident at the time. We switched around, so we started at ABC and then eventually FOX and back to NBC. I watch the evening news, or network news. I prefer Dan Rather because he’s insane and has a real tenuous grasp on reality. I like Peter Jennings, although I read today Al Neuwirth’s column in the USA Today, said that “Peter Jennings is a big city foreigner, people in the United States will never really trust him,” and that’s the kind of blanket generalization that makes my fucking teeth set on edge. I think you’ll find that people in Alabama think that Peter Jennings is an articulate and handsome newscaster. I don’t think they’re looking to him for the fucking inner core truth that speaks to your soul. Because I don’t think that’s what you watch news for. You know what I mean. In any case, Pacifica Radio, the Los Angeles Times, which I read every day, the LA weekly. I don’t like the New York Times very much. I read it. I read a bunch of websites, there’s a website called the Liberal Oasis, which has a load of other sites on it. There’s also one called Buzzflash that has a load of sites on it. The BBC website, the Guardian website, the UK Guardian, National Public Radio is okay, it kinda gets up my ass. I’ll listen to AM news sometimes. I read righty blogs, I read lefty blogs. Am I leaving anything out? I may not get all viewpoints but I try to mix it up a little bit. Foreign news is often full of information. That’s the interesting thing about foreign news. They’ll actually put facts in and stuff like that. Whereas American news is “people like Bush! They’re gonna recount the votes in Ohio, but it won’t matter!” Things like that are in the newspapers in America. “It won’t matter!” Like that’s news. You know that they’re telling them that, by the way, the margins in Florida and Ohio were just enough to jigger if you wanted to jigger the election, it wasn’t actually hundreds of thousands of votes.

They went down.

      They did, yeah buddy. How when you count everyone’s votes, the President didn’t win.

What do you think the next four years have in store for Americans?

      I think he’s probably gonna fade a little bit. I don’t see him finishing strong. I’m hoping that we learn to stop generalizing and start … In the last year I’ve gone to North Carolina, Altanta, Houston, all over western Canada, which is their redneck area, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, not BC, BC’s their California, and I’ve played all these places, and everyone thinks “well you wouldn’t go there,” like I said in the first show “I wouldn’t go there, it’s Alabama,” but I would, I do, and I kill. So the idea that they’re diametrically opposed to me and everything simply because I’m a fag loving, dope smoking liberal from California is wrong and I know it for a fact. I’ve been to Italy and France and England and here and there and there and there. And everywhere people are the same. They’re rednecks and they’re smart, they’re liberals and they’re dumb. And that’s what I’m hoping happens in America in the next four years, that people calm the fuck down a little bit. Believing what you believe doesn’t mean you’re a better or worse person, and it works the other way as well. I never let go, but it works the other way as well.

Do you think there’s still a future for progressive politics in the America?

      Always, yeah. I believe what Michael Moore said, there’s more of us than them right now. And I’m gonna believe that we won. Women are senators, women are supreme court justices. Black people are corporate heads. That didn’t happen 50 years ago. The world’s got better, it has to have. It’s not going fast enough for me or even progressive enough, but it’s better. Millions of people are against the war in Iraq, that’s important. People who were violently opposed to it and still are. So, I believe the world is more informed. Progressives have to get out of their own ass. Animal rights aren’t important. There, I’ve said it. The shit that people think is important in progressive politics is not fucking important. There is a sports bottom-line to everything, because I’m a simple male mind. Why is it we play a game everyday? We play a game everyday. We get up in the morning and we play again. You lose today, you might lose tomorrow, you might lose 22 days in a row, but you’ve got to fucking win one day. Two, if you really want to win, you gotta want to win. And wanting to win means doing anything to win. Now, clearly in the last two elections they have done anything they can to win, meaning they’ve jiggered the vote, they’ve disenfranchised people, they’ve cheated. I’m not saying progressives need to cheat to win the next one, but they could alert the fucking media. They could want it more. John Kerry was an intelligent man and a very articulate man, bright and a good debater, and in possession of the facts.

What do you think about the conservative trend in the US right now, and the fact that most Americans cited “moral values” as the most important issue in this election?

      I think that that’s erroneous. I don’t think most Americans did that. I think the way the pollsters phrased the question caused that answer to be the main answer. It was a multiple choice question that was narrowed down to two. The fact that we believe the accuracy that everyone said moral values was most important, but we don’t believe the exit polls that had Kerry winning speaks of the basic fabric of the lie that is the media. I don’t believe that’s true is what I think of that. And if it is, those people have got some serious rethinking to do. There’s nothing wrong with having moral values, it’s just that when I see moral values represented as homophobia and racism, then they’re not moral values. Where’s the morality?

In your perfect world, what would the political future of the US look like?

      It would go back to the left. There would be an equal rights amendment. There would be a female justice in the Supreme Court. There would be a woman president. They’d legalize marijuana. California would secede and become its own separate country, maybe with parts of Washington and Oregon and Vancouver attached.

And New York?

      Well, the blue states. I was very proud of New York and New Jersey. I’d like to see a president with the mettle of, you know, Harry Truman but the vision of Franklin Roosevelt, with the acumen of Abraham Lincoln and the charisma of Bill Clinton. But I don’t know that that’s going to happen in a perfect world. I’d like to see people accept alternatives to what they believe, which I think they gradually will. That’s my boring speech for the day. I want to see people quit wanting to deny other people their rights because of their differences. It’s a tale as old as time, and it’s so boringly often we agree to that. Black people couldn’t marry white people in a lot of states, that’s gone now, most of it. Now gay people can’t marry gay people, that’s against the law, but that will be gone one day too, and there’s no stopping it. Women couldn’t vote, now women can vote. Women can run for office. There’s no stopping that. There’s no putting the brakes on the inexorable fucking progression of humanity, and that means that everybody gets a share and that’s, you know, the world, America’s run by – the western world is run by rich, white guys who are sexually threatened.

So you have hope.

      Do I? Yeah, I have lots of hope. You know, go elsewhere and you’ll see that there’s a lot of incredible suffering, but there’s also hope, you know. Bush can’t ruin everything, you know. He can try.

Are there any politicians that are in power right now that you respect?

      Politicians are like prostitutes, they have to say yes to everyone so it’s difficult for them to have any kind of stance, you know. I like Kofi Annan, but they’re trying to push him out now. Obviously President Allawi of Iraq is a marvelous person. I’m joking, of course. I liked Hillary Clinton. I don’t know that she’s the greatest human being that ever lived; I think she’d make a dandy president or Supreme Court justice. I think Howard Dean is a really, really articulate person. Having not been a fan of his at the beginning of the election, by the end of it I was a really big fan. I thought that he would have done a superb job if he’d been the candidate.

What advice would you give to aspiring stand-ups?

      Never take no for an answer, and get as much stage time as you can. Don’t worry if you’re not funny for the first five years. It’s okay.

And what advice would you give to aspiring human beings?

      Don’t treat people like shit. Be nice to people.

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