There's an attitude that some wannabe comedians seem to have; that it's easy to do stand-up because it just involves hopping up on stage and firing off dirty jokes. What would you say to those fledgling comics?
I would tell them to try comedy and come to me in five years when they're still waiting tables, and tell me how easy they think it is. It's the most difficult thing in the world. Even when I started I thought it would be easy. I saw a guy on Letterman and thought, "I can do that." And I did get on Letterman, but it was 10 years later. I think a good comedian makes it look easy.
I was at my sister's house the other day playing with her kid, playing with a football. And every time I would run with the ball, I got more and more tired. When you watch football on TV, you never take into account how hard it is to run across a football field. Those athletes are running constantly, and, when you try it yourself, you realize what a true athlete is. The greatest compliment to me is when people say that stand-up looks easy, because then, I'm doing it right.
But I will say that, when you see a bad comedian, you know immediately how hard it is. It's like when you see someone play basketball and they can't make a shot at all. That's one of the ironies of life. It's always easy to watch, but it's never even close [as] easy to do. I think that's why movie critics are fascinating, because it's so much easier to critique a movie than it is to MAKE one. It's so difficult to do anything of quality. Acting looks easy. Why isn't everyone an actor? True; it helps that me and Brad Pitt are very good looking guys, but you get my point.
The Internet and reality TV have really expedited the whole "getting famous" process. There are plenty of comedians who've shot to fame thanks to things like YouTube andLast Comic Standing, who didn't necessarily have to work as hard as the comics who spent years trying to climb out of the club circuit. Do you think these comedians have any particular advantages or disadvantages compared to others?
I've seen these comedian who have experienced expedited success, and I think that's the worst thing in the world. I can't express enough to you how important my shitty club days were. When you die constantly, it helps you to understand what comedy is. One of the reason Michael Richards melted down on stage [a few years ago] is because he was a brand new standup comedian - he had just been an actor. All of a sudden, he was on stage in front of a lot of people, he immediately got a sense that he was better than he was. And he didn't know how to handle hecklers. He freaked, and wrecked his comedy life.
Professional comedians have been through so much crap - like people talking while we're up on stage - we know how to handle that, how to make that person look like an idiot. So, you shouldn't go up on stage in front of 500 people when you've been doing comedy for two years. Also, when you don't know how to develop new bits because you've only been successful for a short time, you'll implode. Any comic who's known as a great, quality comedian, I can promise you, has been doing it for at least 15, 20 years.