So things seem to be going really well for you these days. How would you say a comic from Maine breaks through to a national level? Well, it's definitely a long road. I'm starting to get a little bit of recognition, I guess, but it's slow going. I've only been doing stand-up seriously for four years, and the past year and a half has been full time. So I'm a little ahead of the curve — I don't mean talent-wise — but I'm getting opportunities and doing well with them. I don't know, is this an advice question?
No, it just seems like it can be hard to break through from here, which is true for a lot of the performing arts.
Yeah. I mean, Maine has one comedy club. As much as they try to push people up, it's hard because there's only so many spots. There's only so many minutes on stage. I think a lot of people get frustrated or feel that there's a line drawn in the sand, and it's such a small community. There's a lot of support, but to come up in Maine is to do a lot of bar shows and one-nighters that are sometimes great, sometimes not. Nothing changed for me until I left. I know that sounds negative, but I think that (applies) anywhere. You just have to get out. Even here in Rhode Island, I'm telling guys to go up to Portland, be in front of new crowds, new people. It gets you out of that mode of using Biddeford as a punchline — I probably shouldn't say that, right? — but no, the more you experience different rooms, your comedy can only get better. That's something I'm very proud of: I can do an alt room or a blue collar room or whatever, I just like to see where it's going to go because it makes me stronger.
How do you develop your material? Do you battletest it to friends?
I used to be the guy who used all his friends as guinea pigs, but when I got serious I started carrying a notebook. This past year I've focused very heavily on riffing and being in the moment, which is scary at first because you're working without a net. Just start talking about something and see where it goes, hopefully people laugh. It's like a muscle — when you start it's like, oh boy, but then you get stronger at it. I think now the hardest thing I have to do is remind myself to do material, to stop screwing around. But that's so much fun to me because it's in the moment and organic, and it's something that's never going to happen again. I called it The Year of the Riff. Just making myself go up there and just talk for the first five minutes. And some of the best stuff started coming out that way, so now I just write from the stage. I don't have the notebook, I don't have guinea pigs. I can't sit down and write a joke anymore, it has to come from the stage, because for me, that's the most real way of writing something.
You seem like a pretty cerebral guy, I'm curious what you did before getting on the path to comedy.