How Joe Rogan Refines Stand-up Material


5 years ago



Russell Brand

4 appearances

Russell Brand is a comedian, actor, author, activist, and host of the podcast "Stay Free with Russell Brand."


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I don't know if he does it as much or as often as I do, but I do the clubs. I have a philosophy about what's required to develop great stand-up, that you have to do a lot of sets. You have to do a lot of numbers, a lot of different places, different environments, and I found that out the hard way. Through my best performances and my less good performances, like what was missing and what did I gain? You, I think is an interesting debate, I don't know if it's in stand-up world at large, but it's something I've thought about a lot. As soon as I was able to have an audience that would come and see me, I was like, I'm out, thank you God. I'm not putting myself through that shit ever again. Dan Hope feels the same way by the way. He's one of the best ever. He's amazing, he's absolutely fantastic, I completely agree. What I feel like is that the comedy club environment warps your material because you've got to appeal to them and I think you ain't the fucking arbiters of truth, you drunk and crazy 2am motherfuckers. So I perform, what I'll do, and what I'm doing to say at the moment, is I'll book the UCB or places 100, 200 or go lago or put on events and I'm doing events while I'm in LA because I think, oh these people come and they love me and they bring me beads and they put some vegan cookies. Oh you've got to come to the comedy store man and go on after Joey Diaz. Fuck yeah! Because I feel like I'm like a nurturing environment. Because I've done those fucking clubs and even comedy store and later night comedy store in LA as well as London and I feel like, oh Jesus, thank God. So I'm interested to you, that's part of what I think some people could reductively refer to is machismo in you, like that you go, no I'm going in there. Well you know what it is? It's that guy that mounted you and went for the armbar and you escaped. It's worth it because it was hard. You realize if a child got on top of you and went for an armbar and you escaped you'd feel nothing. So when you're at largo you're performing for children. Fuck! You're doing child stand up. You're wrestling with 100 pound women who just started yesterday. It's like the Make A Wish Foundation. Go on Russell then, tell us your stories. Well if you noticed. Amazing! You're wonderful. We brought you flowers. Thank you, thank you children. But look, the counter argument to that is that therefore I'm in an environment that is sympathetic and it is my audience and I'm not biasing. The idea of overcoming a greater obstacle, I completely appreciate what you're saying. But say you believe in the purity of stand up as being some real expression of yourself as in the arrow hitting the bull's eye. I feel like I have a vision of what I'm trying to achieve and increasingly it's becoming about I want my stand up. I want to hang on, you know, like as I've always done, stories where I feel embarrassed and humiliated but I want to hang off it, ruminations on what I believe to be the nature of truth and I want people to come out of those things feeling loved, validated, accepted and that they're good enough and that they can explore themselves. So it's more of a one man show. In a sense it's that but I don't want to sacrifice the last. I love the last, the last where we're at. You don't have to sacrifice in a one man show. You can certainly do a one man show that would be really funny. But say you start going into, yeah that's what I'm doing and I'm trying to build things like around 12 steps and doing things that people have some take away value from. Now trying to develop that after Joey Diaz in the store. That's not going to happen. There's going to be some resistance. Are you aware of Hannah Gadsby and the controversy of this thing in the net? I haven't seen it. I still say I'm going to see it but. Because what the end of comedy and all that kind of thing. That's silly. It's no end of comedy but what she's doing people like. And there's nothing wrong, I don't know, call it whatever you want. Sometimes it's funny. I mean maybe it's stand up comedy. Some of them are mates watching, they tell me it's all the end. It would become a sort of quite aggressive towards the audience. Yeah, it became like a Ted talk almost I guess apparently. I'm interested. You know, there's enough room for everyone to do whatever they're doing. But see, at the beginning of my, let's call it career, I used to not prepare at all. I was still drinking and using. I'd go up on stage, I'd chop shit up, I'd get into confrontat- when I say chop shit up, I'd take up animal parts. I'd go from butchers, like a skull with all meat and stuff and sinew on it. Chop it up, they would release locusts, get into confrontations. So yeah, exactly. The reaction you're having is the reaction they were having. So some of the front row, I had fights. I've got scars on my body from bad stand up gigs, from a time where I've got into a confrontation. I was making a point about pedophilia, saying, oh, we're all one cultural mind. So when a particular pedophile is transgressed against a child, we're all responsible. People are like, what the fuck? I'm like, so I have a massive- Yeah, that's a tough sell. I got the shit kicked out. Well, that time, I've still got the scar on my leg. That happened at Edinburgh in Scotland. People didn't take it well. But what I was trying to do was create... I didn't have the skills, the chops, the experience, the jokes. So I was so under-equipped. But what I was trying to do was create environments that felt, you know, I'm much better at doing that now. I can create kind of an uncertainty in a room, a kind of a sense of chaos and what's happening, and then bring it back, I hope, to a humorous conclusion where people feel safe and amused and all of that kind of stuff. Now, I think it's... Because I did try and do that in comedy clubs, and yeah, it was confrontation. It's not what people want. So don't you think that by prepping your stand-up in those environments, that it biases you towards a type of stand-up comedy that is limited? No, because you can do that other stuff too. You could always perform to your crowd, and you could always expand on things to your crowd. But to really put it together without any fluff, without any nonsense, without being self-indulgent, with respecting the attention span of the audience that may or may not even be there to see you. Most likely is not if you go to a comedy club, and there's a large... You know, if you go to the comedy store any night of the week, there's 15-plus people on the marquee or on the list. And the show starts at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on the night, and it goes to 2 o'clock in the morning. And you know, you catch waves in there, and there's different types of comedy. And in that, you're going to deal with sometimes tired audiences, sometimes enthusiastic people. It's all different. It varies widely. And I think that in doing that, you cut all the nonsense out of your act, and you develop economy of words. You understand how to captivate people's attention and keep them engaged, and to respect their time, respect their point of view, respect that these people have an attention span. They want to be engaged in the best possible way that you can do it. And sometimes you develop that through these really difficult sets or, you know, distracted people and drunks and all that stuff. You can develop that, those qualities. You're always going to have your crowd. And your crowd, I mean, if you have this vision of how you want to put things together, you can put that kind of thing together at a comedy club. You're doing it in these 15-minute trunks. You just have to figure out a way to grab them. And make them really interested in what you have to say. You're right, because there's a, obviously, in the comedy store between now, as you just described, there's a contract. We're here, not really aiming at C.U. We're here to laugh every 15 seconds. And comics like Robin Williams or Chappelle's, the all-time greats, they go in and accept those conditions. And you know, you've seen stuff like Robin Williams, he's just like walking around in the crowd in that very room. He's like, he's doing the thing I'm talking about and he's doing it there. That's when you think, yeah, I suppose I do get at that you're road-testing it to a, it's durability to an incredible degree, if you can pull it off there. Yeah, well, think about every time you're saying something. When you have a subject, like say if you want to do, you want to talk about the mentors that you have in life. It's an open-ended approach. You have no idea what the correct way to say something is. You try it. You write it out. You say, this seems feasible. Let me try it this way. And oftentimes people never correct it or they never adjust it. They never go back and improve it. They just say it in a certain way and figure out how to do it. When you're doing it in front of a crowd, you're developing these things while also feeling the way people are reacting to them and feeling their attention span and it makes you with proper reflection and truly objective listening to your material, it makes you change and shift and adjust things, hopefully in a positive way. And the more you do it, the more you get a sense of maybe this is clunky here and maybe I figure out a better way to say it. I agree, but the counter-argument could be that it could bias you to a sort of a lowest common denominator area. Say with that bit where you talk about the sun and it's you need it. It's trying to kill you. It gives you cancer. Something like, what was the journey of that bit of stand-up? For me, it's like, oh, I think of before I try and make sure there's a tag so I know where I'm going when I'm out there. And then it's a comparable process to yours. You're trying your best to get rid of fluff or whatever. So can you recall what it's like? Are you night after night going in with new bits of material packaged within things that you're a little more confident in? Yeah. And I put that bit on a special and I can do it better now. I know a better way to do it. And that's part of the problem with doing bits. It's like sometimes you release them on a special you have a better version of it now. But my point of that was to a prospective enhancer to let people know that bit was about like, understand what's happening here. You are literally floating in infinity and it's almost never discussed. You're hurling through forever. There's a fireball in the sky. It's a million times bigger than earth. If you stare at it, you'll go blind. It's trying to give you cancer. And if it's not there, you get sad. You live in a dream. This is madness. Your life is madness. It's beautiful. Yeah, it is. But I wanted, there's something about that particular way of, see, because I figured out a way to express it in short doses and short bursts. If you stare at it, you'll go blind. Mm-hmm. It's trying to give you cancer. And if it's not there, you get sad. So in that short burst, like bits, you know, like, wow, yeah, that is all, all those things are true. Like, it's crazy. There really is a fireball floating in the sky. We're just used to it. We live because of a floating million times bigger than the earth fireball. And when you say, if you can say something like that and make someone laugh, you can actually change the way they look at things. You can actually affect at least the way they look at things. If you just say something, sometimes it's profound, sometimes it registers. But if you could say something and it forces someone to laugh, even if they disagree with you, if they're laughing, like, I don't even fucking agree with this, but holy shit, this is funny. You put that thought deep into someone's head and you allow them to think about your thought process and how your creative process and what you're doing to sort of bring these things out. Yes. I like the way you just described the architecture of that. You've got to basically these are some facts about the sun are irrefutable. Now here is how that affects the way we look at the world and exposes to us that we're just ignorant. We're not awake to reality. We can't hold reality in our minds because it's too vast to handle. I agree with you that with laughter comes access to kind of deeper truths. And I've heard some therapists in fact say that laughter is to shame what grief is to sadness, that laughter is helping to expel shame and to process shame. There's something very important about people coming together and laughing together. I like to exist comedically in a world where it starts from a deeply personal perspective and admissions and acknowledgments of humiliation and shame and vulnerability and travels out to the universal and hopefully archetypal that you can sort of travel between those points. A comedian, I think we both admire Bill Hicks. Well, I think he's fascinating. It's because like, you know, like if you love Bill Hicks for a long while, then you discover, man, that guy worked material a lot. You know, like you go, I watch this interview of him on the Australian TV. He's doing like a bit that I've seen him do, you know, in multiple incarnations. But I have also seen him do interviews where he's spontaneously talking about gigs, terrible gigs that have gone badly. And he is hilarious. But it's very interesting to me. And perhaps it's because of that background and that practice of doing clubs that Hicks is very much a comedian that's, no, I'm drilling this fucking thing and I'm staying with it. No, he was a writer. I mean, he did ad lib and he did, he was capable of going on these rants, spontaneous rants, but he was a writer. You know, he wrote these things out and he was aiming to have an impact with his commentary. I mean, that was what he was doing. He was not just trying to make you laugh. He was aiming to enhance your perspective on whatever he was talking about. Yeah. And it seems very disciplined as a practitioner of it.