Norm MacDonald

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Norm MacDonald comes to Greg’s garage for possibly the funniest podcast in the history of mankind. Norm gives his thoughts on Oprah, he announces women are not throwing, and have never thrown themselves at him, and tells what happens when Alan King mouthed off to Don Rickles. Norm gives comedy lessons with the help of Steve Allen, Greg premieres the new game Talk Your Way Out of It, they play Liar’s Poker, and they write a joke for Greg’s Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance.

DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST – Click HERE to download the podcast directly, or do yourself a favor and Click HERE to subscribe on iTunes.


Irish Voice Interview

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Irish Voice – Cahir O’Doherty – November 12, 2010

Four-time Emmy Award winning comedian Greg Fitzsimmons has just written one of most hilarious and unexpectedly moving Irish American memoirs in years. He talks to CAHIR O’DOHERTY about his career, his success and lifelong his unstoppable urge to behave badly.

If stand-up comedy is the bottom rung in the entertainment ladder, then memoirs must be the lowest rung of the publishing world. But that’s just fine for comedian Greg Fitzsimmons, 44, the four-time Emmy Award winner.

“Memoirs have become the lowest form of writing, which is exactly why I was drawn to the genre,” Fitzsimmons told the Irish Voice during a recent interview.

Lifelong shame and guilt (and pointless attempts to impose them on him) drive his raucous and unspeakably funny new book, Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox (Simon & Schuster).

Constructed around a series of increasingly angry (and unintentionally hilarious) letters from his outraged teachers, Fitzsimmons’ book is a classic Irish American coming of age tale about a bright kid who keeps asking increasingly awkward questions of his shocked elders, and then has the charm and smarts to elude the consequences (usually).

But underneath the brittle surface there’s a lot of heartache and darkness in this story too.

Fitzsimmons’ disciplinary reports were called Irish Merit Badges in family, and his parents would often howl with laughter at their contents.

“Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons,” one begins, “Greg was loitering in the hallway when I walked by on my way home. Greg began openly mocking me by making fun of my last name (i.e. ‘The grass looked very Dewey this morning,’ ‘Dewey have any homework?’ and ‘Are we going to learn the Dewey Decimal System?’) It is disrespectful to address a teacher in such a manner, and I think its best to bring this to his parents’ attention.”

With material like this to draw from, is it any wonder he’s a comedian?

“The way my parents reacted to school letters that were supposed to cause shame and bringing down the hammer was unusual, because to them it was a badge of honor. It meant their kid was independent and free-thinking and he fought back,” Fitzsimmons says.

By laughing at these letters — even though there were times when they’d get mad — his parents taught him valuable lessons about conformity.

“Don’t do it so much that you fail in life, but to succeed in life and not do it is not success. There has to be some element of you didn’t play by all the rules and you still managed to be successful,” he says.

Fitzsimmons grew up in Tarrytown in Westchester County, New York, the area where Don Draper of TV’s Mad Men commutes from each episode. He won his four Emmys as a producer/writer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the start of the decade. Fitzsimmons also has his own radio show on Howard 101, the Sirius satellite radio channel programmed by his friend Howard Stern, who also wrote the foreword for his book.

That Irish spirit of defiance has marked his book, his career and his life. Starting out as a stand up, he’d play schools and colleges, and when a stuffy official told him what he could and could not talk about it always set him off.

In fact, for Fitzsimmons that kind of censorship was useful because it made his job easier. “When you tell me not to do something then you’re really keying it up for me, and I enjoy it so much more,” he says.

“Don’t be a wiseacre out there,” a school principal counseled him before a high school prom gig in Indiana once when he was starting out. That command grated on every one of his anti-authority Irish impulses.

“It’s one thing to be told don’t be a wise ass but now you’re using a phrase that highlights the fact that you’re a big nerd. That’s irresistible,” he says.

Responding to this provocation, Fitzsimmons invited the graduating class back to his motel for a keg. He celebrated the glories of cocaine, and he even joked about having sex with his grandmother. The angry protest letter to his agent was in the post before the curtain fell.

“It all started with that angry prom letter,” says Fitzsimmons. “I really was hurt by it at first. It really bothered me that the principal wrote it. Only because I thought the show had gone so well.

“So receiving this letter was like another failed attempt, even after years, for them to control me. But only later when I started reading it to the audience on stage the crowd started dying. I didn’t realize how funny it could seem to other people.”

Fitzsimmons’ mother saved all the nasty letters. “It’s almost as if she knew that one day I’d be a comedian,” he says.

“Those letters are gold. Stand-up comedy is really like a memoir. You go up and tell stories about your life. We’re storytellers. I felt like if I can communicate my own story best with a memoir then that’s what I need to do. Maybe it will surprise people that there’s so much more to see here than they expected to find.”

But if you buy the book — and if you like a laugh you really should — don’t expect linear stories about where he grew up and how he became a comedian.

“It’s a stand up comedian’s memoir, but it won’t be placed in the comedy section of the bookstore. I want to appeal to the Irish. If you can win them over then everyone will follow. If gay guys are the ones people follow into real estate, then the Irish are the ones they follow into books,” Fitzsimmons reckons.

The McCourts wrote books that lured you in with the lowered expectations of memoirs, Fitzsimmons says, and then they blew you away with a narrative that was so well written, so heartfelt and so tragic and comic that you couldn’t help but respond.

“To me it was like saying, ‘Hey we’re Irish, we’re not snobs, we don’t stand on ceremony or proper etiquette. We don’t belong to private country clubs. We’re about putting it all out there, our humor that is.’

“Most people don’t know the other side of it. They don’t know the deep feelings that exist there too. People don’t really know that there’s this love behind it all.”

As well as the deep love for his family and friends, there’s his limitless curiosity too. In the book Fitzsimmons’ endless curiosity leads him into scrapes, one after another, and some more surprising than other.

In college he takes a walk into Fenway Park in Boston at 4 a.m. to resolve once and for all if he has any latent homosexual tendencies (it turns out he doesn’t). That makes for a great stand-up story, but it also indicates an uncommon fearlessness.

“I feel like life is finite. What feels right is to explore and to challenge and the truth lies right up against crossing lines into danger and asking the questions that no one else is asking,” he says.

“The only way you can get to the truth is to peel away all the pretence, and I think the same things go sexually. How do you know you’re not gay? Every time you hear about these anti-gay people you hear six months later they were (****) someone in a van. Of all the issues you could put your energy behind, why this?”

The suspicion that there’s a gap between what people say and do is a very Irish awareness. Like his friend and fellow standup Sarah Silverman, Fitzsimmons feels both the Irish and the Jews share an underground voice that’s different to the one that’s presented to the world.

“The reason why the first comedians here were Jewish is because they came to this country and no one would hire them. Stand-up comedian was one of the lowest, most looked upon things you could do,” he says.

“The Marx Brother were saying f*** you. The Irish share a similar story but their comedy comes much more out of storytelling. But there’s an understanding between them both culturally and experience wise in this country.”

Asked what he wants people to know about his memoir Fitzsimmons deadpans instantly, “It could have been better.”

Irish Voice


Patt Morrison – NPR

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SCPR – Patt Morrison – November 24, 2010

It’s probably happened to many people with hyperactive mothers—you’re reorganizing the attic, moving houses or just poking around through old stuff and you come across a box full of letters, ticket stubs and other keepsakes collected over the years commemorating the good, bad, and ugly of you life. Comedian Greg Fitzsimmons came across just such a box, or boxes in his case, that contained disciplinary letters, incident reports, and newspaper clippings that his parents received from teachers & school officials. In his book Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons Greg picks up where his parents left off with his own collection of letters received during college and throughout his career. Just in time for Thanksgiving, where the best and worst of childhood memories are dragged across the dinner table, Greg & his mother share the trials and tribulations of being in a family without losing your sanity.


Shelf Awareness Review

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Book Review: Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons

Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox by Greg Fitzsimmons (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781439182697/1439182698, November 9, 2010)

Standup comic, writer and radio personality Greg Fitzsimmons stumbled on a cache of letters that his mother saved from his childhood and teenage years. Eagerly browsing through what she had deemed worth saving, he discovered the collection contained every last bad report she had ever received about him, starting with his preschool teacher’s ridiculous complaint that he was unable to wiggle (the inability to wiggle should have tipped them all off that this was TROUBLE in short pants). Instead of burying this hoard of rebukes testifying that he was trouble every place he set foot, Fitzsimmons uses them as prompts in this merciless and hilarious memoir of his pugnacious early years and coming into his own as a comic. Humiliating craziness is recounted; blame is placed with acid zingers that define his style; and the incontrovertible evidence is laid out in the original letters and family photos.

“Raised by Irish parents from the Bronx, my culture was about short fuses, long grudges and zero tolerance for giving in,” Fitzsimmons states in an emotionally complex portrait of his father who epitomized that culture–fierce, funny, inconsistent and scarily intimidating. When those bad reports arrived in the mail, Greg never knew whether his father (Bob Fitzsimmons, a popular talk-show host on New York City radio) would find them infuriating (leading to a hiding for little Greg) or funny (leading to a laugh-in by the whole family). Extreme mood swings and alcoholic rages were, to be sure, balanced by gales of laughter over whatever was handy to mock, but home was a breeding ground for Greg’s hate and rage, which he would later “channel in a productive manner [in] drunken, smoke-filled stand-up comedy clubs.”

Rebelling against a bullying patriarch was a full-time job for Greg as an adolescent. He began drinking seriously at 13 and, despite his self-described small-and-scrawny size, was always in fights. A typical exchange with his parents at that time: “Greg, get off the roof, you’re drunk!” as he ignored their orders. The key to his survival was leaving home. After backpacking in Europe, he enrolled in Boston University. Never a dedicated student, Fitzsimmons discovered his passion in Boston–to stand in front of a crowd daring him to make them laugh when the looks on their faces said, “You loser, you can’t even get us to crack a smile.”

He recalls, “In Boston, they’d rather see a fistfight than a comedy show.” Once he gave them both in a performance that earned a standing ovation from a really tough audience. “For me being funny was always in reaction to somebody telling me what to do,” he confesses. That would be Dad, who died young at 54, yet still looms large, as a model and a warning, for his son.–John McFarland

Shelf Talker: A merciless and hilarious memoir of surviving a domineering father to turn hate and rage into comedy.


Crave Online – Book Report

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Crave Online – Johnny Firecloud – November 21, 2010

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: If your particular brand of comedy involves the words Dane Cook or Larry the Cable Guy, chances are strong that Greg Fizsimmons is not for you. If, on the other hand, you absolutely despise the kneejerk dumb-funny comedy they shill, opting instead for true grit and relatable, agonizing humor, Fitzsimmons is the man for you.

Constructed around a collection of increasingly angry, unintentionally hilarious letters from his outraged former instructors, Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox can’t help itself in an overload of raucous hilarity, becoming a classic Irish American coming of age tale about a bright kid who keeps asking increasingly inappropriate questions of those charged with raising and caring for the future side-splitter, and his general ability to sidestep consequence. Think of it as A Christmas Story with less holiday flare and a whole lot more mischief.

The 44 year-old Fitzsimmons has made a lot of mistakes in his long road to becoming a four-time Emmy Award winner, but while most parents would hide or destroy any evidence so clearly demonstrating their child’s failures, Greg’s family has preserved each mistake like a precious memento from his childhood, allowing for hilarious recounting in a book that steps beyond the nostalgic humor and – through tracing his shameless self-damnation back to its origin, fantastic storytelling and a genuinely morose attitude – reaches a point of empathetic harmony with the reader.

Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons is a highlight reel of Greg’s life as a kid in the Boston suburbs spent terrorizing the neighborhood, told through this avalanche of disciplinary letters, incident reports and newspaper clippings that his parents received from teachers and school officials. Greg picks up where his parents left off with his own collection of letters received during college and throughout his successful career as a writer, producer, and stand-up comic. Revealing the larger story of how Greg’s distinctly dysfunctional Irish-American family bred him to blindly challenge anyone, anytime, anywhere, over anything, Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons comes full circle to show that the Fitzsimmons torch has been passed on proudly to a new generation.

“Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons,” one such letter begins, “Greg was loitering in the hallway when I walked by on my way home. Greg began openly mocking me by making fun of my last name (i.e. ‘The grass looked very Dewey this morning,’ ‘Dewey have any homework?’ and ‘Are we going to learn the Dewey Decimal System?’) It is disrespectful to address a teacher in such a manner, and I think its best to bring this to his parents’ attention.”

Full of wince-worthy stories and cringe-tastic photos to pair with the narrative, the book pulls the reader back into the grit of growing up as an everyday kid. The laughter mixes well with the poignant heartbreak associated with growing up, from being rejected by girls to recounting his father’s death in a chapter called The Sad Part Where Dad Dies. Furthermore, it’s impossible to go wrong when you’ve got a crushingly hilarious foreword from the King of All Media himself, Howard Stern, complete with a sexy picture of his stunning wife Beth.

A fantastic comedic wit with a dazzling ability to move words on paper, Greg Fitzsimmons is far more than another stand-up routine. Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons is highly recommended – pick it up for the holidays. And if the stories sound familiar, or you have one to top his, Fitzsimmons has created a Web site, DearMrsFitzsimmons.com, for you to share.

CraveOnline Rating: 9 out of 10


Greg In Philly

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Greg sends in this podcast from Philly, where he talks to some of the folks where he is performing.

DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST – Click HERE to download the podcast directly, or do yourself a favor and Click HERE to subscribe on iTunes.


DEAR MRS. FITZSIMMONS enhanced e-book

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Late Show With David Letterman

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Atom.com: Punchline Magazine Sits Down With Comic Greg Fitzsimmons

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Looking for a break from humping space poodles, time-traveling monkeys, and a dude whose best friend is his penis? This video, Punchline Magazine’s interview with stand up veteran Greg Fitzsimmons, is a refreshing change of pace.

We get a glimpse into Greg’s evolution into a successful performer, and it’s not as horrifying a process as one might imagine. While promoting his first book, Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox, Greg touches on his Irish childhood, his love for Letterman, and the time when he totally hugged Faith Hill. This clip is interesting, illuminating, and startlingly insightful for something you’ll find here on Atom.

Take a look:


Nick Swardson

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Greg and Mike welcome Nick Swardson to this weeks podcast where the guys compare their respective ping pong skill levels, Greg lightens the mood joking about Nick’s fathers death, and Nick shows off his Minnesota shaped jewelry. Nick throws out a hypothetical about a vagina, Greg gets called a honky by a white chick, they take your Overheards, and Nick describes losing a brand new Audi for two weeks.

DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST – Click HERE to download the podcast directly, or do yourself a favor and Click HERE to subscribe on iTunes.


 

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