Greg’s Essay On Once Being Cool

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I’m Not Sure My Kids Really Get It – I Used to Be Cool

By Greg Fitzsimmons on April 28, 2016
Originally appeared on Parent Co


I’m not sure my kids really get it – I used to be cool.

There was a time before I owned a Prius, rubbed sunblock on the top of my head, and slept with only one woman. How could they know? They see my wife and me as wholesome and have a vested interest in believing this is how it’s always been.

I have a duty to present this reality despite the gnawing dishonesty of it. My buddy Danny once told his kid, right in front of me, that he had only gotten high twice in his life. Danny got high twice A DAY in the ’80s but now has to disown all of that for a singular purpose: robbing his children of the excuse to say, “But daddy, YOU did it!”

I also partook frequently in the ’80s. I lived to test boundaries, often going past them to press up close to reality and stare it down. I was insufferably bored and felt an anxious loneliness when not out with my friends breaking rules and getting intoxicated.

I regarded kids who got good grades and respected authority with curiosity. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I just didn’t understand them. Didn’t they know they were wasting their time? How did they restrain from their primal impulses? How were they able to stand the boredom? Could they seriously be wearing boating shoes? The irony is that these are the children I am now trying to raise.

And yet they treat me like I’m not now, nor ever have been, cool. Sometimes after dinner my kids like to play a game called, “Let’s all shit on Dad.” They get a charge out of calling me a nerd.  “Dad, you don’t get it!” “Dad, you’re so out of it!” “Dad you don’t know how to download an app.”

One night I snapped. “You don’t know me motherfucker! You don’t know who I was! You have no idea how I used to be!”

Eyes go wide as the family paradigm shifts faster than the GOP with Trump leading the race. “I used to be very cool. Way cooler than you will ever be. You know when I stopped being cool?  When you two assholes were born!”

My wife opens her mouth but then freezes and says nothing.

“Here’s a news flash for you. You will never be as cool as I was. You know why?”

They know it is a question that is directed towards them but ultimately has no answer because Dad is in 5th gear and they are not even strapped in yet.

“Because you’re not being raised by an abusive alcoholic parent. And that can change.”

Having never seen me drink or hit them they now recalibrate what their future might look like.  “When I was a kid I got into fistfights every day after school. You wear a helmet to ride a bicycle! When I was young only the really good athletes got trophies. Now they’re handing them out to the white kids too!”

My son casts his eyes down as he thinks about the wide trophy case in his room housing dozens of statues, many earned before the age of nine.

I know I’ve gone too far but I feel relief that the lie I’ve held in for so long is being rectified and I believe that my kids might actually feel closer to me knowing there is (or at least was) a different side.

I want to tell them more but reason starts to apply the brakes. I want to tell them all the crazy things I’ve done, but I can’t. I have to protect some image of my old self. I want to tell them that, in fact, I had a three-way in college – with two guys (this girl was supposed to show up but she was running late so we figured we’d just get started by ourselves. She never showed up. Good guys though. Can really keep a secret.)

The worst part is that my children think my wife is really cool. That part kills me. I decide to set the record straight.

“You think mommy is cool? Do you? Well, guess who’s banging her? This guy right here. She doesn’t look so cool when she’s on all fours hyperventilating.”

My daughter gently cracks her knuckles as my son pokes at the un-forkable bits of his now soggy salad. My wife’s face has the intensity of a bull rider waiting for the chute to open. I lean back and take in the moment. It is a turning point we will all grow from. There will be no more teasing.

I shift in my seat as I feel a vaguely familiar release from my nether regions. I smile as I realize it’s my old friends – my balls.


Greg’s Thoughts About His Son’s Size

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My Son is Bigger Than Me. This is Troubling.

By Greg Fitzsimmons on April 20, 2016
Originally appeared on Parent Co


At 15 he’s three inches taller and way more athletic than I ever was. He’s the only freshman on varsity soccer (I played JV hockey as a senior, which I think is illegal).

I knew this was going to happen. Delivered via C-section because of his head size and always one of the tallest in his class, I heard the footsteps even when they were a child’s size 12: He’s coming for me.

Before this recent growth spurt we enjoyed a blissful 18 months where we shared clothes and shoes like college roommates. Emerging from my closet sporting one of my vintage shirts he’d wordlessly relay to me that, in my sons eyes, I am at least semi-cool. I, in turn, showed up to The Laugh Factory in his slip-on Vans and soft flannel shirts.

I didn’t care that he came home wearing my dress shoes covered in mud from kicking a soccer ball after school. I can wash that off. But the feeling of communing with my son in this give-and-take will stay with me.

It occurred to me the other day that I have never hit him. It also occurred to me that that ship has sailed. If I hit him now he might punch me back. And if he kicks my ass I’ve got to move. I can’t live in a house with an asshole like that.

I’ll end up like the old lion that’s beaten down and plays out his final years on the edge of the pack waiting for the jackals to circle him and tear his flesh apart. This Oedipal nightmare needs to be shut down immediately, but how?

He’s upsetting the paradigm of paternal dominance going back to my own childhood. Unlike me, my father was not a pacifist. He was 6’ 2” with a bad temper and being much smaller than him was overwhelming.

Towering over my son in his younger years put me on confident and familiar footing. But it was a complicated footing because I didn’t want our relationship to be based on the dynamic I’d had with my own father.

When I grew older and shed my fear of my dad, I also lost some of my respect for him.

In my insecure moments I comfort myself with the knowledge that no matter how big my son gets, I will be able to take him down. I’ve been in a lot of fights and even though I haven’t always won, I’ve never lost. I am a nasty Irish prick and will break a bottle if necessary. (I may have written that last part in case my son ever reads this and gets any ideas.)

We play one-on-one basketball and over time the game has progressed from my indulging him in an occasional win to me having to give it everything I’ve got – and then some. I trash talk, box out, and occasionally pull down his shorts when he goes for a layup.

I went to hug him last week and mistakenly went high over the top not realizing that I am now the guy who goes low. I stretched my arms around his torso while he hugged me around the neck like I was his prom date. It felt awkward at first as I adjusted to the new arrangement.

He doesn’t act any different than he did in simpler times when I was bigger than him. It’s a long hug during which I realize that I’ve overcome this Oedipal hurdle and my ancient fear of being small. Thanks to my bigger-than-life son, that is just not the way we relate to each other.

We played one-on-one the other day. It was tied at 13-all when I got an open lane twice in a row and won the game. We looked at each other and silently acknowledged the obvious; the kid let Dad win this one.

Instead of the sense of powerlessness I had always feared, I felt respected. I felt loved. Then I mocked him for losing, and went inside for a smoothie.


Esquire Interview with Greg About Stealing Cosby’s Jokes

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The Comedian Who Steals Cosby’s Jokes to Save Them

“I want to hurt him. I want to do what crowds have done by abandoning him, by taking away the thing that’s probably most precious to him, which is his material.”


By Luke O’Neil on October 29, 2015
Originally appeared on Esquire

There are very few rules inside the world of comedy. If a joke is funny, it’s funny, and you simply let the blogs explain why it’s problematic in All Tomorrow’s Think Pieces. But one thing that has held up is the provision against lifting other people’s material. It’s something that we recently saw come to a head over the summer in the sad case of Josh “The Fat Jewish” Ostrovsky, the Internet humorist who was roundly, and rightfully, taken to task by comedians for making a cottage industry out of joke theft.

Ostrovsky would easily have been the humor pariah of the year if it weren’t for Bill Cosby. The once-beloved comedian has been accused of rape by dozens of women, a number that somehow still seems to grow every month. Thirty-five of them shared their stories a while back in New York Magazine, and recently, colleges and universities have been disassociating themselves from Cosby, with a number of schools rescinding honorary degrees in his name. None of it seems to have had much of an effect on Cosby’s protestations of innocence, at least publicly. You might ask, is there nothing that can be done to shame this man?

So here comes Greg Fitzsimmons. He’s a comedian and television writer/producer who hosts a show on Howard Stern’s Sirius/XM channel; he’s won four Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show; not to mention he’s written for The Chelsea Handler Show and Politically Incorrect. Fitzsimmons’ plan is simple: he wants comedians everywhere to start taking Cosby’s legacy back from him.

It’s a controversial idea, in that it’s using comedy’s most verboten act as a means of defending it from a man whose crimes have spoiled our memories of his canonical work. I asked Fitzsimmons to explain the thinking behind it and what he hopes to accomplish.

As a comedian, and as a person, what’s your general feeling about the whole Cosby ordeal?

Well, it’s interesting, because he was probably the most influential comedian on me when I was a kid. Growing up I read his books, I studied all of his albums. He’s truly one of the greatest comedians of all time, and it brings up this question of: Can we ever enjoy him again? Do we flush away a body of work that’s as good as anybody’s in the history of comedy because of his personal life? You think about Roman Polanski. I don’t think people have an issue enjoying his movies because you’re not looking at his face the whole time.

People have talked about this with Woody Allen as well.

Yeah, can you separate the artist from the art? So for me, I was thinking about how to put a light on that by taking that good material and re-assigning it to comedians that can get something out of it. The tricky part I’m finding is I don’t want to glorify him by doing it.

What happened when you tried doing one of his bits?

I was at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which is kind of a rowdy club. I just started doing a bit, the dentist bit, because I figured that’s his most famous bit, and my intention was to go as far as I could into it before someone yelled out, “Hey, that’s Cosby!” And nobody said it. So I got through like half the bit before I finally said, “Do you guys have any idea what I’m doing right now?” And then I said this is Cosby’s bit. And I said, “I figured I might as well do it, because I don’t think he’s got enough time to sue me right now!” I think it’s less heinous of a crime for me to be stealing his material than for what he did stealing from all those women.

Did it get a laugh once you explained it?

Oh, it killed. It wasn’t just the laughter, but people were nodding their heads and smiling. I think there’s this frustration that this guy is obviously guilty of one of the most heinous crimes you can perpetrate, times, what, 40? And this bullshit statute of limitations keeps it from being prosecuted. So I think there’s this feeling of, how can we hurt this guy? His live shows, I think those are eviscerated at this point. So that part of him is over, but he’s still got this body of work. So how can you cheapen that somehow? How do you dilute that? I want to go wide with it and tell every comedian, just go on stage and do a Bill Cosby joke. Just take it. Take your favorite one and just do it.

Is there something different between the idea of a comedian who’s become a pariah and other types of art forms? You mentioned Polanski. With a comedian you’re appreciating the joke, but it’s also the person we’re invested in.

Well, if you go back through early rock and roll, like Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, there was a lot of sick perversions going on. They were telling us! Always singing songs about the sexy 14-year-old and 16-year-old, and she’s your cousin. It’s a big question. What is their body of work in light of that? And I think you’re right, comedy is very personal. You’re buying into the persona of the person. He’s got a pretty famous bit on one of his albums about Spanish Fly. It’s basically him talking about how he always heard about this thing called Spanish Fly, and you slip it to a girl, and then, “Man it’s Spanish Fly wooo!” And he just keeps celebrating this idea of drugging a woman and having sex with her.

And it was funny at the time.

Yeah! They thought it was great. It was like a teenager talking about the fantasy of being a frustrated teenage boy who really wants to have sex, and here’s this way you can actually make it happen. But not with the belief that it was actually going to happen, it was more the urban legend of it. But then when you find out the reality of it…

I think it’s not only the fact that you’re buying into the voice of the comedian, but we bought into the whole heroic journey this guy’s had. As a guy who grew up as a black man at a certain time in this country, it was difficult, he made his way as a comedian and a sitcom star, and became a voice of the black community, a hero and a mentor. And then to hear he used that mentorship and that sort of standing to manipulate and rape people.

Did you see Eddie Murphy doing Cosby the other day at the Mark Twain Awards?

I thought it was really ballsy. There is some kickback from the black community about how Bill Cosby has always been very preachy and told young black comedians not to curse, to pull up their pants. Eddie Murphy, on his first album, Delirious, was talking about Cosby calling him and telling him this stuff, and him telling Bill Cosby to go fuck himself. And Chris Rock has talked about it. I think for Eddie Murphy to go up and do that, it wasn’t a guy kicking someone when he’s down. This is how he’s felt about Cosby for a long time, that he’s this self-appointed voice of the black community, instead of understanding that comedy is free expression, and that Eddie Murphy talking the way he did was authentic to where he came from.

From talking to your comedian friends, are there any holdouts left defending him? Does everyone share your opinion?

The last couple holdouts I saw were Whoopie Goldberg, who made some comments on ​The View that bit her in the ass, and Damon Wayans came out and said the women where whores and money grubbers. I don’t know that he ever apologized but I imagine that he did. It’s become something that comedians are talking about a lot. It’s still just coming around to where crowds are open to hearing it. But the comics like Bill Burr, Tony Hinchcliffe, I saw them doing jokes as soon as the story broke. And crowds were not into it, crowds were sympathetic to Cosby still. And I was amazed at how long it took for crowds to come around and collectively join in on a comic saying horrible things about Cosby.

When 20 women said he raped them it was ok, but when 40 did, then that was enough.

Everyone should’ve been aware of this for a long time. Rolling Stone did a story on this like 15 years ago. I remember reading this and thinking, maybe this reporter is out of his zone, because no one else in the mainstream press was talking about it. But I remember reading and thinking, “Ok, he obviously paid some people off,” because they had faded away. And then you realize later on how powerful someone like Bill Cosby is that he was able to make that story go away.

Have you tried doing Cosby bits again?

Yeah I did it last night, and I did it in Irvine a couple days ago. And I’m still finding it. As a comic it’s always hard to find any new bit, but especially something like this that’s kind of meta, and you’re asking the audience to go along with you on the ride. Comedy is about getting an audience to all buy in on something at the same time, and when a joke turns, you have to have everyone on the same page enough that they come with you. With this, some people are going to get that you’re doing Bill Cosby before others. And like I said, I’m being very careful not to make it appear like I’m on his side and glorifying his material. I’m still trying to find the beats of it, but when I say I don’t think he’s going to sue me because he’s too busy, that seems to strike a chord. I think if there’s something to this, and other comics start doing it as well, that’s what the meat of it should be.

You want other comics to do it?

Yeah. The funny part is it really started with Carlos Mencia, inadvertently. Not to defend Carlos, but he did a Bill Cosby bit about seven or eight years ago, this really famous routine about raising your sons to play football, coaching them, going to every game. And then one day he becomes a college star, he goes out for a pass and scores a really long touchdown. He catches it, and the camera goes in his face and he looks at the camera and he goes “Hi, Mom!” Carlos did it beat for beat and it literally ended Carlos’ career. He went from a guy that was playing 10,000 to 15,000 seat arenas, to a guy who’s playing 500 seat clubs.

The idea came up on my podcast with Mike Gibbons, that Carlos did it, and looking back, I’m glad, because I thought, “Hey, we should do that.”

It is very meta. In order to defend comedy, you’re committing its cardinal sin. What do people think? Are they hesitant?

I think they’ve been hesitant because like you said, it is the cardinal rule of comedy. It’s all in the presentation. I think I have to model how it’s done, then maybe have a night where we all do Cosby bits. Maybe you add in some commentary about drugging women, so, in the material people know, you’re going to the dentist, maybe you’re getting gassed and you wake up and the dentist’s pants are around his ankles.

There have to be lots of old jokes of his that you can go back and listen to now, and maybe there are more subtle allusions, a subtext we wouldn’t have picked up on earlier.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Cosby material online, and it’s very difficult to do a Bill Cosby bit and get laughs. He’s just such a master performer that he gets a lot out of what he’s saying by his physicality. He moves beautifully on stage and he’s got these amazing long pauses and facial expressions. So I’ve been trying to mine stuff that’s more joke-heavy that I can get in and out of faster.

Do you put on a Cosby affect, or do it in your own voice?

I kind of go in and out of it, which I don’t want to. I’d rather do it in my own voice with the idea that I’m just going to co-opt this material as opposed to doing an impression of Cosby which I think a lot of people are doing.

Do you think if he catches wind of this, if it picks up steam, he would actually be bothered by it?

I think so. And I spoke to my lawyer about whether or not there’s any recourse. There’s a pretty wide berth for satire, it’s considered satire as long as it’s a sampling of it that gets across the spirit of what you’re trying to satirize, as long as it’s not plagiarism, which would be doing a fifteen minute routine verbatim. So I think I’m fine, but I think it will just annoy him.

So it’s reclaiming this material in a way, taking back the material?

I think it’s that and I think it’s also robbing Bill Cosby of his equity. I want to hurt him. I want to do what crowds have done by abandoning him, by taking away the thing that’s probably most precious to him, which is his material.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced the number of colleges that have rescinded Cosby’s honorary degrees. We regret the error.

Video: Football Team Names

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Greg talks about NFL team names at the Laugh Factory.

Video: Steel Panther In Studio

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Steel Panther in studio 01/19/15 (Los Angeles)

Marlon Wayans Provides A Beat For Greg

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Marlon Wayans beat boxing on the 10/20/14 SiriusXM show on Howard 101.


Check my boy @gregfitzshow dancing his ass off

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Watch ‘Life on Stage’ On Hulu For Free

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My one-hour special “Life on Stage” is now streaming for free on Hulu. I am very proud of it. Buy your own copy on Amazon.

New Times Broward-Palm Beach Interview

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Greg Fitzsimmons: “Fort Lauderdale Is Infamous” for Hecklers


By Ryan Pfeffer on Thu., Apr. 24 2014
Originally appeared on New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Boston might be the closest thing standup comedy has to a marine corps. Louis C.K., Bill Burr, and Doug Stanhope are all part of a long and impressive list of comics who got their start in Boston. Don’t be fooled by the cheekbones of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Boston will fuck you up.

Greg Fitzsimmons knows this well. Starting out on the open-mic circuit in Boston, Fitzsimmons was terrified that the testosterone-dense crowds would find out he was gay. He’s not gay and has no idea why this bothered him.

Fitzsimmons eventually made it out of Boston alive, though when we caught up with him, he was staying at his mom’s two-bedroom apartment in Jupiter, Florida, with his sister, her husband, and their two kids, as well as his wife and their two children. So we don’t know if that whole “alive” thing is still true.

We chatted with Fitzsimmons (who was nursing a neck injury suffered on a Busch Gardens roller coaster) about his life on stage, from the early days to the present.

New Times: You started doing standup in Boston, right?

Greg Fitzsimmons: Yeah. I started in, like ’89.

Boston seems like an intimidating place in general, but I imagine it must be terrifying to try and start your standup career there.

Yeah, it was. I look back at it the same way you look back at things you did when you were young. You think, “Was I crazy? What made me think I could do that?” I think it was like riding a roller coaster. It was just like, how much can I get my heart rate going? How much fear can I take? You kind of need that stimulation. I think that Boston was the place with the toughest attitude. Everybody was a tough guy. Everybody was like a union worker or worked on the docks.

I always thought they were going to find out that I was gay. Even though I’m not gay. That’s how I always felt. I felt like I was going to be outed, and I always felt like such a pussy, because they were going to just think I was gay. And that shouldn’t bother me as somebody who’s not only not gay but not homophobic, but it’s just such a manly place.

What would 1989 comedy rookie Greg Fitzsimmons think of the Greg Fitzsimmons of today?

You know, that makes me think of Matthew McConaughey’s speech at the Oscars. About how in ten years, I want to be my own hero. I think that I would be proud. I mean, I am proud. I feel good about the kind of standup that I do. I don’t wish that I was a huge theater act. But sometimes I wonder if I could have been. You know, if I had done things differently and thought a little more about what it was that audiences wanted to see and ordered my act in a way that was more accessible. But that’s not why I got into it. I think I’d be proud of the fact that I stuck to my guns. My only criteria for doing a certain type of material is that it turns me on.

Have you noticed the crowds changing since your podcast started to gain a following? Do you feel like they go in already knowing you?

Definitely. They all know my life. They listen to me talk about the details of my life and the themes I’m interested in. They know where I live. They know what I do for a living. And so I can start right in with the punchline. Which isn’t to say that if people haven’t listened to my podcast, they’ll miss the joke, but it gives you that collective experience and that bond with the audience. We’re all part of a narrative.

I really liked your special Life On Stage, but there were a few jokes where you could sense the audience pucker up a bit. You never lost them, but you pushed them to the edge. Do you enjoy toying with an audience and seeing just how far you can take them without losing them?

To me that’s where it feels the most vital and the most, like, this is why I do it — when you’re making them a little uncomfortable and asking them to trust you and to come along. Like, “It’s OK, I’m going to get you to the punchline. I’m not bringing up abortion just for the sake of bringing it up. There’s going to be a payoff, and we’re all going to get to laugh, and we’re going to move past it.”

I think the longer you do standup, the more you have an ability to respect the audience. It can be indulgent. I don’t want to be the comedian that comes out and just pushes those buttons and challenges the audience on every single joke. Because that gets kind of tiresome and predictable. You have to let off the gas a little bit at some points.

How have the hecklers evolved over your career? Have they gotten worse or better over time?

I don’t think it changes. I think it’s up to each comedian to kind of set the table for what’s allowed. Depending on the situation, I don’t mind people heckling, because heckling is kind of a big umbrella. There are people that will converse with you at appropriate times, like when you’re in between jokes. There’s a time when it’s obvious that it’s OK to say something.

And I’ll even ask the audience something. I’ll ask a question that they can answer. There are times when a reasonable person understands you can interact. And then there’s people where, if I might take 30 seconds to set up a more involved bit, they make a joke. And then it fucks everybody.

Then it’s like, “You fucking idiot. You piece of shit. You drunken moron. I had to build up stock to even attempt this joke, and then you thought — in your drunken moment — you had this little fuzzy feeling in your brain stem that said, ‘I’m going to be the star right now.'” That’s heckling to me. That’s unacceptable. And that’s the point where I will deconstruct your life. I will gut you and hold you out for the rest of the crowd to see and expose you as the maggot that you are.

I’ve been in the audience before when that happens, and it’s so frustrating to me as an audience member. I can’t imagine how it must feel to a comedian onstage.

It’s like watching an athlete when they’re doing well, and it’s like, “God that’s so easy.” Comedy is a lot harder than it looks, and sometimes it looks like we’re just talking and people are laughing, but we’re not just talking. That’s actually constructed material that has taken months or years to put together. And it can be destroyed by you forgetting that there’s a reason why we’re onstage and you’re sitting in a seat facing us.

Well, hopefully you don’t have that problem in Fort Lauderdale.
Oh, no. I will. Fort Lauderdale is infamous.


Yeah. They’re drunk, and I like it because they’re lively. I think there’s a lot of energy, but there’s a fair amount of noise from the audience.

The Interrobang Interview

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“The Set” with Greg Fitzsimmons


By RJ Waldron on April 3, 2014
Originally appeared on The Interrobang

Known for his scathing sarcasm, comedian Greg Fitzsimmons is first and foremost a hilarious stand up comedian, but he’s also a four time Emmy winning writer and producer who has written for “The Ellen Show” and “Lucky Louie” and he was the head writer for “The Chelsea Handler Show”.  He’s  had two Comedy Central specials, wrote a critically acclaimed book (“Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons”), and hosted MTV’s award winning game show “Idiot Savants”. You can hear Greg weekly on SiriusXM’s Howard 101 channel hosting  ”The Greg Fitzsimmons Show”, and listen to his podcast, “Fitzdog Radio” twice a week.  RJ Waldron spent some time talking with Greg for “The Set” our series of conversations with great stand up comedians.

RJW: I wanted to talk a little bit about your upbringing, you’ve been pretty honest about your family being really funny and I was wondering how that shaped your comedy prowess.

Greg Fitzsimmons: “Prowess?!” I like that! (laughing)… The vibe in my family was very fun. It was very much about ball busting and teasing, you know a lot of it in a healthy way. But, I think underneath that is a lot of Irishman… I refer to being Irish a lot, but I consider myself a really quintessentially Irish person. All four of my grandparents came to the Bronx from Ireland and that’s where I was born. It’s a very cutting sensibility and there is like a defensive team on the field at all times as you’re trying to develop an ego. They just say, “Who do you think YOU are?”

RJW: They are really good at keeping you in check, right?

Greg Fitzsimmons: Right. I’m doing a Roast in a few weeks for a DJ down in Florida called Cowhead and I always feel like that’s where I belong, doing Roasts. Because that’s essentially what I grew up doing my whole life.

RJW: So, as a kid do you just learn to deal with that and try to be funnier than your family?

Greg Fitzsimmons: You know, to get a laugh in my house is like a big deal. I think that we all had different ways of getting it, and then you find that line. And, it’s a line that is much further than most people. You know when I first started doing stand-up and I’d go do shows in the Midwest, it was a real problem. They were thoroughly offended by the way I spoke. So, I had to make a real adjustment. And definitely in LA you have to make an adjustment. I found that the New York comedy clubs were a good fit for the way I’d grown up. Guys like Nick DiPaoloDave Attell, and Louis C.K., we all talked to each other in really heinous ways, but we all understood that we were just joking. So, now I’ve got a family and there is a lot of that in my family now. My kids can’t believe the way I joke around with them and then they come back with it, after awhile, and they are so thrilled when they score a laugh. So, now the big thing is to sit around and make fun of Dad. They make fun of me being bald, or I don’t know how a certain app works. So, I’m like the nerd. Sometimes, I just want to go, “You don’t know me, motherfucker. You don’t know who I was.” They’re seeing their nerdy dad, now, but there is nothing I can do because I taught them this. I gave them this weapon and now they are using it on me.

RJW: The New York comedy scene, as you were saying, is a lot different than LA. In a lot of ways it’s apples and oranges but so many people compare New York to LA. Do you like what LA has to offer or do you miss the east coast?

Greg Fitzsimmons: I miss New York, a lot. But, the weather is fantastic [in LA], I’m sitting on my back patio right now and there are wind chimes and hummingbirds. But, the comedy is much better in New York. You do more sets and there is a different priority with comedy in New York. I was talking with a guy last night about it, this guy Jerrod Carmichael, a really funny LA comic, and we’re saying when you come to LA and go on stage it’s all about your credits. What the MC says when he brings you up it’s, “ This guy has been on…” But in New York, nobody gives a shit. [In LA] if you have any credits they just lay back and spread their legs and say, “Oooohhh, this is going to be great.” In New York, you go up there and it’s almost like as you walk on stage you can hear their car keys rattling. They are already hailing a cab from the Comedy Cellar. You have to basically get them to stay, you have to earn your way from the get go, there is no free path. It makes you much stronger.

RJW: It seems that growing up in the LA scene is just completely different than the New York scene? I’m not trying to say that New York is better than LA, but it really seems like the New York scene is a tougher crowd.

Greg Fitzsimmons: Yeah, it can even make you a little bit too tough. You see comics and they’ve got this bitter edge and they can’t shake it. I think you can really stifle creativity when it’s so tough that you’re fighting joke to joke in the set so much that you can’t breath. So, whether you’re in LA or New York, I think it’s important to get out on the road and work rooms where you can really foster longer sets. You go to certain rooms in San Francisco or Denver where they are just so supportive and you can really develop some self-esteem that then you can bring back to the city and drain it out, there. Then go back on the road and get some more self-esteem. I think to be just an LA comic, or just a New York comic is not a great way to come up. The more you can expose yourself to every type of crowd, do college shows, do corporate shows, do benefits, work in as many cities as possible, you need all of those tools do become a good comic.

RJW: Do you have a favorite Roast moment?

Greg Fitzsimmons: I don’t watch them. I don’t think that there are enough of those “favorite moments.” I watched them early on and then they became so formulaic, where every single joke was a simile joke. Everything was a metaphor joke, “she is to blank, what blank is to blank,” and it’s just like – is that really how you talk? Why don’t you do your fucking comedy and do it on a Roast? Why is it that all of a sudden everybody talks like Jeffrey Ross? It’s so stupid, what a waste of talent.

RJW: Yeah, and Jeffrey Ross is pretty good at doing Jeff Ross.

Greg Fitzsimmons: And also Jeffrey Ross is doing Borscht Belt comedians, he’s basically a young version of these really great old comics. He’s really nailed that genre. But, that’s just one way to do it. I don’t know, I just feel like the Roasters don’t necessarily know who the person is that they are Roasting. I grew up going to the real Friars Club Roasts because my dad was a member of the Friar’s Club my whole life. The original Roasts were at the Hilton in New York, a lunchtime thing on a Friday, the doors were closed, there was no press, there was no recording devices. It was really just guys that all knew each other, shitting on each other and it was done out of love and comradery. So to me, this version of it that is on TV is so far removed from that, I just don’t find it interesting. I say that, and now I’m going to be asked to be on the next big Roast. (laughing)

RJW: You really take advantage of all of these great ways to express yourself, you have a book, Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox, and this really successful podcast, but for you does it always come back to stand-up? You still have a love of touring and being on stage?

Greg Fitzsimmons: Well, I wouldn’t say the touring part. Dom Irrera once said, “I do stand-up for free, they pay me to travel.” My kids are 10 and 13, being away is really hard. So I try to carve it out so that I’m only on the road Friday – Saturday and never work Sundays. But, in terms of creating the material and being on stage, it’s everything. Nothing comes even close to that feeling. It’s total creativity, it’s always a challenge, you’ve got to earn it every single night. The immediate feedback of doing something new and having it work is just a really intense rush. It’s very addictive and to think that you’re growing – you know I’m very hard on myself, so I’ll get sick of my material and just be like, “You suck! You’re uncreative and you’re a hack and you’re no different than anyone else.” And that drives me to try to create something that is more interesting. I think the longer you do stand-up, the longer you have to get the shit out, so you can get to what is actually good. So, I’ve got to keep logging my hours. You have to keep getting out the bad stuff. I guess we’re all just meant to do a lot of bad comedy before we do good comedy.

RJW: Did you have a defining moment where you just said, “That’s it, I’ve got to do stand-up, I’ve got to be a comedian?”

Greg Fitzsimmons: When I was maybe 11 or 12, I was at an awards dinner. I was a horrible athlete and I came in like fourth in the boys 9 and under breaststroke on the swim team. Meanwhile, I was like 11, but they let me swim with the 9 year olds because I was so bad. So, I get up there and they were handing out little plaques with your name on it. So, the swim coach had a microphone and he’d announce the name, you’d come up shake his hand, and sit down. So, I took the plaque and then I took the microphone and I started thanking everybody from the coach to the President. I can’t remember who the President was, either Reagan or Jimmy Carter, but I thanked him. And, I just couldn’t believe it. It was like being at my dinner table and getting a laugh, but it was thirty dinner tables and they were all looking at me, smiling. I had this power to do something that was unexpected and it was edgy and mildly inappropriate and get this confirmation that it was good. That I was special and I was allowed to break the rules. There was no looking back. There was no way to step back into normal life and forget that that had just happened.

RJW: That’s so amazing, I love that story. So, I just want to do like five quick questions that we call The Short Set.

Greg Fitzsimmons: Of course you do!! (laughing) Of course there is something that you are going to throw at me at the end of the interview to make me sound like an asshole. Ok, “You’re an animal, it’s a Western, and you have a French accent… GO!” (laughing)

RJW: Hey, I’ve watched your “Talk Your Way Out of It,” so it’s not nearly as bad as that, I promise! (laughing)

Greg Fitzsimmons: (laughing) Touché, my friend.

ICYMI: Adam Carolla Returns! (1/21/14)

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Adam & Greg share thoughts about receding into the dusk of their careers and ultimately death. Rage with them against the dying of the light.


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