From The Station Casinos Blog by craigstations – October 27, 2010
GREG FITZSIMMONS HAS been extremely busy “whoring myself out for the past 20 years,” so the SC Blog was shocked – ahem, make that thrilled – when he gave us a 15-minute phone interview from his home in Venice Beach, Calif. to talk about his Nov. 5 comedy appearance at Sunset Station’s Club Madrid …
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Greg and Mike Gibbons welcome Rob Corddry to this week’s podcast. Greg goes over the feud brewing between Mel Gibson and Zach Galifinakis, Rob goes over the list of people he would refuse to work with, and they talk about problems they have with bestiality. Greg tries out a new segment called Jokes Jay Leno is Afraid to Do, Rob explains how he got to the top, they take Matt Besser’s Half-A-Mans, and they play Liars Poker.
LAist had the chance to check in with comedian/radio personality/Emmy Award winning writer Greg Fitzsimmons last night as he drove to Hollywood from the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino where he earned a standing ovation. Driving from the desert to Hollywood isn’t something the Venice Beach resident does on a regular basis, luckily we had access to Google Maps serving as interviewer/navigator to Greg on his journey. The drive to Saturday’s show at the Gibson Amphitheater will, fortunately, be a much shorter one for the former writer/producer of The Ellen Degeneres Show. While driving the 610 to the 10 to 101, the Bronx native shared his thoughts on the LA comedy scene, his radio show, hosting the AVN Awards and Dave Navarro.
Saturday you’re performing at the Gibson Amphitheater with Artie Lange and Nick DiPaolo, do you enjoy the bigger crowds more than the comedy club crowds?
Stand up is like working out, you have to mix it up. That helps you stay sharp. I like small crowds and small clubs, your set can be like stream of conscience. When you’re playing the bigger venues you have to have a more polished set. The rewards for doing the bigger venues are great though. You don’t get standing ovations at clubs. When that happens like it did tonight, man it feels pretty fucking good.
You work with Artie and Nick DiPaolo quite a bit. How much do you enjoy working with those guys?
Actually, I haven’t done a whole lot of shows with Artie. I’d say I’ve done maybe a half a dozen shows with Artie. I’m doing these two this week though. Its nice working with Artie. I do one night or two nights and I then I get to go home. Working with Artie and Nick is like hanging out friends. Artie and Nick are friends of mine. Get to actually talk to them and hang out instead of just sitting around by myself like most shows I do.
You have your own radio show on Sirius, now on Howard Stern’s network. How has the show helped with you stand-up?
I love doing the show. I really benefit from the radio show, I don’t have to deal with the “Fuck you bring out Artie” reaction from the crowd some openers might get. Tonight’s show was Artie’s crowd, but working on Howard’s network has helped introduce me to his audience. The show, Howard and Sirius have been great to me. I don’t think there is a better place to be on radio than Sirius.
For the most part the show is basically a radio show about comedy, with interviews with comedians. Do you think the show will evolve into something else?
I think because it’s only an hour-long show I haven’t really been trying to stretch myself. Right now, I’m sticking to what I know and who I know. The biggest name people I can get are comedians, because those are the people I know. Comedians are honest and intelligent, so they make for a good show. I think on my show they can be in the moment and not have to do material. I really like my guests and I know my guests, and so I am asking questions that I already know the answers to, I guess that isn’t exactly the best way to interview someone. I’d like to have people that I don’t know on the show. Sirius has said they can help me get big names outside of comedy, so I’m looking forward to getting some of those kinds of guests on the show. I am enjoying doing radio, my dad (Bob Fitzsimmons) was a radio personality in New York. It’s funny because Howard used to shit on my dad, back then, so he wasn’t the most popular person in our house. It’s very ironic that I am now on Howard’s network.
You hosted the AVN Awards which were shot in Las Vegas in January, and have just recently popped up Showtime. Why such a delay in getting it on TV?
What’s the most challenging aspect of hosting the AVNs? I don’t know why there was that much of a lag. I know Showtime didn’t publicize it all. But you know people are going to watch. If you’re cruising through the channels on your TV at 3am, you are definitely going to stop and watch. I really wanted to do a smart gig but these aren’t exactly Rhodes Scholars in the crowd. They’re porn stars. But I also wanted to play to the crowd at home. I had done the show two years ago and really liked it and the crowd was surprisingly cool. I was asked to do it again, I knew it was going to be on Showtime and it was the 25th anniversary so I really wanted to do it. Showtime has become a good place for comedy. So I went about hosting it as if I were doing an hour set on Showtime. I wanted to do a set that I’d be proud of, that just so happens to be at the porn convention.
Tell me a little more about what’s up with you and Dave Navarro?
I don’t know what that guy’s deal is. He manages porn stars and directs or something. He was there at the AVNs hosting the red carpet show. I am on stage hosting and he is in the front row, right in front of me. There he is sitting with his ¾ length leather coat and sunglasses with arms crossed and he won’t even look in my direction. I just found it really disrespectful, from one performer to another. So I went on Stern and called him a piece of shit. I called him the “Mexican Prince.” I called a few other names. When he went on the Stern show a week or two later, Stern played him the clips of me talking about him. Then he said some shit about me. So ever since then I have said it on my show, on Howard’s show on a few other things that I’m challenging him to a fight, boxing, mixed martial arts, whatever. We can do it on Pay Per View. I want to take out all my aggression and anger I have towards the cool LA guys, which is exactly what he is. The guys in LA are pussies, with their bleached hair and their contrived code words they use. Cool in LA is the total opposite of New York cool. Cool in New York is being open minded and being smart. Out here it’s all about just conforming and going with the crowd. I’d love to fight him, but he doesn’t have the balls. The only contact I’ve had with him since is an email from his publicist asking me to come on his Internet radio show. My response to the email was “Pass. Tell Dave to see me in the ring.”
Speaking of LA, there is a lot of talk about the differences between the New York comedy scene and the LA comedy scene. As a New Yorker living in LA what do you think of the comedy scene here? When do you think is the right time for a New Yorker to make the move out here?
If you decide that you have to come out here, then I think the longer you wait – the better. This is the marketplace, so when you get out here you should have already established yourself. You’re lucky in LA if you can do two sets a night. You can’t work out like you do in New York. For one, the clubs are further apart so it’s harder to get from club to club, that makes it harder to stay sharp out here. In New York you can get in seven sets in a night. I can’t name a comic who made it, starting out here. Nothing against the comics from here, it has more to do with the obstacles I just mentioned. Also, I think a comic who started in LA will have a harder time connecting to a broader range of people because they’ve been preaching to the converted their whole career. I don’t know if they are going to get the same laughs in the middle of the country as they would out here.
Why are a lot of the comedy shows in town run by comics who are just starting out or comics who aren’t very good?
It’s part of struggling as a comic. When you’re starting out, comedy is a lot like running your own business. You have to be your own manager, be your own publicist, be your own agent. You have to find a way to get stage time. When I was starting out in Boston, I hosted a “Hot Legs” contest in a crack bar in Allston. Running your own comedy night is a good way to go out there and find your audience and find your voice. I recommend it. You don’t want to miss out on that experience, as someone who’s done it, let me tell you it’s really fucking humbling. You have to go out and find your own audience. The more sets you can do the more you’re going to get crowds coming in who know what you do. You’re not stepping out in front of 200 complete strangers, and there’s nothing harder than that. Getting out there allows you to sort of continue where you left off, rather than having to introduce yourself.
What rooms do you enjoy working here in LA?
I like doing the Improv for trying out new material. It’s a good set up and a good room. The Laugh Factory on the weekend is very high energy. You can kill there. I like doing the M Bar, I haven’t done it in a while but I like it there.
You can hear the Greg Fitzsimmons Show on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Howard 101 every Monday.
Helium Comedy Club
Greg Fitzsimmons is a pretty successful guy. He’s starred in two Comedy Central specials, is a regular on Best Week Ever and Letterman and has four Daytime Emmys courtesy of his work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But that’s nothing a little Irish Catholic guilt can’t undo. The comedian dishes about the puzzling self-hate that fuels his career and his own personal hell.
City Paper: What have your appearances on Best Week Ever taught you about America’s celebrity obsession?
Greg Fitzsimmons: It’s a way of thinking there’s an easy way out in scary times. We have to believe that there’s a better class of being than the one we’re in. Essentially, we’re very conscious of class in this country because we come from this shame-based European mind-set where the king and the queen were good and the peasants were bad.
CP: What’s your own family history?
GF: My grandparents are from Ireland. We’re a close family with a lot of pride about being Irish. They really practice what the church preaches, like quietly giving to charity and being good to strangers.
CP: Is your own relationship with the church holding up?
GF: It was good for a lot of years, but then I fell out of it. Ultimately, I saw that at the foundation of the church is a need for a lower class that feels ashamed in order to believe that there’s a better place for you later so that you’ll put up with all the bullshit.
CP: Is that something you dealt with growing up?
GF: I’m still ashamed. I hate myself. I hate my body, I hate the way I stink, I hate how I think that I’m selfish and that I’m not a good person, and all these things that aren’t really true. That’s why I’m a comedian. We just hate ourselves. I’ve got a beautiful wife, two healthy kids. I make a great living doing what I want, I do a ton of charity work, I’m good to every stranger that I meet — but that’s in a cognizant moment. Underneath it all, it’s all a reaction to trying to be better because I feel like a piece of garbage.
CP: What would be hell to you?
GF: If you commit horrible atrocities, you’re given a microphone at midnight on a Friday at the Greenbay Chucklehut and forced to do 45 minutes. Then you’ve got to sell your CDs to that same group of Packers fans as they come out chain smoking and licking the grease off their fingers from the bottomless bucket of fried chicken wings that they just ate.
CP: What direction would you like to see the church go in?
GF: They should acknowledge that we’re all part of one human race and that all religions are essentially saying the same thing: forgiveness, the submission of the self for the good of others, charity and love.
CP: But what will people argue about then?
GF: I guess we’d have to go with football, and if it weren’t football season we’d be lost for a while. So, you’re right, scratch that.
Greg will be in Indianapolis on November 22nd. Listen for him on the Bob & Tom Show, or have your copy of Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons autographed at his book signing at 7PM.
Greg Fitzsimmons returns to Indianapolis – the first place he ever headlined a comedy club
Forgive him: He’s been a little busy, as you’ll see from this interview. If he wasn’t having a family and writing for Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show, he’s been working on TV scripts and a book, providing commentary for VH1’s I Love the (Blank) shows and Best Week Ever, hosting the Adult Video News awards, doing a weekly show on Sirius satellite radio and performing 60-second interstitial spots called “Scenario DogvCat” on the Adult Swim channel.
Oh, and adopting a pet.
“We just rescued a puppy and I had to fill out 10 pages of paperwork,” he says. “And they did a home inspection before they’d give us the puppy. And I thought: How bad is your life if they come over, check out where you live and say, ‘We’re just going to go ahead and kill him. This is fine for you, but I think it would be better if we put him to death rather than live like you.'”
Here’s more from Fitzsimmons.
NUVO: Let’s start with an essay question: Compare and contrast being a guest on The Bob and Tom Show with being a guest on The Howard Stern Show.
Fitzsimmons: Bob and Tom are the best audience in the world. I always tease them because when you’re on the air, they are falling out of their chairs, laughing and really enjoying it. Then the second you go to commercial, they open their newspapers and just start reading. They like material. They want you to come in and bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! And kill. Whereas Stern wants you to tell a story or reveal something.
NUVO: You always seem very comfortable on both shows, though I have to say that when you’re on the Stern show during the news, that’s some of the funniest radio.
Fitzsimmons: I still get nervous every time going in. When the news comes on, it’s toward the end of the show. Howard’s tired. Many times when I come in, it’s a Thursday, which is their last workday. Everyone’s fried and it’s a real opportunity to step in and try to contribute to the show.
NUVO: But Bob and Tom has to be the greatest place for a comedian.
Fitzsimmons: They’ve always supported standups – not just in your actual interviews but the plugs and staying in touch. They’re real comedy fans, and it’s turned into this real nice reciprocal relationship. Doing Stern and doing Bob and Tom both helped me grow as a comedian. On Bob and Tom, I learned how to come in and be prepared and let somebody set me up. The Stern thing taught me to trust that if I tell the truth, it will always be entertaining. It may not be funny, it may be awkward, but it’s always good radio.
NUVO: You do a lot more writing than most comics. Why is that?
Fitzsimmons: I’ve been a writer since I was a little kid. I wrote a James Bond script when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I’ve always loved writing. I was an English major. When I started doing standup, I was always trying to come up with new material. And standup is so much more rewarding for me when I’m on stage and I have a bunch of ideas I’m working on. When my kids were born, I wanted to be around more, so I transitioned from working the road Tuesday through Sunday 45 weeks a year to mostly Fridays and Saturdays and maybe 60 percent less roadwork.
In the meantime, I’ll pick up writing jobs. I worked on a sitcom all fall that is not going to end up on the air, but we worked on it for three months. I have a deal right now with 20th Century Fox for a sitcom. It’s a pretty big deal – it’s the Greg Fitzsimmons sitcom, basically. I’ve been writing the scripts since fall, and about two weeks ago I handed them the first draft and they really liked it. They gave me some notes and I’m doing some rewrites. In about three weeks, we’re going to the next level and it’ll be made into a pilot. That’s really exciting – and nerve-racking.
If I could do anything, it would be just standup. Unfortunately, that involves me flying and being away from my family a lot. So it’s something I do more selectively now.
NUVO: You worked on the Ellen show for two years. How was that?
Fitzsimmons: I won four daytime Emmys – two for producing and two for writing. I learned a lot about it because I was there from the beginning. Months before the show aired, I was there in meetings every day, learning how a new show is created from the ground up. It was a great learning experience, but I think it will be a while before I go back to a show where you’ve got a 5 o’clock deadline every day with cameras rolling. I know guys who’ve been on Conan since Day One and I don’t know how they do it. It’s really an intense grind.
NUVO: You also hosted the Adult Video News awards. People probably think it’s a great gig, but I imagine that’s a tough audience because they take their “craft” so seriously.
Fitzsimmons: Absolutely. That’s Oscar night for them.
It really is the coming together of two very similar worlds. Standup comedy is no different than pornography. You’re entertaining people for a very brief period of time and you can do whatever you want. There’s a lot of creative freedom, and it’s considered dirty in some ways. Comics and strippers end up hanging together in the same bars because we’re society’s rejects. We’re clowns and we take ourselves very seriously.
For me, the challenge is going up in front of 5,000 people and trying to hold their attention. I love that. Especially since I know that world – I’ve done research on pornography for many years.
They told me, “You’ve got about 30 seconds from the time you get out there to get them. If you don’t, we’ll probably have to take you off stage because they won’t listen. They’ll just start talking. They’ll be like you’re not there.” So for two months, I was writing jokes and trying out all my porn jokes in the clubs. And it went great.
My wife didn’t want me to do it. Not that she cared about that stuff. She was just, “What are you going to be, the Porn Guy?” I said, “Well, they’ll see me on Showtime. It’s good exposure.” So I brought her with me and everybody from my agency flew out. I rented a house, I put up all my agents. We went to parties all night and had assorted adventures. It was great. At the end of the night, I went to bed with my wife and she said, “So, we’re done with this?” And I said, “Yeah, we’re done.” Nobody should ever have to say to their wife, “Honey, you know Ron Jeremy.”