Greg Fitzsimmons has won four Emmy Awards, has his own show on Sirius/XM, and has over 50 TV appearances. He’s a regular on Howard Stern, Letterman, Conan, and seemingly everything that’s ever aired on VH1. His podcast is wildly successful, his book “Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons” did incredibly well, and he’s about to host a new series on the Speed Channel called “Pumped.” But all that and he’s not a household name.
“I have made it to the middle in show business and I really like it here,” Fitzsimmons said. “I’m not sure that more money or fame would bring me more happiness.”
Fitzsimmons’ happiness comes in part from the career he spent so many years building up. Growing up “obsessed” with standup, his first appearance was at a talent show his senior year of high school.
“There were drugs involved that night,” Fitzsimmons remembered about his routine bashing the faculty. “The principal unplugged my microphone half way through.”
After the standard demeaning rise (“I once had a woman vomit on me after I followed a comedian dressed up as a clam,” Fitzsimmons said.), Fitzsimmons landed a gig hosting Idiot Savants, a game show on MTV that lasted from December 1996 til April 1997.
But that same year, Fitzsimmons landed a sitcom deal, a show on the USA Network, and a number of other TV appearances. The next decade and a half was a steady climb, much of it centered around his long-term relationship with The Howard Stern Show.
“Stern is like required listening for everybody in show business,” Fitzsimmons said about the man who gave him his own show. “You cannot explain how someone gets as successful as him, but being near it gives you a confidence that you should go out and do it your own way.”
The other part of Fitzsimmons’ happiness comes from his family. Fitzsimmons even sent his mother his first Emmy.
“I think she has dinner with it every night,” Fitzsimmons said.
But it was Fitzsimmons’ father, radio personality Bob Fitzsimmons, that gave him the advice that would help shape him.
“My father told me when I first started that standup is exciting and I should pursue it, but that writing would be the thing that would give me power over my career,” Fitzsimmons said. “I never have to take a road gig or a writing gig I don’t want because I always have the ability to play one against the other.”
Fitzsimmons standup also reflects his writing ability. Much of his set is made up of short and to-the-point perfectly structured jokes.
“I’m not saying was intense at the screening,” Fitzsimmons set up during one of his Letterman appearances. “But tomorrow night the guy who frisked me is introducing me to his parents.”
Writing for shows like “Ellen” and the Emmy Awards themselves also allow Fitzsimmons to spend time at home with his wife and kids. And to obtain a kind of happiness we all seek.
“Irish parents will try to off-set their low self-esteem by producing successful children so nobody can look down on them,” Fitzsimmons only half joked. “My dad was really proud of me. It was a nice thing.”
While many stand-ups fill their lives with regret and a desperate desire to achieve whatever is next, Fitzsimmons is content with his “middle.” Well, almost content.
“I make a great living doing exactly what I want and have a lot of choices at any given time,” Fitzsimmons said. “I would, at some point however, like to do blow in a Porsche with Paulie Shore.”
Greg continues his podcast with Norm MacDonald. Norm talks about his favorite felons, the ones he considers funniest, and how a recent interaction with The Juice’s lawyers went. Then Greg, Mike Gibbons, and Norm talk about about a variety of topics from how they view older comedians, their gay experiences, going to the comedy roasts, and their children.
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Watch Greg on Chelsea Lately Thursday, September 1st@ 11:30PM EST!
Greg has Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath on today’s podcast, as well as co-host Mike Gibbons. They start off by talking about Mark’s life, and what music Greg’s kids are listening to lately. Greg talks about masturbating in the studio earlier, his masturbation habits when he flies, and what living in Venice is like. They break down the standup of Mike Gibbons, when a surprise knock on the backdoor reveals Norm MacDonald who sits in for the rest of the podcast.
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Greg has friend of the show and fellow Bostonian Mike O’Malley back on the show to discuss last week’s Andy Dick hijinks, the use of language, and the true impact of harmful rhetoric, and what should be done about it.
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Greg talks about being in Philadelphia, and what the shows have been like at the Helium Comedy Clubso far. He also talks about his fall is looking like, busy with some road shows, and TV show that just got picked up. He also covers the Andy Dick incident, what he was thinking during it, and what happened after it. He plays fan favorites “Malebag” and “Overheard”.
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During the late-nineties and early-aughts (shudder), I was a young comedy fan watching shows like Comedy Central Presents, A&E’s Comedy Showcase, and NBC’s Late Friday. Really popular acts like Chris Rock and Jeff Foxworthy were living large and guys like Louis Black, Mitch Hedberg and Dane Cook were gaining a lot of momentum. Everybody had an angle, a super-memorable gimmick. But there was another category of standup that seemed less celebrated: folks who simply had funny jokes.
These schtick-less performers weren’t loud or weird or interesting in appearance. They simply opened their mouths and said funny things. Guys like Nick DiPaolo, Greg Giraldo, Louis CK, Marc Maron and Patton Oswalt were zeros in the fame game but batted a thousand whenever you could catch them for five minutes on TV. Nowadays, they are comedy household names, because eventually the Internet hit puberty and craftsmen can be judged for the actual quality of their work instead of their marketability.
Journeyman Greg Fitzsimmons is one of those guys. Luckily, today he’s reaping the benefits of sticking it out through decades of relative obscurity. His podcast, Fitzdog Radio, is in the top 25 for comedy podcasts on iTunes. You should check out the episode from last November where he dissects Philly’s ethnic culture and interviews our own Darryl Charles.
I recently had a chat with him where he talked about working in his undies, why he loves playing at Helium Comedy Club and his stance that Philly is actually part of New Jersey …
City Paper: How has podcasting changed the comedy business?
Greg Fitzsimmons: I definitely see a turnout for my standup shows and the listeners are really connected to what I have to say. I can tell they are invested in the podcast and are not going anywhere. That’s a great feeling. Also I enjoy performing in my underwear in my garage.
CP: When last you were in Philly, you described our fair city as “Italy fucked by Ireland, plus black folks” (which you admitted is also the Bronx, South Boston, etc.) Beyond ethnicity, how do you view Philly culturally?
GF: There is a self-delusion that Philly is not New Jersey. Does anyone really think it is part of Pennsylvania?Pennsylvania is chocolate and Amish and woods. You guys are Jersey. As soon as you get enough money you go directly to the Jersey Shore or Atlantic City.
CP: You’ve shown some loyalty to Helium. Are you generally still doing clubs? Where do you stand in terms of getting away from the bachelorette parties and playing theaters? Do you prefer a traditional comedy club?
GF: Theaters are tough because you have to sell every ticket for it to make sense financially for everyone. I prefer clubs because you can be more creative and feel the room. You can write more material and you don’t have to play it big to reach the back rows. Helium is a perfect layout and has an awesome feel to it. You can see everyone and the sound is good. Most of the waitresses are really into me.
CP: Who were your comedy heroes growing up?
GF: I listened to my Dad’s comedy albums and read his humor books when I was young so I really loved Bob Hope and Art Buchwald and Bill Cosby. The Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks’ movies were a real bonding thing for me and my Dad, also. I got older and got into Steve Martin, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. In high school the Jerky Boys changed the way I talk to this day. I still call people “sizzle chest” and “Jerky.”
CP: Where do you see your career in five years? Any projects coming that you’re excited about?
GF: I am hosting a game show on The Speed Channel starting in November. It’s 20 episodes where I ask people questions while they fill their tanks at gas stations. I’m actually not kidding. I also have a show in development at Nickelodeon and am waiting to see whether a pilot I executive produced for VH1 goes to series. I’ve got five straight weeks of standup booked for the fall and in the middle of that I will do two podcasts a week and a radio show each Monday night. Oh yeah, and I have a wife and two kids at home. They seem confused when I am around the house.
CP: How close are we to the breakdown of modern culture?
GF: If you track the Holy Roman Empire, right before the fall, the similarities to our country right now are frightening. They had a bloated government bureaucracy, paid mercenaries in place of true soldiers and a sense of infallibility. The GOP has the EPA in its crosshairs for the next election so any hope for the environment is shit. These are tough days to have kids …
In the podcast that occurred post-Andy-Dick-fit-of-rage, Greg covers a variety of wholesome topics like pedophilia, gay puppet marriage and asking women to go topless in films. Greg and Andy then go on to the fun stuff by discussing how they would like to die. Once they’ve covered all the sobering topics, Greg moves on to overheards and the classic “Talk Your Way Out of It!”
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