Has everybody wished Greg Fitzimmons a happy birthday yet? If not, you still have time today.
And what better time to take a look at a recurring feature from Fitzdog Radio's podcast called Talk Your Way Out of It, in which Greg puts his comedian guests in a hypothetically tricky situation and then asks them to, well, you know. Recent guests have included Zach Galifianakis, Larry Miller, Andy Dick and David Koechner.
Last week's guest, Bill Burr, approached this game just as you might expect. Language and content is Not Safe For Work. Roll it!
On last night's episode of Lopez Tonight, Greg Fitzsimmons joked about the difference between losing a job and having it stolen, worries about being called "the white devil" by using the wrong word to describe other races and ethnicities, because the world is a confusing mixed-up place where nothing matches up with the actual meanings of words. Word! He'll also tell you why President Barack Obama is magical.
Roll the clip!
In his new memoir, "Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons," comedian Greg Fitzsimmons creates a self-portrait of the comedian as a young man, complete with photos and letters upon letters from disciplinary figures in his life to illustrate just how Greg evolved into the stand-up comedian, TV comedy writer, and radio/podcast broadcaster you know today.
Last week, Fitzsimmons performed stand-up on Late Show with David Letterman.
Also last week, Fitzsimmons sat down with The Comic's Comic to talk about his book and more in a wide-ranging discussion.
"The podcast was born out of feeling like there was more meat on the bone at the end of the Sirius interviews. So my producer, who just happened to be a guy who knew a lot about podcasting, because he worked on, or still works on Adam Carolla's podcasts. So we basically do the Sirius interview. We stop down for about maybe five minutes, and then we just start recording it for the podcast. So that's Monday. And then the second podcast each week, I'll go, I'm going to Seattle tomorrow morning, so I'll do a podcast from Seattle. And I'll interview maybe the comedians on the show with me, I'll talk about Seattle. Just kind of do my own little rant about what's going on that week. And then, if I'm in L.A., sometimes I'll line up another guest. But, you know, people really seem to like when I do it alone sometimes, because, when you have a guest, you have to service that guest. You have to introduce them. You don't really have control of the podcast as much, and that can be a good thing, but I think once in a while, it's nice to answer a lot of the mail I get through Twitter. And we have a couple of games that I like to play through Twitter. Overheard. And Half a Man. I catch up on stuff, and I get really good feedback from it, so it's been a labor of love. It certainly hasn't been for money. And I'm hoping that the goodwill of getting a free podcast will translate into, 'Hey, go buy the book now!' I'll see if that pans out or not.
So far, we're looking good. We're on our third order of the book in pre-sales, but a lot of that is based on the bookstores knowing what media that I've got. I've got Letterman coming out Friday, and I did Stern. Kimmel and Chelsea Handler. And then just millions of radio interviews. Bob and Tom, I've been doing every week. The exposure's there, but it's a very crowded marketplace right now. I'm sure you know. Carolla. Baba-Booey. Jim Breuer. Mike Birbiglia. So I mostly believe that we'll all find our own audience, and we're not necessarily pulling from each other's too much, but my two main platforms are Stern and Carolla. So obviously I'm not getting the attention I would be getting at another time. But I'm looking at it like, look, this is a book I'm proud of. This is a good book. I think it's a little more of a literary read than the average comedian book would be, and I hope it gets reviewed and talked about, maybe over a longer time will do the business that Baba-Booey's doing out of the gate. He's just on fire. And I'm not feeling competitive with him. I'm just trying to have more of an awareness of what to expect on my end."
This is such a fertile time period for comedians, not just books, but also podcasts, CDs and DVDs. It feels like there's so much more out there to review and sift through than there was three years ago.
"Yeah, I think comedians are lazy. We tend to catch up a little late, and while bands were doing all of this stuff, we were just doing live shows and selling crappy CDs on our own. I think Comedy Central stepped up and started making more deals for CDs, and then a lot of indie rock labels started doing comedy CDs, and then obviously now, DVDs. Although DVDs do not sell as well as CDs, at all. I think there's something that maybe people are used to listening to it. And now, there's a higher quality of stuff going out now from bigger name comedians, and I think that they're not seen so much as like, what would have been, 'You know you're a redneck when,' I mean that kind of genre comedy book, doesn't exist as much anymore. And now you're getting comedians that essentially take essays and beef them up a little bit, and they're not necessarily connected. Or, like Gary, Gary Baba-Booey, he went deep and did a real memoir."
Athough his is probably unlike yours, in that yours really reveals the makings of a stand-up comedian. Did you feel any worries about giving away company secrets? This is how someone becomes a comic.
"I don't think anybody has the same path as another comic. You look at Dave Attell. The guy didn't have a drink or a cigarette until he was already pretty successful, and people associate him with this wild renegade. You know, Louis CK started out making short films. I know comics that started out as street performers. Guys who were out on the street telling jokes. Rick Aviles. They ended up becoming big comedians. So when comedians come up to me and ask me for advice, I just don't know what to tell them, really. I just say, if anything I say: 'Don't do it. If there's anything else possibly you could do with your life, do that. Because you're going to miss your cousin's wedding. You're going to lose a lot of girlfriends. And you're closeness with your friends is going to get thinned out. You'll have. I mean, I've been very lucky career-wise, and part of it is just I was born white, middle-class, dad paid for college, male, not bad-looking. I'm not good-looking, but I'm not bad-looking. So I had a pretty good set of tools to go into anything, really. I think I have the perspective that this country is so fortunate. Anybody, the poorest person in this country could line up with the better half of many countries in the world, and then, on top of that, I feel almost like a guilt, that I have been put into this category of white male, not poor, and you know, from a family that, as you read, was fucked up, but also had a tremendous amount of loyalty and support and laughter. So I've been fortunate in my career. Literally, I think I've made more money every single year for 20 years, with very few exceptions. I had one or two years where it really spiked because I was on a hit show, writing, or producing, but in general, it's been something that I feel like I tell comedians, 'Don't go in it for the money, because you won't make it at first.' I didn't make money for the first seven or eight years. Truly starving artist. Really fucking broke. But then once it kicked in, comedians who are responsible enough to show up for work and not get too drunk, people count on you, they keep coming to you for work. It takes a long time to get to that point, but then it just happens. It just happens.
I remember watching it happen to Jim Gaffigan. I remember watching it happen to Greg Giraldo. And you know, you're all of a sudden, going from scrapping, to getting a five-minute free spot in the second story of a restaurant in front of nine people, taking subways to Brooklyn for a show, and then all of a sudden, you've got a Town Car picking you up to take you to a TV taping. And it just, bam! And once that happens, if you've got your shit together, you can stay there."
You also had the benefit of starting your professional career in the Boston scene, which was and is a very lively and vibrant scene for comedy.
We're about to see a bunch of new live stand-up comedy on our basic cable TV sets thanks to Comedy Central. The fourth season of Live at Gotham debuts this weekend, and in the first week of November, 24 stand-ups get to tape their very own half-hour Comedy Central Presents specials to air in early 2010. In between those two things, the network has given the go-ahead to John Oliver to present his very own stand-up showcase. If John Oliver & Friends sounds like something as fun and magical as the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, well, then you can pretty well guess the lineup. It's going to be good.
There will be three tapings (Oct. 23-25) at NYU's Skirball Center, which will produce six half-hours of stand-up comedy, featuring Oliver and his friends. A few names appear multiple times, which is curious and suggests the format could spin a bit. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we!
SHOW 1 ~ Friday - Oct. 23 - 6:45 p.m., with Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Maria Bamford, Hannibal Buress, Wyatt Cenac and Pete Holmes
SHOW 2 ~ Saturday - Oct. 24 - 7:45 p.m., with Paul F. Tompkins, Maria Bamford, Greg Fitzsimmons, Nick Kroll and Eugene Mirman
SHOW 3 ~ Sunday - Oct. 25 - 5:45 p.m., with Brian Posehn, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Greg Fitzsimmons, Eugene Mirman, Pete Holmes and Mary Lynn Rajskub
If you're going to be in NYC and are at least 18 years old, go to The Black List's John Oliver page and follow the instructions to request tickets.
Comedian Greg Fitzsimmons has a treasure trove of disciplinary letters sent to him from teachers, school officials, rejection letters, newspaper reviews and more -- and he'll be putting them to use again in retelling his life story as a memoir, Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons. Simon & Schuster bought the book idea at auction, negotiated with The Steinberg Agency and United Talent Agency. Publication date: 2010.
Fitzsimmons said he realized when he was going through his aunt's basement in the Bronx last summer that his mother had saved every bad report and disciplinary notice from his school years, all the way through college. “A normal parent would hide or destroy any evidence so clearly demonstrating their child’s failures,” he said. “But my mom preserves each one in its original envelope like a trophy case to remind me someday of who I really am, lest I forget.”
Paul F. Tompkins had alerted all of his Los Angeles area fans that he'd be leaving the West Coast for a year due to the show business. We learned he'd be hosting a new version of VH1's Best Week Ever. But what would that mean, exactly? The weekly recap mockery of pop culture didn't have a host before, but rather a seemingly endlessly rotating cast of comedians offering their best quips of the moment. So now we know.
This week, PFT began hosting a 3.5-minute nightly edition at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday of Best Day Ever. And in a press release, VH1 offers these details of Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins, which debuts at 11 p.m. Oct. 24. The cast: Doug Benson, Mike Britt, comic duo Frangela (Angela V Shelton and Frances Callier) Christian Finnegan, Greg Fitzsimmons, Nick Kroll, Chuck Nice, Melissa Rauch and Jessica St. Clair. And some of the cast will tour colleges together this fall. From the press release: "For almost five years, Best Week Ever has been a destination for anyone who loves pop culture and comedy. By adding a guide like Paul, a comic with a truly unique voice, we'll be better able to expand our coverage and make the show even stronger," said Jim Ackerman, Senior Vice President of Development, VH1.
In today's NYT on BWE with PFT, our new host notes this will now make the show seem more like E! show The Soup. We also learn the show will keep "The Sizzler" segment (really?), but overall, it will adapt to the personality of its new host. I'm just happy that Tompkins will get more and more airtime. If you recall, he got a weekly segment years ago on the debut season of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, but they never really allowed Tompkins to show his strengths as a comedian and as a quick-witted commentator. Here's hoping VH1 doesn't get in the way of a good thing.
If the lineup for the 7th annual Gerry Red Wilson Foundation comedy benefit didn't warn me, then the crowd waiting outside Town Hall on March 5 should have...as much as the comedians onstage wanted to celebrate and honor their late friend, the audience in the seats wanted jokes about sex and hating their girlfriends/wives.
Host Greg Fitzsimmons, who serves on the foundation board and noted onstage that both his wife and his son have contracted meningitis since Wilson died, had to face the rowdy crowd first. When he said he'd moved to Los Angeles, the crowd booed. "Great. Fine. Boo a city," Fitzsimmons replied. "I hate living there, too. You don't have to tell me." He then surveyed the crowd and found more than a few Opie and Anthony fans, and even more Howard Stern fans. "Why can't they get the (Sirius-XM) merger done?" he wondered. Having surveyed them thusly, Fitzsimmons went straight into dick jokes and stripper jokes and porn jokes. He did get a strong adlib riff out about the spotlight guy's gaffe after a joke about how nobody's having sex with Asian men.
Pete Correale saw the afterwork party crowd and addressed them immediately with bits about drinking and partying, then veered into material about being married and having single friends. He ended his 16-minute set with airplane jokes.
Jim Norton didn't care what the audience wanted. He spent the bulk of his 16 minutes on the 2008 presidential campaign, with thoughts on Hillary Clinton ("She's not a good enough actress to hide what a fraud she is"), Barack Obama, John Edwards, John McCain ("Do you really trust a Vietnam vet with the button?") and Rudy Giuliani. Norton also weighed in on the San Francisco tiger attack from Christmas. These choice bits had immediate repercussions for Nick DiPaolo, who had to follow Norton and still wanted to make his set political. DiPaolo has recently started an online talk radio show, but he managed to remain bitter enough onstage to unleash some questionable bits on race, homosexuality and women. And in case you're wondering, he's also nostalgic for drunk driving and cocaine.
Which proved enough of a transition for Artie Lange. "Do I look tired?" Lange asked. "This is one of those cocaine nights." Lange really needs to get it together. Sure, his fans might be appeased by seeing this mess play out on the radio and onstage, but Lange has to regain some focus on making himself better, not just comedy-wise but also health-wise. He joked about his gambling habits and winning big on the Giants, saying he should've bet that he'd live longer than Heath Ledger. Then he segued into old and beyond hack material on Brokeback Mountain. At least he apologized for it. "Yep. That's the most updated bit I have. I had to use Heath Ledger to get there," he said. Dozens of people stood up and walked out once Lange finished, not to protest him, but because Lange was the only reason they'd come to this show.
Dave Attell, up next, tried to get their attention with: "Who leaves a benefit early? A c*nt, that's who!" Attell tried tackling the tiger attack but the crowd had already heard that from Norton. But Attell turned it around with some choice one-liners and a strong bit about presidential candidates withdrawing early "for the good of the party."
That left it to Louis CK to bring the show home. After an opening line about masturbation, he had the audience in his hands for the next half-hour, with several of the honestly raw hits you'll see in his next "Chewed Up" special.
Fitzsimmons returned with a cardboard checking representing a $50,000 donation to the Meningitis Foundation of America, and said they should have another $20,000 to donate in the coming week. If you'd like to make a donation or learn more:
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