Ted Alexandro on letting jokes breathe

Michael Stahl interviews Ted Alexandro. Ted on why he allows jokes to “breathe”:

I was probably more of a “joke writer” in the early going, shorter jokes, less stories, but I was always pretty comfortable with silence. I learned a lot from working with Louis CK that being interesting, being intriguing, and engaging the listener is as important as being funny. At this stage, after almost twenty years, I know how to be funny. So, now it’s more about figuring out what I want to say and how I want to say it. Can I show more humanity? More colors? To me, doing what I do is more interesting than just joke, joke, joke. You always go with what you’re drawn to. And now I’m more drawn to being human, being interesting, still being funny, of course, that’s the job, but I like engaging with people and letting them see me think and then it becomes more like a conversation. There are pauses in conversation, there are people searching for the right words, so, yeah, I try to be more organic with my presentation.

Something else about the patience Ted (or Todd Barry) shows onstage: It makes them stand out from other comics.

Also, Ted's advice to new comics:

You’re not getting into a business, you’re getting into a lifestyle. That’s my approach. Others might differ in their opinion, but in the first five years it’s not going to be much of a business anyway because you’re not going to be making any money. [Laughs] It’s going to be a failing business that will put you in a hole. It has to be something that you have to do, you don’t have any choice, you know? It has to be “in you.” Then do it, keep doing it and put yourself into the mindset that it’s a job. Go to the work environment. Go to comedy clubs, even if you’re not performing. I was just at one last night after a set; I just stopped in with a friend to see a show at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. Here we are, fifteen or twenty years in, and we’re just going to watch a show. Go to the workplace; you’re going to learn something, develop relationships. I didn’t realize this initially, but the people you build relationships with early on may very well last your whole career. You have a special kinship with the guys you started with, that you were in the trenches with, that you were doing these shitty open mics with. So start that journey and the rest of it will work itself out, the money will work itself out. Where you land, whether you become an actor or writer, you do videos, you do songs, or whatever you do, all of that is going to work itself out through the relationships you make. It’s all very mystical. How does it all come together? Who knows? But you have to be present, put the work in, the time in, and, essentially, try not to think too far ahead.

"You have a special kinship with the guys you started with." Reminded me of an interview I heard with Jim Gaffigan where he was discussing Greg Giraldo. In my mind, those guys seem like such opposite people. But from Jim's stories, you could sense just how tight they were due to coming up in NYC together. It's akin to soldiers: The people you're in the trenches with are the only ones who truly know what it's like.


Unknown said...

I enjoyed that a lot!

Kevin S. said...

I saw Alexandro at the early Cellar show tonight. This was exactly what I was thinking about as I watched him. He's not afraid to let a statement hang there, giving you a chance to nearly catch up with him before he turns.

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