An interview I did via email.
What do you wish someone had told you about show business before you entered it?
The the reason anyone wants to be in show business is based on psychological scars from childhood and/or an inability to get laid.
Where do you get your material?
I carry a notebook around and when I have an interesting thought, I write it down. I don't like sitting in front of a blank screen. I like to live my life and then catch ideas like a fisherman on Deadliest Catch will catch crabs. (Note: I do not have crabs. I have ideas. I swear!)
What happens if they don’t laugh?
You feel a tiny little puncture wound in your soul. Then you remember: They might be idiots. So you try it again. Then you realize they were not idiots. They were right.
How often do you perform comedy per week?
Plenty, but not enough.
What are you favorite comedy clubs that you perform at?
I really love New York Comedy Club. To me, it's the perfect size/energy for a show and feels like "real New York." And I love our show at Irish Exit because it's a real, back-of-the-bar, knife fight show.
How often do you write jokes?
I'm writing a little bit, all the time. Then I go through all my notes every week or two and refine. I write a lot onstage too. This is because I like ideas that come out in flow and also because I am lazy.
When did you feel like you were a pro comedian?
Words I don't like: professional, artist, genius, brilliant. I don't really know what they mean or where the line is. In life, I frequently don't know where the line is. Also, I don't think I should have ended those sentences with "is." There, I did it again. See, I don't understand lines!
How did you know you wanted to be a comedian or did it just happen?
I wanted to tell the truth. And I realized comedians get away with that more than anyone else. So I decided to figure out how they did that. Then I tried it and I fell into a rabbit hole.
Who would you say are your influences in the comedy world?
Louis, Rock, Stanhope, Carlin, Giraldo, Patrice, Norm.
What is one of your more embarrassing memories from childhood?
Once as a kid, I was on an airplane and took a dump and couldn't reach the toilet paper so I went back to the cabin to tell my father. The only problem: I never pulled my pants back up. The whole plane laughed at me. It's probably the cause of a lot of my emotional damage.
What are the most important rules you live by?
1) Everything in moderation, including moderation.
2) 80% of life is showing up.
What was your favorite book as a kid, and what does that say about you?
I loved Peanuts. Had tons of books with Snoopy and the crew. I love how Woodstock speaks in lines, I thrive on emotional melancholy, and I like when adults are inaudible.
What's the best advice you've ever gotten?
Stop reading the comments.
Given your feelings about the state of our culture, how do you avoid despair?
I don't think anything's really changed. We're just actually coming face to face with the sores and wounds that our culture's been good at hiding for so long. I see it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a society. Also: Weed.
What three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
Tom Petty's Greatest Hits, the Torah, and Bear Grylls.
Do you have any quotes that you live your life by or think of often?”
"Youth is wasted on the young."
-George Bernard Shaw
"A family is a dictatorship ruled over by its sickest member."
"If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough."
How to handle hecklers from the stage?
First: Ignore. Second: Talk to them. They'll usually hang themselves.
“What advice would you give your younger self?”
Be kinder to yourself and others. Also, enjoy your luscious head of hair.
What most important lesson you learned in comedy?
That people want you to be vulnerable and confident at the same time – but not too much of either.
Advice to your younger self just starting in comedy career?
The more it's art, the less it pays.
How long do you spend developing new material?
3 hours, 16 minutes, and 23 seconds per joke. No more, no less.
What’s your drink of choice?
The Yachtsman: Ketel, Soda, Grapefruit in a pint glass.
Greatest cartoon of all time?
Woody Woodpecker. The Captain Haddock ep: "If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened."
Who are your favorite comedians to watch?
In NYC, I love getting to see comics like Louis CK, Gary Gulman, Ted Alexandro, and Nick Griffin perform a lot. Great to see how they evolve over time and from set to set.
Do you have any heckler stories?
Actually, this intro from a host (totally real) was worse than any heckler:
The first rule of comedy is to not dig a hole, when you're the MC, is to not dig a hole for the comic who's coming up. Ya wanna bring it up. But we're all friends, we've all sort of bonded. So I wanna bring it up and everything like that.
I haven't done comedy in a while. I took like six months off. [To show producer in the back] Remember what happened? [Show producer yells out: "Yeah, your friend died."]
Yeah, my buddy, I don't know if you heard about it. Lt. Col. [his name], a good friend of mine, was killed in Afghanistan by an IED and he's the husband of my really good friend [gives her name]. Killed in Afghanistan. [Long pause.]
Coming to the stage now from New York City. [Laughs] Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be awesome? I'm kidding. Stop it. [Looks at me.] He's like, "No, no, no. No!" [Makes stretching sign with hands.]
[Note: He was NOT kidding about the dead friend. He was kidding about bringing me up after saying that. But then he did it anyway!]
This guy's funny. You guys are gonna love him. Matt Ruby.
Let’s say you could live the life of any animal in the wilderness for one day: What would it be?
I dig alligators. They seem smooth. Not their skin, their behavior. Also, koalas seem like they're having a good time.
So the stereotype of comedians being horribly depressed and neurotic is true?
Yes. But everyone is depressed and neurotic, we're just open about it.
Do you ever get tired of being a comedian?
You get tired doing anything over and over. But I get less tired of being a comedian than I do anything else.
So at the end of your day, what’s your ultimate goal?
Make stuff I'm proud of, work with people I admire, and get FAT STACKS OF CASH (alternatively, I will accept enlightenment).
What would you say troubles you the most about the world today?
The way random people on the internet can email you and get you to answer a bunch of personal questions. Scary!
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email email@example.com.
A Q&A with me (Matt Ruby) about important rules, avoiding despair, and cartoons
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