“If you have a good joke, then that is what protects you. The more clever or poignant that something is, the more willing the audience is to let you slide.”
Interviewing a comedian is tough. You know, I like to think that I am a funny guy. I am always able to find THE BEST birthday memes on Google. You stick to Ron Burgundy calling someone a “dirty pirate hooker” or the one about Don Draper drinking and everyone is happy. But then I sat down to have a conversation with someone whose career is the business of making people laugh and it made me realize that being a comedian is much more than just making a funny comment here or there. Making people laugh, over and over again, is no different than any other type of hard work; you learn and you build and you continue to bust your butt in order to perfect your craft.
Mike Falzone is immediately likable. That likability actually led to an argument between my wife and two year old daughter, when instead of doing what she was told and brushing her teeth, Peyton responded with, “Mommy stop! I’m talking to Mike!” He has this energy and enthusiasm, to go along with a voice that you would expect to hear on any sitcom, that keeps you interested in what he has to say. His ability to make you laugh is something that comes naturally and does not feel forced. Surprisingly, stand-up was not his first experience behind a microphone. “I was a musician for like sixteen years. I have been playing shows since I was about fourteen or fifteen.”
Over the last seven years Mike has made a gradual progression into the world of comedy. “Being from Connecticut, there aren’t a ton of places where you can go and try your stuff. Like there aren’t four or more places having open mic nights that you can hit up in a night like there is in New York or Los Angeles.” Although having to take an hour and half train ride to New York City to work on his routines made it difficult to maintain his focus, it has been the past two years where he has really been able to see an impact and turn comedy into a career. “After you tour and hit open mic nights and have earned your bumps, you have earned the right to call yourself a comedian.”
Being children of the early 1980’s, we were able to quickly agree on the incredible comedians we were able to experience at young ages, behind our parent’s backs of course. “I learned who Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Rodney Dangerfield, Steve Martin and all these other great comedians were just by going through my parents video tapes. We had this huge VHS collection of HBO’s Comic Relief and through that I just got to see people who have been popular since the 1970’s and still today. A lot of Richard Pryor and Robin Williams’ routines caught my eye, but obviously you don’t end up understanding most of the jokes until like fifteen years later. When I got older it was Mitch Hedberg and Dane Cook that really made an impact on me.” These days Mike tries not to watch too many other comics, but he points to Chris D’Elia (also Justin Bieber’s favorite comedian, according to his Comedy Central Roast) and Andrew Santino as two performers that he enjoys. “They both have such a natural way about them and they have been doing it for so long that they are just so good. You know that you can go to the club at any time and hear whatever they feel like saying that night and it is always an awesome experience.”
The question that immediately popped into my head when I found out I would be interviewing a comedian was to find out just how difficult it is to navigate through the overly PC culture that we are currently living in. “I feel like I don’t encounter the PC police that much in what I do. Even with my YouTube videos I have a rule of not talking about shit that I don’t know about. I just don’t think you should talk about something unless you have direct life experience on the subject.” Even with his personal philosophy, he believes that the world of comedy has to be that one place where you walk in having thicker skin. “The comedy club has to be a safe haven where we can all go and laugh at ourselves. A lot of people in there are sad and crazy, so we need to be able to talk and say the things that are taboo because it is funny.”
Other than making sure to only talk about topics that he knows about, his stand-up material is also shaped by some advice he was given early on in his career. “I was taught by Rebecca O’Brien, a big, loud comedian from a workshop I once took, that just because I am a white guy in my 20’s who is trying to be a comic, that I don’t have to be a dick. You never want to be hurtful and it gets iffy because you can’t control how people are going to take stuff. It is up to you how much you care about things like that and being a good person is caring and not wanting to hurt anyone. I think that really has played a big part in my jokes.”
The best place to currently find his material is on YouTube, with new videos being posted every Tuesday and Friday. His videos include a wide ranging list of topics that include his opinions, as well as useful advice (such as how it is NEVER acceptable to send someone dick pictures.) “A lot of the topics are driven by questions I have received in different inboxes from Tumblr, Facebook and my email. These are questions I have received from years and years back and now I just try and get to as many of them as possible. Now I just want to make stuff that is funny and helpful, even if it is some weird and abstract way, because I like making videos that help people. Even if it only helps one person.” Make sure to check out Mike’s video, Hotline Beard, with Beardbrand’s Eric Bandholz.
For those interested in catching more laughs from Mike Falzone, you will not have to search too hard to find him. Aside from actively planning a stand-up tour and having recently returned from the Tucson Comedy Festival, he can also be found on Twitter, in a copy of his book Never Stop Shutting Up: A Book of Advice and Other Things You Didn’t Ask For and on his very own App (just search his name in the App or Play Store depending on your phone) which contains the full collection of his stuff. Let’s face it, if someone has their own app, then they are probably pretty interesting.