Everyone always says laughter is the best medicine. Amber J. Lawson, Jodi Lieberman, and Zoe Friedman figured out a way to channel the power of comedy in a way that would benefit others. In 2009, they began developing Transforming The World Through Comedy -- a 24-hour live stream of comedy performances. This year, the proceeds of their charity event will go to Off the Mat Into the World. Buzzine's Brian C. Janes sat down with the creators and performers of Transforming The World Through Comedy to find out exactly how they intend to change the world.
Brian C. Janes: Tonight is a charity event – Transforming the World Through Comedy. So apparently something is going to change through comedy, and it’s the world.
Ben Morrison: Yes, it’s the optimus prime of comedy shows.
BCJ: Excellent. How did you get involved with this charity?
BM: I got involved because I do a lot of work in the entertainment and charity community. I’ve worked with over 40 different charities; I was a finalist for Volunteer of the Year at the Classy Awards, and I try to do as much outreach through entertainment as possible by doing a number of my own projects, as well as a one-man show that I do called Pain in the Butt. I have Crohn’s Disease, and I do a one-man show about pooping called Pain in the Butt, which is an outreach tool for patients around the world at this point. So when I met the three foundresses, it was kind of love at first sight because this is totally what I’ve been building towards over the last two or three years, and it’s just been an amazing process of working with them and working with our tech team, who is on the ball. And we’re live in Chicago right now, and New York went off without a hitch, and we’re gonna go live in just under an hour here in Hollywood.
BCJ: Do you find that you have to adapt your act at all for charitable causes, or is it kind of similar?
BM: I find that, when you’re doing a charity-based show, if you have a tendency to work blue, it’s better to tone it down necessarily, just because the viewers are of all different age ranges and community sensibility, so to speak. So your comedy does affect the amount that’s actually given to the charity, so it’s good to put your best foot forward and just do a set that you’d do on Leno, basically, and keep it network-clean. But for the most part, there’s no real censorship. They haven’t asked us to alter our comedy in any way, but having done a number of these, it’s good to keep it good for the family. You know what I’m saying, Mom? She’s watching. I love you. Send money. [Laughs]
BCJ: Transforming the World Through Comedy is benefitting the Off the Mat Into the World yoga charity. Is this something you practice in your own life? Do you practice yoga?
BM: Yeah, I do a lot of movement, and I do a lot of stretching…naked, in the park. I just wear a little Speedo. A lot of guys put money in my pants, and that all goes to charity.
BCJ: Your pants or the money? [Laughs]
BM: Don’t. This interview is over. Yes, I do a lot of movement work, and I went to theater school, and then I got real drunk one night and apparently booked a standup gig, and began doing comedy. But in theater school, we had a lot of movement training, and yoga was just one of them. And Off the Mat and Into the World is a really amazing charity based in San Francisco that uses all their various techniques to raise money for sustainable charities throughout the world, with an emphasis on Africa and Haiti, and so far have raised over $1.5 million! So yes, I support them.
BCJ: How do you see comedy’s role in transforming the world?
BM: Quite a bit, frankly. Having done, geez, over 50 events over the last couple years, I’ve seen the look in the comedians’ eyes when they get off stage just telling jokes, and you’re like, “A) that was an amazing set, and B) we just raised ten grand for the charity because of your involvement.” And I think, in dealing with my own story of having Crohn’s, making jokes about what I was going through was the best possible way for me to come to grips with what was affecting me. And then we I did my first non-Crohn’s charity – it was actually I helped produce and launch the first Twestival, which was Twitter’s first multi-continent comedy event, and that was maybe two-and-a-half years ago – and it was for Charity Water, which is a really incredible clean water charity run by Scott Harrison, and we raised $25K in one night with a huge comedy show that had me and Joe Rogan…it was an amazing event. And I realized that that warm fuzzy feeling that I’d get when I’d do work for a charity that I was a part of is totally transferable to any other charity that happens to have a philanthropic outreach. So I think what’s happened so far with comedy and charity is fantastic, but I think where we can push it is even further. And tonight is a very good example of what’s possible. These are just people who banded together, everyone has donated their time, and we’ve live-streamed through three cities across the country, and I think this is a great model for what should happen over and over and over again between entertainers and the million different charities that need help.
BCJ: Who was your role model growing up, and who is your role model today?
BM: I have to say the person that really got me into comedy was Bill Hicks. I found him in high school, and his blatant honesty in the face of a country he felt was falling apart was always a medium between theater and standup that I always wanted to emulate. And I just listened to his records over and over and over again. When I was in high school, actually, we’re broadcasting live from the Hollywood Improv, and A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, hosted by Budd (Friedman), who began all the improvs, was on every night, and I’d pop a little cassette in – remember those? Cassettes? Yeah, I know. The little wheel. But I’d tape it every night and listen to the audio when I’d walk to school every day, and when I moved to Los Angeles, I just came to the Improv and it was kind of my home away from home. I joked that I have a time share in the back room, I’m here so much. And this is kind of my church, as it is for many entertainers – the one place you can go and just be yourself, and if you’re not funny and cool, get the hell out. But there’s no celebrity here. There’s just good people.
BCJ: If you didn’t have comedy for a career, what would your career be?
BM: Probably selling drugs. I’m kidding.
BCJ: The camera is not judging you.
BM: Yes it is.
BCJ: Okay, it is.
BM: The little Canon camera is just like, “Meh.” Screw you, 5D. I know what you’re thinking.
BCJ: We’ve got a couple of short, open-ended questions. You can answer them any way you want – seriously, funny – it’s up to you. The first one is: What’s good?
BM: Chocolate ice cream on a warm day, a woman that doesn’t freak out when I tell her I’m insane, my MacBook Pro, the Tempurpedic mattress I bought that vibrates, which is totally cheesoid, but man is it whoa. My pool. My little sister and mom and dad. And feeling good about not being a doucher.
BCJ: Finally, aside from comedy, what does the world need now?
BM: Given that it’s November and we probably have like a year and one month before it all goes kablooey, we need a lot more comedy shows. We need everyone to send me money, which I’ll then give to the charity – most of it. Send it over. We need more people like you guys – Buzzine.com. We need more of that! Buzzine.com. We need you to join me on facebook/benmorrison. Or look at my website, benmorrison.org. Or go to twtcomedy.com and donate, then go to benmorrison.org. And we need more of this really. This is the future of entertainment and charity. You’re witnessing it live right now, and it’s really inspiring to be a part of it on such an amazing level. The founders are incredible, and I’ve really got to say it’s very much impressed me. The balls and dedication it took to realize their crazy vision in such a fantastically successful way. Give money! Off the Mat and Into the World! Then go to my website. Buzzine.com. Give more money. More!
Zoe Friedman, Amber J. Lawson & Jodi Lieberman
Brian C. Janes: What were you saying about Zoe?
Jodi Lieberman: Zoe grew up in comedy.
Amber J. Lawson: She’s comedy royalty and we’re lucky to be partners with her for Transforming the World Through Comedy.
Zoe Friedman: I’m lucky to have them as partners. Yeah, my parents started The Improv, so we got a good deal right here at The Improv. They’re nice to us. But I have great partners, and we kind of came up with this idea called Transforming the World Through Comedy one night downstairs, a couple of drinks in.
AJL: [Laughs] The best ideas come from…
ZF: That’s right. Our lives are truly elevated because we’re around so much laughter and we have so much comedy in our lives – it’s certainly our livelihood. I think it’s part of my health and relationships with people, and we wanted to share those gifts with the world. And I guess…I don’t know how much longer – two years later?
JL: Two years. It took us two years in the making.
BCJ: How did this charity come to fruition?
JL: We’re comedy gals and we love comedy. We’re all working the business, and one day we were sitting and talking, and we decided to “transform the world through comedy.”
AJL: Right. It was kind of a thought of mine for a really long time, and then we all came together and came up with this format, which ultimately will be 24 hours around the globe starting in New Zealand, and hitting every time zone live-streamed. So a multi-city, multi-platform, global comedy event that partners with a catalytic philanthropy. So this year we’re benefitting Off the Mat Into the World.
ZF: So catalytic philanthropy is an idea that I think is what our partner with Off the Mat Into the World is doing, and basically they’re creating a sustainable change in the world. So they have initiatives all around the world – as far away as Haiti, Uganda, and as close as here in LA -- they have a youth empowerment group in downtown LA. So they’re very widespread, and we wanted to sort of partner with them, because as we are using comedy to transform, they’re using yoga to transform and train these leaders globally to motivate, activate their communities, and to help create sustainable change – not just “here’s some money, here’s some water,” but how can we microfinance small businesses? How do we make sure water stays filtered? How do we make sure these children have education – not just after the earthquake… I mean, the reason, I think, they decided to be in Haiti this year is because still, in 2010, there’s a homeless population and all the aid has stopped because it was three years ago. So I love the idea that they’re still creating this sustainable change, and that’s where we want to go and partner with ideas like that and charities like that.
BCJ: So Off the Mat – there’s a yoga tie-in. Do any of you practice yoga?
ZF: I do. I’m the guilty one. [Laughs]
AJL: I’m more of a jazzercise girl.
JL: I’m a Pilates and Bar Method girl, but we’ll do yoga.
BCJ: You put it on Zoe with such disdain.
JL: Is our yoga girl. No…
ZF: I read about it, in Yoga Journal, that they do these challenges each year, and it was this challenge to raise money for Haiti, and we called and they seemed like a really good match, and we had a great time trying to put this all together.
JL: For us, it’s really important to know where our money is going and what’s happening, like an end result instead of just giving money and now knowing where it goes. That was important for us and for our Transforming the World Through Comedy organization.
ZF: And I love yoga, and yoga is the best thing ever. [Laughs] So jazzercise, Pilates ladies…
AJL: You can frown on us.
JL: And next year we get to go global. We get to go around the world, starting in New Zealand, Australia, the Middle East, the UK…
JL: And then Canada and the States.
ZF: London, and back here.
JL: And do 24 hours of laughter.
AJL: You’re 24 hours of laughter, Jodi.
JL: I am, aren’t I? I’m just a BALL of laughter.
BCJ: How do you see comedy’s role in transforming the world? You already talked about the Off the Mat organization transforming the world through sustainable charity. How do you see comedy’s role in that?
JL: Well it’s global; it brings the world together. Laughter is a global language.
ZF: But I also think you can show a PSA that has starving children, and I think that can be impactful and motivate you to give money, but I do think there is something to… People understand there are grave situations out there, but we can laugh too and elevate, and open ourselves up to giving in a different way, rather than be motivated by fear or showing these pictures. And I think comics use their tool of comedy to transform their pain, so I think it goes perfectly hand in hand.
AJL: Yeah, laughter elevates. It just give you a buzz, Buzzine.
BCJ: How does success define a project like this?
AJL: The fact that we got over 100,000 views off of the live-stream is definitely a milestone of success. The fact that we were able to pull off three cities live-streaming with A-list talent, which I believe is an entirely new way that comedy is going to be delivered, I think we set the bar as to what people can expect, and we created an opportunity for comics to make money on their own material, and give back.
JL: And the audiences had a great time, and the comics had a great time, and we raised money for Off the Mat Into the World. We’re ecstatic. We got them out there, and all in all, I think we had a very successful night.
BCJ: Who is your favorite comedian?
JL: We can’t say.
AJL: How do you pick your favorite child?
ZF: I can say that Ben Morrison did an awesome job for us because to be the spokesperson and to have to message and be the business police is a really really hard job, and he did it with great enthusiasm, and I’m so appreciative for that. And I think he did a great job…
JL: He had to be funny and deliver a message…
ZF: And to, “Donate,” and he didn’t make it sound too terrible to go donate. He made it funny when he said, “Click down here on my crotch,” kind of keeping it light. But it’s a hard job, but they all did great. And I can’t wait to go home and watch the stream of New York and Colin Quinn and Tom Papa and Bobby Slayton and Dwayne Kennedy, who moved from LA, who I haven’t seen perform and he’s on our Chicago show. So I’m excited for that.
BCJ: So the stream is going to be available…
Everyone: For a week…
JL: Until next Wednesday.
ZF: It’s at twtcomedy.com – at our website.
BCJ: What’s next for Transforming the World Through Comedy?
Everyone: We’re going global…
AJL: …in 2012, so the ultimate idea of this format is that we take it 24 hours from every time zone around the globe, starting in New Zealand, and then going Sydney and each time zone…
JL: Ending probably in Hawaii. Maybe we’ll be there next year.
ZF: I’ll be there for that one.
AJL: And I’ll be in Australia. [Laughs] So that’s the ultimate goal – to expand next year – and we hope to announce a date very soon.
BCJ: Any closing words from any of you?
AJL: It’s really amazing to see what was just an idea of three chicks come to fruition and affect as many people as it has. The fact is is we reached well over 100,000 people tonight, and it’s only gonna amplify from there, so the fact that laughter was able to touch potentially…
ZF: …all those people, yeah…
AJL: And then also change people’s lives and we have no idea who we touched tonight – I think that’s profound.
Brian C. Janes: Transforming the World Through Comedy -- how did you get involved in it?
Jeffrey Ross: A couple friends asked me – they were the organizers. Sometimes you just hear a cool idea and you want to go on a new adventure.
BCJ: Do you find that you have to adapt or change your routine when you’re performing at a charity event?
JR: No. If they can’t take it…there’s no subtleties at these charity events. Times are tough out there. You’ve got to just go for it.
BCJ: Transforming the World Through Comedy is benefitting Off the Mat and Into the World – a yoga-based organization. Do you yourself practice yoga?
JR: I do. I love yoga. I do.
BCJ: How did you get into yoga?
JR: Louis C.K. told me about it. And he’s very cynical, and I figured, if it worked for him, it might work for me. And I feel good. I feel an inch taller when I do yoga.
BCJ: You are known for your brutal roasts, which I just recently saw the Charlie Sheen Roast – very entertaining. I loved it. Beautiful. Have you ever felt the need to apologize to anybody after a roast?
JR: No. I never go too far where I feel like I have to apologize. People know these jokes come from a place of affection, so nobody gets insulted for real. It might be shocking to hear, but I don’t think anything stays with them too much.
BCJ: It’s kind of like they’re mentally prepared going in. And if they are surprised, then they didn’t properly prepare.
JR: Yeah, they should be prepared – mentally, physically…
BCJ: How do you distinguish between Jeff Ross the brutal roast master and Jeff Ross the charitable entertainer?
JR: The brutal roast master would not sit for this interview. [Laughs] The charitable guy is here after a job well done. What could I possibly say here that I didn’t say way better on stage when I sang and did it, and healing the world, transforming the world through laughter… I leave it all on the stage. I’ll let you guys interpret it as you will.
BCJ: How do you view comedy’s role in changing the world?
JR: One laugh at a time. And groans count.
Brian C. Janes: How did you get involved with Transforming the World Through Comedy?
Mark Maron: Someone sent me an email and asked me to do it, so I said, “Okay. If it’s going to change the world, I will be part of it.” That’s how I got involved with Transforming the World Through Comedy. I was asked nicely by a person I like.
BCJ: Do you find that you have to change or adapt your routine when you’re performing at a charity event?
MM: I didn’t. I was filthy, a little bit. I said f*ck. Talked about graphic things. Was I supposed to? Hey look, whatever makes people laugh. I don’t think the people that the charity is to benefit are going to not take the charity based on any of my jokes, if you’re asking me that. So I asked if I could do those things, and I was told I could. So I went ahead and did them.
BCJ: Transforming the World Through Comedy is benefitting Off the Mat and Into the World, which is a yoga-based charity.
MM: Yeah, I happen to know the person in charge of that.
BCJ: Do you yourself practice yoga?
MM: I have. I haven’t lately, but I talked to the woman, Seane (Corn), and she said maybe she’ll hook me up, so this has been a charity for me as well. I will be doing yoga as her charity to me, while my comedy helped people in Haiti.
BCJ: So it’s working in reverse – they’re getting you out of the world, onto a yoga mat…
MM: Yeah, perhaps. We’ll try to make that happen. I’ve got to make that time. It takes time, you know. About 90 minutes. You’ve got to stand still for a long time in awkward positions and believe that it’s a good thing, and not get aggravated. That’s the lesson. Stand still, work through it, don’t freak out. I’m not always a master of that.
BCJ: It’s tough to do for sure.
MM: I’m having a hard time right now.
BCJ: [Laughs] You’re doing a good job. So your comic style is generally sardonic and misanthropic. Do you feel that those traits transform the world?
MM: Yeah, they usually do in some degree. Well, sardonic and misanthropic mean provocative, so if you’re challenging, usually it will yield some sort of resolution, right? Somewhere on someone’s part, so that resolution can be kind of uplifting, enlightening, at least thought-provoking; that means change.
BCJ: You have interviewed a number of comedians yourself. Who would you say is transforming the world through comedy?
MM: I don’t know any comic that’s not transforming the world with their comedy. If you can make people laugh, they’re entering something relatively positive in the world. If you can make people laugh and enable them to see something differently than they used to, then you’re definitely changing things. I think the general direction of making people laugh, for whatever reason, is usually transformative, or at least relieving and can be mind-blowing, so that’s good. All those things are transformative buzz words.
BCJ: When you were growing up, who was your role model, and who is your role model today?
MM: I picked a lot of bad ones growing up. There’s always Keith Richards, William Burroughs, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen… There’s a couple good ones in there. They’re all pretty good for different reasons. Who’s my role model now? I don’t know, man. I’ve got a lot of respect for a lot more people than I used to, so I think people that hang in there and generally work hard and honor themselves and do a good job at it are usually good role models.
BCJ: Considering where you are today, they weren’t such bad role models growing up.
MM: It was touch-and-go for a while, but yeah, they were all right. I’ve got other ones, but they’re not anyone that anyone would know.
BCJ: If you weren’t doing comedy, what would your career be?
MM: I don’t know, dude. I had to think about that for real a couple years ago. There wasn’t really a Plan B in place. It was a grim path. I had no choice really. I didn’t think. I don’t know. I’d probably be teaching something. I’d probably fool some school into letting me teach something.
BCJ: A couple of open-ended questions. Answer them however you want. What’s good?
MM: I had good Mexican food before I came here. Cacao in Highland Park. It’s very good. And Puffins – the cereal – is good. And my cat Boomer. Pretty good. People, I think, are generally good.
BCJ: Finally, aside from comedy, what does the world need now?
MM: A reasonable working wage and some sort of integrity to the system. Reasonable regulations so people don’t get f*cked. And probably better food in general. It just seems like good food is hard to get, and everybody should be able to get good food.
Brian C. Janes: Tonight, Transforming the World Through Comedy is doing a thing to benefit Off the Mat and Into the World. How did you get involved in this?
Neil Brennan: I’ve been transforming the world through comedy my whole life. No, they just asked me three or four days ago. Somebody must have cancelled, so they came scrounging, looking for me. That’s generally the way it works. You know, when you’re invited to something late, that somebody cancelled. Although I was right on the cusp of whether it was late or not.
BCJ: Do you find that you have to adapt your routine when it’s a charity event?
NB: No, I actually didn’t. I’ve found that my meanest jokes work the best. You would think that my more charitable joke would work. I had one about…and it work, but my meanest ones get the biggest response.
BCJ: Financially or laughter?
NB: Financially I can’t speak to. I don’t know how much money I made. I’m gonna go on record to say I probably raised a ton of money.
BCJ: Transforming the World Through Comedy is benefitting Off the Mat and Into the World, which is a yoga-based organization.
NB: Is it yoga-based?
BCJ: It’s derived from yoga, yes. Do you practice yoga yourself?
NB: I have in the past. My basic problem with yoga is the yogis. I like the poses themselves; I don’t like it with yoga teachers -- who are generally sort of spacey, impractical people – try to give me like a spiritual lesson based on something they thought of on the way over. And you just want to go, “Let’s just do the poses. I don’t need to know that you got cut off in traffic. I don’t want to know what Yogi Budgen once said. Just tell me how to stand. Tell me how to make myself uncomfortable in a hot room.” That’s Bikram, in a hot room. Bikram (Choudhury), who was a guy in the ‘70s. He just was like, “We should do yoga, but close the door.” And he made it 98 degrees.
BCJ: You mentioned earlier that you’ve been using comedy to transform the world…
NB: I can’t say that I have, but I do believe in slightly activist comedy. I like Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope, Dave, Chris Rock – guys that have something of a pointed message. I believe that, in my own life, standup has helped shape my thinking more than anything else – no movie, no thing has…like standup. Jon Stewart can affect as much change as any voting block in Congress. So I’m of the mind that doing standup is a good way to prosthelytize about sh*t you care about.
BCJ: What do you care about the most?
NB: I care about yoga. [Laughs] No, I just care about social justice. I care about people. I care about fairness. So that’s corny coming out of an old fool, but I’m obsessed with fairness. Dave Chapel said that about me a long time ago: “I’ve never met someone more obsessed with fairness.” You know when you’re a kid and they make a sandwich, and they’re like, “One of you cuts it and the other one gets to pick it?” That blew my mind. I was like, “This is a perfect system.” [Laughs] And I’ve been to the Occupy LA, so I’m on the right side of the law, as it were.
BCJ: Who was your role model growing up, and who is your role model now?
NB: I guess my role models growing up would be my brothers, and nowadays my role model is Brett Ratner. That’s gonna age well, that joke, seeing as it barely worked just now, and the story is three days old. Whatever.
BCJ: If you weren’t doing comedy as a career, what would you be doing?
NB: Directing. Next question. And I’d do that on the set. I’m directing an episode of The New Girl next month, guys, on Fox.
BCJ: A couple of quick, open-ended questions, and you can answer them however you’d like: What’s good?
NB: It’s all good.
BCJ: Aside from comedy, what does the world need now?
NB: I believe that women have got to start having sex with dudes that are charitable. That was the thing in the ‘60s. You know who Woodstock and they were protesting the war – you know why that took off? Because there was *ss. You could get some *ss while you’re down there. Now it’s like, “Eh…” Let’s sexualize it. That’s my point. There was *ss. Looking back on the ‘60s, that’s what everybody agrees to: there was *ss. The pill was there, people were high on reefer, no STDs. It was literally a magical time. The fact that they were protesting anything is amazing. They didn’t know how good they had it. The pill, weed, and no STDs.
BCJ: With all the weed, it’s just surprising they had the motivation to get up.
NB: That’s the other thing. But it was weak. Back then, it was weak grass, bro.
Brian C. Janes: You’re here tonight supporting a charity – Transforming the World Through Comedy…
Wayne Federman: Is that the charity?
BCJ: It is the charity. Transforming the World Through Comedy is benefitting the charity Off the Mat and Into the World.
WF: Right. That’s what I thought the charity was. But Transforming the World Through Comedy isn’t a charity. That’s just an organization that what?
BCJ: That’s an excellent point that I’m not 100% sure on.
WF: All right, we’re learning! No, they said on stage tonight, because I know that Off the Mat is like a yoga…and that they’re raising money for yoga in Haiti. I guess. I’m not sure what they are.
BCJ: I was just going to ask you how you got involved in this whole thing?
WF: I was downstairs doing a set for this charity, and then Zoe Friedman was like, “Why don’t you come upstairs and talk to you guys,” so I just came up here for this.
BCJ: And here you are.
WF: So I’m here, talking. I assume the audio is good. We’re at The Improv here – one of the clubs I started at.
BCJ: Do you have to adapt or change your routine at all when you’re doing a routine for a charity event like this?
WF: It all depends how much time I have to do, but not really. I’m a very clean comedian, so it’s not like I would do anything that’s super offensive. It’s not like, “Oh my God, my regular set is crazy f-bombs all over the place,” or something like that. So no.
BCJ: As we just discussed, Transforming the World Through Comedy is benefitting Off the Mat, which is a yoga organization. Do you practice yoga?
WF: I do not practice yoga. I tried it once, and it hurt, and that was the end of it for me.
BCJ: Do you have a preferred method for exercising that’s not yoga?
WF: I play basketball. That’s my preferred method. But I’ve seen people who absolutely have transformed their own body using yoga, no doubt about it. But I said in there: it’s weird we’re doing a benefit for yoga because just this afternoon there was a Pilates fundraiser at The Comedy Store. [Laughs]
BCJ: It looks like there’s competition between The Comedy Store for exercise…
WF: Yeah, and then at The Laugh Factory, they’re doing something for elliptical machines. Apparently there’s something wrong with them. I’m not sure.
BCJ: How do you see comedy’s role in changing the world?
WF: I don’t know. I just feel like comedy is more like a mirror to the world. This is going to sound stupid, but we just kind of reflect the world more than change it. And I’m a little less than others, but I do feel like comedians are a little like truth-tellers in the society. They’re allowed to say things that other people are maybe thinking but would feel like, “Oh, I don’t want to say that.”
BCJ: So a good way to change something is to point out what needs changing?
WF: Or maybe just want to make fun of it. I feel like the number-one job of the comedian is to make people laugh. I feel like that’s a noble enough goal as it is. More than anything – more than transforming anyone…just making them laugh is hard to do. That’s my opinion. Sorry to get on my soapbox, which this isn’t even a box… I don’t know why people need to get on soapboxes. Are they stronger than any other kind of box? Do you have any idea?
BCJ: Maybe a height thing?
WF: The height? The soapboxes are bigger…
BCJ: Bigger than an apple box?
WF: Maybe. That’s a good question.
BCJ: Who was your role model growing up, and who is your role model now?
WF: I don’t know if I had… I mean, I would idolize or try to emulate other comedians or performers or something like that, but I don’t have a specific role model… That’s a good question. I don’t know.
BCJ: If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing for a career?
WF: Oh! I think I would be probably teaching.
BCJ: Teaching what?
WF: That’s a good question. Maybe history or English – other stuff that I’m interested in. So I don’t know. Ask me that question again.
BCJ: If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing for a career?
WF: I’d be doing improv. That’s a pretty good joke.
BCJ: Well done.
WF: Thank you. I just came up with it.
BCJ: A couple of quick questions that are very open-ended, so answer them however you’d like…as opposed to all the other questions you’ve already answered. What’s good?
WF: Well, I think…that’s a loaded question. Obviously life, I would say, is good. I would say food. I’d say love. And that’s a good question. I don’t know. All of those things. Living. I would say being alive is good. Ask me that again.
BCJ: What’s good?
WF: What is good is being alive. That’s better than not being alive. That’s just a weird philosophy I have. Between the two… And I understand sometimes life is tough and people kill themselves, but I feel like being alive is good. What do you think? You don’t know. All right.
BCJ: [Laughs] I haven’t experienced the alternative, so I don’t really have an opinion.
WF: Right, but you know you will, right?
BCJ: True. What choice do I have?
WF: I know. It’s interesting. We all know that, yet we’re just gonna pretend we don’t know that.
BCJ: Right. It’s how we survive. So you mentioned earlier that you got your start here at the Hollywood Improv…
WF: Yeah, in LA. This was the club that I worked for, yeah.
BCJ: Do you have a highlight from your start in comedy specifically here?
WF: Yeah, when I was starting out, the big goal of a comedian was to get on The Tonight Show, and I auditioned here, and the guy who was booking the show okay’d my set, which meant that I would get on the show, and he told me right over there at one of those tables. It was really fun.
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