Interview: The Beards of Comedy

By | March 18, 2011 at 9:55 am | One comment | Features | Tags: , , , ,

Beards of Comedy

The Beards: TJ Young, Joe Zimmerman, Andy Sandford and Dave Stone

The Beards of Comedy tour is one of the funniest collections of bushy faces that have ever trekked across the United States. Comprised of comedians Andy Sandford, Joe Zimmerman, T.J. Young and Dave Stone, the Beards are four dudes with very different styles that share one, common goal- to make you laugh.

The four-piece laugh machine is hitting the road again from March 22 – April 6; check out their official site for all the details. For now, check out the below conversation we recently had with the Beards!

You guys recently completed a 10 city West Coast tour. Twelve dates in 12 nights sounds pretty grueling. Was it?
Dave: Yeah… It was grueling but fun. We were in a Tahoe much of the time.

Joe: It was, but believe it or not, I actually felt pretty well rested by the end of the tour. It wasn’t too bad having four guys switching off driving duties. The challenge was driving through the night a couple of times to do T.V. in the morning.

What was the best thing about the tour?
Dave: Just seein’ all those cool cities that me personally, I’d never been to.

Joe: Kyle Kinane doing a guest set in Los Angeles and just meeting and hanging out with a bunch of other great comics in different cities.

Andy: Also seeing that our show works on the other side of the country was pretty validating I guess.

Dave: Up until then it had just been a regional thing, mainly Southeast, little bit of Northeast stuff but never out West so it was nice to know that it translates out there. Granted it was the same country and all… (chuckles)

T.J.: We’re based in the South and we’re comedians from the South but we never consider ourselves “Southern” comedians.

Dave: Yeah, we don’t do “Southern” comedy, even though sometimes, we get billed as such.

T.J.: But it’s still nice to get that validation that oh, it’s not “Southern” humor, it’s just humor.

What city do you think you received the best reception?
Andy: L.A. was probably one of our favorites.

T.J.: Seattle was a really good crowd.

Andy: Seattle was a really great crowd but L.A., umm… was more like…comedy nerds. Like they laughed and they listened, probably our favorite stop on the tour.

Dave: But Seattle was a really good show too.

Joe: We had 350 students come out to our show at Eastern New Mexico University and that was a nice surprise. We didn’t know if we’d have 10 students or what so that was great having such a large audience at our first gig of the trip. Especially since we’d just driven through 3 hours of tumbleweeds, literally tumbleweeds, then we get to this huge auditorium and they treated us like super stars.

What was it like having Brian Regan pop in at your Washington gig, do a set then party with him afterwards?
Joe: That was a really big highlight of the tour for me, getting to hang out with one of my heroes.

Andy: It was a pretty big deal. We got to the point where we thought he may come through afterwards but he got there while the show was still going on.

T.J.: I walked over to him and asked if he wanted to do a guest set, then he paused and I was like….uh oh…I asked the wrong question. Then he was like “No,no….I’m thinkin’ about it” and then he said “Sure, I’ll do it.”

Dave: And that was kind of a small show anyways that night, not a big crowd, maybe 30 or 40 and I saw him the whole time I was on stage. Through my whole act I kept saying to myself “Ohhh…there’s Brian Regan…right…there.”

Didn’t he invite you back on his tour bus after the show?
Dave: Oh yeah, couldn’t have been any nicer, just a real down to earth dude.

Did that kind of put it in your heads, like this is what it could be like someday?
Dave: We were definitely daydreaming a little bit on that tour bus.

Joe: Brian Regan’s really at the top of the food chain when it comes to comedy and individually, I don’t see me achieving that on my own. But as a group, yeah I could see The Beards, 5-10 years down the road getting some kind of tour vehicle together.

Would you be happy with a career like Regan’s, just being a touring comedian or do you want “the show” and all that?
Andy: Oh you never know, but definitely wouldn’t be unsatisfied with that result.

Dave: Yeah, we respect him because he’s one of the few guys who’ve reached that level of success without movies and television.

Joe: Regan’s career is probably one of my favorites, just getting to do what he does and having a crowd that loves it, coming out to see just him. It’s ideal. Just pick whatever towns you want to go to then…. sell them out.

None of you are shy when it comes to talking about your love of food. What was the best meal you had on tour?
Andy: Dim sum in San Francisco.

Dave: Yes, definitely dim sum. T.J. wasn’t at that dinner so he probably has a different answer. Wadda ya think (to T.J.), Mexican food in L.A.?

T.J.: Well it was decidedly NOT prime rib in Vegas. However, it was probably the cheapest prime rib I’ve ever had.

Joe, reading the blogs from the trip, it’s obvious that you’re an amazing comedic writer. Do you think you’ll ever shift gears and go into that full time someday?
Joe: Yeah, well writing is what actually got me interested in stand up. I love writing creatively and doing stand up is the first thing where I’ve figured out how to make a living at it. Honestly, my favorite part of doing comedy is sitting down in the morning and writing new material. I enjoy that more than standing up in front of a room full of strangers.

Famous or otherwise, who has been the biggest influence on your comedy?
Joe: Well the first CD. I ever listened to before going into comedy was Mitch Hedberg so that sort of got me interested in stand up. Once I got going, I started listening to a lot of Steve Martin’s CDs and read his book. I really love his career, how he writes, plays the banjo and does stand up. He’s so inventive and original. Most recently I’d say Marc Maron after listening to him on his WTF podcast.

T.J.: My friends really have played a big part in that. I grew up around a lot of jokesters.

Andy: I’d say a lot of comics who are just above us in the level of what they’re doing. People that aren’t huge yet, like Kyle Kinane and Shane Mauss. They’re people that I know and they inspire me.

Dave: I have to agree with T.J. It sounds like a cheap way out, but it’s my friends. The people that influence me the most are just the one’s I’m around every day because those are the guys I’m interacting with. Our sensibilities are the same and we absorb each other’s sense of humor. As far as big comics go, I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by them because our styles aren’t similar. We’re all huge Louis C.K. fans though. But there are tons of great comics in Atlanta. We’re very fortunate to be real close with dozens of great comedians.

T.J.: And I think that’s why this tour works so well because we are influencing each other. We’re always around each other, building this thing together so we’re all growing as comedians at the same time and we’re all in the same place. Not exactly developing the same voice, but it makes the tour that much more cohesive.

How many times will you try a joke before you give up on it?
Dave: I’m pretty committed to what I think is funny. If it makes the stage, then I believed in at some point. I’ll try a joke at least 20 times and it has to bomb that many times in a row before I’ll say I’m done with it.

Andy: And we’ll put different twists on it.

Dave: Yeah, that’s the thing. If it doesn’t work we’re always trying to tweak it, adjust it, so it’s not like we’re doing the same version of the same joke that bombs over and over.

Andy: If you really think there’s something funny to it, maybe you’re just not getting it across the right way.

T.J.: I don’t always do it “in a row” like that. Like if it’s not working, I’ll put it aside for little while then try it in a completely different place and see if it goes over better. If you’re honest, you never put it to bed. If you thought it was funny at some point, then there’s an audience that probably will too.

Joe: I’ll usually give it 15 times. Sometimes I’ll do a joke and it gets a good response, but I’ll put it away just because I don’t feel like doing it again.

How did the four of you meet?
Dave: Just doing shows in Atlanta. Andy and I started here, T.J. started in Athens but he was constantly coming to Atlanta.

Andy: Joe started in Asheville but when he started to branch out, the first place he went was Atlanta.

Dave: We would run in to each other doing shows, eventually became friends then just kinda got the idea to do this thing.

Before you joined forces, Dave, Andy and T.J. were all rocking beards by choice. Joe grew his to fit into the tour. Do you feel that there is any follicular resentment on his part?
Dave: (laughs) Follicular resentment is a great term.

T.J.: I didn’t but I do now. That is, now that I know that term exists.

Dave: Nah….I don’t think so. He knows his beard sucks.

Joe: It was the first beard I ever grew, so I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t come in well but I’ve been really happy with it. I tend to feel more comfortable having it now. I’ve had several people tell me I look better with a beard which is kind of like saying that I look better when my face is covered up. Dave has a perfect Civil War era beard, mine doesn’t quite stand out like his but I’m happy with the modesty of it.

In regards to comedians – Judd Apatow has been quoted as saying “Anyone who needs the world to love them and goes out in the middle of the night to get up on stage and hear laughs from 30 to 200 people, multiple times a week, is working through something.” Would you all agree with that statement?
Andy: I don’t know. Maybe subconsciously in some way but I don’t think about it much.

Dave: Yeah, I don’t think so either. Maybe subconsciously and I haven’t dug that deep into my own psyche yet, but for me personally, I don’t think it’s an attention thing. I just truly know that I’m funny and have a unique perspective.

Andy: It’s more like, I can think of stuff that will make people laugh, it’s kind of its own thing.

Dave: It’s just a desire to make people laugh. Not “Oh love me, accept me”, I don’t really give a shit about that. I just know that I have the ability to make strangers laugh and I enjoy that challenge.

Joe: I don’t really relate to that. I do comedy because I love creative writing and I enjoy hanging out with funny people. I don’t really do it because I have issues. Often I’m the kind of person who would be just as happy to NOT get in front of 100 strangers. Sometimes I have to force myself into that performance mode.

So comedy is like a sport for you guys?
Andy: Yeah.

Dave: I’d say so.

T.J.: I enjoy it that way too but I know there were specific times when I was definitely “working through” something. I didn’t necessarily write material about what I was dealing with but there were certainly things going on in my personal life that made me feel like it would be really good for me to get up on stage and still be able to do this. Just in the midst of whatever crap was going on. In that sense, I don’t know if comedy saved my life but there are times when that kind of experience with an audience helped me on a personal level.

Dave: And I will say this…in a mild mannered way….comedy did save my life in the sense that I spent my whole life up until this point trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to do. I wasn’t passionate about anything. Success or not, I know what I’m doing for the rest of my days.

Along the same lines, Jerry Seinfeld says that you have to be extremely irritated with just about everything in order to be great at comedy. Do you feel there is any truth in that?
Dave: Oh yeah, you’ve got to have opinions.

Andy: You’ve got to be able to not just go “Ahhh …that sucks”, you have to look into it and make it funny.

Dave: You don’t ever accept anything. Like “Well…that’s just the way things are”, you have to say “I disagree with that and I’m gonna talk about it.”

T.J.: I would amend that to say that you at least have to understand why everything could be irritating. I’m not exactly irritated by everything, but I can appreciate what irritates other people.

Living or Dead…..best beard ever?
Dave: Oh, well….Robert E. Lee had a pretty badass beard. Mine’s kinda the confederate type beard.

T.J.: How bout never living? I think Yosemite Sam’s was pretty cool. Not exactly a beard, more like muttonchops, stops at the chin but still pretty sweet.

Andy: Mine’s more local. Jeff from the Star Bar here in Atlanta that runs the karaoke, his is pretty awesome.

Joe: I’m gonna go mythical and say Gandalf the Grey.

T.J.: My B. answer is Demi Moore for marrying Ashton Kutcher. Best beard EVER.

Dave’s done hysterical bits about his days as a radio DJ in Athens. What are some other jobs you guys held before going into comedy full time?
Dave: I also owned a landscaping company right before doing this.

Andy: I was a legal courier and I used to valet cars and shit, just random crap that I didn’t care about.

T.J.: I was and still am a graphic designer.

Joe: Most recently, through Americorps, I helped start a coffee shop for Habitat for Humanity. Before that, I was going to be a pro golfer. I was hardcore college golf but once I got out, decided I wanted to do something more creative.

Dave, tonight during your introduction they said you were going to be on a couple of episodes of Squidbillies next season. Do you know the names of those episodes so we can be on the lookout?
Dave: No, I sure don’t, not yet but I play a recurring character in two episodes named Barack Liberty Bell. He’s a right wing, radio disc jockey.

Is stand up something you think you’ll always want to do?
Andy: Oh yeah, I think all of our approach is “Well, were going to make this work” because we have to.

Dave: I’ll do comedy for the rest of my life even if I never make another dollar at it. I’m not doing anything else. It’s either this or being homeless.

Joe: Yes, stand up is something I’ll always want to do but I don’t know if I’ll always want to do “the road”. Like if I’m 45 and I’ve got a wife and children, I’ll probably yearn to do stand up but I doubt I’ll want to jump on a plane to Aspen to do a weekend. At high altitudes, I tend to get dizzy ya know?

For more info, check out beardsofcomedy.com. To snag yourself a copy of The Beards’ live album, just click the image below.

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Stephanie Swain

  • Tom E. Thompson

    Just emceed for Joe this  weekend! Awesome comedian and a super cool guy!

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