Interview: Kurt Metzger talks “trust fund pussy” comedians, Ugly Americans and more

By | July 18, 2011 at 9:27 am | 2 comments | feature slider, Interviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

On his new album for Comedy Central Records, Kurt Metzger Talks To Young People About Sex, the titular comedian takes the tradition of a relentless, rough-around-the-edges East Coast comic to the next level.

Metzger – he also voices the character  zombie Randall Skeffington on Ugly Americans, which is in its second season now – deftly takes aim at the famously terrible Cash4Gold commercials, “whores,” Michael Jackson (a bit you can watch below, which won “best joke” on the last season of Last Comic Standing) as well as himself. In fact in his own incredibly strange ways, Kurt might be hardest on Kurt.

The Philadelphia-area bred comic and I recently connected to chat about the new album, what’s been going on in his career and how he got where he is now. What ensued went far beyond my initial predictions; we hit on everything from how Kurt feels about “bringer” shows and “trust-fund pussies” in alterative comedy. He compared East and West Coast comedy and talked about when he just stopped giving a fuck. Be warned, Kurt is as unapologetic in this interview as he is onstage.

Who were the comics that inspired you?
When I was young, when I started watching stand-up, when I was 11 or 12, there was “Evening at the Improv” and “Comic Strip Live…” on TV And my absolute favorite was Amazing Jonathan. I was so happy when Amazing Jonathan would come on. I still like Amazing Jonathan, it’s just the same fucking act from when I was 12. That was the greatest. I loved Jeff Dunham when I was young, too. I thought that was the best fucking thing I ever saw, that Jalapeno on a stick. And he would go, “On a steeek…” Tears would come to my eyes; it was so great.

The kind of comedy I would have done if I didn’t have to start out in the black rooms in Philly is some kind of alterna-fag comedy, where I’m drawing half of it. You know, some bullshit. Like some upper-middle class twit with a privileged life; your jokes are all about whimsical shit and not about any actual things because you’re bougie asshole, basically. So all these trust-fund pussies that you see, you know, that’s how they get big. Trust-fund fucking pussies that hooked their friends up.

That’s pretty much the whole Alternative scene you described.
Here’s the thing. I know a lot of comics that are in that scene. There’s not really such a thing as Alternative comedy or Black comedy, there’s just funny and not funny. That’s really how it is. But those things exist as a way of marketing. And it’s probably necessary. A lot of people probably that couldn’t get booked in clubs now work a lot. And it’s because of those little delineations that were made by the industry. If you’re somebody who likes comedy, I can’t imagine you only like it in one kind or the other. I don’t know any comedians like that. Comedians like jokes. People break that shit off into bullshit categories and that’s just the nature of it. If you want to get paid to do art, those categories have to exist, I guess.

My whole sensibility before I moved around or lived anywhere and had to live on my own was much on the Monty Python side. It was just silly; you don’t talk about any actual shit. I just organically kind of got into more of what I do now, as opposed to what I intended to do when I started.

Jokes.com
Kurt Metzger – Forgiving Tiger Woods
comedians.comedycentral.com

Where was the first place you did stand-up?
The first place I did stand-up was at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, [New Jersey]. I really started out at a club in Philly because it was right around the corner from me when I lived on South Street. So I would do this thing called “Blazing Thursdays,” which was an open mic, and it was a heavy, heavy black crowd. And the upshot of that was it was a lot of people. Black people will show up and support an open mic, they really will. They’re very big on supporting new performers. They’re of course watching them to see if they’re good because you can catch someone on their way up, you know. It was really good for me.

The thing that sucked about it was it didn’t help my writing in anyway. Because [at that kind of show] you’re going to hear some sub-Comic View, hack bullshit about “the cluub” and the fat lady at church, and a fucking barbeque. And by the way, the white country hacks do the same shit. That was amazing, the white club in Philly, they didn’t like the black club and they did the same bullshit jokes! All the same shit. If you watch any of that Country Music Television comedy, it’s all the same fucking horseshit, and you can tell they don’t like each other, but they like the same crap. But whatever, the road is hacky.

So I was at Helium opening for Patrice Oneal, and we went to go visit [a friend] at the club I started at. A husband and wife owned it, and the guy takes me aside, and goes, ‘Hey Kurt, I want to talk to ya.’ He goes, ‘Listen, you know people at Comedy Central right, I need somebody to pitch this…’ Basically, this asshole wanted to use my connections he imagined I had at Comedy Central for his fucking project. Like I’m going to turn around and help this sack of shit when he never booked me ever. So to this day I still don’t have respect for the club I started at.

Did you see a lot of bad comedy when you were starting in Philly and New York?
I don’t have nothing against people being new and sucking; what are you supposed to do– not suck when you’re new? I sucked when I was new. I’m surprised I went as far as I did. What annoys me is people who are one, two, three year comedians marketing themselves aggressively. There’s no fucking reason an open micer needs a beautiful website and t-shirts, and a fucking CD.

If you’re three years in comedy, what do you have a fucking CD of? I have no respect for you if you’re someone with three years in comedy and a website that’s better than your fucking act; I don’t respect you at all. Like, you’re nothing to me. That’s a little harsh, but you know what I mean. How fucking dare you? Or, you got all these people that they’re new and this can go two ways, if you’re not getting spots and you want to put a show together so you can get on somewhere, that’s cool. But I just had some assholes put me on a show where I’m supposedly headlining and so all these jerkoff open micer friends of theirs can get easy stage time.

Jokes.com
Kurt Metzger – End of the World
comedians.comedycentral.com

When you moved to New York, what was the scene like then and what challenges did you have trying to pass at the clubs?
It’s always challenging. It was always hard. When you think about it, it should be that hard. Why should you be able to do a job this great where you get paid just to tell your sideways thoughts that fall out of your head? Why should you be allowed to do that when everybody else has a job? So you should go through some hard shit to be able to do that.

But I don’t like bringer shows. I despise everything about them. I think they’re from the devil. And I don’t respect people who run them. There’s all these people who get well known in the bringer circuit. And what I judge people by is how they treat newer comics. I won’t treat somebody bad because they’re new, but if I know you’re the type of person that got a little bit of power in your bringer show and then you’re disrespectful to new people, I’ll be a cocksucker to you. It’s really a way for comics that didn’t make it to just leach off of new comics. It really is. Like, ‘I need to make a living at this, I’m not funny, I’m going to get money from new people.It’s like a pyramid scheme of comedy.

Are you going on a lot of auditions now?
Yeah. That’s the other thing. Live in LA or New York if you want to do comedy. Don’t worry about starting a scene wherever you are, who gives a shit? Do you want to do comedy? Move to LA or New York, that’s what I’m telling everyone. Your local scene, it stinks. Wherever you are, your local comedy scene stinks compared to New York or LA. Because there’s no way it could be as good. There’s not as many comics. New York is a comedy fucking town, with a lot of clubs close to each other. You don’t get on five nights a week or whatever the fuck. I always hear people, ‘Don’t you get on every night?’ I mean I’ve never gotten on every night. I guess you can if you really hustle, but it wouldn’t be five nights of great stage time, it would be like a lot of bullshit. But in New York, you’re around the best comics.

Even LA, which is inferior to New York as far as stand-up, in general, it really is, and that’s just because everything is spread out and there’s such a… trying to reverse engineer a sitcom mentality over there. And also, hacks always get glorified by industry people, but out there it just seems like the clubs and everyone just love to cradle a hack and nurture them like they’re a fucking baby.

Also, you can’t talk shit about them. In New York, you can just blast people if you want. In LA you gotta be nice all the time. That’s just how it works, so that intrinsic phoniness and dishonesty annoys me. Not that the same exact thing doesn’t happen in New York, but that’s what I don’t like about LA. New York, you’re around comics all the time who are way better than you, you know. At your regular spots, like Louie C.K. will drop in and do a guest spot before you, or Dave Chappelle will drop in, or Chris Rock.

Somebody will drop in where you’re exposed to how much you’re not good at comedy and how much you have to up your game to compete with the big boys. So that’s why you live in the city. What happens if you stay in another state too long is, unless you’re especially talented, like Tommy Johnagin, I think is a very talented guy. Because he lives in fucking Missouri and he’s hilarious and he won’t move [ed. Note: Tommy has since moved to LA] And every time I see him, his shit is really funny. And honestly, it shouldn’t be, for where his environment is, he should be a road hack. But the guy is good, you know. I don’t know if I lived in Missouri how good I would be. I wouldn’t be as good as Tommy Johnagin, I can tell you that.

Where I started in Philly, I knew a lot of black comics that were very talented, and they were almost like nerds, and because black culture doesn’t treat nerds and gays properly, they were just beaten down into doing bullshit. I watched a lot of guys who were talented get beaten down by other black people into doing complete crap. And that’s not just black people, that’s anywhere on the road. Like whoever the big shit road guy is, like right now I’m in Austin and everyone was like, ‘Oh, you were great. My two favorites are you and this other road comic they were talking about.

And I’m not anti- earn a living, like that’s cool man, I know a lot of guys that are just road dogs, like I don’t think they’re particularly funny, but I really like them and I wish them well. It’s just that being in a scene where that guy is held up and is something you should strive for, that’s not good. That’s not good for you, you know. So that’s what I tell everybody, don’t stay in your dumb, shitty home town. Move the fuck out; you have to go to New York or LA.

Kurt Metzger — “Know Your Gyno!” by dgadino

If you’re more of an actor go to LA, if you’re into learning how to really do stand-up and you want to be a comedian, move to New York. The end. I’m lucky doing a cartoon voice where I kind of play myself. I’ll tell you why you move to LA, dude. If you’re a comedy writer, there’s way more writing work out there. It seems like there’s a lack of stage time there, though. When I go to LA it’s because I have something going on, so it’s always really great. The clubs put me on, I get a lot of legal, free weed, and I love it. I actually love going to LA. But I imagine if I was there without anything on TV it wouldn’t be as cool. I mean on paper, LA is better.

If you put them side-by-side on a list of reasons to move somewhere, LA should be way better. I should feel like LA is way better because everything you could count as being better is there, you know. I don’t have to hide like an animal to smoke pot if I want. Girls at least three points out of your attractiveness level will fuck you. The weather is beautiful. It’s just New York is better. I couldn’t tell you why I like New York better. I think it’s the stand-up scene. I think what it is, is that laidback-ness of LA makes a different kind of stand-up for people that are there, and laid back isn’t as funny to me. It just isn’t, as much as the frantic, vicious scene of New York.

Ugly Americans Thursdays 10:30/9:30c
Manbird Training
www.comedycentral.com

Dave Attell told me that to be a good comic, you have to stop caring. That seems apparent in your act. How long did it take?
It took me a lot less time (to stop caring) and I directly credit doing a lot of all black audiences, like I could directly thank them for that. At some point, I stopped caring because I was like, ‘They’re going to like me, and I don’t give a fuck.’ I remember I was at this place called… somebody’s “… Crab Shack.”

But, it’s hard to get to that point, where you don’t care. Because a lot of times, you’re broke, you need this break and it means everything to you. Like you’re auditioning for something to get on TV or something, you want to get on Conan and you really want that credit, so that’s what happens. Then you can’t not give a fuck. And it affects your set. So I’ve gone through levels of that as I’ve gone on.

Sometimes, I’ll get emotionally attached to a job for the money before I even got the job. And I’m like, ‘I can’t fuck this up, I need this money. And that’s the kiss of death for me. And I already failed, right then and there. Even 13 years in I will still make that mistake. It’s like a girl you want to fuck; you want it too badly and she doesn’t want to fuck you. It happens to me like that every time. I get this shit by not caring. It’s just like trying to fuck a chick. You’re supposed to be aloof; and that policy gets me comedy-laid.

Kurt Metzger Talks To Young People About Sex is available from Comedy Central Records on iTunes. Download it now!

About the Author

Scott King

A Chicago-based writer and comedian, Scott King also contributes to ChicagoNow.com. As a comic he's appeared on the WGN Morning News and is a two-time finalist of Comedy Central's Open Mic Challenge.

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  • http://tylermeznarich.com/blog Tylermez

    What an insightful interview.  I had been struggling with the NYC or LA argument for a little while now, and it was nice to have it explained so practically and honestly.