You might have have heard him singing his own name on Last Comic Standing a few seasons ago, you might have seen him yell at Conan O’Brien, or you might have seen him in the hit web series Puddin’ but, in any case, everyone, comedy fan or no, needs to see Eddie Pepitone.
Pepitone is a comedy veteran that is arguably at the top of his game and branching out successfully to every possible avenue of television, stage and the Internet– letting the Bitter Buddha presence be known and felt by an ever-increasing following. Eddie just released a sensational live stand-up album, A Great Stillness, and I got to sit down to chat with him not only about the album, but also the webseries, a documentary, television, film and especially his obsession with Twitter.
I love that you have a love/hate relationship with Twitter.
Yeah, I’m in a hate period right now.
It’s such a fascination of yours. Even on your album, you talk at length about it. Do you love it or hate it and why?
Both. At first, I loved it because it was really exciting to have this captive audience and it still is when I think of something really funny and people react to it, but I’ve been doing it now for over two years very regularly and I feel burnt out on it. I feel like there’s a tyranny to it like I have to keep doing it because I have followers.
You have a lot of them, around 30,000.
Just around 30,000. A few hundred short of 30,000. The hate part of it is that I feel like I have to do it and I want to write other stuff– pilots, screenplays. Sometimes I think, my obsession with Twitter keeps me from doing that. That might be a lie that I keep telling myself, but, I don’t know. You know, I wasn’t brought up with computers, so, for me, I’ve been very savvy with Facebook and Twitter and my career. It’s definitely helped my career just getting the word out there.
You have a huge online following. It’s like the joke you have where you tweet something and you’ll walk around your house for 15 minutes and just wait for someone to like it.
Yeah and wait for the comments to come in?
Like I’ll play a mix CD of “waiting for the comments to come in” music, but I stopped doing that joke.
Because it became to real?
I don’t know. Maybe?
Eddie Pepitone GOES OFF on WTF with Marc Maron
You’re killing it wherever you go– the stage, the web, on TV. How are you feeling about your comedy career?
It’s funny. I love it, but I’m such a worrywart. I’m always worried that it’s going to end. It’s like I want to give myself time because this is the week of Christmas now. Next week is a slow week too. I just kind of want to chill and kind of say, “I did really good this year.” It’s hard for me to do because I have the mentality of “Oh, I’m never going to get another call to do another gig.” I just found out that Community wants me back the first week of January to do this janitor I played “Crazy Schmidt”.
So, I’m going to do something already, but I just want to be able to be relax a little fucking bit. But, it’s hard for me to go, you know, “I’m doing great.” I’m crazy.
I mean, you’re in demand.
Lately, I guess. I’m so, for me, and this is a curse, I feel like I’m only as good as my last joke or my last tweet or whatever it is and I’m like, “Oh, how did people like today’s Puddin’?” but I realize that I’m building a body of work. I was so glad to get that album out.
You’ve had so much funny material for so long. Why wait until now for A Great Stillness?
I know. It’s because of one thing that I suffer from is, well, two things… extreme disorganization like I just love to perform, but it’s hard for me to group it together and do it. Secondly, laziness, but, you know, this documentary guy, Steven Feinartz and his partner Mickey Rosenberg, they came along and wanted to do a documentary on me and they’re the ones that I suggested I do an album. Steven Feinartz did. I needed prodding, you know?
I’ve seen you so many times and I don’t know how many times I’ve laughed about like “good cop, bad cop with godzilla”…
You like “Godzilla”, huh?
That was on the first Big Push album.
Seeing that live [because Big Push is a studio recorded album of sketches] was awesome.
Yeah, you know what I love to do is just fucking come up with stuff. What I don’t like to do is to go back and edit it and shape it for TV and films, but now I’m starting to do that because I have to. It doesn’t feel as daunting. It always felt daunting to me to take the stuff that just comes out of me and shape it. Like now, I want to promote the album, A Great Stillness, on the late night shows so I have to come up with a tight three to five minute set to show them and I hate that.
I think all comedians do. I have friends and I’m sure you do that are just one-liner comedians that do “this, this, and this” and that equals five minutes. It’s just nice and tight and everything transitions well. It’s not like a performance piece.
And, I’m very improvisational on stage.
Yes. Some of your bits extend far. The act-out of it goes so long and becomes like a sketch and it’s really funny. In fact, the longer it goes, the funnier it gets.
Yeah, that’s what I like to do, which doesn’t translate that well to tight sets or whatever. That’s what I loved about the album because I thought it captured a lot of my improv stuff because I was just riffing around a lot.
Right. I heard that bit that you’ve had about the commercial audition several times, but on the album, it’s the longest I’ve ever heard it.
Yeah, I even have a couple of longer versions. I did this show in Chicago over the Summer and I really went crazy that night, even longer than the one on the album, and that was captured on tape, which is nice. I like conceptual stuff.
Like being a “heckler?”
Yeah, I like conceptual shit like that as opposed to “Well, here’s a bit on Twitter and here’s a bit on this.”
Those conceptual bits are great and I think people need to catch up because that’s where comedy is, I think.
Yeah, [it's been that way] for a long time. I think the old way of doing stand-up, I think, is… well, that’s why UCB is so popular. That’s why there’s lines out the door and sold out crowds because it isn’t conventional shit and that’s why places like the Laugh Factory and the Improv are fucking getting people in on all kinds of gimmicks. UCB just has people coming in all the time.
You were in two amazing web series this year. Well, you’re still in Puddin’, but there’s also Runyon: Just Above Sunset. How did you get involved in those?
I co-wrote Runyon with my girlfriend Karen Simmons who’s a writer and it’s because together we read Into Thin Air by John Krakauer about this Everest expedition, then we started watching this National Geographic fucking thing about people trying to climb Everest and it was so insane. The shit these people went through and died, it was so insane. Many people died on the mountain. They would go crazy from the lack of oxygen to their brain. I forget the term, but anyway, I thought it would be really funny if Runyon was my Mt. Everest because I was so out of shape or didn’t exercise or I was just so deluded. Then, to put all those mountaineering documentary conventions and clichés in the video is where that came from. I mean, Troy Conrad was so great directing it. He did such a great fucking job. The editor Mike Foster; I had a lot of help with that. That was such a fun project to do because I think Runyon is such a poser place, so I just had fun doing that. We won awards with that. The Mockfest…
Runyon: Just Over Sunset Day 1
And the Burbank International Film Festival.
Yeah, in Burbank, we won. It hasn’t had a lot of views though. I don’t know how to get it more hits. Because it’s everyday, I think that’s what makes Puddin’ work.
8:30 am, everyday?
Matt Oswalt, Patton’s brother, does it. He writes them and directs them and uploads them.
How did they find you for that?
Fucking Matt had me in mind from the beginning. He said if I wasn’t able to do it, it wouldn’t have gotten done. He approached me and said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” so we met for coffee and he showed me the scripts and I was like, “He wrote in my voice. Is he stealing my shit?” He just writes for me really well.
We’re trying to do a pilot of it now.
How is that supposed to work?
I don’t know. We’ll see how that works.
I’m excited to see that. Now, you have an the new album and with everything that you do, and you have this persona, that’s even a moniker on your website, The Bitter Buddha, (and that’s the name of the documentary made about Eddie Pepitone being submitted to festivals). How and when did you come up with that?
The anger in me and the rage, the loudness, my bigness that always came through. And I think what I’m doing, and I’ve talked about this before, is that I’m channelling my father’s being Sicilian and being big. And comedy has been a way for me to get that shit out – like, my fear out — by being kind of a lunatic.
I don’t know how it happened, but it did pretty much start from the beginning, but then this other part of it, the Buddha part, has been a recent thing where I’m trying to find some peace within the rage, you know what I mean? So, I took up meditating last year because I was going nuts; just as a balance to all the emotion that I have.
It’s amazing that you just sustain it for so long.
I remember I did that Set List show with you and Jimmy Dore had to follow you and he tried to imitate you and he did it for three minutes and went, “Oh shit, I’m tired.”
That’s right. I remember he was getting a lot of laughs with that, the prick. I think because I’ve done it for so long that it’s easy for me to do, built up the stamina. I think it’s just something in me. I think it’s really fear like I’m afraid of failing, so I really am afraid of failing, I think just that’s what comes out of me.
In order to keep failure at bay, I’m like really amped up emotionally and also, a thing I realized a long time ago, when I’m doing stand-up, if I’m not engaged emotionally, I’m very flat. I’m not a good unemotional comic like someone who can do one-liners and stuff. I don’t really do that.
No, you don’t. It’s funny that you’re afraid to fail because I think the philosophy that people starting out in comedy should have is to not be afraid of failure.
Yeah, it’s hard though because so many people start out doing stand-up and they drift away because it’s brutal to fail in front of a live audience. That really does separate the men from the boys– like if you can take that and keep going, then maybe you can do it.
That perfectly segues to your podcast, the Longshot Podcast. How do you feel about working with Jamie Flam and Amber Kenny, who have done comedy way less time than you and then, Sean Conroy.
Well, me and Sean have been doing comedy for almost 20 years together. So, that was kind of the original idea of the podcast, just me and him. Then, he said I think it would be good to bring in Amber, who used to be a student of his, as a counterpoint to our bitterness and to have someone younger. Then, Jamie was originally going to produce it, but he then said I’d like to be on it or something like that and he does performing too. So, the four of us just kind of happened and it’s been a weird, funny mix.
Yes, it is. I have never seen Jamie and Amber not smiling. They’re always upbeat and you look at them and think “Maybe things are OK.” Do you get that feeling with them being young comedians?
It’s an interesting mix because they’re at kind of the beginning and I’ve been doing it for so long and it’ s just a podcast where we sit around and we riff and discuss. I love doing it because I love looking for the threads that are funny like a riff session– like sitting in the back of a deli and we have a theme every week that gives us loosely a structure what we’re going to talk about.
Also, on the podcast, and I tend to do this a lot, is to get confessional like I feel like I have to say things that are very deeply true. I think sometimes I take it too seriously– like why do I have to say all these revealing things? It’s so weird now that my neighbor… we have a parking garage in my apartment complex and I was putting something in my car and all of sudden this woman comes up to me and says, “Are you Eddie Pepitone? I live here. I can’t believe it. I’m a big fan,” then, “I’m sorry. I’m not going to stalk you or anything.”
Then I ran into her because she’s been going to a couple of shows lately and she’s like, “I listen to the Longshot all the time. I know so much about you,” and she lives right below me and I was thinking how weird would it be if she was out in the courtyard cranking the Longshot and I’m hearing it. It’s wild with the Internet and podcasts.
So, out of you doing stand-up, sketches and web series, being on TV, what do you like doing the most or do you like doing it all?
I do like doing it all or else I wouldn’t be doing it. My favorite thing is performing live. I love performing live and that’s why sitcoms are not in front of a live audience or films are fun, but not as much fun as doing live shows. I guess these days I feel so much comfortable doing stand-up than I used to. I feel like I’m really learning how to do it and so that’s been a lot of fun lately, even though every so often, I’ll have a set where it won’t be as much fun because I’ll be off or I fucking strike because sometimes I’ll fuck with the audience intentionally.
The other night, I was at the Fake Gallery and I said, “I just wanted to let you people know that you can go fuck yourself. I just want you to know that,” and it was a weird energy for the rest of the set and then I doubt everything and then I almost go back to square one, you know? I think stand-up I enjoy doing the most.
I’m glad because you’re great at it and I love that you’re getting up more and I’m thrilled that this album is out.
That album makes me want to do another one.
Yeah, you should.
I was talking to Paul F. Tompkins and he was saying put out one a year.
Is that the new standard because of Louis C.K.?
I guess… Yeah.
This is what people don’t even realize is that his last special, Hilarious (the album version), is dated as being released this year. Hilarious came out in January and Live at the Beacon Theatre came out last month.
So is it two a year now?
I’m not sure, but is that something you want to do? Put something out every year?
Yeah. The thing I want to do this year, 2012, is I want to work more on my writing because I love to write. I want to write more screenplays or pilots or things like that or television scripts for me. I want to pitch things for me and I’m in the process of doing that right now with a couple of people for Adult Swim, Comedy Central, and just getting more on paper for me and work on that more. Getting back to stream of consciousness stuff, I would like get more organized on paper because I love writing. I’ve been writing for many years.
Then, you’d be the center of it all. Even now, you play that heckler on Conan and it’s a point of the show, but it’s not like being the star. Still, you’re so hilarious that you should be top of the batting order and not DH.
Yeah, so that means I really have to focus and try to do that. That means battle my demons of “I’m not good enough for that” and also battle the demons of…
I say that because you don’t like editing and there’s all these hilarious bits that you come up with and you keep coming up with them, so you want to explore that. You had that Arclight Usher character that hates the Hangover while introducing it.
Exactly. I love doing characters that let me say things. That Arclight Usher let’s me be brutal to the Hangover 2 which was so bad. That’s why I like doing characters like that “shirt’s so fresh bit”, I can say so much shit about what’s going on in a funny way.
You ever think you’ll do an album of just character monologues like Andrés Du Bouchet’s Naked Trampoline Hamlet?
My first album was like that, but it was all scattered and everything. It was all fucked up, but I’d like to do it again. I’d also like to do a bunch of one person shows and my last one was called, End of Days, about the apocalypse in LA. That’s another thing I’d like to do is another one man show. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of doing one called, I Tweet, Therefore I Am like projected behind me are my tweets and do slides of different ones, then go into vignettes.
That would be hilarious. It’s almost a rote cliché how comedians hate one man and one woman shows for being so self-involved, but your angle seems great.
They’re good if you’re not talking about your childhood too much. That’s the one-person shows get killed because they’re actresses and actors getting to maudlin about everything. But, I’m thinking about doing it with a pointer and having my tweets projected behind me and they’re insane. I’m going to make a book or two about my tweets, from my tweets. I’m trying to get that together with the help of a couple of a people.
It’ will be infinitely funnier than Denis Leary’s.
Yeah, did you see that fucking book? That was hilarious where he had one tweet per page. I think he was just fulfilling, somebody told me, some kind of contract with some book publisher.
Do you think this is what it takes to make it in comedy, having your hands in as much as possible?
I think if you’re a comedian now with the Internet, videos, podcasts, you should do all of it because it all fucking helps, you know. It’s all about getting your name out there. Aubrey Plaza was on some video that Judd Apatow saw and now she’s a star. Why not do a podcast? It’s pretty easy to get some microphones…
I do mine on my phone.
Is that right?
Yeah, I just use it like a normal microphone held up near the mouth and it comes out clearly.
That’s amazing. Why wouldn’t comics do that? I say try to do videos as much as you can…
I think the responsibility now more than ever is put on the comic as an artist because you have more direct access to a fan base.
Yes. That’s nice because you don’t have to wait.
Photo by C.M. Gonzalez