It goes without saying that comedian Tom Cotter became a household name this year with his success on NBC's America's Got Talent. Week after week he would take the stage with a new set of jokes in his unique rapid-fire style, impressing judges and viewers enough to make it into the finals. Now living in New York, many didn't realize that Cotter is originally from the state of Rhode Island, where he grew up and first became interested in stand up comedy.
Cotter had already had a taste of success before AGT with appearances on 'The Tonight Show', 'The Late Late Show', 'Comedy Central', and 'Last Comic Standing' to name a few. But finishing second place on America's Got Talent has turned him into one of the most in-demand comedians in America. On New Years' Eve he'll be returning to his home state of Rhode Island for 2 shows. But first he takes a few moments to answer 10 Questions.
1. Congratulations on your success on AGT. On the show they referred to you as a New York based comic, which is true, but you are originally from Rhode Island. Can you talk a little bit about growing up in the Ocean State?
"Actually, If you want to be technical, I'm originally from my mother's uterus, however her uterus was in R.I. when I was born. I grew up on George Street, on the East side of Providence (some would argue effectively that I never "grew up")."
2. You have 2 shows coming up at the Comedy Connection in East Providence on New Years' Eve. Other than work, do you get many chances to come back to Rhode Island?
"It's difficult to get back to Rhode Island with all of the restraining orders, but it is still home, so I manage to get there whenever I can. All three of my sisters live near Providence, so family gatherings are almost always in the Ocean State."
3. How did you get started as a stand-up comedian?
"My first time on stage was in college at a talent show, to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I was disqualified by the judges, but it was enough to get me hooked. My first time on stage at a bonafide comedy club was at 'Periwinkles' in the Arcade (formerly in Providence, RI). I kept showing up at open mic night hosted by Charlie Hall, but I would sit in the back and watch, never having the nerve to sign up to go on stage. After several weeks of sitting in the back of the showroom like an open mic groupie/stalker, Charlie Hall approached me and said "you are going up tonight, or you can't come in". That was the motivation I needed to get over my stage freight. Charlie went on to become not only an excellent comedy mentor, but a great friend, whose wisdom I still seek to this day."
4. Who are some of your comedy influences? Who inspired you to become a comedian?
"I used to sneak Richard Pryor and George Carlin albums into my house and listen to them when I was a kid. I also got to stay up late on special occasions, to watch Johnny Carson. In my fraternity, we watched Eddie Murphy's Raw & Delirious. Once I got started, I was influenced by Charlie Hall, Frank O'Donnell Kevin Knox (R.I.P.), and Don Gavin."
5. Do you think your success on AGT has helped bring attention to stand-up comedy as an art form?
"I do. 'Last Comic Standing' has been off the air for a long time, so there are no other high profile platforms for stand-ups (prime time network exposure). I've already heard from the producers that the number of comedians auditioning for the show for next season (of America's Got Talent) is up dramatically."
6. Despite losing to a bunch of dogs, how would you describe your experience on 'America's Got Talent'?
"Thanks for putting that so delicately. The show far exceeded my expectations. Based upon the past 6 seasons of AGT, I never expected to go very far. I set a goal to get past the 'Vegas round. I truly never thought I'd get out of the quarterfinals, so everything beyond that was gravy. I'm the first comic to make it to the finals (top 6), and that is a badge of honor I wear proudly. Clay Aiken was also a runner-up. I think his career is going pretty well."
7. Having only 90 seconds to make America laugh on TV is quite a challenge, but you made it look easy. What did you do to for writing, preparation, and practice each week?
"My act is pretty well suited for the format. Friends, colleagues and industry types had been telling me to audition from the 1st season of AGT, because of my style. I can cram a lot of punchlines into a small amount of time, where as some comics need 2 minutes just to say hello. And my school councilor said my A.D.D. would only hold me back. To prepare for each round, I used William Shakespeare's famous quote "Brevity is the soul of wit" as inspiration. I took a tight set and made it tighter. Maximum jokes in the minimum amount of time."
8. Looking back now, is there anything you would have done differently on AGT?
"I don't like to look back and play "what if". Again, the experience is by far and away, the best thing that has ever happened to my career, and it far exceeded my expectations. having said that, I wish I had put Xanax in the dog food."
9. What advice would you give to aspiring stand-up comics today and would you recommend talent shows like AGT?
"Write, write, write + stage time, stage time, stage time.
I've been pretty lucky in comedy competitions thus far, but every time I enter one, I remind myself that they are all suspect. How can you compare comedians who have completely different styles? It's comparing apples and oranges (I'm not suggesting that we are 'fruity').
Who is to say that a physical comic (a-la Jim Carrey) is any funnier than a monologist (a-la Steven Wright)? As long as you go into it knowing that, I'd say go for it."
10. What are your future plans now that you have received so much national exposure?
"We are trying to cash in right now, and strike while the iron is hot. Everyone has been really great, and I'm more appreciative than words can express. I know full well that this could be my 15 minutes and nothing more, so I have to ride this wave. That said, NBC has been really great to me, and I don't expect that to stop any time soon. We are also meeting with other networks and production companies, and weighing our options.
I don't know what the future holds, but it's a shit load brighter than it was a year ago."You can check out Tom Cotter at his website www.TomCotter.com and on Twitter at @TomCotterComicTom Cotter will be performing at Comedy Connection on December 31st, New Years' Eve for two shows. You get tickets and info at www.ricomedyconnection.com.
Frank O'Donnell has been a comedy staple in Rhode Island since the 1980's. He has been on TV, radio, newspapers, and just about every stage in the Southern New England area. Frank is also a writer who has penned jokes for everyone from local politicians and celebrities to nationally known comics and late night talk show hosts.
These days, you can still find Frank making crowds laugh at venues like Catch A Rising Star at Twin River Casino. But you'll also find him writing and directing comedy screenplays. As he prepares for the opening of his latest show, he takes a few minutes to answer 10 Questions.
1. This weekend your new comedy, “Ant'ny Claus 2: A Dysfunctional Family Sequel” opens at Theater Works in Woonsocket, RI. Since you wrote and direct the play, tell us a little about it, and what people can expect?
"It’s a two-act comedy about a guy who spent his life being the back-up plan in the family business – the family business being Santa Claus. It’s the sequel to the show we did last year, where Ant’ny finally got his chance to take over the reins. This show picks up where the last one left off – it’s the morning after, and on the way home, Ant’ny and his team bounce off the worst house they could have picked. We've got wise guys and all sorts of elves and talking reindeer too. It really is a lot of fun – but what do I know?"
2. Where did the idea for ‘Ant’ny Claus’ come from?
"Years ago, Channel 10 asked me to perform at their post-holiday party. They asked me to play a disgruntled Santa. I did it, but it didn't go so well. I realized, you really can’t make too much fun of Santa. But, you can make fun of his family – and his not-so-little little brother was born. At first, it was just a holiday thing for parties – I’d go in, pick on people, perform a customized “Night Before Christmas.” But over the years, it grew. I added a wife, a mother-in-law – and before I knew it, the story had taken on a life of its own. A few years ago, I decided this could look good on a stage. So I took a shot at writing a play. And now two of them."
3. Along with being a writer, you are also a well-known stand-up comedian. How long have you been doing comedy, and how did you get started?
"I’ve been at it 30 years this year. I actually started writing material for the old Mike & Jeff Show on JB-105. One of the guys there, Mike Waite, convinced me to come to a talent show he was hosting in downtown Providence. I did a 15-minute set – way too long in retrospect – and got two laughs – way too few in retrospect. But, those two laughs were enough to keep me going. And here we are today."
4. In the past you have held ‘Comedy Bootcamp’ classes to help teach the art of comedy to others, what would you say is the most important lesson aspiring comedians should learn?
"Never stop learning. The thing I stress about my boot camp is that I can’t make you funny. No one can do that. Funny is in you. And if funny is in you, I can help you mold that a little bit and give you the balls to get up there that first time. That’s really what the boot camp is about – making the funny work, and giving you enough confidence to get up there and do it. So many people want to do this, and the tragedy of it is, they probably could, but they lack the guts to get up there."
5. Who were some of your comedy influences? Who did you learn from?
"Hard to say. I was surrounded by comedy growing up – some intentional, some not. I learned a lot of telling a funny story from my Uncle Mike. He was just one of those Irish guys (he was born there, and still had a wonderful brogue) who could sit around and drink a beer and smoke his pipe and make you laugh by just talking to you. But when it comes to comedians, I watched the old-timers like Jack Benny and Bob Hope (who I later had the honor of writing for) and Johnny Carson. But the one comedian who was most influential to me was Steve Martin – when his first album came out, I played it over and over again. My friend Joe Toppi and I would do material off it, mostly at each other – not at all to the delight of our wives."
6. How would you say comedy has changed over the past 20 years, or has it?
"It changes all the time. Ebb and flow, peaks and valleys are a lot of it. But mostly, comedy is very accessible these days. Besides the clubs, we’ve got the internet now, and anyone with a camera can produce and post all sorts of comedy. But the basics remain the same: there is a set-up, and there is a punch. Some things will make you laugh, other things, not so much."
7. What is it about Rhode Island that makes it so great for comedy?
"Someone told you that? Rhode Island is great for comedy? Okay, here’s my take on it. Rhode Island is a great melting pot (no, that’s not my line) of people from all walks of life. And because we have such a mix represented in the live clubs from week to week, they tend to make you work harder. I’m convinced – if you can learn to make a Rhode Island crowd laugh, you can make just about any crowd laugh."
8. What are some of the highlights of your career in the comedy business?
"I’ve written jokes for folks like Bob Hope and Jay Leno. I’ve opened for performers like Michael Bolton and Chicago. I’ve opened for other comedians like Richard Lewis and David Brenner. But the highlight is also making people laugh. There’s nothing like it."
9. What else do you do besides act, write, and perform stand-up comedy?
"I write for The Valley Breeze in the northern part of Rhode Island – entertainment pieces and a humor column. I do the same for 630wpro.com. And during the day, I’m the AVP for compliance for a local mortgage lender. "
10. Do you have any future plans or projects you can mention?
"I’m working on two more plays – I hope to produce one of them next year. I’m really enjoying this much bigger creative process. And I’ve got an internet project in the works – moving slowly, but I hope to have something going by June of 2013."
Frank O'Donnell's new comedy play "Ant'ny Claus 2: A Dysfunctional Family Sequel" opens this weekend at Theater Works in Woonsocket, RI.
It is Written by Frank O'Donnell and co-directed by Frank O'Donnell and Mark Anderson, the show marks the return of six of last year's principal performers - Geoff White as Sonny, Bethany Lynn Giammarco as Carmella, Connie Anderson as Carmella Senior, John Morris as Bruno, Lynn Nadrowski as Bennie Blue Balls and Padriag Mahoney as Sonny.
And look for cameos from local celebrities!Call 401.766.1898 for reservations.Show dates:
Friday, November 30 - 8:00pm
Saturday, December 1 - 8:00pm
Sunday, December 2 - 8:00pm
Friday, December 7 - 8:00pm
Saturday, December 8 - 8:00pm
Sunday, December 9 - 8:00pm
John Perrotta has been making a name for himself in Rhode Island for many years. When he's not headlining shows, and making people laugh, he's booking shows and giving many of the area's best comics their first chance at stand-up comedy.
John has hosted shows, headlined shows, and worked with some of the best comics The Ocean State has to offer. This month he will be the second comedian to be inducted into the Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame. But before he receives his honor, he answers 10 Questions for us.1. You've been doing comedy now for 20+ years, what is it about stand-up that you enjoy the most?"The thing that I love the most about stand-up comedy is the absolute rush that you get when you have that killer set. What a feeling it is to get off stage knowing that you did your best. I love interacting with the crowd more than anything - it's a blast!"
2. Some people call you R.I.'s version of Don Rickles for your quick wit and crowd work, what other comics have influenced you over the years?
"Don Rickles is my idol. I've always loved his act. And I've always loved the old style comics like George Burns, Henny Youngman, Rodney Dangerfield, Milton Berle; all of the old-timers were great comics."
3. Have you ever felt you went to far with a joke or had an audience member get upset with you over a joke?
"I have gone too far with a joke in the past. But I really try not to cross that fine line between good-natured ribbing and upsetting someone. One time I was working a bachelor party and two giant biker dudes picked me up and had me in the air ready to throw me out the window of the 'Edgewood Yacht Club'; and I'm a pretty big guy! That was probably the scariest moment in my comedy career!"
4. Along with performing comedy, you also own the RI Comedy Factory and book a lot of comedy shows in the area. What do feel goes into making a quality comedy show?
"I book a lot of open-mic shows. I have always prided myself on helping new comics get started. I prefer to book your basic 'headliner, feature, host' type of show - but it doesn't always work out that way!"
5. You are also known for giving new comics their first chance on a mic. What sort of things stand out to you when you see a new comic perform?
"I gave Bill Burr $25 to host a show for me years ago when he first started, and I had the chance to work with him 3 years ago and he hadn't forgotten it. I knew he was going to have a bright future in the business. I love helping out new comics and see them develop. The greatest feeling is when you help a comic get stage time and they start doing well and they take the time to say "Thank you". Recently, Corey Tenchara won the 'Catch A New Rising Star' competition and he sent me a message thanking me for all the help that I had given him. That made me feel that it's all worth while booking open mic shows!"
6. On October 19th you're being inducted into The Rhode Island Comedy Hall of Fame. What does this honor mean to you?
"Being inducted into the 'R.I. Comedy Hall of Fame' means a lot to me. I know how much work that I have put into this business and this is truly a great honor. I started out working for and with guys like Brian Deery, Frank O'Donnell, Charlie Hall , Rockin' Joe Hebert, Colleen and Eddie Galvin, Greg Johnson, and so many others. I appreciate all they have done to help my career. And of course my 2nd cousin David Dilorenzo too! It really means a lot to me. There are so many more comics that will make it, too many to mention here. I am excited about being the 2nd comic to be inducted!"
7. In honor of your Hall of Fame induction, you are being roasted at 'DiParma Italian Restaurant' by several local comedians. How does it make you feel to be on the other side of the jokes?
"I will be a little bit nervous being on the other side of the jokes! But it's my turn to take it like a man!!!"
8. How would you say comedy has changed over the past 20 years?
"Comedy continues to evolve. When I started in 1983 - I got up 3 times and stopped. I regret that because the comedy boom was going on. In 1991 I came back and the boom was over. Clubs like Periwinkles, Stitches (in Boston), Catch A Rising Star (in Boston), The Brass Rail in Seekonk, MA, and the great Impasta in Warwick. That's when Rockin' Joe Hebert formed The Comedy Factory and we started putting our own shows together. My old friend and comic Tim Sullivan was also a big help back then. We created our own stage time. Today I feel that comedy is making a comeback. I don't like the politics of comedy though. Some clubs will use you while others won't. I've always hated that part of the business - but that's the way it is."
9. What are some career highlights for you?
"Back in early 1991, I went to an open mic in Norwood, MA. I asked for a spot and the booker said that he couldn't put me up. Well about 12 comics in a row bombed that night. So finally he put me up and sarcastically introduced me...saying "this guy thinks he's funny he's from Rhode Island." I had the set of my life. When I tried to get off the stage the booker signaled me frantically to stay up! That night I found out that I could make people laugh.
Some other highlights would be hosting the benefit show for the 'Station Nightclub Victims Fund'. I got to work with Dane Cook, Colin Quinn, Frank Santorelli, Stephanie Peters, it was a great honor. Also, wininning 'Rhode Island's Best Comic in the 2008 Providence Phoenix reader's poll contest was very exciting. I've also been honored to open for Eddie Money, Gilbert Gottfried, and other top acts. I can also say I've had the privilege to work with Tom Cotter from 'America's Got Talent', several time. He's a great comic and a fantastic guy. In fact, I started out at the same time with him and his wife Kerri Louise, who is also a great person and a great comic. I'd have to say the biggest career highlight for me happened this year when I organized a benefit show for my ex-wife who is battling a rare lung disease. My children were there and it was a big night not only in my career, but in my life. There's been so many other great highlights too...i love the business! "
10. What advice would you give to younger comics looking to get into the industry?
"I would tell younger comics to keep getting on stage as often as you can and never give up on yourself. you never know how far your career will take you."
The comedy roast for John Perrotta is on Friday October 19, 2012 at 8pm at DiParma Italian Restaurant inside the Clarion Hotel in Seekonk, MA.
To get tickets for this event, call 401-461-7896
Ace Aceto has been doing stand-up comedy and impressions for more than 20 years in Rhode Island and throughout the New England area. He has opened for some of the biggest names in the business and even appeared on 'Comedy Central'. He finally got around to producing his first comedy CD "Good Catholic Boy", and he took the time to answer 10 Questions about his career and the comedy business.1. You have a new comedy CD called "Good Catholic Boy", what was the inspiration behind that title?
Have you seen my act? (Laughs) It's funny because I've been accused of being "too religious" by some, and told I'm going straight to hell for the way I make fun of religion by others. Listen, when I started I was 21 and one of my mentors, Charlie Hall, told me the best way to be original is to write about my life. At 21, my life consisted of growing up Italian/Catholic, going to Catholic School, and still being in college (I was on the 6 year plan). So I guess the inspiration was around the fact that I'm still a Catholic, but with a little inquisitive, devilish side. Hence the "Good Catholic Boy" title, with the "Parental Advisory" label right under it.
2. Where and when was the CD recorded?
The album (did I just say album?) was recorded in December of 2007 at The Comedy Connection in Portland Maine. I recorded it there for 2 reasons:
A) It helped me not make it all about local RI references which tends to happen in front of a RI crowd (how can you not crap on Foster/Glocester when you're in front of a RI audience?) and
B) Historically, the crowds in Portland are GREAT. When you're paying a sound engineer to come in and record you, you want that insurance that you're going to get great audience laughs on the recording. Of course no insurance is 100%. There were 4 drunk crazy bachelorette parties in the crowd that night which made for a few tough times controlling them from the stage, but there was some funny audience interactions that came out of it!
3. What material is on the album? Is there new stuff, classic stuff, anything else?
It's definitely more classic stuff. Some of the material I still do because it's the core of my act and who I am, but some stuff I no longer do. There's also some bonus material of ideas I was working on at the time that I still do occasionally (especially during Christmas Season)
4. How many years now have you been doing stand-up comedy?
Last month was my 23rd anniversary. I started on an open mic night at the old 'Periwinkles' in 'The Arcade' (in Providence, RI). I still can't believe it. It seems like I was still looked at as "the new guy" until only a few years ago and now the newer guys call me a "veteran" or a "legend". Someone recently introduced me as the Jack Lalane of R.I. comedy (which made me feel old considering he died last year)!
5. How would you say stand-up comedy has changed over the years?
I don't know if it's changed so much as it's cyclical. It waxes & wanes between straight on "joke" jokes where there's a short set up then punch line (like Steven Wright or more recently Shane Mauss), and storytelling (like George Carlin or Bill Burr). It's definitely more accessible than it's ever been. In the old days, if you wanted to get work at a club you'd have to send a promo kit that included a tape (remember those?) and hope the bookers would watch it. Now you can send an e-mail with a 'YouTube' clip and hope the bookers will watch it. Anyone can make their talent accessible on 'YouTube'. It hasn't really happened big for comics yet but look, Journey & Queen found awesome singers through 'YouTube'!
Just the fact that I could independently record a CD and make it accessible (beyond just selling it after my shows) via digital distribution is a big change too. The only way to make a CD available to a large market like that before was to be seen in NY or LA, get signed by a major label, then they would pay to record it and distribute it. I'm too settled with my family, house, and day job to chase getting famous by moving to NY or LA (and too old :-). Would I love it? Sure, but my family is my #1 priority.
6. What would you say are some of the highlights of your comedy career?
God, there have been so many. Playing at 'The Warwick Musical Theater' opening up for Huey Lewis and Luther Vandross, recently opening up for David Cassidy in Newport, being on the last show at the 'Rocky Point Palladium' opening for Herb Reed and the Platters, being on Comedy Central (when it was still called 'The Comedy Channel'), hanging out after a show with Jim Florentine, Andrew Dice Clay, and the guys from the band Godsmack, recording this CD..... I've been really blessed/lucky to have had some great opportunities and experiences.
7. Who are some of your comedy influences?
I'd have to say George Carlin and Bill Cosby were the biggest. I remember being a kid and listening to my cousin's Bill Cosby albums. He's an AMAZING storyteller. "The chicken heart who ate NJ". "Go carts". "Playing Buck Buck". You couldn't even see him but he was so expressive that you still felt that you were living the experience as he was telling it. Listen to the the last track on 'Best of Bill Cosby' from 1969. He told an entire hilarious 5 minute story ("Buck Buck") to introduce the character of Fat Albert, and then says, "Now I told you that story so I could tell you this one." That's genius! A huge turning point though,the time where I said to myself, "Wow! THAT'S thecoolestjob in the world!" was when I saw George Carlin's HBO special 'Carlin at Carnegie' in 1982. It was amazing how he talked about everyday stuff that we could all relate to and make it funny. It also taught me that it was ok to swear in a joke for a punch, but only when it's really needed. It wasn't an "F-bomb" every other word. I also really looked up to people like Gilda Radner, Fred Travalina, and Mel Blanc who we're my early professors of doing impersonations.
8. What advice would you give to today's up and coming comics?
A friend of mine who's a former comic and now world famous humorous speaker Darren Lacroix sums it up best "Stagetime. Stagetime. Stagetime." Any chance you get to get up on stage, do it. Open mics. Guest sets. All different types of shows. The more situations that you put yourself in to make people laugh, the better. I learned how to deal with rough club crowds by doing bachelor parties. If you can handle an angry group of guys because your little jokes are the only thing between them and seeing some boobies, you can handle any crowd in a comedy club. I've done shows in front of crowds as big as 6,000 and as small as 5. Every one of them helped me grow as a performer. It's just like anything else, practice makes you better.
Also, like I mentioned before, if you're going to swear excessively or work blue all the time, be prepared for limitations that are placed on you as far as what work you get. George Carlin didn't start out with the "7 dirty words", he started clean on TV doing bits like "The Hippy Dippy Weather Man". More opportunity opens up if you can work clean AND dirty.
9. What plans do you have going forward in comedy?
Well, I'm really hoping that the CD takes off. I have to depend on word of mouth so anytime someone says they've downloaded it I've been asking them to write a review and tell their friends about it(only if they like it of course). It's already been downloaded by people in Florida, North Carolina, New York, and of course New England. I have a great opportunity to increase my presence beyond just RI. Other than that, I'm hoping to do some more acting (see Twin River commercial) and I'm working on putting together a show starting next year that I hope to bring around New England to start, then expand on if the response is good. It'll be called "Ace Aceto's Royal Flush Comedy Tour" and will consist of a 'Joker' (host), a 'Jack' (new guy), a 'Queen' (female comic or I've had some interest from some really funny gay comics), a 'King' (a fellow veteran male comic), and 'The Ace' (me).
10. Where can people purchase your new CD?
First and foremost, out of the trunk of my car on Broad Street in Providence. Besides that, after my shows I'll have actual CD's for sale that I can sign if people want. And for the tech savvy "kids" out there, they can download it from CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and just about any other music download service. People can also get it on my website WWW.ACEACETO.COM It's got my bio, pictures, clips, links to some of my favorite clubs to work, and a bunch of memorabilia from over the 23 years. You can also sign up for my mailing list which will get you my monthly newsletter that has news & upcoming shows. I'm really proud of the site. A good friend from high school, Janine Calise from 4Design did and amazing job! She also did the artwork for the CD.
NOTE: Check out Patton Oswalt's keynote address from the 'Just for Laughs Comedy Festival/Conference'. I read it after I answered question 5 and he hits it spot on (mostly because it's in line with what I said. :-D
Paul & Al
Paul Fuller and Al Matthews, better known as Paul & Al on 94 HJY, have been making Rhode Islanders laugh every morning for 22 years. The duo met in Mobile, Alabama before coming to the Ocean State, and have lasted longer than most marriages. Together they took time out of their busy lives to humbly answer 10 Questions about comedy, how they have lasted this long, and what the secret is to their success.
1. Twenty-two years is longer than most marriages last. How have you made your relationship last for so long?
Paul - "It's a mystery... to last 22 years when the sex, to be honest, is not very good is inexplicable!"
Al - "I think we both approach things from a different perspective, so it stays fresh. We're lucky that we both find similar things to be funny. And we are very lucky to have Jim Shorts on sports and Kevin Mulhern, our producer on the show with us. Those two guys keep us in line and add an extra element of surprise and laughter to the show that keeps us on our toes."
2. What is your secret for being so funny so early in the morning?
Paul - "Not sure about the 'funny' part but we sound awake early in the morning because we get up EARLY, EARLY every morning... up before 4AM (unfortunately we've been doing it so long that I'm up at 4AM on the weekends too!)"
Al - "Lots. Of. Coffee. We're funny?! You can over-think comedy sometimes. In the early morning, I'm so tired that there's no time for that. If we're talking live, I just spit out the first thing that comes to mind. Working with someone else for 22 years, you can almost anticipate what that person is going to say before they say it, and so it becomes a fun game of a battle of twits--I mean wits. Our produced bits require a little more focus and polish. Very often, those are created just before we go on the air--or even as the show is running."
3. A lot of your comedy is based on local topics, especially politicians. Does being based in Rhode Island make your job easier?
Paul - "We came from Mobile, Alabama where THREE former mayors were in jail at the same time! I think all areas have their corruption but, yes, we DO have lots of colorful characters...and a few Kennedy members standing."
Al - "Absolutely. When we moved here in 1990, we didn't realize just how much comedy material was waiting for us in New England: Buddy Cianci, Bruce Sundlun, Claiborne Pell, Lincoln Almond, David Ciciline, The Kennedies, and the hilarity continues with Linc Chaffee."
4. Has there ever been a joke or a bit that you regretted doing or had to later apologize for?
Paul - "Some stuff crosses the line of good taste and, on second thought, were better left unsaid but that's the risk of trying to put on a topical, somewhat edgy show. I can't remember apologizing...our management once apologized for us to Don Henley who's lawyers threatened to sue us over a bit we did about his outrageous cocaine usage when he was younger!"
Al - "Sometimes we say something that we thought was funny but perhaps went beyond the limits of good taste. Our listeners have no problem calling us up and chewing us out...letting us know that we stepped over the line. Very often, that phone call makes for an even funnier bit that we will play on the air. So we ask for forgiveness, but we get another great bit in return."
5. How much planning, and what is the process, that goes into each show?
Paul - "I do about four hours of 'homework' every day...usually in the late afternoon or evening after the news of the day has happened. It's basically scanning several news web sites..we have a few 'radio show prep sites' that we check daily too."
Al - "We all go home after the show and do our own thing. We search for bit ideas from various sources. Then we come in the next morning and share our ideas to see what we've got. Sometimes we have full scripts written. Other times, just an outline--or simply a funny title for a bit. Sometimes, it happens spontaneously: I'm listening to a song on HJY, I start changing the words, and I get an idea for a song parody. I run into a studio next door, and write and produce it on the spot. The bits that are timely go first...the generic comedy stuff can go any time."
6. How has your show, and comedy in general, changed over the past 22 years?
Paul - "Ironically we have to be a bit more careful with off color humor... the FCC cracked down on media during the Bush administration...also our big company doesn't want any lawsuits or issues with the license being pulled. Also we came in after Carolyn Fox who made a name with her blue humor!"
Al - "Funny is still funny. But that being said, the world has become a much more politically correct place. And so as much as we like to go against the status quo, we find that there are more roadblocks than before. Some of that comes from management. Some comes from the world around us. What has changed in our show is that the bits we do are shorter and more concise than ever before. In the old days, a 3-minute long bit was common. Now we try to keep it under a minute and a half."
7. What are some of your most memorable moments working together?
Paul - "I think we really enjoyed broadcasting from London live... we interviewed a ton of our favorite British rock musicians over a few days."
Al - "As much as we've had some great laughs, I think the most memorable times are when you can do something for the community. We've raised a lot of money for the 'Amos House' through radio marathons...brought awareness to bone marrow transplants back in the day when it was still in its early stages. It gives us the opportunity to say: "Sure, we're douchebags, but we're douchebags that care." "
8. How much time do you spend together outside of the radio station?
Paul - "Not much!!! We're sick of seeing each other more than we see our wives!!! Also, Al and I have very different interests... I do something athletic every day right after work...either going to the gym, playing tennis or hitting the golf course. Al's a food freak! I think our differences have helped with the longevity of the show.. it adds balance to the show and to our lives."
Al - "Other than radio station promotional appearances, not all that much. Besides the fact that Paul lives in North Kingstown and I live in Tiverton, we have over the last 22 years, always had very different lifestyles, interests and obligations outside of the radio station. When I was single, Paul was raising 3 kids. Now all of his kids are out of college, and I am married and have a 5-year-old daughter. I think it's good to have time away from each other, too. It makes the show fresh on Monday morning."
9. If you weren't working in radio, what would each of you be doing for a living instead?
Paul - "I was accepted to law school out of college so probably wearing a suit and filing motions (ahhhhh!)...although I can live that path vicariously; my oldest son is a JAG officer in the Marine Corps...so he gives me some interesting legal stories!"
Al - "I've become food obsessed over the last decade. (I write a food blog on 94HJY.com) I would probably have gone to culinary school to become a chef or to work in the restaurant industry."
10. You must know each other pretty well now. Is there something you could reveal about each other that would surprise most people?
Paul - "Al is a REALLY gifted chef! He could easily do a kick ass cooking show!!"
Al - "Don't let the beard fool you: Paul is a girl."
Big thanks to Paul & Al for taking the time to answer 10 Questions. Congratulations on 22 years on 94HJY, and here's to many more! You can listen to them live weekday mornings on 94 WHJY in Providence, RI and visit their page at www.94hjy.com.
Brendan Kirby - 'Wicked Late'
Brendan Kirby is the host of 'Wicked Late', a talk/variety TV show on public access television in Rhode Island. Since 2004 he has written, produced, and entertained viewers while also featuring local celebrities from television, radio, comedy, music, and more. In July 2012, Kirby plans to air his final episode of 'Wicked Late'. We asked Brendan to answer 10 questions before he calls it quits.
1. When did you start hosting Wicked Late?
"The first show was filmed on December 1, 2003 and premiered later that same month. I originally launched it as an Independent Study project during my final semester at Rhode Island College. I hadn't really realized how much work it would be just to get it on the air, so once that initial one was completed, I wasn't sure if it was going to become a regular show that I would continue to produce, write and host. After a few months of deliberation and preparation, we returned in March of 2004 and have produced a brand new, original episode (nearly) every month since then."
2. What made you want to host your own Talk/Variety Public Access TV show?
"When you have no friends and your family has disowned you, you need something to occupy your free time. What better hobby than a non-paying TV gig!? Actually, from a young age - probably 13 or 14 - I've had a fascination with late night television comedy/talk shows. There was always something about them that appealed to me. The immediacy of them every night; the jokes, the desk bits and remotes, the lights, the music, the guests...early on I just found myself drawn to that type of show and all that they offered from a creative standpoint. By the time I got to college, I knew I wanted to focus on one of two things: running my own escort service or television. When I chose the former, I really started to get serious about things. In my head I had this crazy idea that I could be "the guy" at the desk on my own late night show even if it was just at the local level. Later on in college I was lucky enough to land an internship in NYC at the 'Late Show with David Letterman'. As someone who had already been a huge admirer of Letterman's you can imagine how excited I was for that opportunity. Before that semester in Manhattan had ended I had already quietly decided that when I returned home I would launch my own talk show. I so desperately craved an outlet for the late night-style jokes and comedy I had started to regularly write and figured my very own production would be ideal for that. Also, the Letterman show had provided me with all the training I would ever need regarding how those types of programs are assembled. "
3. Is it a lot of hard work doing a new show every month?
"It is indeed a lot of work when you're not only hosting but you're producing every aspect of it by yourself - from writing to guest booking and research, to setting up, scheduling and producing guest segments and remotes, to wardrobe to pre and post-editing, so much goes into it; and although some months I've often wondered "why am I doing this?", when the show is edited, shipped off and played back, it is very, very rewarding to me. And when someone takes the time to approach me on the street and compliment me on it, I'm absolutely ecstatic...and I usually break out into a Hall & Oates acapella medley as a result of my giddiness. We all express emotions in different ways..."
4. How many episodes total have there been?
"The final episode will be Show #93. I had always hoped to make it to some milestone number like 100 or 150 but with our production schedule of one new episode per month, which is really all you can do without a full staff and crew at your disposal like a Leno, Conan or Letterman, it doesn't seem worth it to wait around for however many months just for the sake of hitting a number. It's too bad though. I had hoped to make the 100th episode spectacular a classy affair by having it at the 'Foxy Lady'. Oh well..."
5. Why have you decided to stop doing the show?
"As I've said in the last few shows, it's now time to pursue my first love: 'Competitive Ice Dancing'. Look for me in the 2014 games, America! In reality, it was a very hard decision. I’m considering all of my options at this point including the very real possibility of relocating. As much as I love Rhode Island, the reality is, I've realized I most likely cannot make a living doing what I love to do here in The Ocean State. If I could get paid to do 'Wicked Late' here, that would be incredible but it just isn’t feasible, at least at this time. By ending the show, I feel like I’m freeing myself up for whatever transition I want to make, whenever that time comes. I also do feel that I have gone as far as I can doing this show at this point which is sometimes hard for me to digest. It’s meant everything to me. As I’ve been looking back and assembling all of the old clips for the finale, the reality of it ending has really started to sink in. I will miss it terribly and I’m extremely proud of all that I’ve done with it."
6. What can viewers expect on the final show? Is it a best of? Surprise guests?
"For starters, it will be a one hour special. Barry P. Cook, who has a show called 'Voices In Your Head' which airs after 'Wicked Late', was kind enough to say "yes" when I asked if he would give up the first 30 minutes of his timeslot so I could go for one hour for our last show. There will be no sit-down guest segment. It will mainly be a ‘best of’ show, looking back at some of my favorite clips. It's been hell deciding what gets in and what doesn't; I'll tell you that! I can't wait until the lengthy project of reviewing, importing, and editing the old clips is done but I'm almost there. As for special guests, there could be one or two surprise walk-ons. If none of our past friends will show up, we're going to have past crew members, now doing time at the ACI, parade through the studio and tell me how much I suck. It promises to be a real tear jerker. My parents will be very proud."
7. What are some of your most memorable moments on the show?
"We've been lucky enough to have had some very cool moments take place on our pathetically under-decorated set. Unfortunately none of them involve nudity but they're still pretty awesome. I'd say the one that sticks out the most was when the late, great RI broadcasting legend Doug White stopped by in June of 2004. At that point, the show was still relatively new and I was very nervous about asking people to come on - without the aide of blackmail. So you can imagine what a thrill it was to have someone of his stature in this state agree to legally do it. It gave us some credibility when we booked guests moving forward from then. Not only that, he was hysterical! I'll never forget the way he joked about his own hair or how sharp and witty he was. The entire crew was cracking up throughout his segment. We were very saddened, as were all Rhode Islanders, when he passed away a few years later.
My good fiends Kim Zandy and Giovanni from '92 PRO-FM' have been more than generous with their time. Not only have they appeared and been awesome as guests multiple times but they've both participated in some terrific comedy cameos over the years. My favorites probably being the times Kim has surprised me and delivered a pie to my face during my birthday month show the last three Julys. It's the oldest comedy gag in the book for a reason!
Another favorite has been comedian Brian Beaudoin. I’ve always enjoyed having local comics come on and he has been amazing. He’s done a few hysterical comedy cameos and also been a sit-down guest. In February of 2010 we switched things up a bit and he came on the show and interviewed me which was great fun.
And I would be remiss if I left out Patrick Little from 'Eyewitness News Providence'. I interned for him in the Fall of 2002 and when I started 'Wicked Late' a year later, he was kind enough to be our first ever guest. He returned multiple times throughout our run including this past May when he was my final sit-down guest. I was very touched that he agreed to do that for me. The two of us always had great segments on the show.
Other than guests, some of my favorite comedy pieces have been when we went outside of the studio for remotes. I always wished we had been able to do more of them but they’re really involved when it comes to setting them up. I loved doing pieces at the Auto Show in Providence. My Mother is a High School teacher so I did a segment where I talked to a bunch of kids from one of her classes which was also great fun; they loved being on TV.
Another classic was 'WICKED LATE Batting Practice' where we'd just destroy common household items found in the supermarket. I'd lob them in and my friend and sidekick Eric Montaquila, who can really swing a bat, would just smash the items into nothing. That was always a crowd pleaser which we did every Spring at the start of baseball season."
8. Are you selling your desk?
"Well since 'The Smithsonian' hasn't called, it is possible the desk will be available on 'Craigslist' some time in the near future. I'm sorry but the potential buyer will be responsible for removing the stench of gin and Aqua Velva from it and all sales are final. I will, however, throw in my back issues of 'Tiger Beat' which I keep in the lower right hand drawer. Sounds like a good deal to me."
9. Are there any people you'd like to thank?
"Well, of course, The Academy for starters. It really wouldn't have been possible to keep it going for eight and a half years without the help and support of so many. From past crew members who helped execute the tapings to guests who gave their time, to friends of family who agreed to appear in various skits as extras or featured performers, the list goes on and on. I'll never be able to repay everyone for their time and contributions. Hopefully the cheap, sweatshop produced 'Wicked Late' t-shirts I gave the majority of them are a small indication of how much they have been appreciated. I also want to offer an enormous amount of thanks to anyone who has watched us over the years. When you're not on a major network or channel and you don't have a large budget for a promotional campaign at your disposal, your viewers mean even more to you. So to anyone that has come across the show and appreciated what we've tried to do and watched and enjoyed anything we've done over the years, to you I am extremely grateful and will never forget your kindness and encouragement. Lastly, I'd like to thank my good friend of 17 years Eric Montaquila for being by my side on the drum for the majority of the tapings. I couldn't have done the show with anyone else."
10. Where and when can people see your final show?
"It is scheduled to premiere on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 10:30pm on RI COX 13 and Verizon 32. Again, it will be a one hour special, not the usual 30 minute episode we've done all along. It will air every Sunday at that same through July 29. It will also be available on demand at www.wickedlate.com at some point in July. Also, if anyone is interested in a written transcript of the episode as a keepsake, just get yourself a pen and paper and write really fast as it airs. I've enjoyed acting out many episodes of 'The Golden Girls' with my cats using this very same, successful method."We wish Brendan the best of luck in his future endeavors and will miss seeing him on local TV.