By Ryan Meehan
Sam Morril is one of the best joke writers in the scene today. How do you know that’s true? Because he is writing this bio, and he wouldn’t lie about that to get extra work. Sam won March Madness 2010 at Comix, has performed in a Friars Roast, and was featured in a 4-page spread in the Daily News as “one of the four funniest in New York?” He then won the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta, beating out over 600 (dreams were shattered!) applicants. In 2011, Sam was named a “Comic to Watch” by Comedy Central. His comedy can be heard on Sirius XM radio, and you can see him regularly at all the best clubs in New York City. Recently, he’s been on “Gotham Comedy Live” on AXS TV, and the “The Artie Lange Show.” Sam made a big impression at Montreal’s “Just for Laughs” Comedy Festival, and was written up a stand out among the “New Faces.” Every Thursday, you can catch Sam talking about New York sports on MSG’s “The Bracket.” Time Out New York says: “Morril’s jokes arise from his humiliations—sure, a lot of comedy does, but he’s especially adept at it.” He’s also our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: Do you consider comedy to be more of an artform or a science? And if it’s both, which one of those two is it more of than the other?
SM: I’d say an artform because science isn’t real and there’s no such thing as evolution. You think comedy came from monkeys or something?
Like music or literature, word choice is important, rhythm is important…Certain words are just funnier than others. I have a joke where I say, “incriminate a pediatrician.” I think those words are just funnier than “get a doctor arrested.” Certain words just fit.
When people get mad at what comedians say, when there is all this Internet outrage, I think that is a sign that this is an artform that is taken more and more seriously.
A live comedy show is really the last place where you can say absolutely anything as long as it’s funny…There’s something really exciting about that. They can censor you on TV, but not on the late show downtown.
RM: You won Laughing Skull Atlanta a couple of years back…What gave you the idea to make the trip down there and when during that competition did you know that things were really hitting with the crowd?
SM: I just put myself out there any way I could. I said yes to everything. I wasn’t getting out on the road enough, and I was desperate to get out there. Since, I have a lot of short jokes, I already had some success in competitions, and that led to more work. I hate comedy competitions, but I wanted to be working.
When could I tell I was hitting with the crowd? When they were laughing at my jokes. That was a big tip off that things were going well. There were three rounds, and you couldn’t repeat material in any of the rounds so I was constantly thinking, “do I burn this joke or do I save it for the next round? What if I don’t make the next round?” I did just well enough to move onto the finals, and I remember pacing back and forth nervously before my set. Margaret Cho stopped and grabbed me. She said, “You’re going to be great.” I ended up having a good set, and when I got off she said, “I told you!” Margaret Cho is a swell gal in my book!
RM: What can you tell us about “Moonlighting with Sam Morril”? With all of the comedy podcasts out there today, what makes yours different?
SM: In every episode, we close the podcast with comedian Joe Machi singing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” while doing a seductive dance. I find it unsettling, but the guys in the studio seem to enjoy it.
The show is really fun, and I hope people will listen to it. Expect the unexpected. We’ve had all kinds of guests: comics, writers, porn stars, musicians. Comics Joe Machi and Rachel Feinstein have both been on a few episodes and they’re both great. The show can be really funny, but we’ve also had some serious conversations. I’m just trying to go with the flow, and making sure it’s entertaining.
So far we’ve had porn star Ron Jeremy, musician Anya Marina, Esquire writer and author Scott Raab, and we’ve had stand-up comics Judah Friedlander, Gary Gulman, Nikki Glaser, Greg Warren, and more. We bring in comedians, but I also love bringing in people that don’t do comedy. I try to always have 2-3 guests so the show moves quickly and there is never a dull moment. Sometimes I’ll just take a walk on the street with a comic after a set, and we record the conversation. As long as every episode is funny, surprising, and entertaining, I’m happy with what we’re putting out.
RM: Which of the clubs in New York do you consider to be your home stage? And what is it about that place that makes it so comforting to perform at?
SM: Where am I the most comfortable? Hmm…Probably in shitty rooms where there are no stakes. That’s where I can experiment…so I won’t name those places here. I want them to let me keep experimenting.
RM: You’ve said that “anyone who’s been doing comedy a long time and stays original, creative, and prolific is my hero”. That said, who are some of the comedians that fall into all three of those categories that really inspire you to keep doing what you’re doing?
SM: There are so many in New York. If I gave you names, I’d leave someone out and feel stupid. My closest friends are the ones I see constantly cranking out jokes so I see firsthand how much they care about comedy and how much they put out. That pushes me to keep going and to try to keep up. If I’m ever in the room watching your set, that means I probably respect you…Either that or I’m just like, “holy shit. What a hack…Let me watch this person so I know exactly what not to do.” I guess you’ll never know which it is…
RM: What was the worst experience that you’ve ever had on stage? What did you learn from that experience that you have been able to use at future gigs where you can tell that it might be a tough room?
SM: I learned that maybe I should carry a concealed weapon, but I don’t….I think you’ve gotta fill out paper work to get a weapon, and I lack that kind of motivation. I don’t know….I’ve been spat on. That’s pretty degrading. It’s always shitty when someone in the crowd is threatening you, and you know they could kick your ass, and there’s no bouncer working. It’s never comforting to be going into your next joke, while simultaneously planning an escape route.
RM: I know you do “The Bracket” on MSG: Is there any hope for the New York Jets franchise with the way that team is currently structured? And what’s wrong with the Knicks?
SM: The Jets? I don’t know. I’m a Giants fan. I’ve got my own problems, man. The Knicks…Where do I begin? As most fans know, the problem begins with ownership. It’s hard to root for a franchise that constantly tosses out young talent to sign old, washed up names who used to be good. Another problem is that we have too many players who like isolation ball. There’s no teamwork. I hate watching 1 on 1 basketball. Watching the Knicks get blown out by the Spurs summed it up perfectly. Talented, but selfish players like JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony are working for difficult shots, while the Spurs play together and get easy looks at the basket. Also, we don’t play defense, we don’t get assists (back to the teamwork), and we don’t rebound well. What’s right with the Knicks? That would’ve been an easier question. Hopefully, when Tyson Chandler comes back, something comes together. The East is weak enough for us to spark a run, but I’m not optimistic at all.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
SM: So far my New Year’s Resolution for 2014 is to drink more and get really fat. Maybe I’ll start smoking again too.
Official Website: http://www.sammorril.com/SamMorril/HOME.html
Sam on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sam.morril
Sam on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sammorril
The Moonlighting Podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/moonlighting/id727365423?mt=2
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