By Ryan Meehan
When college doesn’t appeal to you, you can’t find a good job, and you have a hard time passing drug tests, you’re really only left with one career option: stand-up comedy. Geoff Tate discovered this life path only a few short years ago, but is already making it work for him. He toured the country as part of the Comedy Central Live Presents’ Mike Birbiglia’s Secret Public Journal Live, he appeared at The Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, he’s been on The Bob and Tom Show several times and appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham. Geoff “has a knack for mining his own personal history for big laughs” (The Capital Times, Madison, WI) and his style has been compared to the late Mitch Hedberg (The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, OH). We are delighted to have Geoff as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What is the comedy scene like in Cincinnati and surrounding areas in Ohio and Northern Kentucky? Do audiences from that region have any specific tendencies when it comes to the material which they prefer? And when it comes down to stuff like that, do you even care or do you just pretty much go out there and do whatever you feel at the moment?
GT: Cincinnati has a great comedy scene, even if no one knows about it. I was fortunate enough to start at Go Bananas Comedy Club, a club that cares about local comics and wants us to keep getting better.
I started about 12 years ago with Ryan Singer. Dave Waite, Alex Stone and Mike Cody started just after that. These guys are killers. Singer got a nice write up in Rolling Stone and has been on Maron’s TV show. Dave was on Fallon and Comedy Central. Alex and Mike are both destroyers on stage. Reid Faylor and Andrew Short (those guys that do the Undone Sweaters), started comedy in Cincinnati. There’s lots of new funny guys there now, too. It’s got a great scene.
I haven’t really noticed any specific tendencies from the audiences. Comedy Clubs tend to be more liberal than the region anyways and I also don’t really care. I know they get mad if you speak positively of the Pittsburgh Steelers but who cares? If it’s funny, it’ll work. I don’t really care about the audience except for their laughs. You can get someone to laugh at anything if it’s funny enough.
RM: What type of material was your act comprised of when you first got started doing stand-up? When did you finally feel comfortable enough to start working some of your own personal beliefs and political opinions into your set?
GT: Back then, I was all over the map with my material. I was learning to write jokes so they were about whatever I could come up with. Sometimes, even those were political or personal but only if I could come up with a punchline that would carry it through. I guess I’ve never been uncomfortable working my own beliefs into the set as long as it was funny enough to be there.
RM: I feel bad for asking this, but have you ever had anyone come up to you at a show and tell you they are disappointed because they expected to see Geoff Tate – the vocalist from Queensryche? Have you ever met him; and were you ever a fan of that band growing up?
GT: I have had people say that after a show, and it makes me laugh. That’s not my fault. Plenty of context clues along the way to keep them from being disappointed. I have kinda met him. It was in Cowhead’s radio show. Bert Kreischer was in the studio with Cowhead and Geoff Tate was on the hotline. They called me and let me talk to him for a while. He was cool. Said he’d seen my headshot at a couple of his gigs.
Unfortunately, I’m not really into that kind of music. I don’t hate it but it’s not for me.
RM: Speaking of music, I read a blog from Indiana comedian Scott Long not too long ago where he discusses how walk-up music can actually detract from a comedian’s energy once they hit the stage…What’s your take on that? Do you have any specific walk-up music that you like to use before you go on; and what type of music helps you get into the right frame of mind to perform when you are driving to a gig?
GT: I tried to find the blog you’re referencing and I couldn’t. I will say I like going up to You Wreck Me by Tom Petty. It starts with a pretty cool guitar part but it’s not as recognizable as Mary Jane’s Last Dance or Runnin’ Down A Dream. I could imagine it detracting for some and maybe for him but across the board is absurd. I prefer music and I want it to be cool and wordless and only recognizable to big fans. I will say I can imagine it’s tough walking up when everyone wants to keep listening to the song.
RM: You were recently on Doug Benson’s podcast “Doug Loves Movies”…Have you ever given any thought to doing your own podcast? Do you think that market may be oversaturated because everybody got into it at once; and then all of a sudden there were seemingly a million options available?
GT: I’d love to do a podcast, but I don’t know how. The market is flooded right now, so it does need to be more focused than just this guy and his friends talk for an hour. Maybe I’ll get to it. Maybe I’ll wait till everyone else quits.
RM: I love how your Twitter bio reads “I’m likely watching Cheers as you read this” because I stand firm in my position that it’s the greatest television show of all time…What is it about that show that you love so much; and what comedic lessons have you been able to take from that sitcom and apply it to what you do onstage with your standup?
GT: The show’s jokes come straight from the character development. By season 10 and 11, they don’t even need set ups half the time. The characters are so well defined the punchlines work no matter what. I try to do the character development part onstage. If I can do the character development part correctly, I can get anyone to laugh at anything I saw the last half of the show. That’s my Cheers take away. And you’re not wrong, it is absolutely the best show ever.
RM: I saw you about a year and a half back in Rock Island on the Big Stink Comedy tour with Brett Erickson and Doug Stanhope…Doug’s crowds can get pretty rowdy at times for sure and that night was no exception. What was the most valuable lesson that you learned from touring with him; and which night on the tour were you most inebriated?
GT: Stanhope exhausts every topic he chooses to explore. I mean that complimentary. He doesn’t half ass a bit ever. South Bend might of been the most drunk. Maybe second show Appleton. I really don’t know. Could of been all of them. A 20 day tie for first.
RM: What do you consider to be the most important part of the comedic writing process? Are there any aspects of the whole thing that seem to be a little overrated to you?
GT: Getting onstage is the most important part for me. Otherwise it’s just garbage in a notebook. It’s all kinda overrated.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
GT: I just moved to Los Angeles so that’s it for me. My second album comes out shortly. As soon as I finish this interview, I gotta finish my liner notes and then I’ll get a release date. It’s gonna be a good one.
Official Website: http://geofftate.biz/
Geoff on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Geoff-Tate/155054491246900
Geoff on Twitter: https://twitter.com/geofftate96
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