by Ryan Meehan
Alex Nussbaum has been nominated as Best Male Comedian at the Canadian Comedy Awards and was chosen as Best Comedy Show of the Year in Toronto’s NOW Magazine. His standup has been seen on Comedy Now @ CTV and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival @ CBC, and his comedy album, Absolutely Free!*, is in regular rotation on Sirius XM satellite radio. Recently, he’s provided a couple dozen voices for MGM’s Pink Panther and Pals cartoon on the Cartoon Network. He’s written and drawn on a number of animated shows on Teletoon and the Cartoon Network as well (listed on IMDB, if fact-checking’s your thing). We are delighted to have him as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What do American comedy fans need to know about the way the funny business runs up in the great white north? Which stereotype of Canadians bothers you the most and why?
AN: What Americans should know about the Canadian funny business is that fortunately we needn’t worry about large sums of money getting in the way of all our fun.
And I, for one, welcome stereotypes. I spend our 11-month winters forming a hockey rink from buckets of maple syrup while apologizing to nearby beavers.
RM: Why did you choose the Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto for your live comedy album taping? Do you feel a heightened sense of comfort and control at that venue; and would you consider that to be your home club?
AN: It was familiar and comfy. I have no home. As a standup comedian, I go wherever the temperate Chinook should happen whisk me (more CanCon).
RM: How is writing for an animated program different than any other form of comedic writing? Is it more difficult at the beginning when you might not yet have a good feel for what the character is like on-screen?
AN: You’re more free with a cartoon. I don’t have to worry about fatalities due to elaborate stunt work. However, sometimes that freedom can make it more difficult. Working within limits drives creativity. Like any writing, it’s easier when the characters are well-defined. Also, I like the pretty colours.
RM: Speaking of writing, how long would you estimate that you worked on the material that will appear on your new record “A Number of Bits”? How have you progressed as a writer since “Absolutely Free” and what (if anything) do you now do differently within the writing process?
AN: Half of the material from “a number of bits” (I prefer all lowercase, thank you) had slowly accumulated since my first album. In the year leading up to the album, after I got my stage legs back from having taken a hiatus from standup, I wrote and honed the rest of the material. That experience of ramping up my process helped me become sharper as a writer I think. I can go from a premise to a fairly finished bit in a week – from open mic shows early in the week to polishing it up at a club on the weekend. It’s definitely inspired me to put out albums more frequently.
RM: Is there any crowd interaction that went down at the recording that was for the most part totally unexpected? If you had to give yourself a letter grade on crowd work, what would you that grade be and why?
AN: I’m not falling for the “grade yourself” routine. That’s saving you from being a critic. You’ll have to be the bad guy, Ryan. I don’t focus on crowd work. My favourite comics were always the ones who had an act. I’m there to hear their prepared take on a subject – I want to hear the writing, see the performance. A fine-tuned bit is far more entertaining to me than one ad-lib after another about someone’s occupation/nationality.
There was some “audience participation” during the tapings but I didn’t include them all on the album. They got laughs but broke the flow of the whole… and I always prefer my whole to have an unbroken flow.
RM: What was the most unusual thing that has happened to you during a live show and how did you handle it? When you look back on that moment, would you have done the same thing or would you have taken a second to consider an alternative means of resolving the situation?
AN: I am never great at the “what’s your worst show” questions. Firstly, I have a terrible memory which serves to keep a lot of bad experiences free from my consciousness. Secondly, I don’t have really strange things happen to me onstage. Sometimes a crowd isn’t into it but that’s it. No thrown beer bottles or unexpected falcon landings. Just drunk men or ladies occasionally slurring loudly in an effort to “help” the show.
RM: Out of all the things within the entertainment industry that you haven’t had the chance to do yet, which one are you most looking forward to doing? What makes you think you’d be such a good fit for that aspect of the business? Has this sort of slowly transitioned into sounding like a job interview? If I were to apologize for that having happened, would you accept that apology as sincere?
AN: One thing about the printed word is that it lacks tone. So until you start to incorporate emoticons, I must call your sincerity into question. 🙂 I like that this is a Q & A that has about three questions per question. Just a suggestion, Ryan: maybe break them up a bit so we don’t get confused as to what question I should be answering first. 😛 And after the grading myself question, I pretty much knew I failed the interview. As far as my experiences in the business, I’d like to do the typical things: play more theatres, do TV, film, subway busking, you know, that sort of thing.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AN: I’ll be continuing with the standup and am currently working on an illustrated book that I’ll have to keep under my hat for now (it’s a hat-sized book). I’ll also be working on some stuff to shoot – short films, pilot scripts, and the like. As for today, you can catch me on CBC at 9pm tonight in my appearance on the Just for Laughs gala. Tune in. I may just be making a couple of Canadian references on it.
Official Website: http://www.alexnussbaum.com/
Alex on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mr.alex.nussbaum
Alex on Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexnussbaum
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