by Ryan Meehan
National touring comedian Eric Grady is the “World’s Tallest Comedian”, and has been making audiences “bust their guts”, “cry”, and even “pee a little” (actual quotes from audience members) from laughing since 1995 with his hilarious, edgy, and fresh standup comedy. Eric’s comedy career began in South Florida. Well actually, it began in Charlotte, NC. He did his first open mic in Charlotte and he loved it. He kept coming back as often as he could, but Eric was living in Myrtle Beach, SC at the time so it was hard to get back to Charlotte for an open mic night. After doing about 10 or so open mics, in 1998 Eric moved to Charlotte, and got married. Sadly, after a few years, the marriage was over, and in 2001 Eric moved to Ft Lauderdale, FL, where he promptly got back into comedy open mics. After spending a couple of years in Florida, Eric moved back to Myrtle Beach, SC, doing comedy often. Eventually in 2006, he moved to New York City where he worked about 2000 shows in 2 years. And finally, in 2008, Eric moved to Los Angeles, CA, where he resides, today. Eric stays busy with stand-up. He’s honed his ‘rapid fire’, physical comedy to be quick, sharp, and hilarious. Today, Eric is still shy, still funny, and still tall. He’s 6’9′, which is why a lot of people know him as ‘the World’s Tallest Comedian’. Eric comedy has been described as ‘Very funny’ by Comedian; Wendy Liebman, and ‘Fresh, original’, by Comedian; Fred Klett, adding; “No one is doing what (Eric’s) doing”. And he’s physically funny, using his height and his weight to do mind-bending, body bending comedy. You can catch Eric at a comedy club near you, and he’s my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you first realized that you were going to be getting a divorce, how long was it before the idea of getting back to doing stand-up actually became a real possibility for you? Was it something that hit you right away, or did it take a while to resurface inside your mind?
EG: It seems to me that once you have the “comedy bug”, it’s almost impossible to lose it. When I got married, I was an “open mic-er”. So I was still very new, but I was already hooked on comedy. So, the whole time I was married, I wanted to be back in comedy. The problem was that me being in comedy kind of went against our “plan”. But I actually wrote 2 jokes that I still use a lot of to this day, that I wrote while I was married. They were about my marriage, and about my two stepchildren. The joke about the stepchildren was my closer (closing joke), up until about six months ago. But to answer your question, the way you’re asking it; it was right away. It took a couple of months to get settled in my new living arrangement, and to find the place to do open mic. But it was almost all I thought about, right after I became separated. It never had to resurface, because it never really left my mind.
RM: What’s the biggest difference between doing comedy in Los Angeles as opposed to working on the East Coast?
EG: I actually love this question. The answer for me is: the time it takes to get to the funny. New Yorkers are wonderfully impatient. For a New York audience, you have to “bring it”, and you have to bring it fast. You gotta get to the funny, quickly. If you take too long to get to a punchline, or take too long to get the next punchline, or the next, then they lose interest in you. My “funny” was pretty fast, when I got to NYC, but after arriving, I realized that my “funny” needed to be much faster. So, I trimmed the fat (meaning I cut excess words, etc from my act), and became a much more rapid fire comic. Then I moved to the West Coast, and I found that “West Coasters” are much more laid back, and patient. It actually seems like you have to go a bit slower, to get to the funny, because the audience almost seem to be going “Whoa, man, whoa! Take it easy. All in good time dude, all in good time.” I feel like I can see if a comic is a New Yorker or a West Coaster, in the first sentence or so of their act. Not that either is better or worse, they’re just different. And then there are “road comics”, which are even more different. Luckily, I’ve found that my rapid fire style was able to transition to the west coast really well. But that also may be because I say a lot of things with a smile, instead of seeming angry. That’s the other difference I noticed. New Yorkers are seemingly quite angry in their act, where as West Coasters are a bit more…I don’t know…happy maybe?
RM: Do you ever feel that because you are so tall, an audience that is not that familiar with your work will expect a show where every single joke is comprised of physical comedy?
EG: No. Most of the time when people come to see my show, if they’ve never seen me before, then they’ve probably only seen my head shot photo that’s been taped to the wall, inside the comedy club. But I’ve always enjoyed physical comedy. Watching it AND performing it. So I try to have a lot of physical comedy in my act, and I’m always trying to get more physicality in there. So whether they’re expecting physical comedy or not, they’re gonna get some.
RM: Who are some of the physical comedians that you really looked up to when you were first starting out; and what was it about the way that they were able to really balance the material with the physicality of their act that you noticed would prove to be so effective?
EG: My favorite is Brian Regan. I really enjoy his comedy. But I also LOVED Red Skelton and Steve Martin. I watched a lot of TV shows, so I also loved what Carol Burnett and Tim Conway did as well as Dick Van Dyke, and how can you not mention Jim Carrey when he was on In Living Color. I never saw Jim Carrey’s stand up until I was already doing comedy. But MAN, was that guy good at physical comedy…he still is. And the thing that I noticed that was so effective at balancing the material and physicality of their act, or acting, was the way that they were able to get HUGE laughs, without ever saying a word. I love that. That’s one of my favorite things in comedy, is being able to get a laugh, without talking, but just with movement.
RM: What is the key to nailing down a really high-quality impression? How do you go about making sure the facial expressions are accurately replicated when you look nothing like the person you are doing an impression of?
EG: Well, my impressions are not really of people. Oh sure, I try some impressions of people with my friends sometimes, but the impressions I do onstage, are not so much of any famous person. I do an impression of a “sky dancer”, or as a lot of people know it; a whacky, waving, inflatable, arm flailing, tube man. I also do an impression of a T-Rex dinosaur, and an impression of a guy playing “Dance Dance Revolution” (DDR). But my experience has been this. When I’m doing the “DDR” impression, the part that the audiences seem to love the most, is the faces I make… like I’m really concentrating on the game. The T-Rex is the same. They like the face. On the “Sky dancer”, they just think I look like one. I never practiced that one before I ever did it onstage. I just did it one time, and it was a hit. So I just kept doing it. And people tell me all the time that I do it better than anybody. I guess I’m just built like one. Who knew?
RM: What is the most bizarre thing that has happened to you in all of your years doing stand-up comedy? In retrospect, do you think that if it you could do it all over again you would have handled that situation in a different manner? If so, why?
EG: Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I don’t really have a lot of bizarre things that have happened to be, that’s related to stand up. I can think of 2 kinda bizarre things. One, I had lunch with a friend one day, hours before a show. I got food poisoning. And when show time came, I was sick. But I could “get sick”, if you know what I mean. I felt like if I could just “get sick”, then I’d feel better, and I’d be able to do the show. But I couldn’t “get sick”. Not until right before I went on. Finally, that’s when it hit me. I was in the bathroom, getting sick (BAD sick), during my introduction. The emcee said my name, I staggered to my feet, wiped my mouth, and went running on stage. I did as much time as I could, cut it a little short, and ran off stage, and got sick again. Not a great night for me, albeit, the show went well. They thought I was funny. And even though I was about to puke, I left on a laugh, and to big applause. But as they say, the show must go on. And it did, so I felt like a trooper. But I didn’t see that coming. So I don’t know how I’d handle it differently, other than cancel the show. But when you’re just trying to work as a comic, you don’t cancel for fear of not being booked again. Other than that, the most bizarre thing I can think of was just last year. I was walking through New York City, on 8th Ave, with my buddy Jeff. We’re at a crosswalk, crossing the street, when I hear a woman yell “ERIC GRADY!!!” I thought it was someone I knew, who just happened to see me. So, I say “What?!”, then turn around to see the crowd of people between her and I separate, like Moses and the Red Sea, revealing a lady I’d never seen before. She was a very petty, black woman (important to the story), looking at me, and asking me to come back to where she is standing. Jeff and I walk over and she tells me that her boyfriend is named Eric Grady, and they were just sitting in a bar that Jeff and I, just walked by. “Her” Eric Grady saw me (because I stand above the rest of the crowd), through the window, as I was walking. A couple of years ago, that Eric Grady had “friended” me on facebook, because we had the same name. So we had never met. But he saw me and said “There goes Eric Grady.” This lady we’re now talking to tells Eric that he should go say “hello”. And Eric says he didn’t want to do that, because it’d be weird for him (me). So the lady says that SHE’LL go say “hello”. Which she was now doing, and asked if I’d come meet him. I said I’d love to. We walk in, and I meet Eric Grady. Talked for a couple of minutes. We take some pictures. Then Jeff and I went on our way. The thing that I thought was so funny was that we are both Eric Gradys, but we’re also both very tall (he’s not as tall as I am, but to most people, he’s a tall guy), and at the time, we were both in interracial relationships (we were both white guys, dating black women. I’m not with the woman I was seeing at the time. But I think he is still with the lady he was seeing), and we were both visiting NYC, from out of town. And here we were, on the same street, on the same day, at the same time. I just thought it was cool. And they seem like a really nice couple. I don’t know how I would have handled that any differently.
RM: How often do you still do caricature artwork; and is that something that you’ve ever had the chance to do for a fan after a show?
EG: I still do a lot of caricature work. I own some “retail” caricature locations in Myrtle Beach, SC. I work them in the summer, and do stand up in the fall, and winter. I’ve been doing caricatures for work for something like 27+ years. I started in Atlanta. I worked in Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, and even at Disney for a while. And yes, I have done them after shows. Often, after a comedy show, the comedians will sell t-shirts, or cds or bumper stickers, or whatever, to supplement income. Road comics often don’t get paid very much. The club keeps most of the money. But once when I was doing “feature” work, I was in Jacksonville, FL doing shows. And I did a bit about caricatures on stage. After the show, I offered caricatures. I sold a couple, but not enough to make me feel like it was worth the effort to lug around my easel, and drawing board, and paper, and bags, and markers and paper, etc, on the next gig. So, I don’t really do that anymore unless someone asks me. Then if we can find some paper, I’ll do one. I do always have a marker with me, though.
RM: Which aspect of the writing process to you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice.
EG: The thing I struggle with the most has always been the “idea” part. I’ve always had a hard time coming up with an idea to write about. I often see comics talking about things, and I’m just wishing I could make my brain come up with these ideas… not the same ideas, but just ideas. The thing I’m good at is writing the jokes. If there’s an idea, I can write the jokes. I can go on and on with punchlines. I have a friend who was kind of a newbie, and she was struggling a little, after leaving comedy for a while. But she had done well before, and wanted to get back into it. So I wrote some punchlines to jokes she already had, to help her understand better, how to write. And they were really funny. A comedy club wanted to make a radio commercial once, and they were talking about it while I was in the room. When I heard the spot on the radio, I heard some of my lines. When I was in art school, we had to write advertising scripts, and mine were always the funniest. But they told us what to write about, OR we’d partner up, and often the other person would have an idea that I could run with. So I have to be inspired first. I have to have the idea before I can run with it. All of my material is my ideas. But it took a long time to think of them. Once I thought of them, the writing came flowing. I think I’ve gotten better at writing after rewriting my material, when I moved to NY. Once I really understood how to trim the fat, it really made it easier to do, and more fun to do.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
EG: Well… Touring. Doing shows on the road. Also my friend David Gregory and I just wrote a pilot for a TV show. No one asked us to do it, we just did it. As I mentioned before, I have always had a hard time coming up with the idea. But this IS my idea. We already have the script copyrighted, so I can tell you about it. It’s about the behind the scenes part of working in an amusement park. I’ve worked in parks for years. And as I said earlier, I even worked at Disney World. But this is about how the workers are, when they are working at amusement parks, when you don’t see them, or what they really want to say when you DO see them. It’s kind of like The Office, or Parks and Rec, but for an amusement park. What we’ve come up with is really funny. We want to call it “Funpark”. Our goal is to get it on Netflix or Hulu. That’s what we want. We’re thinking about doing a kickstarter, and making it ourselves, then trying to pitch it. Here’s hoping. I’ve also been getting into “improv comedy” a little bit. I took a class last summer at the Upright Citizens Brigade, In NYC. I really enjoyed it. And I was good at it. So, I’m planning on doing some more of that this year. And I’m thinking about moving to NYC again. As I said earlier, I was there a couple of times last year, and I enjoyed it. I mean, I really enjoyed it. No, I loved it. I LOVE New York. Someone should probably put that on a t-shirt. Except there’s probably not enough room for all that on a t-shirt. Maybe just an “I” and maybe a heart, then “NY”. There’s a million dollar idea. Whoever does that is gonna make some money, I guarantee it.
Official Website: http://ericgrady.com
Eric on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldstallestcomedian
Eric on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericgrady
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.