by Ryan Meehan
Rocky LaPorte’s appeal comes from his everyman, streetwise style of comedy. Delivering laughs in his trademark Brooklyn accent, he has become one of the most sought after comedians in the country, and he appeared on season eight of NBC’s Last Comic Standing! A former Chicago truck driver and dock worker, Rocky has accumulated a slew of performances throughout his career, including being a featured comic on Showtime‘s The Godfathers of Comedy, a special starring five of America’s most hilarious Italian-American comics. On the big screen, he has been seen in two Tim Allen movies – Crazy on the Outside and The Shaggy Dog. Rocky traveled with Drew Carey to Iraq to entertain the troops and was seen on the Showtime special Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie. Rocky has filmed his own Comedy Central Presents specialand was voted the network’s second most popular comedian in a nationwide poll. He has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and appeared on A&E‘s Evening At The Improv and VH1‘s Stand-Up Spotlight, along with sitcom appearances on Cheers and his own NBC pilot called the Rocky LaPorte Show. Rocky has opened for the likes of Garry Shandling, Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Louie Anderson, Hootie and the Blowfish and the Righteous Brothers, just to name a few. His clean, blue-collar style of comedy continues to increase in popularity as he travels the country, and he’s my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: Who was the first person in your life that genuinely recognized the gift you had for making people laugh? What kind of compliments did that individual give you which convinced you their endorsement was more than just common courtesy and that you were actually funny?
RLP: I remember being about 7 or 8 and making a bunch of my relatives at a table laugh so hard they were crying, and I felt like I possessed some kind of magic. It was amazing at that age and I just thought it was so neat to be able to do that.
RM: Do you feel that the label “blue-collar comic” fits you well, or is there anything about that moniker which you think might be misleading to comedy fans who haven’t previously seen you perform?
RLP: The Blue Collar comedy guys were more southern than blue collar in my opinion. Blue Collar to me is the middle class working Joes, and I hope people don’t think Blue Collar means dirty either cause I’m not. I’m just a regular guy…
RM: When I watch clips of you doing stand-up, one of the first things I notice about your material is that you use the skill of relatability to win the crowd over while discussing relatively simple subject matter…When you’re developing new jokes, how soon does the question of “How will as many audience members as possible be able to understand this premise?” appear in the evolution of the bit?
RLP: Somebody a long time ago said “write what you think is funny” and that’s what I try to do. But it seems like your always tweaking a joke to make it work better or get more out of it.
RM: What was going through your mind in the moments after you were eliminated from Season Eight of Last Comic Standing? Other than being disappointed that you didn’t advance, what other emotions were you experiencing at that point in time?
RLP: Man, they worked us like rented mules on that show. Long days, and they were always trying to pit someone against someone else. When I lost that round I was kind of surprised, because I thought I had a very good set. There’s a lot that happened that they didn’t show, and they put a camera right in your mug immediately after you lost and come off stage. The thing the hurt me the most at that moment was I was dreading calling all the kids and grandkids at home to tell them I lost, as I felt like a lot of people were on the ride with me and that I let them down. If I had a bad set it would of been easier to swallow but I had a good one, but that’s what bothered me the most was I felt like I let me family down.
RM: Prior to that show, how often did you participate in comedy competitions/festivals where your capacity to move forward was based on the decisions of judges? Did you find your participation in those events throughout your career assisted you in any way when you moved on from the invitational round of LCS?
RLP: I’ve been in quite a few competitions, and frankly I hate them cause you’re going up against a lot of your friends and you know someone’s going home not happy. But that’s the way our industry is structured, you sometimes have to win some of these to get ahead or at least get national exposure.
RM: How many corporate gigs do you typically do in a calendar year? What is the most important thing to focus on while preparing for one of those performances; and do you do extensive online research about the company you are performing for in order to tailor the live comedy experience to their specific interests?
RLP: I do about 12 to 20 a year, and I love doing them. Most of the places just want you to do your act but some ask you to make fun of something in their line of work, usually they’ll send you a list of what they do and you can go from there or ask questions.
RM: What’s the most common mistake you see younger comedians making at the club level today? Why do you think that error is so recurrent among those who are just breaking into the field; and what is the best way those individuals can avoid such self-inflicted damage?
RLP: It seems to me a lot of guys today would rather copy someone else than be themselves, and they’ll try to be like Louis CK, Dane Cook, et cetera. It’s like being an Elvis impersonator though, you’re only going to go so far. Be original!
RM: What was the most sobering part of travelling to Iraq for you? Was that experience something that you felt you were mentally prepared for; or did the severity of the situation not truly hit you until you touched down?
RLP: The most sobering part was that over here we complain about traffic and some petty things, while people over there are trying to dodge bad guys and digging in the earth to find water. I wish more people knew about the hard work our troops put in to try and help that place more than the fighting and tearing down you hear about. I was honored to perform for our men and women over there as well as at state side.
RM: How do you know when it’s time to stop doing a particular joke or set of jokes in your act? Is there any sort of criteria you use to evaluate bits that might be nearing the end of their life cycle?
RLP: Sometimes you just get tired of doing it even though it’s funny, and sometimes people will request them. It’s like if you were in a band and you rotate songs in and out, and then people get mad when you don’t play their favorite song.
RM: Which aspect of the writing process would you consider to be your specialty? Why do you believe you excel at that particular portion of your craft?
RLP: Writing comes in waves: The more you do it the more you find the gems, but to be honest probably for every 10 jokes you write 2 or 3 may be good enough to put in your act – you have to move a lot of dirt to find a little bit of gold. I think I’m good at editing, cutting the fat from the joke and streamlining it. I like doing that and I help my friends stream line theirs some time too.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
RLP: We shot a special for Country Music Television with Ron White called “Salute to the Troops” which will start airing Memorial Day Weekend and I may be doing a few more TV spots. My calendar is full though and will be traveling all over the country, I’ve got a lot of new fans from the show and I love meeting them.
Official Website: http://rockylaporte.com/
Rocky on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Comedian-Rocky-LaPorte/236024209926786?fref=ts
Rocky on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RockyLaPorte
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