by Ryan Meehan
If there is a club, hall, bar or basement that needs jokes, Larry XL is ready to entertain. Larry XL is a favorite with audiences from the Bahamas to Canada. He’s been a finalist in comedy competitions in his native Baltimore and neighboring cities like Washington, DC and Philadelphia. Since starting out in Baltimore in 2003, Larry XL has been performing in many area venues and hitting the road performing in some of the nation’s best comedy clubs (and anywhere else with electricity) opening for the likes of Bobby Slayton, John Witherspoon, Jim Florentine, Don Jamieson, Roy Wood Jr., Finesse Mitchell, and Charlie Murphy. He has also been heard on XM Satellite Radio and Baltimore’s 98 Rock. Larry XL is a featured performer at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. In 2012 Larry XL made his acting debut appearing in the film Elf-Man starring alongside Jason Acuna (from MTV’s “Jackass”), Mackenzie Astin and Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator). 2013 saw the release of Larry XL’s live album “Huge in Canada” recorded at Absolute Comedy in Ottawa. His new record is entitled “Larry XL: Go Huge or Go Home” and he finds himself as my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: How old were you when you first became aware of stand-up comedy? What was so special about the performance you saw which led you to find it so captivating; and when did you first envision yourself on stage telling jokes in a similar setting?
LN: I was young, probably around 8 or 9. I can’t remember who I became aware of first: Bill Cosby or Eddie Murphy. But the two comedy performances I first became aware of are “Bill Cosby: Himself” and “Eddie Murphy Delirious.” ‘Himself’ was both brilliant and classic. It’s funny if you are 8 years old or 80 years on. Seeing “Delirious” at that young fried my little 9 year old brain, especially if you have no idea what sex and half the curse words are. But still, in Delirious there was so much I could relate to and find hysterical. The first comedian I ever saw perform was either Bill Cosby or Sinbad.
I didn’t envision myself being a comedian until later. Seeing guys like Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby on TV was god-like. You can’t picture yourself doing what they do. By the time I was old enough to be a comedian Eddie wasn’t doing comedy and every black comic on TV was either a Def Jam or a BET comic and I couldn’t see myself doing that. It wasn’t until Chris Rock came out with ‘Bring The Pain’ that I thought, “OK maybe there is a way to be funny and intelligent and edgy and street-level at the same time…”
RM: Which clubs on the East Coast are your favorite rooms to perform stand-up; and how far of a drive is each of those from Jersey City in the event that there aren’t any mandated bridge closures?
LN: Absolute Comedy in Ottawa, Toronto and Kingston (7-8 hour drives), The Comedy Club at the Borgata in Atlantic City (2 hour drive), The DC Improv (4 hour drive), Brew Ha Ha in Hartford, CT (2 hour drive).
RM: Not too long ago you had the chance to play this beautiful club in Indianapolis called Latitude 360 with FOH favorite Adam Degi…What was the best part of that entire weekend for you? How much do you think the environment of a particular venue factors into people leaving having felt like they’ve gotten their money’s worth?
LN: The best part of that weekend was finding a vintage Kiss tour book and a vintage Kiss songbook in a used book store. The shows were great too. The environment is somewhat important factor when it comes to getting the people in the mood to laugh. But really, great comedy shows can happen anywhere from the classiest ballroom to the crappiest bar. Pack a room, no matter how shitty, with people ready to have a good time, have a decent loud PA system, and comedians that know what they are doing and any room can feel like Madison Square Garden.
RM: What percentage of your act would you say is based around material involving your size? If I were to have asked you that question five years ago, would the answer have been different?
LN: Five percent, if that. It’s always been that way. I joke about my size to break the ice with the audience but after that, we’re on a wild ride subject-wise. I don’t like giving the audience too much of something they expect.
RM: Have you found that there is any real noticeable variation in how Canadian audiences expect to hear comedy as opposed to rooms here in the states? If so, how much did that factor into your decision to record both of your LPs there?
LN: Yes. Canadian audiences are slightly different. In the cities their crowds are way more diverse and polite. You can get away with way more intellectual and current event material in Canada than you can in the U.S. In the U.S., it’s more of a crap shoot. Sometime you get great, intelligent audiences. Sometimes you get the Double Deuce from Roadhouse, and everything in between.
I chose to record two of my CD at Absolute Comedy in Ottawa for a few reasons. The room has a low ceiling and a great sound system so I don’t need anything more than a portable digital recorder for things to sound good. The club does 8 shows in a week so you can record a lot of shows in a week. And also, Absolute Ottawa consistently draws the best crowds. It’s one of the best comedy clubs ever.
I have another CD that I recorded in Atlantic City because my recorder works very well there and who doesn’t want a live document of themselves performing in a theater.
RM: When you go back and listen to your 2013 album, what were the areas in which you were specifically looking to improve your stand-up? How did you go about addressing those concerns when compiling bits for “Go Huge or Go Home”?
LN: By the time I record a CD, I usually have the material where I want it. I think my 2013 CD is great. When it came time to record a CD in 2015, all I cared about is having the majority of the recording having jokes on it that I wasn’t doing in 2013. I would say that two-thirds of the jokes on the 2015 are things I wrote since recording the last album and some of the other bits are retooled or reworked versions of older bits.
RM: You’re currently in the middle of the “Milkshakes and Painkillers” tour…What have you found to be the most effective cocktail of those two delicacies/stress-relievers; and how often have you been able to get on stage during your off-days and work between gigs?
LN: For the record, I do not use painkillers. Usually on a good week I can get on stage once or twice on off-nights between the pro gigs. But honestly, open mics are too spotty for me to depend on for trying out new material. If I have a new bit to work on, I usually try it out in the middle of a paying gig. Those are the people I’m writing it for anyway.
RM: What’s the most bizarre thing that has ever happened while you were on stage performing? If the same thing happened tonight, do you think you would respond in the same manner or would you handle the situation in an alternate manner?
LN: I had a big bug fly into my face, hard. That is something that will always break your stride no matter what. Another thing that happened – while tape was rolling – was someone launching into a weird politically charged heckle. That actually made it onto the new CD. It’s the last track. It was so out of left field that the guy who mixed my CD for me thought I had planned it. Sorry, I don’t have that Andy Kaufman level of foresight.
RM: Which stereotype of stand-up comedians bothers you the most; and why do you find that particular inaccuracy of your profession to be so irritating? Is that a categorization that will always plague those who do comedy, or can you see it eventually changing over time?
LN: People think comedians only work for however long they are on stage, and it’s always going to be that way because the audience only sees the end result. They don’t see all the preparations and grinding that goes into what makes a great performance. Even though standing on stage is a lot of people’s greatest fear, we as comics make it look easy. So people assume we have a cushy existence.
RM: Which aspect of the comedic writing process do you think you struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which portion of the procedure would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at this particular portion of your craft?
LN: The answer to both is shelving bits that work so I can bring in newer bits. It’s hard not to whip out a bit that you know will always bring the house down. But on the other hand, I don’t want to be that guy that is doing all the same jokes this year that they were doing two years ago. Even though the majority of the audience didn’t see me the last time I was in town, if there is one or two people that saw me last year, I want to be telling some new jokes so they are seeing the exact same set they saw last year.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
LN: Aside from more gigs, I’m going to get back into recording music. I have a music project called Scornstar. I did an album of material a few years ago and put it out on iTunes. I write and arrange the songs on my computer and then go into a studio and record the vocals. Its electronic music and rock mixed together. My influences for the project are Prince, Rob Zombie, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk and AFI. I’m hoping to put out an EP of new music this year.
Official Website: http://www.larryxl.com/
Larry on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LarryXL
Larry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larryxl
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