10 Questions with Josh Rabinowitz from Friends of the People

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by Ryan Meehan

Josh Rabinowitz is a 27 year old stand-up comedian in New York City. He has performed stand-up on Comedy Central’s “Adam Devine’s House Party” and Just for Laughs Montreal’s “All Access” on the Comedy Network. He has been named one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” and a “New Face” at Montreal JFL. Rabinowitz was a writer on Lucas Brothers’ “Super Late Morning Show” for Comedy Central Studios and played “Kent” on MTV’s “I Just Want My Pants Back.” Currently, he serves as head writer, executive producer, cast member, and creator of “Friends of the People” on TruTV, the network’s first scripted show. He is also the writer and lead of the short film “Hasta La Vista” which has been a 2015 official selection at IFF Boston, the Lower East Side Film Festival, and Just For Laughs Montreal. Josh also co-produced of the indie feature “5 Doctors” starring Matt Porter, Max Azulay, Bobby Moynihan, and Jeremy Shamos, which is currently in post-production. I am delighted to have Josh Rabinowitz as my guest today in 10 questions.

RM:  You started doing stand-up in Philly while you were attending the University of Pennsylvania…If you had to summarize your first year in comedy in one paragraph, how would that passage read? How did your family react when you first told them you were getting on stage?

JR: The first time I ever did stand-up was actually my senior year of high school. I took the metro north train down to NYC to do Gladys’ open mic at the Comic Strip Live. I was extremely nervous, so much so, that I barfed in the bathroom of the Comic Strip before my set and then blacked out while performing. My friend who came with me said I wasn’t horrible and then I sort of kept doing it a little, and started doing it a little more in college. But for that first year or so, I wouldn’t eat the day I did an open mic because I was so worried I’d barf again. So I guess to summarize my first year, I would say hungry and anxious. My family was strangely very supportive despite this.

RM:  What was the primary difference between the way you and the rest of the cast approached the production the new season of FOTP as opposed to the first season? How did you guys come to the decision that particular change in the approach needed to be addressed?

JR: There weren’t many broad strokes changes. We wanted to keep pushing further on sketches and try for more complex ideas and styles. We implemented more runners this season because we enjoyed the episodes that had them last season.

RM:  Which cast member of the show have you known the longest? Where and and when did you first meet them; and why do you think that your comedic stylings tend to mesh together so well in front of the camera?

JR: I’ve known Kevin Barnett the longest. I met him the first week I moved to NYC. I met Jermaine soon after when we were extras in a CollegeHumor video, and then I met the Lucas Brothers soon after that doing open mics in NYC. I’ve lived in New York almost 5 years and have known them all for the vast majority of the time. A lot of my first road shows were spent with Kevin, and same with my first small writing and acting jobs were done with Jermaine, Keith and Kenny, and Kevin. Lil Rel and Jen I met during our Comedy Central pilot, which now dates back over 2 years, so I’ve known them the majority of my time in NYC as well now. I think that we’re all willing to laugh at ourselves and make fun of ourselves and each other, and we all seven have a lot of shared history and friendship together, so I think that all creates good chemistry.

RM:  How would you best describe the brainstorming process when the seven of you sit down at a table with the intention of coming up with new sketch ideas? What do you do when you are at a point where you have clearly hit a wall and need to decompress in order to combat writer’s block and start fresh with a clear head?

JR: Everyone pitches ideas, or brings up a news story or event that they care about, and we all riff on them for a while and see where they all go, and which ones end up building the most and resonating the most with everyone. To get over writer’s block, I pace a lot, which bothers everyone.

RM:  When you come up with an idea for a sketch that you can tell the others aren’t exactly crazy about, how many times do you typically try to re-sell them on the concept before you finally decide to abandon ship and start working on something else?

JR: I think it depends on how much everyone disliked it. I’ve tried to bring back a few ideas with a slightly new angle based on criticisms if the first pitch didn’t go well, and then usually you are made fun of immediately for doing so. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

RM:  I saw a video online (link) of the cast of FOTP being roasted by Jeff Ross…What was that whole experience like for you; and how do you think he would have gone about burning you had you not been wearing that ridiculous suit?

JR: It was really fun. Everyone was dressed like an idiot. We make fun of each other constantly on set, so it was really fun that Jeff was down to do that. And I don’t know how it’d be not wearing the suit, but I imagine it would hurt more because then I couldn’t blame it on what I’m wearing.

 

RM:  How did you end up getting the chance to appear on Adam Devine’s House Party? How would you best describe the mood of that show behind the scenes? Was being on the set of that show every bit as fun as it looks like on television?

JR: I had done Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” and Montreal “New Faces” the year before, and so I got to send in a tape of a recent set in to CC when I was in consideration at the time. It was a really fun show to do, everyone was extremely nice and supportive. Adam Devine created a very inviting atmosphere, as for most comics, it was their first TV set.

RM:  What is the most important thing you think a comedy writer needs to remember when working in a group setting for the first time? How long did it take you to come to this particular realization yourself?

JR: I think that varies for everyone, but I guess the broadest advice that maybe applies to the most people is to listen. You have to try not to get too in your own head with something you’ve been wanting to say for minutes in the room, just listen to the conversation and ideas, and be present rather than trying to shoehorn something in at the wrong moment because you were too set on saying it.

RM:  Of all the positions within the entertainment industry that someone in your shoes could eventually find themselves holding, which one would you like to get the chance to try your hand at? Why do you think you would be so good at that particular job; and in ten years from now do you think that you’ll be able to say that you’ve at least given it a shot?

JR: I don’t think there’s one exact thing in particular. I enjoy stand-up, screenwriting for TV and movies, acting, and producing. I’d like to do all of those. The job I would want is to be able to work on projects that I think are really good with people I really enjoy being around. Whatever that job is, I’d like to do it.

RM:  What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond?  Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JR:  Please watch “FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE” on Thursdays at 11 PM EST on TruTv.  I’ll be in Mike Birbiglia’s upcoming new film “Don’t Think Twice.” Also, a short film I wrote and act in, HASTA LA VISTA, will eventually be online at some point, it’s played so far at JFL Montreal, IFF Boston, and the Lower East Side Film Festival, and will play at the South Dakota Film Festival and the Hollywood Film Festival shortly as well if you’re near there. And will be in NYC and on the road doing stand-up.

Official Website:  http://www.joshrabinowitzcomedy.com/

Josh on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/josh.rabinowitz.12

Josh on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/josh_rabinowitz

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.

Meehan

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