by Ryan Meehan
Comedian Will Miles has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Time Out Chicago, The Village Voice, and was voted one of the funniest comedians of 2014 by Brightest Young Things. He has appeared on Comedy Central, National Public Radio, and Saturday Night Live. Most recently, he has performed with Dave Chappelle and has toured with Hannibal Buress since 2011. Miles will also be featured on season two of truTV’s hit sketch show “Friends of the People”, and we are proud to have him as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: What would you say are your three favorite comedy clubs to perform at here in the five boroughs? What makes each of those places so special when it comes to the energy of the room itself?
WM: Caroline’s on Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club, and The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn are probably my favorite three clubs to perform at in New York City. Technically, Knitting Factory is a rock club, but they have a great energy and presence at the comedy shows they have that just feels warm and inviting. Caroline’s and Gotham are traditional Manhattan clubs. There is a good mix of tourists and native New Yorkers who come to the shows at those two clubs that make them really fun places to perform. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but once you step on the stage, you know it.
RM: Recently you appeared in a video with Giulia Rozzi over at Funny or Die entitled “UNISEF: The United Self-Esteem Fund”…How long have you known Giulia; and why do you think the two of you work together so well?
WM: She wrote and directed that sketch, and it was so much fun to make. I’m at the point in my weight loss where it is really fun to have my shirt off as much as I can, but I’m still not quite in shape. I’ve reached my peak comedic body. I met Giulia in December of 2013 at Hannibal Buress’ show at The Knitting Factory. We were instantly drawn to one another’s comedy that night. We both performed on the show and figured out quickly that our styles are fairly similar. We both tell jokes based in honest and personal storytelling, and it comes through on stage. I think due to that honesty in our humor, we work together so well. And our personalities are still different despite these similarities, which I think makes it fun to watch when they come together on stage and screen. We are also working on a couple of other projects we co-wrote that will be coming out soon. I should probably also mention we are dating and live together, so that definitely adds to the chemistry when we work together.
RM: That video is a pretty accurate mockery of Facebook as a whole…How would you best describe the current relationship that you have with social media? If you had to sum up your Twitter feed in three words, how would that description read?
WM: I try to only use social media the way I would use a stage or a script I’m writing. I don’t really use it for personal stuff. I’ll throw out jokes and comment on weird things I find interesting from the news. It’s actually not even on social media that I have a girlfriend, but if you know me, you’ll be able to understand context clues. (Like pictures that people tag of us or things we’ve collaborated on) My comedy is personal but I have the time to craft the joke and study what I want to say, and that’s the only way I publicly share things. It’s too easy to make off-the-cuff statements you will later regret on social media, and I work on making sure I don’t do that. My Twitter feed summed up in three words would read “jokes, rap, shows”
RM: When it comes to doing video shorts, have you found that club owners and booking agents pay attention to online clips such as that one or are they primarily concerned with your ability to work the room they’re filling? In other words, do you consider participating in these sketches to be a focal point of you selling yourself to some of these clubs as a comic?
WM: I really only do videos and sketches if I think they will be fun. I think it hurts the creativity of the sketch if you are doing it in order to sell yourself. Club owners and booking agents really just want to know you can make the audience laugh and draw a crowd. If a sketch went viral and that helps you draw a crowd, of course they will be interested then, but I don’t imagine they are scouring YouTube for headliners.
RM: Over the course of your career you’ve been on the road a lot with Hannibal Buress…What’s the most important thing you learned watching him on stage night after night with regards to the way his bits evolve over time?
WM: The main thing I noticed when working with Hannibal is how hard he works at his craft. He is one of the best comedians working, and it’s because he has worked so hard. When you watch him work night after night, you realize what goes into each joke and how word economy is so important. The difference between a joke working and not working is trying it different ways to figure out the best possible way to tell that joke.
My favorite story about Hannibal that speaks to his work ethic happened after we did his show at the Skirball Center in New York for the New York Comedy Festival. That place seats around 1200 I think, and he did about 90 minutes for his closing set. For most people, that’s an awesome night…It’s over…time to party and celebrate. But right after that set, we walked over to Comedy Cellar and he did a quick drop in set there because he wanted to work out some other bits. I think he exemplifies a person who truly loves being up there and working on his bits. It’s an awesome energy to be around. It’s fun to be onstage making people laugh, figuring out your joke structure, pacing, and developing material. That’s the most fun part about doing standup comedy, and working with him over the last five or six years and watching him work has made me realize that even more.
RM: Last summer you performed a set at The Apt, a stand-up show in New York City that literally takes place inside of somebody’s apartment…Is this recent explosion of shows being held at venues outside of traditional comedy clubs something that is just a trend, or do you see it as something that will continue to take place for decades to come? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to doing those gigs as opposed to standing in front of the all-too-familiar brick wall?
WM: I think this is a trend that will continue to happen. Live At The Apt is really fun. The audiences are changing, and they want the entire comedy show to be a different experience. A great deal of people still love the club atmosphere, but now we live in a world where the club show and the apartment show can coexist. We are in the middle of a comedy boom. Some of the most fun shows I’ve ever done have been in both clubs and houses.
This past fall, I went on the road doing punk houses with Chris Gethard, and that was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Every show was completely packed with at least 100, maybe 200 people. And the stage was about 3 feet wide if there was a stage at all. It’s a comedy experience that feels like a punk rock experience.
RM: Which stereotype that people outside of the entertainment industry associate with your profession bothers you the most? Why do you think that particular inaccuracy tends to rear its ugly head whenever the life of a comic is brought up in conversation; and do you think public perception of that stereotype is something that could potentially change over an extended period of time?
WM: I think the questions that personally I get tired of sometimes are “Do you write your own stuff?” or “How much of your stuff is true?” I keep a pretty awesome circle of people around me in comedy, so I don’t know any comedians who don’t write their own stuff or go up there and tell lies. However, there is a stereotype that comedians just go up there and think of stuff to say for shock value. We keep weird hours and tell jokes that make people think they’ve known us for years. Obviously, we are going to have some weird interactions. And we think about it all day and night (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) before we share it onstage. The public perception of that could change if more people hang out regularly with comedians or more comedians have self-made autobiographical shows on television, but I think it’s actually fine that the public perception is a bit skewed about some parts of our personal lives.
RM: When you’re doing a show where the crowd’s reaction hasn’t been favorable before you hit the stage, how do you go about steering that ship back into comfortable waters? Is that a situation where you have to consciously alter your set a great deal in order to “win the room back”, or is your typical approach to just be yourself and go with the same set you had planned to do that evening?
WM: I like to approach a situation like that in one of two ways. Sometimes, you just go with what you were going to do anyway and know that your confidence will steer the ship in the way you want. My other approach is to feel out the crowd and comment on the situation in the room so that you can organically steer the ship. There is really no right or wrong way because every crowd is so much different.
RM: Which member of the “Friends of the People” have you known the longest; and how did you end up appearing on the new season of FOTP? What’s the best thing about getting to work with that particular group of comics?
WM: I have known Kenny and Keith Lucas for many years. We met in Chicago when they were just in town doing shows. Then we drove to Cleveland later that year to do some shows with Ramon Rivas. We were instantly friends because we were like-minded stoners who listened to MF Doom. Those guys are great. I met Lil’ Rel around the same time. He hosted the open mic at Jokes and Notes and was a Chicago legend already. I became friends with everyone else through frequent visits to New York and just doing shows together. I ended up appearing on the new season just from having known them all for all these years. It’s fun to work with them because they are all friends with great positive energy.
RM: If you were a superhero and you had the power to change one thing about the industry of comedy, what would you change and why would making that adjustment be so beneficial to you and your peers?
WM: I like where comedy is, but I think if I could change anything, I would say you can be a comedian, writer, and actor, but if you do you can no longer be on social media. So many people I know and respect will get mad at something career-related they saw on social media, and I think it can be a setback. If Chris Rock wanted to know what Dave Chappelle was up to back in the day, he would have to call or run into Dave Chappelle. Now we can see what other comedians are up to daily and say “Oh man I didn’t get that!” Realistically we probably weren’t right for that and have other things we are working on, but it’s so much easier to compare yourself to others than it is to work on those other projects. The only way I think it will actually change when we realize that people of my generation will be 60 years old someday, and everything we do won’t be cool to young people anymore. And we started Facebook, Twitter, and clickbait articles, so hopefully that’s all lame in 25 years. Facebook will be the laser disc of my generation.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
WM: I’m recording my album at the end of this year. That’s gonna be big…I’m real excited for that. Other than that, there are a lot of projects in the works that I can’t talk about yet. Just to be clear, I hate that I just made a statement that vague.
Official Website: http://willmilescomedy.com/
Will on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/milescomedy
Will on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mrwillmiles
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