by Ryan Meehan
Mike Eltringham is a comedian, actor, and a writer that is currently based out of New York City. Along with Adam Dodd, he’s the co-creator of the online sketch comedy series “The Adam and Mike Show“. Occasionally he talks about films with Elizabeth Reid over at “We Just Saw a Movie“. He’s studied improv and sketch at The Washington Improv Theater and the Upright Citizens Brigade, and we are pleased to have him as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: Judging by your Twitter feed, you’re obviously a fan of the NFL…Who’s your team; and who do you think is the most likely choice to win it all this year in Santa Clara in February?
ME: I’m a huge Giants fan. The 2008 Super Bowl is still my favorite moment as a sports fan and will likely never be topped. Having said that, you have to go with the Patriots this year based on what we’ve seen so far. I’m not a Tom Brady fan, but how can you not respect him? I don’t get why so many people outright despise him. It’s like they’re threatened by excellence. Anyone who passionately hates Tom Brady is probably saying more about his or her own insecurities than anything else.
RM: You started out by telling jokes that you heard on Letterman during show-and-tell at the age of ten…When was the first time you actually wrote a joke on your own and told it in front of someone else outside of your immediate family?
ME: It was at the Colonial Tavern in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I was on summer break before my senior year at Virginia Tech. The MC told everyone it was my first time, so they were really nice and laughed. After that I probably bombed the next 20, 25 times. When I went back to VT in the fall I did a guest spot at the weekly comedy show at this bar in downtown Blacksburg called Hokie House and did great. That was enough “success” to buoy me into not quitting until I got respectable.
RM: When you initially decided to move to New York City from DC, was there any point in time where you felt that the talent pool or the overall quantity of comedians in the NYC was much greater than you had originally anticipated? How did you mentally prepare yourself for creating your own identity in such a large group of people who are equally passionate about their work?
ME: I wasn’t surprised or caught off guard at all when I got here. I knew NYC had the greatest comics in the world and it did not disappoint. The talent pool here is ridiculous and inspiring, which is what makes creating your own identity and standing out so tough. I think the key there for me is to just be as honest as possible when I’m writing. No one else can be me, so if I’m true to myself and what I think is funny, hopefully I’ll stand out.
RM: What is the biggest misconception you think people outside of the industry have about the business of stand-up comedy? Do you find that particular misapprehension to be something that irritates you to the point where you are able to turn it into a motivational tool for you to develop your act, or do you generally just try and ignore it altogether?
ME: The one annoying sentiment I’ve heard several people say is they’re surprised comics have to write their act down beforehand. They think all comedians make it all up on the spot. It’s not really irritating, it’s just unbelievable to me. That’s never really impacted my act, to be honest. It’s just funny to me that people don’t realize how much work goes into it before you ever go up on stage.
RM: Other than making people laugh, what is the primary goal you’re trying to achieve with “The Adam and Mike Show”? How long have you known Adam; and why do the two of you write together so well?
ME: Adam and I met in high school; we both worked at the same movie theater. Pretty early on we knew we wanted to work together making comedy – whether that was sketches, a TV show, or movies. We both did our own thing for a few years and we decided to independently produce our own show. It’s a lot of work and it can get very tiring but it’s also a lot of fun and very fulfilling, to do it on your own. Obviously our goal is to have our own show on a big platform, whether that’s a network, online, or some combination of those two. Distribution and promotion has been our biggest challenge so far so it would be nice to not have to worry about that. Our long term goal is to have our own production company. We pretty much already do, but we’d like to do it on a much larger scale.
I think the reason we work so well together is that we each have our own styles that differ but we’re pretty much like brothers. We’re unafraid to piss each other off. We’ve been in more arguments than I can count, but they never last. It always comes from a place of us wanting to make the funniest thing possible. At this point, if we were going to hate each other, we already would. I don’t foresee a Simon and Garfunkel split anywhere on the horizon. Though if we do, I call dibs on not being Garfunkel.
RM: Which of those sketches was the most fun for the two of you to do and why? Have you ever had any ideas that for what ever reason looked great on paper but didn’t seem nearly as funny once you began to shoot them?
ME: Not to dodge the question, but if I’m being completely honest, none of them are that fun to shoot while we’re actually shooting. We’re pretty much a two man operation, so it can get kind of stressful making sure everything is right technically. We operate the lights, camera, and sound along with doing all the acting and writing. I think our most memorable shoot was for one called “Gimme Your Wallet.” The sketch starts with me mugging Adam, and I’m wearing a ski mask. We shot it in New York last February, with nobody on hand to help us out, and it was probably 19 degrees. We had equipment blowing over the whole time while our knuckles turned blue. Then on top of that, people were walking by not realizing we were shooting a sketch, so it just looked like an actual crime is taking place. I had to tell one woman that I wasn’t really robbing him. Afterwards I told my brother about it and he was like, “Oh yeah, it’s definitely not legal to wear a mask in public,” which I didn’t know. I don’t know if it’s illegal in New York, but if a cop had come across us it probably wouldn’t have been good. Also, I the whole time Adam had a real knife on him, which is probably illegal as well.
I can’t say we’ve ever scrapped an idea once we got to the production stage for not being funny enough. We had a couple we had to abandon due to different technical issues. Like I said we’re basically a two man operation, so if the sketch calls for a ten minute Scorsese-style Goodfellas tracking shot, we’re out of luck.
RM: Are you the kind of comic who feels the need to be in a certain kind of mental state in order to write your best material, or do you kind of take the ideas as they come and attempt to develop them as soon as possible? Has the answer to that question changed at all since you began doing comedy?
ME: I’d say both – I try to set aside time each day to eliminate all distractions and have isolated time dedicated solely to writing, but sometimes an idea will just come to me while I’m doing something else. I think most comics are like that. It’s definitely important to get an idea from my head to the stage as soon as possible though. When I started doing comedy I wasn’t as disciplined at that.
RM: Who are some comedians that the casual comedy fan might not be familiar with that have a great deal of influence on your stand-up? Why do you think those artists in particular spoke to you in a manner which heightened your awareness as far as defining what humor means to you?
ME: I’m from Virginia and I got my start near the D.C. area, so I’m going to show some love for some D.C. guys: Andy Kline is one of the smartest comics a lot of people haven’t heard of. As an audience member, you appreciate him because he’s hilarious, but as a comic I love the way he meticulously constructs each bit. The way he uses logic to make a point and entertain definitely had a huge impact on how I thought about putting my bits together when I was younger. Another guy is Courtney Fearrington. He does a better job making his act conversational than just about anybody, plus he taught me the importance of being likable onstage. And I’m not even sure he does stand up anymore, but a Minnesota guy who used to do comedy in DC named Keith Irvin has the best jokes I think I’ve ever heard. He’s just an outstanding writer. Me and a few other comics used to have a joke that if Keith ever quit comedy, we’d each take a few of his jokes like parents getting joint custody of a kid. You know what? I think I’m just going to take them. Keith only has like 100 Twitter followers, no one will notice.
RM: When it comes to the actual performance of the jokes on stage, what would you say is your greatest strength and why do you think you excel at that portion of your craft? Conversely, which aspect of performing would you say you struggle with the most and why?
ME: That’s a tough one. I’d say I probably struggle with physicality more than anything. I’m not a very physical performer. For most of my jokes I pretty much just stand in one spot. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’d always like to find ways to grow as a performer. For my strengths I’d say I’m a pretty strong writer and good at improvising. I don’t like dealing with bad crowds, but I’m pretty good at 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?
ME: Right now Adam and I are working on season two of The Adam and Mike Show. We’ve also got an episodic web series in the works; I don’t want to say too much about it until we’ve actually shot it but we’re pretty damn excited about it.
Official Website: http://mikeeltringham.com/
Mike on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelEltringham1
Mike on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mike_Eltringham
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