10 Questions with Gary Gulman

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by Ryan Meehan

Originally from Boston, comedian Gary Gulman now resides in New York City. Gary has been a scholarship college football player, an accountant, a barista, a doorman, a waiter and a high school teacher. These days he is one of the most popular touring comedians in America and one of only a handful of comics to perform on every single late night comedy program. The Village Voice raves “Gary will be the next giant Ex-Bostonian comic to break huge…CK, Burr, Gulman:  You heard it here first…” He’s made three TV specials and currently has three live comedy albums available for purchase on Amazon. Gulman recently marked his 20-year anniversary in stand-up with the “It’s About Time” tour, selling out theaters throughout the country. It’s no wonder the New York Times wrote that Gary is “finally being recognized as one of the country’s strongest comedians”. Gulman will be performing at the Denver Comedy Works from January 26th to January 28th, and we are extremely grateful to have him as our guest today in this exclusive edition of 10 questions. 

RM:  Which position did you play in college, and when did you know that you were officially done making football the central focus in your life? Do you have any sort of lingering after-effects from any injuries suffered which still affect you to this day?

GG:  I was a tight end initially but then was moved to offensive line. I knew I couldn’t carry that kind of weight and was not especially good at it, so I “retired”. Fortunately I have no lingering effects or injuries.

RM:  What was the biggest difference between what you saw in the Boston comedy community as a fan and later as a performer hitting open mics and trying to structure a tight five? During what time period did this transition occur; and who were some of the other comics from Beantown that were starting out back then?

GG:  I only remember that I loved it as a fan and even more as a performer. I was having the time of my life. I started in 1993 and did my first Tonight Show in 1999. I started around the same time as Dwayne Perkins. The notables a few years ahead of us included Bill Burr, Dane Cook, Robert Kelly and Patrice O’Neal. It was an impressive lot. Those guys just destroyed every time I saw them.

RM:  What do you think is the most valuable lesson a comedian can learn both as an artist and a writer that is a game-changer during the early development of their craft? Why would you cite that specific stepping stone as being so important; and how did you come to make that discovery yourself?

GG:  For me it was learning how to build time by writing in circles. Just adding things to jokes that work. Which isn’t right for everyone, but worked out well for me because it enabled me to find my own style. It was advice from another comedian from Boston named Paul Nardizzi, who is as funny as anyone I’ve ever worked with.

RM: How has your writing process changed over the years when it comes to piecing together the structure of a joke? Does the answer to that question depend on whatever premise you’re starting with; or does the basic format stay pretty much the same regardless of the topic at hand?

GG:  I still try to wring out every drop of funny from the premises I’m lucky enough to dig up. It’s a lot of drudgery. It stays pretty much the same for better or worse…my writing process is the same.

RM:  You’re coming off of a really strong appearance on Conan where you absolutely killed it, and your set consisted solely of one bit centered around a documentary about state postal abbreviations…When you told the producers of that show you’d be doing that piece of material – which isn’t exactly either time-sensitive or sexy – what was their initial reaction? How did you go about making a topic that was so inherently bland into such an explosive set of jokes?

GG:  The booker – JP Buck – actually saw me do the joke at The Comedy Cellar and asked me to do it on Conan. It took a lot of rewrites and some inspiration.

RM:  Comedy is an art form which is particularly dependent on the instant approval of those who consume your product (i.e. audience members at a club, people who buy your records, those who watch you on television)…How do you go about setting that sort of pass/fail mentality aside and simply trying to be the best Gary Gulman you can be when you take the stage?

GG:  It’s hard because you’re essentially editing with this partner (the audience) who doesn’t know they’re in on it. But that’s essential to making jokes that are funny rather than just going up there and pontificating.

RM:  Looking at your calendar, it seems as about 75% of your live dates for the remainder of the year are located on the East Coast…Other than the fact that you are from that region of the country, is there any calculated reason as to why that is the case? Have you noticed a significant difference in the way crowds in certain areas of the country tend to respond to your material and at any point in your career did you ever consider relocating to Los Angeles?

GG:  No calculated reason…I go where I get good offers. So not really…most of the audiences are fans, so they react like people with a similar sense of humor to mine…Which is a godsend. I lived in LA for six years and loved it, but came to NY in 2006 and fell in love with all the stage time.

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RM:  You seem to do a lot more retweeting on Twitter than composing actual tweets or typing out funny tidbits…Is there a specific reason that you’ve decided to not use Twitter and Facebook as pallets for crafting new material, or do you just have a lower level of interest in the social media platforms when it comes to engaging in a behavior which is such a huge part of what you do professionally?

GG:  I’m lazy about social media and don’t really always get the response I want, so I am not using it that much other than to promote or thank fans for nice comments. I do keep up with it, but my jokes don’t always lend themselves well to tweets.

RM:  Comedians such as yourself, Dave Attell and Louis CK seem to have developed a reputation for being labeled “a comic’s comic”…Other than the facts that a majority of people do not do what you do for a living and the degree of difficulty is massive, what do you think is the reason that the general public has such a hard time genuinely appreciating what you do?

GG:  I’m not sure I consider myself a comic’s comic, but it is a compliment I enjoy receiving. I’m not for everybody…but I do have a pretty loyal following, and I don’t have that much trouble in a room where everybody is not there to see me.

RM:  For someone who’s seen so much success in the business of stand-up comedy, what would you say your proudest moment on stage has been? Why does that particular moment stick out in your mind as being something which meant so much to you?

GG:  Placing 3rd in Last Comic Standing in 2004. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work. Before it I was completely unknown, and afterwards I had a lot of fans. It changed my career dramatically.

RM:  What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?

GG:  I will just continue to try and write new – and hopefully compelling – jokes and perform them in front of bigger and bigger audiences.

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

Gary on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/GaryGulman

Gary on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/garygulman

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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