Eastern Carolina Style Interviews: Gary Gulman

Posted: January 13, 2014 by The Life in All, Comedy, Interview, Stand-Up
Tags: , , ,

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This weekend Raleigh is being treated to a series of shows at Goodnight’s from funnyman Gary Gulman. Gary brings a comedic style that uses random aspects of everyday life to build material. He will have you laughing about items as mundane as grapefruit and as complex as the impact of the Old Testament on the Jews of today.  Tickets are available HERE

MAS – In just a couple weeks you are going to be performing at Goodnight’s in Raleigh. A lot of you contemporaries like to make special requests, did you have any? Like maybe fresh cut grapefruit halves and Vanilla Ice playing in your dressing room?

Gary Gulman {Laughs} No, I just want to get a check at the end of the week. That would be my only request. I like compensation for services rendered. No, I guess just a hotel with fresh sheets and flights were my only requests.

MAS – You are not like a lot of your contemporaries.

Gary Gulman – {Laughs} Yeah, as long as I can sleep and fly, I am okay.

MAS – I recently had the pleasure of talking with Natasha Leggero and she told me that she got into comedy due to not being loved enough by her parents. What sent you into the life of comedy?

Gary Gulman – {I would say that most of your comedians are going to have a lack of attention paid to them when they are growing up or somebody thinks that everything they say is brilliant and hilarious. Those are the two ends of the spectrum.

I fell in love early with the power that jokes and comedy had over other people. I would memorize the jokes that I heard on Saturday Night Live or on The Tonight Show or whatever stand-up comedy shows I watched. I would just memorize them and then the kids at school would really react. It was early on that I realized how powerful and how exciting it could be to get laughs off of people.

MAS – You are able to make generally random parts of life truly hilarious. For example, your bit on grapefruit had me rolling.

Gary Gulman – Wow! Really? Thank you. That is from a really long time ago, like maybe 2006. I always get requests for that at shows. I guess the origin of that probably was as a child being confused by the disparity of the fruit grape and the grapefruit. That was just something that I finally had the knowledge and the vocabulary to construct.

MAS – In general, with your jokes, are you just sitting around saying, “I haven’t heard a good Discman joke in a while, let me see what I can come up with?” How do you pick topics you make jokes about? They just seem to be random, but always funny.

Gary Gulman – I find that the longer you do it, if you see somebody with a Discman now that you do a double-take or things that occur in your life or are striking in the hypocrisy or the confusion or lack of common sense involved. Like the fact that they have those things on the side of the highway that tell us how fast we are going but there is not one that works equally as well inside the car, like in the dashboard. Those were the types of things that I was interested in at the time when I wrote them. Usually when I identify something as a subject I can talk about it onstage. 9 times out of 10 I can find something funny just by talking it out and then I will try to remember it for the next show. That is usually my method.

MAS – So there really is a certain degree of spontaneity to it?

Yeah, initially, then when I find humorous parts that really stick out or get a great response, then the next time I do it I have to make it seem like it is spontaneous. That becomes the real joke to it after a while.

MAS – In watching “Boyish Man”, I thought it was very funny, especially the bit on Hanukah. Most of my family is Catholic, but a big part is Jewish. We have those discussions over dinner at Thanksgiving. So that part hit home for me.

Later in that show you talked about the contributions of the Chinese. That also had me rolling, especially the handcuff joke.

In talking about Jews and Chinese, there are enough people in this world that have hypersensitivity and what I call the “PC disease”, has anyone ever approached you acting all offended by a joke you did?

Gary Gulman – Not those particular ones. I don’t specifically remember what I talk about with Hanukah. There are certain things that I talk about, like the overall treatment of my people in the Bible by God and our neighbors. I always say that The Old Testament could have easily been called, regarding God, “He’s Just Not That into You.” With God, we’ve been chosen, but he is just very hard on us. He might be trying to break up with us.

To me, that type of thing is light-hearted and fun. To my family it is sacrilege and blasphemous. So when I think about something like that, it is like, “Oh, this would really aggravate my older brother or really make my father uncomfortable.” There is a bit of mischief there and some risk at least in my family if my family was to hear these jokes. They would be furious, so it makes it a little more fun.

As far as the general public goes, I have not had too much trouble with people being offended. To me with comedy going further and further, I am considered tame.

MAS – I can’t think of anyone else that has a style like yours. Who influenced you? Where did you get your style from?

Gary Gulman – I was influenced later on by the comedic actor, Chris Elliott from the Letterman show and Life. I always loved that he was always great at playing people that were over confidant, arrogant, losers. I always admired that. I tried to take some of that confidence into my act. There is just a charm to that type of attitude that I have always loved.

The other thing, as comedians we really love words; the use of words, word play and vocabulary and stuff. So I am really influenced by a lot of authors and rapper and poets and people who are really into getting the most out of a sentence or a word.

MAS – You have appeared on just about every late night show that there is to appear on, been a part of many tours and performed at countless clubs. Is there any one particular show that you did that, looking back, you wished you didn’t? Sort of like Laurence Fishburne in Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Gary Gulman – Last Comic Standing and Tourgasm were my most well know TV shows. They were forms of reality shows, so there were trade-offs. I would have rather gotten on TV doing something that was strictly my stand-up. So, there is a trade-off; some competitions, some contests and just stuff that had nothing to do with stand-up. You wish you could just do the stand-up but it was a fair trade-off as far as the fans I was able to make and the exposure of getting to play in front of as many as 18-20 thousand people at once. You can’t prepare for that unless you do it. That was very helpful, and I would not trade that for anything. I would have liked to have been able to hold onto a little more privacy.

MAS – I have checked out ”Conversations with Inanimate Objects”, “Boyish Man” and “No Can Defend” all of which were very funny and well worth the visit to Amazon. When can we expect to see a new album or maybe even a comedy special from you?

Gary Gulman – I was just talking to my manager about that. I am going to shoot for the spring to make a new special, which would make it two years from the last one. That is faster than a lot, but not as fast as say Louis C.K. or George Carlin who put them out every year. I’m trying to keep up with them, but it isn’t easy

MAS – Go for quality instead of quantity. George is an icon and a legend, but some of his stuff just wasn’t funny.

Gary Gulman – That reminds me of that Lenny Bruce quote, “I’m not a comedian, I’m Lenny Bruce.”  George Carlin transcended stand-up he went into philosophy and social commentary. I guess I’m glad that the he put them out every year, but maybe if he had went every other year he would have been a different type of performer.

MAS – For the show that is coming up at Goodnights, what should we expect from you?

Gary Gulman – They won’t really see anything from my specials or my album. You know, I am close to recording a new special so everything will be new. If there is time at the end, I ask for requests from anything from an old album. It’ll be new, I’ve been touring so my skills are sharp and my brain is moving at a high rate. I was just down in Atlanta and had some really great shows. I will do about an hour or more and I really feel good about the shows I have been doing.

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