Jamie: Ok, I’m here with one of the most ridiculously funny comedians you’re ever going to see, Mr. Michael Malone. Thanks for taking the time out to do a quick interview Michael, I appreciate that.
Michael: Thank you for having me. That’s a pretty ridiculously awesome introduction. Thank you. I’m excited to be here!
Jamie: I start everyone off with a question about the cause… so let’s get right to that. What is it about cancer awareness that made you want to get involved? Was it just a general compassion, or have you had the misfortune of knowing someone who has gone through it?
Michael: Actually, it’s a mix between both. I’m on the road 48 weeks a year and blessed to meet many of my fans in countless shows across the country. One of the best parts of my job is being able to connect with the audience and make friendships at each stop. That said, it’s alarming how many folks I meet on a monthly basis that are walking through this disease with their family or personal life. After each show, I tend to get some version of a fan sharing, “I so needed a laugh tonight, this is what I’ve been going through,” and hearing so many of those stories and experiences, I’ve felt the urge to become active and contribute however I can.
Jamie: Well I’m certainly glad to have you involved. Ok, so let’s go back to the beginning. What got you into doing comedy? At what point did you decide it was something you were cut out for, and what was it like for you at first? Did it come naturally, or was it something you had to get a little used to before you became comfortable with it?
Michael: I didn’t fit in at school… at all. I was really overweight and didn’t have a male authority figure in my life, so it was hard for me to bond with the other guys about sports and eating steaks, because, well, I didn’t and don’t care about it either… but I could be funny. I figured that if I couldn’t fit in, I might as well stick out. I had absolutely no plan for my life, and at the time, I didn’t know that being a comedian was even the least bit realistic. My buddy called me up one day and said he was going to the Funnybone Comedy Club that Monday, and my first response was, “Why?” I was so clueless. He said he had stage time, and I all-out begged him to get me on too. Then, boom! A few phone calls later we had a 5 min spot on a Monday night, and my life got placed on a path that would never reverse. We felt like we made it that night. We were 18 and 19 at the time and getting sneaked into a comedy club to do what we loved. I say that I caught “the bug” that night: the energy, the laughter—it completely overwhelmed me. I had never felt that “high” before. And now, ten years later, I can’t go a few days without it.
Jamie: Let’s talk a little about your style, because I think you’re one of the absolute best at being able to improv off the cuff. Some comedians are programmed into their acts and get a little thrown off if a crowd is too vocal… and then some set the crowd up for expected or triggered responses that they already have scripted bits designed to play off of that with… but you incorporate a LOT of unscripted spur of the moment improv, and you play off the randomness of the crowd as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. Tell us a little about that. Does it just come naturally, or was it a skill you had to work on and develop over time, and how much do you anticipate that being a part of each show ahead of time?
Michael: First off, thank you! Secondly, it is true improv. I have nothing in mind before I step on stage, as far as the audience goes. As you mentioned, some guys plan on setting the audience up at certain points, or they scan the crowd before hand looking for ugly shirts and hairpieces, but I don’t. I also do not attack people; I wait for them to engage me. The way I see it, anyone can get on stage and make fun of things, but I try hard to listen to the audience and build off what they give me. In some respects, you could say that I let them dig their own grave. I did study improv for a few years, touring clubs, bars and corporate events. It was an amazing point in my career—sort of my “college experience,” if you will. I was on the road with friends; money was good, and the excitement of building a two-hour show from absolutely nothing was unbeatable. It really was like bringing a knife to a gunfight. I slowly found myself mixing those worlds together—stand up and improv. I would find myself doing 5-10 minutes off somebody’s pet’s name at one show, but then again there’s many nights that I don’t do any crowd work at all. When we filmed my new special “Casual Sext” I came out and did 50 mins of straight material, and as the encore I came back out and did 15 mins of crowd work. And God, did it feel good. I’m not one to stick to a script or plan, so coming out with the complete freedom that night was so much fun. I actually ended up using most of it in the special—that you can download for $5 on malonecomedy.com—shameless promotion, you know it is. But back to the story, in improv, I was taught that you should be “bigger than life” on stage. The analogy I always think of is King Kong. You take a suggestion and multiply it by 10. When I applied that concept to my stand-up sets, I really noticed a transition and style begin to develop. That’s when my career really started opening up.
Jamie: Getting the crowds as involved as you do, I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of crazy moments. What’s the craziest, or one of the craziest things that’s ever happened out on tour?
Michael: Ok, well, this may not be the craziest, but it sure as hell was the most fun… I was playing the Funnybone in Richmond VA around Christmas, and they had a tree on stage. Under the tree, Santa had left a Nerf ball gun. All week I kept staring at this thing while I was on stage and thinking, “I really want to shoot someone with this thing.” Long story, short: Saturday night comes along, and a crowd member engages me. We go back and forth a minute, when I decide to grab the Nerf gun and threaten him with it. Turns out that this dude is an ex-marine, now local sheriff, and he is HUGE. He stood up to challenge me to shoot him, and the crowd went crazy. First shot missed. Second shot missed. Third shot, though, I put the gun down by my crotch and acted like it was my dick then fired and the thing flies back 9 rows smack towards his forehead, when he reaches up and grabs it out of mid-air like Mister Miyagi from the Karate Kid! It was hilarious and fun, and really, those are the moments I have the best time, when everyone gets an experience not just a show. I make an effort to create that atmosphere wherever the tour takes me.
Jamie: Speaking of touring, you run a pretty crazy schedule. What did you say… 48 out of 52 weeks this year you’re touring? That’s insane. What’s it like being on the road nonstop like that? Are you constantly looking for new material, and are you still able to maintain a personal life and see friends, family, and your significant other?
Michael: Ha ha, it is crazy some days… hell, most weeks, but it’s been a goal of mine since early in my career. I worked with John Morgan, and he was talking about his schedule of 46 weeks, and I immediately took that on as what I wanted to be my standard schedule. I’ve been incredibly blessed by my fans’ support and great rooms to accomplish and maintain that goal for the last three years. As for writing, I do a lot of it on stage. I consider myself to be constantly developing, but of course, it’s a process taking new material from “new” to “polished.” I have jokes in all stages at any given time. I’ve never been a big fan of sitting down to write; I’m far too ADD inclined. But I love being in the moment. If I have an idea, or a loose structure in mind, I take it to stage and sink or swim, I find out pretty quickly if it has legs and riff to find the direction I want to develop it with. If I see it has potential, I take it home and tag it up. As far as friends and family go, naturally, it’s tough to stay connected. I can’t count on 100 sets of fingers and toes how many parties, weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries I’ve missed over the years. When you’re first starting out you don’t know when the next check is coming in, so you drop what you’re doing and take whatever opportunity is in front of you. But I am blessed by an amazing support system. My family is behind me 200 percent and in the audience at every opportunity they have, and my girlfriend is so supportive that she literally kicks me out of the house to do time on the few nights I am home because she wants me taking advantage of every opportunity… or she just likes having the place to herself. But technology makes life on the road much easier nowadays.
Jamie: Let’s talk influences. Who were the guys you enjoyed the most, and how much of an impact or influence did they have over your style or career?
Michael: I’ve found that by surrounding yourself with awesome people, it drives you to work harder and push more too. I have the pleasure of being friends with a great group of comics whom I not only appreciate as friends, but also respect and very much look up to. Guys like Marc Ryan, Tom Simmons, Collin Moulton, and Vince Morris. Each of them are always working on new material and finding new ways to be heard. When you place yourself in a wolf pack like that, you either find a way to keep up or get left behind. They’ve all had influences on me in different ways, and I value each of them. Now, that’s speaking about what influences me now, but growing up I would sneak out to the garage and play my mom’s Richard Pryor and Steve Martin albums. I drew a lot of influence and inspiration from black comedians too. Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence, Sinbad, and Eddie Murphy were all staples during my youth, and I think that’s where a lot of my energy and characters come from. When I got older I started to really get into Bill Hick’s albums. He is hands-down my favorite of all time.
Jamie: Yeah, it was Pryor and Carlin for me early on, and then I really enjoyed the dry wit of guys like Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg… but I watched or listened to just about anyone I could. Now before we get into your new stuff and what you currently have going on, let’s touch on your first release “Let’s Get Physical.” Tell our readers a little bit about that. What was it like to release your first comedy album, and how did it change the playing field for your career?
Michael: “Let’s Get Physical” was a really fun project and exciting time in my career. I was in New York the night of the iTunes release due to fly back to LA at 4 a.m. So, naturally, as the CD dropped at 11 p.m., I was up the entire time Facebooking, Twittering, emailing, and smoke signaling everyone I knew to promote the thing. The work paid off, though. It debuted at 27 on the iTunes chart and by 4 a.m. it had moved to spot 18. By my connecting flight, I was at spot 11, and when I landed in LA, I had voice mails and text messages from my family, friends, and management that it’d went all the way to number five. It topped out as the number three selling comedy album in the U.S. and number eight in the world. It was a really flattering and encouraging to me. In the comedy world, it seems that what a lot of people want to know is “Where’s your TV credits” and “What have you done lately?” I may not have my late night spot or Comedy Central Presents—yet—but my fans are friggin’ dynamite, and that top ten selling album is a great tangible accomplishment to show for the 10 years I’ve put in so far. It’s times like that when you’re reaffirmed and it makes all the awful hotels and weekends away from family worth it. I’m so grateful for the team behind me and my fans who gave me that day.
Jamie: How about the Podcast? Give our readers a quick synopsis and tell us what they can expect to hear when they tune in?
Michael: Ah yes, the podcast: “The Michael Malone Show.” Creative name, I know. I am a horribly shy person off stage, and I was scared to death of this thing originally… but I’m a music nerd and comedy fan, and I spend my time traveling and being exposed to amazing talents, so I started the podcast as a way to capture that. I interview artists, feature acoustic sets or live comedy sets intermittently throughout the interview, as well as comedy sketches that I write. It’s a mixture of chaos and hilarity, and it’s also been a great way to get me out of my shell. I mentioned earlier that I want people to walk away from my comedy show feeling like they had an experience and not just a show. The same applies to the podcast. I want the listeners to really have an experience with the artist I’m highlighting and be exposed to someone they may not have otherwise heard. And did I mention… it’s FREE?!
Jamie: I’ve tuned in quite a bit, it’s a great podcast. You mentioned technology, and one of the bad sides of technology is that just about any schmuck can throw together a podcast. There’s a lot of amateur garbage out there, which kind of puts a black mark on them a little. You can almost hear the silent “big deal” when people say “oh, you have a podcast?” But a handful of people actually know what they’re doing with them, and that’s certainly the case with yours. Definitely good stuff. Ok, before I let you go, let’s plug that new comedy special some more. Casual Sext comes out October 18th. I’ve seen a few snippets and clips already and it looks to be another stellar and hilarious success. I’m looking forward to it. Tell us a little bit about that. You’ve gone the Louis CK/Jim Gaffigan route of cutting corporate America out of the fold and you took care of all production costs on your own to be able to offer it as a ridiculously low 5 dollar download… so tell us a little about that and a little about the album.
Michael: Yes! The special! I am SO excited to get this in everyone’s hands. And you’re right, I’m doing it the independent route for a $5 download on my personal website www.malonecomedy.com. I was really inspired by Louis CK’s release, because of the message behind it. He did it as a “Thank you” to his fans for all the support over the years. And, I want to do the same thing for my fan base. The last ten years have been amazing, and especially the last three, and I owe that to my fans and supporters. This is my way of giving back to them and making it as easy as possible to share with friends! The special is really fun. I deal with all the issues the important today, you know? How to handle sexting, pets, and ping pong balls with your partner. It was shot in the beautiful Strand Theatre in Indiana in front of a sold-out crowd of my biggest fans. The energy of the evening is apparent in the special, and I can’t wait to share it. Also, it’s chock full of new material and it’s less than most value meals at any fast food joint! Seriously, $5 bucks for an hour special is a great price.
Jamie: That it is, and I’m definitely looking forward to downloading it myself. I was a fan long before the friendship, so I always keep a close eye and ear on your stuff. Once again, thanks for taking the time to do the interview, and for all your support of Comedians For Cancer. I’m looking forward to having you perform with us in the future. Thanks man.
Michael: Thank you! I am really excited to join you guys, and I appreciate the opportunity to help out.
Jamie: There you have it folks… the very very funny Michael Malone. Click on his links here to check out his website and podcast, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Also get yourself Let’s Get Physical, and download Casual Sext on October 18th… trust me, you’ll be glad you did.