This week, between filming a TV show, taping an episode of his Fitzdog Radio podcast with Tom Papa and flying across the country for a weekend of shows at Goodnights in Raleigh, N.C., veteran stand-up comedian Greg Fitzsimmons found time to answer a handful of questions I had for him on Friday morning.
Fitzsimmons is on the short list of great comics I haven’t seen live yet — a wish I plan on fulfilling at Goodnights this week — and his stand-up, writing, radio and television credits are too many to mention in this space. Besides, posting Fitzsimmons’ entire resume here would only delay you, dear reader, from getting to the interview.
Just know that Fitzsimmons the writer has four Daytime Emmys for his work on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and has written for other programs like “The Man Show” and “Chelsea Lately.” In addition to his podcast, Fitzsimmons hosts an eponymous weekly show on SiriusXM’s Howard 101 — a Stern channel — and is a familiar face on Letterman, Conan and Jimmy Kimmel with two Comedy Central specials to his credit as well.
Fitzsimmons and I discussed how working in show business doesn’t allow him to feel normal, the allure of being in front of a camera, what makes for a good comedy room and much more. Visit Fitzsimmons’ website, follow him on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find In Five Minutes at the end.
TC: I saw you on a recent episode of “Louie,” you’ve got other TV stuff in the works, the podcast, radio and a busy stand-up schedule in addition to your husband and fatherly duties. Do you ever feel overwhelmed or are you pretty good at time management?
GF: I am either so overworked that I fantasize about retiring or so under-worked that I am afraid the business has sent me into retirement. Never just normal.
TC: You’ve done a lot of TV work, both on screen and in the writers’ room. Is one more enjoyable than the other?
GF: Being in front of the camera is the best job in the world. You are treated like a king and the work is really fun. The hours are way better than a writer’s hours and you have a lot more say ultimately about what goes into the show
TC: Have you done stand-up in all 50 states?
GF: Never in New Mexico, Kentucky or Mississippi.
TC: I don’t want to send you on a Todd Glass-like rant here, but what makes a good comedy room and what makes a bad one?
GF: Good rooms have good managers, someone who books the comics, takes them to morning press interviews, runs the room and oversees marketing. Physically, a good room has a sound system that is tweaked by a good board (operator) because dynamics change in the room all the time. The lighting should not be blinding, but the crowd should be lost in the darkness so they are not self-conscious when they laugh. Big groups should be seated in the back of the room where they can be policed by the staff and care should be taken to book opening acts that are not hackey or do a lot of crowd work.
TC: With so many comics and so many more outlets for them to deliver jokes these days, is it more difficult to come up with original bits or is that something good comics will do regardless?
GF: I just focus on talking about what is compelling to me. Things in the news that are edgy or things in my life that make me think a lot. I don’t worry about other comics’ material too much because somewhere someone is doing a similar bit and in the end, as long as you know you wrote it and it isn’t too similar, then it is fine.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find In Five Minutes:
Where are my pants? Don’t you mean “LEG PRISONS,” officer?
— Kyle Kinane (@kylekinane) June 6, 2014