Bon Jovi Taught Me Math: Eight Questions with Myq Kaplan
Myq Kaplan, Photo: Mindy Tucker
For what it’s worth, the comedy world has been taken by storm with a slew of TV shows based around stand-up. Some come on late at night, some come on once and disappear, and some, like the NBC show “Last Comic Standing” are in prime time and even tour under the same moniker. In 2010 finalist Myq Kaplan emerged, and has been on a roll ever since appearing on the show. The comic has been on The Tonight Show, The Late Show, Comedy Central, and has toured relentlessly since. His latest album and Netflix special, “Small, Dork, and Handsome,” has the Brooklyn-based comic appearing in Houston on Monday December 14th. FPH took a moment of the busy comic’s time to pick his brain and find out more of what to expect when he performs here.
FPH: You live in Brooklyn, but you were born in New Jersey, did growing up in Jersey shape your humor and do you rub living in NYC in the faces of everyone you know still stuck in New Jersey?
MYQ KAPLAN: Ha. You know it! I’m all like “Take that, Mom and Dad, thinking you’re happy and fulfilled (which you are) even though you’re living one state away from the greatest city in the world (as measured by how much urine smell there is), even though geography is a construct and you can achieve what you want wherever you are.”
What I’m saying is, most of the people I know who are stuck in Jersey are my parents. Also, no one’s “stuck” there. Though you DO have to pay a toll to get into Manhattan, but you can escape through Pennsylvania maybe if you want, I think.
As for what shaped me growing up, I would say the exact geographical environment isn’t as important as the school I went to, the friends and teachers I had (which weren’t New Jersey specific… like, Bon Jovi didn’t teach me math, though there is counting is the “these five words I swear to you” portion of “I’ll Be There For You”), and maybe most significant, the summer camp I went to, Buck’s Rock, which was actually in Connecticut. So I would say Connecticut had a lot to do with who I became, but New Jersey certainly added some flavor. Delicious delicious flavor.
FPH: You’ve had lots of success since appearing on “Last Comic Standing,” how long had you been doing stand-up before landing on the show?
MYQ KAPLAN: I started really pursuing stand-up in 2002 and was a finalist on “Last Comic Standing” in 2010, so I think it’s impossible to say how much time that was. (Bon Jovi taught me math. Or didn’t? I forget the past. Bruce Springsteen taught me history.)
FPH: Your latest album, last year’s “Small, Dork, and Handsome” debuted as a Netflix special, do you see yourself going that route for your next special or is it whoever offers?
MYQ KAPLAN: I’m very happy to have my most recent special on Netflix, and I’d be happy to have future releases there, because it’s great to have people be able to watch whenever they want, as opposed to having to look up when a show is going to appear on TV like a cave person. That said, I have no specific allegiance to any channel or method, and wherever my next special ends up being, I’ll just be grateful that it’s somewhere that people can see it if they want to (or have to, if there’s some future mandatory direct comedy brain-streaming introduced into society).
FPH: You did Maron back in 2010 when he felt more antagonistic in his interviews, was it as brooding as it comes off in the episode, or was it more of a fun atmosphere?
MYQ KAPLAN: Sincerely, I remember it being a lot of fun, so either all the fun was happening inside of me OR there might have been hours of fun that were recorded and edited out (or somewhere in between). I do truly remember having very real and enjoyable moments that didn’t make the final cut… for example, I had just gotten divorced a few years earlier, which I felt was something we had connected on, and at the time when I didn’t hear that as part of the final product, I was disappointed, but ultimately, I no longer think of Maron as the angry comedy dad I never had, for a few reasons: 1) my actual dad is very supportive and loving, 2) I don’t need everyone or anyone specific to validate me, and 3) MARON EVENTUALLY CAME AROUND AND SAID BORDERLINE NICE THINGS ABOUT ME… In an interview with The Comic’s Comic called “5 Comics to Watch in 2012,” he said “You know I used to really bust on him a little bit about how he makes such anally constructed jokes work, but he makes it work. He’s really evolved into having a unique disposition on stage and kind of a quirky delivery and even his posture has formed into a comedic being.” So to recap, yes, it was fun! And now even more fun. And in between, who can say. Me earlier? Great. (Also I’m very glad that Maron’s been so successful in the past several years, commercially, creatively, and personally.)
FPH: Your podcast, “Hang Out With Me” has been going strong since 2012, do you see yourself doing it for ten years or longer, or have you planned that far ahead? Do you ever go back and listen to episodes and hate any of your early ones?
MYQ KAPLAN: Good question, thanks for asking it! (And all of the questions.) I did go back and listen recently to some early episodes to find clips for a “Best of…” collection I released last year, and I was mostly pleasantly surprised to see how much the enjoyment held up. This is due in large part to the fact that on most episodes I have two guests who are comedians that are my very good friends and very funny people, and I’ve often forgotten a lot of what they said that was great… As far as listening to myself, I think about a story about a zen master and a broken goblet that I’ve heard. Basically, the zen master points to a glass that is NOT broken and says something like “I drink out of this glass every day and I wash it every day and it’s a beautiful glass but I conceive of it as broken, so that one day when it does fall on the floor and break, I’m not upset because I knew it was ultimately broken all along.” So, with that in mind, listening back to things I’ve said in the past, I can have the attitude “Everything I’ve said could be dumb, a verbal broken goblet,” and then when something ISN’T, that’s great! But if something is, I’m not surprised, so it doesn’t fill me with hate. I’m not a big hate guy anyway. If I was going to hate anything, it would probably be hate, and I don’t even hate hate. Big fan of love! Love love! (Barf.)
FPH: Your tour has had you in traditional comedy clubs, music venues, and you did your album release last year at Union Hall. Do you find yourself liking the traditional clubs more or do you just go wherever they’ll have you?
MYQ KAPLAN: There are wonderful traditional clubs and there are wonderful alternative venues. The disparity is so great that to say I prefer one over the other would be essentially meaningless. I’ll say that specifically, some wonderful clubs I’ve enjoyed performing at immensely include Acme in Minneapolis, the various Helium clubs, Cap City in Austin, Comedy Club on State in Madison, the Punchline in San Francisco, and too many more to name. Of course, I’ve also had a ton of super enjoyable shows at places that aren’t those clubs… for example, I was just in San Francisco a month or two ago and had one of my favorite shows in a while at a place called Lost Weekend, the basement of a video store. A month later I was in Portland, one of my favorite cities, not performing at Helium (which I love), but at a music venue called the Bossanova Ballroom, and that show was also stellar. A few weeks later I did a show at Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC, which was also fantastic. What matters more than the particular shape or structure of the venue or even the business, I believe, is who is producing the show(s), how they’re doing it, how much they know and care about comedy, and who ultimately comes out to the shows. The thing all the great places I’ve performed have in common are that people know what they’re doing and care. So I’ll certainly go wherever that is the case. And also I’ll go other places. Thanks for inviting me!
FPH: You’re a known vegan and it finds its way into your act. How long have you been vegan and does it ever cause problems when you’re out on the road?
MYQ KAPLAN: It doesn’t really. There are vegetables pretty much everywhere there are people, whether it’s a vegetarian meal at an Asian restaurant, fruit from the produce aisle of the local supermarket, grass I can graze on in a public park, whatever works! I’ve been living and eating vegan pretty much for exactly as long as I’ve been doing comedy, about 13 years, and I know it might sound strange to say this, but other than not eating animal products, I’m not really that picky about my diet. The only time I ever remember having one difficulty was on a cross-country non-comedy road trip I was taking with a buddy about ten years ago, and at a restaurant somewhere in Louisiana, I remember asking if they could do the pasta without meatballs, and they said the meatballs were in the sauce, so I said “how about no sauce, just with some vegetables?” and they said “we don’t have vegetables.” But upon further perusing the menu, I saw that they had onions and peppers and mushrooms and olives, and they just called them “pizza toppings” instead of vegetables. So I was all right! And that was ten years ago. Today, it’s pretty simple just to google “[town name] + vegetarian restaurants” and something pops up, even if it’s just Chipotle (which is fine by me).
FPH: You attended Brandeis University and you have a masters in linguistics from Boston University, if you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing in life?
MYQ KAPLAN: Teaching. Learning. Music. Working at a cafe. Helping computers learn how to process human language. Working at a summer camp. Working at a suicide hotline. Working at a bookstore. Those are most of the jobs that I did have along the way to becoming a full-time comedian. So, any one of those might have been the thing that I focused on, or that focused on me. Before I found standup, my dream was to be a singer-songwriter, so if I hadn’t found standup, maybe I would have pursued that even more. Maybe I still will. In college, I studied psychology among other things, and I applied to some counseling programs before I decided to get my linguistics degree. Perhaps I’d be doing that. It’s near impossible to predict the future, and in some ways even more difficult to predict the future of alternate timelines stemming off from the past. I love writing and talking and connecting with people and learning and sharing, so some combination of all that mish mash, I guess. I’m very grateful that I found comedy and/or comedy found me. Ooh, that’s my answer. If I weren’t doing comedy, I would still be doing comedy. TOO LATE NO MORE ANSWER THAT’S IT.
It’s not hard to see that Kaplan can use his masters degree in linguistics with ease. The comic is known as one of the sharpest and quickest wits in stand-up today, and his shows are usually filled with people who are in pain from laughing. While Kaplan ponders on one of those other possible career paths, you can catch him Monday December 14th at Warehouse Live. The all ages show taking place in the studio has doors at 7:00 and tickets between $12.00 and $15.00.