October 24, 2012

Comedy: Nick Griffin finally gets where he’s going

Nick Griffin might not be the most recognizable face in comedy, but he is certainly one of the most well-respected. Having bounced back and forth from New York to Los Angeles, the Kansas City native has made several well-received appearances on “Conan,” “Craig Ferguson” and “David Letterman.” The writer/comedian will bring his unique sense of humor to The Improv this weekend.

LEO: Have you ever been through Louisville before?
Nick Griffin: I’m trying to think … I’ve done this for 25 years now — but I think I did it about a hundred years ago at the other place, what’s it called?

LEO: Comedy Caravan?
NG: Yeah. I came up in Kansas City and that was one of the first places you tried to get into. You’d drive to Louisville and get in front of Tom Sobel, because he had weeks and weeks of gigs.

LEO: Wasn’t Sinbad from Kansas City as well?
NG: I don’t know if he was from there, but he started there. When I started, there were a lot of good comics there. Most of them stopped doing it for whatever reason, but they were really good performers and joke writers. We had a great time.

LEO: What made you want to first get on stage?
NG: I went to this tiny college outside of Kansas City, and we would drive in just to drink. There was an open mic at this place, and a bunch of my friends told me they would buy all my drinks if I went onstage. And, of course, when you’re 20 years old and someone says they’ll buy all your drinks … you’ll do it, it doesn’t matter what it is.

LEO: Is stage time the most important thing for a young comedian?
NG: Yeah, I think pretty much. I get an email at least once a month from people saying, “What do I do?” or “How do I get better?” I just send an email back saying, “Get onstage as much as humanly possible, it’s the only thing that makes you better.” For me, it was really important because I was afraid, I was really shy, I was really quiet — but it took me years and years to get enough stage time where I felt comfortable, where I could just relax.

LEO: Did originally moving to New York from Kansas City change how you presented your material?
NG: Absolutely. I had been doing it in the Midwest for about three years, and I thought I was really good, when I was probably just OK for the Midwest. But I got to New York and the people I was watching every night were Jon Stewart, Louis C.K., Bill Hicks, Ray Romano, Chris Rock — amazing, amazing comics. And I was watching them every night. It was two things: It was inspiring, and it was humbling. Because the first thing that happens when you go to a big city is you realize that you aren’t as good as you thought you were.

LEO: So what drove you from New York to L.A.?
NG: I just wasn’t getting any stage time in New York. I was really frustrated, I had been there a few years, and after another bad year — I was like any young person on any career path, I was in a hurry to get where I was going.

Nick Griffin
Oct. 25-28
The Improv
Fourth Street Live
$15-$17; various times