March 10, 2010

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with comedian Nicholas Anthony

This weekend, Nicholas Anthony will be headlining at Comedy Caravan. He appeared as a finalist on two seasons of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and is presently Comedy Caravan’s youngest regular headliner. Raised in Minneapolis, Anthony relocated to Louisville because it was a central location for a young comic who needed access to several major markets. He has since fallen in love with the city (even though he’s usually on the road 25 days out of a month), and last year he entered “The Nihilist,” a WWI short film he wrote, in the Louisville International Festival of Film.


LEO: How did your childhood fascination with magic lead you to doing stand-up?

Nicholas Anthony: I think the same way it led Steve Martin or Johnny Carson — they both started doing magic when they were young kids. I listened to George Carlin when I was 9 or 10 years old, and early Eddie Murphy, and early Chris Rock stuff — I always wanted to do that, but I thought, “I’ll never be able to do stand-up comedy.” It was natural that I wanted to perform, so I picked up a deck of cards and started entertaining people.

LEO: What are your comic influences?

NA: Early on it was George Carlin’s Toledo Window Box, and a cassette tape of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. Chris Rock’s first album and all of Adam Sandler’s CDs. Now I would say it’s guys like Louis CK,and Mitch Hedberg and Dave Attell and Brian Regan.

LEO: Comedians are competitive with one another under normal circumstances, “Last Comic Standing” had to have been unbearable.

NA: Yeah. [laughs] I had some genuinely good experiences with that show. But they make it seem like they’re really looking for new talent, like “American Idol” but for comics. But the reality is, that was all pretty much an illusion. It was Barry Katz (Dane Cook’s manager), he and two other guys, Jay Mohr was one of them, and [another guy], they got together and put together a show, because Barry wanted a forum where he could put the people he manages on television. Were they looking for unknown people? The possibility of it was there. But the reality of it was that they were trying to get their people seen. When you throw that reality into it, it creates a heavy-handedness that the American public didn’t realize.

That being said, I didn’t have management at the time, and I didn’t know anyone — but they passed me through, and I still made it to the finals two years in a row. It was a big confidence booster for me. I got a lot of television work out of it. The power of television knows no bounds — but it does perpetuate not-the-best comedians sometimes.

LEO: Do you feel like Barry and those guys had a hand in the voting, affecting results?

NA: I don’t know how the voting all went down. There was an episode that went down, where Drew Carey was one of the judges. Well, he kinda realized what had been going down while he was on the show. And he got really pissed off and walked out. I’m surprised that didn’t get more publicized. People have agendas.

I’m not even complaining about all of that. I get the practicality of that. If I was the producer of the show, I kind of understand where those guys are coming from. With music, there are albums already written for somebody. Kelly Clarkson had an album written for her before she was ever a star. Now they just needed to find the face and the voice. They go out and do that, then plug in a face and a voice. With comedy, you can’t do that. Somebody doesn’t just have an hour’s worth of great material waiting for them, where they can find a guy with a great personality and just plug it in. It takes a really long time to figure out things like voice, point-of-view, character, attitude — to have that mirror with the jokes. No one I have ever respected comedically, for that matter art, painting, filmmaking, anything — it takes people a long time to get good at something. Pop music has kinda found a way to get around that.

LEO: Some comics have said that laughter is more powerful and more addictive than any drug. In your experience, is that true?

NA: I didn’t come to comedy for the same reasons a lot of people did. My parents loved me unconditionally. I don’t do powdered drugs or beat my wife; I don’t even have a wife. To me, I just really want to do something that’s interesting — it’s access to people and laughter. It’s obviously awesome to get on stage and be the funny guy, because girls like to fuck entertainers … so that’s always nice.

I see a lot of guys who have these self-esteem issues, where doing stand-up is proving to their parents that they’re good enough, or some weird psychological thing. For me, I don’t have those demons, so it’s more of an intellectual pursuit.

LEO: It’s still a very masochistic path to choose for an intellectual pursuit.

NA: Yeah … you’re right, masochism is a great word to describe stand-up comedy. I slept in my car for four years trying to make gigs happen. That’s what really decides whether you’re going to do it or not. Because I’ve known some really talented people that all had plan Bs — in comedy it’s tough, and when times get tough, plan B becomes plan A, and times always get tough. The only time I see comics who are successful, it’s because they sailed to the island and burned the ships. They didn’t give themselves, “Oh, I’ve got a law degree, I can always fall back on that.” The best advice I can give any creative person who wants to do anything is, don’t have a plan B. If you’re gonna do it, don’t question it, just fuckin’ do it … and see it through.

LEO: Do you have any heckle horror stories?

NA: I’ve been attacked on stage … twice. Once when I was in Reno, and then once when I was in Buffalo, N.Y. Two separate times dudes got on stage and tried to physically assault me.

LEO: Was it actually over something you said?

NA: Oh, of course. When I’m on stage, I’m a smart-ass, I’ll say whatever the fuck is on my mind. I mean, it’s all in jest. And I’ve done thousands and thousands of shows, and it’s only happened twice — and both times the guy was extremely drunk. It’s inevitable that at some point someone’s just going to freak out.

Nicholas Anthony
March 10-13
Comedy Caravan
1250 Bardstown Road
$8-$12; various times