Many comedians are loud and brash but that personality doesn’t play well for everyone. Kevin Hart can go over the top with performances at Madison Square Garden; someone like Kate Miccuci should stay subdued so that her songs play well to the audience.
If mumblecore was a brand of comedy, Lachlan Patterson would fit it nicely. He gives off this vibe of control over his comedy that should be enviable to all. Patterson’s jokes aren’t seeking your attention. With just a single premise, he can make several permutations of the same joke in one performance. He’s showing the younger generation of comics what it’s like to forge their own joke path. I recently had a chat with him about his career and his latest special, Live from Venice Beach, now on Seeso and Audible.
Is it true that you started at 19?
Lachlan Patterson: My first ever time on stage, I believe, was at 19. But I don’t consider that the start of my comedy career. I did that because I was drunk and emotional. What I really consider my star is at the age of 24 when I decided this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
How was that decision when you came upon the [idea] that you wanted to make people laugh while standing on a stage?
Patterson: When I revisited stand up, I took a class. It was so hard. I think I just didn’t like the idea that i wasn’t good at something. It was so difficult. I clung to it and I’ve been trying to master it ever since.
Makes sense. Did you start performing in Venice Beach.
Patterson: I started performing in my hometown of Vancouver. Then I moved ot Los Angeles in 2007 and have been living in Venice Beach ever since.
You surf and do all that stuff right?
Patterson: I try. I have a podcast called Kooks of Komedy where you’d have to drink right now for saying that word (surfing).
Patterson: Yeah [laughs]. We don’t say that word on the podcast. Every time I hear it, [ I want to tell people to drink]. If you say that word, we hit a bell and you have to drink. It’s honestly created a habit in my head where, whenever I hear that word, a bell goes off in my head.
What else do you guys get down to on the podcast? Is it a comedy podcast?
Patterson: It is. It’s a standup comedy podcast where we talk about life, love and the pursuit of a barrel.
Has discussing comedy on the podcast and starting at a youngish age shaped the way your first album came about?
Patterson: I think it did. I think living in Venice and having a style that I feel connects with the lifestyle I have -- a very laid back style -- it just clicks for me to have a special here. I’ve always had a sort of “matter of fact comedy” where I don’t want you to know what’s coming. I try to hide it as long as I can. I don’t want you to know right away if I’m serious or not. I don’t know how to explain it. A lot of people say “I can’t tell when you’re serious.” I like that.
I have that same sense of humor and people describe that as “dry sense of humor” which I guess is sort of what British comedy is. But I don’t understand if I’m dry, then what’s wet?
Patterson: I don’t want to be wet! I don’t like dry but I definitely don’t want to be wet. Wet sounds sloppy. I think I’d like to bring back dry as a great thing and not just an English thing that people don’t understand. I think what we have -- you and I -- is this need to be unpredictable. It’s not enough to tell a joke to get a laugh. I want it to be something you never expected.
And that makes sense because every time you watch something on TV or you see a comic that you really like or you see a movie, sometimes you can predict the punchline to the joke that they just started telling maybe ten seconds ago. I don’t want to be that type of joke teller, joke creator.
Patterson: Totally, man. That’s why we don’t tell the same joke style -- setup and punchline style sets. If you do that, people are going to figure out the pattern and exactly what’s coming. In this business, you can’t be predictable. In my set, you see that there’s very, very serious material. And then there’s material that’s so corny, you think “I didn’t see that coming because he was just doing a joke about love and now he’s doing a joke about whoever named the birds was in a hurry.”
How was your transitioning that thought process going from Jokes to Make Love To to Live from Venice Beach?
Patterson: I think I got more serious in Live from Venice Beach. Definitely more of a flow. When I recorded Jokes to Make Love To they were literally jokes all strung together. What I did was masterfully included music in between each joke to transition. It wasn’t important to me to transition; comedians are never remembered for their transitions. Since then, it’s been six years, and I realize that transitions are part of the arc. It’s a wonderful thing to have a comedian [have] a set of transitions where you don’t really know where the joke ended and where a joke began.
When you got up on stage for Live, did it seem like this sense of growing up and adultness came to you as soon as you were ready to accept the different things like the transitions?
Patterson: Yeah. I’ve become much more accepting of who I am as a comedian. So the transitions I make; the jokes I wrote; the whole thing is -- and I hope people can see -- I didn’t feel pressure. I knew these were my jokes, this was my set, these are what I really love. If people like it, those are my people. And if people don’t like it, I think that’s great; they can enjoy wet comedy. Nice soaking wet, dripping, oily comedy.
Live from Venice Beach is on Seeso already and Audible. And then it’ll be available worldwide on digital [soon]. How do you figure these different type of distribution platforms play into younger comedians like yourself?
Patterson: These platforms vary. The audio platforms like short jokes because our attention spans grow shorter. I write very lean setup type jokes. Which I find helps when you’re dealing with online media platforms where there is so much material out there to listen to. I try to keep my setups lean so that I can get more airplay. As a listener of comedy, I don’t like comedians who get fat in the setup and try to explain in detail [everything] in the setup. A lot of times, they get very grandstandy about [the topics]...I guess what I’m trying to say is that they’re trying to portray a message that isn’t funny to eventually tell their joke that is funny. I don’t think you need to grandstand to get your point across. You need to get specific with you in your set. In your life, it can be one or two lines.
You mentioned social media. You have a nice Twitter following of about 24 thousand people and that’s considerably larger than most of the comedians I speak to. And you keep your sets and jokes lean. How do you feel about others tweeting out their jokes -- even when they’re not comedians, but happen to be tweeting out these 140 character one liners?
Patterson: I guess they get joy out of seeing those little numbers come through. The hearts and numbers. But I need to see people’s face. To me, that is a much truer perspective to how funny I was. Laughter is the highest form of acceptance. I can click on a heart and not be laughing. I can click on the retweet button and not be laughing. I really can’t look at those numbers when I tweet and get an idea of how I did. Especially since, at different times of the day, people are seeing that. At a comedy club, you are all there in that moment. That’s it. It’s all much more honest. However, some people love those little numbers and it makes them happy. So I’m not going to discourage anyone from writing jokes online. Go for it. They make me laugh sometimes and sometimes I click those little buttons.
I just wanted to ask you about Last Comic Standing. What was the process like? I was watching the season, well parts of it, and seeing a comedian up there then talking to them (like at this moment) is completely different. It’s such a strange and weird feeling. I assume, for you, being up there and making it as a runner up must have been a whole new level for you.
Patterson: I never experienced that [before]. It was intense. You learn as you go. I kept telling myself “Don’t lose your mind. Don’t get emotional.” Which is really important. As soon as you get emotional, your brain goes and jumps in the backseat and lets your emotion drive the car. You can come off looking like an idiot. As crazy as everything it -- it’s pretty crazy. You have to ask someone to go to the bathroom. And they will go with you. Because of the context, they don’t want you to cheat. I respect that. You could just lose your mind [though]. The process was very new and you can’t fight it; this is the thing.
“You’re up next.” “You’re going to walk here.” “You’re going to stand here.” “And there’s going to be a bunch of smoke. You’re going to walk through smoke.”
There’s going to be judges and all these different distractions. You just gotta deliver your jokes. That’s all you’re in control of. You just gotta keep remembering that. That’s all you can do is remember your jokes and make people laugh. Try to be as natural and as calm as you can so that the real you comes out on TV. I think that in life that’s how you should handle your relationships and your business. When it’s time to do your job, you just calm down, count to ten and deliver.