Comedy can be hard for a newcomer. It can take years to hone in on a voice that suits the speaker on stage. Even then, it takes a while for the jokes to come easily. But, once a comedian finds solace onstage, the jokes can really heat up.
Micahel Palascak took his beating early, foregoing a job completely post-graduation in order to pursue comedy. He didn’t serve food or empty trash bins like the rest of us. Lucky SOB. I recently had a chat with Palascak about his new album, That One Thing, which is out now on Audible Channels and will release worldwide on February 24.
Your album is going to be out on Audible Channels [as well as other outlets]. How do you feel about all these new avenues for standups to put things out? Like Audible and Seeso?
Michael Palascak: It’s complicated. A long time ago, you couldn’t do it because there was no technology. It’s really, as a comedian, kind of hard. You just want people to see your stuff. Sometimes, people don’t get to.
It used to be just Comedy Central and HBO. And then you go buy the records. Now, everything’s on Spotify, Google Play or iTunes. Or someone puts it out themselves.
Palascak: I just want people to be able to listen to it. I hope the technology doesn’t make it more difficult.
You’re very good at it. I noticed each track is specifically titled. Do things just happen to you and you write about them? Or do you start with a concept and go from there?
Palascak: Everything in my act that I say happens to me, happens to me. Sometimes there’s jokes that start off [with how] I feel about something. And then I’ll start off with a story that sort of relates to it.
Like you said, [you do utilize] story and relation. But you’re also a very good writer thematically. Each set of jokes blends in with the next. So “American Girl Doll” will relate to “Rich Girl, Poor Girl” but then there could always be a callback to a previous track like “American Airlines.”
Palascak: I appreciate that. I travel around and do these jokes at clubs. Some of it comes from sitting down and doing it. Some of it comes from doing it over and over again, trying to make sure people have a good time at the show.
Speaking of traveling, you’re constantly going around to these small clubs, big venues and anything like that. Does it ever get to wear on you as a comedian?
Palascak: I don’t know. As a comedian, you might have to get somewhere and you don’t have to work until night. Or you have to wake up for an interview but then you have some time to recover. I always like that; I can always push myself to do something and have time to recover. I think it might be different if I was working a TV show or something like that and then having to go on the road. That sounds like a tough schedule.
What was it like when you were deciding to fully commit to comedy? What was that transition? Was it easy to quit a day job and start [touring]?
Palascak: I think the thing that made it easiest is that I was stupid and in college. I didn’t do anything after that. I finished college and I told my parents that’s what I wanted to do. I moved back home with my parents and did it. It’s harder sometimes when people have to quit a job. For me, it was my only job. I thought of ways to help with money. Luckily for me, my parents lived in Chicago which is a very comedy town. I did that there until I was able to make money and move out.
Was Chicago a good city to get your legs wet before going out to LA and New York and bigger comedy cities?
Palascak: I loved it. Chicago is great for so many reasons. At the time, comedy was so big that standup was…you could just do it and there wasn’t that many of us. At the same time, I would take improv classes and be a part of that scene too. I think that helps with the mentality of it. You can express yourself. There’s a lot clubs and you can make a living out of it. I think starting out in Chicago and the people that do it, they’re either doing it because they’re funny or they just like doing it. In different cities, there’s different motivations for it. In LA you might see actors trying to make a movie or, in New York, it’s mostly kind of similar to Chicago. I really felt like Chicago is a big part of my success.
You’re right in saying there weren’t that many of you when you were starting. Now there’s a thousand people every day trying to tell jokes. Probably even more than that. And you’ve got to find out a way of standing out ahead of them whether it be tweeting a joke that no one’s ever said before or going up on stage and performing 30 minutes of material that’s never been heard of.
Palascak: Yeah. It’s scary when you think of it like that. The fun part is that doing live comedy [can reach] 30 to 300 people to 1,000 if you’re doing a big theatre. There’s always going to be people to come see you no matter how you’re going to be doing it. It’s our job to figure out how to do it the best we can.
On Last Comic Standing, Keenan Ivory Wayans said you have a “dudeish humor.” He’s right; you’re very down to earth. On “Turtle Power,” it starts off innocent enough then it gets into this extremely strange and weird territory that you seem incredibly comfortable with.
Palascak: When I started out doing standup, I listened to an interview that Jerry Seinfeld did…[from the] 80’s. He said something about how, as a standup, he always started out with the logic and situation. But then, when you heighten it, that’s when it goes to a weird place. When I write, I sort of start off with the same [concept]. I think about it more and more. Sometimes it feels more valid. [laughs]
After Last Comic Standing, TV appearances and a 75 city tour, did your career explode exponentially to the way that you thought it was going to happen?
Palascak: I think that tour was a big explosion in itself. I was so grateful for that opportunity. Now, after the explosion, it’s just trying to figure out how to do it again. I’m on tour but I want to string something like that on my own. I think that’s the challenge after Last Comic Standing…you get at least four people who can now go do a tour on your own. I do work that much now, theatres and cities. It was quite an opportunity. It’s a big goal for me.
Follow Michael Palascak on Twitter and buy That One Thing on February 24.