INTERVIEWS

Mike E. Winfield: Full Steam Ahead

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mike eWhen SUSC first saw Mike E. Winfield years ago at 50 Mason, it was apparent that the young comic had that certain something that makes a star: material, presence and a hilarious unique perspective that you wanted to hear more of. From his winning first place in the 2004 Rooster T. Feathers New Talent Comedy Competition to his appearance on Late Night with David Letterman to winning a recurring role on The Office, Winfield’s star is rising. Check him out December 3rd-6th at Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale. Tix here: http://tinyurl.com/jtdxk6e

 

 

SUSC: Looking forward to your shows.

Mike: I love Roosters.

Independently run comedy clubs need to be supported. Was Roosters important in your development as a comic?

Absolutely. Roosters was the first club to feature me. A couple of credits later, I get to headline. It’s necessary in an artist’s development to get those opportunities to perform and have a venue that supports you.

The first time I saw you was at 50 Mason. Were you a Bay Area comic?

I started in Sacramento. It was like once a week, then twice a week and then I got the itch. I started to drive to the Bay Area for this five minutes. I would drive an hour and a half to drop a five minute set. So that’s what you saw, me driving from Sacramento to drop 5 or 7 minutes and that’s the business. Bay Area is pretty much where I started. Northern Cali, all in all, gave me the opportunities, initially.

Was Ngaio Bealum one of your local heroes in Sac?

Ngaio was headlining. He was part of a group of guys who were Sac comics that we watched headline. Ngaio and Jason Resler and Del Van Dyke and they’re still around.

Ngaio should be nominated by Bernie Sanders to head the Department of Weed, he’s a good spokesperson.

He’s happy because he’s doing what he wants to do. I bumped into him at an airport. He was going to a weed convention in Portland. He has definitely found his lane.

At what point did you know you wanted to expand from stand-up to acting and writing?

I just keep pushing and doing stuff and it’s like it just came to me. It wasn’t a decision I made, it was like a decision that was made for me. It was like boom, I’m loving comedy and I’m doing stand-up. Things were going well and then I was being taken on the road, I’m opening for guys. Then I had a manager, I was like, “Whoah, how did this happen?” Now I got a guy making calls for me. Next thing you know, I land a Letterman spot. Now I got agents coming in and they’re throwing auditions at me. So, I just tell jokes and that’s my tool to be seen. I just keep running as fast as I can forward and things come at me. I live by that rule.

It’s still important to be on Late Night TV, but you were on Letterman when it was prestigious.

Letterman only gave a few spots to comics the entire year. It’s still a great credit. People look at me like, “Oh, you’re one of the guys.” It sits in a good place.

Did your confidence and positivity stay level with all the opportunities that came your way?

Positivity is just in me. But it’s weird how confidence works because comedy is so humbling. I remember my first five years, I thought I was the man! I’m getting a lot of love from people. I’m touring up to Winnemucca. I’m going to Oregon. I’m the man. Then I travelled a little further out of town and people didn’t get some of my references. And I was like, “Oh no, I gotta grow.” Then you get humbled and then something else happens and you feel yourself again. Because of that I found some medium ground to live on. I’m also confident now because I kind of know what I’m doing as far as creating on stage and that’s fantastic. The comedy part is easy, but now I get to produce more and put out more content because I can write jokes faster. There’s such a great feeling when you’re pumping out material and it’s not as difficult as it had been.

Do you write every day?

Always joke writing. But what I have are a bunch of treatments. I’ve been writing shows and character descriptions, I’m working on selling shows. One is based on my stand-up. It’s wild how it’s working. I’m meeting with all these production companies and pitching in rooms. I’m just trying to sell the idea of selling one of my shows. I feel so close but there’s just so much more to develop the ideas. I like these little Instagram sketches, these little scripts. So even my leisure time is fun. I just want to always be in the process of creating. I’m just a comedian that wants to put out funny. I’m here to dish out content, everything comes as it comes.

Stand-up comedy is a solo affair, but pitching shows is a group process. How do you navigate those waters when others want to compromise your vision on things?

I just have to assess it. I’m open to hearing what people have to say and if it works, it works. One of my ideas is about how my wife is older and I have a step-son and its cool being a parent with a kid close to your age. So sometimes I’ll hear that they have a lot of opinions on how the step-son should be, and since I’m super close to him and understand his direction in the show, I’m open to listening, but I have a way about it. A lot of time it’s negotiation. If somebodies like, I’m going to put in, I’m going to fund it, then maybe you do listen to what they are saying and make a change or two. You have to believe in your vision, and not hate the process of selling it, but sometimes other people do have valid points. When things are collaborative, it’s not a negative thing, sometimes that’s how gold is made, something new happens that you didn’t even see coming. There’s also the joy of two comics writing together, multiple minds can bring in some substance.

There are so many trigger topics right now. Do you feel as a comic feel obligated to talk about bigger issues?

It’s never been my thing, until this year. There have been things that have happened that have made me legitimately angry. I’m not an angry person, but through the course of this year I got a feeling and when that happens I cannot ignore it. I just can’t do my regular set and not address it, otherwise you’re playing oblivious. By no means am I a big political guy, but now I have a piece in my set, sometimes it goes longer, sometimes it’s shorter. But it needs to be addressed. People do look to you for the things they cannot say at work. It’s great when you can touch people and really talk to them about feelings they have and give them a point of view.

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Interviews
11/29/2015

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