INTERVIEWS

Mike Lawrence’s Big Day

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New York City is becoming a warehouse for new talent acquisitions and the launching of new names in stand-up comedy. Comedian Mike Lawrence worked the open mics of NYC for years and then popped off a brilliant set at  The Montreal Just for Laughs New Faces. Then step-by-step Lawrence has toured with Marc Maron and Tom Papa, appeared on Conan twice, did Jon Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show. . .but mostly, solidified his voice as contender for most honest comic book fan/stand-up comic, in America. A lot of good things are happening for Lawrence and in this interview SUSC finds out that Mike Lawrence just had his biggest day, ever.

DNA: How ya doing man?

Mike Lawrence: I’m good.

Thanks for taking some time for an interview. Where are you at right now?

I’m in New York.

I read that you’re originally from Florida. Did you start doing comedy there?

I did comedy there for a year and 2 months, then I moved to New York, but I’m originally from Florida.

Were you successful in Florida? Enough to say, “I’m dropping everything and moving to New York City to pursue comedy.”

I mean things were getting better, but I didn’t see a future in comedy staying in Florida.

When did you know that comedy was going the thing you wanted to pursue?

A week before I started.

How’s the comedy scene in Florida?

There’s three Improv’s, but not really a scene.

And New York is obviously a main destination for comics. When did you move there?

About 7 ½ years ago.

How was it when you first got to New York?

It was terrible. I was poor and I had no money. But it was fun and exciting too because I felt like things could happen.

Were you doing mostly open mics? Did you start to get on friends showcases?

Exactly. Mostly mics and then building up and doing whatever stage would have me—which wasn’t many.

New York is notorious for bringer shows, so it’s smart to find friends with showcases so you can bypass that.

Yes, but I always knew I could never do a bringer show because I have no friends.

Who are your peers that you came up with in New York?

Dan St. Germain, Mark Normand, Dan Soder. Those are the guys that are doing pretty well now. I got to see a lot of people at their beginnings and they got to see me at my beginnings.

Because comedy is about community. . . until you get into one of those comedy competitions and then it’s everyone for themselves!

(laughter) We all have to do those competitions but we keep it friendly.

When you did New Faces in Montreal is that when everything shifted for you?

It did and it didn’t. It definitely legitimized my opinion of myself. It made me think, “Oh, I’m doing this now.” That’s the great thing about New York, the ground is so fertile. You get to see peoples ascension and see how they started from nowhere. Michael Che who just did the Daily Show yesterday, I saw him at his 2nd open mic.

The theory is that you want to be in New York because there is more of a chance to be seen by people in the industry. Once you got Montreal under your belt, did more opportunities happen for you?

Some. It wasn’t that easy. 20 people get that every year. It’s not like all of them are given a push. It’s a gradual thing. But it was definitely great to go. It gave me confidence more than anything. I was completely broke when I did it and it validated why I did it. I thought, “people do recognize you and thing you’re funny,” and that helped, for sure. Any bread crumbs that point the way that make you feel like you’re not wasting your life helps. That’s important!

How did you end up being on Conan—were you starting to get some heat around your name?

I sent five five tapes. I sent tape, after tape, after tape. It’s all the hard work and grinding and submitting. It’s easier for some people and harder for others.

True. But you’ve been in the game eight years with a constant work ethic and it seems the opportunities you are being given are a matter of talent and knowing how to keep your name out there. So if it wasn’t Montreal when was the moment when you thought, “Holy shit, I’m living the dream?” And I don’t mean you’re a millionaire, I mean, “you’re on TV, you’re being recognized, you have management”. When was the tipping point?

I think it might have been today.

Congratulations.

Because today, I was invited to the Marvel offices.  mike lawerence

Wow. That’s amazing.

One of the guys that worked there was a fan and loaded me up with comic books. To be in a place that inspired me to do what I do was great.

Is there a real bullpen?

There’s cubicles and offices. I grew up with that whole culture. The idea of a Smilin’ Stan and a Joltin’ Jack.

Are you going to start capping each show with ‘Nuff Said?

Nah. I can basically do the same thing by ending with a few sentences. “And. . . Bruce Banner. . .became. . . the Incredible Hulk.”

Do you ever pontificate on stage, making a point and think of Stan’s Soapbox.

I just want to get to the point where I call my audience True Believer’s,

Was there a shrine to Kirby? What in the Marvel office blew your mind?

They had uncut sheets of trading cards and old posters. Each conference room is dedicated to a different character. There was a Thor conference room with Mjölnir in it, that was awesome. It got to the point where the tour guide was like, “You know way more about this then I do.”

You have made it!

I did an Iron Sheik Roast last year. That’s the kind of stuff that makes it for me. Lots of comics have done TV and have gotten half hours—but to be involved with the things I grew up loving—everything’s awesome. That’s the real joy.

The fringe benefits.

Yeah.

Do you ever think that your path is to be like a Kevin Smith kind of a guy, one foot in comedy and films and the other in comics?

I’d take it.

Who has taken you under their wing and said, “I think you’re funny kid.”

Jon Oliver most importantly, Marc Maron and Tom Papa. I consider those guys my comedy dads.  They all gave me opportunities and helped me out a lot.

Besides opportunities and gigs and what kind of knowledge do those guys drop? Is there actual knowledge an older comic can pass on to a younger comic that helps?

(laughter) I think the most important thing is authenticity. Those three guys are very much themselves on stage. Everything they do is on their terms, but its always quality. And that shows that it is possible and that’s cool.

Isn’t it impossible to teach authenticity?

Yeah, but you can learn by watching. Like, “look that guy never sold out. That guy always did things on his terms.”

Being New York based for a long time, how do you like now being on tour?

I love it. It’s fun. I love doing the crowd work. I love reading the town and coming up with material for each place. It’s exciting. Meeting new fans is the most awesome thing ever.

Have you been to Northern California much?

Not really.

Rooster T. Feathers is a great venue, you’ll like it and I’ll do my part to get the word out.

Appreciate it.

Last thing, Mike. Fantastic Four reboot?

I’m too starstruck and happy to have been in the Marvel offices to say anything.

Good point.

The thing is, those movies and all that stuff is not for me. If it ever happens to be good, I’ll be amazed. They were never making it for a fan, and that’s fine. I get what their trying to do. I just don’t love it.

 

Check out Mike Lawrence at Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale on May 22-25th. Tickets are available here: www.roostertfeathers.com

 

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Interviews
04/30/2014

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