Mo Mandel: Ringleader of a Big Drunk Circus.



Mo  Mandel has made numerous appearances on CONAN, CHELSEA LATELY, CRAIG FERGUSON, and Comedy Central.  As an actor Mandel has appeared on such hit shows as MODERN FAMILY, CASTLE, and HAPPY ENDINGS, and stared opposite Hank Azaria in FREE AGENTS on NBC.  When Mandel is not telling jokes or hosting his new show he’s often writing sitcom pilots, which he has done for NBC, FOX, FX, FXX and THE DISNEY CHANNEL.  Basically, the dude is talented and assuming hosting BARMAGEDDON doesn’t cause him to become a full-blown alcoholic, his future is bright and getting brighter.

MO is at Rooster T. Feathers this weekend May 21st-24th. Tix:

SUSC: Mo.  It’s DNA with Stand Up Santa Cruz, you got a few minutes?

Mo: No, no, this is good lets do it.

Did you take a between football playoff nap?

I am getting up from a nap because I have to get a haircut. I’m not much of a football fan.

I just interviewed another comic that was raised by hippies, Conor Kellicutt. Where exactly was your commune at?

I grew up in Booneville, California which is Mendocino County.

Anderson Valley Brewery and they had a radical leftie newspaper as well.

Yeah, Bruce Anderson used to run the Anderson Valley Advertiser. It was a crazy fucking paper.

“Fanning the flamers of discontent” or something like that. . .


What kind of hippies were your parents? Were they part of the Bay Area 60s scene?

Both of my parents were from New York City. My moms from Brooklyn, my dads from the Bronx and they moved to the Bay Area at the end of the 60s. They were hippies for sure, they used to live in a commune in the Oakland hills. At the same time, my dad is a psychiatrist. So throughout that time he was going to school and getting his degree and had a residency. My mom is a photographer and they did stuff like live in Ecquador for a year with an indian tribe. They were more of the etho-active-hippie type of person back in the day, rather then the drop-out hippie.

Did you start performing early on?

I was much more of a serious writer type. Its ironic that now I’m a stand-up comedian on the road and hosting a bar show. I wanted to be a novelist in college. I was a creative writing major. All the short stories I used to write were funny, even though they were serious, but they all had a funny undertone. I wondered if I could write jokes and started doing that. And I got addicted being able to perform and share with an audience something you wrote that day. Ya know, instead of writing a novel for a year and having one person read it.

Where did you go to college?

I went to UC Santa Barbara.

Did you start hitting mics down there?

No. The summer after I graduated I decided to start doing stand-up. At the time I had a girlfriend who lived in England. I moved over there for 6 months after college and that’s where I started doing comedy. My first open-mic was in London. Not an easy place to begin, for sure, but an interesting place to learn to do it.

How did your Jewy stuff play in the UK?

I did very few open-mics while I was there and I didn’t really push being Jewish at that time. I did it mostly for the early parts of my stand-up career in San Francisco and LA, I talk about it less now. Back then they hated me mostly because I was American. It was during the Afghanistan war when England was getting involved. I remember one time I was doing an open mic at the Comedy Store and they had this thing onstage called The Gong Show. You try to last three minutes and if they don’t like you they gong you off. I said, “Hey, how you doing?” They heard my accent and gonged me off.

How did you decide where to start your comedy career?

When I knew I was going to move back to America, I hit up Arj Barker. He was a comedian I saw once in college. I didn’t know him at all and I hit him up on MySpace and asked him for some advice. I asked him if I should move to LA and he said, “No, move to San Francisco, it’s a great comedy town and a great place to learn how to do it. Then when you get good, move to LA.” So, I moved to San Francisco and got a job at Peet’s Coffee on Polk Street with an 8am to 5pm shift. I would go home, take a nap and go do open mics. I worked a collection of shitty service jobs for almost 4 years. At that point, I had enough things going on that I could justify moving to LA.

Who were you coming up with?

The first thing I did when I got to San Francisco is enter a contest at 50 Mason and I met Moshe Kasher who was another young loud Jew. Neither of us advanced particularly far as I remember. The guys I started out with like Louis Katz, Brent Weinbach, Ryan Stout, those guys has already been doing it for a couple of years. My real crew was Moshe, Nico Santos and a little later Ali Wong and then Hassan Minhaj. We had a good group of strong comics.

Was there a moment where you feel like your career launched? Did you do New Faces?

I did do New Faces but what really launched my career was I won Comedy Central’s contest called Open Mic Fight in 2007. It was a national competition open to anybody who had not been on Comedy Central yet. It took a long time and there was this whole process and I ended up winning. I got a nice little cash prize and I got to be on a show on Comedy Central and through that I got a manager.

Coming from the background of wanting to be a novelist, which is an isolated and almost secretive career, did being in front of people come easy? Did your hippie upbringing of “going with the flow” help?

I’m not go with the flow at all. I’m a Type A neurotic-y kind of person, not hippie at all. I mean I’m a socially liberal kind of person, but other than that I have no connection to that type of personality at all. I don’t smoke weed, I don’t fucking do Molly, I have no interest in ever going to Burning Man or any kind of music festival, I’m not like that.

You seem like a guy I grew up with in the Northeast.

That’s absolutely true. When I first moved to LA, every time I would have an audition, every casting director would ask me when I first moved from New York. I grew up in the redwoods. Here’s the thing, because I grew up writing all the time it gave me a good advantage in terms of work ethic and ability to write. I sold 6 sit-com pilots since I’ve been down here. None of them have been made yet, but writing is the thing that has kept me going in the dips of my career—the ability to earn money writing. I just finished my third screenplay. It’s the ability to sit in a room for hours and hours, and not just the ability but to actually enjoy doing that. Those early days of writing training was a good muscle to build. Thing is, in stand-up, there are a lot of hours waiting around for the show. I’ve been fortunate to be touring over the last five years and it can be a gruesome experience to be sitting in a hotel for a lot of hours if you can’t find a project to work on. Because, not only do you end up maybe selling that project, which funnels energy to your career and channels money to your pocket. But also, it gives you the ability when you don’t know anybody and you have to sit in your hotel room and have something to do.

What was the inspiration for Barmegeddon?

I wish I could say it was my idea, actually I didn’t create that show. It was created by former president of NBC. It was a really lucky break. I got to take a meeting with Jeff Gaspin who created the show and I got the job. It wasn’t until we already shot the pilot and six months later the series got picked up. I found out some guy at TruTV had seen me on Chelsea Lately and became a fan of mine. Its nice to know you do a million things, and granted it’s not a national TV show, but still, it’s nice to know somebody is watching you do something.

It’s laugh out loud funny, but you are often in the middle of what could be major bar brawls.

What the producers found out is that as a professional comedian my natural instinct is to defuse conflict. I get the feeling that when people start arguing they purposely remove me from the scene until they get “the moment” and they let me show back up. I’m proud of how the first season has gone, I hope we get the chance to make more. At its best, it’s a comedic clusterfuck, everything has gone wrong and people are drunk and then I start getting drunk–it’s like a big drunk circus.

How about we switch comedy club owners with dive bar comedy room bookers?

It’s interesting. I like it. What I think we should do is switch the owner of a strip club with the owner of a comedy club. Both, classic American institutions.




One response to “Mo Mandel: Ringleader of a Big Drunk Circus.”

  1. gregory sims says:

    DNA: Great interview. You got Mo to share stuff I never knew and I’m his Godfather! MO, realizing how productive you are as a writer makes me think I should get you to rewrite my book Treating Spiritual Disorders. Look it up, your dad is one of the reviewers.

    I like you in Barmageddon. But since I don’t have a TV or many friends who have TruTV I’ve only seen three or four of the episodes…and I like your see-through style. Maybe as you keep saying, you’re loaded, but it seems not like that at all…rather like you’re seeing what’s going on and know how to make it funny and easy going at the same time. Not slap stick at all. More like life is truly worth it…and as one customer noted, only twenty bucks to get drunk in a crowd. That’s a practical approach to being happy in a crowd and still doing your own thing. Peace and Love, g

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