Sam Tripoli: King of the Zag.


sam tripFrom his conspiracy driven podcast Tin Foil Hat

to his new release Live from the Viper Room: Zero Fucks comedian Sam Tripoli is the personification of hustle. And, below his Zero Fucks attitude is a compassionate, call it almost a zealot yearning, to help fellow comedians. Basically he just wants us all to wake up and not die with our eyes closed. So buy his latest release, see him and live and check out some pearls of wisdom from the Armenian comedian: Sam Tripoli.

(editors note: this transcript is from That’s That Podcast #19, so if you want to listen rather than read, well, that’s on you.)


Sam: How are you bud?

SUSC: Good. You’re on the That’s That Podcast with Chris Storin and me, DNA.

What’s the word, gentle-men?

Where are you at in the country right now?

A little place called Los Angeles. It’s tiny, quiet and sleepy.

I’m assuming no traffic because of the holidays? Everybody is gone, right?

It’s like a zombie apocalypse. Nobody’s out there. You’re just running around 28 Days later. . . “Hello, Hello?” Nothing.

Did you travel for Thanksgiving or just stay in LA?

I usually travel to see my father. But I decided to stay in town and went to my girlfriends family.

You’re from New York originally?

Upstate, dude. Outside Syracuse in a cute little place called Cortland, New York. Very redneck, very hick. We have mobile meth labs and sex cults.

So you grew up in the snow?

I’m built for the snow. I’m Armenian, I’m furry, but I’m one of the few people who never went skiing. I don’t like snow. Sunshine all the time. 24/7. In upstate New York it’s still like 1985 up there. I do shows up there, those are my people up there, but it looks like the cast of Napoleon Dynamite.

Until you get down to New York City.

The state is really like two different states. There’s New York City and then there’s upstate New York, which they basically consider Canada. And it’s super conservative. Super. I’m blown away. I travel the country, but I find your conservative block voters are really like your old conservatives. They are swingers who don’t want you to tax them and take your guns. Everybody swings.

When you do your conspiracy rap onstage, do you find that it appeals to both left and right?

Let’s just say that you can get away with more political comedy now more than ever. You can definitely go hard in the paint. There are some places where if you go hard at Trump they get upset. So I go at the Clintons and Obama. I find that the left that come out to see me are more open to watching me just rip everybody a new asshole. People are scared. They don’t want to believe that they have been lied to. A lot of people have kids and don’t want to believe they brought people into a really crazy world. A world they want to believe is islamist/jihadist and immigration is ruining everything and maybe we should get rid of free speech and the right to bear arms. They’re all willing to sacrifice and live in that reality then to face what’s really going on which is a bunch of rich men are fucking with all of us. If everybody would just wake up and stop fighting with each other. A poor white man and a poor black man have a lot more in common than they do with the rich versions of themselves. Sure it’s maddening. But they’re tearing up apart. You want to be happy stop watching the news.

When you got out of college with a degree in psychology, did you start off doing stand-up or improv?

I started doing stand-up in college. I wanted to stand-up from the moment I knew I existed. It’s a weird thing, but it’s the truth. From the moment I knew I existed in the universe I wanted to make people laugh. Even before I knew what stand-up was, before I knew there was a title for that, that there was a job that had that description. I was class clown in 6th grade, in 12th grade. I went to high school with the sole purpose of being class clown. I decided to go to Vegas, kinda pushed along by my father who convinced me it would be a great thing for my life. I know he’s only trying to get me out there so he can buy a house and write it off on his tax return and visit and gamble. But it is what it is. I went to Vegas and started doing improve. I didn’t know there was a difference between stand-up and improv. I didn’t know they were two different things. I saw a sign that said, “Improv Comedy”, I was like “comedy, that’s what I want to do.” I joined an improv comedy troupe. I took an improv comedy class and met a bunch of guys who were really good people.

So, how did you get into stand-up?

A guy in the class, Victor Issac, said, “You’re really funny, you should try stand-up.” I said, “What’s that?’ He said, “That’s where you tell jokes.” And I knew that was what I wanted to do. And the rest is history.

So you started doing stand-up in Las Vegas?

I basically created the Vegas scene. There was no scene when I started. There was one open mic every other week in the entire city. There was nothing. I grew it.

Comedy is booming there now.

It is a wonderful place. I had a show at Planet Hollywood that ran for about six months. It’s a great place to gig. You take some cash out of your pocket and do some advertising. Or, you get lucky enough to get a gig in a hotel and it’s a great place. Also, the comedy in Vegas is edgy. There are some great edgy writers and stand-up comics. I’m blessed I started out there. Doug Stanhope is the godfather of Vegas comedy. He is the first and then I came around and I created a show. Originally the hotels wouldn’t let us play their clubs. They would get guys from LA to come for no money to open and feature. Now all your features are Vegas comics. They wouldn’t even let us play. I had to start my own scene. I started a show every night of the week in a different bar. My key was I would go into a bar and ask what their dead night was. I would take that night and create a comedy night. This was when there was no internet. By the time I peaked I had my own show on the Vegas boulevard. I MC’d the dirty show at the Riviera. And I had my own improve troupe in three casino’s.

You need to hustle.

Yeah, man. That’s the story of comedy. There’s so many opportunities to make money in comedy now. It’s all hustle. A lot of people don’t want to hustle. In particular, white millennials. They don’t want to hustle. They don’t want to work hard. Not all of them, obviously. And I not one of these people that hates on millennials. They have a lot of things they do very well, but when it comes to comedy, they don’t hustle. With the internet it’s the best time ever to be an independent comedian. You can make good money and not have to do the song and dance. It’s like what Adam Corolla does. Make your own pirate ship man. Then you don’t have to worry what everybody else is doing.

Did you start off modeling yourself on Stanhope or Hicks being the truth teller, or did you start with dick jokes?

I didn’t meet Standhope until about 6 mths into comedy. I was just trying to be me. I grew up on Kinison, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor. . .I always liked it raw. I was the kid parents were afraid to invite over because I dropped F bombs everywhere. I had that kind of punk rock attitude. At a very early age I realized everyone was zigging and I wanted to zag. To be honest, at first there was no money in zagging it was all in zigging. Everyone wanted to be Seinfeld and do observational comedy and be clean. That’s not me. I’m a Scorpio, I’m a filthy animal. I talk about what’s going on on stage and in my life. I knew I had to get as much stage time as possible, because if I was going to zag I had to be so good at it because I was so different than everybody else. I’ve always believed in raw, I don’t believe in politically correct. I don’t think politically correct is even real. I think it’s a paradigm that only exists in the media and social media. When you go out on the road it doesn’t exist. People don’t to hear “hate speech” but they are open minded to edginess. Arizona, Florida, Texas are wonderful places to do comedy, just don’t tax them or come for their guns.

Speak your mind.

Yeah, stay in your pocket. Become confiedent at what you do. I’m not saying you’ll kill every not, no, you’ll have bad sets. You want to kill every night? Do hacky racial material.  People make livings off that shit. If that’s what you want to do, fine. I want to be me onstage, to the best of my ability to be as original as I can. We’re all in the same business, we all experience the same stuff, so there’s going to be some overlap here and there, but be as honest as you can onstage, because that’s all you can control. You can’t control how the crowds reacting to it. If you start off wondering what the audience wants, you hodgepodge and put a Frankenstein set together, its going to crash and you’re not going to be happy. Go hard in the paint but do you. Do you!

Do you and the skies the limit.

I don’t know if the skies the limit. They say find your voice. But what if my voice is a voice only 150 people in every market want to hear? That’s the reality. But just because you can’t be a Joe Rogan or a Bill Burr doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful career. There’s a lot of luck involved. Sure those guys are mega-talented but they wouldn’t be where they are if the dominoes didn’t fall the way they fell. I love Jeff Foxworthy because he’s a master of that style. And we need Jeff Foxworthy in order to have a Doug Stanhope. If everyone was like Stanhope, Doug Stanhope wouldn’t be special.

Right now you are hawking your Live at The Viper Room.

Straight hawking. It’s called Zero Fucks, dude. It’s part one of a two-part special. It’s 35 minutes and pure murder. You can buy it for $2.99 or rent it for $1.99. When I moved to the LA in 2000 I knew one day I wanted to shoot my special at the Viper Room. And through the blessings of god or whatever you believe in nobody had ever done that before. It’s unbelievable to me nobody had done that in a room that has humongous name recognition. People know the Viper Room more than they know the Wiltern. I believe as the technology gets cheaper and cheaper that shooting your own special will be the new podcast. The suits are real good at destroying your brand. The studio needs diversity so you get that special and you’re not ready. Funny first. You have to be interesting. You have to work hard. You have to be consistent. And, you have to be a nice person.

Last thoughts?

Here’s a story My friend Jordan in LA was an actor. He did things here and there but couldn’t get shit going. He was watching his favorite band on the internet and they had just produced the 100th episode of their show. He learned by watching that you need to keep putting out content. He now travels the world with his favorite band, he’s sponsored, he doesn’t have a day job and he just puts out travelogues. It changed his life. Do a YouTube channel. There are so many avenues to get shit going. I don’t know how funny this interview has been but produce your own opportunities. I can’t stress that enough to comedians.


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