My interview with Mike Bobbitt!
Mike Bobbitt is arguably one of the funniest, if not the funniest comedian working in Detroit. In his eight years in the business he’s already performed in numerous comedy festivals and worked with some of the biggest names in the business.
The remarkable thing about Mike Bobbitt is that he’s able to walk the fine line between speaking to a very specific crowd while maintaining a level of accessibility to the masses.
Mike currently wrapped production on the television show that he and his wife wrote. I had a chance to talk to him while he was in Madison, Wisconsin.
Mike, let me start by saying you look really handsome.
You manage to be both cute and cuddly and ruggedly handsome at the same time. That’s quite a feat.
I appreciate that, but this is already starting off a little weird.
I’m sorry. I’ve just been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time and I’m a little overwhelmed.
Take it easy buddy. Did you have any questions for me?
Oh yeah. Um, you’re probably the funniest person in Detroit.
While true, that’s still not a question.
Sorry. Tell me about your comedy influences.
Still not a question, but okay. Probably the comedian who inspires me most right now is Jackie Kashian. She’s phenomenal and everyone should check her out. Jackie is a pretty hardcore nerd comic, but is so accessible that she’s able to do clubs and do them well. She’s like the best of both worlds. She can do the “alternative” and the mainstream rooms. I think the trick to what she does and in turn I try to do, is just talk as specifically about myself as I can. I think if I’m real to me on stage, the audience will at least appreciate that point of view.
I also love Marc Maron. He’s deeply introspective and I think that’s where a lot of his comedy comes from. Like him, I’m constantly in my head. I know the way my brain works sometimes is ridiculous and I hope in sharing that with an audience will maybe be entertaining, but more importantly to me, be therapeutic in a way. I love the raw honesty of Marc. Since I’ve become a fan of his, I feel like I’ve become a better comedian, but possibly more of a mess of a human being! I think way too much these days!
Jimmy Pardo is fantastic. He’s just so naturally funny. I love his cadence and how constantly present he is. You know that ridiculous expression about hearing some great actor being able to read a phone book and have it be something special? I think that’s probably true of Pardo. I think he could read a phone book and have me in tears.
There are a lot more, but those are the three who are pretty consistently in the stable. I can generally find something worth learning from most comedians I watch.
So you’re a big comedy fan too?
Oh yeah, to the point of snobbery! I posted an article about that and it got me in a little trouble.
Can you tell me about that?
Not really. While I think I was keeping things vague enough, apparently I left in a couple details that people weren’t happy about. Ultimately, my goal with my comedy is to be entertaining and honest, in that order. My goal with my website is to be honest and entertaining, in that order. I want to be able to be stripped down, open to the world, honest as humanly possible. What I have to remember though is that sometimes my honesty can affect other people. So I have to remember to be diplomatic too.
This is getting sort of heavy. I kind of thought this was going to be funnier.
Yeah. Me too!
Your website has become a really cool place to visit. How did it come to be?
It’s technically my third site. I’m horribly lazy about learning new things. My first two sites were sites that people created for me. The first one, I wasn’t able to update at all on my own aside from the calendar. The second one, I was supposed to be able to update, but I had to go through a company and their customer service hours never synced up with mine and it just wasn’t a good match. I have a friend who is studying marketing. For the longest time, he’d throw out ideas or ask why I wasn’t doing certain things like having a presence on the web other than Facebook. And like I said, I’m incredibly lazy about learning new things. But at the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to spend as much time on my comedy career as I do anything else. My buddy has been hugely helpful to me. I’m doing a lot of of it on my own, but he’s regularly monitoring things and doing research on things I can add. He’s sort of my Mr. Miyagi of Marketing! I’m going to have to start figuring out ways to pay him back!
How important is it for a comedian to have a website?
I think it’s hugely important. I read on some website that your average Facebook friend only sees about 5% of the things you post on your wall. You can rely on just a social media site to let people know what you’re doing. If you want to develop a following, first you have to have something on stage worth following, which I think I do. Then you have to be able to give people a place where they can go to find out how to see you and to also point their friends towards to find out more about you. A website is absolutely necessary. And I learned in the past that it can’t just be a place where people go to find out your dates. I really want Off The Mike to be a place that people book mark because they know there will be new content daily. I love the way Chris Hardwick has The Nerdist website set up. It’s a destination site. I go to Rebelscum.com every day to find out what’s new in the world of Star Wars collecting. Hopefully people will start going to OfftheMike.com every day to find out what’s new in the world of Mike Bobbitt.
What is new in the world of Mike Bobbitt?
Well, my wife Christine and I wrote a pilot for a television show called Deadpan. Coincidentally, we started brainstorming about it on our way home from Madison, Wisconsin last time we were here. It’s the story of a struggling comedian who ends up roommates with the ghost of an old punk rock singer/poet. The two become friends and the ghost helps the comedian become a better comedian while the comedian helps the ghost become a better ghost essentially. My friend Michael Clark is a filmmaker. I ended up showing him the script just because he and I like sharing our creative endeavors with each other. He loved it and wanted to make it with his production company Scallywag Entertainment. So we ended up putting together a really good cast and crew and we shot a two episode pilot. Now we’re in post production and starting to figure out how to sell it. Our wrap party is a week from today on April 8th.
Where is that going to be?
It’ll be at the Token Lounge in Westland, which is where we filmed a lot of the scenes. It’s going to be a fun party. You can meet the cast. Network with the people who I think are the most talented people in the business. Our cinematographer Helena Blakemore is just so awesome. Every time I looked at the dailies, I wanted to cry. Things turned out way better than in my wildest dreams. Scallywag is a great team! Every single person is the best at what they do! The overwhelming thing too was that since we shot on such a tight budget, not only did we have this huge talent pool, but everyone on board volunteered their time because they believed in what we were doing. It made me feel great that a little story my wife and I came up with on a road trip turned into this huge thing!
When will the public get to see it?
We’ll show some sort of teaser at the wrap party and then maybe put that online after. We have something big planned. I’m not sure how much I can say. I don’t want to jinx things. Hopefully we’ll have something to report soon. One way or another, the public will see Deadpan.
What’s your dream scenario?
For Deadpan? It would be cool if a specialty network like IFC, Logo or SyFy picked it up and we could produce the three 6 episode seasons that Christine and I mapped out.
Not Comedy Central?
Surprisingly, it’s not really a comedy first. There are some very funny moments in it, but really it’s a human story about the relationship between this small group of people. I thought it was going to be funnier, but as the story started taking shape and the actors brought real human emotion to their roles, I realized how endearing this story really is. With that being said, I’d still love Comedy Central to pick it up! The humor comes from the characters, not the jokes. I think that’s the biggest difference between shows like The Simpsons versus The Family Guy. The Simpsons is character based humor while the Family Guy is joke based. I’m much more of a fan of character based humor.
What was the process like creating something with your spouse?
I was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. We both know where the story is going overall and even have each episode of the first season figured out. When one of us would get stuck, the other would jump in and take over. There were a couple moments where we butted heads about things characters would and would not say or do, but I think those moments are what made the script so good. I’m looking forward to writing more with her.
Is that what’s next?
It’s there. It’s happening. It’s not the highest priority right now. Let’s see what happens with these first two episodes first. Like I said, one way or another, the public will eventually get to see at least this first six episode season. By hook or by crook, we’ll make the remaining four episodes.
So what are you working on now?
Steve Lind and I are working on a screenplay. Steve is a fellow comedian who I’ve been friends with since I started. It’s a really sweet story about two friends on a journey together. I pitched the idea to Michael Clark while we were shooting Deadpan and he wants to at least read it. If it’s a thing we ended up making, it would be one of those tender character pieces that festivals seem to like. For my part with this, it comes from that Marc Maron introspective thing I’ve developed. It’s a bittersweet road trip movie.
How do you balance all these things?
I’m finding when everything is a labor of love, it’s just really a matter of waking up and getting excited to start a day of creating. It honestly rarely feels like work. I love writing stories. Before I had the guts to actually get on stage, I wrote a screenplay about a comedian in Detroit.
Now that you are a comedian, what’s your process like for writing jokes?
I wish I knew. That doesn’t come as easy to me. Since my material tends to be more story based as opposed to joke based, I’m just constantly in my head trying to figure out what the comedy angle is in every moment. I keep a notebook in my back pocket and jot down ideas all the time. If something funny happens to me, I’ll bounce it off of my comedian friends like Steve or Bob Phillips or Erik Kitter. If they laugh, then I’ll bounce the story off of more people and see if it ends up becoming a stage worthy story.
This is frightening, but when on the road alone, I like to drive home on Saturday nights after the show. I’m quick to want to get home with my wife and our cats. I tend to do my best writing on Saturday nights and into Sunday mornings.
With a voice recorder?
No. I never worked well with those for writing. I’ve gotten pretty good at writing legibly in the dark without looking at the paper. I tend to put a notebook on the steering wheel and write down thoughts while driving.
That sounds dangerous!
Yeah. I know. My eyes are always on the road though.
So no voice recorder?
Bob Phillips ended up giving me one.
Gave you one?
Yeah. He’s way too generous of a friend. I’m really lucky to know him. He’s a great comedian too. He gave me one and I’m going to use it to start recording myself more often. I’m so in the moment when I’m on stage that I honestly don’t know what I’m doing half the time. When I recorded myself for my second CD, I was surprised at how fast I was talking and the amount of verbal crutches I have.
What are your verbal crutches?
I have the same two as a lot of people. “Like” and “um”. But for some reason during that recording everyone was “fucker”. I sounded like a Latino gang banger. And I don’t honestly know if that’s a thing I was doing before that or not. That’s something every comedian should do. Always record yourself and review it after. Things are never how you remember them. When I started, I was religious about recording and breaking down my set. I assigned a point value to laughs and it was just obsessive.
Did it help?
I think so. I ended up getting paid to tell jokes very quickly. That’s why I think if I keep recording now and listening to it or watching it, no matter how painful, I’ll move to the next level even faster.
Well, Deadpan for one. With comedy I’d like to hit LA and New York for a little bit this year and see if I can make any sort of mark. There are some great shows in LA that I really want to be a part of. Meltdown Comics, a comic book store I visited on my honeymoon, does a weekly show. Of course the biggy would be UCB. I’m such a huge fan of Comedy Deathray. There are just so many opportunities out there. The trick is to figure out what stage time I can get in advance and then go out there with a plan. I don’t know as much about New York and their scene. I worked with Todd Barry
and he wrote me a very nice Facebook message afterward. I feel like I should have asked him if he could help me get on stage in any of the bigger rooms, but I just didn’t want to impose.
What was the worst that could happen?
He could have said, “no”. Or maybe just not respond at all.
Is that the end of the world?
No. I know. My fear of being disliked or being an inconvenience to people really does me a disservice. That’s one thing I really need to get better at. I need to be more aggressive.
You’re very good at what you do. Does it bother you when other people get breaks that you wish you had gotten?
It depends. If it’s a friend who I think is hugely talented and deserves that break, then absolutely not. I couldn’t be more proud of them. My friend Mikey Mason‘s video for his song “She Don’t Like Firefly” blew up quickly. It’s a great song and Mikey is a great performer and a hell of an awesome guy. I couldn’t have been happier for him and I wanted to promote it myself. If it’s someone who I think I’m at least as good as, then yeah, it bothers me a little. But on the other hand, it makes me realize that if someone who I think I’m on par with got a break, then my break is probably just around the corner too.
You’ve said in the past that it surprised you that some of the newer comics in Detroit hold you in high regard. Why is that?
Why do they hold me in high regard? I don’t know!
No. Why does it surprise you? You have a reputation of being nice to everyone.
Not everyone. Believe me. Not everyone. There are many people who I’m politely dismissive too. Here’s the thing though. When I started, there were a lot of guys who had been around longer than me who instantly accepted me as one of them. Bill Bushart went from being my teacher to my mentor and peer right away. He never made me feel like a lesser comedian, just a newer one. Steve Lind and Jeff Dwoskin accepted me into the brotherhood right away. No one, of the people who are still my friends, ever made me feel like an outsider and I appreciate that. There are constantly new guys starting all the time who I really, really enjoy watching a lot. I know how hard the struggle is and how many times I wanted to quit. I just hope that in telling the people who I enjoy…and I said “guys” earlier, but really that’s male and female comics, if I tell them that I enjoy what they do, then I hope maybe that’s the pick me up that maybe they need in order to keep doing it. There are so many great comedians out there who I enjoy just getting to be part of the same group with!
Who are some of the people we should look out for?
Oh, that puts me on the spot. I know I’ll forget people. I’ll just name the two who came to mind first. Jeff Scheen and Amy Probst. Jeff is ridiculous and silly and so much fun to watch. Amy is unabashedly endearing and charming and delightful! Anytime I walk into a club and either of them are performing, I get giddy!
Thank you Mike. This has been a huge honor.
Thank you. This has been, by far, the best interview I’ve ever done. You seem like you really know me.
I’ve done a lot of research.
May I touch you?
Ooh. I like that. I’m a married man.
I think your wife would like to watch this.
We both know that’s true!
Posted on April 1, 2011, in Interviews and tagged amy probst, bob phillips, Comedian, comedy, Deadpan, Interview, jackie kashian, jeff scheen, jimmy pardo, Marc Maron, mike bobbitt, steve lind, Television, todd barry. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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