I Interview my Mom!
For my birthday I thought it would be fun to interview the person who brought me into this world – my mom! Sometimes I feel ripped off because other comedians seem to use comedy to cope with parent issues. I don’t have any. My parents were perfect. My dad worked had to provide his family not only with everything we needed, but pretty much everything we wanted too. I found my interest in sci-fi and fantasy through my dad and as a kid I was seeing Star Wars opening weekend and going to hobby shops/comic book stores. It’s in directly through my dad, that my friendship with Gwar began.
My mom is a super mom. She’s the mom that all of my friends were jealous of. When she had me and my brother, she quit work to raise us full time. During the years that my brother and I were in the same Middle Schools and High Schools, she volunteered at the school clinic and was known to be the cool mom who let kids come in and lay down for an hour if they had a headache…or a test they didn’t study for.
Her way of raising me and my brother, who by the way is also pretty spectacular in himself even though he and I are just about polar opposites, was not only to love us unconditionally, but to also trust us until we gave her a reason not to. I’m glad to say that my brother and I both turned out fine. Neither of us do drugs, whore around or light homeless people on fire. Sure, we got into the mischief that young boys tend to get into and I’d be a fool to think my mom didn’t know, but we both always made sure that we never got into so much trouble that it would disappoint our parents or make them stop trusting us.
So, when I interviewed Nate Fridson, who also comes from a very solid family, I touched on wondering where we get our motivation to do comedy. I firmly do believe there is something a little unhealthy about wanting to make a group of strangers like us night after night. For me, I think it’s because I miss that feeling of being the most important person in the world that my mom gave me as a kid. I’m like a junky searching for that high that he on the first go around. I’m hoping having an audience love me enough will make me feel like that unconditional love I had from my mom as a kid.
I’ve always been lucky. I come from a supportive family. Even to this day, I schedule myself in Holly, near where my brother Brian lives with his family, so my brother can come out and see me for his birthday. My wife Christine is super supportive and works hard in order for me to pursue my dreams. As I sit here on the morning of my birthday transcribing this interview, I realize that I’ve always had it pretty lucky and that’s the best birthday present there is.
My mom and I sat down over a game of Scrabble and I interviewed her not only to have a chance to talk about me a little bit, but also to distract her so that I could win a few games because usually she destroys me!
When did you know I was going to do some sort of performing for a living?
You always had a terrible flare for the dramatic when you were born.
When your brother was born and we brought him home from the hospital you were Mr. Niceguy. You were very welcoming to this new person in the house. Then you told me he could go home now and I said, “No no, he’s going to stay. He’s your brother.” And you cried like your heart had been broken, like, “I’m not the star anymore?”
That’s how I feel when new comedians come around!
Well, you’re a tough act to follow, that’s for sure.
Why do you think I ended up performing, but Brian is pretty quiet and fairly introverted?
I think you get the being comfortable in front of people from dad. It amazed me, because he had to give classes when he was a security officer and he looked so comfortable in front of people. I never thought it bothered him. Me, that’s my idea of hell having to be in front of other people talking. Brian is like me. I like to work behind the scenes to make things happen. I don’t like to be out front where things are happening.
So who’s your favorite.
You’re both like me in different ways. I have tried very hard not to have a favorite. At different times you’ve both been special, but neither of you have been favored over the other.
I don’t know if you ever read the interviews on the website, but I interviewed a comedian named Nate Fridson about his childhood, which was also really good. You and dad did a perfect job, but I feel like a lot of comedians are messed up in some way. Can you abuse me or something?
I’d be more than happy to. You were just very lucky that you had an unremarkable childhood. Growing up in Troy in the 80s, I don’t know how much more sheltered you could have gotten.
Yeah, I remember the story of Casey Farrell in the garage in Sylvania passing gas and I said, “Oh your pants burped”, because I didn’t even know the word “fart”. And then here, Corey Bankowski fell off a slide in Elementary School, knocked a tooth out and said, “Shit!” So I ran and told a lunch lady that Corey said a bad word.
Forget about the tooth, he swore? That was the bad thing?
Now I make a living off my potty mouth!
You’ve always had a potty mouth, you just didn’t always let it have free range. I know you know the church story I like to tell.
(I spilled a little bag of Cheerios in church and loudly said, “Oh Damn, mama, oh damn!” Cute? I was 19 at the time! Okay, I was probably closer to three or four really.)
Cheerios. I think that was your first public performance!
Right! Ruining church! I was kind of like Damien.
You didn’t ruin it. You just said something you heard entirely too often.
Christine has a hard time going to shows because she gets nervous when I’m on stage. Do you get nervous when you come to my shows?
Not really. I enjoy people being thrilled by you. I’m proud of you and what you do. I think it’s cool, so it’s always exciting to me.
It doesn’t worry you that I have a penchant for stirring controversy and it might for wrong?
Nah. I’m used to it. I guess it’s a parent’s job to be proud of their children. It amazes me that you’re calm before a show. It’s like you can’t wait to get out there and talk to friends.
I’ve done close to 1500 shows. I know odds are things are going to go well. So people think it’s funny that your favorite jokes of mine are the ones about you being a bad mom. I think they’re funny because they’re so far from the truth, but why do you like them?
Because you still have the same tells when telling lies that you did when you were a child. I can look at you and tell when you’re making something up and it amazes me that other people don’t notice that too. When Brian would embroider the truth, his eyes would get as glassy and shiny as can be. You have smile line like you know you’re putting everybody on and you’re amazed they can’t see it.
There’s a scene in Deadpan where Dave Landau comes up to me in the lobby of the Comedy Castle to be mean to me and half way through that scene I put my hand up to my face to cover my mouth because I was thinking about how I wrote a clever little scene.
Yes. You want to make sure everyone is in on the joke with you. That’s why I don’t mind when you say things like that because I know you know it’s not the truth. If other people think you’ve been through stuff like that, but look how well you turned out, it just entertains me.
Even though Brian and I turned out completely different, are you happy with the way we turned out?
Yes. I’d like to think your both making a living doing something you enjoy. I know Brian likes working with his hands and you like working with your mouth.
You must be happy that we get along.
Dad: That used to bug me, you guys fighting all the time.
But that’s normal. You didn’t have brothers and dad is an only child, so I think brothers just tend to fight.
Yeah, but it’s very disconcerting whenever you’re sitting down for a nice, quiet Saturday morning reading the comics and you’d turn to your brother or he’d turn to you and say, “Let’s fight!”
Yeah, but you didn’t know every tell, because Brian had a thing that I’d say something mean to him and he’d yell, “Mom, Mike hit me!”
You don’t think I always fell for everything do you?
Alright. So you had a messed up sense of humor too. You had the needlepoint thing of a “Mom’s Prayer” and at the bottom were three blocks at the bottom that were ABC, but what you needlepointed was MBA. We knew the M and B were for Mike and Brian, but we asked you what the A was for.
That was for Adam. When you asked who was Adam, I said he asked too many questions. It was fun messing with your mind. As you’ve learned recently, I do think a lot of things, but I’m a censor of my thoughts and words, so you don’t really know what’s going on in my head a lot.
A lot of times when I end interviews I like to ask comedians if they have any advice for other comedians, so let me ask you, do you have any advice for parents?
Enjoy it, because they grow up way too fast.
For the record, my mom won two out of the three Scrabble games we were playing and also took overall points.