Alan Corey has been on five different reality TV shows, owns a bar, once ate Ramen noodles for three months straight, has had his own one man show, buys and sells real estate, and once pretended to have a magazine so that he could see Outkast for free.
When is it that you made your Jerry Springer appearance?
That was in my junior year of college in 1998. That all came about because my best friend and I, Jeff, who was my roommate, wanted to go somewhere for free for spring break. We called every single talk show possible and pitched them ideas. We called Mother Love from Forgive or Forget, Ricki Lake, and Montel Williams. Montel Williams was looking for people who needed a voice make over, so Jeff called and said, "My roommate Alan always sounds like he's drunk and eating at the same time. He needs a voice makeover." They called us back, interviewed us, and told us, "You know, this is for people that have speech impediments." They didn't like it that I just talked stupid and didn't have an actual disability.
We kept trying and eventually Jerry Springer called us back. We pitched them the story, they liked it, and flew us up to Chicago for free and gave us a hotel room, steaks, and limos.
So the whole thing was made up?
Yeah, it was a don't ask don't tell sort of policy. They never asked us if we were lying and we never let on that we weren't telling the truth. Now you have to sign contracts.
At the time, how many of the guests would you say were liars?
I can't say for the other episodes, but I can say that everyone else on our show got into fights but were high-fiving at the airport afterward.
When you did your segment, how much of it was preplanned amongst the people that you brought?
It was completely improvised. None of us were actors, so we felt that it would look staged if we had rehearsed at all. I spent all of my energy trying to convince my friends to not bail on me rather than go over story lines.
What was the story line?
It was your typical love square. My roommate and I were dating two other roommates, but we were all sleeping with each other.
Did you method act for this?
I repeated to myself backstage, "My girlfriend's cheated on me," for thirty minutes until I got into a rage and then went onstage and started turning over chairs and pummeling my friends.
Were the dreadlocks part of your character or were they your own?
No, that was my hair. I spent my sophomore year of college at the University of Oregon and was a hippy for a year. Shortly after that episode aired I decided that it was time to start shampooing again and I cut my hair.
Had you been doing stand up at the time of the episode?
No, that was my first venture into the comedy world. I had been writing up till then and had all of these sketches, ideas, and had these notebooks of stuff, but I was too scared to go up onstage and perform.
What was the scholarship that you had?
I had a full academic scholarship. That doesn't mean that I'm smart, it just means that Georgia has really loose standards. Georgia has this program where your tuition is free if you had all B's or above in high school, stayed in state, and maintained a B or above in college.
Tell me about Ace NYC.
That was something I learned in Oregon. I was a cartoonist at the newspaper there. They were short on staff, so I started writing columns and opinion pieces. Eventually I became the music editor. I didn't know much about music, but I did know how to get in touch with musicians so I could interview them and get free CDs. It was fun. I got to meet Vanilla Ice during his comeback tour when he was a hard rocker. When I came back to Georgia, I decided that it was so easy to get free stuff that I should keep doing it. I forged a magazine called Ace NYC. I wanted to see Outkast for free in New York. I used the same steps: contact the promotions department of the record label, send them a letterhead of your magazine, tell them that you want to review the show, and tell them you want to get on the press list. It was much easier than I anticipated to be a fake magazine. I pursued the opening band because I figured it would be easier. This is what my book is all about. I'm a notorious cheapskate and I'm forced to use creative methods to get what I want.
Were there any negative ramifications for Ace NYC?
None. You get your name on the guest list, show up, show them your ID, and they never contact you again. You either write the review or you don't. You never know what's going to get cut last minute in the magazine business.
What was The Billy Landmine Show?
I did that as I was graduating college. Boy bands and reality shows where people get voted off, like Survivor, were big at the time, so I combined the two to make a boy band reality show where the audience voted out members of the band. I had it all planned out, but since all of my friends were there they voted me off first. My friends were left onstage with no script or directions, but they kept it going the best they could until I came back on as the emcee. That's what you get when you have no director, script, or anything else other than a free stage. That was the first thing I did live after Springer.
When you moved to New York, did you do stand up first or Improv?
I had only been to one stand up show before I went to New York. I met Dave Attell at the Punchline in Atlanta. I told him that I wanted to write and he said, "Move to New York, start performing, show people your stuff, and they'll hire you to be a writer." I ended up enjoying performing almost as much as writing, so I kept going with it.
What'd you do in between moving to New York and starting to read about financial independence?
I moved to the projects in Spanish Harlem and got my first day job. The lifestyle was so foreign to me that I knew I could never adjust to it. I started reading books about how to become financially independent and they said to invest in real-estate, stocks, 401ks, and all of these terms that I didn't even understand at the time that I bought the books. I kept reading until it all made sense. I started applying the principals and now, five years later, it's worked out well for me. I've bought and sold five buildings in Brooklyn, opened up a restaurant, and become a millionaire from it. My book's about that too.
Out of the books that you read, which ended up being most helpful?
There are two types of financial self help books: motivational and practical. I fell for all of the motivational infomercial type books, like Russ Whitney, who was sketchy and pulled things like Ace NYC to get the job done. The other types are like Suzi Orman or Robert Kiyosaki, who did Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Those are more straightforward, here's the facts, step one, step two, step three, type books.
Why do you think it is that some people who become interested in becoming financially independent get caught up in pyramid schemes rather than investing like you did?
I think people want the easy way out. People just don't do their homework.
When'd you get involved with Improv?
I liked what they were doing at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and started taking classes. That was the first time that I met people on the same page as me. Stand up is a very solo isolated effort where you fight for stage time, but Improv is the opposite. You work as a team and there's a family like community.
Tell me about Dark Champions.
That was an independent team that we started right when The PIT broke away from the UCB. We were one of the better-known independent teams and we were going back and forth between having shows at The PIT and at The UCB. It got to the point where we had to pick an allegiance. We went toward UCB because that's where it all started for us. Everyone who was in Dark Champions is now on a Harold team. I was the lone member to not make it to a team, which was a wise move. I'm not a good improviser. I'm just loud.
Who were the teachers that you had at UCB?
Ian Roberts, Sean Conroy, Ali Farahnakian before he started The PIT, Billy Merritt, Billy Merritt, and Kevin Mullaney.
When did you get involved with Improv Everywhere?
At the same time Dark Champions was formed, there was an independent group called The Office, with Charlie Todd and Anthony King. We'd always do double bills together at UCB and The PIT. We got to know each other very well. It was about that time that Charlie Todd started doing Improv Everywhere and he invited us to join him. That was about four years ago.
Tell me about Change of Heart.
I was the tempter. The girl I was dating had no interest in the date or in being on TV. She sat in the corner and cried while I drank free beer. After that, I did The Restaurant, which was Rocco DiSpiritor's show. I was a waiter. I just filmed my fifth show, which is Queer Eye's Straight Guy Pageant, where they bring back twenty-five past guests. There was an eveningwear competition, Q and A, and you get to see me in a bathing suit, which is more of a discretion than a spoiler. The best part about that was that I got to meet Miss Universe, who was one of the emcees. I ended up getting her phone number, but she didn't call me back. Even Miss Universe has standards.
When you did Change of Heart, you came out and did a little dance.
Yeah, that was ridiculous. I make fun of that in my one-man show, Creepy Little Fame Whore, which is up on Youtube . When I'm on TV, the most extreme buffoon aspect of myself rises to the surface.
What made Change of Heart so unpleasant?
I had fun. I assume that everyone on TV goes on TV for two reasons: free stuff and just to be on TV. I was hoping that that's what the girl on the date would be like, but she was on the show because she wanted to see if her boyfriend was someone she'd marry. It was two conflicting interests where I was going crazy and going drunk, and she'd sit in the corner asking the producer if her boyfriend made out with the girl on his date. It was pretty much me and the producer hanging out for the evening. I think she had fun with me, even though she was never on camera.
How'd you get involved with these different shows?
I was cast for Change of Heart and the Restaurant from doing stand up shows in New York. I think that they look for comedians first because they think it'll make for better TV than normal people would. I was such a struggling comedian that I'd say yes to anything, although I'd probably say yes now too. I got on Queer Eye because a friend of mine was trying to sell a house to a producer of Queer Eye before the show even aired and he said, "You need to meet my friend Alan. He definitely needs a make over." The producer came over and said, "Alan, you really need a make over." I totally reaped the benefits of that show. They tore my house and life upside down.
There's a part in your episode of Queer Eye where there's a piece of cheese stuck to your shoe and after you pick it up and eat it you pump your fist in victory. Is that normal for you?
Yes, I do that in real life. My five seconds of joy a day are when I save pieces of cheese from hitting the ground with my shoe. That wasn't mugging the camera at all. It's just my buffoonery coming to the top.
And right after that you dropped a lot of expensive glasses.
Yeah, that wasn't my fault either. Right before that segment, Ted taught me about twenty different mixed drinks and I drank every one of them. Then he left and they said to clean up the dishes, which were all soapy and I was inebriated, so I ended up breaking the five hundred dollar martini pitcher that he had just given me.
Was everything one take on Queer Eye?
Yeah, that's how great those guys are. I asked them why and they said because they're not actors so if they have to re-shoot anything it comes out very awkward.
What was your role on the restaurant?
I was originally cast as a waiter, which was one of the main roles, but they kept asking me to make out with people in the meat freezer and I was dating someone at the time and didn't want to do that. I kept declining all of their crazy scenarios, like dropping trays. As a business owner, I felt bad for Rocco for having a staff of actors, models, and comedians with no restaurant experience setting him up to fail in the name of television. They eventually bumped me down to food runner, which meant that I just carried food and got yelled at because I didn't know what table to bring food to or what dishes were on what plates. I'd show up, get in uniform, and they'd push me out there to fail. I ended up quitting five weeks into the show.
Was this before or after you opened Pioneer BarBQ ?
It was before. I knew I always wanted to run a bar. I almost dropped out of college to run a bar in Athens, Georgia, but my mom cried for two weeks so I decided to graduate.
Tell me about the incident where Queer Eye was followed directly by The Restaurant.
They re-ran The Restaurant on Bravo right when Queer Eye was running on Bravo. Both one-hour shows ran back to back. For a couple weeks you could see me on reality TV for two straight hours, which I loved and my friends and family loved, but not everyone else loved. There were online petitions and I got hate mail. I was in In Touch Weekly as a Reality TV Two Timer. I just completely blew the gaskets on these people's reality TV show watching habits. They couldn't handle a food runner in one show and a real estate investor in another show, two things I was doing but seemed too far-fetched to swallow. That's what spurred my one-man show, Creepy Little Fame Whore , which is what people kept calling me on online forums.
How'd people get your contact info to send you hate mail?
I had a very self-promoting website at the time. I had an e-mail address that was made to look like it was going to my agent, but it was actually just redirected to me.
When was it that you opened for Mitch Hedberg?
May 2002. He was playing at the Forty Watt in Athens, Georgia. I knew the booker and I asked if they needed an opening act. He's one of my favorite comics. It was standing room only, six hundred people. It was the first time my friends back home got to see me do comedy. Mitch later said it was one of his best shows ever. He finished his set and then did an hour of requests. He said he pretty much told all of his jokes.
What was the status of your investments at that time?
I had a one-bedroom apartment and a two family house at that time. My jokes were about owning buildings at that point and you lose some of the crowd when your material is about mortgages. I did comedy hardcore for my first three years every night. Then I got into Improv and business, and eventually business took over my life. I found it hard to be both a creative thinker and a business thinker at the same time, so I focused on the business aspect for a couple of years. Now that I'm comfortable, I'm taking a step back into get into comedy again.
What's one of your favorite money saving tips ?
There's no need to ever purchase an umbrella. If you go to any store, restaurant, or bodega and say you left your black or blue umbrella there they'll bring you a box of twenty. Every place in New York has a lost and found. Every time I need an umbrella I just go in and say that I lost it. It's great because it's free, you're helping someone clean out their lost and found, and, for karma's sake, I leave it at a bar or restaurant when I'm done with it. If we work as a country on this we can take the umbrella business out of business.
What can you cite as a testament of your frugality?
I ate Ramen noodles for three months straight. I cannot eat Ramen to this day, but for three months that was all I ate for fourteen cents a day. I was determined to be finically independent and that's what it took. I lived on as little as possible.
Do you enter contests?
I enter almost every single contest possible. I take it to the next step because I know that to win those contests you have to fold the paper a certain way or dip it in water and let it dry overnight to give it a different texture. I find ways to have an upper hand.
What are some other projects you're currently involved in?
I'm trying to pitch some show ideas that I've got. It's an Improv based comedy show, which is going to be SUPER AMAZING. You can put that in all caps. I can't divulge much of it, but everyone I've work shopped it with said that it's a good idea.
Do you plan on getting back into stand up?
I have time now to switch gears. I've begun writing much more and have been filling up my notebook with ideas and bits. Sometime this year I'm going to do stand up again and I'm looking forward to it. I'm a much more seasoned comedian from following comics. I was so green when I moved here and I see what it takes now. A lot of it is effort. You need to get out there, but you also need to hone your performing. Just like anything, the longer you stick with it the better you are.
To get the latest Alan Corey news, visit Alancorey.com . One recent adventure involves portraying the sun in Improv Everywhere's Mp3 Experiment III . Dark Champions will be reuniting to perform at the Del Close Improv Marathon on July 29th at 2:00 AM.