Comedian Andres du Bouchet is a man of many characters, expressions and interests. One hardly knows which accent or persona will turn up when he takes the stage, either at his weekly free tongue twister of a show Giant Tuesday Night Of Amazing Inventions And Also There Is a Game (GTN), or at one of the many downtown comedy clubs he frequents. His quirky humor can catch an audience off guard, in a good way, pulling them out of their dazed stupor and drawing them into whatever skit, diatribe or joke he's cooked up. GTN, back after a hiatus, finds du Bouchet joined by the likes of Rob Gorden, Mark Douglas, Jonny Fido, Kevin Maher, and Michael Reisman, with occasional help and performances from Andrea Rosen, Mike Birch, and Deb Rabbai. Each week, the offbeat show features short films, inane skits, games such as "Temptation Reisman" and "Guess the celebrity sex tape scandal," inventions and more, while his blog ponderings range from the Pope to pandas to breakfast foods. Expect the unexpected is a good rule of thumb when it comes to GTN and du Bouchet's sense of humor, as evidenced below, where he illuminates Gothamist on the power of accents, blowjobs from strangers, porn star impressions, the best karaoke bars, Saturday Night Live's failings and the secret to his comedic success.
You host the show Giant Tuesday Night of Amazing Inventions And Also There Is a Game (GTN). First of all, why the super long name?
As with so many things in life, it’s not so much the length as it is the awkwardness. For some reason, I’ve always loved awkward wording, intentional verbal unwieldiness, on-purpose-too-many-words-ishness. It’s supposed to sound as if it were poorly translated from another language. It was originally conceived as a quick joke within a single sketch that Michael Reisman and I used to do together, in which his inventor character presents my host character with an invention called Microscopic Donkey Robots, or "microdonkeybots", which were basically represented by a tape recorder in a shoebox playing silly noises. Heck I guess microdonkeybots is another example of silly wording that I’m just tickled by. Long answer longer, the title of my show is intentionally unwieldy because I get a kick out of it.
GTN won a 2004 Emerging Comics of New York Award for Best Variety Show and is cited by many other comedians as their favorite show. What’s the secret to your success and what makes GTN different from other downtown comedy shows?
Our motto is "we actually try". That’s what separates us from the majority of ‘downtown’ comedy shows. Not to sound like a dick. Okay, to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed sounding like a dick with that last statement. Anyway, above and beyond that, I think what makes GTN special is our commitment to silliness, and our willingness to make fools of ourselves every week. People have told me that what they like about the show is the fact that we are simultaneously committed to our goofy shtick and at the same time self-aware, winking at the audience to let them know that we know how stupid it all is, but we’re going to do it anyway. Plus our show has an interdimensional wormhole, through which anyone or anything from anywhere or anywhen in the entire multiverse can visit our theater! Usually it’s a white guy with funny pre-written dialogue.
Every week, you have films, special guests, an invention and a game, such as celebrity sexcapades. How much of it is planned in advance and how much is improvised? You also collaborate with a team of other comedians on the show, so I’m curious how you all work together.
Our show is pretty-well mapped out each week in terms of the scripting of the bits we’re going to use, and the order in which we’re going to do them. The chance for improvisation and playing comes in the little moments when lines are forgotten or when things go wrong, or when someone just thinks of something on the spot that they just can’t resist saying. I actually think we feel so comfortable riffing because we have a concrete script in place, something to come back to, something to center the show around. We all contribute to the writing and idea process, mostly via a constant e-mail thread that we bounce back and forth. Pieces will be written by individuals or duos and then I’ll put them all together like a puzzle. Also, there’s a phrase that I’ve personally coined called "Yes Anding", and we’re all pretty good at that. What it means is that if someone comes up with an idea, rather than shoot it down, you say "Yes, and…" and you add to it. Hence my phrase that I personally coined: "Yes Anding" someone. You can use that if you want. "Yes Anding."
You host the show as Francisco Guglioni, of Boliviguay, and have done countless other characters during your comedy career. Who are some of your favorites to perform, and does using an alter ego free you up in some way to do things onstage you wouldn’t normally do?
First of all, my characters are hardly characters at all, they’re basically me with a slight accent, and a few mannerisms – all worn very lightly – I don’t know why, but there’s something that relaxes me about using an accent. With Francisco, for example, I find that when I speak with a pseudo-Spanish-sort-of-kinda-Italian accent I’m just a much more likeable person on stage, and I feel freer to say things that pop into my head. When I’m just me, I’m nervous and dull and an unlikable prick. I’d say my single favorite mode of speaking on stage is the big, booming, faux British accent. There’s something so wonderful about saying really silly things in an incredibly loud and authoritative voice. I’ve also become fond of performing while pretending to be blind lately – with my eyes closed and sunglasses on. It’s very relaxing. All that being said, I’ve started to try "standing up" onstage as myself more often to see if I can develop as a comic. My favorite comedians are the ones who are able to take their own natural personalities and weave stories and jokes onstage without resorting to some accent or goofy premise. I guess the grass is always greener. I coined that phrase too.
Post-GTN Rififi seems to be quite the hangout for fellow comedians, even those who couldn’t make the show, and there seems to be a camaraderie amongst a certain set of downtown comics. How much of the New York comedy scene is competitive vs. collaborative? From a non-comic’s perspective, it seems like a lot of you work together, perform at each other’s shows, socialize together.
Well, Rififi had already become quite the hang-out spot for comedians because of Bobby & Eugene’s show on Wednesday nights, and Nick & Jessi’s show on Thursday nights. That was the main reason I brought GTN there – to shamelessly piggyback on their success. People already knew Rififi as a comedy hangout, so we just gave comedians one more excuse to come out and drink during the week. And yes, I think of the comedy community as incredibly collaborative and supportive, at least the people that I’ve surrounded myself with and befriended. It’s basically a giant support group. We’re all in this ramshackle, leaking boat together, so why not share the bucket duties? Um. Yes.
When I asked you to do this interview, you agreed, but warned me that you’re boring, so I’m going to try to disprove that. You read a true story at Welcome to Our Week, which you then posted on your blog, about a stranger approaching you and propositioning you to get head from her, no strings attached, which you agreed to. Is that the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in New York?
How dare you bring that up! If I hadn’t already told that story on stage and posted it on my blog and bragged about it to countless other comedians and friends, I would end this interview right now! Yes, that is without a doubt the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me, not just here in NYC, but period. It was so surreal.
However, telling it as a story afterwards was much more fun than the experience itself – I was trying so hard to remember all of the details at the time that I couldn’t relax and just enjoy the FREE NO STRINGS ATTACHED BLOWJOB FROM A STRANGER. I just typed that in all caps. Make sure you use all caps. And yes, when I am not telling that particular story, which is often, I am incredibly boring. Let’s go Mets.
A little birdie told me that you’re a karaoke fiend and will even go to karaoke bars alone, and that you once sang such a touching rendition of Christina Aguilera’s "Beautiful" that you made a gay man cry. Please tell me what your favorite karaoke bars and songs are, and another equally embarrassing/outrageous karaoke tale.
Singing is my favorite thing to do. Period. Above and beyond any other expression of oneself, at least for me, singing provides the greatest emotional release. And karaoke, as far as I can tell, is the only chance we non-theater-types get here in the city to sing at the top of our lungs and not be regarded as a crazy person or an inconsiderate asshole. For example, whenever I hear someone practicing their opera in my apartment building, I think of that person as an asshole. I also imagine them wearing a Viking helmet. I think the gay man was crying because I had proven to him with my singing that true beauty simply does not exist. When I sing that song, I sound like Joe Cocker being broadcast from inside a sick moose. No, seriously, I rock the crap out of it. Let’s see, my favorite places to do karaoke? Sing Sing, Planet Rose, Bourbon Street, and the Had A Dream Once Café.
On your site you have some impressions of you as porn star Rocco Siffredi. What makes Rocco so great to emulate?
I think I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that Rocco Siffredi is the single greatest protagonist in the history of international cinema. Besieged by eager pussy from all directions, he manages to fend it all off with his Intercontinental Ballistic Member, all the while uttering his own commentary, letting us know that indeed, what is occurring is "oh so Goddamn nasty yeah so fucking nasty." I guess what I find amusing about porn stars in general, and him specifically, is the import with which they carry out their work, the dire gravity they convey with each thrust. Porn stars are enviable in that they’ve managed to find a line of work that lines up perfectly with their one specific gift: Shlongitude. If I were born with a giant, super-strong right hand, and someone offered to pay me a decent chunk of change for every jar of mayonnaise I opened, I’d jump at the chance. We comedians have no such clearly defined gift or mission. It’s more of a vague yet all-consuming need for approval. Interesting that I just chose mayo. Goddamnyeah.
If you were going to make and star in your own porn movie, what would it be called and what would happen in it?
My movie would be called ‘Serious About The Sausage’ and it would star me as a pizza delivery man who, each time a teddy-clad vixen would start scrambling for his zipper, would dryly announce – "Ma’am, I was serious about the sausage. It’s on the pizza. That will be $10."
You were named one of the top downtown comics of 2004 by Time Out New York and you noted that you’re the only one who holds a day job. How boring/awful is cubicle life for you? Also, please tell me a true, amusing office story.
I like to think that the only reason I don’t make my living as a comic yet is my lack of business sense, not my lack of talent. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Cubicle life is pretty amazingly mind blastingly dull. I actually work with nice people, and they’re very supportive about the fact that I’m a performer, but I still hate them. Hate them all with a passion. If any of them read this, I am just kidding. I am also making a certain facial expression to indicate to the interviewer whether or not that last sentence is true. No I’m not – this interview is taking place over e-mail. I like my bosses and coworkers. Let’s see, a true office story? This one time I asked Wendy if she wanted any Peanut M&Ms and she laughed because she knows that I know that she really likes Peanut M&Ms but is trying to avoid eating too much candy. That was pretty funny. Also, this one time I ordered the wrong kind of pens.
What’s the most embarrassing or worst things that’s ever happened to you while performing?
That’s easy. Back in 1998, I did a spot at Susie Felber’s old show at Ye Olde Tripple Inn, which was always a rowdy crowd, who were often none too pleased that a comedy show had broken out in the middle of their drunken revelry. Well, most of the standups could usually get by with crowd work when the audience was uncooperative, but since my stuff is often sketchy or monologuish, I have to just try to speak over them. Well, I was still green and nervous as a performer, and I was trying to stammer my way through a speech in which I was pretending to be a medieval warrior. Well, I kept pausing and fucking up lines because of one table in the front who were basically yelling over me so they could continue their drunken fun despite a comedy show going on two feet away from them. I finally got so flustered that I told the crowd "I have two things to say: I am very funny, and you can all suck my dick." Then I threw the microphone down onto the stage and sulked off. To this day, my friends make fun of me for that night. I think I learned my lesson though, because it only happened 5 or 6 more times after that.
How long have you been doing comedy? How do you keep it fresh and interesting for yourself?
I guess I count when I moved here to NYC as the real start of my comedy career, so that would be eight years. I keep it interesting by trying new things constantly, often to the detriment of doing well on stage. I’m just starting to learn the value of performing things multiple times in a row so that I can actually hone them. The format of GTN allows me to try new things every week, and mix up sketch writing with monologue writing and joke writing. I wrote a one-act play last year which was fun, and now I’m trying, albeit unsuccessfully so far, to write a full play. I guess I try to find ways to feel a little nervous about writing and performing. I’m always kind of off-balance, which I think helps me create some interesting stuff. And some crappy stuff.
Out of all the standup rooms you’ve performed at and attended, what’s your favorite (aside from your own show)?
I’ve always enjoyed performing at the other two Rififi shows as well, maybe there’s something about that space. I also used to enjoy performing at Luna Lounge when "Eating It" was there, despite the fact that my last few performances there were awful. And I always used to do pretty well at The Gershwin Hotel back when they had comedy shows there.
The first time I saw you perform, you were doing a rejected Saturday Night Live skit. If you were in charge of the show, what would you do to make it funnier?
Believe it or not, I’ve thought about this. A lot. Okay here we go. First of all, I’d make it an hour, not ninety minutes. I’d make the musical guest do both of their songs in one set. I’d only bring in guest hosts with plenty of stage experience and a knack for comedy. NO MORE CUE CARDS. Period. Sketches would be memorized and rehearsed, and performers would be allowed to go off and improvise if the spirit carried them there. I’d significantly reduce the amount of celebrity impressions, celebrity bashing, and inside-jokey-snarky tone of the show. This could all be accomplished by not relying so much on topicality and parodying stuff from the host’s career. If someone writes a funny sketch, memorize the fucking thing and perform it TWO WEEKS later. I’d also try to institute more running gags and themes into each episode, characters from other sketches popping up in other ones, etc. There are so many incredibly talented writers and performers who are part of that show, it’s a shame that it sucks hard enough to drag an extra-thick milkshake through a cocktail straw. I’m convinced it’s their format and process, not who’s a part of it. YES AND, I’d write for that show in a heartbeat.
Whether writing sketches or jokes, what’s your writing process like? How do you judge when something works or not before you’ve performed it?
Generally, my writing process is all over the place. Little ideas pop into my head and I scribble them down, and revisit them later. At any one time I’ve got several different ideas that are in various stages of procrastination. Usually, it takes some sort of deadline, like when I actually have to perform a piece, to get me to finish writing something. If I find myself chuckling while I write something, that’s usually a good sign that it’ll go well. Or that it will go incredibly poorly. I try to write things that I think are funny, not that I think other people will think are funny. I figure there have to be enough people out there in the audience who will agree with what I like. The rest of them can go on with their stupid, well-adjusted lives.
You seem to joke about pretty much anything and everything. Are there any topics or issues you’d never joke about?
I don’t think anything should be considered taboo. For example, I think women are avid shoppers, and I’m not afraid to say so. It’s all about truth. There’s a phrase I coined which I think sums it up best: "Nothing is too sacred to not not make fun of."
Now I’m just going to ask you to speak on behalf of "your people" – fellow comedians, for a few questions. Are comedians more or less neurotic than non-comedians?
At the risk of hyperbole, I think comedians are more gifted, talented and creative than any other subset of artists in the history of the world. And yes, we are crazy. We are more insecure and neurotic than most people. I think the entire reason we get on stage is because we are in constant doubt as to our own worth, and we need an audience’s laughter and applause to let us know that we aren’t bad awful people who don’t deserve dessert. It’s probably the difference between being told we were "great" kids and being told we were "unworthy of the new Micronauts playset because we got a B instead of an A and why are you so fat, Andres." What?
Comedy groupies – do they exist? Should they?
They should, and they do. However, I haven’t personally benefited from their existence, thanks to my post-show surliness.
What’s your ideal setting/audience/club size, or does it change depending on who makes up the crowd? What’s been the best/most memorable show you’ve ever done?
I like theaters rather than bars or stand-up clubs. Ideally, I prefer to not use a microphone, and to have the freedom to pace about on a stage while projecting loudly. The bigger the crowd and venue, the better. I have a tendency to open up my voice and gestures in order to fill a room, whereas in a small bar scenario I’m more likely to feel claustrophobic and reserved. I clam up. My most memorable shows? The first time I hosted "Eating It" as Francisco. The time I performed my "Naked Trampoline Hamlet" monologue at "Eating It." The first performance of my one-act play "CTRL+ALT+DEL" during which I was in the lighting booth, sweating like a pig and grinning like a moron when I realized the audience was enjoying it. There was an episode of GTN just a couple of weeks ago, in which we managed to tie together a sketch about soup that tastes like poop and a superhero whose only power is the fact that he’s wearing a baby on his chest in one of those baby bjorn carriers (his name is You Wouldn’t Want To Hurt The Baby Man). That was gratifying.
Giant Tuesday Night Of Amazing Inventions And Also There Is A Game takes place every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at Rififi, 332 East 11th Street (it's free!). Tonight's show includes special guests Dan Allen, Matt Goldich, Ann Carr, Dan Cronin, Susie Felber, Jesse Joyce and Bryan Olsen, and will feature "The World's Greatest Air Band," "The Tool Belt Comedy Tour," "The Men From Hefner Ten" and "Walken Talk." Andres du Bouchet will perform April 28th with The Rob and Mark Show at The Gin Mill, May 2nd, 9th and 23rd as part of Claudia Cogan and Liam McEneaney's sketch show Siddown & Shaddup! at The Pit and on May 5th at Sweet at Slipper Room . Visit Andres's show listings blog for more information about his upcoming performances and Andresdubouchet.com to read his blog.