2006_05_jon_fisch.jpg Jon Fisch is a regular at most of the comedy clubs in New York City, including The Comedy Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club, and Carolines.

When did you develop an interest in comedy?

We didn't have classes the last month of my senior year of high school, so my friends and I would end up at my parents' house watching all of the comedy specials that were on like Dennis Wolfburg, Seinfeld, and Roseanne. When I was a little kid, I remember loving Billy Crystal's Saturday Night Live stuff.

What were you like in school?

I liked the social aspect of school, playing sports, and the structure. People always expect you to be the class clown if you're a comic. I remember, if I was comfortable I would be funny, but I never forced it. I wasn't the class clown. I might have said something funny if the teacher was cool with it.

The class clown was always a more outrageous type character.

Spitballs and stuff like that. I was never the funniest most outrageous guy in my group of friends, but I remember throwing in one-liners.

What sort of aspirations did you have growing up?

Growing up in the suburbs, my friends and I were expected to be lawyers, doctors, or psychologists. I felt like that's what I'd end up doing too, although, ideally, I would have been a basketball player. I must have played basketball for three or four hours a day.

Did your do any talent shows or plays?

I was part of the big senior wrap up show. My friends wrote it based on the Blues Brothers. Our school colors were orange and blue so we called it The Orange and Blues Brothers. I had some funny lines in that, but that was the only thing I did.

Did you do any sort of writing at the time?

I didn't start until college.

What were you studying in college?

Psychology at the University of Vermont.

Do you find your psychology training useful in stand up?

It has for me; I have a few jokes about. Knowing how to deal with people helps you in all areas of life.

What is it that finally inspired you to go to an open mic?

I took a comedy workshop when I was in Boston. I didn't tell anybody I was taking it, none of my friends or family came to the show, and I didn't even know what to do. It took me another year before I got back onstage again. I took a second workshop and in it there were two comics that I hit it off with. We still keep in touch, and that was about ten years ago. We sought out the open mics together and that's what ended up happening for me.

My first open mic experience was interesting because I had hung out there a couple of times watching the comics. I had only been onstage once or twice before that. All the other comics knew each other and there were only three people in the audience that weren't comics. The comics were playing for other comics, but I didn't know that. Everyone was an audience member to me. I remember being petrified, but I had read, "All you need to do is keep getting onstage," so I considered it a victory even though I don't know if anyone laughed.

How does your early material compare to what you're doing now?

Sometimes I do shows for kids, like proms or random high school shows. I'll always bust out some of the first jokes I ever wrote, and they still work. I don't know if that's good or bad. I always try to be myself onstage, so my material reflects where I am in my life. My stuff is better now because I put more effort into it. I figured out what sort of jokes work for me. When I first started I'd write about anything. I've realized that if I'm not interested in it and it's not personal for me I don't want to talk about it onstage after a couple of weeks.

How many open mics were you doing at the time?

I guess I'd do three or four a month. There was one place that was weekly that you'd go to hoping to get on and I didn't always get on.

Were there any crazies showing up at the open mics?

Yeah, but you didn't know they were crazy. Sometimes you'd think they were in character. After a while you'd figure out who the crazies really were.

How much time would you dedicate to writing everyday?

If I was in a groove, I'd be writing everyday for two or three hours or sometimes I'd go weeks without writing. I still get into the same thing. Ideally, I like to write for two or three hours a day.

How many times do you perform a particular bit before you're confident with it?

If it's an observation that I don't have much interest in, it'll usually work quicker for me and I'll keep it in my act for a little bit. As soon as I figure out where the laugh is and how to get it, I'm confident with it. If it's a quick one liner, that can take one night if I do it three times, but if it's a longer piece it could take weeks. When I'm bored with it I'm confident with it. It's a catch-22.

What were the next several years like after starting open mics?

Opening and hosting shows while I was working. Just trying to get to as much stage time as I could. I was in Boston, so there shows as far as Rhode Island and Maine. I'd try to book as much stuff as I could on the weekends. Even if I wasn't booked, there were places I could hang out and try to get onstage. I had a job, but now I do comedy for a living so I need to every gig I can for money. Before, I'd take every gig I could just to get onstage. It was almost more fun then. You weren't getting paid back then and if you were it was twenty-five to seventy-five dollars. You'd think, "They're not paying me that much, so I can do whatever I want and not do well." You could bomb and not care, so you could really try out stuff.

What were you doing at the time to support yourself financially?

I was working at a psychiatric unit with kids.

How long was it before you moved up to middling or emceeing?

The first time I hosted in one of the big clubs was two years in.

Is emceeing something you enjoy doing?

Sometimes. I don't mind doing it for certain clubs. Other clubs, you don't get treated well or aren't treated like a comic. You just usher up the other acts and don't get to do any material. If you get a good chunk of time from the place, it's okay. I like doing just a set or headlining more.

How long were you performing before you noticed some sort of difference?

I've always had this thing where every six months I reassess and hope I've reached a new plateau. Whether it's an increase in writing or confidence. I feel that every six months I hit a new stride.

How much improvisation do you incorporate into your performances?

I let it happen, but it's not something I seek out. I work really hard on jokes and I feel that they're what I want to work on a given night, but I've learned to be open to whatever the show might bring. I'll have fun with the audience, but on an ideal night I wouldn't have to talk to them.

Would you say that Boston is a good place to start up in stand up?

It was great for me. They had city clubs and road rooms. In a given week I could do a show in the city, a show in the boonies, and a show in the alternative room where it's mostly comics pushing to do something different. If you wanted to figure out if a joke was really working, you could do it in all three venues.

When was it that you decided to move to New York?

After four years. I felt that I got everything I got out of Boston and that if I didn't move I was never going to.

Some people say that they want to move to New York to pursue a career in comedy. When do you think that they should make such a move?

I think it's different for everybody. It depends what you want out of comedy. If you're using it to get into acting, then LA might be a better place for you. Once you feel like you have a good grasp of who you are onstage and have a good enough amount of material, it's a good time to move. It depends on your confidence. You don't want to move to early or too late. You have to start over when you come to New York. You have to re-audition for places and not everyone knows that you're funny so you have to keep proving it. If you're a big fish in a small pond for too long, you might not be willing to start all over again. It's a small window, I think, but if you're funny and hardworking, any time is good.

What's your opinion on bringer shows?

At certain clubs, they go very well. At the Gotham Comedy Club, I've seen the booker and owner watching the bringer shows. They make a tape for you, if you pay for it. People are watching you, it's a good show, and I feel that you get a lot out of it. In other places it's just a cluster fuck. You don't know when you're going on, you might get bumped four times, and it's a frustrating unpleasant experience that's really just a moneymaking thing for the club.

What do you think of the term alternative comedy?

The way I look at it, it's alternative to the clubs. Everyone there is into the comedy. You go there if you don't want to see the same old thing. I like to perform at any place just to see how my jokes work.

What do you think are the right conditions for comedy?

No blender drinks in the background and no TVs on. It's a performance and not just a microphone in the room with a bunch of people. You need to have the right acoustics and lighting. If the room is not crowded, people sit wherever they want, but laughter is contagious so sitting together upfront is the best way. I've been doing a lot of shows in theaters lately, and that's fantastic. People go for the comedy show and not to get drunk with their friends on a Saturday night.

Are there any recent trends in comedy you'd like to comment on?

I think there's a lot of good comedy out there. Doug Stanhope does a joke about how people go to comedy shows without knowing who the comic is and get upset if they don't like them. Every comic has their own point of view and it might not be your cup of tea. You wouldn't go see just any band.

What are some misconceptions about stand up that you'd like to clear up?

That's we're happy all the time and want to entertain you after the show. I've been up there for forty-five minutes and just want to go back to my room and watch TV.

Do you think that comedians will be embracing podcasting?

I don't think you can't. I already know people that do it. It's a different way to get people interested in what you're doing and out to the club, but, at the same time, will they go out to the club if they know that they can hear or see it for free online.

Does it seem like there might be another comedy boom coming?

Comedy is very much alive in New York City right now. There are a lot of theaters opening. I think there will be a boom of quality comedy and that the days of crappy comedy are winding down. People have seen so much crappy comedy these days that they're not willing to go to the clubs, so comics have to do their best to put on quality shows.

Are you noticing that comedian is a career that young people aspire to have?

I've gotten a few e-mails lately from high school kids that say that they're going to have a club when they're older and that they hope that I'll perform at it. There's kids' classes at one of the clubs in the city. The kids are ten to fifteen.

I was in a club where I saw a seven year old do comedy, but it was stand up written by a forty-year-old guy.

When I worked at the psych ward with kids, we put on a comedy show for the therapeutic group. If they couldn't write their own jokes, we'd take jokes out of joke books.

What qualities do you think someone should posses if they want to get involved in stand up?

You have to have a lot of confidence and drive.

What are some projects that you're currently involved in?

I'm working on a CD that should be out this summer.

What are some places that you like to hang out at after a performance?

Everyone thinks I want to go out and party after, but I like to go somewhere quiet. Maybe go out to eat or see a movie.

To see where Jon's performing next, visit Jonfisch.com