Patrick Borelli can make almost anything funny, whether he's talking about his stint helping people write personal ads or making fun of Staples' employees attire, his home state of Massachusetts, or himself. Recent standup gigs saw him riffing on everything from a newspaper article about a chimpanzee attacking a man and tearing off his body parts (in a cringe-worthy but humorous reading) to cheerleaders ("They aren't leaders. They should be called "cheer encouragers."). A nominee for Best Male Standup at 2004's Emerging Comics of New York Awards, Patrick has performed all over, including Hamptons Comedy Festival, The Shark Show, Deep Dish Cabaret, Invite Them Up, Welcome to Our Week, and countless others, as well as appearing on Premium Blend and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Currently writing for the show Cheap Seats, he continues to do standup and recently launched a hilarious audioblog where you can record your own message, as well as hear David Duchovny attempting to sound normal, lesbians fighting, and odes to nice weather, Luke Wilson, and other random slices of life.
How long have you been doing comedy and how and why did you get started?
I started performing comedy 8 years ago, in 1987. That was ten years after I was born. Then I moved from Boston to New York in 1999. That was the year that Tiger Woods was good at golf. That was also the only year that NASCAR was popular. Sigh. Where have Jeff Gordon and his V8 Chrysler-building team gone? Seven years ago we had a genius driving in circles and no one could catch him.
Why can't op-ed columnists have typing Tourettes? I would be thrilled to read a David Brooks piece filled with the words "hamburger" and "ketchup" because, simply, his brain was misfiring while he was finishing his column at a Wendy's. I've been performing for 8 years.
When you began your comedy career, did you have a plan in mind, or did you just want to make people laugh? How has your career progressed from when you started to today?
I love making people laugh in the same way a doctor likes saving lives. When a doctor is sewing an open wound, with needle and thread, she's thinking, "I fucking TOTALLY saved this person. I am closing up this wound and I can reopen it, if I so desire." There's a tendency for doctors to gain a God complex. When I'm performing, I look at the audience as an enormous open wound. My jokes are the thread and the PA system is the needle. I open and close that audience at will.
You've performed at all kinds of New York comedy venues - what's your favorite and why?
I love performing at Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser's Midnight Pajama Jam. It's a monthly show that takes place at the Marquee Theater on Bowery and East 4th. I talk more about it down below.
I enjoyed Eating It at the Luna lounge. The crowd could be tough to crack but that was only because the show had a huge reputation as being the best alternative comedy show, probably, in the country. They would regularly have stars like David Cross, Janeane Garofalo and people from SNL and Conan along with the best comedians who maybe weren't household names but are awesome like Todd Barry, Louis C.K., Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser. And here's the best part and where the show got its name from: they'd always put on some shit head like me. (Note: "eating it" is a comedy term from the Catskills, Borscht Belt days. After performing, comedians would meet at a restaurant and eat Cobb Salads together. Whoever performed the worst that night was not allowed to order a Cobb Salad. They had to wait for everyone to eat their Cobb Salads. Then, the comedians would pool their salads together, push it towards the crappy comedian and chant, "Eat it, you crappy comedian! You are a crappy comedian, so eat it!")
What makes an excellent show for you as a comedian? How much of doing standup depends on the audience's reaction?
A full room of people who want to see a show is great for me. A lot of comedy rooms in New York take place at bars or in places where comedy does not usually happen, which makes for a tough crowd. Colin Quinn knows all about a tough crowd. Actually, his show was filled with an adoring audience and like-minded comedic friends, so the title was inaccurate. His show should have been called, "Like-Minded Friends and an Adoring Audience with Colin Quinn."
What's the funniest thing about living in New York?
Seeing Liv Tyler walk around with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel leashed in one hand, cell phone in the other. She's almost always having an intensely personal and angry blowout on the phone. Here's a quick sample of some gems I've been fortunate to overhear:
•"You what? You ate my Cobb Salad? I left that in the fridge FOR ME. I even wrote, 'Steve Tyler's daughter's Cobb Salad' write on the side of the bowl, you moron."
•"I don't care what the IRS says, I'm not paying taxes on my weekend lemonade and Cobb Salad stand."
•"NO. No, Roger. No. No. No. No. No. Got that? Don't ask again."
Why'd you decide to start your new audioblog? What's the best thing about it so far and what would you love to have someone post on there?
In theory I like blogs. In theory. In practice, I've found them to be grating, for the most part. So I started one that was even more difficult and annoying than a written diary: long, rambling phone messages about nothing in particular. It seriously sounds like you're listening to a lonely person's answering machine.
How did David Duchovny get involved?
I took them from his website and placed them on mine. Now he's my friend. We buy a six-pack of Orangina and giggle whenever Liv Tyler walks by. We're usually incognito in our fake goatees.
On Tuesday, April 19th, you're part of the "Midnight Pajama Jam." Since it's at 8 and 10:30, why the "Midnight," what can we expect from it, and why are you so excited about it?
Originally the Midnight Pajama Jam started at Midnight. It's a late night talk show for children, featuring a host (Jon Benjamin) and two puppets, a bird and an octopus, voiced by Jon Glaser. They have on fake guests, experts and performers, and show videos. It's the funniest show in New York. Glaser and Benjamin have always really cracked me up. The April 19th show is a best of, DVD taping, featuring Matt Walsh, of UCB fame, Eugene Mirman and others. They are kind enough to have Matt Hall and myself (we're Benjamin and Glaser Light, or B&G Light) on as well. (Visit www.midnightpajamajam.com. Check out the videos).
You write for the new television show Cheap Seats - can you tell us more about the show, and what you do for them?
Randy and Jason Sklar host Cheap Seats, a comedy series on ESPN Classic. Randy and Jason play fictitious ESPN production assistants who end up hosting this new show when the original host was killed right before the first taping. They watch tapes of old games and sports events like 1968 Cliff Diving Championships and joke about it. They'll have sketches and videos intermixed with their rapid-fire commentary. It's a great show. They added a studio audience for the second season and so they wanted to write more comedy bits for the in-studio as well as viewing audience. I just started working on the show. I'm excited. I've always loved sports. There aren't too many sports comedy shows, unless you count the accidental comedy that is The Best Damn Sports Show, by which, I mean, it's an accident that that show is on the air. I think America has had enough of Tom Arnold in bowling shirts, screaming into a microphone.
Speaking of sports, you're clearly a sports fan, judging from your recent standup gigs describing your avid TV sports watching. What are your favorite sports to watch and to play? Does the sports world lend itself easily to comedic fodder?
My favorite sport to play is hockey, in any form. Ice, street, roller—I love hockey. If hockey were a woman with a great sense of humor and blue eyes, I'd marry her.
I only watch sports that I'm emotionally invested in. Some people will watch football all day long, regardless of who is playing. I'm only interested in watching the World Champion New England Patriots defeat every team, week after week. I also enjoy watching the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox defeat every team they play.
You also co-host Video Power Hour with Matt Hall, and have shown videos by bands such as Interpol and Amy Miles. What's the idea behind these shorts, and what do you have coming up?
Matt and I love short videos. Matt suggested we try to collect the best we'd seen, to create a half hour show. We've created three episodes and are working on our fourth. The main criteria for submitting are that they be less than 3 minutes and that they be awesome in some way. We're airing a best of the first three episodes on Monday, April 25th at Tonic. It's part of a show called Little Theater, which starts at 8 PM.
I don't have cable TV, so despite being a total comedy nerd, I've never seen Premium Blend or most of the other comedy shows around. I'd much rather go see live comedy. But what I want to ask is how having been on Conan O'Brien and Premium Blend effect what you do now? Are the TV gigs and live standup two totally different animals, in terms of performing, or do they affect/inform each other?
If I'm at a stand up show and the host says, "This guy has been on Comedy Central and Late Night with Conan O'Brien!" as cheesy and as needy as that sounds, it helps. The audience listens a little closer, I think, at first.
TV is very different from live shows. There's more forgiveness in a live show. There's a lot less pressure. When you have a bunch of camera people and sound people and producers and writers standing there, watching you try to be funny, that can be nerve wracking.
You're originally from Boston, and some of your humor, such as your rejected Letterman Top 10 list, "Top Ten Reasons You Know You've Committed Vehicular Manslaughter in Massachusetts," which you read at The Rejection Show, relates back to Boston. How much of your outlook and comedic sensibility are shaped by your Boston upbringing?
I used to joke about Boston a lot more, when I first moved here. Now, if I mention it, it's just to say that the Patriots and Red Sox are reigning champs and that the best universities are there. Sometimes I'll mention the Battle of Lexington and Concord in my act, or I'll talk about Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Paul Revere.
Is there an essential difference between Boston and New York humor, or are there things that are bottom line funny across the board?
There's no difference, really.
Is it easier to be a comedian in New York rather than Boston?
It's easier to start out in Boston. There's no pressure. There are more places to perform in New York and way more industry. (Now I'm very brief and serious in responding).
On your website, you demonstrate and describe three dances that you do. Offline, what song will always get you on the dance floor?
I actually hate dancing. The three dances on my web site are actual dances I would do at parties. They're anti-dances. What will get me on the dance floor? Anything by the Scissor Sisters.
I asked some people for help in coming up with questions to ask you, and this is what they wanted to know: "Do you have a girlfriend? Because my friend Amanda really likes you."
I'm flattered. I have a girlfriend. She's from Wisconsin. She's a sweetheart. Somehow she puts up with this crazy guy (I'm wearing a clown suit right now, and I'm pointing at myself, as I type).
Since you brought it up with me, what's your favorite word, color and animal?
Color: Pantone 72C
Animal: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Do you have any advice to someone just starting out in New York doing standup?
Not really. The whole thing is a bitch.
Anything else you want to add?
I really want people to leave messages at my audioblog.
Press 1 if you've entered it correctly
Enter pin#: 4969 followed by "#"
You are ready to record. When you're done, press "#" to stop recording and "1" to post your message. If you don't press # stop and just hang up, it's lost.
See Patrick Borelli's dance moves at his website and listen to his audioblog. Patrick performs on April 19th at Midnight Pajama Jam. Order tickets to Midnight Pajama Jam here. Watch his short videos at Video Power Hour.