Adam Newman should keep telling the tea joke
Last week, I emailed a couple of stand-up comics requesting interviews and got no response.
On Monday, I emailed Adam Newman at 10:30 in the morning and six hours later, I was conducting a phone interview with him.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Newman, a New Hampshire native who moved to New York after college in Georgia, is better than the comedians who didn’t reply to my requests, but since Newman agreed to play along, it definitely means I like him more than them.
Newman and I discussed the newfound fame he’s enjoying in the wake of his outstanding Comedy Central Half-Hour, how his start in stand-up is unlike any I’ve ever heard and a joke about tea that I hope Newman will keep telling until it works, no matter how long that might take.
TC: What has been the most significant development in your life since your Comedy Central Half-Hour aired?
AN: Oh man, that’s as big as it gets. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever gotten to this point. I think it’s all downhill from there. That was my ultimate goal when I started doing comedy, like my No. 1 absolute down the road goal was a Comedy Central Half-Hour so anything that happens from this point further in my life is just bonus stuff.
TC: But aren’t you doing more shows now?
AN: No, no. I’m going to use that Comedy Central Half-Hour money and retire off that. (Interviewer laughs)
TC: It’s all caviar and five-star hotels for you.
AN: Yeah. I’m not sure people realize how much we get paid for those things. I don’t have to work again for the rest of my life if I don’t want to.
No, of course, you have to keep working. I have some weekends lined up. I’m working towards the next special, towards the next late night spot. I’m working towards just becoming a better comedian and a better headliner and writing better jokes and getting more work through that.
TC: Do you remember the first time you did stand-up and if so, what stands out most about it?
AN: Most people will go hit an open mic and do like, five minutes the first time they do stand-up. I didn’t know that’s how you started doing it. I was living in Atlanta. I played in bands at the time so I called one of the bars that my band played in and I booked my band to play. Then I told my bandmates that we weren’t really playing, that I was just going to go do stand-up. Then I went and did 45 minutes of stand-up in front of about 40 people who came to see my band. That is not how you’re supposed to do it. I wouldn’t recommend that to anybody.
It went very fast. People were throwing PBR tall boys at me and heckling and yelling stuff. I didn’t just go up and tell a few jokes I wrote. I prepared a slideshow. I borrowed a projector and a screen from a friend. I made some videos. I told some one-liners I wrote. I told crazy drinking stories. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I basically took everything I’d ever seen or heard from comedians I like and just tried to put together the best multimedia 45-minute comedic experience I could put together.
TC: I’ve talked to a lot of comics in the last few years and I’ve never heard a first time doing stand-up story like that. To me, that’s incredibly brave.
AN: I think that’s a big misconception people have about stand-up comedians in the first place. How often do you hear people say that they think comedians are really brave or that they have balls for doing what they do? The truth is, it’s less bravery and balls and more stupidity and, what’s a good word for it?
TC: Maybe naive?
AN: Naive is just a nice way of saying stupid in this scenario as far as I’m concerned, but yeah, I was naive because I didn’t know you could go to a comedy club and sign up and do five minutes. I had no idea how you were supposed to get into stand-up comedy and I can say stupid because I didn’t do any research. I didn’t ask around. This was eight years ago. Google was around eight years ago.
I thought, if you want to do comedy, set up a show yourself. I knew a bar that would book me, so I did it and about 40 people came and paid, so I probably made a few bucks. I might be the only comedian I know that made money on the first show that he ever did. (Newman, interviewer chuckle)
Literally, after the first show somebody came up to me and said, “They run an open mic at this bar” on whatever night of the week so I came back and did that, probably the next week.
TC: Do you enjoy stand-up as much or more now than when you were getting started?
AN: I’m still completely obsessed with stand-up comedy. I was 100 percent into it when I first started. If I’m not a hundred percent into it now, I’m 110 percent into it now. At this point, stand-up is kind of the only way I make a living so I guess if I didn’t like it, it would be harder to quit if I wanted to, but the love for stand-up hasn’t faded at all.
Getting to headline and getting to do longer sets and getting to do more fun shows and getting to do shows in front of bigger audiences, it’s like all the hard work is starting to pay off and it’s more fun than it’s ever been.
TC: Have you ever written a joke or done a bit that you really wanted to work, but no matter how many times you tried it on stage, it just didn’t?
AN: I’ve had tons of jokes that I wished worked and I scrapped them. They’re still written down somewhere and maybe someday I’ll figure out a way to make them work. I’ve always believed that if there’s an idea I think is funny, there’s a way that I can make everybody else think it’s funny. When I throw a joke out, it’s basically me saying, “Right now, I’m not good enough to make this work, but later I’ll be able to.” A lot of my jokes now are jokes that, three years ago, I just couldn’t make work.
Here’s an example. I preface this joke by saying it’s not going to work on the phone with you right now. When I do it on stage, I say, “Guys, I’m going to do this joke. It’s 0-for-40, but we’re going to do it right now.” (Interviewer laughs, the joke follows)
“I ran into a friend at a coffee shop the other day that I hadn’t seen in a long time. She said, ‘Man, it’s been far too long’ but I misheard her and thought she was just recommending the worst tea flavor: Fart Oolong.”
TC: Oh my.
AN: Your response magnified by like, a hundred people is usually what I hear when I do that joke. Fart Oolong? You get it, right?
TC: Yes, I get it.
AN: Come on. Fart Oolong! Fart Oolong. Oolong is a type of tea. It’s better when you have to explain it.
I love that joke. It never, ever works.
TC: Have you tried it lately?
AN: Yeah. I’m gonna tell it tonight, just because you’re basically hinting that I shouldn’t.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find In Five Minutes:
“i am asking you if you would like to have sex with me for money” — ending a sentence with a proposition
— Myq Kaplan (@myqkaplan) July 8, 2014