Comedy Tips: Doing Press Interviews

After show with the very cool Kate, whose father was the founder of the band, Kansas.

As I have discussed before, I did not grow up wanting to be a standup comic. I loved comedy, but I wanted to be a newspaper columnist, using humor as an important facet of my work. I went to the University of Iowa and studied journalism. When I graduated I saw how the business was starting to crater, so while I still tried to get a job freelance writing, I also pursued trying to be a copywriter for an ad agency. I quickly fell away from that dream because the entry pay level was so abysmal. I decided to try standup comedy and fell for its charms right away. Unlike any other creative professions, I had complete editorial control, as long as the audience found it funny.

Even though I didn’t pursue it, I have a lot of respect for journalists. Outside of standup comedy, there is no profession where I have more friends than the journalism field. Even though it doesn’t seem to help sell many tickets anymore, (not sure what does except being a celebrity), I still cultivate the medium when I can because I figure any type of interview is a positive to promote my shows.

Since I’m such a media junkie and have a lot of journalism class training, I try to frame the interviews as much as I can. When they are printed in a newspaper, the amount of column inches is precious, so you have to make your story as interesting as possible. While blog pieces won’t be seen by that many people, their plus is that there isn’t much editing that has to be done.

When doing an interview with one medium versus the other, I believe you need to have different strategies. For example, a large newspaper story will be a lot shorter, plus it will have some content and language restrictions. You have to really push what you want to end up in that story more and not just start rambling. A local alternative newsweekly is read by a different audience, so you don’t want to come off as some type of mainstream type act. Even though blogs don’t have any restrictions, I like to look at the writer’s past work and see what type of tone they write with, as I want to fit that to a certain extent. I am selling out on some level, I guess, but I never say respond to any question I’m asked with something I don’t believe in. I have a lot of facets to my life so I focus on which ones I believe fits the medium it will be appearing in.

This past week there were 3 interview/stories that were done on me. Being back in my home state of Iowa was definitely an angle that played out in them. I am posting all 3 here because I think they all show how the author of the piece determines a lot of the tone. While they weren’t exactly the way I would have written them myself, I thought they all were interesting conversations about my career.

After my show at the Circa 21 Speakeasy in Rock Island

From the Quad City Times Newspaper. Written by David Burke

Iowa-born comedian Scott Long has been called the Midwest version of Louis C.K., which he wears as a badge of honor.

“I talk about how much I love my kids but I also talk about how ugly my son was when he was born,” Long said in an interview from his home in Indianapolis. “I try to say the things that people were thinking, but don’t say it.”

Long, 46, was born in Newton and moved to Altoona with his mother, after they left his dad. He’s tried living in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but Indy — where he followed his girlfriend who’s now his wife of 20-plus years — is gladly home for him.

“I didn’t want to be a TV star. What I wanted to do was write and do standup comedy,” he said.

He’s among the writers for comedian-impressionist Frank Caliendo’s appearances on the “NFL on Fox” Sunday pregame show. Others on the writing team include veterans of “Seinfeld” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” Long, who’s known Caliendo since they were both rising comics, emails his material in. The network was already familiar with Long from his appearances on Fox Sports Radio call-in shows.

Like Louis C.K., whom Entertainment Weekly recently called the world’s best comedian, Long talks about positive and negative aspects of being a dad.

“I talk a lot about the darkness which is partly funny, and edgy, about being a parent,” he said.

Among those is a unique situation in his family. The couple’s first child was a daughter born with autism. Originally planning for one child, Long and his wife decided a sibling was needed to care for the sister once her parents were gone.

But they had twins.

“I never really expected to have more than one child,” he said. “Now I feel like a breeder. I went from hipster to dipster overnight.”

Although autism is no laughing matter, Long said being the parent of a developmentally disabled child does have its moments of humor.

“I try to show a different perspective of it and show how just one thing in life can set you in five different directions you never thought you’d go,” he said. “It’s a tightrope. I’d never do anything I felt was exploitative of my daughter on stage. What I do do is humanize it and make people understand it a little better. But I don’t get preachy in my standup.”

From 1st Order Historians Blog. By Ryan Meehan

Out of the cornstalk ghetto of Newton, Iowa came nationally touring comedian Scott Long. Seen on NBC, FOX-TV, ESPN, Bob and Tom, etc., Scott is the 2nd most successful comic to attend the University of Iowa. (If only he would have met Roseanne before Tom Arnold 🙂 Besides performing at the top comedy clubs in the country, Scott has put out 2 comedy DVD’s, a comedy CD, and a book. Oh and for the past 9 years he has written the comedy sketches for the NFL Pregame Show on FOX. Known for his edgy style and improv skills, no 2 Scott Long shows are ever the same. He’ll likely have to edit his resume once again, as he’s our guest today in 5 questions.

FOH: You literally just got back from Disneyworld. Is there going to be anything from that experience that you’ll be able to work into your standup routine?

SL: Just that my kids will have lifetime memories. The rides, the characters, the stress from it that eventually caused their parents to divorce. Oh, and how we used their college fund to pay for it.

FOH: What’s the most unusual thing that you’ve ever had happen to you on the road?

SL: My website/blog celebrates the stranger gigs I have done. Strip clubs, children’s charities, and senior citizen homes. I pride myself on being versatile. Definitely one of the strangest was when I performed at a State Penitentiary. Ended up talking to one inmate after the show who was very intelligent. Told me he had gotten 2 graduate degrees through correspondence while in Prison. I asked him how he ended up here. His response was “That is a fair question, Scott. I had a little conflict with my parents and I chopped them up with an axe.” You haven’t really lived until you’ve had someone drop a statement like that in conversation. It was like my own version of the Scared Straight program.

FOH: Recently you had an interesting blog post about how having really intense walk-up music can actually hurt a standup comic, as most of the energy disappears as soon as the music fades out. Is that something that you think is more of an age-specific thing, as in most younger comedians want intros to create a party-like atmosphere to the show?

SL: It comes down to this. Intro music can help add some energy to black comedians who hit the stage, but I’ve never seen it help a white comedian, especially if it’s hip-hop. A white comedian who comes up to a gangsta rap song he looks as silly if he was wearing one onstage one of Deion Sanders’ ten button bright orange suits.

FOH: What’s worse: Having your material stolen or having your identity stolen for the sake of an online dating profile?

SL: That’s funny. Yeah, recently some guy used my photo on an online dating site. It just made me laugh and in some ways was kind of flattering. Now stealing my material, that is never funny to me, though I guess in some ways, just as flattering.

FOH: Which comedian have you enjoyed working with most, and what was it about that particular comedian that made him/her so much fun to work with?

SL: I would have to start with Frank Caliendo. I worked with him on the road for a few years and his show always made me laugh. That’s the beauty of impressions, they don’t get old to me. Frank also is the hardest working guy I have ever met in the business and he’s a really smart dude. I’ve only worked with him a couple times, but Dan Cummins is a great friend and I believe the most prolific comedian in standup comedy today. I met him at the start of his career when he opened for me and have watched the different stages of his career he has went through. He’s pretty inspiring to watch do standup, as he has such an original voice.

FOH: Every comic probably has a different definition of the word “Hack”. Based on what you’ve seen performing all around the country, how would you best define a hack?

SL: That is a more difficult question. I think even overworked subjects can be ripe for great material, as long as you bring a fresh spin to it. The best way not to be hack is to do a lot of material that comes from true stories of your own life. That is what I preach when I teach standup comedy classes. My show has become mostly autobiographical from my childhood in Iowa to my current situation having a daughter on the autism spectrum and my 4 year old twins.

FOH: What big things does Scott Long have planned for the next twelve months?

SL: I am moving in a different direction starting to do 1 person shows where not everything in the show is based in comedy. My 1 person show is called “A Real Modern Family: From Hipster to Dipster” and it is debuting at the Indy Fringe Festival in August. It discusses how I met my wife at the University of Iowa and the struggles we had getting pregnant, going the in vitro fertilization route, having a daughter on the autism spectrum, and then having twins at 40. Some of that material I will be performing at the Circa 21 Speakeasy, but the show my Quad Cities fans will see on July 14th will be pure standup. Dark, edgy material, but always focused on giving the audience a big laugh.

Make sure to catch Scott at the Circa 21 Speakeasy on July 14th or check out any of the links below for more funny.

Corn-Fed Comedy Blog. By Erin Tiesman

With writer Erin Tiesman.

Q & A: Iowa native Scott Long is one of the hardest working comedians on the road
On Friday, July 13, I got to see an awesome set of comedians perform in front of an intimate group of 20 or so people at The Mill in Iowa City. Emcee Colin Ryan, featured act Bobby Ray Bunch and headliner Scott Long no doubt noticed that the room wasn’t packed, but still gave a gut-busting performance.

Scott, an Iowa native and UI alum, has been touring nationally for the last 15 years. A husband and father of 3, he’s been heard nationwide on the Bob & Tom Show, and his comedy writing has been seen on Fox Sports through Frank Caliendo’s John Madden bits.

He’s also been on NBC, XM Radio and more. The guy’s been busy — and he’s an act that shows no signs of stopping. David Burke with The Quad-City Times recently referred to him as the Louis CK of the Midwest.

Besides being a touring standup comedian and TV writer, Scott has also written a book of comedic essays entitled Dysfunctional Thoughts of a 21st Century Man, plus released a comedy CD and 2 comedy DVDs, which you can pick up at his live shows.

If you see Scott in your area or hear about him, do yourself a favor and GO. Not only is he an Iowa native which he deserves an epic high-five for, but he’s a damn hardworking comedian who performs like there’s 100 people in the room. And there should be. He’s talented as all get out.

Scott recently took some time to answer a few questions for our humble little blog here, and share his path to stand-up comedy and comedy writing.

Corn-Fed Comedy: You have done some shows throughout Iowa – including Iowa City. What are the biggest benefits and challenges for stand-up comedy in a place like Iowa City (from your perspective)?
Scott Long: I think the biggest issue is that there needs to be a place that is a weekly room. Comedy fans in Iowa City need to know that on, let’s say Thursday, there is a a professional comedy show at the venue. Doing random shows and regular open mic are good, but to help really build a good comedy scene there needs to be consistent pro comedy shows.

CFC: How has comedy changed in the Midwest during your time as a comic? Have you seen an increased interest or are things still the same?

SL: Here’s a little secret. To make a real living just doing standup comedy you need to be in the fly over states, as NYC and LA don’t pay the comics shit. I would say its about the same but there is a split going on in standup like there is in politics. Some people want the more alt style of standup, while others want the more traditional. And there isn’t much in between. Because of this, the comedy scene has gotten more segmented. This makes it more difficult to work every week, but does give more people the opportunity to make crap money instead of fewer people making a decent living.

CFC: You do a lot of comedy writing, as well as your stand-up comedy. How does one break into the “comedy writing” gig? How did it come about for you?

SL: I would say you pretty much need to move to LA or NY. You also need to know someone who has connections when you get there. Most writers on TV shows are not former standups. The biz has changed that way. Harvard Lampoon people and second city/groundlings people network with each other, so it’s hard to break that stranglehold.

The biggest reason I got my writing job with FOX was because the person they hired didn’t know how to write for Frank Caliendo and I did. Other elements were involved but that was the major element.

CFC: Life on the road is the way of a comic — but many young comics aren’t parents, either. What is life like for a traveling dad / comic?

SL: It is a difficult balance you need to manage. Anyone involved with being a touring entertainer knows it’s a life setup for self absorbed tools whose number 1 focus is themselves. I have learned to be more biz savvy as I am taking care of 5 people, not 1. Lots of added pressure with that, but has made me more focused, which has been a benefit.

CFC: Just for fun – and to play off your act – where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to.

SL: I actually think about that a lot. I guess I still see myself doing standup but also doing more one man show type stuff where there is a message to what I am offering. I try to have about 3 different projects going on at 1 time, so if something doesn’t work out, I have a couple other directions I can go. I love the creative freedom my life offers me, even though I have to be fairly strict about how much I can give it as I have a full life being a family guy.

With comics Colin Ryan and Bobby Ray Bunch as the Mill show in Iowa City. Note to comics. Not a great idea to do a show in a college town when most of the students are out of town.
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