As Interviewed By Brian McGuinness
Conducted April 1, 2008 - Published April 29, 2008
Few names come to mind when you think of genuinely nice stand-up comedians. Moody McCarthy is one of them, which is why he agreed to do this interview. Moody has done a lot in his 15+ year career, from Last Comic Standing to Jimmy Kimmel. I gave him a buzz while he was doing his taxes. Told you he was a nice guy.
Brian: What was the moment, either in your career or before, that you decided you were going to be a stand-up comic?
Moody: I think first time I went on stage it went well and I was hooked right then. Two years in, I thought I couldn't. I thought it was going to be a hobby I'd be doing for the rest of my life. I wasn't really getting any better. Than around 5 years or so, I realized I could do it. I have the overhead of a 17-year old so I realized I could cover that. But now I'm starting to rethink that. I'm at a point now where I drive a Honda only because Key Food doesn't make a car. If they made a car, I'd buy a Key Food brand car.
Brian: What else would you like to do? Are you a stand-up for life like Brian Regan, or are there other projects you'd like to be a part of?
Moody: I think I'll do stand-up for life. It would be nice to supplement that with something. I always thought I might be decent at writing, but that's still theoretical at this point because I've never really written much. I think, that's the tough part about it - to be a writer you have to actually write. I think I'll do stand-up the rest of my life. I think this year I might even do a cruise or two. But I also like radio too. I did morning radio about 10 years ago for one year. I liked it a lot, but it was tough to do that and stand-up because of the hours. But I get a jolt out of doing radio. But I'll always do stand-up in some capacity.
Brian: It seems with XM and Sirius' comedy channels getting popular, they try to get comics to host their shows.
Moody: Yeah, in fact if you can put me in touch with those people I'd appreciate it. That's something I'd like to do.
Brian: How do you feel your particular comedy has changed over the years? How long have you been in it?
Moody: 16 years. It hasn't changed much. I'm still pretty mainstream, observational. I don't really reveal much in terms of…I'm not that autobiographical. A little more than I used to be maybe. Hopefully it's gotten tighter. But as far as what I'm talking about, it hasn't evolved yet. I'm basically a 23-year old in terms of lifestyle and my own emotional retardation, in a good way.
Brian: So you kind of knew what you wanted to do in the beginning. You took what you started with and evolved that. Like, you weren't a prop comic in the beginning and turned into something else.
Moody: Same sensibility, yeah. I don't do a back handspring anymore, I can't do that. But yeah, same sensibility. I try not to doddle too much, even though it happens.
Brian: What makes Moody laugh?
Moody: I don't get to see the people I really enjoy that often, being in different clubs or different circuits. Louis CK cracks me up. I tend to work clean, but I like a lot of dark stuff. All the greats. Gaffigan kills me, Louis CK, Brian Regan. Then I got buddies that aren't comics that just crack me up. I grew up with a lot of funny people. A couple of my brothers are pretty sharp. There are people that I know that if they wanted to do stand-up they could succeed.
Brian: But we don't want them to.
Moody: We don't. plus the salary keeps them away.
Brian: What makes you roll your eyes?
Moody: Dan Allen! Kidding, my least favorite kind of comedy is when someone thinks they're breaking new ground when you've already heard the premise five times. Not necessarily the jokes, just the angle that they're telling the room. Just someone who just has a little too much certaintude, but the jokes aren't that new.
Brian: Why do you think that is? People think they're doing something new and awesome but it's actually a Bill Burr joke from a month ago?
Moody: I think they grew up around people who weren't that funny. I grew up in a big family, and a lot of people were funny in the whole neighborhood. I've been exposed to a lot of funny people. When I'm in stage, I'm thinking I'm in the top 10% of my neighborhood in terms of people I grew up with. Sometimes I just think comics didn't have anybody in their life that was just really funny.
Brian: I've never heard that angle before but I actually think that makes a lot of sense.
Moody: Growing up in my family if you said something stupid at the dinner table, you were going to get called on it right there.
Brian: So I guess Dan Allen knew nobody growing up?
Moody: This is what my career has been reduced too. Talking trash about Dan Allen.
Brian: What was your worst gig like?
Moody: Oh man, I think the human brain is designed to forget those moments. I've bombed in front of ex-girlfriends. That takes it to another level.
Brian: Did any of them say anything to you after the show?
Moody: No, that would be too cutting. But I've also done well in front of exes. Tanking in front of people you know is the worst. Especially if they're not comics and don't understand the circumstances. When you're tanking, it's a little bit of a science. But civilians don't know. They just think it's uncomfortable.
Brian: So you said your first time on stage was pretty good, right?
Moody: Yeah, the first time went great. I just got lucky. They introduced me saying it was my first time which it was. And half the crowd was from this little town on the outskirts from where I grew up. I had a joke on that town so I got on a cheap roll early on, then it just went ok. I wasn't up there long enough to lose momentum, which definitely would've happened. But then I would try different stuff each week, I didn't know you could hone something…I stood in my room practicing with a bottle of water. I still do that sometimes, for a big audition, where you have to do three minutes. A bottle of water is still the best replica for a mic you can get. Maybe an electric toothbrush if you have one, which I don't. I'm a manual toothbrush owner. I got started upstate NY, where it was easy to get on stage. I always wondered about the guys that started in the city. I imagine it would be harder to start in NYC.
Brian: Yeah, I think it's a privilege and a curse to do a lot of comedy here. I pretty much did start in NYC doing bringers right away at Gotham. I think it molds you, and if you're going to be a good comic it beats it into you, and you know you have to work harder to be a good comic in NYC. On the road, I find it much easier than doing shows in NYC. You still do your NY act, and it works twice as good on the road. They appreciate it more, the crowd.
Moody: They definitely do. Just when they hear you're from NY, it gives you a little bit of credibility. People assume NY comedy is great. Which isn't necessarily true. Per capita, I don't think there's more talent, but there are so many on a given night that you'll see great talent. The one thing about NY, if you have a good joke about NY it's not a local joke it's global because everyone does know about NY. But I still think starting here is weird, you gotta be loud in NYC.
Brian: How do you feel the state of NYC comedy is right now?
Moody: In general, I think it's on the uprise. It seems the clubs are doing well, they opened new ones. More venues. A lot of comics are doing it. There are more comics than ever. I have no data for that, but there are a lot of people. If you're 21 now, you can go into comedy and pursue it. It's definitely here for keeps. I miss this show called the Luna Lounge. It gave the alternative scene some nice structure. It wasn't that clicky. They would look at tapes, it was very well structured.
Brian: There are so many shows being run. There might be a lack of well-run or well-produced shows out there. I think it brings the quality down sometimes. 17 comics on one show at night is just a marathon of comics for tourist.
Moody: Yeah, some venues just physically aren't for comedy. The noise leaks into the room. That's the one flaw. All in all, I'm amazed. There are so many people producing shows. They work so hard, dragging a PA system on a subway. I've never produced a show but I do admire the people with that kind of fortitude.
Brian: A lot of comics have different ways of writing down material. How do you decide what's going to become an actual stage joke for you?
Moody: If I come across a premise, I just jot it down. The bullet points. I got them on my phone actually. I have like 80 little premises which wouldn't make sense if you read them, but it triggers where I want to go. Then I just try them out and hopefully they work. It's kinda weird because I go up at a lot of different places. I'll be at the Duplex open mic one night which is a gay bar, and two nights later at a PTA Fundraiser. I'm up in front of a lot of different people. So I've got jokes I like. The best ones work everywhere. I think comics can spook themselves. If you got something really well-crafted it can work everywhere. Louis CK can go on anywhere and be great. But yeah, I do have jokes work in certain places that don't work other places.
Brian: I see newer comics not knowing their audience and do the same act no matter where they are. Would you say knowing your audience or even just hanging out in the room is a good idea?
Moody: I like to be in the room and see how they're reacting to stuff. What you just said triggered something of what I don't like. If you do a show in a coffee house or something and a comic attacks a couple who is there that didn't know there was a comedy show, that's one of my least favorite things. If someone was there just drinking their tea, you're not helping the rest of the comics by alienating a couple. You know who does that a lot? Dan Allen! I'm joking.
Brian: When Moody's not doing comedy, what does he do?
Moody: Strum the guitar. Like a lot of comics I'm a mediocre guitarist. And watching golf and basketball.
Brian: Do you play Guitar Hero or real guitar?
Moody: Haha, I've never played guitar hero. I've heard if you can really play guitar, Guitar Hero is frustrating.
Brian: I saw Slash on Conan and he said he could barely play it.
Moody: I just saw him on an ad for something else. It's probably not even him anymore. It could just be a dude with a wig. It could be Dan Allen.
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