Acceptance. It’s something we’ve all longed for since our days as little kids dancing in front of the TV sets that our parents were attempting to watch. As an extension of that, stand-up comedy is really just another of the many forms of external validation used to attain acceptance. But is it healthy, and should we be encouraging this behavior? Enter comedian Orny Adams, who played the foil to Jerry Seinfeld’s successful comedian in the documentary Comedian. In the film, Adams openly and unashamedly clamors for the sort of attention that would make him a household name.
Though Adams may have changed his tune a little since then, he doesn’t believe that a life of stand-up is a toxic experience perpetuated by the mentally disturbed. “The problem the media does when something tragic happens with a comedian is they jump onboard and generalize,” explains Adams. “We are a group of people who represent, probably proportionally, the cross-section of society. Just as many of us are happy as sad, angry as anybody else, alcoholic, whatever it is. We’re just a group of people, so, no. I happen to be a comedian who writes out of happiness. I write much more when I’m happy.”
Personally, I’ve always viewed comedians as our modern-day philosophers, a premise with which Adams agrees. “Unfortunately, comedy, when it’s done right, doesn’t get the respect it deserves,” says Adams. “Take me out of this equation–there are some amazing comedians that should be studied for the rhythm of their writing, for the way they present it and for the way they delve into a topic and also seek out topics that aren’t being discussed and bring them to the forefront. There’s so much work that goes into it. A lot of smart and accomplished members of society have such respect for comedy. One of the things I believe in is I go for the big laugh, but, as equally as important is that you leave a piece of yourself with the audience. When they leave the Comedy Club of Jax on New Year’s Eve, they should leave with a part of me. They should be thinking about what I say. Then I’ve done my job. It’s not just about the quick laugh.”
After reading one of his interviews with Psychology Today and realizing that he is the sort of dude who is down for a little introspection, I mentioned that one of the first things that auto-fills when you Google his name is “Orny Adams not funny.” He responds with humor: “Did I pay for that? Well, we live in a world full of hate. People love to hate, and most of the time you have to examine where it comes from…a lot of the times it’s envy or their own self pain, I’ve discovered. I’ve also noticed that whenever I get criticized on the internet, and I reach out to the person, they tend to flip immediately. Sometimes they just want a little attention. But if criticism’s fair, I’ll accept it.”
I then brought up his role as Coach Bobby Finstock in MTV’s Teen Wolf, which has received positive reviews and has increased his recognition. Adams immediately jumps into an anecdote.
“I was doing a convention last weekend in New Jersey,” says Adams, “and it’s just fascinating to see how these fans have connected with Coach. It’s really kind of cool. I’m the only character on the show who doesn’t have any idea about any of the supernatural stuff going on. I’m oblivious. I’m Mr. Magoo, and I get to be funny, and I yell at everybody, and I go crazy. The fans like it because, one, they find Coach amusing, and, two, they know nothing bad is going to happen when I’m on the screen, so they can take a deep breath.”
I asked Adams if the Coach character is self-styled after his stand-up, often seeming to come from an angry point-of-view.
“I would never use the word ‘angry’ to describe myself,” retorts Adams, “I would use the word ‘passionate.’ I, unlike many people, I like to focus on the small things. I like to let the little things drive me nuts. So, for instance, I’m doing bits on ceiling fans and dishwashers and the little things. Instead of looking at the big picture in the world, I’m looking at the little picture. I amp it up on stage as an extension of who I am. It should ring true to the audience ‘cause it’s coming from my soul.”
Though he is well known, with over 200,000 Twitter followers and a completely booked touring schedule, Adams still considers himself a “struggling comedian.”
“I’m not completely satisfied with where I’m at in my career, but I don’t think you should ever be. I’m very lucky that, most of the time, even still, people don’t know me,” says Adams, “so I can observe. The other day, I was at dinner in the middle of a great discussion about Leonard Cohen and how he’s gotten better and more connected to himself, and somebody came over and interrupted me for a picture. We never went back to where we were in that conversation, and that’s a bummer. In Comedian I announced that I wanted everyone to know me. Part of me loves it, but part of me perceives that there is a downside to it. So, I feel like I’m very fortunate that I still consider myself struggling, although many might disagree. I feel like I still have to battle. I still have to fight to be heard.”
Not quite comfortable with fame or failure: the recipe for a perfect stand-up comedian.
12/4 Doug Benson Celebrity Show $20 8:04pm
12/6 Mike Armstrong 8:04pm show $6 & $15; 10:10pm show $6 & $10
12/11 – 12/13 Tom Cotter Thurs 8:04pm $6 & $10
Fri/Sat 8:04pm $6 & $15; 10:10pm $6 & $10
12/17 Big Laughs and Big Band Wednesday 7pm $15 & $20
12/18 – 12/20 Andrew Kennedy Thurs 8:04pm $6 & $10
Fri/Sat 8:04pm $6 & $15; Sat 10:10pm $6 & $10
12/26 – 12/27 Ron Feingold Fri/Sat 8:04pm $6 & $15
Sat 10:10pm $6 & $10
12/31 New Year’s Eve Funny Fest w/ Orney Adams 8pm – 2am $59.95
Dinner DJ w/Dancing, Party Favors & Champagne
1/2 & 1/3 Orney Adams 8:04pm $6 & $15; 10:10pm $6 & $10