This week on It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City, we have one of the hardest working comedians in town, the genuinely funny Christian Pieper.
We talk about adopting Jackson, his recent trip to Europe and his comedy voyage.
You can check Christian doing his first headlining set at Wiseguys this weekend. So go to his show on Friday or Saturday. (Then the It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City Comedy Showcase on Sunday.)
Now read about Christian! Now! Right now! Post Haste!
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
The Fat in the Hat
It’s a bad sign when I can’t tell which member of a couple looks more like James Holmes. The cats are beautiful though.
If there was a way to adopt one of the local comedians as you own child, who would it be and why?
Easily Jackson Banks. He’s a brilliant little fella who still needs guidance and love, and I already have some experience fathering him.
You recently stated you were an “Aspergers Whisperer”, what other mental illnesses do you specialize in? Would that be your superhero power?
That came out of a couple of conversations I’ve had with my wife and a comedian friend who both have (or likely have) an autism spectrum disorder. There are a lot of people in my life with mild-to-severe social disorders, and there might be something about me that makes those people ok around me and something that makes me ok being on the more emotionally generous side of a relationship. I don’t know if I have any other specialties. If I were a superhero, I’m sure my power would be something lame like connecting with aspies.
I was working a boring, dumb, office job, so I started listening to a lot of podcasts, and comedy podcasts were by far my favorite. When I heard comedians talk about how they started out, it made me realize that it was something I could try. Then I went to my first live comedy show in Feb. 2011 and i watched Marc Maron headline Wiseguys West Valley. He had an amazing, inspiring set, and it made me realize how incredible and magical that relationship between performer and audience can be. I went to my first open-mic the next week.
Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy?
Maron, Louis C.K., Richard Pryor, Maria Bamford, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, and I could name a hundred more.
How long have you been doing comedy?
Keith Stubbs, the owner at Wiseguys and a great comedian in his own right, was the first booker to put me up in front of a paying audience (well before I merited it, I’m sure). He’s incredibly encouraging and helpful and he’s scolded me when I needed it. He’s given me the chance to work with many of my favorite comedians. I really can’t express enough thanks for that. Also, Keith Barany, another excellent comedian/booker has helped me get what road work I’ve had the chance to do, and he booked me for an Armed Forces Entertainment tour in Europe, which was one of the most amazing experiences of my career. Also, my wife, because she’s the source of most of my material.
I think a lot of people, including myself, are looking forward to seeing you headline. Is that something that we can see happening soon?
You know, headlining is just a word, and it means a lot of different things in different contexts. Headlining Madison Square Garden is very different from headlining a comedy club, and headlining a comedy club is very different from headlining a small bar show or one-nighter. I’ve done the latter, and I hope to eventually headline comedy clubs, but right now, I’m focused on writing more and tighter material and making each set I do better than the one before, more than on when I’m performing on shows and how much time I’m doing.
Since writing this answer, I’ve been booked to headline Wiseguys in Ogden on May 23-24! So, the answer is yes, you CAN see that happening soon!
What is your comedy writing process?
I don’t really have a process yet. I try to sit and write sometimes and sometimes I just think of things while I’m in the shower. In my experience, really good jokes need inspiration, and it’s hard to force that. Editing is more of a process for me. Every few days, I’ll spend a few hours going through my jokes looking for any words or phrases I can trim.
What can people expect from you for the rest of 2014?
The odds are that I’ll get fatter.
You went on a multi week comedic voyage through Europe, what places did you visit?
We went to Germany, Georgia, Hungary, The Netherlands, Brussels, and the UK
What was the overall experience of the trip? Who did you perform for and how did the shows go?
The experience was incredible. We did 14 shows in 22 days, all for military or state department crowds, in a variety of venues with unique challenges. Each night was a different town with a different crowd and room setup. One night, we’re in a ballroom talking to embassy staff and the next we’re in a bowling alley with mostly enlisted airmen. I emceed the shows and it was a real challenge to adjust to each new scenario and keep different types of crowds engaged. The shows turned out great and the whole experience was humbling and gratifying.
How did you get to be a part of the experience?
I’d worked with Keith Barany, who produced the show, many times before, and he kindly asked me to do it.
You have been a pretty regular host of the Wiseguys open mics of late? How has that helped you as a comedian?
Wow, that’s really helped a lot. It’s the most challenging thing I do as a comedian–cycle through 30-40 comics of varying quality in 2 hours and try to keep the crowd engaged the entire time. It helps me understand crowds better and think more quickly on my feet. It also pushes me to write new material, so the audience doesn’t hear the same jokes from me week after week. Every time I do it, I feel like I do after a workout: physicially and mentally exhausted and certain that I did a bad job.
What advice would you give someone who is looking to get into hosting open mics and comedy shows?
Hosting isn’t easy or that fun. It’s hard work and it makes you better. Just try to relax and focus on the show. Listen to the crowd and try to give them what they want. You don’t have to do a joke after every comedian. Remember that it’s not your show: you have to put your ego aside. If you control the order of the show, don’t put too many new or weak comics in a row or you risk losing the crowd. And be strict with the clock. If the show goes too long, nothing can keep the crowd involved.
Who have been some of you favorite comedians to perform with? National headliners and locals?
It was exciting and humbling to open for Marc Maron in the same club where I saw him kill it the first time I watched live comedy. Greg Behrendt and Janeane Garofalo were hilarious and incredibly kind to me and my wife. Also Tommy Johnagin, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Orny Adams, Dan Cummins, Steve Soelberg, Bengt Washburn, Joey Diaz, Jen Kober, Shane Mauss, and Dave Foley, just to name a few. Locally, I like performing with everybody. Lots of great homegrown talent here.
What was one joke that you have told that has stood out the most?
That’s probably a question for the people that have seen me, but my favorite is the chunk I have about my wife’s aspergers. She’s the most important and greatest thing in the universe, so talking about her with audiences is really fun for me.
I think it’s great! Wiseguys brings great comics in and also does a lot to promote homegrown local talent. There’s a lot of good comics in town and a lot of opportunities to get on stage, especially for a town the size of Salt Lake City.
Where do you see it in 5 years?
5 years isn’t that long of a time. I’m sure the scene will still be great. Spencer King will be telling great jokes about his fifth child. Andy Gold and I will still be arguing about things neither of us actually cares about. Marty Archibald will hopefully have learned how to express himself emotionally by then, but probably not.
What shows do you have coming up?
I’m headlining Wiseguys Comedy Cafe in Ogden on May 23-24! One show each night at 8 pm. Tickets are just $10! Let’s all go!
How can people connect with you?
Rooftop Comedy: http://rooftopcomedy.com/