So, this week’s interview is waaaay long past due. We have the honor to interview one of my dearest friends on this planet, Nicholas Smith. The round, the raunchy, the lovable comedian has been ripping the local comedy scene a new one for a while now and only a locomotive full of weapons of mass destruction and blow up dolls can stop his momentum.
Nicholas is a staple at every venue in the bar scene and leaves a path of guilty pleasure laughter in his wake. We talk about how he comes up with his trademark material, which animal would be the best and most nurturing wife, his recent transistion to hosting and what piece of office equipment would be best utilized in the murder of Justin Bieber.
If you don’t make it to one of Nicholas’ numerous show coming up, your eternal salvation is at stake.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Which animal would be the most nurturing wife and why? On the flip side, which would be the worst animal to have as spouse?
Dogs, bar none. I own two Olde English Bulldogges (That’s how they spell it, I’m not being pretentious) and they’re both females and adoring and sweet and supportive and brave and snuggley and strong willed and all around cutie faces, with claws and fangs and grey wolf DNA down deep. And doggy style, it’s their default position.
Probably a three toed sloth. Those bastards don’t do shit all day. I can only imagine how slow a conversation would be with one and banging one would be like humping a moldy old fur Chewbacca costume with a wet spot. Terrible all the way around.
If you could choose one piece of office furniture in which to commit the extreme grotesque homicide of Justin Beiber, what would it be and how would it be best utilized?
Dropping one of those large, expensive executive style desks made from oak from the top floor of a really tall office building onto his head. Quick, painless, classic. He’d splatter everywhere and it would have to be closed casket funeral for sure.
If you had to die in a snuff film, which movie director would you want forced into directing your demise on screen and why? Bonus Question: How do you want to be murdered?
Guillermo Del Toro. He can make horrible, disturbing things look beautiful and wondrous on screen, so I think he would make sure I came off looking semi decent on screen. Also, he’s a twisted bastard. See: Pretty much anything he’s directed.
I would like to be murdered by being kicked down a very deep well. Down the entire length of the well, they will have set up crisscrossing razor wire, in different patterns, so that I’m cut up into innumerable pieces. Then, I’m turned into corn dogs and sold at carnivals across America.
Partially, it was desperation. I’d been pouring my heart and soul into music only to have that dream die. People had kept telling me to do comedy and I didn’t want to. Metal lived in my heart, still does, and I wanted to play bass guitar on stage every night, shredding people’s ears.
Missed performing, missed the stage. Didn’t have a creative outlet anymore and I felt trapped in my life as a care giver. I’m not bitter or angry about it, it’s just how life is, but without a way to vent or cut loose, I got increasingly more depressed and hopeless.<
Had a friend take his own life towards the end of 2009 and it woke me up. I realized I was on the same path if I didn’t find a way to break free of the severe depression and find something that I loved and thrived off of. Music had been that for me before, but I was tired of trying to find people who shared by passion and drive, let alone a group of 3 to 4 people you enjoy hanging out with, because let’s face it, if you don’t like who you’re making music with, it’s sodding miserable.
So, I decided on comedy. It fits my life perfectly. I don’t have to worry about working my crazy life around other people’s schedules. It’s a solitary art form. I can sit and write pretty much anywhere at any time.
Once the decision was made in my heart and my brain puddings, I talked to my very good friend, Steve Argyle. He’s a huge comedy fan and is hilarious. One of the funniest people I know personally. I’d love to see him do comedy one day.
Anyway, he thought it was a great idea and got a hold of “The Comedy Bible” by Judy Carter and loaned it to me after he had read it. I devoured the book. Wasn’t ground breaking or anything, it taught some basics, and had some good advice. I’ve broken a lot of the rules.
And Steve also recommended a lot of great comedians to check out and finally, after a rough patch of life, I finally hit the Wiseguy’s open mic in early May of 2012 and did my first 3 minutes. I didn’t destroy, but I didn’t make an ass of myself either and I’ve been enthralled with performing comedy ever since.
And yes, Steve was there cheering me on, with a bunch of my other friends and family. I wasn’t afraid of bombing in front of them. What was one more time of seeing me fail to them? They’re great people and very supportive and I really needed them there that night, I was terrified.
Shout outs to Chris Dowell, Christian Pieper, Andy Gold and Spencer King for always being really nice to me in those early days.
Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy?
There are so many. I’d say my biggest are definitely a lot of my friends and some of my cousins. These are the people I started joking with and trying to get to laugh the earliest in my life. A good portion of the crazy, awful things I say on stage is a direct influence of my friends and some of my family. They’re smart, funny, intriguing people and so it’s always been a challenge making them laugh.
The darkest part of my comedy is a direct influence of my departed friend, Mark. He was tremendously funny and creative and put together his own pre-recorded internet radio show that he would script and then do the majority of the voices for. I got the opportunity to help write two scripts for it. It was brilliant. And I’m not just saying that through the fog of sentimentality and nostalgia. As far as comedy goes, he left the biggest impact on me personally. I wear his shirts on stage, and when it’s cold, his black leather trench coat. I keep him close. Always.
Branching out, a lot of my comedic inspiration has come from novels, comic books, and TV and movies. In particular, Black Adder. I got introduced to that series when I was 15 and it still influences me to this day. Also, the written works of Terry Pratchett. That man is a genius.
In the world of comics, Ben Edlund who created The Tick, Steve Purcell who created Sam and Max, and the mighty Adam Warren, who early in his career did The Dirty Pair for Dark Horse comics. Adam Warren’s writing is so clever and funny and odd. I love the way he uses the English language and he’s definitely been an influence on the way I phrase things.
Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and Gary Larsen (Far Side). Both very different in every aspect, but they both had one thing in common and that was a unique few of the world and were both able to translate it very well to the strip. And they both hung up the pens and brushes when they realized they had nothing more to say, and I admire the Hell out of both of them for that.
And as far as stand up comedy goes, it all started when I was little and my mom introduced me to Bill Cosby. Since then, I’ve discovered piles and piles of comedians, but it all starts with him.
My current stand up inspirations are Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia, Kyle Kinane, Marc Maron, Hannibal Burress, Dave Attell, Louis CK, Bill Burr, Doug Stanhope, Dave Chappelle (wish he’d put out something new soon), Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, and a bunch of other’s.<
George Carlin is a big inspiration. Again, partly because I’m attracted to his use of language. My mom was fascinated by language and it’s origins and I’m positive that’s where I picked it up from. She has lot’s of books on the subject.<
And locally, Levi Rounds. Ever since I saw his stuff on youtube and later, when I saw him and Cody Eden open for Doug Stanhope in 2011, he has been inspiring me. He set the bar for me. I’ll never get there, he has 9 years on me, but he’s my muse. He makes it look so effortless and I enjoy his material very much. And he’s just a nice guy.
Two years this last May. It’s been a hell of a ride so far and I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to keep on doing it.
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
A lot of folks in the scene. The Joker’s Gone Wild crew who took a chance on me and gave me my first gig and I even got paid for it. And then Melissa Merlot who friended me through facebook, because a mutual buddy contacted her on my behalf. Ms. Merlot invited me out to Comedy Roadkill at the Complex and got me onto the Utah Stand Up Network. And it’s been uphill from there.
I appreciate everyone who has put me on a show, like Steve McInelly, who let me open for Alien Warrior Comedian. Ben Fuller who let me host Roadkill one night. Jason Harvey, Christopher Stephenson, Levi Rounds, 2 of Us Entertainment (Travis Rasmussen and Josh Nufrio), Doug Evans the proprietor of Sandy Station, Steffan Reed, Christopher James, Breal, Jonny Brandin, Darcie Roy and Debby Phillips who run the Muse Music Cafe, that Jordon Mazziotti character, Wiseguy’s, and everyone else who has let me do their show or host a show. The stage experience has been invaluable.
I’m also thankful to everyone in the scene who has reached out to me and made me feel included and given me feedback and been a friend to me. I have to admit, I spent my first year of comedy pretty much alone, hitting up Wiseguys until I got banned (ban no longer in effect! I WON, BITCHES!) and then doing open mics at the Muse Music Cafe. And once I got into the SLC comedy scene things got a lot easier for me. I wouldn’t be where I am without the tremendous outpouring from the community. I’ll always be thankful.
I think that has to do with a few factors. One, because I’m a care giver, beyond comedy, I don’t get out much. My whole world is in my little house, my brain, and what’s going on around me. Comedy is pain, and I have a lot of that, so I pour it into my bits.
Also, I think it’s the Bill Cosby and Louis C.K. influences. Both men draw a lot from their family life and the stupid things they have done. I appreciate their honesty and frankness.
And I’ve learned that there is something very liberating about exposing all of your darkest thoughts and awful, embarrassing moments in front of people. Your sins, your faults, your shittiness.
Those things can’t be used against me to black mail me or humiliate me. Mistakes, failures, personal lows and stupidity are great fodder for comedic material and at this stage of my life, I personally don’t care what you think of me afterward.
How has standup comedy changed your life?
It’s changed my life for the better. It’s put a stride back in my step, given me a reason to get excited again. I am a creative person and if I don’t have an outlet for it, especially in the situation I am in as a care giver, I get depressed because all I focus on are my worries and anxieties. The stage is where all my problems and trials just fade into the background and I can breathe free for a few minutes. Even if I’m talking about my problems with a mic in hand, it’s therapeutic.
Sure, I still suffer from depression, I’m depressed right now, but it’s taken the edge off and I’ve been able to meet amazing people who understand what it’s like to have demons running around in your head and you don’t feel so isolated and weird.
I’m going to keep doing this until I’m dead or homeless. And if I end up homeless, I’ll keep writing jokes on burger wrappers or the flesh of dead, shaved rats and shout them out to passer’s by on the streets of West Valley.
I genuinely enjoy comedy, local, pro, stand up, improv, whatever, I love the art form. Also, I love the men and women in the scene. I’m friends with so many, I want to see their shows be a success. We are a small, struggling scene, nobody cares about comedy and if we don’t stand together and try and support each other, we aren’t getting anywhere.
The important thing to me isn’t to promote myself so much as it is to make people aware that there is comedy in Utah, that it’s becoming more and more abundant and that they should consider it as an entertainment option when they’re looking for something to do. Getting bums in seats and making sure the people and their buttock’s occupying those seats have a good time because then hopefully they’ll want to come back and tell their buddies.
There are few people beyond comedians who give a shit about comedy and I am so grateful for their support, but they are too few and I’m hoping with more stages and shows and the SLC Comedy Carnivale, Salt Lake will slowly grow into a recognized comedy city. It’ll take years, if ever, but it’s something to strive for.
You have recently started hosting the Open Mic at Sandy Station and your own show in Provo at Muse, what has been the biggest transition in the transfer to hosting?
Now instead of worrying about myself and my set and making sure I don’t forget jokes, I have to worry about everything and honestly, I’m quite adept at worrying about everything. I have to be an emissary between the venue and the comedians and try and make it rewarding to the comedians so they’ll want to keep coming back and making it worth while for the venue so that open mics and comedy shows can continue.
I spend a lot of time promoting, communicating, creating promo materials, and the like, making sure that the machine never stops. Thankfully, I’m an insomniac so a lot of this get’s done while everyone else in the household is asleep.
Thankfully, I get a lot of support from the comedy community, and I appreciate their help promoting my shows and the new Saturday night open mic at the Sandy Station.
Tell us a little big more about the theme, premise and idea behind your Provo show?
It’s combining comedy with table RPGs and I decided to use D&D because it’s the most recognizable game outside of the geek circles. But, it’s basically trying to mine comedy out of a live, short, role play session between myself, acting as host and DM, with 4 comedians.
That’s the “Dungeons” portion of the show, and then after the ridiculous gaming session ends, I have the comics role for initiative to see who has to go up first, lowest roller opens (headliner is exempt), and then we get the traditional stand up “Comedy” portion of the show, but honestly, it’s all going to be comedy.
Definitely inspired by the fact that there are a lot of nerd comedians out there in SLC like myself and Jason Harvey’s “Comedy and Other Opinions”. I liked that fact that there was an interview element to his shows, adding an extra layer of entertainment. I figured having 4 comics on stage all at once, would be fun chaos.
Friday my full vision of the show will be realized, so we’ll see how it goes over.
If you had a chance to perform with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Dead, it would have to be William Shakespeare. He could write some bawdy comedy.
Alive, Brian Posehn. He just seems like a really jolly, down to earth dude and afterward we could talk metal and comic books.
What was the time that you bombed the hardest? How did you over it?
5 Monkeys Comedy Competition earlier this year. I was pumped up for it. I knew I wasn’t going to win, I had much more talented comics to contend with, but I figured it would be a great experience.
I was still working out my “Mean Spirited Porn” piece and I decided to do a 5 minute version of it for the competition. It had always killed at the open mics, so I thought it would do at least okay with the general populace. I was wrong. Hideously so.
The only people chuckling were the other comics, everyone else in that room HATED me. I got dead silence that turned to jeers. “Get off the stage!” “This is terrible!” It certainly felt terrible in my guts and I wasn’t sure what to do, but good old Jackson Banks came to my rescue and yelled, “No, don’t stop, keep going!” And that’s what I did. Did my full time. It felt good knowing they were hating every second of it.
But it definitely shook my confidence in myself and in the piece, but I’m glad it happened. I really tightened up the bit and expanded upon it where it needed to be, trimmed the fat, and ended up killing with it in May at Sandy Station, The Barrel Room and Keys On Main. So screw those people.
Best part of that night, I met Aaron Orlovitz and I told him about all the open mics and he’s starting to get shows because he’s talented. Really nice guy too.
Definitely the It’s Always Funny Comedy Showcase in May over at Keys On Main. That’s the closest I have ever felt to being a rock star. Got to play to 170 some odd people in one room who were all there for a comedy show and I’m glad I didn’t suck that night.
It was a lot of pressure and I was a wreck until I told my first joke and it landed. Then all the anxiety went away and I enjoyed my time in the sun. Not to kiss ass, but you put on a fantastic show. Thank you for having me on the virgin outing. Can’t wait to see the next one and be able to just sit back in the crowd as an audience member and not have to worry about how my jokes are going to gel.
What was one joke that you have told that has stood out the most?
“The Horrible Abortion Solution”, in particular, the section about the “Fatal Pre-natal Fetus Flesh Condoms”. It get that quoted back at me more often than anything else. It was the second bit I ever wrote. I still tinker with that whole bit from time to time. When I wrote it I didn’t think it would have any longevity.
What do you think of the Utah Comedy Scene?
I love and adore it. I wish I could brush it’s hair every night before tucking it into bed and reading it a bed time story. I ache that I cannot give birth to it and allow it to suckle from my teats while I sing sweetly into it’s ear.
Seriously, it’s a great scene and I’m so excited to see it growing. All the stages we have now and talk of even more springing up, it does my plaque caked arteries good to see. I’m really excited to see the return of the SLC Comedy Carnivale and the acts that have been announced. I have a feeling this year will be better than the first.
I hate loosing great talents like Andy Farnsworth, Brian Pope, Dean Weber and soon our dear Jackson Banks, but they can’t stick around here forever if they want to succeed in their insane and completely irresponsible dream of becoming a stand up comedian and I wish them all the best.
Fortunately, we have some new talent showing up at the open mics and I really hope some of them keep it up because they are getting really good and I want to see them flourish. New blood is very important to keeping the scene alive and vibrant.
Where do you see it in 5 years?
I’m hoping there will be a stage available every day of the week for people to perform on and that the SLC Comedy Carnivale will be in it’s 7th year with big names on the bill. I still think it will be a struggle, always a struggle, but that’s necessary, I just hope that in 5 years Salt Lake will be looked upon as a much more viable option for comedy outside of the state, give us some legitimacy.
What is the thing happening in the comedy scene that you are really excited about?
The growth. All these stages springing up. The upcoming SLC Comedy Carnivale. The new blood. And seeing the return of Cody Eden, as brief or as a long as it may be. He’s hilarious.
Name one local comedian that is blowing your mind right now? Why?
Shit. Just one? There are so many! Okay, I’m going to go with some new blood on this one. Aaron Orlovitz. He’s gotten the basics down very quickly and he is improving every time I see him perform. Very creative and unique. Makes me feel like a hack.
What shows do you have coming up?
Well, I’m always hosting the Split Sides Comedy Open Mic at the Sandy Station every Saturday, 7 to 9PM. Free.
I will be hosting the live comedy show at the Moviegrille in Ogden on Thursday, July 17th and again on Thursday, July 31.
I will be hosting my show, Dungeons & Comedy, in Provo at the Muse Music Cafe on Friday, July 18th with Aaron Orlovitz, Taylor Hunsaker, Brian”BEMO”Moore, and headliner, Abi Harrison. $5.
And I’ll be doing a comedy show on Saturday, July 19th, at Batter’s Up that Breal put together and is hosting, featuring Elizabeth Church, Steve Uribe, Marvlus Marv Barela, and David D-Nice, with DJ Get Right In The Mixx. $10 if you get a pre sale ticket, $12 at the door night of the show.
Saturday, August 2nd at the Fifth in Bountiful from 9 to 11PM, The Roast of Christopher James with Jose Bacio, Paul Duane, Marcus Whisler, Dustin Hagen, Steffen Reed, Melissa Merlot, Jackson Banks (via phone) and roast masters Mike M and K.G. Free!
How can people connect with you?