"Fame is probably the most important thing in the world to me. More for the autonomy that it gives you in charting your own career. This business is really, really, really fierce."
– Mitch Fatel
Guy MacPherson: You at a party?
Mitch Fatel: No. Me and my girlfriend are going up to Virginia and we stopped at a little place to eat. So I'm going to go outside where it's nice and quiet.
GM: Where are you from?
MF: I'm from New York City. I'm totally yours right now. I'm sitting on a bench outside. Yeah, I'm from New York City.
GM: But you say you're going UP to Virginia?
MF: Or down to Virginia. Yeah, okay.
GM: I was just picturing you coming up from the south.
MF: I figured I could get away with it thinking you were in Canada. Maybe you wouldn't catch on.
GM: We actually are taught geography here.
MF: Oh really? We're not taught much in the United States. (laughs) I got away with most of it sleeping during class.
GM: That's why you're a comic today.
MF: Absolutely. That's exactly why I'm a comic today. I can't do anything else.
GM: You're coming here with Just For Laughs, with a great roster of comics. But I chose you, Mitch Fatel!
MF: That's really nice. Do I get paid for that?
GM: No, you don't. Not at all.
MF: Okay. Nevermind. But that's great. Thank you so much.
GM: I chose you because you're very funny.
MF: Funny or retarded? They usually feel bad for me or they think I'm funny.
GM: Oh, no. I think you're funny. And also, I know that because you keep telling us that you're very funny. So I thought, well, he must be if he's that confident to tell the audience.
GM: You must have something going on.
MF: I hope so. I hope people haven't caught on yet. (laughs) It's more like a subconscious thing. If I just put it out there that I'm funny, I figure maybe everybody before I get off the stage they won't know what hit em.
GM: And they won't remember your name, but they'll say, I liked that funny guy.
MF: "I like him... Is he retarded?"
GM: So that's obviously a persona on stage.
MF: I don't know if that's a persona on stage or if this is a persona off stage.
GM: But you exaggerate it a bit on stage.
MF: I don't know. I mean, like, I always tell people I'm more comfortable on stage than I am offstage. So I don't know really who's the real me, if that makes any sense. I think that when I'm offstage, its more of an act. I think I'm more really who I am on stage, if that makes any sense. I know that sounds bizarre, but I feel like that's probably more me.
GM: You say you're a very insecure person.
MF: Oh yeah, of course I'm insecure. But I don't know any comic who's not insecure. I mean, that's a part of why you become a comic, is you just love to have people love you. You see the love that your mommy never gave you.
GM: Is Carrot Top insecure?
MF: Uh... I don't know. I would just think by the fact that you'd call yourself Carrot Top would show you probably don't have a lot of confidence. I don't know much about him. I just met him recently and we hung out for a night. But I don't know if he is insecure. You'd have to ask him that. But I would assume he's insecure.
GM: I read on your website how cool you thought he was. I don't know if you were just saying that.
MF: No, he was. He was absolutely cool. The first thing about Carrot Top that I didn't realize is he's very... he works out all the time. He's really, like, buff. He's the kind of guy that could kick someone's ass. I guess if you're Carrot Top, you have the need to kick someone's ass. But he is pretty tough. He's just a cool guy. I mean, really ... I just felt like I was hanging out with an American icon. So I just thought that was kinda cool, just to be hanging out with someone that everybody knows.
GM: One thing I've noticed is that he's the butt of all the other comics' jokes. He's the punchline. I wonder how he feels about that.
MF: Yeah, Carrot Top is actually a big part of ... I think that the thing about Carrot Top is that he actually makes a lot of jokes about himself. I think that he knows he's goofy and it's part of what he does. And part of what he does is he makes fun of himself, so I think he's kinda cool with that. And in this business, you have to have a sense of humour about yourself. You always have to make jokes about yourself because it IS a goofy thing we do. You go on stage and you act silly. So I think that basically we do have a sense of humour about ourselves.
GM: Your CD is called Doesn't Play Well With Others.
GM: Is that something you were told a lot?
MF: That was something that was pretty much on every report card I ever had as a kid. That, and – although this would be too long to call it – Mitch seems to care more about making everybody else in class laugh than learning his lessons. Those were the two things I used to hear all the time as a kid and so that's become kinda like my mantra now. I was pretty selfish as a kid and just wanted to be the centre of attention all the time. I never wanted to give the attention to anyone else, so I guess I didn't play well with others.
GM: Were your parents worried about you?
MF: Um, I think they still are worried about me! (laughs) I think my parents thought I'd never actually be able to make a living. So I think they're just thrilled right now that I don't live at home. They're really good people, but yeah, they were worried about me.
GM: Are you from New York originally?
MF: Yeah, I was born in Manhattan.
GM: The Hollywood Reporter said you were the Best Bet for Future Fame. That's a lot of pressure, isnt it?
MF: Absolutely. That was one of the most exciting things that have ever happened to me. The thing about this business that is so amazing is there are just so many people trying to do it. And when you can get any kind of recognition from anybody, it's very, very exciting. Just the recognition is exciting, and then hopefully I can show that to some girls and get some sex from it. That's really the most important part of it.
GM: And your girlfriend's cool with that?
MF: Um... what she knows.
GM: She thinks, "Oh, he's just being funny."
MF: Right. Exactly. That's what I tell her. And then when my mom asks me about the journal and says, "You don't really have sex with those girls, do you?" And I go, "Of course not! It's all made up for the journal. Just for the character." That's what's kinda good about this business – you can get away with stuff you wouldn't be able to get away with in any other business by saying that, you know, you're doing it for the career.
GM: How important is fame to you?
MF: Um, fame is probably the most important thing in the world to me. More for the autonomy that it gives you in charting your own career. This business is really, really, really fierce. I just think that the more famous you become, the more you have control of the situation and the more you can do things. It's very hard to get things done when you're not famous. And when you're famous, I think that people give you a certain respect. As I get more and more successful and people know me more and more, I'm allowed to get away with more. When I did my things for the Tonight Show, they let me do more things on my own now without watching my back because they learn to trust you. So I think more I want to be famous just for the autonomy that it would give me in charting my own career. Boy, that sounded really professional! I'm really proud of myself! That sounded really cool. As I was saying it, I was like, I don't even really know what I'm saying!
GM: It was like you were channelled.
MF: But it sounded cool!
GM: Speaking of the Tonight Show, that's another place, or comic – Leno – who's the butt of a lot of jokes, by other comics, anyway. He's watched a lot, but he's kind of lost his street cred.
MF: Actually, one of the things I give Jay a lot of credit for – and this is what they told me when they started using me for a lot of their skits – is that, Jay is a guy that wants to entertain as many people as possible. And whether he thinks things are funny or not, usually he'll play into that. And one of the reasons they started using me was they found that they wanted to start to appeal to more of a younger audience and they know that I have more of an appeal to a younger audience. So they started using me. So much to Jay's credit, he'll listen to what his audience wants and he'll put on what they want. I think that one of the reasons they started using me was because it's definitely not the type of comedy that Jay usually does and he wanted to make sure that he took care of those viewers as well. So I respect him for that. I respect him for the fact that he really does want to entertain people. The feeling I get from Jay is he loves entertaining as many people as possible at once. He just lives for it. So yeah, I guess he gets a little shit from people for that, because they say he's expanded his horizons to the point where he appeals to a lot of people at once, but I think that everybody has a place in what they do. And you take someone like Letterman, and Letterman wants to appeal to a very small certain group of people, which is fine. And Leno wants to appeal to the greatest amount of people possible. That's what he does. He keeps people entertained. I think that's a beautiful thing and if people think that it's not as appealing as another kind of show, then they can find something else to watch. I think that he's just found a niche. That's the thing – he really loves entertaining as many people as possible.
GM: Yeah. I guess the danger is that's the lowest common denominator, so you don't do anything that might offend a small group because he wants to appeal to the largest number.
MF: Right. Yeah, that is absolutely a criticism that he hears and he's aware of. I don't know how valid it is. I know the stuff that I've done on the show, at least for me, they've let some stuff go, some stuff that could be politically incorrect, some gay jokes, or whatever, that I was really, really shocked they let go. The thing about Jay is this – and this is what I've always learned about him in the time I've done that – he can be talked to. If you go to him and you say to him, "This will work," I mean, Jay's come over to me before and he's come over to other writers and he's said, "You know, I have to be honest with you, I didn't think that that was funny. I didn't think it was going to get a laugh. Obviously I was wrong." And he's actually said, "I just want the audience to laugh." So if it's good, he'll take chances with it. So I respect him for that, I do.
GM: How long have you been doing segments for that show?
MF: I was really shocked that they asked me. Because I didn't think that my sense of humour would be that appealing to Jay. But Jay sold me on the show about three years ago. He said, "I really think you'd be good doing some correspondence stuff for me." I said okay and I told him what I'd do and what I would want to do, and I don't want to do stuff with a lot of props and stuff. And he was okay. They said, "We want to appeal to your audience. We want the people that like you to be watching our show, so just go out and do what you do." And they give me very little rules. They let me go our and put in the pieces I want to do. And you fight for the stuff that you want and then some stuff they put a hold on no matter what you say. And that's part of what I said about becoming famous. If you become famous, you can at least say whatever you want whenever you want. You don't have anyone to answer to. Hopefully.
GM: Do they send you out to stories or do you find your own?
MF: Usually it's stuff that I think would be a good idea. I'll call them up and say, "Let's go to the SuperBowl. I have a feeling that would be really funny."
GM: You just wanted to go to the SuperBowl.
MF: You know, that's true, except I gotta tell you that after working at the SuperBowl, people go, "That must have been so cool you went to the SuperBowl," and I go ... you know, it's so funny, but when you're working, it's so different. Like, I really thought that I'd be able to enjoy it. Like, when I'm working, all I care about is really getting a good piece. That's all I really care about. And it's very funny. My satisfaction comes from knowing the piece is funny. After the SuperBowl, all I thought to myself was, I hope that piece is funny. Like, I don't even know if I really enjoyed the SuperBowl. And then, looking back now it's really fun. But while it was happening, I was really intent. I just kept thinking funny, funny, funny, funny. I just want to be funny.
GM: I used to cover the NBA and people said, "Oh man, you get to go to all the games!" "Yeah, but I'm working!"
MF: That's right. When you're working, people don't understand that you're in a totally different mindset, that you're really not relaxed. When you're working, it's a totally different mindset and you really can't just relax and enjoy yourself. And I think that that's the irony of the business. You'd think you get to the point where you're like, "Oh my God, I'm on the field of the SuperBowl! This is so exciting!" And then when you're there, all I'm thinking is, "Shit, I've been on this field for five minutes and haven't gotten one funny interview." That's all I'm thinking about.
GM: How many of these have you done?
MF: The next one I do, which is probably the women's football league, that will be my tenth piece.
GM: I understand you're psyched to have sex with many Canadians women.
MF: And learn about those Canadian rumours.
GM: And they're all true, believe me.
MF: (laughs) I can't wait to hear what they are.
GM: And why Manitoba? That fascinated you.
MF: Because it just sounded like one of those places that nobody ever lived in. It just sounds like, to me, like, Manitoba... I just never met anyone from Manitoba, I never heard anyone going to Manitoba. I don't even think Manitoba really exists. I think when you get there, they just kinda tell you, "Listen, here's the deal, we all just make believe that you're in Manitoba. Just say that you were here." Because when they said it, I was like, "There's a place I've always heard the name, but I never really knew there was a place.
GM: I've never been there, either.
MF: See? No one's ever been to Manitoba. That's my point. Even you.
GM: And you're going to Regina, which Americans think is really funny.
MF: There's my whole new bit!
GM: There you go. You can get some regina in Regina.
MF: Yeah, it would be too easy to go there, wouldn't it?
GM: But you say nothing is funnier than stupid stuff.
MF: So what is Regina like?
GM: I have no idea. I've never been there.
MF: Very wet, I heard.
GM: No, it's freezing.
MF: All right, that's a bad joke.
GM: Oh! I see! You were going with the joke. Yeah, wet and warm. That could be the joke. You thought it was going to be wet and warm...
MF: Yeah, but you know for a fact that that joke's been said five thousand times, so I'm gonna try to stay away from it.
GM; I don't know because no one goes there. You could be the first one to actually...
MF: Will you come there with me, please? I'm scared.
GM: Hold your hand.
MF: I'm scared to go to Manitoba.
GM: Yeah, I could be your nipple assistant.
MF: There you go. I could give you some good work.
GM: I bet you could. And you're freaked out by the length of this tour.
MF: Never been on the road for that long.
GM: What's your longest?
MF: The longest I've ever been out has been two weeks. So this is going to be very, very interesting.
GM: Do you know any of the comics on the bill?
MF: I know Adam Ferrara. Adam Ferrara has been a comic that I've worked with for the last ten years in New York City. So I'm looking forward to working with Adam. But more importantly, I'm looking forward to working with comedians from different countries. It's just so exciting for me to be able to test myself like that and be on the road with all kinds of different comedians. I'm really excited about this.
GM: It's always a good show.
MF: It's so much different than the regular kind of comedy tour. I just can't wait to see how the audiences react to different kinds of comedy, like the different comics from the different places. A few of the guys I don't even know yet and by the end of the tour I'm going to be friendly with them – or killing each other – so it should be interesting.
GM: I know they kind of micro-manage you when you do a gala in Montreal, saying "This is what I want to hear." Will they do that here, or can you say, "I did this for the last three nights so I'm going to change and do something else?"
MF: No, no. I was actually told that this is your choice. Unless it was being televised, which, apparently, they're televising one part of the tour, and they don't want you to repeat any of the stuff from the gala, apparently you're allowed to just do the material that you like best. And that's what's really good. I love that they give the respect to the comics, to let them make that decision. That's kind of what I was talking to you about before: As you become more successful, I think you get more and more trust. And the more trust you get, the more you can get away with. And so I'm going to make sure to give the audience what I think is the funniest material I have.
GM: You've been doing this for ten years?
MF: Yeah, ten long years.
GM: How old are you?
MF: I'm 30 years old.
GM: You started young.
MF: I actually started doing comedy when I was 15. When I was 15, I started doing stand-up and wasn't very good at it. My mom once told me, "Boy, you really suck." And I decided maybe I shouldn't do it. And when I was 20, I decided to get back into it. And it happened really fast, actually. I just started doing it and I was really good at it immediately. It was really nice to find the one thing that I could do good. And I just glommed on to it and suddenly people liked me. So I said I'm going to stick with this.
GM: And your mom has taken back those mean words?
MF: And now my mommy says, "I think you knew best." Thank you, Mom. ... And then I kick her... in the Regina.
GM: You were on Dr. Katz twice. That was my favourite show.
MF: That was actually the biggest honour I've ever had is to be asked to do that twice because that, to me, was THE show. When I was asked to do it, which was a while ago now, I'd been doing comedy two or three years. I was so, so, so honoured to be offered that. It meant a lot to me.
GM: How did it feel to be animated?
MF: That was phenomenal. What was more phenomenal was that if you watch those Dr. Katzes, I'm actually having conversations with people that weren't there. I was doing it in a room by myself and all of a sudden they put in all this stuff of Dr. Katz talking back to me afterwards. It was really weird because I went in with these ideas of what I want to do. Like, I want to talk to the receptionist. "Well just do it. Well put it in later." So it was exactly how I said I wanted it. I love when people come together and do stuff like that, when everybody does what they do the best, it's so cool. It's really very neat. I remember when they let artists do what they do. I'd think definitely you'd learn that you get a better product.
GM: Okay, Mitch, have a good drive to Virginia.
MF: We're almost there. And the girlfriend's being very good while I'm ignoring her... We're going to see the circus. She's never been to the circus, so... She's only ten.
GM: She'll love the clowns.
MF: Yeah, exactly. She actually asked about the clowns... And were going to get a wax there, too, so we're very excited. So the clowns will be happy.
GM: You're going to what?
MF: We're going to get her waxed. That's my present back to me for getting her the circus.
GM: A hairy ten-year-old?
GM: I look forward to the show, Mitch.
MF: I'm really looking forward to it. The women of Vancouver have a calendar, and there's a woman, a girl named Jamie Koeppe. Ever heard of her? Somebody at jamiekoeppe.com.
GM: Never heard of her.
MF: She lives in Vancouver and she's coming to the show, too, so you should come and see her. She's apparently one of the women of Vancouver.
GM: Really! So she e-mailed you?
MF: Yeah, she e-mailed me.
GM: And said, "I'm coming and I want to have sex with you."
MF: She's coming to a show. I don't think we're going to have sex, though. I don't think that we're allowed. There's a law against that. I don't think you're allowed to have sex with any of the women of Vancouver.
GM: They're too hot for you.
MF: And I'll get the shit beat out of me by the 10-year-old.
GM: She's not coming on the trip, is she?
MF: No. But she'll be talking to me on the phone making sure I'm being good.
GM: I know you have to say that because she's right there.
MF: There you go. Exactly. It's tough being a guy.
GM: Yeah, it is. But that's what the road is for.
MF: Exactly! (laughs) And especially British Columbia, 5,000 miles away.
GM: She's gotta understand that going out with a comic.
MF: Yeah, she's very cool. She trusts me.
GM: That's her first mistake.