"I have really fond memories of Last Comic Standing. It's something I'll always look back on fondly. Of course, if that's the peak of my career, I'll be a bitter old man. But for now I'm very happy about it."
– Gary Gulman
Guy MacPherson: I'm here with Gary Gulman. If you're not familiar with the name, he was the pretty boy on... Oh, you're going to walk now?
Gary Gulman: No, no, no, no! Of course not!
GM: ...on Last Comic Standing. That's probably where you're best known, right?
GG: Yes, absolutely. I did a number of Tonight Show appearances and Letterman, but that was the first time anybody ever recognized me at the mall. And people were recognizing me in Canada, which is crazy to me.
GM: Yeah, well, we speak English. You're in Montréal so you don't know that.
GG: I just didn't know that they watch that show, I guess. Because they don't have NBC here.
GM: We do.
GG: Oh, you do?
GM: Well, we pick it up from the border stations.
GG: I see. All right.
GM: It was a hugely popular show. Especially among comedy nerds.
GG: Of course. Yeah. I would have loved that growing up. I had to watch all the poorly produced A&E Evening at the Improvs and Caroline's Comedy Hour. Yeah, it [LCS] was well done.
GM: Where did you grow up?
GG: Peabody, Massachussets, which is about 16 miles north of Boston.
GM: Describe the experience of being on this show. Was the final product, after all the editing, a good representation of what actually happened?
GG: Well, I was very guarded. It wasn't a very good representation of what I really am. I'm up and down mood-wise. But when I knew I was on camera, I was always nice and polite, and everything like that.
GM: Some of them weren't!
GG: Right. I think that some people were actually going further to have a certain persona and things like that but I just wanted to be able to face the people that I grew up with when I went back home.
GM: I think that's what most of us think when we watch these reality shows. Like, how can you start crying and acting up when you know that the camera is right there. And you do have friends and family who are watching.
GG: They always say, "Oh, you forget the cameras are on you." No. There was never a time where I didn't realize at that point it would be being copied and seen elsewhere.
GM: Bonnie McFarlane, a Canadian girl who I really liked and got eliminated pretty quickly because she turned off a lot of the contestants--
GG: Yeah, I didn't understand that. It's one of my qualms with the show, that pretty much my favourite comics on the show were eliminated early. Like Bonnie. And Bonnie is objectively a great comic! She did The Late Show with David Letterman. No other person on Last Comic Standing did The Late Show with David Letterman. It's the ultimate validation for a comedian. And she did it, and she was the first one to be knocked off. So it almost made me feel that there was something wrong with the taste of the audience! (laughs)
GM: Definitely. Wasn't it in a Las Vegas town, so you get the tourists? Who were the audiences?
GG: I think they were tourists. Those audiences, where we had those competitions, it was [put together by] an audience coordinator. So it was pretty much put together [from] people who were at malls, at tourist attractions, and things like that, and in and around Hollywood. So you get a broad section of America, but as we say in America, [they're] the fly-over states. The middle of the country which counts as far as ratings, but they have very different tastes from the bookends of the United States. I'm sure Vancouver's a lot different than some of your more rural areas in Canada.
GM: Yes. So you were playing to middle America. But you did very well. How far did you get?
GG: I came in third. I call it second runner-up because I get to use the word "second" and some people get confused and think I came in second. But I was actually third, but second runner-up.
GM: I'm not just sucking up to you because you're sitting here in front of me, but after Bonnie left you were my favourite on the show. And maybe it was also because of your polite demeanor on the show and trying to get along. Not being in a faction. But we all had our favourites.
GG: Well, the thing was that I was friendly with Bonnie and Todd [Glass] before the show and I didn't want to vote against them because we were sort of friends, so I avoided that. And then everybody else voted for them and before I knew it I was alone. (laughs) They'd all been eliminated. Then I was the next one to be challenged and things like that. I have really fond memories of it. It's something I'll always look back on fondly. Of course, if that's the peak of my career, I'll be a bitter old man. But for now I'm very happy about it.
GM: Did you make any friends on it? Or, conversely, make any enemies? Are there some comics you just wouldn't talk to if they walked down the hall right now?
GG: Interestingly enough, I've seen Kathleen Madigan several times in the hotel and she hasn't really said hello to me or anything like that. We never even had a real blow-up.
GM: I thought she aligned herself with weasels and yet she's such a great comic. I didn't get that.
GG: She's a wonderful comic. Todd and I, I remember, were actually talking about that. We said she really didn't align herself with the comics that were really of her level. It was interesting.
GM: Was it what you expected going into it?
GG: Yeah, I think it was what I expected. I thought it would be a lot easier to control my emotions but there were times in the house where I was really stressed out and nervous, and things like that. I thought that I could maintain my composure throughout the thing but there were certain votes and challenges where I had knots in my stomach. I went in there saying, "Ah, whatever happens is meant to be and I'll be able to live with it", but when it came right down to voting I was very nervous.
GM: It was cancelled right before the end of season three.
GG: They were doing season three, which was actually season one versus season two. And before the final episode where they would do the reveal, they cancelled it and wound up showing it on Comedy Central, which is a basic cable company in America, but a lot of Canadians probably didn't even know the results of it.
GM: No. Just on the internet. That was the one Alonzo Bodden won.
GG: Alonzo Bodden, yes.
GM: How has it affected your career?
GG: I'm not that much funnier than I was before that. But the same clubs that I used to call on and never hear back from now make offers and I headline at them. I couldn't even get hosting or middle, MC spots at these clubs and now I headline them and share the ticket receipts. So it's a big difference. And since last August when the show ended, I've worked every weekend except for Christmas and a weekend in June.
GM: You're a good-looking guy. I was talking to a couple girls yesterday who were saying that most comics are really not, for whatever reason. But here at Montréal there's a lot of industry and they go for a certain look. They're looking for a handsome guy to put into their series or movie or whatever. Are you getting interest that way?
GG: You know, I originally came here in 1999 and that year and three out of the next five years I got development deals to make sitcoms with networks. So I have seen that side of it. But what they don't tell you is that they order several – maybe 25 or 30 – each year and only two or three get on the air. Much to my chagrin, you know it's funny because the reality show's helped me because I got on one, but it's also hurt me because there are less sitcoms on now. So it's a double-edged sword.
GM: Any other acting in your future?
GG: Yeah. I think that I'll continue to strive for that and audition and take acting lessons and try to work on that aspect. It's much different from doing standup comedy by myself but I think that if I get the right training I could be at least competent as an actor.
GM: Something to strive for! Competence. Is it harder to write standup the more success you achieve?
GG: I think that the thing about writing is that it never gets any easier. The only thing I can compare it to is being sort of a poet, much less significant but in that there's a rhythm to each joke and you need an ending and a through-line and there's a lot of bad ones for every good one that you write. I don't know how many notebooks I have that I could go through and maybe find two or three germs of inspiration in there and just another 199 pages of just crap. So I continue to tweak jokes I've been doing for four or five years and trying to make them work. So it never gets any easier. I guess some guys find their stride as far as writing, but for me the same amount of time it used to take me to write a good joke pretty much is the same as it is now.
GM: Once you get a certain level of recognition, is Montréal that important or is it just good to hang out with the other comics?
GG: I think that Montréal has the potential to change careers and really catapult people. I've heard that it's not the same as it once was, but I think if somebody can come up here and really blow everyone away with their uniqueness or improvement or things like that, I think they can still get a lot of heat, as they say, off it and make some moves in show business. But it also seems to be sort of an all-star game. And we're all very competitive people and it's nice to be in that situation where we're being compared to other people. I guess it motivates me to work harder and really come to give my best performance every night.
GM: Have you ever played Vancouver?
GG: I've never played Vancouver.
GM: Are you going to? Can we expect to see you sometime?
GG: I would love to play up there. It's just a matter of club owners... and I guess audience members can request comedians. They should try not to be pests, but I have gotten in there because certain people have requested me. But I would love to do a tour of Canada maybe with Just For Laughs, if they would have me on something like that. I would be very excited about that. So hopefully I'll get to Vancouver within the next six to nine months.