"I do have women come up to me occasionally: 'You're horrible, you're not funny, you're an awful person, I feel sorry for your wife.' Then again, I get dozens and dozens of people going, 'I've been to this club a thousand times and you're the best comic I've ever seen.' So you gotta take both with a grain of salt."
– Bobby Slayton
Bobby Slayton: Okay, can you hear me? Hike 1-2, come in, Guy. It's either that or the maid calling, and I don't think the maid is calling.
Guy MacPherson: Crystal clear.
BS: Look at that. I even put down I was at the Hampton Inn. I didn't want to impress you with these great accommodations that I have here in Pittsburgh.
GM: It's a lovely hotel.
BS: You know what, it's funny, the Hampton Inn Suites is great. You know, people always ask me what my favourite club is to play. And I don't really have a favourite club. It's not necessarily the club. A lot of it has to do with location, the proximity of the hotel to the club. I'm not even in Pittsburgh. I'm in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. And downtown Pittsburgh is really cool. They used to put us up in downtown Pittsburgh. Not a lot to do, but it's really cool architecture. They have the Andy Warhol Museum. But then they gotta pick you up, you gotta drive to the club and they gotta get somebody to take you back. This place is right next door to the mall and a great burger joint, a Macy's and a movie theatre. I'm very happy and it's a good club. So Pittsburgh's not necessarily one of my favourite towns, but the club and the situation is great. Columbus, Ohio, is the same way. The Funny Bone has been there for years. It's not downtown, but it's an amazing club and it's got a great mall. It's like I can walk out my door and I can eat. You don't have to rent a car and fuck with going anywhere, you know?
GM: Do you know where you're staying in Vancouver?
BS: Yeah, right downtown. I'm staying in the hotel that the club's in. The whole idea of playing Vancouver, and I'm not just saying this so I can blow smoke up Vancouver's ass right now, but Vancouver's a town I've not been to in years. And the only thing that I care about any more at my age is great restaurants. I go out to eat when I'm on the road. It's even hard to do it on the Friday/Saturday because I've got two shows and if I eat, I gotta have wine and by the late show I'm exhausted. But I'm coming in a day early to do radio, Thursday's there's only one show, so I can go out to a couple of great places to eat. And the fact that the club and the hotel and everything is right downtown... Vancouver's such a great city.
GM: Did you perform here before?
BS: No. The two times I was in Vancouver, one was to do a movie and one was to do a TV show. The first time I came there – oh my God, I'm thinking back now... My daughter's 26. She was about 5 or 6 or 7 years old. Yeah, it'd be close to 20 years ago the first time I was there. Does Steve Cannell, or whatever his name is, still have the studios outside of Vancouver?
GM: I don't know.
BS: I don't know. I haven't heard his name for a long time. But they were his studios. And you know how much stuff they shoot up there. So I was up there about 20 years ago and it was great because it was my first major role. It was a show on NBC called Nightmare Café. It only lasted one season. It was a cross between The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond. But the coolest thing was every week they had a guest star. So I was the guest star. Kinda the star of the show that week. But it was written, created and directed by Wes Craven, who I love because I've always loved horror movies. And Nightmare on Elm Street was always one of my favourite horror films from that time. And Robert Englund was the star of the show. So I got to work with Wes and Robert. They put me up in some beautiful hotel downtown for ten days. I don't remember the hotel but I remember running into Dick Van Dyke in the elevator and Jimmy Page at the bar. And I'm going, wow, this is a microcosm of show biz. I don't know what they were doing there. I imagine it was something to do with music or TV. But all these actors staying there. All I remember was it being great and feeling like I was really in show biz now. I remember when I got in, they gave me like four- or five-hundred bucks in cash. I was like, What is this for? They were like, That's your per diem to eat every day. So now I got a pocket full of cash. I was only shooting five or six days but they had me up there for two weeks in a suite overlooking what is it, the ocean? The river? I know it's a coastal town.
GM: The ocean.
BS: And it was just great. And the second week, my wife and daughter come up. My daughter's like five or six years old, and she got such a kick out of the fact that the other guest stars on the show were these three what we used to call midgets. I guess they're called little people now. But she was so enamoured. They were so nice to her, but she was so shocked that there were grownups her size she's hanging out with. She couldn't quite grasp the concept of that. So that was my first time up there. Then about five years ago, maybe a little bit more – you can look it up [editor's note: It was 2000, ie 15 years ago] – I was up there with Steven Wright. We both were in this Amy Heckerling movie. Some Jason Biggs movie called Loser. It was great. It was only a few days but Steven was a patron of a strip club and I ran the strip club.
GM: I can see that.
BS: He's a patron, a real wacky guy, kind of an oddball, and I was a fast-talking, loud mouth who tried to make out with Mena Suvari but she kept pushing me away. So that was my two times I was in Vancouver and they were both great.
GM: I'm excited that you're finally going to do what you do best here.
BS: I love doing standup. That's what I do. I mean, those two shows, I pretty much played myself. Everything I do when I act, I just play me. Every part I get is a fast-talking, New York Jew. And people are like, 'Hey, you were really great as Joey Bishop in The Rat Pack.' I go, 'Joey Bishop was 5-foot-9, he was a fast-talking Jew from the East Coast. It wasn't a big stretch for me here.' It's not like Robert De Niro where I had to gain 200 pounds and learn how to box, you know what I mean?
GM: Did you know Vancouver audiences tend to be quite PC? It's going to be fascinating to see them react to you.
BS: I've heard that. I was just thinking about this this morning. I don't know why this occurred to me because I do so much radio now: People always say to me, Do you think audiences are more PC now? When I was growing up in the '70s and started doing standup comedy, you had Archie Bunker. I'm just using him as an example. Him and maybe Pryor around that time. It was shocking people. There's a toilet flushing and Pryor's using the n-word and Cheech & Chong were talking about pot. So everything seemed to ease up a little. Through the 70s and 80s, before Bill Maher had his show Politically Incorrect, people used to say that about me all the time. What happened was, I think it was refreshing that people weren't so uptight. I'm from New York but I started out doing standup in San Francisco. And I used to do a lot of gay jokes. They weren't faggot jokes, they weren't AIDS jokes; I wasn't like Sam Kinison. But they were just jokes about gay people. I think the reason I started doing it at the time was because they were having a gay comedy night. And in Oakland they were having a black comedy night. And the black comics would go, 'You ever notice white people do this?' And gay comics would go, 'You know what I hate about straight people?' And it's fine. I have no problem with that. But if they're going to make fun of me, I can make fun of them. And there was a backlash to my standup by the gay newspaper and the liberal media back then. I remember people giving me shit but at the same time, I was getting more of a following. It wasn't anything that mean spirited. I'm not saying I didn't have nights where I crossed the line a little. And then things started to mellow out. And now you'd think that after legalizing pot, and gay marriage, and you read about these fucking assholes in Indiana... I don't know if it's getting worse or better. But I think, getting back to what you were saying about Vancouver being PC, I had that problem in Portland and in England when I played London. It wasn't really a problem. What I found out in London – I only played there a couple of times – that 80 to 90 percent of the people not only loved it, they came to see me, but there were that 10 percent of the English that were kind of uptight. I don't know how to compare them. I don't know the English society that much but here you get the PC, liberal, vegetarian, lesbian, hippy... whatever you want to call them. So they have their own version of it over there. But I think while they lashed out and gave me shit, the rest of the people in the audience seemed to love it that much more when I ripped them a new asshole. And I'm not going up there to do that; I'm going onstage to make people laugh. It's like going on Yelp. I kinda never want to go on Yelp to look up restaurants when I go to a town but it gives you an idea of how the restaurant is. But there's always one fucking asshole or maybe that one time you didn't have good service. You can't please everybody. I know people that don't like the show Seinfeld and I know people that don't like The Rolling Stones who would rather see Journey. I could go on and on – people that think Roger Moore is a better James Bond that Sean Connery. So you can't please all these fucking assholes. And when you get them in the audience, sometimes it actually makes for a bit more of a colourful show.
GM: Do you ever get in confrontations off stage?
BS: You mean fights?
GM: Anything with someone who takes offence at what you say or gets in your face.
BS: Oh yeah. Not that often. It used to happen more. Because most people that really hate my show – and again, it's one percent of one percent usually – they usually walk out before it's over. It's like people who used to hate Howard Stern. Well then turn the channel, you jackass! People are like, 'My kids are in the car.' You have other channels! So don't stay if you don't like it. But I used to sign CDs and DVDs after the show and people that don't like it generally walk out. I do have women come up to me occasionally: 'You're horrible, you're not funny, you're an awful person, I feel sorry for your wife.' Then again, I get dozens and dozens of people going, 'I've been to this club a thousand times and you're the best comic I've ever seen.' So you gotta take both with a grain of salt.
GM: When you have the tag, The Pitbull of Comedy, people know what to expect.
BS: You know what a lot of clubs do? They don't do it so much anymore, but the Improvs and Funny Bones used to do it – they put up a warning at the box office window that if you're faint of heart or you're squeamish, you might want to consider attending another show. And all that would really do is bring in more people. And then I get people who are pissed at me because I wasn't dirty enough. My act's not really dirty. 'You weren't offensive at all! You never picked on me.' Okay. Well, damned if I do, damned if I don't.
"Pitbull thing kinda stuck. I don't know why I've never let go of it. Probably because I still don't have that many TV credits after 40 years doing this shit."
– Bobby Slayton
GM: Do you find that the tag Pitbull can be limiting at all?
BS: I don't like it and I don't know why I've never dropped it. It started back in the early 80s. There was a guy, who's still in radio, named Alex Bennett. Alex was this ground-breaking radio guy when I was growing up in New York. Back in the 60s and early 70s. He'd have John Lennon on the show and talk about the legalization of marijuana, and he'd have Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman. Groundbreaking shit. Eldridge Cleaver, the head of the Black Panthers, who was in exile in Algeria, he got him on the phone. When you're 14 or 15 and you hear a guy talking about legalizing marijuana... So he moved to San Francisco in the mid-70s and I was already starting to do standup. I went down to see Alex and I told him how much I loved him and he put me on the radio. He said, 'Do you know any other comics?' And I said yeah and brought in Dana Carvey, Kevin Pollack, we eventually got Robin Williams to come in. And every morning, Alex would have a four-hour show and it slowly evolved from being music to being talk with comedians. There were a few songs. I'm not saying he was the first guy to have comics on. So one day I'm on the show and I did a joke about McDonald's. Every comic had a joke about McDonald's back then and airline travel, and my girlfriend, and my girlfriend's cat. And McDonald's pulled a $50,000 ad campaign from this station that morning when I did the McDonald's joke. Alex said, 'You're like a pitbull. You bit the hand that feeds you. We put you on the radio.' So the Pitbull of Comedy thing kinda stuck. And back then, I didn't have any TV credits. Now you have every two-bit comic has either got a comedy special or a Comedy Central special, been on Craig Ferguson, been on The Tonight Show. Now you can say, 'From The Tonight Show, from Comedy Central, from VH1.' But back then I didn't have any credits so that Pitbull thing kinda stuck. I don't know why I've never let go of it. Probably because I still don't have that many TV credits after 40 years doing this shit.
GM: It paints a nice picture.
BS: Yeah, but now that this other guy, Pitbull, is around. Coincidentally, my daughter, Natasha, who is a Pussycat Doll and now is in a group called G.R.L. – I don't know if you've ever heard of them – but they were on Pitbull's last big hit, Wild, Wild Love. They toured with him. So my daughter's cheating on me with another Pitbull.
GM: That's inexcusable.
BS: That's inexcusable. That's fine, as long as she got paid.
GM: Do you find it easier to attack certain groups when the audience is mixed?
BS: Totally. Absolutely. If there's no black people, I hate doing black jokes. I don't do a lot of them. And if I point out two guys and call them gay, it's usually not the real gay guys. You know, my gay material has always been pro-gay. I was in San Francisco about five years ago and this little fucking queen – I don't like to use the word 'faggot', but this faggoty little queen, one of the guys that even gay people don't like, a real limp-wristed, whiny... It's like Fran Drescher – everything you hate about Jews. So I was on stage and I was talking to them and I don't remember the exact jokes but they were all pro-gay. It was when gay marriage was first starting and I said, 'Why would you want to? You're with your friends, you're getting great blow jobs. Why would you want to throw that away? You have such a great lifestyle.' They were jokes. I'm not saying they were uplifting jokes but this guy just kept getting more pissed and more pissed so I went after him a little bit more. The audience is dying. I think his boyfriend might have been laughing, I don't even remember. But he went to the gay newspaper and he went on the radio. He was idiotic. It bothered me only in the sense where I was getting all this press from it but it wasn't like I was the German pilot that drove the plane into the side of the fucking mountain. Holy shit. You know what I found out? You know who laughs a lot? Lesbians. When I first started out, the whole dyke scene in San Francisco, I think because gay people have come out more – first people like Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres and gay football players and gay TV shows and gay characters – so now that they're more accepted, they've lightened up a little. I have lesbians come to my show and generally they're great. A lot of times they don't go see a straight white man. In of all places, I was in Knoxville, Tennessee, last year and people told me what a horrible redneck club this was and I had no problem. And these two lesbians came to my show and the next night they brought a whole table full of their gay friends and they had a great time. They were great.
GM: People can sense when it's coming from a good place. Or at least not a bad place.
BS: They're jokes. Sometimes I feel bad about picking on people that have already had enough shit going on, but at the same time if I'm all of a sudden doing jokes about Jews or about Mexicans or about Arabs, I'll get people who go, 'How come you didn't talk about us?' Because I don't know anything about Lithuanians, I'm sorry. 'How come you don't talk about Afghanistan?' I really don't. But that's not my whole act. I also talk about other things. But people say, 'Why do you keep talking about the same stuff?' It's the stuff I find funny. The same reason a comic's always talking about their marriage or their baby or airline travel or whatever. You talk about what you know about, what affects your life.
GM: Vancouver's audiences may be more homogenous than you're used to.
BS: I know. I've only heard great things about the club.
GM: We don't really have a Mexican community.
BS: Canada's a little bit different than the States because in the States when I started out, I'd say to somebody, 'Do you have Macy's here? Do you have Woolworths here? Do you have a Chinatown?' And a lot of people never heard of some of these things. Now across the country, because of the malls and Showtime and HBO and television, everything's everywhere now. And in Canada, you guys are absolutely different than Montréal. The poutine jokes are not going to fly like they're going to fly in Montréal. Québec is a whole different world. Right after you guys, I go to Calgary and then Winnipeg. Winnipeg's got a big Jewish population. Calgary, I'm still not sure what the hell's going on there.
GM: Cowboys. Here there are a lot of Asians.
BS: Well I have a lot of Asian jokes. Well, I wouldn't say a lot. I mean five or ten minutes. Those are always great. I'm sure the fact that Asian people can't drive, has that stereotype reached Vancouver?
GM: Oh yeah.
BS: I used to do Asian driver jokes when I first moved to San Francisco. I guarantee you I was the first comic to do them and only because nobody had a problem with Asian drivers anywhere else. There were no Asian drivers anywhere else. Not enough where you can say Asians can't drive. The only Asian population was really in New York and they just walked around.
GM: How long had you been doing standup before you moved to San Francisco?
BS: I hadn't. I'm writing a book right now. I don't know if I'm ever going to finish it. But I moved out to San Francisco when I was 20 years old. I drove across country with a psychotic friend of mine. It was like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. We'd take mescaline and peyote driving into Vegas with this lunatic. But I came out when I was 20. I never, ever gave a thought to doing standup comedy. I'm sure you've interviewed a lot of comics but if you read interviews with comics, at least guys I know, it was, 'I always wanted to do comedy and I watched Jay Leno when I was a kid or Eddie Murphy.' But I watched all the comics and I loved Robert Klein and I loved George Carlin and I loved the old Jewish Borscht Belt guys. I never thought about doing it until I got to San Francisco and was at a little party and somebody said, 'You should do comedy.' I was telling jokes, I guess. I just saw Henny Youngman perform and I was reciting all his jokes. They told me about a club called the Holy City Zoo. I went there and I got on stage and THE REST IS HISTORY, GUY!
GM: You think of San Francisco comics and all the great names that came out of there, and you don't really fit the bill.
BS: Now what comics came out of there?
GM: Dana Carvey, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Patton Oswalt...
BS: San Francisco was always a great comedy town. In the 60s there was Lenny Bruce, who was from New York but he played San Francisco a lot. You had Jonathan Winters, the Smothers Brothers, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen even though he was from New York, and Phyllis Diller. So there was that group. When I started out, none of those guys were doing standup. When I started out, there were names you probably won't know, like Bob Sarlot, Bill Rafferty, who was on ABC's Real People and I think The New Laugh-In. And there was Robin, who'd only been doing it for a year or two. So there was those guys. A guy named Jim Giovanni, who went on to do The New Laugh-In, who was a 7-Up truck driver. So the guys like Marc Maron, I came along before him and he opened up for me. Kevin Pollack came a couple years after me and Carvey. Me and Carvey got onstage the same week together. Margaret Cho used to open up for me.
GM: Paula Poundstone?
BS: Poundstone opened up for me. And Carvey. The guys that I still talk to, the core of the group was A. Whitney Brown, who started around the same time who went on to SNL, Dana Carvey, who started the same week, Pollack. A couple years later was Paula Poundstone and then Bob Goldthwaite, who was headlining but he had moved out from Boston. Kevin Meaney, who was a Boston guy who came out to San Francisco who used to open up for all of us. Jake Johannson used to open up for us. They all became headliners but they were all opening acts. When I started out, I was opening for all these guys from LA and New York. I was like the house emcee at the Punchline in San Francisco. So I worked three weeks out of the month, opening up for Michael Keaton, Jerry Seinfeld, George Miller, Elaine Boosler, Kip Adotta, Bruce Baum. So I got a lot of stage time. And I would open up for rock and roll bands because nobody else wanted to do it. Everybody was scared to do it. You know, Pollack would open up for like The Beach Boys or Pablo Cruz. Cub scouts. And I would open up for Blue Oyster Cult and Warren Zevon. That's where I really cut my teeth doing this. You didn't get paid a lot of money but it was a challenge opening for rock and roll bands. The Tubes had me open up for them a lot. The shows generally went okay. Ray Charles was fine and Warren Zevon was fine but then when you start opening for some punk bands, it wasn't a matter of doing well; it was a matter of staying on the mechanical bull long enough to collect your $25 paycheque.
"I still have my first time on stage. I taped it. My style wasn't really a style. It was really pretty horrendous. It was really just jokes. And my voice didn't sound like this. It was kind of a high, prepubescent Leno. It was pretty lame and tame material."
– Bobby Slayton
GM: Was your style starting out pretty much defined? Or did it take you a while before you developed into it?
BS: It took a while. I still have my first time on stage. I taped it. My style wasn't really a style. It was really pretty horrendous. It was really just jokes. And my voice didn't sound like this. It was kind of a high, prepubescent Leno. It was pretty lame and tame material. But I think every comic in their first year has mostly lame and tame material. Now every comic that gets on stage has this blueprint. You can see how it's done. There were plenty of comics that I would watch and open up for but now more than ever if you just turn on the TV or you turn on Netflix, you can almost pick the kind of comic you want to be. I see a lot of guys trying to be Louis C.K. I see a lot of guys trying to be me. Look at Pryor for black comics. Then Eddie Murphy came along and then Chris Rock and then Dave Chappelle. And I'm sure when they started out the first month, they would look at Eddie Murphy or their heroes, but they evolved into personalities. My act was very much like Jay Leno, subconsciously. But you look at me and I'm cocking my head like Leno. I just think it takes a month, six months, a year or sometimes two years before you really develop into the kind of character or stage persona, until you find yourself comfortable on stage. It takes time.
GM: There are too many comics these days.
BS: Too many comics. Way too many. Way too many. The cream doesn't always rise to the top, which is a shame. If there were as many painters, I don't think the shitty painters would sell that many paintings, but there's a lot of shitty comics making a living. And it's fine. There's guys who've been doing this longer than I have who are better than I am probably who aren't making nearly what I’m making and there are a lot of idiots... You know, I was just watching – and I never liked him, I never thought he was that funny – this Aziz Ansari. But I'm watching his Netflix special from Madison Square Gardens and I realized, God, this kid is great. Not only is he great, but he's only 30 years old. I've only seen people in bits and pieces and it's not fair because people have done that to me. It's great, but what sucks about YouTube, and it doesn't matter how good you are or how successful you are or how funny you are, you're going to get these haters. People would go, 'I was going to see Bobby Slayton but I looked him up on YouTube and he's doing these old jokes from the 70s about airplanes.' And then I go on YouTube and I go, well, that is from the 70s! So you look at somebody in a 2-minute clip – and like I said I'd do the same thing – I'd look at Aziz Ansari or I'd look at this guy on Letterman and he's only on for four or five minutes. But when you watch somebody do an hour, you go, 'wow, that's a great performance.' You can't really judge somebody by two or three minutes. So there are a lot of great comics out there, but there are so many bad ones.
GM: I always have to see a comic live before I make my final decision.
BS: That's a great way to do it. And you don't always know if that was a great show or not. There's a famous joke among comedians and it doesn't really resonate with anybody else. I'm sure you'll get it. A woman comes up to a comic the next day after a show and says, 'I saw your show last night. You're the greatest comic I've ever seen. I wanna sleep with you. You're brilliant. You're a genius.' And the comic says, 'Were you at the first show or the second show?' Because there really can be a tremendous difference. Especially if you work like I work. If they're not a great crowd, I'll just give them an hour of my material. But the fun of doing it is to talk to the people a little and try new stuff. And every night is different. I think I've been doing this long enough where I know how to mix it up together so it comes out fine. But you get those nights where you get the fucking hecklers and the drunks and the idiots and they can just fuck up a whole show. It can be one table. Sometimes I can't even hear them; they're at the back of the room. I talk so fast and sometimes the acoustics in a club are not great. It happened last week in New Jersey. A fucking drunken cunt is in the back and I don't know what's going on. All of a sudden I hear this big commotion. She storms out of the club with her boyfriend. I figured it was something I said. But it wasn't. And people came up to me after the show and said they couldn't hear half my act because she was so loud and wouldn't shut up. So you never know, Guy.
GM: Even with this comedy boom, it seems people take more offence. The latest is Trevor Noah.
BS: Oh, that's so stupid. I did a radio show with him. He seemed like a really great guy. You know what? It's exactly what you're talking about. It's so stupid. I don't know, maybe he had other anti-Semitic jokes. I heard he had one: The South Africans like Apartheid like Israel loves peace. So what? He sends out a million tweets and one of them's not that funny. But I don't find it that offensive. But a black guy mentions Israel or a Jew mentions a black and all of a sudden it's racist. Were there other tweets, too? I didn't even bother to look to see what the fuck people are so pissed off about.
GM: Yeah, there were a bunch of Jewish ones and some that were characterized as misogynist, where a guy gets down on one knee to propose because he's in a better position to give her an uppercut if she says no, or something.
BS: Oh, that's fine. Good for him. Good for him. It's not that funny but it's not that offensive. He's a young guy. They don't all hit home.
GM: Are stereotypes underrated?
BS: They sure are. But you talk about this new comedy boom. There are a lot of great new comics. The problem with a guy like me, who's almost 60 years old, is that I am not on Comedy Central. Comedy Central will not put on guys. The Canadian Comedy Central put me on a lot more. You guys in Canada have used me a lot. I think I have a bigger following in Canada than I do in the States by now. But Comedy Central has a thing where they won't put on people, for the most part, over 40, 45 years old. I mean Jon Stewart – no pun intended – has been grandfathered into that. I don't think they'd ever hire him now. They'd never hire Lewis Black now. Comedy Central gives specials to young guys. A lot of them are good. But they hand out specials like candy on Halloween. I'm not sure they nurture comedy or if they're really just mining it for everything they can suck out of it. But there's a new comedy boom. There are some really good comics. But I see guys kinda doing what a lot of guys my age used to do – the same recycled material. Because there's a new generation of kids that have never seen this. I'll give you a perfect example of what I'm talking about. About five years ago, John Landis, the director, did a great Don Rickles documentary. He interviewed a lot of comics and I'm in it for a couple of minutes talking about Don Rickles and how much I love him. And I was working in Vegas when it came out on HBO and I had cocktail waitresses – and this is more than once – two or three of them coming up to me saying, 'I saw you on that special last night. I didn't know who that guy was.' You don't know who who was? 'Don Rickles. Never heard of him.' So if you've never heard of Rickles and you can't name the four Beatles, there are certainly a lot of people who have no idea who I am. And a lot of people my age aren't going to comedy clubs anymore because you don't want to deal with all these young assholes and people texting and the drunks and the parking. When you're in your fifties – I've done this – I don't need to go to the movies; I have a BluRay player with a big screen, I have NetFlix. I can wait a month for this movie to come out. I don't need to go to the movies and sit with Mexicans and babies and talking black people and teenagers throwing popcorn. Plus the fact I gotta pee twice during the movie and I can't stop it! So people aren't going out as much when they reach a certain age. They go to the theatre. They're going to see Lewis Black, they're going to see Book of Mormon. So it's a whole different generation out there and it's tougher and tougher and tougher for guys like me to sell tickets because I'm not on TV right now.
GM: In the 70s, the people on TV were all old.
BS: They were all old, yeah. And this whole thing happened with comedy writers. I see it happening now. It's why there's so much garbage on television. Not on cable and not on NetFlix. People say there's nothing on. You got fifty great shows between Weeds and The Sopranos
and Boardwalk Empire and House of Cards. There's a thousand amazing, fucking brilliant shows on television. But network TV, when you look at these lame-ass sitcoms – and I don't really follow this so much anymore – but in the 80s and 90s when you said, What happened to All in the Family and Taxi and The Odd Couple? There was a whole big thing in the 70s and 80s, that when you wrote on M*A*S*H and you wrote on All in the Family and you were 50 years old, you were washed up as a comedy writer. 'What are you talking about? I just wrote All in the Family! I wrote The Odd Couple! I created Star Trek!' So they'd hire all these new young writers in their twenties who worked on shitty, stupid fucking shows who are now developing more stupid fucking shitty shows. I know about four writers on Seinfeld couldn't get any work after Seinfeld
went off the air. Really? Arguably the greatest show in the history of sitcoms and they couldn't get work? So when you get old, you kinda get pushed down. It's funny, I still see assholes online every time the Rolling Stones go on tour, who I would never miss, ever, for any reason, under any circumstances, going, 'They're old. They should retire.' Why should they retire? Because they're 72 and they're better than anybody doing music today? They're better than every fucking rap piece of shit. They're better than any rock and roll band today. And even though they don't have a lot of new songs, it doesn't matter. You pick five of their greatest songs and if that's all they do, they're better than anybody working today. You don't see BB King retiring. You didn't see Marlon Brando retiring. You retire as a football player because your knees go out, you have arthritis and you can't run. But there's no reason for a musician to retire or a comic.
GM: In the 70s, there were guys like Buddy Ebson and William Conrad and... Mannix.
BS: Mannix! I just thought about him the other day. I heard he lives in my neighbourhood, Mike Connors, and he's like 90. I read something about him, it might have been in some tabloid at the airport. They had a picture of him, looked like he's 90. He said, 'Yeah, I'm just waiting to die.' It was really sad. He doesn't work anymore.
GM: Nobody minded watching old or out of shape people back then but these days everyone's young and hot.
BS: Gilligan's Island or you had Hogan's Heroes. The fat Nazis were all played by Jews, by the way. You know that, right?
GM: No, I didn't.
BS: Werner Klemperer, who played Klink. Sgt. Schultz was a Jew, John Banner. General Burkhalter... all Jews. Pretty funny.
GM: That could never get on the air now.
BS: Of course it couldn't get on the air now. It's mind-boggling. If Mel Brooks did The Producers today, the movie would be big everywhere except for Portland and Vancouver – everybody would be picketing. But you know what, it frustrates me. If I had a lot of money right now, I would probably be like Mike Connors. I would just sit in my home, not necessarily waiting to die, but I would stop doing standup now. I would do it once a month in LA because every time I write a new joke, I want to try it out. Maybe once a year I'd come to a town like Vancouver or Chicago to perform. Towns I like to be in. But I'm so tired of the travelling. I have, I don't know, 7 million frequent flier miles. I remember reading an interview with Ellen DeGeneres before she got this show. I think when she had her sitcom. The first big gay sitcom, right? Ellen, who opened up for me when she was a young comic, opened up for me in her home town of Baton Rouge. I remember reading this interview with her saying, 'I've been on the road for seven years. I'm exhausted. I'm burned out.' And at the time, I'd been doing it for 20, 25 years. What a lightweight! You got up to seven years? Really? Well try 40 years. It's still tough. I still gotta do the morning radio... I was going to go to the gym and work out in the hotel but now that I've talked to you, I'm exhausted. I'll do a hundred sit-ups, call it a day, take a nap and do my show tonight.
GM: Janeane Garofalo opened for you, too.
BS: How do you know she opened up for me?
GM: I do my research.
BS: Oh, you did. She opened up for me years ago. She was really good. She was really funny and I remember the audience not getting her. It was really smart stuff. I'm not sure how much she liked my act because I had a lot of everything that she probably hates. But we got along fine. She was a young comic. Off stage she might have thought, 'I really hate this guy's act' but she was very nice to me. I remember Ben Stiller coming by to see the show because he was friends with her. Jon Stewart opened up for me at that same club. Jon Stewart opened up for me. God, how many years ago? Twenty? Twenty-five? He opened up for me, obviously way before he was Jon Stewart, and he's wearing jeans on stage and an old T-shirt. I said, 'Look, I don't want to sound like your father, but your act is really, really smart. You should just dress a little nicer.' And next thing you know, he's on Comedy Central in a jacket and tie! Hey, did I do that?!... No, I don't think so. But he was too smart to dress like that. And he was a young kid. But he was always great. Always great.
GM: That's what I thought. I thought he was a great standup and just whip smart. I'm not sure Trevor Noah is as whip smart.
BS: We'll find out, won't we? That Larry Wilmore, I love his show. Larry was a writer for The Daily Show. He's great. I just started watching that and The Daily Show again. I come off the road and I have 40 things taped. It's hard to watch all this shit.
GM: I know, you can't get to it all.
BS: You can't get to it.
GM: Since you're not going to the gym, maybe you can watch something.
BS: You know what? I might just sit here and watch the rest of the Aziz Ansari special at Madison Square Garden. I don't know what I'm going to do. Not much to do. Either go back to the mall or take a nap. Not a lot to do here in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. But I'm looking forward to coming to Vancouver. Are you going to come down?
GM: I definitely will be there. I wouldn't miss it.
BS: Do you go down there a lot?
GM: Probably more than the average person.
BS: So the audiences are pretty good?
GM: Yeah, they're good. It's a hot club.
BS: That's what everybody tells me. They say it's packed no matter who's there. It doesn't really matter. This is going to be great. I'm looking forward to playing up there because like you said, I've never been there and I'm pretty much ready for anything. I usually start off trying to get them laughing before I start going into my other stuff. The thing with the PC people, they don't want to laugh, but they do. Like, 'You're such an asshole but you're so funny.' That's fine. We're not going out on a date. If you're laughing, that's what you came there for and that's what I did. You want nice? Go talk to somebody about unicorns and rainbows and panda bears. Get a little butterfly tattoo. But if you want funny, that's all I can deliver, I hope. Have you written any of this shit down?
GM: I've got it in my tape recorder.
BS: My God, you get to listen back to this. I'm even more brilliant the second time. I'm like a great bottle of wine. Once you crack it open and let it sit for a while, you realize how good it is.