Posts tagged george bush
Leo Allen is a renaissance man, if your understanding of renaissance man is “great stand up comedian and writer,” or if it comes from the film Renaissance Man starring Danny Devito. In a way, Leo Allen is a down-on-his-luck guy turned unlikely teacher who teaches a class of rag-tag misfits about Shakespeare and in turn is taught the most important lesson of all: Life.
In a different way, Leo is an up-on-his-luck comedian who bares little resemblance to Danny Devito. I asked him some wordy, rambling, pretty okay questions and he responded with some sharp and short, or Danny Devito-esque, answers. In the end, we both inspired each other.
Leo Allen. Your full name is Leopold Rufus Allen. That’s an amazing name, especially for you, assuming you were born in 1893. If you had a son, what would you pick for a first and middle name? The same question applies for pets if you don’t intend to have children (also because Leopold Rufus would be a great name for a dog).
My son’s name will be Malbert Realization Allen. (I already have a gravestone picked out and engraved for him)
A devilishly handsome young journalist covering the AltComedy Festival in MA once described you as “a charmingly casual neurotic who tellingly brought his big notebook on stage only to never use it.” Maybe more accurate is to say, “a neurotically casual charmer” or “a casually charming neurotic.” Do you find yourself to be neurotic at all, and at that, charmingly casual or any combination and variation thereof?
I guess I’m neurotic to some extent, but it comes in waves. And sometimes when I’m feeling most neurotic, it seems to manifest itself as what some others perceive as calmness. If it’s calmness, it’s calmness in the same sense that being so terrified by a ghost that you can’t move or scream is calmness.
You’re perhaps best known for your part in Just Wright with Queen Latifah, which I assume is a romantic comedy in which the Queen plays Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But some also know you as a writer for SNL at one time in your checkered history. In what way was working with Queen Latifah similar to working with Lorne Michaels?
I actually met Queen Latifah at SNL, as she hosted twice when I was there. When I did the movie with her, she said she remembered me - as if I needed another reason to be in love with Queen Latifah.
You’ve done a lot in your career, and yet a third of your Wikipedia entry talks about your pledge to read 100 books in 2005, which was covered by an NPR story at which time you’d read 51. Karl Rove claimed that, among other dangerously unbelievable things, former President Bush read 51 books in 2007. How do you feel being at least as good of a reader as George Bush? What would you say to starting a book club with him?
I should probably have someone take control of my wikipedia. I’m proud to be tied with the former President, and would love to have a book club with him - let’s start with “The Shock Doctrine”, by Naomi Klein.
Not to dwell on the past, but I’ve been a fan of yours for some time, and technically the time measurement known as ‘some’ is over 10 years. How was New York comedy changed in the last since you started?
There are many, many more places to perform that are somewhat decent - people start their own shows is the biggest difference. A lot more people seem to be “doing comedy” in general. There was only the smallest of improv worlds, and not a lot of standup in those days either - you could do the same 17 minutes in vaudeville for your whole career!
Some say that comedians are insecure, self-deprecating people who need attention. I think it’s mostly comedians who say that. Why did you start doing comedy?
I didn’t know how to get a job writing, and I was determined not to have to get a real job.
You just came back from working on a new TV project in LA. Can you tell me about that?
Jon Benjamin and I made 10 episodes of a show we created called “Jon Benjamin Has A Van” for Comedy Central in which he plays a Charles Kuralt-esque reporter who travels around the country. He also does what we like to call, “street pieces”. Furthermore, usually in the course of his journalistic duties, something goes awry and he finds himself on some sort of adventure, which closely adheres to the steps described in Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’.
I’m in it too, kind of the same way I’m in “Just Wright” starring Queen Latifah.
One of the comedy cliches is discussing the stereotypical differences between New York City and Los Angeles. Having just come back from a long stay in LA, can you discuss some of the most true stereotypical differences between New York and LA?
Sushi is better in LA. Apartments are bigger and cheaper there. Driving there can be a nightmare. New York is better.
You’ve written on a lot of shows. Did you intend stand-up to be a pathway into a writer’s room? Did you have your sights set on writing for TV or was that just a bi-product of stand-up?
I did actually start doing stand-up because I wanted to be a writer and didn’t know anyone. But then I liked performing and learned so much from it, and was spoiled by being my own boss. But then I started to get some jobs by fortunate happenstance/not quitting.
Which do you see yourself doing more of in the future, assuming the world doesn’t end next year, or even, because it will?
I’d like to find a balance between the two. In a way, writing for TV is easier, because you have a deadline so you have to get stuff done. With standup you have to be more self-disciplined, and also book yourself out, which can be tedious. But I realize I really like being busy, so maybe I just need to stop being such a baby.
You were just on a mini tour with Eugene Mirman, Michael Showalter and Kumail Nanjiani. If crazy things happen on tours with rock stars, my logic tells me hilarous things must happen on tour with lots of comedy stars. Are there any highlights of the tour you care to share, mini though they may be?
Michael Showalter goes to bed at 10:30 pm. Kumail, Eugene, and I stayed at my ancestral home where my parents still live one night - they were away on vacation. At two in the morning, we went in the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of rum that was probably purchased on the night of the moon landing. Reverting to childhood, I said, “Let’s remember how full that is, so we can match it later.” Eugene says, “Leo, you’re 40.”
We’ve all heard the tired opinion that “boys are funnier than girls,” and that has been dispelled with the “kittens inspired by kittens” youtube video. Now we know girls are funny, and kittens trump everyone. In your act you ask the audience to decide which is funnier between two things, like Dogs Vs. Cats, and then tell them when they’re wrong. I’m going to try that here on you.
Which is funnier:
-Babies or puppies? Babies.
-Babies or chubby puppies? Babies.
-Chubby baby puppies or chubby elderly cats? Neither one is funny. [Very incorrect]
-Babies with glasses or animals with glasses? Animals with glasses, obviously. [Incorrect]
-Someone getting hit with a pie in the face or someone getting hit with a fist in the balls? Pie in face [Also would’ve accepted pie in balls]
-A baby with glasses getting hit with a pie or an animal with glasses getting hit with a pie? Baby with glasses getting hit by pie.
-A mispronounced word or a misunderstood word? Misunderstood (but it’s a case by case basis, depending on context).
-A man in women’s clothes or a man in little boy’s clothes (both are for comedic purposes, not pervo purposes)? Man in woman’s clothes.
You are… Charlotte! You play the hard-to-get good girl, but you’re a tiger in the sack. The downside to your innocence? You may miss love connections because while you have a keen sense of what is funny, your lack of appreciation for how funny babies in glasses look is a big turn off to guys.
What’s the most exciting thing in your immediate future (doesn’t have to be comedy-related)?
I’m excited for the premiere of Jon Benjamin has a Van on June 15th and also I want to paint my kitchen yellow.
Finally, if you could eat a sandwich with any comedian living or dead, who would it be and what sandwich?
I’d eat a reuben with Paul Reubens and Jordan Rubin and enjoy how irritated they’d be by what I’d engineered. Maybe they’d be delighted!
Leo Allen made his third appearance on The Moon in our 55th show with Hannibal Buress, Adam Wade, Chris Rozzi, Dave Horwitz and Kenny Pickett. You can see Leo hosting Whiplash at the UCB Theatre every Monday night-Tuesday morning, and look out for Jon Benjamin Has A Van this summer on Comedy Central. Just Wright is available everywhere DVD and Blu-Ray are sold.