Jo Firestone talks new comedy LP, the return of her podcast, Will Butler & more in BV interview
In the year since Jo Firestone last hosted her fantastically silly podcast Dr. Gameshow, she has accomplished what most comedians aspire to — a spot on the Just For Laughs New Faces showcase, a writing position on The Tonight Show, and an upcoming Comedy Central half hour special. Keeping with her offbeat comedy, which features puppets, puns, and lots of audience participation, Firestone is taping her new comedy album this Sunday (9/10) across two shows — both of which are sold old and feature Arcade Fire’s Will Butler.
You’ve got plenty of chances to see Jo in NYC though, including appearances at this weekend’s Cinder Block Comedy Festival and then later this month at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. (Check out her full schedule below.) Her Dr Gameshow podcast is also back soon, now part of the Earwolf Network.
Ahead of her very busy September, we caught up with Jo to discuss the relaunch of her podcast, her new comedy album, and thriving by performing in New York basements. Read that below.
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Your podcast Dr. Gameshow recently joined the Earwolf Network after over a year’s hiatus from WFMU. What can fans expect from this incarnation of the show? Is the format changing with the new network?
We’re excited to start it back up again! The format is staying the same for the most part. The only big change is that Manolo may be getting some kind of sound effects board which is unsettling to say the least. Ooh, one thing that is very exciting is that we are getting our own phone number. It’s 833-DOC-GAME and you can call it up right now and leave a message if you want to.
You’ve said in the past that you don’t think what you do is considered “stand up comedy.” How do you classify what you do as a performer?
I’d say I’ve probably changed since I said that. I used to do a lot more high concept one-off shows, and now I’m writing more jokes and doing shows more frequently. I started to really love doing stand up because of the crowd work/interaction, which is what I was trying to do with the high concept one-off shows, so it mostly comes down to not spending as much money on props.
Your comedy has consistently involved audience participation, whether it’s dancing or playing games or otherwise assisting with your performances. Are you planning on engaging the audience at Union Hall album taping in the same way?
They’re gonna figure out how to mic the crowd. I’m sure some guy is gonna cough through the whole show and that’s all you’ll be able to hear in the album.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION VIDEO:
Do you otherwise feel that you have to adapt your usual on stage routine for this special to conform to a notion of “conventional” stand up comedy?
I don’t think it’s necessary to conform to anyone else’s idea of stand up comedy. My rule of thumb is that if it’s funny, I do it more and if it’s not funny, I do it less.
Why did you decide to record your album at Union Hall?
I always have fun doing shows there, and it’s the right size where I felt I could get a decent sized crowd for both shows. Also doing comedy in New York, I’ve been conditioned to thrive in basements. I’m not ready to do a comedy show until I go down a flight of stairs.
How did you first begin collaborating with Will Butler? What will his role be as a “special guest” during the taping?
I grew up with his sister-in-law/bandmate, Julie Shore, and his wife, Jenny Shore Butler, and his bandmate, Sara Dobbs. I opened for them on part of the Policy album tour, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. I love his music and I think he’s so funny and talented, and I am always excited to work with him. He told me he can play clarinet
How do you you keep in touch with the local comedy community in New York while writing every night for The Tonight Show?
Most of my friends are other comedians, so usually I’ll see people at night, whether it’s at shows or bars or whatever. There are so many people doing funny and smart and weird, original stuff, and it feels like a real good time for comedy in New York. I’m glad I get to be a part of that moment.
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Jo Firestone Tour Dates September 2017 (All in NYC).
September 9 at Pine Box Rock Shop (part of Cinder Block Comedy Festival)
September 9 at The Gutter (BK) (part of Cinder Block Comedy Festival)
September 10 at Union Hall (album taping)
September 11 at Union Hall (album taping).
September 13 at Lucky Jacks Bar
September 13 at UCB Chelsea
September 14 at 2A Bar
September 14 at UCB Chelsea
September 15 at The Bell House (as part of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival)
September 18 at Under St. Marks
September 21 at Brooklyn Bazaar
September 27 at Comedians You Should Know