You don’t go into comedy unless, really, it’s all about you. Even if your comedy is about self loathing, it’s still about you.
What comedians want is clapping, whistling, foot stomping approval. The room, if not the heavens, should ring with our admiration and gratitude.
So Inside Comedy (Showtime, Thursday, 11:00) had a problem. Where to find someone who knew comedy from the “inside” but was not the captive of the comedian’s essential self regard.
Popular culture is strewn with projects in which the comedian serves as interviewer only to ruin the occasion by butting in with their own observations or hunting down the funny. (David Letterman has no clue how to conduct an interview despite 30 years of trying. There is no more convincing demonstration of someone’s inability to learn on the job.)
Enter David Steinberg, the interviewer (and executive producer) on Inside Comedy. Nancy deWolf Smith says:
Mr. Steinberg … is the ideal interviewer. He does not focus on himself but is exquisitely tuned in to his subjects, many of whom he knows well. This seems to have relaxed some of his guests to the point where they appear more natural, and less switched on—as entertaining as that can be—than they are with other interviewers.
Steinberg has a courtly quality, a fineness, a liquid intelligence, all of them made more generous by the evident conviction that comedy is not a zero sum enterprise. He also has a curiosity that promises us genuine interest in the place of the paddle-ball approach that characterizes so much interviewing these days. Inside Comedy should be good.
See the full article by Nancy deWolf Smith, by clicking here.
I caught most of an episode of this show with Chris Rock. It was remarkably candid and completely devoid of the usual interview/tak show nonsense. Steinberg was terrific in pulling out interesting thoughts from Rock.
You are also spot in calling out Letterman as a poor interviewer, something which I think he takes perverse pride in.
Rick, thanks, I will have a look for it, if there was an interesting interview waiting to happen it’s Rock. Come to that, there are hundreds of interesting interviews waiting to happen out there. Thanks, Grant
Grant, have you ever checked out Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF? http://www.wtfpod.com/
An established comedian who no one but other comedians had ever heard of decides to do an interview show out of his garage, and over years has built up what seems like a trove of anthropological data about the biographies, insecurities, processes, family and substance problems, and more of a huge number of known-to-the-masses and other comics.
Steve, No, the name is totally new to me. Thanks for the head’s up. I will have a look. Best, Grant
I bet you’ll come across his name a lot, now. The NYT uses him regularly as their quotable expert in any story about a comic, comedy, the comedy business, etc. etc.
Seconding Steve on Marc Maron. The podcasts are absolutely fascinating.