Today’s guest on The Comedy Cast is Ethan Herschenfeld, we speak about why comedy always called to him even throughout his opera singing career, why political satire is so important and, acting opposite Steve Buscemi.
We kick off the show by speaking about Ethan previous career as an opera singer, I didn’t know until we started the pod that Ethan has decided to leave the singing behind to concentrate on comedy and acting so I was really curious as to why since he’s such an amazing singer. He speaks for a bit about his time as a singer, touring all over the world and taking part in professional competitions but he reveals too that when he first did stand-up comedy in the 1990s it was something that always stuck with him and it remained an itch he needed to scratch over his singing career.
We speak for a little bit then about the whole nature of creativity and how really it’s this kind of calling that you can’t really escape, sure you might give up on becoming a rock star, haven’t we all, but still there’s this element of having to still be creative be it though taking up some art form as a hobby or maybe helping others by teaching it and things like that.
We change subjects then and speak a bit about how Ethan got into acting. He tells a great joke in his stand-up set where he says people are always mistaking him for their Uber driver, he speaks about being typecast as the bad guy almost all the time on screen, but y’know, in fairness bad guys get all the best lines so it’s a good thing. Mostly.
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We speak a bit about his time on Boardwalk Empire where he got to share the screen with the leading actor, none other than Steve Buscemi. So obviously we had to speak about that, whoever doesn’t admire Steve Buscemi is no friend of mine. Ethan got to play a character called Pinky Rabinowitz (awesome bad guy name) who gets to talk down to Buscemi’s character Nookie Thompson when he hands over his club to Rabinowitz and the Italian mafia. We also mention Gotham too where he got to act under the direction of Ben McKenzie, who plays the lead role as James Gordon in the programme.
Next up then we change back to stand-up comedy and we go into just why stand-up comedy wouldn’t leave the back of his mind when he was busy pursuing a career in professional opera singing. Coming towards the end of his singing days Ethan had been asked to take up the role of teaching some stage workshops in New York for a friend of his, this really got him back thinking about stand-up and make him want to do it even more. Y’know, maybe the universe was trying to tell him something, maybe it’s a coincidence, but for sure I’m very happy that he decided to try comedy again after all those years because as you’ll see in his clips on his YouTube channel, his comedy is absolutely hilarious.
We talk then about the different muscles you need as a performer to be able to have a great five minutes, then a great 10 minutes, then going longer to half hours and then moving on to building a solid hour of a set and the types of decisions you need to make regarding how to stitch all the bits of comedy you’ve been doing over the years to make it gel together.
We speak then for a bit about the big difference between American and British & Irish comedy, the whole notion of taking longer to perfect a set before starting to write a new set. We speak about the different challenges that the performers in different countries must face. In New York you’re likely to never perform to the same people again, in Iceland or Northern Ireland you’re gigging to some of the same people all the time so you need to write a lot more, but at the same time, working on your set for longer means that you’re going to be able to really perfect it before moving on. There’s no right or wrong here, just different ways.
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Next up we get speaking about politics in American comedy. I wanted to know if thanks to the rise of satire again on American TV thanks to President Trump coming into office if people are still joking about Trump on the live circuit in the states. I had kind of thought that maybe people wanted to avoid topics like Trump because people want some escapism when they go to a comedy club but I was happy to hear that comics are still going after both the left and right.
This leads us onto a conversation about angry, ranty comedy and how someone like Bill Hicks or George Carlin or Sam Kinison would be perfect for political comedy right now and we have a chat about why there’s plenty of people joking about Trump and the left and the right and politics but there’s nobody bringing the hilarious bile and rage of the likes of Hicks etc.
Ethan Herschenfeld on the internet: here
Ethan Herschenfeld on Instagram: here
Ethan Herschenfeld on Twitter: here
Ethan Herschenfeld on Facebook: here