In case it's not obvious, the staff at WickedInfo love comedy. So it goes without saying that we were thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct an interview with comedian Doug Benson. How thrilled were we? Well, after all the staff at WickedInfo stopped screaming for joy we actually did a little wombat jig (please don't ask). Read our interview with Doug Benson below, and after you're done reading make sure to check out his MySpace page to see if he's coming to your town (but leave the camera phones at home).
Q: We here at Wicked Info are huge fans of watching you skewer pampered celebrities on VH1's "Best Week Ever." Do you improvise most of your material on set, or do you write it during the week?
DB: Why spoil the magic by answering that question? "What magic?" you might ask. Good point. So here goes: the day before our "interview," each panelist is e-mailed a bunch of topics that will probably be covered on that week's show. Some of the "fundits" do a lot of preparation, some just sort of wing it on camera, and I fall somewhere in the middle. I write a lot of jokes ahead of time, but I also come up with some shit on the spot. Can I say that? "Spot"?
Q: In 2005, the documentary "The Aristocrats" was released. The film dealt with a lewd joke that comedians love to tell each other privately. What's another inside practice for comedians that the public never gets to see?
DB: First of all, I have never told that joke and have rarely heard that joke. Parts of the documentary are very funny, but it's misleading to imply that the joke is beloved by all comics. Secondly, what was the question again?
Oh, insider stuff. Um, a certain talk show host supposedly pleasures himself in his dressing room before every taping, but I've never seen it. You've got to be a Make-A-Wish kid or something to get a piece of that action.
Q: Your hit show "The Marijuana-Logues," has been a huge hit with both the critics and the fans. The production just finished its run Off-Broadway and inspired a book and CD.
Given the public's increasing awareness of the medicinal advantages and the proposed socio-economics benefits of marijuana, do you believe in the near future we will see cannabis legalized?
DB: Well, it is legalized where I live. I have a recommendation from a doctor that says I can smoke medical marijuana in the state of California. Ten other states have legal medical marijuana, but I'm not licensed in any of those places. So whenever I travel, I become a criminal. (Shhh, don't tell.)
Q: The recent Michael Richards debacle shows how patrons (as well as the comedian in this case) can become agitated and step over the line. What would be the worst heckle you ever received and how did you deal with it?
DB: Man, comedians can't be interviewed anymore without the Kramer thing coming up. I honestly felt a little bit sorry for the guy. He was just trying to get the audience's attention by being outrageous - but didn't do it in a clever way. Not a week goes by where I don't get annoyed by some audience member who is not paying attention, or talking loudly, or - worst of all - screaming out incoherent bullshit and disrupt the flow of a joke. I always try to turn it into something funny, but sometimes it just gets ugly. The better clubs throw people out for heckling. I like performing for stoned or inebriated people, but when folks are flat-out drunk, they can be pretty awful to deal with. (Ever watch COPS?)
Q: James Thurber once said, "Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." How would you define humor?
DB: Humor is...funny? I dunno, I'm not really into rules and one-line definitions when it comes to comedy. If I was forced to answer that question at gunpoint, I'd ask, "Why would you force me to answer that question at gunpoint?!" And then if he/she insisted, I'd say, "Surprise is a key element in comedy."
Q: Is there any subject that you consider too taboo to joke about in your routine?
DB: Now that every audience member has a camera phone that records video, yes.
Q: Why is it in these modern times that people, no matter their educational or social level, love watching someone get kicked in the crotch?
DB: It starts when we are tykes. Toddlers are not only stupid, they are vicious and self-centered. Someone else getting hurt is the height of hilarity to them. If you wanna make a little kid laugh, hit yourself in the face. If you wanna make 'em laugh even harder, let them hit you in the face.
Q: It has often been said that many comedians have experienced great levels of personal turmoil early in their lives. From this, they learn humor as a way to conquer their demons. Based on your interpersonal relationships with comedians, is this fact or fiction?
DB: Mostly fact. I'm an exception in that I had a pretty pleasant childhood. But I wasn't much of an athlete, so I guess I developed a sense of humor to fit in. It didn't work.
Q: Where can we catch more of you in 2007?
DB: If you live in a town with a comedy club, or just a stage and a microphone, I will probably be there. We still do live performances of THE MARIJUANA-LOGUES (the Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago the last week of March) and I'll be doing my solo stand-up act everywhere from Austin, TX to Nashville, TN, and from Washington, D.C. to Houston, TX. Send me a message on MySpace (myspace.com/Doug_Benson) to ask if I'll be coming to your town. And listen to my podcast - Doug Benson's I Love Movies! - at www.handheldcomedy.com!
Q: When we say wombat, you say.....