I ‘discovered’ writer/comedian/no-longer-lonely New Yorker Gabe Liedman on a friend’s Vimeo blog on a series he and his friend and fellow comedienne (and former SNL castmember) Jenny Slate put out called Bestie X Bestie. Because Gabe and I are friends on Facebook (the greatest conduit for friendship and artistic expression on the internet), I was able to wrangle him for an interview to chat about his debut solo comedy album HIYEEEE!!, his weekly show in Brooklyn, and his favorite comedians.
You, Jenny Slate, and Max Silvestri hosted a weekly comedy show in Brooklyn called Big Terrific in Brooklyn for a while. How did that start and when is it coming back?
Aaaah! Don’t be so past tense. It’s still every week! We’re in our 5th year of doing it weekly, which is nuts. Jenny and I had been hosting a show together, first in Manhattan, and then in Brooklyn, for a couple years; all the while, Max had been hosting his own show. We all became fast friends and decided to combine forces and run a show together. That’s how Big Terrific started. Jenny’s been gone, obviously, since she moved to LA, but Max and I have been keeping it going big time.
How much of your material did you workshop at BT? Are you even someone that really workshops the shit out of a piece or are you more like, “Here’s my seamless bit and you will either like it or you will not like it”?
I guess everything I have comedy-wise has been workshopped at Big Terrific over the years. I kind of do all my standup “writing” live onstage. I don’t type it up, or even carry a notebook, like so many other comics do. I probably should, but I don’t. The upside is that the material comes out much more natural and conversational; the downside is that it rarely gets revised to the point that it should be. Oh, and it never comes out seamlessly. In preparation for the album, I did take certain jokes and ask Jenny what she would change about them, or why they weren’t working as well out loud as they do in my head. That was very, very enlightening.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and call you and Jenny Slate writing partners. How has being on separate coasts affected your work or psyche for that matter? How many hours a day are you texting/tweeting at one another?
That’s not a limb—we are definitely writing partners, we definitely have projects in the works, etc. It’s been a little tough being on different coasts, mostly just because I miss cooking dinner and watching TV with her and getting so stoned that the world disappears. But our writing’s been as strong and steady as ever. We Skype for that, and it’s weird how well it works. We do talk a lot, and definitely Tweet at each other like insane assholes. I’ve had people @ reply me and say “you know you can just text her, right?” But Twitter’s more fun. We also leave each other’s insane gibberish-y voicemails, which are the best.
You just released your first comedy album HIYEEEE!! this year. How great does it feel to finally have all the material that you’ve been perfecting for years recorded on an album that you can touch and talk about when someone vacantly asks you the staple, “So, what are you working on?”
It’s weird—when ASpecialThing came to me and said they wanted to do an album, I was like ‘whaaaaaaaaat?!’ Because in my head, comedy albums are for legends. It was my manager who explained to me that the point is to have a record of your material. Because it’s very rare for someone like me to do 45 minute sets—it’s usually in the 10-minute range, or 20 at Big Terrific because I’m a monster—so I’d actually cycled out jokes and stories and material that I loved, just because I’d gotten sick of it. But, the album is concrete—it’s almost everything (I omitted some stuff in the hopes that it would flow better, or whatever), and it’ll never go away! Next step: write new stuff I guess? Wuh-oh.
Much of your material draws heavily from your tumultuous dating life. You have been very vocal lately about being “off the market” for the first time in twenty odd years or most of your young adult life, as you put it. Can your audience count on similar tales of woe from Gabe in a relationship?
Oyoyoyoy, we actually broke up recently. It’s FINE! Hahaha. So, DEFINITELY tales of woe still to come. Don’t worry about that.
I’m a secretly aspiring stand-up myself, and I never mention it unless it’s in the context of an interview with a successful stand-up comedian such as yourself, but how much do you want to die when a vaguely funny person, at best, says, “I should be a comedian?”
If you want to do it then you definitely should. Why the fuck not? For most people it’s their worst nightmare, but if it appeals to you then maybe you’ll be awesome at it? Why’s it a secret? Have you ever done it before? I don’t think I’m supposed to be asking you questions. But no: I don’t want to die right now!
Alternative comedy: the newest way for twenty-somethings in the industry to almost make it or the side door to success in the most depressing branch of show biz?
Both and neither? Everyone’s got their own path, and there are a million mainstream big-name stars who came out of the alt-comedy world. There are also a million people who want to be alt comedians who don’t make it, because they’re no good or or it’s too hard. Every branch of show biz is depressing in its way, but also, the best in its way. There’s also a ton of gray area in terms of “success”—so many people live great lives off of their creative pursuits without ever becoming household names. You know?
Who are some of your favorite current comedians?
Jenny Slate, Max Silvestri, Amy Schumer, Jessi Klein, Tig Notaro, Chelsea Peretti, Jon Daly, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily Heller, Jesse Popp, Brent Sullivan, Nick Kroll, Joe Mande, Rory Scovel, Hannibal Buress, Kate Berlant, Nate Bergatze. Too many?
Please describe in excruciatingly vivid detail your first time on stage performing comedy or Elayne Boosler’s first time having intercourse with a man.
The first time I ever got onstage trying to be funny was in high school, we had an improv troupe, which is a rare and beautiful thing I now know. Even though I was fat and faggy and weird and sad, I kind of came alive up there for the first time ever. It was chronic, and I ended up doing improv comedy for almost 10 years after that. Stand-up was way scarier, but my earliest experience was 100% positive and thrilling. And (this is just a guess), Elayne B’s first time having intercourse with a man, she was wearing jewel-toned leather bloomers.