Do you like sports? Do you like comedy? Do you like comedy events which are loosely based on a popular sports format? GOOD NEWS! Caroline’s Comedy Club in Times Square has just the thing for you.
Starting Tuesday, the club’s hosting it’s Annual “Caroline’s Final Four” stand up tournament. The Host and Referee is comedian, Josh Spear. He took a few minutes to discuss the event, the club and the difference between midgets and comedians. (It’s all semantics!)
SCP: Talk us through “Caroline’s Final Four.” What is it? How’s it work? Who’s competing? Who’s won in the past?
JS: It’s a comedy contest based on the college final four basketball tournament also known as March madness.
It works by putting 64 of NYC’s stand-ups into the first round doing 1 minute each and then eliminating people down to 4 comics over the 5 Tuesdays of March and doubling the stage time as it goes.
What do you mean who’s competing? Only the greatest 61 comics to ever walk the earth and 3 other comics that got in on nepotism. (Reader this is a joke.) Previous Winners include Julian McCullough and Nate Bargatze, dear reader of this article (please Google both comics they have a lot going on.)
SCP: You’re billed as host and referee. That’s a lot of responsibility. Describe your role. Will you be wearing a whistle?
JS: I’m billed as Host and Referee this year because when I billed myself as the Host, Referee & Winner it turned people off to the competition. The responsibility is immense, but on par with my other responsibilities. Immediately after the show, Obama’s sending me to Cairo to finish those negotiations then I’m off to the Koreas to straighten that situation out. I’m also responsible for the legalization of Gay Marriage in South Africa. Then back to Caroline’s for week two of the Final Four competition.
My role as Ref/MC is best described as combination of MC and Referee, talk show host, game show host, news anchor, entertainment news anchor, cult leader, cheer leader, supportive and unsupportive parent as well as male model.
I will be wearing 3 whistles, one on the neck and one on each wrist. Plus Caroline’s Final Four issued Referee shirt and 1992 black & white patent leather air Jordan high-tops.
SCP: I realize the whole final four thing may be more PR move than anything else, but there are some comparisons to be made between the contest at Carolines and the college basketball tournament. In the same way coaches will adjust game plans to match their opponents, the stand ups competing at Caroline’s are going to have to switch up their ordinary routines. During the first round, for instance, they only have one minute to wow the crowd. How hard is that to do? Are there certain styles of comic that are better suited to this than others. Do you expect some of the comedians to change their material based on who they’re matched up against?
JS: This competition is not a PR thing, it’s a gig that comes from the pureness of heart and the need to create a community of happy people that create and share their humor with their friends, lovers and peers. The contest is a gateway to the true essence of a comic’s soul.
Yes you do need to adjust and plan and change up and go hard or hold back and balance off the opposing comics set. Some will switch up; some will do the first minute of their normal set.
To WOW a crowd in one minute is easy when the vibe is right, or you have the right vibe. But really you just need to squeak by the other comic with or without wow.
It’s extremely hard for some if not impossible; it’s really easy for me because I’m so modest. (Obnoxious joke.) But much like basketball, there’s the psyching each other out and trash talk and intimidation and pointing at the other comic then punching your palm with your fist. Acting over confident or getting a friend to whisper subtle insecure comments into the ear of your opponent. I wanted it to be to the death, but the Final Four committee voted me down on that.
SCP: In the last question, I sort of interchanaged comic and comedian. Is one preferable to the other, the way midgets prefer being called little people?
JS: No… Just don’t get comics confused with improvisation/sketch people.
SCP: It seems Caroline’s is one of the historically great venues in the US, sort of like the Fenway Park or Lambeau field of Stand up. Does that comparison make any sense, whatsoever? What’s the Yankee Stadium of standup?
JS: Since Fenway’s in Boston & Lambeau’s in Greenbay
And we, Caroline’s and the Yankees’ are all in NYC, then maybe we can let Caroline’s be the Yankee Stadium of Stand-Up….Jeter’s got a .351 punch line average this season
SCP: Tell us a bit about your career. How did you start? What led to your standing gig at Carolines?
JS: I started in NYC. It’s been exciting and a life less ordinary, I’ve spent the entire time on stage, becoming the same me I am off stage. I’ve gotten to see some different parts of America and the world and what led to the Caroline’s gig was by being discovered by Linda Smith of Caroline’s at a contest similar to this one run by Carolines.
SCP: At what point does stand up go from a dream to an actual career? At what point do you feel like you’ve actually made it? Is it the first TV appearance? The first steady gig? Are there performers out there who have filmed a comedy central special then gotten up early the next morning , because they still have a day job?
JS: I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know.No.No.
I’m sure they have gone to work the day after filming a comedy special, but I’ve had jobs and not had jobs and had apartments and lost apartments and cars and lived in different places and done comedy as well as many other things including college and I’ve filmed TV shows and I have gone to work at a day job, but I never ever got up early.
SCP: Who’s your favorite all time stand up? Who’s your favorite out there right now? Are there any up and comers you expect to be the next big thing?
JS: Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, (what’s an up and comer in standup? Its 2011 and everyone thinks they can do it… I’m waiting for all the next big things to fall off and the One true Thing to stick!