Joel took my stand up classes almost two years ago and watching his progress over the last year and a half has been impressive. I discuss with Joel his unique comedy style and what he's been doing to keep getting better.
TOM CLARK: I always enjoyed your style in class of just doing simple one liners, is that something you're still doing or are you experimenting with some other things on stage?
JOEL SCHOENBACH: Thanks! I learned from the best! I am still doing one liners but they have evolved into runners that elevate and escalate the joke to where it becomes a story in a way. I'm starting to experiment with stand up structure jokes for example like my impersonation of a guy who forgot the next joke in his set or "by a round of applause who here doesn't know how to clap?" kind of stuff. I've also tried a tiny bit of crowd work.
TC: I see you did some "bringer" shows when you started, but you managed to not get caught up in just doing that. I see you're doing booked shows, festivals and even comedy competitions. What's been the key for you in not staying stagnant? How do you challenge yourself?
JS: Basically, there's this running analogy about how if you run the 100 yard dash with people who can't run as fast as you you'll win every time but you won't improve because you're not being challenged. But if you run against people much faster than you, you might come in last every single time but you'll get better because they will make you run faster. Not saying that I was better than everyone in bringers but you gotta play the next level if you want to beat the game. That and Eddie and I have a wager going where first one to get a Netflix special wins 5 bucks and I could really use a five dollar foot long right now.
TC: I know you're very active on social media, do you use any ideas from your posts in your stand up? How do you write in general? Do you sit down and do it or are they ideas that pop into your head?
JS: I always go through my old Twitter posts for material. The reason I do a lot of one liners is because, before I took your class, I learned to write jokes in 144 characters or less. Now, when I post a joke on Twitter and it gets at least 5 favorites then I will try it on stage and that's why I don't have any new material. I try to sit down and write with Eddie and Scott but for the most part the jokes usually just pop in my head while I'm trying to fall asleep or while I'm driving and every now and then, while I'm answering interview questions. Which is good for this interview but bad when I was being interviewed by the cops.
TC: Recently you did the Westside Stand Up Showdown in Santa Monica, which is a very tough competition to get into...so congratulations! What was it like (the waiting to go on, did you watch the other performers, were you nervous)? Anything you learned from doing the competition?
JS: Getting into the Westside Stand Up Showdown was very exciting, It was surreal and scary to be placed in a competition with comics that I've seen headline and/or were the "surprise celebrity drop ins" at comedy clubs. Waiting to go on was really intense. I was nervous but everyone in my showcase seemed to know each other and were cracking jokes while I was in the corner laughing nervously. I didn't have to wait long to go up, I was second. The crowd reaction wasn't great. Before this show every joke I told got at worst a few sympathy laughs but for this show I brought my "best of set" so when my second joke didn't get a single laugh it definitely through me off. In all I got decent laughs but there were three jokes that didn't produce a sound. Though, the biggest laughs came when I called it out by saying stuff like "that was the joke" or like "okay, never doing that one again" or to where I just flat out put my forehead on the mic from disappointment and sighed. It was a great experience and it made me want to get better. It was awesome that I got the opportunity to get my butt kicked by better comics in front of industry judges. Not too shabby for someone who took your class a little over a year ago. I learned that I have a ways to go but I also learned that this is definitely something I want to keep doing.
TC: When you started in my class, you were a bit shy, but your personality really came out over time. I remember the last time I saw you perform you came out to the Golden Girls theme and high fived the audience as you walked to the stage. What's been the key to developing more confidence and any advice to people thinking about pursuing stand up?
JS: That was fun, I need to start doing that every time. The Golden Girls theme song and high fiving the audience seems to bring the audience's guard down. It doesn't give them time to judge you just on your look alone. At least, that's what I tell myself and in return it calms me down and makes me see them as friends that I'm just joking around with and not me facing my biggest fear. For me, when I'm at my most confident is when I bomb the hardest. I need my nervousness so I don't phone it in. If I'm not nervous enough to where I can eat the day of a show or where I don't need to drink before a show then that's a problem. Though, my doctor thinks otherwise. If you're thinking about pursuing stand up I recommend taking Tom's class for sure. The class will get you a tight five minute set and a showcase filled with friendly audience members that will make your first time experience amazing. After that I recommend taking Tom's second class. Then go to Flappers and Ice House auditions and do open mics. Just keep getting stage time and meeting people and don't be a meanie head.
Joel placed 3rd in a baby pageant when he was just 7 years old. He does stand up now.