Gang, we have heard your requests and we have obliged. You are asking for some new points of view on the industry, and we found one of the best. We are all curious about the ins and outs of standup comedy, so we flew to Los Angeles to meet with a mover and shaker.
Sean O’Connor is a comic and writer and a prolific Tweeter who gained our attention as a writer for “Sports Show with Norm MacDoanld”. He has also written for the MTV Music Video Awards and the Montreal Comedy Fest.
We met Sean in a small weird bar in L.A. where he was alone, gently swaying to some old school Kool Moe Dee.
Good morning, Sean and thanks for meeting us here at this bar! We first came to learn about you because we are big Norm MacDonald fans and saw that you were a writer for his last program, “Sports Show”?
Yes I was. It was great!
I bet. So, we deal with mainly Chicago actors and theatre artists who are curious about stand up. What made you get into it and where did you start?
I started as a dare, I never had any interest in doing stand-up comedy. I mean, I wanted to write for Saturday Night Live when I was younger but I really wanted to work in music. But then, my friend dared me to try stand-up when I was 19 and I never stopped. I started in New Jersey.
And you eventually made the move to L.A.? Or are you still based out of NYC?
Yes, I live in LA now. I moved to NY when I was 21 and left after four years. LA is a real treat compared to NY.
Because of the women? And the cocaine?
I think both and we can also add the constantly having to deal with people at every moment of the day.
One thing you always hear about the L.A. comedy scene is that it is CUTTHROAT. Is that true? Is it cutthroat, Sean?
No, I actually find LA’s comedy scene to be considerably less cutthroat. Everyone is very, very positive out here. It took awhile to get used to. I mean in NY, we really liked to give each other a ton of shit and here people just don’t do that. Which is actually great if you’re trying to keep a positive psyche.
Who were/are your biggest heroes in the comedy world?
Well Norm MacDonald is my biggest hero, Dave Attell, Albert Brooks and Zach Galifianakis are pretty much all of the comics that totally inspired me.
I think that is pretty much the same list for us. So, let me ask you...you start doing stand up in L.A., how does that translate into other work? Writing gigs, acting gigs, etc.?
I got hired to write for Sports Show, 2 weeks into my move to Los Angeles. I think it was really just my manager and agents pushing me hard and I wrote a packet in like a day and tried to make it perfectly sync to Norm’s voice.
Do you do a Norm impression?
Haha, no. I mean I sometimes talk like him and don’t even realize that I’m doing it.
What is the biggest...so, when you do a short set, compared to longform, like an hour, what are the biggest challenges you face? Do coherency and storytelling play more of a part in your act?
One of the biggest challenges I face during a longer set is I kinda get bored of myself. So it’s finding a way to make me not feel so bored. In my head, my inner monologue is going...” c’mon.. THIS? You’re saying this?” But yes, storytelling is a lot more fun when you have a long time to do it. You get to find every single beat in a story when you can stretch a little.
We checked out your Tumblr, natch. Do you like the quick response the internet provides? Is there a certain freedom to it, that is, just being able to put up what you want?
Yeah, I enjoy going crazy on Twitter some days where people have to read every thought I have. It’s fun because you get to find out what people like about you, it turns out what people like about me is the worst part about me. Also, I do use tumblr but have no idea how to use it.
A lot of actors in town have asked us about interviewing up and coming comedians to know what they need to get started in stand up. What do they need?
Nothing but open mics. Just going to a ton of open mics, that’s the only thing that is important when you start.
And now you are writing for some different projects?
Yeah, I just got done working on a Comedy Central pilot called “The Ben Show” and it’s this really awesome show that is impossible to describe. Which is great.
Are your parents proud of you?
I don’t know, I think so. I think they may be finally proud of me. All it took was being on TV. It’s the one time they can confirm that I’m not lying.
You ever play Chicago?
I’ve never been to Chicago and I really want to be there. A bunch of my friends are from Chicago and they seem to love it, so I think I would. I have done a show in Peoria, which I hear, is not the same.
No, do you ever play Chicago? Like, Feeling Stronger Every Day...that blue-eyed soul, man.
OH! The band.. absolutely not.
Sean, we are very proud to have spoken with you, and you can always crash on someone’s couch in this city. Finally, do you have any thoughts you would like to share with the artists of our town? Maybe a motivational cheer or a proverb?
Thanks for having me. Hmm, motivational cheer for the people of Chicago. Hmm, you guys you don’t need me. Every single funny person ever has passed through your city. So if you’re living there, good, you’re going to make it. Just like Tina Fey, just like George Wendt. You’re probably going to make it in a way that is similar to George Wendt. JUST GO OUT THERE AND BE GEORGE WENDT!
-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer