The Comic's Comic Presents Last Things First
The Comic's Comic Presents Last Things First
Sean L. McCarthy: Comedy journalist
Asking comedians about the historic lasts and firsts in their lives as their comedy careers have blossomed.
Episode #356: Niccole Thurman
Niccole Thurman is an actress, writer, and the co-host of the podcast, The Scroll Down with Marcella Arguello. Originally from Kansas, Thurman studied acting at the University of Kansas before finding her place in comedy through The Second City in Chicago. She served as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, and you might also have seen her on such shows as Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show or NBC’s Superstore. You currently can hear as the voices of Jabberjaw, Squiddly Diddly and Dee Dee Sykes in the HBO Max series Jellystone, and spot her in picture frames and flashbacks on the NBC sitcom, Kenan. Her recent writing credits include the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards for Jimmy Kimmel, IFC and AMC’s Sherman’s Showcase, HBO Max’s Haute Dog, FOX’s Let’s Be Real for Robert Smigel, and the Peacock competition show, Baking It, for Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg. Thurman sat down with me to talk about how she found her point of view through her various gigs as well as her growing social media presence. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Sep 20
37 min
Episode #355: Bill Engvall
Bill Engvall is a Grammy-nominated comedian from Texas who made up one-fourth of the mega-successful Blue Collar Comedy Tour alongside Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White, touring from 2000 to 2006 and making a sketch comedy show together. Since then, Engvall also has starred in multiple solo stand-up specials, his own TBS sitcom, The Bill Engvall Show, made it to the finals of season 17 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and had a recurring role on Tim Allen’s FOX sitcom, Last Man Standing, in the role of Reverend Paul. He put out his own podcast, “My Two Cents,” as well as weekly videos to his followers, “Sunday Morning with Bill.” In the summer of 2021, Engvall announced he’d be embarking on his final comedy tour, announcing his retirement from stand-up after more than 40 years. But you’ll still see him in the new reality TV series, Blue Collar Auction, and Engvall sat down with me to talk about his career and the lessons he has learned along the way. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Sep 13
34 min
Episode #354: Julie Seabaugh
Julie Seabaugh grew up on a farm and discovered stand-up when Dave Attell performed during her senior year at the University of Missouri, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism. In 2003, after moving to New York City, Seabaugh launched her earliest independent effort into comedy journalism with the online magazine, Two Drink Minimum. A career with alt-weeklies followed, with stops across the country from the Village Voice in NYC to the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, Las Vegas Weekly and LA Weekly. In 2018, she published her first book, Ringside at Roast Battle: The First Five Years of L.A.’s Fight Club for Comedians, and her love of Mitch Hedbergled to producing/hosting 2020’s Hope on Top: A Mitch Hedberg Oral Historyfor SiriusXM’s Comedy Central Channel. Seabaugh caught up with me over Zoom to talk about her latest project, co-directing and producing the documentary Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11, which premieres on VICE TV on Sept. 8, just before the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took down the World Trade Center. Her film also will have a commemorative screening on Sept. 11, 2021, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Seabaugh spoke with dozens of comedians for the documentary, and now she speaks to me. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Sep 6
36 min
Episode #353: Tone Bell
Tone Bell is an actor, writer, and comedian from Atlanta who began his comedy career in Dallas before going Hollywood. Since winning the NBC Stand Up For Diversity competition in 2011, he has co-starred or starred in multiple sitcoms, starting with Whitney on NBC and including  Bad Judge, Truth Be Told, Disjointed, and Fam. His film credits include Sylvie’s Love, Little, Dog Days, and The Weekend. Bell also has gotten to portray the legendary comedian Richard Pryor in the BET series, American Soul, and recently co-starred in the award-winning movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday. which he jokes about on his second comedy album, One Night in Austin. Bell caught up with me over Zoom to talk about all of this and more. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Aug 30
44 min
Episode #352: Michael Hartney
Michael Hartney is an actor, writer and comedian who was the final artistic director for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre when it shuttered its New York City operations in 2020, and one of the founding members of the nonprofit Squirrel Comedy Theatre. Hartney created the roles of Stanley and Mr. Williams in the original Broadway cast of School of Rock the Musical, and on TV, he has appeared on 30 Rock, The Politician, The Break with Michelle Wolf, and Throwing Shade, where he also served as a staff writer. He has been a Comedy Central Comic to Watch, a New Face at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, and he can be seen every Wednesday night hosting Characters Welcome, a streaming character comedy show. Hartney joined me over Zoom to talk about how he has navigated through the end of the UCB in NYC to the launch of the Squirrel Comedy Theatre, and everything in between. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Aug 23
36 min
Episode #351: Phil Wang
Phil Wang was one of only two comedians from outside the United States to be invited to perform as part of Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup series in 2018. Born in England but raised in Malaysia until he returned to the U.K. at age 16, Wang graduated from the University of Cambridge with an engineering degree and the prestige of serving as a president of the Footlights, the legendary campus comedy troupe whose other past presidents have included Peter Cook, Eric Idle, Hugh Laurie and Douglas Adams. For his part, Wang’s credits have focused mostly on stand-up, releasing two previous specials for free on YouTube, making the rounds of the British comedy panel series, and guesting on series seven of Taskmaster. Philly Philly Wang Wang broke ticket-selling records at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and he intended to film it for Netflix in May 2020, but had to put it off for a year due to the pandemic. Wang sat down with me to talk about his career and comedy philosophy. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Aug 16
23 min
Episode #350: Jesse Thorn
What was podcasting like before the iPhone? Jesse Thorn knows. After college radio, Thorn, host of public radio’s Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, broadcast his podcast The Sound of Young America from his home, eventually building his own podcast network, Maximum Fun, which includes Stop Podcasting Yourself; Judge John Hodgman; My Brother, My Brother and Me; and dozens more. Thorn sat down with me to talk about those early years and the struggles that came with it, the power of building your own community, adapting podcasts for TV and streaming, and even some fun stories about the role Thorn played in the launch of Marc Maron’s podcast as well as working with a then-unknown Jonathan Van Ness. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Aug 9
1 hr 1 min
Episode #349: Rob Barnett
Rob Barnett has been a radio DJ and program director, pivoted to TV as programming director for MTV and VH1 in the 1990s, pivoted back to radio to launch CBS Radio’s “Free” FM in the wake of Howard Stern’s departure, hiring Adam Carolla to replace Stern on the West Coast stations, then left to do his own damn thing online by founding My Damn Channel, where he funded original projects by Harry Shearer, David Wain and Don Was, and recruited folks such as Grace Helbig, You Suck at Photoshop, and Beth Hoyt, and funded more than 30 other original comedy series working with people such as Josh Gad, Maria Bamford, Illeana Douglas, Gilbert Gottfried and Coolio. Barnett also briefly worked with me and The Comic’s Comic. Fourteen years after launching My Damn Channel, Barnett has translated the life lessons he has learned in hiring and recruiting talent into a new line of work as a headhunter, and just published his first book on the subject, “Next Job, Best Job.” Barnett sat down with me to share stories about how radio, TV and Internet media used to work (or not work), and what he has learned about show business along the way. If you like this conversation, please consider subscribing to my Substack called Piffany at Piffany.Substack.com so you can read bonus commentary on this episode as well as more comedy news and insights. Thanks in advance, and now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Aug 2
57 min
Episode #348: Tig Notaro
Tig Notaro has both survived and thrived in the decade since she first disclosed her breast cancer diagnosis to a live audience in Los Angeles in August of 2012. Notaro has released three stand-up specials, two on HBO and one on Netflix, in addition to a road-trip special for Showtime, while she also was the subject of a documentary for Netflix. She poured some of her life story into her own series for Amazon Prime Video, One Mississippi, and wrote a memoir, “I’m Just A Person.” She has been nominated for two Grammys and an Emmy, gotten married and became a mother to twin boys. Notaro has more recently reached new heights with a regular role on Star Trek: Discovery, replaced a disgraced comedian in post-production on the hit Netflix zombie movie, Army of the Dead, and now has turned one of her stand-up performances at Largo into an animated special for HBO called Drawn. Notaro joined me to talk about making Drawn and reflected on her career up til now, so let’s get to it!
Jul 26
21 min
Episode #347: Julia Scotti
Julia Scotti is a comedian who has enjoyed a career resurgence in her 60s, performing on America’s Got Talent in 2016, and in 2020 as part of Carole Montgomery’s Showtime comedy showcase, More Funny Women of A Certain Age, alongside the likes of Caroline Rhea and Carol Leifer. She currently stars in a new documentary from filmmaker Susan Sandler called Julia Scotti: Funny That Way. The film examines Scotti’s transition into womanhood, which happened only after she quit a 20-year career as a male stand-up. Scotti sat down with me over Zoom to talk about why she quit, what it felt like to come back to comedy 10 years after quitting, and the hurdles facing comedians of a certain age and certain gender. Can the comedy industry get its own act together? We talk about that, too, so let’s get to it!
Jul 19
36 min
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