Joe DeRosa: Finding Lightness in Some Pretty Dark Places

“You Let Me Down”. Photo by Darren Michaels

Joe DeRosa just premiered a brand new hour special on Comedy Central, and the uncensored album with extra tracks is available today, February 7th. The special, You Let Me Down, is dark and wonderful and uncomfortably funny. DeRosa’s fans love his willingness to look under rocks of all kinds to examine the creepy creatures who hide beneath and this special includes plenty of that. Joe’s material uses some dark satire to examine our culture’s obsessive relationship with sports, and our reverence for athletic achievement, the anatomy of a boss (of anything), and to question the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths, and other odd facets of our culture.

Recorded at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, a horror-inspired opening sets the tone for the hour to come. The front-piece is an homage to Rod Serling’s 70’s series Night Gallery. “I’m a big horror fan, I’m a huge Rod Serling fan, he’s made my favorite TV shows of all time. He’s done some of the most brilliant social commentaries I’ve ever seen in the most entertaining ways I’ve ever seen. I think he’s amazing,” DeRosa told us in a phone interview. His set — framed paintings of macabre images like a bowl of severed feet- also was a hat tip to Serling. “The set of the stage is an homage to the set of Night Gallery where Serling would host every episode from.” Stylistically they’re an homage to the artist who painted for Night Gallery, but the actual images reference the material from throughout the hour.

DeRosa’s love of the macabre extends beyond his special- it also accounts a significant part of how he spends his free time. In fact, most of the creepy paintings from his special are now hanging in his apartment. “Surprisingly, nobody’s ever commented on it,” he said. “I don’t understand. I do a podcast with Kurt Braunohler that’s about to come out called Emotional Hangs and he was like what the fuck man? He’s like you’re single. You bring women back here? And they’re not terrified? I was like I can’t believe I’m saying this Kurt, not even one woman has even made mention of it. Yeah, it’s like I’m in a giant death poster painting on my wall. Nobody’s been like ‘that’s weird.’ I guess they know that I’m a nice guy and it’s just a piece of art, I don’t know. I guess that’s a compliment to me.”

DeRosa doesn’t have a lot of spare time- he’s been putting out an album every year or two, and when he’s not doing stand-up, he’s writing, producing, (books, movies, projects, you name it) and he’s got a pretty solid acting resume– but he does make time for a few outside interests, like collecting media. “That takes up a big chunk of my time in a fun way. I’m an avid media collector so I buy a lot of vinyl, and cassettes, and CDs. I buy music in all types of formats because I appreciate the different formats and what not. I do the same thing with movies. I still buy VHS, I still buy DVD, and I still buy Blu-ray because each movie is its own experience, so I try to buy it in the format that I think is most appropriate, or most enjoyable for my watching experience at least.”

Joe’s favorite type of media to collect and enjoy is horror. “I have a pretty extensive horror collection at this point. I have a pretty extensive movie collection, but the horror part is the one I am most interested in. So that’s a lot of it, you know. Watching movies and collecting things.”

If a horror-loving comedian seems like a strange combination, the way DeRosa explains it, it makes perfect sense. Horror, and music are the only forms of entertainment that offer real escape for him. While his fans might look to his comedy for diversion, that won’t work for him. “As a comic, you can’t help but analyze the stuff constantly as you watch it. Even if you’re laughing and enjoying it, you’re still analyzing it,” he explained. Drama doesn’t work for him either. “Drama reminds me too much of real life a lot of the time … And I enjoy it, I still watch it, but it doesn’t excite me to watch it as much because it’s probably going to stir up something that’s happening in my life that I’m trying not to think about for two hours.”

But horror, science fiction, and fantasy provide a pure escape, that helps him turn off his brain and take a break. “Horror is completely not real. This is another reality …like come on in. Even if you do horror [for a living] I feel like you could still watch somebody else’s horror and say yeah, but this isn’t the reality my horror is in. You know? My movie was this, whereas this movie is this. It’s just a great escape, you know? It’s just a great escape. It’s ridiculous. It’s almost porn-ish. Those are the only two things I’ve ever heard as gratuitous are violence and nudity, and gratuitous violence is, to me, cartoonish. Gore has never freaked me out.”

DeRosa inherited his love for horror from his mom- who loved the genre. Just the movies though. Real world ghostplay- like Ouija boards and the like- were off limits.  “She was a big horror fan. She just had a line that she drew with it. She didn’t like anything devil related, but anything else she was pretty open to.” DeRosa said his mom let him watch Nightmare on Elm Street when he was a kid- a movie he called his “gateway” movie. “That was the first one that I was like ‘oh wow, this is cool.’ This is really interesting because up until then I could have taken it or left it, but Freddy Krueger to me was a really interesting character.” From there, DeRosa moved into Halloween, Friday the 13th and the other classics. The Exorcist became his favorite horror movie of all time. “I could talk about it all day if you want. I just love the genre.”

Of course, DeRosa’s new album and special are comedy, not horror, but the influences of his favorite genre are evident throughout. Joe DeRosa’s new album and special, with plenty of comedy and just a touch of horror, available now. You can watch You Let Me Down on the Comedy Central CC: Stand-Up App and order the extended uncensored album everywhere albums are sold including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play, Spotify and all other download and streaming services

Listen to You Let Me Down on Spotify now.

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