Sam Tripoli is a killer. The LA-based comedian started out in Vegas and stayed true to the rock ‘n’ roll ethos of the comedy he loved growing up, even through the wave of alternative, navel-gazing, cutesy-clever comedians who dominated the early 2000’s. Now, with the pendulum firmly swinging back in his direction, Sam has released his third album The Diabolical. This double album features a normal hour of Sam’s stand-up that leans heavily toward his storyteller side, as well as a second, bonus hour. As is often the case when recording over a weekend, one of the sets went sideways really quickly. So Sam added that show in, a self-described “bomb” full of crowd work with a rowdy, drunk late Friday audience. “Now, I’m dead on the inside, and I won’t let them let me bomb. I’ll just burn the place down. Even my bombs are entertaining now. I have ‘bomb ears’ onstage, my adrenaline gets going and I can’t hear the crowd sometimes, so I just assume I’m bombing and I just start going into ‘rip everybody a new asshole’ mode. Sometimes people think I’m getting angry, but it’s all scientific. It’s all been developed in the lab at The Comedy Store when you’re the 99th guy in a 100 person comedy gangbang.”
We spoke with Sam about the album and he shared his top three greatest bombs with us.
You know what’s so interesting is when I came to Vegas, I was just a bar comic. Vegas has a wonderful scene now with some great stand-up comedy, but it wasn’t like that when I started. There was one open mic every other week, Doug Stanhope had left, so I basically had to start my own scene. I would just go into bars and get the slowest night and make it into a comedy night. And we went into some death, it was so hard to do it. But later, on one of my greatest bombs, I actually pulled it out.
It was at Beacher’s Madhouse at The Hard Rock Casino. It was called “the greatest worst gig ever.” It was the greatest gig because you did like 15 minutes and you got paid insane money. Like I break everything down into sex worker money. I’ll do a gig for $15, that’s crack whore money – you’re working too hard and making nothing. This was like high-end escort money, like super hot chicks hanging out with third world dictator money. And like a month before, Bill Burr had had a pretty well-known bomb there and he just did classic Burr where he stayed in the pocket and ripped everybody a new asshole. So that had just happened.
I’m about to go on and they stop me because Paris Hilton was there. And this was at the height of her power, so she walks out and the place explodes. You would think Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison the way people were reacting. And she just says like, “Don’t you love Vegas?” and the crowd roars, “Let’s party!” So I’m up next and, on top of that Beacher’s would just bombard your senses. I’m talking midgets juggling, people breathing fires, go-go dancers everywhere and the DJ is just pounding you with music. It was so loud you could feel the sound. So it is an assault on your senses and all of a sudden it all stops and you’re supposed to listen to this one guy talk, just talk.
I just go out there and start doing my jokes and all of a sudden I just hear this little “boo.” And that was one boo in a sea of darkness, a little boo and then another one and another one and all of a sudden everyone starts booing. I felt like when Bruce Lee tastes his own blood in a Kung Fu flick, like he realizes “Oh, you made me bleed, nobody makes me bleed my own blood!” and I remembered someone told me that if they start booing you, you have to get the girls behind you. So I just start doing all this “Aren’t the women hot?” and finally I went onto that bit I used to do about how guys chase the herd and I pulled it out and got off.
Apparently, I’m Middle Eastern
The worst bombing I ever had was when I was doing Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Tour right after 9/11. Apparently, outside of LA, I’m Middle Eastern. I thought I was white. Well, one time in LA, I was doing a bit about being a white guy and afterward, Paul Mooney walked up to me and said, “Oh homey, you ain’t white, you’s Armenian. You a n*****” That was pretty exciting, I just got called the N-word by the guy who if you look up the N-word in the dictionary, his picture is next to it because he copyrighted it.
So Vince is amazing and used to come to The Comedy Store all the time and then he ended up putting together a comedy tour. It was me, Bret Ernst, Sebastian Maniscalco and Ahmed Ahmed. It’s right after 9/11 and he’s got me and Ahmed Ahmed, so okay, let’s see how this goes. We’re doing this one gig and Ahmed goes out and they didn’t even give him a chance, Bret goes out and does like okay, and then it’s me and they’re like, “Tripoli, go out there and get ‘em!”
Here’s what I didn’t tell you, this show is in Dewey Beach, Delaware, it was general admission and the show was at 8 o’clock. But the bar opens at noon, first come first serve and it was sold out by 1 o’clock. So people had been drinking since 1 pm. They were shitfaced. I, too, was shitfaced. This actually was the thing that caused me to get sober.
So, within 2 seconds, this lady yells out “Get the fuck outta here, you’re not funny,” so I said, “Hey, why don’t you go make out with one of your cousins who I’m sure is here!” And, dude, I didn’t know literally half the people at this club are her friends. And dude, they turned and they turned hard. They start chanting “Sha na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” I couldn’t get em, I looked too Middle Eastern to begin with and then I just lost it.
Too Much, Too Soon
I was just bred at The Comedy Store to follow monsters forever – Joe Rogan, Eddie Griffin, Dice – for a year straight, Dice bumped me every night so I learned how to deal with tough situations. But I got a few high profile things before I’d really mastered the Kung Fu. Like I bombed at JFL in Montreal years ago. They put me as the headliner, I had to follow Corey Holcomb when I wasn’t even passed at clubs yet. I’d been doing comedy for like four years by that point, but I did have one bit everybody loved about a stripper in a wheelchair. So it’s not going well and I do the bit and people were like “yeah, okay, that’s nice” and I had to just keep going. That wasn’t really a funny story, it’s just like a lesson.