Andrew Santino is a Los Angeles based stand-up comedian whose goofy ginger face should be familiar to anyone with a TV, tanks to memorable guest runs on Arrested Development and The Office and his brief stint as one of the leads in the high concept sitcom Mixology. He’s got a silly, off-the-leash style and a sharp and quick mind that makes every set he does a completely unique experience. He’s one of this year’s stellar class of Comedy Central Half Hours, his debuts at midnight on Saturday November 28, and he’s also releasing his album “Say No More” the day before. We talked to Santino, dropping the goofiness for some deep thoughts on fame, the comedy industry and the comedic temperament.
The Interrobang: I’m so excited that you’re involved in “I’m Dying Up Here”! [Showtime’s pilot, helmed by Jim Carrey based on the book that chronicled the early days of stand-up in Los Angeles. It centers around the events that led up to a strike for fair wages that had tremendous impact for years afterward, including one comedian who committed suicide by jumping from the roof of the hotel next door to The Comedy Store.]
Andrew Santino: It’s amazing. It was so cool to do, I hope Showtime does the right thing and they pick it up. It was so fucking awesome and I’m glad I got to be a part of it. You know, working with people like Alfred Molina and Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Cathy Moriarty, Ari Graynor and the comics who were involved – Erik Griffin and Al Madrigal. It was great to have a couple of stand-ups in there because it’s a drama and I think it was hard to get a lot of comedians on there. You kind of have to turn off the comedy thing and turn on this real, emotional acting thing (as lame as that sounds). And Jim Carrey being the producer, he was just real nice and open and wanted to help us out and give advice, he was kind of the Papa Bear of the whole thing. And his producing partner, Michael Aguilar is the dopest. This guy Jonathan Levine directed, who is just a gangster, he just did The Night Before with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It was just humbling to be involved.
Anybody who knows the books knows how great the stories are. Fuck, if we can only just make this a TV show. We get to show the stories of these 6 or 7 comedians from 30 years ago going through this treacherous time of being overworked and underpaid, well not paid at all, which is incredible. I think every comedian needs to read that book and every fan of comedy needs to see the show, to know the history and see what we go through. Nobody really talks about how shitty the process can be, how straining, mentally and emotionally fucking heartbreaking. People think it’s just “You get up there and be funny!” and that’s like 5% of it. I’m excited for the thought of it, but like anything in Hollywood you can’t get too hyped because you never know, they fuck up stuff all the time
The Interrobang: You’ve already done quite a bit of acting.
Andrew Santino: Yeah, I just jumped in to get my feet wet early on and now I’m just trying to continue this path I’m on. I do love acting even though stand-up is obviously my first love. It’s funny when I talk to these New York comedians and they say, “Oh yeah, but you’re an actor, not a comedian.” Because they didn’t know me before. I was a comedian first and I will always be a comedian. But I got into acting because it interested me. And I’ve gotten to do a lot of stuff I’m proud of – Arrested Development, Children’s Hospital, The League, Family Tree, which is a Christopher Guest project, and then I had my ABC Show Mixology that was very short lived and I just shot Demitri martin’s movie which will come out soon. I’m shooting and indie movie right now that my writing partner wrote called Little Bitches and it’s really dope, it’s kinda like Mean Girls in 2015, a take on high school from the female perspective and I play an asshole cop.
The Interrobang: Do you think there’s a lot of people who know you from TV and are going to be surprised to find out you’re a comedian when this special comes out?
Andrew Santino: Yeah, stand-up doesn’t get the love that it should. It’s kind of just a passing thing for a lot of people. Like, you know Mary Lynn Rajskub? She’s dope and she’s been doing stand-up and sketch stuff and improv for a while now and people just know her as the girl from 24. And there’s people who will see Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show and just think he’s an actor who has a Netflix show and he’s comedy famous where I’m not even a blip on the radar [compared to him]. You just have to be so famous as a comedian [to be widely recognized] whereas as an actor you just have to be a pretty good actor and they’re like “We love this guy! He’s great!” As a stand-up you have to go through years and years and years and years and years of ups and downs. I’ve done a bunch of stand-up on TV but it doesn’t really get eyeballs anymore. It’s crazy to think twenty years ago if you had done as much stuff as I have on TV, you’d be a very well established stand-up and now you’re just one of the many. I don’t even know if I’m good enough and funny enough to ever be famous as a comedian. I know I’m good enough to keep working and I’ll do it forever even if I never get recognized as a stand-up.
Even in the industry, like I’ll take a lot of meetings with executives – god that sounds douchey! I TAKE MEETINGS WITH BIG EXECUTIVES! But you take these meetings with people and it’s already intimidating and you feel like you’re out of your league and they’re always like, “Oh, you do comedy, is that just for fun? You know, to keep you on your toes?” and it’s heartbreaking. They don’t mean it in a cruel way but it’s like, “Yeah man, no, it’s just the thing that means the most to me in the world. But no big deal, it’s only the thing I do every night of my life and jeopardize all my personal relationships for, but yeah, it’s just a little hobby I kick around.”
I just hope this Half Hour leads to more stand-up opportunities, that’s all I want. And I hope it doesn’t suck! I know the album doesn’t suck because I listened to it a thousand times during the editing process, but you don’t get to cut your Half Hour. They cut it and just give it to you and say “Here you go!” That’s hard for me, I like a certain level of control. Could be bad, could be good, I’m hoping for the latter.
The Interrobang: It will be interesting to see how it comes out, you’re so good at being spontaneous and feeding off the energy in the room and creating energy, yourself. Was that hard to try and capture on tape?
Andrew Santino: It is super hard. I think it’s easier for some comics than others. I mean, I just have to hope the stuff I like stays in there. People think the stuff that ends up in there is exactly what you wanted but that couldn’t be further from the truth unless you literally did 22 minutes on the nose so they couldn’t cut anything. Most of us did about 35 minutes so they cut a lot out. So it was hard for me to formulate what I wanted to say, and knowing it was going to be censored a little bit. The album was so easy, I got to go to my favorite club in the country (Denver Comedy Works) and do an hour and twenty each set and that was my favorite. The album is a pretty good painting of my comedy, but the special was tough. They have to cut for commercials and that’s not conducive to stand-up. Commercial breaks are kind of the antithesis of comedy, how do you wanna come back from that? You don’t have a commercial break during a regular set, you don’t tell a good joke and go, “Hold on, I got more where that came from, we’ll be right back.” It’s just so weird. It’s not Comedy Central’s fault, they’re on cable TV, but that’s why all these places like Netflix and Showtime and HBO and digital specials are gaining so much weight in the comedy community because people can watch the whole thing on their computer whenever they want. But the album, I’m really, really fucking proud of and it delivers a great piece of how I feel.
I remember, back in the day comedy albums were so fucking important. I love listening to albums but I don’t know if people really do anymore, except for super fans. But back in the day it was such a big social thing to listen to and know comedy albums, but I just don’t think it is anymore. It’s really more for fans to have something tangible they can listen to again later.
Note: A personal tangent with no direct question led to this bit of wisdom, that we decided to include.
Andrew Santino: I love that the idea that we are the happiest people in the world still permeates in society, things like Robin Williams still don’t give anybody a clue that the clowns are sad. I don’t adhere to the view that comedians are all depressed, I don’t buy into that, but I do think that comedians and writers and sketch and everyone involved with this behind the scenes go through more emotional rollercoasters at a younger age. You make yourself so vulnerable and because of that we become a little bit chiseled and jaded and tougher. It’s not that we’re more sad, we just have a more chiseled sense of reality, that’s all.