Aaron Berg is one of the most fun comedians you can see live in New York City. The Canadian-born Jew with giant muscles and a shaved head often jokes, “I know I don’t look Jewish, I look like I eat Jews for breakfast mixed with creatine powder,” before ripping into a set filled with raunchy filth, outrageous audience interactions, and some very intelligent observations. His boundless energy can light up even the deadest crowd and he’s a favorite among comedy nerds (and Boondock Saints fans). He’s also been very busy over the past year, putting out his first book (Mr. Manners) and album (Comedy Coltrane), touring throughout the world, and doing an exhausting sounding number of spots every week when he’s in the city. To top it all off, he’s about to release his second book, American Etiquette: Failing Upwardly In A Fox News Nation. We sat down with Berg to talk about the book while he smoked a cigar and got his tan on.
The IBang: So, you were born in Canada and started comedy there, what’s the scene like up there?
Aaron Berg: I felt like the scene as very competitive in Toronto because most people were trying to get good enough to get out of Canada. But then that changed a little and now there are “lifers” who will stay there. And you can make a good living in Canada being a road comic or corporate comic or doing colleges. But my experience was that I didn’t feel any camaraderie or that there even was a quote-unquote “scene” because I was so competitive. Then as soon as I got to new York, I felt totally different. Just getting here, it felt like, “Oh I Made It” because I’m out of Canada. And here I don’t feel like there’s competition, I don’t feel competitive with other comics. You just take care of your own stuff and that’s all you have to do. And so many people will move to LA, which opens up more club spots and more TV spots, so there’s a logical evolution. Whereas in Canada, you get good enough to headline clubs and then you just try to headline clubs and keep the younger guys down.
The IBang: Who were some of your first comedy buddies when you moved here?
Aaron Berg: Luis Gomez was very accommodating. I met Luis and Dave [Smith] and Jay [Oakerson] through Jamie Kilstein, ironically enough. Luis would put me on a whole bunch of shows and Luis and I actually had a falling out about this because I didn’t dedicate him in my book. He was like, “I’m the reason you’re in this country!” and that’s kind of true. He and this guy Martin had a company that produced shows and they actually acted as my sponsor to help me get my paperwork to move here.
And Dante Nero was so outgoing and nice, he gave me a big bag of clothes. I guess he thought I was this really poor immigrant. The problem is they all were bedazzled, like Affliction.
The IBang: Are you an American citizen yet?
Aaron Berg: No, I have an employment authorization card and my Green Card should arrive any day.
The IBang: So you didn’t just marry someone to get your Green Card?
Aaron Berg: I don’t think it’s that easy. The first girl I dated here for any period of time, she was Canadian, so that was stupid. I date an American girl now, but I’m happy not being married currently.
The IBang: So, you’re sober now, when did you stop drinking?
Aaron Berg: I’m 18 months and 5 days. I stopped drinking because I was very functional as an alcoholic, but I’d wake up depressed every day. And I’d wake up late. I’d say “Hey, I’m a comic, I’m supposed to!” But I just felt horrible. I would drink a lot, and it was all red wine so I thought it wasn’t a problem, but I’d also smoke a lot of cigarettes so I’d drink more red wine because my heart hurt from smoking and red wine’s good for your heart! I didn’t do any medical research on that.
The last night I drank, I was hosting three shows at The Stand and Mike Lawrence was there and I was like, “Hey, man, you doing a guest spot on this one or something?” and he was like, “You just brought me up two comics ago.” I acted like I was joking but I clearly had no idea. It was good for living in the moment, but it was just holding me back. And a lot of guys were getting sober around me. I saw Dan Soder get sober and thought, “Wow, he looks pretty good”
It’s hard, I got really sick when I stopped. For like three weeks I was detoxing by myself in my apartment. I’d just go out and get Gatorade and come back and not go anywhere.
The IBang: Is that when you got into healthy eating and fitness? Or were you already doing a lot of that?
Aaron berg: I was dabbling in it, but then it really helped me. It was really an addiction replacement, as soon as I stopped that I just went way harder at the gym.
The IBang: You are a very great case of don’t judge a book by its cover. You come off like such a rowdy scumbag guy, you’re all muscled up, but you’re actually a kitten. Do you go through that with a lot of people?
Aaron Berg: I find that when women come up and flirt with me, they’re disappointed that I don’t try to choke them and enter them right away. I come off as a hard ass, but…I try to be mean sometimes. Like today I took the elevator downstairs and this guy was waiting right at the door and started to come in before I got off and so I said, “Usually, we let people OUT before we enter the elevator.” But then I was like, “But have a nice day!”
The IBang: You already have one book out called Mr Manners, which is semi-autobiographical. What made you decide that was the first book you wanted to write?
Aaron Berg: I just wrote it. That’s what came out. I had an idea about that for a couple of years, people would say I should do a book on etiquette but for bad people. So I did that and then I felt like I was done with dirty and sex and all that, so that’s why I wanted to move more into the political realm with this one.
The IBang: This one is all about politics, but you’re a Canadian, how dare you!
Aaron Berg: I’m enthralled by American politics. Canadian politics are so boring. Here, especially with guys like Trump, it’s exciting to watch. It’s not that intelligent and it’s very childish, but it’s much more grandstanding than it is in Canada. And I like that. I started watching Fox News and that’s how this book came about. I used to just make jokes about Fox News and how wacky it is, but then I’d be watching it and realize some of this stuff is true they just go a little over the line. And then you watch MSNBC and you see they do the same thing on the Left.
The IBang: How serious is the book? Are you just hiding a serious statement in jokes or is the whole thing just jokes?
Aaron berg: It makes very serious points, but it makes fun of how liberals think conservatives are. It’s not scathing, it’s satirical. It’s a guide to being a better Patriot…with a lot of exaggeration.
The IBang: Where do you fall in reality?
Aaron Berg: I have some very Republican beliefs and I have some very Democratic beliefs. Like illegal immigration, I have some very strong opinions because I’m a legal immigrant and I’ve had to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to be in this country. I don’t think they should be able to get in for free when it cost me that much. But I’m open to having my beliefs change.
Order Aaron Berg’s American Ettiquette: Failing Upwardly in a Fox News Nation on Amazon now. Follow Aaron on twitter @aaronbergcomedy.