Comedians Joe List and Mark Normand have been meeting up to share their adventures on the “Tuesdays with Stories” podcast every week for the past four years. In over 200 episodes, they frequently discuss their previous weekend performing on the road, and what is happening in the NYC comedy scene. Joe and Mark are never at a loss to share the absurdity of life as stand-up comedians.
Joe and Mark have been finding exponential success over the past two years. Joe was a Top Ten finalist and fan favorite on season 9 of “Last Comic Standing”, and his Comedy Central “The Half Hour” premiered the next month. Mark’s stand up special “Don’t Be Yourself” was released on Comedy Central in May of this year. Both comics have performed at Madison Square Garden and have worked with some of the most popular comedians in the United States. Mark has recently toured with Amy Schumer, and Joe has worked regularly with Louie C.K.
This summer, Joe and Mark hung around after a live “Tuesdays with Stories” (featuring Doug Benson) in Philadelphia to discuss the success of the podcast.
The Interrobang: Congratulations on four years and over two hundred episodes of the podcast!
Mark Normand: God… Four years. It’s been four years.
Joe List: Yeah buddy, we started around the same time I got sober — that’s a lot of jokes.
The Interrobang: During those four years, podcasts come and go… what has given TWS the advantage to keep succeeding?
Mark: I think we found a rhythm. If any show has ever found a rhythm, it’s ours. The beginning was so weird and off the rails. We didn’t know what we were doing… a lot of the earlier episodes where kind of topsy-turvy. Now we can go in there and it just flows, two minutes in and we’re busting balls. We’re joking, we’re rifting and rafting, I think that’s pretty cool. The podcast found itself because as a comedian I’m always thinking… what’s my voice? The show has such a voice of its own; we really found our voice together. The fact that we have no prep and editing helps us to be true. Now with us it’s just Bing Bang Boom… then we go eat Chipotle.
The Interrobang: Well, the show makes listeners feel like they’re sitting at the Chipotle table with you.
Joe: The conversation is very similar after the podcast is done; except we’re shitting on more people. Mark and I think jokes per minute are pretty important. A lot of other podcasts get comics together and they’re like “So… what’s your process, how did you get started?” But we just go into jokes. The original idea was inspired by Red Auerbach’s book “Let Me Tell You a Story”. He got buddies together every week, and they just talked basketball stories. I had this idea to get comedians together at a diner on Tuesdays to share what happened on the road from the previous weekend. A lot of comedians have Sunday shows, and they’re traveling Mondays. It’s just too much work to get comedians together, and maybe someday I would still like to do that. So I thought it would be a good podcast instead.
Mark: Also we needed something; everyone had a podcast except for us.
Joe: Mark was literally the only person I ever had in mind for it. I’m so grateful he was available. For God’s sake…how much of the show is just Mark being the funniest person ever?
The Interrobang: Joe was doing a lot of work with Bobby Kelly on his “YKWD” podcast when “Tuesdays with Stories” started. Did you find a lot of your podcast audience crossed over from there?
Joe: Definitely, we hit the ground running because a lot of fans came directly from other podcasts we were friendly with. In the early days, the audience was a lot of Bobby’s people, so we are forever grateful to him. Then the “Legion of Skanks” podcast became huge and they had us on and helped to promote us. Mark also started getting involved with Opie and Jim Norton which brought new people in as well.
The Interrobang: There’s a lot of cross-promotion between podcasts, even if you’re not a guest.
Joe: That’s a huge part of the comedy scene … people helping each other. You take some of my fans, and I’ll take some of yours… it’s a win-win.
Mark: It seems like the people who struggled are the ones that give back the most. There are a few guys who struggled for years that now just consistently give back. It’s a good lesson for people who make it too early in the business to learn for themselves.
The Interrobang: Sometimes TWS fans prefer that you don’t have a guest on the show, because someone else may ruin the flow.
Joe: Yeah, it’s hard sometimes, we definitely have a rhythm. The show was intended to have guests. It wasn’t until we had a few shows in, that we were like… we can do this… just us. Then it flipped around almost entirely, since we always had enough going on the previous week that Mark and I could just hang.
Mark: In the beginning, it was hard. It was like what are we going to talk about? I got into a fight at a bar, and Joe got laid… but that would last 20 minutes. Now we can go for two hours and not finish all we have to get out.
Joe: It helps that we’re becoming more successful and we’re traveling a lot more. We now have stories from the road working with some great comics. I’ll have a story working with Tommy Johnagin or Louie C.K., and Mark will be out with Amy Schumer. Now that we are (sarcastically) big shots and doing all this weird stuff, there’s crazier stories. Now digression has become a bigger part of the show.
-After this statement the guys immediately fell into a digression prompted by a thought from Mark-
Mark: Call me crazy, I think Louis (C.K.) has heard a few episodes of the podcast.
Joe: Yeah, he’s listened.
Mark: He has said those words to you…
Joe: Yeah! He said… “You do a show with Mark, you guys are great together”.
Mark: Look at that…that is unreal.
The Interrobang: After all this time, the people that you’ve met, and the things that you’ve done- You’re still impressed when you hear that someone like Louis C.K. has heard your show.
Mark: I think that’s built into us. I will always be blown away.
Joe: I can’t even believe anyone’s here tonight! It’s crazy that people came and listened to us. It’s unbelievable.
The Interrobang: The business end of comedy also gives you guys plenty of material, especially comparing different clubs.
Joe: We get a lot of comics who like to hear the process. We have a lot of comedian listeners and they seem really grateful to hear about some of the places out there.
Mark: When I was a new comic, if I had listened to any podcast where they were talking about the ins and outs of the business I was blown away. To me that was all just priceless information.
The Interrobang: Do you think being out on the road brings people to the podcast or do you think the podcast gets your name out to the people?
Joe: I think both. Fans take pride that they have been listening since the beginning. There may even be resentment from older fans that feel the new people didn’t come around until after the specials. But we love them all. We’ve gotten emails from people that have been with the show from the beginning that are legitimately happy with our success. It’s pretty amazing that the longtime fans get to be part of that.
The Interrobang: Have either of you guys ever gone back and listened to your own progression from the first episode until now?
Mark: A lot of my earlier stories have girls, or I was drunk. So, I feel like if I listened to the older podcasts… I would be like… “Oh my God… I forgot about that dirty gal in Seattle.”
Joe: There’s definitely a lot of stories we forget about. There’s probably some material we’re leaving on the floor, because a story I forgot about could be something good for my set.
The Interrobang: So you may miss the formation of something new in your set because you’re just having a conversation!
Mark: I’ve had stories ready to go, and then there’s some type of digression… and it all disappears. Then I’ll see Joe later and I’ll be like…”damn… we never talked about when I shit myself in front of the horse stable.” Then I think, “oh well that’s gone…” and I just forget about it.
Joe: (laughing) I’ll get tweets from people saying I loved it when you said this and that… and I’m thinking… well I don’t even remember that. Most of the shows… right afterwards, I don’t remember anything.
The Interrobang: TWS usually maintains within the Top 100 of Comedy Podcast listings, did you guys know that?
Mark: Is that right…I didn’t know that. Is Rogan number one?
Joe: I think I heard some crazy stat that it’s like 95% of podcasts have less than 500 listeners or something. Just because there are so many that literally have nobody listening. It’s really saturated. In this room, with a few staff left over and a few kitchen people, there’s probably 10 podcasts here right now.
The Interrobang: The conversation on the show is always very natural. It seems that you guys rarely interrupt one another.
Joe: It’s easier one-on-one, because you see the other person and their social cues. I think we’re both really good at talking and then stopping at the end of the punchline. It’s almost never an issue which is pretty amazing.
Mark: It’s like we know each other’s intuition, just a good team. I know he’s going to pass it to me and we know what to do.
Joe: It’s also because our comedy influences are the same. It’s not like I grew up following certain comedians and Mark grew up with somebody different. It’s kind of the core of the show that we grew up on the same influences. The show is obviously deeply influenced by Seinfeld.
Mark: But I think it’s a lot of Groucho Marx also, with the puns and the weird words.
The Interrobang: You mention the Marx Brothers; a lot of younger comedians while talking about their influences, rarely mention classic entertainers. Are some people’s influences lacking because they are missing out on some of the legendary comedians?
Mark: It seems nobody talks about the older people. Henny Youngman was a one-liner guy, and that’s just what Steven Wright and (Mitch) Hedberg do. That’s all that is.
The Interrobang: Since you guys are so busy, are there any struggles with getting a podcast done?
Joe: Maybe once we weren’t able to get one out, sometimes we’ll record on a Sunday. We consider it a responsibility to get a new podcast out to fans. It’s such a central part of our career that we make sure we get it done. We have people listening; having this medium is such an advantage now that didn’t used to exist. Before, you would be in people’s towns once a year, now you can be in their ears every day. The fans are part of your life and vice versa. We meet people, and they write to us, and it’s incredibly moving. We never write back (laughing).
Mark: It’s true. It’s a new thing where you perform on the podcast without writing a bunch and you don’t need the immediate laughter. It just goes out there, and the people get it and enjoy it. You can say what you want. On stage if I said something people didn’t like, I might get groans. But on the pod, it’s accepted.
The Interrobang: Is there any secret to being as accessible and gracious to fans as you guys are?
Joe: It’s nice to have people coming back to keep checking in, which is ultimately the goal in comedy. We’ve gotten a lot of really nice emails that say we mattered to people, and that we’ve made a difference. That’s nice because I know how much I appreciate the arts and how much it means to me. So to know that we’ve had any kind of contribution to someone’s life really means something. Granted, the artists that matter to me are poets and songwriters… and I make poop jokes. It’s amazing to think that if we contribute an hour a week that it might make a difference to someone. It’s a special relationship that I think we take pretty seriously… as ridiculous as that sounds… because our show is so goddamn silly.
Joe and Mark are regularly touring across the country, and can be found in comedy clubs throughout NYC. A new “Tuesdays with Stories” is available every Tuesday.