JFL NorthWest, Vancouver’s Just for Laughs Festival, is back in February 2019 to deliver 10 days of stand-up, podcast, improv and sketch performances. After a successful introduction in 2018, the Vancouver Just for Laughs Film Festival returns for its 2nd edition, promising more film screenings, red carpet premieres, shorts, panels and special events with today and tomorrow’s hottest comedic talents. We checked in with Comedian Kurt Metzger who is scheduled to perform 4 shows over 2 nights at the festival this year. Kurt is an Emmy and Peabody Award winning writer and producer, who in the past few years moved from the comedy community in NYC to LA. Kurt’s recent work on Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who is America” helped mark Cohen’s successful return to surreal satire this past summer.
The Interrobang: The Vancouver JFL is starting soon and you’re heading up to do two shows this time. Have you done any touring in Canada before & are you looking forward to Vancouver? Do you expect to bring new material to the festival?
Kurt Metzger: I did the Montreal JFL before, and it was a lot of fun. I also like Vancouver a lot; I always seem to have really great shows in Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Canada show. Usually my road gigs provide me the opportunity to do new material; just being out on the road and doing those shows, it helps me to not get stagnant.
The Interrobang: Is there anything you’re looking forward to in particular while you’re going to be in Vancouver? Your shows are on February 22nd and 23rd, are you going to be up there during the whole week and checking out any other events?
Kurt Metzger: I used to go to Canada because they had greater access to weed (laughing), but now I live in LA so that’s not really the big draw. Honestly, I like the crowds there a lot. There’s something about the crowds in the more metropolitan areas of Canada, it seems like they have longer attention spans. They can be more focused when watching comedy. They have the same mix of political opinions, but I feel like they will hear you out more. The Canadian audiences seem like they will give you more of a chance, before someone overreacts to a buzzword. Of course every crowd is different, I always seem to feel a little extra in Canada, plus it always seems I have fans willing to come out when I’m there. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to stick around for some of the other shows. Next time I would love to be able to spend the majority of the week to check out some of the other acts or podcasts that are happening… there’s going to be a lot of talented people there this year.
The Interrobang: You’ve been in LA for a few years now, have you noticed any big differences in the comedy lifestyle of LA after having been in New York for so many years?
Kurt Metzger: I never thought I wanted to live in LA, but I’m totally into it now. Working at The Comedy Store is the closest to what I’m used to with working at the Comedy Cellar. The weather is nice, and one of the biggest differences is I don’t feel like I have to stay in a state of fight-or-flight attitude all day like I had to in New York. I’m 41 so I feel like I’m too old to do that all day long. I had friends in New York that I hung out with, but I wasn’t the biggest guy socially. Now I live close to The Comedy Store, so that’s really my social place. I can go there whenever I want. I’ve been coming out here for years doing various things, so I already had the network here. There are also a lot of comedians that move back and forth between the coasts so much, I have the opportunity to have people back in my life from time to time. There are good comics that go back and forth, so that’s not a big change. Generally I hang out with whoever I’m dating. If you’re a new comic, you’re probably hanging out every night; I’m usually busy writing for something so I don’t have the energy to do that. LA also helps defeat that massive vitamin D deficiency, you’re a little less depressed because you’re more active and getting more sun. I get out a little more and it’s good for me at this point.
The Interrobang: There’s a legacy that Mitzi Shore created running the Comedy Store for a long time, is a lot of that Legacy still there today?
Kurt Metzger: I wasn’t here that much when Mitzi was in control. But I will say it is definitely the same comic social networking place. A bunch of comedians hang out there, you do your spot, there’s definitely a feeling that I would be missing out if I wasn’t there. It’s a lot like the table at the Comedy Cellar; it’s good for being the place to meet up and hang out.
The Interrobang: Your special “White Precious” has been out for a few years now, are you working towards any new specials?
Kurt Metzger: I get more reactions from “White Precious” now than I did back then, I‘m working on a new hour. I was supposed to have it filmed already, but I got kind of sick of the material. I had it ready to go, but it seemed a little stale to me. I just want to get started with some new stuff. I never feel bad doing it later than earlier; it just means it’s going to be better if I do it later. I just have to enjoy this thing I’m doing, so I have to inject it with new stuff to be able to do it. The material from my special “White Precious”, I’m still kind of pleasantly surprised with it and I’m not super critical of myself in it. I liked that hour and I’m glad it worked that way, so the next one I do I will have the feel for what it’s supposed to be. If new material doesn’t get recorded right away, it starts to feel stagnant or stale. Material can start to rot on the tree, and then I just get sick of it. I have to come up with new bits to make me give a shit about any of the other material.
The Interrobang: Before heading to LA, you were the cohost of the popular podcast Race Wars with Sherrod Small. Unfortunately, that’s one thing you had to leave behind in NYC.
Kurt Metzger: I’m going to have a new podcast coming out soon; I’m just not sure what the name is yet. I’ve been recording episodes, and now I’m looking into how I want to get them out. I want to get an overall title before I release them, but I want a bunch finished so I can come out swinging. At this point I’m not sure if I’m just going to make it the Kurt Metzger show, or if I will have a cutesy title and be working with someone else. Even on the episodes I already recorded, I say openly that I’m not sure what this is going to be yet. The new podcast will have something that connects it, I used to do separate segments on Race Wars, so I want to have a lot more of that.
Without Sherrod I can’t do a Race Wars type of show. That show was so specific to him, and he’s such a good partner… we had good chemistry bouncing jokes off one another. I can’t recreate that, so now I have to do a completely different thing. I miss that podcast a lot and working with Sherrod, I don’t have an equivalent to him out here. When I go back to New York I try to be on the show as much as possible, but I’m going to start something new out here on the West Coast.
The Interrobang: This past year Sacha Baron Cohen returned with new characters on his Showtime political satire show “Who is America”. How did you like being a part of his world while working on the show?
Kurt Metzger: That was so much fun to work on. Hopefully, some of these next things will work out just as well. I’m working on some pilots right now that may or may not go. Who is America was also great art but it’s a show that’s very difficult to bring back in the same form. It would be very hard to pull it off again. Once it’s out there it’s very hard to repeat; but he’s a really clever guy so who knows if he can make it work. This last show was just such higher stakes than anything he had done before. It’s not just a funny prank on people, all this shit will come down on you if you happen to say the wrong thing.
I’m pretty proud because we got that out, just before everything got really heavy with the current censorship bullshit. It’s a tough thing to pull off, and it shows you how much of a genius Sasha is. He has it down to a science, and he commits to doing those bits. I was always in awe of what he was doing when I was working with him.
Kurt Metzger will headlining four shows at JFL NorthWest- two showtimes on Friday, February 22nd and two showtimes on Saturday, February 23rd. Kurt will be at Hyena’s in Plano, Texas February 14th through February16th
For more information on tour dates and schedules visit http://kurtmetzgercomedy.com/