Shooting 30 minutes of stand-up in front of a live Los Angeles audience was the easy part. For Joe List, the hard part is the anxiety that comes with waiting for the set to be released. List is one of six comedians featured in the second season of The Standups, which comes out on Netflix on March 20.
“I feel horrific anxiety, thank you for asking,” List said, only half-jokingly, in an interview with The Interrobang. “You put a lot into it. It’s a lot of pressure and a lot of work. With social media right now, you get immediate responses as soon as it comes out. People will write ‘You suck!’ They’ll also write ‘You’re great!’ It’s nerve-racking. But I’m trying to remind myself that that hard part is over. It’s already filmed and done. But I’m also an anxious guy, so that doesn’t really help.”
Despite his apprehension, List has no reason to feel nervous. His 30-minute Standups set is fresh and funny, the thoughts of a man uncomfortable in his own skin muddling his way through childhood fashion faux pas, marriage, and insecurities at the gym. List is a self-deprecating everyman, and his Standups set sees him at the top of his game.
List campaigned to be one of the six comics featured when Netflix announced they were bringing back The Standups for a second season. The show appealed to him for several reasons.
“Netflix is huge right now. It has the biggest reach,” List said. “And the 30-minute format is nice. You’re not giving away as much material (as an hour-long special). And I like that there are six people involved because we’re all promoting the same thing and bringing in each other’s fans. Dan Soder and Nate Bargatze are two really good friends of mine and they loved doing Season One, so it was something I really wanted to do.”
List said he went to his manager and agent and put them to work on trying to get him booked.
“My manager and agent were pushing for it. I believe the people at Netflix asked Michelle Wolf who she thought would be some good people and she put in my name. I just kept trying to do the best jokes I could and hope for the best. I don’t ask too many questions. List was selected along with Gina Yashere, Rachel Feinstein, Kyle Kinane, Aparna Nancherla, and Brent Morin. Bargatze, Soder, Deon Cole, Fortune Feimster, Nikki Glazer, and Beth Stelling were featured in Season One.
Nowadays, if you make fun of yourself too much, the crowd begins to get upset,” List said. “It’s like, ‘Aww! You’re not that bad looking.’ Everyone is so sensitive that they’ve even become sensitive to self-deprecation. It’s strange.”
“We don’t even really think about what we say on the podcast. It’s almost like sex. You’re just BLAAHH and afterwards you’re just like ‘What the hell did I say there?’”
List said that he has noticed dramatic changes in comedy in recent years.
“Some people are now offended by things they used to find funny,” List said. “When I was a kid, if you went up to the counter in Starbucks with a guy friend and said ‘I’ll have a coffee and a coffee for my boyfriend,’ that was funny. When I was a kid, that was a punchline. But now, people are like ‘OK, you have a boyfriend. Big deal.’ It’s a positive thing with same-gender relationships being more accepted, but you can certainly see how what’s considered funny has changed.
“There’s a Seinfeld episode where they were looking at a 15-year-old’s cleavage,” he said. “That’s the joke. That’s a running arc of the show. But if you made a show today where two guys in their forties are looking at a 15-year-old girls’ cleavage, the show would be kicked off the air, literally, the next day.” List said he hasn’t had to alter his act to meet changing sensibilities. “I’ve never wanted to offend anyone,” he said. “I try not to.”
Instead, he frequently makes himself the butt of the joke. His anxieties, insecurities, and his physical appearance are all mined for comic gold. But even taking potshots at himself has the potential to offend, he said. “Nowadays, if you make fun of yourself too much, the crowd begins to get upset,” List said. “It’s like, ‘Aww! You’re not that bad looking.’ Everyone is so sensitive that they’ve even become sensitive to self-deprecation. It’s strange.” When he does turn the joke onto someone else, he tends to focus on anonymous target, like the gym lunkhead lifting neck weights or the grade school bully with a subpar taunting game. He has an incredible talent for identifying the people we all meet – and generally avoid – and dissecting them.
As if the anxieties about The Standups wasn’t enough, List will be appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on March 23. Tune in to Netflix on March 2oth for season 2 of The Standups.