Our latest showcase with Comedy Records happens tonight (June 4) at New York Comedy Club! The show will include the usual mix of Toronto and New York comics but this month the lineup features a special guest headliner in town from Los Angeles. Forrest Shaw started out in Miami and has since moved to the west coast to work as a writer on the Jim Jefferies show. He also co-hosts Jefferies’ podcast and tours the globe as the Australian’s supporting act.
Shaw is in town promoting his special ‘Poor Decisions’ that was produced by Comedy Records and released through Comedy Dynamics. We sat down with Forrest to discuss his start in comedy, working with Jefferies and his love for miniature tigers (cats).
The Interrobang: After doing some research we learned you were once a successful marine biologist and left that for stand up comedy. What inspired the move?
Forrest Shaw: I went to an open mic and saw a comic in a wheelchair that could barely talk getting laughs and I thought to myself, if this idiot can do this why not me? He was drooling and getting applause breaks. After the show there was a woman that was really into him. It might have been his nurse but it still showed me that women dig comics, or at least are willing to wipe their ass for them. Also, maybe through comedy people would give me the attention that my father never did? Sign me up.
Of course, that’s a joke. I saw a dolphin jump under a rainbow at sunset and that was all the inspiration I needed. I shouted at the top of my lungs – “America’s Got Talent here I come!” and the rest is history. History that nobody cares about.
The Interrobang: What’s the Miami comedy scene like?
Forrest Shaw: It’s really more of a South Florida scene; Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and all the areas in between. When I started out it was great. For me, there was a good group of comics that I wrote with, toured with and we held each other accountable. Al Jackson, Lisa Corrao, Oni Perez, Dave Williamson, Tim Golden, John Vargas, Adrian Mesa, Ronnie Khalil.
There was also a good mix of club work, bar shows and some independent rooms. But the crowds were rough, often times a little dumb and a lot of the people that ran the rooms were sketchy and dishonest. There definitely wasn’t the nurturing vibe there was in Austin or Minneapolis or Portland or one of the other secondary cities where the comedy scene was considered good. But it hardened you and made you tough and if you didn’t fall into the trap of being a hack you were a better comic for it.
People shit on the Florida scene but the comics I started out with were funny and original and could handle any situation. We did shows at strip clubs in Miami. If you can make some men that are angry and horny laugh at a joke about climate change, a normal crowd is a cinch.
The Interrobang: How did you start working with Jim Jefferies?
Forrest Shaw: I opened for him at the Miami Improv eight or nine years ago and randomly ended up working with him at a few other Florida clubs that same month and we became friends. We got along well and he liked my act. He told me that anytime he was in the southeast he would call me for gigs. Pretty boring story really.
How about, we met on Grinder. Went on a date. Had dinner and drinks and then ended up getting matching tattoos on our lower backs. Eventually, we had sex. As we were lying in bed, post coital, I started telling jokes and he thought I was hysterical. He said I have to start doing the road with him. I refused at first because I wasn’t ready for commitment but then he sent me an edible arrangement that had little penis shaped cantaloupes and that really moved me. I cried. Mostly because one of my cats had died but still edible penises are moving. We don’t sleep together anymore but the bond we have can’t be broken.
The Interrobang: Which do you prefer more between the touring, podcast and show writing?
Forrest Shaw: I love the touring because of the performers and also getting to see the world. Even a place you might think as boring there’s always something unique to see or do. Except Johnson City, Tennessee. Super shithole. The downside to touring is the travel. It sucks and it eats away at your soul. The older I get the more I hate it.
I love podcasting because you can say whatever you want. You can do that on stage too but if there isn’t a rhythm or timing to it the audience will hate it. Podcasting is controlled chaos. Sometimes it’s amazing and then the next second could be weird and awkward but that’s why people listen. It’s unpredictable. Also, you get to read ads for back shavers. Who doesn’t want to do that?
And I love writing even when it’s hard. Try writing seven minutes of jokes on Syria. Writing has made me less lazy with regards to comedy. When it was just stand up I would just exist and create content. I would go to a farmers market at noon on a Thursday and maybe attend a pottery class at the community college, now I have five new minutes. Not a good five minutes but it didn’t cost me anything mentally. Writing on a show is specific and it hurts your brain sometimes but it’s a good hurt and the feeling of accomplishment when you turn something in is definitely greater.
The Interrobang: What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between the life of a comedian at Jim’s level versus a club comic?
Forrest Shaw: The audiences. Jim has built his audience. When you walk out on stage, they are happy to be there, even to see me. Jim’s crowds are all facing forward and are financially and emotionally invested in the show before it begins. That’s a huge difference. At a club there will be some people there to see me but the rest are judging and daring you to win them over. Most of them are eating mozzarella sticks or chicken wings and wondering why you are interrupting their dinner.
The Interrobang: You experienced some extreme circumstances while taping your first special, Poor Decisions. How’d that go?
Forrest Shaw: I think overall it went well, considering. It’s called ‘Poor Decisions’ because I have made so many of them. It was shot in Miami at a place called the Electric Pickle. I wanted to give my hometown some love and shoot it in a bar as a nod to the places I started in as a comic.
We were expecting about three hundred people to show up for a room that seats around 150. Then Hurricane Matthew decided to fuck that up. Even though it skirted the coast of Miami there was still a lot of wind and rain and weather and in the end only twenty people showed up. Thank you to those people.
It was of course stressful. Palm fronds were falling on the building, rain was blowing sideways and most people were in their homes shuttered up and here we are recoding dick jokes not even sure if they will ever be seen. I wouldn’t say it’s my best performance. I’m usually more relaxed when I’m not worrying about the power going out during a taping but it works. And then Comedy Dynamics saw it and loved it and now it’s a thing, which is pretty cool.
The Interrobang: You mention cats different times in your stand up. What interests you about them?
Forrest Shaw: I like cats because it’s like having a miniature tiger. I carry my cat around the house and pretend I’m a drug dealer in Narcos. Also, they’re cool animals. They always walk around so hip and smooth. A cat will calmly strut over to a window, with little to no effort jump up onto the sill and then take in the world, lying in the sun with their front paws crossed. It’s cool. It’s like smooth bass line is narrating their life.
I like dogs too, but they’re happy all the time and who wants to be around someone like that? Tails wagging, big sloppy tongue hanging out, always eager to please. Calm the fuck down! There is noting I hate more than people that are always positive and upbeat and that’s what a dog is. Settle it down! Give me a moody cat that hates most of the world. That’s who I am. If I like you fine. If not, I’m going to scratch the fuck out of you.
The Interrobang: What are your ultimate goals in comedy?
Forrest Shaw: To not kill myself in a hotel room. Seems like that would be an easy goal to attain but try comedy for a decade and get back to me.
The Interrobang: Finally, as a basketball fan, what are you thoughts on the Cavs/Warriors 4th straight finals?
Forrest Shaw: Team LeBron always. Also, I’m tired of watching Silicon Valley assholes celebrate like they know or care about basketball. You’re already winning at everything in life; controlling our phones and computers and thoughts and now you want sports too? Fuck off.
Forrest Shaw performs tonight at 7PM at our Comedy Records showcase at New York Comedy Club. Tickets are $10 at NewYorkComedyClub.com with the promo code NAFTA.
He’s also part of a great lineup for a cancer fundraiser with Nikki Glaser, Dan Soder and more at Gotham Comedy Club Tuesday night (June 5). Tickets and info here.
You can hear Forrest this Wednesday (June 6) on the Bennington Show on Raw Dog Comedy and Forrest’s special Poor Decisions is available now through Comedy Dynamics.