A comedian’s first special is a big deal and this week, two of our favorite people are debuting their first ones.
Saturday Night, Comedy Central will air first time half hour comedy specials from Joe List and Sam Morril. Plan to get home early this Saturday so you can watch them back to back. live. You won’t see two more different half hour specials. Joe’s thirty takes you through his own personal hell full of anxiety and hilariously funny uncomfortably, and Sam’s half hour takes you on a dark and wickedly funny journey. We talked to Sam about his half hour, his new album, and what’s next.
Despite getting into some hot water over a joke a few years back, Sam is pretty fearless when it comes to topics, and that’s probably because he’s got an amazing ability to make you laugh about awful things. From his unique takes on broken families to Magic Johnson, rape and tragedies old and new, Sam has the audience laughing at things they never thought they could find funny.
The intention is to make them laugh at something terrible. I think its fun to go to a dark place and find humor.
Sam has also begun performing some longer stories. He said he never used to tell stories on stage, but now he enjoys mixing them into his act, to help vary the pacing of a longer show. “My style otherwise is joke, joke joke,” he explained, “and that pace for 45 minutes in this day and age when people want to check their phones, they are ADD…it’s a bit relentless. It’s nice to do that for maybe 20 minutes in a row but then sometimes you can break it up with crowd work or a story and its a way to keep people engaged I think.”
Morril says he began incorporating stories into his sets after watching Jim Jefferies perform when Sam opened for him. “I thought, I’ve got some things I’d like to say, and I’d like to try it.” Sam’s stories are full of outrageous and funny moments, and plenty of shock. He says that if you want to tell shocking and funny stories on stage, it really helps if you make questionable life decisions and do stupid things.
The story he shares in the half hour special, of course, is real, is full of questionable life decisions, and was even traumatizing when it happened. Afterwards, he remembered walking around thinking “well I’ll definitely have to talk about this on stage.” He also shared the story with some comedy friends who thought it was terrifying, and awful…and they couldn’t stop laughing. “They were laughing hard enough that I’m thinking hopefully this isn’t just funny to comics,” he thought, and started working on adding the story to his shows.
In New York, Sam said, it’s not easy to work on long form stories on stage. Sets average about 15 minutes, and you’re expected to kill. “In a short set, that could be 30% of your set maybe. And if that doesn’t get what you want it could be really frustrating.” But he started to run it in rooms and sneak it in to sets until he through he had it.
“I remember one night I got a really good reaction on it at the late show,” he said. “And I remember a comic, Wil Sylvince came up to me he’s like, that’s a bit. And when a comic says that sometimes you’re like oh maybe I’m on the right track. So I kept doing it on the road. I did it in a lot of bad rooms. Now its on the CD and the special, and at the TV taping, my mom’s in the crowd. So you’re kind of like, ooh this better hit. Otherwise I’m just telling a really salacious tale that involves her in a way, that she didn’t know about.”
Fortunately it hit. If it bombed, he said, he might have had to endure some uncomfortable questions from his parents because the story involves him admitting to lying to them. But, he says, “if I was doing the types of jokes that made my parents really happy, I probably wouldn’t be being honest enough on stage.”
Sam’s also releasing his first album this weekend. Or second, depending on whether you count the CD he recorded a few years ago to sell after shows to help earn a little extra money. (For the record, he doesn’t.) He recorded the new album, “Class Act,” at New York’s Village Underground this summer, about the same time as he recorded his special.
With the special airing and the album coming out, this will be the first time Sam’s had to deal with the issue of retiring some of his strongest material. “Its kind of like sending your kids to college in a way, right? I guess I’m not going to see you for awhile,” he said, referring to his tried and true material. “I’ll see you every once in awhile, you know? Cause maybe I’ll be on the road and sometimes you need one to pull you out of a jam.” Like at those clubs on the road where it’s his first time coming through and he needs to make a good impression. “You gotta put on a good show. Really we’re entertainers and we have to put on a good show. So I can’t just do all new. I will work in the new gradually. But yeah I’m working on it. I’m aiming for hopefully two years I can do another one but who knows? I don’t know how long its going to take. It’s a process for sure.”
Watch Sam Morril’s Half Hour Special this Saturday at midnight on Comedy Central, and order Sam’s new album, Class Act, on Amazon and iTunes and wherever albums are sold.