Sam Tripoli is a Los Angeles based comedy killer. He’s often labeled a “dirty” or “edgy” comedian, which he thinks is stupid because, “I’m just honest, I just talk about what I know. I’m not trying to shock anybody.” But, as the founder of the adult variety show The Naughty Show, and co-host of Punch Drunk Sports podcast where he once lost a bowling bet and had to pop a viagra and watch gay porn live on the podcast, you can see where people might get those labels from. His new album Believe in Yourself is out now on iTunes and AllThingsComedy and he’ll be bringing his Rock’n’Pole karaoke/pole dancing contest to The Viper Room on July 29. Amy Hawthorne connected with Sam to talk about his unique career in comedy.
The IBang: You started out in Vegas…
Sam Tripoli: Yep, started out in the 90’s in Vegas and there wasn’t much of a scene. Doug Stanhope kind of started a scene and then he left and so I had to re-kickstart it. They had one open mic every other week in the entire city.
The IBang: That’s crazy, what did you do?
Sam Tripoli: Well, you know how even if you went to an open mic on Mars, someone would tell you how great comedy in New York is because you can get up five times a night? Well, I heard that and I knew, “Man, I gotta do more! So, you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna make my own nights.” So, I would go around and find a bar in a nice location and go, “What is your slow night? Give me that night and I’m going to turn it into a comedy night.” So I ended up doing it so I had a show every night and I was also opening for comics at the Riviera.
The IBang: You used to drive in to Los Angeles to do the Laugh factory open mic, didn’t you?
Sam Tripoli: Oh yeah, me and a bunch of my friends would jump in the car every four weeks. Back in the day The Laugh Factory open mic was insanely awesome. It was this next level open mic, you got up in front of a real crowd that was all about the open mikers. We’d drive in at night, get in about 4 or 5 am, then we’d wait until noon to sign up. Then we’d go around and try to find a place to shower and stuff, we’d perform and then we’d drive back. It was so worth it back then. A real crowd of people who were actually listening instead of a bunch of Vegas drunkheads who were playing Keno the whole time or a room full of other LA comics who all hate you.
And then Jamie Masada would tell you could come perform, but you had to come onstage with a parrot on your shoulder.
The IBang: I’ve heard so many stories like that about Masada
Sam Tripoli: Yeah, well, if you think about it, if you’re in a position to have these hundreds and hundreds of people coming up to you and you’ve got maybe 50-60 spots to fill in a week, you have the power to just see how weird you can make it. Did you ever hear the Joey Bananas story with Mitzi [Shore at The Comedy Store]? She told this guy to to go up onstage dressed as a banana! And he never got seen again. Can you imagine if you were at an open mic and somebody walked up in a banana suit?
The IBang: Well, luckily for you, Mitzi didn’t ask you to wear a banana suit, she passed you straight to the Main Room, which is a Big Deal.
Now, I’m not Ari Shaffir, who has set some kind of insane record of fifty auditions before he got passed. I’d done it like five or six times and one time I even got a standing O and she still didn’t pass me.
Then Duncan [Trussell] took over as booker and Mitzi has this premonition – and this was way before 9/11 – that there’s going to be a need for Middle Eastern comics. So Duncan calls me up and asks, “Are you Middle Eastern?” and I said, “I’m half Armenian” and he said “Close enough!” So, it was me, Ahmed [Ahmed] and Aron Kader all auditioning and Maz [Jobrani] is supposed to close out the show, but he was nice enough to disappear just in time for them to substitute in Bret Ernst so he got to audition and all four of us got made Regulars. So, in one big swoop, Maz got four guys in.
That was a Thursday night and I get the call the next day, “So, Mitzi never does this, she’s done it one other time, but she wants your first Regular spot to be in the Main Room, following Charles Fleischer.” I didn’t know what that would mean, following Fleischer, at the time he was just crushing for an hour and then I go up and just bomb for fifteen minutes straight. Just eating it and eating it. But the most amazing thing happened, next day I get a call, “Ok, she wants you to go up again.” That changed everything. To actually have a place where you could go, work out stuff and bomb, and get asked back.
The thing about Mitzi is this, she’s different from anybody I’ve ever seen in terms of how they pick people up. She’d pick people up with zero credits, five minutes of somewhat well crafted dogshit, that she just kind of had the feeling it could go somewhere. She picked up people like Sebastian, John Caparulo, Steve Rannazzisi, Ari Shaffir, Steve Simeone… we could just go down a huge list of comics who had nothing going on in terms of “LA Heat”… and made them Regulars and gave them spots. You very rarely see that anymore.
The IBang: You’ve often called The Naughty Show controlled chaos and when I think about it, you’re like the ringmaster of debauchery in LA comedy. How do you control chaos?
Sam Tripoli: It’s my wheelhouse and I’m always thinking two steps ahead. Whatever is happening on stage, I’m not even thinking about that, I’m thinking about two sketches ahead. And with The Naughty Show it was all about putting together these really talented people and just letting them shine.
For the first five years I did comedy, I didn’t work in comedy clubs, I worked in bars, so I learned how to harness those kind of rowdy people.
For the first five years I did comedy, I didn’t work in comedy clubs, I worked in bars, so I learned how to harness those kind of rowdy people. I realized, “How do I get these bar people to come to the club?” At some point the Vivid Tour just stopped and I knew I had to start my own thing with The Naughty Show and I just kept doing it and it became a really fun comedy party.
if you don’t like porn stars, you’re probably not gonna like my comedy…