Philadelphia’s own Jimmy Shubert started out doing stand up at The Comedy Store and worked his way up to headlining all over the country from Vegas to New York City and all around the world. He’s put out a DVD, three comedy CDs, a Comedy Central special, and when he’s not doing stand up, he’s had a long list of appearances on television and in film. Our own RJ Waldron caught up with Jimmy Shubert right after he wrapped his tour of Asia to ask him some questions for “The Set,” our new series of original interviews with great comedians.
RJW: I know that you were just on a whirlwind tour of Asia, how awesome. What was that like?
Jimmy Shubert: It’s amazing as an American comedian that I can tour Asia. You don’t realize that they have these large expat communities over there that consist of Canadians, Australians, Irish, English, and American. These English speaking people that live in China for a myriad of reasons that teach English or are over there getting their masters in Chinese Philosophy or other programs. But, they are all over there working, and there is really nothing for them to do. You know, stand-up comedy, like Jazz music, is a uniquely American art form. It’s great to be a good ambassador to the art form of stand-up comedy and to go over there to perform and do it at a high level. You know, I made my living for the last twenty-five years as a stand-up comic. I’ve been all over America, Canada, the Bahamas, I’ve been to South Korea, Afghanistan, Ireland, Israel, Mexico and now China. It was quite the trip. In twenty days I did eighteen shows, in eight cities, five countries, and two continents. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty brutal travel schedule, but at the end of the day, you’re there to do stand-up. It was a hell of a lot of fun.
RJW: How were the crowds, was it all expats? What is the Asian scene like?
I felt like James Bond. I had a couple of suits made in Hong Kong. Went to Macau, Singapore, it’s rock and roll, man.
RJW: Right, I mean you’re staying up late, sleeping all day, but still wanting to get up and see the sights.
Jimmy Shubert: Yeah you’ve got to get your rest because the jet lag is no joke. The second day that you are there it feels like you got sucker punched in the back of the head. Every couple of days you’re doing some sort of travel. I was in Shanghai for seven days, then basically everyday you’re on a bullet train up to Nanjing, then you’re going down to Hangzhou. Then another bullet train to Suzhou, which they like to all the “Venice of China,” but nobody who has ever been to Venice would say that. It’s fascinating because you read about these places, but it’s a completely different thing to see them. I loved Hong Kong, I thought Singapore was amazing, Macau was awesome, Shanghai is a very cosmopolitan city. I need a week to get back to normal. But, it really kind of makes you a citizen of the world.
RJW: You’ve had the opportunity to work with the best comedians and the best actors both in television and movies. Do you love the acting, or is it always comedy first?
it’s just not enough to be a great stand-up comedian, anymore. You have to do other things. You have to podcast, you have to act, you have to do stand-up, you have to write, you have to immerse yourself into all of it.
RJW: That’s such an interesting point because some comedians just starting out are really fantastic, but when you get the people on stage that have the life experience and the stories that’s really when it’s really great.
Jimmy Shubert: Yeah, look at Louis C.K. he’s been doing this for twenty years and is just popping. Bill Burr is a guy who has been doing it for twenty years, you know. Doug Stanhope, Dave Attell, all these guys are in their forties now and they are doing really great work. It’s inspirational. I happen to be a huge fan of comedy, as well as being a comedian. I love to laugh and I love to watch comedians who do it at a high level, and those guys ALL do it at a high level. That’s the kind of group that I associate myself with.
RJW: Do any of those guys make you laugh more than you’d ever like them to know? Sometimes I feel like comedians don’t like to let other comedians know how funny they are, or do you let them know that they are killing on stage?
Jimmy Shubert: Comedians know how difficult it is, so I have no problem telling Dave Attell that he’s one of the funniest guys on the planet. I have no problem telling Doug Stanhope. My buddy Chris Porter just did a spot on Arsenio and I called him directly to tell him how great the spot was. I have no ego when it comes to this, I don’t. I root for my friends. A win for them is a win for me, you know. The funny thing is, because I read all of these things on the internet, “The Five Things That You Need to Know About Comedians,” “Why You Should Never Date a Comedian,” most of these people writing or saying these things have never done stand-up comedy. You can’t just paint with broad brushstrokes when it comes to comedians. Comedians are some of the most intelligent, aware, empathetic, knowledgable people I’ve ever met. It’s an interesting group to be a part of and my mind is blown everyday. They are just so aware of everything going on in the world because they have to be in order to make fun of it. I find New York comics to be extremely prolific. Colin Quinn and Jimmy Norton, you just try to keep pace with them because they are doing it every night. I probably write a new twenty to thirty minutes every six months, but it’s not a new hour every year, and a lot of these guys are doing that.
RJW: So tell me about the taping that you did with Dave Attell.
Jimmy Shubert: The Dave Attell show is an uncensored, unfiltered, late night show for Comedy Central. Dave is back on Comedy Central after a little hiatus from Insomniac. I love Dave Attell, I think the world of him. As a comedian, no one makes me laugh harder. I was happy to be invited to be a part of it and I had a great set. That should be coming out in April.
RJW: Do you like the whole social networking aspect? It gets you out there more, but it also really puts you out there more, you know?
Just shut the fuck up. These are just words. The “C word,” the “N word,” the other “F word.”
RJW: When you were growing up… I’m curious what kind of kid were you.
I actually feel like I had one of the last traditional American childhoods, believe it or not.