Mike Rainey has developed himself a reputation as one of Philly’s most brutal comics, as well as one of the quickest on his feet. He can be seen monthly with his segment Story Time with Mike Rainey at Chip Chantry’s One Man Show (with Special Guests).
How and why did you get into comedy?
I thought I was funny but didn’t have the balls to perform. Then, I saw Jim Norton and was blown away by the fact that someone could make me laugh for an hour straight. I soon after started writing jokes but still couldn’t work up the nerve to perform. I then went to see the band Tool perform and there was a moment where the lead singer, Maynard James Keenan, just spoke to the crowd while the band played softly in the background. I just remember him saying the words “take risks” and I felt like I had been punched in the chest. At that point, my mind was made up and I was finally going to do it. One of the reasons why I love performing comedy is that I always get so nervous before a show that I either throw up or have diarrhea.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that?
I’ve been predominantly set up / punchline from day one, mostly about current events or nonsense that I made up. Lately though, I’ve been working on bits that are more personal and just trying to grow out of what I’ve relied upon up until this point.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you?
My favorite venue is The Shubin Theatre (Philly Improv Theater). Almost always a packed house and it is intimate enough as to where I can perform without a mic, which I prefer. As a performer, the most you can hope for out of an audience is for them to be willing to listen. The rest is up to you. The Shubin always allows that.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out?
My first show where myself and the other comics had a green room and free beer. It blew my mind. The show was at a place in Jersey called The Millenium. I felt like a star.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material?
I just do a lot of brainstorming and free association. A few times a week, I’ll just sit down in front of the computer and just write. Once I make the decision to sit down and write, my brain just gets overwhelmed with ideas, most of them fucked up. The challenge is in crafting the word play and making them palatable.
What is it about stand-up that draws you to it?
Honestly, I have this ridiculous need for acceptance and for people to think I’m funny. I’d like to say that at 32 years old, I’m a well adjusted adult. In reality, I’m hyper-sensitive and dependent upon my jokes going over well. On the flip side, it’s also a big “F.U.” to be able to stand by yourself onstage up against everyone else in the room.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites?
My all time favorites are my cohorts from my comedy group, Too Drunk To Fuck or T.D.T.F. for short. That group consisted of myself, Pat Kelly, Steve Rees, Eric Todd, and Danny Ozark. We’ve had a lot of differences but I love each of them so much. Another comic was once talking shit about us and said “All those T.D.T.F. guys wanna do is show up, get drunk and high, perform, and leave.” That was the perfect description of us.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire?
I performed in Fishtown, which is a neighborhood that should have been firebombed a century ago. This woman sat in the front row as I performed and kept heckling me. I’d make fun of her and she’d leave, only to come back seconds later to repeat the process. I should have known what I was in for when the owner of the place briefed us before the show, held up a roll of toilet paper, and said “This is for you guys. In case any of you are shitty.” I just hope he dies a lonely death.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?
Continued positivity and support as it is now. When I came up, I was a douchebag who though his shit didn’t stink and I subsequently contributed to a lot of negativity. Now, I just want to support everyone that I can and keep things moving in a positive direction.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?
I want to gain enough notoriety and promote enough good will that when I’m caught with a tranny hooker, people are rooting for my comeback.