Frequent late-night guest and Last Comic Standing alum Gary Gulman, headlines at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom Street) tonight through Saturday. Gulman is stopping in Philadelphia during a six week tour and promoting his new special, This Economy. He takes a unique approach to long-format jokes in the clever articulation of entertaining (and often handy) storytelling.
We caught up with Gulman to talk about his particular brand of comedy and stand-up life.
Witout: You’ve been on tour for some time now. Where are you now?
Gary Gulman: I’m on the road for the next six weeks. I’m in Boston right now, doing a show at Boston University with Denis Leary and Jimmy Fallon. It’s for the [Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care]. It’s a tradition in Boston, I’ve done it the past 18 years. Originally–I think–it was just comedians from Boston. Now, they bring in famous comedians. Anyway, it’s very well attended. There were probably like 10,000 people there. It’s an honor to do it.
WitOut: Where are you headed over the next few weeks?
Gulman: After Philadelphia, I’ll be in New Brunswick for the following weekend and then I’m going to Atlanta and San Francisco. There is another stop somewhere–maybe Houston. But, I’m very busy the rest of the year.
WitOut: That’s a good thing. Are you going to be making anymore television appearances?
Gulman: Sure. I was also just in a movie that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival called Lucky Them with Toni Collette. But yeah, I usually do the late-night shows every six months or so. And then I usually do a Comedy Central special every year or two. The most recent is on Netflix, called This Economy.
WitOut: Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Gulman: Sure. It was basically inspired by the recession in 2008, which I was affected by. Not so much by the economy as I was affected by bad choices in my love life. I bought a house for this woman I was engaged to and it didn’t work out. I was stuck with the house by myself so I was broke. Money was a real issue. It sort of happened at the same time that everyone else in the country was struggling so I was able to find a lot of common ground with the audience on the effects of money and keeping [money] in perspective–and also some of my favorite ways to save money, which involved a lot of cutting back and some stealing.
Well, not bad stealing. When I went to the movies, I would always put in the senior discount. I also once stole a muffin from Whole Foods when the line was really backed up. Nothing the way of major crime but I did save some money.
WitOut: What is up next for you in terms of the comedy that you’re delivering?
Gulman: I don’t talk about [money] as much anymore, probably because I’ve weathered the storm and I’m financially stable again. I still talk about certain aspects of the economy, mostly the ridiculous disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us. I would say that I turned more on my personal life than my financial life. I mostly just tell really long stories about things that have happened to me. That’s sort of my style–making really long stories with digressions and stories within stories. That’s my niche. It’s unique but it’s not like I invented anything. There just aren’t too many people who sound like me.
WitOut: Do you think this type of anecdotal comedy is gaining traction these days?
Gulman: I don’t think that’s the case. I think there are more one-liners and topical jokes out there. It’s because the shows are giving comedians five minutes to perform and you can’t really build a long story in five minutes. I’ve found that to be the case.
WitOut: So what is it that draws you to that long format, then?
Gulman: Uhm. I’m great at it.
WitOut: Fair enough.
Gulman: Yeah, and the audience loves it. If the audience was turned off by it, I’d probably shy away from it but I’ve been able to pull it off.
WitOut: Are you ever planning on slowing down your stand-up schedule for TV?
Gulman: No! I love it so much. I really resent having to occasionally do an audition or a meeting because it takes away from stand-up. It was fun to be in a movie but it was 16 hours of standing around to do about a half an hour of work. I prefer stand-up. It’s just so much fun and the audience is great.
I’m at a point where I’m performing in front of good audiences at good venues. [Stand-up] was hard for a long time but now I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.
WitOut: That’s awesome to hear. I think a lot of comedians are moving onto so many other things.
Gulman: [Laughs] I appreciate that because the more time they spend making TV and movies, the more room there is for me to take their shows.
WitOut: Why do you prefer live performance?
Gulman: It’s instant feedback. You’re creative. You feel like you’re a creator and a performer. It’s ideal. I don’t know how people stop doing it after they get TV shows. The only reason that I would want a TV show is to get more people at my shows.
WitOut: So, your show in Philadelphia… Are you excited to come visit us?
Gulman: I love Philadelphia. I’ve been coming down there since about 2005-2006 to perform at Helium. They are some of my best shows. I have a big crowd there. It’s perfect. If I could find a theater there to do my next special in, I would do it. I love it.