Sometimes things are not what they seem. Like when you sit down with two of the funniest comedians to come down the pike and expect them to be cracking jokes the entire interview. Surprisingly, John Caparulo and Ahmed Ahmed had more serious things on their mind.
AUSTIN DAZE: How has it been since the tour? Has it helped your career?
JOHN CAPARULO: What we have right now is the experience. Taking that experience, that we went for 30 days on a bus, it does change your perception of reality. After going that long with a movie star, realizing how big things can get, it’s different than the usual nightly grind at the Chuckle Hut. That’s what I took from it ever since— I think I grew as a person and as a performer.
AHMED AHMED: I agree with John there is definitely a lot of growth that happened in those thirty days. The tour has manifested after the actual physical tour. It went into a pre-editing facility and was cut into a film, we took it to the Toronto Film Festival, and then it was sold and redistributed by another company—there is a whole after life that has been happening after those 30 days. It’s kind of like a two for one: we got the tour and then we got the movie but we weren’t really expecting the movie. So it’s nice. That people can recognize you on a national level in movie theaters is rare. I think John has mentioned this in the past: it’s really rare for comedians to do their act on the big screen.
JC: It doesn’t happen anymore.
AA: You’ll see us on comedy central.
JC: Really the generation now of comedians is really the guys who grew up with the “comedy boom of the 80s.” Everywhere you turned when I was a kid there were comedians on television. Even Good Morning America had comedy. Before I went to school in 6th, 7th grade there were comedians on the morning show. So we all saw it as something that was actually a respectable career choice.
AA: You thought you could make a living.
JC: And then as far as the big screen there were the Eddie Murphy concert films and all the HBO specials and all those big things, they have kind of waned in the past 10, 15 years.
AA: The difference with our movie and our tour –not to take anything away from any other comedy specials that were filmed as movies–but you are on the bus and on the road with us so you get to see that part of the tour. And then we also have a movie star with us so instead of seeing a comedy special where it’s one guy on stage it’s Vince Vaughn with four unknown comedians and special guests–it’s really more of a moving, variety, rat pack kind of show.
AD: There were definitely a lot of layers. What was it like to be filmed all the time?
AA: There was a lot of looking away and shooting. More fly on the wall kind of stuff.
JC: They were just other guys that were there who happened to have a camera attached to their hip. That’s really what it was. As far as the movie was concerned, we really didn’t know what it was going to be.
AA: Vince never told us it was going to be a movie. He said, “Just shoot everything.”
JC: I remember thinking it was at best going to be a DVD. It would come out in stores. I heard it would come out right around the time one of his movies came out. They would put the DVD out and maybe people will see it. I never thought that it was actually going to be a feature film. We were really, every night, just so focused on the shows—that’s all I ever worried about. When the camera guy would come and interview me it was like, “Dude, seriously, I’m trying to get in my zone.” It wasn’t really the first thing on your mind.
AA: The shows were a microcosm of what was going on in that night, in that moment, in that city, in that venue. The only thing we were thinking about for the next night is that we have a job for the next night. That was our focus. We would wake up in the morning and go take a shower, go get some food, some of us would go to the gym, some of us would take cameras and go shoot around, but the focus was the 20 minutes and that was it. I say that sincerely. It wasn’t hey, “We’re going to be f**king movie stars.” We had no idea and didn’t really care. I think that was one of the beautiful parts of the movie because you see that, you don’t see people in the movie saying, “Hey look at me, we are going to be somebody one day.” We weren’t thinking about the results or the outcome. I always look at comedy like the glassblower—you know you will see him at the state fair or whatever. When he first starts out there are 2 or 3 people watching and by the time he is done 30 minutes have gone by and he’s got this nice vase that he just blew and he looks up and he’s sweating profusely and there are 50 people clapping. That’s what comics are like. We are sweating with our heads down caught up in whatever we are doing and then when we are done we look up and people are clapping. That’s how I relate it: we are not really looking for the payoff we are more in the moment. That’s it; let’s focus on each show and let’s be funny tonight.
JC: I remember thinking while we were on the tour, “We just do the same boring shit every day. Do these people even have anything to make a movie with this?” We don’t do anything. Then I remember they told me the first cut of the movie was four hours long. I just didn’t think that we did enough or anything like that to make it long enough. We just didn’t focus on it.
AD: That’s interesting to hear. Because you didn’t focus on it and weren’t really paying attention was there anything surprising to see about the process or what you were going through?
AA: We knew what they were filming, so we all had trust in the producers and editors that they would cut the movie together in a classy way–in a way that showed integrity and had a lot of heart and soul. One of the great things about Vince that I think he prides himself on is about putting products out there that don’t rise to the occasion or rise above what he expects. He would never put his name on something and put out a product that made himself look bad or the people around him look bad. If anything in the movie does come across as bad it is only because it was coming from an honest place. When Caparulo comes off stage and hears someone say, “f**k you” that’s just a misunderstanding; that’s not malicious.
AD: I would think something like that could be really powerful; for you to look back and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize that happened.”
JC: Yeah. You look back at it and go, “Oh God, those are those moments that are my private thing.” I was thinking about it when I was watching one of the screenings last week and they are asking me about the stuff I was talking about–meeting women and stuff like that. You know that conversation I’m having is with the camera guy and it’s just me and him talking. And then when you see it on the screen you’re like, “Oh shit.” It can be uncomfortable. I think as comics we all have trouble watching ourselves anyway. I’m completely repulsed anytime that I watch myself which I think might be a bit extreme to feel that way but I think it is better than the opposite extreme where if I really enjoyed watching myself, how creepy would that be? “I’ve got my own DVD and this guy is f**king great!” There are those moments in there that were intimate at the time and you are just living your day to day life. Now it’s up on a big screen and it is a little bit jarring at times, yeah.
AD: What was it like to have to do a show a night?
JC: We do our normal thing in Hollywood and we all go on at the Comedy Store every night and if you had a night that you didn’t like that much it’s different than on this tour because you knew that tomorrow night there are another 2,000 people waiting in the next city. It’s “Man, there was a really good crowd tonight and I blew it” versus “We are going to have a good crowd every night because we are traveling with the guy from Wedding Crashers.” It’s a different feeling than the normal night to night thing. Plus, in some ways it’s a little awkward: when I’m at home and finish doing my thing I go home versus here I go back to my little bunk on the submarine and close my curtain. It’s a little different to not have your own space and have to cope with that. But like I said it’s still cool. Every night you knew was going to be a huge event.
AA: For a comic that’s just a dream come true. Arrive in a new city, especially a city that’s not cosmopolitan—it’s not like we were in LA or New York or Vegas–we were going right through middle America where they don’t get big shows like that. It was nice to pull up and see the name on the marquee and the pictures and the sign that says it’s “Sold Out”. Knowing that there are going to be anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 people sitting in seats waiting to laugh.
AD: How did the crowds compare to LA or New York?
AA: Not to take anything away from LA or New York but those audiences can be uptight sometimes because they see it all the time. New York is very saturated with comedy as is Los Angeles so when you have something at your fingertips all the time you kind of get spoiled and jaded. But when you don’t have it people are really thirsty, they are hungry for comedy and you sense that. You sense it when we went through Oklahoma, when we went through Birmingham, and Austin and Ohio–not Austin–but some of these other places it was a night out for them. It was an event. They had their dates or it was girls’ night out or guys’ night out, they had their drink and their popcorn in hand or whatever it was and got their early and did their research. It wasn’t like they were just going to the movies. The venues we played were really cool—the Paramount, the Rheinhart theater—and most comedians don’t get to play in places like that so that was a real privilege to play where major entertainers had played—Elvis Presley, Patsy Kline, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens. We played the Agora Theater in Ohio where the Beatles had played.
JC: They hadn’t cleaned the place since the Beatles had played. Yeah, the cool thing was everywhere we went everybody got it. Getting the laugh is one thing but it is that experience of relating. People understand the frustration that goes into creating these things. The fun thing is that we went to all these different cities that supposedly have different types of people with different accents and at the end of the day we all really share the same experiences every day and we all get pissed about the same shit. That was really cool to find out that you know what, it translates everywhere.
AD: When you came back to the smaller venues in LA did you have to adjust your performance level?
AA: Yeah. Peter talks about it in the movie how we all have postpartum depression because we started out playing the comedy clubs where it is maximum 300 people and you are lucky if you get a gig doing a 1,000 seater at a performing arts theater—but mostly it’s clubs. So to go from that to elevate your presence and either talk louder or be bigger on stage it’s more theatrical almost and you have to adjust. Then we finished the tour and we come back to the clubs and there will be 50 people in the audience and it’s like, “HEY! HOW ARE YOU!” And it’s like, “Slow down, we don’t need all that energy.” We had to adjust and come down to ground level.
AD: What wisdom would you offer young comics who want to make a go of it?
JC: You have to love making people laugh. That’s what it is. You can’t go into it looking to get something back from it besides just making people laugh. The reward is the act itself—that’s the only reward. If you are going into it for fame or money or girls you are going to be really sad. You have to do it because that’s what you want to do.
AA: There is an old saying that they use in the Middle East that if you really care about something you throw it into the ocean and it belongs to the ocean. Audiences for me are like that. When I do a show, when I throw my act out into the audience, it’s their’s now, they own it, they have it, they keep it and go back to their house and repeat it to their friends or at the office at the water cooler. In conjunction with what John said, you have to really enjoy the act of stand up comedy and the art of stand up comedy if for any other reason it’s a really sad, long, journey.
JC: And you can’t learn to be funny.
AA: Funny is funny.
JC: It has to be who you are. The journey of every stand up is how to become yourself in front of a group of strangers every night in a short amount of time.
AA: And have a point of you view. You can’t learn to be funny. You can learn to have a voice. There is a craft behind the art. Some people are not born painters but they have the innate ability to want to paint. If you have that innate ability to be funny along the journey you learn certain tricks to the trade; certain words you use or inflections you use or facial expressions that you craft but John’s right, there’s no school. You come out of the womb and you are either funny or your not.
JC: When I came out of the womb, it was hilarious. I was killing it at the hospital. ***