Farrakhan Runs the Light: An Interview with Comedian Justin Williams (Frontier Psychiatrist, 10/1/14)

Frontier Psychiatrist: When I listen to your comedy, I hear a lot of tension with New York. Is that true to life? What is your relationship like with the city?

Justin Williams: Listen. For all the reasons why people love it, I love it. You can’t beat its cultural institutions. You can’t beat its diversity. You can’t beat the access to resources that you have in the city. It is truly a global leviathan. And that is absolutely true. But that doesn’t negate some of the things that are wrong with the place. It’s a place now that is just completely hostile to working-class people. It’s a place now where everybody like me is moving, which is fine, except I didn’t move to New York to just live. There are certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn now that I think to myself “well I didn’t have to leave Kansas City to see these people.” And that’s not why I moved there.

In fact I just moved to Newark, New Jersey and I absolutely love it. I love it for all the reasons why people make fun of it. My neighbors are working class. There are a broad spectrum of people. People with crazy ideologies. You know, all the things people romanticize about New York is what Newark is now. Especially these Patti Smith types who say “oh, New York was really the best in the 80’s.” Well that’s what Newark is right now. I relate a lot more to that aspect of New York than I do the Sex and the City or Girls fantasy that has taken hold in a lot of places. I just don’t have any connection to it. In fact, I became pretty exhausted with it.

FP: What’s your special called? Black and Comfortably Middle Class? I thought that was pretty ironic because most of your descriptions of New York did not sound that comfortable.

JW: You know, there is tension. I mean, yeah, I hate on the place because structurally in the Midwest, you are used to nice things. We take it for granted the space that we have and lifestyle that is there. And in someways, in New York you are paying more to step backwards in lifestyle. New York is like a gang initiation. It’s what you have to do to get jumped in. And I didn’t want to pay the price anymore. I wanted to live a more full life. I didn’t want to have 50,000 roommates. I like having a dog. And not feeling bad because I have a dog in a humane space. I like having windows. I didn’t have windows in Brooklyn. And it’s hard to want to pay rent when you live under the expressway with no windows.

Read the rest of the interview here:

The (Perfect) Ten: Interview with Comedian Bill Squire (Frontier Psychiatrist, 7/3/14)


Frontier Psychiatrist: What is your idea of success as a comedian? What are you striving for?

Bill Squire: For me it’s about being prolific. I want to have a career that has ups and downs. I always want be creating something new. I don’t want to be the comic that has a catch phrase or is relying on t-shirt sales. Like your act isn’t great, but you can sell 25 t-shirts every show because it is that good of a t-shirt. I don’t want to be the t-shirt comic. I don’t mind selling merchandise, but I don’t want my show to be about merch. It’s just being creative and growing in whatever way that is. Adding different aspects too. I don’t always just want to be the same comic. If my comedy in ten years is the same as it is now, that wouldn’t be good.

FP: You mean you want to see a change in your voice?

BS: More like point of view. I want to still be funny, but I want to be wiser. I want to be a better person in ten years than I am now. Better and funnier. And there are people who say “Oh, the worse person you are, the funnier.” I used to think that, but I don’t agree with that anymore.

FP: It is interesting watching comedians evolve. You see someone like Aziz Ansari who starts out making his career with a joke about cyberbullying his cousin, still a really great joke. But now you see his most recent special, and he addresses more universal themes.

BS: I think part of that is because when you get older, those universal themes become so much more relevant and so much more important to you. You start trying to reach as far as you can while still having a unique point of view. When I saw Aziz in Columbus a few months ago, a good portion of his set involved talking about relationships. And it is tough watching someone who is younger than you tell you about relationships. But he did a good job. It was funny. But as someone who is in a more evolved relationship than he has ever experienced, it’s not. Like it’s funny but I don’t agree with it.

FP: It’s more speculative

BS: Right. And that’s why I try to keep some realism in my comedy, because then I am not telling you how every relationship is. I am telling you how mine is. And then you can take what relates to you and leave what doesn’t. I hate a comic who tries to say how everything is. “Women are always this way.” “Guys are always this way.” “Gay people are always this way.”

FP: When you approach it like that, it is too easy to be hack about it.

BS: Right. Exactly.

Read the rest of the interview here:


No Cancellations: An Interview with T.J. Miller (Frontier Psychiatrist, 2/13/14)


Frontier Psychiatrist: You could easily be making a career out of acting or writing (I assume you could anyways). Why keep returning to stand up?

T.J. Miller: Stand up is the most challenging, and in many ways the most rewarding medium of comedy. It’s also the foundation and skeleton on which all the other comedy I do is built off of. I love acting and writing as mediums of comedy, as I do voice over and street luge, but to me it is all comedy and I love doing all of it. I feel like I have a duty to become the best comedian I can and make the most amount of people laugh and feel a safe haven in an escapism from everyday life which is permeated by tragedy and hardship. Also I love Ohio. When else am I gonna get out here??!?

FP: How did you get into stand up? Do you remember your first set?

TJ: I of course remember my first set– you never forget it. It was at The Cotton Club, a famous nightclub in the Southside of Chicago. I had given myself an ultimatum and an immovable date to do my first set. The place I was gonna go wasn’t having a show that night, so I found an open mic at this nightclub I had never heard of. I didn’t know anything about Chicago or the Southside, so I took the subway machine down there, and walked to the club. It was a pretty rough area it seemed, and then I got to the club, and it had a red carpet out front (I think the buildings on either side of it were abandoned). I walked in and it was 5 black people and a Latino behind the bar, and I said, “fuck it let’s do this.” I went into the bathroom and practiced my set, when I came out and there were 400 people in the club, I found out it was an R&B, Hip Hop and music open mic. And I was the only white person there. It went great. Really. I’m lucky.

Read the rest of the interview here: