Interview with Last Comic Standing‘s Myq Kaplan August 13, 2010

Interview with Last Comic Standing‘s Myq Kaplan

Myq Kaplan is one clever, funny dude.

He finished 5th in the season finale of Last Comic Standing earlier this week. If you need any proof of his appeal to atheists and science/math geeks everywhere, just take a look at these two clips of him in action:
Myq Kaplan – Squares or Rectangles
Roast of David Hasselhoff It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Russell Simmons Presents Stand-Up Comedy

Myq describes himself as “a Jewy-ish atheistic vegan” (among other things).

He probably would’ve grabbed my attention with that description alone, but I came to enjoy his comedy even more after I started reading his blog and Twitter feeds (especially this one). He’s clearly a gifted comedy writer who has a very unique way with words.

In the aftermath of the Last Comic Standing finale, Myq was kind enough to answer my questions:

So, you won this competition, right?

Correct. (Just don’t do any fact-checking on this one.)

What types of religion jokes seem to go over well with your audiences (regardless of their religious makeup)?

I aim to have my jokes be enjoyable by all reasonable people of whatever faith they want. I know that the definition of the term “reasonable” can vary, as there are some people who hate that I’m a “Jew” even though to many Jews I’m probably not that much OF a “Jew.”

But as far as most of the audiences I come across, people are generally receptive to whatever jokes I tell, which skew towards my belief in the real physical world, which has many amazing things and people in it. (I’m an Earth half-full kind of guy.) I talk about things that exist in this plane of existence, and that includes religious people and their beliefs, which I do support as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others (which happens sometimes).

Sometimes taking religious documents literally also can lead to some humorous scenarios, and I find that most reasonable religious people (of which there are many) are cool with pointing such things out as well. You can believe in God and also enjoying laughing at ridiculous things. I think. And what I think matters, because as I understand it, I was made in God’s image, so he must feel similarly at least a little.

Are there certain topics you feel are off limits in your comedy?

No. The great thing about standup is that you can talk about whatever you want. I don’t that gives comedians a license to be cruel, but freedom of speech is a powerful thing, and when we start saying “say this, but not that,” we miss out on things of significance, I think. I mean, I don’t talk about things like bestiality merely to be inflammatory, but because I have (hopefully) substantial and interesting things to say about it.

Do you feel that jokes about Christianity help you or hurt you with the show’s judges? (Or did they only care if it was funny or not?) What about with the American public, who ultimately voted for the winner?

As far as the judges go, I think they were just looking for good comedy by original comedians, regardless of topic. Funny was their barometer, as far as I know. And I don’t know what the demographic of the voting public is or was, but I’m not specifically going after Christians. I’m not like “Jews win! Christians lose!” I’m not a fan of any organized religion specifically (Buddhists are disorganized, right?), though again, I do support it for people who get positive things out of it and use it to do positive things.

That said, there’s a school of comedy that specifically aims to speak truth to power, and Christianity is the religious power in this country. Authority should always be questioned; that’s what this country was founded on. So apparently I’m a patriot, and I guess people didn’t want someone so patriotic to win.

Where did you get your love for wordplay?

My mother was a dictionary and my father was a thesaurus. So that might be where I got a diction addiction.

What’s the best response you’ve heard from someone in the audience after a show? What would you *like* to hear an audience member say?

I most like to hear audiences say “hahahahaha” DURING the show. That trumps most anything anyone could say after. But in general, I’m happy to hear anything along the lines of “that was good/you are funny/I am happy to have seen this show/you will go places” (as long as that last one isn’t “you should go places right now, away from this place”).

When did you realize you were an atheist?

I’ll start by saying I don’t really like labels. I consider myself a “non-labeler.” That said, I believe the word “atheism” comes from something meaning “without belief” or something close to that. I think that various people perceive the word and concept in different ways, some viewing atheists as aggressively attacking the concept of god (which some do), but I take it more literally; it’s just that I’ve not seen any real reason that belief is warranted. I mean, I like the idea of belief, and growing up I did believe… even in college, I remember thinking things like “we can’t know for sure, we have no proof one way or the other, so why not choose the belief that makes me feel better? if it’s unknowable.”

But sometime thereafter, early in young adulthood, I started thinking more about all the bad things that happen in the world, and the (to me) unacceptable justifications for why a well-intentioned God would allow such things to happen. I also read some books by Daniel Quinn (“Ishmael” and several others) that put into context various stories from the Bible, paired up with stories of the beginning of agricultural civilization 10,000 years ago, and it really made more sense to see them as stories.

Of course I don’t know everything, and I’m certainly open to be proven wrong. But I’m just a big fan of the reality that we can perceive, doing what good we can in this world that we (almost) know exists, etc.

Or maybe it was the first time I took mushrooms.

I’m an atheist who’s only vegetarian. Am I evil for not being vegan?

I don’t think words like “evil” are that useful. I aim to live my life in as utilitarian way as possible. Create as much pleasure, try to avoid causing pain. Most of us probably strive for similar things, but along the way our own pleasure often gets prioritized over not causing others pain. Is that bad? I think so, though I’m certainly guilty of it as well. It’s also human. These days, it’s hard to be part of society and not be hypocritical in some way.

So, I don’t blame you for not being vegan, but I would question why you are not? Just because you love cheese? (For me, becoming vegan was about acknowledging that dairy came from the same torturous industry that the meat did. You can’t get milk without cows giving birth, and they’re all in the same system. That said, I do entirely support people who get their dairy AND meat from local farms that treat animals nicely. So, if you do that? Not evil at all.)

Now that Last Comic Standing is over, what’s the next reality show you’ll be appearing on?

I tried out for Beauty and the Geek once, but I was too beautiful I think. Sincerely, my plan is to appear on shows in reality, that’s it.

Which comedians (past and present) do you love listening to?

Mitch Hedberg, Louis CK, Doug Stanhope, Patton Oswalt, Emo Philips, Brian Regan, Andy Kindler, Paul F. Tompkins, Reggie Watts, and many more.

Quick: Impress us with a good joke!

Quick: check out my Twitter feed!

Myq’s CD is called Vegan Mind Meld.

Go buy it, and then remember to vote for him on Last Com—oh, wait. Dammit. Just go see him when he visits your city!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • inmyhead

    I am so glad that you posted this! He was hilarious, I love him.

  • JM_Shep

    I’m so glad I decided to watch this season. Myq was/is my favorite comic from the show, and I’m thrilled you got to interview him.

  • If you guys like him, check out the WTF podcast where Marc Maron interviews him too.

  • Epistaxis

    Haw haw haw haw, let’s all laugh at the crazy vegan with his nonjudgmental utilitarianism and ethical concerns about food production and exception for locally raised, well-treated animals!

  • muggle

    First clip cracked me up but the second one left me cold. He must have good nights and bad ones. Either that or religion amuses me more than dating. (What’s wrong with that sentence?)

    Ethical, smethical. I wish everyone would mind their own business about what everyone else was eating. Why’d you even ask him that question because, to his credit, he didn’t even bring the annoying fanatical eating obsession up. Just quietly did his own thing.

    Love how none of you ethical eaters care about plants squashed together in rows or murdered for our consumption. (Rolls eyes at Hemant.)

  • ThatOtherGuy

    Hedberg, CK, Oswalt, Phillips and Regan… excellent taste!

  • Awesome. I love Myq–kind of surprised he came in FIFTH, let alone didn’t take home the prize.

    Great interview, and I love that you asked him some deep personal questions. I’ve known his comedy for a while, but his thoughts on atheism and veganism were revealing and interesting. And of course, he was nice about all of it.

  • Reggie Watts

    Fuckin bad-ass read!
    Myq, what a great wavelength to tap into your thoughts are!
    Thanks for the freeness.

  • Great interview – just his responses made me want to see Myq’s work, and THEN I saw he loves listening to the same comedians I do. Must be a genius, too.

  • wow, i want whatever drug the audience is on.

  • JustSayin’

    He’s really funny, and I was cheering him on beginning with the first episode of Last Comic Standing, having seen him on Comedy Central Presents only a few months earlier. I know comedy’s subjective, but Myq’s writing completely blew the eventual winner out of the water; he really should have won. Still, it’s always nice to see a nonbeliever do as well as he has in these hyperreligious times.

    And muggle–what’s with the hostility?

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