Interview: Alex Edelman – Everything Handed to You
‘Seinfeld is the alpha and the omega of American sitcom’
This article is from 2015.
Last year’s Best Newcomer winner Alex Edelman returns to tell us that recognition is nice and why we all owe Steve Martin a lot.
Would another President Clinton be good or bad for satire?
Satire will be fine. Incompetence is always funny. Government is too big and too filled with human beings not to be incompetent and sad and hilarious. People of authority always kind of have the capacity to be super-petty and wicked-gross. Also: Donald Trump is still alive so we’ll be fine.
The British are overly keen on saying that Americans don’t do irony. Can you offer a piece of evidence that blows that theory out of the water?
The Larry Sanders Show did irony incredibly well and it’s a hilarious show that had tremendous vision. Pretty much every one of Rip Torn’s lines from it is dripping with irony.
Bill Hicks or Denis Leary?
Everyone you know will say Hicks. Everyone. Every single one. Honestly? As someone growing up in Boston, I’m partial to Leary. I thought he was so hilarious when I started; he never forgot his Massachusetts roots and he’s done a lot for charity in very quiet ways. His Comics Come Home gig in Boston was the first show I ever went to. So, Denis.
Are American comedians bothered about winning awards?
Yes. Any recognition is always nice. Don’t think it matters where you’re from for that to be true.
What will Trevor Noah need to do to maintain The Daily Show’s success and reputation?
A lot, but I don’t think he’ll change at all and I think he’ll make it look effortless the way he makes stand-up look effortless. Trevor has mountains of talent and he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I’m an enormous fan of his. I think America is pretty lucky to get such a fresh young voice aimed in their direction.
Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman?
How healthy is the state of live comedy in America? What should be done to improve it?
I don’t know how to answer this question. It’s not great at the moment, in some ways – it’s hard to make a living just doing live work – but, on the other hand, there are so many fresh and original watchable voices just doing an amazing job. Gary Gulman and Ryan Hamilton and Bobby Kelly and Godfrey and Julio Torres and Kate Berlant and Josh Sharp and Nick Callas are some of my favourite comics and they can all be seen for pretty much nothing on pretty much any night in New York. That’s got to count for something.
Do Americans generally welcome the likes of uppity Brits (John Oliver, Tracey Ullman and Ricky Gervais for three) coming over there and stealing all your jokes?
Not this American. John Oliver is the goddamn best. But I think John is a citizen now and he says ‘we’ a lot when talking about America in his stand-up, so you guys may have lost him. And Tracey Ullman is British?
Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld?
Seinfeld. It’s the alpha and the omega of the American sitcom. My favorite sitcom full stop and I think the fact that British people have failed to embrace it the same way they embraced, say, Friends, is easily the worst historical crime that the British have ever committed.
Billy Connolly is widely regarded as the man who helped pave the way for modern British stand-up comedy: who would you pinpoint as doing the same in America?
There are so many schools of stand-up in the United States that it seems impossible to pick just one. Robert Klein inspired the straight-up observational stand-up that characterized the 90s, but honestly, I don’t know if many comedians today still feel his influence: I don’t. Richard Pryor and Cosby (I know, I know) paved the way for black stand-ups. Pick any Borscht Belt Jewish comic – it was a movement rather than one person – that inspired Jewish comedy. I think my favorite is Steve Martin, who I think was our first alternative comedian and sort of made the weird mainstream. We owe him a lot.
Alex Edelman: Everything Handed to You, Pleasance Courtyard, 0131 556 6550, 8–30 Aug, 8.30pm, £9–£12. Previews 5–7 Aug, £6.