Arts and Entertainment

A conversation with funny man Sam Morril | The Eastside Scene

Sam Morril - Sam Morril
Sam Morril
— image credit: Sam Morril

You probably haven’t heard of Sam Morril. Tell him something he doesn’t know. But the native New Yorker has spent the past four years slowly gaining fame — and infamy — for his raunchy sense of humor.

So I was just listening to an episode of your podcast (Moonlighting, with Sam Morril) this morning, and the conversation about Trayvon Martin and race in prosecution got really intense. You and Yaneika Saunders or Mike Recine and Yaneika were really laying into each other.

Sam Morril: Yeah, that was Dave Smith arguing with her.

It seems like every comic has a podcast now. What does podcasting do for you that standup doesn’t?

SM: You know, I hate to say it, but you can’t just be a comic anymore. You have to get your name out there in different ways and Moonlighting is a way to do that. But the podcast keeps me kind of sharp in a different way. It can be a different format for telling or talking through jokes and bouncing ideas off other comics that I wouldn’t get just sitting home and writing by myself.

Do you find that comics are more opinionated than your average person?

SM: Some of them are, but every comic’s different. Some people just write jokes and they don’t worry about anything else. Some people enjoy doing politics and social commentary in their acts. Comics are definitely more outspoken but I don’t know if they’re more opinionated. They’re definitely more likely to think their opinions should be heard by everyone. (laughs)

Being based out of NYC, on the one hand I think, “That’s the best comedy scene in the world, that must be great. But on the other I think, “That’s the most competitive comedy scene in the world, you must be crazy.”

SM: It’s a lot of bombing. A lot of bombing. And as a joke writer, a lot of times there’s something funny about the joke and you know what it is but you can’t quite communicate it yet. For some reason I guess I’m provocative, which is something I discovered in early bad sets. Because I’d rather get a rise out of the audience than nothing at all — if you’re getting nothing at all, they don’t care. At least when they’re angry they care.

Has that desire to provoke informed your sense of humor? The joke that comes to my mind immediately is this one where you talk about how you’re sleeping with a black girl and you’re uncomfortable because she keeps using the “N-word” — which turns out to be “No.”

SM: (Laughs) Yeah, that joke… that joke has gotten me into some trouble in the past couple years with some bloggers, mostly because what’s funny — what I think is funny about the joke, anyway — was misunderstood. In that case, it’s about the misdirect and the expectations of the audience, which I even point out in the punchline: “You guys were really uncomfortable when you thought I was going to say something racist but, thank God, it was just a rape joke. Phew.”

But I think jokes in general should elicit some kind of reaction. I think it weeds out who wouldn’t be my fan anyway. You didn’t like that joke? Fine, you wouldn’t like the rest of my stuff.

The only problem I have is with people who take it really seriously up-top. You know, people who say “this is never funny, you can never make that subject funny.” I take that as a challenge: I’m going to make it funny.

You remind me a bit of Mitch Hedburg, in the sense that you tell these jokes at a rapidfire clip, but in an almost sedate way.

SM: It is weirdly tiring to perform comedy, in a way you can’t understand until you experience it. You work (bad) hours, flights are early a lot of the time and you have to do the local morning radio shows on the same day you perform, which is going to be late at night. That style just lets me keep my energy. Some comics perform with high energy on stage all the time, and I just don’t know how they do it. I tell jokes in a way that I know I can do from show to show and, I guess, in a way that they work on their own without a lot of energy behind them.

You tell a few jokes about your girlfriend — or ex-girlfriends. How do they feel about being included in your act?

SM: There’s none to worry about right now, but it’s usually not an issue. If it’s funny, it could be a joke about a girlfriend who I’m not seeing anymore, but I’ll still start with “So my girlfriend” — it could be anyone. But when I’m with a girl, I usually explain this is my outlet and I love it and this is what I do and I won’t say anything too embarrassing in the end.

The problem is, more than standup, the real problem is if I tweet something about one of them before talking about it. Stuff like Twitter and Facebook are right in the palm of your hand. It’s too tempting to send something funny out right away. But jokes are something you have to work on and polish, so if it was funny enough to make it into my act, I’ve probably already talked about it with everyone involved.

Sam Morril will perform at Kirkland’s Laughs Comedy Spot September 4-6.

This interview originally appeared in the September issue of The Eastside Scene. Read it now online.


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