Scotland gave birth to curling, so I thought it somewhat appropriate that I was watching Winter Olympics curling action yesterday when I spoke with Scottish stand-up comedian Danny Bhoy. Well, somewhat appropriate.
"Let's both decide that's not a healthy way to start the morning," Bhoy said.
How's this for a start, then? Here's a clip from Bhoy's upcoming hour stand-up special, "Subject to Change," talking about the worldwide credit crunch. Roll it!
Bhoy is making his first headlining stop in New York City this weekend with dates through Sunday at Carolines on Broadway. He'll head next to Chicago's Improv next weekend, with additional club gigs planned at the Improvs in Addison, Texas, and Miami, the Punchline in Atlanta, and the House of Comedy in Minnesota in April.
Is 2010 the year American audiences find out about this Scottish wit? "At the moment, the invasion has not been called. It's just been setting up the various trips. I haven't really done much. It all really hinges on the Comedy Central special, but the date keeps moving along. Not many people know who I am over here. I'm doing Letterman soon." I did notice earlier in the week that Comedy Central put out a press release saying Bhoy's stand-up hour would air March 6, but then the release disappeared online later in the same day. "It's changing again," Bhoy acknowledged. "I don't know what's going on over there. I was originally told January, then March, and now April. I don't even know if I'm going to be here when it comes out."
You moved to America full-time last year, though, right? To Los Angeles. "The tail end of last year, I came here in August. I sort of did a big tour. I do a six- or seven-month tour of Australia and New Zealand every year. Then I filmed this special and they said, 'Why don't you move here and we'll get you gigs in the clubs and get you some work, so I moved here lock stock and barrel. It's not ideal, but I'm here in California in February and it's 80 degrees."
The last time I saw you was in a wildly weird show in Chicago as part of the Just For Laughs fest there, at the Lakeshore Theater after midnight in which you had to deal with hecklers in the audience as well as a green room of comedians backstage who were so loud they were louder than you! "The whole idea of that was a terrible conception in the first place. That was the first year of the Chicago festival. Midnight is a bad time to have a gig anyway. And they had it as the Best of the Fest, which was a little presumptuous to begin with because a lot of these people didn't have their own shows. When you're in Edinburgh, they wait until the end and only invite the best of the thousands of shows in the fest. I'm sorry you had to see that. You're seeing comics outside their comfort zone which is a fasincating thing."
But Just For Laughs loves you. You're a big hit with them in Montreal. "Yeah, I've been doing it since 2005. I had a breakthrough year when I had a Gala spot that got nominated for a TV award, and then I've been back every year since doing something, whether it's a Gala spot, or doing my own show
and I'm just getting geared up to doing my own show in Canada, coming up in April."
What about New York. Is this your first club or theater date here? "I think going back seven or eight years now, I was just really starting out as a comic and I did the Irish-American Comedy Festival in New York. Which is ironic since I'm not Irish, they just assumed from my name that I was…I did four or five nights with some very great Irish comedians."
So does winning over a new audience, or a new nation of audiences, present a fun challenge, or just a challenge? "It depends on the night. There are times when your ego gets in the way. You're like, 'For fuck's sake, what am I doing?' But at other times it was so much fun. It can be such a thrill to win over an audience when they have no idea who you are, but at some point, you want to see that audience building, where it's not just random gigs, maybe get a bit of an audience. It's fun at the moment, but I don't want to go back a step in my career."
What should I tell Americans, then? "We have to mobilize Danny Bhoy fans and making charge on American people who don't know me properly. If you're interested, this is no disrespect to American comics, but I come from a tradition of storytelling, of being Scottish, it's more personal and rewarding. I do longer shows. I tell true stories from my life. There's no sense of me watching the clock or just trying it out, I generally try to change things up and improvise things, to make it a rewarding experience. It's exciting for me, too."
Why does Comedy Central keep changing the date for your special? "I called the special 'Subject to Change' way back in October. That has turned out to be unsettling way more than I had planned. Maybe they're looking at the title and not realizing that it's the actual title, and there's someone in the TV programming department who is confused, and they're just moving it around because of it."
In the meantime, here's a DVD extra from the special, which according to Amazon is due out in April. Here Danny Bhoy tries to figure out American sports:
And if you think he cannot take the piss out of his own land, then here's his Visitor's Guide to Scotland. Roll the clip!