What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
John Mulaney introduced me to Jermaine Fowler not long after the young Fowler had moved to New York City. Mulaney didn’t vouch for him or ask me to give him press back then. But still. An intro from Mulaney made me serve notice: This kid was somebody for me to keep an eye on. Just a few short years later, you’re all going to see what Fowler is made of when he makes his broadcast network TV debut in May as one of the new cast members of the In Living Color reboot.
Fowler (photographed above by Samar Kamat) has been a regular fixture in CollegeHumor videos and he has produced his own animated webseries, too. Want to know more about Fowler? Sure you do!
Name: Jermaine Fowler
Arrival date: June 2008 via Chinatown Bus and 3 pieces of luggage and a CD Player with Seeing Sounds by N.E.R.D. inside it.
Arrived from: Hyattsville, MD
When and where did you start performing comedy? The first time I EVER told a joke onstage was at a high school talent show. I was in 12th grade. My set was cut short by a panel of female judges because they didn’t enjoy my period jokes. Then afterward I tried a coffee shop in Silver Spring where I bombed terribly. TERRIBLY. I did a joke about George Bush passing a bill that would bring back slavery.
What was your best credit before moving here? My best credit was winning 2nd place at a comedy competition at the D.C. Improv. It meant a lot to me. Still does because up until that night I was questioning if I should quit and go back to community college. Killing that night made me believe that I could probably pull this comedy thing off. The folks who got first place were Aparna Nancherla and I believe Mike Way. I love those dudes.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I picked NYC because it was closer to D.C. I wanted to be close to my grandmother, siblings and friends. I was also a big fan of Batman! But turns out Batman was actually based in Chicago. Shit. I always wanted to move to L.A. because I was always infatuated with skateboarding, KORN (the band), and Los Angeles graffiti. Comedy doesn’t intrigue about the city usually, it’s what I’m surrounded by. I feel the more you’re surrounded by inspiration it’ll make you better at what you pursue. I’m just weird like that I guess.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? I started getting paid at the Comic Strip Live in 2009 after I was passed there. The club owners were managing me at the time. I quit my day jobs and was paying off my rent with that money. I was living my dream. Then I parted ways with the club and I was broke all over again hahaha.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? I felt the comedians in D.C. were great at helping you get better because we all were very hands-on with punching up each other’s material. Comics like Herbie Gill, Tim Miller, John McBride, Kojo Mante, Tyler Richardson, and Seaton Smith always told what was right and wrong with my material after I got offstage. So I was getting funnier faster. Those guys are hilarious. At the time I was one of the youngest dudes in the scene so they molded me into this little monster!
Do you already have an “only in New York City” moment yet? Some dude on the street asked to borrow my phone only to verbally abuse his girlfriend. But I can picture that happens in Philly or Jersey a lot.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? DONT THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN OPEN MIKES AND DON’T CATER TO COMEDIANS EVEN IF WE’RE THE ONLY BASTARDS IN THE ROOM. AND ALWAYS POOP BEFORE YOU PERFORM!
Where do you see yourself five years from now? I’ll be 28 in five years so I’ll already have an hour taped for HBO and or Comedy Central. Touring community centers at section 8’s. But most of all I’ll be starring in an action-comedy! I really hope when I turn 28 I don’t go back and read this like “Holy Shit! I haven’t done any of this crap! I’m a loser!” but it’ll happen dude. I JUST HOPE THE WORLD DOESN’T END BY THEN 🙂
You can catch Fowler on the new season of In Living Color on FOX in May, as well as upcoming appearances on Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show, and shows on SyFy and MTV2. He’ll be at Westfield State College in Massachusetts on May 11 for Comedy Central on Campus. For all other schedule updates, go to www.jermainefowler.com.
Here is a clip of Fowler in action at CollegeHumor Live. Roll it!
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com