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.
The Internet has crushed dreams of artists before. Everyone’s a critic, and these days, a harsh blog post can make social media seem very anti-social to a comedian who’s just concerned with making funny jokes. Thank goodness Sam Morril has so many jokes to fall back on, and so many fellow comedians in the New York scene who have his back, for support.
Morril just keeps making and telling jokes, and earning kudos and POINTS! for it. He won the 2010 March Madness contest at Comix in New York City, then the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta the following year, and over just the past year and change, Morril has racked up two spots on Conan, appearances on @Midnight, Inside Amy Schumer, and a showcase on Adam Devine’s House Party on Comedy Central, plus regular appearances late-night on Red Eye on FOX News — where he enjoys poking jabs at his friend and fellow comedian, Joe Machi.
This weekend marks Morril’s biggest splash yet in stand-up comedy, simultaneously performing his episode of The Half Hour on Comedy Central and releasing his album, “Class Act,” via Comedy Central Records. He’ll also have a show in the upcoming New York Comedy Festival, “An Evening with Sam Morril & Beth Stelling,” Nov. 10, 2015, at the Village Underground (where he recorded his album).
Let’s find out more about this native New Yorker who “eases in with a sex joke, weaves break-ups with basketballs, fights racism with good food, tackles homophobia, has daddy issues, takes a swing at euphemisms, thinks women are amazing (also, murder!), suffers from ADD, tells a subway story, is a bit misguided, raises the tension in the room, gets a little creative, deliberates back hair and dating, joins a hate group, has questionable judgment, and tells one more for the road.” Talk about a Class Act! Those are all track listings from his CD. Fun facts. Here’s some more!
Name: Sam Morril
Arrival Date: 1986
Arrived From: The womb
When and where did you start performing comedy?
“NYC. First open mic was 2005 at a place called Collective Unconscious that’s no longer with us. My first show for civilians (non comics) was a graduation show at Comic Strip.”
What was your first best credit?
“Conan. That one felt real. Until I did legitimate TV, the ones I used were placeholders.”
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else?
“I’m a native NYer so that made it easy. My friends and family are here and I think it’s the best place to be a comic. It’s also fun to get to watch my Knicks disappoint me up close.”
Traffic in LA makes me homicidal. Nice weather though!
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after starting?
“The first real road gig was when I was a senior in college. I got $400 for a gig in Pittsfield, Mass. I couldn’t believe it. I thought the guy on the phone was a friend playing a practical joke on me. I was relieved when I arrived at the venue and saw chairs and people.”
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from (or others you’ve tried)?
“New York is the best comedy scene if you want to get great. You’re surrounded by such good comics that you’re constantly pushed to step it up. Also, in New York you can do so many sets a night. I love it. You need to be on the road a lot too, but NY is the best home base I think. LA gets 2nd place, and the rest are developmental spots until you move to NY or LA.”
What would you describe to people as an “only in New York City” moment?
“A few years ago, I bombed a Montreal audition. It was an ugly set for about 12 foreigners who didn’t realize the importance of — I don’t know — knowing the language so they’d know when to laugh. I handled it poorly. It hurt.
“I’m on the train after the set, completely down in the dumps, and a subway dance troupe gets on. As you can imagine, I’m not in the mood. Once they start, one of the dancers gets in my face and starts using me as a prop for part of his routine, and in a weird way it really cheered me up. It made me laugh.
“Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to get every festival and TV credit the moment you want it or feel you deserve it, but I’m in this for the long haul. Being a comic is such a part of my identity and how I live life. Some nights hurt, while other nights are great. Sometimes a friend will pick you up. This time it was a stranger. Another struggling entertainer cheered me up on the E train late at night. That’s a pretty New York moment.”
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
“Say yes to every humiliating show and don’t be a dick. Chances are, you’re not as funny as you think so don’t go burning bridges. Also, it’s just more pleasant for everyone if you’re nice. There’s a lot of downtime and familiar faces popping up so think twice about ‘telling it like it is’ every once in a while. I know comics like to be ‘truth tellers,’ but that doesn’t mean you can’t also be civil. That being said, I’m terrible at faking it. If I don’t like you, you probably know it.”
Also, write a lot and get onstage a lot.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
“Mrs. Joe Machi.
Hopefully I’m doing what I’m doing now, but playing to a much larger audience.”
Morril performs regularly at The Comedy Cellar in New York City. You can check out his touring schedule on his website at sammorril.com. You can watch Sam Morril’s The Half Hour this weekend on Comedy Central, and you can buy his comedy CD, “Class Act,” now via Comedy Central Records!
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