Meet Me In New York: Doogie Horner
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.
A flowchart led me to Doogie Horner.
A couple of years later, Horner published his first book through HarperCollins, fittingly enough, "Everything Explained Through Flowcharts." He since has written about "100 Ghosts" and now "Some Very Interesting Cats Perhaps You Weren't Aware Of." And he's also designed many book covers; among those you may recognize, the covers for "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." Horner accomplished some of that, as well as a TV audition that went viral for America's Got Talent, all while still living in Philadelphia. He made the semi-finals of AGT that summer, then won Philly's Funniest the following year.
Horner moved to NYC a couple of years ago, and this week, released his first comedy album, A Delicate Man, via Comedy Dynamics. Horner invited me to meet him for dinner at T.J. Asian Bistro in Sunnyside/Woodside so he could fill me in on his New York story while we both filled up on sushi.
Name: Doogie Horner
Arrival date: August 2013?
Arrived from: Philadelphia
When and where did you start performing comedy? "I remember it really well. It was Helium Comedy Club at their open mic. The first mic I did was because I read Curb Your Enthusiasm, the book. And in the introduction, Larry David was talking about how he had started stand-up. And he said, yeah, I just found an open mic near me and I saw how long it was, it was like a three-minute mic, so I wrote three minutes of material, and I went up and I told the jokes, and the ones that were funny I kept, the ones that weren't I got rid of, and I just did it again. I didn't realize it was that simple. Oh, that's really easy! So, anyway, Helium had a mic. And it was like a three-minute mic. So I went and did that, and a bunch of friends came! I didn't tell anybody to come. Obviously. Like I don't get these people, 'I'm doing comedy for the first time, c'mon!' I still barely tell people when I'm doing shows. So one of my friends found out, and so he brought a bunch of people. And I said, 'Don't come! It's going to be terrible!' And he said, 'I know. That's why we're going.' But it ended up, I had a good set. Afterwards, a bunch of comics came up to me and said, 'Oh, it was really great.' One guy, he had been doing comedy for a long time, I found out, and he said, 'That was really good. How long have you been doing comedy for?' I said, 'Oh, it was my first set.' I think he felt a little -- I think maybe I shouldn't have said that. I felt silly. So, yeah. It went well. It was fun."
What was your best credit before moving here? "Probably still my best credit, America's Got Talent, when I was on that, season five."
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? "My wife got a job here." OK. "We were looking at New York and L.A., and we just figured, we would move to whichever one -- Jen was applying to jobs in both cities, so we said we'd just move to whichever one she gets a job in first. And she got a job in New York." So it was more based on her than on you. "Yeah, it's also better because it's closer to our family. All our friends and stuff. If we were in L.A., we'd be really on our own, far away from everything, so it kind of worked out better."
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? "I don't remember." Were you able to get paid work pretty soon? "Yeah, but I'm still not in at any of the clubs. I just, I'll do shows there if friends of mine are booking shows. But I mostly do alternative shows. I don't do the clubs too much."
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from?
"Big difference is, if you're in Philly and you're funny, people come looking for you. Because there's not enough comedians. So if you're funny in Philly, you don't have to do -- all you have to do is your stand-up, and people will just give you shows. Here in New York, you have to do shows. You have to be funny, but then, you also have to strategize. You have to spend time trying to get shows, too. You've got to go places. You've got to hang out. You've got to figure out, where would I like to perform? What do I have to do to make that happen? That's the big difference. In Philly, you just do stand-up, and everything else takes care of itself."
Can you describe an "only in New York City" moment from your experience here?
"Just how like confident people are here. My friend and I -- you know Harrison Greenbaum? -- we were walking down the street and he saw some lady, and she was like a mom. He said, 'Hey! Hey! Dorothy! How are you doing?' She stops and she looks at him, and she goes, 'I don't know you.' And he said, 'Yes you do! Your name's Dorothy. I'm Harrison.' And she goes, 'Nope.' And nobody else anywhere would do that. They'd just pretend, or they'd be like, or at the very least they'd go, 'Oh, how do I know you?' But this lady, she's like, 'Nope. I don't know you.' And only here would he be like, 'It's Harrison. C'mon, Dorothy. Of course you know me. I went to high school with your daughter, Christine.' And then she's like, 'Ohhh! Hiiii!' Nowhere else would anybody do that. They'd just be polite, or fake it, or something. To me, that's the New Yorky thing. Is how confident people are. I don't think they're trying to be rude, but." You haven't had any Pizza Rat level crazy incidents yet? "No. I certainly haven't seen anything crazy here that I wouldn't see in Philly, too. I mean, there's a huge difference between Philly and New York, but it's just more in terms of quantity. It's just more crowded here. There's more stuff here. And in general here, I'd say people are more confident. A bit more stressed out. Busier. I mean, honestly, I don't -- the only things I prefer about New York are it's safer. It's way safer. You can go anywhere, and you don't have to worry. Philly, you should only go certain places. And usually be careful."
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
"Just try not to stress out too much. Everybody comes here, a lot of people who come here, come here because you were the best comedian in your city. And then you come to New York and you're the worst comedian. You know. Or you're in the middle somewhere. And so I would say, try not to let that bother you. Just try to enjoy yourself. Relax. I think it's easy to get stressed out, or overwhelmed by how many different shows there are, the different clubs, the different people. It takes a while to just get used to where everything is, or where do I want to go, where do I want to spend my time."
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
"I don't know. I'm not a big planner." I already know you're not big on remembering dates. So just think of it as where would you like to see yourself in the future? "I'd like to be headlining more. I'd like to be better. I'd like to be a regular at some of the clubs in New York more, but I don't like hanging out. I know you need to -- you need to put in your time. Everybody wants to be in the clubs. I just like performing. I don't like anything that's not performing. But nobody does...I write a lot, too, so by then, I'll have a couple more books out. Just keep getting better."
Here's a sample track from Horner's new comedy album, A Delicate Man:
You can buy the full album on iTunes or Amazon:
And here are Horner's books for sale, too!
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