Anthony Clark used to be a regular New Year’s Eve fixture at the Comedy Connection in Boston (NOTE: This year’s NYE slot is going to none other than ANDREW DICE CLAY!!??!?!?!?). Anyhow. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, time to let Clark get some things off his chest.
Clark wasn’t in the best of moods when he called. "One of my friends got rolled in San Diego," he said. "His face looks like hamburger. He’s going to be OK, but he shouldn’t be going to 15 bars in three hours in a shadow outfit." Shadow outfit? Oh, right. It was the weekend before Halloween. Was Clark going to play dress up? "No. I hate Halloween. It’s a nightmare. The traffic here in Hollywood is terrible. You can’t go anywhere. People are throwing eggs…I like Thanksgiving. When you eat. Football, alcohol and food. Now that’s a holiday."
What about the Boston New Year’s Eve Connection gigs? He said he loved the money, but is OK without it, just being back on the road in his return to his stand-up roots. "I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a career. I’ve done 12 movies. I’ve been on Broadway in a Tony Award-winning play…Grapes of Wrath, with Gary Sinese…sitcoms…also stand-up. It always seems like there’s something out there to do. Each one of those are very different."
"I think I love stand-up because the reaction is immediate. There’s no director. There’s no writer. No producer. There’s just you. You just get out there and vent. I don’t know why people think I’m funny. But I’m glad they do. I don’t want to have a real job. I just want to hang out."
He then started talking about a previous phone interview he’d had, which got him reminiscing about his days at Emerson College. He singled out Crossroads bar on Beacon Street. "I think they should name it after me, because I basically built it. I gave them so much money."
How’d he like reuniting with other Emerson comics at the Boston Comedy Festival in September? "It’s amazing the people that school has put out, for such a small, little eclectic city school," he said. "Even behind the scenes. Max Mutchnick put on my first sitcom, Boston Common. Kevin Bright…" I told him Bright is back this semester teaching and working with students on TV projects. "Oh, that’s great!" Clark added: "You feel like you owe the school back a little."
About his start in comedy: "I started lke my sophomore, junior year. I was in This Is Pathetic, one of the student groups. One of the guys in the group, David Cross…David was one of my best friends in college. We were in the same comedy group together. I went down to Atlanta to do summerstock between years…David was doing stand-up, and he said you’ve got to do this…The first time I went up was at the Punchline in Atlanta and the reaction was incredible. I was like, finally I get to be good at something. Because I was not a great athlete. I wanted to be. (fake sobs) I wanted to be so good. But when you finally discover that you’re naturally talented at something…"
He talks about how people think doing comedy is crazy, and yet it seems natural and easy to him. I describe how some people tell me they could never be writers. "I think writing is one of the hardest, most insane things to do. I can write a joke. I can tag a 45-minute, hour set together, but to put down a sitcom…I just sit until blood drops down my head. The only thing that’s worse is algebra." He gets off on a tangent, wondering why we ever needed to learn algebra. Well…if you’re leaving Los Angeles by plane for a show in Dallas, and your opening act is arriving from New York by train, what time should you both leave to arrive at the same time? Right. Never mind. I suggested that Clark dress up for Halloween as an algebra problem. "This year, I’m going to dress as a fly and wear a sign that says ‘Will work for s—.’ Either that or Harry Potter. I haven’t gotten my act together yet."
Back to Emerson for a bit. "It was great coming back. I love the president, seeing Denis (Leary) and Steven (Wright) and Eddie Brill. It’s such a small school that it’s like coming back to high school. We all root for each other’s success. It’s like a homecoming."
I guess a Last Comic Standing reunion doesn’t feel that way, telling him he looked so unhappy hosting the NBC show this summer. "I’m not doing it again," he said. "I really shouldn’t say anything bad about it in the press…It was not fun. I was basically talked into it. But no." Not again. "That’s embarrassing for me. I don’t want to be grouped into Regis Philbin and Tom whats-his-name, Dancing with the douche?" But they make tons of money and are on hit shows, I counter. "I’d rather retire, not do anything than be perceived as that guy. It’s so cheesy. Dancing with the…They should have one called F— The Stars. You can pick which one you want to be with, and that’s a win-win situation at that point. Everyone wins."
"Yes, Dear was on for six years. I’m very proud of that. I know it wasn’t a critics favorite by any means, but we had 13 million people watching it and we all had a New England base…(he notes how all of his
co-stars grew up around Boston)…It was wonderful working with those guys for six years. You become tight. We were a family and they all have kids, except me and Liza, because we’re the tragic hags." The perks of being on CBS, though, were great, he said. "And I got to see five Super Bowls and five Final Fours, so thank you, CBS!"
What’s next? "I don’t know what I want to do right now," he said. "I’m going to Australia for three weeks to do a miniseries for NBC. As far as I know, I won’t be coming back to Last Comic Standing. Unless they sue me, and then I will be going back." He asks me about how I said he looked uncomfortable on the show. I repeat it. Yes, he looked like he didn’t want to be there at all. "I was miserable….but I did it. I felt like it had the best ratings it ever had. So I felt good about it."
Does he think it’s a good thing for stand-up comedy? "I think it did good! A lot of these guys, they had no reputation before the show. And now guys like Josh (Blue) and Ty Barnett and Roz, they’re headliners now!" Does he give them advice? "Will any of them have a huge movie career or sitcoms? I don’t know. Not everyone can be me. And that’s when they hang up."