Audiences are getting to know comedian Greg Giraldo a little better this spring and summer, thanks to his role as a judge on NBC's Last Comic Standing. They learned even more about Giraldo last week when he served as a guest on the network's celebrity panel for The Marriage Ref alongside Jerry Seinfeld and Gwyneth Paltrow — after one funny response by Giraldo to a married couple's "dilemma," Seinfeld chimed in about Giraldo: "We got to get more people on the show who are going through ugly divorces."
I caught up with Giraldo last night and asked him about that and more, as he headlines in New York City this weekend, May 13-15, at Comix.
How did Last Comic Standing approach you about being a judge this season? "They said, 'Hey are you familiar with the show Last Comic Standing.' What do you mean? They sent a carrier pigeon. They sent a large retinue of giants. They just asked me, Sean. By the time my manager got it to me, he said, you know there's really talk of them doing justice to comedy this season. Wasn't that supposedly what they were doing in the past? I never watched that show. I guess I watched the first season with the house. I knew Andy Kindler was attached to it (this time). The reality was I just wanted the money."
Did NBC promise they'd put you on all of the other shows, too? Was that part of the deal? You did The Marriage Ref? Will we see you on Minute to Win It or Apprentice next? "Marriage Ref was completely coincidental. I'm friends with Tom (Papa), and I did one of the test shows. They promised me when I did the first run, that I'd be on. But then you see it and they have Jesus and the Pope, you think, oh I'll be season seven. I'm one of the least well-versed TV people, but NBC has plenty of good programming. Cheers, I should be on that. What's that — Must-see TV?"
How did you feel about judging fellow stand-ups, knowing you'd be helping someone else get a big break? "It's not comfortable, in a way, to think I'm some sort of comedy authority. In some cases. with people who are brand-new, its OK. But with my peers, it's not always comfortable." He said that almost made him decide to not do the show just to avoid being uncomfortable. "It hasn't always served me well. Then I though, fuck it, go out of my comfort zone. Somebody was going to do it. We were going to find the people who were funniest. If the idea of a comedy contest is repellent to people, then it's still going to be a comedy contest. But we had fun. There were genuinely a lot of funny people. And there were a lot of funny freaks. And there were times that it was very awkward, where there were people who thought they should have advanced."
Will they still have you and the other judges (Kindler and Natasha Leggero) on when the live shows happen with the finalists this summer? "They keep changing what's going to happen at the end." Will they at least showcase your stand-up at some point? "I think there's going to be a live taping. There was talk of us doing stand-up in the finale."
How have things been for you, personally and professionally, since you taped your DVD (and Comedy Central special), Midlife Vices, last summer? "It's better than my life leading up to the special. I've been through a number of crises on several fronts. It's hard to maintain several homes and fund several people..it's all been a balancing act…but it's all been good."
Here's a clip of Giraldo performing earlier this year on Jimmy Kimmel Live:
How has the response from fans been recently? "In the last year, i seem to keep building in terms of fan base and visibility, from all sorts of things, whether it's the special or the (Comedy Central) Roasts, it's a slow but sure increase, but it's not any kind of overnight grand slam. I do so many shows on cable, minor cable channels, that you forget the impact of prime-time network exposure. (After Marriage Ref), going to the drop-off of my kids, every single parent at my kids' school, they seem to know now how unglued I am!"
Are you looking forward to hosting The Nasty Show at the Just For Laughs festivals this summer in Chicago and Montreal? "The Nasty Show, which I've never even done, and now I'm hosting. It's weird. One minute I'm too dirty for this, or too clean for that. I know how to say cunt. I got jokes about cunts. How hard can that be? The word itself is funny. Maybe it's one of those things where you can be fired for being too nasty? I did a corporate gig for Levitra once. I got fired for using too many below-the-belt references!?"
Note: That doesn't even seem possible. And yet. America!
You work the road, but when you're here in the city, you usually do shorter sets at showcase clubs. Does that make headlining in NYC different? "Headlining weeks in New York are always exciting. You're always in the city, but doing 15-20 minute sets, so to be able to do an hour, a lot of people come out of the woodwork. It'd be even more exciting if it wasn't coming straight out of the demise of my personal relationships." I don't know. Maybe that'll actually give your hour more of a fresh edge, don't you think? "It'll be fun. And that place (Comix) is a fun spot when it's full."
I know comedians who say, as someone told me tonight, even, that it's good to get out of the city and do road gigs just to work on the next hour set. "That's what makes it tricky for someone like me. I'm always in and out. I'm always leaving to go do an hour show and then you come back and do these 15-minute sets." Do you prefer one length over the other? "I like mixing it up. The thing about the hour. I like to not worry about the 15 comics who came before you, and I can work the room. Once they're into you, you can slow down and enjoy it."