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 new 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.
Fun Fact: Sheng Wang was the inspiration for the launch of the "Meet Me In New York" series! When I saw Wang in NYC in the fall of 2009 and learned he had made the move here, I realized that I needed to have a way to spotlight so many of the comedians who come to the big city but may not be making headlines everyday to otherwise cover. Of course, Sheng Wang has made plenty of news recently — winning NBC Universal's seventh annual Stand-Up For Diversity competition and earning a one-year holding deal with the networks. And this Friday, his first half-hour Comedy Central Presents debuts on Comedy Central. Let's get to know a little bit more about him. Cue the Q&A!
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? The traffic in LA is a heartbreaker. I realized that I was getting too comfortable with the culture and the pace of life in the West Coast and wanted a change of scenery to shake things up for myself. I love the conveniences of living in a city where you always have access to cool things happening and you don't have to do some drunk driving at the end of the night. Plus, sometimes when you happen to line up a string of road gigs, you find yourself spending only a few days out of the month actually at home. Given the higher density and late night nature of life in New York, I figured that a few days in NYC goes further than a few days in LA.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? I forget…but I wasn't eager to get paid as much as I was just trying to situated in my new environment.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? New York is a much bigger standup comedy scene. There's so many different groups within it with various comedians who've been working for a number of years and yet have never met each other. The pool of talent is so deep it helps keep me on my toes and inspired to work harder.
Do you already have an "only in New York City" moment yet? Once after a long night of drinking, two friends and I ended up hanging out on the fire escape of my buddy's fourth-floor apartment. Suddenly, a random Rastafarian street dude, through an impressive display of acrobatics, climbed up the fire escape from the sidewalk and insisted on partying with us. However, he instantly started acting like a jerk and made stern demands for alcohol, smokes, and other party implements. When we made it clear that he wasn't welcome, he grew increasingly aggressive and hostile. I kept trying to keep things peaceful by saying the word, "Respect," like I was Ali G. After repeated requests for him to leave, he finally agreed, but only on the condition that he departs through the apartment door. At a loss for any alternatives in our drunken state, we let him climb through the window and into the apartment. It was a bad idea. He immediately fell off the sill and crushed the fan my friend had just recently purchased to battle the summer heat on a budget. I escorted him out the door armed with my litany of "Respect." We turned the AC on and passed out with the windows locked.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? Do as many mics as possible. Take advantage of the talent here…watch the pros at the shows and learn. Stay humble and hungry. Be nice.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? Writing better jokes. Maybe doing a cross country tour using locomotives and my bicycle.
Here's a clip from his Comedy Central Presents that actually won't air on the TV. Thank goodness for Internet! Is it because he says the word "poppy seed"? Maybe it's because he jokes about smoking pot and giving himself tasks to accomplish. Roll the clip!
And here's his comedy guarantee:
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