Joe Mande talks the nature of Shark Tank, comedy awards, satire and pranks on the cusp of his “Award-Winning” Netflix special

Joe Mande may not win any actual awards for his first hourlong comedy special, although many comedians would consider getting Netflix to release Joe Mande’s Award-Winning Comedy Special is recognition enough.

Mande, speaking to me a few days ago, said he was “very happy it ended up (on Netflix). I didn’t really have a Plan B. I just sorta Secreted it.”

In 2017, when every A-list stand-up seems to have signed a Netflix deal, that’s a secret a lot of other comedians want to know. But Mande has no easy answers. Just jokes: “They paid what, Chappelle like $20 million, so they only paid me like $12 million. But I’m not at the same level, you know?”

Joe, you have a series of mock entrepreneurial pitches for the show Shark Tank: Do you have any backup ideas for Shark Tank that didn’t make the special?

“That could be it’s own hour special, for sure. I sorta cannibalized that. Some of that appeared in Master Of None (where he worked as a writer and co-producer). They used my Shazam For Trees idea. I have a bunch. But I was able to restrain myself. I used only two of these for the special.”

Totally J/K, your long-running show with Noah Garfinkel, covers this ground, too, with your List of Nothing, right!?

“We’ve basically been doing the same stupid bullshit for 10 years now.”

Is Totally J/K still a thing?

“Not really, no. I was doing it while working at Parks and Rec. It was a grind because we had a really late 11 p.m. Monday night slot at UCB, so it fucked up my week,” he said. But Garfinkel kept him involved. “The week Noah got hired at New Girl, he said, ‘Fuck, I can’t work late on Mondays!’ I said, ‘I know!'”

“We’ve been talking about reviving it, though.”

So much of your brand is playing with the idea of reality versus prank – from buying hundreds of thousands of Twitter bots to get to a million followers, to naming your special’s director. Where does that come from?

“Probably from having too much free time,” he said. “I think the Twitter bot thing came from reading this article about how Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, over half of their followers were fake. What am I doing? I should be playing the same game.”

And naming yourself the La Croix spokesman years before it became hip, was that the same deal?

“That was part of the same sort of bit, where I was just trying to amplify…I was much more famous and important than I really am, so I started calling myself a brand ambassador.”

It worked at first! “The people at La Croix were sending me a bunch of water and swag. Then they turned on me and sent me a cease and desist letter. Now I hope that whole company goes bankrupt and burns in hell.”

How’d you get on their bad side?

“I was doing a live show with Aziz…I said something about coming on Ted Cruz’s face. Someone Tweeted what I said, and that got picked up by Michelle Malkin, and then the people who followed her started chiming in.”

But now everyone knows La Croix. “Now it’s this cultural phenomenon. I’m not going to take credit for La Croix,” he said. “I’ll take 90 percent of the credit. I did all the hard work and it’s this trendy ass shit. The only good flavor is pamplemousse. Anyone who says any other flavor is just fooling themselves.”

Do you actually want to win a comedy award, and are trying to Secret that, too? 

“I actually wrote on The Comedy Awards that first year they did them. I had to buy a suit, so I didn’t even make any money. They told me the day of the awards that I needed to wear one. I had to leave work early and buy this dumb-ass suit. Everything about it was so absurd that it stayed in the back of my head,” he said.

“I’ve worked on a bunch of shows now that were well-received but didn’t receive the recognition of other shows…it;s just stupid. But of course, I want an Emmy more than anything.”

He plays recurring character Ben on ABC’s Modern Family, and is a producer and writer on NBC’s The Good Place. No Emmy noms for Mande this year, though.

“Ben on Modern Family, I didn’t think he was going to get it (for Guest Actor),” he said. “I was honestly just hoping Ted Danson and Kristen Bell would get nominated (for The Good Place), or the show itself.”

Joe Mande is on an East Coast stand-up tour in August that hits D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Somerville, Mass.


Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →