Q&A with Nick Griffin: Comic aims to parlay late-show experience into stand-up following
Nick Griffin doesn’t have a sitcom. He hasn’t developed a movie character. He’s not necessarily Twitter famous.
About a month ago, Griffin appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman” — his 10th time on the show.
“Every time I do Letterman, it’s a gigantic privilege,” he said. “I worry about it and I work on it. This is where I try to be as good as I can be.”
He’s also appeared on “Conan” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.”
The comedian spends most of his time touring comedy clubs around the country and regularly performs at Comedy Cellar, Stand Up NY and Gotham Comedy Club when he’s home.
He’s a frequent guest on “The Bob & Tom Show” and has the “Comedy Central Presents: Nick Griffin.”
“As a comic, you spend 40 weeks a year going to these different cities,” he said. “You’re by yourself, eating at McDonald’s. When you do Letterman or Fallon or Conan, it’s just a huge thing. All of a sudden you’re in show biz again.
“Sometimes when you’re in Albany on a Thursday and there are 12 people there, it doesn’t feel show bizzy. It feels more like a bowling alley with a microphone.”
Griffin performs at 8 p.m. Friday at Teatro Zuccone before a show at Comedy Corner Underground in Minneapolis on Saturday.
He recently talked to the News Tribune about Letterman, his favorite comedians and writing.
DNT: You’ve been on Letterman 10 times. Is there some sort of list? Where does that rank?
NG: I can give you a short list. Two of my friends — Allan Havey, who is now playing Lou on “Mad Men,” has been on 10 times. Then there is this guy, Jake Johanson, who I think has been on 47 times. I think he’s been on more than Dave.
Some guys want to get on the show and they get there and they think “This is awesome.” It doesn’t occur to them that maybe this would be OK to do all the time.
I was one of those guys who grew up watching Letterman. I wanted to get on as much as I could. I’ve really tried to get on as much as I can.
DNT: Do you remember the first time?
NG: It was more than 10-11 years ago. I don’t remember a lot about it. I just remember standing on the side of the stage waiting for Dave to announce me. It seemed surreal — like you would feel if you were dreaming. I remember I was so pumped up. After every punch line, there is this big gust of air. If you watch it, you can hear me gusting these breaths of air.
Since then, I haven’t used a hand-held microphone.
DNT: Can you re-watch that episode, or does it make you cringe?
NG: I’m kind of nice to that guy who was breathing heavy because that was like his dream to get on Letterman. Some of my later appearances I’m embarrassed because they didn’t go as well.
DNT: Who are the comedians that you’re watching and enjoying?
NG: I think we’re in a great time of stand-up comedy. I know some of this sounds obvious. I think what Louis CK does is extraordinary. Colin Quinn, he’s been touring with a one-man show called “Unconstitutional” that I think is incredible, amazing work.
Maria Bamford. I would say she’s one of the five best comics I’ve seen in my life and I’ve seen them all.
Patton Oswalt does really cool stuff. Jim Norton.
People are just producing at a faster clip — really strong material at a faster clip. One of the benefits of living in New York City, you have to see that and either up your game or get swallowed up by it.
DNT: At what point did you say, “OK. I’m never going to have to sit at a desk in an office building.”
NG: I worry about it every day. I remember early on, even before I got into comedy. I remember being a busboy and thinking “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to anybody, that I have to bus these tables. How can somebody do this?”
I don’t think I can have a day job. I was not a good employee. I was daydreaming. I’ve been caught sitting in a stall, not even on the toilet, just because I didn’t want to go to work.
A lot of that was built on the fact that I had all these ideas that I thought I could turn into something.
DNT: Are you where you want to be, or is there some other goal out there?
NG: I think every comic wants to find a big audience for himself. I have fans. I think having a bigger following as a stand-up comic would be really great.
Go see it
What: Comedian Nick Griffin, with Zach Coulter opening
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.
Tickets: $10 at teatrozuccone.com
Watch clips of Nick Griffin’s comedy at fun.areavoices.com