Twin Cities-raised comedian talks about growing up funny

Nick Swardson recently pitched a television show, he's working on a movie script, and "The Buddy Games," a movie directed by Josh Duhamel that stars Olivia Munn and Dax Shepard, is soon to be released.

Nick Swardson
Nick Swardson

Nick Swardson recently pitched a television show, he's working on a movie script, and "The Buddy Games," a movie directed by Josh Duhamel that stars Olivia Munn and Dax Shepard, is soon to be released.

But right now the Twin Cities-raised comedian - known for "Reno 911" and his frequent collaborations with Adam Sandler - is in the midst of a national tour that includes shows in his home state. The DNT recently caught up with Swardson while he was on a tour bus between Boston and Philadelphia, in advance of his show today at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

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DNT: What are the things you must do when you return to Minnesota?

NS: Drink and drink again. No, the great thing about Minnesota is that the food scene has gotten really good. So I just like to go to Twins games, Vikings games, Wolves. Then go out downtown and eat and drink.


I just drink and avoid my family.

DNT: How often do you get here?

NS: I try to about three to four times a year. I had season tickets to the Twins, but that turned into hell on earth. I would go to three games, and my family and friends would fight over the tickets.

DNT: At what point were you like, "I can do this for a job"?

NS: I did theater in high school, I did improv, comedy sports, when I was 17. Me and my friend Colton Dunn ("Superstore"), we started that together. Then improv comedy folded. I came from no money and no grades. I thought standup was stupid - you already know what you were going to stay. (Then I went) to open mic at Acme Comedy, and my first time was amazing. You're just hooked. I became addicted to it. I knew right away.


DNT: Where you a show-offy kid?

NS: I was kind of a smartass. I grew up in a pretty tough school. A sense of humor got you through it. I was always, like, the silly kid. I grew up in the time of "In Living Color," "Saturday Night Live," Adam Sandler ...


DNT: So then what was it like when Adam Sandler wanted to meet you?

NS: It was pretty bizarre. (I was told) "Hey, Adam wants to meet you. He saw your comedy and he's a fan." I do have these moments, but now I'm just used to it. Adam, David Spade is one of my best friends, Rob Schneider is one of my close friends.

DNT: What about the Minnesota comedians, like Louie Anderson and Maria Bamford?

NS: Louie Anderson is one of my best friends, too. We're extremely close. I know everybody. Louie and I just had dinner the other night. I know some of the up-and-coming kids. It's funny because when I started in 1996, comedy was on the way out. It's nice to see it resurging again.

DNT: What's it like to be a comedian right now? Can you watch your old stuff, or do you feel like you need to scrub it from the internet?

NS: I never watch what I do. I've quit comedy so many times and then come back to it. I quit for a year and a half once. I didn't even touch a microphone.

DNT: What did you do instead? NS: I just knit one sweater.

DNT: Why did you quit?


NS: I just got burned out. I've been doing it 22 years. I was just tired. ... Then I came back with a vengeance.

I love doing standup. There's nothing like it. I've done everything: I've produced $100 million movies, I've had my own TV show several times. You have network execs and people steering you in different directions. With standup, it's all you. You're the final end all, be all. That's what's great about it. Why you keep going back to it.

DNT: What's a sure-fire way to make you laugh?

NS: I find my sense of humor going back. So I find it being more immature. I just laugh. I can go on Instagram all day, watch drunk people doing things or morons doing things. It cracks me up every time.

It's interesting, the longer you do it. I can't watch stand-up comedy anymore.

DNT: Who do you like? NS: I like Daniel Tosh, Bill Burr, Brian Regan. But in terms of comedy, you've seen it all. It's exciting when I find somebody who makes me laugh. When I see someone young and funny, I bring them on tour with me, give them some stage time.

DNT: Do you crack yourself up?

NS: I think of things in my own head and start laughing.

DNT: Do people always expect you to be in short-shorts, like Terry Bernadino from "Reno 911?" NS: People expect me to be on Roller Blades all the time. People expect you to be hilarious and when you're not, they get angry. That happens a lot, which is super weird.


What: Nick Swardson's "Too Many Smells 2018 Tour"

When: 7:30 p.m. May 31

Where: Symphony Hall

Tickets: Start at $35 at Ticketmaster outlets including the DECC box office and .

Related Topics: THEATER
Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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