An interview with comedian John Caparulo
Eight years ago, the only thing comedian John Caparulo seemed to hate more than a certain popular online video site was his manager. Today, things are different: Along with a regular schedule of stand-up comedy dates, Caparulo’s everyman approach to comedy has him poised to become a household name with two hit comedy albums and web series, a slew of late-night appearances and a comedy special on Netflix. Apparently, he’s under new management.
And his staff, so to speak, has expanded to include a wife with whom he co-hosts a podcast and young daughter who just may or may not interrupt him someday while he’s on the toilet.
Caparulo’s coming to the Keswick Theatre on Feb. 27, and he answered a few questions via email about the different ways he gets his work out to fans, his family life and how he combines it all.
There’s a Variety interview from 2008 where you mention you hate YouTube. Today you’ve got 24 episodes of Caplets, your video series, on the site. Has your opinion of the site changed, or did it just seem inevitable to embrace it?
Ahh, what is such an underrated feature of the internet is that everything you’ve ever said can be disseminated across the globe and stored so that future generations may have eternal access to the proof of your stupidity.
The worst part of reading that comment now is that today in 2016, I probably use YouTube for at least a third of my home entertainment. I even started paying them the 13 bucks a month to get rid of the ads, as if a guy who has this kinda time to troll for old videos like The Star Wars Christmas Special or a Vice News Special Report on Donkey Sex doesn’t have another 30 seconds to waste watching a few commercials. But back in 2008, YouTube just seemed to me like a circus of cat videos and Kimbo Slice fights, as well as a website where anybody and everybody could post a video clip of my standup comedy except me.
At that time, I remember being really pissed off that the YouTube server wouldn’t allow me to post my Tonight Show sets because they were the “exclusive property of NBC/ Universal,” but then 5 other people I didn’t know seemed to have no trouble posting the exact same clips of my Tonight Show sets on their channels. I remember trying to persuade my manager at the time to call somebody at YouTube and straighten this matter out, but he wasn’t yet familiar with this new world wide web and was more focused on getting me booked in the Catskills or on Ed Sullivan.
For me, up until say 2010 or maybe ’11, all the internet seemed to be good for was email and porn. But now there’s YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Crackle, email, and porn. And I fired my manager. Looking back, I wish I could have hit him with my car, but I guess that’s still considered a felony in this state. Damn Liberals. (I’m kidding, folks. I like Liberals.)
You’ve also been hosting the Domestic Dispute podcast with your wife Jamie for the past year or so. Are there off-limit topics, or is it anything goes?
I don’t think we ever hold back much on there. I mean, we’ve been in our house alone for almost all of them, and without a live audience it pretty much feels like we can say anything as if there were no microphones at all. From the time we started doing Domestic Disputes, I just convinced myself that whatever I said on there is already on there, and giving any of it a 2nd thought after we hit STOP would drive me crazy.
As far as our relationship goes, I can honestly say that I’ve been 100% honest with Jamie since the day we met, and I’d venture to say she’s at least been in the high 50s herself the whole time. I never really understood the point in being in even a slightly dishonest relationship with someone. I mean, that’s what the people outside are for, of course you lie to them. But when I come home from a hard day of dealing with strangers and small talk and impersonating a men’s room attendant at Denny’s, I just wanna be able to come home and be me again. Sure, I might get to meet a few new people and smell their poop or listen to them pee, but I can only take so much of that.
So in response to your initial question about any topics being off-limits, I don’t think there are any because there aren’t any topics like that between Jamie and me. Maybe biochemistry. And hockey. Neither of us know shit about that stuff.
Whose idea was it to start the podcast, and what was the learning curve like for both of you?
We had a few failed incarnations of it before Domestic Disputes. First, we did a weekly show on Sirius/XM called The Mad Cap Hour. It was ok, but we were on (I think) Tuesdays from 4-5pm, and the studio was about 10 miles from our house, which in Los Angeles can be a pretty long trip, depending on the time of day. It usually took us about an hour to get there and roughly 3 days to get home each week. So we decided to hang that up for a while.
But then my manager at the time received word about this new podcast phenomenon only days after he had learned that there were actually telephones on the market that were capable of functioning without a cord attached and that one could even obtain one without renting it from the phone company. So The Mad Cap Hour had a brief rebirth on something called the Toad Hop Network.
I started to feel at that time that podcasting was just another way for me to follow the herd because nobody seemed to have any better ideas. That’s something I’ve always had a hard time with— following the herd. I don’t think I’m above it or anything, but it just feels unoriginal, which led to me feeling uninspired. And I’ve never wanted to do anything that feels half-assed. We were just going through the motions there, and by then my manager was caught up in the disco craze. So we parted ways with Toad Hop.
Then my friend Al Madrigal talked to me about Bill Burr and him starting All Things Comedy, which sounded like a better option altogether, mainly because it didn’t require me to leave the house. That’s always been the beauty of Domestic Disputes, that we do it whenever we want at whatever time we want and as often as we want.
The original premise was that we were gonna argue about some specific domestic issue and let the listeners decide who was right. But I think that idea faded away once Jamie started getting numerical evidence that suggested I’m right all the time. I had tried to show her the same statistics with some charts I drew up on a napkin about a year before that, but she didn’t wanna see them because she was in the shower or driving or something. So anyway, now we just press RECORD and start bickering. I think we’ve managed to stay consistently mediocre ever since then.
How do the podcast and YouTube videos fit in with your regular standup, in terms of how you write and present your work?
I wish I could say I have some sort of system for all of it, but everything seems to be case by case. I used to try to keep everything reserved for my standup material, but for the most part, whatever I say at any given time is usually suited best for whatever I’m doing at that moment. I mean, the tone of what I talk about on the podcast really comes from a different approach than what I do onstage. After about the 7th or 8th installment of Caplets, I felt like I had just about tapped my reserve, so I basically started writing the sets in the car on the way to the show. Chelsea Lately was good practice for that sort of thing, writing new material on the fly. Or maybe it just helped me lower my standards on what I’d be willing to say in front of a national audience.
Either way, recording new sets without any proven material has been like reliving my first time onstage once a month for the past 2 years. I apologize if I’m making that sound like a positive thing because it’s been a regular kick in the balls. Hopefully it’s worth it once you look at the entire body of work as a whole. I won’t ever look at it myself. Too many bad memories.
Is it challenging to work with videos and podcasts, where you can’t feed off or react to the people listening or watching?
Yes. I wish comedy show audiences could understand how integral they are to how good the show is gonna be. We feed off the energy of laughter and get funnier as the laughs get bigger. When you think about it, laughter is the only thing that validates a comedian. If the audience isn’t laughing, then I’m not much different from your average raving lunatic shouting obscenities at a bus stop. And no, it’s not comforting to know that I’m a few giggles away from insanity.
You’ve been featured on the The Next Generation of Blue Collar Comics, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Tour and Ron White’s Salute the Troops special, along with arguably more urbane venues like The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and especially Chelsea Lately. Network television standards aside, do you tailor your act for different audiences?
It’s fairly inevitable that you’ll have to adapt at least to some degree for each audience. Otherwise, you’re just gonna be rolling the dice every night hoping that they’ll be willing to come with you. If I’m performing for a more uptight audience, I might tone down the profanity. But if I’m performing in front of a rowdy audience, then I’ll probably tone it up. Or if I’m performing in front of a blind audience, I might just leave and hope they don’t realize it until I’ve left the venue and stolen all of their coats on my way out. Of course, that last one is a rare occurrence since it would have to be cold enough outside to be coat weather.
Your show at the Keswick is part of the “Mad’s Dad Tour” in honor of your daughter. How has being a father changed things for you, both on-stage and off?
It now means that at any moment, there could be an audience to watch me have diarrhea. Not that my daughter is gonna walk in on me when I’m on the can. It just means my perspective has changed, and my family is really all that matters to me at the end of the day and for most of the next. My wife and that little girl are more important than money, success, and even pooping my pants onstage. So I’ll see ya at the Keswick, Philadelphia!
John Caparulo will perform at the Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave. in Glenside, on Feb. 27. For information, visit http://www.johncaparulo.com.