By Anthony Brancaleone
The Gentlemen of Leisure Tour, featuring comedians Joe Fitzpatrick, Dwight Simmons, David Britton, and Nate Gropp, makes a stop at LJ’s Sweetheart Bar, the very intimate 35 seat, back room located in Corktown, Detroit on Wednesday, April 12 at 8pm.
But, since the show has probably already Sold Out (or has come and gone) your only other option to get acquainted with these wits is to read the following Q&A, which was transcribed from a late night recording session in a highway truck stop somewhere in the Pennsylvania mountains.
Recorded March 2017
Anthony Brancaleone: Good evening, good morning, this is Anthony Brancaleone, editor of The Metropolitan and two times junior jr. Golden Gloves boxing champion, seated inside one of America’s largest truck stops along a desolate stretch of Texas Highway. With me are four men known as The Gentlemen of Leisure.
Dwight Simmons, a comedian from Indianapolis, IN started his comedy career at the world famous Comedy Attic in Bloomington, Indiana, while pursuing degrees in Kinesiology and English. Dwight has been featured in the Limestone Comedy Festival and in 2015 his debut album, “Pacifist Aggressive” hit #1 on the iTunes charts. Good evening, Dwight.
Dwight Simmons: Good evening.
AB: Seated next to Dwight is David Britton, who grew up watching Marx Brothers movies, thanks to the love and good sense of his mother, and Mystery Science Theater, which his mother hated. Winner of Comedy Attic’s 2014 and 2015 Funniest Person in Bloomington contest, and a finalist in the 2015 and 2016 Funniest Person in Cincinnati contest. Good evening David.
David Britton: Good evening.
AB: You have a little ketchup on your chin.
David Britton: Thanks (doesn’t wipe it off).
AB: Intelligent and playful, Joe Fitzpatrick’s style has made him a favorite in the Indianapolis comedy scene. As one of the managers of Rocketship Comedy, Joe has also worked with some of the best comedians in the business. His surreal, hilarious video work on Family Friends, by the way, is not to be missed.
Joe Fitzpatrick: (smiles and nods).
AB: Finally, we have Nate Gropp, who has just joined us from the truckstop’s ‘Cowboy Sauna’. Also a fixture in the Indianapolis comedy scene, Nate has shared the stage with some of the top acts in the world, including Henry Phillips, Ms. Pat, Michael Che, Kurt Braunohler, Al Jackson, and Michael Ian Black. He was accepted into the 2nd annual Crossroads Comedy Festival in Indianapolis as a featured performer and is a regular featured act at some of the top clubs throughout the Midwest. Let’s see, it says here Nate is grounded in his love of absurdity as well as the guilt-ridden weirdness of growing up very Catholic. Is this true?
Nate Gropp: It is.
Server: Are you ready to order?
(Everyone at table starts to read the menu. The server holds a pen in her right hand and an order pad in her left. She is ready to write. She chews gum. It is silent for a moment.)
Nate Gropp: Sorry, I didn’t look at the menu. I’ll have the Diablo Sandwich.
Server: Do you want fries with that?
Nate Gropp: Yes please.
Server: Anything to drink besides water?
Nate Gropp: I’ll have a Dr. Pepper.
Joe Fitzpatrick: I’ll have the Diablo Sandwich too, no fries.
Server: Anything else to drink?
Joe Fitzpatrick: Dr. Pepper.
David Britton: Diablo Sandwich, fries … and I have a question about the Dr. Pepper? (server waits) Is it made with real cane sugar?
Server: I don’t know.
David Britton: Would you mind taking a look?
Server: Yes, I would.
David Britton: (deep breath) I’ll try it.
Dwight Simmons: Diablo, fries, Dr. Pepper.
Server: Thank you. And for you, darlin?
AB: I’ll have two poached eggs, medium well, bacon, Texas toast, well done, well buttered, and another coffee when it’s convenient, please. Thank you.
(Server smiles and leaves table).
AB: So, gentlemen, I have a comedy pop quiz for you. First question: What is funny?
David Britton: Oh boy, well farts, genocide, sex, tricycles, existence, a big dog throwing up on smaller dog, the list goes on forever. It should be noted that some of these things are also very sad.
Nate Gropp: Funny is dependent on how one perceives reality, and/or how often one farts.
Dwight Simmons: Funny is also a kid getting decked in the face with a dodgeball.
AB: Is there a difference between funny and comedy?
Joe Fitzpatrick: Funny breaks tension. Comedy is just purposeful building & breaking of tension.
Nate Gropp: Comedy is the attempt to relay that perspective to the masses, via jokes, storytelling, and farts.
David Britton: Mel Brooks once said “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” I’m not going to do any better than that.
AB: As a comic, how do you take what’s funny and turn it into your own brand of comedy?
David Britton: Well according to my last two answers it sounds like I should be kicking dogs into sewers, but that’s not really my bag. Funny things happen all the time. There’s a million ways to do this but one that I often employ is just looking at a situation from a different angle. If you step on a bug you might just think about how gross it is, but what’s it’s like for the bugs wife and children? In that direction lies comedy.
Joe Fitzpatrick: I think you find your voice by writing and performing a lot. The more you do it, the more unique and well-defined it becomes.
Dwight Simmons: Meditation in the morning. A diet full of whole grains. Pen and Paper.
Nate Gropp: After every punchline, I yell “Hee-Ya” and crack a whip so all the dummies know when to laugh.
AB: How do you guys write your jokes?
Nate Gropp: Usually with pen and paper, though sometimes just by farting throughout my everyday life.
Dwight Simmons: I just kind of stare into a mirror & ramble until I make myself laugh. That way I can tell myself what’s funny and what isn’t.
Server: Did you need something?
Nate Gropp: Me ..?
Server: Because, I thought I heard you yelling.
Nate Gropp: No … no … I was just cracking a joke.
Server: Is that what that was (pours a round of coffee)?
Nate Gropp: Sorry, I …
(server leaves table – all laugh)
David Britton: I’m going to give away the big secret of comedy here so I hope your readers understand what a bargain they’re getting. I don’t ignore the stupid thoughts I have. Everyone has moments during the day when they’re like eating breakfast or something and they think things like “I wonder how many pounds of lint I’ve picked out of my belly button during my life.” The average person then shakes their head and goes to work. I write that shit down. I think about it. I explore it. Then I go talk about it in front of a room full of people.
AB: Can you walk me through the minutes before you hit the stage to the moment you find your stride.
Joe Fitzpatrick: I think talking to people the hours leading up to a show keeps my brain sharp, then once the show starts I try to find some space to clear my head by myself before getting on stage. I like going outside. Stride I think is relative to audience reaction, so sometimes it happens on the first joke, and sometimes the audience has been tight all night and you have to work a bit to open them up.
David Britton: I pace around. I mumble through parts of my set. I stretch. Audiences don’t always give you time to “find your stride”. I try to hit the ground running and hope for the best. My friend Ben once told me that the key to comedy is caring the most until your foot hits the stage and then not giving a fuck.
Nate Gropp: I just continually think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. I also try to save all my farts till I’m onstage.
AB: How does it feel when you guys bomb on stage?
Joe Fitzpatrick: Like taking medicine. It’s not fun, but if you don’t do it you don’t get better.
Dwight Simmons: It depends on the stakes of the show, honestly. For bigger shows, hopefully I’ve prepared enough to not have to play mind games with myself before getting on stage. I also like to have an empty stomach and bowels.
Nate Gropp: Having an entire buffet of chili dogs and not being able to fart.
AB: What comics are you listening to lately? Who do we need to know about?
David Britton: So many! Chad Daniels just released a new album that is one of the funniest standup albums I’ve ever heard. He might be the best joke writer working today, although Henry Phillips is in the running. I wanna mention Aparna Nancherla even though she’s starting to blow up and a year from now you’ll have heard of her anyway. There’s a guy named Steven King from Chicago who’s doing things I’ve never seen anyone else do on stage, it’s electrifying to watch and makes me jealous. Stewart Huff is one of the greatest comics of all time and so few people have heard of him. He makes me laugh super hard but I’ve also literally cried watching him. Not like I’m crying so hard I was laughing but because he has these amazing sad beautiful moments during his sets. If you only take one thing from this interview it’s this: Get the new Stewart Huff album. I can’t explain how great it is.