Adam Newman is a comedian we know you’ve seen before. He’s been in countless College Humor videos, had that crazy experience with a hecklers’ coat, and just last year was a part of “John Oliver’s NY Stand-Up Show.” He will often poke fun at anything that could happen in real life. It can go from a dog pooping, to a late night grocery store visit, or a night out at the bar. But, what makes audiences love him is his special gift of storytelling. It draws you in and makes it seem like he’s talking about the craziest thing in the world that you HAVE to know about. Let’s see what Adam is up to these days and also get to know him better. Believe me, you’ll love him.
Serial Optimist: Hey Adam, thanks for talking to us! First question, what’s the most recent thing you ate?
Adam Newman: Thanks for interviewing me! The last thing I ate was a Neapolitan Klondike bar and a hot chocolate while watching Gold Rush: Alaska last night. I’m probably about to have the same thing for breakfast.
SO: Along with the “Gold Rush: Alaska” too I hope. So, I know you recently celebrated a Christmas Birthday. My birthday is 12/20, so I know about a birthday close to Christmas and I love it! But how is it, growing up and nowadays, having one ON Christmas AS a Jewish guy? Do you get extra gifts? What did you want and what did you get this year?
Adam: When I was a kid, it was the worst! Every kid deserves one day a year that’s their special day, and Jesus took that from me. You can’t have a party or celebrate at school when your birthday’s on Christmas.
One thing that was cool when I was very young was that my parents used to drive me around the neighborhood and tell me all the lights were for my birthday. That was nice, even though they were lying.
You do get your holiday and birthday presents at the same time, but I always would have rather had my birthday in the summer to spread the gifts out. Oh well, I guess I got Jewed (I can say that).
This year I got a crock pot, a sweater, and a Michael Jordan poster I used to love as a kid. They were all very nice, but what I really wanted was health insurance.
SO: Maybe Santa will be more practical this year. To transition from last year to this one, what is this year looking like for you? Can you talk specifically about your new web series My Dad is in a Boy Band and how/why that was put together? Anything deeply dark and/or personal you’d like to reveal to the world?
Adam: This year’s starting out great! I’m going to be at the Charleston Comedy Festival in South Carolina in January, then San Francisco’s Sketchfest at the beginning of February. I’m excited to visit and perform in both cities for the first time. Charleston is supposed to be beautiful, and in San Francisco, I’m excited to find the Mrs. Doubtfire and Full House houses, and jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.
My Dad is in a Boy Band is a fun little web series I made for The Warner Sound. I play a grad student who moves back in with my parents to study without distraction, and then my dad starts a mid-life crisis boy band in the garage with his buddies. We made 5 episodes and a music video which will all be released on the same day (February 12th) on The Warner Sound and mydadisinaboyband.com.
As far as a dark/personal secret, I didn’t poop at school from kindergarten through college because of my deep fear of public toilets. Is that personal enough for you?
SO: Oh yeah! That’s the stuff readers want to know! Let’s start with some basics, shall we? Shall we?!? If you can remember, what was the reason you became a comedian? By that I mean, did someone tell you ‘hey you’re funny! You should be a comic!’ Or did you feel as a boy that you wanted to bring the world joy?
Adam: I liked being funny in class and with friends, but I don’t think anyone I grew up with ever thought becoming a comedian was a thing you could even do.
When I was very young, my mom gave me her whole record collection, which was when I first heard George Carlin’s Class Clown. It was the first time I heard stand-up and I was fascinated by it. I bought more stand-up albums and watched specials on TV and secretly wanted to be a comedian until I heard the magic words “open mic” when I was 23. Before that, I had no idea you could just start doing it.
SO: That’s great! We know your album, Not for Horses, was produced by Rooftop Comedy. First, why did you decide on that title? Second, how did that relationship between you and Rooftop Comedy come about?
Adam: Not for Horses is a punchline to one of the jokes on the album. I thought it was a catchy/fun enough title, but to tell you the trough, I didn’t really love it until I had my CD release show and rented an actual horse to stand outside the theatre. When I think about everyone riding and taking pictures with the horse on the streets of Queens before the show, it makes me really love the title.
Rooftop Comedy records stand-up in clubs all over the country, and every now and again I would get an email saying they were featuring a clip of me on their site, so I knew they liked me. I had a weekend booked at a club I knew they recorded at, so I reached out and asked if they’d be interested in helping me record an album. They said if I was ready to do a CD, they’d love to put it out. Their deal is very artist friendly, and they’re a pleasure to work with.
Witty Dog Names
SO: Sounds like a cool relationship. I’m wondering now how big it was for you to be a part of “John Oliver’s NY Stand-Up Show”?
Adam: It was so great! I love that show, and I had so much fun being a part of it. It was my first time doing stand-up on TV, and it couldn’t have been a more fun experience. The audience, the comedians I taped with, and everyone at Comedy Central were all incredible.
SO: Watching it on TV was great too! I bet your family was proud. Speaking of, you lived in Georgia correct? What was that comedy scene like for you and what currently keeps you predominantly in New York? Is there something you feel like you get more of on the east coast rather than the west?
Adam: I grew up in New Hampshire, but moved to Georgia during high school and stayed for college. I booked my own first “stand-up show” (just me doing 45 minutes) at a dive bar in Atlanta on July 1st, 2006 and moved to Brooklyn on August 2nd, 2006, so I didn’t really come from any scene that might have existed in Georgia at the time. If there was one, I didn’t know about it. Clubs like the Laughing Skull and Relapse Theatre didn’t exist yet, so there wasn’t really anywhere I felt like I could develop. I wanted the most stage-time I could get, and everyone knows that’s in NYC. That’s why I moved here, and that’s why I’m still here.
SO: Oh ok, so how often do you go back to your hometown and perform?
Adam: I go back about twice a year. Sometimes I do a weekend at the Laughing Skull in Atlanta, which is one of my favorite clubs in the country, and sometimes I go to Athens and perform at music venues.
SO: How is your new show, Big Long Sets, at UCB in NY going? Are audiences responding well to it? Who are some guests you’ve gotten so far?
Adam: Big Long Sets is going great. I host two comedians per show each doing half hour sets, or sometimes I’ll get a guest-host so I can do a long set. I wanted a show where comedians could stretch out a little. You can do tons of spots in NY, but they’re so rarely longer than 10-15 minutes. I know the comedians love it, and I think the audiences like the chance to see headliners doing headliner sets for UCB prices ($5-$10 w/ no drink minimums). I’ve had some big guns like Sarah Silverman and Janeane Garofalo on the show, and lots of future/almost-big guns like Chris Gethard, Mike Lawrence, Jared Logan, Nick Turner, Team Submarine, etc. My dream is to have one of Jeff Dunham’s puppets perform without Jeff Dunham.
SO: Ha! I’m sure they’d all do it. I once emailed you a picture of a spaniel because somewhere on your site you said you’d answer anything. You responded, saying you thought the dog wished his name was Cocker Spaniel Day Lewis. Do you remember that?
Adam: That sounds about right. One of the most useless skills I have is I can give your dog a good name based on the breed that it is. I’ve gotten more advanced since you emailed. If you had asked me today, I would have named him Cotton Eye Joe Cocker Spaniel Day Lewis and the News.
SO: That’s a mouthful! I have to ask you about the “incident” that ended up getting you over 2 million views on YouTube. Tell me about how terrified you were when you realized what you pulled out of that audience’s pocket? How do you respond to people saying it was staged? Have you riffled through any coats as of late?
Adam: I pulled a bag of cocaine out of a heckler’s coat while he was in the bathroom, and I was genuinely terrified. I know cocaine isn’t a big deal to a lot of people, but I’ve never done it and I’ve been around it very little, so it was very scary to be holding a bag of cocaine for the first time in front of a room full of people looking at me. I put the coat back on his chair before he got back from the bathroom, but for the whole rest of the set I was worried he might have a gun, he might be a drug dealer, what might have happened if I had spilled his cocaine all over the stage, etc.
It surprised me that some people thought it was staged. If it was fake, I would have made myself look a lot funnier and I would have worn a better shirt. But I got such a great reaction showing it at a few live shows, I thought it was an interesting enough moment to put online. And no, I haven’t gone through any coats since. With my luck, I’d find a bloody dildo or something (sorry).
SO: I hope that never happens to you. It does seem like many of your stories are strongly based in reality. Do you love making fun of the crazy/weird things that happen in your life?
Adam: Yes! It’s my favorite thing.
SO: Is there anyone you would geek over in music, comedy, movies, or TV shows if you ever met them?
Adam: I was actually thinking that I’d probably flip out over meeting a famous animal. Like if I ever met the Jack Russell that played Eddie on Frasier, I’d lose my mind. But if I met Kelsey Grammer, I’d just bombard him with questions about what it was like working with Eddie. (I just did some research on the dog that played Eddie. His name was Moose and he died in 2006 at the age of 15. I’m pretty bummed about it now.)
SO: I’m sorry. If it makes you feel any better, I heard somewhere that all dogs go to heaven. To make a change from dogs, what’s it like having a cat AND a girlfriend?
Adam: My cat came with my girlfriend. I’m very happy to have both of them, but I think the cat could take or leave me.
SO: To end things off, please describe the kind of person you think you are.
Adam: I’m a nice, adventurous, and hard-working person with a very short attention span.
SO: Thank you very much Adam! I’m glad we could keep your attention! Great talking with you!