CB: Where was your first gig and what was it like?
TN: My first gig was at an open mic at a coffee house in Los Angeles that is no longer around. And it surprisingly went well. My next gig though did not go as well – I felt so confident from the first time, that I actually signed up for a comedy competition the following night. I bombed so bad that I ended up running off stage before my time was up.
CB: How often did you start gigging after your first gig and what was the comedy environment like in terms of booking gigs and progressing on mixed bills?
TN: It took me years to build up an act, and then I toured as much as I could and drove around the country making little or no money being put on shows as an MC and opening act. It took about 3 years before starting to headline comedy clubs.
CB: How do you feel that your material has changed since when you first started gigging?
TN: When I first started doing stand-up, I did a ton of one liners and general basic jokes, then I started doing longer jokes and stories and then even allowing myself to be more honest or physical or even pushing a stool around the stage for laughs. It had very little to do with material. Anything I do though, there’s always very clearly my voice behind it.
CB: Do you have a specific process that you go about when you write your material? Does the way you write your stand-up material differ at all to the way you write sitcoms?
TN: I get an idea, or I think of a story that I want to work out and then I just get up on stage as much as possible and keep telling that story over and over and over again. And I record these sets. And then listen to them. And then keep working out this material, tweaking, finding different nuances and tags. So in terms of what I actually write on paper, it is usually never more than bullet points.
CB: Your comedy album Live has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide and was ranked the number one comedy album by Entertainment Weekly. Did you find that you had a different approach in preparing material for this album?
TN: That set was completely different than any other. I had no intention of that performance turning into an album. I had just been experiencing absolute hell in my personal life, and did not know if I was even going to live, and I love being a stand-up, so I wanted to perform and discuss all I had been going through – it was just a very raw set.
CB: Your project Showtime found you performing in the homes of your fans around the U.S. How did you find that experience?
TN: I had done this before, just never had it taped for a special. It was always really fun in the past, and that got me to thinking that this could be great on television and fortunately Showtime agreed. So not surprisingly, shooting this project was again a lot of fun.
CB: Do you have a favourite type of audience to perform to?
TN: The sleeping elderly.
CB: You’ve also toured and performed comedy at some of the most prestigious festivals around the world. How do you find that these gigs compare to performing at a comedy club?
TN: They are way different. Some of these festivals have a huge music component, so sometimes I am performing and there is actually a literal barrier between myself and the audience, which can sometimes make it a little bit more challenging. But my experience on a whole at these festivals are always quite amazing and fun.
CB: Having performed in so many different types of venues all around the world, do you have a favourite type of venue to perform in?
TN: There is something about small intimate venues that I really love. It is also amazing to perform in thousand seat theatres. To not be able to see anybody, but to hit a first punch line, and then from the darkness feel a huge roar of laughter in response, is pretty exhilarating.
CB: Do you have any tips or advice for comedians and new acts starting out in comedy?
TN: Be yourself and get up on stage constantly.
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