CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
ZB: I caught the comedy bug my freshman year of college and never fully recovered. Now, it’s full-blown Comeditus, and the only relief is nonstop bits — good and bad.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
ZB: I used to do neuroscience research, so a lot of my jokes are about science and the brain, what a weird hunk of electric meat that is. Science can feel huge and inaccessible, so I love to find humor in relating science to daily life. I also try not to make mean jokes, except to myself. There’s enough wrong with me that I don’t need to go after anyone else yet.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
ZB: To be perfectly cliche: Jimmy Kimmel, George Carlin, Louis CK, John Mulaney, Hannibal Burress. To be less cliche, but more honest: Adam Wagner, Jon Millstein, Jamie Brew, Adam Weinrib, Will Ruehle, Sam Helman, Nik Gonzales, Luke Kelly-Clyne, Lauren Ireland.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
ZB: Let’s just say that my Bar-Mitzvah was Jewish Comedian-themed.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
ZB: Anytime a dumb idea pops up, I write it down in a notebook that I carry in my back left pocket. Whenever I fill one up, I funnel all these thoughts into various documents on my computer (SketchIdeas.docx, StandupIdeas.docx, TreatiesOfVersailles.docx, etc.). I flesh out the ideas that still make me laugh, and then perform the best one or two that might actually be funny. Only the best ones make it through alive, Hunger Games-style. It’s really a natural selection of ideas.
CB: What impact has studying neuroscience had on your comedy?
ZB: Life-wise, I was on the medical school track doing research and everything, so by having this background, there’s more pressure to not blow my degree on the pursuit of yuks — the saddest name for comedy. Content-wise, it’s a juicy reservoir to draw from for jokes. Brains are so weird, have you ever looked at one? I love em.
CB: As a Segment Director for Jimmy Kimmel Live, do you find this work influences your comedy at all?
ZB: Oh yeah, being surrounded by the funniest humans all the time is nuts, I feel very fortunate just to be in the building and learn from them.
CB: You also write and perform sketches with Garlic Jackson – do you find that your process for writing sketch comedy differs to stand-up?
ZB: Mostly in terms of collaboration. Sketch is very group-focused, from concept to stage and it evolves largely based on: what does the group find funny? Whereas stand up is more just you, naked, alone, and characterless: what do you find funny?
CB: As well stand-up and sketch comedy, you’re also a filmmaker and your work has been part of the official selection for many international film festivals. Do you find there is a difference writing and directing comedy for short films as opposed to your work in other comedic mediums?
ZB: With sketch, stand up, satire, etc., everything is in pursuit of the next joke. It’s rapid-fire. Bang bang bang. I love it, but it relies on more stock characters to get there. Film audiences don’t have the same jokes-per-minute expectations, so you can sit with characters longer and flesh them out. And then when you do land on a joke, it’s such sweet sweet release.
CB: Do you have a favourite venue to perform in?
ZB: There are two: 1) The PIT in NYC is where Garlic Jackson began its live show. They just gave us an hour every month and let us do our thing, so we were able to experiment and get a lot weirder and do these random visual jokes that are very hard to describe in a script or without an audience to interact with. I miss it dearly. 2) Lower Solomon auditorium at Brown University, the first place I ever did stand up and then continued to every month until I graduated. It’s really where I became a person, and the audiences there were so onboard and loving. I would marry that room if I could.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
ZB: Enjoyable — You meet the coolest, smartest, most compassionate, talented people in the world. Frustrating — You meet the lamest, dumbest, most self-absorbed, talentless people in the world.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
ZB: College crowds. They’re usually right with you and DTL (down to laugh).
CB: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled? What’s the best heckle you’ve had?
ZB: Not really. Mostly from my inner monologue as I try to fall asleep.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
ZB: Always hate the last thing you did. The next thing will be better for it.