Steve Gillespie is nearly a decade into his standup career. He recently moved to LA from the Twin Cities, made an appearance on TBS's Conan, and in 2013 he released a critically-acclaimed debut album, Stever Fever, with Rooftop Records. This weekend he'll be headlining two shows at the Sisyphus Brewery.
If you've already seen him live, his success should come as no surprise. Gillespie carefully balances aggression with slaphappy absurdity. His act is a maelstrom of hilarious self-flagellation and blistering social commentary that is enhanced by his coarse yet effective word choice and delightfully pushy persona. There's also certain physicality to Gillespie that makes him such a distinguished staple of the Minneapolis comedy scene.
City Pages caught up with the newly-relocated Gillespie to talk about Conan, his masters degree and Twin Cities comedy.
1. You just did standup on Conan How has your life changed?
I wake up every morning to the paparazzi standing on my porch waiting for me to come out and get my paper.
Just kidding, I don't have a porch or even a house, really. Or even what you would call a permanent residence. And I don't subscribe to an actual paper. It hasn't changed my life much except that people from my hometown think I'm famous, which I'm absolutely not. And my girlfriend was a little nicer to me for like, a day or two.
2. What was the most challenging thing about that experience?
Getting on the show was the most challenging part. It took over three years of being recommended to them just for me to be considered. Once they decided they liked me, we went through the meticulous process of shaping the set to their liking. There was a lot of back and forth: sending them sets, getting notes, re-taping the set in clubs, and resending it to them.
The best part was meeting Andy Richter [Conan's side-kick]. I have been a huge fan of his for years. Also, having my three brothers with me backstage was pretty special.
3. Why do you think you do standup?
Jesus, dude. I don't know. For attention, probably. Mainly because I love it. At this point, I'm not sure if I can really do anything else. Standup ruins any real ability for you to function in a real-world job.
4. Even the most successful comedians think about quitting constantly. Do you think about quitting?
YES. But I won't. There has been a lot of talk in the standup community about how there is no room for straight-white-male comedians anymore. I totally agree, but there isn't room for anyone in standup. Standup doesn't need you and it doesn't owe you anything.
I think if you say to yourself, "This isn't fair. There is more of x and less of y and I deserve more," then yes, you should quit because it's going to be too hard for you.
But if the unfairness motivates you to become undeniable and try to connect with audiences at a level deeper than just your gender, race, or sexuality, then strive on.
5. Should I quit?
What else would you do Raghav — or whatever your name is? Annoy everyone at your soulless desk job with your "witty" goof-abouts? Nah, you bought the ticket. Take the ride.
6. You got a masters degree in political science before you had a career in comedy. What are you trying to prove?
I was just a dumb kid who didn't understand how the real world worked. I mean, I was a good student and all, but that doesn't mean shit. Once I got out of the incubator of our educational system, my eyes opened, and I realized I just threw away $50,000 on what I could have learned with a library card. I'm not sure I'm trying to prove anything. I'm just trying to survive. And part of surviving is doing something that doesn't make me want to blow my head off.
7. If you're so smart, who should I vote for in this election?
We are all doomed. Take your money out of the banks and hide it your walls. This country was bought and sold long ago. We lost our innocence, and we are now paying the price politically. But hey, how about those Vikings!
8. What do you hate most about comedy? Is it Turner Barrowman?
The delusion. My delusion is running out, and you need a big ol' well of it, especially in the beginning. It's frustrating to see it in yourself and everyone around you, but it truly is a necessary evil in our world. I love Turner, by the way. I love all you little cry-babies.
9. Why did you let Turner beat you at bowling? Was it out of pity?
Is that son of a bitch running around telling people he beat me in bowling? I mean he did, but it's embarrassing to lose to not only the palest but also the least athletic human being on the planet. Have you seen that video online where he throws a football? I feel bad for his future kids, and the poor woman who gets trapped in a loveless marriage with him. If you look up the video, wear sunglasses, or one of those masks welders wear, he's really pale.
10. Who are the comedians you admire the most?
Doug Stanhope — far and away my favorite, and it's not even close. Robbie Roadsteamer — brilliant, fearless chaos. Chris Maddock — painfully underrated. Harland Williams — silly and absurd, he reminds me that it's really all about having fun. Cy Amundson — I don't admire him at all. But I don't have time to listen to him cry about how I didn't mention him in my City Pages interview. Louis Lee — he's not a comic but he's the best club owner in the world. Do yourself a favor and go to all the shows at Acme.
11. What's one thing you see young comics do that you absolutely despise (besides their jokes)?
I know it's hard to believe, but I was a young comic once. Some even still consider me a young comic. I have made all the mistakes, and will continue to make new ones. What I don't like is tearing down other people who are making a real honest effort. Unless it's to their face, then I'm all for it. Focus on what you need to do to get better, because you need to get better. I need to get better. Oh, and for gods sake, move the fucking mic stand so its not in between you and the audience.
12. Whats your favorite thing about the Twin Cities comedy scene?
I honestly love it all. I love the diverse styles and attitudes. I love the self-destructiveness. I love the beautiful mix of cute and angry. I love how weird and foreign we all seem to the rest of the country. I love the infighting, and how we all band together in heartbeat when something or someone attacks us from the outside. I love how courageous we all are. I love how scared we all are. I love how isolated we are. I love the DIY punk attitude we thrive on. I love the chips on our shoulders. We believe Minneapolis is the best city in the world and we dismiss anyone who says, "Yeah, but it's cold up there, right?" I love how it's bigger than ourselves. It's bigger than just one club or one show or one comic. It's a family, and for better or worse, we'll be connected forever.IF YOU GO:
$10; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday