After recording a few co-headlining sets at Acme Comedy Co., Patrick Susmilch is releasing his debut record, Validate Me, with a show this Saturday at Sisyphus Brewing. Out on Stand Up! Records, Validate Me is the latest in a series of career upswings for Susmilch, who was on Last Comic Standing in 2014 after working as an Acme regular for years. We talked with Susmilch at his home club about standup, student council, and the 69 Boyz ahead of his release show Saturday.
City Pages: How does it feel to put out your first album?
Patrick Susmilch: It feels pretty good. It still doesn’t feel real. So far I’ve only gotten one review, and it was positive… A stranger listened to it, and was like, "This is good enough." And that feels validating.
CP: The title of the record is Validate Me. That’s a pretty clear statement.
PS: That came from a conversation I was having with another comic where I was like, "I should just start yelling ‘validate me’ onstage." Because that’s what I’m doing, I just cut out the middleman.
CP: The record itself is another form of validation.
PS: I decided to make the album and cover as pretentious as possible, and I think I succeeded. All the titles have stupid names like, “Tell Me I’m Pretty.”
CP: What inspired you to make a record?
PS: It was something I wanted to do for a long time... It’s just cool to have. I’ve been on TV, and now I have an album. If, for whatever reason, I had to quit comedy, I could still point [to the album], "I did alright."
CP: Did your time in Los Angeles help you prepare to record an album?
PS: I think, honestly, spending all that time in LA, there wasn’t anywhere to do longer sets. It may have held me back a little bit. The longest set you could get in LA was maybe, like, seven minutes.
CP: Would you ever want to live out there?
PS: The hard part is coming up with a nice accumulation of money before I move. It’s expensive... I want to move, but I’m going to be honest: I’m scared of that idea. Here [at Acme] it’s safe. I get to be on this stage every couple weeks doing longer sets. I can go to any open mic in town and say, "Put me up," and they do. Going to LA, you have to start over, and that’s a terrifying thought, but I know it’s something I have to do to further my career.
What I think I need is my girlfriend to get a really good job and support me. That’s a pretty popular option among the comedy community [laughs]. I'll call her after this like, "Honey, go back to school. I need this, for me."
CP: What made you start taking comedy seriously?
PS: When I got hired here at Acme in 2010. Until then, I was going to open mics and stuff, like, "This is a fun hobby." My first hosting week was with Hannibal Buress. After that week I got money, and I was like, "Damn, I can get paid to do this?"
CP: When that started, I imagine that your comedy must’ve changed.
PS: If you went back and listened or watched tapes from when I first got hired here, my comedy was definitely a lot rougher. Having so many consistent shows to do really picked it up. I was also a lot darker when I started, I just realized recently.
CP: Any jokes that stand out?
PS: I remember having a joke about miscarriages, and now I’m like, "Oh, why would I do that to people that paid money to have fun? What am I doing?" Sometimes I still talk about dark things, but it’s definitely lightened up. I don’t know if that because I changed as a person, or all the stage time.
CP: Maybe it’s both.
PS: It’s entirely possible. My comedy changed when I went off antidepressants. At first, I had a hard time writing newer jokes, because I had emotions for the first time in years. It sent it in a more personal direction; there wasn’t so much apathy and detachment. I started talking about myself more.
CP: When was that?
PS: In 2012. I remember because Obama had just been re-elected. That’s more or less the day I went off antidepressants. Going off the antidepressants made me present in my own life. I’m not advocating that people just randomly go off their antidepressants, but, you know, talk to your doctor if you feel like it’s time.
Sorry, I don’t do a lot of interviews, so I don’t know what people are looking for. [Comedians] have to do radio, and I’m always bad at that. I’ll be like, "This is how I feel about’ that." They're like, "That wasn’t funny!"
CP: I’ve always been a fan of honest interviews.
PS: I don’t know if that brings people out to shows, though. "Man, that guy had a rough childhood. Let’s go see his comedy!" [Laughs]
CP: What are some of the themes that you tackle on the album?
PS: There’s some undertones of depression in there… I have a joke about [the animated film] Frozen that tackles some LGBT stuff. That might be the joke I’m most proud of.
PS: It was one of the first jokes that I wrote that was very personal and also trying to achieve some social change. When the movie Frozen came out, there were some ultra-conservative bloggers saying that the movie was pushing a homosexual agenda. I talk about how stupid that is, because it’s a movie about a lady that can shoot ice out of her hands. They think that homosexuals are secret wizards?
I roll that into me talking about my own sexuality, which is not straight, but it’s not gay. It’s in-between; queer is the right term you use nowadays. Ten years ago, people would’ve said "bi," but that’s a little limiting. It’s probably the most personal I’ve ever been onstage. It was a hard joke to do, because it was very personal. It didn’t go well the first times I told it, because I think it was pretty obvious that I was scared to tell it.
It was also a joke that, surprisingly, could really get an audience to turn on me. Not here, but if I was going somewhere smaller, like some one-off gig a 100 miles from here. I tell that joke, and audiences would be like, "I don’t like this, you’re weird." It’d be hard to recover from that.
PS: I’ve also got jokes about Jock Jams; that’s really important for the people to hear, about the song “Tootsee Roll.” That was a hard joke to come up with.
For whatever reason, they wanted this comedian to open for this rap group at Honey [in Minneapolis]. They had a live DJ onstage spinning discs while I was on. I had to come up with the dumbest song I could think of off the top of my head, and I was like, “Tootsee Roll?”
I just started yelling about the lyrics, because they’re stupid. I just randomly riffed and yelled about that onstage for like, five minutes, and the audience was losing their mind. I tried it again, and it worked. I was like, "This is going into the rotation: yelling about 'Tootsee Roll' by the 69 Boyz."
CP: Glad that’s on the record.
PS: It’s going to live forever. It’s going to outlast the 69 Boyz.
IF YOU GO:
Patrick Susmilch Album Release
With Emily Galati and Tommy Ryman
5 to 7 p.m. Saturday