The Comedy Couch

 GARY GULMAN - July, 2005. Montréal.

GUY MACPHERSON: I'm here with Gary Gulman. If you're
not familiar with the name, he was the pretty boy
on... Oh, you're going to walk now?
GARY GULMAN: No, no, no, no! Of course not!

GM: ...on Last Comic Standing. That's probably where
you're best known, right?
GG: Yes, absolutely. I did a number of Tonight Show
appearances and Letterman, but that was the first time
anybody ever recognized me at the mall. And people
were recognizing me in Canada, which is crazy to me.

GM: Yeah, well, we speak English. You're in Montréal
so you don't know that.
GG: I just didn't know that they watch that show, I
guess. Because they don't have NBC here.

GM: We do.
GG: Oh, you do?

GM: Well, we pick it up from the border stations.
GG: I see. All right.

GM: It was a hugely popular show. Especially among
comedy nerds.
GG: Of course. Yeah. I would have loved that growing
up. I had to watch all the poorly produced A&E Evening
at the Improvs and Caroline's Comedy Hour. Yeah, it
[LCS] was well done.

GM: Where did you grow up?
GG: Peabody, Massachussets, which is about 16 miles
north of Boston.

GM: Describe the experience of being on this show. Was
the final product, after all the editing, a good
representation of what actually happened?
GG: Well, I was very guarded. It wasn't a very good
representation of what I really am. I'm up and down
mood-wise. But when I knew I was on camera, I was
always nice and polite, and everything like that.

GM: Some of them weren't!
GG: Right. I think that some people were actually
going further to have a certain persona and things
like that but I just wanted to be able to face the
people that I grew up with when I went back home.

GM: I think that's what most of us think when we watch
these reality shows. Like, how can you start crying
and acting up when you know that the camera is right
there. And you do have friends and family who are
watching.
GG: They always say, "Oh, you forget the cameras are
on you." No. There was never a time where I didn't
realize at that point it would be being copied and
seen elsewhere.

GM: Bonnie McFarlane, a Canadian girl who I really
liked and got eliminated pretty quickly because she
turned off a lot of the contestants--
GG: Yeah, I didn't understand that. It's one of my
qualms with the show, that pretty much my favourite
comics on the show were eliminated early. Like Bonnie.
And Bonnie is objectively a great comic! She did The
Late Show with David Letterman. No other person on
Last Comic Standing did The Late Show with David
Letterman. It's the ultimate validation for a
comedian. And she did it, and she was the first one to
be knocked off. So it almost made me feel that there
was something wrong with the taste of the audience!
(laughs)

GM: Definitely. Wasn't it in a Las Vegas town, so you
get the tourists? Who were the audiences?
GG: I think they were tourists. Those audiences, where
we had those competitions, it was [put together by] an
audience coordinator. So it was pretty much put
together [from] people who were at malls, at tourist
attractions, and things like that, and in and around
Hollywood. So you get a broad section of America, but
as we say in America, [they're] the fly-over states.
The middle of the country which counts as far as
ratings, but they have very different tastes from the
bookends of the United States. I'm sure Vancouver's a
lot different than some of your more rural areas in
Canada.

GM: Yes. So you were playing to middle America. But
you did very well. How far did you get?
GG: I came in third. I call it second runner-up
because I get to use the word "second" and some people
get confused and think I came in second. But I was
actually third, but second runner-up.

GM: I'm not just sucking up to you because you're
sitting here in front of me, but after Bonnie left you
were my favourite on the show. And maybe it was also
because of your polite demeanor on the show and trying
to get along. Not being in a faction. But we all had
our favourites.
GG: Well, the thing was that I was friendly with
Bonnie and Todd [Glass] before the show and I didn't
want to vote against them because we were sort of
friends, so I avoided that. And then everybody else
voted for them and before I knew it I was alone.
(laughs) They'd all been eliminated. Then I was the
next one to be challenged and things like that. I have
really fond memories of it. It's something I'll always
look back on fondly. Of course, if that's the peak of
my career, I'll be a bitter old man. But for now I'm
very happy about it.

GM: Did you make any friends on it? Or, conversely,
make any enemies? Are there some comics you just
wouldn't talk to if they walked down the hall right
now?
GG: Interestingly enough, I've seen Kathleen Madigan
several times in the hotel and she hasn't really said
hello to me or anything like that. We never even had a
real blow-up.

GM: I thought she aligned herself with weasels and yet
she's such a great comic. I didn't get that.
GG: She's a wonderful comic. Todd and I, I remember,
were actually talking about that. We said she really
didn't align herself with the comics that were really
of her level. It was interesting.

GM: Was it what you expected going into it?
GG: Yeah, I think it was what I expected. I thought it
would be a lot easier to control my emotions but there
were times in the house where I was really stressed
out and nervous, and things like that. I thought that
I could maintain my composure throughout the thing but
there were certain votes and challenges where I had
knots in my stomach. I went in there saying, "Ah,
whatever happens is meant to be and I'll be able to
live with it", but when it came right down to voting I
was very nervous.

GM: It was cancelled right before the end of season
three.
GG: They were doing season three, which was actually
season one versus season two. And before the final
episode where they would do the reveal, they cancelled
it and wound up showing it on Comedy Central, which is
a basic cable company in America, but a lot of
Canadians probably didn't even know the results of it.

GM: No. Just on the internet. That was the one Alonzo
Bodden won.
GG: Alonzo Bodden, yes.

GM: How has it affected your career?
GG: I'm not that much funnier than I was before that.
But the same clubs that I used to call on and never
hear back from now make offers and I headline at them.
I couldn't even get hosting or middle, MC spots at
these clubs and now I headline them and share the
ticket receipts. So it's a big difference. And since
last August when the show ended, I've worked every
weekend except for Christmas and a weekend in June.

GM: You're a good-looking guy. I was talking to a
couple girls yesterday who were saying that most
comics are really not, for whatever reason. But here
at Montréal there's a lot of industry and they go for
a certain look. They're looking for a handsome guy to
put into their series or movie or whatever. Are you
getting interest that way?
GG: You know, I originally came here in 1999 and that
year and three out of the next five years I got
development deals to make sitcoms with networks. So I
have seen that side of it. But what they don't tell
you is that they order several - maybe 25 or 30 - each
year and only two or three get on the air. Much to my
chagrin, you know it's funny because the reality
show's helped me because I got on one, but it's also
hurt me because there are less sitcoms on now. So it's
a double-edged sword.

GM: Any other acting in your future?
GG: Yeah. I think that I'll continue to strive for
that and audition and take acting lessons and try to
work on that aspect. It's much different from doing
standup comedy by myself but I think that if I get the
right training I could be at least competent as an
actor.

GM: Something to strive for! Competence. Is it harder
to write standup the more success you achieve?
GG: I think that the thing about writing is that it
never gets any easier. The only thing I can compare it
to is being sort of a poet, much less significant but
in that there's a rhythm to each joke and you need an
ending and a through-line and there's a lot of bad
ones for every good one that you write. I don't know
how many notebooks I have that I could go through and
maybe find two or three germs of inspiration in there
and just another 199 pages of just crap. So I continue
to tweak jokes I've been doing for four or five years
and trying to make them work. So it never gets any
easier. I guess some guys find their stride as far as
writing, but for me the same amount of time it used to
take me to write a good joke pretty much is the same
as it is now.

GM: Once you get a certain level of recognition, is
Montréal that important or is it just good to hang out
with the other comics?
GG: I think that Montréal has the potential to change
careers and really catapult people. I've heard that
it's not the same as it once was, but I think if
somebody can come up here and really blow everyone
away with their uniqueness or improvement or things
like that, I think they can still get a lot of heat,
as they say, off it and make some moves in show
business. But it also seems to be sort of an all-star
game. And we're all very competitive people and it's
nice to be in that situation where we're being
compared to other people. I guess it motivates me to
work harder and really come to give my best
performance every night.

GM: Have you ever played Vancouver?
GG: I've never played Vancouver.

GM: Are you going to? Can we expect to see you
sometime?
GG: I would love to play up there. It's just a matter
of club owners... and I guess audience members can
request comedians. They should try not to be pests,
but I have gotten in there because certain people have
requested me. But I would love to do a tour of Canada
maybe with Just For Laughs, if they would have me on
something like that. I would be very excited about
that. So hopefully I'll get to Vancouver within the
next six to nine months.


 
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