Nick Vatterott has to be one of the more unique comedians in today’s world of comedy! Vatterott made his way onto late night appearance on shows like Fallon and Conan. He’s also aired his own Comedy Central Half Hour Special. He currently lives in New York and tours all over the country at comedy venues bringing his delightful comedy styling to the stage.
Vatterott—who will be performing at The Comedy Café with CJ Sullivan (Chicago) and local Jason Hillman—was kind enough to take some time to respond to an email conversation with Milwaukee Comedy about developing a comedic voice, life on the road, and the business side of comedy!
MC: You got your start in Chicago with a number of other notable performers in today’s comedy world—what was your experience like in Chicago? How did you begin to build your comedic voice?
Vatterott: I went up and did a new 5 minutes every week for many years. A LOT of it was stuff I can't believe I did—it was so unbearable. But when you have to do 5 new minutes every week, there was a lot of stuff that you try just to fill time, so you wind up trying stuff that's unconventional I'd say, and that was the type of stuff I enjoyed doing the most and think set a foundation for my sensibility for the absurd.
MC: You have a wide range of comedy experience including improv, sketch, and stand up. How have these comedy styles influenced your act as a comedian?
Vatterott: They all help. Improv helps you stay in the moment, get out of your head, and explore a premise on stage and know when to get out of it. Stand up has fueled my disdain for "patient" a.k.a. BORING improv. Nothing more unbearable than watching a polite "patient" improv scene where 2 people spend 10 minutes trying to figure out what the scene is about. I like to cut to what the scene is about ASAP and then explore it, heighten till it can't be heightened any more, and then get on to the next idea. Also I have had a lot of sketch that I've turned into stand up bits and vice versa.
MC: Do you think social media is an important feature to maintain a connection with your audiences? How often do you use social media to stay connected with your fans? Do you have a preference for social networking (facebook, twitter, youtube)?
Vatterott: They're all a huge waste of time. Till you get someone who comes out to a show and says, "I came because I follow you on Twitter" and you're like, "What? It actually worked? Weird." I get sort of annoyed when a tweet gets some sweet tweet heat, and then nothing happens. Like the other day I tweeted "club soda gets out stains. Add vodka and it gets out sadness". It got about hundred retweets, but almost none of those people that retweeted followed me. I felt so used, like some one-night stand with this tweet, where I wake up the next morning and there is just a note that said, "I like what you had to say last night, but not enough to include you in the ten thousand people that I follow."
MC: When you’re on the road what do you to occupy your time?
Vatterott: I’ve adopted a new addiction to pinball. It’s making a huge resurgence and I've been super nerding out about it. I even have a pinball locator app that tells me where all the pinball machines are in every town I go to. In fact because of the app, last time I was in Wisconis I got to hail a cab and said the words, "Funset Boulevard PLEASE!" It was the happiest/saddest moment of my life.
MC: What sort of activities do you enjoy doing when you perform in the cities you’re visiting for the weekend? Do you enjoy doing anything specifically in Milwaukee?
Vatterott: I love [The Safe House] I’m sure locals are over it, but I think it’s one of the coolest bars in the country. Last time I was there the people behind me got caught asking each other the password. I got in okay, got to the inside of the bar and there were the people behind me on all the tv's in the bar walking around like penguins to try to get in. I think every bar should be Spy Bar.
MC: Comedy is a tough business to break into—what sort of advice can you offer to comedians just beginning to experience the world of comedy?
Vatterott: Don't compare your path with anyone else's. So many people are super into concentrating on why they aren't farther along in their career than concentrating on their comedy. Be funny. That's the only thing you have control over. There's nothing that I've accomplished as a comedian that I could have ever designed the path it took to get there. Just be funny, it's the only thing in the business that you have any sort of control over. And be honest with yourself. I get real tired of people who I always see have just okay sets, complain why some club won't book them or why they don't have representation or blah blah cry me a forty. Dude, you've been doing the same gross dog turd joke for a year, I've never seen it do GREAT. Be aware of how well, and consistent you've been doing before worrying about getting into some festival. One word: Crush. Get on stage and leave no reason for people not to notice. I worked with a guy at a club once who struggled to get laughs all week, then at the end of the week he asked me how to get into the Montreal Comedy Festival, if I could help him get in etc.. I sorta got mad he asked. I had to clean up his mess all week, and he's more concerned about getting into some fest he's not ready for, than he was concerned about his act. He didn't change anything all week, same exact jokes, got the same mediocre responses and he never adjusted. Comedy is often more frustrating than rewarding, but do the work, write new stuff constantly, get stage time anywhere you can, don't think you're above a gig or show or open mic until you don't have the time to go to those place you don't like because you're so busy. And be honest with your self assessment. Is this the funniest these jokes can be? Am I getting as many laughs in my 5 minutes sets as I possibly can? Am I setting myself apart from the pack by either having an original point of view, style or simply just crushing harder than everyone else? Anyone I know that has great sets, eventually gets noticed. It takes longer for some than others, but anyone who does the work, is self aware, and has consistently great stand up sets; eventually someone notices and leads you into an opportunity you could have never planned for.
MC: If a comedian is considering moving into a bigger market, like LA or New York, how should he/she prepare to make that transition?
Vatterott: Get ready for 6 months of agony. For myself and anyone I've talked to, no matter how much a guns a blaz'n you think you're going to be coming to town with, you're one of probably a dozen comics that moved there just that day. After 6 months then hopefully you've met some people, you've gotten to perform and people have enjoyed your act enough to talk to you afterwords. But no matter how B.M.O.C. you were in your town, LA and NYC get big fish from small ponds every day. Time is the only way to get inundated in the big city scenes. People say "UG! I HATE networking with other comics!" It's not really networking, it’s just the natural process of people getting to know you and familiar with you and whatever. I'd also say come to these cities with scripts, TV spec, pilot, screenplay. Smaller cities are better for creativity and support, bigger cities have the opportunity. So when you sit down with that guy who says he's an agent, they often want to know what ELSE you do. Have some scripts in your back pocket, or a reel that show off your acting chops, or something to push them over the edge to want to work with you.
MC: And last question, many comedians are always striving to challenge themselves to achieve their next goal—what do you have planned for the future?
Vatterott: My next goal is to figure out the unsolved cosmic problem of Supersymmetry. Basicly Is spacetime supersymmetry realized at TeV scale? If so, what is the mechanism of supersymmetry breaking? Does supersymmetry stabilize the electroweak scale, preventing high quantum corrections? And does the lightest supersummetric particle comprise dark matter? I do think this will be quite a challenge since I know absolutely nothing about physics, nor most of the words I just said.
You can catch Nick Vatterott performance at the Comedy Café (615 E Brady Street) tonight through Saturday! Ticket and show information can be found on the Milwaukee’s Comedy Café website or call (414) 271-JOKE to make a reservation. Find more great interviews and articles from Milwaukee Comedy in our Comedy News!