Interview from The Celebrity Examiner
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): How are you?
Michael Ziegfeld: “40 and lactose intolerant. How are you?”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): What can you tell us about your upcoming show?
Michael Ziegfeld: “The Ventura Comedy Festival is something the Hollywood and surrounding area needs. As an “industry town”, the comedy scene suffers greatly with an over-infestation of comedic actors trying to horn in. This festival is fun and really eclectic across the board for comedy lovers.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): Using three adjectives, what can the audience expect when you headline the Ventura Comedy Festival?
Michael Ziegfeld: “Hilarious – Surprising – Jewy.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): What does the Ventura Comedy Festival mean to you?
Michael Ziegfeld: “It means I don’t have to worry about getting an aisle seat or luggage arrival on this gig.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): How do you prepare for such a big show?
Michael Ziegfeld: “Well this is actually different than what I’m used to. For the last 15-20 years I’ve done long sets allowing the audience and I to bond and really prep them for my style. With the exception of Jay Mohr and Tommy Davidson, all of the comics are only doing 6-8 minute sets of “A” material across the board to keep the shows tight and moving. I haven’t done a 6-8 minute stage set in years! (Television is different and so is the studio audience). So I had to decide two things … As a variety act with an equally credited stand-up act as well and the ventriloquist pieces, I do not want to just do one or the other having me look A) like just another comic or B) like a guy who needs puppets to be funny. So the Headliner Showcase on the 26th will be a few minutes of me, then introducing the “International Bird of Prey, Willie Swallow”. Then in the Kosher Comedy Show on the 29th, it will just be the stand up. I’m editing the 8 minutes and rehearsing in my bathroom as we speak.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): Do you ever get extremely nervous?
Michael Ziegfeld: “I would say it’s more jittery anticipation to just get to the mic and spit out your first line without tripping or choking. No matter how long you do this, you never, ever know what the crowd will be like. What will make them love you or turn them cold? Not just with regards to what I say, but how the room is set up, sight lines, sound, drunk people, the comic before you … you just – never – know. So it’s the waiting that gets me.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): Are there topics that are completely off-limits to you in regards to your material?
Michael Ziegfeld: “Not for me … but certainly for the audience. Observational comedy can or should be analyzation, a discussion (where I do all the talking) of an idea no matter how rude or weird. I think if you are in a comedy club, you KNOW that the politically incorrect remark is satire. It must be! Who would say such things in real life so why be offended? It’s stupid. I’m doing 325 jokes tonight. One ruined your night? Stay home or go watch a mime. Now, let’s talk about midget sex.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): How much of your personal life influences your material?
Michael Ziegfeld: “Well I’m still growing in that regard. For many years I came from the old school comedy works of 1-2-punch jokes. Rickles, Rivers, etc. I was also very schooled in improv to “work the crowd” making a different show every night. It was less personal and more showmanship. It’s a different kind of funny. Then a few years ago I had coffee with Jimmy Brogan (The Tonight Show’s head writer for 10 years) and told him I felt like I was playing a role and wanted to really dig deep but I didn’t know how to get those kinds of laughs into a set. He sent me to some “Spoken Word” shows like The Moth events and told my funny, horribly embarrassing stories. It was amazing and also unlocked my observational senses for an unfiltered, honest, assessment to what’s around me. It’s been very freeing and really the most “me” I’ve ever been, which I use in my television writing now.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): What do you think is the biggest misconception about stand-up comedians?
Michael Ziegfeld: “People think we don’t “have a real job”. But we do. It’s daring and difficult and full of rejection and failure that is NOT done in private! They also think we are emotionally messed up, angry people. To which I say, “F.U.”
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): In your opinion, who are the three greatest stand-up comedians?
Michael Ziegfeld: “Hmmm. Well to be clear, there are comics (people who say funny things) and there are comedians (people who say things funny). But no-brainer #1 is Carlin. Then I’d say the young version of Joan Rivers, like back in the 80s. It’s a shame people only know her as this old, face lifted, red carpet blue comic. Her comedy album was unlike anything anyone had ever heard. The third is impossible … a tie Woody Allen / Mel Brooks / Louie CK? I don’t know. I should also say some of my personal favorites are road comics that never became household names like Clause Meyers, the german comedian who comes clean 40 minutes in, drops his accent and reveals he’s from New Jersey! Genius.
Anthony Bowles (Examiner): Lastly, what do you desire the audience to take away after your shows?
Michael Ziegfeld: … That I wasn’t just another wannabe saying “thanks for comin out” or “that’s my time”. I try to write with an arc and some theatrical legitimacy with a button at the end of the set. I hope they can sit back and feel a different sensibility to everyone else up there.