with video: Jesse Popp, comedian who cut his teeth in Ann Arbor, gets Comedy Central special
“I had never even been out here for a visit,” said Popp.
But what had prompted Popp to originally pursue stand-up?
“I started when I was 23,” Popp said. “I don’t know why, but it’s something I’d always wanted to do at least once, but I’d chickened out a few times. I wasn’t thinking necessarily that I’d do it as my job. I just wanted to do it at least once, and then I wanted to do it again, and before I knew it, it was just what I was doing. I had day jobs the whole time, up until last year. It took me 11 years to make it something I could full time.”
How did the opportunity to do “The Half Hour”—filmed in Boston in March—come about?
“I had known people at Comedy Central for a while, because I did Premium Blend in 2002,” said Popp. “ I recorded a half hour tape I’d made in Michigan last summer, and I gave that to them. And then I found out about December or so that I’d got the spot.”
Of course, that meant that Popp had to decide what material to highlight.
“It’s kind of tough, because I’ve been doing this for a while,” Popp said. “You’ve got different jokes and notes and scraps of paper and tapes from all these years, and I just went through it. Most of it’s newish stuff, but there are some older things. And just doing shows, short sets, to figure out how things work with other things, and goof around and do some longer sets. By the time it’s ready to go, you just kind of toss it together and see how it works.” Though Popp has a witty Twitter feed, he’s only used 2 or 3 Tweets as stand-up material (“If something’s funny on Twitter, it’s not necessarily going to translate to being funny when you say it out loud,” said Popp); and there’s little-to-no difference between Popp when he’s on stage and when he’s off-stage (“Obviously, in real life, I’m not making a joke every 10 seconds,” Popp said. “But I’m basically just being myself.”)
So what kind of early influences had the most impact on Popp?
“I grew up in the 80s, so back then, you had the old timey stuff on TV,” said Popp. “’The Little Rascals’ and the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello and stuff. But then, there’s also the sitcoms and movies like “The Jerk.” Basically, I just try to think of funny things to say. As dumb as that sounds.”