Center Stage: James Adomian
Last summer Janeane Garofalo shot a “What the fuck?” face my way as we walked past each other on Second Avenue in Manhattan’s East Village. It wasn’t anything I was doing. The brilliant comedian James Adomian was shouting into my microphone with an intensity and hilarity reminiscent of a young Robin Williams. I was interviewing Adomian for a feature on comedy podcasting, a universe in which he is a bright shining star.
“I was always a big fan of radio theatre when I was a kid,” Adomian told me in between his improvised character-based tangents and chaotic ramblings. “Radio comedy like Phil Hendrie. He did a satirical, fictional, insane version of a talk radio show where he would pretend to be the callers of his own show. I also used to love the Jerky Boys, that’s some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever heard.”
Adomian and I got lost on our way to the Union Square Subway Station and it was by far the most fun I’ve had wandering around New York City.
“Podcasts are the most essential tool that comedians have stumbled upon since the banana peel,” Adomian said in a cheeky tone. Then he put on a pompous British accent.
“There are no limits with podcasts. We’re extending our lives through podcasts. I think we’re solving the global issues that face the human race. And really, all life forms. I think the rich flora and fauna of our planet deeply benefit from the magisterial gift that is the podcasting phenomenon.”
Adomian grew up in North Georgia and Southern California, which he says, “balances out.” In interviews he’s hinted at a background full of the kind of personal misery that tends to mold into comedy gold, which might account for his preference for doing bits rather than giving serious responses to questions.
In my article about comedy podcasts Adomian explains one of the many benefits of the emerging medium. “I spent so many years doing sketch comedy, lugging around bags of shit with me just to perform in character,” he said. “Podcasting has made it so much easier.”
The makeup and costumes may stay at home, but Adomian carries another heavy bag with him as an openly gay comic. In an article on the front page of a recent Sunday edition of The New York Times Arts section Jason Zinoman asked if Adomian can “become the first man to break through as an openly gay stand-up star?” Quite a lot of pressure for the 32-year-old bi-coastal comic.
Adomian began honing his craft about a decade ago in Los Angeles, a period “full of Groundlings, far-out gay cabaret shows, Drew Droege and Eddie Pepitone.” He’s found a home at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles and New York City. At 28 he was “dragged over” to stand-up and has performed almost every night since.
During the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival this July I was lucky enough to watch Adomian perform as Jesse Ventura at a live recording of the podcast Sklarbro Country. His fat suit, bald mullet and facial reactions were a treasure and a privilege awarded only to the intimate audience in attendance that evening. A couple days later Adomian had a larger crowd as Andy Kindler’s opener for the ‘State of the Industry Address.’ Naturally, Adomian did a killer impression of Kindler, who said about Adomian, “he’ll be on a permanent show, Saturday Night.”
Considering all the industry representatives in the audience that afternoon, it’s not hard to imagine a few of them sending Lorne Michaels an email. But the SNL captain has already had that chance; Adomian has auditioned twice over the last seven years for SNL. But he’s not clamoring to work at 30 Rock. He’s more excited about the rising tide of alternative sketch TV shows.
“Shows like Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Whitest Kids You Know, Key & Peele, The Eric Andre Show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Kroll Show are proving that we no longer have one sketch comedy monopoly in this country,” he wrote in an email.
A healthy distrust of the established order is in Adomian’s nature. He was a proud supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement and for years he satirized George W. Bush, most notably in the film Harold & Kumar: Escape from Guatanamo Bay.
“Bush was a smirking nightmare, but I had some fun in my vain attempts to destroy him as a public figure. Harold & Kumar was a blast but I think it was enough sheer poundage of prosthetic make-up for a lifetime,” he wrote.
Adomian recently released his debut stand-up album Low Hangin Fruit, which showcases his many talents and sharp mind. It was recorded at Union Hall in Brooklyn and Helium Comedy Club in Portland and was produced by Earwolf, the comedy podcasting network that has played a major role in Adomian’s ascent. The release of their first stand-up recording comes fresh off their Comedy Bang! Bang! Live 2012 Summer Tour, which Adomian performed on both in character and doing stand-up.
The hilarious and scathing anti-homophobic material on Low Hangin Fruit has shades of the poignant and penetrating observations about race that catapulted Dave Chappelle to comedy (and pop culture) stardom a little over a decade ago. In an age of irreverence and nerdom, it’s refreshing to see a young comic take a progressive political stance. I’d say that each night Adomian kills in front of an all-straight, mostly homophobic crowd, he’s doing more for gay rights than most politicians do in their entire career. We can only hope his audiences get bigger and bigger.
Low Hangin Fruit is available on Earwolf.com, where you can also purchase the Comedy Bang! Bang! Live 2012 Summer Tour recordings.
Joey Grihalva is a nomadic writer from the American Midwest, currently living in Canada.