Joe DeRosa is on the cusp of releasing his first hour stand-up special, You Let Me Down for Comedy Central. He’s a comedian, podcaster, author, musician, and fan of all things horror. We first met Joe years ago on our first visit to the YKWD Podcast where he was co-hosting with comedian Robert Kelly but it’s been a while since we’ve chatted in person about one of his projects. So we got on the phone and talked about everything from politics in comedy, what happened to good music, and the joy of living life in the gray area.
So the new record! The new album? Special? What are we calling it? Are we calling it a special, or a record? What are we calling it?
Well, I call it a special just because it’s an hour special, but you know it’s an album too.
It’s your first hour TV special for Comedy Central too!
Yeah, it’s my first full hour for anybody. I did two half hours for Comedy Central and then this one was my first hour ever. Actually, I guess all of my specials have been with Comedy Central, but the first two were half hours and then this one is an hour, so it’s exciting. I feel very proud to be doing this.
You’ve done the Depression Auction albums, you had the B-sides record, then You Will Die as well. You’ve put out a lot of material already; it’s crazy how much in a short period of time.
Well thanks, man! That’s nice to hear. You just try to keep working and you try to do whatever you can do at the time people want you to do it so you know for a while there it was just putting out albums. That was the thing that seemed to be working and then, you move into other stuff and now I got to do the special which is great and I’m really happy I’m lucky to continually be able to put out product in this business because it is not a forgiving business (laughs). So I feel quite lucky.
I keep wanting to make a pun on the title and say “Joe, you did not let me down” (laughs) That’s terrible, I know!
Well, listen it’s up to you…
I know, I’m sorry, I’m sh*t.
No, no, you’re fine. (laughs) If you can live with it, you can do it.
(laughing) If I can look at myself in the mirror at night and say, “okay, that wasn’t a sh*t pun” I can make those puns.
(laughing) Exactly, exactly. Yeah, yeah.
I had the chance to check out the special earlier today and it runs the gamut. You really start firing, like “I’m Joe DeRosa and I got some things to say.” I think the first words you utter are “I don’t wanna punch people, but this makes me wanna punch people.”
You know man it’s funny I ran that hour every, I ran every possible configuration of that hour when I was in Edinburgh last summer. I was there for 30 days and I did twenty-five shows or something, in a 30 day span. You just keep doing it over, and over, and over, and over again. When I got back about a month later we were going to be shooting the special, so I thought, “okay this is a good chance for me to really see how this works in different ways.” There was one configuration of it early on where I really tried to put all the self-deprecating up front, and I remember a particularly bad review of the hour. The critic wrote, “at the half hour mark he [Joe] finally gets into the stuff that is really bothering him, like social media and all these things, after he opens up with all this therapy business.” And that’s when I realized like, “you know what? F*ck that! There’s no rule that I have to self-deprecate first,” you know what I mean?
The average person in comedy tells you, “well you gotta sh*t on yourself first.” No I f*king don’t! That’s not bothering me that much. I’ll get to it and if you’re patient you’ll get to hear how I barely take shots at myself too, and if you’re not patient enough to sit until that point, go f*ck yourself!
And that was a very freeing moment as a comedian. I was like, “I can start however the hell I wanna start”! So I’d like to thank that critic for that kinda bad review. Because it changed the special, literally made me look at different in the best way so I’m happy that happened.
Yeah, when I heard it for the first time, I said this out loud to nobody, I said “oh Joey Roses is angry!” I don’t know why I said that out loud, but that’s what I said.
Because you’re airing grievances – sports, things that end in “gates,” social media. There’s a laundry list of things that bother you and you’re going to tell people about it in a very funny, humorous way.
We’ve had conversations over the years I know you’re a big fan of [George] Carlin and of guys like that. At one moment you shout, “Die alone you f*cking animal!” Oh my god if that’s not a Bill Hicks-inspired line, I don’t know what is. I don’t know if you did that deliberately or not.
Well, there’s humor in honesty. You really feel that way about certain people. It for some reason works as a punch line. To say terrible words like that. All these things you mentioned, talk about the Olympians and everyone getting up in arms about the Olympians. I talk about Tinder and everybody getting up in arms about Tinder, and the disgusting sh*t that men are doing online, and serial killers and all these things that people get so, so upset about when they occur. I guess that’s the common theme is the special. It’s like, “look, you were let down.” You know without saying it outright. We were all sold this bill of goods that we were born in this some sort of faux utopia and it’s just not true, people do horrible things. Why do we keep acting? We can be sad and disappointed when people do horrible things of course, you don’t want to lose your humanity.
But why do we act so surprised? For instance, when an Olympian pisses on a gas station in Brazil and acts like a f*cking asshole to the cops and says some borderline racist stuff. Why are we that surprised?
Why do we think he was anything other than that, given the history of professional athletes? That’s the thing I never, I just don’t get it. Stop being so up in arms about it and so shocked by it. This is the way people act man. It’s unfortunate, and you can say “let’s try to do better,” sure. But just don’t act like you don’t understand it.
Totally. You get a little political on this special it’s gotta be interesting to tape a special before a major election, like what just happened and then have it be released afterward. Do you feel it was good doing it this way because it captured the material at that point in time?
I’m actually very grateful, hindsight has let me be very grateful. Because when we shot the special it was October 13th, so we were really creeping up to the elections. And I thought, “I hope I’m not making a mistake, I hope I’m not making a big mistake right now by shooting this before the election and not asking if we can postpone it until after.” I don’t know if I would’ve been able to either because these things have a lot of moving parts. So I just realized it’s out of my hands, I hope that this works out, and I hope that it’s not a bad idea. Then when Trump was elected, there was definitely a period when we were editing where I was like “f*ck! This changes things, man.” I think we all kinda thought Hillary would get in, and that this would go away, and that’s not what happened. Look, I’m not a Hillary fan either, but I think all of us would’ve slept a little better that night, fan or not, had she won. Then once I got a little distance from it, that’s when I thought this worked out. It still completely relates to everything. And it went from me being “I hope this still applies in a month or two.” To me feeling a little more like, “I told you so.”
Validation, it’s all sh*tty.
I told you it was gonna be terrible. So that feels good to be right. Even if it means the end of my own existence, I was right at least.
I don’t know if I ever remember you getting political. You even show off your feminist side, but you don’t take the normal feminist route to get there. Am I wrong in thinking that?
No, you’re not wrong at all. I do consider myself a feminist. I would say that I don’t take the normal, orthodox route with my beliefs and my approach to feminism. One of the most important discussions I’ve had in recent years, and it was about Star Wars. It was a year and a half ago before The Force Awakens came out. I was on Sklarboro Country podcast and we started talking about a bit I had defending the [Star Wars] prequels and we got in this whole thing about how nuance is gone. People wanted look at the Star Wars movies and shout, “They’re the worst movies I’ve ever seen!” and I just go, “Shut the f*ck up. Think about what you’re saying right now. Really? The worst!?”
“I’m like cool, more lightsaber fights.”
Exactly! So to take that very benign thing, it applies everywhere. So stop telling me the only way I can support your cause is this way. I don’t give a sh*t if your cause is to feed the hungry. If you’re gonna hand down, some f*cking Totalitarian way in which all of us have to feed the hungry in this one specific method, then you’re a f*cking fascist.
So don’t do that to me, I like nuance. I like people that can exist in the gray area. People that don’t think every member of a certain team, or party, or committee, or institution is inherently evil or inherently good. That’s all bullsh*t and it’s childish and it’s idealistic and it’s boring. Most importantly; this is all entertainment at the end of the day. This is a comedy special. It’s f*cking boring. Nobody wants to turn on a comedy special, half of these comedians out here, I just wanna ask, “who’s your audience?” The choir? Is your audience literally the choir right now? It’s just so trite, stupid, and predictable.
And I’m just talking about the opinions, I’m not talking about the material or anything like that. Or how funny they are. But nobody wants to see that. Nobody wants to turn on the TV and see you saying everything you exactly agree with or everything you staunchly oppose. That’s not interesting. That never makes for an interesting character in a movie. You know what I mean?
One hundred percent. It seems like it’s a gripe alot of comedians are having. Getting attacked by social justice warriors, about what words they’re using, or offending someone, or some “problematic” issue. Comedians should be all on the same side. There are some out there that believe that talk is what got a man like Donald Trump elected.
Actually, Bill Mahr literally said it the other night, he stated “stop protecting your virgin ears, and realize you’re getting f*cked in the ass.” It was a perfect summation of it all this stuff.
That’s really funny.
As comedians, you like hearing nuance and there’s a couple of ways to get to the same answer.
Yeah, I’m not a fan of extremism on either side of the coin. I don’t like either side of it.
I’m a fan of the grey area, of the inbetween. I grew up on gangsta rap and punk rock. I’m scratching my head, I’m like what happened to the days where a band like the Dead Kennedys would attack Jerry Brown, with “California Uber Alles” and then also attack Reagan with a variation of that song called “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now.”
Whatever happened to that?
I don’t know man.
Joe: What ever happened to artists coming out and saying, “Hey guys, this is all f*cked! You can like one side, more than another. But this is all kinda f*cked. Are you reading the details of everything? Because if you are you realize it’s all kinda f*cked.”And that just seems to have gone away. It seems like now it’s very much, “like you know, like you’re either with me or you’re against me.”
Which again to reference from Star Wars, that’s what the Sith do.
So just remember, if you’re saying you’re either with me or against me you’re a Sith, which is a bad guy. It’s a f*cking crazy time.
So far in this interview we’ve covered Star Wars, the Dead Kennedys, what else? Bad Religion, feminism, politics, we’re running the gamut here, it’s exactly how I expected this conversation to go.
Oh good, that’s good
I know you’re a huge fan of music is there anything that’s like new that’s really like blowing you away?
There’s a lot of great stuff that’s out there, I should say yeah with a disclaimer that, as I sit here and say whatever happened to this it’s not that this stuff doesn’t exist anymore, it’s become the minority, extreme minority voice unfortunately. When the so-called counter culture is in fact just the culture you know, that’s just the sad part. Now the people who are claiming to be the rebels are also wearing the letterman jackets and it’s like who are we supposed to be rebelling against right now? I don’t understand what’s happening.
And the nerds became cool (laughs)
Well yeah! It’s like everybody who’s telling me what the right thing is on one type of shitty school committee that I don’t want to be a part of.
But I guess that’s what creates a true counter culture so maybe that will come out of this. I think there’s a lot of great artists out there right now doing a lot of great stuff. A group that I talked about on Dean Delray’s podcast we actually connected on Twitter and it was really cool, but I love the rap group Czarface.
Which is the Seven L And Esoteric from Canada with Inspectah Deck from Wu Tang. It’s the 3 of them. So I actually ended up connecting with Esoteric on Twitter and it was really cool. But I’m a huge fan, they’re awesome, it’s the right blend of everything. The right amount of rebellion, social consciousness, playfulness. The beats are really grimy and dirty, like it’s very 90s influenced rap music and it’s my favorite kind of stuff. Very clever, raw, lyrics over really great aggressive dirty beats, it’s just great! It’s just so great. So they’re a group that I’m really excited about.
Sounds super cool.
Really cool. They’re about 3 albums in at this point.
You’re doing the Fangoria podcast right now, you have a book, you have a special, you put out albums, you’re on TV, like is there anything left that you wanna do?
I’m glad you make it sound as if I’m making money off of all of this.
(laughs) Well, I didn’t say that. I just said you’re putting these things out.
There’s plenty I’d like to do I’d like to start generating more income (laugh).I love doing all these things, I get paid for some, I don’t get paid for some. All of them are passion projects and I really mean that. It’s very lucky I get to do all these things that I have such interest in. I am continuing down the horror road, I’m really enjoying that world and I have enjoyed it since I was a kid and keep accumulating more and more horror artifacts in my home. I just bought a French movie house poster, it’s an original print of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II. The one with the members of the Sawyer family all formed like The Breakfast Club. It’s huge, on my wall, and in French, which makes it seem way more powerful. It’s not that creepy (laugh).
I totally remember that poster.
Also, I just bought a Ouija Board, I don’t know I just like that sh*t. I really like horror a lot, I really enjoy doing a horror podcast with Pat Walsh, and working, writing, stories for Fangoria. It’s been fun so I want to do more of that. I’d like to do another special, but not for a while. I don’t have any desire to turn one of these out every year; I’d like to marinate and collect my thoughts and myself and figure out what I’d really be interested in talking about in a few years from now. Work on that and tape it a few years from now. The TV stuff, I just try to get stuff on TV whenever.
It’s all an evolution man, you just keep working.
Well I have to wrap this up. I think I asked half the questions I had, but we’ll have to pick this up some other time. But, congratulation on the new special, Joe. Looking forward to it.
Thanks buddy I appreciate you taking the time, talk to you soon.
Joe DeRosa’s You Let Me Down will premiere on Comedy Central Friday February 3rd at midnight. It will be available on the Comedy Central app. You can then pick up the album uncensored and extended on Tuesday, February 7th at any and all digital retailers.