Orny Adams doesn’t walk onto the stage so much as he erupts onto it. In the first few moments Orny is onstage, you are quick to realize that this isn’t someone who is just going to stand in one place and tell you jokes they have told a million times before with no animation to back it up. This is a force. This is someone who is going to take you on a ride. As an audience member, you are not a witness, but instead, you become a key component.
He is not an angry comic. Nor is he a bitter one. He is merely passionate. That’s the best way to describe Orny. Here is a man who is so enamored with what he gets to do for a living that he just wants to dedicate every breath of life in his lungs back to that craft. It doesn’t come from a place of rage, but instead a place of love.
This Friday, December 1st, Orny’s third comedy special, More Than Loud will air on Showtime. This is his first special in 7 years, and it is safe to say, it is a powerhouse of a special that is in a category all of its own. We recently talked to Orny over the phone and had him tell us a bit about his special, his craft, how he has evolved since coming onto the scene in 2002’s documentary Comedian, and what the future has in store.
“I like to do specials when I’m absolutely sick of telling material. Then I know it’s done. I don’t like to do things before it’s done. I’ve never been one of those guys that wants to do a new hour every year because I’d like the material to sort of grow and ferment and get better and better.”
“The special is supposed to feel intimate, like you’re in the moment. I wanted it to feel raw, that’s why there’s that moment where I check my setlist and I say ‘Hey, can we make this look spontaneous?’ Everything stays in.”
“This special is very close to me. I did 80 minutes, which I’m proud of, and it’s a continuous seamless show. It’s a completely different landscape now (than the last time I did a special). If you look at my last special ‘Takes the Third’, I did a bit about fat kids. I wouldn’t do that nowadays. The climate has just changed.”
“I was going to film this somewhere else. I was going to film this either in Boston or in Northern California in a small theater. And then I did a show about 3 months before the special at the Improv in Hollywood. I sold it out clean on a Saturday night. It was a diverse audience. And I thought ‘I’ve got to do it in Southern California.”
“I’m not a provocative comedian. I’m not here to poke people. I’m not here to divide an audience on politics or sports or gender issues or anything topical in that sense. My comedy philosophy has always been ‘I want to use comedy to show how humans and our species is more similar than dissimilar.”
“I think you have to look at people’s intentions. And I really believe that in times like this, it’s the responsibility of the comedian to sort of break down barriers little by little in all sorts of areas. And I think that’s in jeopardy if we are in fear.”
“The millennials have the best sense of humors about themselves. More than any generation I’ve ever poked fun at. They get it, they think it’s funny, they understand the criticism, and I think the tone in my voice lets them know. These people come up after the shows and they buy the shirts, they buy the merchandise. They’re really supportive. They get it.”
“I went into comedy because I was an outsider. So if I went into comedy as an outsider, and all of a sudden I’m part of a group, that would be bizarre. I wouldn’t know how to act. I’m not socialized to be part of a group. When young comics ask me for advice, I tell them ‘Besides get a marketing degree and be funny? I would get really close with your peers.’ I never did that. And I think that probably caused setbacks in my career, because I think that your peers are the ones that are going to propel your career forward.”
“I never think anything should be spelled out. People get it. It’s not for me to spell it out. And I think that’s what comes through to the viewer or the listener because very few people ever have complaints after my shows. At least sober people.”
“It wasn’t hard for me to evolve [after ‘Comedian’]. Actually it was quite easy. It’s interesting when a mirror is held up to you and you sort of see how you act and how people react to it and all that sort of stuff. Was it hard for me to evolve as a person? No. It’s been wonderful. Was it hard to evolve in the minds of others? Yeah, I’d say so. I’d say some people are stuck with that image of me and that’s it and they’re never going to change that image or come around. And that’s fine. That’s life. But that’s beautiful. It’s nice to have a little bit of texture in the opinions people have of you. Because if it’s all sort of the same, it’s vanilla.”
“If you see me 5 times in a row, you’re not seeing the same show. You’re not seeing the same order, the same jokes. It’s different. It’s whatever the energy of me plus the room plus the jokes equals at that particular moment.”
“Look at Leonard Cohen. If you look at that song “Hallelujah,” and you look at him 80 years old singing it in London, it’s more beautiful than it’s ever been. It’s like ‘geeze, this dude’s 80 years old and I think he just figured out what the song even means.’ And so that’s my dream. I always think the next show is going to be better. And if I ever get to the point where I don’t think that, it’s time to get out of the business.”
“I find where I’m at right now really satisfying. I’m overwhelmed every day that I make a living doing this. I can’t believe it. I said to another comedian the other day ‘I hope I never lose that feeling.’ And it’s just getting better and better. So I don’t want that much. There was a time I wanted a lot more, but I’m kind of happy. It’s kind of cool.”
Ornay Adams’ third special, More Than Loud airs on Showtime this Friday, December 1st at 10pm. For more information about Orny, please visit his website.