Pat McGann is relatable in many senses of the word. In addition to being incredibly funny and having an inviting stage presence, someone like Pat McGann is the kind of guy you want to know. That is, if he doesn’t feel like the type of guy that you already know. A guy like Pat McGann is your neighbor, your co-worker, the guy you pass on the street, and all else in between. There is this familiarity in his comedy, as he talks about his kids, his wife, and whatever else. But while we all know someone like Pat McGann, after this special, you’re going to know the man himself. And it’s his hilarious authenticity, that he is so himself, that in the end wins you over.
For the past few years, McGann has been touring with Sebastian Maniscalco. When Maniscalco was back in Chicago (an area they both know incredibly well) performing at Zanies, he took notice of McGann and immediately became a fan of his. That is pretty standard. Ask anyone in the city who some of their favorite local comedians are, and McGann is one of the first they list. He’s become the latest in line with Maniscalco, Hannibal Burress, Chris Redd, and a slew of others who have within the last 10 years carved out a name for themselves locally, before making waves in the big, national waters. Maniscalco wound up taking McGann on the road with him, which took him to massive theaters all throughout the country, including Madison Square Garden. For any comedian, it’s a dream to just step foot out on that stage. McGann has accomplished that as an opener. And if his new special is any indication, he has what it takes to step out onto that stage someday as a headliner.
McGann partnered with Maniscalco and Comedy Dynamics to produce his very first stand-up special with Sebastian Maniscalco Presents Pat McGann: When’s Mom Gonna Be Home?. (McGann tells us about the irony of that title now). At the end of the hour long special, which again is definitely funny, he walks offstage. He immediately comes back onstage, just to get real with the audience. The metaphoric curtain is pulled back as far as it can go as he tells the audience just how much this means to him, and you believe every ounce of that sincerity. This is who Pat McGann is. It’s the absolute perfect ending to an introductory special, as we’re now exposed to another side of McGann that we also want to see more of in the future.
We recently spoke to Pat McGann about Chicago [where I also stem from], how the special came together, the new meaning everything is now taking on, performing on The Late Show with David Letterman, writing in the pandemic, and what he hopes to do next time.
Are you still based out here in Chicago?
I still live in Chicago, yeah. I live on the South Side. Over by the Morgan Park area. So I grew up out here and I moved back out here when my wife and I started having kids.
It’s always nice to see a comedian who actually stays local in the city and can still manage to make it happen the way you have.
Yeah, I started late. I didn’t start comedy until I was like 31. And so I was already pretty established here. And then I met my wife and then we started having kids, so it was a lot more difficult to get up and move.
And now everything the way it is, it doesn’t matter where you are. A comedian can pretty much do his job from anywhere. Especially right now.
Oh yeah. Definitely.
Now let’s jump right in and talk about the special. Give me some background on how this all came to be. Were you already planning to tackle a special even before the idea to have Sebastian present it?
You know what? I was not. I was touring with him and he asked me “Do you think you’ve got an hour that you want to put out there?” And we talked about it. And then he came and watch and said to maybe keep working on it a little bit. (Laughs). So it took another year and then we started talking about it again and he wanted to get behind it. It was just good timing, you know? It was more him wanting to get behind me. I wasn’t like shopping a special anywhere or anything.
How long did it all take to come together?
Yeah, it took a little bit. But once he reviewed like the hour that I sent him, he contacted his team and we put it right in motion. And we were shooting probably like 6 months after that.
And did you always know it’d have to be done in Chicago for your first time out?
Well I always wanted it to be in Chicago, being the first one. It just made sense. It was where all of my comedy first was and I feel like I can get some people to come out, too. But it wasn’t necessarily The Vic [theater] that I had in mind. I didn’t really have a specific venue in mind. But I’m glad we did it there. And I have a little connection there because I lived right in that neighborhood after college for a few years. And had been in that venue. I opened for Anjelah (?) Johnson there years ago. So that ended up being the perfect place.
So you do think there’s that advantage from having a hometown crowd when you do a show here?
I mean, I do. And you can cheat a little bit on that, too, if you do some local humor. Because then they just eat that up. But I also think there’s a very good advantage to being on the road where people have not seen you before, have not heard you before, and you’re more like sneaking up on them. It’s kind of nice when I’m on the road with Sebastian to just walk into a place that’s a packed theater and I don’t know anybody there. I’m not worried about family or friends or meeting anybody before the show or after the show. And just knowing that they haven’t heard any of my stuff, most likely.
It’s like, when you know it’s all new to them, you can kind of trick yourself that it’s new to you. But in Chicago, I’m kind of like “I know people have heard this bit.”
And what goes on through your mind, the moment where you’re about to walk onstage before your very first special taping? How can you best describe that feeling?
Well first, it was pretty funny that he was out there introducing me, because I’m always the one opening his night. So I was trying to just be in the moment. I was excited, nervous, all of those things. Kind of like doing your first late night set. But you know you’re going to be out there a lot longer, so you have more time to get comfortable. And that was kind of how it played out. It’s nice to go out there and not just have 5 minutes. You can actually get out there and get more in the moments and soak it up and just have fun with it.
And speaking of late night sets, you got to do two sets with Letterman, right before he retired. So that’s a cool distinction you have as well.
Yeah. That was awesome. I felt so fortunate. That was my goal, to try and get to be on Letterman. That was a guy I loved growing up. That was the one show I was really submitting for. It took a while, but I’m glad it really worked out. And then I got a chance to go on their a second time. And I was on in late February of his final year. I think he wrapped it up in May. It was right under the gun there. So it was cool. Because the second time I really got to be in the moment.
Right. By then, you probably know that this is it. This is your last time performing on this show for this audience.
Yeah, I’ll never forget the first time I did it. I was kind of nervous, and the guy behind the stage was like “Alright. Just relax. Just remember this is where The Beatles and Elvis played.” He’s almost trying to make me more nervous, but also as a way to try and relax me. Just like “Chill out, buddy.”
I love that!! And one thing I find interesting is that you have been labeled as a “clean comic”, even by Sebastian. And watching your special, I never would’ve guessed that. So do you feel like that label ever gets in the way at all?
I think coming up I more had that label. Because I was doing a lot of corporate acts and I was hosting at Zanies. I was like the House MC there. And initially I was maybe more intentional about working clean. And then I was realizing “I just need to have a conversation, and I’m just going to talk to these people how I talk in real life.” Sometimes I do drop in an F bomb and swear. And I don’t like go out of my way. It’s never like a gratuitous thing. I just try to be as real as I can. I try to talk like I do offstage.
Totally. And it shows whenever you see a comedian who is trying to go too far one way or the other. So I like that middle ground. Another thing that struck me as interesting in your special is your bit about hating patio dining. Because I feel like that joke takes on a whole new context now, given that we are all having that exact conversation.
Thanks for pointing that out. It was like “When’s mommy going to be home?” And now it’s like “When’s my wife not going to be home??” She’s been home for like 150 straight days. So some of that relevancy, it’s funny that you pointed that out. That’s so true that it’s such a thing right now. You see things through a different prism. You gave me a great idea for the social media. That’s what I’ve got to do. “Hey, everybody’s eating outside now! Don’t you love it?” Then I’ll tag that clip.
(Laughs). Glad I can help. I also enjoy asking, are you able to write throughout quarantine?
You know, it’s funny. I used to write a lot. And I still do like to write. But I got to a point where I was really working stuff out onstage. So I miss that. So I think I have like these unbaked ideas in my head. A lot of premises. But I need to get in that room with those people and feel it out. Build it up again. So yeah, I think there’s going to be plenty to talk about. I’m not like sitting down saying “Oh, I’m feeling funny today. I’m going to write a bunch of jokes about how great…” Because life sucks right now. It’s tough. For a comic, all we want to do is get on that stuff. So to all of a sudden have that ripped away from you, it’s difficult.
I was doing some stuff earlier on social media where I was writing jokes during the day and doing these pop up shows for my kids. And that kind of ran its course. I think I was just riding that wave I had from coming off the road. And then once I realized it’s not taking off again anytime soon, it’s a little bit harder. But you’ve just got to get back on it. Because we need comedy right now.
We definitely do. But at the same time, I know some comics are enjoying the forced hiatus. Because this will probably never happen again, where people can take some time to breathe.
Yeah. I’m definitely soaking up the family time. Like I was trying to catch up on family time, and now I am all caught up. I’m ready to go. (Laughs).
I get that. I am feeling the same. And going back to the special, is there a particular joke or story that took a while to come together, and you weren’t sure how well it would go over until you got on stage that night?
You know, I was not really done with some of that stuff. The lake house built, it was really less than a month old. But it was doing well in the shows that I was doing. So I was like “I’m gonna put it in there.” And that’s the one where I was like “Okay. Let’s try it.” It sucks in one way that I can’t really explore that a whole lot more because I already put it out there, but that was an unfinished bit that I thought people connected with. And I’m glad that I put it in there because I did want to have fresh stuff.
And do you have that when you go back to watch it? Do you go like “Man, I wish I had tagged up on that moment there”? Or are you able to remove yourself from the equation enough to just enjoy it?
Oh yeah. When I go back to watch it, I’m like “Why did I put that in there? How I’m doing it now is so much better.” And I’ve never loved it when I watch myself. That’s tough. But it does help, I think.
It does. Because after you sit down and revisit it, you can actually improve upon the material or the bit once you go back on the road. And the last thing I want to talk about is how vulnerable and honest you got in the very ending. Where you walk back onstage and open up to the audience even further, telling them how much the whole experience means to you. Between the special and everything else you’ve done, would you say that all of your experiences have played out how you imagined it happening? How truthful to your vision would you say this has all been?
You know, I think I’ve always just tried to make the most of the opportunities in front of me. And do I feel like I deserve this? No, I just feel really lucky. I’m just very fortunate that Sebastian is willing to get behind me and do this for another comic. And that’s why I’m so grateful, because this is the most that you can do for another comedian. And I hope that I can do this for someone someday. Him pushing me out there a little bit to help me get some attention. And now that I’ve done it, now I want this to kind of be a new start. In a way, it’s kind of a culmination, especially for starting in Chicago and doing it in Chicago. But now from here, I want to keep growing and do the next one in another town that has the same amount of energy that I was able to capture that night in my home town.
Sebastian Maniscalco Presents Pat McGann: When’s Mom Gonna Be Home? is available through Comedy Dynamics now.