Adam Conover, the comedian behind the truTV show and viral hit Adam Ruins Everything is set to perform at Nashville comedy club Zanies on Thursday night, as a part of the West Wild Comedy Festival. We talked with the multi-faceted performer on his comedic origins, the development of his hit show and his advice for aspiring comics:
Sidelines: How did you get into comedy?
Conover: I always knew I liked comedy. I was loud, rowdy kid, and I was punished a lot for that. (Laughs) I was very destructive. I was always kind of drawn to performance but kept it down inside me for many years for that reason. But when I got to college, one of my friends started a sketch group, and I was just really drawn to it and wanted to be a part of it. I joined up there at my college (Bard College). It was very early in the history of internet video. Internet video was just breaking. YouTube wasn’t out yet, but it just around the corner, and we had a lot of early success. My introduction to making comedy was that experience.
In college, did you imagine turning comedy into a career?
In college we were just trying to do good shows at our college. I think this is something a lot of college students do and I think it’s the right thing to do: We always took ourselves very seriously. We were like “We’re making real comedy. We’re gonna try to be funny as possible and try to entertain our audience.” But when we went to a national college comedy festival at Skidmore College. We did very well and were much funnier than the other groups. We got a standing ovation at one point. We were like “Oh, we’re actually actually good good at this.”
Our videos did well enough; we had some early viral hits. Some we thought we could do this professionally, so right out of college we moved to New York and started doing comedy in the city.
How did Adam Ruins Everything come to fruition at CollegeHumor?
I was a sketch writer at CollegeHumor for many years; writing videos and performing there. It’s an extremely wonderful, fertile place to do comedy because it’s very much like a comedy writer’s paradise. The guy who runs video there, Sam Reich, will let writers do whatever they want and write whatever they think is funniest. It’s a great way to explore ideas. Simultaneously, I’m also a stand-up comic, and in my material I did the original Adam Ruins Everything bit about diamond engagement rings. I noticed that when I did it, people started to perk up and listen. They weren’t just laughing, they were going “Really? That’s crazy,” and paying closer attention. And they would come up to me and say “I looked that up; it’s true! Oh my God; I can’t believe it!” It would really stick with them. I adapted the bit into a video and when it went around it was a viral hit. We were like “Alright, let’s try to develop this into a TV show.” So we quickly made a few more and pitched it around Los Angeles and truTV was cool enough to wanna make it with us.
Have you been able to balance your love of stand-up and your onscreen bits?
I wouldn’t say they’re two different things at all. The show is me as myself, playing a little bit of a character, talking directly to the audience and making jokes. Occasionally the jokes are into other character’s mouths, since it’s the sketch comedy format, but that;s the kind of comedy I want to do. I also performing live, even though it’s harder to do while producing the show becuas eit takes up so much of my time, but once we’re done shooting it, we’ll be going on tour and I’ll be taking the same sort of ideas out on the road.
Do you have any other big plans for 2016?
Those are the two main projects. We have 14 new episodes of the show premiering August 23, and we;re putting the tour together for the fall, but that’s all you can really do in a year. We start the new run of episodes three days after I perform in Nashville is when we start shooting, so that’s gonna be the next four months of my life. We shoot 12-14 hours a day, five days a week, and then I’m reviewing edits, scripts and cuts of the show on the weekends, so it’s extremely all-consuming.
Have you ever spent any time in Nashville?
My old sketch group, Olde English, was there very very briefly as part of a road trip we went on. When we were driving from New York to the San Francisco Sketch Fest, we rented a mini-van and drove the whole way across the country and made sketches along the way, and then we performed the show when we arrived. So Nashville was one of our stops, and we did a show or two there, but we were only in town for less than 24 hours. That was around 1o years ago I never got an incredibly detailed sense of the city, but I’ve always wanted to spend for time in Nashville. Unfortunate ,once again I’m only gonna be in town less than 24 hours, because I have to get back to L.A. to shoot the show. I’d love to come spend a weekend some time. I’m a big fan of classic country music; I’ve always wanted to go see some of the local landmarks, but unfortunately I’ve never in town long enough to do it.
What advice do you have for young comics who are looking to start their stand-up or video careers?
I would say, “Just do it.” A lot of people have questions about what requirements are there before I get on stage, or what do I need to do before I become a writer or make a video. There is no before; you just start doing it. The great thing about stand-up comedy is all you have to call yourself a comic, is to do it most nights of the week. Then you’re a comic. You might not be a good comic, it might be many years before you’re a good comic. It took myself five years of five sets a week before I was able to consider myself having any fluency with it.
If you wanna make comedy videos, make comedy videos. Write, produce, put your work up where people can see it and notice whether they like it or not. Keep adapting, pay attention to what you did wrong, try new things, grow keep producing work and eventually you’ll be a comedian, that’s all there is to it. It takes a lot of luck, as well, but that’s the basic formula. Every comedian I know that has any amount of success did it by following that model
Adam Conover will perform at Zanies in Nashville on Friday, as a part of the Wild West Comedy Festival. Click here for more info.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Olivia Ladd email firstname.lastname@example.org.