Max Silvestri @maxsilvestri:
“Email, the blogs, surge protector, memories, wallpaper, Napster, online gambling, Petfinder.com and millions of colors” are a few topics covered in Gabe & Max’s “How to Get the Dreamlife of Your Dreams Using the Internet” foolproof system, an infomerical spoof for a 430-part guide to conquering the World Wide Web. It made the rounds on Gawker and CollegeHumor back in 2007, positioning Silvestri as one to watch in the relatively new world of online comedy. But around that time he started making a name for himself the old-school way too — in the local standup scene, back when it was centralized in the Lower East Side.
Maybe more than anyone else, he, along with pals Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman, helped shift its spotlight to across the East River, establishing the comedy-show mainstay Big Terrific in the back room of now-defunct Williamsburg music store Sound Fix. As the sole host since Slate and Liedman headed to LA, he manages to fill the room – now at Cameo, on Wednesdays – without an updated website or proper Facebook page, riding on a solid five-year, word-of-mouth reputation for riffing and general likability. In between, there have been Top Chef recaps for Eater, bylines for Grantland, a slew of new web videos (the one about becoming a grownup is particularly great), an obvious Twitter presence, and the recording of a standup album, all channeling that Jason Sudeikis-like earnestness he does so well.
Can you talk a bit about your first show in NYC? Where was it? How’d it go?
It was at Greg Johnson’s weekly Friday night show at Rififi, a now-closed venue in the East Village that was the heart of the alternative scene for half a decade. It is now a Buffalo Exchange, and I’m so glad the people of 11th Street finally have a place to buy $200 herringbone pageboy caps. The show was a blast, because that room was super fun, and after the show on Fridays Rififi hosted Trash, this sort of legendary scenester dance/coke-party, so you would be hanging out having drinks with comedians after the show and then suddenly 19-year-old kids from New Jersey in eye makeup and leather costumes would start pouring through the door. It was a fun mix.
Do you have any pre- or post- show routines, to brace yourself or unwind, as the case may be?
Before shows I like to move my bowels and avoid small talk. After shows I like to eat, drink, gossip about showbiz and hopefully get paid compliments by attractive strangers who understand boundaries, but that last part almost never happens. Maybe it’s me.
What’s the best survival tip for dealing with a stiff audience or when a joke doesn’t go over so well?
Cry and pretend that you are having a meltdown on stage. It makes audiences really comfortable.
What’s your writing-process equivalent of jotting down joke ideas on a napkin (if you don’t actually jot them down on napkins)?
Every week I get up to host Big Terrific with nothing planned and then I riff nonsense for ten to twenty minutes. If something makes me or other people laugh enough that I remember it, I start trying to turn it onto a bit. The lame, serious answer: I write everything in Evernote, which is an app. I love apps.
What traumatizing event in your childhood are you trying to compensate for by being funny?
There wasn’t one. I had a wonderful childhood filled with love and encouragement, and as a spoiled only child, doing comedy professionally is the result of a lifetime of getting told I can be whatever I want to be. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life or have health insurance.
How do you resist the pull to just cave in and move to LA? (Or do you not feel a pull to move to LA?)
I was doing fine until you asked this question. Now I’m moving. Bye!
Who would be in your ultimate Big Terrific lineup?
Louis C.K., Emily Ratajkowski and a monkey that grants wishes.
Favorite Brooklyn bar?
Brooklyn Star. It serves great drinks but also I like that after half a cocktail I can say, “Hah wouldn’t it be crazy if we split the meatloaf sandwich?” and then I eat the whole thing.
Favorite funny movie?
It’s a tie between Dumb and Dumber and Tommy Boy.
Favorite Top Chef season ever?
This one, because I’m not writing about it. I can enjoy it as a human being and not as a weird recap-monster who takes time-coded notes about cooks forgetting to turn a blender off. I’m two episodes behind, and I don’t give an effffff.
Do you own a pet? (Most funny people own pets; this is a theory we’re testing.)
I do not, though I’m planning on getting a dog soon. Best of luck with your theory. Also, comedians that own cats are suspect, and you can quote me on that.
Who’s the best comedian we haven’t heard of?
If you are smart you’ve already heard of him, but Jared Logan. [Ed.’s note: Thank you.]
How annoying is it that people expect you to be funny all the time?
If it gets annoying I remember I have the chillest job in the world so I’m fine with the trade-off.