First Person Singular

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My father was a banker. I was raised in that family where success was wearing a coat and tie. [So] when I was at Georgetown University, I studied finance. Comedy didn't seem like a realistic option. But I did host a talent thing. The show was reviewed by a friend of mine who described me as "drunk and nervous." I would see her in my English literature class, and I'd be like, "Thanks." She's like, "I was being a journalist, and I was being honest."

The night before I graduated, I was in this bar, The Tombs. I remember saying to a friend, "I secretly want to be, like, an actor and a performer, but I suppose everyone wants to do that." And she looked at me and said, "No, they don't."

As I did stand-up more, the goal was definitely to perform on "Letterman." When I [did], there was part of me that was, "Well, all right, even if I kick tomorrow, my nephews will know that their uncle was a comedian who was on 'Letterman,' as opposed to some crazy guy who lived in New York."

It's a strange occupation. People are curious. A lot of comedians, when they're on a plane, when asked what they do, they'll say they're a plumber or something like that. I'll dodge the question. If you're sitting next to somebody, and they find out you're a comedian, there is a little bit of twinkle in their eye. It's like you might as well have told them that you're a leprechaun. They're like, "Well, this is going to be fun."

When my father passed away, not that funerals are ever fun, but it was really awkward. I'm lined up there with my brothers and sisters, and I'm the youngest, so I'm kind of at the end, and inevitably people would go to one brother or one sister, and they'd go, "I'm sorry," and go to another brother, "I'm sorry," and then they would go to me, and they'd go, "I saw you in that commercial" and, "Saw you on that sitcom. What was what Ashton Kutcher like?"

Interview by Allan Lengel

© 2006 The Washington Post Company