Are your Jewish parents disappointed with your non-medical or legal career?
Oh sure. I think. I mean, they’re not disappointed, I’m sure they would have preferred a medical career, but they’re pretty cool. They would have preferred a smarter path. Well, my older brother is a lawyer and my younger brother is a film editor, and they seem to worry more about him.
A middle child. I know so much more about you.
I thought this was an interview, not a psychotherapy session. By the end of this, I’m just sobbing with my head down . . . ‘I never should have done this.’
Can you pinpoint a time in your childhood that made you want to be a comedian?
There were kind of stages. When I was 14, I started writing comedy. I always considered myself funny even though I wasn’t. And then it wasn’t until about 18 that knew I even wanted to try performing . . . I’d never been on stage in my life. So I started performing at 19 and, after a couple years, I was pretty certain I was going to become a comedian. But I still finished the college career. I don’t know why.
What did you major in?
English and psychology.
So I’m going to be the one crying by the end of this.
That’s the hope. And if I can’t do it with words, I’ll just start throwing things.
What was the first joke you ever told?
I don’t remember the exact first joke I told onstage (because I was busy shitting my pants) but it was all very observational humor, very Seinfeldian. Back then, I was only vaguely politically aware and was more worried about making every single person in the audience like me and laugh than about really having something to some say, some points to make, a deeper meaning to my jokes. So basically, nowadays I only poop myself when it has a deep cultural meaning behind it. Like I’ll say, ‘And for this next joke I’m going to crap my pants in protest against Nike’s use of child laborers in Indonesia!’
Why did you become a comedian?
I became a comedian because the stuff you can say as a comedian, you can’t say as a normal person or you get punched in the face, or hauled off to jail, or banned from various TV channels . . . I have some experience with that. Well, I guess that’s more why I’m a comedian now. Originally, I really just enjoyed making people laugh. I thought I had some talent for it and loved doing it and really — most comedians will say this — that there comes a point pretty early on that you realize you can’t really do anything except become a comedian.
How do you handle hecklers?
I bring a Super Soaker squirt gun with me and if anyone says anything, I totally drench ’em. Then when everyone is laughing, they slowly start to realize the gun was filled with urine. Works every time!
So your Fox “Fuck You” moment — how has that effected your career?
It’s definitely helped me in certain ways. I mean I wouldn’t have been on that show if I hadn’t done it and I think in the edgier comedy world it got me some street cred. It actually hurt my career in the sense that I used to do a lot of college touring and I still do it some of it, but it’s greatly cut back. Part of that is because college activities boards will Google me and it’ll be the first thing that comes up. There was a time when colleges were known for rebellion, sticking it to the man and stopping oppression — and now they’re like, ‘Oh my god he said a bad word we can’t book him.’
So you’re on an episode of the new show In the Green Room with Paul Provenza, airing in June. How did you get involved with that?
I’ve known Paul since I was on Montreal New Faces a couple years ago. We’ve kind of kept in touch and he saw the Fox News thing and he was thrilled with that. He loves anything that’s designed to fuck up what people are used to. He was hoping he’d get something he could kind of squeeze me in on and he got this show on Showtime where he interviews comedians, which is going to be hopefully really cool. It was pretty amazing just to be on that set. For that show alone, it was Bob Saget, Roseanne, Sandra Bernhard, Patrice Oneal and Paul Provenza. Then you’ve got people in the audience, like the daughters of both Pryor and Carlin.
What was it like hanging out with Roseanne and Sandra Bernhard?
We hung out all night long into the early morning. We braided each other’s pubic hair. No, I didn’t really talk to them. I said hi to Roseanne. Even though it wasn’t technically a conversation between us, she started the standing ovation after they showed my clip, and that was just an incredibly thrilling moment. And Paul was like, ‘Did you see Roseanne get up for you?’
Any new jokes you’d like to share with Heeb readers?
A new bit I’ve been working on is about how our society is actually becoming overrun by information. We have too much information. There are probably 100 websites right now devoted to who has the best facial hair on American Idol. And the problem is that that blogorrhea we’re all spraying out collectively is covering up the important stuff. I mean, if Charles Darwin came along right now instead of 150 years ago, he’d probably post a blog about his new theory of evolution and it would get 17 views and four comments. Two of those comments would be from his parents saying, ‘Chuckie, how are you going to make money from this blog thing?’ The other two comments would say something like, ‘No, you’re the monkey, queer!’ So we should all think about that next time we’re reading a Tweet about Simon Cowell’s mutton chops or whatever.
Find out more about Lee Camp on his website and see him live at Gotham Comedy Club on Wednesday, May 19th with Colin Quinn, Lizz Winstead, Eddie Brill and other special guests from Paul Provenza’s new book, Satiristas!.