Over the past few years, funnyman Drew Michael has graced the Firebird's stage each time he has come to St. Louis. He’s been through once in 2013, co-headlining the Comedians You Should Know tour with Marty DeRosa, and before that in October 2012, opening for Kyle Kinane. This week he's making his way to the Firebird once again — this time, though, it’s a night all his own.
It is certainly safe to say he will bring the same auspicious irreverence that informs his act with him. He’s also debuting an exceptional new hour he’s polished on his monthly show in New York City, entitled An (Exhausting) Evening With Drew.
We caught up with Michael to talk shop about just that — oh, and also, the existential agony of Twitter.
Kelsey McClure: So you jumped ship from Chicago to New York. Was there much of "LA or NY" dilemma for you?
Drew Michael: Not really. The real dilemma was New York versus the woods.
It's been two years since the release of your album Lovely. Have you had time to work on a new record amidst relocating?
I have a new hour, which is what people will see at the Firebird. I think this new hour is the best material I’ve ever written. I have to record it before I hate it all. Some time in 2016.
Are you taking An (Exhausting) Evening with Drew on the road? And I'm not familiar with your monthly show. Could you give me a rundown?
The monthly show is just me doing my newest hour of stand-up, which is also what my road shows are.
Do you think it's more valuable to have a strong social media presence than a solid stage act?
I think a “strong social media presence” is worthless in an artistic sense. However, in terms of monetizing and selling tickets, social media popularity is super “valuable.” A great act doesn’t draw if nobody knows who you are. It’s this weird push-pull where social media can provide opportunity but it can drive your focus away from standup. You see people who are able to work strictly because of their social media, so there is this pressure to “build a presence.” The people who are "good" at Twitter are able to sell out shows before people who are “just" good at stand-up. That’s Rob Delaney. Super popular on Twitter, sells out theaters, but can’t do stand-up to save his life.
Is that better than the inverse?
I only care about stand-up. I didn’t get into comedy because I was inspired by Doug Stanhope's tweets. But I also can’t sell out theaters.
A lot of comics rely on social media as a crutch, while others use it as a medium for generating material. Do you fall on either side of that spectrum?
Rarely does anything I tweet end up on stage. I hate Twitter. I don’t even like my own. It’s devoid of context. My feed probably looks insane when you’re not hearing the 500 thoughts in my head that lead to the creation of the tweet. You’re just seeing the last thing. It’s like when you see a person shouting at themselves on the train. Some guy out of nowhere screams to himself, “Don’t you bring that shit to me! Ooooh no! Not again, man!” We all look at him like he’s crazy. But we didn’t hear the whole argument that he was having with the voices in his head. One of the voices was probably up to its old tricks and needed to be put in its place, so the guy stood up for himself. Everything makes sense in context. But Twitter is like all of us shouting the last line of an internal argument at ourselves in public for points.
What are your writing patterns?
Frantic. Disjointed. Emotional. Just like my relationship patterns!
Standup is wonderful because it allows you to string together a series of crazy thought patterns in such a way that – since they all come from the same cognitive source – generates a weird mosaic. That’s the hour. The hour is the finished mural. I always write with that in mind.
I think every creative person has an alarm that goes off when they stumble upon a certain idea or thought fragment that makes them go, “Follow that!" For me, it’s usually a specific angle on a concept. There are dozens of topics that I’d like to talk about, but I don’t always have the angle. You try to be patient and let them emerge or sometimes you find them in conversation with other people or yourself.
Once you have the angle, the jokes sort of present themselves. I’ll take the idea onstage, which helps establish the beats. It also opens the bit up to all these other tangential ideas that sometimes become more important than the original point. Then I listen to the sets, decide which parts to keep, add what’s missing or add totally new ideas. It’s just a matter of fleshing it out and organizing it so it reads as a bit. But it all comes from the same databank of mental garbage I torment myself with daily.
8 p.m. Sunday, December 20. The Firebird, 2706 Olive Street. $10. 314-535-0353.