Comedian Doug Benson Discusses ‘Smug Life’, His Fans and Being Cooked [INTERVIEW]
Comedian Doug Benson’s latest comedy album – Smug Life – is an interesting look into the type of experiment he’s surely been asked to conduct many times before.
The album was released as a two-CD set with one titled “uncooked” and the other titled “cooked.” If you’re familiar with Doug’s work you can undoubtedly figure out what the terms mean. Yet for those of you who don’t know of his comedy or his popular film ‘Super High Me’ we’ll let you in on a little secret: he’s not only a wonderful comedian but also an avid marijuana user. Therefore, on the ‘uncooked’ album Doug performs his act completely sober. However, on his ‘cooked’ album, he does the set… well… cooked.
When he isn’t smoking pot – if there is such a time – or performing stand up, Doug hosts the popular podcast ‘Doug Loves Movies,’ in which he and a number of guests talk about films and comedy. It is interesting and different among other podcasts in that each episode is taped weekly in front of a live audience at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angles. He’s had an array of guests appear on the podcast -- everyone from ‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm to comedians Paul F Tompkins, Scott Aukerman, Aziz Ansari, and Sarah Silverman, among many others.
Doug took the time to talk with us about Smug Life, his fans and being cooked.
Aside from being a well-respected stand up, your podcast is incredibly funny. What made you want to start Doug Loves Movies?
Just a whim, really. I thought it would be fun to talk about movies with my friends and then make it available for people to listen to.
Do you feel the live environment of the show adds something that makes it stand out?
I'm sure it makes it funnier. I've done some studio episodes, and even shows in rental cars, but having an audience present makes everyone funnier.
Does that environment make the connection with the fans more intimate and enjoyable for you?
Yeah, being a long time stand-up, I like a live crowd and interacting with a live crowd. But not too much! I do have an act; it can't all be audience interaction. Like I say on my new album ‘SMUG LIFE’, if you want to participate in a show, go to a dueling piano bar.
Are there any other podcasts that you're a fan of?
I don't have much time to listen to podcasts, but when I'm on a plane I'll check out an episode of ‘WTF with Marc Maron’ or ‘Comedy Bang Bang.' And I like hearing Alec Baldwin whisper yell at people on ‘Here’s The Thing’. Yeah, he whisper yells.
We’re huge fans of ‘Super High Me.' What did you learn from doing that?
That constant use of pot doesn't necessarily keep someone from being a productive member of society.
Were you surprised with how popular it has become?
Yes, you never really expect something to be popular. I knew people who find the premise interesting, but how much they love the end result is very satisfying.
People love how open you are about the subject of marijuana. Was that a niche that you sought out to create or did it just happen?
Just happened. I started telling weed jokes because I like weed. Then I realized people like weed jokes. Even non-smokers laugh at that shit.
Do you find that you're forced to do pot material at shows more so than you'd like to now?
Not really. As long as I'm telling jokes, the audience doesn't seem to mind if their not about pot. Besides, all of my jokes are written when I'm high.
How has the experience on ‘Last Comic Standing’ helped your career, if at all?
It was great exposure. I'm glad I did it.
What was it about comedy that initially drew you to it?
I've always been a ham who likes making people laugh.
Was there a specific moment you recall that made you realize you want to do it?
When I realized it could be a career, I knew it was what I'm supposed to do.
Was stand up the end goal or was there another goal of acting and/or writing in Hollywood?
I knew that stand-up could lead to those other things, and it has, but I love the form of stand-up and will continue to do it no matter what else happens in my career.
Do you feel that your act has changed at all over the years? Obviously the material has but as you've gotten more comfortable in your career has your approach or delivery changed?
I ad lib a lot more now, and I write a lot of short jokes thanks to Twitter.
How often do you go on the road?
Constantly. I'm out there somewhere at least 2 - 3 nights a week.
Do you find that ‘Doug Loves Movie’s and ‘Super High Me’ have helped more people come to your shows?
Yes, there's barely an audience member who isn't either a podcast listener or a pothead, which makes for great crowds.
After doing comedy for so many years, do you still enjoy the road?
Yeah, because the people who come to my shows are so nice, and so enthusiastic about it, it's really hard for me to not enjoy it.
The idea of your latest album—doing one set uncooked and one cooked—was a really interesting idea. Which did you enjoy more?
I'm more comfortable when I'm high. Performing not high was interesting, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do it again.
Can you describe the differences between both experiences?
I may mess stuff up more when I'm high, but I also say funnier things. So it's a trade off.