Exclusive interview with comedian Scott Long

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If you're a football fan, you've probably seen Fox NFL Sunday's pregame show, and you've most likely seen the Frank's Picks segment where comedian Frank Caliendo has impersonated people from John Madden to President George W. Bush.  If you've been left in hysterics watching these sketches, you should be aware of all the talent that delivers them to your living room.  Comedian Scott Long has been writing the sketches with Frank for 8 years now.  He even got to write several times for the Superbowl.  
Scott, a comedy veteran for nearly 20 years has appeared on Fox and NBC and has been heard on 100s of radio shows including the Bob and Tom Show, ESPN, Fox Sports, the XM Comedy channel, and many more. You can see Scott perform this Thursday (June 30th) at the Congress Theater (2135 N Milwaukee Ave.) with comedians Pat Tomasulo (WGN Morning News sports anchor), Ryan Budds (WGN's Chicago's Next Big Comic), and myself (awesome guy). Doors open at 7pm, show will start at 8 pm.  Tickets are only $10  BUY TICKETS 
*First 4 people to post a comment on this blog entry win free tickets! 

CAC: When did you start doing comedy?

SL: I'm in my 20th year of doing comedy.  It seems amazing to me that could be the case. What is interesting is that my act has changed the most it ever has the last 6 months.  I'm in the best writing groove of my career.  Comics are always talking about their voice.  I feel like I've found my voice 3 or 4 times during my [career] as a standup.  That's the plus of having so many voices in your head.  You never run out of ways to find your voice.  

CAC: How would you describe the recent changes in your act? 
SL: My initial influences when I began were Carlin, Kinison, Bill Hicks, and Dennis Miller, but I quickly found out I wasn't good enough to make social commentary the major focus of my show.  So my act became a mix of sexual deviancy and family dysfunction, with a taste of social commentary.  This type of show made me a successful comic, playing most of the top clubs in the country.  Combine this with what I'm best known for, my improvisational skills working an audience and I rarely had a week open.  The negative is that [that type of show] is hard to translate to TV, so I never felt I had a good talk show set or half hour Comedy Central special.  Some of the best comics working today just don't translate well to TV or Youtube.  I compare it to music where some bands are great live, but have a hard time reflecting that energy on a CD.  
It was over the past year that I figured out that what makes me most unique is the dysfunctional family life I live.  I was an urban hipster for 37 years pretty much doing whatever I pleased, then I had the love of my life, my daughter Madeline.  As she developed, we discovered that she was on the autism spectrum.  So at that point we decided to have another child so someone would be there to look after her best interests.  So we go through IVF and boom, we have twins.  It has been hell on earth ever since, but as soon as I was willing to tap into the raw emotions that a child with special needs and baby twins bring, it gave my show a new kick.  

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CAC: Were the kids the only thing that kept you from moving to NY or LA?
SL: When I started doing stand up, I never had an desire to be an actor.  I did have some interest in being a writer for TV, though.  Around 2002, I had written a script about a legendary porn actress who had done everything in the biz, except for one particular act. This one act is the only thing anyone wants her for as she has been used up by the biz in every other way.  The working title was Love in all the Wrong Places.  It was a dramedy exploring the bizarro adult entertainment world.  It was exciting to me as it was something I had never seen anyone tackle before.  More Larry Sanders than Boogie Nights.  Barry Katz, who has managed many of the top comics you can think of (Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook, Jim Breuer, etc.) liked it and told me he wanted me to move out to LA and work with another writer he had in mind to polish it.  At that same time he told me about a new reality show he was working on with Jay Mohr that he said I should audition for: Last Comic Standing.  
My wife had tried to conceive for 6 years and finally had success before [all] this.  Not a good time to move to LA, especially since my wife had no interest of going there and the due date was right during the shooting of Last Comic Standing.  Add to this [that] I thought a reality show about stand up seemed like a really scary idea, as I figured it was going to make comics look badly, just like all other reality shows do to their participants.  So I let that opportunity slide by.  Both the TV writing project and the chance of being on LCS were long-shots, but they were the kind of opportunities that most writers/comedians who live in LA dream of getting.  Put me in the small category of comics who don't diss LCS.  As I think it was a good thing overall for stand up comics.  I made it to the Chicago finals in year 3, but just like other finalists there like Jimmy Pardo and Larry Reeb, I didn't go any farther. Those guys weren't pretty enough for TV, so I guess I just wasn't good enough.
Flash to 3 years later I have a meeting with Barry Katz and he hits me hard about how I could do comedy for 15 years and never move to LA or NY.  Even if I didn't want to be an actor or write full-time on some TV show, didn't I realize that being on the coasts raises your profile to the point where you can draw more people in comedy clubs?  I didn't really have a comeback besides that he was right.  My only response was that LA was no place to raise your kids.  In fact, it's cold as hell.  I'm not above letting Bernie Taupin lyrics of Elton John songs answer my toughest situations.  A lot of people diss Barry Katz, but what he said to me was completely fair.  At that point, I realized I was probably stuck in the Midwest, which just happened to be where I wanted to be.  I grew up in Iowa, I had lived in Chicago and Indianapolis since I graduated college.  I feel most at home in the Midwest, as I feel less connected anywhere else.  At this point, I've written for TV, written for award shows, written a book, written 2 successful blogs, and put out 2 DVD's and 1 CD.  And I still have a lot left in the tank, so I guess I have to figure out a way to work around living on the Coasts.     

CAC:  How did your relationship with Frank [Caliendo] start?

SL: We worked together when we were both early in our careers.  Even though he had been doing comedy for only about a year, he was a powerhouse already.  He is the most talented person I've worked with during my career and also the hardest worker.  We stayed friends from that one week and when he took over for Jimmy Kimmel at the NFL on Fox pregame show he said to send me [Frank] some NFL jokes each week.  I had done a weekly topical sports comedy segment for the national Fox sports radio morning show, so I had some credentials.  The NFL on Fox had hired some writer who knew nothing about sports and his stuff was pretty bad.  Instead of writing for the NFL, he should have been writing for Chelsea Lately, which he ended up doing a few years later.  As the season went along, more and more of my stuff was being used.  Even though Frank was the one paying me.  By year 2 they ditched the first writer and brought in K.P. Anderson, who is really good and is now the executive producer of the Soup, so the writing was a lot better in season 2.  I was put on the payroll, and over the years I have worked with other great writers like Jeff Cesario (Larry Sanders) and Jeff Rothpan (Jeff Dunham Show).  I just finished my 8th season, which is not easy to accomplish in the TV world.  


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CAC: What do you love about Chicago?
SL: When I graduated from college, I went directly to the Chicago area.  Even though they are clouded by alcohol, I have some great memories of going out drinking on Rush street. Without getting into details, it was the early 90's and I can still hear the Jesus Jones and EMF jamming out Mother's dance floor and then stumbling out the doors at 5 in the morning looking to score a gyro or italian beef.  Ah the city of big shoulders and big bellies.  Above all, Chicago at night is the most beautiful city to drive through in the US. 

CAC: What do you hate about Chicago?  
SL: The first real job I got when I graduated from college was working as a manager at Marshall Fields.  I could have also been considered the token heterosexual.  Didn't really have anything in common with anyone I worked with.  The hours were long and the traffic was brutal getting to Woodfield Mall each morning.  I was getting fat eating Sbarro everyday at the food court and getting discounts on Frango mints.  The worst part though was the entitled customers who would bitch about everything.  The day I knew I was not long for the job was when I was filling in family portraits at the studio in the store.  A very annoying woman came in complaining about her portraits and how she wanted her money back.  I asked if I could see them and looking at the leisure suits the man was sporting and the dated clothes the much younger woman was wearing.  I figured out these photos were more than a decade old.  She responded by saying she didn't like them anymore and wanted her money back.  I told her we couldn't do that.  She said she wanted to talk to the manager.  I told her I was the manager.  She said I want to speak to the store manager.  I stepped out and called the store manager telling him you aren't going to believe what this woman wants to do.  After explaining it, he said, give her money back.  This was when I knew I had to find a gig where I could speak my mind to people who behave like hecklers.  I guess I should thank this horrible, horrible woman.  

 

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