Q&A with Vegan Comedian Myq Kaplan, Now on Netflix
You may recognize the name Myq Kaplan from such shows as NBC’s widely watched “Last Comic Standing” (where he made it to the final five), Comedy Central’s “@MIDNIGHT,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” or “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” among other TV appearances. You may also recognize the name Myq Kaplan from his entertaining comedy albums, including “Vegan Mind Meld” (which became one of iTunes’ top ten bestselling comedy records of 2010), “Meat Robot,” and, his latest, “Small, Dork and Handsome.” The latter was released last week via iTunes and, even more rad, on Netflix the week before.
Kaplan’s come a long way since embarking on a career in comedy over a decade ago. Indeed, the 35-year-old funny guy—who has a way with words, and namely puns—began in Boston, strumming along to his silly songs at local comedy clubs, eventually ditching his instrument and focusing strictly on standup. Now his routine is ripe for recommendation, able to be added to your Netflix queue alongside “Orange Is The New Black” and other originals at the swift click of a mouse. Now that’s what we call progress.
As supporters of all things brilliant-meets-vegan, we couldn’t not secure an interview with the New Jersey born-and-bred, Brooklyn-based Kaplan. We’re fans of not only his edgy humor, but also his animal-loving lifestyle. So, it’s a win-win. What could be better, really, than a sense of humor and a huge heart? Not to mention a generous dose of rationality. As Kaplan puts it, he eschewed animal products over ten years ago for one obviously logical reason: “It was very simplistic: Don’t kill things.” And with that we invite you to read on for more from the plant-based laugh man himself.
First of all, why spell your name that way?
I was a child and weird and Prince changed his name to a symbol, so I was like, “I’ll do something like that.” So, I did my thing. Then he changed his back and I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m stuck.” And now it’s easier to google.
Prince left you hanging.
In his defense, he probably had no idea I was doing anything.
So, how did the Netflix opportunity come about?
About a year-and-a-half ago, in 2012, I knew I wanted to do a special. Instead of waiting for a network to be like, “Come here and do your special,” my manager helped me hook up with a production company called New Wave Dynamics. We taped it, shopped it around and they’re the ones who found Netflix interested in taking it.
How and when did you first get into standup?
At the time I was in college, wanting to be a singer-songwriter. I played at coffee houses and things. I was looking for more places to do that. One of the places I found was a comedy club. I was like, “Hey, can I come play some of my funnier songs?” So, I did that and in between songs I would talk, and sometimes people would laugh at the things I said. And I was like, “Oh, that’s fun.” So, I just tried to go longer and longer between songs, trying to make people laugh. I was like, “Let’s see if I don’t even need this [guitar].” So, the reason I got into comedy was to stop having to carry a guitar around.
Equally if not more important, when and why did you go vegan?
I became a vegetarian in college because I learned about factory farms and the unnecessary, painful treatment that animals underwent. I didn’t want to be a part of that process if I didn’t have to be. I became vegan about five years later, around when I started doing comedy, at age 24. It was basically following through, not just thinking about animals dying, but thinking about the treatment of them when they’re alive. And how the dairy industry and the meat industry are basically one and the same and are intertwined.
Have you inspired others to become vegan through your comedy?
People have talked to me about the way I talk about veganism. They’ve enjoyed it in ways they didn’t think they would.
You know Pete Holmes? I went on his podcast to talk about veganism, among other things, and [recently] I saw him and he told me that he’s been vegan and mostly raw for the past year. I’m not saying I’m completely behind him becoming vegan, but I’m a person who talked to him about it and he’s a guy who thought about it and became it.
Nice! Who are some comics you look up to?
There are tons. Obviously Louis C.K. is one of the best there’s ever been. He’s doing so many great things in entertainment and sort of just philosophically for the world; I think Maria Bamford is wonderful; Brian Regan; Andy Kindler; Doug Stanhope; Paul F. Tompkins is one of my favorites; there are friends of mine that I love watching, like Zach Sherwin, who is also vegan; Shane Mauss; Baron Vaughn; Aparna Nancherla; Ken Reid; Josh Gondelman; Reggie Watts is wonderful. How long do you want me to name names?
You can stop. Let’s talk about your punning.
That is a thing that happens sometimes, for sure.
Are you just naturally adept at being, like, the pun master?
It’s certainly not something I set out to do. I didn’t wake up one day and decide that this was the kind of comedy I was going to specialize in. And, also, it is not the only kind of comedy that comes out of me. But, I understand there is a greater proportion of wordplay in my act than in a lot of other people’s. So, I acknowledge that. It’s just something that my brain does naturally. When I hear words, my brain will rearrange letters and see what other words they sound like and often those things will lead to humor. It is something that I’ve always been interested in. One of the things that you hear when you’re starting in comedy is just to find yourself, figure out what you’re good at and what you like and then become the most that that you can.
So, how would you define your comedic style?
Whenever I’m asked that, I point to Alan Watts. He’s an eastern philosophy expert who said, “Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.” It’s difficult for me to talk about myself. I would say my comedy is the hilarious style of comedy. You know, it’s comedy that people love. It’s for everybody minus a very small amount of people—let’s just say it’s for everybody. Fun for the whole family once they’re old enough!
Comedians often fall pray to hecklers. Any particularly memorable heckling stories?
One time, I was opening for KC and the Sunshine Band. They had a very small stage that rotated, because it was in the round—already not ideal for comedy. They needed a comedian because all their equipment was on the stage, so they couldn’t get another band to open because there was not enough room. So they were like, “Oh, a comedian. That’ll be great.” But everybody there didn’t know there would be a comedian, so when I came out people started booing. Someone yelled, “Get down tonight,” which was a direction to me, and also a request for one of KC’s songs. In order to get my money, I had to do 25–30 minutes. I was like, “Hey, if you’re quiet, I’ll only do 25 minutes. But, if you’re not quiet, I’ll do my full 30 minutes.” They did not accept my deal. The best heckler there was, like, an 8-year-old girl who just gave me a thumbs down.
Aww. I’m sorry.
Hey, if someone said to me, “You want to get $400 to get yelled at?” I’d probably still say yes.
So, is comedy your full-time job?
Most weeks I am out every night. I’m definitely doing more shows in a year than there are days in a year.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of doing what you do?
Laughter. Laughter is this thing that pretty much everybody loves and my job is to think of funny things, say them to people and have them enjoy them. The most fun part of my job is coming up with a new idea, not knowing whether it’s funny, hoping it’s funny, then finding out that it’s funny, then making it as funny as possible. And then getting sick of it and starting all over with other stuff.
What’s been the high point of your career thus far?
There’s so many things that I’ve done that I’ve felt fortunate to do: The first time I got paid to do comedy; When I got a booking agent that got me enough gigs that I didn’t have to do anything but comedy for that year; When I got the call that I was going to be on TV for the first time; When I found out I got a half-hour special on Comedy Central; When I got to perform at Carnegie Hall, opening for Aziz Ansari. Sometimes it’s just one moment in a show where I’m like, “That is the funniest thing that’s happened in a long time.”
Photo credit: Mindy Tucker