Philly comedy has quickly been gaining steam but we’re still a ways away from being the comedy mecca that is San Francisco. So I sat down with local comedian Conrad Roth, who now resides in San Fran, to get his opinion on Philly comedy’s current state and to see where we stand amongst the rest of America.
Aroundphilly: What made you want to become a comedian?
Conrad Roth: Before I start answering questions, the reader should know that this interview will not be funny. It will however be informative and potentially interesting. So to answer question one. I needed more attention. I love when people are having a good time, especially when I’m responsible for making it happen. It’s very selfish, yet selfless. I was really good at that in college, at parties and so on, but it got to the point where the laughs were too easy and I was graduating soon. Stand-up was a challenge and I always loved watching it on Comedy Central as a kid.
AP: What was your first show like?
CR: I wrote three minutes for an open mic about how being famous must suck and some other bit that bombed. I was extremely nervous and got wasted beforehand. Five of my friends came to watch and although it was terrible, I was able to get away with it because they were impressed simply that I got up on stage and tried. At my first booked show, I was sober, and so nervous I almost left before my set.
AP: Who are your biggest influences?
CR: Any comedian who is setting trends in work ethic and approach.
AP: What is the worst experience you had doing stand-up?
CR: The worst experience was probably most of the first three years of me performing stand-up. I was bombing quite often and not being myself. However, a more recent bad experience was…I was dating this girl in SF who was interested in me because I did stand-up, but hadn’t seen me perform. One night I brought her to two consecutive shows and after seeing my act, she refused to talk to me again. Pretty bleak, but looking back on most of my awful experiences (not just stand-up) makes me laugh. Almost anything terrible is funny to me two days later.
AP: Your currently residing in San Fran after moving from Philly. How does the Philly scene compare to San Francisco?
CR: The scene in SF is 10 times as big as Philly’s because SF is the hub of the Bay Area. The Bay Area has a population of like 7+ million people and includes cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and San Jose. All that comedy pumps through San Francisco. There is so much stage time and comedians, it’s crazy. That being said, I think Philly has grown exponentially due to various factors and we will be talking about it’s current time period in comedy ten years from now.
AP: Do you have any advice for young and struggling comedians?
CR: I am a young, struggling comedian so I probably shouldn’t be giving anyone advice. However, I can tell you that my approach is to try to work harder than everyone else and challenge myself with new material every time I perform.
AP: How do you normally come up with/develop your material? How much of it do you actually end up using?
CR: I write down a phrase that reminds me of a funny concept in my phone, whenever I think of one. Then I expound that idea at an open mic. Sometimes I chuck it, but if I think it has potential, I add and subtract from the bit at the next open mic and repeat this process until it’s either a solid bit or it gets dumped. I’d say 1 out of 20 original concepts make it into my polished set.