Those of you familiar with Doogie Horner probably know him from his unforgettable appearance on America’s Got Talent. His interesting first round on the show, along with being named Philly’s Phunniest in 2010, has solidified Doogie as one of the best local, if not national, rising comedians. But after seeing his unique blend of smart, somewhat irreverent and sometimes downright silly comedy, I wanted to find out more. Does he really talk and dress that way in real life? Does he really want to have sex with an eagle? Curiously enough, what I found was not that much different from the Doogie Horner we see on stage, minus the eagle part… I think.
Aroundphilly: How did you realize you wanted to perform stand-up?
Doogie Horner: I tried it and liked it.
AP: What comedians influence your comedy?
DH: I like Todd Barry, Paul F. Tompkins, Steve Martin, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Buster Keaton.
AP: Your style and presentation is very unique- was this something you crafted our did it evolve naturally from your own personality?
DH: It evolved naturally. I am a unique snowflake. When I started my delivery was less conversational, more stilted, because I was very scared on stage. Now I’m more natural on stage, but I think that actually makes it harder to tell weird jokes like one-liners and non-sequitors; the audience is less receptive to them when you’re speaking casually. I think. I’m not sure yet. If you look at comics that tell mostly one-liners—Steven Wright, Mitch Hedberg, Rodney Dangerfield—they all had unusual delivery. I think it’s harder to tell one liners when you’re speaking casually, like a normal person. I don’t know if that’s true or not, it’s something I’m trying to figure out. But being myself, being conversational, does make it easier to improvise on stage, do crowd work, slip in and out of jokes. So that change has increased my flexibility.
AP: Can you tell us a little bit about Down the Show and your involvement with the show?
DH: Yes I can. Abigail asked if I wanted to do the show, and I said yes, and then I told jokes to a camera in an empty room. Abigail is awesome and so is the show.
AP: How did your experience on America’s Got Talent affect your career and your comedy if at all? Is Nick Cannon more of a talentless tool or more of an ignorant douche?
DH: It affected my career very little. It affected my comedy and outlook a little more. I never thought I could win over a large mainstream audience, and America’s Got Talent showed that I could, which surprised me. It was fun to work with the other performers, because they were all so positive. I’m very negative, and most of my friends who are comics are too, and being around those happy jugglers and harmonica players made me more positive. Why not enjoy what you do? Nick Cannon seems very nice, I don’t know him too well. But he seemed cool. Do a lot of people not like him? I wasn’t aware. We dated briefly.
AP: How do you usually come up with material?
DH: I try to think of funny things. I used to write towards a punchline without trying to express an opinion or viewpoint. I think, up until a year ago, I never said anything on stage that I actually believed in, never told any stories based on personal experiences. Now I’m trying to write jokes where I begin with an opinion—where before I began with a joke—and I’m having difficulty with that. I’m not sure if one approach is better than the other. Jokes is jokes.
DH: I think the local comedy scene is great. I like it a lot. Everyone is cool, and the audiences are easy-going. Where do I see it going in the future? I don’t know. I think the scene in Philly will mirror the nationwide attitude towards live stand-up, which seems to be improving. The 80s were great for live stand-up, the 90s were rough, and now it seems like things are getting better.
AP: What was your worst experience doing stand-up and what was the best?
DH: I don’t know what my worst experience has been. There have been a lot. Oh, I did this show in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was brutal. From the stage I said, “This is the worst show I’ve ever done,” which certainly didn’t help. And my wife’s parents were in the crowd, that’s what tipped the scale. I was supposed to do 30 minutes, but I was eating shit, so I did 50 out of spite. I was like, “I’m not leaving until you’re all as miserable as I am.” I said I was going to burn their town to the ground before I left. They actually thought that was funny.
I don’t know what my best show was either. I have had some very fun Ministry of Secret Jokes shows. Obviously, my first audition on America’s Got Talent was awesome, a surreal rush. Some of my favorite shows were ones where the venue was crappy, the crowd was small, and I had rock bottom expectations—but then the show went well. It’s relaxing when there’s no pressure, when you feel there’s nowhere to go but up. I like the feeling of narrowly avoided disaster.
AP: Are there any jokes your performed earlier in your career that you just despise now?
DH: I don’t despise any of them, but there are a lot I don’t like. I don’t tell them anymore.
AP: What is your opinion on the term “alternative comedy”?
DH: It’s a vague term and not particularly useful. Comedy that was considered alternative a couple years ago is mainstream now. Comedy goes stale quicker than other art forms. There are always artists coming up doing weird shit, but then a year later that weird shit is normal. That’s assuming comedy counts as art..