Like the rest of our staff, I’m a day job schmuck. I do my 9-5 each day, battling morning and rush hour traffic, caught in construction, annoyed and miserable (okay, not miserable. I actually love my job, but I’m trying to paint a picture…). So, in order to get my day moving in the right direction, I need only a few things: Coffee, cigarettes, and The Bob & Tom Radio Show. On a daily basis, I at least get to laugh during my morning commute and ignore some of the godawful shit going on around me (namely, miles of construction and interstate traffic.). To my surprise one morning, a comedian was on making horror movie references that no ordinary schlub would make. I was genuinely surprised at a couple of the jokes and references he made, as they would primarily have played to that of the horror geek. The best part about this guy? He’s funny as hell! So, it seemed almost mandatory for me to hunt him and down and badger him into an interview.
Comedian Josh Arnold spends an ample amount of time on the road. Based out of St. Louis, his career evolved out of a knack for writing sketch comedy but has developed into his stand-up career. When he’s not busy writing, touring his ass off, and making people laugh, Mr. Arnold takes part in the same past times we do-horror movies! Recently, he allowed me to corner him and force him to answer a series of annoying questions. He was gracious enough to oblige me.
The obvious first question: How did you end up in stand-up comedy? What was the starting point?
When I was in kindergarten, my dad bought me this book of Rodney Dangerfield jokes–the clean ones–and I would read them over and over and recite them and eventually I started writing my own jokes and performing them at school talent shows. The start of my professional stand-up career came twenty years later when I started hitting open-mics and doing guest spots at comedy clubs in the St. Louis area and getting work from those.
Every comedian seems to have those influences who not only drive them to be better but are just an all-around influence/inspiration on their work. Who are those comedians for you? Who are the people that light your fire?
Robert Schimmel, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Louis CK, Nick Dipalo, Dana Gould, Marc Maron…these are some of my favorite comedians whose work has inspired me to give stand-up a serious shot. The influences who drive me to be better are the comics I work with a lot–mostly St. Louis based comics who have become some of my best friends and who I get to see do amazingly funny things on and off stage. Seeing them do well and get better inspires me to do well and get better.
Social mediums i.e., Facebook, Twitter have changed how performers interact with their audience. Stand-up comedians seem to have utilized these things to their advantage. How much of a role do they play in your world? Have they exposed you to audience not previously familiar with your work or do you tend to gain new fans organically?
I’m really not taking full advantage of the social mediums. I’m on Facebook but haven’t joined Twitter. I have this fear that I’ll worry more about what I should be tweeting as opposed to what I should be writing for the stage. Eventually I should get on board because it does seem to help with building a fan base and getting material out there but for now I’m cool with gaining fans through my live shows and radio appearances.
You first ended up on my radar as a guest on The Bob & Tom Show. Where else would audience possibly have encountered you?
Hmm, unless they’ve seen me perform live or heard me on Bob & Tom, they probably haven’t encountered me. Although I do have a YouTube channel (JoshArnoldComedy) that has over a thousand views. That’s right, people. Over…a thousand! The Bob & Tom Show has been great for my career so far. That show can do more for today’s stand-ups than any other.
In terms of your material, how does your act evolve? Do you specifically sit down with a Hal Jordan-like will power and say “I’m going to write” or are you the type to let inspiration present itself?
My best material comes from a combination of inspiration and discipline. If I see or think of something remotely funny, I write it down and work on it until it’s something really funny. And if I can’t make it funny enough, I leave it alone until I can. So most of my jokes start organically and then I tinker with them until they grow bigger and stronger, like the Blob or a Splice.
When is it time for a comedian to retire certain bits? At what point do you have to lay a bit to bed and challenge your audience with new material?
Once the bit gets boring for a comedian, it’s pretty much time to retire it. Once the bit gets boring for an audience, it’s definitely time to retire it. An audience can tell when a comic isn’t one hundred percent behind a bit and then it’s like, “Well if he doesn’t care about what he’s saying, why should I?” It’s similar to a horror franchise. If it stops feeling fresh or immediate, it’s time to move on.
I reached out to you to do this interview because you’re a horror fan. Where does your love of horror stem from? What started that ball rolling for you?
My mom is a horror fan, as was my aunt and grandma, so scary movies were always on when I was a kid. They would terrify me but I couldn’t stop watching them. I think what appeals to me about horror is also what appeals to me about comedy. They can both elicit very strong, immediate involuntary reactions and afterword you’re left with this energy and excitement that can become pretty addictive.
Where does your love for horror cross paths with your stand-up career? Have you ever had audience members who talk horror films with you?
I love to throw horror references into my material but I have to be careful. If 90% of the audience has no idea what I’m talking about they can begin to lose my trust and tune out. However, the other 10% can grow to appreciate me even more. What I’ve decided to do is build two different acts: one for the average audience and one for a horror audience. I’d love to perform stand-up at genre conventions and the like and do bits that only horror fans can relate to. That’s a definite goal of mine.
What are the horror films that have shaped you as a fan?
Halloween (1978), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Psycho (1960) are all films that scare the hell out of me while maintaining an artistic integrity that has made them not only classics of the genre but classics of the medium. They taught me that horror movies can be taken seriously. The Friday the 13th, Elm Street, and Evil Dead series, along with Creepshow and HBO’s Tales From The Crypt, all helped teach me that sometimes horror can just be fun.
Of the last few years, have their been any films you’ve seen that have really blown your mind?
I loved The House of the Devil. It’s terrifically suspenseful and made with a passion that really shows through. It reminded me of the original Chainsaw and Halloween in that regard. Let the Right One In is one of the only horror movies in history that deserves to be called beautiful, even with how violent it is. And Matt Reeves’ remake was outstanding. Martyrs damaged my soul. I saw that thing like two and half years ago and I still haven’t fully recovered. It’s so tremendously acted and well made that it can’t be excused as “torture porn” or anything less than the genre masterpiece it is. That said, I have yet to watch it a second time.Halloween II blew my mind and I still haven’t decided if it was in a good or bad way. It’s such a bizarre movie. In some respects it’s brilliantly risky and fiendishly over-the-top, and in other respects it’s insulting and dumb. Either way, I love how divisive it has become among horror fans. Rob Zombie either has no idea what he’s doing or he’s a cinematic genius. Only time with tell, I s’pose.
You spend quite a bit of time on the road and encounter tons of people. What is THE one crazy story from the road that you tell everyone?
I did a show at this bar once in some small town in Illinois. Somehow the show was great and afterward I stuck around to have a beer or two with the locals. At one point I walked into the bathroom and while I was standing at the urinal this Bill Moselely-esque dude ran in and started examining his mouth in the mirror. He was like, “I can’t take it anymore! I’m sorry, man, but I just can’t take it anymore!” and before I could say anything, he pulled out this rusted old pair of pliers, put them in his mouth, and proceeded to pull on one of his back teeth. He was screaming and blood was pouring out of his mouth and I was just standing there at the urinal. Finally, he ripped the pliers out of his mouth and this black and bloody molar fell into the sink. I yelled, “Jesus Christ!” and he just rinsed his mouth out, put the pliers and the tooth in his pocket, and walked out of the bathroom. Easily one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.
I know that guys like Nick Griffin and Brian Posehn are horror fans. Any other fellow comedians who you get to chat about genre films with?
Nick and I have talked horror and plan to swap scripts we’ve written. I’ve worked with Chris Hardwick and we discussed his experiences filming House of 1000 Corpses andHalloween II. Drew Hastings and I talk genre films quite a bit. All other comics make fun of me mercilessly for being a horror nerd.
Give us some comedians’ names who we haven’t heard of, but need to.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Greg Warren, Henry Phillips, Chad Daniels, Auggie Smith, Tommy Johnagin, Nikki Glaser, and Jeremy Essig, but if not check them out immediately. Jeff Wesselschmidt, Joe Murray, and Mikey Manker are guys you haven’t heard of but definitely will.
What’s coming up for Josh Arnold over the rest of the year? Anywhere we should keep an eye out for you at?
All of my club dates are listed at my website, josharnoldcomedy.com, and I post all my upcoming Bob & Tom visits and videos on my Facebook page. And in 2012, well…that’s when things are really going to come together for me. I don’t know how and nothing is planned but…2012!
Okay, last question: What is your be-all, end-all favorite horror film ever?
Halloween (1978). It’s so simple yet so full of genuine scares. It never lets up. It’s only purpose is to scare and it succeeds like no other.