Comedian Gary Gulman’s standup act is of the PG-13 variety, but no less hilarious because of it. A finalist on Last Comic Standing's seasons two and three, the 45-year-old finds the funny in everyday minutiae. From his hierarchy of cookies (Oreos > Samoas > sugar cookies) to bits about former day jobs (high school teacher, barista, accountant), the six-foot-six former college football tight-end entertains without resorting to filth. With three TV specials, three comedy albums, and appearances on every late-night show, this Boston-born, New York-based comic has had no trouble finding a loyal following.
What were you like in your youth?
Gary Gulman: I grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, a town 16 miles north of Boston. I was athletic and a good student. I was pretty shy, but I loved comedy. From the time I was six, I would have told anyone who asked that I wanted to be a comedian when I grew up.
When did you start doing your own standup act?
October 8, 1993.
You remember the exact date?
Yeah, yeah. I remember a lot of dates in my career. I did it as an amateur until December 24, 1998. That was the last time I had a day job.
You’ve had a wide variety of day jobs. Did they prepare you in any way to become a comedian?
I think it influenced the work I did onstage with jokes. I observed a lot of people behaving in certain ways. I was able to put them into my act and understand how people thought. I try to bring some authenticity to my jokes and make the depiction of other people accurate.
Your act is pretty clean compared to other comedians. Is that an intentional choice?
Part of it was I wanted to get on TV, and I knew that you had to have clean jokes to get on TV. When I started, guys swore more; I thought I would stand out if I swore less. It was a matter of trying to be different and not sound like the other guys.
What are the topics you address in the show you’re currently touring?
I do an extended rant on chefs. I talk about documentaries on Netflix. I talk about a time I was arrested and brought to jail for a 16-year-old speeding ticket I hadn’t paid because I didn’t realize it was unpaid. I talk about the nature of clinical depression, which I have suffered from in the past. I describe the bargains that you make with yourself and the adjustments you make when you’re going through depressed times. That was very difficult to make funny, but I’ve been doing it 22 years, so I’ve figured out how to make a lot of things funny that aren’t necessarily comedic.
You used to have a lot of food material in your act.
It was something early on that not a lot of people were talking about. I was looking for some commonality I could share with the audiences. I don’t talk that much about food anymore but it was a rich subject when I started. But other comedians started doing it, so I moved away from that and started doing more personal stories.
Do you talk about your family?
Yeah, I talk about my family and the idiosyncrasies of Jewish families and our attitude toward the world, which is skewed differently because of our history as an oppressed and persecuted people. I talk about religion, but nothing that’s offensive, just pointing out some of the interesting things. That’s an area that I’ve covered extensively over the years in every special I’ve done. It’s funny, but it’s a topic that’s generally considered taboo.
IF YOU GO:
Cedar Cultural Center
8 p.m. Saturday, December 12
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