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All comedy is personal, at least in the sense that the comedian is showing an audience their inner logic, the stuff that seems funny to them. Take Andrew Mayer as an example. Listeners aren’t likely to come away from his new album, “Having A Nice Time,” out April 24 from Blonde Medicine, thinking they’ve just heard a heavy confession. Mayer keeps it light and even bubbly at times, and the laughs-per-minute ratio is high.
But listen closer to these routines about meeting a stranger’s dog or the games Andrew and his wife play at parties to amuse themselves, and you’ll get an accurate picture of just who Mayer is when he leaves the stage.
“My perfect day, socially, is basically, you walk your dog to go get coffee, and, like, tie it up while you go inside, and then I pet your dog while you’re gone and I leave before you get back.” — From the track “My Anxiety and Your Pets”
This is how Mayer demonstrates how shy and riddled with anxiety he is. He finds it hard to concentrate when shaking hands, and thinks the tragic flaw of dogs is that they’re attached to people. “I like people, in theory,” he says, speaking from home via video conference. “I’m very friendly, in theory. But I don’t trust my own improv is usually what it is. I just get caught up in my own head when I talk to people.”
Stand-up comedy might not seem like an obvious profession for someone who confesses to be shy in social situations. When people mention that to him, he points out that performing comedy is a very controlled situation, unlike the give-and-take of talking with someone. “Stand-up is very great for me,” he says. “It varies slightly every time, but I know, for the most part, what I'm going to say. And that's different than when I'm in a conversation.”
Onstage, Mayer is fluid. He doesn’t pause for laughs, but he’ll toss in a throw-away line to keep the momentum going until the audience is listening again. “I just want like a rolling laugh,” he says. “I can work a jab all day. I’m not throwing a ton of haymakers out there, and if I do, I’ll pause to let the haymaker happen. But I’m mostly just jabbing you here and there and there and there, over and over again with tiny lines.”
“It’s sort of like a raffle of bits of my own brain, I feel like, sometimes. It starts out and I’m like, ‘2-0-3,’ and everybody’s like, ‘Yup, we got it! We’re still on board.’ And then I’m like, ‘8-5-6,’ and [they’re] like, ‘Oh, so close.’ [But] there’s like two people in the corner, they’re like, ‘We never win anything! This is so cool!” — From the track “Oh No! Snakes!”
Mayer’s joke about how his comedy might not tickle everyone in the audience is itself a metaphor that might not land with everyone. It’s wonderfully layered, like many of Mayer’s bits. “I think I’ve gotten more accessible over time,” he says, “but also I think that there's some jokes in there that I'm just like, ‘alright, if you don't see the world the same way that I do, or are adjacent to my brain, then you’re just not gonna like this. And I'm still gonna say it because I think it's funny.’”
He believes it may be easier for comedians who are a bit more offbeat to build and keep an audience now, when people can find and follow a comedian on the internet. “You'd have to be able to make everyone laugh, and that was the way that you had a career,” he says of the pre-web days of comedy. “And now I feel like…you find the two people who [get] the thing that you're doing and then those people come back. And then you just keep doing that over, and over, and over again until eventually it’s those two people who saw you at all these shows are now your crowd.”
“There’s also very limited space in the good memory museum, and so you have your first kiss, and they’re like, ‘Get out of here, time you hit a home run in T-ball, we don’t need you anymore. We got a new center exhibit here.’ That’s not how regrets work. Regrets work much more like a conga line. Unlimited space on the back, happy to have more.” — From the track “Embarrassment! The Conga!”
This is another sneaky bit that comes off very light but indicates something a bit heavier going on. It took Mayer several tries to figure out how to express his feelings about how sometimes, you lose the good memories, but the bad ones always seem to stick around. He tried putting all of the regrets and embarrassments in a parade first before he settled on the idea of a conga line. “A parade didn't quite work as well,” he says. “Although, I liked the idea of the worst regrets being loud fire engines in the back of the parade.”
“My wife and I have very similar senses of humor. And we’re both very bad at coming up with good ideas, but we’re both very good at coming up with bad ideas to make each other laugh.” – From the track “Ideas for Your Wedding”
If all of this makes you worried for Mayer, fear not. Despite his fear of handshakes, he thinks he is actually a fairly fun person. And he has found a perfect mate in his wife Amanda, who shares in his sense of humor. “Most of being a couple is just like proposing awful ideas for a laugh,” he says.
In this bit, Mayer described a game he and Amanda will play at parties where they try to get someone to say a word they have agreed on beforehand. Mayer says that is something they have actually done. “Oh, one hundred percent,” he says. “And to the point of sincerity, I don't think that I lie in the album. I think that everything in there, at least, has the heart of truth to it. There might be something like fudged timelines in there, but everything is true.”
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