Standup Comedy "Your Host and MC"

Johnny Steele Nor-Cal Comedy King! Interview & Comedy Set Show #127

September 25, 2022 Scott Edwards Season 3 Episode 127
Standup Comedy "Your Host and MC"
Johnny Steele Nor-Cal Comedy King! Interview & Comedy Set Show #127
Show Notes Transcript

Here's a fun interview and comedy set, by the high energy and totally unpredictable Johnny Steele. In this interview Johnny entertains, shares stories, and gives insights to standup comedy...amazing stuff! PLUS, I have a few mins of a live stage performance he did a few years back....funny stuff. Enjoy & Share

Hosted by: R. Scott Edwards

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Scott Edwards:

Hi, and welcome to this week's show. Hey, before we jump into the podcast, I wanted to share some new news. I just finished writing a book and it's out on Amazon, be sure to look for it. It's 20 questions answered about being a stand up comic. Once again, it's available both for Kindle or for softcover on Amazon. So go check it out. It you can search for the name of the book 20 questions answered about being a stand up comic, or my name are Scott Edwards and get a copy. Okay, here's this week's podcast enjoy.

Announcer:

This is another episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee celebrating 40 plus years on the fringe of show business stories, interviews and comedy sets from the famous and not so famous. Here's your host and MC Scott Edwards.

Scott Edwards:

All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this week's show. We have another terrific interview. You've heard this gentleman recently, he was part of one of my roundtables in the Bay Area. Why? Because he's a superstar of the comedy entertainment scene in the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. He was one of the winners of the San Francisco comedy competition. He was one of the stars of the documentary three still standing. He's had his own radio talk shows lots of TV, and I'm just excited to have him on, ladies and gentlemen, our comedy friend, Johnny still to Johnny. Man, I know, we just met a few months back to record the other show. But it's great to get you for this kind of personal one on one moment. Thanks for doing this.

Johnny Steele:

Thanks for having me. You know, it's it's good to be a part of it.

Scott Edwards:

Well, I we're both still active in the comedy scene. So it's great to reconnect. But also, it's an opportunity to share with other people interested in in the industry and my listeners, what it's like being a stand up comic, and you had some great things to share during the roundtable. I want to bring up later but let's kind of lay the foundation. How did you get started in comedy? And were you young, old?

Johnny Steele:

Well, young compared to now certainly. As we'll hear said, you know, years ago, I'm 65 years old, but I guess it's not really old, but it's the oldest I've ever been, which is a great line. Great line. I was in graduate school, which I know that would surprise many people. But it was mostly an attempt to avoid going into the workforce and I was about 23 or 24 years old. I grew up in the East Bay Area Contra Costa County, Pittsburg, California. And I was at San Diego State studying media, broadcasting media. Propaganda. It was very interesting stuff to me. And they had an open mic on campus and at for comedy is just starting to take off. Right. I signed up for the open mic thinking I could try that. I've always been the class clown. I've always been a silly guy. I've always had a good as likability and letters I wrote to my friends, they said we're always funny, I would just naturally write funny letters. And so I signed up for it. It's a great story for anybody who, you know, every worries about what happens if you screw up. Don't worry about because I signed up, I signed up. And I as usual, I didn't prepare terribly well. And it was on the San Diego State campus. It was one of those I don't know, Budweiser or something. It was comedy search. And it was like anybody can sign up and there were like 15 Comics signed up, you have five minutes apiece, whoever wanted one like 200 bucks, which was a lot back then and whatever. And so I stood in the back of the room. And despite the fact that most of the other quote unquote comics were not funny, we're amateurs mostly were people trying it for the first time or the third time. When they called my name, I froze. And I didn't think I was prepared. And I didn't go and they call me names. Right. Okay. And they moved on to the next person. So I watched the rest of the show. And I watched who won that night. And I said, well, the hell with this crap. But that's SON OF A BITCH could win 200 bucks for five minutes? I certainly can. So I felt the young kids can't imagine Scott right. But this is a time you can't go on YouTube and watch comedy for 20 hours, or go on YouTube. And Google on YouTube search comedy how to do stand up comedy. Now you do and there are people there telling you how to write a joke what to do. There was

Scott Edwards:

no such thing that Oh, it's a new industry really then.

Johnny Steele:

Yeah, it was a new industry and there was no internet. So there's that. I mean, you could go to the as I did to the thrift store and buy albums, you know, and put them on the record player and try to figure out the patterns or, you know, what makes this guy funny. What makes that funny? What's a joke, you know? So I did a little bit of that there was one guy, Jean caret je ne p r e tt i think he was one of Bob Hope's writers. And he was one of the first guys I discovered that had written comedy workshop books. But at that time, I didn't even find that I was a college kid. I didn't have $20 for you know, for a writing book if I could even Find the damn thing. So I just cobbled together some notes. And I said, I'm not gonna let that happen again. And then I noticed that in La Jolla, California, just sort of north of San Diego, proper center, San Diego, there was a comedy store south. I think it's still there. So I went down and said, How do you sign up for the Monday night open mic and they said, Well, you come up, you're already known, we'll put you at the top of the list. If you're a new guy, you're probably going last as well. I'm a new guy. And they said, we'll come down here at seven o'clock shows at eight and you'll see your name on the lineup. So they were like, you know, 18 people. And I was last, of course. And I just cobbled some notes. I mean, the jokes. You know, the jokes really bad. I mean, oh, yeah.

Scott Edwards:

Do we remember any first jokes?

Johnny Steele:

I remember at least one for sure. Well, I remember one thing I'll tell you in a second about what sparked me because I've always been a talker and an ad libber. And a radio guy more than a comic, really. So the one joke I remember was in the laundromat, they have those little boxes of detergent, you buy for 25 cents. They're about the size of like those cereal boxes we got as kids when we went camping, you know those things. And so I don't remember one point, Fantasy Island was a big show. And they had that little guy, whatever his name, what was that guy's name to get to? And I said, Oh my God, there's so many celebrities in Southern California, I found this laundry box. In my larger bed. I'm fairly tattoo is doing his laundry here.

Scott Edwards:

Well, that's at the time, that would have been a great reference.

Johnny Steele:

It was hilarious. And it was a proper joke. It's not really a prop comic, although I'm not against bringing stuff on stage and fooling with it. But the first thing I said was, because when the show starts, as you know, and eight o'clock the audience is ripe and ready to go. And there may be were 100 people in the room. But as you go through the night, people, you know, peel off, and then there's 70 People then there's 50 By the time I went on, it was, you know, 1015 I'm the last guy. And I went up to a very sparse crowd and most comics, better comics, because they're comics and I'm just a smart ad libbing loudmouth. And I went up there and said something like having a hand I remember the guy's name Frank. I don't remember his last name MC Frank, thanks for giving me the sweet spot right? From the beginning of the show, and the audience is full and people are ready to laugh. You know, I want to go up when they said something to that effect. And then they did the tattoo joke and it went, Okay. And after this prank guy pulled me aside and said, Hey, man, you're pretty good, where you've been working. And I said, That's my first comedy set ever. And he looked at me and gave me kind of glances at this a really. And he said, you should consider pursuing this. So that's, that's how I started so wisely. I quit graduate school, I finished this semester, but never finished grad school quit. And I came back to the Bay Area. And that was like 85. And there was the punch line in the city, which I was not ready for. And then there was holy city zoo out on Clements Street, which was kind of a club and I wasn't yet in the club. So I went out to where I grew up, and I said to my parents, Hey, you don't mind if I live here? They say welcome. You know, my parents are great, very supportive. And so I back home. That's 3024 or whatever pie whatever it was, and went to full bars. in Pleasant Hill. It was a hamburger joint where they started doing open mic when I remember food bars. Yeah, and then I know just as a note, as you can already tell, because like you I've done radio stuff one question can last an hour for the answer so be weary of that but then when I was nine, no. So I flew bars I'm doing open mic there and the MCs are these guys named Steve Kravitz and Steven Pearl and Sue Murphy and Dan St. Paul. They had a team called Murphy St. Paul, if people listening don't know Sue Murphy later went down to write with a big people in LA. slipping my mind now and Dan St. Paul has had a very successful career doing corporate gigs and cruise ships and whatnot. Funny, very funny, sweet guy. And so I would watch these guys and believe it or not, I snuck in a cassette recorder business before mini tapes. I snuck in a cassette recorder and like a duffel bag, not to steal material, but to be able to what's why are people laughing here? What's the story? And so I was trying to figure it out. And then a guy who is no longer with us who founded the San Francisco comedy day name is Jose CMO. His name was

Scott Edwards:

the most famous, famous guy on your comedy world.

Johnny Steele:

Absolutely founded comedy Celebration Day, which is still the world's largest one day comedy celebration. And when I was coming up in comedy, we might one of my first my first performance was 87 or 88. And I was just starting to emcee regularly at the time, and it was on the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate fields. Like I'm not kidding. I think there were 40,000 people there.

Scott Edwards:

Oh, yeah, we get incredible crowds. And it helped that it was it was basically free to the audience. But you also had people like Dana Carvey and Robin Williams regularly showing up in in doing sets so you never knew who you were going to see. It was amazing.

Unknown:

George Lopez, Dave Chappelle, Robin Williams. Dana was Dana came up frequently, but he then is a little shy of crowds so he didn't come a lot but Dana, Paula Poundstone did the last one. Monty Python guy I think we're there. Overton, Rick Overton and Robin Williams are up and do improv. I did some improv with Robin. There was I mean, I can probably just, if I had a minute, I can probably think of some of the greatest

Scott Edwards:

names, but a lot of people showed up because a Johnny Steele was there.

Unknown:

Yeah, that's exactly right. Why are we here to watch Johnny because as soon as he gets off, Dave Chappelle is on.

Scott Edwards:

And you mentioned Stephen pearl. I just saw him Sunday night at the punchline in Sacramento. So yeah, these people are still bouncing around the comedy word.

Johnny Steele:

But oh, yeah, they've adapted but at the end of the story, in a quick nutshell, is Jose Simone I saw on the wall some guy I thought was named Joseph Josie Simon, because that's how it was felt I was doing it for a week comedy workshop. And it was like 10 bucks a pop in foo bars on a series of Saturday afternoons, oh, man, I dived in like crazy. And it was great. He taught us how to you know, how to write jokes. And he, he would make us do improv like, he'd bring a box of stuff, a suitcase full of stuff, and you had to pull something out without looking in, and, and live with it for two minutes straight. And so that's where I really started to understand that it wasn't just natural, you know, a lot of people think, I mean, you obviously have to be a certain height, or a certain athleticism to be in the NBA or whatever. But there's a tremendous amount of work and understanding how things work, you know, and it wasn't just raw, you don't just get on stage at you know, Monterey pops and play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, you study and you work. And so I started approaching it slightly different. And Jose, just really quickly, he brought a lamp on stage. And he said, I'm gonna go get a cup of coffee. I'll be back in five minutes. I want everybody to write 10 jokes about this lamp. And he wants people who could write a joke about a lamp, you know, at that time. So he came back? And nobody had he said, Of course not. Because you don't really know what to do. So he said, I'm going to write on this dry erase board. It was so long ago, maybe it was a chalkboard, I remember he said, I'm gonna write, you yell out characteristics of the lamp. And people did you know it's green, it's call, it seems like it's kind of an antique. And at one point, he turned it on. And it was a very bright, bold, and someone said, it's bright. So he said, we're going to take the characteristic of brightness, and I won't go any further and waste everyone's time. But you basically then take that characteristic, you don't make a joke about a lamp, you make a joke about a characteristic of the lamp, it's really bright. And then you sort of you write down a couple of levels over what what do you relate with brightness? And then, you know, my main joke we ended up writing was the lab was so bright, we turned it on three wise men came to the door, you know,

Scott Edwards:

why you got such important? I mean, right off the bat, Johnny, you're telling me that you. And everybody can tell by just the first 10 minutes of this show, that you're not a guy that shy in slow to in reply verbally, to things you like to talk, you're very good at what you do. And it's so fascinating to hear that back in 84, you had the opportunity to hit the stage, and you were reticent to do so. Because now you live for the stage. And getting that opportunity to work with Jose Simone was you're already putting in the work. And it's so hard to explain to new comics that, yeah, it helps to have a natural sense of being funny or sense of humor in there, you could pick up the techniques on the using the mic on the stage over time. But if you took taking a course like that, in putting in the work to be a weekly emcee to club like foo bars, that you are really already doing the work that would take you to this to the success you had.

Johnny Steele:

Yeah, well, you're very, you really can see what I'm talking about clearly here. Because you probably know. And because of the way I speak on radio, and everything in my stand up is generally not tightly scripted. And so when somebody wants ask sort of what you're saying is, well, you already got the answer. But someone once said, Well, you you you felt you're unprepared, the very first time you were called to the stage. So you didn't go up, but now you ad lib, and you don't prepare a scripted typeset. So what's changed and as you just noted, I learned the tools I learned about if you learn how to write a joke, as living is the same as writing a joke, you get a piece of lumber, you get material, and then you know where to put it in the wall and how to hammer it in place. Right. So that first time I didn't know I couldn't remember my jokes. I didn't know if they were good. Now I have the competence to not only go on stage and be confident that I'm going to make it work but also that if I add live or I have a mental Rolodex, if the kids even know what a Rolodex is a mental Rolodex of materials so I can pick and choose I can do a completely different set the next night or I can add live for a while. So that comes from doing the work and doing the work. And just one quick note. It's not just working at home, although that's very important. There were a couple of gigs that crushed people, and one of them was the improv at the Riviera. Hotel in Vegas. Why are you ready for this? You probably noticed 810 and midnight, seven nights in a row 21 Shows a week 21. And you had two or three media responsibilities, meaning they can drag you out of bed Thursday at eight o'clock in the morning when you've been sleeping for three hours and make you go do a radio station? And are you ready for this? Inevitably, you pick up a corporate gig or two, because 1000s of people the room sat 300. So 1000s of people would see you by Thursday, someone would call and say, hey, you know, can you come do 15 minutes at our convention tomorrow and you would. So I routinely did 2324 25 sets a week, and a lot of comics shied away from it. And I remember the first time I went I was beat up and confused. It was so hard the audience are different. The first audience is elderly, the last audience who's on the show at midnight in Vegas on a Tuesday drunk crazy people. So you had to adjust and you had to work and I loved it. Every set, I said to myself, I'm gonna try a new job, a completely new job. And I'm gonna rework something that's not working well. So that's what I did every set. And by the end of the week, it just, you know, it was like the, I guess the equivalent of bootcamp for young soldiers or something. So yes, I did the work to work on and offstage,

Scott Edwards:

I think it's so great, what you're sharing, and I'm being very cautious to interrupt from time to time. But I do want to point out that not only did you pick up terrific lessons learned from Jose Simone, but right here in this podcast, you're sharing so much information that if anybody's interested in I always encourage everybody to get on stage once or twice in life, just because it will affect you, in a positive way, you're sharing such special gifts that take other people, years, decades, and a lot of people never figure it out. And you're sharing some of the secrets of this industry. And also, I wanted to mention that you have taken really a much harder step. For example, a lot of stand ups will write material in the Gulf, and they'll perform a set based on what they wrote. But there's a limited number of people. And I'm naming Robin Williams, and you can add in just a few others that have the talent to basically wing it, or improv and have that Rolodex of material in your head and be able to pull up because, and really the end result is you're only able to do that because you have the confidence that even if you go down a path and the audience doesn't go with you, you know, you've got material to bring them back in. And that confidence is so important.

Unknown:

Sure. I think for me, it's sort of the adrenaline sometimes. And here's the tip to young performers. Never go fast. There's no advantage in going fast, always slow down, give the audience time to catch up. Your material will last longer. It's a better way to go. I go too fast. But part of the reason things go too fast. I think it's because it's adrenaline because I do not know where I'm going. This is a great story. I'm standing in the wings one time at the Throckmorton and As Alison my mouth separated, but my lovely wife at the time, and Robin Williams are back there and I'm looking at some notes and Robin says what are you going to open with? And I say I don't know. And Robin says I think they're introducing you right now. And Allison my ex laughed and said he doesn't know. And Robin just how he loved that he loved that somebody

Scott Edwards:

was going to that? He liked

Johnny Steele:

that. So yeah. And keep in mind also if you're young comic, because people will say to me are new comic you don't have to be a young comic people start at any age, there's no requirement. People will say, Oh, I could never be like Robin Williams. You don't have to. I mean, Bob Newhart was an accountant. I think Howie Mandel or somebody was, I think a carpet layer. I may be wrong, but some some how are we gonna deal or somebody has laid carpet before. So you just find what skills you have. If you're edgy and irreverent, you're edgy, irreverent. If you're dry and witty, you're dry and witty, you don't have you can't add live at home don't add live craft in the same way someone would write a speech and memorize

Scott Edwards:

and stand up comedy is all about the presenter and what they're sharing. So whether it's Steven Wright, who was really slow and methodical in one line, or after one liner to Robin Williams and Johnny steel, they are able to just keep rattling off material based on wherever the conversation is taking them. And you're talking about the age talk about somebody that you know age doesn't matter. Rodney Dangerfield didn't hit the stage for the first time until he was in his mid 50s. And there are

Unknown:

a handful handful of those guys, I think, Jack Benny Robbie danger but they might have performed or they might have done something but they didn't break until they were over 50 so you know that's there was a guy I think his name was who was Third quarter, maybe 12 or 14 years ago, he won the San Francisco comedy competition. And I think he was 68 or something when he won. You'd have to go back look up Gator, go to San Francisco, comedy competition, Google it and go to the John Fox, the guy who runs the website, and they will have all the winners. But I think his name was Richard Carter. And I think he was in his upper 60s And I remember his opening line. I just drove. I don't live here. I live in Utah. And I just drove here from Utah and I had my left turn signal on the whole goddamn way.

Scott Edwards:

Great way to start off for an old guy. So how did you end up working for me at Lampson limited because we had the pleasure of you on stage many times in the late 80s and early 90s. Do you remember how you came about that work?

Unknown:

I don't remember I don't get a did you some clubs have like a showcase and you come out to the Showcase on a Monday or Tuesday? It might have been mad or someone might have recommended me. I don't remember you had two or three clubs over the time I've worked for you in Stockton remember that room?

Scott Edwards:

Oh, yeah, of course I do. Oh, yeah. Oh, wilderness may have referred you. I don't really believe that you did a showcase. I believe you are referred talent. Yeah. And you had already built a reputation in the Bay Area. And it wasn't long before I had heard of you. And you came in like a tornado.

Unknown:

I would often enter the I would often enter the stage from I think a couple of times you were like Johnny, your little bridal. One time at the downtown room that the old sack room you had a bunch of like, I don't know, like Matchbox cars. And then I think I found at a shop and OSAC I found those little poppers where you pull the lever and like, it blows up and confetti comes out. And I think something was going on in the Middle East at the time. So I think I came out and did Gaza Strip highway, and I blew a few of those Matchbox cars off into the audience with Catherine Would you kindly reprimanded because you use the MC in those days, and you're like, you might want to start with some jokes. And maybe one time I've worked pajama bottoms out as a gag, I think I came out I did. I came out of pajama bottoms. Something like, oh my god, the shows are so early, we got to get an early one on a Saturday or something. Then I came out, I barely had a bed. And that's all I did. There were pajamas on the set, you're like you might want to put on some trousers and shoes. That's a true story. I came on pajamas as a gag and you kindly nudged me to maybe wear some pants for the next show?

Scott Edwards:

Well, it's interesting, because as a producer, I have a vision of what my audience is, it's all about the audience for me here. And I have a vision of what the audience is going to see in here. And I have to be honest, I was a little more conservative in in, there's a path to comedy success. We had a lot of people come through the club that ended up being superstars getting the golden ticket and becoming famous. And so I looked at my responsibility is like university, I was trying to take comics and mold them into what would work in LA. And I would see a talent like you and I don't remember any specific advice I gave you. But

Johnny Steele:

don't wear pajamas and don't use explosions at the beginning of your set would have been too good for us to decide, okay, I think you gave me those don't blow things up and wear pants.

Scott Edwards:

Well, that's great advice for certain people. But my point, I was gonna make a quick point that somebody is talented, as gifted as you doesn't fit into the same box, as let's say, a Jerry Seinfeld, or Jay Leno, but my job was to try to help people like you and all the other young comics coming through the club, to, as you mentioned, understand the business understand the responsibility to the audience. I mean, as you know, and you've seen a lot of comics through the San Francisco days, there were people that took advantage of the stage and were up there for themselves and not for the audience. And that always ticked me off because the audience had paid money, good, hard working money, they had an expectation of entertainment. That's what they wanted. And not every comic shared that same responsibility. And so it was my job to kind of try to corral that in and try to mold comics. But I was always impressed with your ability to basically refer or sound like and I knew you were using some material night after night, but you weaved it in different ways. So every show with Johnny steel was different and that's a real asset.

Johnny Steele:

Yeah, thanks. Well, you know, and young kids listen to Scott, because I listen to you a little bit. There's no reason you somebody who sees comedy every single night. Scott Edwards knows maybe more than you do doing to open mics a week, you know. So it doesn't mean you have to change your whole persona, but it does mean I always listen and I always listened and I don't think I ever wear pajamas on stage again. And you can get Scott's advice like that can help you not a little bit of rough edges off? And what's the problem with maybe knocking a little bit of rough edges off and making yourself a little more accessible and a little less, you know?

Scott Edwards:

Well, you serve the audience, you have, you've had great success, Johnny, and you're still hard working comic, and everybody should know, that listens to this, that you're available for corporate in club gigs, you do an amazing job with every audience. And you are very unique in the sense that you're very quick witted, smart, and able to take go down basically, any path the conversation takes you with an audience. And that's a gift. But it has been a challenge in the last couple of decades. And I know you did a lot on radio, and a lot on TV. How did you control your type of entertainment? When you were in the more restrictive areas like TV and radio?

Unknown:

Well do the exact same thing you said about how you know your room, and you know what the audience wants? So you sort of tried to help guide comics. I was up for Letterman a number of times and foolishly. Didn't listen to what they had to say. And I never got on and you know, it's not a big thorn in my side. By the time I was going to maybe get a Letterman. It wasn't. You know, if you go back to early Johnny Carson, if you had a good set on early Johnny Carson in like, I don't know, mid 70s or early 80s Your career was made. Right. And so by the time I was about to get on Letterman, you know, it wasn't going to do a lot for you other than the fact that you did Letterman and back to your point about what you said earlier about guiding comics. You go on Letterman, you go out and stand on a mark and you don't move, you cannot move. I've been to the show before with friends who were doing the show. So when you're at the set, Dave's desk is only 10 feet to the left, and Paul's band is 10 feet to the right. The lights are set. There's cameramen on either side of you can't move. You can't move. So I move and so okay, you can't move. No, they wanted mostly internal humor, not our neutral, not external. Like you can come in and say, Oh, shucks, I suck at such and such, or you can make some neutral comment. But you couldn't come out and say I just went to Vegas. Why does everybody go there to crapple? You know, you couldn't say that you couldn't, you know, you could partly because who's one of the sponsors, their biggest Tourist Bureau, people in the room are shaping to go to Vegas. So because you think you're a hip San Francisco guy in Vegas is the opposite of San Francisco. And so you think you're gonna get on there and demean it. No, you're not you're not there. They know what works or what. So I didn't listen to them. And maybe, I mean, in retrospect, do I wish I listened to a little bit and worked out a set and maybe spent the next week at my own gig standing on the market not moving? I don't know, I don't have an answer. Maybe, maybe some comments will say screw that you don't become the person you become. On the other hand, maybe you bend a little you get on Letterman. They'd like you two years later, you're writing for the show? You don't know so

Scott Edwards:

well. You took a specific path and you made decisions that good or bad for your career. It's all worked out well. But what I was getting at is when you were on KR O N and when you were on live 105 The morning show? How you know you are a loose cannon is the polite way to put it. Were you able or how were you able to fit into the parameters? I mean, tonight shows very strict in the Letterman show very strict. There's a little bit looser on morning radio, but still you have to follow some FCC rules. How did that work out for you? Did you enjoy it? Or did you feel it? It controlled you too much?

Johnny Steele:

Well, the first key that sort of lets you let your hair down a little bit and not be so nervous is there's a little technological device called the Five second delay. Yes, you know, true. So actually, if this was a live radio broadcast instead of God's podcast, if God you know, say use the F word or said something you shouldn't say like made fun of a sponsor, which was very looked down upon because they paid the bills, you know, that that a producer would lean over and hit that button. And if you were listening on the air, it took the current time, it sounded like this that would say, Oh, I can't believe you guys have that sponsor. I'd never buy something from and then you would hear the sound on the library radio go and all of a sudden we'd be talking and you go What was that weird glitch? You couldn't really understand it. But so that the delay was helpful because it made me feel like if I did something that was unacceptable and toward get me in trouble we can I can I also have a button in front of you that can punch that big red button. It was looked down upon you should not do it. So that was the first thing that helped. The second thing that helped was morning radio. We didn't call our show a zoom, but it was this zoom. There were times when I would have Bobby Slayton on wheelchairs and beyond. You know, my my friend Robert Hawkins, who was the writer, a great comedian, but a writer on the Chris Titus show and he wrote for Ron White for years, Robert Hawkins is brilliantly funny and as Libyan crazy I mean that's gonna go off the rails, it's gonna go off the rails. So sometimes I found myself in the Scott Edwards position of maybe reining people in a little bit because you know, it could radio everyone's talking at once. It's not entertaining, you can't make fun of you know, certain things. And so, show now go to T go to TV, oh, very different. For whatever reason, the demographic of doing a daily talk show, you know, my show was sort of like a Regis type show of me and a lovely newscaster lady named Susan Blake. And so she was the straight journalists lady and I was a smartass, take it off the rails occasionally, guy. But in that case, you're sitting seated in the chair, Scott, you're sitting in the chair, you're wired in, because you have first your microphone wired in, but then you also have a line in your ear called an IFP line, which is up to the directors booth. So you can't, we almost can't move out of your chair. And then also, sometimes if your shirt was baggy, they tape it, duct tape it and clip it in the back. I mean, you're sitting there in a straitjacket, essentially. And you have more room, when they come back from the radio station, I would say and do whatever I wanted to do crazy thing when you come back from the break. On the teleprompter, the little script that runs in front of the camera you're looking at sort of tells you what you have to say. So it was tricky for me to do that. But since I played the role of the screw up, rather than the straight person, it was okay. And then there was again, we had a delay in that we did a thing called Live to tape, which means we're taping this on our show in one hour. Unless something horrible happens, then we can stop, because the show will air later. So we do live to take the create the energy of a live performance. But we also taped it so that if there was a problem or a technical glitch, we could fix it later. So it wasn't live the radio was live with a three to five second delay and the TV show was live to take. So if I did to do something better a couple of times, my co hosts walked off, because he thought something was unacceptable. And we're having a big debate. I'll tell you the joke real quick. Here's the joke. When you come back to the show, there's a thing called Top talk. It's for topical or top of the show. And that's the biggest segment and the most watched segment. And so how that worked was if I was gone tomorrow, I would say Johnny, what do you do? Less today? You know, whatever. Oh, you know what I'm really old friend, Scott Edwards podcast, he was the guy who ran and owned a lot of the left and limited comedy clubs. And so that's what I would tell him maybe they would put a B roll B roll as a picture on the screen. That is about what I'm talking about, rather than just my face talking. And so all right, so you got the picture. When we come back from break. Sometimes it would be Susan. Hi, I'm Johnny field. I'm Susan Blake coming up later on the show Scott Edwards. And I don't know whoever else, somebody else. And Susan, you went to that car show over the weekend, didn't you? And she talked about the car show she went through right. So all right now I'm to the point I feel I have to tell people what tough talk is and how the show works. But so this is one of one of those many places where it can go off the rails or the two hosts cannot agree and it gets out of control a little bit. So they gave me a story. They said, Johnny, you like this, there was a guy somewhere in America, who was into like, verbal ecstasy and that kind of stuff. And so he was at work one day, and he had to work overtime. So he called the neighbor and said, Can you go over babysit the kids and maybe give them a little something for dinner because I'm going to be a few hours late. And the neighbor said no problem. The neighbor goes over mix the kids a couple of Cassidy is whatever the heck I don't know, reaches in the frigerator looking for something to drink. And in the back of the refrigerator finds itself of cooling. All right, I'll give the kids the Kool Aid and the hot dogs or the kids whatever. Of course, the kids are acting so strange that the poor babysitter calls the police, the police can't figure it out. Finally, the guy comes home and the guy had you put to mushrooms from sugar, this kind of Goji juice, whatever the back of the fridge for two days, and you get sort of a herbal ecstasy of some sort. So the kids took it and went on some kind of a trip and the police tell the true story. So the police, so they would give me the stories five minutes before airtime and say, Can you make a joke out but I'm quite sure. So I'm telling the story. And there's some B roll footage of the cops and whatever else. And the end of the story I say at the end of the story is there's no lasting effects. The kids, you know, there's no criminal charges because it was an illegal substance. And the best part is those two kids now have the most popular lemonade stand on the blog.

Scott Edwards:

Great. That's

Unknown:

so so my co host stands up and says this is this is hitting the red button. Stop, take stop tape. And so what he stands up and unhooked, we're gonna whatever. And so you have a line in your ear. The line in your ear, the IV line is the directors, the directors like what's your matter what happened? What's going on? Well, she was more sensitive than if she was a journalist and she didn't want to be part of what she perceived. You know, I'm not dogging her. That's your choice. And, you know, maybe she was right, of being on a show where a guy's making fun of some place where some kids got drugged.

Scott Edwards:

I don't know. Well, she was she was taking away. I mean, that was an easy joke and not anything that was subversive and she was just taken in a certain way. And I think that that brings up a great segue, because one of my favorite lines in the interview we did at the roundtable, and I've replayed it recently. Well, the show's out right now. But I've actually used it in social media, because I loved it is you talk about in this woke kind of liberal society that we have now and the difficulty it brings to stand up comedy, the fragility of people, and how people are overly sensitive about stuff that really has nothing to do with them. I mean, maybe you could share that again, with the audience because it was so poignant.

Johnny Steele:

Well, being a guy who had lives a lot, it probably stood out and totally forgot it. But yeah, it's, we've created a generation that, see, and then every generation has said this about the generation or two behind them. But who's the guy who wrote the book? I think it's the coddling of the American mind. What is it? He does a lot of speaking, he's got great speeches on it. He's neither left or right. I think he's just a professor wrote a book about how we got here. And somehow or another, I know, this is overused, but the everybody gets a participation trophy, or the kidney, kidney is never wrong thing or, you know,

Scott Edwards:

we've great admiration, right. That's,

Johnny Steele:

that's it, we've got a generation that thinks that bears have maybe never been told. No, that's not right. Or at very least, there are other opinions that there isn't always just one answer. And that maybe you should be thick skinned, because you don't like this or you don't like that doesn't mean you need to spend the rest of your days trying to stop that person or those things ever from being uttered. And here's more, you are morally superior because of this. Therefore, everyone else's opinion doesn't matter. It's this really strange, awful thing that is ruining comedy I got, I got about eight people email and call me about a month ago, KQED radio in San Francisco was running some show about the future of comedy. And most people said, there was one feminist comedian lady and to sort of writers or some sociologists, or a writer, and it was just awful, I recommend you go back and look, I think it was called someone go dig it up at the old KQED website, you can look at the website, the old shows, you can hear them, I think it was the future of comedy, and it might have been a month ago, and you hear these people. And it's just they're ringing a whole spontaneity and life and risk and passion. It's horrible. And, you know, it really is, has a chilling effect, because I sometimes make funny memes. And I go put them up on your social media. I don't know, I don't necessarily know if I want the aggravation. I don't want somebody writing me or, you know, it's just, here's an idea. If you don't like something, don't buy it or don't go to it. I mean, people misinterpret all sorts of things like prejudice. And races are two different things that are sometimes lumped together. A sort of bigotry or prejudice or racism might be some ideas someone has in their head, they're free to have that idea. They're free to have that they cannot practice discrimination using those ideas. These are subtle differences. But this is where we got it. And of course, as you know, there is one there's one group that I don't mean to make this black and white or anything because it's across the board and every which way, there's one group that can do no wrong, they can say nothing That's racist, and another group that cannot everything they say is racist. And it's just really kind of crazy. And when you dissect all of this and what brought it into being and everything it's nonsense, I mean, there's there's always going to be economic you know, disparity there's always going to be somebody who's not getting what they think they get, and they're gonna think they're not getting it because of this reason when really there are many reasons involved. And this is all races genders, ages. So back to my point. If you say anything moderately untoward, if you use a word like a chink in the armor, somebody got in trouble for a while back. kink is a Latin word with me. Oh, yeah. No, no, no, no, it's true, I think is a Latin I believe a Latin word, which means crack, cracking the armor. And because, you know, at one point, the word the phrase trunk was a, you know, used as a racist term against some Asian people, I guess, Chinese maybe. And the same thing is true in Berkeley. They moved to change the name of the famous gourmet ghetto. And, and they changed it. You can't now in Berkeley, you can't reference I think it was sort of the gourmet ghetto. Whatever, retail organization changed it, the city of Berkeley changed the name of manholes. They actually had city council meeting and change the name of manhole, but in the case of Ghetto Ghetto, I'm a half Italian and ghetto, I believe came I think its origins were Italian. I could be wrong, but I think Italian there was a neighborhood where the poor people live. I think they might have been Jewish at that time. And so now you must say underserved neighborhoods. These weird or will the interns and so if you actually go to a party and say, I want to go into the gourmet ghetto, you might get you send that as a city councilman in Berkeley a council person? Or why why? Why stop at person? You're leaving out plants and animals. It could be it could be a city council creature. I don't want angry there for a second. No, that's okay. So

Scott Edwards:

let me explain to the audience that if they want to look for that show, it'd be February of 2022. Because this is an evergreen podcast that will be out for a while. The also thing that's really ironic is just this week, and in March, one of the Ivy League colleges had a speaker and a freedom of speech, webinar kind of thing, seminar, and he was shouted down by the future lawyers and students of this Ivy League college, not allowing him the freedom of speech to talk about freedom of speech. I mean, there's just gotten really crazy now, you have had the chance, we've talked about it a couple of times, you're such a unique stand up when it comes to your freedom and your quickness on stage. I know you've worked a lot with Robin Williams, was there any other people you work with or experiences in comedy that gave you the confidence and helped you in the direction you took your stand up?

Unknown:

Almost everybody, you know, almost everybody. I would watch something they did. Or they would sometimes they would tell me or they give me a tip. But often just watching them. I learned one time I was I was headlining a club in Vegas. And they said, Hey, Richard Lewis just had a cancellation at another club across town. We want to put him in this weekend. So we're gonna bump you off the bill. And I said, Well, who's gonna open they said, Well, you could open if you want, if you're willing to do it. Most headliners wouldn't want to I said open for Richard. So I opened for Richard. I watched him. And he came out and play the Jimi Hendrix song. It was a song if six turned out to be nine. You know that, right? And so he told me, I said, What are your credits? What do you want me to say says just say, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Richard Lewis and step away. And so I did. And he played that song, and he came out and he went to the front row. And he you know, he did that thing bending over Hi people to the audience. And he went to the mic in the song and he said Jimi Hendrix, my favorite musician of all time. I love that song. But I was I'm so neurotic. Growing up, I thought he was saying, if the cyst turned out to be benign, and in my brain, it clicked. One of the most important things and this was true of Letterman. One of the most important things is you your point of view, the sooner you can make your point of view clearer you don't like somebody or dislike them until you know who they are and what they're selling. You know that go with Bobby slightly. Fearlessness will nourish told me how to hang one joke on the next joke. And not that totally discard your old jokes, because maybe you got bored with them, but bring them back and rework them Robin. I was sitting one night I'd written for Robin I was supposed to be writing for Robin I did on a number of occasions. When he was too busy doing movies and stuff. He couldn't really always know what was going on in the world. So if he was going to go do a late night talk show, I would write 20 jokes for him and then I go over to his house, he lived in Tiburon. I live in Berkeley, and we would go over the jokes and it was really odd because he'd say, how do you think this joke fleshes out? And what that meant was for me to stand up and sort of deliberate. So if you understand what I'm saying, I'm doing stand up comedy for Robin Williams in his kitchen. It's kind of a bizarre thing really, right. Well,

Scott Edwards:

Robin had that kind of sponge like absorb ik brain where I think it helped him. It eased his time on the TV show, if he saw you perform it, then he was able to make it his absolutely onstage

Johnny Steele:

and he would give you a good vision and when you were just a tip for people listening who are interested in comedy. If you write for somebody you need to know who they are. If you're writing for Rodney Dangerfield you write for ruddy day, I wrote some jokes for Larry Brown. He's very, very funny guy, self effacing loser. And with Robin, it's act out he doesn't want to stand at the mic and tell jokes he wants to get into a bit he does a Saturday Night Live sketch by himself. Not always not that's not everything he does, but much of what he does is he doesn't even come out as himself I said sweetie, like to come out with we were working at the Throckmorton theatre and he says I'm just going to come out and do some because we'll talk more and sounds fancy and almost British. So he come out to music. Good evening, welcome. I'm happy to be at the forefront you know, he just he wouldn't come out and say hey, thanks for having me. He would do that but Robin to I'm going to write for Robin and so I'm sitting in like a fifth row I think it was a Napa Valley opera house at that time because they said write that watch his jokes we'll get you a recording of a video of that set and see what you can pump up and what you can help them grow whatever. So I'm doing that and at one point he said I recently moved from a rent and because I lived in the city, and it's just a more rural and suburban there so i i bought One of the first things I thought I was gonna do was put a beautiful flower garden in and he said, but the deer thought differently of my plants. And he puts Scott he puts. You can see his body posture change. He's a Juilliard trained actors that people don't know Juilliard is one of the finest performing arts academies. extremely hard to get in, in New York City. And Robin went there and graduated from there out of I think of redwood high school, I think and we're in. So Robins body changes, and his test sort of goes out. And he puts his hands up and little angler, like, you know, and he walked in this way. And I remember my wife telling me said, Oh my God, he's a deer. I mean, it was just so Robins. thing is he likes to act things out. And he acts them out with precision. Now, if I did a deer would look like a cross between a moose and a drunk guy and a Chevy. I don't I don't trade I didn't go to Juilliard. I don't trade you know, beautiful, incredible Academy Award winning acting skills. But I've learned I know it's a kind of a cop out question answered your question, but everybody you can learn from everybody. What's their point of view? What's their rhythm? What's their rhythm? You know, do they do jokes? Or do they do bit Barry Sobel I used to watch very soul but there was a bit it was a little four minute chunk. He opened with a song a rap song remember that? Scott? I'm not the Beastie Boys are Run DMC. I'm not J went over a guy named Sheki. I was like, oh, yeah, you don't have to tell jokes. How about people who aren't themselves? Andrew Dice Clay. You know, love him or hate him. He was not a successful comic. He came up with this character. Larry the Cable Guy character. Rodney Dangerfield? Pretty absolutely right. You know, Rodney Dangerfield had tried comic comedies himself, it was unsuccessful. And then he came up with this character, and that he launched that there's no such person as Rodney Dangerfield. He's not he's talking joking about being a loser. And after he got on the plane with, you know, a private jet with probably playmates of the year. And, you know, she wasn't, you know, he wasn't a complete character. So

Scott Edwards:

you obviously understand the history better than me. But I think that you shared a lot of great information on what makes Johnny steel the success that he is and the comic that he is. And I think it's important for the listening audience and also for future entertainers. That your advice of watching everybody. In fact, I just came out with my second book on being a stand up comic, and one of the key things is watch other people it's not a competition, but everybody approaches comedy in a unique and personal way. And that's what you have to find you don't want to copy or emulate them. You want to find your vehicle to present the information that you think is funny, in interact and share that with an audience is an experience that they will enjoy and doing that. Obviously Johnny, you've watched some of the best in the business over your decades of success. Now we're going into the late 22 and into 23 Do you have some projects anything you're looking forward to you know you have a lot to share? Maybe you should write a book?

Unknown:

I you know so I had been under a good friend of mine Brian Leonard says you have so many comedy tips Why don't you write a book and I said because I have so much add that's why he came up I think it might have been Brian Leonard very funny San Francisco comic over the years is now a school teacher out East Bay and he just keeps pushing me to do it. And so I started doing it and he so I come up 66 comedy tips and tricks and it's the Add approach got no one tip is necessarily related to the next and no tip is longer than maybe 350 words. And it's just the way my brain works and I credit people who helped me along the way and I'll say this I learned this watching this guy or this guy gave me a tip backstage one time so hopefully that will be on ebook before summer rolls around and 66 and it'll be on my website or wherever I probably will first just self publish an ebook for you know four bucks or whatever and then go from there. But I you know, like you I'm roughly the same age as you and we work differently. In the old days we go to the club, do a set and go home and if you know Jim McCauley from the tonight show saw you and flew you to La which he did to me. That was great. And or somebody from the Montreal festival. But now it's all about the internet and I'm just slow to learn it don't get me wrong. I'm on the internet but most of us many of the kids today they go internet first so I got a couple of business guys are like you have very little presence on the Internet. You've got to every Monday you got to put up a funny meme every Friday you got to put up Johnny Five funny punch line. It could be audio it could be video you could be punching your punching bag and call it five Friday punches you know, you need to do do a podcast What the hell, Scott if Scott Edwards Couldn't do it and have be successful. Anyone can do it, ladies and gentlemen, anyone can do it.

Scott Edwards:

Well, I think that is a great way to wrap up the success of Johnny steel. And we've shared so much. You're just a wealth of information. I agree with Brian, I think you writing a book and you sharing some of your knowledge. I hope you get back on radio or TV because your message and your attitude towards our industry of stand up comedy is strong. And it's refreshing. And it's correct. And I think we need to get that out there more. And hopefully I can help and get you on stage myself. For this audience on this podcast, with your permission, I'm going to share a little bit of material by Johnny steel. You've heard him before on the podcast, you're going to hear a little bit stand up now. But moving forward, Johnny, I'm hoping to continue working with you. But in the meantime, let me just say thank you for doing this podcast. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge. And I think the fact that you bring so many other people with your story like Robin like very soulful, like in these people that you've had a chance to interact with and watch Jose Simone. I mean, that's great, great stuff and in it's been an honor to have you on

Unknown:

well thank you very much for having me. Hopefully you inspire me to focus for nine minutes on one thing

Scott Edwards:

Well ladies and gentlemen stay tuned here's a little stand up comedy by my friend very funny comedian Johnny Steele Johnny thanks again for coming out and hope you had a good time. I did thank you ladies and gentlemen here we go

Johnny Steele:

guess sad to see this go I mean you don't know this because you probably live here and but this is this is not how this you don't play you know you go on the road is horrifying. You go out you know Oklahoma court either quarterly in Idaho Missoula, Montana, Yakima Fargo every night some shithole there's nothing like there's like your unit for God help you you're never ignites a country western led poison inbred Toothless fish fighter. Low information voter Klan rally Tea Party used Harley parts swapmeet Sarah Palin booksigning kind of environment right. The audience hates you on account Have you eaten shit? It's horrifying. Yeah, it's horrible and you don't get opening extremely not 37 of them and going on in firmly for the rest of the flipping night until it's midnight. Actually 10 minutes from now we'll be serving a lovely brunch so enjoy that. I was in Idaho once about a guy in front of me that there's no other actress like the bouncer guy comes in we'll start the show. I'm going at your name and you come out no, thanks for the update on the whole showbiz thing how it works out where cooter so he goes sweet goes out and I can't I used to say I was in the green or in the green room I'm not gonna go I mean my trainer getting makeup I mean fucking Idaho for Christ's sake there's no green room or trailer I'm in the hallway sitting on a case of Burgermeister weeping openly and then I hear I hear the show start alright you guys this is exactly how it started. All right, you guys we got a great comedy show we're doing coming tonight. Every Tuesday Hey shut up you don't have to know a lot about show business to know that Hey, shut up is not the start to a good show. Generally. They don't do that the opera I don't think really do there. You know. Go to San Francisco Opera guy walks up. Good evening, and welcome to the San Francisco Opera tonight we present La Traviata The classic please shut up shut up. We are playing Placido Domingo from his homeland in Spanien. Madrid is please shut up we're doing opera that's what happens in Idaho are like shut up or do comedy Hey, stop punching her alright. For the next half hour all drinks will make you violent or $1 Alright. Next guy from San Francisco Nope, he's a fag or a Jew or anything like please welcome Jerry stool weeps up I don't mean to make fun of Jews or gays, whatever his your people say you shouldn't make fun of other people's religion. It's not nice to do that. And I say I think it's okay. If that religion is batshit crazy. I eat Mormons. There's so many crazy things about the Mormon religion but my favorite crazy thing about the Mormon religion is they believe Native Americans are descended from tribes of Israel close continental sell off very close Israel, original tribes of Israel. They think that Native Americans are essentially Jewish. And you know what they've done genealogy tests. And of course, they have not come up positive, but you don't need to waste time and money with genealogy tests. All you need to do is say this to yourself. If a Native Americans were descended of Jews, would they have sold Manhattan for $19? Absolutely not. Have you crazy? Huh? I wasn't going yesterday with the $19. But I wasn't born one moment ago. They would have kept the mineral rights as much for sure. I was a member of the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco for years. And I really didn't care about Judaism. It's just they had a great basketball court and hey there Jews may not use it, right. I love I love the Jews. But these people suck and hope I'm telling you that much. Wandering around the desert, the wandering around the king for half an hour for Christ's sake.

Scott Edwards:

That was Johnny Steele doing live stand up comedy. It was a terrific interview. He's got great comedy chops as you've heard. We hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it. Hey, thanks for listening, continue to share. Let's build our audience and we'll see you next week. Bye.

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