Myq Kaplan & Dan Wilbur

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Myq’s responses to Dan’s questions:

Who is on your Comedy Mount Rushmore?

I've decided that I'm going to answer each of your six questions with six answers. Is that allowed? I'm doing it.

1) Everyone.

2) Are you looking for my top four all-time favorite old white men of comedy?

3) When people ask me who my favorite comedians are, the first person I usually name is Maria Bamford. And so I'll do that here as well. Maria Bamford. Chappelle is up there. Sarah Silverman. Doug Stanhope. Paul F. Tompkins. Tig. Gary Gulman. Joan Rivers. Reggie Watts. SO MANY MORE IT'S HARD TO ONLY NAME A FEW.

4) So, I'll keep going. Here are some folks I know personally that I love and think are doing hilarious, valuable, meaningful comedy work: Baron Vaughn, Aparna Nancherla, Rory Scovel, Jo Firestone, Nick Vatterott, Jacqueline Novak, Roy Wood Jr., Laurie Kilmartin, Joyelle Johnson, Josh Gondelman, Nikki Glaser, and SO MANY MORE. SORRY TO EVERYONE I'M NOT NAMING, BUT I COVERED YOU WITH "EVERYONE" FIRST THING.

5) The first comedian I ever saw do an hour of comedy on TV that made me just fall in love was Paul Reiser. The first comedian who I ever saw do an hour of comedy LIVE that brought my understanding of what comedy could do to another level was DJ Hazard. The comedian I would say was my favorite for the longest stretch of my early comedy life was Mitch Hedberg. My love for all these people is set in stone. Loving, shifting, growing, evolving stone.

6) Relatedly, my mother just told me her top 5 favorite comedians the other day. I'm number one. And the top 5 are rounded out by these comedians, who she's gotten to know the work of during the pandemic (and I co-sign all of these as well): Katrina Davis, Mike Birbiglia, Liz Glazer, and YOU, DAN WILBUR!

Would you want to live anywhere besides NYC? If so, why?

1) Sure! I love Portland. A fun comedy town. Bars open late, serving vegan food until 2:30am. The most bookstores AND the most strip clubs per capita? You had me at "bookstores."

2) Sure! Boston. I did live in Boston, and I loved it. It's where I started doing comedy, it's the first place I chose to live as an adult, and I love going back. I have some dear friends there, and I know that I CAN enjoy living there, because I DID.

3) Sure! How about LA? In the past decade or so, I would go out there for comedy and friendship purposes several times a year. If I lived there, I wouldn't have to go there. I'd be there! Warmer weather, show business, what more could you want? Spiritual meaning? I think I could make that happen there, too. 

4) Sure! Maybe Athens, Georgia. I did mushrooms there once and it felt real good, so maybe that's skewing my perception, but I like it!

5) Sure! I'd live anywhere that has a vibrant comedy scene and either beloved friends already there or the potential to make them. Chicago. San Francisco. Austin. Minneapolis. Atlanta. DC. Des Moines. Boise. Seattle. Vancouver. Toronto. Melbourne. London. Or anywhere my girlfriend wanted to live. I trust her.

6) No. I love NYC and can't imagine living anywhere else.

What’s your favorite drug experience?

1) Eating a weed edible and then listening to Sufjan Stevens or Juana Molina or Holly Herndon or Childish Gambino or, you know, any music that helps enhance the experience of feeling my body.

2) Mushrooms with friends. And maybe a mountain.

3) Salvia, because it helped teach me the valuable lesson to not do salvia ever again, probably.

4) Ecstasy with a loved one.

5) Ayahuasca. Dan, as a person who knows me, maybe this is the answer you were looking for. It is both the exact answer and not the answer at all. It is not the answer because I don't really consider ayahuasca a "drug experience." In Peru, they call it medicine. I like that. (I wouldn't consider taking Aspirin a "drug experience" either. Though I do like when headaches go away.) Ayahuasca is a drug like the Last Supper is a snack. I have participated in numerous ayahuasca ceremonies since my first one in 2014, and they have consistently delivered meaningful insights of the life-coaching and death-coaching variety. The guide that I work with always express that the best way to engage with an ayahuasca meditation is with compassion, forgiveness, and self-love. These experiences have helped me do my best with that, in ceremony and out of it. (And when you're in ceremony, sometimes you're really out of it.) I'm still working, as the gifts of these experiences continue to provide. I don't know whether to end with sincerity or a joke here, so I'm going for both.

6) A weed edible, wait did I already say that? (Is my joke here that I'm pretending to be on weed RIGHT NOW and so I've forgotten I already said it? That's a little convoluted. Let's try again. LSD? Maybe.) Ooh, I'll say the drug experience of FRIENDSHIP. Thank you, Dan, for being one of my friendship dealers.

Do you judge people who still eat meat?

1) No.

2) Maybe.

3) No.

4) I do my best to not judge in general. It doesn't feel good to me, to live in a judgmental head space. And I don't think it has the practical effects that I'd like to see in the world, where we all do everything that we can to live as compassionately and lovingly as possible.

5) I used to eat meat, and so I remember the cognitive dissonance I used to feel, when I knew that I wanted to stop but hadn't yet stopped. I don't judge that past me, because I know that that's where I was at the time. And I understand that everyone is where they are at the now.

6) You'll get there. I believe in you. Eventually you'll be vegan. At LEAST when you're dead. Everyone will be vegan when they're dead. At which point some people become super-mega-vegans, because we ARE meat. I wonder if anyone has ever thought about leaving their body to be eaten by a carnivorous animal, you know, like instead of to science? 

You seem to always be looking for a good joke and very positive about joke writing. Is there any joke or type of joke you hate?

1) No.

2) "Hate" is such a strong word, and concept. I hardly even use it for folks who commit genocide, you know?

3) Also, I understand the spirit of the question. I will answer. I mean, I've been doing comedy for about 18 years and I've certainly seen a lot of specific jokes that I don't love. Though I haven't kept a file. Though I have essentially kept a file of the jokes that I DO love. I could tell you those for hours. (Once, I was dating a comedian and telling her about all of the comedians I loved. She eventually said "okay but who do you NOT LOVE?" and I said I'd rather keep telling her about all the ones I DID love first, because I wasn't done. And she said "come on, give me one comedian who makes you feel negatively." And I said, "okay, YOU right now?")

4) Maybe I don't love jokes that have been done so much in the past that they're not surprising. Though all it does take is for a comedian to acknowledge that, recognize it, embrace it, and with a slight tweak something that's old and overdone can become something new and fun again.

5) Maybe I don't love jokes told by people expressing hateful views, particularly when it seems clear that they believe those views. And when it's done without the requisite skill or craft necessary to make that joke/view palatable in any way. There are some amazing practitioners of comedy who discuss topics like this in meaningful, powerful ways. And there are many other comedians. I still wouldn't say that I hate what they're doing. They're doing their best. It's where they are. I'm doing my best. It's where I am. What do I know?

6) YOUR jokes. Boom. Roasted. Gotcha.

What should I do with my life?

1) Live it.

2) You're doing it.

3) Keep writing jokes and books. You're good at it.

4) Play music. You enjoy it.

5) Meditate. Read. Drink three or four liters of water a day. Eat vegetables. Take in great art, and lots of art. Support activist movements that help those that need the most help. Love your partner and your friends and the comedians and musicians and other artists you love. Care for yourself and your loved ones and expand your definition of who qualifies as a loved one. Put on your oxygen mask and then help get everyone else oxygen masks, metaphorically and maybe literally. 

6) Ayahuasca.

Dan’s responses to Myq’s questions:

You like books. Are there specific books that you've read that changed the way you understood what books can do?

Ever heard of a little book called “Everyone Poops”? Ha. We have fun. I’d say the book(s) that really changed what I thought books can do is Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy. On the surface, each story is an odd meta detective noir novella, but something magical happens in the middle and they become haunting. True horror about insanity, ego, where writing fiction can lead. I love it. My other pick is the recent Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, another book that’s sorta 3-in-1, and you have to decide how the dots connect.

How has the pandemic changed your relationship, if it has?

I think it’s getting... better? Who knows? We got engaged just before this all started. A big stressor was always over-scheduling comedy shows and work at the expense of quality time with each other. Now, we’ve go nothing but time! I think that scares most people but this has been a nice pause and I appreciate it.

What are some times in your life that you feel the most like yourself (either specific instances, or general categories)?

I love talking to people, so honestly anything in person or on zoom that’s shooting the shit is when I feel both “on” and relaxed. I hate to say it, but a podcast with people I already like is probably where I feel at home. It’s a joy to talk to anyone.

What are some times in your life that you have felt the least like yourself?

On the subway. I put that angry subway face on and if I bump into a friend, it takes a minute for me to warm up and even smile at them. I bring a book and try to forget I’m there.

What are your favorite vegetables that you've been eating during these times, and/or during your entire life?

I’ve been roasting Brussels sprouts to the point that they’re almost burned and I love them. As Nick Kroll said on his show once: I’ve done a 180 on Brussels sprouts.

If you achieved all of your dreams in standup AND in literature AND in podcasts AND in other dreams you have maybe (do you have podcast dreams?), what's something that you would enjoy doing for fun every day, or at least once a week, or monthly, you know, with some level of regularly?

I’m doing it right now (masturbating)! JKJK. I’ve been playing guitar a lot and I’d love to busk once a month with no thought of making money or ever playing professionally. I just love to do it!

Photo Credit (Myq Kaplan headshot) - Levy Moroshan