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Friday
Apr242009

Inside With: Greg Walloch, Teller of Funny StoriesBy: Andrew Singer

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GOT A STORY FOR YOU "Everything is fair game and you can bring integrity to anything" --Greg Walloch | Photo: Anya Garrett

Standup comic Greg Walloch has tread a well-worn path through the New York comedy scene. As one of the world's few performers with cerebral palsy, who also happens to be gay and live in Harlem (because "I like keepin' it real"), Walloch is a storyteller whose skill comes from stage acting and performing monologues, while his timing, candor and honesty have all been sharpened over the course of nearly 20 years. The Apiary recently caught up with Walloch to talk about Howard Stern, cake and comedy.

How did you start out?
I began my career as a solo artist at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., in the late '80s. I continued developing storytelling and performance pieces at Dixon Place when I first moved to New York in '92. It wasn't until Howard Stern dubbed me a comedian -- when I appeared on his TV show for E! a few times -- that people really started regarding me as more of a comedic performer. I'm still basically telling stories, but the venues are more varied now and can include a comedy club like Comix and places like The Cutting Room and Joe's Pub. Comedy was not my aim at the start, it's just that some of the stories I was telling happened to be funny.
What did you and Howard talk about?
I did a public service announcement I wrote called "Fuck The Disabled." It's an organization that encourages women to have sex with disabled men to keep them from turning gay. Howard Stern enjoyed it. He's actually quite a gentle and charming guy. Before we went on the air he said, "Nothing I do or say here is personal. We're here to make excellent TV and radio. Relax, have fun!"

Have there been any gigs that you got specifically because you have cerebral palsy?
Absolutely. Often I will work for a disability specific organization, because they want a disabled host or performer for the event.

How did you come up with your cake mantra, and has that spread to other people?
Out of all the stories I've told, "About To Eat Cake" has completely taken on a life of its own. It was on Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson, the TV series The Moth, and will be a featured piece in an upcoming book I'm working on. I've heard from so many people about that story. They tell it to their friends and they say they think of me when they eat cake. I like that association.

How have you improved your act over the last few decades? Do you make your stories shorter and punchier? Add more jokes and asides?
I'm not really a joke teller. I'm not a good architectural writer in the sense where I'm like, "I'll punch this up and put a joke here." I think life is funny, so if you just relate events as they are, that's enough. You will get all the drama and humor you need, because it's built in. I think my best work is developed when I'm just being honest. Really trying to "tell a joke" is deadly, at least for me.

Do you feel any rivalry between the stand-up and storytelling scenes? How have you been able to convince stand-ups that you belong?
The idea of a rivalry between comics and storytellers is pretty funny, like the Sharks and the Jets. What happens when funnyman Dane Cook meets Cintra Wilson, a literati sweetheart from the other side of the tracks? Torn between two worlds...can their forbidden love survive? I think now more than ever there is so much crossover and blending of comedy and stories with artists like Mike Birbiglia, Sandra Bernhard, Reggie Watts, and Sarah Silverman. Are they standup comics? Are they storytellers? I think what matters is that they are original, entertaining and people come out to see them. There's no need to convince anyone that I belong, comics are too concerned about fitting in themselves to ever worry about me. I've never really "belonged" and I like it that way.

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How do you spend your time in general these days?
I spend a lot of time going to see other people's shows. That's how "All The People You Love" was developed. I wanted to bring together amazing artists like, Corn Mo, Magic Brian, Curtis Eller, Balthrop, Alabama, Ann Carr, and Jim Andralis & Larry Krone. You know? Amazing artists who I feel honored to work with.

What's the development cycle for a new story? How much do you generally workshop it until you feel comfortable enough to tell it at any show?
I read a lot of books and I write. I don't workshop a story too much. I've gotten to the point where I can bring a concept to the stage and tell it, build it live in front of an audience. That's the process that works best for me and has the most energy. I'm not somebody who rehearses a lot, I want to hold on to the spontaneity. Then if the story is good I work with it next time I'm on stage and it grows a little more each time. You know, like the way you really tell a story in life around the dinner table. You don't really plan what you're going to say or where people will laugh. You just tell it, because it happened to you and you know it, because it's yours.

What are some of the tackiest jokes and subjects you have touched upon, and what made you go there?
Everything is fair game and you can bring integrity to anything.

--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard" and blogs for OutHipHop.com. He recently wrote about Raspberry Brothers.

THE PLUG
Catch "All the People You Love" TONIGHT! @ 10PM at the new Dixon Place | Tickets
Official Greg Walloch Web site

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