Joe Conte has been able to take his experience of being a chubby, attention seeking, oldest of three children in an Italian American household and make it sound like he actually had fun. As you may know he is one of the hosts of the CONTE AND KENNY SHOW on MoreLikeRadio.com, right here on GARDEN STATE COMEDY, and a regular at THE COMEDY SHOPPE.
When I was able to catch him on the phone for this Question and Answer session about what it means to be Joe Conte, we talked about some of the normal topics you may here in an interview, but it turned into a quite informative session and…
Q: How did you get into stand up?
A: I wanted to get into stand up in my early 20’s. Then when I was the best man at a friend’s wedding and was giving a speech, everyone was laughing….
But I always wanted to do it. My friends told me “You’re funny. You should be a comic”. What I do is a lot of self deprecating humor. When you have a lot of low self esteem, you want to make sure you make fun of yourself before anyone else can. Just beat them to the punch.
It became a hobby and then became a necessity. It went from something I just liked doing into something I need to do.
Q: Why is it a necessity?
A: Some guys think: This is kind of cool. I could probably do this and make some money. Then there are some guys who are like “this is what I need to do, it’s become part of my being, my true identity.” There are people that identify themselves by the color of their skin, or their nationality, and others who identify themselves via what they do. This is who I identify with, being a comic.
Q: So you don’t identify with just being Italian.
A: I don’t identify with just being Italian, but that is how I was born, there is no pride involved. Being proud of your nationality is like being proud to have blue eyes, you didn’t do anything to get them. Being proud of something, to me, means that you have accomplished something to get there. In being a comic I have accomplished something.
People say they are proud of being American, I am happy to be from here, but I didn’t do anything to be here. Just because my parents happened to have sex while they we here… that’s just luck of the draw.
My parents are Italian, I’m just Italian. I’m American, and that doesn’t make me proud to be American. I’m happy to be American, I just am. I don’t try to piss people off. I just find a way to get to the point. I don’t try to shock people. I just say how I feel.
Q: How did you get into doing casinos?
A: I have done CATCH A RISING STAR in Reno, and that was cool. I’m not a good promoter. I just started emailing bookers recently.
Ninety percent of my work is off of other comics. I’m terrible at self promotion. I have treated comedy like I treated women, like here you go, if you like me, great!
Now, I am more proactive, I ask my friends: can you send me this booker’s info? Then I send the tape and follow up, just like anything else.
Q: JJCOMEDY and COMEDY SHOPPE. Every one is under the impression that you are one of the owners with James.
A: It started out as that (a partnership). My friend James was booking bands and then said “hey, why don’t we start booking comics”. I showed him the business he picked up on it quick. He didn’t need me anymore, and that was fine, I just wanted to be a comic, which worked out perfectly.
Because I told him I really don’t want to do that, I had to put on shows in the beginning just to get stage time. Now I’m his Ed McMahon. Now I’m able to just run the shows (if needed), be the funny guy, and not have to handle the booking. I don’t want comics to get mad, since I am not doing the booking. Realistically, I am his first call, and I help him with whatever he needs.
Q: So you don’t own, or book JJCOMEDY and COMEDY SHOPPE?
A: It would be good for people to know that I don’t. I don’t run COMEDY SHOPPE. I don’t want comics to think I have this thing and not helping comics.
I let him know if I think a guy is that good, that he should check him out, but we have our circle, but it’s just because we have been friends for so long. He likes using Chris Johnston, Mike Gaffney, and Joe Fernandez because we have been friends for a long time and are available and can be trusted by him.
Q: I know you don’t think you are a good businessman, but most comedians would applaud you for being on stage and getting paid for it, every weekend.
A: I am doing okay. No matter how good looking you think you are, there is always someone around the corner who makes you feel like a dog. Being humble is key! It’s like telling people you’re great, but I don’t want to tell people that I’m great. If someone tells me I’m great, then that’s something. Now someone tell me I’m great!!!!
Q: You’re pretty easy to get along with.
A: My friend gave me this great compliment, He said “if someone doesn’t like you, they must be an asshole”. If you think you are fantastic, you will not grow. I thank my parents for making me feel like nothing I did was good enough. Some comics think they are just great, and that’s not a great way to be.
A: I wanted to do radio since I was 8. I found out about internet radio (ROCKLAND WORLD RADIO) and started The Bag O’ Nuts show with my childhood friend Kyle who got me started in stand up. James was the producer and his pal Bob sat in .When we started the show Kyle was right in the middle of a heroin addiction, and was not available consistently (he is fine now), so Kenny who filled in when needed ,became a regular. So by October 2005 we started doing what was called the Conte and Kenny show. We start doing shows with Matt Bridgestone.
Q: You are JOE CONTE… so, what’s your Top 5 new sitcom list for this season.
A: I’m excited about the final season of Arrested Development. That’s such a funny show that a friend turned me onto. I’m still watching Family Guy whenever I can. I love American Dad. Modern Family is something I’ve heard really good things about.
The TV is usually ‘Disgraceful Reality show’ I hate them so much, because they have no talent, because too many youngster have a say in who is going to be a start, because of the internet and Youtube and then they find it for free and download it. Parents are working two jobs and leaving the kids in front of the TV. So those kids have all the time in the world to watch what the want, so it’s full of pretty people and young kids who shouldn’t have shows. KE$HA would have never had a huge career years ago,. In the 70’s she would be working at a car wash, giving blow jobs on the side. With comedy it seems to be about looks over just being funny.
Q: What’s the next step for JOE CONTE?
A: Trying to take my game to another level. Taking workshops, to make myself better. Widen the library, separate my self. Not shitting on others, just making myself better. I’ve taken some advice from others. I was given this “doing the best you can every time”.
I want to have a 5 min set for TV one day.
Q: How can people find out more about you?
A: The Conte and Kenny show. Conteandkenny.com Subscribe on ITUNES. CONTE AND KENNY SHORTS is a best of. and my twitter @JOECONTECOMIC
-CONTE AND KENNY on Mondays from 7-10 on MoreLikeRadio.com