You just finished as 2nd place in Laugh Boston’s “Funniest Person in Massachusetts” contest. How does it feel to be ranked so high out of 6.8 million people?
It’s not bad! Nice to have placed in the Top 3 in that contest and win a little money. It’s also a vague enough title that allows me to say I’m funnier than James Taylor, Dustin Pedroia, and the entire cast of Wicked Tuna.
What year did you start performing stand up comedy and where was the first stage you stepped onto?
I started in 2009 when I was 19, but I wasn’t really grinding hard at it until I was 22-23. My first time on stage was Dick Doherty’s Beantown Comedy Vault. I was put last on the lineup and had to follow a guy from somewhere in the South who bombed horribly. He did Jeff Foxworthy type jokes comparing “the city” to “the suburbs.” I vividly remember him saying “in the city, y’all have prostitutes…in the suburbs, we have Tom the Mailman.” It was horrible. Fortunately Cory Rodrigues was hosting, and he sat with me the entire show giving me great advice that I follow to this day. He saw how nervous I was watching this guy eat it, and came up to me and said “I’m gonna go up there and rip on this guy for a little, then I’m gonna do 5 minutes to win them back, then you’re gonna go up there and kill it, and then we all go home happy.” And that’s exactly what happened.
Who were your favorite comedians growing up?
That first Dane Cook album was a game changer for me. Before that, comedians always seemed like older, larger than life people I couldn’t relate to. Once I listened to that album, the floodgates opened. Comedy Central Presents was just starting to be a thing, and there were more cable specials as well. Chapelle, Nick Swardson, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel Tosh, Zach Galifiankis, Demitri Martin, and John Mulaney all had specials or albums that really stuck with me before I started doing comedy on my own.
What is your writing process like: Are you always trying stuff out on stage or do you have jokes mostly figured out on the page of a notebook before you tell them to an audience?
I would say it’s a mix of both. I write everything down all the time, so my phone and notebooks are full of dumb ideas. I try to write out as much as I can, but mostly it winds up as an outline and I know the beats of where I want to take the joke. I’ll workshop it with other comics, try it at mics, and if I’m really happy with it, I’ll sandwich it between tried-and-true material to see how it does.
I know you’ve travelled at least to Raleigh NC and Cleveland Ohio already. What is the furthest you’ve driven for a comedy show?
Yes, those were some legendary road trips we’ve taken together. With Cleveland and Raleigh, we got other shows out of it, but I drove down to Asheville for their festival and it is buried in the mountains of Carolina. I think it took 16 hours to get there. And it was just for one show, but worth the trip nonetheless.
Have you ever run into hecklers? How do you deal with that?
Haven’t had to deal with hecklers in a while. Most of my act is making fun of myself, so to people who would heckle think “oh he’s already got this” in like a final battle of 8 Mile kind of way. I don’t like acknowledging hecklers unless it continues to be a problem. If one guy says something stupid, I’ll say something back quickly off the cuff and then move on. If they continue to be a problem, I’ll go in on them harder but I hate doing that because I want to do my material. People came to see a comedy show, not me yell at a guy named Jerry who works at the DMV. Let me do my act Jerry! No one cares about you.
You spent some time in New York City recently. What are the biggest differences between performing in the big apple vs Boston?
NYC was a lot of fun. It was hard to go there and essentially start over, but there was a lot of quality comedy to watch there. Open mics here are full of a lot of newer comics who are still trying to figure things out, whereas mics in NYC are chock full of the best up and coming comics from all over doing their best 2-3 minutes they wrote that week. It is very inspiring and forces you to write better. There were also different circuits in NYC and it’s so much bigger than Boston, you could go months without running into your friends at mics and shows. Plus you could see major players in comedy anywhere on any given night. Here in Boston, unless we are lucky, you’d only be able to see a national headliner at Laugh Boston or a theater for the most part; in NYC, you could be hanging out at the midnight show at a club and Bill Burr and Ray Romano drop in to work on stuff. It was very cool.
Who makes you laugh the most now?
I’m just gonna rattle off a bunch of names of Boston, NYC, LA, and headlining comics that I’ve been listening to a lot lately and really enjoy: Zach Armentrout, Joe Pera, Rohan Padhye, Kurt Braunohler, Jono Zalay, Sam Jay, Emily Ruskowski, the cast of Impractical Jokers, Chad Daniels, Conner O’Malley, Katie Qué, Chris Post, Eric Andre, Liam McGurk, John Mulaney, Jake Head, Will Weldon, Zach Brazao, Sean Wilkinson, Sean Sullivan, Tommy McNamara and so many more, keep making good comedy everyone everywhere.
What is your favorite part of stand up comedy?
I love having a creative outlet where I can turn the shitty things that happen to me into something anyone can laugh at. Walking in on my parents having sex, going through a break up, and having to hear Christmas music every day at work are shitty things to deal with, but instead of letting those things ruin me, I can make some art of it. I also love when a new joke works immediately, that changes my entire week for the better. I love crafting a joke that could work on any audience, a rowdy audience in Providence or a smarter crowd in Cambridge. I love that I’ve met best friends for life through doing this too.
I love having this thing that I’m passionate about. I would be so boring and dead inside if I didn’t have comedy. I can’t imagine being a guy who clocks out of a desk job at 5:30, goes home, cooks dinner, plays online poker and then tries to find something on tv to watch before going to bed. I want this to be my career someday, and I love that it’s not right now. If it never does become how I pay my bills, I’m okay with that, but I’ll never walk away from it.
You can catch John Baglio at The Pourhouse, Wednesday July 18 at 8pm. As part of our weekly comedy series. Hosted by Shawn Carter.