Whether in Iraq during his USO tour, or the fact that he’s a ‘cheesehead’ at heart, or just bumping into each other in a random social Facebook group, we were meant to meet eventually, so we can sit and talk, while he scavengers on Rocky Rocco pizza, while we share our common interests and philosophies with our life experiences.
Now I sit with him again, to give him his own spotlight to share his own story here on my blog. Hey, Nathan…. Thanks for joining me!
You’ve been doing comedy for a while now, Nathan, with some epic experiences over the years as a performer. Can you give the readers a short resume of who you are and what your accomplishments are that you’ve made over the years of comedy?
A short résumé… Mi llamo es Nathan. I stand on stage and yap into a microphone, which in turn makes people giggle. I may be a nobody, but I’ve managed to eek out a living slinging jokes. I’ve put out 5 CDs during my career, and have just finished recording/editing my 6th. Two of those CDs receive regular airplay on the Sirius/XM comedy channels, and one of them, “I Might Not Be Joking,” made it into the top 20 on the iTunes comedy chart.
My official bio is: Not as serious as Plato, but lighter than Socrates. Not as edgy as Clinton, but livelier than Nixon. Not as heavy as GWAR, but deeper than Culture Club.
I’d say that’s accurate.
Tell us the story of how Nathan Timmel got into comedy?
I was in a band in college, and we started picking up some steam. A half-dozen college radio stations started playing our songs, and we began charting on the nationally published College Music Journal, so naturally we imploded. I wanted to go on tour and build a fan base; the singer wanted to get signed to a record label and have them do all the work. I said, “We’re not going to get signed unless we go to the places we’re getting played, get some fans, and give a record label a reason to sign us.”
He disagreed, and the band broke up.
I’m a bass player, one with enough self-awareness to understand I’m no Sting. With little desire to end up in another band where there would be fighting and disagreement, and without the ability to write songs/sing on my own, I decided to hit an open microphone and make with the silly.
It stuck, and here I am.
Most of your comedy would be drawn into the dark humor genre, and a lot of your jokes basically are of you providing your opinions and sharing stories of your life, as well as, making fun of the current issues on politics and society. What do you think is the key to get a message across on an affective domain to the audience?
I think the best way to get a point of view across to anyone is to be universal. If you take a side, then you alienate the other side. If you go with universal truths, it’s hard for anyone to deny or discredit what you’re saying.
People still will deny and disagree with and discredit what you’re saying, but it’s harder for them to do so.
Are you worried about offending the modern audiences with your material considering the controversies today with comedians, i.e. David Chappelle?
I’m not, and here’s why: everyone is offended by something. That’s all there is to it. So no matter how hard you try, someone will take issue with something you say. Therefore, the best approach is to not worry about it. I just go forth with my own values and limits in mind; lines I won’t cross: homophobic, racist, or sexist comments.
Regarding Dave Chappelle, I don’t know that there’s much controversy surrounding him. There’s invented “controversy,” but that’s not real. What you have to remember is that the audience loves his most recent, the “controversial,” special. Not just the in-house audience he recorded it in front of, but everyone, everywhere. The show is currently rocking a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The reason it’s “controversial” is because “critics” have it at 35%. Those “critics” are nothing but a bunch of “woke” idiots virtue signaling how awesome they are to other idiots.
People say you’re supposed to “punch up, not down” in comedy. Meaning you attack the powers that be, not victims. What Chappelle did in his last special is attack woke culture head on, because today that IS punching up. With stupid people being offended by Goddamn everything, and the media writing articles like, “Twitter explodes after… (insert anything non-controversial here)!” and then finding the ten stupidest people on Twitter to use an example of how outraged everyone is, being “woke” means being in power. Thus, that movement is fair game for mockery by comedians.
And note: there is a difference between mockery, and complaining/whining. A lot of people whine/complain. Chappelle mocked, and did so brilliantly.
Hell, even President Obama called out woke “culture.” Hopefully it’s a signal that like anything stupid, it’s time has passed.
Would you ever consider doing comedy specials on streaming services to broaden your audiences?
(Laughs) My buddy is currently in a band, and one of the members said, “We need to make a viral video!”
As if it’s that easy, and that going viral just happens.
I’d absolutely do comedy specials on streaming services, but unless someone is backing those with some authority, it’s doubtful they’d move the needle. I mean, I’ve a YouTube channel with more videos than you can shake a stick at on it. No one cares, because no one knows who I am.
That said: I’m taping my first Dry Bar comedy special next week. I don’t know when they’re going to release it, but I’ve seen some of their videos go viral, so…
Are you planning to go on tour or simply have any new bookings?
I’m always “on tour” and/or looking for new bookings. Being an unknown comedian means you’re perpetually trying to work; you don’t schedule 3 months and then take 3 months off. It’s financially unfeasible to live like that.
You’re not just a comedian. You are also an author. Can you provide a proposal for what your books are about that you’ve published so far?
To date, I’ve put out three works of non-fiction. The first book was a memoir, and the next two were letters I wrote to my kiddos over the course of a year.
I just finished my first work of nonfiction, and I was about to self-publish it, but the wife read it and sat me down and said, “OK, I’ve always supported your writing, but what you have to understand is: this one is good. Like, really good.”
So, she’s not letting me self-publish; she wants to find me an agent.
I wish her luck, but I know that’s much, much, much easier said than done.
How are your books different from your performances as a comedian?
On stage, I have to be funny. It’s my job. No one goes to a comedy club to do anything but laugh. The books give me an outlet where I don’t have to be “on” all the time. They have funny moments, but they’re not inherently humorous. Writing allows me to explore the other nonsense going on inside my noggin; things that won’t work on stage. Non-jokes, if you will.
What are some of the biggest highlights and accomplishments you’re proud of over the years as a comedian?
It’s easily my time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The two best compliments I’ve ever received have come from shows for the military.
I’ve been closing my shows talking about my time in Afghanistan, and that’s on the CD I have coming out in January: “This Could Get Awkward,” so I’ll tell a story about Iraq.
At Camp Anaconda, a woman named Leah Burton approached me after my show. She shook my hand, and said, “Sitting in the theater, in the darkness, just laughing… I actually forgot where I was for a second. I was laughing, and then I looked down at my uniform and was startled. I looked around the room and wondered why everyone was in military garb. Then I remembered how far from home I was. I remembered I was in Iraq, and my family was a thousand miles away. But for a moment, I forgot.”
I mean… all I do is tell jokes for a living. It’s not supposed to mean anything. So when I hear that against all odds I’ve actually made someone’s life a little more tolerable? It sticks with you.
I know a small portion of some of your background as a comedian that includes life experiences. Your life experiences have been a helpful tool towards your comedy, but the question is, has comedy been a helpful tool for you as an individual? How has it evolved you as a performer and individual?
I don’t think I can put it any better than Hawkeye did on M*A*S*H: If I’m not laughing, I’m screaming.
We live in a cynical world, and the news is always negative. If I wasn’t actively making fun of that, it’d be too much for my fragile little psyche.
Log on to Facebook at any given time and scroll through your feed; it’s people shouting at one another, people whining about how awful their life is… I have “friends” who haven’t made changes in a Goddamn decade. It’s the same litany of negativity over and over and over, without any attempt to self-improve. Comedy has helped me observe such negativity from afar and actively decide not to engage in such behavior.
Two more examples: Last Week Tonight, with John Oliver. That show takes on the most depressing subjects possible and makes you laugh while learning how bleak things are. And finally, The Life of Brian… I saw that as a kid, and it’s always stuck with me: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
“If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”
Today, you are a great family man now with two beautiful kids and your wife. How is life different now compared to before fatherhood?
I haven’t slept in seven years. I think that’s probably knocked some time off my overall lifespan.
Your stories of your kids have surely added some new material to your arsenal. How has your comedy evolved today compared to your material from ten years ago?
I’d say that like most people, I was angrier when I was younger. We age, we gain perspective, we mellow out…
If you don’t, holy crap are you annoying. Have you ever met an adult–someone in their late 30’s or 40s–that’s still carrying that adolescent chip on their shoulder?
I think my material these days is easier to digest.
Last, but surely not least… How about them Packers?
They will be the death of me.