Mike Recine On Headlining, And Getting Into Stand-up Comedy

Mike Recine is a NYC-based comedian who is currently working the city for all its worth. Performing in the various clubs throughout town and slowly gaining a following. Things will get a nice bump when he headlines Carolines Comedy Club in NYC for the first time. We caught up with Mike to talk about getting his start in stand-up, being a comedian in today’s technology world, and his first headlining show at the legendary New York comedy venue.

You have big show coming up at Caroline’s on September 21st?

Yeah I’m headlining at Carolines. I’m doing 45 minutes and my friend Nick Turner’s hosting and my buddy Jeff Wetzelschmidt will be featuring.

Is this your first time headling?

Yeah I haven’t headlined Carolines before; I’ve co-headlined a couple venues. I headlined Comix about a year ago, when they were still open.

How long have you been doing comedy?

5 years, I started in Jersey in 2006.

Where in Jersey?

Montclair, before Rascals closed. Rascals used to be a chain and then the owner was like a con artist or something, and they all closed. He owed a bunch of money or something.

Did he owe you money?

No. They never paid me anything so they never had any money to owe me. It was great work effort.

(Laughs) It sounds like you enjoy doing free gigs.

Yeah, well I did their bringer show so it wasn’t for free. I would get a minute of stage time for every audience member that I brought. But even that at the time seemed like a great deal. I’d be like, “I just have to make you guys money and you’ll let me tell my diarrhea jokes?”

The naivety of a new comedian huh? Is that how your career started, bringer shows?

Yeah bringer shows about twice a month and open mics. I mean, I was 19 and didn’t know any better.

Were you just excited to be up on stage and actually perform?

Yeah they were like, “when can we have you back?” I’d say, “I don’t know, I gotta find some friends.” (Laughs) They don’t talk to me anymore so let me find some new ones. Let me call my parents neighbors and I’ll be back.

I once went to a friend’s bringer show and he got up on stage and held the mic like a hardcore singer and just did hardcore comedy for two minutes and nobody understood a single word he said, it was terribly awesome.

Nice. It’s like you just ruin all your friendships with these bringer shows, you know the shows, you know the quality isn’t that great because you’re watching other comedians who brought their friends. Then before you know it, you have no friends. You keep bothering them, you’re just the guy who bothers them all time.

It’s also probably a quick way to figure out who your actual supporters are. Bring your mom and dad, they’ll come to every show you have.

Uhhh they’ll come to about three, and then they’ll get tired of it. They’ll get tired of being there, they’ll get tired of hearing the same jokes.

So were you born in Jersey?

Yeah I was born in Princeton, then I grew up in Hamilton.

And how did you make it from Jersey to New York?

I was going to college in Montclair for theater, nobody liked me and I just dropped out of school, then moved to the city in November ‘07. From there I just started doing open mics in New York so its gonna be four years this November. Most of my time was spent in New York. It’s a tough place to start, but it’s worth it because you get a lot better.

What were those early days in New York like? Were they tough?

Yeah I mean it’s still tough, I mean it’s always hard, but nobody really knew who I was, nobody booked me, I would just do three open mics in a night. It’s hard but once you get to a certain point it becomes easier because then you’re a New York comic and everybody knows you. It’s easier to go to other cities and things like that.

How long did it take to build your network of comedian friends? I’ve heard stories about the New York comedians and their close ties, is it tough to break in?

There’s all these guys who have been doing it as long as you, who you kinda become friends with. But I’d say you gotta give New York about like 3 years and if you’re gonna move there, it’s like you’re starting over. However, I felt like I just knew I had to give it a certain amount of time.

Do you ever have doubts? Days where you aren’t sure it’s for you or if you are going to make it?

Yeah like every other day, but you just don’t listen to it, you keep goin’. It’s really just the most important thing getting up a lot and getting really good, and getting stage time wherever that may be, and never being above anything. That’s my advice.

This is weird… ‘cause I don’t like talking about myself. I mean I could sit here and talk about myself but I don’t like when I feel like kinda egotistical. I don’t like to feel egotistical, like anybody cares about what I’m doing, nobody does. They just wanna hear jokes.

They just wanna hear dick and fart jokes 140 characters or less I guess. What else do you want to talk about?

Umm…. I’m doing a series of shorts with my friend Sam Morell, and I’m doing Stand-up New York soon but the Carolines show it the big thing. Just a bunch of shows around the city, some shows outside the city. Just writing and performing.

Have you traveled much outside of New York yet?

Here and there, I’ve been to L.A. a couple times and I’ve done the Improv and some shows out there but um I think New York’s really the best place to develop as a comedian, I don’t think there’s anywhere better to just get good at it. There’s a lot of stage time and there’s a lot of open mics and little shows that you can do. People here, they like stand-up just on its own. I’ll go into these meetings with television people and they’re like, “so what else you workin on?” and I’m like, “nothing, I’m just workin on my act.” But New York is where people go to become good comedians.

Is that your ultimate goal to just be a good comedian?

Yeah I think so, I might be a long way off. I don’t know, there’s not a ton of money in stand-up, but I think I’m always gonna do it, and I’m always gonna just put a lot into it. It’s a thing I can always do by myself and whenever I want, and that’s rewarding. I can write a joke and be on stage that night and it’s getting laughs or it’s not, immediately.

What is your joke writing process? Is it difficult? Do the jokes come easy to you?

I have to write a lot before I get to something good, so I’ll just sit down and I’ll just write out premises and then from those premises I’ll try stuff out at open mics, and then whatever works there I’ll do at a show and if it works at a show then it goes into the rotation.

Do you have any good pointers?

Yeah just don’t be a pussy. Yeah that’s what it all comes down to. Having some balls.

Always good advice.

One thing I’m fascinated with is how some comedians live and die by social media, and some comedians could care less about it. Where do you fall on the subject?

I’m kinda in between. I mean, my manager tells me that I need to use Twitter a lot, it’s good because it makes you accessible, but it can’t substitute working on the act and getting up and writing jokes. You can promote yourself as much as you want but if you don’t have an act and a voice that’s developed and good jokes then what’s the point?

I think comedy’s really gonna change this way because comedians are a lot more accessible to fans and more connected to the specific group of people that want to see them. But they need to be a good comic before all that stuff. I think if you’re tweeting and on Facebook, then you’re not writing jokes and performing, you’re doing something wrong and there is no substitute for that.

Yeah well I also, I think one of the big advo…

In the eye of the comedian’s studio

(laughs) Exactly! That’s exactly what this is!

I’m not a comedian myself, but what I often hear is that it gives instant gratification about jokes. If they put out a tweet, it’s almost an instant response where it’s your own stage. You can be somewhere and wonder if people like a new joke, and boom feedback is right there.

But I feel like it’s almost deceiving in a way …I have 250 Twitter followers, but a lot of them are just other comedians. Though I might feel I’m reaching people, but am I reaching people who need to laugh? Or are you just entertaining your comedian friends?

Well there’s something to be said about that, the ability to make other comedians laugh, no?

Yeah, but I feel like you wanna get through to real people, the best nights that I’ve had doing comedy are when I’ve done something for other people, when I’ve performed for people who needed a laugh and don’t get to see good comedy that much. When I’m performing for other comics I guess that’s good, because I know the joke is good but it feels like it’s more then.

You need that cathartic element to it.

Yeah, I mean this is gonna sound corny but you get in this to make people happy, you want people to laugh and be happy, but if you’re performing for a bunch of comedians all the time they don’t really need it as much as other people do. It’s like giving back, I want to give back, I’m a great person. (Laughs) I’m just I’m a really good guy.

On the nights that aren’t good I feel like I didn’t get through to anybody, I just performed in front of five other comics. It feels good to feel as if you’re reaching people. It’s what can be frustrating about Facebook and Twitter. Since I don’t have many friends outside of comedy, most of the people who see anything I put there are just other comics who don’t need to. We’re all sad and aren’t going to appreciate anything because nothing makes us happy. (laughs)

How did you get interested in comedy?

I saw History Of The World Part 1 when I was 11 years old that gave me the bug. I was a really sensitive kid, I painted, played piano and stuff, and I remember thinking that I didn’t know how to write a joke or how to be funny, it just seemed like such a foreign concept to me, and then I did my first open mic when I was 15. Afterward I just kinda felt like it was something that I had to train my brain how to do. I wasn’t like a naturally funny person.

You know what? I do find it interesting though that you see that, comedians often encounter someone that will state, “Oh you’re a comedian? Say something funny.” And most comedians are like, “Uhh…No.”

I once did an interview at a Chevy’s, in Times Square and the guy stated, “You say you’re a comedian, you’re not really all that animated.” I’m respond with, “No! That’s why I’m working at Chevy’s, I’m a bad comedian.”

Have you been able to quit that job since then?

I got hired, then I just didn’t go in. So I won. Chevy’s lost.

Mike is headlining Caroline in NYC this September 21st. So if you live in New York, pick up some tickets here and go on out and support live comedy.

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