Myq Kaplan '00 is one of NBC's last comics standing
Kaplan is winning over a nationwide audience with his unique, cerebral humor
Standup success isn’t new to Myq (pronounced “Mike”) Kaplan ’00. The young comic, who has been making audiences laugh at comedy clubs from the time he was a student at Brandeis, appeared on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” last year, and hit television screens again this spring in his own half-hour “Comedy Central Presents” special. Now, Kaplan’s cerebral humor is winning fans across America thanks to his run on the NBC reality standup competition, "Last Comic Standing." He is one of only seven finalists remaining. Kaplan took a break in between gigs to answer the following questions by email. When you're done reading, if you’d like to hear more from Myq, click here.
BrandeisNOW: How did you "get into" comedy?
Myq Kaplan: First, I like your use of "quotes." (Second, feel free to remove this whole line! Okay, for real now.)
My parents were music teachers. I played the violin from an early age against my will. I used the musical knowledge to teach myself guitar in high school NOT against my will (towards my will?). I started writing songs. Some of them were funny. When I got to Brandeis, I looked for anywhere in the Boston area I could perform. One such place was the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. I played songs there once every month or several months for a couple years, sometimes talking in between songs. That talking (or riffing, as I might say now) was fun and led to planning specific things to say for future performances (or joke-writing, as I might say now, and do!), eventually ending up at the desire to see if I could do ONLY talking and NO music.
(Additional components of this journey: 1) finding out that there were multiple comedy venues to perform at, not just the Comedy Studio every few months, and 2) not wanting to carry a guitar everywhere forever.) And a standup comedy career was born! Or mutated into being from musical career aspirations!
BrandeisNOW: Were you involved in a Brandeis comedy group when you were a student here?
MK: I was technically a member of Boris' Kitchen for some amount of time between one and more than one years. I only performed with them once, but I enjoyed hanging out with them, so I went to meetings a lot. Also I was in VoiceMale for a year, which isn't a comedy group but did some comedy skits, was full of funny guys (and other guys), and is a performing group. Is that close enough to be a relevant answer?
BrandeisNOW: Did being at Brandeis help you develop as a comic, and do your campus experiences serve as the basis for some of your jokes today?
MK: The experience of being at Brandeis helped me develop as a human, as college does (when administered properly, I believe), and such human development does assist in the development of comedy as well. General life experience helps one develop as a comic, so the fact that I stayed alive throughout my Brandeis experience was quite helpful (for life AND comedy). That said, there are certainly things in my act that stem from my experiences at Brandeis, either directly or indirectly. I studied philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and math, all of which play some role in my comedy, I would say.
BrandeisNOW: What is the funniest thing about Brandeis University?
MK: Me? Is this a trick question? Or do you just want one of my jokes about Brandeis? Fine, here we go: The school's team is called the judges. And the JV team is the associate district attorneys (Disclaimer: that is NOT the funniest thing about Brandeis. So if you want the funniest thing, just figure out the opposite of that).
BrandeisNOW: A lot of your comedy is "smart" humor where you sort of make fun of yourself being a nerd. Have you always embraced your intellectual-side in your humor, or is this a new vein of content that you've recently tapped into?
MK: Oh, definitely. I mean, up until recently I was actually a huge, strapping guy. I played all the sports growing up, I drove and fixed and knew about cars, and all kinds of other masculine things that would just make everyone feel embarrassed for not being as manly as I was. Also, I had friends galore in high school, girlfriends up the wazoo in college, and wives aplenty in grad school. (Having a lot of wives as an adult is as cool as getting a lot of chicks in college, yes? And that's not even making a double entendre with "girlfriends up the wazoo." Okay, now it is.) Point is, I only tapped into this nerd vein once it became cool to be uncool. Because I've always had my finger on the cool pulse. And...
Okay, perhaps you're seeing through my facade. Sincere answer--I have always been myself, and in my comedy I have always talked about the things that interested me, from linguistics to sci-fi to math to movies to making long lists to stopping making long lists. As far as making fun of myself, that may be something that has developed gradually and become more prominent recently, due to gaining experience and awareness in life, comedy, and how I'm perceived, and using said perceptions to relate to others more. It hasn't necessarily been a conscious thing, and maybe it's not a thing at all, but I'm just out to be true to myself, and to best communicate that self to others, whether they're like me or not, whether they like it or not. (But hopefully yes. That's the goal. Success. You know, like nerds like.)
BrandeisNOW: Do you feel the audience is laughing with you or at you? Or at themselves? Or does it really matter, as long as they're laughing?
MK: Why? What are they saying?
Probably all of the above, and one time or another. I mean, if I fall on my face and people laugh, that's not my goal. But if I'm doing comedy and people are laughing because of it, that IS what I want. I think the laughing-with vs. laughing-at dichotomy is a delicate one, and while the way I look, speak, act, or present myself, my interests, and my thoughts may lead some people to have a laughing-at mentality initially (or more than initially, up until forever even maybe), the fact that I'm in control of those very words, deeds, and representations is all I need to be comfortable with the reaction that may start as one preposition but ultimately becomes the other, I'd say. We are all one, even prepositions. (Also, we are all nouns. And the word "preposition" is a noun. Feel free to edit whenever you like. I enjoy typing.)
BrandeisNOW: How would you feel about winning "Last Comic Standing," are you surprised about being a finalist, and have you already seen benefits, like larger crowds at your standup gigs, because of the exposure?
MK: I did a show at Caroline's on Broadway a week or two ago, and a large portion of the audience seemed to be there because they had seen the show, so while I don't have a large sample size to make a scientific determination (nerd! okay, laughing WITH me now), it seems like that's the direction things are heading in. People are watching the show, and people who didn't know who I was now do, and they're finding my website, Twitter, Facebook, etc., and coming out to shows, which is pretty cool. So, yes.
Am I surprised about being a finalist? I'm an optimistic person, so going into the initial audition, I felt good, but I know that comedy competitions can be arbitrary, humor can be subjective, and reality shows can be reality shows. So I was happy to make it onto the show, period, and don't think I would have been surprised with any outcome. There were loads of great comedians auditioning, so I'm thrilled that I did make it to the finals. I'm happy to be there, and winning would certainly keep that happiness going. So, that's how I would feel about winning--happy to have to pay a lot of taxes, finally.
BrandeisNOW: Anything else you want to add about being on the show or being a comedian?
Wait, maybe. Yes!
I like it! (Did I say that already?)
Okay, seriously. Here's something I want to add: do YOU have any additional questions you want to ask about my being a comedian or on the show? (Do you feel like I'm asking questions AT you or WITH you? TWO can play at that game! Or even just one could, if you didn't want to play anymore.)
Okay, even more seriously. Don't forget to watch the show next Monday, July 26 at 9 p.m. EST on NBC. And don't forget to vote for your favorite comedian, whoever he or she may be...