Andy Woodhull is a former Chicago comic, now calling Raleigh, North Carolina his home base. When he’s not busy touring on the road, Woodhull spends quality time at home with his wife and stepchildren, the latter of whom received the following heads up regarding his comedy: “There might be some things you wish you could unhear, like jokes about me having sex with your mom.” Woodhull’s material has earned him spots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Conan, the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, as well as his own Comedy Central Half Hour, which premieres this Saturday night. We talked about the Half Hour, being a stepparent, and Boston bar fights.
How long have you been working on the material in your Half Hour? What span of time does the special represent?
Maybe like four years. I put out an album in 2012 called Lucy. I put out another one just this year. The special is kind of the highlights of both of those comedy albums. I pulled a couple of jokes from my old album for the special. Most of it is from the last couple of years, but a few of those jokes are four years old.
How long have you been doing standup?
And you have three albums under your belt already?
A lot of comics do it for 10 or more years before putting out a proper album. For you, how long was it before you put your first album out?
The first one I did was in 2008. It was probably too soon. It was only 35 minutes and was basically because I had quit my job and needed merch on the road. The other two… it gets to a point where I’m starting to graduate material and so what I like to do is put it on an album. It can kind of live forever. I don’t have to remember it. Those jokes can always be there.
You grew up in Elkhart, Indiana. In the special you talk about your dad’s sense of humor, how he sets you up for potential embarrassment in weird public situations. Is he one of the main people to shape your sense of humor and desire to get into comedy?
Maybe. My dad always joked around with me. But I think more than my dad was my group of friends in high school. We would always make each other laugh. We were all really into the TV show Seinfeld. I think that’s where I really started wanting to be a comic, when I was watching that show in high school.
Do any of those friends do anything comedically now like writing, standup, acting?
All my buddies that I grew up with do other things now.
I have to imagine that Elkhart doesn’t have a big comedy scene. Where did you start doing comedy?
I started in St. Louis, Missouri.
How long were you there before you moved on to a bigger city?
I was there for a little over a year and a half, maybe close to two years. I went to college there and then started doing standup right after college. It was great when I was starting. There were a lot of really funny comics. I made good friends in comedy. Also we had a great open mic night that people would actually come to, with good experienced comics who would come and host and offer advice. It was great place to start.
What was the next move? Chicago?
Chicago. I was in Chicago for almost nine years. Then I moved to Los Angeles for about a year and a half. Then I got married and moved to North Carolina.
So is it mostly road gigs for you at this point?
Yeah. There’s a great club in Raleigh called Goodnights. But I’m on the road pretty much every week.
How do you balance that with having a family?
It is hard to be away. I guess how it works is that we never lived in the same city until we were married. So even now that I’m gone three or four days a week, I’m home more than I ever was when we were dating. We see more of each other. Another thing is, if I had a regular job where I worked 50 hours a week I would come home see my wife and kids for three hours at night, maybe a half hour in the morning. But how it is now is I see them the whole time I’m home when I’m home. I feel like it balances out.
What do the kids think of your comedy? Are they old enough to understand it?
They’ve seen a little of it. They came when I was on Conan last March. They came to the taping. They had a great time. That’s the only time they’ve ever seen me live. I think they think it’s cool. They’re not overly impressed with me though. I’m still a parent to them. It would embarrass my stepdaughter if I got out of the car when I picked her up at school. I’m not cool because of it, by any means. Kind of what I say to them is that my act is PG-13. There’s nothing in there that they haven’t seen in a movie, but I do have some adult topic jokes. You might not want to see a joke about me and your mother. I don’t sit them down and make them watch it, but I am aware that they’re going to find it on the internet if they want to find it. I don’t think I say anything bad, nothing I wouldn’t want them to hear. But I give them a heads up that there might be some things you wish you could unhear, like jokes about me having sex with your mom.
You seem to run relatively clean. Was that a conscious decision when you first started, or did that come later on? And if so, what was the reasoning behind it?
I don’t know that it was ever conscious. It was just kind of who I am. I don’t curse a ton in my regular life. So when I put out an album or special it’s pretty easy to drop the one or two curse words that are in my act. There are different levels of clean. I don’t curse, but there are plenty of jokes about sex that some people would say aren’t clean.
It’s subjective. You could have the theme of two adults having consensual sex and not cuss or be graphic and some people would still say, “That’s not right for me.”
Yeah, there are different levels of clean when it comes to standup. People have different ideas. I think that I’m fairly clean. I love being able to tell a dirty joke without saying a vulgar… I have one joke about lady parts and I do a whole bit where I never say “queef.” But that’s what it’s about. That’s one of my favorite jokes to tell because it’s a dirty joke where I don’t say anything dirty.
I think that made it funnier. Some people would just say it because it’s a funny word with shock value. You go to great lengths to avoid using it. It builds a great tension where the audience already knows what the word is but you keep going around and around, pushing the point without using the word until it becomes absurd.
I don’t claim to have invented that type of comedy. I love that kind of comedy where you can put the word or idea in someone’s head without them saying it.
In reading about you and your career I kept finding these vague references to a bar fight in Boston. Can you tell me the story?
I was visiting a friend in Boston, a former roommate of mine who was living there. We were playing Golden Tee with these two local Boston guys. We were winning and they just turned around and punched us both. I was knocked unconscious. My jaw was broken. I woke up in the emergency room not really knowing what had happened. My friend had to explain it to me. My mouth was wired shut for two months. I didn’t have insurance at the time. I thought my life was over. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life paying off the broken jaw. But luckily, Massachusetts has this victims of violent crime thing that I applied for where you can get money from the state, or maybe it was from the city. I applied and qualified for it and they paid the hospital bills. I’m lucky to not have that hanging over my head because I would still be paying it off.
That’s crazy. But that police report, though. The fact that they had to reference that it was all over a game of Golden Tee is kind of hilarious.
Yep. A game of Golden Tee.