Nick Turner was born in Texas, raised in Virginia, and sharpened his comedic teeth to a fine point in New York City. While watching him onstage during his Comedy Central Half Hour taping, it was apparent that he was legitimately having fun. Not the kind of selfish fun where it’s all about the comic and the audience can take it or leave it. Turner was a maestro of fun, conducting the entire room’s laughter and energy. It was like hanging out at the bar as your funniest friend tells old stories with a spontaneity that makes them feel brand new again. I caught up with Turner after the premiere of his Half Hour to discuss the special, his new album Yelling, and why he quit comedy for 9/11.
Now that the Half Hour has come out and people have seen it, do you feel like it was a success?
Yeah, I’m really happy with it. I haven’t seen the final version, but it’s not for me.
When you tell stories in your standup there are certain parts that I think are hard for the audience to tell whether they are hypothetical, satirical, or factual. For instance, when you talk about spending a long weekend with your girlfriend’s parents you say that you wore a tuxedo the whole time. You also talk about pretending to read a giant Bible to impress them.
That’s like the one joke that is completely made up. My girlfriend’s parents are so cool. They aren’t even religious. That’s just a joke on normal interactions that people have when meeting the parents. I didn’t hit any resistance when meeting them. That joke is completely out of thin air. There are very few jokes I’ve ever written that don’t have some sort of personal resonance.
What prompted you to make that joke up since you don’t usually go that route and it isn’t based on your personal experience?
I’m trying to remember. Jokes evolve. Maybe it started out from a real place. I was probably just joking with friends and it came up. With God as my witness, I have no idea how that joke started.
What kind of feedback do you get from people who are the subject of your jokes, especially this one?
The last I heard my girlfriend’s parents have watched the Half Hour at least three times. They loved it so much. No one has ever been angry about being misrepresented because it’s all so silly and I’m not saying anything that mean about people. I don’t get any resistance like, “Hey, that wasn’t true.” In the special I talk about a friend who rescued a three-month-old puppy and how that’s bullshit because you can’t rescue something that is so cute that everybody wants it. He loves that joke. He was really nervous and seemed a little upset when someone else told him I had a joke about it. When he finally heard it he was like, “Oh, that’s complimentary.” When people hear the initial, “There’s a joke about you,” they’re like, “You son of a bitch.” Then they hear it and it’s either complimentary or silly. I’m not trying to ruin any relationships.
You recorded your album at The Creek and the Cave. Would you say that’s one of your favorite spots to perform at in New York?
Definitely. And I live two blocks away from it so…I’ve always been very close to the venue and have definitely performed there way more than anywhere else.
So does that move it to the number one spot?
It’s definitely my favorite in terms of stage time and development, which are the most important aspects of a comedy career. It’s probably not as fun as a packed Bell House, but in terms of running a victory lap in a nice, huge venue with tons of cool comedy fans…it’s still hard work. You’ve got to fight and write, necessary parts of the job. Sometimes the audiences there are great. Sometimes they’re really small. But it’s all helpful in terms of putting together material.
Before you moved to New York you spent time in Virginia, doing comedy there for a while before moving to New York, where you gave up comedy for 9/11. A lot of comics have stories about how they kept going post-9/11 because they felt people needed to laugh and deal with the pain. Like, “New York City needs to hear these jokes.” You were more like, “Fuck it.”
Yeah, absolutely. I was doing open mics for a few months before 9/11 happened. Even the funniest people, even Letterman, didn’t know when they should come back and when New York was ready to laugh again. As an open micer I was like, “When is New York going to be ready to not laugh at me?” As an open micer I felt like I would be doing a disservice to go out there and ruin people’s nights with my nonsense. So I joined a sketch group for a few years.
I was looking for your website and your Tumblr came up. It’s just one post about the Nitehawk Tactical Flashlight.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten into deleting my Tumblr account. I tried my best to delete it, but that was one ad that posted and I don’t know how to fix it. If someone out there knows how to completely kill my Tumblr, please tell me. I am not an internet mastermind.
Are you by chance a fan of that flashlight?
No. I didn’t even make that post. I just happened to notice it about a month ago. I’m going to go on the record and say that I hate that flashlight. I give it zero stars.
There was an interview you did with The Comic’s Comic a while back where you were asked where you hoped to be in five years. You said maybe getting a write-up in Splitsider. So, congratulations!
I was having a little fun with my old friend Sean McCarthy.
Well, in total sincerity, where do you see yourself five years from now?
I would have said Gawker if we were having this conversation a couple of months ago.
Would that have been some kind of scandal that you were involved in? Your nudes got leaked?
Yeah, my balls would be out somehow. I pull them out all the time, but there’s never any photographers around. Five years from now, wouldn’t it be cool if I was still making a living? That’s the base. But I would love to turn this half hour into an hour. It took me 12 years to have my first album come out, so maybe in another five years I can put out number two.
Anything else coming up that we can keep an eye out for?
I’m going to Europe on vacation for a couple of weeks and I’m not doing any standup. That’s what I want to brag about the most.