Though we are long from the Johnny Carson days, a late-night stand-up set is still an important benchmark for a lot of up-and-coming comedians — especially if they feel like they can really do their comedy. That was the case for the 2015 Conan debut of Solomon Georgio, who has since gone on to write for shows such as Shrill and High Fidelity and more recently launch a small-scale gossip podcast with Team Coco called The Juice. After thinking he wouldn’t be able to, Georgio was able to tell a very edgy joke on Conan he’s very proud of about the cruel absurdity of turning Pocahontas’s story of being sold as a child into a romantic Disney romp. In the joke, Georgio contrasts the genocide of Indigenous people to the Holocaust and imagines Disney making a cartoon out of the life of Sally Hemings, which is to say it’s not exactly easy, light late-night TV material.
On Vulture’s Good One podcast, which features Dulcé Sloan as guest host, Georgio discusses how he got booked on Conan, how he made this joke work, and how he was so, so, so, so terrified to do the set. Below, you can read an excerpt from the transcript or listen to the full episode. Tune in to Good One every Thursday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.
On Getting Booked on Conan
I met J.P. Buck because he was actually there to see another comedian at The Meltdown. It was my second time doing Meltdown, and I was excited because I was really just trying to break into anything in L.A. I was eight years into comedy. I’m like a 33-year-old server. I was like, Am I going to make it in this industry? Because I’m barely making rent. He was there to see somebody else. He’s in the bathroom during my set, and he hears the audience’s reaction to me, then he runs out of the bathroom, and he didn’t even come up to me after the show. Emily Gordon, who was the producer, was like, “The Conan booker asked for your email. Is it okay if I give it to him?” I was like, “Yes!”
On Shaping His Late-night Set
I don’t think they were too concerned about the backlash on their end, but they told me not to do the joke. I was running a whole different set for two or so months. Then literally two weeks before, Buck was like, “We should do that joke.” So we altered my set completely because that’s a big chunk of it. And I was happy because that was my fucking all-star bit that I was just so proud of. But that’s what probably led to me being so terrified that day because I was like, Is this joke too risqué? Is this too much of a hazard? This going to be your first time on TV. I also was terrified because I mentioned I’m gay early in the set, and I talk about my family: Are all these things going to come back to get me? Because at that time, it felt like internet outrage was existing for the first time. People on Twitter were being fully big monsters. They were there for a while, but it was like a fever pitch because it was the last year of Obama. I was terrified. I was like, I’m mentioning all these things, and I can’t think of how many times I’ve seen another openly queer Black person on late night.
On Forgetting a Joke During His Taping
I do love this bit, but there’s something that did happen during that taping: I actually forgot my joke right in the middle of telling it. But then here’s the thing: They didn’t keep it. So I think it was the first time they ever gave a comic an edit. There’s a part of the set, if you watch it, where they just go to my back and then they pop up front real quick, and it was because I stood there and I forgot my joke. But no one was mean to me. It was truly the sweetest moment I ever had in my entire life because I was just like, “Oh, no, I forgot my joke,” and everyone’s laughing at my reaction. Then I was like, “Oh! I remembered it!” And everybody applauds — the biggest applause for me to finish the rest of my joke. Then I got right back into it.
I was so nervous that day because it was my first TV set. I was going to the bathroom every three minutes, pooping out nothing. Nothing was coming out. Barely anything except literally blood because I was so nervous and I get hemorrhoids really bad. I only ate, like, fruit that day. That was the most I could do. That, and I had warm Sprite like my mom gave me when I was a kid.
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