You might recognize today’s BR!NKer from VH1’s old show, Best Week Ever, but you might not know he’s also responsible for the hilarious viral blog, book, and (consequently) the popular phrase: Look At This Fucking Hipster. Joe Mande is a comic whose career is, in many ways, just taking off – despite already-achieved successes as a writer, author, and comedian. He sticks out as a rising figure in the comedy world; he was named “Best New Comedian” by Time Out New York in 2009, and our past BR!NKer and comedy veteran, Marc Maron, identified him as a certain up-and-coming figure that we should all be watching out for. Daily BR!NK caught Mande while he was in L.A. for an audition, and he sat down to chat about the blog, the book deal, and his snarky and side-splitting Twitter account.
What do you identify as, professionally, if someone asks you what you do?
It depends. If it’s a stranger, I just say I’m a writer because I don’t want to say I’m a comedian.
Because 90 percent of the time the person will say, “Make me laugh,” “Tell me a joke,” or, “Tell me one of your bits,” which is so obnoxious because I’m, clearly, not that guy. [laughter]
I mean, you know, after just meeting me for thirty seconds… But yeah, I normally just say I’m a writer. Which isn’t lying, I am a writer, too.
Do you write for comedy, or do another type of writing?
I write for my blog, but I also write for TV.
Speaking of TV, you were on Best Week Ever for a while.
Yeah, rest in peace.
It was such a good show!
Yeah, it was sort of my first job in “show biz,” or whatever. Some friends recommended me for it, and I did that for maybe two years. There aren’t very many jobs in New York for TV and movies, so it was a really fun opportunity.
A lot of comedians seem to be involved in either sketch comedy or standup, but you’re a standup who’s really involved with Upright Citizens Brigade.
After Aziz [Ansari] moved to L.A,, they sort of had me be their go-to standup guy. They’ve been very cool, and I’ve done one-man shows there. I’m there a lot, which is cool, considering I’m not a sketch or improv person at all.
Are you involved with UCBLA when you come out here?
Yeah, actually, my schedule got sort of rearranged, but I was supposed to do a Glenn Beck show out here last week, (I adapted Glenn Beck’s novel into a screenplay and I do live readings of the screenplay) and I do Comedy Death-Ray when I’m out here, or I’ll do Paul Scheer’s show.
Do you find that there’s a difference between doing standup in NY versus standup in LA, especially in terms of the crowds?
Somewhat. I did The Meltdown show with my friends Jonah Ray and Kumail [Nanjiani]. That show, to me, sort of felt like a New York show. Everyone crowds into a little room, so it has that sort of intimate feel. That’s the great thing about New York – some of the best shows are these really cramped weird rooms in the back of bars. That’s sort of how I grew up in the New York scene, doing weird indie shows.
Also, I do sort of longer-form standup. And I think I’ve noticed sometimes, not all the time, but some rooms I’ve done in L.A. I’ve seen people just tune out. I think maybe a lot of comics, especially out here, are kind of setup-punchline, setup-punchline, or one-liners, and that’s not really my style. But at the same time, I love coming out here, and I love doing shows, so I don’t really mind it.
So what’s the rundown of your history as a comic?
I grew in St. Paul, Minnesota. I went to a high school that, for some reason, has become this weird breeding ground for comedians. Nick Swardson went there, my friend Charlie Sanders… But there was an improv group at my school that I joined. Which was weird in the sense that I wasn’t really that extroverted, but I just knew that I wanted to do it. This kid, Trevor, was like, “Why are you trying out? You’re not funny.” And I honestly think I started my whole career to spite this one kid in ninth grade who told me I wasn’t funny.
I’ve always been obsessed with comedy. As a little kid I would watch Comedy Central, the standup shows, and I just had this weird feeling I would end up in New York, wearing an ugly sweater, telling jokes onstage. So then I started dabbling in standup when I was a senior in high school. But I must have quit doing standup like ten times.
Really, why’s that?
Well, I’d do these open mic nights. There was a comedy club in the Mall of America with one. So I’m this little kid in St. Paul going to the Mall of America and performing for housewives from Nebraska and Japanese tourists, telling abortion jokes and edgy stuff that I thought was really funny. And everyone hated it, obviously. Mortifying. And every time I did that, I would leave saying, “Fuck that shit, I hate that shit, I’m never going to do that again.”
So I don’t really count that as starting standup. It wasn’t anything. I started for real in college. I went to Emerson, in Boston, and started going with a group of friends to open mic nights.
So let’s talk about Look At This Fucking Hipster. What’s interesting to me is that it was an anonymous blog for a long time, right?
Yeah, for a long time. So, my parents came in town for my dad’s birthday and I live in Williamsburg, and I took them out to dinner, and when we got out of the subway, my dad’s head exploded because he had never seen hipsters before. He’s like, “What the fuck is going on?” Every time he had a question, he just got more and more confused. “Well, are they against the war?” “Can there be Asian hipsters?” A couple days later, I was at home and I was curious how Tumblr worked, so I started one. I had pictures on my iPhone of people who made me laugh at the grocery store or on the subway, ridiculous people in my neighborhood. I started it as a joke, and I sent the link to my dad and like two friends. And within that week it just… blew up. That wasn’t my intent at all. It was anonymous because it was kind of mean, and I’m not a mean dude. I’ve always felt sort of uneasy about that. After a month, I started getting weird emails from publishers, asking, “Do you want to turn this into a book?” And I’m like, “No, I don’t…” I really didn’t. And then, this guy had been going around to publishing houses saying he was the author, trying to get a book deal. So then I stepped in, contacted people, and in that process, I found out that I really could make a book out of it.
The book itself was crazy, because they gave me three months to write it, but two of those months were held up in legal issues over photo releases. It’s a rushed work. It’s gotten a good response, but to me it sort of felt like a college paper. I spent all-nighters the week up to it just trying to get this book nailed down. I spent a lot of my advance money getting pictures of celebrities from Getty Images, because I wanted the book to be different from the website. The celebrity and historical parts of the book are the parts that I think are the best.
You have a hilarious Twitter account, but it’s funny to me that you mentioned keeping the LATFH blog anonymous maybe because it’s a little mean. But your Twitter has no qualms about being “mean.”
I have no regrets about making fun of Chris Brown, or David Vitter… fuck those people. My whole thing with Twitter is that I like the dynamic of celebrities and politicians being like, “Hey, this is an open forum!” and it’s clearly not. If they don’t have an intern writing it, everything is so antiseptic and careful. And if it’s someone like David Vitter, such a fucking hypocrite creep… it’s so funny that I can make fun of a senator – a person who is very powerful – and he can’t do anything to me. You know, maybe my phone’s tapped, but it’s funny.
What can Daily BR!NK do to help you right now? Anyone we can connect you with?
I don’t have eye insurance. So if there are any optometrists in New York, I need to get my eyes checked. I used to work at an eyeglasses store, and I have like twelve pairs of glasses, but I know the prescription’s off, but…the doctor left. Nothing makes me more anxious than trying to find a doctor. I got new dental insurance and had to find a new dentist… the dentist I went to… it wouldn’t have been okay even in Haiti. It was awful. Ever since then, I get so nervous that I don’t end up going to the doctor because I can’t deal with it.
Are you an optometrist in New York City? No one can look at those fucking hipsters without the right prescription. Send him an e-mail!