There are some âadult conceptsâ in this interview â if youâre likely to be offended by a great comedianâs honesty, please check out other entries on this blog that donât carry this warning.
Still with me? Excellent. Sam Tripoli is a comedian Iâd not heard of before The Laugh Garage had him on posters as an up-coming double-header with Nikki
Lynn Katt. I was pleased to discover him to be not only hilariously clever, but a pleasure to chat to after the gig â heâs so naturally funny off stage and generous with feedback for other comics. I hope this is the first of many visits to Australia, because as I write this, his residency at The Laugh Garage is nearly over and not enough people â comics and punters â will have had the opportunity to see him.
Weâre discussing doppelgangers, because I reckon this American comic has a touch of the John Turturros, particularly about the eyes and cheeks, but also around the mouth. And his American accent, to my ears, carries a similar Italian-American tinge. But you canât draw an eyes-and-cheeks-based comparison to John Turturro without also including Al Pacino in the mix.
âI get that too,â Sam concedes. âA little bit of youngâ I hope still young! â Al Pacino.â
âI do that all the time,â Sam confesses. âI go up on stage and forget the whole thing. I just gotta take it slow and it all comes to me and I hope I piece it together naturallyâ¦â
Case in point was the night a member of a very boisterous audience indeed posed an unexpected question during a bit Sam does about a guy who died in the process of trying to have sex with a horse. The laughter had started to die down after Samâs punchline, but before he could move on, someone yelled out, âhow was the horse?â
âHow was the horse?â Sam echoed the question â seemingly in disbelief, but it might have been more a case of, âThank you, comedy gods, for dropping this in my lapâ than, âWhy would you even ask that?â âThe horse was fine,â he improvised, âbragging to all its friends, âyou know those people who jump on our backs and ride us around? I f*cked one of them. To death. High hoof! High hoof!ââ And then as the laughter started to subside again, he was able to move on to the next bit. Of course, youâd only know there was a ânext bitâ to move on to if youâd already seen him perform without an audience member posing that question.
Ultimately, Sam concludes, this approach to comedy constitutes âthe better way to workâ because âyou canât get buriedâ. Thereâs no wrong turn when youâre a great comic; the audience relaxes in the knowledge that you know where youâre going; theyâre there to be taken on the ride, enjoying all the sharp turns, tight corners and even the odd spot of road rage if it takes place!
Long road to get here
The reason Sam Tripoli is such an excellent driver is because heâs trained for it all his life. âI wanted to be a stand-up since the day I can remember consciousness,â he says. âThe moment I realised I was a being, I wanted to tell jokes.â Friends remember him in first grade doing just that: getting on top of his desk to perform. He is, he says, the only guy who ever went into high school with the one goal, to be class clown. âI dedicated the next six years to achieving that. Everything Iâve done was with the hopes of becoming a stand-up comic at some point.â
âYou know what, man?â Sam sets me straight.
âThe fact Iâm not pumping gas for a living â my familyâs fine with what Iâm
doing.â Admittedly, Sam does tell us as part of his routine that his dadâs a
bit of a gambler â a former âspecial edâ teacher who got into trouble not so
much for educating the kids about odds and probability by teaching them how to
play poker, as cleaning them out in the process. His mother, on the other hand,
is âa bit of a celebrityâ in their home town. Irrespective, Samâs folks were âreally supportive, right out
of the gateâ. Rather than asking him when heâd get a real job, they just
accepted that this was the one. And perhaps that has something to do with coming
from Cortland, 30 miles out of Syracuse in upstate New York. Itâs the so-called
âcrown cityâ because it is the city with the highest altitude in New York.
The âwog mulletâ isnât unheard of â although, letâs face it, itâs usually embarrassingly frizzy. But such issues of identity didnât impinge on Sam until he left Cortland for the âbig smokeâ.
âShadyâ is an interesting concept. Samâs material deals with a lot of âshadyâ topics. Heâs even dedicated a web page to it. He translates it as âtroublesomeâ, for our benefit, the night I see him, but I think âcreepyâ would be closerâ¦
âThe whole bit comes from watching the news and just seeing some man âArrested! Committing horrible crimes!â And then they show him, and itâs like, âHow did you not know that guy was up to no good? He looks shady!â Thatâs where it came from.â
Samâs list of things that are shady include âwhite girls with dreadlocks â SHADY! Lawyers with ponytails â SHADY! Anybody who owns a sword â SHADY! Anybody who drives a taxi â SHADY! Anybody who drives an icecream truck â SHADY! White guys who always wear khaki pants â SHADY! Anybody with a gold tooth â SHADY! Anybody with a tattoo on their face â SHADY!â
shady cool mum is hittable. But there is some shady shit Sam knows to steer
well clear of. Like hitchhikers.
âAnybody who hitchhikes is a shady f*ck,â he insists, âcos that means you donât have anyone in your life who likes you enough to give you a ride. And because I know the signs of shady, Iâll never end up being the victim of some mass murderer or psycho killer like Jason Vorhees or Mike Myers because Iâve watched enough horror flicks to know that shits about to go bad. Like pickinâ up a hitchhiker. Every movie where someoneâs pickinâ up a hitchhiker, itâs like, âHey, Captain Creepy, you need a ride? Awesome. Jump in. Let me drive you to where youâre gonna dump my body. Thatâll be sweet.ââ
Indeed, Sam Tripoli has a wealth of wisdom, gleaned from cinema. âIf youâre ever in the forest and your friends are missing,â he advises, âshout for them three times. If you donât hear from them, assume their dead, get out of there. If they update their Facebook, then you know they made it back.â
But thereâs more:
Perhaps âthe dirty comicâ is who Sam always was, but it seems he hadnât totally given in to his âshadyâ side more recently. He admits he used to be a âvery politicalâ comic â until he realised, after the 2004 United States Pesidential Election, that it no longer mattered.
âI saw George Carlin on Real Time with Bill Maher,â Sam recalls. âThey kept asking him about politics and he kept saying, âI donât careâ and it didnât play well. But I got it. âIt doesnât matter. It doesnât matter.â I realised that, after this guy committed all his war crimes and they re-elected him. âWhy am I up here preaching about this shit when they donât even give a f*ck?â So all my stories on stage now are real stories from my real life. Thatâs what Iâm working on right now.â
Real stories. About real life. In Samâs case, that does mean, at the very least, âshady'. And we have strong elements of it in the local comedy scene, heâs pleased to note. âThat's something Iâve really liked about working with the up-and-comers out here,â he says of his Australian visit. âTheyâre smart and thereâs some dirtiness. In LA theyâre either one or the other: theyâre either intellectually trying to jerk themselves off, or theyâre actually jerking off on stage.â
The other truth Sam is embracing is the fact that, by a certain age, men have started to wonder what their âlegacyâ will be. âWhat are we gonna be remembered for?â he asks, pointing out that men are remembered for three things, essentially: âcreating something great, achieving something great, or going on an amazing crime spreeâ. Iâll give you three guesses which of those things shady Sam Tripoli most wants to be remembered for. But youâll only need one.
What? What sort of crime spree can you go on that doesnât hurt someone at some level?
âI want to go on a crime spree of awesomeness where people go, âthatâs the shit!â Thatâs where Iâm at. Thatâs the kind of person I am. I wanna be the Robin Hood of sex, laughs and bad decisions. I wanna steal from the rich and give it to the girls who want to party. Thatâs all I wanna do.â