Interview: Andrew Ginsburg (2012)
"I'm a New Yorker; I have no patience.”
“Thought-provoking, offensive, and hopefully funny.”
That’s how Andrew Ginsburg describes his comedy to those who haven’t had the chance to catch his act. He’s a stand-up comic who’s been “in the ring” for nine years and who plans to write and perform for the rest of his life. Yet, he probably doesn’t have to explain his act too often, considering the many clubs he’s played, including The Improv, Caroline’s on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club to name a few. He’s also played several colleges, getting his start in stand-up comedy towards the end of his college years. For the unlucky few who don’t know what they’re missing out on, they can pick up Ginsberg’s latest comedy album Pumping Irony (Pink Room Records).
Andrew Ginsburg is a bit of a rarity in the comedy world in that he’s also a personal trainer and champion bodybuilder. “I don't know any other bodybuilder comedians on the comedy circuit,” he says. “I guess nobody else needs that much attention to compensate for the lack of love they received a kid. Apparently, I do and that creates a problem.” Comedy is about being vulnerable so that people can feel comfortable laughing at you. That’s difficult for Ginsburg when the audience sees him as a physical threat. As such, he’s quick to disarm the crowds by convincing them that he’s “220 pounds of overcompensation” and that his muscles are “character armor” to protect his low self-esteem. “My past relationships with women also help this cause by portraying me as a really nice guy that women take advantage of.”
Interviewing Ginsburg it’s hard to tell which side of his double life he takes more seriously since he’s already won three bodybuilding titles and tries to compete once a year. He also privately trains six to eight clients a day six to seven days a week. And even though he has to travel to make comedy gigs, he still manages to find a gym wherever he is and eat healthily. “And if I eat anything late night, it's either chicken with broccoli or a protein shake. In other words, the typical late night comic diet minus the cocaine.”
Yet, his comedy roots go deep, all the way back to his teenage years, watching George Carlin’s special on HBO called Jammin’ in New York. “I was 14 and laughed so hard I was tearing.” His first foray into stand-up comedy didn’t go well, and yet it ended well just the same. “I gave stand-up a shot my senior year at an open mike at Chops Lounge in The Holiday Inn basement by Fenway Park and completely bombed. After the show, I met Boston comedy legend, Teddy Bergeron, the first comedian to ever ‘get the couch’ on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He thought I had potential and taught me the ropes of comedy. He also became one of my best friends and after just three months in comedy, I opened for Teddy Bergeron at Boston University in front of my classmates and professors. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Of course, times have changed since the Carson days of comedy, and Andrew Ginsburg is acutely aware of this fact. “Everybody is doing comedy now. Anyone who made their grandma laugh at a family barbecue is stepping on stage. There is a big difference between a person who does comedy and a comedian. One writes every day, edits, performs, and edits. The other brings their friends to a club on a Tuesday and has fun with a microphone.” He also talks about what it’s like to try and write new material with the all-knowing Internet looking over his shoulder. “I don't care what the others are doing and tend to just write freely. My writing is very different than most comics and if a topic isn't original to me, I won't write about it. That means no Facebook jokes, no airplane safety jokes, no socks in the dryer jokes, no Viagra or Paxil or Valtrex jokes. No acronym jokes, no knock knock jokes, no women faking orgasm jokes. You get it.”
“I make note of anything that pisses me off, contradicts itself, or is just plain stupid. Then I learn as much as possible about the topic and start throwing darts at it. Some of them hit, some fall flat, and it's always exciting! Of course, if it's a personal experience I'm writing about, it's less research and typically more emotional.” He adds, “I try to make the writing as clear, concise, and funny as possible and then try it out. If it bombs, I'll try it again possibly changing things. If it doesn't work the second time, I chuck it. I'm a New Yorker; I have no patience.”
Given Ginsburg’s uniqueness within the stand-up comedy world, it’s interesting to know that his comedy album Pumping Irony has very little fitness humor in it, despite the loaded title and cover art, which showcases one of Ginsburg’s biceps that could probably curl a car. “It was because I haven't really wanted to talk about it until now,” he explains. “Women were the main focus because I was dating a lot and that has been my biggest struggle. I am now ready to go there fully and plan on performing a new 30-minute set, September 19th at Caroline’s on Broadway based strictly [on] nutrition, the fitness industry, training people, and bodybuilding. A funny how-to guide, so to speak.”
Nevertheless, Pumping Irony is Ginsburg at his best and also one of the best ways for newcomers to get into his comedy. The artist himself lists this recorded performance as his best comic experience, stating, “I thought my timing and pacing was on and felt really good. The Boston University show my senior year in college is a close second.”
Despite the number of charlatans that plague open-mikes and YouTube videos, stand-up comedy isn’t for everyone. It takes grit, determination and old fashioned talent to get any kind of traction in the business. Luckily for Andrew Ginsburg, he’s overflowing in those qualities and more. Before the interview ended, he succinctly summed up just how difficult stand-up comedy is when asked to choose the more difficult task: bodybuilding competition or telling jokes on stage.
“Telling jokes; you're not waiting for laughs in bodybuilding.”
Get your digital copy of Andrew Ginsburg’s Pumping Irony on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and other e-tailers.