Rochester’s King of Comedy

Rochester’s King of Comedy

Vinne Paulino has his hands into everything comedy. Whether he is headlining his own shows, running a slew of podcasts, hosting the oldest open mic in Rochester, and producing a television show Vinnie has so many things going at once I am surprised he even found the time to sit down with us. Thankfully he did and we got the chance to talk about ROCpodcats, what it takes to be a comedian, and his own show The Rochester Show.

When was your first time on stage?

In Rochester, my first time on stage was 2003. But the first time I ever stepped on a comedy stage was when I was living in Fort Worth, Texas in 2001. I went on stage on a dare at an open mic. I stumbled into [the open mic] with my friends; I was too young to be drinking but was drinking anyway. I forget the places name but it was gone within six months.

I went up and did a set about bum fights, apparently some guy got arrested for making homeless people fight for ten bucks. I said that ten bucks was ridiculous because they are fighting for the equivalent of the dollar menu. That was my big punchline. I would never do a joke like that again it was stupid and terrible I had no idea what I was doing.

So the first time was a dare. What made you get back on stage?

I did it a couple times at that bar before it closed; nothing too serious. I moved back to Rochester because my dad died. When I was living up here I found out the Comics Cafe had an open mic. I went there twice and never went back I was miserable about my dad, so I just stopped for a really long time.

What made me go back though: once you do it and you are kind of good at it, you feel really guilty about not trying to keep doing it. It is one of those things that would kill you if you decided not to do it anymore. When you stop preforming you can go months and months without thinking about it but once you start thinking about it again you start feeling self regret. I always wanted to do it when I was a kid, that dare was a god send.

When I was a kid I would watch stand up specials on Comedy Central. One of my favorites was Drew Carey’s Human Cartoon. I always wanted to do it so once you stop its very hard not to go back.

Whats the writing process like when you are coming up with material?

I am weird I write in chunks and then I self edit after I write a large amount. I never sit down with the intention to write jokes. Things kind of come to me; like a punch line will come to me and I will write the set up later. I keep a note book and if I get an idea in my head while I’m driving I’ll pull over and jot a sentence down. Every once in a great while the dam will break and I will sit down and write two pages worth of material.

Was it strange getting on stage at first?

I couldn’t look at the crowd at all. When I was a kid I was terrified of public speaking. When I was a kid I had to do a presentation for D.A.R.E. We had to write a paper and apparently mine was very compelling because they picked me to read it in front of the whole school. I was visibly shaking trying to get through it.

I couldn’t look at the crowd and I paced when I first started preforming. I remember hearing laughs but I don’t remember anyone’s faces. It took a while to calm down enough to try to engage the people I was talking at.

In comedy you have to get into a rhythm and get comfortable. I am not scared of crowds anymore it doesn’t phase me. If I do get nervous it is because its a giant crowd but I end up alright. Once I get to the stage the nervousness goes away.

So you went from preforming at open mics to running open mics around the city. How did that come about?

I run the Boulder Open Mic now which is the longest running open mic in the city. That is the room where I got really comfortable with doing comedy. I was always there on Sunday nights. The kid who was running it when I started was the second host, then my good friend Bryan Ball took it over. Tthere would be times when he couldn’t do it and I would fill in for him.When he eventually stopped doing it I was already the fill in guy so the job fell to me.

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Whats it like seeing all of these comedians come in and out every week?

It can be frustrating and good at the same time. I really love watching guys grow and get good. There are some guys when they started I thought they never had a prayer in anything but really developed and came up with some really good stuff. Suddenly you are watching them and something clicked and now they are working on a great set.

Do you think people can be naturally good at stand up or do they have to go through the shitty period of sucking at open mics?

I don’t think everybody can do it. I think you have to have something in you to be able to do it. What it is, I don’t know, just the right spark of lunacy and balls.

What do you think of the comedy scene in Rochester?

Its great. We have had multiple clubs open up recently. Comedy has become really hot in this city.

Do you think we re getting into a golden age of comedy?

Maybe it has, but I feels like its gong a different way too. I have talked to some very smart people in the business that comedy is going to become more regional. Regional acts are going to develop instead of national ones. New York City might become burnt out. I don’t know its weird, comedy is a roller coaster. It became huge in the eighties and then became a joke in the nineties.

Do podcasts help comedians?

I do. Marc Maron has interviewed the fucking President of the United States. A comedian, a comedian that no one cared about, and had the worst career ever interviewed the President. He even said he was going nowhere and that this was a last ditch thing. I think Maron lead a different Renaissance for comedians in this age.

Comedians are weird people, we are not for everyone, most don’t socially adjust well. When we are together we thrive because we are like a bunch of monkeys throwing crap at each other but [podcasting] really opened up a lot of things for comedy. A lot of podcasts came out of satellite radio.

The idea that technology could allow you to make your own shows and that there are markets for other voices other than radio. Now comedians could do something other than hit the road. Podcasting was perfect, what do comedians do better other than talk and analyze the world?

How do you get into podcasting yourself?

I was asked to. My friend, and fellow comedian, Ryan Schutt came to me and asked if I wanted to do an internet radio show. He had a friend from Entercom who had all the equipment needed to do a show. I had never thought about making a show but the door opened for me so I rolled with it. I created an idea for the show and brought in talent that is still doing the show today. Ryan Schofield, Mike Barry, Bryan Mcbride, Kevin Reynolds, those guys have all been there since 2012. Its been a long run.

What was the progression from having your own show to setting up the ROCpodcast network?

We ended up not doing the show at the other guys apartment. Mostly because I am crazy, Ryan Schutt and I always wanted to kill each other. I ended up buying my own stuff and investing in my own studio, I built it in my attic. My whole idea was to get my show out of obscurity and help bring other peoples shows to the light as well.

When I started looking around there were a lot of other podcasts in the area and no was was really getting recognized. Why not in a city that embraces themselves embrace a community that already exists? Ryan Schofield was the first guy who created a show in my studio and after that I just started reaching out to people. Its has become a great community with the premise of everyone working together. Really a by product of my Italian Union building genes kicking in.

Well now the Rochester Show is on TV as well as a podcast how was the switch from a talk radio format to television?

Oh it was the worst, worst experience of my life. I wanted to put something out that was good and starting out we were not that good. I didn’t know how people would react to what our show was. Who would ever want to watch me do anything? Why would you want to watch me bitch? People are used to listening to people on the radio but when you are just watching someone sit there and bitch it becomes boring. To sit down in front of a computer to watch a podcast gets dicey you need to make it visual and keep it entertaining.

A lot of throwing things against the wall to see what sticks?

Yes constantly, our walls are covered with shit. Who knows whats going to work and whats going to be funny. We have had really funny bit and we have had some really horrible bits but at the end of the day who gives a fuck?

Do you think traditional radio is on its way out?

I think it is more of a level playing field now even radio is moving to the internet now. Whats really is going to end up happening is everything is going to become internet base because that is where car technology is going. Ipods got popular and now there were auxiliary jacks in cars. Now that everything is streaming there will be WiFi in cars and all of your stations will be apps. IHeart Radio already has an app and is picking up popular podcasts to be on its network.

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Do you think the FCC is becoming irrelevant and fading?

No I don’t think its going anywhere as long as there are public airwaves. As long as people use public airwaves the FCC has a mandate to police those channels. They will always try to find was to regulate stuff but with the internet is hard to do that. They might be irrelevant but who knows what they will do to stay relevant. Right now they have nothing to do with podcasts and lets keep it that way god willing.

Is it tough going from TV to podcast to stand up?

Its hell. [Rochester Show] isn’t just me I have other people who work with me that are very used to doing podcasts. Mike Barry will go into a rant about a guy who left a titty bar and jerked off onto someone’s Jaguar. T hat is not something you can put on television, but you can say that on a podcast. We do have to be careful to edit stuff out. The good thing is we are on YouTube and on the podcast so the only thing that might get edited is the TV show.

Whats the hardest thing about making a living entertaining people?

Getting people to pay you for it. You have to really get yourself out there the best you can. It is a buyers market because there are so many people out there so you have to really prove that you are good. Not for nothing but what do people actually think comedy is worth anymore? Comedy Central is on TV but how many people who put on regular comedy shows?

So what do you see yourself doing next?

Well I don’t see myself stopping anything I’m doing so we will see how that goes. I do want to work on comedy more this last year and a half have been the best time for me as a comedian. I have been being paid to headline which is something you dream of as a comic. It made me really work just on comedy again. I almost have a renewed passion for it because I feel like I have hit a new level.

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