Erik Griffin Previews His New Comedy Special, ERIK GRIFFIN: AMERIKAN WARRIOR - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Erik Griffin Previews His New Comedy Special, ERIK GRIFFIN: AMERIKAN WARRIOR

June 8, 2018 by  

Erik Griffin

Erik Griffin in ERIK GRIFFIN: AMERIKAN WARRIOR. – Credit: JEREMY BARON/SHOWTIME.

Erik Griffin has spent the past two seasons playing comedian Ralph Carnegie on the Showtime series I’M DYING UP HERE, but he’s no stranger to the stand-up world himself. And with ERIK GRIFFIN: AMERIKAN WARRIOR (airing Friday, June 8 at 10/9c), the special marks Griffin’s second hour-long special. (And also the second consecutive special he’s done for Showtime timed to IDUH.)

“People should have an open mind,” Griffin says. “We live in a country where we’re supposed to be able to have peaceful dissent and conversations and different ideas. These are my ideas. You don’t have to agree, you can disagree, but you can agree. But the main point is I tried to do it in an entertaining way. This is an entertaining way of me expressing my views.”

Griffin breaks down his new special (and its unexpected timeliness), how he’s handling his shifting fanbase, and more…

What is your process like prior to taping the special?
First you think about things you want to talk about; is there a theme? Is there a through-line of things I want to do? And then it’s the matter of running it. I had to set up a lot of shows. then you run it, tape it, and trim the fat. Then you keep doing it and doing it to get it where you want it to.

How did your approach change this time compared to the first hour-long special you did last year?
I wanted it to look better: better lighting, look bigger. And I wanted it to not just be entertaining and funny, but I wanted to talk about things that were going on currently. I talked about the national anthem. I talked about #MeToo. I talked about Tiger Woods—he’s back in the news. I’m talking about a lot of things that are current. Specials aren’t what they used to be. Now it’s just about putting out content. So here’s some great content of mine.

And certainly the national anthem has been in the news a fair amount this week…
I have to send Trump a gift basket.

For you, what is the ideal amount of time to turn a special around? Does that impact the kinds of jokes you feel you can tell?
It really wasn’t even my choice. I released a special last year, even though it was taped a year before that, because they wanted it to be released with [I’M DYING UP HERE]. That was a longer roll out. I thought let me hit up Showtime early with, “Do you want to do another special.” They’re the ones—who when I told them the material I wanted to do—who were like, “Can you deliver it by this date?” They gave me a deadline, and that’s why I had to really buckle down and work hard on it, so here we are.

As a comedian, what is the balance you have to walk between telling topical jokes, but ones not too tied to a specific event that could make it feel dated?
It’s the times. This is just a sign of the times. People want things fast, they want to binge. They want to look at things and move on to the next. They used to call them specials because there were very few of them. We really shouldn’t call them that anymore. I think maybe 100 specials were made last year alone. They’re not special, it’s content. And if you’re putting out content, it should be topical.

What made Portland the right location for filming?
I’m from Los Angeles, so there’s not a hometown hero [aspect] for me. I wanted to go someplace different, that had a bit of a liberal slant. But also a young, hip [location]…I felt in the know. It was nothing other than that. I could have filmed it anywhere.

Another thing, too, is it was short notice. I had to find a place that was available, a good time. Theaters are booked months ahead of time. it really was where can I do this, where can I find a good crowd to get this topical stuff out so I can get it on the air.

In the instance of a filmed special, how much say do you have over the audience?
That’s the thing: if you put it out there “I’m coming to your town,” I’m hoping fans of mine and fans of comedy are going to show up. If you’re sensitive about people’s thoughts and ideas, I would think you’re not going to show up to a comedy show. So the people who did show up did seem ready.

I prefer a mixed crowd: mix of ages and races. I think when you can get a collective group of people who are so decidedly different to agree with laughter, I think that’s pretty special.

What is your mindset when the crowd gets rowdy—does it amuse you because you have something to work off of, or does it inspire some other kind of reaction?
I get angry. Imagine doing your job and someone is cutting in. How annoying would that be when you’re working? I’m trying to curb that. I’m trying to find a way to stay still. But it is hard. There are some people who just try your patience.

How has your work on IDUH impacted your crowds?
What’s happening is, I’m at a crossroads right now. I was on WORKAHOLICS for a long time. That show is still on Hulu; young people are still finding that show. And they’re coming. And people who have Showtime and watch a drama are older, they’re more savvy. Those crowds don’t necessarily blend. It’s a challenge.

I was in Florida, and I had a show where there were some older people in the crowd who were not feeling what I was saying. It turned into a situation where they walked out and then there was an older foursome in the front row, and I got so mad [about the walkout], I asked them what they’re even doing here. And then one of the ladies said to me very meekly, “We love you on I’M DYING UP HERE.” And then I thought to myself, “Jeez, I’m an asshole.” So I said, “Let’s start over.” There were WORKAHOLICS kids in the back and they were loving it. But it’s the first time I thought, oh, this is something I have to deal with. And I realized I have to address this.

Have you worked out how you’re going to handle that?
I think I’m going to actually talk about how I’m transitioning into thinking I’m young and hip, and actually, I’m old. I’m working on this to do another special: my music is now the old people’s music, and the young people make you feel out of touch. I think that galvanizes both sides. I think both sides are going to get it. I think the old people are going to be like, the young whippersnappers are making us feel old. And the young people are going to be like, “These old people, now they know they’re old.” I’m going to figure it out that way.

How involved were you with editing?
My director, Aristotle Athiras, he was great in that process. We sat down with the editor after the editor did a great pass and we just tweaked here and there. It was a collective effort in the editing process.

I imagine the entire set was not able to be aired uncut. From what you did cut, what led to those jokes and moments not making it to air?
All of it had to do with time. I had to kill some babies. There was some stuff I really wish had made it in, but it is what it is. You have to cut it down. Showtime says you have to deliver 58 minutes. So if I filmed 69 minutes, I had to figure out what to take out. It was challenging, but it was a collective effort with the editor and the director.

Any plans to release it digitally or elsewhere?
No, because it would just be weird! [Laughs.]

ERIK GRIFFIN: AMERIKAN WARRIOR, Friday, June 8, 10/9c, Showtime

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