A few weeks ago I sent out a Face Book post looking for people to be interviewed and one of the many responses I got back was from a guy that goes by the name of “Otto, the Comic”. I try to do as much homework I as I can on each person I interview so I looked up his YouTube videos and his website to get some idea of what to ask him. Well, it turns out that out of all of the interviews I have done, this one is the most enlightening one I have done to date. Otto reminds me of a rock a billy Bill Nye the science guy type and that my friends is by no means an insult. Otto is cool and clever, darn near a scientist and in a world of Comedians choosing F bombs” over being being funny, Otto is a rare gem and chooses not to drop the “f bombs” just for a laugh. His jokes aren’t fillers either. He may not follow the 1,2,3 punchline of a joke but if you listen and pay attention you will get the thought provoking joke and laugh yourself silly. If you get a chance, just ask him about the wood shop teacher and you’ll get what I mean. The interview is awesome and he kicked in a New York Pizza dough recipe to boot… You can’t beat that!
1. Hello Otto, and welcome to Kickacts. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 53 , 23 years clean & sober, born in NYC, my dad was a scientist for BELL LABS, that brought us to Indiana in 1968. I love Indiana & Indy. As a performer it’s a perfect place to be located… I’m classified as a “weirdo – or character” by the comedy industry. My act is unique. I am not a “one-two -three” type of comedian, I also never swear , complain , or pick on people… I want to be a positive influence for people. I want people to feel good , just by watchin’ my show.
2. You worked in the restaurant business according to another interview for 26 years. That isn’t a job, that’s a career. So did you walk away from it all or still dabble in it?
I have been in the restaurant industry since 1976, started as buss/boy dish-man, and worked up to manager. I’ve had a couple businesses on my own, as a solo t-shirt artist that blew up into a 5 employee screen printing shop. I had a flower delivery service ” Ricky’s late night flowers” in 1985 and won Best Flower Service Of Indy from Indianapolis Monthly magazine. as a cook my spinach melt was voted Best Sandwich, also by INDY Monthly, I can’t remember the exact year.1998?. I started doing comedy in 2002, and have had manager/cook jobs to pay the bills and keep me from starving as an artist…
Indiana makes it really hard to be a small business owner, i was lucky to make $$ in the 3 i created
3. When your not performing, what do you do for a living to pay the bills?
I currently work at Fastimes Indoor Karting INDY , as manager / cook- in the day time.. I get all the “show-biz” days off I need
4. You use a dinner bell type thing during your stand up. It that a “tip of the Hat” to the restaurant days or to something else?
The “bell” arrived at show # 400. I’m up to 1681 as of today.. My scientist dad told me I had to “figure a way ” to help the audience “get” my act / or make them laugh. (( It’s like Pavlov’s Dog )) . The first time they laugh ( usually within 15 seconds, I hit the bell.. Next good laugh, also in the first minute, I hit the bell again… Then during the set, when one of the jokes doesn’t get 100 %, I hit the bell , and of course – they laugh ( thanks Pavlov).. Deep into the set , I tell a “hard to get ” joke, and an audience member will say “hit the bell” and everyone laughs……………… I do have an R rated story joke about the bell / and someone “sending a steak back” but…
I’m known as Otto the comic , the guy with the Bell..
The “the comic” came from Face Book not letting me be just” Otto” so I added the comic as a last name and it worked.. It’s the title of my web site also, which is getting updated in October.
I didn’t touch a computer until 2006, so I’m kind of a dinosaur in this electronic world. I am show biz meat, tell me where , when, and how much time you want me to do.
Oh yeah, I had a broken neck for 21 years, and didn’t know it… I thought it was carpel tunnel syndrome… kids – DON’T DO DRUGS
5. Who do you look up to as a hero and why?
….My entire family. Each person has their own specialty, first the dead ones-
Rose- or Nanny, our grandma,, She put a bumper sticker on her car at age 76 ( to cover a rust spot) that said …” I Refuse to get old”…She came over “on the boat” from Germany, did the Ellis Island thing, always smiling and singing happy songs. She said I was her best friend. She was fading away with Alhziemers & said she wasn’t gonna die until I sold out a comedy club. One day in a moment of clarity , she asked , “Did you sell out a show yet ?”. ( I did at the Cracker’s Comedy Club , Bripple). I said “Well, yes I did”. She died 2 hours later.
Mom , the most angry she ever got , she’d say “That wasn’t nice” and you knew you did something really bad.. I was lucky to see her put her LAST cigarette out .. She said” That’s it , I’m done ” and 35 years of smoking was over .. Never lit another.. So when I needed to become clean & sober I thought , “Man if Mom can quit cigs ( which are scientifically designed to HOOK you,) then I should be able to quit drugs and alcohol. It will be 23 years on Oct 28, 2011.
Mary , my oldest sister, she took control of my finances and I had to check in with her every other day for 2 years and that got me off the dope. She smoked too many cigarettes and died age 54 of lung cancer. She was also a waitress with a following of 100’s.
My Dad . Karl, scientist for Bell Labs. Brilliant , and smart enough to know that his kids were not going to be him. Never raised a voice , except for SAFETY reasons. If we did something wrong , he’d ask questions and figure out how we ended up “thinking wrong ” in the first place…He put himself through college leaving his basketball friends on the court ( 3 of those guys ended up in the NBA). He gave me my work ethic. “”you can do it wrong all day , or once right””. He loved watching Road Runner cartoons. He said the coyote would catch Road Runner , if he checked his math.. ….. Otto says — there are only 2 true constants, everywhere the SAME – math & laughter.
2 brothers , Karl – “Butch” older , and Mark – “rapper” younger.. Butch made it through Architecture at Ball State, our only “college grad” . Because of him in high school, no one would mess with me. “Rapper” , he fell into the restaurant industry with me . He’s the most bad ass chef/ cook anywhere. He’s way bigger than me and never kicked my ass… He is my best friend and he’s the masked man playing bass in my band.
3 other sisters, Jayna – Talked me out of neck surgery. Whew, that was close. Heidi, married & mom of three, 16 year old daughter, 10 yr old Chinese gal, and a 4 year old handful of boy with Autism- (luckily they have the $$ to get him properly schooled). You’d never guess he has an issue ….. and Gretchen – she’s my “manager” she’s a full blown artist / creative writer out in Calif.. We are chronic pain buddies. She just turned 40.
6. Comedians have been said to be some of the most unhappiest people in the world since they give away all their laughter to everyone else. Think that is a true statement?
“Most” comics have a deep seeded crisis inside. Many from bad childhoods. Me, I did myself in with the dope (from age 20 to 30 ). I had a perfect childhood… I’m a comic from sadness.. I have some major “sad events” that put me a deep depression, cooking helped, but not enough… I knew the only way out was to ‘laugh it out” no matter however long it took… what keeps comics coming back? Well for me it was starting comedy was worse than my real life, but the “end goal” ( movies . tv, radio ) IS an attainable goal… So if you keep at it, life does get better. My first 350 shows were full of “YOU SUCK” !!… The first few times in a comedy club, with many comics all around each other you’d think, “”Wow , what a happy bunch of people but”” NO WAY”. It’s a twisted bunch of mental madness. Luckily I was 44 and they couldn’t “bust my balls” like the young Nu-bee’s… When you get to the “pay Level” of comedy, the Headliner’s who have 15 + years in are VERY NICE people… They have endured what no-one should ever have to as part of “job Training / school”. So they are set. No one can take that way from them. I rather fight 5 marines than get in a tussle with a comic. They’d swarm like Killer Bees to help each other….. Also WHAT industry has “CONTESTS” to determine who works?? ….short review….yes most are “some type of sad or emotional “tick” “… That’s why there’s 3 comics on stage and 400 people in the audience. Comics are truly a special breed…
7.Your act is a positive act and not a “Blue” act. I even thought the wood shop teacher asking for 3 volunteers and u hold up two fingers was pretty good (see I do my homework :)). Is it harder to write material that is positive and do you think some comedians use foul language and shock because they have run out of ideas?
If you want to “WORK” as a comic,you must be clean, or at least MOSTLY clean… When you’re established , you can do whatever you want… But early in the “game ” you will NOT be asked to be in the show if you are a large % filthy
…. I’m invited into a lot of events because people KNOW I can be depended on to be audience friendly and I’m unusual… I do have a “bar ” show that is somewhat R rated but I’m not doing that set in A COMEDY CLUB… As a restaurant person, I swear like a trucker, but NEVER on stage… If you watch a “blue” comic and take out the F-Bombs, what is left ??? I’d rather be slightly amusing than 1 % offensive.. – An easy laugh is foul language.- I’d rather work hard at a real comic gem, than just say fuck-it.
………………Some audience members don’t want to hear Positive-thought -provoking material, they want the R rated – easy – stuff … they think I “SUCK”, which is ok to me.
8. I don’t believe for one minute 53 is “old”, Hell I am 46 and still play too and feel no older than probably 20. I get tired of everyone saying if you aren’t rich and famous before 30 its game over. How do you feel about that?’
Age is JUST a number. Your body’s cells re-generate every 7 years, so at 49, you’ve got a new system # 7. Next June I’ll be 54 system, so it’s system# 8 …… People POISON themselves with daily bad habits. When I look out of my eyes my brain thinks I’m 18 . I quit all the dopes at age 30 and am kind of frozen in time… Many of my favorite foods in the past had Sodium Benzoate as the preservative… I think it kept me young looking too… I got some grey hair , but those came in the last few years. My brothers are snow white like my dad………….. at about age 30 !! That’s when life just starts. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t hit the stage until he was 40… I started at age 44. I have MORE energy than almost every kid ( under age 25) that I know and what is “rich” anyway… I think it’s people loving me and knowing I’m a “good guy” and I take time to be nice to people… It’s “GAME OVER” when you quit… When you decide you don’t care about your fellow man. .. I love everybody. Why not ??
9.Any advice you would like to give to someone entering the Comedian field?
If you are starting comedy, be ready for a grueling ride. You show up with your dreams in your arms and they slap them to the floor and grind them into dirt and tell you you better be back next week. And it happens again, week after week ………, It’s a giant BILLION dollar industry and it’s not to “played ” with. It’s serious. Many comics think they are going to end up on TV or movies, etc… There are only about 50 comics on TV. Every Tuesday night there are 20 “comics” in 100’s of clubs across the country. Some easy math for you. 20 X 500 = 10,000 “comics”…What makes anyone think they can be 1 of those 50, or 1 of about 500 comics who are working the “comedy clubs” a dream and desire… There is proof that TV and movies IS an attainable goal, but that is years in the making… Sure there are some “naturals” or comic genius’s like Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Dave Chapelle , and Richard Pryor. But that’s 4 people out of the billions of people who have walked the earth since the dawn of time… The odds are slim… The Internet, and Youtube increase the odds of “the Lucky Break” though. Someone with internet skills can be noticed by many people but to actually have the skills to stand in a room and entertain “LIVE” takes years of hard work… You cant practice comedy alone at home. It doesn’t count. Musicians can sit at home play a song 50 times and the next time they play live they ARE better. With comedy , no way… People will support and “back” a local band but a local comic NO WAY. You will not be supported as a comic by your hometown or even your friends. They will come see you 3 times if you’re lucky… If you can stay focused for 10 years and keep at it you have a chance of “making it”. And that’s not even factoring in the Politics of the comedy community you start in. The comedy clubs are running a business. They are not grooming new comics. They have open mics so the new comics bring 10 people each and have to buy 2 drinks each…………So 5 comics = 100 drinks.. Where are you gonna get stage time ??? and then there’s comedy Ethics !! Break one “rule” and you’re done… Change your name and build a new act.
I was lucky to land a House MC job a Quincy’s Comedy Club for 27 weekends with 2 shows a night Fri & Sat… It was NO pay and it was week 11 before the manager of the club asked me if i wanted something to drink. I was the “local guy” so each week I only would ask one question to each headliner. ((( headliners are always pestered by young new-bee comics, so once they knew I was older and polite, they offered more info than just answer my question))))…These were TV comics…They were not afraid of me. The most common comment they all said about me was , they’d NEVER seen anything like my act… One guy wanted to buy one of my jokes !!!! … To sum up. It takes time and you have to be patient. What happens to other comics doesn’t matter to you. You have to stay in it long enough to be at the right place and at the right time and WITH the “SKILLS” to actually “DO” the job..
10. We call # 10 “Shout it Out Loud”. This is where you get to talk about anything you want to talk about so Otto, “Shout it out loud”!
Shout it out loud!!! I can make you laugh and it lasts a few seconds. You can remember it some other time and laugh again… Great, but with this next batch of blabbering I can help people forever. I call it the line of time……………..
Time goes forward… like a line. Where you are on that line is the “HERE” and “NOW”. The “Present”… What I just typed is now in the “Past”. What you will read later is the “Future”.
The past can’t be changed. The future can be planned but it is not certain. Because we are Humans…We are “Judge-mental”. Things are “good” or “bad ” or “happy ” or “Sad”. It’s human nature like “right or wrong” etc.. We have emotions…
Another human fault is – “not being satisfied” by something for “X” amount of time… (faster car, greener grass, hotter girlfriend)
In the Past is all of our memories: good, bad, happy, sad… etc. They cant be changed.
In the Future is uncertainty, nervousness, anxiety – About things that HAVE not happened.. have not happened….
Like a teeter totter, the more you are in the past or “IN” the future, you are distant from the present. Where things are actually happening and being “Judged “.. The more you are not in the present, the more your Teeter totter tips. Being Unbalanced in Life…
If you find the present unpleasant, you can dip back into your memory for an instant to a most wonderful memory. Which feels good. If you are anxious you are too far into the Unknown Future, so back to the past for another quick good memory burst… If you are SAD or MAD, it is about something in the PAST. It might just be seconds ago, but it’s IN the past. Can’t be changed. .. You’ve Judged it, you made it mad or sad … Here’s the key — Since you are already in the past – MAD or SAD, just walk across memory lane to a GOOD memory. All of those are right next to the bad ones… Like AC current, learn to jump from those bad memories to good ones – back n forth. A million times a second if you have to… Until you feel better. Naturally that won’t work if you are being Water Boarded or something physically terrible …But most times it’s our thought ‘s that make us feel bad … our Judgements.. ………………….. Are you with me still ?? This might help …
…..Tennis , 2 players, ” A “, and “B”, and the “judge” , correct ? $100,000 prize… “A” double faults and ” looses” , he says “$#*&^% !!!” … “B” “wins” and cheerfully yells HOORAY! This event is in the past already. One second later , THE JUDGE says with no emotion, “DOUBLE FAULT”… The same event = happy, sad or just an event,…………. All on the same dot. And on the same spot on the line of time…
Later that evening “A” & “B” will “remember” (or go into the past) the day’s match. “A ” can choose to be unhappy,?? or maybe think of something fantastic, right there, in memory lane. Maybe how his daughter is getting straight A’s ?? …………..
“B”, still high on emotions of, “the win” so he feels great !!!. But he mistakenly walks across memory lane to the fact he can’t pay his house payment and his wife is sleeping with the post-man. And so in a Milli-second, he’s crushed and defeated.. Who “won” ??
Boiled down .. Think of what you’re thinking and how far out of Balance , is it taking you.
Tell us about the band you also play in.
My band is “Otto & the GearHeads” .. Rockabilly with funny lyrics, 50’s style energy and we dress snappy. My brother on is bass, and our pal Corey Barnes on drums…We play my comedy songs ( very short , less than 2 minutes each) , and have many other songs that we’ve written “as a band” – These are “songs’ with somewhat regular song structure.. 16 songs in 30 minutes. Some jokes between and it’s 35 action packed minutes.. We play maybe 4 times a year at special events where we are booked into.. It’s “Rock-a-Comedilly”
Big Bonus question.
Can to share a killer recipe with our readers?
recipe .. make a day before you need it….
bonus recipe.. new york pizza dough.. 30 + year old recipe.
In mixing bowl, 1 Qt. 100 degree water
1/2 Cup honey
1/2 tsp yeast ( teaspoon)
mix with wire whisk….
2 Qts flour , high gluten if possible
3/4 cup corn meal then on top put
2 tsp sea salt. .. in this order… the yeast doesn’t like the salt.
Mix by hand , or SLOW on electric mixer with “hook” , until ‘smooth’ . It will look like a ghost… Take from bowl and put it on a cookie sheet that is lightly brushed with olive oil. Brush top of dough blob with oil , cover with clear wrap, put in fridge over night. It’s gonna triple !! in size so watch where you put it… Steve McQueen can’t help you.. .. Take from fridge, press air out, and you’ll have enough for 3, “16” inch pizza’s , or many small whatever size you want… it also makes great bread sticks.
To roll out. A “fist” size of dough will make a thin crust 10 inch, let dough warm up, put corn meal on roller area…It will roll out easier. Roll flat,thin is better. Top with your favorite sauce & toppings …450 degree oven on a pizza rack if you can get one, or Pizza “stone” .. .Brush the edge crust with olive oil if you want it to be soft & puffy .. It may “bubble” as it cooks. You can pop them with a knife as they appear. i like them , yummy but paying customers don’t , the bubbles push the toppings off .. yum