Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Not content to be talented in one field, you are a quadruple threat in entertainment as a skilled actor, writer, comedian, and storyteller! How and when did you find your interest in each of these mediums?
GW: I began my career as a writer solo artist at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, CA, in the late '80s. I continued developing my writing, storytelling, and live stage shows when I moved to New York in '92 and lived there through 2012 at places like The Knitting Factory, Joe's Pub at The Public Theater, The Cutting Room, Dixon Place, and PS122. It wasn't until Howard Stern dubbed me a comedian -- when I appeared on his TV show for E! a few times -- that people really started regarding me as more of a comic. I'm still basically telling stories, but the venues are more varied now and my work has gained a much wider audience. Comedy was not my primary aim at the start, it's just that some of the stories I was telling happened to be really funny.
BD: Being a writer, comedian, and a storyteller requires an individual to really find their own unique voice. What helped you to hone your voice, and what do you feel makes you stand out in today’s entertainment field?
GW: I read a lot of books and I write just for the enjoyment of it, like not really thinking of writing for an audience all the time. I've gotten to the point where I can bring a concept to the stage and tell it on my feet, build it live in front of an audience. That's the process that works best for me and has the most exciting energy. I'm not somebody who rehearses a lot; I want to hold on to the spontaneity. Then, if the story is good, I'll work with it next time I'm on stage and it grows a little more each time. You know, like the way you'd really tell a story in life around the dinner table. You don't really plan on what you're going to say *exactly* or where people will laugh. You just tell it, because it happened to you and you know it, because it's your own experience.
I talk a lot about events from my own life as a gay guy with Cerebral Palsy among other things. It's been interesting to see how Cerebral Palsy has gotten an update over the years. People used to come up to me and say, "You're sort of like Geri Jewell from The Facts of Life," and now people come up to me after shows and say, "You're like RJ Mitte from Breaking Bad." The super great thing about that is that only two actors with Cerebral Palsy have actually worked in the entertainment industry in the last 25 years. Yeah, good job, Hollywood. I'm number three, get ready!
What makes me stand out as a comic is that I'm not afraid for the story to be funny in one turn and moving the next. I'm not afraid of vulnerability and for there to be quiet moments on stage along with the laughs. I'm secure enough in myself that I don't need an audience to fill that 'empty' space -- there are pills and sex for that. I think it's okay to have room to breathe and that's part of my unique voice.
BD: Storytelling is an art form that is truly finding a comeback with the popularity of podcasting and audio-only media, and your monthly live storytelling event, Eat Your Words, is a testament to that success. What can you tell us about the show for our readers who may be unfamiliar with it?
GW: Everybody eats and everyone has a story to tell. With Eat Your Words I wanted to create an evening that gives folks that feeling of community -- that moment where you take a break in your day and just sit around the kitchen table, sharing stories over some great food and a bottle of wine. The show provides an opportunity for Los Angeles audiences to meet some of their favorite performers, storytellers, and local chefs on a personal level. Eat Your Words happens the first Thursday of every month at The Standard Hollywood. Hosting it is really a lovely experience for me both on a career level and in a personal way; it's nice to have that real feeling of community in Los Angeles. People can find out more about Eat Your Words here.
BD: You have toured all over the world to sold-out performances, inspiring aspiring creators to pursue their dreams. From where do you find your inspiration?
GW: Everybody talks about "raising the stakes" in good storytelling, often forgetting there are gorgeous human moments in the simple and mundane. That's where I find inspiration, by listening to what's actually going on around me and how I'm feeling about it . . . Creativity is not often a lightning bolt of inspiration kind of moment for me; it's more grounded in small, real-life moments.
I love touring! I remember touring through Germany, and I discovered, at least in my experience, that the Germans wanted the show to be tightly presentational. They really didn't enjoy any attempt to be warm, share, or connect directly from the stage. When I spoke to one guy in the audience, he bruskly stated, "I don't do show! You do show!" and then told me afterwards, "I don't so much like this. Too many feelings . . . ." I wasn't sure if he was talking about my feelings or his.
BD: You will soon be making an appearance on the award-winning storytelling collective, The Moth Radio Hour, later this month. What are you most looking forward to about the performance, and what is the best way for readers to tune in?
GW: I have worked with The Moth nearly since their inception, and I am thrilled to be appearing on The Moth Radio Hour. Readers can visit www.TheMoth.org for details.
BD: Are there any additional projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
GW: I'm currently directing comedian Hasan Minhaj in his new solo show. We're going to be doing a collaboration with Robyn Von Swank that will incorporate stunning visuals with his live performance. It has been a fantastic experience working with Hasan Minhaj. I can't wait for people to see the show!
BD: Being that we focus on all things geek at Fanboy Comics, would you care to “geek out” with us about your favorite storytellers?
GW: Of late, I am totally “geeking out” over Ron Funches, Jen Kirkman, Baron Vaughn, Hasan Minhaj, Beth Stelling, Kurt Braunohler, and Cameron Esposito. Not only are they deeply funny and talented comics, they are goodhearted people who actually have something meaningful to say.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about your work?
GW: Fans can find information about upcoming shows and listen to stories at www.GregWalloch.com. I'm on Twitter and Instagram at @GregWalloch. Naked selfies by request only.
*Cover photo by Robyn Von Swank / Photo (right) by The Moth