The Curiously Funny Forrest Shaw On Best of Comedy In 2011
Forrest Shaw is one of the funniest and most hard working comedians in South Florida. In a market filled with talent, Shaw consistently brings an "A" game to the stage. His deadpan persona and crisp timing make him irresistible to any crowd, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. And though he might not admit it, he's also very intelligent (a former marine biologist).
In five years, Forrest has blossomed into a legitimate headliner. We caught up with the comic for an awesome in-depth interview, recapitulating the past year with a focus on Miami, while exploring the unique and psychologically deep waters of stand-up comedy.
New Times: OK, Forrest -- what's the funniest thing about Miami?
Forrest Shaw: Haitian transvestite voodoo priests. I'm not sure if they exist but if they do they'd definitely be the funniest. Also, douchebags. I will put Miami's douchebag population up against any in the world. Head down to Lincoln Road or Coconut Grove or the Kendall Ale House and just sit back and watch how cheesy people can be; we got that on lock. That's definitely a stereotype we deserve. Cheese, son!
Comics carry a stigma of being cynical. Are comics fun to hang out with?
Sometimes. We are moody people. Sometimes we keep the humor alive off the stage and then it's a good time. Other times, we (speaking for myself) are more somber so then people are like, 'This guy is depressing me.' That blows people's perception of you. When I feel like that, I just get the fuck out of the place before I sadden people. We are also brutal though, so if you hang out with us prepare to hear and see things that may be disturbing. Nothing is as brutal as watching comics lovingly insult each other.
Who was the best national comic you opened for in 2011?
Bill Burr at the South Beach Comedy Festival. He is effortlessly funny. I really am drawn to the comics who make it look easy and natural, probably because it is natural to them which is the funniest to me, whatever is real. Jim Jefferies is great too. I love watching the crowd react to him, and Nick Griffin because he sees the world through grey tinted lenses.
Who were some amazing local comedians in 2011?
There are so many. Dave Williamson, Lisa Corrao, Adrian Mesa, Nery Saenz, Carl Rimi, Ricky Cruz, and John Wynn. Sorry if I left out anyone. Also, a lot of locals left Florida.
What's the best venue for comedy in Miami?
The Miami Improv. I'm sure people will say I'm doing some major ass kissing with this answer, but if that's the case, then name a better one. I love this club because it was the first club I ever performed in, it's my "home" club and I love the low ceilings and crazy layout, it makes you feel like you're underground somewhere in NYC and not Miami. The crowds in Miami get a bad rap nationally, but if you're funny and you bring it, they're great.
Other than the Improv, where's the best place to catch local comedy?
I run a show at Elwoods Gastro Pub in downtown Miami. The crowds are loyal and attentive, and the owners are great people so the whole vibe of the show is fantastic. Very fun. Seems kind of self-serving, so I would have to plug my two other favorite local shows in Miami, Casa-De-Ha-Ha at Sweat Records and Lester's in Wynwood.
Would you move to LA or NY if they called?
I'd move to NYC now if I could. I have to wait for a few of my cats to die and then I'm off. In fact, if anyone wants to buy a few used cats I got some. I'll be in NYC sooner than later.
What advice would you give to an aspiring comedian?
You're making a huge mistake. Go back to medical school; your parents really do love you.
What does the future of comedy in Miami look like?
I think good. There has always been and will continue to be a good core of people and venues for comedy in Miami. It's cliché, but Miami really is a very unique city and it can't help but shape the comics down here in a way that the rest of the country wouldn't be able to [handle] culturally. Most comics that come from here embrace it, but some don't. Some leave and then trash the comics and the scene that is left here, look down upon it as if they are better than it -- they can go fuck themselves. It will never be NYC or LA, but it isn't trying to be, but I'm still going to get out of here as soon as my cats die. I'm off to go get some radiator fluid.
Last question: In stand-up in general, what did you think of 2011?
It's easy to focus on the negative because nothing good out of the norm happens in stand-up comedy -- only bad things happen, but that's still good because we wouldn't have anything to talk about. By our very nature we are skeptics and cynics. We attack these things with sarcasm and humor and if you are a comedian and you are not skeptical, I probably wouldn't want to see your act.The only thing good that can happen, realistically, is that you write, you perform, the crowd is laughing and appreciative, or at the very least appreciative, and then you say "thank you" and go to bed. And that is fine. That is fun and that is a good day.
You never get to a venue and hear, "We decided to pay you more money." There is never an announcement on the news: "A new poll shows that stand-up comedians are held in higher regard than almost all other professions." In fact, we are usually seen as less, and that was evident in 2011. It was a bad year for comedy in the fact that the freedom to say what we want, which is integral to comedy, was attacked.
There were numerous incidents, some more publicized more than others, of comics being admonished or in some cases forced to apologize for what they said because someone was offended. Parameters are never a good thing in comedy. People that aren't comics are quick to tell comedians what's funny and what's not. This is never a good thing. If 200 people are watching a show in a club, there should be at least one person in the room offended. Otherwise, what's the point, but make it funny -- that's the key. You can't just yell at a person and call them an asshole. That's not really what we're after, unless they really are an asshole.
Also in 2011, Patrice O'Neal died. He was really a unique and rare voice in comedy. He made it look so easy that as a comedian you were amazed and angry all at the same time, because you knew that you wouldn't ever be able to do what he did.
To keep tabs on the up-and-coming Forrest Shaw, check out his website.
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