Comedian Ian Bagg on Meeting Presidents and Sucking Balls
But more people are likely to know Bagg -- who performs this Thursday through Sunday at the Miami Improv -- from a faux game show called Suck My Balls. At the La Brea Improv in 2009, Bagg invited two audience members onto the stage, where they stood next to a table, on which sat a bowl of gumballs. He asked trivia questions, and the contestants had to buzz in by saying, "Let me suck your balls, Ian." It was a one-off comic riff, not a Bagg staple by any means. But it went viral, earning nearly 18,000 hits on YouTube.
"It was something we tried once, and it's amazing how many people absolutely love Suck My Balls," Bagg says. "They think it should really be a game show. And it's not even about being dirty. It's about getting as many gumballs into your mouth at one time."
Bagg's comedic genre is such that any performance could yield the next Suck My Balls. There are elements of observational humor and autobiography in his style, but he's foremost a conversationalist. Even if he shows up with an hour or more of scripted material, he often eschews most of it to engage in impromptu conversation with the audience -- which then spurs new jokes, derailing the evening's plan in a new direction.
While insult comedians such as Bobby Slayton and Lisa Lampanelli fill their acts by communicating with the unfortunate punching bags at the front tables, Bagg isn't out to make people uncomfortable. He doesn't mock them as much as engage them, so that everyone is on in the joke, singing comic "Kumbaya" together.
"When I do comedy, I'm not trying to be above anybody or trying to show them up," he says. "I want to welcome them and be their friend. That's how my comedy works. I will see something and I will let my mind run wild with it... I'll just bring up a subject and see where the joke goes from there. Sometimes the crowd helps, and sometimes I do it on my own."
It's an open style that can invite hecklers if a riff isn't going their way, and Bagg mostly welcomes them.
"I deal with everything but hate," Bagg says. "Hate is a weird thing. When you feel hate at a comedy club, it always confuses me. It's like, have you ever been to a bakery and there's an angry guy? It just doesn't belong there."