IN CONVERSATION WITH JOE KWACZALA
interview by JANA LETONJA
Creative, talented and hilarious comedian Joe Kwaczala just released his new sketch album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ and his new single and video ‘Low Stakes Dreams’.
Joe, how and when did you know you wanted to become a comedian?
I was in college pursuing an art major, but I had started doing stand-up occasionally on campus. The art world is really something and every time I had to interact with it, I really wanted to just make fun of it. Then it clicked. My passion wasn’t drawing, it was making fun of things. And I’ve been alienating my friends and loved ones ever since.
What usually inspires your sketches and how do you prepare for your stand up performances?
I think good sketches often come from an observation. Like “This thing is weird or stupid. Let me exaggerate it to point out why”. Stand-up is not too dissimilar, observations can frequently be the starting point. With stand-up though, most of the preparation is just making sure you remember to say the things you want to say. It’s annoying when you walk off stage and go “Oh right, I forgot to ask where the ladies at tonight.”
You just released your new sketch album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’. Tell us more about it. What can those, who haven’t listened to it yet, expect from it?
It’s titled the way it is to hopefully already answer that question. It’s funny songs and sketches. Audio comedy, somewhere in between sketch videos you’d watch online and funny podcasts you’d listen to. People like Adam Sandler and Tenacious D used to put out these kinds of releases and so it’s a throwback in that sense. And there’s a lot of great comedic talent lending their voices throughout, whether it’s Andy Richter or David Cross or Ayo Edebiri or Al Madrigal or Patton Oswalt or Nick Kroll.
The recently released single ‘Low Stakes Dreams’ is a catchy, poppy earworm song. What is the single about?
Sometimes I hear about people’s dreams and they sound so creative. They’re flying or someone is chasing them. I never have dreams like that. I have dreams about finding parking or sneezing, just really mundane stuff. So of course I took those dreams and made them lyrics for a pop song. And I’m excited to announce that the song has reached 200 billion streams.
Your latest comedy special ‘Recommended Based on Your Search History’ is currently available on YouTube. How did you come up with this title for it and what is your favorite part of this comedy?
It’s so hard to get people to watch anything online. Apparently we’re all beholden to the almighty algorithm, so I was trying to think of something that people would click on. Like “Hey, if it’s recommended for me, I got to have it”. And then they click on it and become my biggest fan. But then it goes too far because they don’t want to just be my fan, they want to be me. So they start dressing like me and acting like me, they show up to my appointments and pretend to be me. It scares my girlfriend because they accost her on the street and try to kiss her. Local authorities had to become involved and it’s a real mess. But hey, that’s showbiz. Anyway, my favorite part of the special is when I tell jokes.
On your 31st birthday, you released 31 videos on Twitter, YouTube and website in 15 minute intervals. Why did you decide on this unique approach, which garnered praise from the likes of Vulture and The A. V. Club?
Like I was saying in the last question, it’s really hard to get anyone to pay attention to you online. I could just make a sketch video and put it out, but would anyone care? The answer, honestly, is no. I realized if you make it a stunt, people pay attention. A full day of so many sketches and they’re all produced to look like they could be on TV. I tried to make it so impressive that it was hard to ignore. And I think I succeeded. But now, I’ve set a dangerous precedent for myself that if I do something once, I have to do it 31 times.
We’ve heard that one of your favorite things is to watch old commercials from the 80s and 90s, along with old VHS tape recordings. How do these 80s and 90s materials inspire your work?
Sometimes I see a commercial and I’m like “That is so weird, I need to do something with that”. Old commercials have their own rhythm that feels so bizarre and out-of-place today. It’s crazy to think that was successful advertising at one point. Tapping into that is always fun because there’s inherent humor there, but there’s also some nostalgia too. One of my favorite sketches I’ve ever done is a parody of these commercials for a product called Boku. Comedian Richard Lewis was hawking these juice boxes that were targeted to adults. It’s already very funny and all I had to do was take it one step further, Nuvo, baby food for adults. And sometimes I do want to make an entire compilation of old commercials, but they’re fake sketches like that. I think four, maybe five people would really enjoy that.
You are also a bit of a ‘candy hunter’, who likes to stay up to date on what new candies and snacks are coming out. Which new candy or snack do you like the most and would recommend we must absolutely try?
The holiday season is a great time for new seasonal treats. One item that I discovered last year that I’m excited to have again is chocolate dipped Ritz crackers. That salty and sweet combination, so good. Also, I’ve been hearing great things about Ozempic, but have yet to see it pop up in the candy aisle. Maybe soon.
What can you share with us about your exciting upcoming projects?
There are more songs coming out, and they are gonna be Christmas-related. If all goes well, I will become the new Santa, and none of you suckers will ever see me again (Because I’ll be at work! As Santa!)
Tell us more about your new holiday release.
I don’t know what came over me, maybe it was the holiday spirit, but a few weeks ago I became determined to release some funny Christmas songs. So I called up my old producer pal from Funny Songs and Sketches, Yoo Soo Kim, sent him some ideas, he sent some music back to me and after a lot of work on both our ends, we have something I’m really proud of. It’s a 3 song EP called ‘Funny Christmas Songs’. It’s got a little soul (‘Greg’s Christmas Party’), a little punk (‘I Don’t Know What Christmas Is’) and a little pop (‘The Ice Skating Song’). I think people will dig the music and laugh at the jokes while still feeling those special holiday vibes. You can find it on streaming platforms or on my social media pages.
photography KATIE SCHUERING