Andrew Schiavone’s ‘Central Nervousness’: It’s Not a Condition, It’s Comedy


This week, we catch up with Andrew Schiavone, a New York based comedian on the brink of filming his first one-hour special, “Central Nervousness,” right here at Richmond’s Coalition Theatre this Thursday night. From kitchen gigs at Richmond Funny Bone to viral tweets and a deep dive into the comedy grind, Andrew’s story isn’t just about laughs—it’s a testament to chasing dreams and finding the funny in things while being terribly anxious all the time. So, if you’re curious about what shapes a comedian’s journey and what to expect from a night of comedy that’s been years in the making, keep reading.

Gabriel Santamaria: Alright, great. We’re on. How are you doing today?

Andrew Schiavone: I’m doing great.

GS: I just saw that you were coming to town, so I made it my business to ask my editor if we could get a rush on this because this is happening soon. (ed. note: Thanks Gabe.)

AS: Where did you see it?

GS: It was on the Coalition Theater’s Instagram.

AS: Oh, awesome. I’m glad the word is getting out!

GS: When you were growing up, what made you laugh? What was funny to you?

AS: So, I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia. I grew up on Comedy Central, watching comedians there. For the longest time, I didn’t know that was even a job. I was just impressed. Then I watched an episode of Seinfeld, and Jerry is a comedian for a living. I thought, “Oh my God, this is a real job that you can do all day?” Between Seinfeld and comedians, those were the main things that made me laugh, and it started putting in my head that this is an actual career option.

GS: How did you get your start in comedy? Did you go straight to New York, or did you start somewhere else?

Andrew Schiavone Central Nervousness comedy special interview by Gabriel Santamaria_RVA Magazine 2024
VCU graduate Andrew Schiavone

AS: I went to VCU. I initially did ROTC at VCU, and they kicked me out because I failed the two-mile run time.

GS: How fast do you have to do a two-mile run?

AS: I think I had to do it in 15 minutes, and I did it in 20. So I wasn’t fast enough to get shot at in Iraq.

GS: You’re like one of those goth kids just walking the mile.

AS: To me, I was really moving or I thought I was. But as soon as I got kicked out, I thought maybe I’ll finally do my childhood dream of being a comedian. So I went to the Funny Bone and asked if they had any jobs. They said yes, gave me a T-shirt, and pointed me to the kitchen. I worked in the kitchen at the Funny Bone for a year and a half.

GS: So, you know how to work a fryer now.

AS: Yes, I know how to work a fryer, chop an onion, all the skills you need to tell jokes. After a year and a half of working at the Richmond Funny Bone and talking to the comedians that came through, the unanimous word from all the comedians was to move to New York City.

GS: What year was that about?

AS:  It’s a bit blurry, but around 2009, 2008, I believe. I moved and then went to grad school in New York City because I figured I didn’t have to worry about an apartment or anything.

GS: Two birds, one stone.

AS: Right. It also provided a fallback. I started comedy around 2013, doing open mics. 

GS: How is the open mic scene in New York? It sounds horrific from what I hear on podcasts.

AS: Ten years ago, it was completely different than it is now. It was very dark, sad, crazy people. Every open mic was in a basement without windows. The only people I knew doing comedy were these psychotic individuals who just wanted to speak in front of a microphone and ramble. After a year of doing those open mics and figuring out how to be funny, one guy said, “Hey, I run a show in the West Village. You get five minutes, and all you have to do is stand outside for two hours and tell people about the show.” I thought that was the deal of a lifetime.

GS: Well, at least you’re out of the kitchen.

AS: Exactly. It’s way better than smelling like nachos at the end of the day.

GS: I noticed your tweets go viral all the time. You’ve got your ear to the pulse of the Twitter-verse. What was the first one that made you say “whoa”?

AS: It started the first day of lockdown. I tweeted, “Remember, when the worst thing was the Game of Thrones finale?” That was the first thing I ever tweeted that went viral. Then I tweeted, “I’m getting to really know my girlfriend. I learned she’s really good at decorating. Really hates the way I breathe.”

GS: So, it all started during the pandemic.

AS: Yes. I had been doing comedy for seven years before that, but that was the first time I had something collectively relatable to talk about.

GS: I might not know all your previous work, but I’ve noticed some of your comedy seems almost generational. I’m in my thirties too, so I relate to a lot of the millennial themes and comparisons. You seem to have your footing right where you want it.

AS: The tweets were very generational at first. I had one tweet that went viral after all the pandemic stuff. It was about my anxiety starting when my mom told me I would die if I ate before swimming. That went viral, and I thought, hey, maybe that’s something.

GS: Your tweets going viral and then showing up on Instagram, that’s when you know you’re making it.

AS: That’s when people I went to grade school with start saying, “Whoa, man, you’re making it.” I’ve been trying for seven years, struggling, and now they think I’m making it because they saw my tweet on some page like Vanderpump Rules. I had no idea what that show was.

GS: I saw it on Fuck Jerry or something.

AS: They start naming Instagram meme accounts I’ve never heard of, and then I get connected with them, and they help my following. Before, it was all random. I’d find out I was going viral when someone told me The Rock mentioned me. That was great.

GS: I mean, it’s so funny. I think you point out something I’ve observed about our generation of millennials. How we’re addicted to nostalgia in some way. And then, I just see a lot of things that people, or people of my generation, they’ll say something from the nineties and then they’ll talk about it like it was like Vietnam or something. But we have it so easy.

AS: Yeah, we had to rewind the movie and then we could only watch like five movies a year.

GS: Right. That’s funny though.

AS: Yeah. So, five movies a day. Isn’t that crazy? I can’t imagine watching five new movies a day growing up.

GS: Yeah, it was crazy. I mean, when I was in middle school in the mid-2000s, I went to see every movie that was in the theater.

AS: Well, there was a string of great movies from 2003 to 2005. Like Lord of the Rings, Spiderman 1. We would have to go to the theater and buy our tickets in advance; there was no online ordering. We have to, like, get there.

GS: You have to get there. You gotta get there at the right time, at the same time, and it was also, that’s what the pandemic did. I mean, not that movie theaters are doing great anymore, but now you get to pick your seats before you even get in there.

AS:  Yeah, that was never a thing.

GS: There’s that one person who is always late, and then we can’t sit together.

AS: Yeah, I don’t want to be responsible for shooing people away, especially since my early anxiety was even worse. So, I would just let people sit there all the time. They’d be like, “Is this seat taken?” “No. Come on in.”

GS: [laughs] So you’re taping your special?

AS: Yes, my first hour. That’s the plan. It might be 45 minutes depending if a couple of jokes don’t go over well or it doesn’t really flow well. I’ve room to mix and match and all that, but I’m only doing one show. Most people do two shows back to back. I’m only doing one.

GS: A lot of pressure.

AS: No, it is. Yeah, I’ve been preparing for it, though. I’ve been all over, up and down the east coast, for the past two months trying to refine it and run it and see if it works and what connects and what goes well.

Andrew Schiavone Central Nervousness comedy special interview by Gabriel Santamaria_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo courtesy of Andrew Schiavone

GS: Do you have a name? Is that top secret?

AS: No, I was going to go with Central Nervousness. Like central nervous system but nervous. But then I was thinking, well, will people want to listen to it because they’ll be like, who’s this nervous guy? Maybe he’ll just sound nervous the whole time? That sounds like a comedian.

GS: I feel like some comedians like it as their act, and their character is like a timid guy or a nervous guy, like that’s their part or whatever. But they still have to have a lot of confidence to get on stage and do the act, you know.

AS: Yeah. It took me 12 years, or whatever to build up an act worth sharing, to have enough confidence to share with some comics. I know right now some of them have been doing it for a year, and they’re recording an album. I’m like, what is going on here?

GS: What do you think about the explosion that happened over the past five years? I’ve talked to a lot of local comedians, and it feels like there’s more pressure than ever to just churn out material.

AS: Yes, it’s definitely not at all what it was like when I started. I can give you an example. I’ll meet somebody who just moved to New York, and I’m like, oh, you moved to New York, and they say, yeah, I heard Joe Rogan said if you can do five comedy spots a night here, you will get paid $500. And I say that might have been true in the 1980s.

It’s literally like one of those migrant buses full of comedians coming off with backpacks and thinking they can make it in comedy in six months because Tom Segura said you could. I’ve never seen this many comedians in New York in my life, in my career.

GS: No, that sounds crazy. I wonder what it’s like for the ecosystem in the comedy world, you know, with supply and demand. Even though it’s easier to get your stuff out there with the internet, it’s even harder when there are so many people trying to do the same thing.

AS: There was a sweet spot when comedy shows were coming back. My friends and I who started comedy were posting clips, and those were all doing well, and we were all getting followers. Then everyone with a camera and a microphone started putting out material. I don’t want to say every Tom, Dick, and Mary, but every Joe with a camera started putting out material that was bad, and then it just killed the mood for stand-up clips because a lot of people were posting atrocious ones.

GS: Yeah, I’ve heard some bad ones too. Some people even throw in a laugh track!

AS: Oh, some people film it in their house and make their house look like a stage.

GS: What?

AS: Yeah, there’s this guy who went viral a couple of times, but it was all in his house. He just made his house look like a stage and added a laugh track.

GS: Uh.

AS: That’s what we’re competing with. It’s like the artificial age.

GS: Let’s talk about Richmond. How did you get linked up with the Coalition Theater?

AS: I think Richmond is the most beautiful city in the country. All the buildings are colorful. When I first moved to New York, it felt like I was just dropped off in the Soviet Union. Everything was dull and drab and concrete. I was really homesick for Richmond.

GS: I love Richmond, but bring your allergy medicine because the pollen is everywhere.

AS: I know, it’s the most humid place I’ve ever been to. I took a VCU summer class, and I barely had the energy to get out of bed. It was so hot and humid all the time.

GS: I’m wondering how hot it’s going to get this summer. But the restaurant scene is banging. Actually, the comedy scene in Richmond, if you’re a comic, you can actually get at least five spots in a week. It’s interesting how the bubble of comedy, even at a smaller place like Richmond, has gotten like this. There are shows all over the place. So it’s been interesting to watch the local scene grow.

AS: Yeah. When I started or when I lived there, it didn’t seem like there was a lot. It was just like you would have to see a band in a church or something; they would rent out a church for a band. It didn’t seem like there were a lot of places dedicated to music, because there’s this place called Nancy Raygun that was closed.

GS: Yeah. That place became Strange Matter. My editor’s going to know what this is. You know, I can tell the editor to fix all this, make sure I sound good.(ed. note: You are correct Gabe.) It’s interesting because music has always been kind of big, but now the music venues are starting to have comedy shows.

Anyway, how did you get connected with the Coalition Theater?

AS: So, I’m working on my hour with this production company and they filmed a compilation album in New York City that I was featured on. I said I loved the quality and asked if they would be interested in filming my hour. And they said, well, we only have a venue available and it’s in Richmond, Virginia. And I said that is so perfect. You don’t even understand. It was all like fate or, I don’t know.

GS:  And you’re like, that’s my hometown!

AS: I never would have thought about it, but it makes perfect sense. So I’ve been calling my friends from college and people I’m still connected to who moved down there or still live there, and they’re all coming. And this guy, I was in a rock cover band with, he’s going to play my intro song. [laughs]

GS: What’s the worst intro music you ever had to walk out to?

AS: Oh, my God.

GS: I just thought of that off the top of my head.

AS: Meredith Brooks ‘Bitch’. The “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover” song.

GS: Oh, man.

AS: Probably the worst one. I feel like I have to acknowledge, “Hey, guys, I’m not a bitch, I’m not a lover.” I’m sorry, just a misrepresentation.

GS: Yeah. It’s a good icebreaker.

AS: Right. I think it was the sound guy’s revenge for me saying play whatever—I could walk up to anything. [laughs]

GS: Oh, my God. That’s funny. That’s hilarious. Well, alright. Well, I think I got everything I need. Thank you so much for taking the time.

AS: Thank you and hope to see you at the show!

Andrew Schiavone Central Nervousness comedy special interview by Gabriel Santamaria_RVA Magazine 2024
More information can be found HERE
Gabriel Santamaria

Gabriel Santamaria

Band leader of The Flavor Project, Co Owner at La Cocina Studios, Cast Member on The Hustle Season podcast.

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