This week I got to talk with the very funny Shane Gillis. I’ve always been a fan of blue comedy, or as some call it, dark comedy. I don’t know why everything has to be about color. Anyways, you can catch him this weekend doing five shows at Sandman Comedy Club. I’ve seen/heard Gillis on many podcasts and his improv skills are as sharp as his thought-out standup bits. We talked about starting out in a smaller town comedy club, the journey to the big city, and the difference/similarities in the crowds. It was a fun chat. Here it is:
Gabe: Have you ever been to Richmond?
Shane: I have. My friend played basketball for the Spiders.
Gabe: Oh nice. You started out in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania?
Gabe: What was the comedy scene like there starting out?
Shane: There was only one club you could do to five minutes a week on. And it was rough. It was a rough open mic, but it was fun.
Gabe: I imagine. I guess within the state, it’s pretty easy to transition to go to Philly after that?
Gabe: Was there a noticeable change in the vibe of the audience going from Harrisburg to Philly?
Shane: Oh, definitely. I mean the Harrisburg Comedy Zone compared to a silly silly crowd can be… Yeah, a lot of times it’s very different, for sure.
Gabe: But then you go up to New York and that’s probably it’s even more like that?
Shane: Yeah. It’s even more. It’s very, very different. I mean, they make Philly look conservative. Well, I don’t know. I don’t mean conservative, but you know what I mean. [Laughs]
Gabe: [Laughs] Uptight. For sure. So, what was that first year like? Trying to find your voice and seeing if you could do it? What were some small term goals?
Shane: I don’t think I had a goal. I just liked doing it. Of course, in your head you’re going to do a theater, but if anything was the goal it’s to be able to host at the club. You want to be good enough, because you see the guys who are hosting and you want to be like, ‘I can do that. I’m just as funny as them. I can do that.’ You just gotta keep putting in the time until hopefully a manager there sees you.
Gabe: I notice in your comedy that you don’t forget your roots or where you came from. You bring up where you grew up and compare it to where you are now in New York. And I think you like where you came from, is what it was sounds like to me. Which I think is great and important.
Shane: Yes, I do like where I came from, and I think it’s important for people that live in cities to realize that everybody outside of the city isn’t the devil, and vice versa.
Gabe: You’re almost a visitor within your own country but you’re not, you’re just at a different part of the country that’s not where you came from.
Shane: I think that’s fair to say. Yeah. And then whenever I’m performing in, like, if I’m going back to Harrisburg, I remind them the city is all right too. [Laughs]
Gabe: Eventually you start transitioning into sketch comedy. I love Gilly and Keeves by the way.
Shane: Ah thanks a lot.
Gabe: Of course. So in terms of writing, how do you approach a sketch different to standup?
Shane: John McKeever [Keeves] is a really good writer. They had a show called Delco Proper [on Comedy Central] when I moved to Philly. Those were the guys I looked up to, John McKeever and Tommy Pope and all the Delco Proper guys. And so, it was always a goal to work with them. And as far as standup into sketch goes, John is a really, really good writer. So he writes a lot of the sketches, or hears a premise that I’ve said in standup and then he can expand an entire sketch out of it. But yeah, John does the writing.
Gabe: How do you think things like YouTube and podcasts have added to comedy culture and output?
Shane: It definitely added to it. I mean, that’s where I get fans. I don’t know if you heard but I’m not…
Gabe: [chuckles] I have.
Shane: [laughs] I got in some trouble. I mean, the industry doesn’t exactly like me right now. So yeah, you got to do it on your own terms. You know, it eliminates the gatekeepers. There’s people out there doing it. There’s guys like Tim Dillon, and Schultz and all these guys.
Gabe: When it comes to this business though, the fans are very loyal and stick by, because they know you and your style of funny.
Shane: Yeah. And I didn’t want to become, like, a free speech guy. I just wanted to keep doing comedy, you know, I didn’t want to let it define me. I just wanted to do comedy.
Gabe: So, do you try to challenge yourself with concepts in your comedy?
Shane: Yeah, for sure. I mean there’s definitely things that… because you know your own sense of humor. Then it’s just finding your way. Finding what you think is funny, or what you know is funny, and then trying to figure out how to make sure everybody else understands why it’s funny, you know?
Gillis was a very gracious interview and very open. It was definitely an enjoyable conversation. Shane’s sketch comedy videos by Gilly and Keeves can be found on YouTube and his podcast, Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, is on all podcast platforms as well as making many guest appearances on The Bonfire on SiriusXM. Go see Shane Gillis this weekend headlining at Sandman Comedy Club right here in Richmond, featuring Chris O’Connor opening up the night. Five shows Thursday through Saturday. Be sure to show up an hour early for food and beverages.
Tickets are available at Sandman Comedy Club.