Jim Jefferies Is Living His Best Life

Comedian Jim Jefferies is beaming. Not only for being sober over 700 days but for settling down, having a wonderful wife, amazing kids, and a fantastic career. Oh, and for finally trying cannabis in his 40s and absolutely loving it.

No stranger to the hard partying life of drugs and alcohol, Jefferies had previously abstained from weed but finally started exploring the plant during the pandemic and hasn’t looked back.

“During COVID, I was sitting around drinking too much, blacking out, and forgetting the whole night,” Jefferies said. “Whatever happened, I was forgetting things. So I started taking edibles and cut out the drinking.”

During our conversation, the Legit star addressed his adventures with weed and his latest Netflix special, Jim Jefferies: High & Dry, which expands on his career trajectory, cancel culture, cocaine, his joke writing process, and how weed makes him less paranoid.

High Times Magazine, June 2023

High Times Magazine: Growing up in Australia, did you always know you wanted to pursue comedy?

Jim Jefferies: I wanted to pursue stand-up comedy from the time I was 13 but didn’t tell my parents or anyone else out of fear I’d be told I wasn’t funny. I ended up pursuing musical theater at university because I knew I wanted to be an entertainer, and I thought as long as I could get into the arts maybe I could do stand-up later.

I did some open mic spots when I was 17 that didn’t work out very well, so I didn’t do it again until I was about 20 or 21. Now it’s been my full-time job for the past 24 years.

When were you able to finally share with your parents that you wanted to be a comic?

It came out of necessity. I was studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts—WAAPA—on a full ride scholarship and ended up getting nodules on my vocal cords and had to have surgery. While the recovery time now is about four days where you can’t talk, back then you couldn’t talk for about a month. I just decided, “Fuck this, these [vocal cords] will come back; I should stop being so gutless and just do the thing I actually want to do.” When I could talk again after the surgery, I went head-on into stand-up comedy and sort of forgot about the rest.

I don’t think anyone in my family or anyone really thought I’d be successful. I think they thought that I could have a job doing it, but you have to remember that in the late ’90s/early 2000s, there were two comedy clubs in Australia, so it wasn’t even an occupation. It wasn’t a matter of “if I could do it,” it wasn’t an actual job [at the time there]. We didn’t get HBO specials or anything like that. We had four TV channels and the only specials we had were Eddie Murphy: Delirious and Eddie Murphy Raw because they were cinematic releases and you could get them on video. Apart from that, I only really got to see stand-up comedy in five-minute bursts on late night shows in Australia when some comic was visiting. It was a dark time, man [laughs].

What helped you discover your own style and point of view?

I think the best motivation for anyone who wants to get into comedy is to see some people who are bad at it. I saw some people who were bad at it and I remember thinking, “I can do better than that.” If everyone I saw was awesome it would have seemed so unattainable, but it was the people who were doing it and getting paid who weren’t that good [that gave me confidence]. Not all of them, but the occasional act and you can still see them to this day. I was like, “I can definitely do better than that bloke.”

When I was studying musical theater, they always gave me the funny roles, so I was assured that I was funny, but I didn’t know if I could put together material and that type of stuff. But [everything that happened] just felt like it happened organically. I went up at one club, then I did it again and I did it again. I moved to England and I bullshitted my way into some clubs and I’ve just been doing it ever since.

I also found my social group. Before that, I was working as a bartender, a waiter, selling mobile phones—and then all of a sudden I found people who I felt a lot more similar to than I had before. I’m not going to give you a wanky answer like, “I never really fit in,” or anything stupid like that—because I fit in fine. Going to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival [for example], I remember being around all of these like-minded people and it was a real sort of eye-opener for me. My career is a product of the Edinburgh festival.

People will do things more through social media now—put up clips and try to get their five minutes on late night shows and that type of stuff. But when I was starting out in Britain, if you were an act that went to Edinburgh, you were a career act and you were really giving it a go. If you were a guy who would just hang around the clubs, you were just doing it to earn a bit of cash. But if you wanted to make a career out of it, you had to go to Edinburgh. Edinburgh was a place where all of the media came and saw you. You weren’t doing 15 or 20 minutes at a club, you had to do an hour. People were coming just to see you.

In America, you had a lot of comics who—in the early 2000s—were trying to get their five minutes so tight so they could get on Letterman. I was trying to make my 10 minutes so long that it could be an hour, and so that’s why I have this meandering, storytelling vibe to me because I had to work in the longform a lot more.

Which sounds like the opposite of what other comics were striving to do.

I think that’s why when I came to America, I stood out a little bit. I had a 30-minute story about muscular dystrophy and taking a friend to a brothel. People didn’t really do that back then. Now, with everyone trying to get specials, my style seems a little more commonplace these days.

I never thought I’d get any television or anything like that. I thought I’d become a little cult act at best. Now, I’m hosting a game show in Australia, so it’s all sort of turned around—things that I thought I’d never do.

My career was never an overnight success, it was a real gradual build. The people who just discover you always think it’s an overnight thing where you came from, but I was getting there one step at a time—just building, building, building. I think it was a more organic way to build an audience than today with the internet and I don’t know if the way my career happened could happen today.

Courtesy Netflix

Because of the way the comedy industry has changed?

Yeah, I wasn’t a good self-promoter or proactive in that way. I just thought, if I kept going up and crushing, more people would see me and more people would see me. All that mattered was how good I was on stage.

It was also a different era. There weren’t camera phones and stuff like that so you could be a bit of a—well, I was a drunk. So I’m drunk up there, I’m on cocaine, I’m acting like a fool. But everyone around me was sort of doing the same thing. It felt very normal. It felt like we were more like rock acts than anything else.

Now, you sort of get done for that. People would videotape it and you’d have to apologize or something.

So in many ways, you’re saying the career trajectory that you’ve had was a product of the times.

Yeah and strangely I was also a product of the internet in the sense that I got punched in the head and people noticed that. Then the gun control thing went viral, but I never put any clips up. I don’t even know how to load a clip to YouTube, but the internet did help me in the end. I’m not saying one’s better or one’s worse, I’m saying the environment that I grew up in was a much different environment than what comedy is now.

Everyone talks about backstage at The Comedy Store and they go, “There used to be drugs everywhere.” I heard it was painted black so when people dropped their cocaine they could find it. That’s not the culture anymore. The culture’s completely different. You’d be seen as sort of an outlier if you acted like that now.

I’m glad those days are over. I couldn’t have sustained them forever and now I’m in a much happier place. I wish I’d sort of got to where I am now in my life a lot sooner.

Was there a defining moment or set of experiences where you felt stand-up was the thing you were going to do for the rest of your life?

Probably when I first got into the London Comedy Store. It was such a coveted place to get into, was the hardest club to get into and I was still only maybe 22. I’d only been doing comedy for about a year and I got in there and I remember having the pressure of having to do this gig and all of the other comics were so well established and I just held my own. I didn’t look out of place, and I remember thinking, “I can actually do this now.”

There’s moments though where I thought I’d made it, like playing Carnegie Hall. When I played Carnegie Hall—and that was a decade ago—I remember thinking, “If it all just ends now, I can always say to somebody that I did Carnegie Hall.” But that wasn’t as important a moment for me as getting into the London Comedy Store.

In terms of where you are now, you’ve just released your latest Netflix special High & Dry, in which you talk pretty extensively about finding weed. 

I never took weed in any form until my 40s and I always thought stoners were a bit of an odd group of people. I never liked smoking a joint and I still don’t like smoking a joint—I find it hard on the throat—but then edibles came into my life during COVID.

During COVID, I was sitting around drinking too much, blacking out and forgetting the whole night. Whatever happened, I was forgetting things. So I started taking edibles and cut out the drinking.

I haven’t had a drink in 700 days now but I’ve tried to give up alcohol three other times: Once for a year and two other times I went three months. There were also periods in my life where I had alcohol under control and I was drinking like a responsible person, but it always got away from me. When it got away from me, my behavior wasn’t good and my relationships with other people would disintegrate. But ever since weed came in, I’m a happier person. It really did change my life.

How does weed impact you now and what do you use it for?

Well I don’t do it every day—only about three days a week—and it helps me not be miserable.

It actually helps me with paranoia. Other people go the other way, but with me it seems to settle that down a lot, and it got me off antidepressants. I was on antidepressants on-and-off for a year—went back on them during quarantine—then got off them and just took weed and I haven’t gone back since.

I’ve got two young kids and it sure helps with watching Pixar movies. I used to have to muscle through those but now I’m like, “Go ahead, throw it on. Let’s watch [Finding] Nemo again.”

Courtesy Netflix

The colors and the plotlines become a lot more enticing.

Jim Jefferies: [Laughs] And you start seeing subplots. I get right into it.

Creatively, does weed aid your process?

I don’t go on stage high but I’ll take an edible after I get off stage and chill out. I do write a lot of jokes while high though, and then the next day I’ll look at them and go, “Well that’s not that funny.” But at least they make sense.

When I was drunk, I used to write some jokes down and they didn’t even make sense to me. I couldn’t even read the handwriting. Every now and again I’ll write a joke while high and read it back and go, “There’s something in it,” but most of my jokes—if based on something silly that happened—I’ll come up with them the day afterwards. I’m not going to say that weed helps my writing or that it helps my performing, but I don’t believe it hinders it in any way.

I will say this about alcohol—I had the best shows of my career while drunk. The best ones I ever did. But I also had the very worst ones I ever did—the ones that I’m ashamed of in that category. While sober, I’ve had excellent shows and some bad shows, but I’ve never had any fucking terrible ones. The problem with alcohol is that things fly out of your mouth very quickly and that’s good in comedy if they’re the right words. If they’re the wrong words, fucking hell.

You mentioned you may not come up with bits while high, but that an idea or seed of an idea will resonate the next day. How so?

A lot of the ideas are formulated [while high] and then the writing happens the next day. The only drug that can help you come up with real batshit crazy jokes is mushrooms. Batshit crazy jokes. When you write jokes on cocaine, you think everything is brilliant. When you write jokes on mushrooms, you think everything is on this higher level and that you’re thinking on a different plane from everyone else. When you write jokes on weed, everything’s silly, and silly’s not always that great.

Do you have a preference when it comes to strains?

I like to relax on indicas and end the day with them. I’m not a “wake up and take it” type of guy—if it’s on holiday, sure—and I don’t take a lot, only 20 milligrams.

For some, 20 milligrams is a solid amount.

Well I started at 10 and now I’ve moved on to 20, but I’ve done that stupid thing where you’re like, “I wonder what 50 feels like?” And then I’m like, “No, no—don’t do that again.” [Laughs] That’s too much for me. I’ve done that a couple of times where I’ve gone all in and then gone, “No, no. Too much for me.” I never go more than 30, and that’s if I’m looking to have a real good time.

Creatively, what inspired High & Dry and what do you hope people take from it?

This last special is a bit of a throwback. I was sort of doing a special where I thought, “I’m just going to say whatever I want,” because I’ve had specials where I got criticized for saying things that I thought were borderline. People are always going to say you should be canceled for this joke or canceled for that joke, so for this special I just thought, “Fuck it, I’ll just say whatever I like.”

My life is pretty good now. I have a lovely wife, I have great kids, I’m happy at home, and I have good friends. I’m not the angry young man I once was so I think I can get away with saying more risque stuff now because I’m slightly less confrontational.

When I was younger, I used to want to almost change people’s minds or give them things to think about. Now, I don’t think of it like that. I just want to say the things that I think are funny and my hope is that my fanbase has aged with me and has sort of gone through the same shit I’ve gone through. They’ve gotten married, they’ve had kids, they’ve done cocaine, and now they don’t do it anymore. Now they go to the doctor because they have hemorrhoids. I just want people my age to be able to relate to [the special] and for younger people to maybe see a dodgy uncle they once knew.

This interview was originally published in the June 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Jim Jefferies Is Living His Best Life appeared first on High Times.

A Conversation With Comedian, Deadhead Phil Hanley About The Final Dead & Company Shows

Waves. Everywhere you looked, there were waves of people – 40,000 bodies moving, swaying, and flailing in the cool San Francisco breeze. This was the final Dead & Company show, an event brimming with tears of joy, gloriously goofy dancing, and, of course, epic jamming. Grateful Dead co-founder, Bob Weir, returned home for a trio of concerts at Oracle Park, marking the grand finale.

Outside the stadium, the atmosphere exuded glee without a hint of bittersweetness. At a Dead & Company show, there was nothing to feel down about, even if it was purported to be the last gig. The crowd was ecstatic, often drunk and high, all ready to witness the band doing what they do best – just like they had over the years.

For nearly five hours, the band – Bob Weir (rhythm guitar and vocals), Mickey Hart (drums and percussion), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards and vocals), John Mayer (lead guitar and vocals), and Oteil Burbridge (bass and vocals) – played like both masters and curious students intertwined. Even when they played the Dead’s hit songs, the band delivered the unexpected, leaving you hanging on to every note and lyric. It wasn’t just because it was the final show. Plus, for a band like the Dead, and a night like the final show, that music never stops. 

There’s something about their music that dances with the soul. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words exactly, especially since the soul isn’t always the most eloquent talker and all. Comedian Phil Hanley, however, knows exactly how the Dead’s music makes him feel. Hanley has been deeply influenced by the band, especially Bob Weir, whom he idolizes. “Anything Bob Weir does, I’ll support,” he once told High Times. “My favorite dyslexic, Bob Weir.” 

Rather than writing further about the gloriousness of the final show, the smell of cannabis in the air, or the band’s inspiring balance of patience and momentum, I thought it best to let High Times readers hear from an expert. Consider Phil Hanley a doctor and a professor in all things Dead-related.

Having attended the final three Dead & Company shows, Hanley – who you can always catch at The Comedy Cellar in NYC or on tour this fall – shared his experiences in a call a few days after the last show, both of us buzzing as we reminisced about witnessing Dead & Company at both the peak and the end of their touring career.

How were your experiences at the final three shows? How did they compare?

Well, the whole time it’s in your head that these were the last shows. It was being billed as that, but I’ve been going to see Dead & Co shows since 2015 when they started in the fall. The craziest thing in your head is thinking, “These are the last shows,” but then you’re also thinking, “This is them at their absolute peak.” And not just like, “Oh, these are great shows,” but it was like a next-level situation that, as a fan of the band and someone that had seen them many, many times, I didn’t necessarily predict that they would be able to get to the place that they were at this past weekend.

And again, I was a fan. I’ve seen Dead & Co a bunch of times, and I’d never pass on a show, but it was next level and treading on totally new grounds. On Friday night, there was a jam in “Scarlet Begonias” where I was like, “This pathway in the forest has never been locked down before. Like, they were unbelievable.”

I saw it Sunday night, and I agree, it’s the best I’ve seen them. Everything felt spontaneous yet so on point. 

It’s like that line in “Terrapin Station” where they’re like, “Is this the end or the beginning?” That’s how I felt. Anyone who’s reading High Times, I highly recommend you listen to “Scarlet” or “Cumberland Blues,” ‘cause it was so on the edge of chaos, it reminded me in a completely different way. That’s the incredible thing. It wasn’t like, “Let’s go up and emulate a great Cumberland from when Jerry was still with us.”

I’ve been a Bob Weir fan since I was a kid. He’s just such a huge source of inspiration, but to see him in the pocket and just, it is the last song and he’s like, “Let’s do it. Let’s do something new.” It was phenomenal on Friday night when they did “The Big River” and “Dark Star” mashup.

Do you really think it’s the end for Dead & Company?

It is not the way people behave [on stage] when they’re like, “This is the last kick in the can,” you know? I think we’re on the brink of a new beginning. I think that Bob was kind of conducting the band for a lot of the previous years, but this time, everyone was just on their own and just completely let loose. I was blown away by all three nights.

How else do you think they evolved over the years as a group?

They started good and got better and better and better. There were ups and downs along the way, but good God, not only did it feel like a peak, but it felt just like a whole new thing. I can’t believe as musicians, they would be like, “Yeah, let’s never do that again.” They played 10 hours of music over three days. They did three encores. They did “Truckin’,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Not Fade Away.” No one left. 

Comedian Phil Hanley

On Sunday night, I think they went 40 minutes past their scheduled end time. I thought they were going to finish with “Not Fade Away,” which would’ve been a lovely final song, but then Bob had this look on stage, like, “Let’s keep going.”

Yeah, dude. I was standing with a group of friends and we wanted more. It was like denial. It was like refusing to see a lover’s flaws or something like that. When a roadie was removing a mic, people just could not accept that it was over and not over as the band, but just over as the night. It was very reflective of what people wanted.

If this is the end, there was something kind of beautiful about Bob Weir finishing these shows back home, near where the band started. Did you see any significance in him playing San Francisco in the final Dead & Company shows?

I’ll try to be concise with you because I’ve brought this up to like probably 10 Deadheads, and it didn’t even register in their eyes. But to me, there was a huge moment on Friday where Bob Weir goes, “The bus came round and I got on, and that’s when it all began.” I’m getting chills. My hair is standing up on my arm right now because it’s so wild that that is true.

In 1965, he heard Jerry practicing guitar in a music store and went in and met Jerry, and like, all that’s happened… To me, I read that moment as, that’s all that’s happened. There’s so much more that will happen, you know? It was just such a wild, wild moment because so much has gone down. In true Bob Weir fashion, the next day on Monday, he announced a Wolf Brothers tour.

Did he?

Wolf Brothers on the road in the fall. When people say, “Bob is this age,” that means nothing. He arguably sounds as good or better than ever. I mean, he always sounds amazing, but he sounds like no other singer I’ve ever seen. Besides Jerry, he’s the character in those songs, and you feel it, and it just goes directly to your heart. You know, when he was singing and he’s telling these stories, oh my God.

I think his voice has such gravitas and history to it now that, you’re right, it’s evolved – not improved – into this beautiful new place.

Oh, yeah. Also, everyone was playing insanely, but Bobby is right there, and he was so in the zone. He’s so in the song, he’s not even really tapping his foot. He’s just in it, you know? Everyone else is like dancing and gyrating, and Weir is just channeled. He’s playing at such a high level and makes it look so easy and so natural. 

Last time we spoke, you talked about Bob Weir being a hero of yours, partly because, as he’s said, he’s “super dyslexic.” When you watch him play live, do you still focus on how it influences his playing?

When I found out that Bob Weir was dyslexic, I was like, “Oh, he’s one of us.” The community has Bob Weir. You know, over the last 40 years, if he messes up a lyric, it’s celebrated and a reminder that it’s a live experience. It’s not like, “Oh, Bobby messed up the lyrics to ‘West L.A. Fadeaway.’” It’s celebrated.

We approach things differently, and it’s a strength. When Jerry passed, you’re like, “How is anyone ever gonna replace Jerry Garcia, one of the greatest, if not the greatest American musician to ever live?” Just an incredible, incredible musician and disciplined and creative and all these things, obviously. That’s really hard to replace, but what I think will be impossible to replace would be if anything ever happened to Bob Weir because his style of playing is so unique.

I’ve brought guitar players to see Dead shows before, and they’re just like, “What is he doing?” Because he’s playing like an E up here and an E there, and an E there, and an E there. The way he approaches music and the guitar, there’s no rhythm guitar player that’s even similar. He’s such his own entity.

If he was able to read music too, he might have been more traditional and wouldn’t have gone down the path he did. You know, Jerry always said he followed Bob’s lead, letting his rhythm guitar lead the way. How’d you see the band play off Bob this last weekend? 

Jeff Chimenti has such a beautiful musical relationship with the band, and they play so well off each other. When you see them live, you can really hear how they play in harmony. They all kind of took turns and fell in line. Because they’re doing new stuff, I mean, how many “Scarlet Begonias” have I listened to in my life? Maybe all of them, but to hear them go in a new direction like there was a jam in the middle of “Scarlet Begonias” where I’m like, “Oh, this is crazy. I’ve never heard anything like that. The song was there.”

I was talking to a musician last night who had played with Bobby, and he said that in the past, when they played together and someone made a mistake or a bold choice, that’s when you really got Bobby’s attention. That’s me quoting, but I think that’s where they find things interesting. I also heard a Mayer interview this year where they were talking about a song going in a new direction or kind of off the rails, and that was when Weir was really like, “No, stay here. This is new.” It’s the beauty of the Dead.


I actually took a John Mayer fan to the show, and they left a fan of the Dead. How do you think he gelled with the music over the years?

It’s so inspiring. I was blown away that he knew all those songs for the first tour, and I thought he was great. The first tour I was content with, like, “This is The Dead.” He continued to evolve, and it was his guitar playing that, I think, helped make “Cumberland Blues” so special and something that people will celebrate. There’s no way people won’t listen to that Sunday night show. 

Man, when they briefly went into “Hey Jude” and Mayer did this guitar solo, I was like, holy shit.

Dude, yes. It was cool because you could see Bobby was kind of conducting things before, and now everyone’s just left to do their own thing. Again, it’s so weird ’cause it’s under the guise of this being their last tour. A few times in my head, I was like, “This is the future of the Dead.” It made me feel that they have a bright future and, you know, with Mayer playing, this is another eight years. I was like, “God, I can’t wait to hear them 16 or 20 years from now.”

I hope that’s the case. I’ve felt a bit down since that final show because I’ll miss these shows and something beautiful about going to them – the lack of insecurity you feel. It’s such a happy place to be, and you can dance like an idiot, and no one will laugh at you. After your decades of watching the Dead live and having that experience, has it helped make you more comfy in your skin?

100%. I always tell people, the Dead is my lifeblood. I’m from a town in Canada, and people talk about gatekeeping and all that stuff. You pick a hockey team when you’re three, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter what happens. You pick who you are, and that’s that. So growing up, you couldn’t wear a certain band shirt unless you’d seen them live. Even with Dead stuff, I never wore any Dead paraphernalia until I saw them live.

It’s wild that there’s a full-on 2023 resurgence of the Grateful Dead. I welcome it. I love it. I just think it’s such a positive thing for everyone. Like you were saying, you can’t look goofy, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about not caring about fitting in. Normally, you fit in with people by taking into consideration what they think or how they feel or whatever. With the Dead, you fit in by not caring about those things. It’s completely letting loose. It’s phenomenal.

You meet so many cool and friendly people at these shows, too. Any favorite memories of fellow fans at Dead shows?

Every show. I remember a show at MSG, Dead & Co. I was with my girlfriend at the time, but it was a bit of a turbulent situation. She left the show. I had a split second of like, ah, what a bad buzz. And then out of nowhere, this dude just gave me this huge hug and was like, “I could see you needed that.” He didn’t see my girlfriend storm away or anything like that. He just read my face when he was dancing by and gave me a hug, and then danced away.

I remember back in the day when Jerry was alive, and we were at Soldier Field. I had lied to my parents about where I was going, and we snuck out and drove to Chicago from Ontario, which is quite a trek. I remember the show ended, and this guy was wearing a full tie-dyed, like, clown outfit. He was standing and screaming as loud as he could, “RAH!” And then the crowd would cheer, and then he’d do it again. Only louder this time, “RAH!” And the crowd would cheer. He yelled a third time, he threw himself back and just landed on the ground, flat on his back. It went from funny to dramatic. And then he stood up and went, “See you guys tomorrow night!” And everyone applauded.

There’s such genuine joy at a dead show. Other of the things that dawned on me, I always thought, like when I was a kid, it felt like the Dead, even though they’re so popular that I always kind of had sympathy for people who weren’t aware of them and were depriving themselves of that experience. It was just a subconscious thing where I was so grateful to be part of it and so grateful that I had that thing in my life – my love for the Dead.

I hadn’t thought that for years, and the [final] weekend, that thought popped back into my head. Again, this is really where it’s at. It’s almost like, if people don’t understand the band, you don’t like the human spirit. It’s a celebration of the human spirit. And it’s just encompassing so much music, you know? There are parts of it that are so heavy, but you just get so much out of it. It’s just such a wild ride and such a complete experience.

The post A Conversation With Comedian, Deadhead Phil Hanley About The Final Dead & Company Shows appeared first on High Times.

Comedian Nimesh Patel Has a Great Story to Tell

Nimesh Patel doesn’t walk over familiar ground in his latest special. The title alone spells that out loud and clear: Lucky Lefty OR: I Lost My Right Nut And All I Got Was This Stupid Special. The damn good special, which is available to watch on YouTube, is about Patel’s experience being diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer.

Once again, Patel is doing his own thing on stage. 

Lucky Lefty is his second self-produced special following Jokes to Get You Through Quarantine and Thank You China. In 2017, Patel was hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live. In addition to SNL, he wrote for Hasan Minhaj’s The White House Correspondents Dinner and the Chris Rock-hosted Academy Awards. 

Patel is on the road at the moment, and at the beginning of September, he’ll kick off his Fast & Loose Tour. If you haven’t seen Patel perform yet, start live or go with his Lucky Lefty special, which is 40-minutes of both comforting and cringe-inducing comedy. 

Recently, Patel talked to us about his latest special, his experiences on the road, and how cannabis helps his writing. 

High Times: When did you know the material was ready for a special?

Nimesh Patel: Well, I feel that way the instant I start to hate it already, so I just want to get it out. But I knew that the material I was working on was gonna be something special, so I decided I would give it about a year as the calendar amount of time I wanted to spend on something. And that’s how I worked on that one. Usually, though, as a comic, it’s like the instant you’ve said something more than once, it’s like, “Alright, I need to retire this immediately.”

Your story, though, it’s not a story you’ve heard in every special. You must have known this could be a comedy gold mine, sadly…

Yes. You know, as it was happening, I was taking notes every day. I recapped every day what was going on. It just so happened that every day of the five days that the whole situation was happening, something stupid happened. I was like, “I can’t wait to hit the stage.” I hit the stage at the Cellar about a week after surgery. Once I hit the stage and I knew I said the things I had experienced and everyone laughed, I was like, “Okay, this is gonna be something.”

Congratulations on being cancer-free, by the way.

[Laughs] Oh, thank you, man.

People are typically very uncomfortable talking about cancer, as you pointed out in the special. When you first performed some of this material, though, did you get the sense that talking about testicular cancer is different for a crowd?

I think when I started, I was a little coy and kind of cognizant of the fact that cancer’s the other C word and people are like, “Oh shit. Is this what it’s gonna be?” People get solemn. But the instant I ripped the bandaid off and made it aware that everyone could laugh at it, then people were like, “Alright, well he’s laughing at himself. We might as well.”

Strangely made me feel better when you’d just casually acknowledge we’re all going to die.

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, sorry for that bleak outlook.

[Laughs] I didn’t think it was that bleak, just honest. It wasn’t like a five-minute monologue about this is meaningless. It was just casually being like, “Hey, just a reminder, we’re all going.” 

Yes, thank you for saying that. You know, it was me, I think when I talk to people who have had actual cancer [Laughs], I think they get a little annoyed that it’s treated so casually. But people who haven’t experienced it are kind of relieved that there’s someone who can talk about it without the “woe is me” attitude. I’m not saying all cancer patients are like that. I think many people have a better version of my attitude. They’re just not comedians.

Was the reaction to the material positive right from the start?

Yeah. I mean, I started by talking about the fact that my balls were shaved while I was awake, and that was the funniest part of the whole thing, outside of the grand irony. Once that unbelievable thing was out and people were laughing at it, it was easy to realize that it was the climax of the set. As long as I happily built towards that, it would be a fun rollercoaster ride for everybody.

Is there also something comforting about controlling the conversation about your experience by being on stage and talking about it?

Yes, I think you nailed it. Now I never have to talk about it outside of the stage. I mentioned at one point in the set the biggest fear that people who survived cancer or went through cancer had is social isolation. It’s one of those studies that I read. People who aren’t comedians don’t have the outlet to go on stage and talk about it as freely as I do. So, they talk about it at places like Chipotle with their friends, and that can be burdensome. Luckily for me, I don’t have to bring it up over guacamole. I can just say it on stage, and when we’re out watching the Knicks, we can talk about how shitty the Knicks are instead of how shitty it is that one of my balls is gone. It kind of leaves things compartmentalized, which is great.

[Laughs] How much material did you find yourself having? Like, was it just a treasure trove of jokes?

Yes, it was. I was incredulous at the amount of ridiculous things that were happening every day. When reality is stranger than fiction, that’s what it felt like. The only thing I had to be cautious of was not overdoing it with the ball puns. They were flowing out easily, and I had to stop myself because I realized it was getting excessive. At one point, I remember being on stage and doing like 20 ball puns in a row just to get it out of my system [Laughs]. Around the fourth one, the crowd was quiet, like, “Alright, man, come on.” But I was like, “Nope, I gotta do all 16 more of these.”

There’s a nice push and pull in the special. You can say an uncomfortable joke, but then a minute later, you’re like, I feel for this guy. 

Thank you. Yeah, that was a challenge. I think a lot of the challenge was not becoming the sympathetic character in the story. In the one I told, it’s easy to be that sympathetic person, like, “Oh man, this guy…” So, how do I make you not like me but still like the joke? That was a deliberate choice. I wanted to veer away from the “woe is me” comedy, where it’s like, “Oh my God, can you believe this shit happened? I felt so bad about this shit happening to me.” I made sure to avoid that. The best way to do that is to have hard jokes that are unexpected. 

I wanted to design the set like that because it’s easy to root for me, and then suddenly you don’t want to root for me because I said this stupid thing, but it’s too funny to not laugh at, you know? 

Like, the women’s rights jokes.

Right. And by the end, when my wife says the ultrasound joke and calls it back when I’m getting my ball shaved, it always gets an applause break. It’s always from the women whose arms were folded up front when I said the women’s rights thing. I can track it. It’s a hundred percent conversion rate [Laughs]. That’s my favorite type of comedy, where you don’t want to like me, but that joke is too good. And now I brought it all back, and you can feel good about how you feel about me being an asshole.

Given the experience you’re talking about, did you also think you’d get more free passes for those jokes?

I’m sure subconsciously that was going on in my head. There were moments throughout the development of the set where if something didn’t work, I would be like, “Guys, remember I had cancer, remember?” [Laughs] But at the same time, I didn’t want to play that card too hard. I didn’t want to be a victim or play victim comedy. This is just something that happened to me, and I didn’t want to use it excessively. I don’t think I did.

Before you even first told your wife’s joke, did you know it’d win back some of the audience?

When I wrote that joke, I knew it would be the save, and once I said it on stage, it became the save. I knew it could clear up the earlier tension and mess that I made with the inappropriate comment directed toward women. Once I discovered it would be the perfect place for the callback, I was like, “Oh, this is perfect. It solves everything for this particular problem set.”

Photo by Preet Mandavia

How have your experiences in writers’ rooms shaped how you structure your act and material?

My first writing job was with the Oscars and Chris Rock. Being in that writers’ room with about 20 people, and I was relatively new in comedy, it was intimidating. But what I learned from that experience was that there was no need to be timid. You’re in the room for a reason, so throw a bunch of stuff out and see what happens. I had a similar approach when I was at SNL

As for how it impacted my writing on stage or for myself, it taught me that it’s a numbers game. Just keep throwing stuff out there, and even if I bombed in front of Chris Rock and other funny people, bombing in front of non-comedians shouldn’t bother me as much. It’s about being comfortable with throwing things out there and experimenting.

Working with Chris Rock, I remember we were working on a joke about acting [being] brave during the Oscars when there were no black nominees. I pitched a joke about acting not being brave and instead said drinking a glass of water in Flint, Michigan is brave, considering their water crisis. Chris tweaked it to say drinking a glass of Kool-Aid in Flint, Michigan, and it hit even harder. He came up to me afterward and emphasized the importance of specificity. That lesson stuck with me, and I try to apply it to my writing whenever possible. The more specific you can be with a reference that people still get, the better it’s going to be.

As you said, don’t be timid, so when did you start feeling comfortable on stage as a comic?

I think almost immediately [Laughs]. I either faked it or never had stage fright. But about two years into comedy, my friend Mike Denny approached Michael Che to start a show called Broken Comedy. We did the show for a total of five to six years. Every Monday night, we would go up on stage and develop as comics. We started with only a few people in a room meant for a hundred, constantly bombing and trying out new material. But we learned to be okay with the silence and the small laughs from three people, and that took years of consistent shows. It helped me become comfortable with any situation.

Doing spots at Stand Up New York and Caroline’s in front of small and sometimes rowdy crowds also contributed to my comfort on stage. Those experiences built up over time and prepared me for any stage perspective. Now, after being on the road for two and a half years, I’ve seen almost everything you can throw at a comic, which further solidifies my comfort on stage.

What’s been thrown at you on stage?

In Phoenix, the fire alarm went off about 10 or 15 minutes into my set. It wasn’t a typical fire alarm; it was the mall’s fire alarm, loud as hell. For about seven minutes, I had to navigate the situation with uncertainty. I didn’t know if it was a real fire, and no one from the club was communicating with me. Eventually, someone said it was a false alarm, but those seven or eight minutes were completely unexpected. I had never experienced anything like that before. I had to hold the audience’s attention and keep them engaged. Fortunately, everyone had a great time, and no one was hurt. It was a unique learning experience.

Bombing nights are often talked about because they teach you a lot, but killing it on stage can be just as informative. When you’re in the zone and everything is clicking, it gives you a surge of confidence. You learn how to capture that momentum and use it to your advantage, like throwing in new tags or tweaking jokes on the spot. It’s about harnessing that energy and being able to replicate it even on nights when you’re not killing. Having the confidence to try new things and explore different angles comes from those successful moments on stage. So, there are valuable lessons to be learned from both bombing and killing.

Does cannabis play a role in your creative process?

It’s something I’ve incorporated a lot, and I’m constantly experimenting with how to utilize it. In the past few years, I’ve honed in on how I use it. Typically, after a set, I’ll go back to my hotel room and either smoke a little or smoke a lot. Then I’ll pace around, think of new material, or revisit the set I just performed. Most of the time, the ideas that come up are garbage, just scattered thoughts. But that one time out of ten, I’ll have an interesting angle I hadn’t considered before or a funnier way to say something. 

Do you usually smoke or enjoy edibles? 

Now, I’m trying to cut back on smoking because I’m 37 and my lungs hurt. So, I’ve been using edibles more. I’m still figuring out the right dosage because I’ve taken 25-milligram edibles and ended up barely being able to talk. But just last night, for example, I took a 12-milligram edible, waited for it to kick in, and then sat at my desk. Suddenly, ideas started flowing, and I could see what was unlocked in my brain as I stared at my outline.

That’s great. 

It’s like a tool that helps me access a different part of my personality and allows me to be more playful and goofy. It’s been a valuable addition to my writing process. It’s all about finding what works for you and experimenting with different techniques. I’m always learning and adapting, and incorporating cannabis into my writing process has been a positive and transformative experience.

The post Comedian Nimesh Patel Has a Great Story to Tell appeared first on High Times.

Meet The Mind Behind One of Today’s Great Stoner Comedies, Teresa Hsiao

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens is pure, uncut silliness. It’s a series packed to the brim with personality and jokes relatable and literally out-of-this-world. In season three of the Comedy Central series, which was created by Awkwafina and Teresa Hsiao, Nora still searches for the answers to, “What does it all mean? Wait, what do *I* even mean?”

It’s the no. 1 stoner comedy on television, and season three may or not be the final season from Teresa Hsiao, who’s experiencing a career high at the moment. The former writer on Family Guy and We Bare Bears also co-wrote and produced what’s sure to be the best comedy of the summer, Joy Ride—a movie that lives up to its title. 

Recently, we talked to Hsiao about her journey as a writer and the endless delights of Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.

High Times: This is such a great comfort show. Its silliness is so comforting. 

Hsiao: Thank you. We were talking about that the other day. There’s so much content out there on the air, and there’s a lot of stuff wanting to be deep and fancy, and we’re not trying to do that (Laughs).

Emotional every once in a while, though, right? 

We get all the fun stuff out there, but then every now and then we sneak in some emotions. 

It’s also a great stoner comedy not just because Nora likes to smoke, but because of that silliness and the storytelling style of, what if? Anything goes. What fuels the stories these days? 

So much of it comes from Nora [Lum], and it really is a what-if. What if she didn’t become Awkwafina and didn’t become the movie star she is now? What if she had stayed at home and lived with her dad and grandma? Everyone has their sliding door moments of, if this didn’t happen, then this would’ve happened. During the new season, we really played around with that question of, what if she had gone down a normal path and stayed home? In a sense, it’s a love letter to her family.

We also get to play around with some of those what-ifs that you’re talking about, like, what if you got to go back in time to 2003? But a lot of times the stories are riffs on moments from her life. Nora’s dad actually did get fired for a similar incident where he did something in the server room. I don’t remember the exact details, but he messed something up in the server room and then just didn’t tell anyone about it. 

Obviously, our show is a little bit more extreme than what actually happened in real life. But a lot of what we’re trying to do comes from a very real place and then we expand on it for comedy.

There’s time travel and Nora briefly falls in love with an elf this season, which is barely scratching the surface of where the show goes. What does jumping the shark even look like for Nora from Queens?

We’ve done it so many times that it could be okay. We’ve had our time traveling and had a crazy imaginary character popping around. Jumping the shark would be something totally insane, but the nice thing is we are allowed to do these wacky bits and then come back to real life. Hopefully, it doesn’t feel too insane.

How did the show evolve from the original vision you and Awkwafina had for it? 

In season one, we were still sort of figuring it out. I think season two kind of hit its stride in terms of tone and the show’s style. There are so many great episodes from the previous seasons that we really love, but this time we wanted to tell more of a story. We wanted storylines through the entire season versus our [previous] one-off episodes. It’s almost our show maturing a little bit from season one to season three, in a similar way to Nora maturing from season one, even though she’s still sorting things out. 

It’s definitely true to that time in your 20s or maybe early 30s of just having no clue of what to do with yourself. 

When people are watching the show, it’s nice that they do relate to [the fact that] she doesn’t have it figured out and might never figure it out. I think that’s a real thing that all of us experience. We watch people go, “Oh, I’m gonna be a banker,” and then they just go off and do that. You’re just like, who are these people? For Nora in the show, she has different jobs every season. She doesn’t have one particular goal. I think it’s real and reassuring for people to see that. I find it refreshing she’s not just on one journey. She’s figuring it out and it’s a little bit loose, and that’s okay.

Even though you focused more on a larger story for season three, you still have those side adventures, like Grandma (Lori Tan Chinn) becoming a weed dealer. How’d that episode come about? 

Oh my goodness, we’ve been talking about the idea of really wanting to give Lori a meaty episode that was her own. It just felt like the right time with weed getting legalized in New York and then also being able to say, “Hey, you are a badass. We want to see you do something badass.”

Obviously, in the classic Nora from Queens fashion, it starts off small and then immediately becomes a huge ridiculous empire. I could see not only grandma doing it, but I can see Lori having a strange idea, running with it, and all of a sudden, you blink and you look up and she’s got a huge cartel operating out of her home.

How important was accuracy in her cannabis empire?

Our writer, Kyle [Lau], who wrote that episode, did a deep dive into everything that you would actually need to run a true business. Kyle had an incredible list that he gave to our props department to say, “Okay, these are all the actual things, and let’s make it funny.” 

Is it true Lori initially wasn’t interested in playing Grandma? 

She was a little bit wary. In the beginning, we had said, “We want someone to speak Mandarin,” because that is what Nora’s grandma speaks. Lori wanted to speak Hoisan which is her language, which is a dying language, a southern dialect, sort of Cantonese, but much more obscure. 

I think in the beginning she had said, “I’m not gonna do it if they make me speak Mandarin.” Eventually, we talked to her about it. It was never gonna be a situation where we would make her speak a language that she didn’t want to speak. We knew Lori is grandma, so she has to be a grandma. We made it work.

I wanted to ask about your career path since it’s different from a lot of writers. You went to Harvard and then worked in finance. When did you leave that world behind for writing full-time? 

It was that thing of, you don’t know what you’re gonna do, so you just try a bunch of little things. I ended up at Lehman Brothers in the summer of 2006, basically a year and a half before it went bankrupt. I remember saying to myself, “This is a stable job. I should just take this job because I can make a little money and this is a respectable career.” 

I did a summer at Lehman Brothers, and it was so boring. It was terrible. I don’t want to spend all my time making money for rich people. A year and a half later when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and triggered a 700 billion government bailout, I thought, well, I guess it was a good choice I left. It was a reminder that what you think is the safe and respectable option is not always the safe and respectable option. We only live one life, so let’s try and make it as fun as possible if you can.

Where’d writing fit in at that time? 

At the time I was lucky enough to just start writing scripts on the side and see where that goes. I ended up writing a script that got me hired on a random Canadian kids show called What’s Up Warthogs! Through that show, I got representation and they put me up for Family Guy, which was my first real big network job. I never would’ve predicted that path. If you had come to me when I was in college, and I was a very serious person, and told me, “Hey, you’re going to write comedy one day,” I would’ve been like, “Yeah, okay, whatever…” 

[Laughs] You weren’t writing comedy then?

I was writing short stories, but I didn’t even know it was a job. I didn’t have any connections and I didn’t even know people did this thing. I actually didn’t even know the National Lampoon was a common thing. I didn’t try out for it because I was just like, “Oh, that’s for someone else. It’s not for me.”

Part of the lessons with Nora from Queens is, you can start one way and then you can zigzag so many different ways, and you don’t need to have it all figured out. My career path has been just that of, I didn’t know where I’d start, but I just went with it. 

Having that life experience, that must bring something different to your writing too, right? 

I think that you’re absolutely right. I meet a lot of writers who say, “I’ve been wanting to write my entire life.” You ask, “Okay, great, what are you writing about?” If you had a life experience before writing that you can write about, you can say, “Oh, I did this, and I can write something specific to that.” To me, that is more interesting than someone who says, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I’ve just been writing stories.” That’s great, too, but someone who also spent a year driving Uber is more interesting. 

It’s great to write, and absolutely everyone who is a writer needs to write, but a part of being a writer is having experiences that are different from other writers. Travel and meet new people or just do a job other than the writing job. Obviously, I had worked in finance, and when people hear about that, they’re like, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and want to hear more about that. 

I think across the board, whether it’s TV or short stories or whatever, the job is to live a little. It’s also a great procrastination technique, like, “I can’t actually do writing right now. I have to go live.” [Laughs]

[Laughs] That’s good advice. Where do you want to go from here? What do you hope to achieve next as a writer? 

We’ve made so much progress in the last five years in terms of representation in the community, and I would love to continue that. I think we’re getting there and having more voices on screen than there used to be. 

Back in 2018, it was crazier. Crazy Rich Asians came out and it was like, if this isn’t a hit, they’ll never make a movie with Asian people ever again. Now, we have more shows on air featuring Asian American leads, people of color in general, and have more movies coming out. I think all that is great. I want to continue the moment.

I want to be able to showcase our community in ways in which it doesn’t always have to be the prestige thing or the movie that’s going to win a bunch of awards, but just in ways that are authentic and fun. I want to make people laugh. I think that’s the biggest thing, just that comfort that you were talking about [in the beginning]. It’s the best compliment when people say, “We watch this show, we love it, and it makes us feel this sense of comfort.” It’s just so nice to hear, and we’ll never take that for granted.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens is available to stream on Max. 

The post Meet The Mind Behind One of Today’s Great Stoner Comedies, Teresa Hsiao appeared first on High Times.

Audible’s ‘Blood Weed’ Mixes Industry Accuracy, Comedy, and Cannabis Carnage

You sound like many nepo-babies who’ve tried to get in the game in recent years. And you might be a partial inspiration for Audible’s new pot-focused dark comedy Blood Weed.

In Blood Weed, Chase Stapp finds himself in that same position. That’s before things get thrown upside down thanks to the Russian mob, bad executive decisions, a torture site, and a couple of gallons of human blood. 

That plot line might make it sound like Blood Weed is another out-there stoner journey, and it certainly is to some degree. But thanks to the on-the-job experience of co-creator Dan Abramson and a love of all things pot from co-creator Matt Klinman, the story remains grounded, doing something few have done: showcase the modern legal cannabis space, warts and all. 

The Funny or Die veterans headed up the show’s 10-episode production, with the cast comprising an ensemble of solid voice actors. Notable voices include Haley Joel Osment (as Chase), Maria Bakalova, Hugo Armstrong, Clayton English, Allan McLeod, Yevgeniy Kartashov and many other talented comedians and actors.

I recently checked out Blood Weed during my drive across New Jersey as I toured some dispensaries. It made for an enjoyable driving companion. 

Entertaining, Relatable Story

Overall, Blood Weed was an enjoyable listen. The work of Abramson and Klinman, along with the cast, was essential to immersing listeners in the story. Credit is also given to the production. Musician Michael Cheever delivers on creating a world of scenes, often using dark, bass-heavy music. With Audible’s backing, there’s no surprise that the production quality is top-notch. 

But it is the story that stood out for me. Coming out the gate with the first episode titled Hall of Flowers, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a hokey stoner slog, or would Blood Weed transcend the low-hanging comedy fruit? 

The show delivered on the first episode, particularly when Chase and his weed brand, Elevator, are hounded by the media over their lack of bud at their debut show. Despite rolling up flowerless, Chase and the Elevator team focus more on creating an exciting booth experience and generating buzz. That leaves room for a whole new mess of problems to enter. 

In a recent episode of my webcast, Canna Say Something, Abramson explained how he saw this type of thinking first-hand while working as a cannabis industry copywriter. At his company, which he preferred not to name, he recalled witnessing the booth emphasis over flower quality.

“These companies are really putting a lot of pressure on themselves for the booth,” he recalled thinking.

Now I have never been to Hall of Flowers. So, I won’t judge anyone at that event—I’ve heard great things from enthusiasts and suits alike. But I’ve attended enough weed trade shows over the past few years to see how many brands have prioritized the booth over the product. And sometimes, the sales figures support the approach. Hooray, capitalism. 

Later episodes in the series helped drive the authenticity of the story home that much more. Examples include Elevator’s takeover, led by Andrey and the Russian mob. With new leadership knowing less about weed than Chase, costly decisions, like firing your cultivation staff, come into play. These decisions ultimately lead to the Blood Weed coming into the story—along with Chase being imprisoned, tortured, and tasked with implementing office efficiency tools into the mob’s workflow. 

Even more realistic examples throughout the show include education on THC potency, trouble with new terminology, bribing lab testing facilities, and legal operators pushing unsellable products onto the unlicensed market. For a comedy, this was a pretty relatable listen.

The characters helped cement that Blood Weed wasn’t just a cookie-cutter pot production. Weed stories are often bogged down in stereotypes, mostly the Cheech and Chong, Jeff Spicoli-type stoner. While Klinman and Abramson feel those characteristics have places in comedy, their character choices in Blood Weed helped present a more realistic representation of today’s weed world, with various characters making up the company and its supporting cast. 

Despite there being ample stories to tell in the world of weed, they say the market for stoner comedies isn’t going away. 

“People may complain like, ‘I don’t want stoner stuff’, but everybody fucking loved Pineapple Express,” said Klinman.

Klinman dropped another cannabis-comedy-education series on HBO Max this past 4/20, High Science, co-starring Zack Poitras and Paul Bettany. The series portrays two stoner lab assistants who get high on science.

Recognizable Characters

Abramson and Klinman created the series a few years ago when the cannabis industry was booming. At that time, investors flooded the space with funding, leading to a wave of entrepreneurs and investors getting involved. Many either had get-rich-quick goals in mind or simply had no idea how complex this industry would be. Many of those folks are now out of the game after taking a financial beating along the way.

Blood Weed did a great job capturing that time period. And kudos to the staff, who produced Blood Weed during the pandemic. 

“I recorded it from my little downstairs makeshift sound studio,” said McLeod. He plays several supporting roles in the show, including a stoned enthusiast at Hall of Flowers and a staff member on a Louisiana grow op. McLeod said he’s now enjoying listening to the episodes and occasionally spotting his work. 

Then there’s the leads who truly personify the cannabis space. Chase is the kind of person I’ve interviewed countless times over the years. An all-flash and little substance type, he had no idea what he was getting into when he started Elevator and certainly didn’t when he got in over his head with the underground. But when it comes to office efficiency tools, he excels in a way that might horrify anyone who’s endured startup office culture. 

Coal Fusion, a past prime hip-hop star who loves weed, is Elevator’s co-founder. He also serves as the celebrity brand ambassador archetype that ran wild during this era. Even now, with the money flowing into cannabis less, celeb brands and sponsors still pop up occasionally—even as their success is debated. 

Or, as Klinman described the character: “What if Ja Rule teamed up with a low-rung tech billionaire or whatever?”

Elevator’s staff is a who’s who of the folks you might meet at a corpo cannabis company office. Many are examples of spread too thin, likely type-A transplants from other industries. Mixed in with a poached Emerald Triangle OG here or there, and Elevator mimics tons of companies trying to make it in weed. 

Combining industry experience and relatable characters helps Blood Weed feel more connected to the new legal space than any other pot entry I’ve seen. The relatability and accuracy are delivered in a light, humorous way despite being wrapped up in a world of market deception, mob ties and murder. It’s not an entirely true-to-life depiction of pot, but that wasn’t expected from a comedy about blood-soaked weed. 

Blood Weed Delivers

Overall, Blood Weed was a fun listen for my drive—and while cooking a few days later. It also gave me time to pause and wonder about the dealings of some of the popular brands that might be in the dispensaries I just visited.

I tried to identify any negatives of the show and came away with just a few hair-splitting notes. The only folks I could see having an issue with Blood Weed might be those seeking accurate, grounded and/or positive depictions of the cannabis world. And while that is undoubtedly a valid desire, that’s like looking for authentic medieval dialogue in Your Highness. If you’re in this camp, you may be better off checking out some cannabis documentaries instead of a comedy series. 

While I don’t think it did, some could feel Blood Weed goes too inside-baseball with the industry talk. But, I’d argue it’s essential for framing such a complex world of weed. 

In all, I enjoyed Blood Weed, but the real test is consumer response. Abramson and Klinman told me they hope to hear more feedback after not getting much in the first month of the show’s release. 

“Hopefully people will kind of take it with a grain of salt, like what we’re doing,” said Klinman. He added that the duo hopes to make more pot projects.

“We would love to make more stuff in that world, treating it seriously…portraying the actual industry as it is, because there’s so many stories and so many crazy things in it,” Klinman said. 

You can check out Blood Weed on Audible. I used my free credit to snag this at no cost. If you don’t have a credit, check out a few minutes of the show over at Soundcloud

The post Audible’s ‘Blood Weed’ Mixes Industry Accuracy, Comedy, and Cannabis Carnage appeared first on High Times.

Russell Peters Joins the Psychedelic Renaissance

NWA may have mentioned something about not getting high on your own supply in the song Dopeman, but when you’re the chief creative officer (CCO) of Red Light Holland, a brand of magic truffles, all late ’80s rap song advice goes out the window. 

Red Light Holland is an Ontario, Canada-based psilocybin truffle company that produces and sells magic truffles on the Dutch market. While the Netherlands banned the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2007, many smartshops still sell magic truffles. Both contain the active psychedelic component, psilocybin, but grow differently. Magic truffles grow underground, and mushrooms grow above ground. 

When CEO and former broadcaster Todd Shapiro started Red Light Holland, he assembled a knowledgeable team. This included a wild card, his comedy veteran friend Russell Peters. When he joined the team, Peters had not tried microdosing with psilocybin truffles before. Apparently, instead of partaking in psychedelics, Russell was busy putting out comedy specials, touring his punchy observational stand-up worldwide, acting, and winning countless awards like a Peabody and an International Emmy for the documentary series Hip-Hop Evolution, which he co-produced, and was named Canadian Comedy Person of the Year. No biggie. When Peters stepped into his role at Red Light Holland as CCO, he soon realized there was no time like the present and became a client of the psychedelic experience.

Courtesy High Times

High Times: How did you and Todd hook up for Red Light Holland?

Russell Peters: Todd Shapiro is a friend that I’ve known for a while from when he did radio. I’d do radio with him when I could, and we just kept in touch. He asked if I wanted to get involved, and I told him I didn’t know much about it all. I really never looked into it because I had never done it. He told me that’s why he wanted to get me involved and that I could use my creative mind with the marketing. It sounded exciting and interesting, so I wanted to learn more. It was as simple as that. 

What made you want to try magic truffles for the first time at this stage in your life?

Being that I’m the CCO of Red Light Holland and people had been asking me so many questions about the product that I had no answers to, I felt like a fraud and didn’t want to be the guy like, “Oh yeah, this is great,” without being able to back it up. It seemed a little “money grab-ish” to me, and I don’t like how that looks, sounds, or seems. I needed to make sure I knew what the fuck I was talking about. I still don’t claim to be an expert, having only done it once. At least I can say I tried it, I enjoyed it, and I’m willing to do it again. We’re placed in Amsterdam, so you can get our stuff there. It’s really starting to move, and I’m hoping more people get on board!

Did you go into it looking to get something specific from it? 

It’s funny because I expected way more. Eddie (assistant/tour manager) did it with me, and he got way more out of it even though we did the same amount. For me, I knew I was high, but it’s a strange thing because you’re aware that you’re high. Like, “Oh! I’m high!” It’s not like a goofy thing though, where you are like, “Hey dude! I’m so high.” More so like, “I’m high and none of this is real.” It was wild. I’m not much of a smoker or drinker, and this was the first time I tried something other than weed, so I think I was expecting all of these crazy things to happen. I did giggle a lot.

Photo by Eddie Valdez

For newbies who want to giggle too, would you say being monitored is the way to go when you try microdosing for the first time? 

I think a monitored experience would be a really smart way to start. At least that’s what I did. I did mine, for lack of better terms, with a shaman when I was in Amsterdam. We used Red Light Holland products, and he gave me fresh truffles that were literally picked that morning. Truffles grow underground, and throughout Holland, cultivation is legal because you can control the product’s growing process. (Europe is bound by a “single market act,” and there is no specific order against psychedelic truffles, making sale, transportation, and possession legal.) For whatever reasons, they make their reasonings. The earth grew it, but we’re telling you no! Anyway, Eddie and I both mashed up our own truffles, we poured this portobello mushroom broth he made over it, and then we drank it. It was like eating a really good mushroom soup. 

Sounds like a nice start. How’d your trip go from there? Any stand-out moments? 

I’ve always been highly self-aware, and when I did my trip, there was one part where I saw myself dead. But it wasn’t a scary thing or an epiphany or anything. It was just like I was floating above and below I could see all of my friends and family crying and upset. Then I see me dead, but I don’t actually see my face. I just knew it was me. Same thing with my family and friends; I couldn’t see their faces. The one face I could see, which I thought was a little trippy, was Crazy Legs from Rock Steady Crew. Crazy Legs and I are very good friends now, but when I was a kid, I completely idolized him. I had posters on my wall, and to me, he optimized what cool was because I was a break dancer. So here we are, 40-something years later, and we’re friends. It’s a bizarre thing. Anyway, I see myself dead and Crazy Legs is running away from my body trying to get someone to help me. As I’m floating away, I’m like, “What are you doing? I’m already dead! Stop crying. It’s not that bad! I’m OK!” 

Do you think your subconscious was telling you that you’ve accomplished some cool shit and if you should die, your family will be taken care of by Crazy Legs? 

Yeah, right? The shaman said, “You seem very comfortable with death.” I’m like, yeah, it doesn’t bother me. I’m laughing like, see you guys later! It was pretty wild. I had a great trip. I really did have a good time.

OK, so your truffle experience was awesome, yet milder than what you imagined. What was your expectation the first time you smoked weed versus how it really went down? 

The first time I smoked weed was in the mid-’90s. I thought, “Oh man! I’m going to smoke some weed and see all of these little green men, and it’s going to be wild and holy shit!” I remember taking a drag off of my friend’s joint outside of a restaurant, and all I did was cough. I was like, “Well, this sucks,” and I went home. I didn’t realize I was high when I went home. I put on the TV and stared at it for many hours. When I snapped out of it, I realized that I had been watching a commercial for Dr. Ho’s Muscle Massager. I watched an infomercial for like three hours! 

Photo by Eddie Valdez

Did you eat anything while watching TV high and not knowing it for three hours? 

No, but another time, maybe three years ago, Raekwon was hanging out at my house. He was like, “Yo Russ, I need to go to the studio with the Game. You wanna come?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll go!” I get there, and Raekwon and Game are in the studio, but there are all of these other people hanging out in there too, and the room was fucking thick with smoke. I got hotboxed but didn’t realize it because I was just sitting there. Then Raekwon gets in the booth, and I have this moment where it’s like, you forget they’re legendary because they become a normal person to you. Then they go and do what makes them legendary, and you’re like, “Oh shit! That’s Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan!” 

Please tell me that you were so high that you asked to spit a couple of bars. 

Yeah, no. But I thought about it! What happened is that he finished, came and sat down, I told him how dope it was, and then I had to go to the bathroom. As I’m walking down the hall, I see this catering room with three pizzas there. I ate all three fucking pizzas. I just stood there eating it like, “Is this the best pizza I have ever had in my life?” Then I realized after, “Holy shit, I’m high!” People started coming out of the studio, and I’m like, “Oh fuck, I need to hide these boxes!”

I can’t wait for Game and Raekwon to read this article because, of course, they will and then send you a pizza bill.

Worth it. It was really great pizza. Or I was accidentally high. 


This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Adam DeVine’s Path to Comedy

Adam DeVine is STOKED to be featured in High Times Magazine, especially since—once-upon-a-time—his journey through comedy almost never happened. “High Times Magazine is so cool for me, man. If you were to have told an 18-year-old-me—we’ll say 18, but really 16—that I was going to be interviewed by High Times Magazine, I would have lost my mind. And still, a 39-year-old-me would have lost my mind the same exact way, like I did a couple of weeks ago when I found out I was going to do this interview.”

As a kid, DeVine was involved in a serious accident, one that—to this day—left him with lasting physical ailments. Yet despite such a horrific experience, he was able to conquer his fear of death at a very young age and come to the very mature conclusion that if you’re blessed with the gift of life, you better make the most of it and do what you love.

When we connect by phone, the comedian, writer, and actor is doing just that—gearing up for a brand new season of The Righteous Gemstones on HBO, a spinoff series of the Pitch Perfect movies Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin on Peacock, a big action comedy The Out-Laws on Netflix, and a new Workaholics movie that’s aiming to start production sometime toward the beginning of 2023.

Over the course of our conversation, DeVine shares more on how tussling with a potentially untimely demise propelled him to pursue the intersection of what he loved and what he was good at—making people laugh—and the role cannabis plays in his creativity, his day-to-day life, and it’s influence in helping craft one of the most legendary stoner comedy shows of all time.

High Times Magazine: Growing up in Nebraska, did you always know comedy was the path you wanted to pursue? 

Adam DeVine: I don’t know if I chose comedy or if it chose me. It was something I liked, and I wasn’t innately good at anything else.

When you’re a kid and you’re trying to figure out what you want to do in life, you have to look at what interests you one, and two, what you’re innately good at. Hopefully those things align and what you’re interested in is what you’re innately good at. For me, I was always pretty good at making people laugh. I enjoyed doing it and it was an easy thing for me to get involved with. 

You hear people all the time who are like, “My parents said ‘What are you doing?! Why don’t you just become a doctor?’” When I told my parents I was going to pursue a career in comedy, they were just like, “Yeah, we see that for you.”

Was your parents’ support essential in making it OK for you to pursue that path? 

Yeah, it seemed less scary since my family had my back.

When I was 11 years old, I was hit by a 32-ton cement truck and couldn’t walk for almost two years. I had 25 or 30 surgeries or something like that, and after having such a near death experience as a kid, comedy was my warm blanket. It was something that made me feel good, I liked making people laugh, and it was something I could do from a wheelchair. I didn’t have to be an athlete to be able to make people laugh. Once I didn’t die, I think my parents were like, “OK, if he wants to do comedy, more power to him. He’s not dead so he can do whatever he wants.”

I honestly don’t know if I would have gotten involved in acting or comedy if I wouldn’t have had the accident. I’m from Omaha, Nebraska. I didn’t know anyone who had a career in comedy or acting. It wasn’t a “real” job to have. Overcoming a great obstacle like not being able to walk and almost dying, I think after that it was sort of like, “Anything is possible. You only have one life, you might as well try to live it the way you want to live it.” As much as it sucks—I’m still in residual pain from the accident—I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I know I wouldn’t be here doing the things I love to do if it weren’t for it.

Adam DeVine at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards held at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, USA on April 9, 2016. Photo credit Tinseltown/Shutterstock.

“You could use marijuana as a creative tool, but you just have to know yourself.” – Adam DeVine

Did the near death experience also embolden your perspective that it’s a gift to be able to live your life your way if you’re able to? 

At a young age when a lot of people are worried about what society expects of them or what their family expects of them, I didn’t have that. After almost dying as a kid, it really puts everything into perspective like, “Look. It could all be gone tomorrow.” So I’m not going to go to college to get a degree to do something that I don’t love to do just to make my family happy or appease society in general.

A lot of times, that awareness and perspective comes much later in life. 

Yeah, it made everything click into place pretty young. That being said, it’s not like I’m not driven or ambitious, I’m just driven and ambitious for the things I want to be driven and ambitious towards, not things that don’t excite me just to make a living. 

You ended up going to Orange Coast Community College and meeting your Mail Order Comedy crew. Was that sort of the jump off point?

I just knew I had to get to California to meet other people with similar interests as myself. So along with a friend of mine—Austin Anderson, who’s a very funny stand-up in his own right—I moved to Southern California where we went to Orange Coast Community College. The plan was just to go for a few years and then transfer to UCLA. I told my parents the plan and I think they kind of knew if it was bullshit—I knew it was bullshit, but it was just kind of a thing I said to get out to California.

I ended up meeting Blake [Anderson] and Kyle [Newacheck] day one at Orange Coast Community College, which was sort of like meeting brothers. We spoke the same language, we thought the same kinds of things were funny, and we’re the same age so we have the same cultural touchstones. It just felt right, and from then on, we all had the same ambitions of making a career of being funny. It seems like an insane thing to try and make a career out of, but again, we all had the same ambitions and all sort of pushed each other forward.

How key was that creative and professional alignment between you all?

Fuck, I think finding collaborators might be one of the most important things that a young person can do when they’re trying to break into whatever business they’re trying to break into. Finding people you can bounce ideas off of or that can help inspire you is crazy important. Without those guys, we would all probably be having a great time working in a factory somewhere. 

After you all met, was there a moment or set of experiences where it clicked that the career you wanted in the area you wanted was indeed happening?

After two years, I realized I wasn’t going to go to UCLA and broke that news to my parents, and Kyle had left the year prior to go to Los Angeles Film School to learn how to be a director. I decided to move up [to Los Angeles] and live with Kyle and essentially try to break into the entertainment industry.

I got a job working the door at The Hollywood Improv Comedy Club and considered that one of my first big breaks because at that time I was seeing stand-up every day at work. Every night I was seeing some of the best comics in the world— the Chris Rocks, the Dave Chappelles, the Sarah Silvermans, the Zach Galifianakises—and then during the day, I would write with the guys and we would come up with different internet videos. At the same time, I’d just met Anders [Holm] in an improv class at the Second City Conservatory in Los Angeles, and it’s after we met Ders that I think everything started to click into place.

Blake and myself have more of a performing background, while Ders had less of a performing background and more of a writing background. He was a few years older than us and was writing scripts, which we hadn’t done yet. Seeing the work ethic he had with writing and realizing… Ders is a very smart guy, but he’s also just as dumb as the rest of us. Sometimes I think you build up a thing in your head of “Well, only the smartest people in the world write movie scripts,” like you have to be a genius or something. But really it’s just about sitting down and doing the work. Ders showed us that was possible, which sort of opened the doors for all of us to start writing together. I feel like with our powers combined, when one person is lacking in one thing, it’s another person’s strong suit. We really complimented each other well and that’s when things started to click into place.

Adam Devine attends “Jexi” Los Angeles Premiere at Fox Bruin Theatre, Los Angeles, CA on October 3 2019. Photo credit: Matt Sayles

“It’s nice to just, at the end of the day, smoke a little joint. Whether it’s with friends or just sitting by myself, it’s a nice end-cap to the night. As opposed to dads from the 1950s with their scotch and their recliner, I feel like I’m that new-age where I sit there and smoke my little pre-rolls at night.” – Adam DeVine

You each brought a skillset to the table that made your individual brains more powerful as a collective. 

And I still think that. I still think when I write with those guys it’s when I’m at my funniest. When the four of us are together or the three of us are on screen together, I think I’m at my funniest and I think those guys are also at their funniest when we’re all there to prod each other along.

Do you liken it to being in a band where you’re inspiring each other to try new things artistically?

All the time. We actually mention that quite a bit, that essentially we’re just a band. Now it’s weird because now we’re a veteran band. We’re a band that’s been together for like 20 years, so we’re finding new ways to do the same thing differently while still giving the people what they like and expect from us.

In terms of what the people want and expect from you, is it a process whereby you guys are tapping into what you find funny on an individual and collective level, and it just so happens that what you guys find funny resonates with other people?

We were very fortunate to be given the opportunity to come out with our show [Workaholics] at the time that we did and have it resonate with a lot of people who were within five to 10 years of our age on either side. So I think it really connected with a wide group of people who were either about to go into college and were like, “Oh, that [show] is what college life is like,” or who just gotten out of college and were like, “This is my life exactly,” or who had been out of college for years and then looked back and were like, “Wow, I remember when my life was so free and all I had to think about was how I’m going to get drunk and high that night,” instead of having all of these actual responsibilities.

On that tip, what role does getting high play for you creatively and in your life in general? 

I feel like of all the guys, I probably was the biggest stoner. It’s a real battle royale between me and Kyle for that title nowadays. You could use marijuana as a creative tool, but you just have to know yourself. You have to know how much is too much, how it affects you as a person. It’s the kind of thing that is a tool in your toolbelt, but it won’t make an unfunny person funny or a non-talented person talented. If you don’t have the goods to begin with, it won’t help you, but it can be used as a tool to free up your mind every once in a while. 

If you can’t crack a story or you’re working on a video that you can’t get just right, you’re able to tweak it by smoking a little bit. You think about it, you free up your mind, you’re not married to what you’ve already written and what you’ve already worked on and you’re able to work on the problem from a different point of view. That’s how I’ve viewed marijuana and I think it’s helped me along the way.

“If you can’t crack a story or you’re working on a video that you can’t get just right, you’re able to tweak it by smoking a little bit” – Adam DeVine

Is there a particular strain or type of weed that you enjoy unwinding with the most? 

I feel like the pre-rolled minis are perfect for smoking by yourself or with one other person. I smoke a lot of Lowells and I tend to like the energetic sativas. Even at night, I like that they get my mind moving in a good way. I also like Selfies, which are a nice little size, and a little smaller than Lowells as well.

I also drink Cann, which, full disclosure, I am an investor in, because I feel they’re remarkable cannabis beverages.

They have 2 mg THC, so you treat it like you’re having a glass of wine and you can have a few. I do like that ritual of having something to drink at the end of the night and Cann is a good way to not have the excess calories and the unneeded headache the next day.

The older I get, when I drink, I’ve been starting to get these gnarly hangovers. I used to pride myself on being the guy who never got hangovers who could pop up the next day and be like, “And I’m baaaaaack.” Admittedly, it is catching up to me, and it’s nice to just, at the end of the day, smoke a little joint. Whether it’s with friends or just sitting by myself, it’s a nice end-cap to the night, as opposed to dads from the 1950s with their scotch and their recliner. I feel like I’m that new-age where I sit there and smoke my little pre-rolls at night.

Just put your dad hat on and you’re good to go.

Yup, get my cardigan on and enjoy my edibles.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was published in the February 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Adam DeVine’s Path to Comedy appeared first on High Times.

Ian Lara, The Romantic Comic

In a lean but not very mean 40-minute special for HBO Max, Ian Lara not only scores laughs but tells great stories that are, really, contained romantic comedies.

It’s just a smooth special. From beginning until the end, it’s consistent, not to mention gracefully crafted, thanks to director and comedian Aida Rodriguez. Sometimes when comedians step behind the camera for specials, like Rodriguez, they just know how to instinctually respond to the material and performer best. 

I digress, but if you haven’t seen “Romantic Comedy” yet, check it out and consider seeing Lara on the road. He has several upcoming tour dates. Recently, the comedian talked to us about his material and his experiences on the road in NYC and elsewhere. 

High Times: When did you first start feeling comfortable on stage? 

Ian Lara: I’ve always, from day one, I was always happy doing it. I wasn’t one of those dark, sinister comedians who are great but then hate the art. I always just loved stand-up and I was always having a good time. I was always like, this is great.

Where did you first test out material in the early days?

Well, those early days, it was just open mics where you would go pay $5, buy a drink, and do five minutes in front of comedians who hate you and themselves. So, it was tough. Now I’m at a different point where when I write a new joke, I’ll usually just throw it in the middle, I’ll try it somewhere at the Comedy Cellar or The Stand, New York Comedy Club. I’ll just throw it in the middle of the set and see where it lands.

I like the caricature of the self-loathing comedian, especially the ones that turn their noses at people who are very joyful about comedy. 

Yeah. I mean, it is a very strange thing when people try to neg you, or mock the fact that you’re being funny, or attempting to be funny in the art of comedy, where you’re like, “I thought that’s what we were doing.” People say things like, “Oh, you do jokes, you have jokes.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I thought that’s what this was.”

It’s weird. There are great comics with that mentality.

To each their own. Everybody has their own thing that they feel works and everyone should be doing. Because everyone thinks that their way is the right way, which is fine. But yeah, I enjoy jokes. This is who I am. That’s the thing, I do that for me, but sometimes I’ll see somebody who has a more one man show-ish type of thing and I love that, too. 

So, you’re still working on getting there with comfortability, but when did you start having more confidence in your performances and writing?

Maybe within the past two, three years. I’m joking a little bit about the comfortable, I’m pretty comfortable on stage. I’ve been doing comedy for 11 years. I do it every night, mostly every night. Recently I’ve been telling myself, take nights off, it’s okay. I do most nights, three, four times a night all over the city and the country. So if you do anything that much, you’re going to get a certain type of comfortableness with it no matter what it is. So, I do have that.

Recently, within the past two, three years, you have achieved a couple of accomplishments and it kind of reassures you that, all right, you’re on the right path. You know what you’re doing and it gives you that ability. So I would say probably after I did my first Tonight Show set, I was kind of like, okay, you are a comedian and you are doing this right.

Congratulations on your recent special, by the way. It’s very good. 

Thank you so much, man. I appreciate it.

When did you know the material was ready for a special?

I think in this business, people just start to tell you. You have an idea. Even when you have an idea about it, you’re not really sure. I was taping the sets and then I would watch it over and I was like, all right, well this is hitting from start to finish. At least from my perspective, there were no lulls. People were into this from start to finish and then you start going on tour, you go on the road and comedians start telling you, in different markets, comedians will see you do the hour and they’ll be like, “Hey man, that’s ready.” You start hearing that more and more and more, once you get to a point where you’re hearing it, I feel like a lot, then you convince yourself, I think this is ready.

I always like to ask comedians, which cities do you enjoy the most performing in?

I love Minnesota. I like San Diego, I enjoy Sacramento. I like Texas. I go to El Paso, that was one of the first places that was working for me before a lot of the credits, El Paso, Texas. I like Austin, Vancouver in Canada, Philly. Those are the ones that I’m like, all right, these people get me. I feel like any major cities are fun, but even in more rural places that I go to, I have fun. I was just in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which you wouldn’t think, but the audience was a lot older than me and was still a lot of fun.

I think they like their whiskey and good jokes there.

Yeah, that’s the thing. When I was coming up in stand-up, I started going on the road at four years in. I was hosting and featuring on the road. I came up doing these B and C comedy rooms where the audience is generally older. They’re not really these young comedy fans. So, I learned how to work them before I started doing the more mainstream rooms.

How old were you when you first hit the road?

I was 20.

Oh, wow. How do you look back on year one in comedy?

It’s borderline embarrassing. You look back at the first year, I don’t have any of those jokes. I will never tell any of those jokes. You don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why when people ask me about starting comedy and they’re so worried, they’re like, I want to start, but I don’t know how to start. Or I want it to be perfect. I’m like, being perfect, that goal is irrelevant. You have to just go up there and do it. There’s no joke that you’re going to write for day one that you’re going to keep in your set that’s going to make it to your special, or your Tonight Show set. So, just start.

I feel like that advice could apply to so many different fields. I wanted to follow up on the Comedy Cellar. It’s one of the best spots. Any special memories there?

That place is just a dream to perform comedy, especially for somebody like me. Like I said, I’m the kind of comedian that’s like, I have jokes that I have written that I want you guys to hear, that I want to perform for you guys. Some comedians like a crowd, a wild crowd, so they can interact with the crowd. I’m not saying I don’t do that, but I wrote jokes that I want you to hear. 

At the Comedy Cellar, you’re just set up for that. It’s a club that’s literally set up for them to hear your jokes. Their phones are put away, there’s security making sure people aren’t talking. The waitstaff knows what they’re doing, and knows the room. It’s just a perfect setup for me. From day one that I was in there, it’s been such a great experience. From meeting some of my idols, like Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, to having conversations with them, to following them. It’s just been amazing for me.

How does performing there, where a lot of hardcore comedy fans go, compare to maybe some clubs elsewhere with more casual fans? 

I think the thing about a club, like the Comedy Cellar, they’re a world renowned comedy club. The people that go there, they’re comedically savvy. I’m not saying that the people at the other clubs around the country are not savvy. But these people […] have a favorite comedian, they watch comedies. So they know more or less where we are as an industry. So for your jokes that work there generally, you have to really give them a good show because they’ll be like, “I’ve seen this type of stuff already.”

When you go to some places who aren’t really known for comedy locations… For example, in Kenosha, the audience was great, but generally speaking that audience is not watching a ton of stand-up. So those audiences are great too, because they’re not as snobby. They’re like, “We’re just here for a good time, man. It’s Friday night, we came out, we just want to laugh.” Those crowds are good for that. You could have great shows. But then the New York crowds, I feel like they keep you honest when they’re like, “Hey, that bit you’re doing is hack.”

New York City just seems like a goldmine of material for comics, too.

I was born and raised here. I’ve always lived here. I do have a lot of stuff about being from New York. But again, I’m from here, so this is all I know. When people visit, they’ll see a guy naked on the train and they’ll be like, “What is going on?” I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s the guy that’s naked on the train. That’s what he does.” That’s it. It’s no big deal. Harmless.

What’s your experience with cannabis? 

I have gone through phases in my life where I aspire to be a smoker, but I couldn’t find the right thing. I did edibles a couple times, and everybody has their disaster stories about edibles. I found that’s not for me. I’ve tried the pens and then I’m like, I do the pens and I’m like, I’m not high. I don’t think I’m doing this right. And even the actual thing where I’m like this, I just can’t do it, so I’ve given up. Maybe it’s not for me, because I can’t find the right thing. I’m either way too high, or not high at all.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of different suggestions, but the CBD-THC mixes, have you given those a shot? It’s a nice middle-ground.

Everyone has a thing that I need to try. Everyone that I speak to has a thing that I haven’t tried yet. I’m always like, all right, send them in. I want it. Some people tell me they have anxiety and they’ll smoke weed and it’ll help them. Some people say that it helps them write. I’m like, I would love that. I would love drugs to help me write. But in my 32 years of living, I have yet to find the right thing for me.

Hopefully one day. Is cannabis as prevalent in NYC clubs as LA? 

Yeah, yesterday I was just sitting in a green room and I had to literally, I was like, “Guys, I’m going to go wait outside because I’m getting high. I don’t smoke, so I’m getting high on the second hand, so I’m going to just go wait outside.” Now, when I go to LA, or I’ll go to someplace where weed is legal, I’ll go to the weed shops, try to find a weed pen. A pen is the neatest thing. You don’t have to roll or anything.

I’m with you. Nice and convenient. What do you hope to accomplish in 2023?

First, I want people to watch this new special. I hope people see it and enjoy it. I want to build more fans. I want people to know more about my work, and when I come to their city, I want them to want to come out and see me. I just enjoy the entertainment business. I just want to keep growing in it, whether it be in a TV show, or I’m doing some voiceover work. I’m trying to sell a TV show, so I just want to keep growing in it.

For the special, how’d you and your director decide on the best way to present you and your material?

Actually, this is a big shout-out to Aida Rodriguez, another comedian, great comedian who directed the special. We had a talk when she came, she asked if I would be interested in working with her on the special, and allowing her to instill her vision. We had to talk about what we’d wanted, and from the time we spoke, what we both wanted was the same thing and went from there adding things. So, it wasn’t difficult at all. 

How it looks aesthetically is a testament to her and her vision. She’s known me for almost 10 years. She knows my type of sense of humor and the way I perform, and the type of material I do. She just was like, this is the way I want to show you to people. I think it all came together from how it looks, to the title of the special.

I remember from day one she was like, “I want it to seem special.” I was like, “Yeah, I like the smokey look.” She was like, “Yeah, that’ll be great. We can give it a 1980s, ‘90s smokey Richard Pryor or Def Comedy Jam look, where it looks like there’s smoke in the building.” We agreed. For the background, I didn’t want just a curtain. I want it to be lit. She was like, “Yeah, I think orange lighting, I think you’ll look good against orange lighting.” We didn’t want to do a huge venue, so there were only 350 people at the venue. She wanted it to feel intimate, but also have a special look. I think she was able to capture that.

I like that she said, “I want to make it feel special.” For a director to strive to live up to the name of a comedy special, that’s nice to hear.

Yeah. Listen, we’ve, as an industry, it’s just different now. A special, they’re used to be 10 of them a year, right? It was special when there were 10 of them a year. The only people that were doing them were HBO and Comedy Central. They were special then. Now there’s 10 that come out every Friday on YouTube, and Netflix is releasing 50 a month and HBO’s releasing a ton. It’s different now. 

It’s not that I don’t think comedians have decided we no longer want them to be special. I just think that they’re not what they used to be. Artists used to make albums, now they got to make a song for TikTok. It just changed. But for what we were doing, we were like, what if we revisit this?

Well, you can’t ever go wrong with smoke. Always looks good. 

It was a hipster thing of us. Like, hipsters will take something that was cool in the ‘80s and be like, “Let’s make this cool now.” That’s what we tried to do.

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Practice Makes Perfect

Musician, singer, actor, comedian, and beatbox extraordinaire, Reggie Watts has layers like an onion. If onions ate edibles, that is.

Born in Germany and raised in Montana, Watts’s love affair with cannabis started with the finest schwag a teenager’s money could buy. Thankfully, that crispy weed didn’t hinder him as he stayed on a path that led him to learning all of the benefits the cannabis plant has to offer. 

Somehow he always gives the audience exactly what they want—not even Watts knows what he’s planning, from a TED Talk and comedy specials to his tones and beats on Comedy Bang! Bang!. His gift comes naturally and what a gift it is.

Edibles have also been a gift to him, not just to reduce stress and anxiety, but as a muse as well. He even takes his love for cannabis steps further, advocating far and wide in loopy improvised musical odes to 4/20 on The Late Late Show with James Corden where he serves as the leader of the show’s band, called Melissa.

We talked to Watts about practicing proper dosage, vibes over terps, and an “edible game” he plays when alone with himself. (Get your minds out of the gutter.)

High Times: What was the weed like growing up in Montana?

Photo credit: Robyn Von Swank

Reggie Watts: Oh man, I mean, it was very schwaggy. It was very brown with seeds in it, but we would get really fucked up! I don’t remember its efficiency, I didn’t know anything about that then, but we were high. I guess it came from Mexico? That’s what everyone always said, “It came from Mexico.” Who even knows if it was true.

Do you remember where you got it back then?

I like that question because it’s like you’re trying to score some.

Yeah so, where’d you get that dirt weed from? Can I get that number like, pssst… Reggie sent me?

So yeah, is there an email I get? A number I can hit up? I need some schwag! You know, I don’t know where we got it from back then. It was always my friend that procured it, and I had no idea where he got it. Ok actually, there was one time when I knew where we got it. I had broken into a small pickup truck and behind the seat, there was a huge brown paper bag full of weed. We ended up selling that in the summer, but we kept a bunch too. So that’s where we got some of our weed, but the rest of it my friend Beav got that was probably just from some guy. Maybe he got it from Mexico.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve MacGyvered to smoke pot out of? 

Wow, what would that have been? Oh, you know what? This one was a pretty good one. I had this wood coffee table that I got from a thrift store when I was furnishing my first place in Seattle. My friend was a woodworker so, we decided to make one of the corners of the table into a pipe. So, we carved out a bowl and then drilled a hole in the corner so you had to just like, get down on your knees, put some weed on top of the table in the bowl, and draw from the corner of the table. You know what? It worked!

That’s the most random thing I’ve ever heard. Now that you’re a vet in the game, do you have a favorite strain?

My favorite stuff comes from my friend Dave. He’s in a band and grows the most amazing weed. It’s incredible because it’s grown biodynamically and it just has this really chill, fun, and awesome feeling to it. That’s my favorite. I’m not really a connoisseur when it comes to strains and things like that because for me it’s like, is it weed? Ok, lemme get high off of it.  I’m not really like, well the terpenes are like… yeah, I have no idea.

“What gets me high? What’s a good vibe? For me it’s about the vibe. When someone is like, this is great for being creative… yeah good, let’s get high. That is all I need and I’m happy.”

– Reggie Watts

That’s so funny because every weed store is like, this is great because of the percent of terps and I’m like, “Let me stop you. I’ll take a sativa. Preferably something fruity.”

Yeah! What gets me high? What’s a good vibe? For me it’s about the vibe. When someone is like, this is great for being creative… yeah good, let’s get high. That is all I need and I’m happy. I also try to stick to edibles because smoking does kind of fuck with my throat.

Ahhh yes. I recall a space cake story you told on A Little Late with Lilly Singh. Have you given space cakes another go or was that it for you?

Of course! I’m not one of those people who give up or have a crazy experience like, “oh I’m never going to do that on stage again.” Of course I’m going to do that on stage again. The one thing I dislike is that every single person I run into when I offer them an edible is like, “I don’t know mannnn, I just can’t, it makes me all urghhhh.” I just feel like, you have to keep trying. You have to practice, know your amounts, and pick a brand that is consistent. People just give up so easily and weed has so many benefits. Don’t pass on it!

I hate to be part of the problem, but I once ate 25 mg, couldn’t move for 12 hours, and I had shit to do.

Photo credit: Robyn Von Swank

I don’t think anyone is a pussy for not taking them. And if you took too much, you took too much. I can’t just be like, “SUCK IT UP!” There are tricks you can do to calm yourself down and get through it, but it’s not really about that. It’s about how that was too much, so next time, you’ll do 4 mg or 2.5 mg. People get afraid of edibles and they’re so scienced out now and have all different kinds of doses from low to high. And their levels are insanely accurate, which makes them awesome products. I think edibles have a big advantage and I think they’re very helpful.

OK you win! I’ll give them another go. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re all high and such?

All stizzy? That wasn’t sponsored. I enjoy the classics like video games and watching a really amazing show of any kind, mainly science fiction. Those things I really love. Something else I really love is, I just recently got ahold of some Level pills that are 100 mg each. I’ll take a high dose, like 100 mg, and then just try to complete technical tasks. Firmware updates or organizing a drawer or something like that. I love stuff like that because it’s basically me trying to batten down the hatches on a ship that’s in the middle of a hurricane, you know?

It’s a mental exercise or a creative challenge. Can I maintain my composure? A lot of people don’t know I’m high on an edible, or on anything. I have some weird ability to tap into normalcy and I can get into a pragmatic mindset. I just kind of do it as a practice because you know, when shit goes down, I don’t wanna be freaking out! I want to go into problem solving rather than being all, “AHHHHH!!!!”

I think you need to sell portions of your brain to other people. We all need a little Watts brain, please.

Yeah, I should do that. I need to create a method. The Watts method!


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Phil Hanley Is Taking It Easy

Phil Hanley has a laid back approach to his material, which is more self-deprecating than punching up or down at anyone.

Most recently, Hanley financed and produced his latest special, “Ooh La La.” He betted on himself. It paid off and resulted in a brisk, tightly constructed 45 minutes of consistent laughs, both big and small. Hanley, who has plenty of nostalgia for his high school days of dropping acid and skateboarding in Canada, talked to us about his earliest experiences in comedy, the Grateful Dead, and dyslexia.

What work went into self-financing and producing your special?

Well, I did have a producer and my friend directed it. Russell Marcus Price directed it, but just coming up with the design for the backdrop, I taped it in one of the Comedy Cellar venues and other people had taped specials there before because they’re really generous with letting us use the venue and stuff. I wanted it to look different. I had to design, come up with the backdrop, and then hire people to build it all out. There are five cameras. I can write the jokes and perform them, but all the other stuff is just really not anything that I have a strong grasp of. It was a lot of work and then you tape two shows and edit it together, and it’s just a whole thing. It’s all new. I had done a special in Canada when I first started and I did a Comedy Central special and you just show up when you’re not doing it yourself. This way, there’s just so much going on.

What clubs did you play at in Vancouver?

Yeah, I started in Vancouver. There were tons of open mics and stuff that I did, and then there was a great club here called the Comedy Mix that now is no longer. It unfortunately shut down. But yeah, I was lucky. When I started comedy, I moved back in with my parents and the club was an eight minute walk. It was so close.

This is one of the rare specials in which the comedian doesn’t mock their parents. They sound great.

Yeah, it’s funny. My parents, my dad, was a huge comedy fan and particularly a standup fan. They were onboard right away. Even now when I’m home, I’ll be talking about my friend Sam Morale at dinner, and then I’m going out to do a show in Vancouver and I’ll hear my dad watching a special or I’ll mention a comic. They’re older, they’re retired and stuff like that, but they’re pretty hip to the current standup scene.

How do you decide when you know an hour of material is ready to go for a special?

Well, I’m not a perfectionist in any other area of my life, but I could just work material over and over again and I kind of set a date. Because what I needed to do was to set a date and then just get on your agent to fill out the weekends. You can overthink these things. I knew that I had three months [before filing] on the road then to really tighten stuff.

Of course, as you’re about to tape, all of a sudden you have all these new bits and stuff and have to decide, do I just love this bit because it’s brand new and I haven’t done it a million times? Or is it actually up to par with the other jokes in the special? With comics, your mind tends to play tricks on you. You’ll have a brand new bit where you think it’s the best thing in the world, but it’s really just fresh for you to tell so you got to kind of figure that out.

What were some of the brand new bits in the special that stayed?

I think there’s a bit that was really new. It sucks now. I was able to do it up until I just played San Francisco and I was able to do a lot of the material from my special because it hadn’t come out yet. But the joke about a scientific study that said that unstable women were better in bed. That was a real thing. I didn’t read the whole study, but I did read that headline and then I just had that bit for so long and I was trying to figure it out. I was trying to figure it out and there were so many angles. In my head initially I was like, “Well, unstable women, I guess I’m sure to some I would be considered an unstable man. Does that make me better?”

I just couldn’t figure out the right thing. And then you just get it and something just clicks. Some jokes come to you and are so easy right away. You try them that night and they’re kind of there. And then other things you’re just like, no, something’s funny and you just can’t quite get at the right angle. That was one that I had had for probably a year and a half and tried different things and then would drop it for a month and forget about it. And then a comic would be like, “Oh, I love that premise you had.” I was like, “Oh, yeah. Okay, I’ll try that again.”

What would you say are some of your favorite clubs that you go to test out material?

There are some clubs that you just trust. Some clubs are just easy, because the crowds are just pumped. For me, working at the Comedy Cellar is ideal because it’s a mixed crowd. It’s now basically a landmark so there are tourists, they’re from another state, but they’re kind of hardcore comedy fans. And then there’s just local New Yorkers that have been going there forever. I’m really lucky to get to play there every night because it is a good mix of people. If stuff works there, you’re pretty sure that it’s going to work.

Sometimes you’ll go and it’ll work on the road, a joke will work in a 45-minute set because they really get to know you and then you’ll come back and it won’t be hitting the same way at the Cellar and you’re like, “Oh, no. It’s not as strong as I thought it was.” But to me, the Cellar is a great place to get a read on a joke. I feel like if something hits there, unless it’s New York-centric, which I tend to try to steer away from, you know it’s going to kind of work everywhere.

I like that the Cellar actually keeps an eye out on the crowd, making sure they’re respectful.

Oh, yeah. Totally. I feel like people are well behaved there compared to other places. Sometimes on the road you’re like, nevermind in a comedy club, I can’t believe an adult would behave this way, just indoors. You’re like, “What are you doing?” They police those rooms and they make people lock up their phones and stuff like that, which is nice because then you feel like you can maybe take a risk or try something knowing that no one’s going to be videotaping it or whatever.

It’s funny watching the special, there wasn’t too much material where like, oh, this is stepping or dancing over a line. It was all good fun, even if something was teetering on the line. You know what I mean?

Oh, yeah. I want people to laugh and have fun and obviously, not take themselves so seriously. If people are offended or whatever, that’s not my goal. I don’t feel I’m being rebellious if someone gets offended or anything like that. I really want a room of strangers to all laugh, not to say that I still can make fun of things, but as long as any group doesn’t take themselves too seriously, they’re not going to be offended.

You have an easygoing presence on stage.

It feels easygoing, but putting it all together and all that stuff isn’t easy. It’s funny, I’m severely dyslexic to the point where people didn’t even realize. Now I’ve started working with dyslexic organizations and I’m on the board of a big one called Eye to Eye in the States and I had the opportunity to go and talk to kids that are dyslexic, and I’m learning more and more, but part of it is organization and getting out the door and getting to a place on time is challenging.

Coming up with material is always hard. It can be challenging, but once I’m actually on stage, I know I’m not late, I’m not running back because I forgot something, that part is easy. I think part of that is just because having a learning difference makes everything else so challenging that once I’m on stage, it is fun and it is kind of, for me, the easiest part of the day. But with that, memorizing material and all that stuff can be more challenging.

Do you tape your material to practice?

Even though I have so much difficulty reading and writing, for some reason I still like to write out jokes. I feel they’re their best when they’re written out. I always have a legal pad. I print them out in big grade three lettering and my spelling is always mocked by my colleagues and my printing. My friends always say it looks like a ransom note, but that’s just the way I do it. 

What are some crowd reactions you get for speaking about dyslexia? Do you ever meet people who relate or feel better to have a laugh about it?

Jack, it’s so crazy. I’ll say, I’ll play the late show. I was in San Francisco a week ago and your openers … you play Denver, wherever, you go on stage and it’s late and the people before you might have just talked about sex. Really sensational things and these graphic sex stories. I go up and I’m talking about being dyslexic. It’s so common and it’s affected so many people, that people are like, it’s hitting. It makes no sense that I can talk about an experience I had in the first grade, not being able to read, and it’s hitting hard at 11:15 on a Friday night where people got up, went to work, went for dinner, went for drinks, then came to the late show.

Or at the Comedy Cellar, sometimes I’ll go on at 1:00 a.m. and I’m talking about being a kid in special ed and it’s hitting. I think it’s really common. I do meet people afterwards, and that’s generally what they want to talk about. It’ll be someone whose kid’s dyslexic or someone who is dyslexic themselves or had some type of learning difference.

Must feel nice turning those experiences into feel-good comedy, right?

My favorite part of comedy is that you have a bad experience, you have a heartbreak or something tragic happens to you, when you’re a comic and especially with your friends, you’re surrounded by comics. You’re immediately like, “Oh, that’s going to be a great bit.” It’s almost the worse something happens, the better. You’re going to get something out of it. Even though obviously it sucks and is painful at the time, heartbreak or whatever, you do know in your head, you’re like, “I will get something out of it.” 

You take a shitty experience and then if you get five minutes of jokes out of it, you can tour that for a year and a half and kill doing those jokes. It feels almost worthwhile when going through a bad experience. That is like 100 percent the beauty of comedy. You do get something out of it when you go through something shitty.

When did you start talking more about dyslexia in your stand up?

Some of my first jokes were about being dyslexic. I had a therapist here in Vancouver and he observed that. I didn’t even realize what the hell I was doing, but he was really interested in comedy and he’d ask me about it at the end of our sessions and I would tell him and he’d be like, “You’re taking these negative experiences and making something positive out of them.” That is the best part.

As far as being empowering for dyslexics, I think it does help. It certainly helps me. Currently, I’m in Vancouver. I’m writing a book about being dyslexic and as I was doing the research, my jaw would drop, because when you have a learning disability, you all experience the same things, but you really suffer in silence because when you’re a kid, you’re not going to like… I was in special ed, but you don’t really connect about it. You’re just so bummed that you’re being forced to do this thing that you have so much trouble doing or whatever. Yeah, I think it is empowering just to also know that people go through similar things.

So many great comedians have come out of Canada. What material is really specific to there? 

Well, that’s interesting. In certain cities, there’s always local jokes or whatever, and sometimes you’ll see it on the road. I think part of the reason is that there’s a long line of Canadians that were funny; we are in, like it or not, and some would dispute, but we’re still in the shadows of the States. 

For example, if there’s an American election, it’s a huge story in Canada. Where if there’s a Canadian election, you guys have your own stuff. We’re really still in the shadows. I feel like that’s just the best place to be. Even in the sense, I’m sure in families, the younger siblings might be, I think in my family, I’m the youngest, but the younger siblings might be the funniest just because we’re, I don’t know, just observing. We’re just observing a lot. I feel like in Canada we have our own culture and our own stuff going on, but they’re also, every day, we turn on the news or CNN or whatever there, we do spend time observing what’s going on in the States.

How’s the book going?

The book, it’s going well. Yeah, it’s quite an endeavor and I have been really enjoying it. I’m a huge Grateful Dead fan. I put on a show and then I try to write, stay at my desk and write for the full show. If you know the Dead, that’s a pretty good writing session. They play for three hours.

I do that sometimes as well.

It’s the best. I did that when I started comedy. Before I even started comedy, I used to write screenplays for kids movies and stuff. I would do that and I put on a Dead show. I have this huge encyclopedia of every show, and I would look, I’d pick a show, and then I would read a little bit about it. As I was writing and I was also going, “Oh, wow. Brent really is going off in this ‘Turn On Your Lovelight.’”

Also, I can only listen to shows from the late ’80s and early ’90s if I can’t write with some blistering show from ’77 or something like that or the earlier stuff. The book has been going good, though. It’s long because I write slowly, but it’s pretty trippy. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but if you’re trying to write about things that happened years and years ago, if you really, day after day, if you’re thinking about these events, you start coming up with dialogue and there are times you can be pretty accurate.

Let’s journey back in time. How were your acid experiences in high school?

I took acid in high school. Part of my motivation was I couldn’t read. I was forced to go to school. It was stressful, and I took acid, and I knew that even there were dudes that were considered partiers that considered acid dirty or too much of a drug, whatever. I always felt a little bit weird about it. And then years later, I’m in a therapist’s office and my therapist’s like, “Yeah, you were so stressed and unhappy with basically your nine to five job, which was school, that you needed a release that took you to another dimension type thing.” It agreed with me. Although I don’t take it now, I do look back at those experiences so positively. I had a blast, but I realize it doesn’t agree with everybody. It certainly agreed with me at the time being in high school and taking acid and skateboarding on a summer night.

Sounds pretty great.

Yeah, absolutely. And then I love the Grateful Dead while I’m drinking chamomile tea, but the Dead while on LSD, especially those wild shows where they were most likely taking it themselves is wow, that’s really the ultimate, you got chocolate bar in my peanut butter. LSD and a skateboard and a Dead show is, when I was a teenager, that was about as great as it got.

Did you ever go to any Grateful Dead shows?

I’ve been to different carnations of the Dead, I’ve probably been to close to 100 every chance I got. Tons of Bob Weir and RatDog shows. I play San Francisco, they always booked me the weekend before the Dead played Shoreline, so I’d always get to see the Shoreline shows, and I always go to City Fields in New York, and I saw Phil Lesh and Friends and the Dead. Anything Bob Weir does, I’ll support. Another dyslexic.

Oh, really?

My favorite dyslexic, Bob Weir.

I didn’t know that.

Oh, dude. He is so dyslexic. He plays guitar like only a dyslexic can. He’s such a unique guitar player. I love bringing a friend to a Dead show and a musician or whatever and they’re smoking. They get a little fucked up and then all of a sudden they just start saying to me, “What the hell?” He just plays his chord so uniquely and he’s such a unique player. As a dyslexic, I’m like, “Yeah, you would approach it that way only if you were dyslexic.”

Did you ever get to see Jerry Garcia?

I did get to see Jerry, yeah, when I was really young. You can’t put into words what it’s like. I get goosebumps. I remember once I was at a show and I had looked away for a second and the crowd cheered, and I turned to my friend, and I’m like, “What happened?” He goes, “Oh, Jerry lifted his leg.” Everyone was so focused on him, and he would solo, and then the whole arena would exhale at the same time.

Nothing really touches that. I guess maybe John Coltrane or these legendary performers that people talk about losing themselves in their music. But with Garcia, it was like, and I didn’t have enough life experience to fully understand, but it was an absolute lift off. When he would play or solo, you’d just completely lose yourself, and then the song would end, you’d take a deep breath and the next thing you knew, you were in the middle of it again. It was incredible.

Now I go to shows and I’m kind of sober. I just take it in and enjoy it. But yeah, man, Garcia was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. I’ve seen tons of all the jam bands now, but he was the guy.

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