This week, Jake goes out with comedian EJ Marcus. The two discuss comedy “bits,” the politics of meeting for coffee, and childhood strip club burgers. Tune in for more.
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EJ Marcus: OK, noted. Never again.
J: No, but I get it. When I was bartending and people would order Hot Toddies, I was like, “I get it, but you also — you need to get it.” Do you know what I mean?
J: Because it’s like a hot — if you’re cold, but now I have to deal with hot and it’s annoying. By the way, they need to invent a tap that can pour hot.
EJ: Yes. Don’t they have that? Don’t they have a — I feel like some fancy people have a boiling water tap. Have you ever seen one?
J: Yes. No. Yes. Every time I see those, I’m just like, “That feels like such an accident waiting to happen.”
EJ: Yes. Absolutely.
J: Yes. I guess I just-
EJ: When you wash your hands, oh.
J: No. That’s what I’m saying. I know I would do it. I know I would do it. It’s like, but I do think that would be nice for a Hot Toddy because it’s like-
EJ: It would.
J: That is. I respect the need for it.
EJ: It should have a padlock on it, and you need to put in a code before you can-
J: You need to be 25 to use it. Yes, I think that’s totally respectable. Did you just do Rocka Rolla all night?
EJ: We were there, and then before we were there, we were at a French place, question mark.
J: Imagine if I also guessed that correctly based on just French.
EJ: It was French, and my friend was like, “They have awesome dessert,” and we were like, “Oh, my God, awesome.” Then we ordered dessert, and she was like, “Wow.” We just got one.
J: That’s ass. Where was the show the night before?
EJ: It was at The Red Room at KGB Bar.
J: Oh, it was Emily’s show?
EJ: It was really fun. That was an awesome show, honestly.
J: I haven’t actually done Emily’s show there, but I’ve been to that room, and it’s very Sleep No More-esque, like very weird. There’s a tub.
EJ: Oh, yes. Everyone was like, “Get in the tub.” I was like, “I don’t want to.”
J: I don’t want to get in the tub.
EJ: I don’t want to get in the tub.
EJ: Don’t let me get in the tub.
J: Being in New York, do you feel like you’re going to be going out more than you would in L.A. or you were going out in L.A.?
EJ: I am a going-outer in L.A., but here’s the thing, is I have — OK, the answer is yes. I will be going out more here, but that is because, I think, my friends that live here do just generally go out more-
J: 100 percent.
EJ: -than my friends that live in L.A. I’m not going to generalize. I’m not going to say that’s about L.A. or about New York.
J: No. That’s just your experience of the two cities.
EJ: It’s my experience of the two cities. Do I think maybe there’s correlations? I don’t know. I’m not saying anything because I don’t want anybody to get mad at me.
J: It’s like, for me, white knuckling to not disparage the city you live in.
EJ: Yes, because L.A. is a perfect city famously.
J: Nothing’s wrong.
EJ: Nothing’s wrong there.
J: There’s no homelessness in L.A.
EJ: No. None.
J: That’s what’s amazing when you go.
EJ: Public transit is flawless, obviously.
EJ: It makes sense. You picture it. You think, “Yes, that’s a city.”
J: People are taxed fairly.
EJ: Yes. No wealth disparities, it’s crazy.
J: That’s what’s amazing. It feels communist in L.A. It’s a little oppressive.
J: How long have you lived in L.A.? Was it just straight Portland to L.A.?
EJ: No. I’ve lived in L.A. for a little over a year. It was Portland to college in Ohio.
J: Kenyon or Oberlin?
J: I can clock them.
J: I can clock them.
EJ: Yes. I always say College of Ohio because it’s honestly a half-and-half interaction. Some people are like, “Oh, just say you went to Oberlin immediately,” and then the other half of people are like, “Oberlin, what is that?”
J: Yes, I know, 100 percent.
EJ: Then, like, in both ways I feel stupid.
J: If you had said Ohio State, I would have had an aneurysm.
J: No, not really.
EJ: You’d be shocked.
J: I would say, “I just knew you went to Oberlin.”
EJ: I know. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was Ohio State though? You’d be like, “What?”
J: Yes. No, it’d be fun.
EJ: Unfortunately, it was Oberlin. No, unfortunately. No, I don’t know. I’m randomly plugging my- .
J: You don’t have to apologize for going to Oberlin.
EJ: No, I do and it needs to be formal. I went to Oberlin College, and I was living in Ohio for four years, and then I moved to Philadelphia.
J: Oh, I was in Philly this morning.
EJ: Were you really?
J: Yes. Literally, those are my two bags. I just got off the Amtrak.
EJ: Oh, my God. You’re crazy.
J: Marsha and I did our show in Philly last night.
EJ: Where was your show?
J: It was at Underground Arts.
EJ: Oh, I know where that is.
J: Yes. It was cool.
J: It was cool. It was like — I think it used to be a theater, and now it’s mostly a music venue, and it’s very punk rock, metal aesthetic.
J: It was like a community theater parody. It definitely was an aesthetically interesting moment-
EJ: Sure, maybe confusing. Yes.
J: -but we had a great time.
EJ: That’s awesome.
J: They were amazing, and the food is really good there.
EJ: Yes. I really love Philly. I do.
J: I hadn’t been to Philly in a long time. I loved it.
J: My friend’s apartment was gorgeous and they pay so little for it.
EJ: I know, it’s very affordable. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
EJ: Yes. It’s really awesome there. I lived in West Philly, which is also very beautiful. I don’t know, where do you-
J: Yes. I was in South Philly. I was, yes. It honestly felt like London. It was, like, skinny streets.
EJ: Yes, I know. South Philly is like, whoa.
J: It was cute as f*ck. We went to a bakery for breakfast this morning, it was so good.
EJ: Yes. Really, really good food. Yes. I really love Philly. I moved there with the intention. I graduated college in 2019, moved there with the intention of trying comedy. I did look at comedy in college, and I was like, “I’m going to move to an approachable city and do comedy there,” and then the pandemic hit, obviously, so.
J: When you moved to L.A., was that because things had started happening on TikTok, and you were like, “Let’s go”?
EJ: No, actually, I moved to — I didn’t start doing TikTok until I’d lived in L.A. for a couple of months-
J: Oh, OK.
EJ: -because in L.A. I was meeting all these people who were so smart, who are using this thing called TikTok. No, I had heard of it obviously. I just got a phone.
J: Sorry, I forgot to mention, when I was living in Philly, it was 1972.
EJ: I’m sorry, I’m-
J: When I moved to L.A., it was through a time portal.
EJ: I’m 47 years old. Yes, I moved to L.A. I was meeting all these really awesome people who were making funny videos online, and I was like, “Oh, I should definitely be doing that too,” and then that was when I started.
J: Then you made videos funnier than all of them. Your videos are so good.
EJ: Thank you.
J: I genuinely love your stuff so much.
EJ: Hey, thanks.
J: I feel like Philly’s a fun going-out town.
EJ: It is fun. It is fun. It was an awesome place to be. I just graduated from college, I was working at Trader Joe’s, I was making obviously no money, and I could still afford to go to concerts. There’s really cool artists that come through there and play at tiny, awesome venues and like, I don’t know, really fun, little bars where people are doing live media. It’s just like — it’s really cool. Yes.
J: Yes. I wish not — I mean, I’m happy with where my life is so I don’t, and I love that I’ve lived in New York as long as I have, but I do think that there’s an intelligence to doing the mid-city stepping stone. I think that’s a really smart move. Like, doing Philly or doing — not that Chicago is bigger than New York or L.A., but I think most people in Chicago do end up moving to New York really if they’re doing comedy. It does feel like a mid-step in that way, and it is objectively a lot more affordable than New York, really.
EJ: It is. Totally, totally.
J: I think that that’s really freeing and I think it’s a smart move, so congrats because that’s not what I did.
EJ: Thank you. I will say that was the intention. It didn’t super pan out because it did — like Covid hit, and then it ended up being more so like me walking around downtown Philly while all the businesses were closed, sort of contemplating my own existence, mask outside kind of vibe — but a wonderful place to do that.
J: Absolutely. Where do you live in L.A. now?
EJ: I live on the border of Silver Lake and East Hollywood.
EJ: Does that mean anything to you?
J: I bet at this point I’ve been to L.A. a handful of times and I’ve been to all these neighborhoods, and it’s like I get the layout for two seconds, and then I go back and I’m like, “It’s gone.”
EJ: Well, because the streets are not going straight. There’s a lot of — you’re like, wait, we were on this street, but now we’re south of where we were earlier. It doesn’t-
J: Yes. I feel like all the directions are landmark-based. I’d be like, “Oh, I’m on this street and this street,” and people are like, “No.” I’m like, “It’s behind the McDonald’s,” and they’re like, “Yes.”
EJ: Yes, yes, yes.
J: It’s very that. I’m like, “OK. It’s just a different brain. It’s like a different brain pattern than New York, which is very street-based.”
EJ: Absolutely. Yes.
J: I love that. OK. Wait, so are you a restaurant person or bar person? Like let’s talk, what’s your going out vibe?
EJ: What’s my going out vibe? I love — honestly I have a lot of different, I feel like, versions. Like a lot of times in L.A. it’ll be I’m with a group of people, we’re sitting outside on a patio, everybody’s drinking orange wine, to be honest.
J: Yes. That’s the thing.
EJ: That’s the thing.
J: That’s happening in New York now too. Unfortunately, we do have to be indoors, but people want — at this point, I literally do, and you just realize you have an idea that is like — you’re like, I’m going to be a millionaire, hard SunnyD.
J: That’s essentially orange wine.
EJ: Orange SunnyD. It’s been a while since I’ve had SunnyD-
J: It has that caustic acidity.
EJ: Like caustic.
J: Like a caustic acidity that really comes with those natty orange wines.
J: Make it alcoholic. Slap some Everclear.
EJ: I guess, like a Mimosa.
J: Slap some Everclear in — this just sounds like a Mimosa. It is sort of a Mimosa. You’re not coming to Shark Tank with me. OK. It’s like, but throw some Everclear in a SunnyD, and then put it in a glass bottle with a sunrise that’s hand-painted in cray-pas, and that is going to be America’s next hottest natural wine.
EJ: Yes. Totally. I so believe in you to make that look awesome.
J: You’re on a patio, drinking orange wine.
EJ: I’m on a patio, drinking orange wine. Everyone’s like, “My day was rough,” or like, “My boss was on one again.” Everyone I know is an assistant, that kind of thing. That can sometimes be the L.A. vibe, which is fun.
EJ: I also do love — like I would say, and this was explained to me when I moved to L.A. that the vibe in L.A. for going out is a lot more like monthly events — like monthly themed events. You have to know what those are.
J: Yes. It’s like this show happens on the third Thursday of the month.
EJ: Yes, yes, yes. The queer scene, there will be a monthly — there’s like a gay — it’s called gay astrology. Astrology.
J: Oh, OK. I was going to say it feels redundant. Astrology.
EJ: That’s a monthly event. Obviously, it’s an astrology team, so they’re like, “It’s the Pisces Party.”
J: Yes, totally.
EJ: That kind of thing where it’s, a lot of times, an outdoor dance party, which I find pretty fun.
J: I’m jealous of that.
EJ: Yes, that’s fun.
J: You were in your early 20s when you moved to L.A.?
EJ: I am 25.
J: So you were 24 when you moved, or you were still 25?
EJ: I was 24.
J: No. OK. I guess my point is I feel like people talk about what — did you find it hard to make friends, being not in high school or college fresh out, in being in a post-that-age when you moved to L.A.?
EJ: Yes and no. I think I had a huge leg up because I had a few college friends that I already knew who were living there.
J: God bless.
EJ: One of my best friends from college had lived there since before the pandemic, so she was introducing me to people, could take me out to dinner, whatever-
J: God bless.
EJ: -showing me the spots. I also honestly knew a couple of people from high school too.
J: West Coast?
EJ: Yes. That was also — in a way, it didn’t feel like I was moving home by any means, but it did feel like, “Oh, suddenly there’s people who have a lot more like” — a high school friend would be like, “Oh, and this person who’s also from Portland,” blah, blah, blah. If I met someone from the Pacific Northwest in Philly, I was like, “What are you doing here?” This is weird.
J: Yes, totally. This is my thing.
EJ: Yes, yes, yes. This is my idea. Horrible. I claim gentrifying Philly. I’m like, “Yes, that was all me.” Yes, I made a lot of friends that way. Also, to be honest, the internet does some cool stuff in that way. People reach-
J: Yes, it’s super helpful.
EJ: -reaching out, being like, “Do you want to get a coffee?” whatever.
J: Yes. Getting coffee, a thing that doesn’t happen in New York.
EJ: No way. I love getting a coffee.
J: Can you walk me through why?
EJ: Well, I love mornings.
J: You just lit up.
EJ: I love waking up and thinking, “Oh, I’m going to have” — I love coffee also.
J: No, here’s the thing, I’m a morning person, and I love coffee, but I feel like no one in New York says, “Let’s get a coffee.” Do you agree, Keith?
Keith Beavers: No one does that.
J: Yes, it’s just that-
EJ: No one does that? Why?
J: I don’t know why.
K: We lunch.
J: I’ll get lunch all the time, but coffee is not happening as much.
K: We’re too fast. I think-
J: I’m actually dead serious. If someone texted me and he’s like, “Hey, let’s get a coffee,” I’d be like, “They’re mad at me.”
EJ: Oh, my God.
J: Like, we’re having a talk.
EJ: I asked a couple of people to get coffees while I was here.
J: We’re having a talk, I would-
EJ: Didn’t I ask you to get a coffee? No, maybe not.
J: No. OK.
EJ: No. God, this is super awkward.
J: F*ck. No, but I would’ve thought you were mad at me. No, I wouldn’t have.
EJ: Like, “We need to talk.”
J: Again, I’d be like, “Oh no, they’re just visiting from L.A.”
EJ: Right. They’ve got too much time on their hands. Yes.
J: Yes, absolutely. They don’t really know the flow. No. It’s like, a New York City friend was like, “Hey, do you want to get a coffee”? I’d be like, in my mind — here’s the thought process, they don’t want to get lunch because that’s too long. It’s going to be short, and they don’t want to go out at night, because they don’t — and this is not about having fun. It’s like, they’re here to tell me like, “Hey, what you said last week really upset me.” That is what I would assume was happening.
EJ: It’s so funny because those things — I think they remain true in L.A., but people just claim that as like, “Yes, obviously.” It’s like, “I’m not going to spend that much time with you or that much money on you to be honest.” They’re like, “We’re getting a coffee.”
J: They’re like, “Hey, you have about $5 worth of interest for me.”
EJ: Also, I probably want something from you. No, again, a perfect city.
J: It’s really interesting because I’ve done the coffee meet, and I’m like, “This was a general that my agents didn’t set up.” Like, “That’s essentially what it is.” It’s a general that was set up at my Instagram.
EJ: No, it is. It is.
J: I’m like, “Do I send a follow-up email?”
EJ: “Yes, yes. Thank you so much. Yes, thank you.” What did we talk about? OK, I’m going to reference that and make a funny joke.
J: Wait, but have you found the stereotype of it, like feeling socially oppressive that everyone wants something and it’s all about work and career? Have you found that to be true and oppressive, or are you feeling like you can actually-
EJ: Yes. No, I mean, I’ve fully been at a party and someone’s like, “Oh, my God. Hey, you do call me, blah, blah, blah,” and then suddenly they’re pitching me their podcast and I — one that doesn’t exist yet. That’s key. It doesn’t exist.
J: That’s so important.
EJ: Sometimes I think it can be cool/refreshing to know that people are telling you exactly why they’re talking to you. You know what I mean? I think it’s at least we’re not playing a weird game where you’re like, “Oh, my God, do you my friend? Oh no, and also remind me who reps you.” I think that is like, “Sure, whatever,” but ultimately makes you feel weird in a different way. It is refreshing when people are just like, “Oh, hey, I know you know this person. Can we talk about blah, blah.”
J: The directness of that is fun, but then it’s like, I guess-
EJ: It gets old now too.
J: You then have to — I guess, I don’t know, because that’s just so not New York, I feel.
EJ: Yes. No, it’s not.
J: I don’t know what that is. Well, I think it’s because not everyone’s doing the same thing.
EJ: I know, that’s the thing. At least in New York you’re in a room full of interesting people, but they’re not all interesting in the same way. I have a few friends in L.A. who I’m like, “They do something so different than me.” One of my good friends in L.A., she’s a preschool teacher. Amazing.
J: That’s so important to have.
EJ: Amazing. Obviously, that’s also just an epic job. She’s doing awesome stuff, but it’s like I have to consciously be like, “I need more people in my life who are not being psychotic in the same way that I’m being psychotic.”
J: Of like, yes, trying to do the comedy TV film bullsh*t.
EJ: Yes, where it’s just like, “F*ck.”
J: I actually think you see that in New York with people. If I go to a party or a bar, and then I’m like, “Oh, everyone’s that,” I’m out.
EJ: Yes. You’re like, “Uh-oh.”
J: I’m not going to walk out immediately, but I’m going to be like, “OK, here we go.” Do you know what I mean? It is a little bit of a different vibe. I really respect when someone — like my friend and I went to a party last weekend and there was a lot of that, but there were also non-people mixed in. I was like, “This is actually so important to the vibe because otherwise it would combust.”
EJ: It’s also a good indicator that the people that are in the industry, or whatever, are not the worst. Because if there’s people around them who don’t do that, then they can stomach being around them.
J: Yes. They have a personality outside of it.
EJ: Yes. It’s not just like we’re talking shop all the time, and I like that. I need that too.
J: Because are you someone that does bits?
EJ: Look, I’ll do a bit. I’ll participate in a bit, but I do think there’s a time and a place.
J: I can’t do — I have a short fuse with bits. I can do bits for two seconds, and then I’ll be like, “Oh, we can have a conversation,” and then it will be like, “No.” I’m like-
EJ: No, I’m still doing a bit.
J: I’m pretending to be a tiger, and I’m like, “F*ck.” Because then it’s the same thing of — we’re not actually wanting to get to know each other. We’re just there to be there. I don’t know.
EJ: Perform for each other, which is weird.
J: Which is hell. That is hell. What’s your sign?
EJ: I’m a Pisces.
J: You said that like it was so painful.
EJ: I’m always ready for the reaction. Sometimes it’s negative.
J: We get judged as water signs.
EJ: Yes, and so what are you? What is the other one? No, I know it.
EJ: Is it Aries?
J: No, they’re fire.
J: They’re fire.
EJ: Can I swear?
J: Yes, you can swear all the f*ck you want.
EJ: I know this. It’s not Aquarius. I know that.
J: No, that’s air. Which is crazy, but-
EJ: Yes, it’s really weird. Pisces and — I don’t know, what is it?
EJ: I knew that.
J: Scorpio and Cancer.
EJ: I knew that. Everybody knows.
J: I knew that.
EJ: Cancer. I knew cancer was one. F*ck.
J: Cancer’s the crab, so it’s water.
EJ: Yes, and I get along really well with Cancer.
J: Pisces is the fish. We’re scorpions, we drown. We actually are not aquatic. That’s a huge issue.
EJ: Yes, you’re like, “Ugh. Heal me.”
J: No, but I do associate that with being a water sign thing, so I think that’s part of what — we need a little bit more sincerity. I think that’s the thing, and that’s probably why you similarly need friends that are real people, because it’s like, “I can’t feel like I’m not having real conversations or I start to lose my mind.”
EJ: No, absolutely, because with the amount of emotions I go through in 30 seconds, I need to be able to be a little bit real. I can’t do a whole-
J: Well, because I’ll start to lose my mind. I need to be actually bouncing up against you to confirm reality.
EJ: Yes, absolutely.
J: That’s, I think, the thing about — have I ever heard that dog bark in my life?
K: She hates him.
K: He’s the only person she hates.
EJ: Are you serious?
K: Every time he walks in, she barks like he is going to-
J: This man.
K: If I had a Doberman, he’d be f*cking dead.
EJ: That makes a ton of sense because the way he responded was like, “Not again.”
J: He was like, “This f*cking dog.”
K: He even said his own dog did the same thing to him.
EJ: Oh no. His own dog? No.
J: That sucks. No, it’s all good.
EJ: That’s not your fault. Yes.
K: Formerly incarcerated or something?
EJ: No offense, but whose dog is that?
J: That’s Katie’s dog that I literally, until today, I had never heard bark and now-
EJ: It barked at me too.
J: Yes. I mean, she’s having a bad day.
EJ: Fair. The weather’s horrible.
K: Katie said Wednesday and Thursday are going to be rough.
J: I know. Astrology’s supposed to be really bad today.
K: Yes, yesterday.
EJ: Oh, OK.
J: I had a pretty good day yesterday.
K: Yes. Well, it was either going to be yesterday or today. I had a rough day yesterday.
J: So you’re thriving today?
K: I’m not thriving, but I think we’re struggling.
EJ: OK. True.
J: I respect that. You had a good yesterday though. You went to Rocka Rolla though.
EJ: Yes. I had a great time.
J: I saw the craziest bar fight of my life at Rocka Rolla.
EJ: No way.
J: It was actually the craziest sh*t I’ve ever seen in my life.
EJ: Oh no, was it scary?
J: Because, well, it involved those beer glasses. Did you see them there?
J: They’re like chalices. It involved those. Yes, there was a lot of blood.
EJ: Oh, dope. Yes.
J: It wasn’t a fun bar fight. I wish it was a fun bar fight.
EJ: Yes. I love a fun bar fight.
J: I love a fun fight in general.
EJ: Me too.
J: Are you a gossip?
EJ: Yes, absolutely. Gossiping is key. How do we learn how to be human if not through gossip?
J: I’m such a gossip advocate. It’s so important and it’s so healthy. I think it’s a really important way and it’s — especially when you’re in a new city trying to make friends, you need to — the gossip is so vital.
EJ: Yes, and in figuring out who you can gossip to — who about, like the levels — because some people are like, “Oh, I don’t really want to talk about them,” and you’re like, “OK.”
J: Well, that’s the thing. It’s actually like — the thing is if you’re going to be like, “I don’t want to talk about that.” It’s like I’m going to respect your boundary, but know you have affected whether or not we will ever be friends.
EJ: Absolutely. You’re like, “Well, there is a wall that we have reached.”
J: Yes, 100 percent. It’s interesting learning peoples’ boundaries of gossip. How can I tell this story in a way that’s not insane? Someone recently — I’m going to do my best. I’m going to do my best. Basically, someone was telling me about how they were obsessed with this person and they kept on like — they were obsessed with this person and they wanted to hook up with them. I was like — it seemed kind of out-of-nowhere to me, and then a few weeks later I was hanging out with one of our mutual friends and he was like, “Oh, I’m hooking — sometimes I hook up with this person, the same person, and they’re incredible at sex.” I was like, “Oh, is that why my friend wants to hook up with him? Because you told him that he’s incredible at sex?” and he was like, “Yes.” Then, I go back to the other person. I was like, “Why did you leave out the detail that that’s why? Because otherwise, this felt totally insane to me.” He was like, “Well, he told me not to tell anyone.” I was like, “So now you’ve damaged our friendship, because you were telling me a half-truth.” Does this make sense?
J: Permanent schism in our friendship, I think.
EJ: Yes, because it’s just kind of like-
J: I’m like, why are you telling me part of the story if you’re not going to tell me the whole story? Because then I feel like a f*cking idiot.
EJ: Yes. You’re like, that would’ve helped everybody if I just knew that detail. I could have even helped you more.
J: It’s just like, it’s useless and he was like, “Well, no, because he asked me not to tell anyone.” I’m like, “But he then told me later, which means I wasn’t parting with anyone and you should have deduced that.” Is that fair to assume that he should have known? Maybe not, but I’m right.
EJ: Yes, you’re right.
J: Thank you.
EJ: Yes, no, absolutely.
J: The thing is, it’s like gossip the way we were trained to learn about gossip is wrong.
EJ: Yes, it is, 100 percent.
J: It’s just wrong because it’s like I — because they frame it like anything that you — if you’re talking about anyone behind their back, it’s innately malicious. And it’s like, no, it’s malicious when it’s malicious, and it’s quite rarely malicious.
EJ: Well, yes, and I think that it is — I think there’s a total line and I feel like, honestly, most people can sense when the line is when it’s like, “Oh, you’re just saying that to be mean.” If you’re talking about someone’s body in a mean way, it’s like-
J: Yes, a hundred percent.
EJ: -why would you — that’s not.
J: A hundred percent.
EJ: It’s not constructive. That’s not nice. If you’re like, “They said this thing in this way and it made me feel weird, and I’m kind of interested to think about — what do you think about this way that they said that?” I think that’s a really constructive way to talk about relationships.
J: I think that’s really healthy.
J: If you were to come to me and be like, “Hey, I feel weird around this person, but I can’t fully articulate why,” and I knew that that person was abusive to someone else and I didn’t tell you that-
J: -psychotic. I would say psychotic and malicious. That’s actually malicious, because then-
EJ: Because then it’s sort of gaslight, because I’m like — I have this gut feeling.
J: Well, it’s not even gassing. I’m just leaving you to the — I’m like, “No, I don’t know anything,” and it’s like, “I’m just letting you get absolutely taken for a ride.”
EJ: Right, and potentially harmed, to be honest. Sorry.
J: That’s what I’m saying. Yes, I think gossiping is so healthy.
EJ: Yes. I think it is too. I’m so glad you agree.
J: I can’t wait to get off-mic and gossip.
EJ: OK. Finally.
J: Well, I think that’s also how — when you’re making new friends and like going out, it’s like who are the people that are actually going to want — it’s the no bits thing where I’m like, “Can you talk about something real?”
J: The bits people never want to talk about anything real, and you know what? That is a lot of the time. Look at me. There’s something to hide. They don’t want to talk about any real thing because they don’t want — because when the real stuff comes out, they’re going to look bad.
EJ: Yes, because it’s a defense mechanism. It’s a wall. Something about blinders, whatever.
J: It’s always like sh*tty straight white dudes.
EJ: Yes, for sure, for sure. Whereas like, you attempt to be like, “So, but how do you feel about this?” And they’re like, “And then this guy comes in,” and you’re like, “No, that’s not, like, actually asking you about your life.”
J: That’s profoundly not it. Yes. OK, wait. I have a question. You grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I forgot which side of the country Oregon was on for a second.
EJ: No worries. Doesn’t matter.
J: I almost said east and I was like, “That’s Maine.”
EJ: The same thing.
J: There’s another port on there though. Did you grow up going to restaurants, going out with your family? Were you a going-out family?
EJ: Not really. I mean-
J: Or OK?
EJ: The what?
J: I said OK with an Australian accent.
EJ: Oh, I’m so sorry.
J: You were like, “That was really offensive.”
EJ: You know what, that one is too far. I know a lot of Australian people. Anyway. No, not really. I mean, I think it was a combination of, to be honest, Portland’s restaurant scene was not really any — I mean, there are some staples that have been there for a long time. It’s sort of only recently, I feel, invested in that or whatever. I don’t know. Also, we didn’t have very much money. It was kind of a selective thing.
J: I get that. Yes. I guess I’m just curious what the difference between West Coast and East Coast restaurant vibes is.
EJ: I don’t know if I could speak on that.
J: I don’t. Yes, maybe you can.
EJ: Here’s what I’ll say. Here’s an example of family lore of a place that we did go out to eat. My dad is a total foodie, even though I kind of hate that term, but he f*cking loves food — an amazing cook, whatever. He’s going to love that I’m saying this. Yes, Dad, you’re a good cook. He’s also the kind that needs a lot of positive affirmations, so he cooks anything and he’s like, “Are you smiling? Is that good?” I’m like, “Yes. Yum, yum, yum.” Anyway-
J: It’s funny also meeting the people who are clearly raised by those people, because you’ll make something and they’re like, “Oh, my God.” I was like, “Stop c*mming.”
EJ: It’s literally me. It’s literally me. I have something that someone didn’t even make — they just gave me — and I’m like, “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm.” They’re like, “Whoa. It’s a cookie.”
J: From Russell Stover.
EJ: I’m like, “But you put it on the plate, but you put it on the plate.” Yes, anyway. So yes, my dad loves food and he did discover — he read about — he’s the kind of person that reads the article about the restaurant, prints it out, puts it on the fridge, and just thinks about it for a while.
J: I’m obsessed.
EJ: Just sort of reflects on it.
J: Bring us back to that time. That’s such a special time. I mean, for your dad, it sounds like it’s now, but-
EJ: Of course, it is. Yes, so he read this article where it was a strip club in Portland and he found out that the owner of the strip club is — oh, my God. The owner of the strip club owns a farm, a cow farm — beef farm. He raises his own cows and he serves — this is so crazy — he served the beef at a takeout window outside the strip club. And this menu, you guys — this menu, they’re serving-
J: The number of names that have come through my head for what this institution should be called — like right off the bat, Patty’s Patties.
EJ: Patty’s. Amazing.
J: Number one.
EJ: Literally email them.
J: Bo-Fine too.
J: Like cuspy — I don’t think it’s derogatory, but like, Heifer’s.
J: I mean, those of the — you know what I mean?
EJ: Just right off the top. Yes.
J: I mean, that’s double stack. OK. Four.
EJ: Oh, my God.
J: It’s like, I’m immediately thinking of the number of names, and I know it’s probably just called like, Slingers or something, but like-
EJ: It’s called the Acropolis.
J: Shut the f*ck up. No. It should be at least called the Atopolis.
J: Oh, oh, oh, my God. That’s so f*cking stupid. OK, so the menu there.
EJ: Here’s what I’m going to say, I’m the youngest. I’m the youngest of three kids by a lot. My parents claim I was on purpose, but my brother is eight years older and my sister’s 11 years older, so it’s kind of like, “Well.” When I was growing up, there was a lot of things mentioned in my household that was like, “Oh, sh*t, don’t go to school and say that,” because it was like I was living with-
EJ: They’re, like, having adult conversations. I’m like, “What are you saying?” The Acropolis was kind of one of the family things that was like, “Do not go to school and tell anybody that this is where we’re getting dinner tonight.”
J: So funny.
EJ: I, like, obviously never went in, but I did wait in the parking lot. I’m like five years old. There was a takeout window and this was key because my dad was like, “I don’t ever go into the club.” I ordered from the takeout window because this menu had crazy prices. You could get a burger — I swear to God, my size. You’d get a burger, like a footlong essentially. I don’t even know how many pounds, like, dude.
J: Like what is this burger, a footlong?
EJ: It’s like, it’s huge — I think, like, three pounds of meat-
J: That’s too bad.
EJ: -for like five bucks.
EJ: Literally, the prices were crazy. I mean, they’ve gone up.
J: Well, he owns the cows.
EJ: He owns the cows.
J: There’s no middleman.
EJ: There’s no middleman and it was really good. They’re amazing fries. They pile on so many fries, you’re like, “This is ridiculous. I don’t need this many fries,” which is hard. I mean, that’s a lot of fries. Anyways, we would go there every couple of weeks. To be honest, it was like, well-
J: I respect.
EJ: -a sh*t ton of food. You can eat it for days. All it took was — we’re all waiting in the car while my dad’s at the takeout window of the Acropolis.
J: Paying for it in singles.
J: I wonder if he had a dad joke where he was like, “Now, I know you got change.”
EJ: Yes. Like, “We haven’t seen one this big in a while.”
J: “Now, am I allowed to just hand it to you, or should I put it in your G string?”
EJ: The guy at the window’s like, “Please, sir.”
J: For the love of f*cking God.
J: He’s like, “Can I get coke? The soda?” I medically need to go to this place.
EJ: No, absolutely. Literally, you should.
J: I need to go to this place.
EJ: It’s f*cking good. It’s really good.
J: That’s so amazing.
EJ: Yes, it’s like, “Did we go out to restaurants?” “Oh, yes. Oh, yes, we did.”
J: What was it like the first time you went to a restaurant where you were legally allowed inside?
EJ: Mind blowing. Yes, huge.
J: Like, nine years old you go out with your friend’s family, and you’re like, “Why are her t*ts covered?”
EJ: Yes. I mean, this place is fancy. It’s like Red Robin.
J: Oh, my God. I also will say I think the place I slept last night — I stayed with my friend in Philly and she has a cat, and I’m allergic, so they burst out laughing. I’m, like, cusping. I’m like, I need Albuterol. I’m out of breath — not a panic attack, an asthma attack.
J: Holy sh*t, that’s so funny. I literally have no notes on the Acropolis. That’s so good. What did the building look like on the outside? I promise we’ll move on, but I just want to-
EJ: Yes, sure. I remember it vividly. It was the blue and white stripes. Also, it could not look creepier from the outside. Well, fun fact: Portland, Oregon has the most-
J: Most strip clubs per capita.
EJ: -strip clubs per capita. I was very familiar with what a strip club looked like, but this one in particular, had blue and white stripes all over the building, a big sign with lights flashing, of course. They’re always, like, kind of burnt out. Acropolis. Acropolis. It’s always raining there. It’s on the side of a highway, like off the exit, and it’s got a huge parking lot surrounding it. It’s just, like, a measly little building.
J: Everyone’s parked at the back.
J: That’s so amazing.
J: What was the transition for you going from Portland to Oberlin like?
EJ: I immediately was obsessed with like — how do I put this? I’m trying not to slander Portland so much anymore because I think it makes me seem like a hater.
J: No, but you can speak authentically to your experience of growing up there.
EJ: OK. Thank you. My experience of growing up there — I think that Portland has a lot of people who have been in Oregon. Their families are in Oregon for many, many generations. The thing about Oregon was it was founded as a white haven. You feel that very deeply.
J: I’ve heard that-
EJ: It’s extremely, extremely white, and in a way that people obviously will not — because they’re liberal, so they know they shouldn’t say that they like that, but they will say, “Oh, this is the perfect place to live.” You’re kind of like, “Interesting you feel that way. Why?” You feel that in a really crazy way. I also think that-
J: I’m from Vermont.
EJ: Oh, then you get it. That’s-
J: I don’t think it was founded with that intention, because we moved to Vermont when I was 6 from Rhode Island, which is much more diverse. When we got there, I vividly remember, in the car, my mom looking at my dad and being like, there’s no Black people. Not just like, people saying like, “It’s the perfect place to live,” but then when people of other backgrounds start coming in, they get to say things like, “Well, you’re changing our culture.” It’s like, “You’re culture is whiteness.”
EJ: Your culture is whiteness in a very oppressive-
EJ: -like obviously always oppressive, but the foundational tenant of this place — and so, yes, 100 percent. It feels very coded when I meet someone who either has lived in Portland or is from there, or whatever.
J: “I love Portland.” Yes, I know that is-
EJ: Exactly. “I love it there.” Or what’s happening more recently is people being like-
J: “It’s nice to get away,” and you’re like, “From what?”
EJ: Yes, from what.
J: I know exactly what you’re talking about.
EJ: Kind of like, “Oh, it is changing a bit.”
J: Oh, very that.
EJ: I’m like, “It is. It is.” There’s so many things wrapped up in that, obviously, because there’s also an incredible amount of homelessness there similar to L.A. There’s a lot of things that people are like, “Oh, it’s not doing great.” I think a huge part of that is it’s becoming a bigger city and there’s different people moving there. The older white people and younger white people, to be honest, are like, “Wait, something’s different,” and they can’t figure it out.
J: It’s so f*cking real.
EJ: Yes. I am white, and so obviously that was my experience there too. I will say that also I think just having — my dad is from New York and he’s a very loud Jewish man. There are Jews in Portland. They are different, and that’s just a fact. The way that my dad speaks to people, I think, in Portland — people find it startling. They’re like, “Oh, my God. He’s yelling. He’s yelling and he’s angry.” I think that was also my experience of growing up, watching those sorts of interactions and my dad being like, “This place is a hell.”
J: Why did he live there?
EJ: Such a good question. I don’t know. My parents met in California and they lived in L.A. for a bunch of years. Then when my mom got pregnant with me, L.A. was too expensive, so they moved out to Portland.
J: That makes sense. It’s funny to hear you talk, because I feel like this is a thing where I meet people. You can tell the difference between Jews who grew up in places where they were an outlier and Jews who grew up amongst completely homogenous Jew-ness. That’s an insane way of phrasing it. I meant to say all Jewish people and I said homogenous Jew-ness. I’m trying to sound like an academic. That was crazy. You can tell — I don’t know — that it makes sense to me hearing you grew up in a space where being Jewish other’d you, which is not always the experience.
EJ: Well, I think also Jewish — because again, there are Jews in Portland, but it’s like — I don’t know, Jewish geography is very fascinating. I think that they-
J: They probably learned to pass in a way that your dad didn’t-
EJ: Yes, 100 percent. I think also my dad, in his beautiful way, doubled down, right? He was like, “I’m different here and I’m really different here.” I think people were like, “What is going on?”
J: Yes, totally, totally, totally.
EJ: A lot of parents I went to high school with were like, “That guy is intense.” Yes. Going to Oberlin from Portland, I was honestly just obsessed with how people talked. They were saying exactly what they meant. I felt like it was a lot of kids from New York and a lot of kids from L.A., to be honest. It was semi-unique that I was from the Pacific Northwest. It was people from Chicago, obviously, people from Philly, but it was very — people were just like, “Oh, hi, you seem cool. We should be friends.” I was like, “Whoa, what?” It felt very, like, astute.
J: The level of directness.
EJ: It was so direct. I was obsessed with it. That was really refreshing to me.
EJ: Obviously, there’s plenty of critiques to be made about — it’s a fancy liberal arts college, there’s weird stuff happening there always. But yes, that was really a nice transition.
J: Totally. Did you feel that affected how you went out and socialized?
EJ: Yes. I felt like I was immediately more popular than I’d ever been. I was just like, this is so much easier. I felt like, in retrospect, I realized I had spent a lot of time growing up, trying to figure out how to communicate in a way that wasn’t too — I don’t know.
J: It’s the same thing we were talking about earlier with the bits. It’s like, I can’t thrive in an environment where you have to play the game.
EJ: I can’t. It’s too much. I’m just like-
J: Our personalities are good enough on their own.
EJ: That’s the thing.
J: That’s not always the case. People create oppressive symptoms to raise up mediocre personalities. I’ve been doing standup for a long time.
EJ: Write your thesis.
J: No, but it’s like, I think that’s 100 percent what it is.
EJ: Yes, I think so too.
J: I think that’s why I thrive. I think that’s why I feel so New England is because of that directness. Do you know what I mean?
J: I feel like they talk about the — in the south, there’s always that coded double speaking. I feel like in the West Coast, there’s much more of a chillness to it where I need a little bit of that frenetic directness. I think it’s healthy.
EJ: I do too. I do think that, in L.A., it’s kind of like what we were talking about. I think, in L.A., it’s obviously distorted because it’s like then you have the sort of umbrella of the industry hanging over everyone, sort of pulling strings. But I do think that there — I like the amount of directness to an extent that there is. It’s like, at least-
EJ: -we all know what we’re doing here.
J: Yes. I think that that’s — it is interesting because that is a subversion of the stereotype of East Coast versus West Coast. I’ve heard other people say this about L.A., which is like in New York, we all pretend we don’t have dreams a little bit, or we don’t have our goals. We don’t have our projects going on. In L.A., everyone’s very much like, “Hey, so I have this in development I want to talk to you about.”
EJ: Absolutely, yes.
J: Where it’s like no one here does that. You’ll get drinks with someone, and the next day it’ll be announced that they have an X-Men movie or a green-lit that they wrote and have been producing for two years. It’s like, “I told you about my dad last night.” We were crying, holding each other, and then you find out that they’re like playing Wonder Woman and you’re like, “That’s so interesting.”
EJ: You’re like, I would’ve loved to even just know for a second about it.
J: Just one second. I wouldn’t have told anyone because I also like coming out to you privately, whatever. But that’s New York, where I feel like everyone knows everything in L.A.
EJ: People are like, “Why’d you move to L.A.?” I’m like, “For dreams.”
J: “For dreams.”
EJ: I do like that. I’m like, it’s true. That’s OK.
J: That’s also why everyone moved to New York.
EJ: It’s true.
J: Not everyone, but everyone that we know, like comedians.
EJ: Yes, totally. Yes.
J: Do you have a lot of friends out here too?
EJ: I do. I do. Yes.
J: That’s gorge.
EJ: Kind of like through college and stuff. I have family out here too.
J: I’m obsessed. Wait, what are we at time-wise, Keith?
K: Oh, we’re at 42 minutes.
J: That’s so cute. That’s so-
EJ: That’s really sweet.
J: That’s really cute. That’s really, really cute. Is this your first time being out here doing standup?
J: Oh, wow.
EJ: Yes. I was like, “Oh, God.” I was like, “I hope that they think I’m funny here.”
J: Well, we’re going to.
EJ: Thank you.
J: We’re going to, objectively. You’re doing my show on Saturday. I’m so excited.
EJ: I’m so excited. It’s going to be so great.
J: It’s going to be so fun. Do you have plans after?
J: Gorge. We’re hanging out.
EJ: OK. Awesome. Yes. Thank God.
J: I love that.
EJ: We’ll get coffee.
J: I got-
EJ: I actually would love to pick your brain about your projects.
J: That is upsetting to me.
EJ: Sorry, triggering.
J: No, sad guy. “I don’t want to do that.”
EJ: “I just don’t pick it anymore. I don’t want it to be made.”
J: I was so excited when you said you’re coming out here because I feel like you should be out here a lot, doing standup. I feel like you’re so funny.
EJ: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
J: The problem is that we normally end the show by making our plans to go out, but I feel like that’s the natural progression of the conversation is to do that right now, so we’re going-
EJ: Yes. No, I totally agree.
J: Here’s my question. Is there a way that on the night of the show, we can also go to the Acropolis? I want it so bad.
EJ: God, I wish.
J: God, I wish,
EJ: I mean maybe there’s something similar. I don’t know. It does feel very Portland, specifically.
J: I feel like the strip clubs here are not allowed to sell food. I would guess.
J: I don’t know. They’re all on the West Side Highway.
K: In Queens.
J: And in Queens. They are in Queens.
J: Did you ever go to strip clubs in Portland?
EJ: No, I’ve never been to a strip club. I’ve been to events with queer strippers. I’m very ethical.
J: Absolutely. I’ve been to one strip club once and it was carpeted.
EJ: OK. Oh, yes. How’d the carpet feel?
J: Hard, hard. One of the poles — I was halfway through. I was like, “This was one of the worst weekends of my life.” FYI.
EJ: Good to know.
J: I was in Worcester, Mass.
EJ: Just like, hanging out?
J: No, I got — this is actually a good story. I should tell this story. I was like seeing a guy in high — oh no, not high school.
EJ: Are you going to? Oh, my god. Brag.
J: I was seeing a guy for years when I was in college a couple of years where — I met him while studying abroad. He lived in New York, and I was still going to college in Burlington. I would, every six months, come down to New York and spend a week with him, but then we would not speak when I was back in Burlington.
J: It was like, we were dating when we would be together, but then we would not speak at all, and then I’d be like, “Hey, I miss you,” and then I’d come down. And then he came up and visited maybe once.
EJ: Did you like that?
J: I was a kid. I was 20. I really liked him because he was older. He was 25 and lived in New York, so he was the coolest person in the world to me. Now, I’m realizing he was 25, living in New York, hooking up with a 20-year-old who lives in Burlington. He was clearly the lame one. At the time, I loved coming to New York and feeling like I lived here, and hanging out with people. One time I came down — when I decided I was moving here, I came down and I was like, “Hey, I’m moving here. Are we going to be a thing when I get here?” He was like, “Oh, I actually have a boyfriend.” I was like, “Oh.” I was in his apartment at 11 p.m. and I didn’t know what to do.
EJ: Were they open, or was it just like he was literally cheating?
J: I didn’t ask him any more questions. I just immediately left. I ended up — so then I stayed at a friend’s house in the city that night who I didn’t know super well. They were someone who I’d gone to college with, and then I was like, I need to get out of New York right now. There was no train or bus back to Burlington the next day. My friend lived in Boston at that time. I called her, and I was like, “Can I come to Boston and hang out with you this weekend? Because I was supposed to go to New York, and it was a flop.” She was like, “Yes, totally.” Then, we got there and she was like, “So the thing I forgot to tell you is that tonight we’re going to Worcester for my friend’s birthday.” I was like — do you know Worcester?
EJ: Not really.
J: It’s not a thriving place to me.
EJ: Isn’t it a suburb or — no, it’s not quite a suburb?
J: No. It’s like a city that I think, maybe, in the ’40s had a thriving industry that has decayed, not much-
J: It’s a rougher town.
EJ: OK. Sure.
J: I would say, yes. It was basically — I was supposed to be hanging out in New York with this guy. Now I’m in Worcester with a bunch of straight people.
EJ: Oh, God.
J: Completely straight people at a very heterosexual sports bar where it was just Bud Lights everywhere.
EJ: Scary, scary, scary.
J: Then they were like, “We’re going to Sweaty Betty’s.” I was like, “What’s that?”
EJ: Sweaty Betty’s.
J: The colloquial term for a strip club called Hurricane Betty’s that we then went to, and they actually took creative license and named it Sweaty Betty’s. We went there, and I was 20, thinking like, “I don’t enjoy this.” I saw — oh, and the best moment was during one of the strip shows, I was looking at the poles. It was, like, there were two poles on the stage and I was like, one of those is a water pipe, a conveniently placed part of the plumbing.
EJ: Wait, I’m sorry. That’s awesome. That’s kind of epic.
J: The other one was a pole. That was the one time I went to a strip club.
EJ: Wow. Sweaty Betty’s.
J: Sweaty Betty’s. Not ideal. Not ideal. The thing is, I would go to a strip club where they’re doing the incredible pole dancing where it’s like a sport.
EJ: Obviously. Yes.
J: I would watch .
EJ: That’s amazing.
J: Yes, because I took a pole dancing class once. It’s literally 100 times harder than you can imagine.
EJ: It’s so hard. It’s crazy.
J: It’s so hard. It’s crazy. I would go watch that. I would go to a pole dancing show and watch the tricks and stuff in a heartbeat. I would watch any stripper do anything. I really just don’t want to do it with the men that are sitting there.
EJ: Totally. It’s all about the environment. You’re like, “Is everybody OK?” I don’t know.
J: I think at this point, I wouldn’t — I feel most sex workers, I’m like, they’re — in a strip club, I’m not going to default to “they’re not OK.” The men — I’d be like, “Are they safe?” Because I don’t like them. Do you know what I mean? That’s more what I default to.
J: Now, I think we can actually plan our night out.
EJ: Yes. Let’s do it.
J: Gorgeous. Is the show at 7 p.m.? The show’s at 7:30 p.m. We could meet up at the show, do my show, and then get drinks after with everyone. If you’re hungry, we could also get a bite before in the neighborhood, and then go over together, no pressure.
EJ: That sounds awesome to me. That sounds awesome.
J: What kind of food? What’s your vibe?
EJ: Here’s the thing. Do I have to come clean?
J: I knew we had some dietary restrictions.
EJ: I have dietary — how’d you know? Because I’m Jewish? I do have dietary restrictions, but here’s what I’ll say. Recently — I’ve been lactose intolerant for a long time. I’m using quotes because recently I found that dairy is actually a little bit easier for me than gluten. I’m so fun. I’m like the funnest person in the world. I love meat a lot. I love seafood a lot. I’ll eat a lot. Anything that I can eat, I will eat. I just do have a very sensitive tummy.
J: So dairy and gluten. Let’s do Mexican.
J: Let’s do tacos before the show.
J: I love that.
EJ: Oh, my God.
J: I love that. It’s very funny that the Acropolis destroyed your stomach as a child, and now you can’t-
EJ: Yes. For some reason — these dietary restrictions. My dad’s massive burgers-
J: Footlong burgers that had fiberglass in them.
EJ: He was like, “It was locally sourced.” That was always how he put it too.
J: That is so-
EJ: He’s like, “It’s Portland.” I was like, “No, it’s not the farm down the street.”
J: Gorge. I’m so excited to see you do standup this weekend.
EJ: I’m excited to see you.
J: I hope all of your other shows go wonderfully.
EJ: Thank you.
J: Thank you so much for doing the show.
EJ: Thanks so much for having me. What a blast.
J: What a blast.
EJ: What a blast.
Thank you so much for listening to Going Out With Jake Cornell. If you could please go and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
Now, for some credits. Going Out With Jake Cornell is recorded in New York City and produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darby Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. A special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Josh Malin and Adam Teeter for making all of this possible.
The article Going Out With Jake Cornell: The Acropolis (w/ EJ Marcus) appeared first on VinePair.