You might recognize Erik Griffin’s face from one of the many TV shows (Workaholics, I’m Dying Up Here) or movies (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) he’s appeared in. Some lucky comedy fans might even know him from some of his stand-up specials, while I’m sure some of his former students from his days of teaching remember him as well, since he made them laugh and all. Regardless of your history (or lack of it) with Griffin, you’ll dig our conversation about his days before comedy, the fights along the way, and the unexpected joys of podcasting.
I remember your Comedy Central Half Hour taping, and you came out with such high energy. Did that have to do with the crowd being a little lackadaisical?
I remember that night. I came out and was just going to say something only to get the crowd going, and they actually used it in my special. I wanted it to get them going because I was like … a weird energy in the room that night.
Since I moved to Boston I went to all the Half Hour tapings, but they really are just a papered theater.
You watch a Half Hour special of someone that you think is really funny, and you’re like, “How come that didn’t go well?” It’s not necessarily their fault, it’s just the way they put it together. It just seems as if it’s not conducive to getting a crowd that really wants to laugh at a comedian. Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle. When it doesn’t go well, I’m not going to necessarily be like, Oh, that guy’s not funny or That girl’s not funny.
Speaking of TV shows, did you know any of the three main guys behind Workaholics from comedy before being a part of the show?
Yeah, I knew of Adam, and I’ve been at some shows with Adam a few times. It’s funny, like the week before I auditioned for Workaholics, I was at a show with Adam, and I was like being this big brother guy. I was like, “You know, you’re doing good man. Keep it up!” Not even knowing that he already had a show about to come on the air. I walked into an audition room, and here he was sitting there.
Working on I’m Dying Up Here on Showtime, which is a completely different type of show compared to Workaholics, was there a different preparation or an adjustment to your acting technique for it?
Yeah, because it wasn’t a comedy at all, actually. It was actually a drama, and I didn’t realize that until we were doing it. I was like, Oh wow, they’re asking something different of me. And it was challenging, very challenging. But it was worthwhile. It was great to do something so different.
Do you do acting jobs to support your comedy, or do you also want to be an actor?
It’s both. I’ve been on TV 13 years, and it seems to me that this podcast I’m doing is getting people to come to my shows more than from that. I still enjoy acting, ’cause that’s like a big paycheck, but some people say you gotta be on TV so people can come watch you. Now that’s not really the case anymore.
Was there an open relationship between you and the writers of I’m Dying Up Here on writing some of the material for your character?
Yeah, we have some say, but it’s ’70s comedy, so I wasn’t that familiar with it. I just left it up to the writers to come up with it. And then I would try to put like whatever flavor the character is going to put on it. It was actually kind of difficult.
What was your day job that you quit before you became a full-time comedian?
I was working at a school. I had a whole different life plan. I was doing the yearbook, working in the office. I was going to school to finish up so I can even officially become a teacher, but that’s not what I wanted to do.
Do you think working in front of a crowd of kids help prepare you for stand-up? Or did stand-up prepare you for going up in front of the kids?
I always had an entertaining way about myself. When I used to coach basketball, I would yell at the kids from the sideline [and] the crowd behind me would laugh. That’s when I first learned that my emotional state is funny to people. That was a hard thing to swallow at first. Cause you know, you’re yelling at somebody because you’re angry, and people behind you are cracking up. You have to really accept that. And then once you do, you have to learn how to translate it over to entertainment.
Do you feel like you’ve changed, comedywise, from Technical Foul all the way up to last year’s AmERIKan Warrior?
I don’t think I changed that much. As I look back on it, it’s still my sensibility on the last two hours. … It’s just different topics that are out there that I’m talking about.
Your podcast is pretty new, right?
Yeah. It’s very new because that is what you got to have now. You’ve got to have a Twitter and an Instagram and a podcast to make it as a comedian right now. It’s very annoying. But you know what, I enjoy doing it.
Did you have to learn how to interview other comedians properly, or is the podcast solo?
It’s about half and half because when I first started, it was just solo. It’s just me. It’s called Riffin’ with Griffin. So I would just go on and talk for like 30 minutes about it. So that’s really where it started, but then I started getting some interviews. I’m still gonna go back to just me solo talking.
Do you feel solo is more comfortable for you then than trying to have a dialogue with another comedian?
No, I like them both because it just depends on what’s going on in the world. Like, you know, if Trump does something crazy and I’m like, then we take 30 minutes to talk about this, or I take questions on my Instagram and Twitter, and then I answer those questions on my podcast. I do a lot of things on my podcast, I also play video games. I go live and play video games and I put that up on my YouTube channel. People are very interactive. When I first started doing it, I would play a song at the beginning, and I would change the words to Riffin with Griffin. And what happened was these kids out here, these producers, young and old, they started sending me original theme songs. So I have a lot of original theme songs on the podcast. It’s been pretty fun. Actually now I have a green screen set up, and so I’m telling people, “Hey, if you’re a graphic artist out there and you want to make me a studio, make me a background.” It’s very interactive.
Do you feel you’re more of a writer or a performer?
I’m totally more of a performer. And I’m not ashamed to say that. Writing is definitely a skill that deserves respect. Like when you go on a show or something, you’re looking at just these words on the page and you’re like, Wow, this is amazing.
ERIK GRIFFIN AT LAUGH BOSTON. 2.21-2.23. CHECK OUT THE FULL UNEDITED CONVERSATION AT DEADAIRDENNIS.COM/PODCAST.