With comedy soaring to new heights through various unique avenues lately, a growing number of comics are entering the limelight in unprecedented ways. One of those comics coming through the door is Ian Karmel, an Oregon native who, after making a splash in a Just For Laughs New Faces showcase in Montreal in 2013 and experiencing several career highlights in the time since, joked his way all the way to becoming a head writer for the Late Late Show with James Corden.
Among other notches on his belt, the Portland- and Los Angeles-based showman has been featured multiple times on Conan, where he’s done bits about phone sex and other personal topics, and wrote for Chelsea Lately. Last year, Karmel was asked to be included in the Netflix series The Comedy Lineup, in which he killed his last five minutes recreating a more than inappropriate alternative to the end of The Lion King. Aside from being funny on stage, Karmel is also writing at the highest levels of show business, having contributed to the Tony and Grammy awards, the former of which he received an Emmy nomination for.
And he has a podcast too, the extremely popular All Fantasy Everything, for which he’s now on tour, stopping in Cambridge at the Sinclair this Thursday, July 11. I had the opportunity to speak with Karmel about Tom Cruise, getting fired from the Netflix call center, and the All Fantasy Everything live show.
I was reading an interview you had in 2017 with the Portland Mercury where it stated you had Tom Cruise pour liquor into your mouth on a boat. Is this true? Can you elaborate on how that came about?
We were shooting in London and we were recreating a Cocktail scene. They needed extras. I’m the head writer now, but at the time I was just a writer on the Late Late Show, so they sent me in and had him pour liquor down my throat. It was cool; Tom Cruise is a complicated individual, but in person he is a very nice, very intense, but very nice, engaging person. For somebody who is one of the biggest movie stars ever he’s weirdly humble and he’ll talk to anyone; he’ll talk to a cameraman the same way he’ll talk to other movie stars. It’s weird being around a movie star like that; it’s like having the Eiffel Tower talk to you, they’re just that famous. It’s like a weird, surreal experience.
As head writer for the Late Late Show with James Corden, you’re in charge of assuring that the content of the show is funny and successful. How difficult is that?
Not that hard because we have really amazing writers. James Corden is really good at delivering almost anything. He’s completely unique in the late night sphere because he’s capable of anything, you can write a song for him to sing, he can do it; if you need to have a dance number, he can do it. He can deliver normal jokes. My job, I would say, is intense and it takes a lot of hours and is taxing, but I don’t think it’s hard, because you get to sit around and be funny all day, which is like a dream. I mean sometimes there’s emergencies where you have to flip the script at the last second or if an employee is not pulling their weight and you have to have a serious conversation with them, which is never fun since I’m a comedian; but that’s just as hard as my job gets. There’s people fucking riding on the back of garbage trucks and in coal mines. I can’t complain; my job is a dream.
Last year you were featured on Netflix’s comedy special, The Comedy Lineup. How important do you think it is nowadays for a comedian to get that kind of opportunity?
It’s incredibly important. Especially with something like Netflix, where it’s there and available all the time. Everyone has Netflix. I’ve been recognized more in Los Angeles from that Netflix thing than I ever was from either of my Conan sets or the stand-up on Comedy Central. So it’s huge. If you’re a stand-up these days you have to build your career through a lot of different things. I can use the podcast to drive people to go watch my stand-up—maybe they’ll come watch me if I’m in their town. It’s so important as a stand-up to have a bunch of different things you’re doing because it’s rare that anyone makes it big off of just one thing anymore.
In the special you said you used to work at the Netflix call center, which later I read you got fired from. What happened?
I have a problem with authority sometimes. They came in with a bunch of dumb rules, they said we couldn’t eat at our desks anymore, and we couldn’t put our feet up on things while we were on phone calls. They were like, “We have to act like the CEO of Netflix might walk through.” I was just kind of a loudmouth about it, I was like, These rules are stupid, I don’t think we should have to follow them. There’s no real logic behind any of these rules. And I got fired because of it. It was actually perfect timing because I got fired from Netflix then I booked an Oregon lottery commercial the same day that paid me three grand. So I just coasted off that and stand-up then moved to LA.
You always mention that you are a huge basketball fan, and growing up in Oregon, of course you’re a diehard Portland Trailblazers fan. How did it feel getting eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons?
Inevitable. It’s like walking into a room and there’s a grizzly bear in there and you’re like, “Well, I’m not going to kill this grizzly bear.” We were up 18 to 20 points in two of the games and even when we were up by that many points it was like we’re still going to lose. And that’s no hate on our players, it’s just the talent of that team was crazy. I just enjoyed every step of the way.
Let’s talk All Fantasy Everything, the podcast you’re the lead voice of. When did you have an idea for the podcast? And why such a free-flowing format to it?
I had the idea two years before we started doing it. For two years I was trying to get in at podcast studios and I couldn’t get the time of day from any of them. Thank God Headgum came along. I really loved doing fantasy drafts … you can really draft anything, you can draft kinds of liquor you like to drink, or episodes of Seinfeld. I liked it because it’s a passive way to interview people; when we had James Corden on the show, we drafted songs to get the dance floor going at a wedding, and through that you learn about someone when you find out which five songs they pick for that. Then people tell stories and it gets personal. Twenty episodes in or so David Gborie and Sean Jordan started doing it with me and became my co-hosts and it really took off from there.
What should Boston expect from the show when the podcast arrives at the Sinclair ?
They should expect a lot of fun; our live shows are crazy. We try to make them really special and full of surprises. They should expect 90 minutes of solid laughing and probably a bunch of tequila.
ALL FANTASY PODCAST. IAN KARMEL AT THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$25.