Tony Bartolone Goes Where the Comedy Takes Him

by Fanny Garcia

Editor

pLAywriting in the city

Tony Bartolone has been reviewing shows for pLAywriting in the city since January 2012. He is a writer and actor but his true passion is comedy. In September, he embarks on a trip that will take him across America for the love of making people laugh. Tony is raising money for what he calls “The Open Road, an epic journey across America from city to city, open mic to open mic.” The plan is to hop in a car and drive from city to city and perform at Open Mics. Tony and his crew will document the entire experience and explore why people choose to make other people laugh as a living. The crew will also document the culture of Open mics and their audiences. I interviewed Tony about his plan to travel the country and here’s what he had to say:

Photo Credit: Brian Paraiso

Tony! What is this about you taking a road trip across America to do stand up comedy? Are you crazy? Yes. In fact, all my heroes are mad scientists. I’ve had this idea for six or seven years. Anything that lasts that long in this modern world of disposable ideas and built-in obsolescence is definitely worth doing.

Dude, we’ve been working together on pLAywriting in the city for a few months now and you haven’t once made me laugh. What’s up with that? Why you holding out on me? Well, that makes me feel great about my comedic abilities. I suppose because you’re sorta like my boss, and I’ve never made my boss laugh. Also, we mostly communicate through e-mail. I don’t know about you, but I have never laughed at an e-mail. Ever.

So, who’s going on this crazy trip? Well as of right now, I am. That’s for sure. I have a few other prospective comics and a cinematographer planning on joining me.

How many Motel 6’s will you be staying at? Well, depending on how fundraising goes, we are planning to stay at as few hotel/motels as possible. I have been researching alternate ideas for shelter. I am registered on Couchsurfing.com and we plan on camping, sleeping in the car, staying at hostels and crashing at any friends’ places we can find.

Are your jokes going to come from your experiences on the road or do you have a cadre of jokes like Joan Rivers that you will pull from at the open mics? Funny you should mention it. That is a big part of what this documentary is about. Where do jokes come from? Open mics are how comedians generate material. Every comedian is a scientist and every joke is an experiment.

I have a lot of ideas for bits and experimental pieces that I’m eager to try. I am planning on going all out. Leaving my fear behind in LA, and just fuckin’ going for it. It will be unrestricted, unadulterated, uninhibited comedy. I basically plan on trying every idea I’ve ever had.

Photo Credit: Brian Paraiso

In your Kickstarter campaign called “The Open Road” you mention that you are blazing trails much like Lewis & Clark and Jack Kerouac did…Kerouac ate a lot of Apple Pie with ice cream while on his road trip, what will your crew be feasting on? Well, I’m lactose intolerant, so no ice cream for me. I plan on munching on a steady diet of Kroger brand peanut butter and 99 cent bread. As for the allusion to Kerouac and Lewis & Clark… There is a sense of us discovering America for ourselves, for our generation.

What do you love most about stand-up comedy? To begin with; everything. I love the celebration of words. In a way, it’s the most popular form of poetry that exists. I love how reductive it is: just a voice and an audience. You and a microphone versus the world. Laughter is the greatest thing that exists. Some people would say sex, but those people are ridiculous. Laughter is like sex you can have with anybody. Plus sex can really screw a person up. Comedy is a reaction to being screwed up already. You speak words, and people are moved to make noise and their face transforms to a much sillier, happier version of itself. It’s pretty magical when you think about it. There’s a great deal of freedom in comedy. Starting with freedom of speech, but even more than that, you are completely free to do whatever you want. You can do a set without words. You can strip naked and scream. It’s completely open. The only rule is that it has to be funny. And all comedy is subjective so you can pull off practically anything. It is just plain fun to have some stupid, little idea and go out onstage and share it with a room full of strangers. And when they are with you, it’s the single, greatest feeling in the world.

What scares the living daylights out of you? Doing press interviews. Death. They say fear of public speaking is the number one fear. So comedy is that, plus the added pressure to be funny. It’s pretty scary. But the scariest thing for me is dying with regret. My dad died when I was seven years old, and since then I’ve been thinking about death all the time. I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living enough. That is why I do stand up comedy.

When do you leave on your trip and when will you return? As of right now, we’re leaving September 3 and returning September 30. That’s the plan, but if we are not able to raise the money through Kickstarter, we will have to push it back until we raise enough dough.

What do you think it is about America that calls so many to travel its roads? Well… There is a definite need for a young person to discover their country, see what’s out there. Some of my friends have gone to France and England and Italy and Japan… And I always feel like there’s so much to explore right here in America. What is life like in New Orleans or Boston or Tennessee? America is a place where people from all over the world immigrate to, so there are cultures transplanted from everywhere. Experiencing that incredible cocktail of ideas and perspectives is rather remarkable. And also, it’s pretty.

What are you most looking forward to on this trip? Meeting people. One of the greatest pleasures of doing comedy, or any art for that matter, is meeting interesting/crazy/fun people. The more I think about it, the more I realize most of my motivation to do anything is to have interesting conversations. Comedy at its base is about connecting with people. You hear a joke that you identify with; it makes you feel like you’re not alone. Or you hear a joke about something terrible or terrifying, and you’re able laugh about it… it can really make you rethink life, reevaluate what’s important in this world. So I really look forward to having some small, shared experience with people all across America.

Support “The Open Road” at Kickstarter and donate today!

About pLAywriting in the city

pLAywriting in the city works to expand the portfolio of arts criticism written by people of color and to cover events in and around Los Angeles that are neglected by the mainstream media but which more fittingly reflects the diversity of the city.

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