by Andrew Wantuck
This week I spoke with a comedian that has appeared on Conan O'Brien, Comedy Central, and Craig Ferguson. We discussed how he created his own world called Planet Charlie, creating props for Carrot Top, and a solution enabling you to never have to mow your lawn ever again.
Andrew: How would you describe your Comedy Central special “Welcome to Planet Charlie" to somebody that has never seen you?
Charlie: It’s a half hour special on Comedy Central, that they play at random hours. It’s me ranting about things on this planet that I don’t like and coming up with some solutions that would hopefully help.
Andrew: Can you give me an example of something that is different on Planet Earth versus Planet Charlie?
Charlie: On Planet Charlie anyone who talks on their cell phone really loud in a restaurant or a public place, has to wear a phone booth on their head so we don’t have to listen to their stupid conversations. It kind of all started because, well I live in the Southern California area which has lots of cars and traffic and stuff. I started my planet one day after I got a $490.00 parking ticket. I am not even joking, I really got a $490.00 ticket and I realized that my whole car only cost $290.00. So I thought ‘That’s Crazy!’ So I started Planet Charlie and on Planet Charlie we handle parking tickets differently. Parking tickets on Planet Charlie are directly based on how much your car is worth. Like, if you drive some big rich Lexus or something, some big expensive car, and you park your car in the wrong spot, screw you, one million dollar ticket, but if you drive a piece of junk, like most of the rest of us normal people do, they would actually leave free Pizza Hut coupons.
Andrew: How does a comedian go from being a good comic to going to a great comic?
Charlie: It has everything to do with who you sleep with. As a matter of fact, speaking of which, I tried that myself in Hollywood and I was hoping to get a little heat on my career, so I actually slept with Betty White. I would like to qualify that by saying It’s not weird or creepy because I did it when she was in her seventies, not in her older age.
Andrew: What is the first joke that you ever wrote?
Charlie: I’m lazy I don’t write as much as I should. I’ll tell you how lazy that I actually am. I got tired of mowing my grass right at home, so I hired a Vietnamese lady and I had my whole yard waxed. Which is kinda weird, but now I just have a thin strip of grass that leads to my front door.
It’s pretty much all that's left of my yard at this point and that's pretty weird. It’s no wonder I don’t have a girlfriend with stupid comments like that. I actually had a girlfriend but she just recently broke up with me in a text message. She sent me a text that said "I don’t want to see you anymore because you’re cold and critical," and so I texted her back and said "Okay fine, bye, and by the way you misspelled the word critical."
Andrew: Are you proud of the fact that you’ve written and created props for Carrot Top?
Charlie: Yeah, I’m proud of that. Only because, for people who don’t know him, people like to give him a bad wrap. I dare anyone to go to Las Vegas and watch his live show at the Luxor, where he performs all the time, he’s got a contract for the next twenty years or something like that. I dare them to go watch that and say that he is not funny. He doesn’t deserve some of the crap he has gotten. He’s a super nice guy in real life. Ok, he’s a weirdo, I’ll give you that. Yeah, there’s pictures of him on the internet looking like a weirdo. But, that doesn’t mean that he’s not funny. Just because he’s a strange cat. Yeah, I’m proud of that. I’ve written and built many of the props. I like to say that he and I collaborate on a lot of the stuff. We’re kind of like Elton John and Bernie Taupin, except we don’t sleep together. I tell people that the only way he screws me is financially.
Andrew: Can you tell me something that you’ve learned in the last year?
Charlie: I’ve learned to stay away from pepper spray, because that really burns your eyes a lot. As a matter of fact, they have been having issues with pepper spray out here, in southern California. I just read an article where they said that the police had been using too much pepper spray and the article went on to say that caucasian people said that it was unconstitutional, that African American’s said that it was racist, and that Mexican American’s had complained that it wasn't hot enough.
I thought that was kind of weird. Stay away from pepper spray is what I would say. I don’t mean that in any way to be racist. I am not a racist at all. As a matter of fact I used to have an asian girlfriend. That’s true and she was sweet... and sour as it turns out.
Andrew: Do you pen and paper all your jokes all the time and then go on stage and tell them or do you take a premise on stage and find your punchline there?
Charlie: I do both. Sometimes with the suit and tie and glasses, twin brother Charles, I pen and paper it all out. The jokes are really short and they have to be really precise. Other times, especially if I am free forming it, like if I am headlining and doing an hour, I’ll take a premise on stage with me and I’ll just see where it takes me. I’ll just say, what was I thinking about today? Like, people sending text messages, that was pissing me off one day. So, I just went on stage and thought I am just going to start talking about how I feel about it and see what comes out and if anything funny comes out on the spot, I’ll keep it. If nothing happens then that is fine too. I ended up getting some good jokes out of it. Doing it just off the cuff. I hate it when people send me one particular text message. The text message that says “call me”. That really pisses me off. What I have decided to do is I always call these people back and leave them a voice mail that says text me.
Andrew: Can you give me a quote about The Comedy & Magic Club compared to other clubs across the country?
Charlie: The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach is absolutely my favorite club. It’s not just because they have the top comics down here and again I’ll tell you why they let me on stage I still have no idea, but they have Jay Leno, Garry Shadling, and Ray Romano. Seinfeld even started at The Comedy & Magic Club, but these guys still come down here and do spots. So, it is not only the place to be and it makes me feel good that they decided that I am good enough to be on the stage here because as a comic it is really hard to get in this club. You’ve got to be a serious cat and doing your thing the right way to even get accepted at the club, so it makes me feel good to get spots down here, because it makes me feel like I am accepted. The part that customers don’t get to see is the staff, all the way from Mike the owner, Richard and Rebecca the managers, and everybody at the entire club. They’re all the nicest people you would ever want to deal with or hang out with and they make you feel like family and they make you feel like you are at home. What they don’t perhaps know is that the staff are just hand picked great people, they’re beautiful, they’re nice, they’re just great people and that would be is what I think is my favorite part about The Comedy & Magic Club.
Please visit charlie at planetcharlie.com or see Charlie Viracola live at The Comedy & Magic Club's 32nd Birthday as part of one of the 16 comics this Thursday. July 29th though Saturday, July 31st. Reservations Required (310) 372-1193 or comedyandmagicclub.com. ER.