by Andrew Wantuck
Andrew: Mr. Shoemaker, what are you currently working on? What have you been up to?
Craig: Well, I’m working on a documentary called Live to Laugh.
Andrew: How did that project come together?
Craig: Well, it’s inspired by several things that have happened throughout the last few years of my career in life. My best friend having brain cancer, being diagnosed about nine years ago, and, you know, opening up The Laughter Store, and starting Laughter Heals, and hearing about a girl listening to my CD to recover during her Leukemia treatments, and people saying they got pregnant after my show, running the laugh therapy program that I do out of a cancer facility... all those things have nudged me in this direction in a very profound way.
Andrew: So tell me a little bit about the project. It sounds like a documentary; what is the narrative? What can the audience expect to see?
Craig: I don’t want to spill too much about it, because I’ve learned that people tend to steal your ideas, and I’ve had that happen a number of times.
Craig: You know, I’ll watch a sitcom and say to myself I pitched that a year before it came out, and so I’m starting to learn my lesson in that way. But I will tell you one thing: the goal is not to expand my career but to expand the awareness of the power of laughter. If anything, I believe that if at any time in our history we’ve needed laughter to lift our spirits, it’s right now. I think that once we are educated as to the healing powers of laughter, you’ll see a rise in our emotions and spirits and minds to the point where we’re all bound to do better with the economy once the paradigm shift takes place. This film will break it out globally what just a very small, few know. Now countless folks will know where we should put our energy, not into the negativity and the news promotes but into filling comedy clubs and renting funny DVDs and CDs and buying funny CDs and reading books that make you smile and laugh. That’s the shift that I’m talking about.
Andrew: What would be Craig Shoemaker’s advice to surviving these turbulent economic times?
Craig: Well, the first thing is that I turned off the news probably about eight years ago, and it’s served me well because their job is to keep you in the position that you will buy the stuff they’re selling on the commercials and to keep you in that place, they have to keep you in fear. Well, I no longer allow the media or others to dictate how I feel about myself. It’s all a choice. My choice is to not watch the news, not read most parts of a newspaper, but to work on what I ingest. I now make the choice to take my energy to laughter and goodness and service and light and goodness and that’s where I’m drawn to and I hope others are too. I came to a point in my career where I realized it’s not about me anymore. This is about something much bigger than me, and I think what’s out there is so untapped and that’s what’s going to help us through this economy, our approach to it, our psychological, physiological, emotional, spiritual approach to it. It’s what’s going to lift us through it. If you listen to these naysayers from Wall Street, look where they’ve gotten us. Look where the pundits get us on all these news channels, the pundits, you know? Like they know how to do it. Like they know how to uplift anyone. They’ve never uplifted anyone in their lives. Their idea is to take people down who don’t, you know, conspire with their line of thinking. So I’m here to break through that. I think a lot of people are, and a lot of people share that mission to change this paradigm.
Andrew: Let’s talk about your family, specifically your boys. Do you have any new stories about parenting that you can share with us?
Craig: Well, I do. I have a bunch of new stories. My kids are a wealth of material. Now I have a new one on the way.
Andrew: You do?
Craig: Thank you, although I was positive it was a girl and so was my wife and so was everyone. I was positive I would have daddy’s little girl and they have this way now of showing you something far beyond the old days where you looked into something, you know, these sonograms that look like the milky way and they would say “oh, that’s a penis.” Now they have these three-dimensional photos. I kept saying, “are you sure we don’t have a girl? We’re positive, you know, that we’re having a girl.” And he goes, “look at that” and sure enough, there’s definitely a candle on that cake.
Craig: And it’s a no doubt-abouter. There’s a little lovemaster in there. So, it’s funny ‘cause my wife sent this 3-D photo to everyone showing all these angles and everything, and he’s like a little person in there. But she cut it off at his private parts and said, “do you think people are that sick, you know, that there are pedophiles that are getting aroused over a zygote?”
Craig: Like they’re passing around fetus pornography. I said, “what the hell did you cut it out for?”
Andrew: So this is your third boy, right?
Craig: Yeah, my third boy. I can’t believe it. I grew up with all females, and I thought I was destined to have that life, and I guess there was another plan out there for me.
Andrew: By your third one, are you more nervous, less nervous? What does having two others teach you?
Craig: I think with the first one, you’re so careful. He dropped a piece of food and you’re putting police tape around it, you know? Don’t go near the bacteria. And I think by the third one, there’s not even a five-minute rule when they drop food on the floor. There’s probably a five-day rule we’ll implement.
Craig: You know, just dust off the hair and give it to him. There’s such a difference in how careful we are with each child. It just gets less and less.
Andrew: Now tell me a little bit about the first time The Lovemaster character came out. Where were you? What were you doing?
Craig: Well, I was a geek in high school and the girls all used the “f” word with me, you know “friend”? They would all call me their “friend”. I hated that. They would go for these guys, you know, that were not like me. I was, you know, real high voice and real small and nice to them, which is certainly not what I found they wanted. So, I would channel The Lovemaster and give them what they really wanted.
Craig: Just this confident lothario who was going to do things to them that no one else could, even if it wasn’t true.
Andrew: Did you get huge reactions from it immediately? Did you know you were onto something, and did that shape you going into stand-up itself?
Craig: I had been doing stand-up for years, but the way I actually honed The Lovemaster, believe it or not, was on tour with Kenny Loggins. And it was interesting to be around people on planes, and buses, and backstage, and to be around all the band mates and crew members I was able to tryout my material and that’s really where I developed The Lovemaster. You know, I had immediate feedback. I had an audience I would travel with. As stand-up, we don’t have that, and certainly our families don’t want to hear anything else. So, it was really inspirational to hang out with these guys.
Andrew: What are your thoughts at this point about the road? Do you love it? Are you ready to not tour? Where are you with that?
Craig: Oh, I absolutely cannot stand the road, and that’s been the case for a very long time. Not having a father, you know my father left when I was born, one of my dreams was to have a child or more. And I couldn’t wait to be called “daddy” and be a great father. The first word Justin ever called me was airport. He knew to be the guy at the airport that he was going to go with Mommy to come pick up. I guess from his birth on, life just changed. I feel like I’ve seen the country already. There’s very little that inspires me to pack another bag. Now performing - I absolutely love to do that but not travel.
Andrew: In your opinion, what takes a stand-up comic from being a good stand-up to becoming a great stand-up?
Craig: I think it’s the work they do offstage, not on. I think the most important thing for a stand-up, or in any career for that matter, is to know who you are and it’s that person that is going to perform well onstage. It’s the person who’s the most evolved and the most in touch with their inner self as opposed to their performing-self. A performer who doesn’t know who he truly is, his authentic self, is usually just a copycat of another comic. They might say different words, but it’s the style of someone else. It’s the cadence or the reforming of jokes, and I kicked into another gear the more I got to know how Craig Shoemaker would say jokes or act in a certain scenario. What I’ve found is very important in comedy is to be able to handle the media. I’m on CNN on Wednesday, by the way. I’ll promote The Comedy & Magic Club.
Andrew: What time on CNN and for what?
Craig: I don’t know; I really don’t know. They’re doing a thing on Twitter. They’re recording me in the morning. I don’t know what time it’s going to be on or anything. I’ll find out for you, but they’re interviewing me for Twitter, which I try to keep up with. Anyway, if a media person like a radio show - you know I do hundreds and hundreds of radio shows a year, and each personality is different. Well, they don’t care to hear your jokes that you wrote. They care about your personality. So how do you handle that? One guy could be pressing buttons with sound effects. Another team could be a male and a female trying to fit you into their comedy stylings in the morning. Another one could have music interrupt you every minute, so you have to know how you and your personality handles something. You don’t handle everything with a comedy joke, you know? You handle it the way you would emotionally deal with it or intellectually deal with it, whatever your point of view is. So it’s important to really enhance and grow that point of view.
Andrew: What advice would you give to an eighteen year-old kid who is thinking about going into the business as a pro? What would be the first thing you would tell him?
Craig: The first thing I would tell him is erase everything you think you know about the business. If you come into the business with all the preconceptions, how are you supposed to learn. You know, it’s tough to teach a know-it-all, and you have to have a real yearning for learning if you’re beginning in this business. One of the things that’s really important, in my opinion, is to have that clean slate, because you’ll burn yourself out so fast and you’ll have no longevity in the business thinking that you know what’s best for you. And the other suggestion I would say is find some good mentors in the business and the people with experience.
Andrew: Who are some of the guys who mentored you?
Craig: I really didn’t have any, which is why I took so long in the business. I’ve made a tremendous amount of mistakes.
Andrew: What were a couple of those, if you don’t mind me asking? What were some of your biggest mistakes?
Craig: Well, being cocky. I used to think it was really important to blow the headliner off the stage, to impress him, and that served no purpose except for my own ego. It does not lead to longevity. I made it about the bits and the jokes instead of the, you know, the work that it takes on my inner self to get this good. I was selfish, and that manifested itself in many ways. Ill-prepared - I did not do the proper preparation that it takes. It’s very similar to, you know, The Karate Kid or any of those movies where there’s a mentor and he’s wondering why he’s sanding the floor and painting fences. There’s a whole other purpose to it. Where other people are like, “hey, man; I just want to learn how to punch.” Well, it’s the same with this. I just want to learn how to deliver punch lines. You know, don’t tell me about all that other crap. Just tell me how to grab the microphone and just kill. That’s what I want to do; I want to kill. That’s what a boxer wants to do or an ultimate fighter. If you can’t learn the defensive skills... if you can’t learn what to do when you’re actually not throwing a punch... when you don’t have the skills that it takes to be present in your own body, you’re doomed for failure. You might have an occasional kill here and there, but those are bar fights. You want to be on the big stage? You’re going to listen to mentors. You know the best do that, too. The best have mentors. Mine happens to be a mentor I had for a number of years now. I’m getting to know him privately now instead of just with the masses as the leader of the Agape Spiritual Center, Michael Beckwith. He’s one of the breakout guys from The Secret, you know the DVD: The Secret?
Craig: He and I are going to a Laker game tonight, and he’s a guy that I heed his advice even if it’s not personal to me. I listen to what he says, and I’m guided by it. Instead of being pushed by my inner selfish ego, I listen to other sources. I’m watching this Pacquiao-Hatton 24/7 on HBO.
Andrew: Yeah, I wanted to get into that.
Craig: Pacquiao is the greatest fighter pound for pound in the world, and he has two mentors, you know, Freddie Roach and Michael Moorer, because apparently he still needs a mentor. No matter how big you become, no matter how great you become, there’s always room for change and shift and there’s, obviously, more creative ways to explore. There are other ways to mine that creativity, as well, and we have to stay open to finding out what those are. So unless you have that kind of freedom from all the obstacles we put in front of ourselves, unless you have that freedom, how are you supposed to find that spark each and every day that we have to do that?
Andrew: Now was there a point in your career when you were maybe on the road awhile ago, did you ever have trouble with battling some of the common pitfalls of the road like alcohol, drugs, and sex? Did that ever become a factor for you? And if so, how did you overcome it?
Craig: All of it, everything you just named. You know, one-night stands that I thought would lead to some sort of happiness, which never did. Each and every one I would go into denial and say, “oh, you know, I could save this stripper from her life of having ten dollar bills put in her g-string and I can rescue her.” And that was what my M.O. was. I thought that I could save people. That’s actually how I got started in comedy, as well. I thought my laughter could rescue them. If they came in with a sourpuss, oh I could change that. I’ve done that with my family, and I’ve done that so many others. It’s a very flawed concept; it does not have any payoff. I did that, and then I also thought that I could change my own psychological, psychological self by the drugs or alcohol and many other things, mind-altering.
Andrew: Let me ask a follow-up question. So what you just told me was that, you know, that’s a flawed concept of going in thinking that your laughter could turn a situation around. However, at the beginning of the interview that’s still kind of the concept that you’re working on maybe even in this documentary currently. Can you kind of clear that up for me? You learned that it was a false premise, but it’s still something you’re working on.
Craig: Here’s what I’m trying to say is it’s only there for the willing. I can’t change somebody. I can only deliver what I deliver. The end results are not in my hands. Whereas, I would take people who were making choices like misery and negativity and think that I could actually take them and turn them around. For instance, trying to rescue a female who lives in a halfway house with four kids and saying, “well, I have a better life for you. Look what I can do for you.” That’s what my thinking was, and that’s what I mean by a flawed concept. You can’t rescue anyone unless they have willingness.
Andrew: So kind of like the lead a horse to water metaphor?
Craig: Yeah. Well, it’s like I’m not Superman. I just go out there, and I make people laugh, I invite them to laugh. So the invitations have changed, and it’s also changed for myself. I’m much more amped to r.s.v.p. on things that are positive and helpful. I’m trying to be drawn in by people of that ilk instead of, you know, hanging with drunks and drug addicts and things like that. And the biggest rescue I had to do was myself [laughs]. Once that took place, life just took a really wonderful turn. Actually at this point in my life, I’ve never even though, with all my creativity, I couldn’t have written how magnificent it was right now. I could not have created this if I tried. You could’ve given me a laptop and a year in seclusion, and I could not have written the novel of my life right now of how great it is.
Andrew: In conclusion, can you talk to me about The Comedy & Magic Club, Hermosa Beach, and Mike Lacey. Can you give me a little bit about this club as opposed to some of the other places in your travels?
Craig: Well, I think I’ve said this before that, again, in the world of dreaming and dreams and visions, I’ve never thought I’d be headlining on that stage for twenty years now after my first time of visiting that club as a patron watching David Spade, Dennis Miller, and Dana Carvey. It’s truly one of the special places, and I’m not saying that because I’m playing there this week [laughs].
Craig: I say that for people to know that they should treat it as something special and make sure that it’s on their calendar no matter who you go see. The Comedy & Magic Club should be on their calendar with much more frequency than some of the other spots that I’m sure they frequent. It’s one of the capitols. If comedy was a state, it’d be one of the capitols. It’s where every comic wants to work, and I’m still honored that they ask me back to be there. The audiences are really amazing. There’s a couple clubs where the audiences are easy, and they’re not easy, they’re just really great. They don’t make you work really, extra hard at changing their dynamic. They also don’t make it easy for you and laugh at every joke. There’s a very friendly atmosphere in there. I think a lot of it has to do with the town of Hermosa itself and that whole South Bay community. The whole South Bay community is something different. It’s like the strand indoors. You get people just enjoying the fresh comedy instead of the fresh air, and you get a little mixture of different ages and types. It’s definitely not a conflict atmosphere.
Andrew: What are your thoughts on Mike Lacey?
Craig: Well, the club is a reflection of Mike, who is a person who is completely committed and dedicated to bringing comedy to people and bringing the best quality comedy to people. And there are no bones about that. He is just all about that for longer than almost anyone in the business, and he is like a legend in our community. He’s also nuts [laughs]. He fits right in with the comics.
Andrew [laughs]: Alright, I think that’s perfect.
Craig Shoemaker will be headlining The Comedy & Magic Club on Thursday, April 30th - Saturday, May 2nd 2009. Reservations Required. (310) 372-1193 or comedyandmagicclub.com. ER