Psychology In Comedy with Nathan Lund

INJ 03 | Psychology In Comedy

Our guest is Denver comedian, Nathan Lund. He was featured on the TV show Flophouse on Viceland as well as the BBC show, Horizon. Nathan was part of the funnier Funny Or Die Oddball Comedy Festival, Crom Comedy Festival, Savage Henry Fest, and the High Plains Comedy Festival. You can often see him at Comedy Works in Denver and you might see him hosting Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks.


Listen to Episode #3 here


Psychology In Comedy with Nathan Lund

Welcome, Nathan.

Thanks for having me.

That BBC thing was pretty good.

That was because of you. I appreciate you having me along for them.

That was a lot of fun. I immediately thought of you when I was doing this podcast and we’re just going to jump right in. I want to know, if you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing?

I don’t know. I went to school for Psychology and I got my Bachelor’s in Psychology, but I was really burnt out on school and I wanted to try comedy. I figured if it didn’t work out, if I didn’t like it or if I found that I wasn’t good at it, then maybe I would’ve gone back to school, but probably not for Psychology. That would’ve been up in the air. I probably would have tried to go back to school for a Master’s in something. I’d have a lot more money if I weren’t doing comedy. I’d be doing something lucrative.

It sounds like you don’t really have a plan B?

No. I got that Bachelor’s in Psychology to fall back. I would maybe work at a library. I would just have to regroup for sure. So far, I’ve been able to make it work.

Do you find that your training in Psychology helps being a comedian?

I think it allows me to interact with people a little bit better, to not take everything personally, to not like just think that certain people are good or bad are jerks or nice, just knowing that there’s a lot more going in and all of us. I think that that helps. I think it’s informed some of my comedy. Just the idea of trying to have certain goals to make people laugh and then trying to figure out how to get there in a clever way. Just the idea of thinking about how everybody ticks or where we’re coming from definitely is the part of that process.

Hearing you talk about this, there’s two hypotheses. One is and forgive me for sounding like a psychologist as I say this, there’s something about you, Nathan, that led you to study Psychology and also led you to study comedy versus there’s something about what you learned in Psychology that informs you as a comedian. Which of those two things is more accurate?

The stand up was from an early age.

Even before that?

I enjoyed stand-up early on, Comedy Central came along when I was pretty young. I was nine. That was a big introduction to comedy and to stand up and my dad watched a lot of funny things before Comedy Central. I liked when he was in a good mood, when he was laughing. We bonded over a lot of comedy, especially stand-up. That was early and then I didn’t really think about Psychology much until I took a Psychology class in high school and I liked it a lot. I liked the teacher. I liked the introduction to it more than most of the other stuff that I was studying in high school.

That was the only reason I had it as my major when I started college and I figured I could change it if I wanted. By the time I thought maybe I wanted to do something else, I was in too deep. I didn’t want to add any more time to my undergrad experience. I just figured I would get the bachelor’s and go from there. Then I started thinking about actually doing stand up on my senior year. It was again, late to really try to change gears with school. I just figured get out of school a try to do stand up and see if it fit or if I enjoyed it or not. I was hooked right away. It was pretty much over after the first time. I was like, “I got to pursue this.” That was thirteen years ago that I started.

I took a psychology class as a high school student and found it in the same way really valuable. If there’s a time in life where you need a Psychology class, it’s when you’re like fifteen or sixteen because it gives you a bunch of insights into, as you were saying earlier, like there’s a lot going on with people and that we should be careful about just ascribing them positive and negative qualities without understanding things like the environment and the role that it has. Tell me what that’s like, you’re senior, you obviously value comedy from your childhood. I assume you’re still consuming it. You’re still watching things and listening to things and so on. How does that happen?

INJ 03 | Psychology In Comedy
Psychology In Comedy: Play from the top of your intelligence.

Most of my life I try to be funny. I wanted to try to get laughs. I felt like I wasn’t the class clown. There were a few kids that I was friends with growing up that I thought were also funny. I didn’t feel like I was like a standalone. I was competitive with my friends to be funny and to be smart and to be good at sports. We were all trying to outdo each other. I didn’t just have just being funny when I was younger. A lot of times people would say that I should be a comedian or that I was going to be a comedian and I didn’t see that for myself because I was pretty focused on going to school and doing something more lucrative.

It would have been odd for me to pursue that because I just thought that I needed to go to school for something more, like some type of doctor or just something that had more weight to it and something that was more a scholarly. It wasn’t until my senior year in college when I started thinking about it for myself. Around that time, I was hanging out with some good friends and I was making them laugh a lot. After one of them said, “You’re really funny. You should be a comedian.” That’s when I finally felt like it sounded right. I said, “I will. I’m going to try it.”

Were you sober that time that you said that?

No, but I had been thinking about it. It would have been brewing for just a little while. I was thinking that graduation was coming up and I didn’t have a lot of my next steps planned out. When my buddy Ryan said that to me, I thought, “I’ve got to try and figure that out.” Focus on that. For my last semester in college, I started writing stuff down and trying to think of what I would want to do on stage. I went to school in Reno, Nevada, and I figured, it’s small. I didn’t know how much comedy there was there. After graduating, I was going to move back to Las Vegas, Nevada and I knew that there was going to be opportunity to start there. I figured I would just write until I got back down there and that’s what I did. I didn’t even try to find open mics which is weird, but I went and saw a friend’s band play at a bar and they had a good stage. It just seemed like a good spot to have my first time. I contacted the bar after the show after my friend’s band had played. I asked them if they ever did comedy there and they said, “No.” They said, “I could come and do some time before a band,” that they had scheduled that I didn’t know. I thought, “Fine. That sounds good.” I had a bunch of my friends come and I was all excited and then when I get there the stage is being remodeled it’s not being used.

I just had to be off to the side of the bar in front of a giant wall of a bunch of TVs and they were all showing different sports. It was not ideal, but it was telling of how a lot of my future was going to be. It’s not always ideal. There’s not always a nice stage, but I had my friends there. Maybe 30 of my friends, people I had gone to high school with and a lot of support. I did maybe six or seven minutes of what I had written. It went well. I did fine for it being my first time and afterwards, I felt high as a kite and I was sober. I was nervous. I didn’t want to be drunk or anything. Afterwards, I felt really just energized and excited. I knew I was hooked and just started seeking out open mics in Las Vegas. There weren’t very many, but I got to fall in with some good guys, some good comics that had been doing it a little bit longer than me. They helped me a lot by making it feel a little bit less estrange and less alone. I got to fall in with those guys and feel like we were all helping each other out because a lot of the shows were not super fun. They were in bars or rooms and casinos. We’re just trying to figure out how to get people in there. Maybe they tried music or karaoke already and then they’d tried comedy. There’s very little investment. A lot of people that didn’t know there was going to be comedy.

That seems like one of the worst scenarios.

It is. If they don’t have that expectation, then people can just ignore it. People can even be mad that it’s happening or say, “I wanted to listen to the jukebox.” There are a lot of people that would be just have their backs to the stage playing video poker at the bar. If any of them said that they didn’t like the comedy that was the end of the show. That happened a couple of times. If you had a regular that was just given half their paycheck to this bar, their word was gold. We weren’t bringing in any money, but that guy was. That happened at least a couple times. We are like, “They shut it down.”

Your description of your first time doing stand up is pretty extraordinary to me in some ways. The fact that it was not ideal circumstances is not surprising. The fact that you essentially planned your own comedy show, had a full house, did six or seven minutes, everything I know about comedy is that’s pretty extraordinary and it went well. Those things together are pretty impressive.

I had written a lot, maybe six months. That whole last semester and maybe a little bit before that, I was writing and I was thinking about what might be good or whatever. I wasn’t super informed because I didn’t start good. I helped my chances. Between that, preparing because some people don’t even prepare anything which is crazy. They just try to go up there. I guess a lot of people that decide to start we’re told that they were funny, like I was by friends. It’s so different and I didn’t think I was going to be a comic for so long because I felt like I was funny in a group responding to other people, making fun of other people or having recall of something that would be funny or appropriately, any of that. That stuff I thought was so dependent on being in a conversation with other people that I just didn’t understand until I started doing it. It’s the same general thing, but it’s just all on you. You have to create the whole conversation and you have to talk for other people or you have to maybe even interact with the people in the crowd and have it inform what you’re going to talk about.

That’s a little bit more advanced or whatever. That’s tougher to do when you’re starting out. Some people just think because they’ve made their friends laugh at a party that they can go up there and tell the story of their buddy getting stuck in a fence or something. That is not how it works. That helped me. Also, it was like all my friends. They were going to be supportive no matter what. I think I might have been better than they thought I might be. After that first time, there were a lot of bad times. I hadn’t figured it out yet. I wasn’t fully formed. I wasn’t really ahead of any curve. I had a good first time and then after that, there were a lot of tough crowds. That made it tougher for me. I also tried early on to get those people’s attention by being pretty dirty or shocking. That was a not a great move. I thought that it would be easier than getting people’s attention by talking about everyday stuff, but I should’ve just focused more on trying to be funny and trying to be creative or unique. That came later.

[Tweet “Focus more on trying to be funny and trying to be creative or unique.”]

Do you remember your opener for first time? Do you remember what you opened with?

I don’t remember much. The main thing I remember was something dumb about how I get a lot of weird looks at the gym at the water fountain and I think it’s because I drank like this. I acted out like lapping at it like a dog or something and just being like, “What? That’s how you get more water. That’s how you get hydrated. I read that in Men’s Health.” That was dumb. Then I had some other stuff that was a little bit dirtier, sexual stuff or whatever talking about an ex. There was a little bit of everything in that first set I think.

Do you have an opener now that you like?

Lately, I’ve just been, “Sorry if my hair looks weird. I went swimming a couple of weeks ago.” That’s been pretty good because it’s just short and a quick little misdirection right away. I’ve added to that a little bit and try to build on it and saying how sometimes I try to do my hair but it doesn’t help because no matter what I do I always look like I just rolled down a big hill and that usually is fun.

That’s the follow up. Did you do anything to your hair now?

I tried to manually guide it a little bit. I’m trying to make it a little bit less just completely disheveled.

Do you think your hair is like a signature? If you shaved your head you would affect your comedy?

It’d be weird because I had real long hair for a long time. I thought that it made sense to keep the same look so that people weren’t, confused or curious about if I was the same person or not. That was probably dumb thing to worry about, especially after nine years or whatever that I had been here. It’s like, “The people either know you or they don’t so do whatever you want.” After I got my hair cut, I didn’t have a lot of jokes about having long hair so that was fine. I made sure to get new headshots right away so that I didn’t have that weirdness of like a poster up in a bar and then I come in and I don’t look like that guy exactly.

You still look the same though.

The beard helps and having the same face is fine. Most people, they’re going to be okay.

I noticed you cut it. There’ll be a picture for everyone. You can check on Nathan’s new do.

You’ll recognize me. I’m buff and cut somehow. That’s hard to pull off.

I want to talk to you about a typical day in your life. What’s going on? What are the beats? What’s happening?

Not a lot of beats. I try not to do too much. I have a dog so I like to walk my dog. I don’t have a day job. I don’t do a lot during the day usually. I have a lot of shows at night so I try not to do a ton of stuff during the day or else by the time the show comes around, I’m already tired. I like to have coffee, get online, promote shows. I have a show that I run so depending on where that is at, I either have to try and book that or get the flyer for that.

That show is?

Power Move. It’s the first Thursday of the month. Aaron Urist is another comic. He and I host a together and we pick a different charity each month to have donations go to that charity. I think we think we’ve done nine shows. It’s a good time, but it takes a little bit of work to make sure that everything’s in place for it. I thought that it would be easier running a monthly show than running a weekly show like I did. I had too much fun every Wednesday for six years and so it’s easier to book a monthly show. That first Thursday comes quickly than I want it to. A lot of times it’s just a scramble to make sure we get that flyer, that we get the lineup finalized and that we start promoting with hopefully more than a week to go before the show.

It’s a weird balancing act too with like how you promote and when you promote other shows. I’m not very good at saying like, “Check me out in three weeks because I have a show that night or whatever so I want to promote that, too.” You don’t want to post eight times on Facebook for different shows because nobody will see them. That’s a dumb thing that I have to deal with most days. Like, “What do I want to promote? What do I have tomorrow? What do I have next week that I could promote in a couple of days?” It’s a big part of my day, outside of walking the dog, and getting some coffee. I got to rest and be mentally prepared for the performance that night.

You’re writing? I assume you’re writing.

I need to write more, but I don’t set aside time to write. I mostly try to always be open to idea of coming up with a joke. With Twitter, too like, if I want to try to tweet something, I’ll try to focus on something short, something topical a d then I’ll um, maybe expand on that for the stage. If I want to try to have something a little bit longer. For an open mic, then I’ll do that. I also plan on going to more open mics because I didn’t go out as much to do open mics in the last year. I stayed home a lot because I quit drinking. It made it a lot easier to just try and be home and not be at a bar every night. Now that it’s been over a year, I’m looking forward to being more comfortable in the open mic scene. I’m ready for it now. ‘m going to try and write more and perform more at open mics while still doing book shows and showcases.

What do you write in? Where do you put your ideas?

I used to do notebooks. Lately, I’ve been doing the phone more because then I’m less likely to forget my phone somewhere. Comics are always forgetting their joke books, especially when I was drinking. I would forget everything. My shirt, my pants could be at a bar. Joke books were harder for me to hold onto. The phone thing has been nice.

It gets backed up and stuff like that.

It’s backed up. You can accidentally throw it away. I still have a lot of little scraps of paper around my dresser. I try to go through those regularly so that I can get rid of some of this stuff that I don’t need to hold onto anymore. It’s nice to have notes in the phone.

Do you have any scraps on you right now?

No. I’ve been using the phone.

Can you tell me your latest entry on your phone?

A lot of times it’s set lists.

In terms of an idea, I’m just curious what that’s like.

One of the things I like that hasn’t worked very much is I don’t know about you guys, but I’m glad it’s not beach season anymore. It is now blanket season, which means as long as you can fit under a blanket, you’re golden. You’re in good enough shape. As long as you can share a blanket with another person, then you can feel okay, I think about your shape. It’s not as not as revealing in the cold months. I’ve only done it a couple times, but I feel like maybe there has to be more to it or something. I’ve also been having fun talking about getting call the sheeple about how going to conservative towns to do shows, one-nighters or whatever. You’re just surrounded by conservatives a lot of the time and then they see my hair and beard. They know I’m not from there. A lot of them like to call me a sheeple. It’s like, “I’m one person. How can I be a whole group of sheep people?” That gets lost in translation for them, I think. That’s individual. If you refer to one person as a sheep, you’re already losing that intellectual battle.

INJ 03 | Psychology In Comedy
Psychology In Comedy: You had to be funny or creative  to get people to consistently like you.

The drinking, what prompted the change?

It was hard. I drank a lot in college and I started doing stand up right away.

It’s a big drinking scene, the nature of the business.

You’re in bars. A lot of times you don’t get paid, but you might get a tab. You might get a couple of drink tickets. The liquid courage helped me a lot when I was starting out because I didn’t have any real confidence. Like I said, a lot of those Vegas open mics were just tough crowds, non-existent crowds. There was a lot of anxiety that was relieved by drinking. I was very excited to be a part of this new thing for me. It was a whole new chapter for me after being focused on school and doing right. I was excited. There was a fun aspect as well to my drinking. It just continued and

I had a girlfriend that didn’t drink, but then we broke up and then I started dating a girl that liked to drink. That worked better as far as just being out. She would come out more than my past girlfriend. We moved up here together and I met some of my close friends pretty early on, Bobby Crane and Kevin O’brien. We hit it off and that was exciting. Bobby had just started doing comedy. I think Kevin had just started as well. They were newly excited, I was excited to be in a new place and we had the Squire, which was an open mic every Tuesday. You’ve got to do it. It was like this crazy party.

People look back on it with a strange fondness.

Strange to you. That was not your scene.

People talk about there are different times and you’d have heebie-jeebies in New York City and it was the place if you were into punk rock and stuff. If you were into comedy in Denver, in the Oates, that was the place. That was the epicenter because that’s where anybody who is anyone were cutting their teeth.

It was electric. It was cool. We glorify it a lot now that it’s done. Other comic have said how it wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t the perfect place for a young comic to get better. It was a great place for some of us to just figure out what we were doing with comedy because there were a lot of people there. If you could get them to laugh or to listen to you, then it was a victory. The comedy works was the great other side of the coin because it was the club. You wanted to be good at both, I think most comics did. You had to fine tune a couple of different aspects of your act. You couldn’t just be dirty at Comedy Works and you couldn’t just be dirty at the Squire. You had to be funny or creative in order to get people to consistently like you. There aren’t very many open mics that have a really good regular crowd. Most of them, they’re not as fun. A lot of them aren’t feeling like work because it’s mostly going to be comics. If they’ve heard all of your old stuff, you’d to have good new stuff in order to get a response from them. We knew that the square was going to be either really great or just total madness. Either way, it was a good time.

You just had to keep going in order to figure out how you fit in there. A lot of comics stop going because it was intimidating. It was scary, especially new comics. It was always funny when a new comic would have their first set of the Comedy Works because they were both Tuesday nights, Comedy Works, new talent night and the Squire were Tuesday nights. Sometimes, a comic would have their first set of Comedy Works and it will be two minutes long and they would do well and they’d be all excited and they’d be like, “What other shows are there are mics?” We go, “You can go to the Squire in a couple of hours.” A lot of times they just get eaten alive because that was two different worlds and two different sets of expectations from crowd. The crowd at Comedy Works was always pretty forgiving, especially because of the host usually would say, this next comic, it’s his first time. It’s her first time here. You give her a big round of applause. Let’s be nice.” That was a lot of the hosts.

It’s a great room. Everything is in your favor.

Like we were saying, the expectation is they’re going to see a bunch of new young comics and then the Squire was just a lot tougher. A lot of nights, the people that were there didn’t care about comedy. They just knew that it was a popular night at a bar on Colfax. There were some nights where people were struggling from start to finish, because it was loud. People never paid attention to who was up there. They were all just trying to get laid or party. The comedy could be pushed to the corner. Some of those nights were the best because then the comics were performing for each other and cutting our teeth getting tougher.

I think a lot of the comics that started at the Squire are better suited for bad road gigs or small towns where there’s a bunch of rowdy drunks that hate you until you make them laugh, make them like you. They’re not neutral and hoping that you’re funny. They don’t like you because you’re from the city or because you’re not from there and you have to prove to them that you are tough, that you’re not going to be intimidated by them and that you’re going to be funny. All of that, a lot of people called it a comedy bootcamp at the Squire. It was. It was trial by fire. Overall, I think that it was good because there were a lot of people there so that you could still have these people that you could either get or not get. You’re able to judge their reactions and get that feedback. Even on a bad night, you could get some feedback on stuff.

What prompted you to stop drinking?

After thirteen years of standup, nine years here and Denver.

You’re in early 30s now?

35. It was just wearing me down finally, especially because I went from doing a lot of open mics where there’s low pressure and you can have a few beers, to more and more shows at Comedy Works. On the weekend with a headliner that is famous, that I looked up to. I didn’t want to pound a bunch of beers that night, but sometimes I would. It was just habit. It was ingrained to have some beers, to feel that buzz that warm little glow. It’s romanticized so much here I think and most of America was you drink and it’s what most people do. I went along with that for however long and it was just starting to be harder to have so many nights where I would drink a bunch. I drink a lot. I’ve always been pretty big and by drinking a lot, you have a decent tolerance. I was drinking large amounts and then rarely did I like completely ruin a set or ruin a night, but there were times where I wouldn’t remember my set. Increasingly the next day, I’d be more and more hung over. I think getting older was making it tougher to just bounce back and feel okay.

[Tweet “The people either know you or they don’t so do whatever you want.”]

There were times where I’d be hung over until after my set the next night. Not just all day, not just until I had a big lunch, but until 9:00 the next night. By then I’m already drinking again. It was just the cycle that wasn’t ending. It made me feel more tired. If I got booked for a show at an open mic, it made me less likely to put it in my phone. The next day I don’t realize I’m booked. There were a lot of near misses with that, close calls. Sometimes I’d see a Facebook posts with my name on it. Like, “I’m doing that show.” That didn’t happen often, but it did happen. I just realized that I was going to blow it if I didn’t change. Luckily, my girlfriend Megan also, she quit drinking five months before me. She set the example or whatever to where I was like, “I want to, I just need to pick a time and do it.” She quit April and I wanted to drink that summer. Why get a beach bod when you can just drink through beach season. They don’t care. The main thing was Sam Tallent was going to get married that summer. I felt like that would be weird to not drink. I should’ve realized that and anybody that’s trying to quit drinking, there’s always going to be something. There’s always the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day.

It’s just part of the culture.

You can’t do that. You just have to pick a time and then just stop and see how you feel and go from there. Eventually, I had a time where I drank a bunch during the day because of a Broncos game and I had a show that night at Lucha Libre & Laughs where me and Sam would call wrestling matches.I drank a bunch and then passed out, fell asleep until right before the show. I woke up, I felt terrible. I had to go to the show and Sam and I are talking pretty much the whole night. There was a lot expected of us to carry the comedy through the wrestling matches and Sam had to do a little bit more work that night because I was just a little bit off. It wasn’t bad but I knew that I was a little bit slower to react.

There’s a saying in Upright Citizens Brigade about play from the top of your intelligence. I think comedy really demands that, a lot of things demand that.

That’s how you stand out. That’s how you don’t just sound like every other comedian is if you can really go faster. With Sam, Sam is super fast, super smart. We’re competitive and I was lucky that it hadn’t been worse. That scared me enough to where the next day I was like, “I got to be done,” and I didn’t know for how long. I just needed to stop. I had stopped once before but it was only for like three months and I patted myself on the back and started drinking again. Thinking that I would be better about it, but it wasn’t enough time for it to be like an actual change of habit after a long time of not drinking responsibly or moderately.

Now, I only have a couple. After that time, I was like, “It’s got to be more than that but I didn’t know what. Bill Burr was on the radio on Comedy 103.1 and he was talking about how he didn’t drink for a year and I thought, “I can start there.” I can’t imagine doing it at his level. There’s so much more pressure and travel and so that sounded a lot harder than my situation. I felt like that would be a good place to start. Now, I don’t know if I’ll go back because I’m scared to. I don’t miss all of the potential failures or missteps or bad judgment that come with all that.

It sounds like you came to actually a rational decision that the costs outweigh the benefits. I want to ask you a few more things. You have a tattoo on your right forearm. It says, “Thought criminal.” What was the inspiration?

That’s from the 1984, George Orwell. I read the book in college and I thought it was great and read it a few more times in my 20s and just really liked it. Have you read it?

I’d probably read it in 1984.

That’s a lot of people because it was a high school reading for a lot of people.

I think it was freshman year in high school when you read it.

I feel like that is almost too early, maybe not now, but it almost is like too early for a lot of people.

It doesn’t make sense. It would probably be better off reading at age 24.

I think so. You’ve interacted more with the government or you’re more aware of bigger entities than your immediate social circle or the state you live in or the city. There’s more going on in that and it’s been talked about a lot since Trump got elected because it’s pretty spot on with some of the overreaching of technology or government control or whatever. All of the smoke and mirrors that go on to where the government looks like it’s a good, helpful thing when really it’s damaging a lot of people.

Did you do that recently?

I wanted to get it when I was younger, but I was nervous or whatever. I didn’t know if I wanted it forever. I also never really had money I didn’t know how expensive it would be to get tattoos. I didn’t get any until I was 29. It was five years ago. I finally wanted to. It was when I stopped working a day job. That was part of it, too. I was like, “If I’m just doing comedy, then it doesn’t matter if I have a couple tattoos on my arms or whatever.” That was part of it. I also just felt like I still wanted it and it had been a long time since I had first thought about getting it, that made me feel better about it. More informed because I knew I wasn’t going to get scared and become born again and be like a typical person that would regret it. I felt like I wasn’t going to regret it.

You mentioned reading 1984 and being influenced by it. When you think about things that you’ve been reading, watching, listening to, is there anything that really stands out? Obviously, there are lots of good content out there these days, but something that you have come across that you’re like, “That’s impressive. That that really affected me. I can’t stop talking to people about it?” Is there anything that comes to mind like that for you?

There’s not one thing that I like got behind 100%. I don’t listen to very many podcasts. I like some of them, but they’re not like my gospel. The Daily Show was great, I thought with Jon Stewart. That definitely helped me feel good about where I was at as a person. You’re informed and you’re mad because there’s so much idiocy and just greed and evil and so there’s only so much you can do, but talking about it is better than just swallowing it you or falling in line. I definitely got a lot out of The Daily Show, similarly with a John Oliver. Some of his stuff, it just comes across to me as a little bit more removed. Jon Stewart seemed like he really was angry. John Oliver, I feel like he’s doing a show. He’s been accused of that when he just went after Dustin Hoffman. He confronted him during a panel. He got a little bit of blow back I think because people didn’t think it was appropriate.

I thought that was weird because it’s like, “If he wasn’t just doing it for the press, then it was cool because he didn’t just gloss over it or ignore it the way that a lot of people would’ve. Despite the intentions, I liked that he did it so that some of these actors can’t feel like there’s still going to be able to be in public and just have people praise them. It would have been weird if he wouldn’t have said anything about it. Even if it wasn’t the right environment, it’s like there’s a bunch of people that all know that he was accused of being gross. How can John Oliver, a moderator, not try to say something about it. The fact that Dustin Hoffman didn’t try to go along with it or be apologetic is gross on his part. He’s the one that made it more awkward by not just being like, “That didn’t happen.” He could have handled it better.

I haven’t seen it so I actually can’t even comment. I do see the challenge that he is. If he doesn’t do anything, then that’s not worthy. If he does something that’s not worthy either because it seems like a bit or it’s something that is real, is authentic. In any case, it’s going to be attention getting in two out of the three are going to be viewed negative.

It’s a tough spot. Even though I don’t confront a lot of stuff in my acts, it’s mostly because I’m just some guy. I’m an opener, I don’t want to make people laugh. I try not to be too polarizing, but if I am able to get further along to where I’m headlining a lot or where people are listening, I’m about to start my own podcast and so I want to be able to talk about more important stuff because I feel like anybody that has a platform should be doing more than just reading the copy from their sponsors. You have a bunch of people listening to you that are looking for something l that inspires that you get behind. If I can be that person, I want to try and use that for good. If I have people listening to a podcast and I want them to laugh a lot, but I also want them to know how I feel about stuff so that they can either keep listening or reject it and move on.

A couple of quick things before we wrap. You alluded to this idea of anxiety, critique, self-doubt and, and the role that alcohol played. Without alcohol, how do you deal with those things? It’s a tough business and you’re in your head a lot. How do you work through that?

When you’re starting out, it’s tough because you think that you need to have a couple of drinks in order to be less nervous. If you drink too much, then you’re not going to have a productive set. You’re going to be a little bit slower. You’re going to forget what you wanted to say. It’s tough. A lot of times, I’ll have people come up to me and dominate my brain space or who just want to talk and talk. Then it makes me anxious and I don’t like it, but I’m not going to die. I’m not going to freak out. Luckily, I don’t have like a full blown panic attacks or anything. It’s just the general anxiety and maybe I chew my nails a little bit more, but I just know that I’m going to be okay and I’m going to get to go home. It’s just a matter of trying to be attentive and be nice to people that I’m around. I also don’t feel like I have to stay out. My new thing is I’m going to be out more doing open mics, but I don’t have to stay for the whole thing. I don’t have to hang out with all these people that are slowly getting slower and dumber and repetitive. It’s not as fun.

I don’t owe it to anybody to be out all night every night. I owe it to myself and to comedy to like be sharper, write more and perform. Be out more so that I’m getting booked on somebody’s new show because they just saw me at an open mic and I did well. So that people know that I’m not relying on my old my old jokes every set. It’ll just end up to where I’ll be more efficient. I’ll still be going out a lot, but I won’t be out all night. I can still go home, see my girlfriend and my dog because it’s nice to have that balance between home. Some of these comics, they don’t have somebody at home. They don’t have a dog. They just have comedy. They’re out all the time. That’s great. I used to be like that, but it’s hard. It’s why so many comics are lonely or depressed is because even if you’re in a bar with a bunch of comics, you can still feel alone because comedy is just one aspect of life. As I’ve gotten older, I try to have a better balance between comedy and the rest of it, home, personal relationships. I’m getting better at that. Maybe by 50 I’ll be a good person.

The last question is what’s the secret to success that everybody knows but can’t seem to do?

People know that you’re supposed to do something that you’re passionate about, but I think it’s so overwhelming to go for a job that’s available, for a career that is lucrative, for something that it seems fulfilling, but if it’s not your passion, it’s just a job. It’s just a way to get money. I wish that we didn’t rely so much on money. On having to do something for money because so many of us are stressed and hate life because they don’t have that passion or if they have the passion, they don’t have time to pursue it because they have the regular job, the office job that you’re crunching numbers. People know that they’re supposed to follow their passion. It’s really hard to do.

Oftentimes, people’s passion doesn’t pay the bills.

I would say you still should do whatever you can to work that job and save money until you get to a point where you can live on your art or if you give yourself enough time to find a job that fulfills your passion, it’s out there probably. It might not be in the city where you live or you might need to go to school for it. Again, that’s another trap of money and time, but it’s better to try to pursue something that would fulfill you than to just feel like you’re trapped in this spot where you’re able to get by, but you’re not fulfilled. You’re not happy. It’s just a matter of time before you have a heart attack or a stress anxiety attack, then you’re going to have to address it anyway. You’ve got to try and avoid them.

You sound like a comic. Comics are exactly the people who fit the profile of pursuing one’s passion with some hope for a payoff. It’s a long haul. It’s interesting, I go back and forth with that with my students. I get students who they’re passionate about sports or theater or whatever it may be. These are business students. I invite them to consider an alternative that tries to fulfill both of those things. I don’t think it works well for comedy though. That is, if you’re interested in sports, don’t become a sports marketer, become a marketer and buy season tickets for the Broncos. If you end up being a sports marketer, now you have to work through the games and you don’t get paid enough to live life the way you want to live it. Then the challenge is how do you turn a regular marketing job into something that you can find challenging and engaging. When you write, when I write, it’s not pleasurable like performing and people laughing. That’s pleasurable. That’s sheer ecstasy when you’re just on like that.

[Tweet “You can’t change the world, but you can try and be happy regardless.”]

Writing is not pleasurable. Writing is engaging. It’s hard, but it demands your attention. Time and space can melt away. I think that a lot of jobs can actually have that element, but you have to cultivate it. We’re actually out of time. Nathan, I wanted you on this podcast because you’re a funny person, but the other thing is, I mean this in all sincerity is like you’re like a nice comedian which I really appreciate. It seems like you’ve crafted the stage presence that actually reflects your inner being, which is like you’re a good person and it comes out in your comedy. I think that’s nice because good comedy can be uplifting while at the same time can be pointing out what’s right in your thought criminal way. What’s wrong with the world? These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive?

1984, what I took away from it is that most things are chaos or set against you. The only thing that you can do is try to find somebody to be with. Find people that can make it worthwhile. You can’t change the world, but you can try and be happy regardless. It’s like, “You’re not an idiot if you’re happy.” You can be informed and still have that peace. You don’t have to be mean or depressed or angry all the time because there’s only so much you can do. There are only so many expectations on you as an individual. I’ve tried to be that. I have pursued my passion to the expense of all kinds of other things, monetary gain, future savings.

I don’t have, but I’m still happy because I have what I have. I am hoping that I can have it lead to something more. Andrew Orvedahl said that, “If you are pursuing anything that is your passion, you’ve made it.” There’s no level that you have to reach in order to say that you’ve made it. With comedy, it’s not getting on late night or writing your own show. It’s really just the pursuit. It is the journey. It’s the idea that you are going for something that you wanted to go for and that helps me a lot to where it’s like I can judge myself for what I haven’t gotten, but that’s not really fair because I’ve gotten a lot. That makes me feel better. Thank you, Andrew Orvedahl.

Thank you, Nathan Lund. I really appreciate you doing this.


Resources mentioned:

About Nathan Lund

INJ 03 | Psychology In ComedyNathan Lund has traveled all over the country and is a favorite at his home club, Denver’s Comedy Works. He was featured on the TV show “Flophouse” on the VICELAND network as well as the BBC2 show “Horizon”. Nathan was a part of Funny or Die’s Oddball Comedy Fest, Crom Comedy Festival, Savage Henry Fest, and the High Plains Comedy Festival. He also hosts Film on the Rocks at Red Rocks.



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