East Village comic and writer Chris Sifflet touches on the essentials, including politics, the future of crappy celebrities, Steve Fossett, and what it would be like if Sarah Palin didn’t look like Sarah Palin.
12th Street: At 12th Street we work to promote literature as an engine of democracy, with fiction, poetry, and non-fiction as “oil” to that engine. Where does stand-up comedy fit in?
Chris Sifflet: I heard Jerry Seinfeld talk, after George Carlin’s death, on Larry King. He was talking about politics and how comedians tell the truth, and he said “comedy is a little truth and a whole lot of lies.” I think now, especially in New York, comedy has kind of taken a shift. I only go for honesty. When I first started it wasn’t about that, now I’m totally honest, I talk about stuff that actually happens.
12th Street: So you swing more toward the non-fiction realm?
CS: Yeah definitely more toward non-fiction.
12th Street: Do you think stand-up fits in with poetry?
CS: I do think it fits in with poetry, I think it fits in with music too. Poetry and stand-up are very much aligned. The both can be improvised: poetry slams, things like that. It just depends on the comic.
12th Street: What would you be doing if you weren’t a comedian?
CS: I’d be a nurse. My mother was a nurse and my Dad’s a doctor. My parents would have conversations at the dinner table, you know, my Mom would be telling my Dad, “Oh yeah, I opened a man’s chest today and grabbed his heart and had to pump it, and then his eye starting spurtin’ blood, so I had to close that, but then his nose started bleeding so I had to close that.” So it was basically like a cartoon where she was plugging holes and blood would keep spraying out somewhere and it hit her face. That was, like, every conversation she’d talk about. Like removing light bulbs from people’s—
12th Street: Okay!
CS: And that was everyday, man. So that’s partly where my humor comes from. The very dark, graphic conversations my mother would have with my Dad. Strangely enough though my Dad’s afraid of blood.
12th Street: Your Dad’s a doctor—
CS: He faints when he sees blood.
12th Street: So what kind of medicine does he practice?
CS: Internal Medicine. (more…)