Saucetown Interview: Wiley Roberts
Saucetown recently caught up with Wiley Roberts, a professional stand-up comedian who has been working in the entertainment business for decades. Wiley has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central, Politically Incorrect and in the film, The Hot Chick.
Saucetown: You recently recorded two comedy albums. How did you tackle the process of recording live albums?
Wiley Roberts: The first one I recorded was called Pizza And Drunk White Women. I recorded it at Shotski’s in Salem...That was a crazy night, Full of chaos and drunk women (laughs)! It was a ‘test run’ for my Zoom H-6. When I listened to it, it sounded good, but it had too much stuff going on, in the way of audience noise. I think I’m gonna hold on to it, in case I need to play it for people who think this sh*t is easy.
The second one, Time Capsule, was recorded at my home court, The Punch Line in San Francisco. I was getting sick and tired of the act that I had been doing since 1990 and decided to bury it. What better way than with an album? So, I called the president of comedy, Geof Wills, ran the idea past him, and he was all over it. by then, I knew my way around the Zoom recorder. Not only did I come out with a great recording, I also made a few hundred bucks from my door deal with the club. It’s doing pretty well on streaming services like Apple Music.
Saucetown: What are some pointers that you would give to up-and-coming comics?
Wiley Roberts: I’ve been at this for quite a while. I tell people, "My career itself is a grown-assed man!" I’m not gonna go into the "gotta hit the open mics" speech, because everybody knows that. What I’ll say is, funny wins! There’s a difference between peer-group funny and twenty-dollar cover, two-drink minimum funny. You might be funny for the family on Thanksgiving and they might say: "You should be a comedian. You’re as funny as (fill in the blank)." But your family doesn’t know SH*T! Unless they’ve received or written a check for what they know about comedy. just nod, thank them and go hit the open mic. But if you’re cocky enough, take your ‘genius’ new Christopher Walken impression to the stage and you’ll learn very quickly what they actually know. I’ll also say, avoid the ‘unfunny’ cliques! Nothing makes me sicker than support groups in this game. You know those guys, tight shirts, sitting in the back.
They think their material is so much better, because they found a more eloquent way to say "Trump is an idiot." Remember, A club owner has to rent those seats and if the comedy is sh*tty, they lose revenue. If they can sell more tickets with drag queen wrestling, that sh*t will replace comedy in a heartbeat! Work on your stuff and focus on getting GOOD.
(illustration by Sean Simmans)
Saucetown: You were a staff writer at Mad TV. What's the process like, of getting an idea down on paper and, eventually, television?
Wiley Roberts: Truth be told, the reason I even submitted to Mad TV was because my my then-wife and I had just bought a house, then, my daughter was born! Even though Mad TV was not my favorite professional experience, I had some pretty good words make the screen. We also got an Emmy Nomination, so I guess I should be grateful. But, for some people there, it was like being a high-end chef working at Jack N The Box.
As far as the process, anything you think of can become a good sketch. We all conceptualize funny sh*t all the time, so why not get some scriptwriting software and get it on paper? I write a sketch every day, Mostly on my phone. One day, i decided to look in my phone and saw that I have over 250 jokes and concepts in it. That is almost three notebooks! Write, write, write! I also have Final Draft and Scripts Pro in my phone, so should you.
Saucetown: In your opinion, what can the current comedy scene learn from the comics of yesteryear?
Wiley Roberts: Don’t think your bit is good, just because you wrote it. The audience will tell you if the bit is funny. or, you can go crying to that support group in the back who’ll pacify you by saying, "That’s a great bit! They just don’t get it."
I think comedy needs more gatekeepers. A lot of these millennials suck, but it’s not their fault...This sh*t takes work and a lot of youth don’t want to do the work. I think it’s cool that a person can use social media to get famous, But I don’t think club promoters should give such little regard to the skill set.
Saucetown: You are a barbeque connoisseur. On the west coast, who has the best sauce?
Wiley Roberts: If I had to use sauce that I don't make myself (or Mandy, my wife, doesn’t make), it would probably be Everett & Jones, out of Oakland. And that’s because Flint’s has been shut down for years! As far as Salem, I’ve only been to one place, so it’ll be up to y’all locals to turn me on to your spots. Any good barbecue that I don’t have to cook is good enough, but if you give me that "this place is the best" crap, I must warn you: I can be a pretty harsh critic and I’m usually disappointed. I will say this, though: white guys use too much brown sugar in their rubs.