A local vegan made good this summer: Brooklynite Myq Kaplan did us all proud with his appearances on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, eventually making his way into the top five with his witty commentary and dietary humor. He was kind enough to entertain my questions about his comedy, vegan haunts in the borough, favorite rappers, and Joss Whedon fandom. Check out his CD Vegan Mind Meld, which is available right now! You can also follow him on the Twitter.
How long have you been vegan? What prompted your veganism?
When I was born, I was a vegan because I hadn’t eaten any animal products yet. Unless you count fluid through the umbilical cord, which came from another human being (and humans are animals). Then I was vegan between meals for a long time. But you probably want to know the next serious answer-part more than the previous hilarious answer-parts: I’ve been vegan approximately eight years, and vegetarian a few years before that. The reason was just a matter of aligning my behavior with thoughts I’d had for years. I remember thinking in high school that it might be nice to live life without killing animals, but then I thought “oh well, meat tastes good!” Which is where a lot of people are at, I think. So it wasn’t until some years later that I was motivated to start trying to overcome that second part.
You address veganism in your standup sometimes, often to call-out and then deflate stereotypes. Are there any myths about veganism that you feel particularly compelled to tweak in your work? Do you try to share some of theory behind veganism through your comedy?
I do. I mean, standup comedy is often about sharing one’s world view, and this is part of mine. I just try to be as reasonable as possible and explain where I’m coming from, and I recognize that a lot of people have some preconceived notions about where that is, so I aim to use those to get people to see that that’s not necessarily the case. Vegans aren’t all pretentious, elitist, proselytizing douchebags. Most, maybe, but not all. (See? That’s the kind of joke we’re talking about, where I throw under the bus whatever stereotypical vegans there MIGHT be out there, so that I can relate to reasonable non-vegans as the reasonable vegan. Maybe. Sometimes analyzing comedy like this can be painful, and as a vegan I strive to avoid causing pain for even human animals.)
Which comedians (past and present) inspire you? Are there any with whom you feel particularly allied, artistically and/or politically?
I have a few friends that are vegans and comedians as well: Zach Sherwin who goes by the rap name MC Mr. Napkins, and Jamie Kilstein. I like them, their beliefs, and their art a lot. Zach and I went to college together, so we’ve known each other a while, and I think his raps are particularly amazing. Another fantastic music/comedy creator is Reggie Watts. Some other friends of mine whose standup I really enjoy are Shane Mauss, Ken Reid, Micah Sherman, Myka Fox, Josh Gondelman, and a list that would get too long too fast and I’d still end up leaving people out. Among comedians that have been at it way longer than I have, I really enjoy Paul F. Tompkins, Louis CK, Doug Stanhope, Andy Kindler, Brian Regan, Steven Wright, Emo Philips, Dave Chappelle, Dave Attell, and again, many many more.
Aren’t you thrilled to live in Brooklyn, because it is the best place on earth? Which are your most favorite eating establishments here? Please defend your choices.
Why? Who is attacking my choices? My two favorites in Park Slope are the V-Spot and ‘Snice. Their burritos and wraps and other things are delicious, and the people who work there are friendly. I also just discovered Foodswings in Williamsburg, which has vegan fast food which is ridiculous and great.
Do you cook much? What do you tend to make?
I do not cook much, so I do not tend to make much. When I eat at home, I get a lot of things that don’t require much cooking–apples and peanut butter, hummus and vegetables, that sort of thing.
I’m assuming that as a comedian, you probably travel quite a bit. Any tips for vegans trying not to starve while on the road?
Remember to eat. That’s my main anti-starving tip. I usually end up in cities that have at least one restaurant that’s heard of vegetarians, so I’ve been all right. In the middle of nowhere, I usually try to find an Asian place where I can get some vegetables with minimal worry, or a Subway sandwich place that at least has lettuce. Or bring food. Or denounce your veganism and become a cannibal (last resort–try to murder people with as little pain as possible).
MySpace tells me that you are a Joss Whedon fan, and enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular. Do you read the comics? (If not, you should!) Did you watch Dollhouse, and if so, what were you thoughts? This may be a stretch, but from the little I’ve seen of your work, I see a bit of an affinity between you and Joss, in terms of trying to entertainingly engage with sociopolitical questions in your work, and convey information without being didactic. Thoughts?
I really appreciate that. I am a huge Joss Whedon fan; Buffy is maybe my favorite TV show ever, I have indeed read the comics, and I also watched Dollhouse. I was sad to see it end, because it got better and better; I recommend watching it and bearing with it for the beginning if you’re not as into it, because it gets well worth it (I think it starts off fine, but really gets going as it gets going).
As far as your assessment of Whedon’s and my work, I’m happy and honored to hear the comparison… I just aim to be as true to what I think and feel as possible and convey everything as reasonably as possible, to be as accessible to as many people as possible without diluting anything.
MySpace also tells me that you enjoy Eminem and Cypress Hill–I’m guessing the wordplay is part of what you enjoy? Are there other hip hop artists you enjoy, perhaps fellow vegans like Dead Prez or Saul Williams? (or awesome nonvegans like Jean Grae, who I just need to recommend in case you’re not familiar?)
I’m not familiar. Thanks! (I like that you’re not constrained by the normal “interviewee tells interviewer things” paradigm.)
I presume the reason I like hip-hop so much has to do with the words, yes. Eminem is a lyrical genius. Some others I like–I mentioned my friend MC Mr. Napkins previously, and I also really like MC Paul Barman, as well as some more obvious rap icons (deserving of that status) like Kanye, Dre, Biggie, etc.