Observations only Mitch Fatel can get away with

Is that a sparkle in his eye or is he just confused? With his innocence and friendly demeanor Mitch quickly engages the audience and then catches them off guard with his mixture of mischievous dialog and off color comments. While laughing at observations only Mitch Fatel can get away with we are left wondering if he truly understands what he just said. We may never really know.  Mitch got started in comedy at a young age.  He interned with Howard Stern, did correspondent work for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and has put out two well-received comedy CDs, “Miniskirts and Muffins” and “Super Retardo” as well as being voted number 6 in Comedy Central’s Comedy Stand-Up Showdown.  I recently caught up with Mitch who took a short break from his busy schedule.


So, are you looking forward to coming down south?


Yes. Actually I was thinking the other day that I’ve gotten to the point now where traveling has become my favorite thing.  When I first started out in this business traveling was actually the toughest part of it.  I’m out on the road now three weeks a month.  I actually realized the other day that I consider being the road more my home than being home.  I like going out and meeting fans now and selling CDs and talking to people and hearing how I affected their lives, what they think of the new jokes, and the old jokes.  It’s just a very, very cool thing to do.


Do you find yourself being kind of a tourist, taking a lot of pictures, collecting postcards, or getting a t-shirt from your destination?


No, actually I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures.  But what I have done is this: I have an opening act that travels with me. His name is Gary Cannon.  Gary’s my regular opening act for all my shows now.  He’s also become a friend of mine.  What we do now is in every town we go to, we ask the owner, we ask the fans that come and talk to us, what’s the one thing you’ve got to do here.  What’s the one thing you would do?  What they say to do, we make that our Sunday event and we go do that on Sunday.  We take pictures of that, and we’re building up a scrapbook of that.  For instance, we were just in St. Marco Island, Florida and they said, “Oh, you’ve got to go fishing for red snapper”, which we had never done.  We went fishing for red snapper.  It was one of the greatest times.  When we get to Chattanooga we’re going to find out what the “thing” is we’re supposed to do.  We’ll definitely do that.

What is the most unique or odd thing you’ve encountered visiting all these cities?


Believe it or not, it was in Las Vegas.  We asked, what’s something we’re supposed to do here?  They told us to go see the bodies exhibit.  I don’t know if you’ve heard of the bodies exhibit, but the bodies exhibit is just a bunch of people cut up in pieces.  They were dead.  They were definitely not alive.  Then they put them on exhibit, like all the bodies and stuff.  You get to look inside people’s bodies.  That’s kind of one of the weirder ones.  And then I’ve been to other places where they go, boy, there’s really nothing to do but go to the Hooter’s down the street and see Jenny.  And we’ve done that as well.  And that’s just as fun.  


I’ve noticed you’re a ladies man.  I’ve watched your act before.  You’re definitely the ladies man.


I’ve become a ladies man in the last couple of years.  I’ve definitely gotten to the point where more girls will let me see them naked than they’ve ever let me in their entire life.  And that makes me very, very happy.  I’ve actually had girls who get naked for me now who shouldn’t be getting naked for me.  I just don’t seem like I’m on their level.  And I’m looking at them and I’m like, “I really shouldn’t know what you look like naked.”  And they say, “You shouldn’t, but the world has been good to you.”  So the work has paid off.  I told my father the other day that I’m so glad I ignored his advice and went into show business.  He even admits now that he was wrong.  So, I think that life turned out pretty good. 


Do you have a certain line or move to charm the ladies?


I make over $500,000 a year.


That’s a good start.


That’s the line I use.  No, actually to be totally honest with you, I’ve gotten totally to the point now where – and it’s really kind of a sweet place to get to, the women come to me.  They like funny guys.  Don’t ever mistake it.  They like funny guys.  The one thing that I have found, I am definitely not the guy girls are coming to have sex with.  They’re definitely coming to have sex with me and then they want to get married.  There’s a difference between my type of groupies and the kind of groupies rock stars get.  Rock stars get these groupies that come into their buses and take care of them.  I have groupies that want to take care of me, and nurture me, and cook spaghetti and meatballs for me – and they’ll also have sex with me.  So there’s a difference because every town I go to, I’m thinking I’m about to get married, because I fall in love very easily.  So, the next girl that’s nice to me I fall in love with her and then I tell her I’m marrying her, and it just keeps going on and on.  Then I have to run out of town.


So you must have a couple hundred fiancés running around somewhere going, “I’m engaged to Mitch.”


Yeah, it’s been a little bit of a problem with me falling in love with the ladies. It’s a pretty good problem to have.


It’s an occupational hazard I wouldn’t mind having myself.


I’ve got a couple of fathers after me, that’s all.


Yeah, you don’t need to be involved with a shotgun wedding.  And you need to be careful because you’re coming down south.  They’re very fond of their shotguns.


I’ve learned to behave myself, and be a gentleman in the south. (laughs) 



Well, you did get started in comedy awfully young.  You were what, about 15?


I actually got started in comedy much younger than that.  I started in comedy when I was about eight or nine years old.  I didn’t know I was a comedian at the time.  I just used to do shows for the kids on the block.  I used to read to all the kids.  I used to put on skits for people and charge them.


Kind of like Alfalfa on “Our Gang”?


Yeah, I guess a little bit like that.  And I just wanted to be a performer.  I didn’t necessarily know what being a performer meant, I just knew I liked making people laugh.  And I also knew from a very early age I liked girls.  I don’t know why.  Just early, early on was that I liked them and I liked to see them when they’re not dressed.  I started to figure out how to do that.  I started out when I was very young, immediately girls would talk to me if I made them laugh.  So, I definitely explored that avenue.  


Then when I was about 13 or 14 somebody gave me a copy of Steve Martin’s “Wild & Crazy”. And I listened to that.  And at that moment it all came together for me like an explosion.  Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to do!  It was amazing, because you learned – I’m reading his biography, and his biography he’s talking about the people that made him realize he wanted to be a stand-up comedian.  And then I thought, wow, it’s so funny.  If he made me realize I wanted to be a standup comedian, and now I’ve had people writing me, “Oh, I’ve seen your act and it makes me want to be a stand-up comedian.”  I love the different cycles of how everybody inspires everybody else.  And then the people that are your heroes become somebody else’s hero.  And you have to keep in mind when people write you, they look at me the way I look at Steve Martin. I never even met Steve Martin and I don’t want to meet him, because I’m so scared he won’t be the fantasy I dreamed he would be.  People will always say to me, “Oh, are you going to see the new Steve Martin movie?  Are you going to read Steve Martin’s book?”  After Steve Martin gave up standup comedy, I lost interest in him.  I’ve never seen maybe any of his movies – a couple.  The first one was “The Jerk”.  That was the best one.  And then he stopped being Steve Martin as I knew him.  I’m reading his biography now, and that was definitely planned.  You knew he was doing a character on stage, and he said he had enough.  He decided to become an actor.  And I respect him for that, but he’ll always be the wild and crazy Steve Martin guy to me.  I have no interest in him after that.  


Well. “Bofinger” was a pretty good movie, actually.  


I don’t know if I saw that.


He and Eddie Murphy were in it together.  It was actually one of his funnier movies of recent times.


I didn’t see it.  I’ve just got to tell you there was never a side of me that wanted to see Steve Martin as anything else than a stand-up comedian.  He says he gave up comedy because – and this is what I’m reading, that he was ready to move on.  I know the difference between him and me is I will never give up stand-up comedy.  It’s just to me the most beautiful, purest art form there is.  I just can’t imagine getting any kind of trip from anything other than this as much.  It’s thrilling every single time I get onstage.


I was on your MySpace page earlier.  I’ve gotten kind of addicted to MySpace lately…


We all have.


I noticed your favorite movie is “Rocky”.  


Yeah, Rocky is my favorite movie. I always get a lot of crap for that.  People give me a lot of shit for that movie.  They forget – or if you recall, the original “Rocky” was not a stupid movie.  It was actually a beautiful movie that inspired me when I was younger, and should continue to inspire anyone.  The story actually has depth, and beauty.  It’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous movie about I think somebody who knows he’s always capable of doing something but never ever felt that he tried.  Secretly I think everybody has a little bit of that in them.  I know that for a long time when I was waiting on tables when I was a better comedian than a majority of comedians working, and was just scared – just scared of trying the most, because that if I failed, I would know for a fact I wasn’t made to be a stand-up comic.  And Rocky makes this speech, “I never wanted to fight the champ, because if I fail, then I never was good enough. I liked living thinking I just hadn’t gotten the right opportunity.’  I think a lot of us have a little of that in.  And every time he makes that speech, I get really choked up.  It’s my life story.  I think that the reason why everybody responded so well to that movie, Sylvester Stallone wrote a deep, meaningful piece about the human psyche – and then became an idiot after that.  Or maybe he was a one-trick pony.   I don’t know.  I hate that “Rocky has become synonymous of a goofy comic book character, which is basically what he turned “Rocky” into.


Did you see “Rocky Balboa”, the last installment?


No. I refuse to see it.


Actually it went back to the first “Rocky” standards.


People say that.  I have no interest.  I don’t think there should have ever been a sequel to “Rocky”,  “Rocky” was such a beautiful movie and was supposed to be left open like that.  I don’t know if Sylvester Stallone wanted fame or money – and that’s fine.  I just don’t think that that movie had to have a sequel.  I think that that movie was a beautiful, beautiful art piece and should have been left alone, quite honestly.


What is your opinion of sequels in general?


I usually don’t see them.  I’m trying to think if there’s a sequel I like other than “The Godfather”.  “The Godfather III ” was proof that sequels could really be horrible.  I don’t remember a sequel I loved.  I think about my favorite movie and I always thought the second movie usually let me down and depressed me.  So I’ve come to hate it.  I’ve come to accept sequels as things for the studios to make money.  Money’s fine.  I used to be against money when I was in my more idealistic days.  But now I actually have money, and I really enjoy it.  I definitely agree money is happiness.  On the same token I know I will turn down money for something that I think is an insult to my career or me.  I’m proud of myself on that.  I do take a lot of money sometimes for things that I don’t necessarily believe in.  I’ll perform at a birthday party because they’ll offer me so much money that it’s crazy to turn down, even though I don’t think standup comedy should be in that genre.  And I feel I can absolutely be bought for a certain amount.  I also know that I’ve turned down gigs where I felt that the comedy was not first.  Like for instance I’ve turned down some stuff where I’d be opening for a band, or where I’d be thrown to the wolves – that kind of thing.  I’ve turned down corporate gigs where I feel like my character would be abused.  And I feel like I should make a living out of stand-up comedy.  I always will.  There’s a limit to what I think you should take. I definitely know that if I made a movie I think was very special to me, I’d like to think that I’d have the courageousness to turn down the money.  I mean I think that one of the things you forget about money is you forget that you lived without it and you were happy.  I definitely spent a lot of my years poor trying to make it as a stand-up comic.  And although I am definitely happier with money, I definitely know if I need, I could always go back because I enjoyed my life.  I enjoyed becoming a stand-up comedian.


Do you see yourself being a stand-up comedian forever or do you want to branch out into movies or television?  


There have been a lot of cases where stand-ups have gone on to very successful television and film careers and others that we’ve seen tank as well.  I’m supposed to do that everybody says.  Everybody says, “You’re going to be a famous movie star.”  I’ll be a bad actor.  I’ll be honest with you I’m not the greatest actor.  I’m a great stand-up comic.  I’ve always been since I first started out.  The first time I walked out on stage I felt like I was meant to do that.  I feel like I will do television or movies when I feel generally inside that I was meant to do that.  I think that if that point comes I’ll go that direction.  Right now, I’ve got to tell you I love stand-up comedy.  I’ve been doing it since I was a kid now, and every new joke I write is just as exhilarating and satisfying as the first joke I wrote.  It’s a thrill to be on stage and have a new line or sentence come out of your mouth and see people double over.  And you think to yourself, “Wow, I have that now forever.  I have that joke forever.”  I don’t think I ever want to give up that feeling.  It’s one of the things in life that never ever dulls.  It’s as good as the first time.


You did some correspondence work for Jay Leno and “The Tonight Show”.  Did you ever find yourself in harm’s way during any of the situations they put you in?


I did.  I actually found myself in trouble with a baseball player – Vladimir Guerrero. I don’t know if you know who he is.  He’s a baseball player for the [Los Angeles] Angels.  It actually wasn’t him I had trouble with.  It was actually his agent.  The agent was also his translator.  And I had written a joke for a translator because I knew I was going to be at the All-Star Game, and a lot of people spoke Spanish and had translators.  The question I asked the translator was to ask Vladimir Guerrero how he felt about the fact his translator was gay.  Of course the big joke was going to be that the translator was going to have to say that to the baseball player.  The translator turned red and looked like he was turning into the big, red, Incredible Hulk.  He got really red and angry.  He had to be restrained. He was about to beat the shit out of me and had to be restrained.  And everybody else is like, “He got to be gay.  There’s no way anybody would ever react like that unless they were.”  He had us kicked out of the All-Star game.  He didn’t want us back. He apparently was powerful because Vladimir was a big star in the game and his agent was also his translator.  His agent said he would pull Vladimir out just because of what little Mitch had done.  It was pretty funny and exciting to be a part of somebody I got under their skin so much.  That I thought was so silly.  We were trying to explain to him, “We don’t know who you are.  We don’t know you’re gay.  It’s a joke.  It’s a 12-year old joke.”  And then of course we were saying we weren’t saying it was bad.  Why are you getting so upset?  That’s the closest I’ve come to death.  He was a very big man.  And Vladimir was getting upset because he didn’t know what was going on.  It was fun.


You also did an internship with Howard Stern.  What did you learn from your experience with Howard?


Howard was the guy who taught me that being yourself pays off in life.  I always wanted to be the cool guy in school.  I always wanted to be the football player.  I always wanted to be everything that I wasn’t.  And I wanted to be the cool guy.  And all of a sudden Howard taught me by watching him and observing, and him being so genuine and open with his life that ironically being the uncool guy he became the cool guy.  And it taught me that people embrace realness.  The reason why we hate politicians so much is because politicians say what we want to hear.  I think that’s why people despise them.  I think that people hate phoniness.  And whenever you can catch a phony, you take a certain joy in it.  And for a long time I tried to be the cool guy in school, and I wasn’t.  Others were much better at it than me.  I never was the cool guy.  I was the funny guy.  I tried to be the cool guy for the longest time.  And working with Howard I discovered embracing who you really are in fact is cool.  He taught me that you could become the cool guy by actually not being cool.  And so I embraced who I really was inside and stopped trying to fake who I was, and stopped trying to be a guy who knew how to talk to girls, and instead played up the fact I was nervous as hell around them.  And all of a sudden I decided to make that into my act, which I did.  It took off.  It goes to show if you’re true to yourself people will respect you, respect that, and I think basically flock to you.  People like truth in this world.


 – Dave Weinthal


Mitch Fatel appears this week at The Comedy Catch Thursday through Sunday.  Mitch will have copies of his two CDs “Miniskirts and Muffins” and “Super Retardo” available at the shows.  They are also available on his website www.mitchfatel.com as well as video clips and other information about him.

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