This is Not Happening Host Ari Shaffir on Tonight's Storytellers, Ms. Pat, Marc Maron, and The League's Steve Rannazzisi
The premise behind Comedy Central's new standup series This is Not Happening is simple: Three comics, some famous, some not, tell personal stories about the same topic. Creator and host Ari Shaffir (Paid Regular) got the idea five years ago while trading tales with executive producer Eric Abrams about taking mushrooms. It was a live act at the Hollywood Improv, and then a web series. And now it's the only TV show that can lay claim to featuring intimate descriptions of a bear fight, a Mexican prison riot, and an English-accented tête-à-tête over an un-neighborly pop-a-squat in a single 20-minute episode. (The subject: battle.) Tonight, The League's Steve Rannazzisi, WTF podcaster/Maron star Marc Maron, and newcomer Ms. Pat (above), recall three very different emergencies. Guns, an MRI machine, and a bag of chicken play major roles. But first, Shaffir has his own stories about the series and the episode.
Can you share the mushroom-taking yarn that started it all?
I forget which one it is! I think it's the story I'm going to tell at the end of the season, but I don't know. Regardless, Eric told me his story and then I remembered that Nick Kroll had a mushroom story. And I was like, "Hey dude, all these comics have these mushroom taking stories. Let's book a room and have people tell them." We changed the topic to psychedelics, to cover more. There were probably 12 people in the audience, but it was so much fun. We did another about sex, then heartbreak, revenge, and trouble with the law. We did one with Marc Maron that had all hooker stories. That was one of the weird ones.
When will you run out of tales to tell?
Oh, that happened to me a year or two into it. I was out of stories that I remembered. So I'd pick a topic and start asking my high school friends, do you remember anything that happened to me related to this? And then I'd sit and really think about it. We're doing a special show for SXSW and music is the topic. So, unless me and T-Pain had some adventures, I'm going to have to remember something that happened at a concert.
What's your favorite story that's been on the show?
I love the way Ali Siddiq told his story about people saying "Mexican got boots on" to him in prison [in the battle episode]. For three minutes, he keeps you wondering, What are you even talking about?, while still being interesting and funny. And then he reveals what that means, and you're like "Oh?" And then you're like "Ohhhhh, f—k, shit is about to go down."
You introduce Steve Rannazzisi as your former roommate. You guys lived together?
That's a joke. He lived with me for about a week and half while he was fighting with his girlfriend, who is now his wife. I gave him all these chores to do while he was in my house. It was great. So I was f—king with him. He actually had trouble thinking of an emergency story. I said, "Well how about the time that time a guy pulled a gun on you and your wife? And he was like 'Oh, yeah, that…' "
Ms. Pat's story, about being a 16-year-old mother of two with a "small business" in the Atlanta hood, is the episode's standout. Where did you find her?
I was booking the web show, and I realized that there weren't that many black people on it. I started wondering if it was just my scene—there are shockingly few black comics in L.A—or was I racist about comedy? So I put out a tweet saying "Who's a funny black comic?" First people got angry, saying "Well Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock…" But I was like, "No, no, no, everyone's heard of them, I want to know who out there is really good." Then I saw some tweets that said "What about Ms. Pat?" And a friend told me she was as ghetto as they come—that at an open mic night, a guy got in her face and she just straight punched him off the stage. And that's just, like, her. I met her in Brooklyn, she did my podcast [Skeptic Tank] and one of the live shows, and it was like "Yeah, you're doing TV." She f--king deserved it. She crushed it. That's how I found Ms. Pat.