On The Couch with Trevor Moore

Arielle Gordon

Trevor moore

The subject’s demeanor reveals his upbringing almost immediately; although his comedy has been called “raunchy” and “irreverent,” his polite, eager-to-please tone betrays some of the morals learned from his childhood spent on the road with his Christian rock musician parents. Although the patient has a storied background, he is humble even when discussing his feature film, or his time with SNL show-runner Lorne Michaels. However, it is clear that despite his mild-mannered attitude, the subject is a powerhouse of comedy and musical ideas. When questioned on why he combined the two, he seemed to imply that it happened in an enviably organic manner. There is no questioning that the patient has a natural gift for comedy in its many forms. With his impressive track record, this patient really needed no introduction. But Trevor Moore deserves nothing less.

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When did you start performing stand-up comedy?

I had a comic strip in the local newspaper when I was 12. And then when I was about 14, I got into a couple of the local newspapers, so I did weekly comic strips for a few papers in my town. That was the first real comedy-for-money thing that I did. And then when I was 16 I started a public-access show and I did that for a while. And then that got bought when I was 19, so I did that for a year on some TV affiliate. That’s how I started doing comedy. I still do more sketch and music, and I started doing that in college. After the public-access show, I went to college and started The Whitest Kids [U Know] with a couple other guys.

Do you have a favorite form of comedy?

I really like short-form comedy; I feel like sketch and music are very similar—I try to keep both of them around three minutes long. I like that on the albums that I’ve done, you can just jump from one topic to another topic, one genre of music to another genre, without having to build connective tissue or make one bleed into the other. That’s also what I like about sketch too; if you had something to say about a topic, you could say it and make your point, and then jump over to a completely different point you wanted to make.

I found out that being ‘high in church’ is something that happens to a lot of kids.

What made you decide to include musical performances in your stand up special?

I’ve always liked music. My parents were Christian rock musicians, so I grew up on a tour bus, so I was always around music. And I always would put two or three songs in each season of Whitest Kids, and it was always something that I did. When we stopped doing the Whitest Kids TV show, I realized that’s what I wanted to focus on as a solo performer. So for the last two or three years, I’ve just been focusing on musical comedy, and when I tour around, it’s mostly music. This is the second album that I’m putting out of all music, and when we did the special it was cool because I had been working on this music in the studio, but it was the first time I’ve been able to perform it with a full band, and all the background singers, and everything all there, live, at once, so it was a really fun special to film.

Is the titular song “High In Church” based on a real experience?

It’s a mixture of a couple of friends’ stories. I realized a bunch of my friends had similar experiences, so I borrowed from different experiences. I found out that being ‘high in church’ is something that happens to a lot of kids, so I made a medley of things that have happened to people in it.

 

You had a unique upbringing in that your parents were touring musicians. How has your childhood impacted your career?

I think from very early on I was always at shows, and always around shows. We would travel, and then do a show at night, and then get on a bus and do more shows, so I’m sure that instilled somewhere in me, like, “Oh, this is what you should do—you should put on shows.” And then I just gravitated more towards dirty comedy than Christian music. So I think that was very formative.

Do you draw on those experiences specifically in your comedy?

The topics that I tend to talk about a lot are politics, religion, and history. And those are all the interests of my family when I was growing up. I had about 16 or 17 cousins that grew up near me and were around the same age as me, and like eight different uncles and aunts, and a lot of my family was very obsessed with history. And then religion was a big thing growing up, as was politics. So I hit those topics a lot because they permeated conversations around me when I was growing up.

Have you ever bombed on stage? How did that make you feel?

Yeah, I mean every now and then you’ll hit an audience where it just doesn’t connect. Luckily, it hasn’t really happened that much lately, but when I was first doing shows, it would definitely happen. When we started doing Whitest Kids, we would do a brand new show every week down at Pianos on the Lower East Side. So we would try to write an hour of new material every week, and we did that for years. And when you write an hour of new material every week, a lot of it’s not going to work, so it would happen pretty regularly. You just have to move on to the next one and hope your next joke will dig you out of your hole.

On a related note, your feature film Miss March received mixed feedback from critics…

It wasn’t that mixed, it was pretty unanimous.

How did that feedback impact your confidence in your comedy, or the way you approached comedy?

It’s obviously disappointing when something like that happens. But then, the thing that was lucky for us was that we still had a show to do. We did that movie in between our second and third season. I think we had just finished the second season. We were writing it in between our first and second season, and we shot it after the second season. When it didn’t do well, you’re feeling bad about yourself, but then we had to get back to work writing the third season. So that kind of helped. I feel like if I, back then, didn’t have something that I had to completely throw myself into, and could kind of sit and wallow in it, I think it would have been much more detrimental to my psyche.

What does your family think of your comedy? Are there any jokes you know you can’t tell in front of them?

Oh yeah, they’re supportive. They’re glad that I got the Comedy Central special. They’re glad that things go well. But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to watch the Comedy Central special. At first it was a lot of fights, like, “Why are you doing this?” And then I had to explain that my comedy wasn’t aimed at them; you just kind of write about what you grow up with. The way you grow up kind of informs your sense of humor, your interests, the viewpoints you have on things. As time has passed they’ve come to understand that it’s not an attack against them. It’s just that those are the things that are interesting to me.

I think there’s a restlessness, or general dissatisfaction that makes people look for humor. And also, the need to perform is rooted in some sort of emptiness.

You worked as Lorne Michaels intern at Saturday Night Live, did he give you any comedy advice?

No, like interns kind of stay out of the way. That’s part of the job of being an intern at a show like that—get your work done and keep your head down. But I found it really helpful as a sketch writer because I could see all the different versions of the script as they came in leading up to Saturday. So it was kind of like a sketch-comedy class in a way, because I could see the different revisions and see how writers who were the best in the business would change the scripts, and what they would omit, and how they would make things sharper and stronger.

People often say that comedians are depressed people, and that comedy comes from a place of sadness. Is that true for you?

For the most part, yeah. I think there’s a restlessness, or general dissatisfaction that makes people look for humor. And also, the need to perform is rooted in some sort of emptiness.

How has comedy affected your mental health?

I think it’s been great. I mean, when I was a kid I was depressed a lot, and I would go to flea markets and buy comedy albums. A lot of compilations, like The Comedy Store did a 20th anniversary album and I just bought that and listened to all the different comedians do ten or fifteen minutes. If you can laugh, it can’t be that bad.

Trevor Moore’s Comedy Central special, “High in Church”, premeires March 6 at midnight.

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