Ari Shaffir seems to be Comedy Central’s new “it” guy. This Friday night his new one-hour stand-up special Paid Regular debuts on Comedy Central at midnight EST. Shaffir’s web series This Is Not Happening has been promoted from the Internet to basic cable and the storytelling show will premiere its first televised season on Thursday night, Jan. 22 at 12:30 am EST. Plus, Comedy Central is going to air his first stand-up special Passive Aggressive in March, which originally streamed on Chill.com in 2013. Meanwhile, he still tours and produces his weekly podcast Skeptic Tank on the All Things Comedy podcast network. The shroom-consuming anti-establishment comedian spoke to me about what’s making him angry these days. From taxes to police brutality to the TSA, Ari Shaffir shares his philosophy which ultimately boils down to: do what you want without hurting other people.
Been flying around much recently? Been fucking with the TSA some more?
Always. As long as they don’t fucking bother me, then I’ll leave them alone. It’s only when they bother me or make me do something I don’t want to do. That’s it.
I think I might take you up on your advice [to mess with the TSA] this weekend when I fly. I’m going to go a few hours early though!
They shouldn’t do anything. If you tell them, “I have a medical condition. I have surgical scarring on my feet. My doctor says it’s bad to take my shoes off.” If they say, “No, you have to take them off.” They’re just trying to fuck over your healing process instead of just doing their jobs as is. They’re not good people. They’re just lazy because they don’t want to look it up. You sloven! They won’t go out of their way. They just take it into their own hands. And that’s our government doing it. Bullshit.
A lot of aggression, man.
Fuck them. Yeah, that’ll work. You’ll get out of it. “Surgical scar. I have a medical condition. Can’t take my shoe off.”
Have you always been so anti-establishment?
No. Just more lately. I never realized why people tried to get out of their taxes when I was little. Like, “What do you mean of course you have to pay your taxes.” Now that I make my own money, it’s like, “Oh yea. Taxes suck!” It was just an abstract thing before, taxes. Yea, it sucks to pay but I didn’t actually earn any money so it didn’t matter. Now that I think about it, if you punch in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and you get to go home with that [money], then you have to punch in Thursday and Friday for them. Then all of Thursday and Friday goes to them and you’re like, “Fuck!” And they’re wasting half of it! It sucks! Now I understand why people try to get out of their taxes.
Would you call yourself a Libertarian?
I call myself a bleeding heart Libertarian. You gotta take care of impoverished and the crazies. Don’t force anyone to do shit. If they wanna do it in their own home, fucking let them do it.
And that ranges from drugs to Satan worship to–
Exactly! If I’m not hurting anybody and I’m not infringing on the rights of others, you should let me do it. You take for granted that you have to choose one of the two political parties before you actually think about it and see the bullshit from both sides. I hear the debates now. I heard the Republican debates on NPR and it just sounded like they were all saying whatever would get people on their side. They don’t even care what the issue is, or where they stand or what they want to say.
I feel like you were the type of kid who asked, “Why?” a lot.
Yea, it’s all logic-based. You have to ask why until it all make sense. People asked why I care more that our government lies more than I care about the Chinese government. I went to China for two weeks. “It’s way less free there!” Yea, but they don’t say that it’s free. That’s what I hate. They say you’re not free in China, fine, now I know. They keep saying, “You’re free. You’re in the freest country [here in the U.S.]” Then why can’t we do shit we want to do that isn’t hurting anybody? What’s with the phrase? It’s that phrase that I really hate. Stop saying it!
Yea, you don’t like the false advertising. Either let me smoke weed or stop saying we’re free.
I gotta imagine that your brain was exploding over all the recent police brutality cases like Eric Garner and Mike Brown.
Well they keep killing people and then they don’t want to wear the recorders. Why wouldn’t you push for [body cameras] unless you’re for sure crooked? Oh, well then that’s it: they’re for sure crooked as an organization. The people might not be but the organization itself is and that’s why they react badly when people want them to play by the rules. They had that at the Comedy Store. Someone was stealing from the till so they put in a camera and [employees] were going, “That’s bullshit.” Why? Because they catch you stealing? So unless you’re crooked, you should lead for recorders for security to show the courts. They can see. “Yes, see? I’m not a problem.” Then all these people have to stop doing murder or killing as a way to stop a guy from doing a crime against you.
It’s a sucky job and the guys who are doing it aren’t liberal arts majors. They’re all meatheads. They’re the King’s Men. That’s what they are. And sometimes they go off a-rapin’. That’s what the King’s Men do. That’s what we have to live with. You should record everything so they know they can’t do that. Get rid of people immediately. How can you justify killing someone with, “I thought he was reaching for a gun.” This guy in Billings, Montana. “There was jiggling in his pocket and I didn’t want to leave my kid an orphan. So I shot him and now I know I was wrong but I would still make the same choice.” Okay, but now you can’t be trusted to know whether or not your life is in danger so we can’t have you on the force anymore. When it comes to this ultimate choice that we trust you with, we can’t trust you with it. You’re out. You can’t be here [on the force] anymore. You killed someone who didn’t have a gun.
I enjoy how you’re like, “You get a one innocent person kill limit. That’s it.”
Right. Now we know you’re not good at this. You have to stop. If you bomb on stage at a showcase you don’t get another showcase.
From what I’ve found out about you, it seems like you’re one for going against the grain, whether it’s drugs, libertarianism, non-monogamy.
That’s sort of what the special is about, too. I put that in. Choose your own path— but don’t really choose your own path. You’re saying that while you’re on mushrooms in the woods. Go the way everyone else goes.
When did you start to go off the beaten path?
Mushrooms and depression help a lot. Those things sort of helped me look outside myself. Great combination.
So you got the two specials coming out, Paid Regular and Passive Aggressive. Your cc:studios web series This Is Not Happening got picked up by Comedy Central. You’ve been on @midnight. All in the span of a few months. Are you Comedy Central’s new “guy”?
Yea, it looks like it, right? It looks like I’m their guy. It all makes sense. We’ll see what it does. I’ve never really done TV before.
Did you always want to have your own show or to act?
Nah, man. I just wanted to do stand-up. It’s not about where it goes; it’s just about doing it. It’s about making a good special. If it gets on the cave wall, that’s great. If not, that’s great too. It doesn’t matter. Just do something good so your focus changes away from the result or the money. It’s cool that more people get the chance to see it, that’s what’s cool. But it’s not something I set my mind to, to get this accolade. George C. Scott didn’t even pick up his Oscar. He wasn’t even there. “That’s not why I do it, bro. I just want to be the best actor I can be.”
I just want to do the things I think are funny and fun. That’s all I’m interested in. If not, then no thanks. I’ll just go do stand-up. If something cool is offered, something funny, yea. I’ll try that. If not, then I’m not interested. Stand-up is always there. It’s not like I’m lacking of a job or a creative outlet. I have a creative outlet. If something is nice, that’s great. But if it starts getting annoying then, no thanks. You’re taking too much of my creative time away. Full House. No way! Pffft. Full House, are you kidding me? “You’ll get eight grand a week.” Yea, that’ll be great, but no way. No way!
Now the storytelling show has much higher profile comedians on for this first televised season than the previous seasons on cc:studios. Do you still plan on having lesser-known names mixed in with the big ones?
They have some great stories. By the way, I’ve been doing this show for about five years. We’ve put them online about two years ago. The show is just filming what we’ve been doing. I’ve seen tons of great stories. We had tons that just fell out into the ether. In the last year, Jon Huck he didn’t even get as many hits. He’s been on every year. Fucking shame how we look at things. He had this great story about shitting his pants at Oktoberfest. It was fucking great! But people were like, “How about this guy? He’s bigger?” I mean, yea, I guess. But his story is fucking amazing. So yea, there are some great ones from the big names up to the small names.
Now that they’re actually putting your show on the air, you’re dealing with a few more suits than usual. I can’t imagine that extra authority goes over well with you.
That’s an annoying process. They have good ideas sometimes. It’s just the amount of people. I’m like, “Just let it go! Just let us just go do it.” It’s just more work is all. More work. More time you’re not doing stand-up. Then I’m not even writing because whenever I have some free time I have to go over a story and look at current edits and stuff.
Even press, what we’re doing right now, it’s more work that you don’t want to do because it keeps you from stand-up.
Exactly. I’ll do it, fine. But going on a hike is better for you and your career. I mean, this is fine, talking about something major and ideas. But, going over the fucking dialogue on the web page or something I’m going, “Ugh, I don’t care.” I mean, I care, but I don’t care care.
You just wish you could show up with your guys and girls and do your stories and throw it up there.
Capture it. Make it not lit any better than it is right now that we already like it. Capture multiple angles. It’s like impossible what I’m asking for. It’s impossible. They’re like, “Where are we gonna put the cameras?” I don’t know, maybe make them one-dimensional I guess? Tape them against the wall? Make them completely flat like a piece of paper? I don’t know. It’s just what I want. I want to leave the show completely as is and place hidden cameras that take up no space and won’t make any audience members leave. You can’t film like that— but that’s what I want. Live stand-up. That’s what I want to show: live stand-up. The greatest thing.
Ari Shaffir’s one-hour stand-up special Paid Regular premieres Friday night at midnight EST. His storytelling comedy show This Is Not Happening debuts Jan. 22 at 12:30am EST. For tour dates and info, visit www.AriShaffir.com.