So he enrolled in journalism school at Mizzou. He also landed a political reporting gig in Jefferson City.
But soon, cult-favorite standup Brian Posehn asked Essig to tour for a bit. So he did a couple shows, got slightly high with some audience members, ate a burrito, and realized he never should've left.
Once described as a purveyor of intelligent cynicism, Essig is somehow both cerebral and emotive. He's candid about his inner feelings, not to mention politics: he once ignited a gig-ending shouting match after cracking wise about President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.)
How would you sum up your gig as a statehouse reporter in Jefferson City?
I found a good part of my time in Jeff City to be really disheartening.
I was such a politics and government nerd, and to see it up close was
I met some really cool, hard-working, government
staffers. The majority of what I saw, however -- between lobbying and
politicians pontificating about garbage no intelligent person would
believe -- was gross.
What exactly happened on the Brian Posehn tour that reignited your love for comedy?
I can remember the exact night I decided I wasn't leaving stand-up.
Brian brings in a bit of a different crowd,
generally younger, and maybe more on my level in terms of music and
comic book nerd-ity. Plus, Brian himself is a blast to be around. One
of the nicest people I've met in this business and really genuine with
So I was doing a week with him at Comedy Works in Denver in July of
2010. After the final show on Saturday, I'm flying through the streets
of Denver on the back of one of those bike taxis, eating burritos with
people from the show and getting slightly high with them (which I rarely
I go back to the apartment that overlooked downtown Denver and I'm thinking "Really? You want to leave all of this behind?"
I called my then wife the next day and told her I wasn't quitting.
you're not afraid to joke about your divorce. Does your ex-wife know?
Is there a line when joking about it that you won't cross?
Well, especially at those first Brennan's shows in 2010, I was just a ball of
raw emotion. It just happened, and I really didn't know what was going on, or
really who I was as a person.
I mean one day you're married, the next day you're not. You can't go
back to who you were at 27, but you also can't be that married guy any
I talked about the divorce extensively during an
appearance on the Bob and Tom show in October 2010. I don't remember exactly
what I said, but I did get a call from my ex-wife pretty soon after.
She was upset about something, and I don't know, perhaps it wasn't
everyone's business, but it was honest. I try not to draw arbitrary
lines not to cross. I mean, I think people relate best when you're
being as honest as you can be.
With that in mind, when I do write about that period, I always look at
the bit a second time and make sure I'm being fair to Jessi (my ex). I
think it's important to make sure your perspective isn't just bashing
another person. Besides being petty, I also think it turns people off.
last time I saw you perform, about a year ago, the entire 10-minute set
was a single story. Gabe Kea recently told me a lot of Cincinnati guys
are doing long stories now. Have you become a story guy?
I tend to experiment a lot and
sometimes my stories can go on forever. Likely, I was telling a story
for the first time, trying to find the beats. Usually, I'll take that
and then try to break the story down into smaller elements.
not opposed to long stories, but I think there is also a line at which
the audience loses interest. I suppose the key, for me at least, is to
be honest, but also try not to waste a bunch of time with story elements
that are unnecessary to the overall point. I think sometimes guys get
too involved in their own stories, and never look at what can be taken
click to enlarge
We commend you for skewering people in power, of both
parties, on principle. But you're also a staunch liberal, and this could
be a tight election year for Obama et al. Will your comedy be affected?
be honest, I'm not a staunch anything anymore, working in the
statehouse will probably do that to anyone. It almost feels like the guy
who did a lot of politics pieces was a different person. I've moved
I mean, I'll still touch on social issues occasionally, but politics really bores me. What's the point? These are really our choices? Even before he was elected, I wasn't a big Obama-ite.
paraphrase my own joke I wrote when I phone banked for John Kerry in
2004: No one's really happy with the choices we have, but you have to
pick something. It's like when you come home drunk and all you have in
the freezer are fish sticks. You don't really want them, but the pizza
places are closed, so you take what you can get.
Why the CD now?
lack of a better term, it feels ready. The resentment/depression cycle
really set in right about the time "Monque" [the last CD] was released in '08. It
feels like I've completed a cycle. And the pieces from that cycle make up the new CD.
Also, I'm beginning to forget some of
the bits, as they've moved out of the act to accommodate newer things.
So, in a practical sense, I want to have a record of them before I
totally forget how they go.