Comedian Ben Kronberg w/ Dave Johnson, Mike Lucas, Daniel Frana, Spencer Loucks
The Mill — Thursday, Jan. 8 at 9 p.m.
Ben Kronberg brings his artful, one-liner comedy act to The Mill tonight for a performance filled with jokes that will make you laugh, groan and, as with this crowd favorite from his Comedy Central special, groan while laughing at you how he has gotten you to the punchline: “I’m writing a screenplay set in the 18th century about a girl going through puberty — a period piece.”
With appearances on John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Last Comics Standing — where he was told personally by Roseanne to “go fuck yourself” — Kronberg has made a name for himself as a rising comic talent over the last few years.
Little Village recently talked to Kronberg about his taboo-teasing stand-up, his joke-writing process and the romantic appeal of poop jokes.
In a New York Times discussion, you were brought up as an example of comedy’s ability to shock and described as “a sly oddball who tells well-sculptured jokes about abortion, disease and racism, but the most shocking are simply gross.” Do you think shocking your audience is a major element of your stand-up act?
I liked the opportunity to say things I shouldn’t say and actually have people laugh at them. One of my favorite parts about stand-up comedy is the taboo, saying the thing you shouldn’t. I’m not wanting to offend people per se, but I’m not not wanting to offend people.
That’s actually one of the things I find offensive. The censorship of the moment. One of the first exciting things I discovered with comedy was you get to decide what you say. You need to make people laugh, but the details are up to you: what do think about, what interests you.
I think also that with certain people’s acts, the content of their jokes are hidden and woven into their charisma and their presentation. Dave Chappelle will probably get as dirty as anybody, but people aren’t talking about Dave Chappelle as a dirty comedian. People are talking about Dave Chappelle as a funny comedian.
When you do one-liners, your jokes are a little bit more out there and exposed. When you’re telling a story or discussing a topic, there might be something raunchy or taboo in that stream of jokes on that topic, but it is more hidden in how it is presented.
How did you find your stand-up niche doing one-liners?
I started out performing songs, and the songs I was writing had more one-liners in them. They weren’t so much “story” songs. I was just coming up with these singular funny thoughts. I was never a big story teller. Things weren’t always happening to me and I wasn’t always having to tell people about it. I like to joke around with people, but more just in the moment with what’s going on around us.
In your Comedy Central special, you tell your audience, despite their lukewarm response, that you’re going to keep telling them poop jokes, and, early in your career you performed, in full ninja regalia, as the Poop Joke Ninja. How far back does your poop joke comedy go?
One of the first songs I ever wrote was about pooping, a song called I want to “Go Poop with You.” A love song. It is this act that is considered gross, but it’s also this intimate moment, and it’s also one of our most common experiences. Everybody has to deal with it man, woman, child and animal, all of us. It is a universal thing.
Some people really don’t like talking about it or hearing about it. Other people are very okay with talking about it. I guess I just happen to be one of those people.
In a documentary short on your stand up, you describe how the act of writing out your jokes in your notebook is vital to the comedy you do. Can you explain that process a bit?
There are ideas and information floating around and happening all the time, and the easiest way to harness that is to just have your notebook out. Basically, just be on call to intercept any idea out there.
For me, there is a sort of protocol to engage. You got to know something before you can write it or you have to contemplate it at least. Just thinking and experiencing, as basic and simple as that sounds, it’s very crucial for my personal process. The rule, and Mitch Hedberg basically said this, is that you write everything down. Don’t judge ideas before you’ve tried them.
I see a lot of newer comedians, and they want to try out ideas, but then there is this lack of confidence that comes way too soon in the idea process. They’re editing themselves too quickly. Doing it like that…it doesn’t work…it’s just not fun anymore. It’s like when you have a kid. You hope all your kids grow up to be president, but some of them are just going to grow up to be a janitor. You got to just deal with that.
Early on in your career, you made a point of consistently reading from your notebook on stage, sort of mocking the advice that isn’t what a “real” comedian should to do. What was your reasoning with that?
My approach and understanding of what comedy is if I can make people laugh, it shouldn’t matter what I am doing. People say it seems unprofessional to use your notebook on stage. I would only loosely call comedy a profession. Of all the things a profession involves, I’d say talking about poop or dicks on a regular basis is not what happens in a profession.
Well, maybe with doctors.