Jo Stone of Fire
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by NBC
This same is a special comedy? Anyone complaining about the complaints they’ve received about their last hour of stand-up? (Sometimes.) For comedian Jo Firestone – who made her name for presenting the strangest, most chaotic (some might say whimsical) comedy shows New York City has ever seen – that means teaching a class of elderly people how to make comedy and film them as they perform in front of an audience for the first time. Called Good timing, the new Firestone special debuts on Peacock on October 15, and it’s a tribute to the power of comedy to build community and simply bring joy to people.
Among vultures Good Podcast, Firestone discusses teaching comedy to the elderly, what it’s like to be called ‘eccentric’ and how the pandemic and the course she taught have changed her relationship with comedy. . You can read an excerpt from the transcript or listen to the full episode below. Tune Good every thursday Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stapler, Covered, Where wherever you get your podcasts.
I tell them about my life in comedy. Like, I told them about how I was rated at UCB, and I continue to threaten to rate them. So there’s this woman who started dyeing her hair blue during the pandemic. A lot of people stopped dyeing their hair, so she decided to start dyeing it blue because it was easier to do at home. And it looks very cool. So I was like, “Okay, you all get extra credit if next week you come up with blue hair, like tequila.” And then I forgot that I said that. When I came back the following Monday morning and opened the Zoom one guy had dyed his beard blue, then another the guy had gone out and bought a blue wig. It was so beautiful. It was very exciting.
If you meet all of these people individually, you wouldn’t necessarily think they’re all friends. They don’t look alike at all, except for their age range. It’s very sweet to see them bond and do things for each other, like buying socks that are a joke on the inside or dressing like others. It’s very sweet to see, and it’s very funny. It feels like it’s a comedy scene.
I learned a lot during this pandemic. I don’t really like being on stage by myself. I don’t really like to talk for an hour. It’s easier for me to talk to other people and bounce off other people. If you were like, “Do you want to put on a show with 70 people and they all have to make different impressions of Liza Minnelli, or do you want to do an hour of stand-up?” “I would be like” Liza Minnelli “. There is something that excites me about having people on board and showcasing them. And yes, maybe I should work for Just For Laughs. I am not sure.
I mean, those are the first two words they put on me, and that’s okay. I once went to an IFC general and they said, âWe don’t do quirks! “ And I was like, “Well, me neither!” If you want to call it whimsical and eccentric, then that’s fine with me. It’s not what I’m trying to do, but I understand that it looks like kind of a Zooey Deschanel style vibe. I understand why this happens. All I can do is keep doing what’s right for me. And you just hope people stop using those words. There is nothing I can do about it. Maybe next time I will choose ânastyâ and âsatiricalâ.
When I was younger I had the standard D‘s: depression, delicacies. When I was younger, I would watch comedies or make jokes with people, and I felt like it was a respite – medicine. I kinda thought, Oh, if I can do comedy then maybe I won’t feel so sad and other people won’t feel so sad. Very altruistic. Truly Well.
And I didn’t even really understand the industry. There is no one in my life who has done it. There was no connection. The first comedians I saw in person were Stone and Stone; they came to my school and did stand up, and I was like, I guess all comedians are twins. And they were like, âThe scene is difficult, but there are a few different scenes. You can choose your scene. And I just remember being like That’s it …! These are the people.
So I just started doing these shows and doing what I thought was funny and doing other people’s shows. Then I discovered the industry and it definitely made me more wary of myself. I lost sight of a lot of the reasons I was doing it. Because you do the same together and you’re like, Why am I working? What is the point of this?
Then during the pandemic I didn’t really do a lot of Zoom shows or anything. I didn’t do any shows – and no live shows at all. I haven’t really missed it. The thing that was scratching that itch – sorry for that expression – was being around these people who were really excited to do comedy and really love comedy and really love to laugh at each other. It made me feel like it’s always a nice thing. There’s a great thing in comedy about, like, [doing a tough voice] âTell the truthâ, and it’s like, yeah, it’s true, and some people do it well. But there are a lot of different genres of comedy these days, and they’re very different camps. This class and the folks in the class made me realize that you can just do comedy and it will be fun, and it can be fun – that the accolades are cool and it is cool to get paid, but this is not necessarily the thing that is going to make you feel good about going to bed at night.
With COVID and all, it feels good to get out of your house, and it feels good to see people. That’s the best part of these shows these days, at least for me – seeing people and seeing people who are excited about comedy. It made me appreciate more the community of people who do and appreciate it. It changes what I really like to get out of it. It’s better to laugh and make someone else laugh than to just sit there and make someone else laugh.