BELOVED LOCALLY BORN COMEDIAN Ian Karmel is popping into town this week for his first-ever headlining gig at Helium, and to pick up his paycheck for his weekly Mercury column, Everything as Fuck (pg. 47). I talked to him about his staff-writing gig at Chelsea Lately, and if living in LA has changed him into a terrible person.
MERCURY: Who's the better boss? Me, or Chelsea Handler? (This is a trick question, and there is no correct answer.)
IAN KARMEL: Chelsea puts me on TV, pays me way more money than is reasonable, flies me around on her jet, gave me drugs, spent three hours at lunch with my dad, and helped turn me into someone who headlines comedy clubs. But: You bought me a sandwich from Kenny and Zuke's once, so it's probably a dead heat.
What's the average day like at Chelsea Lately?
You get into the office around 10 am, or 8:45 am if we're shooting two episodes, and then sit around a table for two to three hours writing jokes about different news stories. Then you go off to your office and write out the lead—basically how Chelsea introduces the topic—and then you compile all the jokes for Chelsea to sort through and pick. Then you sit around with five other professional funny people and shoot the shit for a few hours. It's the best.
Will you be making the leap with Chelsea when her talk show moves to Netflix?
I'm not allowed to talk about that, but I will be working on a few things I've been wanting to do since moving to Los Angeles—namely selling a show that would film in Portland.
Oh, really? I assume it's a small-screen version of Turner and Hooch.
I can't tell you anything more about that... but if anything happens with it, I promise you exclusive rights to publish pictures of me eating shrimp off some Devils Point-type lady.
When someone moves to LA they automatically become a more terrible person. This is an inarguable fact. But percentage wise, how much more of a terrible person are you now? And in what ways?
I am a 20 percent more terrible person... but I think that might just be survival tactics. You leave your whole support structure behind and throw yourself into trying to be successful... actually fuck that, not even successful... into trying to survive down here. When you first get to LA, it feels like the running of the bulls. You're just scrambling and not looking back and just trying to get far enough along so you can take a breather. You neglect the parts of your life that aren't directly related to your career. You become a creature that eats accomplishment and shits inconsideration... and yeah, I think that makes you a little bit more of a bad person. I think the best you can do is be aware of it and try to make an effort to be less awful. Not to dwell on the question, but the very act of leaving home is you saying, "I'm going to miss everyone's birthday for the next 20 years so I can try to get on TV." That's not what good people do, right?
I'm pretty sure you didn't answer that last question in an honest manner. Tell the truth.
Okay, fine. Probably 40 percent.
Is your comedy less Portland specific now? I ask this because I'm afraid that if you don't talk enough about Portland, everyone at Helium is going to boo.
SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME OLD G.