Nicolle Clemetson

LIKE MANY OF US, stand-up comics go through the balancing act of chasing a creative dream while also paying the bills, seeking that moment when the ambition becomes the day job. For Ian Karmel, that struggle is still ongoing, even after his 2013 move to LA, and even when his employer is The Late Late Show with James Corden.

“Nobody wants to hear you complain about it,” Karmel says, speaking from his home in Los Angeles, “but it kind of sucks in a way to be on the way to your dream of being a full-time stand-up who people see in every city and then being sidetracked by this amazing opportunity that is dream-adjacent.”

To his credit, Karmel admits that it sounds ridiculous to gripe about a well-paying job in television that’s somewhat keeping him from solely concentrating on his stage work. But it’s also not something you’ll hear from most comedians. As funny as he is, Karmel is equally brutally honest about his life and career, which should come as no surprise to readers of his Everything as Fuck column in the Mercury.

That combination is also what’s made Karmel such a great comedian, beloved among his stand-up brethren both in his hometown and down in Southern California. If anything has changed, it’s the tone of his humor, which has gone from skirting the line into absurdity to covering more personal material.

“I used to have this four-minute joke about Cthulhu, but now I just want to talk about what’s going on in my life,” he says.

The challenge for Karmel—if you can call it that—is finding time to write for himself in the midst of the many projects he’s working on, including a potential TV travel show with longtime buddy Matt Braunger, potential acting gigs, and his work for Corden.

“People often think of creativity as this renewable resource, but it turns out that that’s not always the case,” he says. “When I worked at the Netflix call center doing these 12-hour shifts, I could still get off work and write for two or three hours. When you’re spending all day in a comfortable chair with snacks and PAs getting you lunch, it’s hard to click your brain into the right mode.”