Stephen Lynch introduced us to Jesus’ badass brother, rocked the lead role in the Broadway rendition of The Wedding Singer, and traveled the world performing his repertoire of subversively funny songs for packed-out theaters. Now, he can finally add Savage Henry Interviewee to his list of accomplishments.
Isaac Kozell: Professionally, you consider yourself a musician first and a comedian second. Does that also describe your creative process? Do you start with a tune and then add the premise?
Stephen Lynch: Most of the time, yeah. I have hours and hours of lyric-less music recorded, just waiting for inspiration. It can be quite frustrating.
IK: Have you ever received pushback from other comics because your performance is primarily musical?
SL: No idea. I’m not really in that world. I don’t live in NYC or LA, I don’t perform at comedy clubs, so my interaction with other comics has been very limited. In my mind they all consider me a genius and a huge inspiration.
IK: How about non-comedic musicians? Clearly, you can write, play, and sing. But is it hard to be taken seriously as a musician when your themes are humorous?
SL: There’s no such thing as a non-comedic musician. Well, maybe Ray Lamontagne. He seems sort of surly. Anyway, I’ve sort of given up on the idea that my music is going to be considered anything other than “comedy.” And I’m fine with that. It still needs to be the best music I can write, if only for my own satisfaction.
IK: What, if anything, would you consider to be your “Big Break?”
SL: Probably getting a special on Comedy Central in the early 2000’s. That enabled me to tour all over the U.S. Until then I was doing lots of shows in the NYC area and some colleges. The Comedy Central special airs and next thing I know, I’m in the exotic locales of Bettendorf, Iowa and Niles, Michigan. It really opened up the possibilities.
IK: What was your biggest takeaway from your experience playing the lead role in the Broadway production of The Wedding Singer?
SL: I learned how much work and effort goes into creating a musical. It’s not just, “Let’s write a couple songs and find some costumes and put on a show!” It’s hundreds of people collaborating and creating and fixing and rehearsing and to be in the middle of it all is fascinating. And tiring. But worth it. Sort of. No, definitely worth it.
IK: You co-headlined a tour with Mitch Hedberg, which turned out to be his last tour. What was the most memorable experience you had with him?
SL: Driving through the southwest in his RV, playing bongos and guitars and singing songs. Good times.
IK: Humor takes on very distinct flavors from one geographic/cultural region to the next, so for comics, international success is a tricky feat. You’re a pretty big deal in Europe. Have you been able to pinpoint the key to your success outside of the US?
SL: I don’t know. Maybe my style isn’t specifically “American.” Or maybe it’s decidedly “Un-American.” All I know is that they seem to enjoy it. I mean, Nazi girlfriends, shitty tattoos, and necrophilia? Those are universal themes.
IK: Do you read your reviews?
SL: I used to. Then I decided it’s bad for my mental health. My manager still likes to send me my bad reviews, though. He thinks it’s funny.
IK: When compared to the rest of your discography, Lion deals with more… accessible topics. The humor has subtlety to it. Not to mention that the music is very finely-honed. Is that the direction in which you are moving, or will the next project be chock full of taboo subject matter?
SL: I think I just have a different sense of what’s funny than I did 10 years ago. That will always be reflected in the songs I write. Because really I’m just trying to make myself laugh. Fuck the rest of the world. If I can make just one person laugh (me), then it will all have been worth it.
IK: What are you working on now?
SL: I’m recording the last show of the Lion tour, which I’ll release in some form or another; DVD, YouTube, etc. Then it’s back to the drawing board.