In general, Blake Wexler prefers to do his comedy in, y’know, actual comedy clubs. Especially when he’s working on material for a new special or an album. And so far, that’s been a pretty effective strategy. He’s put out two albums of stand-up in the last two years and appeared on Comedy Central and at the Aspen Comedy Festival. He’s also guested on fellow comedian Todd Glass’ podcast and released an album of Glass’ voicemail messages to him called, quite literally, 12 Years of Voicemails from Todd Glass to Blake Wexler.
But in some cases, like his upcoming gig at Tin Roof here in town, Glass will make an exception.
“I prefer a more controlled venue if I’m trying to put a tape together for a special or a TV thing,” Wexler says, “Generally you want the least amount of variables possible. But as a stand-up, I really like doing venues like Tin Roof every once in a while, because it’s just more fun. But it has to be the right kind. If I walk in and there are a bunch of people with eight-foot beers, it probably wouldn’t go too well. But I’ve been there before, my parents live near there, and it’s a cool venue and everyone seemed like fun people. And it’s pretty intimate, despite being a rock venue.”
Wexler’s newest album, called Stuffed Boy, is a tour through his memories, neuroses, and bad behavior, with stops at his thick-headed pride at being from Philadelphia (“Philly Pile Of Trash”), his drunken aunt ranting about terrorism (“Aunt Merlot Mouth”), and his own bad behavior towards his Lyft driver (“Lying In A Lyft”). And while you’ll hear some of that stuff when Wexler hits the Tin Roof stage, he’s more or less moved past it.
“Stuffed Boy came out in September, but I recorded it back in April;” he says. “I’ve had months to write new stuff. And a lot of my act is like riffing and improvising, anyway, so even the material from my two albums won’t be exactly the same. I’d say more than 80 percent of the show will be new.”
Wexler’s seat-of-the-pants approach onstage might sound like a risky proposition, but like most standups, he’s learned to embrace the idea of bombing in front of a crowd.
“I like being loose and trying out new things, and sometimes things don’t work,” he says. “That’s just part of it. I started when I was really young, around 15 years old, and more often than not I do well. But no matter who you are, you have bad shows, and it’s just something you accept. I don’t blame the audience; I’ll record my sets and go back and find out that I blew a line, or I misread the audience and thought they were ready for a big high-energy bit and that wore them out. You have to get used to the fact that you could bomb one night and do the same joke the next night and get a big applause break.”
In fact, Wexler says that seeing other comedians struggle is something of a comfort to him, especially if they’re idols of his.
“I’ll see a comic that’s one of my favorites and they’ll try something that bombs, and in a weird way I feel better when that happens,” he says, “like, ‘They do it, too.’ Plus there are strategies even when it doesn’t go well where you can right the ship pretty quickly.”
Two albums in two years is relatively prolific for stand-up comedy, even in an era where some comedians challenge themselves by completely abandoning their material and building a new act every year. But Wexler doesn’t think that strategy is always effective.
“I think that for me, writing is more of a self-imposed pressure,” he says. “There was a period where someone like Bill Burr would come out with a new hour each year, but I can’t come up with that. It’s very hard to come up with a new hour; it’s important to pace yourself so that you’re actually proud of what you’re putting out.”