Sean Patton’s brand of stand-up is story-centric, filled with lengthy and complicated tales eventually weaving themselves into something absurdly hilarious. He has performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Conan, @midnight, Comedy Central’s “The Half Hour,” “The Meltdown,” “This Is Not Happening” and more. Daniel Korman, founder of Durango’s Laugh Therapy, has invited Patton to perform this Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Irish Embassy. We spoke with Patton about why he won’t talk politics in his act, the reason you should never take a comedy class and how human flaws unite us.
Do you ever research the demographics in places you’ll be performing and adjust your jokes accordingly? Like if you’re going to a conservative town, you won’t make jokes about abortion?I used to really adjust. Even to this day, to a very slight fraction I may. But for the most part, no. Any kind of art form, if you take it seriously, you can’t please everyone. It’s impossible; there’s no point in trying. People think, ‘Well, it’s comedy, you should be able to make anyone laugh.’ But I don’t agree with that. Some people are just not going to see things your way, and taking something I think is hilarious, and that people like me think is hilarious, then trying to reshape it to make someone who just doesn’t agree with it think it’s hilarious, isn’t going to make for a very good product. I tend to avoid things like politics anyway. Everyone else is already doing that. We all know Trump’s an idiot, Hillary’s a thief, blah blah blah. We get it. I feel like if you’ve watched me perform, you can figure out where I stand. I consider myself left-leaning, but I feel like the subjects I do approach onstage, I approach not from a leftist point of view, but from a human point of view. This is how I feel about women as a man who respects women. This is how I feel about minorities as a man who respects minorities. I’m not trying to force an agenda or tell you how stupid you are if you’re a card-carrying member of the NRA.
Are there any subjects that are off limits for you, joke-wise? Truth be told, there’s a lot of subjects that I find just boring. I tend to not talk about the pros and cons of dating, because that shit’s boring to me. I’m not like this 6-foot 3-inch sculpted-out-of marble Greek god – I’m a short, pudgy, bearded guy – but I’ve never found dating to be that difficult or that bizarre of a thing. A lot of my colleagues go onstage and talk about dating like it’s cracking some sort of [effing] omega code. For the most part, I try and find topics that feel real to me, that inspire me. I like to feel at all times that I’m saying something because I believe it’s funny, not because I believe the audience will think it’s funny.
You’ve spoken openly about living with OCD. What about the cliché that comedians are sadder or more prone to anxiety and depression than the average person? Is there any truth to that, or are comedians just more open to admitting that stuff?I think comedians are definitely more open as people, their willingness to share these dark personal secrets. That’s like my tagline, or if I had to sum it up: I’m all about exposing the beauty of human flaw. We all have it, it’s the one thing that unites the entire human race – we’re all flawed in some way. For generations, men and especially women are taught to ignore it, pretend like you’re not flawed, don’t be open about it, don’t talk about farting, don’t mention you have a drinking problem, don’t publicly discuss this disgusting thing you did. But we all do those things, so instead of ignoring it and making people feel isolated and alone ... Just talk about it, get it out there. I think that’s the only negative side effect of creativity; if you’re a creative human being, it often comes with a side effect of anxiety or OCD or depression. It’s your brain basically being creative in negative ways. As comics, what we spend our life doing, trying to make strangers happy, does come at a price.
Any advice for comedians just starting out?Understand that if you haven’t started yet, it’s far more difficult than you even think it is right now. It’s so hard. I think about ballet dancers, like yeah, that’s physically difficult, I couldn’t do it. But I still think being funny is harder. It’s such a specific thing, and it cannot be taught. So do not take comedy classes! They are a hoax and a ripoff. I know that statement will probably piss off a lot of people who take comedy classes. Well, [eff] you for teaching comedy classes. It’s comedians who were never that good who need to make some money. Everything you need to learn about stand-up, you will learn in a far more pure, organic, real way by simply doing it. Allow it to be hard. Don’t get on stage and think you’re going to be famous in a year or five years. Yeah, it happens from time to time, people get plucked. But don’t try and be that person. Do it because you love it, and strap in. It’s a long ride.
— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold This interview has been edited for space and clarity.