Stand-up comedian and podcast host Joe DeRosa does not shy away from hot-button topics. Often billed as an “angry comic,” the comedy star tackles topics like anxiety and politics with a sharp sense of humor. DeRosa has a wide breadth of experience, with past specials on Comedy Central, appearances on Chelsea Lately and Inside Amy Schumer and writing credits on Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer.” Following his stand-up show at the Arlington Drafthouse last week, The Hoya sat down with DeRosa to discuss his influences and learn more about his comedic style.
I am really interested in how different kinds of celebrities have used relatively new mediums to influence their careers in different ways. I know you have done a lot of podcast and radio work. What kind of impact do you think it has had on your stand-up?
DeRosa: It’s not made a huge difference in the make-up of the audiences. I find that most people still come out from knowing me from stand-up. Mainly, the podcasts serve as outlets for me. I try to have different outlets for different opinions and interests, so “Emotional Hangs” is a great forum for me to talk about feelings and vulnerability with a friend.
Do you feel like there is pressure put upon you by the expectations of what it means to be a comic nowadays? Many see comedians as people who are dark and broken. What does it do to your psyche to have that expectation be set on you just because of your job?
DeRosa: I feel it in the opposite direction. I feel like most comedians play it cute. I don’t relate to that. That’s not how I think. I don’t think I’m so deep or anything. After 16 years of being told that my comedy is dark, I guess it’s dark. I just think about the way I think.
I think most of the guys want to be cute. Most of the girls want to talk about sex. I wish more people were out there landing a real opinion on something. Talking about [Jerry] Seinfeld, there’s a real personality in there. Even if he’s talking about Hungry Man dinners, there’s a real perspective in the joke. I feel like a lot of comics just tell friendly jokes or sex jokes. I can’t learn anything from that.
I feel like the expectation now is for comedians not to have an opinion. A few years ago, people wanted the right to not be offended. Now that has turned into people wanting the right to never be disagreed with. Now, any inkling of a disagreement is seen as offensive or shame or dismissive. I think people carry that into their comedy tastes.
Do you ever feel pigeonholed as a certain type of comic? I feel like you are often billed as an angry comic.
DeRosa: I get annoyed when people say I’m an angry comic. My first manager said, ‘You’re not angry, you’re annoyed.’ I thought that was a very good assessment of it. My favorite’s always been [George] Carlin and I never saw him as angry — I saw him as someone who was let down by the world that we were all promised. I always related to that. That’s why I called my [Comedy Central] special and my column “You Let Me Down.” That phrase really sums up the way I feel about almost everything. I think people are really full of s–t and have no ability to admit to it.
How do you draw the line between having a strong stage presence and being so vulnerable in your other ventures?
DeRosa: I feel like these days people examine artists with everything they do. I would hope that they would look at everything I do and see a well-rounded person. When I date girls who’ve only seen my stand-up, a lot of the times their reaction is “Wow, you’re actually very sweet.” And I’m like, “Of course.” It’s not like I’m pretending to be another person on stage, it’s just an outlet. So far it’s been an outlet to get out of the negative and that’s why podcasts are for my positive things.
I really agreed with Carlin’s perspective of, and I’m paraphrasing, but that “I cherish people with individuals. I loathe and despise the groups they identify with.” It’s always coming from a place where I’m sad about this … I don’t like comedians that condescend. I try to always have the tone underneath that I’m just trying to connect here.