It’s without a doubt that Mike Lawrence is a funny guy. Just watch any of his appearances on Conan (and if you’re in New York you can check him out live at SubCulture NYC on Aug. 1). But if you really want to get the best out of Lawrence, ask him anything about the nerd culture. He is an almighty guru of all things nerdy, and the title and cover of his debut comedy album, Sadimantium, is a reflection of that. For all you non-comic nerds, that is a reference to adimantium, the indestructible metal that compose Wolverine’s bones.
When I asked him if he had any alternative titles for his album, he says “This Man, This Monster.” This, of course, is another comic book reference, a nod to the Fantastic Four (Issue 51, to be exact) and it is the best Thing story of all time (his favorite superhero). When I ask him if he is excited for the forthcoming movie reboot of Fantastic Four…let’s just say he has some opinions about it.
“The movie is going to suck, but, you know, it’s fine,” he says. “I think they’re doing a lot to improve race relations. The movie’s probably going to be so horrible and everyone’s going to be like, ‘But Michael B. Jordan was good.’”
“I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic,” I say. “I love the cast.”
“I mean, I get that,” says Lawrence. “But the idea of Mr. and Mrs Fantastic for me are Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen.”
My eyes widen and I respond, “Oooh, that would be cool!”
Thus begins the best conversation about comedy and comics that I have ever had in my life. Not only is Mike Lawrence one of the best up-and coming-comedians, but he’s a comic book genius that should take over Marvel and DC studios. I had a chance to talk to him about all this as well as his first terrorist joke, bronies, his undying hatred for Man of Steel and why Batman vs. Superman is going to suck.
Was there a TV show or stand-up special that made you realize you wanted to get into comedy?
Mike Lawrence: The Simpsons.
Was there a particular episode?
Lawrence: I’d say it was the third or fourth “Tree House of Horror.” It made me think that there were writers like John Swartzwelder and Conan made this. This is something that’s made by people. I said, “I think I want to do that.”
Did you grow up in a funny family?
Lawrence: My mom did stand-up for 15 years.
Lawrence: I mean, she made it seem possible and obtainable, but I was so much more into other stuff than stand-up. It’s also like that thing where anything your parents do isn’t cool. There’s no kid whose mom’s a stripper who’s proud of that [laughs].
Were you considered the class clown?
Lawrence: I was the class clown for sure because I was picked on and stuff. It started off with kids laughing at me for reasons I didn’t want them to. Like I was a frequent urinator, so they’d make fun of me for peeing my pants and stuff.
Lawrence: Then I started telling “street” and “yo momma” jokes, but I would rewrite some of them and give them better tags or endings. I was really proud of that.
Do you remember your very first stand-up gig?
Lawrence: Oh, yeah it was November 5, 2005, at the Chocolate Moose.
Wow. You remembered the exact date. Impressive. How was that?
Lawrence: It was weird. I had done slam poetry for eight years, so when I performed for the first time doing stand-up it was at a venue that I had already been on stage for multiple times. It was okay. I did six minutes. I did a song parody thing. Well, it wasn’t a parody, it was a song I wrote about Muslims.
How did that turn out?
Lawrence: I started in Florida and a lot of the stuff I wrote when I began was not the best. The song was called “Kiss a Terrorist.” The whole thing was why don’t you just kiss a terrorist. One of the lines was “If I knew you were cool with Jews, you’d be off my Christmas list.”
Lawrence: It was satire, but, yeah, it was fun.
The title of your album, Sadamantium is nerd-themed. Were you always a nerd?
What’s your take on the use of the word “nerd”? 15 or 20 years ago it wasn’t cool to be a nerd, now everyone claims to be a nerd.
Lawrence: It’s just because everything is splintered now. There’s no longer a shared culture, so everything gets to be its own thing and everything gets to feel like it matters. I did a comic convention a couple of weeks ago. There was a brony there. The guy’s got a My Little Pony hat, and he’s carrying the dolls. I said, “You know, the rest of us nerds need bronies just so that we can still look down on something.” He goes, “Hey man, we’re cool. We’ve got our own documentary on Netflix.” I was like, “Yeah, and so do abused whales and everything thing else, you dumb fuck.”
How did that conversation end?
Lawrence: He was fine with it. I’m sure he killed himself [laughs]. No, it was cool. I told him I was joking. I think he was okay, but he’s also an adult man who loves My Little Pony. This is my thought on the Internet and popular culture now: everything gets to matter so nothing does.
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
Lawrence: Because it’s this system of checks and balances. It’s so crazy. I remember when something like Jurassic Park came out, you felt like everyone saw it. It was this shared cultural moment that we all went to go see Newman get spit in the face by a velociraptor, or whatever it was. Or even before that, Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Now half the people you talk to about anything, they’re like, “I didn’t see it.” It used to be shameful to say you didn’t see something. Now it’s shameful to ask. Now you’re the asshole. The tide has turned on that. There’s even a power to not seeing something. I’ve talked to comic book fans about how awful Man of Steel is and he was like, “Oh, I didn’t see that piece of shit.” I’m like, “What?” It’s their obligation to!”
Did you go Comic-Con?
Lawrence: No, I did not.
Did you keep up with all the news that was coming out?
Lawrence: Oh, yeah. I mean, it gets more depressing to me every year. For instance, this year, I’m guessing the biggest news story out of it was the picture of Wonder Woman. But everyone is focusing on the the wrong thing. You’re just showing a static image which, first of all, looks dark and depressing. She’s standing on burnt rubble which is probably Metropolis after Superman saved it, because fuck that movie.
[laughs] You really don’t like Man of Steel, huh?
Lawrence: I strongly hate it so much. The Man of Steel trailers were amazing because Zack Snyder makes trailers. That’s his talent. With the new picture of Batman, all you’re showing me is sad Batman looking at the floor. Then you have Wonder Woman standing over nothing. I mean, what is that? Where’s the joy? I think that all these teaser images and stuff, rarely any of them speak of some kind of life or character. If I saw a comic book cover and any of the characters had those poses, I wouldn’t want to buy it. The most dynamic images in comic covers have something cool-as-shit’s happening or it’s dynamic or energetic.
Yeah. There’s movement to it.
Lawrence: Yeah. These are just mopey and douchey. That’s that thing now. What happened was no one reads the books anymore. I mean, half the people who were like, “Ooh, there’s a black Captain America,” can’t even tell you who the Falcon is. That whole thing makes perfect sense. The guy’s been his sidekick since 1969. He should be the next Captain America. I’m okay with that. Then they announce a female Thor on The View, like there’s going to be people who watch The View who read Thor.
Back to the picture of Batman. In part of one of your stand-up routines you were mentioning that you weren’t too fond as Ben Affleck as the new Batman. I take it that you’re not excited Batman vs. Superman.
Lawrence: I am in the sense that if it’s great then that’s awesome and maybe it will be. If it’s not, I want it to be the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to leave that theater going, “Oh, that was okay.” I mean, they are investing everything into this. I already feel like they made so many bad moves in the marketing, but that’s just me.
What kind of bad moves?
Lawrence: I don’t know what the other surprise can be that’s going to mean something to everyone. I mean, you already have Aquaman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. It doesn’t feel like movies always gave this much away, and the movie comes out in, what, two years? 2016?
I’ll watch Batman vs. Superman, but, like you, I want it to be either really great or really just shitty and no gray area.
Lawrence: Yeah, exactly. But fun bad, not Green Lantern bad; Green Lantern was just boring.
If you had your way, what would you do with Batman vs. Superman?
Lawrence: I would embrace the genre fiction aspect of it. I mean, I think what Marvel’s doing works minus the whole Ant-Man debacle, that’s awful.
Yeah, that’s unfortunate.
Lawrence: But what they’re doing is they’re getting genre directors and outside the box guys to do this stuff, and they’re getting storytellers. Yeah, you hired two guys who directed a bunch of Community episodes, but Community had good stories and there’s a comic book aesthetic to that show, so it makes sense. I’m sorry, DC, once The Dark Knight Rises was done, Christopher Nolan should have never touched another comic book thing. You told your story. You did not hit the landing at all. It was really bad. The Dark Knight is a masterpiece, but Dark Knight Rises is not. But whatever. I get that his name sells, but you got a really depressing dude, and then you get [David S.] Goyer who writes really depressing. Blade was good, but then Blade Trinity was horrible and that was Goyer directing too. There should be a phantom zone for when you fuck up royally. That’s why Ben Affleck should be there for Daredevil. Then you take Zack Synder who makes trailers. He is a professional YouTube fan video guy. He’s not telling stories. They’re just these images and they look cool. So what I would do is I would hire people that are excited and can bring something different and have unique visions per the character. Let’s get Kathryn Bigelow to do Wonder Woman or something. That’s what Marvel did with James Gunn. He’s was this quirky, sci-fi guy, he’s going to do a quirky, sci-fi movie. We got Kenneth Branagh to do the first Thor. We got the head director of Game of Thrones to do the second one. We got the guy who did The Rocketeer to do the first Captain America. Shane Black got to do an Iron Man movie, because it’s kind of a buddy cop thing—it just all makes sense.
It does…and you probably made the best argument for comic book movies ever. Anything else you want to add?
Lawrence: You’re already advertising it as “’versus.” That says something really depressing about our society. I mean, I didn’t see the teaser trailer, but I heard about it. I looked at the costume and it’s very Dark Knight Returns. The thing is that was an alternate timeline story, and that whole idea that it’s a dark future, but it’s sad because we are that dark future now. We are that grim reality that Batman is. That’s the Batman that our shitty society gets. You have kids posting YouTube pages saying they’re going to kill people and then they do. Here’s your mopey, sad Batman, you fucking assholes. This is why we can’t have nice things. Every generation we get the culture we deserve, the heroes we deserve, and the comedians we deserve.
Lawrence: We deserve movies where Adam Sandler goes to Africa. That’s blood on our hands.