Nick Swardson on Taste It and Aging in Stand-up

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Nick Swardson has had a career most comedians would die for. Since his start in stand-up when he was 18, Swardson has literally done it all. He’s put out comedy albums and specials. He’s toured the country. He’s amassed several film and TV roles (Reno 911!, Blades of Glory, 30 Minutes or Less, numerous Adam Sandler movie and more). He’s had his own Comedy Central series Pretend Time and wrote, produced and starred in his own movie (Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star). All of that has culminated into a pretty solid 2015 for Swardson. Swardson toured the U.S. on a bus for months and recorded his latest special, Taste It, in Austin, Texas. The special premiered on Comedy Central earlier this year and covers most of the same material fans of his have come to expect: booze, women and even poop. The Minnesota native (and die-hard sports fan) also got to see his hometown Timberwolves draft top prospect Karl-Anthony Towns with the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. If much-maligned GM David Kahn had still been in power, Swardson fears he would have selected retired Chicago Bulls center Luc Longley. So 2015 has been pretty good.

But when I spoke to Swardson, he revealed that he’s not sure where his future lies in stand-up comedy. In fact, he admits he wasn’t even sure if Taste It was even going to happen. Because of all his commitments to film and TV, Swardson took an extended break from stand-up before slowly getting back into it. But now, even after the success of his latest tour and special, he still doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for him. He has an acting and writing career carved out, but judging from Taste It, Swardson still has the full ability to make large crowds laugh. If this is the last special we see from him, what comedians are going to fill the void to talk about figure skaters getting diarrhea?

Despite being under the weather, Swardson took the time to answer questions about potentially getting serious, the origins of the special’s title and finding the spark for stand-up.

Paste: I watched your special a couple times, congratulations on that. I thought it was really funny. What do you think of the reception it’s gotten so far?

Nick Swardson: It’s been great. I was kind of surprised because there’s just so many haters out there. So I was surprised that I was getting and really only heard great feedback.

Paste: I’m just happy that you finally started to touch on some serious material in your routine like diarrhea mixed with figure skating and drunk girls drinking daiquiris.

NS: [Laughs]

Paste: But in all seriousness, it’s refreshing that you can just do the material that you want to do and keep doing it. Have you ever had thoughts about expanding beyond your typical range? Has there ever been any pressure to do that or do you just want to stay on this route?

NS: I mean I don’t know who would pressure me. I don’t give a fuck. That would be insane if someone pressured me. I just do what I do. It’s one of those things where I don’t really know what else I would want to do. I don’t have aspirations to get political or get, I don’t know, dark. It wouldn’t be in my wheelhouse.

And I think that’s what my fans want. I want to keep them happy. If I came out and did something completely different, they’d be like, “What the fuck? What is happening right now? Why is Nick talking about exit strategies in Iraq? What is happening?”

Paste: I totally get that. Do you think there is like a shelf life almost for the amount of time you can continue to do this kind of material? I was trying to think if you’re 60 years old and still doing jokes about poop, unless it just evolves into 60-year-old poop jokes. It’s almost like a rapper that’s getting old still trying to maintain that same edge and do the same material. Do you see yourself having to evolve as you get older or do you not really think about that?

NS: I mean I honestly don’t. I just go where my life takes me. If something happens where I’ve got a new perspective or something. And obviously I’m not going to be a 60- or 70-year-old comedian talking about blacking out. [Laughs] Getting hammered. But I’m honestly just happy that I made it to this special, I thought I was done after the last one.

Paste: Oh really?

NS: Yeah. There’s a chance I might not even do stand-up anymore.

Paste: Oh wow.

NS: Yeah, I mean I just don’t want to talk about just getting hammered for the next 40 years. That would be fucking insane.

Paste: Yeah, because your last special was back in 2009. You’ve been really busy with movies and TV and everything so it’s been hard to find time to do all the stand-up.

NS: Yeah, yeah. And it’s hard because I do everything. I had my own TV show for two years. I did like 10 fucking movies in the last couple years. And that’s great. But stand-up, it was just hard to find the time to really hammer it down and perfect it.

Paste: How long did it take you to put this special together?

NS: Well it’s been what, over five years since the last one? I mean I quit for two years. I didn’t even get on stage or touch a microphone for two years. So it’s like, “No, that’s it. I don’t want to do it anymore.” Then I kind of thought of a couple jokes, I tried them out, and I kind of got the bug again. I started working some of that stuff out for a couple years, and then did the tour and the special. But I don’t know. I don’t know where my stand-up future lies.

Paste: Does it still give you the same spark that it did when you first started or is it something that’s changed for you?

NS: I mean, there are like different sparks. When I quit for two years and then picked it up again, it was like, horrifying. It felt like it did when I first started. It was really intimidating and scary. Also because I was so established at that point, so when I started there were these huge expectations when I got on stage. So I was intimidated by that. I never want to let an audience down. I’ve never done a bad show in my life. I’ve never phoned it in or just went up there half-assed or bored. I always want to give a good show.

Paste: Where does the title Taste It come from?

NS: It’s a reference to the character Gay Robot that I did on my show. It was on Adam Sandler’s last album, and it’s so dumb, but when Gay Robot would get an erection he would say “Taste it,” and ejaculate all over guys.

Paste: I should have known that because I love Gay Robot.

NS: I wrote that sketch and the character, and then this time around I just thought that was a funny name. It’s really fun also to explain that during interviews, because obviously that’s a question that comes up. [Laughs] So I get to explain, “It’s a metal robot that’s gay that gets an erection that cums all over you.” [Laughs]

Paste: That’s a perfect setup for fun interview answers.

NS: That’s something that I wouldn’t mind talking about when I’m 70 years old.

Paste: And finally I’ll touch on the part of the special that I loved the most. It was the diarrhea while figure skating, because that just made me think it should have been a scene in Blades of Glory.

NS: Oh my god, yes. That would have been perfect.

Paste: I was just thinking, I really hope that joke originated because they were all talking about that on set. Was it a deleted scene we didn’t know about?

NS: Man, that would have been amazing. It would have been great. Jon Heder would have done it for sure. He loves diarrhea like I do, so Jon would have been all about it.

Ross Bernhardt is a freelance pop culture writer in the New York City area and probably spends far too much time listening to podcasts. You can follow him on Twitter.

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