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Myq Kaplan, Jester of Academia, Comes to Cobb's

Myq Kaplan (pronounced “Mike”) gets laughs the way your quirky math teacher did, turning what some might consider boring laws of the natural world into innuendo and snarky word play. He’ll make jokes about rhombuses and the difference between sets and subsets while making a point about dating or sex or other racier subjects. All with the charm and delivery of a sinister school boy turned Meghan’s Law regular (Bay Area comedy fans might draw comparisons to fellow creep-comic Brent Weinbach). Trust that it works, and regularly kills.

Kaplan, whose star has risen meteorically since his run on Last Comic Standing, will be at Cobb’s this weekend with former Talk Soup host and veteran comedian Hal Sparks. Kaplan took a moment to answer our questions, at length, and with a wit all his own.

You're a vegan intellectual who plays the guitar, spells his name unconventionally and describes himself as an "open-minded atheist." Why don't you live in San Francisco?
Great question. Though perhaps a better question would be, why hasn't San Francisco gravitated to where I've been? (And the answer to that question would be something about how reality and cities work, or that my mass isn't great enough to attract a whole city to my being).

Sincerely, I love San Francisco, always enjoy visiting, and could be happy living here, because of everything you mentioned. However, I didn't always fit those criteria; e.g. as a baby, I didn't play the guitar yet (no manual dexterity), wasn't a vegan (drank the milk of a human animal), and didn't even know my name yet (babies are dumb). So, by the time I would have been a perfect SF citizen, I was already living somewhere else, all grown up in the wrong place.
Unless I'm not reading into your question correctly — are you offering me a free house in San Francisco? Because if so, I'll take it!

Of course, you're an East Coast native and have for some time resided in NYC, the mecca of stand-up comedy. Would you still call NYC home if you weren't in your business?

I do love NYC as well, though it's hard for me to imagine what my life would be like if I weren't doing comedy. Maybe I would have stayed in Boston where I went to school, because I like Boston a lot as well. Or maybe I'd be in the middle of nowhere, because right after school, I applied to Teach for America, and if that had worked out, maybe I'd have been doing that somewhere.
I'm pretty happy wherever I am, I think. (And my thinking it makes it so, I believe. And my believing it...)

Your brand of humor seems to have an academic bent, interweaving math and linguistic jokes into your routine, yet it still comes across as edgy. Would you conceive jokes while you were in classes in college?

Thanks for saying nice things about my comedy! Math is pretty edgy, especially geometry. I started really doing comedy when I was in grad school, ultimately spending most of my nights at clubs and days in class, so it's very likely that some of the ideas were coming to me during those classes, though not necessarily directly related to them. Of course there was an overlap between my school subject matter and comedy (both mine and in general), as I was studying words, language, meaning, thought, all of which play some role in doing stand-up, except for the work of thoughtless, empty mimes.

When you're touring, are there any places that have an especially hard time wrapping their heads around your jokes?

My aim is to get the jokes to do the wrapping themselves, so people don't have to worry about that, and they can just focus on UNwrapping them, like each joke is a present from me to them. Everyone loves the work of unwrapping presents, I'd say (except for maybe environmentalists, or maybe they enjoy it the most, because they get to take the most care so they can reuse that paper).
Sincerely, I've had great shows in places that you might expect the reverse, and horrible shows in locales that "should" have been perfect for me. What I've learned is to have no specific expectations, and coming up in the Boston scene was very helpful for that. In any given week, you could be performing for a blue-collar bunch in the suburbs one night, Harvard and MIT students the next, and tourists who might not have even known the language the next. So many diverse demographics were represented there, and the goal was always to have one's act be understood and appreciated by as many as possible.
That said, of course not every comedian is for every audience, and vice versa. But you never know which audience is going to be which.

What's the nerdiest thing you do on a regular basis?
GQ. (That stands for "great question," as well as being a geeky way of
spelling "geek"). It's very difficult for me to pick the nerdiest thing. It might be having too much fun with words like I just did. It might be reading comic books and graphic novels, which I do frequently (though that might be more dorky than nerdy). It might be arguing with myself over what constitutes nerdiness vs. dorkiness vs. geekiness. Can't it be everything?

You were on Last Comic Standing and have a batch of other TV performances. What's different about that process than playing a traditional comedy club?
GQ. (Sorry, was just looking at my Gentleman's Quarterly magazine).
There is nothing different. It is exactly the same! (What if that were my whole answer, and not a lie? My apologies).

I guess one main difference would be that when you're performing on your own at a club, you get to make all the decisions about how you present yourself. You can say whatever you want, you can wear whatever you want, etc., but when you're on TV, there will often be a person or team of people going through your set to make sure nothing you say conflicts with advertisers or Standards and Practices codes, and often another bunch of people will have things to say about what you can or should or shouldn't or can't wear.

Also, you usually have to wear makeup on TV. But at clubs, you GET to wear makeup. If you want.

You've been very honest in your stand-up about your divorce. Is it your hope to bring one of society's more taboo subjects out into the open, or is it more about venting or some other urge?

Horrible question. (Just kidding, good one. But only good, not great... okay, it's great, you got me.)

I honestly don't think divorce is really at all taboo in today's society, at least not in any place that I've lived, or really been to, I don't think. I'm pretty sure the majority of marriages today result in divorce (mostly the ones that start on the too-early side of things), so I don't think of divorce as the dirty little secret that it might have been fifty years ago, say.

I don't think it's about venting, either, so much as just talking about my life experience. It's something that happened to me, and I thought of some funny things to say about it, so I said them. If I didn't think of any jokes about my divorce, I don't think I would have any bottled-up frustration over it, like "I'VE GOT TO GET THIS DEMON MATERIAL OUT OF ME!" But who knows, I could be wrong.

Maybe I just wanted to let people know that I was single. And damaged, laaaadies!

P.S. Not damaged any more than normal, I think!

P.P.S. If I'm wrong and divorce IS still taboo, then yes, I am glad to be doing my part to help undo that ridiculous wrong.