Chicago stand-up Michael Palascak seems like, for lack of a better term, a stand-up guy. He’s nice, charming, and—by virtue of still living with them—is close with his parents. He’s been working the local scene for a bit now, but has been garnering national recognition as of late, including spots on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Night With David Letterman. Now, Palascak is one of four finalists in CMT’s Next Big Comic contest, which ends March 14 and whose winner is determined entirely by fan voting. The A.V. Club talked to Palascak about why he needs everyone’s votes, and what he’s currently doing in L.A.
The A.V. Club: How did you end up as a finalist in CMT’s Next Big Comic?
Michael Palascak: There’s this website, Rooftop Comedy, and they have a bunch of different cameras in comedy clubs around the country, and then they put that content on their website. They’re doing this project with CMT and picked 12 of their favorite comedians as finalists. They e-mailed me in February and said, “We really like you and think you’re one of the best, if not the best”—well maybe not that part—and that they wanted me to be a part of the contest.
AVC: And now it’s you and three other guys, and people need to vote for you.
MP: Yes! Now it’s me and three other guys. That’s the main way—well the only way—for me to win, is if people vote for me. I’m lobbying for votes constantly. Like, I’m in a restaurant and I meet someone new, and we start talking, and sometimes it just happens to slip into the conversation, like, “You know you can go online and vote, or text to vote.”
Plus, I can vote for myself, so I never feel like I’m wasting time anymore if I don’t have anything to do. That’s really American, actually, that there’s unlimited voting in this contest.
AVC: Do you have any idea how you’re doing?
MP: I feel like I’m winning, but I need a lot of people to vote a lot. That’s the only way to know for sure.
AVC: And what do you get if you win?
MP: You get to know that you’re the next biggest comic. Like, what happens when the current big comic decides not to show up for work? It’s a big deal. This year, I’m in a comedy contest on a country TV channel, and next year I’ll be on QVC.
AVC: Do you think your comedy is especially “country”?
MP: It’s not the Next Larry The Cable Guy contest, if that’s what you mean. I don’t know. I don’t think if I win this, it’ll change me into a country music person, but if it makes a bunch of people buy tickets to my shows, that’ll be fantastic.
Actually, there are really prizes for the contest. They work on a comedy special for you, and developing your comedy. You get a guest star spot in this show CMT has, Working Class, if that gets picked up for another season. There are other prizes too.
AVC: One of the jokes on the CMT website is about you driving your dad’s old car. Now that you’re semi-successful, are you actually still driving your dad’s old car?
MP: I had to buy a new car. My dad actually made me. He was okay with me living at home, but when it came to driving his beat-up, old car, he said it had gone too far. Plus, he does my taxes, so he can literally see that I could afford a new car. Like, if I’d try to argue with him, he’d just be able to say, “Well, maybe you can’t afford your iTunes addiction instead.”
AVC: Do you still live at home, though?
MP: I do still live at home. I’m in L.A. for a month right now, though, auditioning for TV shows.
AVC: What happens if you get one? Is that going to tank a lot of your current jokes about not being successful and living with your parents?
MP: I’d have to at least come home in the summer to maintain comedic residency. As long as I go home for the summers, I figure, I can still talk about it. It’s like Harry Potter.
AVC: How is it like Harry Potter?
MP: He had to go home to his family for the summer so the death eaters wouldn’t kill him. He would stay protected.
In all seriousness, though, I have a lot of material. I could write new stuff in L.A. Like, all the stuff I talk about when I talk about living at home, that’s all on TV already, and I’ve done it at a bunch of shows, but people still want to see it.
I’ve been doing comedy for a while now, so I have a full stage persona now. I think people like me because I’m a real person.
I could be the next biggest comic. You don’t know.
AVC: Are you in L.A. for pilot season?
MP: Yeah, I’m auditioning. I’ve had some good callbacks. It’s pretty cool to be in the room with some people I’ve seen on TV and stuff.
AVC: Like who?
MP: I don’t know if I should say. Oh, whatever.
I auditioned for a pilot with one of the networks, and the first round, I read with the casting director. Then they called me back for a reading with the executive producer, and some other people. That producer was Christopher Moynihan. Oh, and you know that show Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place?
AVC: Kind of.
MP: The other guy up for the role was the guy who played Berg on that show, not the famous movie star guy [Ryan Reynolds]. The other guy.
I was also up for something against this guy from The State. He was in Superbad, too. Like, he drove them to the party.
AVC: Joe Lo Truglio?
MP: I don’t know his name. Maybe?
AVC: So what’s the next step for you?
MP: It’s been really fun to audition, but I think I’d maybe like to work on developing my own show, or just move forward in acting. I’d like to draw more people to my shows when I come to their town. And maybe being really, really, really funny instead of just really, really funny.
AVC: Any parting pleas for CMT votes?
MP: During the first two rounds, I got Facebook messages from people who said they voted once but they didn’t want to seem like a stalker, so they didn’t vote a lot. Please, vote a lot. If you are a stalker, this online comedy contest is ideal, because you can vote as much as you want. It’s your time to shine.