There are two touchstones that Mike Bobbitt frequently revisits on his new stand-up album: crass humor and Star Wars references. And with a joke about having sex while wearing a Boba Fett helmet, it seems that Full Frontal Nerdity was an excellent choice for the album’s title. After eight years of doing stand-up, the pun-slinging 39-year-old from Troy has found himself in a fortunate position: He’s a nerd in a time when nerd comedians are having a shining moment. Before his CD release party at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase on Sept. 22, Bobbitt talked to The A.V. Club about the nerd comedy explosion, almost quitting stand-up, and his stunt double.
The A.V. Club: How did you get started doing stand-up?
Mike Bobbitt: I took classes at Joey’s Comedy Club [in Livonia], where I recorded the CD. My background was radio and television, and there wasn’t a lot of future in that. I always wanted to perform in some way or another, and I just sort of fell into comedy. I saw the Amazing Jonathan live at the Comedy Castle in Royal Oak and it blew me away. I kind of fell in love with it. And then through doing it, I became a huge comedy nerd and started discovering people that aren’t necessarily household names, like Marc Maron and Louis C.K. and Jimmy Pardo and Jackie Kashian.
AVC: When was your first stand-up gig?
MB: It was 8 and a half years ago in February. I guess that’s 2002. I did Club Bart in Ferndale, which just closed down. It was one of those things where I would go see those shows and I was taking classes, and the host one night just said, “You know what? You’re going up on stage.” And I felt like I wasn’t ready yet, but I did it, and it was just a blast. I ended up writing my material years before I even got on stage. I just had no idea, once you write jokes, how do you go about getting stage time to deliver those jokes? Everything was kicking around in my head for so long that I knew I was prepared—I just needed someone to throw me in the deep end.
AVC: What were you doing around that time for work?
MB: I was managing a video game store. That’s the fall of radio and television—you end up in retail! So my first CD is so heavy into video game stuff. It was just part of my life for so long. They’re always sort of on my mind, which is weird because I’m not really a huge gamer.
AVC: Are there any comedians who inspired you to get into stand-up?
MB: I was ready to quit. I did an audition to get into a booking agency, and [the booker] told me when I was done with the audition, “Stop talking about video games, stop talking about Star Wars, no one cares.” And I was like, “Well I care. Shouldn’t I write what I care about?” And she said, “If that’s what you care about, then no.” And I was ready to throw in the towel, and I went home, turned on Comedy Central, and Jackie Kashian’s special was on where she talks about Civil War reenactors, she talks about a Final Fantasy video game, and I was like, “Wait a minute, if she’s on television talking about the things I’m into, then obviously I can do this.” I went online, I sent Jackie a message, and told her how my night had gone. And she told me she was going to be in Ann Arbor and wanted to see if I could come out and emcee for her or do a guest set, and I went out and performed with her and got to meet her. I always credit Jackie with me staying in it. She’s a super nerd—she does the Dork Forest podcast—and she has a pretty good life out of talking about the things that are important to her.
AVC: It’s funny to hear that in retrospect now that there’s this nerd pride movement in comedy.
MB: Oh yeah. And this is definitely before the nerd comedy explosion, too, where I felt like I was pretty much an island of nerdiness in a sea of angst. But now it seems like nerd comedy, especially with people like Chris Hardwick, is the status quo now.
AVC: Do you feel like having Full Frontal Nerdity as your album’s title will give you some of that nerd comedy bump?
MB: I hope so. What’s in comes and goes, so I guess I’m lucky that right now I’m doing the thing that’s in. But I’m always going to do this. I can’t change my act to sort of follow what the trend is at the time. I’m a dorky guy with Star Wars tattoos. I’m always going to be talking about that.
AVC: There are several crass sex jokes on the album. Do you feel uncomfortable putting that stuff on the CD?
MB: It might be my crutch. I think right now, Michigan has such a strong comedy scene where there’s a lot of people in their 20s who grew up on really, really good comedy, whereas I grew up on Andrew Dice Clay and Dirty Nursery Rhymes and garbage like that. My crutch, because I don’t feel as clever, is “Well, what really incredibly embarrassing thing happened to me and how can I mine it for laughs?” The Boba Fett helmet story—a completely true story—but it’s a ridiculous thing.
AVC: You use a lot of puns in your CD, too.
MB: I think I’m just silly. I sort of like the idea of sharing an awkward personal story and then juxtaposing it with some ridiculous elementary school pun. This is probably going to sound strange: I think comedy is kind of like porn. If someone’s addicted to porn, it starts to become more and more extreme porn that has to get them off. I think that’s the case with comedy, where if you’re always around comedy, it starts to become really extreme comedy that makes you laugh, whether it be dark or absolutely silly and asinine.
AVC: Why did you want to have your CD release show at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase?
MB: Roger [Feeny], who runs Ann Arbor, was a very early supporter of mine and really gave me a push before a lot of other people were. It’s just a phenomenal club. Everyone who works there works there because they’re a huge fan of comedy. Ann Arbor shows just tend to be some of the best shows, at least for me, in Michigan. The audiences there are amazing. It’s a nice little room, too. It’s one of my top clubs in the entire country that I’ve ever been to. They do so much right, and it’s very nice.
AVC: And the album was recorded at Joey’s on your birthday?
MB: I recorded it on June 3 and June 4; my birthday was on June 4, so I started the second show on June 3 by telling the audience that I was going to stay on stage until after midnight just to make strangers sing “Happy Birthday” to me. So I stayed on stage for an extra 20 minutes, and the show just got weird. I was just sort of like, “Eh, it’s my birthday, I’m just going to fuck around. Who cares?” I just wanted to do weird things. There was another comedian who looks a lot like me. I got to a point in my act where I was just like, “Ahh, I kind of want to take a break, it’s my birthday, I might bring in my stunt double,” and I bought matching outfits for the two of us, so I had him come out on stage and do five minutes in the middle of my act, and I came back out and relieved him. It was a lot of fun.
For those interested in attending Bobbitt’s CD release party on Sept. 22, contact him at OffTheMike.com, where he has a limited number of passes to give away. Bobbitt also plays the Shel Dorf Awards in Detroit Sept. 24.