Here I go, writing about my angel of a grandma again, and you know what? You’re gonna have to get used to that, or go read somebody’s else’s words.

Giving grandma as much praise as possible, even the kind that exists in a place (the internet) where she’ll likely never see it, is not only deserved, it’s also probably overdue. I say repeatedly, both verbally and in writing, that my grandma is the best, and in a Wednesday morning phone interview, Andrew Santino said the same about his and to each one of us, that is true.

So if reading, at least in part, about two grown men who love their grandmas isn’t your cup of tea, just skip the first two questions, but do so with the knowledge that you’re pissing me, the author, off while you’re doing it. Just wait until I tell grandma what you did.

Santino is headlining Goodnight’s Comedy Club in Raleigh this week and when we were done with grandma talk, we discussed his role in the Showtime series “I’m Dying Up Here,” his longtime connection to North Carolina, how your definition of home changes after you get married and more.

Enjoy the interview, follow Santino on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.

Tony Castleberry: As a guy who was raised by his grandparents and still talks to his grandma every day, I wanted to tell you I loved your grandmother introducing you on “Home Field Advantage.”1 Was she all for doing that or did it take some convincing?

Andrew Santino: Well, she’s kind of a ham so she was all about it. She definitely was into it. I guess we were a little nervous that she would get nervous up there in front of a theater of people and I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable so I said, “If you want to bail at any minute, feel free to do it.” She went through with it and then she got so confident after the first show that when we did the second show, she was like, “I should go out there again.” Then she started to get cocky. She wanted to take over the show, but it was great. I love her to death. She’s the best. She’s the only (grandparent) I’ve got left, you know what I mean?

TC: I know exactly what you mean. I visit my grandma often and I told her that we’re going to watch at least the beginning of your special because I want her to see what you did for your grandma. I’m gonna be like, “Grandma, one day, on some stage somewhere, I’m gonna have you introduce me just like that. Won’t that be fun?”2

AS: Great. I hope if I do another special I can have her do it again. I think it’s gonna be a staple for me if I can make it so.

TC: Perfect. Have you had any pinch yourself moments working on “I’m Dying Up Here,” like “Holy shit, I’m acting with Melissa Leo” or “Almost this entire episode is about my character” or anything like that?

AS: I think everything you said is true. I also believe that the biggest one for me was working with Jim Carrey, being able to meet Jim and talk with him and go to dinner with him and kind of get to know Jim as a person and as a colleague. Also as a co-worker or someone who treats you as an equal. That was a moment of humbling because it felt amazing to work with a childhood hero of mine. I mean, he was my comedic hero. I emulated everything he did when I was young. I loved everything about him. I was obsessed with everything Jim did.

Now, being able to work with him, it’s crazy. It almost feels like when you hear athletes talk about how they used to look up to other guys in the NBA, then they get to play with them one day. It has that same kind of feeling. You’re like, “I was in high school watching your stuff and now I get to be an adult playing along with you.” It’s an honor and a privilege for someone like me who has always loved and respected Jim.

TC: There were some pretty heavy father-son scenes with you and Glen Morshower. Do you find it difficult to go to those places when you’re acting or can you turn that on and off pretty easily?

AS: I have a great relationship with my family so I don’t have a lot of pent up hatred and anger towards my father, but you find that stuff in other things. You take experience from your life, people that have hurt you or let you down and you channel that a little bit. That’s kind of where that stems from. Anytime you’ve ever felt disrespected or pushed down by somebody and you can never get a come-up from them, I think that comes through (in scenes).

Glen is a great actor so it’s easy to act with someone who’s really good. Michael Jordan always said that he played better against better competition and I feel like you do much better in a scene when someone opposite of you is very talented. They make you work a little bit harder and better.

Working with Melissa was the same way. She’s one of the most talented actors I’ve ever worked with and she makes you elevate a little bit. She gives you great little notes and she’s very good at small work. Small scene work, she’s great at that.

None of it was, quote-unquote, hard to get to. I think the hardest stuff was the aftereffects. You have to take that home with you a little bit. You try to leave it on set, but when you’re working on an emotional scene for 12 hours a day, it tears at you a little bit. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to come home sometimes and let that go. You get a little bit beaten down, so to speak, and my character gets beaten down the whole season. There are big changes coming for everybody here the latter half of the season, which in my opinion, is by far the strongest part. The second half of the show gets unbelievably strong. There’s so much change in character arc that happens. People are really gonna love it.

But yeah, after I get beaten down a little bit, it’s hard to not take that, some of it, emotionally to heart. It’s not easy.

TC: Robert Kelly mentioned what you did about acting with somebody who’s great helping you be better too. Does something natural just happen when you’re in scenes like that, with people like Melissa or Glen or whoever it might be?

AS: There’s definitely a significant amount of work that goes into it. You really have to prepare for a scene. You really have to work hard to get to the place where you need to be, but if you’re prepared, I think it all falls into place. I’m assuming it looks easier than it is. Once you’re prepared, you kind of rely on your skills and if you’re not prepared, that also shows. People come onto set that aren’t prepared. It happens. They can tell and you can tell and it’s a difficult thing, but once you’re prepared and set up, I guess it looks easier than it is. It’s still a process. … You’re shooting these scenes for hours and hours so it’s a testament of longevity to get through something real emotional, to do it 30 times from four different angles.

TC: What’s your favorite thing about being married?

AS: That’s a good question. My favorite thing…I can tell you my least favorite thing. That would be traveling a lot. It’s hard to be away from home. I’m not a huge fan of being away from home. I love going on the road and entertaining people and bringing comedy to the world, but it’s difficult to be on the road when you’ve got something stable at the house.

When you’re single in comedy and you’re young, it’s candyland, you know?

TC: Yeah man.

AS: But when you’ve got someone you wanna see and wanna be with and you’ve got a home that you like being at, then it’s difficult. (Traveling is) probably the hardest part. It just takes a toll on you mentally and emotionally cause you’re just not in the comforts of your own home.

When I was single, it was a blast. You didn’t wanna go home because home was boring. Home was just where all your stuff was. That’s probably the worst part about being married as a comedian is that you’re not home as much as you’d like to be.

TC: You mentioned MJ a minute ago. You’re gonna be in Jordan’s home state this week, just a few miles from where he played college ball. Do you have plans to visit Chapel Hill at all?

AS: I’ve been there before and I grew up in Chicago so I don’t think anybody loves Michael like we do.

I’m very familiar with North Carolina because my stepdad is born and raised in a little, tiny fleck of a town called Valdese.

TC: I know Valdese.

AS: OK, well, you’re one of five people. [interviewer laughs] He is one of the few Valdesians or whatever they call them.

I spent a lot of my childhood visiting my grandparents in Valdese and we have a lot of family and friends out there so I’ll be happy to see some people who can make it out to Raleigh. North Carolina has a place in my heart.

Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:

 

  1. Santino’s hour special, which was released in June.
  2. To be clear, the author has no desire to be a stand-up comedian and doesn’t really want to be on stage. It just seemed like a fun thing to say.
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