On Comedy Central’s “This Is Not Happening” series, Tom Segura tells a funny story about meeting fellow stand-up comedian Bruce Bruce.
All 6 minutes and 55 seconds of the clip are worth watching but the real hilarity ensues when Segura recalls Bruce discussing his love of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
A lot of Southerners grew up watching “The Andy Griffith Show” and many North Carolinians feel a distinct connection to the long-running television program not only because it is set in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., but also because Griffith was an Old North State native born in Mount Airy, the town Mayberry was based on.
The series ran from 1960-68 but it lived on in syndication for decades. I haven’t had a cable subscription for years but I’m guessing reruns of Andy still air. They should probably run in perpetuity.
After watching the “This Is Not Happening” video, I knew I wanted to ask Bruce, who is headlining Raleigh’s Goodnights Comedy Club this week, about Andy Griffith and man, he did not disappoint. Bruce’s love of Andy is real and it extends beyond his TV work, which was extensive.
It was fun and fascinating to hear Bruce wax philosophical about Andy Griffith, and we also discussed his stellar work on “Maron,” why a little bit of stage fright is good, “Comic View” crowd work and more.
Tony Castleberry: Are you excited about returning to the land of Andy Griffith?
Bruce Bruce: I’m probably the only black guy in the world who’s a true Andy Griffith fan and I have to correct people about Andy Griffith because they always say there were never any black people on that show. There actually was, several times. Only one guy had a speaking role.
I was just looking at Andy Griffith last night and do you remember the episode where they had an armored truck bringing gold?
BB: It was like four black people in the background, looking. And for speaking roles, a guy who played professional football, I think he played for the New York Jets. (In the episode), Opie was a quarterback and this guy was a quarterback. Opie took piano lessons and Andy told him it was impossible for him to play quarterback and play piano because both practices were at the same time. They had a new coach come to school and the coach was a black quarterback and he played piano as well. I think his name was Flip Conroy. So I let people know that, on Andy Griffith, there was black people. I met Andy Griffith about 15 years ago and I said something to him about that. He said, “Oh my God, I’m so glad you saw that.”
TC: Growing up in North Carolina, one of the first comedy records I ever heard was one that Andy Griffith put out, I think, in the 50s called “Just for Laughs.” There’s a bit on there called “What It Was, Was Football” that to this day is…
BB: I’ve got that CD.
TC: It’s still one of the funniest things.
BB: Absolutely. I think Andy Griffith is pretty close to a genius and I like the way he made Don Knotts, because I’m a Don Knotts fan as well, look so good, but Ernest T. Bass. Do you remember Ernest T. Bass?
TC: Yeah. Definitely.
BB: He was the director of the show. People don’t realize that Ernest T. Bass was the director of “The Andy Griffith Show” and he only appeared on the show six times. People think he was on it all the time but he only appeared six times and all that directing and good humor came from him, Ernest T. Bass.
BB: You were on one my of favorite episodes of “Maron.” Was that a fun experience? The episode tackled some race issues and Marc is known for being, shall we say, temperamental.
BB: Very fun and let me clear something with you: Marc Maron is probably the best person I’ve worked with in my entire life as far as TV is concerned. He is not a racist but he can play the role so well that you would think he is. [interviewer laughs] After we’d shoot a scene, he was so racist that, I have to give him credit, we would start laughing. He was so fun to work with and the episode went so well that I think we’re going to do a few more.
TC: Excellent. You have a commanding stage presence. You seem totally in control up there. Have you ever, or do you now ever struggle with confidence on stage?
BB: Everybody does. I don’t have any confidence issues but I still have that fear issue and fear is good. It’s a good fear. I think if you ever lose that good fear, you’ve lost it. You know what I mean? I think comedians can get too confident or cocky or a little too arrogant or a little too conceited, but I still have that fear. Once I get up there and the people receive me, it seems like it kind of just goes away, but it comes back.
TC: I’ve talked with a bunch of veteran comics like you who have been doing it forever and they say that the butterflies never truly, completely go away.
BB: Oh no. Not at all, man. The biggest thing about any entertainer, especially comedians, we just want to do good. You know what I’m saying? We don’t want to let the people down.
TC: When you hosted “Comic View,” all of those shows, at least the ones I saw and I saw a bunch of them, you did crowd work right away. Was that your plan or did they tell you that you needed to get the crowd involved?
BB: It was something that they told me because some of the comedians didn’t do as well. I’m very good at bringing the crowd back up. Some of the comedians would be like, “Bruce, bring the crowd back for us” and I’d say, “No problem.” Sometimes off the air I’d pick on the comedians a little bit. They didn’t show it all on TV but I’d be like, “Oh my God, did you do comedy at the KMart picture booth?” [interviewer laughs] You know, just to make people laugh. That’s one of my specialties, working with the crowd.
TC: Do you seek TV and movie roles or have they mostly come to you?
BB: I do audition. A lot of (casting directors) tell me how great I was and then they never pick me. That’s just a part of the business so what I’m doing now, I’m going to kind of make my own, so to speak. I’m kind of putting my own thing together and then I’ll present it to them and then they’ll be like, “Oh great! Let’s use it.”
Honestly, there’s a lot of great comedians and actors out there. You follow what I’m saying? They’re really good. Sometimes the parts I audition for, I’m like, “I’ll be good for that.” Then I see the actor do it and I’m like, “Oh, that’s really good. I think they gave it to the right person.” But my time is coming.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
I'm listening to the Lumineers new album. No big deal, right?
BUT HERE'S THE TWIST: I'm not wearing skinny jeans!
— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) April 13, 2016