It’s easy for people to bash the South in general and North Carolina in particular, and us NC natives often do the best job of pointing out our own flaws.
With news about hateful bathroom laws, racist gerrymandering efforts and possibly purposeful water contamination continuing to pop up in our feeds, it’s easy to forget all the things we could and should be proud of in this state.
Getting an outsider’s perspective sometimes serves as a reminder of what makes the Old North State great, and during a Tuesday morning interview, Sean Patton was that outsider.
However, if Patton keeps coming back — and comedy fans certainly hope he does — we may bump him up to insider status, or at least get him a Bojangles gift card.
Patton, who has done shows all over NC for years, is a stand-up comedian who begins the North Carolina leg of his tour Wednesday night at Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh. On Thursday, he’ll be at The Idiot Box in Greensboro and then Patton heads to Wilmington for headline sets at Dead Crow Comedy Room on Friday and Saturday.
In the run-up to his show at Goodnights, Patton discussed his affection for NC cities, why he and Jay Larson stopped doing a TV show in which they got paid to visit great bars and drink, who his favorite female comedians are and more.
Enjoy the interview, follow Patton on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.
Tony Castleberry: You’re making three stops in North Carolina this week. Have your experiences in the state been mostly positive?
Sean Patton: I know Charlotte is the major city, right?
SP: But it’s not like overpoweringly big like New York City is to the rest of the state, and it’s not the only cool city like New Orleans in the state of Louisiana.
North Carolina, outside of Charlotte, there’s so many cool places. Raleigh, great city. Greensboro, fun, great city. Wilmington…I think in that order is where I’m going (this week), but I also love Asheville, Winston-Salem. There’s so many cool cities in North Carolina.
People who’ve never been to the South are just as ignorant as the Southerners who’ve never left it. It’s true. Everyone always gives the South a bad rap and I’m a Southern boy. I’m from Louisiana.
There’s tons of awesome, open-minded, friendly people. Not everyone is walking around with a gun and a Make America Great Again hat. People are different and there are more eclectic groups of people in the South than, I think, in most places in this country to be honest. I enjoy performing there and I’ve had awesome times and I plan to have awesome amounts more.
TC: I think we can all agree that there are cool people all over the country and there are also ignorant rednecks everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you go.
SP: I think that’s generally true. It transcends location. … I live in New York City, but I’ve met some real fucking idiots up here too, you know?
TC: I’m sure.
SP: And people have gotta remember, love him or hate him, Donald Trump is from New York. He’s not some Texan. People hating on Bush was easier because you had his accent to deal with. It was like, “This dumb Texan.” On paper, Donald Trump’s like, “Ah, that idiot from…Queens, New York.” [interviewer laughs] Oh, right. He’s born and raised here.
TC: I remember hearing you talk about leaving “Best Bars in America” on Bennington and I had two thoughts: First, good for Sean and Jay for staying true to who they are and secondly, that show could have continued being good without that nonsense you guys were asked to do. Do you ever wonder what could have been with that show or is it something you’ve filed away in the past?
SP: It’s certainly something I’ve filed away in the past.
Getting to work with Jay was worth it all. He is just a scholar and a gent and a true artist and a beautiful person to get to know and work with. He’s only maybe a couple of years older than me, maybe only one year older than me, but I still learn so much from him.
People always say, “Oh man, you quit? That was a dream job.” That’s what I got the most. I always say, “No, it’s not because we all enjoy drinking when it’s something we get to do when we’re not working.” Part of the reason that drinking’s awesome is because there’s no responsibility involved. … OK, there’s maybe two handfuls of responsibilities, but that was the problem with the show. Jay and I aren’t phonies. We aren’t going to fake drink. You just can’t and the producers never asked us to do that (but) even on days when we would lightly sip drinks, you’re still likely sipping five drinks maybe per bar. We’re drunk for 12 to 16 hours a day and you’re trying to maintain a level of professionalism because you are on fucking TV, you know what I mean?
TC: Yeah. Exactly.
SP: You’re trying to keep it together and you’re trying not to blow up when you’re trying to talk to this bartender about the bar being in his family for 200 years. … And some drunk asshole behind you keeps trying to chime in like, “He’s sitting where I always sit. That’s my regular spot.” You’re trying to be professional, but now you’re wasted and you just want to whirl around and yell, “You fucking drunk piece of shit! Maybe if you did something with your life, you’d have more than one barstool!” [interviewer laughs] You have to stop yourself from doing that, which is exceptionally hard when it’s like nine hours into the day and you’ve had sips of at least 17 drinks. Jay was always a gentleman when it came that shit. Not me. I’m bad at that.
If you listened to the Bennington show, you got more of a realistic version of what happened. The problem was Perez Hilton and all these magazine articles and all the blogs looked at it as an opportunity to jump on the “down with the patriarchy” train and that’s not what really happened. They asked us one time to flirt with a supermodel and we were both like, “No. That’s not who we are and that’s not what she wants so we’re not doing that” and they backed down immediately. But there were times where they asked, they seriously wanted us to say things like, “Bro, wouldn’t it be rad right now if we could…” and we were like, “No, we don’t talk like that.” I don’t think they were bad people. I just think they wanted us to do some dumb shit.
The only way for a show like that to be really perfect is to maybe do one, two hours a night and financially, that’s just impossible. …But then you’d have a longer shooting schedule and you could kind of get used to it. We’d shoot in Louisville, Ky., for five days and then get on an airplane to D.C. and have one day off, then the very next day start shooting. That’s five days of 16-hour shoots going from bar to bar.
That was another main reason for us both to walk away. Jay’s got a family and a lot of other things going on. I don’t have a family and I don’t have that much else going on, but I’m trying to get more going on and that’s hard to do (with that kind of schedule).
I’ll put it to you like this: When I meet you, look at my phone and you’ll notice it’s on military time. That’s because I woke up in Chicago, Illinois, in a hotel room and it was like 5:40 on the clock and I had a moment where I couldn’t remember if it was a.m. or p.m.
TC: Jesus, man. Wow.
SP: It freaked me out. It was that time of year when at 5:40 a.m. or p.m., it’s roughly the same light out.
Luckily I remembered it was 5:40 a.m., but when I finally got out of bed that day, I set my phone to military time because I should never have that happen again.
TC: That’s wild. What an eye opener, right?
SP: Yeah. To everyone who’s ever wondered why I quit the show, yeah, getting to drink and getting paid to do it was cool, but it was only about 10 percent as cool as you think. You don’t see all the other stuff like, “Oh, I vomited today for no reason. Probably because I’ve got too much booze in my system from the past eight weeks of drinking constantly on camera.” Waking up and not remembering where I was, not knowing if it was a.m. or p.m.
TC: You can’t live that way for an extended period of time. You’ll die. The last question I have for you is inspired by a comedian I love named Cameron Esposito who mentioned this on Twitter a while back and I’m trying to follow up on what I told her I was gonna do. She had a tweet asking interviewers to ask male comics who their favorite female comedians are so, Sean Patton, who is your favorite female comedian?
SP: Without hesitation, Maria Bamford, first and foremost.
Sarah Silverman. I was watching Sarah Silverman on “The Larry Sanders Show,” the late, great Garry Shandling, his show. But this was a rerun in like 2001. I was watching it and Sarah Silverman was in an episode where she played herself as a writer on the show, right? She gets a chance to do stand-up on the show and it’s a big deal for her so she’s playing a character, but it’s her and she goes on stage and does her actual stand-up. Her set inspired me to want to do stand-up.
TC: Those two are obviously killers. I’ve been lucky enough to see both of them and I made a rule, Sean. It’s the three-hour rule. If Doug Stanhope or Maria Bamford are performing within three hours of where I am, I go to the show. No questions asked.
SP: That’s a good rule. That tells you everything you need to know about how great they are.
I also love Jackie Kashian, Maria’s opener.
OK, younger comedians who maybe people don’t know. We’ve got Emma Willmann. She’s fantastic. Liza Treyger, who everyone kinda knows because she’s got a lot going on right now.
TC: She played Dead Crow recently and she was fantastic.
SP: Liza’s great. Aparna Nancherla, awesome. … Cameron does a good job by highlighting that. There’s a ton of awesome female comedians out there.
Being a straight white guy, that’s who I am. I can’t change that, but it’s awesome to hear so many female perspectives because it’s new. We all grew up not really hearing that many female voices in comedy. Now, there are a lot.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
I don't think Red Lobster meant for "Lobster and shrimp are teaming up" to sound threatening, but I'm afraid to be alone right now.
— Vanessa Ramos (@thatRamosgirl) June 28, 2017