Paul Salamone is a bit of a legend in the Berlin standup comedy scene—he won’t sit down.
Standing in black geek glasses, a beard and often, a plaid shirt, one could say he just stepped off the L Train from Brooklyn. That’s half true. His humble beginnings trace back to dabbling with standup in Denver before before moving to Berlin and getting his start in 2008. He has since become the host of We Are Not Gemüsed, the longest-running English comedy night. More recently, this American comedian is also the weekly warmup act for German comedian Jan Böhmermann’s late night show, Neo Magazin Royale. Next up?
On May 6, Salamone is hosting his own solo show, Paul Salamone Works the Crowd at Comedy Café Berlin. He took some time to tell us about dating Russians, growing up Catholic and how his cheap Samsung cell phone saves his ass every damn night.
Local Suicide: How did you first get into standup?
Paul Salamone: Since high school, I knew I wanted to do some sort of performance art. I had a rap group in high school for which I wrote a lot of lyrics but had no flow (I was the DJ). After college I got into doing weird poetry readings, but the only positive response I got were to the funny bits, what I called “mini-poems” but were actually just one-liners. In parallel, I was going to karaoke night 2-3 times a week with my brother and becoming addicted to being onstage. Then one summer I got dumped by a woman I was supposed to move to Texas with, so in my quest to rebuild my self-esteem I stumbled into the Red Fish Brewhouse in Boulder, Colorado and saw an open mic. “I can do THAT,” I said to myself, and the rest is has been a blur of free drinks and writing notes on my hand.
LSD: Which comedians have been the most influential to you and why?
PS: Definitely Patton Oswalt, I played his first albums on repeat while working at my old office jobs. He studied creative writing and it shows in his jokes: specific, colorful, unique perspective. Through him, I learned the importance of getting onstage as much as possible, writing about my passions and being patient.
LSD: Who else has inspired you?
PS: Dave Attell, the star of TV’s “Insomniac,” along with “Comedy Underground.” He is the Miles Davis of the Comedy Cellar scene in NY: the only comedian all the other comedians will come downstairs to watch. Rapid-fire, dirty, works the entire room. His style evolved to break through the chaos of drunk midnight audiences, and it shows. If Patton’s like a weird jungle sniper picking off economic assets in a stealth campaign, Attell’s in the middle of a melee with a jug of whiskey and a battle axe.
LSD: Any non-comic influences on your comedy?
PS: FC Barcelona 2008-2012: the way Pep Guadrdiola’s boys used the “tiki-taka” playing style to annoy the hell out of their opponents was always high comedy to me. The idea of keeping possession of the ball at all costs through constant passing has an impact on how I attempt to perform: changing directions, responding to what’s happening in the room, never losing control, using the whole space. And don’t get me started on the West Coast Offense.
LSD: What moment or series of events do you owe your career to, in terms of material?
PS: Moving to a new country and trying to rebuild my life from scratch here. All sorts of issues of identity, insider or outsiderness, human fallibility, peoples’ expectations, even my capacity for memory, all come into play. That and growing up Catholic.
LSD: How do you know you’ve got a good joke?
PS: I write most of my jokes while walking around and talking to myself. If I unintentionally make myself burst out laughing, and then instantly question whether or not I can say that awful or ridiculous thing onstage, that’s usually a good sign.
LSD: You’ve got a solo show upcoming May 6, what is your most recent material informed by?
PS: Going through a breakup, moving, dating Russians, bouldering, working in Köln every week, getting deeper into weird German pop culture like “Die Drei ???” as well as asparagus-eating and coat of arms design.
LSD: What’s the biggest challenge in opening for Neo Magazine Royale every week?
PS: Explaining to the audience why Jan Böhmermann isn’t onstage yet.
LSD: What’s the secret of your success?
PS: One word: EasyJet. Without cheap flights to Berlin, there’s no audience for English comedy here. Thanks commercial airline industry! Also, my 10€ Samsung cell phone with countdown timer function and vibrating alarm. Promoters loathe to re-book comedians who go over time, and I set this little baby to off in my pocket to let me know I should stop talking soon. Oh, and hard work, networking, luck, a supportive family back home, and the great community of friends, fans, and comedians we have in the scene here. Thanks everyone!
Top photo: Portrait photo of Paul Salamone by Gene Glover