Stargazer on Stage w/ Chuck Nice
Chuck is a veteran of stand-up. He's recently appeared in “The Week of” with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, and he’s also the co-host of StarTalk on Nat Geo with Neil deGrasse Tyson. You can see him headline SoulJoel's this Saturday 2/27 at 7 pm!
Get your tickets here: http://bit.ly/3jZ0vZO
Connect with Chuck: https://www.instagram.com/chucknicecomic/
SoulJoel's Comedy Club and Lounge
155 Railroad Plaza,
Royersford, PA 19468
Chuck Gluck them to the show.
It's good to be here. Actually. I'm lying. I don't want to be here.
Well, I'm glad you made the time, man. You are a Philly comedian. You came up in Philadelphia and I would love to hear a little about young Chuck and, and what it was like coming up for you because this weekend you're, you're headlining soldier, hulls and roars for Saturday, February 27th. So to take us back a little bit what was it like coming up and, and now, you know, you, you're getting to do all sorts of cool things. You're, you're on a podcast co-hosting with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse, Tyson. I got sucked into a rabbit hole of you guys talking about why rocks float this morning. So you guys are really doing something and making it interesting. And I'm really curious to hear what that bridge was like for you.
Well, the science bridge is something that's always secretly be been in me. And again, now I just sound like I should be at an emergency room, just like, Oh my God, he's got a bridge in him. Part of that happened. That was one part. It was some hell of a party. Wasn't it, buddy. Don't worry, buddy. We're going to get it out of you. It's like it was x-rays where you see like a whole coffee table inside of a guy's.
$400 for it. Yeah.
But anyway coming up in Philly at the time that I did doing comedy back in the nineties, wasn't that long ago. Yup. Yup. Yeah, man. It's different. Oh my God. So anyway, first of all, there was no such thing as a comedy course or a class, you couldn't take it. You had to go on stage and fail. And that was how you learned to do comedy. A lot of guys looked at other comedians and then just kind of mimic their persona in some small way. I didn't have that, that problem. I was really arrogant. The very first time I went on stage, I killed, killed. I mean, so I was the national sales manager for a toy manufacturer. At the time I was used to giving presentations and I was just like, this is just like giving a presentation except it's all jokes. I never have to do the series part.
I just do the joke part. This is great. So I went up and I had such a great show and this guy named Lee Morgan, who ended up being my best friend, came over to me. He was like, Hey man, where are you working out? And I said at the sporting club, and he was like, very funny, where do you, what do you work out? And I was like, all right, I don't know what to talk about now. And he was like, where do you do comedy? I was like, Oh, that was my first time. He's like, come on man. And I was like, yeah, he was like, dude, I'm going to help you. Cause if that was your first time, you are really good. And he did. And basically, he just started getting me gigs. I mean, I'm so blessed that my very first time doing comedy, I meet a guy who has been doing comedy for about four years or five years.
And then he basically gives me his five years of context. Now the great thing that made it work as it was symbiotic. I had a car. He did not, when he needed to get to a gig, he would just tell them and you should hire this guy, Chuck. Nice. He can be the opener. He's really funny. And so I would open the show. I would drive, he'd get a free ride to the gig. And that's what we did. And we did that for about a year and six months in, I got Showtime at the Apollo, like as a paid good that he got me the audition. It was his audition. And he asked them, could I audition?
Well, do you remember what you were doing? Like what set, where are you doing back then? Oh, man.
At the time I was celibate. So I was doing jokes about celibacy. I was doing jokes about, of course, my mom, you know, my alcoholic grandfather, but I never said he was alcoholic. Like I talk about him now. And if I talk about them now in my act, I talk about the fact that he was an alcoholic. I talk about him back then. I was embarrassed by the fact that he was an alcoholic. So I just talked about how crazy my grandfather was, you know? And I talked about my childhood, you know, I did a lot of jokes about, about my childhood and none of it was good. It was all awful. And quite frankly, I think all I did last year was awful. And the stuff that I'm doing now, I'm going to look back on that and think that it was awful. That's just, that's just how I that's. First of all, maybe I'm just a bad comedian. Maybe that's it. Hey, way to promote your show, Chuck, by the way, come out to Saul Joe's comedy club and lounge and Royce for a PA and check me out this Saturday, February 27th, watch me be a terrible comedian.
And you can pay money to see that.
Right. Anyway, because normally you do it too well, by the way. Yeah, it's in February. And so I'm going to tell you the truth about that in a minute. But anyway, I just feel like comedy is always growing. There's no such thing as comedy, without growth. And most of your common comedy material comes from a growth period of your life, which means that there was something dark that happened. And then you probably found some kind of silver lining to it. A lot of comedians, you will, they're basically complaining about something. If you look at all comedians, basically complaining about something, you know, what's the deal with SOPs, right? Set the up. How about that? That's the deal with socks. I don't want to hear about some sock and the fact that every time you do laundry and you lose a sock, why don't you clip them together? You stupid dumb.
You mentioned like that you, when you started out, you had a little bit of that arrogance, right? That like got you. Or not areas, maybe it's confidence, right? That really, that was arrogance. Okay. So you, you then it, you, you do really well, things are, sounds like right away, click and for you, are you, are you crushing? Right after that first one, like you're on a good roll.
So here's the deal. I go on a roll, but then you realize you have to write new material, you have to write new material and you've got to like progress. And then it just became this fear of when am I going to fail at this? When is this not going to work? When is this all going to go to crap? And I became obsessed with the fact that at some point this was going to fail terribly for me, which made me work very hard, but which also gave me a lot of anxiety. And at the time I didn't realize that you know, I had some mental health issues that were at play too. And the anxiety exacerbated that. So, you know, things got weird and crazy for me for a while. And it's so funny that you asked this question because this morning I was telling my wife about, I did a show in Princeton, New Jersey at the Princeton Hyatt, which is where catch a rising star is, but it was during the day. So I'm at where the cat is, but I'm not playing cat. I'm playing at a private party. And it was so bad that I said to the people, I hope you, people are happy. Look at what you've done. You've crushed the dreams of a young man. Because after today I am never doing comedy again. And they all went, they all started clapping did. And that’s when I knew, I was just like, you know what? F these people, I'm going to make it in this business. You all off.
Got you a little bit. Like it hurt you enough where it fueled.
No. Let me tell you something. Anytime I don't do what I think I should do on stage. I'm devastated now. I'm not like most comedians, most comedians will tell you they don't care. Most comedians will tell you they don't give you know, you did, you did your thing. He did a job. It's not even if I do poorly. If I don't do what I think it should be, then I am. I'm no good until my next show. The worst thing that could happen to me is I do a Saturday night where I have five or six shows on a Saturday night, five spots. And I go from club to club and I'm doing all the spots and the last spot of the doesn't go the way I think it should, or it's not as good as maybe the first is the second. And I'm just, I'm screwed until I got to go on stage on Sunday. I will have to go somewhere and get on stage on Sunday. So I can wash that filth from Saturday night off of my soul, because I just, I hate it. I, you know, so yeah, I mean, I may have a different relationship with this. A lot of comedians, one that is unhealthy and deleterious, but it's a relationship, nonetheless.
Yeah. And you, you, you know, you were talking about how your, your grandfather, you were, you were talking about him early on and now you're able to talk in a, maybe a more honest way or, you know, just more perspective. Do you remember, like, were you always very honest in your writing?
No, I tried to write jokes. I was all about it, I got to write a really good joke because, you know, that's what this is about. And then I just started talking about my life and then the jokes became something that I grafted into the narrative of my life. And so now that's what I talk about, you know, it's so funny. Wait a minute yesterday, I was going through some old stuff and I found jokes that I wrote for 18 years.
Ago. Oh my gosh. And
I was going to actually pull these out and just read them on stage this weekend. Cause I haven't been on stage in so long, but check this out, bro.
Do you have, how do you know, are they dated? Do you date your notes?
Well, I just know from my from the jokes, like I remember every joke that I write down. Like I totally like it's there forever in my head. Do you know what I mean? I also know that at the time I was working for clear channel radio and this is all written on clear channel.
Ah, okay, there you go. So it's very easy to say landmark.
18 years ago, man. So, and I think I might just read some of these on stage because I'd love to hear them. They're just so, so I don't know. So this 18 years ago, now, mind you I've been married for 20 something years, so I'm kind of still young and married. And this is what I wrote. You know, how to tell if a man is or ever has been married, asking them, how do you make a woman happy? If he tries to give you a legitimate answer, he has never been married. If he looks at you and says, what is wrong with you? Are you out of your mind? That's true.
This is, so this is germane at the T years ago. Wow.
While I was pondering the fact that I will never make my wife happy. Yeah.
Do you go back to older stuff and do you revamp it? Do you bring it into your act? Do you update it?
Sometimes it happens on stage where something happens and an old joke just makes sense to drop in right there, out to that. But rarely do I go back and you know, rework jokes. I don't do that very often because they're not as fun. The most fun thing about comedy is not knowing whether the joke will work. Right. That's the fun part.
And that's surprising in and of itself. Right? Like the core emotion that a joke elicits. We're also getting to feel that when you're like, is this going to work? Is it not okay?
Right. And so, you know, the idea is to write something and then go on stage and do it and to see if it works. And then if it doesn't work, how do I make it work? And then you go back and you do it again. Or you change this and you tweak that. And then all of a sudden you see again, more of a response and you're like, wait a minute. I knew there was something here. And then maybe another comedian be like, dude, that joke is really funny. You should say this. And you're like, Hmm. Okay. And you'll change what they said a little bit. And then you'll go back and you'll do it again. And then it won't work and you'll be like, what the hell? And then you'll go back and do it again. Oh my God. I recorded that. I said it this way, but last time I said it that way, and then you do it again and it kills and then you do it again and it kills and then you do it. And then all of a sudden you're like, Oh, I got this killer bit. And that's how a joke becomes a killer bit. And then the killer bit you get bored with because it always kills. And now you don't want to do it anymore. And that is the psychosis of doing comedy. Yeah. I just summed it up for you people in a nutshell, we're all a bunch of drug addicts chasing a dragon. That's all we're doing. We're just chasing the dragon.
We're just being pulled, pulled up on stage. You know, I find it very fascinating to watch comedians. And what else they're interested in, what else they creatively involved themselves in and even not creatively. Right. I feel like we're multifaceted people and for you, you've been involved in so many different things outside of just stand-up comedy. When did that happen? Like what did you, what, what pulled you towards, you know, science and these other areas, I guess of yourself that maybe you wanted to creatively explore?
Well, so the science thing is something that's always been there. I've just been you know, I just didn't put it out there because I felt as though nobody wants to hear about the cosmos from a black comedian. Yeah. Like nobody's interested. And for years I walked around, you know, always loving the cosmos primarily because of star Trek, you know, and the fact that there was this multi-racial, multi-species concept where the universe is this place that just in our galaxy is so small, right? The idea that our galaxy is so small fascinated me and that faster than light travel might be able to catch you to places that the building blocks of life are completely different and therefore, or actually the way the building blocks of life are assembled are completely different than our own. And therefore you come up with all these different, crazy-looking like species, but you know, there's this one group and they're like, Hey everybody, let's all get together.
Let's Hey, you lobster guy, come on over here. You're welcome. Hey, you do with the antennas that move around blue, crazy-looking mother, get over here. You're part of us too. And Hey, green lady, I'm going to have sex with you. Right. Like to me, that was so cool. Because then the opposite of that was the detractors. You know, they were always the evil guys. Like the Federation was always good because they were about inclusivity and the, everybody else was like, they were just. And the reason why they were, why? Because they wanted their own thing their own way. And that was it. They were rigid thinkers who didn't want to have anyone else's influence. And that's basically how the whole show broke down. And I don't know, man, as a young, young person, six years old looking at this, you know, TV show, I was like, you know what? This is life. And I loved it. And so, but that sparked a love of science for me. And so I just kept it hidden. And then I got a call from Dr. Tyson's office one day saying, Hey man, you mind coming in and talking to him because somebody here thinks you're really funny and you might be a good fit to work with him. And I was like, he right, Carlos, you're really funny.
And they were like, excuse me. And I was like, excuse me. And they were like, is this Chuck nice? And I was like, yes, it is. And then I went in, I met with them in tears. That was like 11 years ago. So. Wow.
Yeah. Do you format-wise? Right? Cause like standup is live in front of an audience. You're on stage you know, acting you're in front of the cameras. Other people, you know, talk shows different than maybe like a podcast, but how do you like these different formats, especially between like, when you think of stargazing, like doing it on like a highly produced type of show versus like, let's say getting to do it in a conversational podcast form.
It's all the same to me, to be honest, it's just, you know, the execution is going to be different, but it's, I kind of look at everything and maybe this I be more successful if I didn't look at everything like there, I'm just being, I'm just going to be me because that's the easiest thing to do. And it's also the best feeling in the world when you show up and you're just like, hi, I'm Chuck. Nice. And then they go, okay, Chuck, thanks for being here. And now here's some money. I'm like, yes. How great was that? I just showed up as myself. I just showed up like me and people give me money to be me. That is us was better than masturbation. My friend. I'm telling you right now, it's almost as good as sex, but not so much. That's why I use masturbation because mess patient is good too.
Yeah. Depending on how well you get into your own head, but yeah. So I just pretty much treated all these things. Like I'm going to show up and I'm just going to be the part of me that needs to be there. Yeah. I'm going to be the part of me that needs to be there at that time. Is that something you learned over the years or is that something that you kind of had from it's a combination? I mean, you have it, but then you learn it because you're constantly trying to not be you. Like I say, all the time, people, people keep saying, just be yourself. And I'm like, yeah, well that's the thing that keeps getting me in trouble. Like to hell what's that even mean? Just being yourself. That's a saying, and people should stop saying it. Okay. Find out who you are and then be comfortable with that.
That's what they mean when they say, just be yourself, but just be yourself. Doesn't help anybody. You're not sowing anybody, anything. And it took me a long time to turned out what just be yourself means, which is why it gives me great consternation to just give it away for free. Why am I helping you? But the fact is it's such a nuanced thing and it's so difficult that you could tell people exactly how to do it. And they still won't do it. But the key is this. Find out who you are and then be comfortable with that. That’s just being yourself and you will be surprised how many doors open up for you? Hey, man is playing people to hate me. You know, I shoot Emma. Do you know what I say? Good for you, man. You got the right to hate me.
What am I doing? Why am I, why am I upset? What'd you say? Why I'm upset with the fact that you don't like me. There is no law that says you have to light Chuck. Nice. So you think I suck good for you? Okay. I don't. Now there was a time where I did think I sucked no matter how good I was in it, that that kept trying to force me to go higher and higher, to get more and more, to do more and more. And then every time I would accomplish anything, instead of being happy, just the opposite happened to me. I had this feeling of the kind of knowing emptiness inside of me. And I was like, something is very wrong. Why am I depressed? Every time I go after something and achieve it, you would think that I would celebrate. But instead of celebrating, I get very sad inside and I really just want to do drugs and crawl up inside of myself.
What is up with that? Well, the truth is that I didn't know who I was or I knew who I was, but I wasn't comfortable with it. That's it. And now I am very comfortable with who I am. Like people look at me all the time and think that they like this guy walks around with this eating grin on his face. A lot of time. What's up with tech nights. Every time you see him, you know that can't be that smile. Yeah. You can't be real. That can't be real. This guy walking around all the time, you know? And then they find out like, you know, wow, this guy is totally in the science. Like he's actually sitting down with the head of NASA, the chief scientist of NASA. He's sitting down with the world's foremost climate scientists. He's sitting down with the world's foremost science educator.
And like, he's talking to these people in, they're treating him seriously. Like what is up with that? You know, because I'm, I'm comfortable with who I am. That's all I was just cool with. I'm cool with who I am. And I, and that means that sometimes, you know, you're going to recognize your shortcomings, and what you want to do then is work on that. You know you don't like something about yourself, guess what you can do. You can change it. And that CA and that's, I found that out too. You don't like something about yourself. Guess what you can do. You can change it. You don't have to wake up every morning and go, I don't like this about, guess what? Start somewhere, pick a goal, break it down, make it manageable, work towards it. And guess what? And then, you know what? You, one day you wake up and you're like, I used to not like this about me. And I actually, I'm actually cool with myself about this now. And let me tell you some that's, that's where true growth comes from. That's where that's satisfaction and contentment.
I assume this affected how you felt on stage too because you were probably being more, more you.
No, because what I was trying to do in life was find how could I be myself in life? The way I was myself on stage? Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause that was the only place where I was totally cool. Like everything else was. And then I'd walk on stage and for half an hour or 45 minutes, everything was perfect. It all worked, whether it was working or not, whether they were laughing out loud and uproariously, or just giggling or whether I was getting the response that I wanted or I didn't, it worked. And I'm like, okay, there's something, there's something here that I'm okay. I'm just okay. On stage every place else I'm full of anxiety. I'm always worried about what other people might be doing, saying, or thinking and chasing all these different, like smoke dragons and like what is going on with me personally, that I can't be okay unless I'm in a room with a hundred people looking at me and me trying to make them laugh.
Like, first of all, that's a dumb job, to begin with. Like seriously, that's my job. That's a dumb job. What's your job. Well, I stand up in front of audiences of people of varying sizes and I try to elicit laughter how desperate for attention are you, bro? Really? That's what you do for a living. You're nothing but you're basically a that has sex through laughter instead of intercourse. That's what you are. So, you know I I've, I figured all right, something's really wrong if this is the only time I'm okay. Yeah.
Earlier when we started the conversation, you mentioned like you have these expectations for yourself if you did well on stage, right weather. And the expectation of course the external is like, did they laugh? Did they have a good time? And those things, but the way you said it made it sound like you have some internal checkmarks that you're like, did I show up as Chuck today? Did I do this? Was I in the room? Yeah. What are some of those things that you, wow!
I'm letting those go. Now I'm letting those go. Now the pandemic has taught me something. So I'm not able to get on stage. And so, you know, when you're not able to get on stage. So the thing about comedy that people don't realize is it's really about repetition. It's about doing these jokes and doing them over and over and over again and working on them and calling them down until they're like distilling them. It's like a distillation process. Do you know what I mean? And so I don't know if you've ever seen liquor made, but it's not a, it's not a really pretty process. Like, you know what I mean? It's not pretty and it stinks. It smells bad. Right. But when it's all over, you got that gun and that is awesome. You can charge $10 for it. Right. And that's comedy man. So but when you can't get on the stage, you can't get in that process. Well, what's it got to be? Well, it goes back to what made me do it in the first place I wanted to just get on stage and have fun.
And now I realize, okay, the reason why I suffered all this anxiety is that when Chuck nice gets on stage, there are all these expectations. I have to be good. I have to be so much better than everybody else. Like I want to be like, I don't care who it is, but what makes them better? What makes one guy better than the other, you know, it's subjective. What makes one wine better than the other? It's the objective. And so guess what? You can make that your focus, or you can throw a little party on stage and everybody who's, there is your guest and now, now you're having this party and that's the way I'm doing it. And guess what? I did a show last week. It was amazing. I did all the new material cause I don't have the material anymore. I don't know what's going to happen on Saturday. I was on stage for 12 minutes and I was just like, that was the best half-hour I ever did. So my goal was to have fun. And that's all that happened. I had fun.
Are you kind of dealing with less stage time? And less just, you know, are you, are you feeling like creatively? You're putting yourself in other places you're just putting attention elsewhere. Cause you are enjoying it, you're having more fun. I feel that too. I'm sure every comedian does where any opportunity you get to go on stage now is like, you're cherishing every second of it. It's not like the spot, the next spot. It's like I'm glad everybody's out. Everybody made it out and it's, there's, we're trying to foster that good energy.
Yeah. And by the way, I mean it's necessary. I mean, how many people are sitting around laughing right now? Do you know what I mean? This is not a good time. And so when people can come out and really just have a great time laughing and being a part of other people's pleasure. Yeah. That's important. So what I'm doing is I'm being more cognizant. I used to just come up with premises and I'd like, if it's really important and it's really funny, I will remember it. So that's how I used to write something would pop in my head and I'd be like, that's funny. And I wouldn't write it down because I'd be like, if it's really important and it's really funny, I'll remember it. And now I just write this stuff down because the way you were able to find out if it was important and funny is you, you would say it now. I only have my wife to say it too. You know, at the beginning of the pandemic, you know, she was like, ha, that's funny now. She's just like, yeah, I, every joke I tell her.
So, you know, and it's because I've put her in the position of being like the comic-sounding board and every comic hates the other comic. Who's just like, what do you think of this? Okay. I wrote this the other day. What do you think of this? I'm just like, yo bro, I am not your comedy coach. How much, how much are you going to give me this Saturday's spot money. Okay. Cause that's when you can sit here and just keep talking to me about your jokes, you know, it's like, Eric thinks about you.
That's fun though. So you've probably got a, you've got a catalog of stuff that you're going to whip out the Saturday.
Yeah. And Saturday you people will see jokes that nobody has seen as a matter of fact, because I have not had the opportunity to do them to test. So this is going to be fun in that I have no expectations. I will be funny because I'm just funny. I mean, yeah. I mean, I don't know. I can't, I don't know what to say, man. It's like, it took me a long time to get to a place where I was just like, look, I'm just funny. It. You know, I will never forget I was on stage. Oh man, what's this kid's name, man. The MCR, I forget his name anyway. I was the only black guy on those shows. And I, I was second to last and I w I went up and I did my, my 25 and when I was done, he just walked up and he picked up the microphone.