The Pitbull of Comedy’s Gentler Bite: An Interview with Bobby Slayton

Comedians are our best social and political critics, our first line of defense against taking ourselves too seriously. It is for this reason that I jumped at the chance to interview Bobby Slayton a.k.a. Yid Vicious, The Pitbull of Comedy. Slayton is a legend in his own right, an old-school insult comic with a raspy take-no-prisoners approach to comedy. Here’s what we talked about:

SG: You’ve hosted the Nasty Show many times in the past. Do you approach it differently every time?

Bobby Slayton: Besides changing my underwear… you know, I’ve been doing it for so long and though I’m not hosting it this year, which is a thrill and a half for me. I can’t tell you how GREAT it is just to be able to go on and do a ten or fifteen-minute set. To answer your original question, I don’t approach it differently. The only difference is – and it’s a big difference – every year I try to have as much new material as I can. You know there’s different comics on the bill, it’s the same people very often but it’s always a different lineup so I’ve got to adjust my material depending on what another comic’s doing. That’s part of being a good host. If I know a comic has a big routine about midgets or whatever, I don’t want to do my midget routine before his, because I think the MC, the host of the show, has to really service the show. It’s your job – like the host of a party – to make everybody comfortable and keep things moving along so that’s the only way I would change things every year. But like I said: this year I don’t have to host it.

They got this new guy Mike Ward and everybody says to me: Aren’t you upset you’re not hosting? No! It’s too much work! For comedy it’s a lot of work. You gotta get up there, you got to warm up the crowd, you gotta get ‘em laughing. By the time you get ’em laughing, you gotta bring out the first guy, you gotta do a minute or two between each comic, you gotta get the audience focused again, you gotta take a break and go back. On a weekend doing two or three shows, by the third show and a couple of glasses of wine you go: Did I just say that joke? Did I say that at the first show? It gets a little confusing.

SG: You’ve done The Nasty Show for many years now and you sometimes participate in the galas. Are there any other Just For Laughs Shows you’d like to do in the future?

BS: Nope! I love the whole festival but they used to have me do the Relationship Show – a lot of the shows they don’t have anymore; Bubble with Laughter, I used to do the Bar Mitzvah Show, you gotta work much cleaner and it’s 90% Jews out there – it’s more Borsht Belt Catskills sensibility. I remember Amy Schumer did it one year and she didn’t do very well. I remember Amy saying to me afterward:

“You know, this isn’t really my kind of crowd. This isn’t really what I do”

And Amy’s great. But those shows I wasn’t crazy about. That’s why I love the Nasty Show so much. People always say to me:

“You’re doing the dirty show this year?”

No, it’s the Nasty Show. The difference is… The Nasty Show is more honest. It lets the comics do what they want. It gives you this ability to not worry about anything. There’s no constraints of television or radio or offending some Bible-belt Christian idiot in Kentucky… and if anybody groans, anybody gets pissed, you get to say: F-you! It’s the Nasty Show! You don’t like it? Go Bubble with laughter! And that was always a joy for me, to do stuff like that. And I think when people come to the show they kinda know what it’s going to be. You go to a James Bond movie and go:

“What are you? Sleeping with that Russian Spy?!”

You kinda know when you watch the Three Stooges that Moe is going to hit Curly in the head with the shovel. You should expect that or you shouldn’t be going to see it.

SG: There’s been a lot of ranting both in politics and in comedy about so-called “political correctness”? How do you feel about all that?

BS: It’s just moronic. It’s always been going on – they just didn’t call it political correctness when I started out. But I was one of those guys, and I certainly wasn’t the first. When I started out in San Francisco in the 70s early 80s there was a big comedy boom and there was a lot of comics. I was in San Francisco and I remember doing a couple of gay jokes and a couple of gay people getting pissed – they weren’t faggot jokes, they weren’t mean, they weren’t AIDS jokes. I would do black jokes and I saw I got a rise out of people and what always pissed me off is they would have a gay comedy night or a black comedy night and you see black comics going:

“White people! White people!”

And I understand they’re minorities and they got a right to do it, but don’t tell me I can’t make a joke about you if you can make a joke about me.

SG: You’re 61 now, do you think you’ll ever retire?

BS: I’ve been doing this for so long, worked in so many crappy clubs, have so many frequent flyer miles on my ass, that I’d love to retire. I still love doing standup, I don’t like the pressure of I HAVE to go somewhere. I gotta take this gig ‘cause I need the money. I don’t know if I’ll ever retire.

See Bobby Slayton at The Nasty Show playing at the Metropolis in Montreal July 20th to 30th. For ticket info, check out the JFL website.

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