Sam Taggart Just Wants a Casual Hang With Steve Martin

Photo-Illustration: Selman Hoşgör; Photo Courtesy of Subject

This week, we’re highlighting 22 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, comedy during the pandemic, and more. Next up is Sam Taggart.

When did you feel that you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
I think when I was in college I was naïve enough to think that trying to make it in comedy was actually reasonable and in many ways even more responsible than pursuing a more stable job. So it’s not necessarily that I thought I was funny enough, it’s just that I thought like Oh yeah maybe it’s not hard to make it in comedy LOL. Very stupid and irresponsible way to think, TBH, but that’s how I live my life I guess.

Describe your comedy in five words.
Gay Guy Meets Gross Guy.
What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
Right now I’m probably best known for my podcast StraightioLab that I host with George Civeris. Is that embarrassing or cool? I’m most proud of my solo show Club Comic. It consisted of me doing comedy-club tracks with stand-up in between, and also there was a narrative shown through little interstitial videos of “backstage documentary footage” that was based heavily on Katy Perry’s Part of Me documentary. I had friends help make beats, put together costumes, and act in the fake backstage footage. It was a lot, but I was very proud of it when it was all done.

If there were a ’90s-style sitcom built around you and your material, in which you had to have a different job than comedian, what would be the title and logline?
Sex Nurse: I’m like Patch Adams but instead of laughter healing people it’s sex and each week I have sex with a new person and save their life. This is a good idea.
What have you done for comedy during COVID that you thought you would never do?
I’m truly not trying to be a bitch about “front-facing-camera comedy” — like I understand that we as a culture have moved beyond that conversation, but I hadn’t really tried it pre-pandemic and I did some in the pandemic and liked it. It’s a different game than live performing (obviously), but once you get over the hump it can be fun. I think in pre-pandemic, I liked being “offline” in my comedy unless it was something polished and produced, but now it’s like … whatever just put whatever up and maybe it sucks and maybe it doesn’t.

Who are some of your favorite comedians right now? Who is putting out work that excites and inspires you? 
I’m really glad I Think You Should Leave exists. It’s so funny and stupid and pointless. I’m tired of people making points. If I wanted to learn something I would go to a school.

Outside of the Netflix library, there’s a lot of great people in the scene that I’m always thrilled when I get to see. Like Ike Ufomadu can literally just count and it will be funny, and Francesca D’Uva does comedy tracks that are so fun, and Max Wittert’s animations are incred, and George Civeris (my podcast co-host) is a literal genius … and sheesh there’s so many others I’m just gonna stop listing people. Lastly I will say Julio Torres is the only person in this town with VISION, and I feel like I learn how to remain pure of mind, body, and soul in this biz by watching him.
What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
Not to be the most basic person alive, but there’s an Amy Poehler quote about how you should do things before you feel like you’re “ready,” which I’ve found to be helpful. Sometimes you just have to jump in and learn by doing and accept that you will probably be bad at stuff at first.

The least helpful advice is “Never say no.” Grind culture in comedy is a disease and leads to bad comedy by boring people. Say no to stuff you don’t want to do. Literally just try hanging out sometimes, it’s actually really fun.

Tell us one story from your childhood that is a good representation of your life.
One time we were swimming in a river and I needed to pee, so I asked my parents where I should go pee and they said, “Pee in the river.” I didn’t understand that they meant I should stay in the water, so I got out and pulled my pants down for the world to see and peed into the river. I think I’ve always misunderstood things but in a way that’s kinda charming. The Amelia Bedelia jumped out, you could say.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
Wanting to meet famous people is famously disappointing and something only children care about, but if the point is to be embarrassing then I will say that I want to meet Steve Martin but in a casual work environment. Like we’re both like … on a set or something, and then we chat and I play it all really cool like I’m not weird at all. Maybe we’ll talk about something completely boring like whether or not we enjoyed our lunches. God, I would be so casual and cool it would be insane, and he would just be like Wow this co-worker … this peer … he is so casual and cool, which I’m not used to because of my status as the famous Steve Martin. 

If you had the power to remove anything from the comedy world right now, from trends with material to how the industry operates, what would it be?
No more free work. Like auditions should pay people. Writing packets should pay people. Developing a show should pay people. All these things take time and effort and people should get paid to do them. And it doesn’t need to even be a lot! Just like, give someone $50 to do your audition. Like it would be so much more respectful of people’s time and effort.

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