Henry Rollins talks not being a comedian, David Lee Roth's advice
Henry Rollins can be a funny guy, especially when he's performing his self-described "talking shows," but he doesn't think it's stand-up comedy.
Six months after its premiere on Showtime, the latest spoken word special from musician, actor and writer Henry Rollins is set to debut on the Comedy Dynamics Network via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Microsoft Xbox, Vudu, Spectrum and Dish Network.
In Keep Talking, Pal, Rollins tells equally comedic and thoughtful stories about his time as the frontman of the Henry Rollins Band, his friendship with the iconic American drag queen RuPaul and the current state of politics in America. As the nearly 58-year-old performer explained it to Metro, however, he doesn't consider himself a comedian.
"Maybe I have more comedic beats in what I say these days, but I've never considered what I'm doing to be a stand-up show," he explains. "I still call them 'talking shows.' So when people ask me if I'm a comedian or not, I always make fun of myself. I'm just a nervous guy talking at a high rate of speed. So, basically, I'm just a reporter. I'm telling the audience stories of what I've seen and all my I travels. I travel all over the world looking for great stories."
Even so, Rollins understands why comedy audiences who may not be familiar with his previous "talking shows" would be interested in Keep Talking, Pal.
"Lewis Black, for example, says s--t that's not always funny. It's amazing but it's not necessarily funny," he says. "And then you're laughing a minute later. When you get him on heated topics like abortion and similar stuff, though, he's as serious as a heart attack."
Hence why the special largely consists of long, detailed stories regarding Rollins' various experiences that are occasionally punctuated by punchlines. It's nothing like a typical stand-up set, during which the performing comic will pepper their set with jokes every 10 to 15 seconds, but it's still enough to keep viewers engaged.
Aside from the fact that, as Rollins himself admits, the majority of Keep Talking, Pal's audiences will likely be people who are already familiar with his work, it's evident that he has spent a great deal of time honing the craft of storytelling. Considering his comedy acting credentials, be it for films like The Chase or TV shows like Portlandia, viewers might assume this is due to Rollins' ability to improve. That assumption would be wrong.
"I will walk about a mile out and back on or near Ventura in the San Fernando Valley, where I live, telling myself these stories," he explains. "I'm doing it out loud, like I'm on stage telling them, so that I can hear my voice saying them. That way I can determine which parts are boring and have to go, which lines are good and should be repeated, and so on. That's how I put it all in front of my brainpan."
"I'll keep doing this to work things out," he continues, "while walking along the street or pacing around in my house."
And of all the people he can possibly credit for this particular method, Rollins singles out none other than Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth.
"He was quite the walker when we used to hang out," recalls Rollins. "We would literally walk miles all over Manhattan and he would have a million ideas the entire time. He talked about all of them as we walked. When I asked him why he did this, he told me Carl Jung used to go to the beach to play in the sand for therapy, or to work things out. It's what people do when they hop on a treadmill, go for a walk or some other active thing when they're stumped."
"You're just kind of on the move and it frees up your mind," he adds. "So whenever I'm about to perform, before the show I will pace for about an hour just get myself ready. The whole time, I'm running through the show in my mind. I can't do it sitting still. I have to be walking."
Anyone familiar with Rollins' stage presence, and especially those who tune in to watch Keep Talking, Pal, will know what he's talking about. He even makes fun of himself for his inability to sit still during the special.
"I'm a pretty hyperactive guy," he laughs. "Since I was about three, we always know that there was going to be a lot of Ritalin in my life."
Henry Rollins: Keep Talking, Pal debuts on the Comedy Dynamics Network on Tuesday, Feb. 12.