High Times Interviews Stand-Up Comedy Veteran Joey Diaz

Stand-up comedy veteran Joey Diaz discusses the ups and downs of his career, the importance of potent pot and his popular podcast, “The Church of What’s Happening Now.”
Joey Diaz: The High Times Interview
Courtesy Joey Diaz

By Jacob Katel

Joey Diaz has a voice like a New Jersey mob boss. He’s a three-decade veteran of stand-up comedy who has worked with the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Paul Mooney, and Adam Sandler. Joe Rogan calls him “the funniest man alive.” He’s been in movies like BASEketball, Spider-Man 2 and the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard. But things didn’t start out so glamorously. Diaz used to be broke and even had to crash on fellow stand-up Doug Stanhope’s couch. Nowadays, he headlines shows across the United States and is the host of the very successful podcast The Church of What’s Happening Now. We caught up with Diaz to get his take on the smoke in Aspen, the world-famous Comedy Store, rolling joints on Greyhound buses and much more.

Congratulations on all your success-in stand-up and with the podcast.

Thank you very much. I worked hard and I’m kind of very lucky in a way, so I’m thankful.

What was your first experience in stand-up comedy?

The first time I got on stage was at the Comedy Works in Denver on June 18,1991.

How was the weed in Aspen in the ’80s?

The weed in Aspen was fucking tremendous. When I moved to Colorado in 1983, they were already getting weed from Humboldt County. I used to have a friend named Kato, white dude from Ohio. Good, good dude. And he was a weed connoisseur like me. lie would swing by three times a week with all these exotics, and one time he took me down to the Woody Creek Tavern. I walked in there and saw Hunter S. Thompson with Don Johnson and Bill Murray. They had the best fucking nachos there because they used real East Coast chorizo. That’s where I was introduced to all that Humboldt County weed.

How does that compare to the weed when you were growing up?

In New York City, all we got was Thai Stick, Panama Gold, Colombian Gold, Panama Red and this Lamb’s Bread that the Jamaicans would sell, which was great. In [the Netflix series] Narcos, it explains the birth of sin-semilla with Rafa Quintero and all that stuff. And I still remember that taking over New York. We used to get weed on 148 th between Broadway and Amsterdam, and they had a business card with little punch holes. Every time you bought a bag, you got a punch hole. So every 10 times you went, you got a free bag. You could either get the Lamb’s Bread or the sinsemilla, or they would mix them together and call it the Master Mix.

Where are you getting pot now?

Urban Treez in Studio City, CA, because of the strength of the reefers. They’re always throwing 35 percent to .31 percent, 32 percent TIIC… And it’s just a beautiful place and facility.

How did you start your podcast, The Church of What’s Happening Now?

I was on Joe Rogan’s podcast a couple of times, and I really started the podcast to tell people my story. That’s what the podcast is to me, to explain to you who the fuck I am. When I worked selling cars in Boulder, CO, there was a manager there that really influenced me. He was a sharp guy. He was a biker. Half the year, he would get on a Harley, and I think he sold meth around the country. He taught me how to sell. That was right before I got locked up in 1987. He taught me how to handle myself. How to walk. How to just be a man. He used to say, “Always shine your shoes. You can’t sell a $10,000 vehicle with a pair of $10 shoes.” And another thing he used to always say was, “Listen. When you’re with me, you’re here for the Church of What’s Happening Now. I don’t give a fuck about yesterday or tomorrow. What are you gonna do today?” That was his main thing. So when the podcast came up that’s what I called it.

A lot of performers are affected by anxiety. How do you cope with it?

I live in anxiety. I still get anxious before I go onstage. I have medication that I forget to take. And that’s what I use the CBD for. Sometimes I also lake it at night to go to sleep. I rotate it. I can’t take sleeping pills because of my sleep apnea. Nothing puts you to sleep better than a fucking edible. But I quit eating edibles so my sleep was outta whack for a while. I started using a CBD spray an hour before I went to bed and I sleep like a fucking baby.

What made you keep going with comedy when times got tough?

I think it was two things. For one, I really had nowhere else to go. Whether I had to sleep in my car or whatever, I had nowhere else to go. And number two, no matter what was going down, I was at the Comedy Store. The world-famous Comedy Store in Los Angeles. I was a regular at the world-famous Comedy Store, and I was made a regular by Mitzi Shore, the owner. No bullshit, no nothing. So it was such a high honor for me that, how can I quit? 1 had already put eight years of my life into it, and that’s the longest I had ever done anything. I never stuck with anything. And here I was at the best comedy club in the country with the best comics around me. Before comedy, I had been robbing drug dealers, I had done time, I had a GED, I had a felony, I had no other direction but comedy, so when Mitzi Shore made me a regular, it changed my fucking life. Sometimes you have good days and bad days. But you gotta get up, brush your fucking shirt, get a Cuban steak sandwich and go back out there. You got no time to bleed. Tit’s like the Cuban saying] “Ponte la pila.” That means “Put your batteries in.” Cut the shit, stop fucking around, ponte la pila, cojones.

I heard something about you smoking weed with a doctor?

I snorted coke with a doctor [laughs]. Yes, I did smoke weed with a doctor one time on a ski lift in Colorado. Three of us got on a lift and we were talking on the way up. These doctors, I could tell they were up to something, and the one doctor looked at me—this is 1983 or ’84—he goes, “You mind if I spark up a joint?” And I go, “No. I don’t mind. I got one too.” And we got stoned on the lift. It was one of those ones where the doors close. Well, when they fucking opened those doors the smoke came rolling out of there and the people were all looking at us, but it was fucking Colorado so nobody really said dick, ya know?

We smoked two joints and then we went our separate ways like Journey. The altitude makes you fucked-up. The first time I smoked a bong hit in Aspen, I fucking passed out. We were smoking in an apartment on top of the Paragon Bar. The guy that sings “Mar-garitaville,” it was his bar downstairs and there was an apartment upstairs. This was my first weekend in Aspen. It had to be April of 1983. I went upstairs and I was sitting on the windowsill and they had a bong and they go, “Do you want the bong?” And I go, “Yeah, give me the bong.” And they go, “Listen, we don’t think you should smoke the bong.” And I’m like, “Gimme that fucking thing. I’m from New York City.” Next thing you know I woke up, I was bleeding from my head and the bong was broken. So you gotta be careful up on the high altitudes.

Would you ever grow your own?

No. I don’t know nothing about that shit and I don’t wanna know. I leave that shit to the professionals.

What innovations are you seeing in the weed industry?

Oh my God. 1 love it. I love that like right now I’m not even eating an edible, I’m eating a eapsule that looks like vitamin E and has no taste and is made with like 98 percent TMC and they put you the fuck out. We started 10 years ago with chocolate brownies. If I ate a brownie every day, I’d have fucking diabetes right now. When you eat edibles, you gotta watch the calories. So I got these pills about a month ago. A company came to one of my shows in LA and gave me a bottle and they’re fucking phenomenal. I don’t even know the name of the company. But look how far it’s gone from brownies to a little capsule. My niece’s boyfriend is a scientist and he lives in Nashville, and he came out and did a few job interviews and he said, “You have no idea what they’re developing. Especially in the vapor industry.” They’re gonna make vapors so fucking strong, people are gonna start losing eyes. Like, your eyes are gonna pop out, that’s how high the fucking vapors are gonna get. You’re gonna see more cross-eyed motherfuckers in America than any time in history. I like strong weed, so keep making it stronger.

What do you think about CBD?

Right now, I just went and bought two bottles of CBD water. I went to jujitsu yesterday and kickboxing this morning. I’m 56 and everything hurts on me. Even my fucking toenails hurt, so I’ve gotta drink a bottle of CBD water. People in the rest of the country that don’t have CBD don’t know the benefits. But once you try it, you’re like, “Now I know why these motherfuckers are hiding this.” It’s fucking tremendous. I use it in protein shakes. I use it in my coffee. I drink it all day. Anything I can make with water, I use CBD water.

Would you like to have your own strain?

Yeah. If I found something that was really strong, and I liked it, and I thought people would like it… and if I could keep the prices low. If I could find something like that, absolutely. But it’s gotta be fucking strong, you know what I’m saying? I want the Yelp page to have people missing eyeballs and ending up in emergency rooms and shit. Like, “I smoked Joey’s weed and this is what happened to me.”

What was the best weed you ever smoked?

Best weed I ever smoked was a couple years ago, there was a store in Hollywood. I forget what the fuck it was called. It’s closed now, but it became very popular and grew very fast. They went from just being an office to having three floors. They had this weed called Third Eye that was so fucking good that I went and I stocked up on it and I told Ari Shaffir to stock up on it. Only three of us stocked up on it—me, Ari and Ralphie May, rest in peace. That weed was so fucking good, it was killing motherfuckers. It made me feel like when I got high when I was 14. You can’t talk, you can’t stop eating, your eyes get red, you’re hearing like a siren in your ears. Once you hear that weeeoeoee in your ears, you’re fucking done.

What do you prefer, indica or sativa?


What’s your favorite city to perform in?

That’s not even a good question for me because I love them all. Every fucking city in this country. I love performing in DC, fucking Philadelphia’s tremendous. Buffalo is fantastic. Cleveland is fantastic. You know what pisses me off? When people try to have one up on you because they traveled the world. One thing that I have over them is that I traveled the country. I saw the beauty of this country from fucking Bellingham, WA, all the way to Mobile, AL. I’ve fucking been there. So the rest of the world can suck my dick. We’re in the most beautiful country. I have everything here. I can ski. I can go to the mountains. I can eat fucking BBQ in four different states. I’ve been to every nook and cranny in this country. By plane, by bus… The longest Greyhound I took was New York to Dallas. An express. I lived it. Cheap tiekets. And if cheap tickets were too expensive, then it was Greyhound like a motherfucker. You roll three or four joints in a container with some fucking Visine and some cologne and at every stop on the bus you get out and do three hits. You put the joint back in your things and that’s it, nobody knows nothing.

How did you first become fascinated by the Mafia?

What do you mean? When I saw a guy get beat up in the Bronx when 1 was five by two Italian guys. And then once I saw The Godfather, it cemented it for me. But when I was a kid and first came from Cuba, my mother had a dry-cleaning business in the Bronx and it was Mafia territory. At first, I thought they were Cubans because of the way they would speak I could understand what they were saying, but they were Sicilians. And then once I saw The Godfather and moved to New Jersey, then I saw it all around me.

How’d you come up with your ticket-pricing strategy?

Listen, the family right now, we’re getting fucked from every angle. I’m a fucking thief by nature. But if I wanna rob ya, I’ll put a gun to your fucking head. I don’t wanna rob people. I want people to have a good experience, and I know they have to pay for gasoline, a babysitter, they usually go out to dinner, you got reefer cost. It’s not just the ticket. So I always want a blue-collar audience, and that’s how I set my ticket price. I’m a blue-collar guy. I drive a Subaru. I live very modestly and I don’t give a fuck about the Joneses. I never have. The Joneses can suck my dick.

This feature was published in the May, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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