Ian Edwards has just returned to Los Angeles from performing stand-up with Joe Rogan in Las Vegas. When we connect by phone, he’s “just felt the earthquake in two different states” and is gearing up for a string of local shows before the airing of his Bill Burr-produced comedy special “Ian Talk,” which drops Friday, July 12th at midnight on Comedy Central.
You’re a huge soccer fan. When did your interest in the sport start?
I originally got into soccer because I was born in England and it’s the national sport there. I grew up playing it there and continued when I moved to Jamaica. Soccer’s also one of [Jamaica’s] national sports because Jamaica used to be a colony of England, so we inherited a lot of English shit.
So the root of your love for soccer originated in—
Colonization. Colonization was terrible, but it had some perks.
You talk about the scandal in Qatar on your podcast Soccer Comic Rant. Is soccer ever going to be 100% pure?
Soccer’s like a microcosm of life. What happens [in soccer] is just going to happen in other areas in other sports, you know what I mean? There’s corruption in politics, there’s corruption in business, there’s always going to be people trying to rip people off so that they can get the most money. It’s just greed. And then there are good people, too. A lot of people—based on the news—want to think the world is bad. But if the world was as bad as the news says, it would be over already. I think good people are not getting credit for what they do to keep this thing spinning.
Sensationalizing negative narratives drives ratings. Like with the recent earthquakes.
Friday night I was in Vegas and right before the show I was taking a pre-show nap, one of the best things to do. Mother nature’s alarm clock woke me up from the 38th floor of this hotel and it felt like I was on the mechanical bull at The Saddle Ranch. The building was swaying and it wouldn’t stop. It was stronger than the one [earlier in the week]. When it started, I was on the 38th floor. I can’t tell you what floor I ended up on when that shit was over. I was on a state-to-state earthquake tour.
What’s so important about that pre-show nap?
It helps relax me. Sometimes you wake up early to get ready and catch a flight, you fly into a town and when you land, you might have some stuff to do. You might want to walk around the town a little bit, investigate. So I look forward to the pre-show nap, shower and then go to the show.
I’ve met people who can’t nap. I don’t know how that works because I’m a professional napper. I need one. Like I usually get five hours sleep per night, but then I have to nap during the day.
Growing up in Jamaica, did anything inspire you to pursue comedy, or did you not catch the bug until you moved to New York?
It was mostly in the states. The only thing that came up in Jamaica, which ended up happening in America, was when we were kids…we had a literature class in high school and I wrote this story about a bar fight that was very descriptive. I got a high grade for it and the teacher read it in class and everybody liked it. When I was walking home, all the kids were dreaming out loud. One kid was like, “I’m gonna be a this, and this guy’s gonna be this, and Ian, you’re gonna be a writer.” And I was like 14 or some shit. And eventually, that moment hit me years later when I started writing on TV shows out here in Los Angeles. I was like, “Oh shit, I remember that day.” ‘Cause I agreed with the guy, too.
Looking back, did you get the feeling that not only is your friend right, but he’s validating your path on a bigger level?
When I was six years old, I was watching this tv show. People were having a dinner party. Eating, drinking, guys and girls, laughing and talking. I watched that and was like, “that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.” I wanna have fun. I don’t want to be married. I don’t want to have a family. I just want to have meals with friends late at night. I thought that around six years old. Later on, and I’m in comedy [at that point], I’d sit around and eat with comics after shows. So I’ve done that thing that I thought about when I was six years old my entire comedy career. After any mic or any show, you go out to eat late night and people drink, sit around talking shit, politics, about your set, comedy, life, sports. Everything. So I’ve done that. Somehow, I’ve done the things that I thought about when I was younger.
The story about the writing…it informs me of things because whenever a moment happens, I pay attention to it more to see if there’s a message in it now, for later. One thing I’ve realized is that I’ve always known what I’ve wanted. And I’ve always gotten what I’ve wanted. I just haven’t always known what to want. Knowing what to want has gotten me a lot of places faster.
How do you arrive at knowing what to want?
I think subconsciously you’re always heading in the direction you want to go. Some people are more conscious about it than others. Some people aren’t. Like if you’re looking for trouble, in the back of your head, you’ll find it. Whatever you’re looking for. Peace, love, a relationship. You’ll find it. People who want the things they want get them. And then sometimes, people don’t always want good things. And they might not say it loud, but it shows up.
I meditate now and I pay attention to my subconscious mind, which is a tape recording that plays over and over again. And that kind of leads you in the direction you’re going to go. I just always want to be conscious of what’s on that tape in the background. It better be saying something good because I ain’t trying to be led astray by me.
Does that thought process help you with your material?
Not necessarily material. I guess it could, but just life in general. Comedy is the profession that I chose. But it’s also the profession that I have to evolve as a human being in. The mantras and the things that I listen to will guide me as I evolve in comedy. What’s going on in my subconscious will guide me through the pitfalls of this profession or help me avoid them or not see them at all.
Take Kevin Hart. I knew him when he first started. One thing I realized about him is he has no inhibitions, he has no fears, he can only see what he wants. I think his conscious and his subconscious are in tune with each other. He wants success and wealth and a great life. That’s all he sees. Like when he’d go to auditions when we were younger, he never worried about what could go wrong, he only thought about what could go right. So then it would eliminate fear from his daily life or any would-be obstacle in front of him. He approached things like, “I can do this” because of what was going on in his conscious and subconscious. Those are the comics—or the people—who make it.
It’s like eliminating the mental game of putting obstacles in front of you that don’t exist.
We’re our worst enemy. We talk about our haters. We’re our worst hater. Not just people in comedy, people in general. In life. Period. Nobody’s going to spend more time to stop you than you could spend for you to make it. So that means, the only person who can really stop you is you.
You talk about practicing “honesty” on stage. If you’re honest in every moment, whether on the stage or off, isn’t life more relevant and rich?
I’m a purist. The way I see comedy doesn’t mean everybody else sees it that way. Like, I want to be one of the greats. If I want to be one of the best, there are certain unwritten rules of comedy and written rules of comedy that you have to follow. The honesty comes in when you realize you are not following those rules and you are cheating and you’re finding easy ways to get laughs. Because you’ll get laughs, but then you’ll lose the respect from your peers and yourself. Which is not the way I want to run this race. I want to run it like…when it’s said and done, people– not even just audiences, but comics– will be like, “Yeah, as far as joke writing and the way he did the craft, this is the good shit.”
The honesty comes in when you get a laugh on a hacky thing and you’re taking [the laugh] because you’re insecure at that moment in your set, as opposed to being honest and saying, “Eh, that’s wack. Even though it works, I’m going to sit down rewrite it and come up with something better.” Sometimes you’re doing [a bit] and you realize other people are doing the same type of thing and you’re like, “How can I make this more original?” Sometimes honesty is just working a little bit harder instead of accepting what you have.
Do you think you have a greater social responsibility with your comedy, or is that responsibility simply to make people laugh?
I’m wired the way I’m wired, I don’t know why. Overall, I want to do enough to make the world better when I’m gone. Like, “Alright, it was cool that he was here because we got some good shit from him, so the world was incrementally better and not worse.” So I definitely want to do that, whether through comedy or not.
Separately, I don’t know why I want to do comedy the way I want to do it. Maybe because when I started, I looked up the best people, saw how they did it, learned from them and thought that was the blueprint and the only way to go. It’s the way I feel peace within myself, doing comedy the way I do it now.
Doing comedy the way you do it, is cannabis part of your creative process?
Weed is weird for me. When I was playing soccer in Jamaica, the older dudes would give me weed and it wouldn’t affect me. When I got to Los Angeles, I still didn’t really do it. But now, being at The Comedy Store, people just give it to you. It’s legal here and there are weed sponsored shows.
I use CBD oil for certain exercises and I’ll vape recreationally when I’m hanging out with certain people. I’ll chill with some friends and vape and have a fun-ass time. I just think drugs on the whole have helped reshape my perspective on life in a great way. I’ve done some LSD, I’ve done some molly, I’ve done some shrooms. And it’s like, “Oh. This is not the way the world is, the way they told me.” Getting high has definitely helped inform my life and my comedy overall and point me in the right direction.
Edibles though, they’re like rolling the dice. They never show up on time. The show up on [their own] time. I take them, they don’t work, then I’ll take more, they won’t work, and then I’ll take more and they all hit at the same time and it will be too much. Every edible from every company is different, but they’re always, always late. It’s like, “I’ve waited three hours for you.” It’s like I’m having an argument with someone I’m in a relationship with who made me wait three hours and then shows up acting like nothing’s wrong. “You’re not going to apologize? It’s night time now, the party’s over and you just show up smiling. It’s time to go to bed, bro.”
Bill Burr is producing your upcoming special. When did your relationship with him start?
Bill and I started stand-up around the same time. He moved to New York and we’d do shows together. We’d hang out, eat late night after shows, kick it and talk shit to each other. Around 2000, I moved to Los Angeles. And Bill also moved to Los Angeles at one point for a few months. He booked a tv show but then it got cancelled. And I was like, “You should stay, man. You’ll get more acting work.” Thank God he didn’t listen to me, because he moved back to New York and then he blew up. Later he moved back to LA and formed All Things Comedy with Al Madrigal.
I approached them about the podcast idea, and they were like, “Whatever, [the idea] could be about Pluto. Put that shit on All Things Comedy.” That led to more shows with Bill at The Comedy Store. Then, there was another show I was booked on in Atlanta and Bill was in town doing a movie and he came by and did a guest spot…
What I like about my career is I might not be as rich as everyone, but other comics like my comedy. A lot of comics, they have money but they don’t have…
Peer validation, yeah. I kinda get off on that. I dunno if it’s wrong or right, I’ve just always enjoyed that. That lets me know I’m doing this thing right.
The money, that’s great, the fame, that’s great, but when you’re well respected by the people you work with, that’s the pinnacle.
It’s like the Marines. They have a policy of no man left behind. If you get shot down in the field, they’ll come back and get you. Like, I was just in Vegas with [Joe] Rogan this weekend and he’s like, “This guy’s funny, he should be on some shows.” You know what I mean? And Burr’s like “This guy’s funny. The industry’s not gonna back him. We will. We’re comics, we have some power. We will.”
I like what’s going on in comedy. It’s a very individual sport, but now comics are really helping comics. And I hope to help comics, too.
Follow @ianedwardscomic and check out http://ianedwardscomedian.com/ for tickets and tour dates