Hope Heals: My first big interview - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Hope Heals: My first big interview

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The Lookout Editor in Chief Mallory Stiles

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles
Editor in Chief

On May 22, 2022, I interviewed a stand-up comedian named Shayne Smith. It’s honestly the coolest thing I have ever done and actually the reason I wandered into The Lookout in the first place.

Smith is not only a comedian who has released three specials (“Prison for Wizards,” “Alligator Boys” and “The Animal”), but he is also a podcaster and a vocalist in his band, “Painted Devils.”

He is extremely accomplished, but has had an extraordinarily hard life.

Part of his act is telling people about his brutal past and criminal transgressions, including the part where he was in a gang. It was his struggles that originally made me want to know more about him.

If I am honest, I didn’t do as much prep work for the interview as I should have. I had just been left on “read” by another comedian I really respected and I was hurting, but I had decided to at least show up.

My car had just died, so I rented one. Everyone told me not to go and said I was wasting my time. I thought to myself that even if I didn’t get the interview, I could have a few laughs a few towns away.

I showed up early and handed off a sample article to a bouncer-looking guy and had a drink at the bar. I was coming out of the bathroom when I heard Smith’s voice down the hall.

I didn’t think, I just moved toward the sound. We had corresponded a little about a possible interview, but nothing was ever cemented. What if he didn’t remember me?

The sound got louder and louder until he was a real person standing in front of me. It was surreal.

“I’m the journalist,” I said.

“Right! Gimme just a sec,” he said.

I was elated and waited patiently until bouncer guy was back and bringing me to somewhere backstage called “The Green Room.” I started to panic. I didn’t expect this.

I heard the tail end of him signing something for another fan. Suddenly I worried even more about messing up. He was funny AND a good person behind closed doors?!

He greeted me warmly and ordered a craft soda, which I thought showed character, before we began. He got his soda and we settled on a couch. This was the moment of a lifetime and the pressure was overwhelming. I asked the first question my brain could think of.

“So, how long have you been doing this?” I asked.

I wanted to throw myself down a flight of stairs for asking such a stupid and Google-able question, but he answered like a gentleman. He told me around 2015 but, for just a second out of complete embarrassment, I choked.

Like I actually went silent for 20 or so seconds. He kindly checked his phone to give me time to recover. It was that little act of grace that got me relaxed enough that the good stuff just started flowing.

I asked what he does to relax after a show and he gave a really normal answer.

“I sit and shoot the s**t with my two best friends or I will just put in headphones and listen to music,” he said.

I asked his favorite song at the moment because, why not?

“My favorite song right now is called ‘Swan Song’ by Kublai Khan TX,” he said.

I have listened to it several times since this interview. As someone who occasionally appreciates metal, I really love it, but listener discretion is advised.

It sounded so normal but I knew some weird stuff had to happen to him. I asked his craziest fan occurrence and got a great, yet disgusting, answer.

“Once a woman gave me a vial of her blood and said it was from menstruation,” he said.

Pro tip: never be that famous.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Shayne Smith, he is covered in tattoos, which is scary to some people, but to me just looks like a member of my family and I was dying to know which was his favorite.  

“Probably the sword on my face,” he said.

I nodded in agreement and remembered to keep it focused on comedy. I asked him what his favorite part of it all is.

“My favorite part of comedy is when people laugh at what I say and pay attention to me,” he said.

I laughed, at least he was honest, and followed up by asking what the worst part of comedy is. The honesty in his response shocked me.

“The hardest part of comedy is how lonely it feels,” he said. “I mean it is only you out there and it is a very one-sided conversation. Even though it feels good to get attention and be the only person talking, it does wear on you at a certain point because you are giving away a lot of your social and emotional currency and you aren’t really getting anything back except personal satisfaction.”

Shayne openly talks often about mental health and it’s just another reason he should be a role model for many. He talks about depression, anxiety and sobriety.

Shayne said he has been sober since 14. I instinctively knew anyone who had to make a choice like that at such a young age really has seen it all. I asked him if there was any bit of moral code that he clung to. I wanted to understand him on an ethical level. 

He answered, without hesitation: “Do what you say you are going to do.”

He said he is big on follow-through and, to me, the evidence is in his thriving career, which he has completely built from scratch.

He said that even though his fan adoration means a lot to him, it doesn’t compare to being authentically loved for being one’s true and total self.

That being said, comedy still means the world to Shayne. I asked what the worst day of his life was in a mad grasp for depth. He declined to answer, but then I asked for his best day and he lit up.

“When I got my first paycheck from Dry Bar,” he said. “I was living paycheck to paycheck and had been pretty poor my whole life. So, when I was 31 years old, I got a check for more money than I had ever had. I remember just sitting down and openly weeping because I could pay rent multiple times.”

It’s a good feeling to see anyone win, but to see someone win who has given everything to make it to the finish line, it just hits different.

It was around this point that someone came in and signaled the show was about to be starting. He told me I had one last question.

I could have stayed in that room asking him questions for the rest of my life but the clock was ticking and I only had seconds left.

The question that had gotten me left on “read” with the last comedian popped back into my head. The rational part of my brain begged me to choose any other question, but that brash part of my brain went for it.

It was a damn fine question, my personal test of someone’s ability to make anything funny. Even something as dark as death itself.

“If you had to pick any joke to go on your tombstone, what would it be?” I asked.

He nodded in thought and repeated the question to himself.

“Oh!” he said, “I know what it would be.”

He told me about a scene from a movie called “Tombstone” where the main character, Doc Holliday, is lying in a bed dying of tuberculosis. It is a moment of extreme irony because he lived his whole life convinced he would die in a gunfight.

Apparently, he had some great last words that Shayne said would go perfectly on his headstone.

“It would just say ‘This is funny,’” he said.



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