ďHi, my name is Mitch. And Iím very funny.Ē
These were the first words uttered by 15-year-old Mitch Fatel at his first ever stand-up show. Now after performing for many years and making countless appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan OíBrien, Fatel has finally released his first stand-up CD, Miniskirts & Muffins.
His material is sharp, original and sometimes off-color, and he always keeps the crowd on its toes by delivering his musings with a persona that is part child, part pervert and all polished. 2DM caught up with Fatel at Stand-Up New York one Sunday night after he delivered a knockout set for an intimate crowd of patrons.
How would you describe your persona when youíre onstage?
I donít know. Itís me. I never set out to make a persona, so I donít know how heís described. Iíve heard other people say "perverted." I just go with retarded. Thatís the easiest way to encapsulate it.
Itís different how you see yourself versus how other people see you.
I know that the Letterman show described me as a sweet pervert.
You have a blurb on your Web site that says, ďIf you ever meet me, ask me for my first joke ever.Ē Well?
Yeah, it was horrible. Well, it wasnít horrible, but looking back, Iím kinda proud of it because itís not the worst joke in the world. This was not my first joke as a kid; it was my first joke as a comedian: ďI donít like to smoke pot because it makes me horny. And then my friend gave me pot brownies, and all I wanted to do after that was fuck Betty Crocker.Ē
It was a really bad joke, but it was my first one ever, and I was proud of it. It got a laugh, and it was the big joke that I couldnít wait to get to when I was starting out.
There was a structure there.
There was a structure. And you could see that I was thinking at least. Listen, I have yet to hear a ďfuck Betty CrockerĒ joke since Iíve done it. So I think itís an original.
Ten appearances on Leno?
Actually, itís going on four stand up, but I do the correspondence pieces for him too, where he sends me around to do different interviews with people, and Iíve done 13 of those now.
So they love you.
I hope soÖ Itís actually not them. The great thing about this business is that it doesnít matter what anybody thinks of you except the audience. I know that Jay likes me and heís a fan of mine, but more importantly, the audience likes me. The audience is the deciding factor if anyoneís gonna get back on, and every time Iíve done the show, the audience has reacted kinda nicely to me.
This to me is the greatest business in the world, because you canít get ahead by knowing people, because you have to ultimately make an audience laugh. Theyíre the deciding factor, and I love that itís really up to them more than anybody else.
What was your first TV appearance?
My first show ever was the Letterman show. I had actually grown up being a big fan... I had actually been offered the Conan show and asked them nicely if they wouldnít mind if I waited to do it, because I had always made it a goal as a kid that my first show ever was going to be the Letterman show. I always had this vision of Dave saying, ďMaking his network debut with us tonight...,Ē and I stuck to that dream which, looking back now, I wouldnít recommend people do that. It was just a really stupid thing to do. What Iíve learned in this business is you take what you can get at any time. You never know whatís coming down the road, so you jump on opportunities as they come.
How long did it take you to find your style?
Thatís a great question. I had done stand up when I was 15 years old. I bombed really bad and I never got back up on stage until I was 21, and the minute I went on stage the style that youíre talking about, which I call retarded, was there immediately. I did great. And I just hit the stage, and I knew my voice and everything. It worked so well that I didnít do that again for two or three years.
You didnít do what, the comedy?
The style. The character. I was so scared by how powerful I actually was, and it was too soon. I just didnít expect to be doing so well so soon, and I got overwhelmed by it, quite honestly, and I pulled back.
Bruce Springsteen, who I think is the best lyricist in the world, has a song called ďOne Step Up,Ē and if you listen to the song he goes, ďSomewhere along the line I slipped off track / One step up, two steps back.Ē And what I always took from that song was that weíre always on a course somewhere, but human nature always takes us off track. I think you need to constantly keep your eye on what youíre trying to do and recognize when youíre veering away from it.
Muffins & Miniskirts is your first CD.
I was really touched when people started writing me all the time, asking me for a CD, and I thought, ďI guess Iíll make one.Ē And I said to my producer, ďI donít want to make any money with this. I want to give something to the fans.Ē I know it sounds idealistic, but itís true. If I can just make back what I put into it, I will be the happiest man in the world. It took a long time because I wanted it to be really, really good.
Iím still so humbled by this business. I always thought that once you see a comedian, you know the jokes, and once you know the jokes, why would anybody want to hear it again? I never understood that. And then I remembered when I was a kid, I used to listen to my Steve Martin albums over and over again.
And these are playboy models on the cover?
Yeah. Playboy cybergirls.
How often do you write?
I write every day.
Do you have a little book you carry around?
No, I donít. I absolutely donít. I have a very interesting writing style, which is that I wake up first thing in the morning. I have my coffee. I write for a half hour. I stop at a half hour. I donít go further, and then at 5 oíclock, I do the same thing for another half hour, and thatís how I write every day.
Thatís how I do it. I just sit down and look at a pad, and I stare at it for probably 20 minutes and come up with nothing. I think that I'm horrible and Iím never going to write another joke, and then all of a sudden, I start writing something. I think the creative process is like mining for gold. And if youíre a gold miner, you go out there and you accept that for the first couple of hours or days or years that youíre mining, youíre not going to get anything, but if you keep mining and you get that one piece of gold, you strike it rich. And all the 20 minutes a day of getting nothing is just getting through the rocks. And every now and then, all of a sudden a little piece of gold comes up and you write it down and you get a laugh and girls have sex with you.
And thatís the best reward for anything.
Thatís what gets me up in the morning.
Is it hard to have a relationship as a comic?
Itís impossible to have a relationship. If you want a relationship in this business, get out of the business. I donít know how other people do it. I think a couple of people have done it. Iíve tried it. Iíve been engaged. There are some people that have done it, and Iíve met their wives, and theyíre braindead. If youíre in this business, you have to make a very important decision that it always has to be the first thing in the world for you. Nothing else can come before it and if it does, youíre really not going to do that well in it.
If youíre in any business that everybody wants to be in, then you have to give up having good times, because good times are taking away from your work, and thereís someone else thatís willing to give up the good times, and theyíre working harder. I always say, ďYou canít have your cake and eat it, too.Ē Iím not saying it canít be done. But you need an amazing woman who has to know that theyíre not going to be first in your life. You need someone that has such a life on their own, because youíre going to be away so much.
I did the CD, and I gotta tell ya that I really loved it. I loved the creative process of putting it together, and now I look at the finished product and I actually got this feeling that ďOh my God, itís done.Ē I want to do another one now. So Iím thinking of maybe doing a DVD, and Iím thinking of doing a half-hour comedy special on Comedy Central. Also, Comedy Central has always told me, ďIf you have any ideas, come to us and weíll look at them,Ē so Iím thinking I should come up with something.