Starpulse Q&A With Steve Agee: Out of Shape Champion
How'd you hurt your back?
It's really stupid and I blame it on my age. I had a rare day off a couple weeks ago and I spent the whole day just sitting at my computer, catching up on e-mails, Myspacing, and recording songs. I literally didn't get up from my desk for about eight hours and I was slouched over the whole time, so the next day I woke up and I sprained my back from, I guess, sitting too long.
So just sitting for too long can take you out for a few days?
I guess so. Ever since I hit my thirties I've been in the worst shape of my life. Back in the nineties I used to be a strapping, young rock-climbing instructor and now I've somehow found myself playing a fat guy on TV. I blame it on craft services, which is a blessing and also a curse.
Are you finding yourself eating food combinations you've never imagined?
No, I find myself eating food combinations that I've always dreamed of eating. There's a table full of donuts and pastries and I'm always there, and then the lunches and dinners are always steak or ribs, just stuff I would never cook for myself. I don't even go out to restaurants because it's easier to hit a drive through.
How does the spread on The Sarah Silverman Program compare to the food at The Jimmy Kimmel Show?
Only the lunches were catered on Jimmy Kimmel and you had to fend for yourself every other time, which was usually just going down the fourth floor kitchen and getting a bowl of cereal. And when I worked in reality TV it was however much spare change you had to put in a vending machine.
When were you a writer for the Andy Milonakis Show?
I was a contributing writer for Andy's show during the hiatuses on Jimmy's show, and even then I wrote for Jimmy Kimmel for about six months, but I was on the show for three and a half years. I spent most of my time as a TV watcher, which was just sitting at a desk watching TV for ten to twelve hours a day, which also didn't contribute to my health in a positive way. I had to watch the worst programs you could find for the comedy in Jimmy's monologues. Adam Carolla put it best when he said that it's like a Twilight Zone episode where someone offers you a job to watch TV all day and you're like, "Yeah, sign me up!" and then within a couple weeks you're ready to drink a tube of white out to kill yourself. I was coming in first thing in the morning and watching The View, Fox News, The 700 club, Maury, and just stuff that made you not want to watch TV when you got home.
Did you develop any code words for what you saw?
It's been so long since I've watched TV for Kimmel that I've forgotten about it in the same way you'd forget a horrible accident or being molested. Every Friday he had a bit called Unnecessary Censorship where we would bleep words in people's sentences that didn't need to be bleeped but would then make their sentence sound completely filthy. For the longest time after leaving the show, I was still hyper aware of people's sentences in regular conversations. I would just think to myself, "Oh, that would make a great unnecessary censorship."
For those who won't have the opportunity to see you perform live, what gives the best representation of your comedic sensibility?
I did a series of public service announcements for SuperDeluxe.com . They were great for me because I have a short attention span. They're really ridiculous, nonsensical, and asinine.
When is it that you started performing stand-up?
I did it a few times in college back in the early nineties and after I had met Sarah Silverman I found out that her sister, Laura, was booking a show on Wednesday nights. She'd let me go up and perform with some of the bigger name comedians that she booked, which was awesome because I didn't have an agent to book me on shows or send me out anywhere. Plus, I was too lazy to do to find open mics. So, I mostly showed my short films and would open with a few minutes of stand-up, but after a while I just did more stand up. Once Laura stopped booking the show, I stopped performing as much, but once Sarah's show came on the air it opened the door for me to do shows again.
How did you originally meet Sarah Silverman?
I met Sarah through our mutual friend David Juskow, who's a comedian in New York. He came out to L.A. about eight years ago to put up a play that he had written. I didn't know him at that point, but a friend of mine was in the play and a couple of days before the play started running someone dropped out and I was recommended as a fill-in. I met Sarah on opening night and we immediately hit it off. We actually bonded over our discussion of panic disorders. She's suffered from them ever since she was on Saturday Night Live and I was telling her about how terrified I was to do live theater.
Clip from The Sarah Silverman Program
You came to LA in 95.
Yeah, I came out to LA to be a musician, but not in a cross-country follow your dream way since I grew up in Riverside, which is an hour outside of L.A. We were big in Riverside, opening for whatever major band came into town to perform, like Sublime. Once we were in LA, though, we just became a small fish in a big pond and eventually the band fell apart. I tried playing in a few other bands, which didn't work out, and then my base guitar got stolen and I took that as a sign to stop playing. I met a girl who was taking classes at the Groundlings Theater in Hollywood, and after seeing a show there I spent the next five years just taking Improv and writing classes.
You recently did an interesting tour where it was you and comedians Tig Notaro , who wrote for and appeared on The Sarah Silverman Program, and Martha Kelly performing in people's houses.
Yeah, they created a tour called The Crackpot Comedy Tour. They booked the tour through Myspace and we did nineteen days, most of them in the Pacific Northwest. It was just us in Tigg's Volkswagen Jetta driving through San Francisco, Oregon, Seatle, and even going east into Utah. We did some great shows for some really awesome people. Sometimes we'd perform for sixty people in a backyard and sometimes we'd perform for eight people, but it was always awesome. Plus, it really helped me deal with my nerves and jitters.
Do you still get panic attacks?
No, I started taking medication because my panic attacks got so bad that I became agoraphobic. I was working on Joe Millionaire at the time and I just stopped coming into work because the attacks were happening so frequently. I was fired and didn't leave the house for a few months. I called Sarah just completely a wreck one night. She told me to get on meds and within a week of starting anti-depressants the panic attacks went away. I still get really nervous before performing, though. I don't think any amount of medication can stop that.
What sort of positions did you have in reality TV?
I started out as a logger, where you just sit at a desk and go through all the raw footage that's shot on the show and you log it into the computer. Then I became a dubber, which meant I would just make copies of all the tapes. It was actually a step up. Eventually I became an assistant story editor, which is when the "writers" piece together a story from the footage. I was also a transcriber for some of the shows. I transcribed for The Osbournes and Temptation Island. The Osbournes was the worst because I had to listen to Ozzy and try to figure out what he was saying and write it all out.
After a long day of watching TV, what'd you like to do?
Just sit and enjoy the silence.
So, what are some projects that you're working on now?
Comedy Central cuts your season in half so that you have a fall and spring season, so we're currently writing the second half of the season. We wrapped up shooting the first half in August, so I'm just going out for auditions, doing stand up, and making videos. Our ratings this season of Sarah's show are higher than last season, so I'm pretty sure we'll get a third season out of that.
What has been the gay community's reaction to your character?
I've gotten nothing but great response. I get tons of e-mails from guys who are really happy to see Brian and I playing a more normal gay couple as opposed to your stereotypical washboard ab model looking characters. I'm flattered every time I get an e-mail from gay guys.
I never thought I would be this sort of champion for gay issues. Every time you read a script it doesn't come across as the stereotype of what it means to be gay. I have to keep reminding myself that Brian and I are a gay couple because it's so much like Brian and myself in real life- just a couple of couch potatoes who like playing video games, getting high, and listening to rock music. In fact, in the first episode they weren't even sure if we were gay or not. In the intro, Sarah said, "This is Brian and Steve. They're gay or brothers or roommates or something." Brian didn't even know we were a gay couple until we were shooting the second episode. He came up to me and was like "Did you know that we're gay?" I like that we're helping somebody by bringing attention to the fact that not every gay guy is well dressed model. Some of 'em are slobs.
Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer
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