Does a 6 or 7 year old just wake up one day and out of the blue emphatically state, “I want to be the next Ron Burgundy!” Probably not. Mike Anderson did know when he was that age he wanted to be a comedian but he became a news reporter first. He still works behind the camera and by the way, he’s a damn good comedian. He’s a funny guy, a family guy and a news guy . He is, Mike Anderson.
AMR.com: Is it true Ann Curry told you the news world is not big enough for two half-Asians so you better do comedy?
MA: Ha, ha. Yes, I’m not supposed to talk about that. Ann is very territorial, and her people put a quick stop to my TV news reporting. I didn’t want to go with stand up comedy, but that’s what they selected for me since we’ve already reached our quota of part-Asians in golf, acting, and the music industry.
AMR.com: Was it always your aspiration to be a comedian?
MA: Yes. I remember watching TV with my Dad when I was like six or seven years old. He was surfing channels, and stopped for a moment on some program with a stand-up comedian. We watched for a few minutes, and then he let out his goofy embarrassed laugh and quickly changed the channel. The comedian must have said something inappropriate for kids, but it was just enough time for me to decide that was what I wanted to do. It stuck with me my whole life. While my little friends wanted to be firefighters or cops, I wanted to tell jokes.
AMR.com: Who were some of your favorite comedians growing up?
MA: As a kid I was never really exposed to stand up enough to develop some solid favorites, although I looked up to a lot of comedians in movies. People like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Martin Short. By the time I was in High School though, there was this program on FOX called “Comic Strip Live”. Thanks to that, I had become a big fan of comics like Ray Romano, George Lopez, and Brian Regan. This was of course long before Romano or Lopez had sitcoms.
AMR.com: Who are some of your favorite comedians now?
MA: Brian Regan still remains my number one favorite comedian. The guy has his character nailed, which allows him to sell his material to the crowd in a way that I think no one else can. I also really enjoy Gabriel Iglesias, Jim Gaffigan, and the late Mitch Hedburg.
AMR.com: Can you talk about the first time you got up in front of crowd to perform?
MA: Yikes. I try not to think about that, but sure. I was sixteen… I think. I had about three minutes of material that from what I remember, took me a really long time to put together. I decided to debut my “act” at a church talent show. Maybe that was for the best, because the audience there was polite, sympathetic, and quick to give “charity laughs.” I had a couple of prop jokes, and I think a few bits about being in High School, the prom, and dating. I remember being so nervous that all my words kind of ran together, but I also got a big high from the fact that people actually laughed. I guess that’s what’s kept me going.
AMR.com: You’ve spent 6 years as a TV news reporter and now you’re behind the camera. Has this helped you (ie performing in front of crowds, material, etc.) in your stand up?
MA: Sure. I’d say the news reporting at least has helped me learn to put aside the nerves and go on with it. As a reporter, I had to do that everyday. I also had to memorize a few lines here and there that I wrote for live reports. Doing that regularly helped me learn how to structure things in my mind in a way that helps me more or less memorize quickly.
AMR.com: Because you are half-Asian, do you feel there is an expectation for you to do just half-Asian jokes?
MA: Without question. Several people in the business have told me to stick to the ethnic material and build my character around it. I’ve definitely felt that pressure. When I performed at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, I chose to go with a diverse set. I did some Asian stuff, some married stuff, some observational. The feedback I got was that that was a big mistake. I was told that I needed to brand myself as a “Half-Asian Comedian” right away. However, many of my comedian buddies say there are already too many comics out there who play the race card 100 percent of the time. That’s the tough thing about stand up. It really is an abstract art, and there will always be a lot of conflicting advice out there. In the end, every comic has to do what works for them. In many ways I think I’m still figuring that out. But I will say it is good to see comics like Steve Byrne, who is half-Asian but doesn’t build his success on doing only half-Asian material.
AMR.com: What is the worst thing about being a comedian?
MA: That’s a tough question. I don’t know that I can think of anything truly horrible about it. Sure, it sucks when you have a bad show or when you get paid beans for a good one. Still, if it’s something you love and you’re lucky enough to do it, life can’t be all that bad… right?
AMR.com: What is the best thing about being a comedian?
MA: The rush. When you have a good show and everything comes together as it should, you come off stage with the best feeling ever. Some say it’s better than sex. My wife would strongly urge me to disagree. But uh… you’re not gonna tell my wife about this website are you?
AMR.com: When the going gets tough, do you ever have second thoughts about doing comedy?
MA: Yeah, I have second thoughts about three times a week, and the going doesn’t even have to be that tough, but I think most comedians go through that. I mean, it really is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s tough to write good material and work that out in front of a crowd. The occasional bad show really sucks, and the pay sucks among other things. It’s even tougher if you do this full-time and try to make ends meet. Luckily, I still have a day job to support the family. But I think those challenges can be good. It helps weed out the people who aren’t truly serious about being a comedian while making the rest of us tougher.
AMR.com: If you weren’t involved in media and comedy, what would you be doing?
MA: Yikes. I really don’t know. I mean, nothing else really ever interested me… well… except for video games. So I’d probably be single, working a low-pay crappy job in order to rent a cheap apartment and support my gaming habit at night. Actually, I have friends who do that and their lives seem pretty good.
AMR.com: What’s easier, funny guy, family guy or news guy?
MA: Uh, none of those are in the least bit easy, but I’d have to go with news guy. Aside from being on-call, you can leave the news guy thing when you go home. If you want to write good material, you have to be thinking about that all the time. Funny guy can also get you heckled and ridiculed… so can family guy. You’re not gonna tell my wife about this site, are you???
AMR.com: How do you spend your downtime when you’re not doing comedy?
MA: Spending time with family and getting my butt kicked on Xbox Live. The wife and kids are great. I have the greatest wife, and I love having two daughters. They can be really freaking cranky, but really cute too. I’m also a serious video-game addict. It relieves the stress for me like nothing else.
AMR.com: With the release of Chinese Christmas, does Adam Sandler have anything to worry about?
MA: Ha, ha. I actually thought of Adam Sandler after I got done writing that song. No, he doesn’t have anything to worry about though. My song didn’t come out nearly as funny as it needed to be. It was more of an experiment than anything. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ll be adding music to my act permanently any time soon. That’s the great thing about YouTube. You can post a video and get some honest, anonymous feedback in no time at all.
AMR.com: You just got a big gig. Who are you opening up for?
MA: Hmmm. I’d love to open for Cosby, or Brian Regan, but both those guys are too big to need openers anymore. But yeah, in my fantasy world that would be it.
AMR.com: Now you’re the headliner. Who’s opening up for you?
MA: I made several good comedian friends throughout the relatively short time that I’ve been doing comedy. If I ever make it real big, and they haven’t surpassed me by then, I’d like to have some of them open for me. All those guys are unknowns just like me, but I think some of them are on the right track for some real good things in the future.
AMR.com: Is MySpace an accurate gauge of coolness?
MA: Definitely. I can’t believe this is even a question! If you have the most friends on MySpace, you have achieved the ultimate coolness. Right now I’m right below 400 which means I’m not that cool, but I hope to get there one day. I think 3000 is about the number where you start to achieve uber-coolness. Okay, so you read the line on my page. It’s just my way of making fun of the friend collectors. I guess I don’t really get it. When I get a request from someone who already has a million random people they know nothing about on their friends list, they don’t really need me, right?