Hey there, Ethan Ullman

ethan ullman jeff curro stern show green room

Jeff Curro and Ethan Ullman in the Stern show green room.

Local comedian Ethan Ullman got a surprise Wednesday: He ended up on the Howard Stern show. Well, you know, he wasn't surprised to be at the Howard Stern show -- he just never expected to actually be on the Howard Stern show.

Ullman was at the show accompanying Jeff "The Drunk" Curro, one of the show's recurring characters. They have a comedy show this Saturday at Bogie's in Albany.

We caught Ethan Wednesday afternoon to talk about being on the Stern show, the Capital Region's simmering comedy scene, the return of two popular local comedy and storytelling series, and the Machiavellian things that sometimes have to happen in order to rise to the top.

The quick background bio on Ethan: First did stand up when he was 16 years old, been at it off and on over the last seven years through school, including college at UAlbany. He produces comedy shows and open mics around the area, and hosts the Alternative to Sleeping show on WCDB-FM.

So, it's pretty wild that you were on the Stern show.

I agree. I'm still trying to process it. Honestly, right now, it feels like I'm in one of those dreams you have where things are going really well and then you get that sinking feeling, like, "Wait a minute... I'm dreaming, aren't I? I'm going to wake up and all this wasn't real." You know, in the pit of my stomach since 7:30 this morning.

Honestly, right now, it feels like I'm in one of those dreams you have where things are going really well and then you get that sinking feeling, like, "Wait a minute... I'm dreaming, aren't I? I'm going to wake up and all this wasn't real."

What is was it like being on the show?

It was the realization of a dream I never even expected would be possible to achieve. It was unexpected and better than I could have ever anticipated.

And you got hooked up with this via the [Jeff the Drunk] show you have this Saturday?

Yeah, I've been friends with Jeff the Drunk from Howard Stern for at least three years now. And he and I are putting together this show Saturday at Bogie's. And I said, "Hey Jeff, how about you contact the Stern show." And he hasn't been on the Stern show in four years, so they brought him in. And I just expected to sit in the green room and enjoy the experience of being in the Howard Stern building and it just took a pretty amazing turn.

What do you think prompted you to want to become a comic?

I was always the class clown in middle school. The class clown where I would make the teacher laugh and not get in trouble. In high school, when I was 16, I had an honors English class, and they said everyone should do something they've never done before and write about it. That was a good opportunity to try out stand-up. I just kept doing it. And I really enjoyed it.

In high school, when I was 16, I had an honors English class, and they said everyone should do something they've never done before and write about it. That was a good opportunity to try out stand-up. I just kept doing it. And I really enjoyed it.

There seems to be a simmering comedy scene in the Capital Region, one that you're very much a part of. How would you describe the state of comedy right now in the Capital Region?

I think we're right on the brink of Albany turning into a new scene, in the same way that, you know, Seattle or Chicago have become scenes in the past number of years. There are a lot of people really dedicated to it [here] and who really try hard. There are a lot of people who'd like to think they're trying hard and doing the right stuff. There's a lot of people who are doing it for the social aspect. But I think there's enough talent in the area -- with the locally-produced shows, and lot of these comics are doing shows out of town, out of state -- I really see it continuing to grow. And I'd say right now is a really good time to be a standup comedian in Albany.

I'd say right now is a really good time to be a standup comedian in Albany.

What would like to see happen here to push the scene from where it is now to a new level?

Hmm. I would like to see every great comedian in Albany -- except for me -- to, like, get in a horrible, fiery bus crash, so I could very easily rise to the top, and stand out more than I already do.

That's very Machiavellian of you.

(laughs) No, I'd love to see just continued success and just supportiveness that seems to be prevalent with a lot of the comics that I know in the area.

One of the things that you have going on is this Storytime Time series, which is part of this broader storytelling movement that's going on generally. Based on what you've seen in the series, what do you think makes a good story?

Kevin Allison from MTV's The State, he does this great live show/podcast and teaching series called Risk. And that's really where I was introduced to storytelling and what got me interested in it.

I guess I'm not more qualified than anyone else to recognize a good story because a good story is a story that you enjoy listening to and are captivated and you want to hear what else happened. But for me personally, having my comedy background and my producing of comedy shows, when I do Storytime Time I don't run it as a traditional storytelling show because a traditional storytelling show is really honesty. But what I look for is honesty, but also a humor aspect -- I don't want to depress or bum out my audiences. What is somewhat unique in Storytime Time is that it's a lot of comedians, it's a lot of non comedians, but what brings everything together is that every story is either funny all the way through or once you get the ending you realize how funny the story was.

So, for me personally, I would prefer really funny or sort of funny stories.

Last question. Fill the blank. Albany would be funnier if _______.

Hmm. If everyone listened to Alternative to Sleeping Thursday nights from 10:00 to midnight on WCDB 90.9 FM and ComedyPipe Radio.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
____

Here's some of the stuff Ethan has coming up...

December 14: Jeff the Drunk Stand-Up Comedy Night at Bogies
With Jeff "The Drunk" Curro (obviously). Featuring Ethan Ullman, along with Jason Smith, Jaye McBride, Thomas Attila Lewis, Harry White, Shaun Sexton, Mo Haskins, Jon Tenace and Michael McLaughlin, with live music before and after the comedy show from "Jon and Dylan" & Jay Frost. 9 pm - $10 ahead, $12 at the door

December 27: 4th St. Funnies at Kokopellis
A sort of successor to the popular Laughs on Lark. 4th St. Funnies will be at Kokopellis in Troy on the Fridays that coincide with Troy Night Out. The first show will feature Kyle "TV's Kyle" Carozza of the Dr. Demento Show and Jason Smith. Hosted by Ethan Ullman and Jaye McBride. 7 pm - $5

January 8: Storytime Time at Kokopellis
The Storytime Time series makes its return, also at Kokopellis. Hosted by Ethan Ullman. 6:30 pm - $5

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