Seth Herzog Talks ‘Sweet’ Ahead of Anniversary Show Tomorrow [INTERVIEW]

Posted on: September 10th, 2013 at 10:09 am by

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Jim Gaffigan with Seth Herzog

For almost a decade, Seth Herzog has been entertaining the Lower East Side with his weekly comedy revue at the Slipper Room, Sweet. A well-connected man, the comedian always comes through in bringing both the well-known talent and up-and-comers alike. His show is also the best bargain in town at $7 per show.

Sweet officially turned nine last month (Jim Gaffigan was there), but is celebrating its birthday tomorrow night with its annual anniversary show at Webster Hall (9pm). The bill will include show regulars Hannibal Buress, SNL’s Kate Mckinnon, Jessi Klein, and Sean Patton.

We chatted with Herzog about the future of Sweet, how to handle hecklers, and some of his favorite moments.

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BOWERY BOOGIE: How would you describe the show to Sweet virgins? Has that description changed over the years?

SETH HERZOG: I’m sure it’s changed over the years, but when people ask about the show, they are usually just being polite. So I try to sum it up in the fewest amount of words as possible but that piques their interest. “I host a weekly show every Tuesday at the Slipper Room, where I have 3 or 4 guests, usually someone pretty big, and my mom does a bit every week.” And they say, “Your Mom?” and I say, “Yes, she shows up and talks about what’s on her mind and I deconstruct it.” And they say, “I have to see this.”

BB: What was the inspiration to start Sweet?

SH: Back in the spring of ’01, comedian Josh Weinstein asked me to help produce a weekly comedy show at small storefront theater called “Freaks Local” on W 45th st. That show was called “The Industry Room.” It only last a year and a half but was a lot of fun, had lots of great people on it, had three locations, and was the first time I was given a place to perform and experiment each week with no fear of bombing or not getting asking back, etc. After Josh and John Viener (another one of our producers) moved to LA, I didn’t have a home show for 2 years. I saw the success “Invite Them Up” and other shows were having and I missed it. Well, in ’04 the Hartman brothers were planning to open Mo’ Pitkins on Ave A, and they asked me if I wanted to host and produce a weekly show there. I jumped at the chance, but they wouldn’t be open for another year. I was also regularly hosting burlesque on the weekends at the Slipper Room. James Habacker, owner of the venue, asked if I wanted to do a show on Thursdays. So I said, “Well, I start ‘Sweet’ on Thursdays at the Slipper and then move it Mo’s when it opens.” We never moved it to Mo’s.

BB: Who were the comedians on the inaugural show?

SH: The first show, which was on August 5, 2004 (Thursday), opened with Michael Showalter and Zak Orth’s musical duo “The Dollies,” then Ed Helms told a funny story, Demetri Martin performed, and I believe the show ended with David Wain and Paul Rudd doing a sketch that ended with them singing an entire number from “Les Miserables.”

My co-host DJ for the first couple of months was a fairly well-known drummer named Ethan Eubanks, who is also quite funny and great off-the-cuff. After a couple of months, his schedule got crazy and I started mixing in a different person each week.

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John Oliver

BB: You sure started with a bang. It’s clear that A-list comedians (Jim Gaffigan, John Oliver, Aziz Ansari, Hannibal Buress) consistently show up to test new material. Is that just because you roll with the A-List or has Sweet achieved a reputation for being a proving ground among your peers?

SH: Oh I definitely roll “A-List style.” I don’t think I’ve ever ridden anything that wasn’t a white limo and I only wear fur coats with nothing underneath.

[Honestly, though] it might just be a sign of having been around a long time at this point. Of comedians you’ve mentioned, I’ve known them all since they started comedy (John since he came to NYC), so at this point Sweet has supported a lot of young comedians who have become something special in the last 9 years. In terms of some of the actors who show up (Justin Long, Sam Rockwell, Josh Charles, Paul Rudd) that’s a byproduct of being friends with those guys for years, and coming up with a fun way for them to join in the fun without the pressure of doing “a set.”

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Bob Odenkirk

BB: Who was the best “get” you’ve ever had on the show? And which comedian would be your reach?

SH: Hmmm, off the top of my head, I’d say having Bob Odenkirk show up at the end of July was a great get for me. Also, I’ve had Seth Meyers on the show twice, which is nice for us because he rarely performs at any other shows in NYC. It’s also nice to have people like Justin Long, Paul Rudd, Josh Charles, Will Forte, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, regularly showing up to do sketches and co-host.

In the future, I’d love to get Alan Cummings to come down and tell a story on the show. I’d also love to see what Jim Carrey would be like as a stand up now. I bet it would be very different from what he was doing 20 years ago.

BB: Hecklers at shows are super annoying. Pretend we’re being a total dick during your bit. What’s the trick to handling assholes who think their comments or questions like this are funnier than the show?

SH: First, I might say, “What?” to quiet everyone and isolate their comment and to make sure everyone hears whatever they said. Also putting it out of context will make it seem awkward. Then I might wait a beat in the silence, before answering them with a sarcastic “hilarious” or if I want to get into it, I’d reply with a comment about what kind of person they might be or talk about what might behind what they said, etc. Either way, the audience will always be on the performer’s side, that’s one thing hecklers never realize.

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Seth with the pooch

BB: Learning from the best! So … the future of Sweet – intimate small shows, Netflix original series, somewhere in between? Continue indefinitely or call it at some point?

SH: One never knows what the future will hold. Yes, I’d love to turn “Sweet” or a version of it into a TV show. One where it concentrates on the sketches, and stand-ups’ sets are shortened and never what you expect. In terms of calling it, next year is the 10-year mark, that might be a good time to say, “I think we did it.”

(Ed note: please don’t!)

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