Myq Kaplan 

Sunday, Jul. 28, 8 p.m., $12-$15

Motorco Music Hall, Durham

Billed as “The Master of Geeked-Out Linguistic Humor,” Myq Kaplan’s comedy takes dry, deadpan looks at religion (“I think the Jewish messiah will be an octopus, because it’s the only thing we could crucify on the Jewish star, it can hold all the candles in the Menorah, and it already walks on water”), adulthood and parenting (“I think having kids is like doing drugs: it’s expensive, you have to be in the right mindset, there’s a lot of peer pressure involved…”) and, well, himself (a podcast he previously did for Stitcher was simply called, Hang Out with Me). 

His work hits that rare sweet spot of  combining hardcore absurdity with genuine introspection and a sense of growing maturity that is often absent in many comedy acts today. 

At his upcoming appearance—brought to Motorco by Durham’s own Deb Aronin—audiences will be the first to experience some of Kaplan’s new material. A veteran of the stand-up scene, he has regularly appeared on Netflix and Comedy Central specials, as well as in high-profile shows like Last Comic Standing, America’s Got Talent, and the Late Show with David Letterman. Recently, the INDY called up Kaplan to chat about the Motorco set, his new material, and the kind of self-reflection that makes good comedy. 

INDY: Can you tell us about what you’ll be talking about at Motorco?

MYQ KAPLAN: Sure. I’m going to come and do a very funny comedy show. What if that was all I said? [laughs] I’ve been to Motorco before and Deb Aronin always puts on a fantastic show. It’s one of the best venues I’ve ever been in, and hopefully, the hybrid of producer, audience, and venue will combine into the Voltron of the most positive comedy show Durham has ever seen. I just recorded an hour of comedy a month ago, and now I’m working on a new hour I want to bring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year to record as a new album or special. Right now, though, it’s in one of my favorite stages, where I know it all, but it still needs to be worked on, and there are new things that will come up as I go along. So even if you’ve seen my stand-up before, you’re going to be surprised.

This new chunk of material is all about growth—right now, the working title is “Imperfect.” It’s about a lot of things, like being told by my family and society that I was good at everything, and then finding out that wasn’t necessarily true. There’s a lot about my current relationship, which is—currently, hopefully—the best one I’ve had so far. It’s just about becoming better. I offer myself advice, and other people can have it also.

That’s a theme a lot of people contemplate in today’s world—that contradiction between being told, “Be yourself,” and later on, “Fix yourself.”

Being told you have all this potential can be good when it’s descriptive, but it’s not as good when it’s prescriptive. If my grandmother tells me I’m the funniest person ever, but then an audience … doesn’t, then I can protest, “But my grandmother says I’m good!” 

There’s a thing I talk about in my act from the Talmud where a rabbi says he always has two pieces of paper in his pocket. The first says, “This world was made for you,” and the other says, “You are nothing but ash and dust.” 

So, there are contradictions in life: we are the center of our own universe, we only have access to our own consciousness, but others have that consciousness as well. In life, I feel, it makes sense to work to help others, but to work on yourself first and eventually, to strike a balance. 

What would you say is the greatest level of personal progress you’ve made yourself in the last few years?

I just celebrated my third anniversary with my girlfriend, who’s helped me focus on the best parts of myself. I’ll give this example: I love my mother, but in the past, I’d come away from a meal or an interaction with her and there’d be things that … wouldn’t move the needle for anyone else, but that would stay with me. Like, I’d get off the phone with her and go to my girlfriend, “Why does my mom talk about food so much?” And my girlfriend pointed out, “That’s interesting because you talk about food a lot.” And I went, “How dare you.”

But I realized that she had a perspective I didn’t—that things that I complained about with my mother were also things that were completely true of myself. In those moments, it helped me laugh at myself.

It’s kind of a gradual climb that is ongoing; the struggle to not only focus on the positives but to take the challenges and use them to examine myself. For example, if it’s raining out, you can be upset that it’s raining, or you can acknowledge, it’s going to be raining no matter what your mood is. You can be mad at the rain, or you can accept the rain.

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