| 20 questions: naked comedy guy Andy Ofiesh

20 questions: naked comedy guy Andy Ofiesh

Andy Ofiesh, the man behind The Naked Comedy Showcase, satisfies our curiosity…

What came first, the comedy or the nudism?

Oddly enough, they came simultaneously in 1998. I was taking an adult-ed course in stand-up comedy and by coincidence I decided to go to a clothing optional weekend retreat. Both the stand-up and being socially naked were firsts for me. Saturday night at the retreat we had an entertainment program in which I decided to do my first ever stand-up comedy performance , and what the hell, why not do it naked. I had so much terror and adrenaline running through me I got high off of it. The audience was absolutely loving me because they knew exactly what I was going through being naked and doing stand-up comedy both for the first time.

What was it like performing naked for the first time ever?

The feeling during and after that performance was like being kissed for the first time. I had just been hooked by stand-up comedy. Later when I started performing at regular comedy clubs, fully clothed, I enjoyed it, but it was never quite as great a feeling as the first time when I performed naked.

What’s the big appeal of being naked? Is it sexual or just exhibitionism?

For me it's neither sexual nor exhibitionism. Being naked just feels comfortable. My goal for every show is to make people laugh until they forget we're naked. The appeal is that for most people getting naked and speaking in public are two of the scariest things you can do without risking physical pain or injury. When I get on stage and do these two things that most people are afraid of, with a smile like "there's nothing wrong here", the audience loves me before I even speak a word. The audience reaction every time out is like what I imagine it is to be walking on stage already famous.

How would you describe your naked body?

It tastes delicious.

Is nudity inherently funny?

It's hard to tell because when people laugh at me being naked it's often due to nerves. It's a real mind shift to see someone you don't know naked and with no sexual context. Having your mind shifted like that tends to release adrenaline, and that can lead to laughter, but that doesn't make it funny.

What has been the worst reaction to your genitals?

I once had a heckler yell, "What's with the clit?" That's a lie, it actually happened twice.

And the best?

I got blown. That's also a lie, it actually happened never.

Isn’t the nudism just a gimmick?

Yes. So much so, I'm thinking of changing my name to Gimmicky McGimmick. It's the best gimmick ever because if you want to steal it from me, you have to do it.I would greatly prefer to live in a world where non-sexualized nude performance was common place, and bringing a naked comedy act to the Fringe was a "who cares" kind of event, but that's not the case. As long as I have to live in this reality, I intend to take full advantage of the press opportunities that it offers.

How easy is it to persuade other comics to perform in the buff?

I have never succeded in persuading anyone to do the show. I simply ask so many comedians, and hear ‘no ‘so many times, that a few yeses come my way. It's just lucky for me that it usually tends to be extremely talented folks who say yes to this kind of thing.

Have you ever had audience members getting naked too?

When we perform in New York we have a clothing optional section in the audience. In Cambridge (Massachusetts, not the UK one) the rule is that we can't be a strip show, so any naked in the venue has to abide certain rules such as not accepting tips or touching the audience. Therefore, nobody in the audience can be naked, otherwise the venue and I would be responsible for their behavior. I don't know what the rules in Edinburgh are yet, but if the Gilded Balloon will allow us, we may put in a clothing optional section in the audience. However, at every show, I invite anyone in the audience who wants to, to come on stage and tell a joke naked. I don't want anyone to go home wishing that they had gotten naked.

Which comedian would you most like to see without their clothes?

Nobody in particular, but I love to see anyone do naked comedy by accident.

And least?

Little Howard. That would just be inappropriate. On one show we had a lanky 19-year-old guy, who just looked really young, and the audience was a bit uncomfortable until he made a joke about his youthful appearance, and assured the audience that he was legal.

Since you’re happy being naked in front of strangers, is there anything that DOES embarrass you?

I'm very much embarrassed about dancing. Yuck, I hate it. I have to be really drunk to even shake it a little. And, asking a woman out on a date is the worst, worst, worst thing ever. I never want to do it again. I'm much more comfortable asking someone over to my place to get naked and exchange massage.

How much of your comedy depends on the nudity?

I do just enough material to let the audience know that I know that I'm naked.

Do you wish I’d stop asking about the nudity thing?

Not at all. I don't mind that you're a perv. I could talk about the joy of getting naked for quite awhile without getting bored. I usually outlast anyone who will listen.

Tell me about your regular guests on this show…

I am bringing with me two brilliant acts from the states who will be performing in their own shows as well as mine. There is the Walsh Brothers who are doing their own show called The Walsh Bros - Themself at the Underbelly (18:35). And, there are a couple of lady clowns named WAK and BAM who are doing there own show called I Am You Are Me at the Berlin (12:25) as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

What makes you laugh?

Little kids hitting things that they're not supposed to is hilarious to me. I make myself laugh at the most inopportune times as well.

How does the US comedy circuit compare to the UK one?

You can't compare US comedy to anything because there so many wildly diverse styles in the US. To make an interesting comparisson you really have to narrow it down to a region, a city, or even a club. In the Boston area there are Boston comics and Cambridge comics, and there is a big difference between the two. Boston comics appeal more to the common denominator and just crank out the laughs whether it's with social observation or a good story that anyone can relate to. Cambridge comics are more eclectic, diverse, absurd, and if you don't laugh at least they've made you think man. The nude thing makes me a Cambridge comic. My impression of UK comics is that they are all very clever because they typically enunciate so well.

This is your second time at the Fringe. What did you think of it from your last visit.

I saw so many incredible shows, I knew that I must come back, and make even more time to see other shows. It's way more entertainment than there should ever be in one place. I can't wait to go back next month. And, there is the partying until 5am, that's pretty cool too.

Apart from your own, what other Fringe show(s) would you recommend?

The Walsh Bros - Themself at the Underbelly (18:35); WAK and BAM in "I Am You Are Me" at Laughing Horse @ Berlin (12:25); Brian Longwell in "Is Dick Cheney Evil?" at Laughing Horse @ Edinburgh City Footbal Club (13:20); Jimmy Tingle for President" at Assembly @ Hill Street Theatre (13:40)

Published: 9 Aug 2007

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