'Like any good comedian, I don't like myself' | Eddie Pepitone talks The Bitter Buddah

'Like any good comedian, I don't like myself'

Eddie Pepitone talks The Bitter Buddah

Cult comedian Eddie Pepitone hosted a question and answer session following a screening of his film The Bitter Buddha at the Galway Comedy Festival.

The documentary focuses on the combustible 54-year-old New Yorker's struggles with anger, his stand-up career and difficult relationship with his father – but the first time he saw the film, the only thing he fixated on was his appearance: 'I was like, “you're so fucking fat!” Ever seen yourself on video? I have it in my head that I'm absolutely gorgeous, like I'm George Clooney. Then you watch yourself and you're like “Oh my God, I should exercise every once in a while.

'Do you want to know how to be a failure?!' he barracked the modest audience. 'Is that what you want? Because I can really help you with that …'

Repeatedly 'lassoing in' David O'Doherty, who was in the crowd, seeking a fellow comic's perspective and reassurance, he cut off the Irishman's opening enquiry to explain how the film's release coincided with marriage to his girlfriend Karen – 'she hated doing the film' - and him performing outside of America for the first time, beginning at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.

Reflecting on the film's suggestion that older, 'authentic' comic's comics like him are overlooked by US television networks that favour 'young, beautiful people', Pepitone confessed that director Steven Feinartz had had to 'cut out ' his mentioning 'all the people I hate. Because everyone would have hated me.

'I got so comfortable with the director, there were so many people that I would just say 'that fucking guy …! David [O'Doherty] was one of them but they cut that! The newest one for me is Andy Samberg. Do you guys know Andy? Yeah, I don't like him …

'I do! He's a nice guy. They're all really nice!'

O'Doherty eventually got to wonder if every comedian in Los Angeles is' just doing a fucking podcast all the time'. And if the burgeoning success of stand-ups like Pepitone, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt and Zach Galifianakis, indicates that the era of 'pretty boy and girl comedians' in the US is passing, with 'a degree of the real world creeping in? I guess that's helped by podcasts because it's people talking about their own life … it's not just about hotties'.

Podcasts are a reaction to interference Pepitone responded, reasoning that 'the good thing about them is that there's nobody like these fucking people who run the TV and movie studios telling you what material you can do. That's the difference. People are just being so honest on their podcasts because they're not told what to do. That's why the sitcoms are all just sugary bullshit, you know what I mean?'

When asked if he'd auditioned for the role of George Costanza in Seinfeld, he lamented that 'I wasn't on Jerry Seinfeld's radar at the point.'

'But yeah, I love doing those, I love playing the sadsack guys. “Hey Jerry, I don't have a job and I'm trying to pick up the girl.” I look like that. I'm very successful at that.'

Unsurprisingly, the intimate indie film hasn't made Pepitone a millionaire. 'I wish. Not even close'. Nevertheless, he has tentative plans to mimic Marc Maron, who frequently appears in The Bitter Buddha, by establishing a successful, personal podcast of his own. Unfortunately, there are some teething problems.

After hosting The Long Shot cast with Sean Conroy, Amber Kenny, and Jamie Flam, he found 'it really wasn't my voice.

'So I'm trying to start my own but I don't know how to work all the fucking equipment! I drag it all to Galway and I'm like an old guy going “Oh fuck, where the fuck does this plug … Jesus Christ! How the fuck does this screw ... “ Then I get it together, I start recording and I'm railing against the government in my room at the hotel … “These fucking guys!” And I realise I haven't been recording for the last hour! If you download my podcast it's just blank sound.'

Collaboration invariably makes comedy easier, if only because 'if it fails, you can go, "it was fucking Todd. Fucking Todd fucked that up."'

'I think stand-up is the hardest artform because you are so alone' he added. 'So I love playing off people, I love riffing. But when stand-up is going really good, really good with the crowd - not like last night at the Seapoint Ballroom - it's the most rewarding thing. Because again, it's all you. And that's another great thing about the podcast, you have total control over what bits you want to do.'

Without spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it, Pepitone's father holds strong views about his son's vocation. The comic ventures that the situation is 'different in the States. I feel like being a comedian is more respected overseas.

'I lied to my dad and told him I was going to be a dentist. Which I should have been, my teeth are falling out.'

After his recent guest spots on Conan O'Brien and Community, his father has been mollified. But 'he just wants to know “how much money are you making?” That's what he respects. But he's definitely supportive.'

So why did Maron seem 'bitchy' towards him in the film? Pepitone's face broke into the broadest grin.

'You know why? Because the movie wasn't about him. Marc is a great guy, an interesting guy and I don't know if you listen to his podcast but he's a very, very narcissistic man. And I say that with all due respect. But really he was giving me shit, he was taking the piss out of me, because the cameras were always on me.

'So he went “what the fuck? How come they're not on me. That's what he likes to do. A lot of people, when I toured with the movie in the States [drops voice] “what's up with Maron?” But that never bothered me because that's just who Marc is.'

Finally, on his signature routine, in which he heckles himself with his own insecurities from the audience, Pepitone confessed that it 'lets me get out all my self-loathing. Because like any good comedian, I don't like myself. It's great to be able to yell shit at myself.

'Every comedian secretly is the greatest heckler ever. Comedians, we get heckled, so it's such a desire for a comedian to do it back. I'll be watching comedians all the time and I have to stop myself. I wanna heckle them - in a good natured way - but still fuck with them. And I actually do that with some.

'It's just a great release. But that's where [that routine] comes from, that fucking tension about “how come my life is ...” and I just fell into it. I don't know when I developed it, I just started going at it. People in Edinburgh loved it so I've just kept closing shows with it.'

-by Jay Richardson

Click here to buy The Bitter Buddah as a Region One (US) DVD. Note that you need a multi-region player to play this.

Published: 29 Oct 2013

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