SideOneDummy Owner Joe Sib Explains How Stand-Up Comedy Is Like Using a New Muscle
Joe Sib traded punk rock for stand-up comedy.
The first thing you realize when you're talking to Joe Sib is his energy. The man is remarkably energetic, and it's infectious. You want to get up and do something with Sib, and more than that, you want him to keep talking because he's very funny.
It's a good thing, too, because Sib, who will turn 50 this year, has been doing stand-up comedy for the past six years after a lengthy career in the world of punk rock music as the frontman for the bands Wax and 22 Jacks. He also runs the Los Angeles-based label SideOneDummy Records, which the Valley's favorite sons, AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad), call home. In addition to his work in music, Sib is a radio host and podcaster, but it's his wife and two teenage children that take center stage in his life.
Sib will visit FilmBar on Thursday, September 29, to share his unique brand of humor, which touches on his experience as a family man and punk rock front man, sometimes in the same breath. We caught up with Sib to talk about comedy, parenting, and punk rock.
New Times: You have two teenagers [ages 15 and 12]. What do they think of what dad does for a living?
Joe Sib: Our whole family is so different than other families. When I was a kid, my parents never encouraged me to learn to read music, or, "You’re always carrying that bass around, why don’t you learn to play it?" For some reason, I’m really taken in by my daughter and my son. I’m so stoked I took advantage of those [parenting] moments when they happened. I never said, "Oh, we’ll do that later’" and had the "Cat's in the Cradle" moments.
That's rad. You have some history with performing in Arizona, correct?
When I was growing up, we were fully into JFA. That was our whole entry point into Phoenix. I remember going on tour for the first time and it was a big deal to play Phoenix and play the Mason Jar. It became a regular thing to do. I remember going there with Pennywise. So many shows out there. It is a good scene out there. Years ago, I became friends with Brian [Brannon] from JFA. He’s a super sweet guy.
How does one go from punk rock to stand-up comedy?
I had to figure out some way to get back on stage. Playing music and stuff, at some point, I just didn’t have anyone to jam with anymore. As a singer, no one is really asking you to jam with them. When you’re the singer, someone like myself, I’m going to bring a certain vibe. Not many people are saying, "Let’s get Joe to sing it."
I was doing SideOneDummy [Records, the label he co-owns with partner Bill Armstrong] for 16 or 17 years, and I wanted to figure out another way to get on stage. I didn’t want to be in a band. I felt as a singer and a songwriter, I didn’t have much to offer anymore. Especially when you’re working with so many great bands. ... I don’t have an AJJ song up my sleeve. I listen to [AJJ lead singer Sean Bonnette's] lyrics and I’m like, "Oh god, you can’t do that" I don’t have that muscle anymore. Songwriting’s a muscle and if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Did you go right into comedy after music?
I took about 10 years where I didn’t do anything on stage. I started to do radio and someone said, "Your stories are funny." I was like, "Okay," but what do you do with that?
Then I did a show with my old band, 22 Jacks, and my bass player [James Achor] said, "Dude, all that stuff you say between songs. You should do something with that. It’s such a good vibe." I started thinking, maybe I’ll tell stories. For a few years, I did a spoken word show. That’s how I met the AJJ guys. I came to Phoenix and I did a [spoken word] show.
It was a crazy turn of events. I did it in L.A. and this woman who booked the Improv told me she loved my show. She said, ‘Is there any way you can do what you do, but do it in seven minutes?’
I’d never written a joke, so I was like, "I don’t know." I’d been doing this spoken word show, but once you saw it, what else could you do with it? I knew I could only do these same stories for so long.
I decided to take a stab at doing stand-up. My wife was not really into. She said, "But comics are so depressed and so bummed all the time. … I don’t want to see you be like that." So then I went into comedy and now I’m fully depressed and bummed all the time. [laughs]
But I wanted to do it. One thing led to another and I got into some clubs and I tried to write some jokes. They weren’t good. They were just not funny at all because it wasn’t real. I was bombing, but I liked it. I liked sitting in the moment where I knew it was not going well.
There's a confrontational element to doing punk rock. Was comedy like that for you as well?
I’d been onstage enough in my life where it did go well. I’d been enough bands and had people ask me for my autograph or sing along with my lyrics, but now, there would be 20 people in a room and I could just tell that they did not like me. They were really not into it. And they shouldn’t be. It was not good, but I just kept going back.
I said something about my family one night on stage and this comic said, "You should do more of that." That was like six years ago. I started going, "Okay, I’m going to write about how my whole life I fought authority and now I’m the authority and I’m not good at it" and how I live in a household with two teenagers. It’s their first time being teenagers and it’s my wife and I’s first time having teenagers.
I yelled at my daughter recently and I was like, "Look, it’s my first time being a father of a teenager and it’s your first time being a teenager, so let’s just be cool with each other." She was like, "Who says that?" I said, "I don’t know, I’m just being honest, I don’t know if it’s okay for you to stay late with your friends or go to these places."
Right now, that’s really provided all of my material. It really connects with people.
I know, right? I’m 49. I’m on my way to 50. I joke around. I can’t believe I’m going to be 50, but I’m cool with it. I’m "taking" 50, not "turning" 50. I thought I was a done deal. I love everything about show business. I love ironing my shirt before I go on stage and I wear a t-shirt. Who irons a t-shirt? It’s something new. I’m using a new muscle. I’m not just singing some songs. I’m meeting new people and I love it. It’s a whole new world. I love being a part of it and exploring it.
To experience something new at this age — I think it’s what keeps you young.
Comedy, though — it takes some commitment, right?
When I went into this, I thought, "If I do this, I want it to be good." For the past six years, it’s been a passion of mine. Every single week for six years. You have to do it like that. You can’t phone it in. I have to get up [on stage]once or twice a week. For a lot of comics, they are getting up there two or three times a night. I have a family and I want them to recognize me.
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