Q: Interesting. Your songs are really sober, it’s hard to imagine comedians as a source of inspiration.
A: I find them very, very inspiring because it’s all playing with language. I get a lot of inspiration from seeing other people play with language and seeing that they’ll take something and run with it and you go, oh, I never would have fucking thought of that. It’s amazing. And they really are fast on their feet, which I’m not. They talk about state specific intelligence, how you learn something in a certain state and you can only regenerate it when you’re in that state. So for me, language is state specific. And creativity is state specific. So if I don’t have the music, it’s very hard to think about what I want to say and how to say it. So the fact that these guys can do it on the spot under pressure in front of people is just unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable. But I really feel that I’ve learned a lot from them. I mean, there’s a kind of fearlessness. Just being around comics has really helped me.
Q: Helped you deal with your own fears?
A: With feeling like I don’t know what to say between songs, that kind of thing. Because I feel like singing songs and being inside of the song is a totally different part of your brain than talking. So it’s very hard to go back and forth. And I do find that shows that are really good, where I’m really funny and I talk a lot, I’m not inside the songs as much. Not that it really suffers, but definitely if I’m really inside the song it’s almost like I can barely talk. It’s just a totally different thing. I think it’s probably super right brain and the right brain’s just like, we’re not accessing your language half. Sorry. It’s all about us right now. So it’s really hard to access language. But seeing comedians work, it’s easier to kind of go back and forth. And it’s easier to – this is in a good way – it’s easier to not give a shit.
Q: I think cultivating not giving a shit can be a really useful thing.
A: Yeah. You can’t care. You really can’t.
Q: You’ll be destroyed if you care.
A: You make a mistake, you’ve got to move on. It’s hard, but comedy helped with that and boxing helped me with that because that’s part of what you learn in boxing. You take a punch and you cannot get thrown off your game. You can’t get mad, you can’t get obsessed, you have your strategy, you’ve just got to keep going. That’s another thing about getting older. I also like to go to twelve step meetings and I feel like that’s had a huge impact on my intellect and my creativity. Because that is all about letting stuff go that you can’t control. So you don’t spend a lot of psychic and creative energy on stuff that is not going to get you anywhere.
Q: You know it’s interesting, regarding the mythology we were talking about earlier. I think people really do romanticize the tortured artist and tend to associate pain and suffering with good art.
Q: The way you’re describing it, though, you’re getting wiser and healthier and smarter and that makes you a better artist.
A: It really does. I mean listen, a mature, insightful person could probably have a lot to say about pain and suffering. But an immature, narcissistic, self-involved person, all the pain and suffering in the world is not going to turn them into someone who has empathy for other people or compassion or understanding.
Q: I want to ask you what the experience of aging has been like, generally.
A: Well, I really feel like what we’re talking about has kind of been the bulk of my experience with aging. You know there’s probably some stuff in there about not taking stuff for granted and being grateful for things. But that’s also the twelve step program. And I’m sure there are a lot of people my age who are still the same ungrateful jackasses they always were. Maturity is something, like creativity, that responds to work. And if you’re working on it you will become more mature. And if you’re not, you’ll probably just keep repeating the same mistakes and drawing the same wrong conclusions that you always did.
Q: Have your goals changed?
A: Well, this is interesting, I was just talking to somebody about this too, not to drop a name, but it has to be dropped, I was talking to Dave Eggers about this. When you’re younger you have goals that are kind of about getting attention, maybe from certain people, or trying to create an identity. Having your art kind of wrapped up with specific or general members of the opposite sex, and trying to prove to other people or prove to yourself that you’re good or that you can achieve or that you’re special or interesting or whatever you’re trying to prove. And in lieu of having those goals and motivations, sometimes it’s really hard to be motivated to work. And in talking to him, the conclusion I drew was this: that we have those goals when we are young in lieu of having been taught skills of discipline and perseverance. And they serve for a while as a temporary substitute, but now it’s time for us to learn those skills of discipline and perseverance and practice and hard work. Those are skills that you have to learn. And some people get to learn them when they’re young so they don’t need to have these carrots and sticks of craziness and dysfunction. But when you don’t get taught those basic skills, you do need them, or it doesn’t happen.
Q: And do you feel like you had to cultivate those skills? Did you not have them?
A: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I did not have them at all. And I don’t really have them now.