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Mike Goss Interview

He’s worked with Joey Dee and the Starliters, The Platters, The Coasters, The Boxtops, Danny and the Juniors, Gary Lewis And The Playboys, The Belmont’s, and Bill Haley’s Comets, to mention just a few names. And those are just the musical acts.

He’s worked with comedians Angel Salazar, Marty Putz, Reed Rankin, Rene Hicks, Tracy Smith, and Bobcat Goldthwait to again, mention just a few names.

He’s performed at The Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, Cazenovia College, Syracuse University, Paul Smith’s College, SUNY at Oswego, SUNY at Cortland, the Giggles Club in Utica, The Comedy Works in Albany, The Comix Café in Buffalo, and the list goes on and on.

Who is this person you might ask?

Well, it’s Syracuse, New York’s own comic Mike Goss, a man who the Syracuse New Times described as the “ Salt City’s Funniest Fatman”.

And that is where we started with our line of questioning.

Q – Mike, The New Times has called you “The Salt City’s Funniest Fatman”.
A – Wow! (Laughs). You’ve done your research.

Q – Now, in these politically correct times, why can’t you just be called “The Salt City’s Funniest Man”? Why Fatman? Aren’t you offended by that?
A – I’m absolutely not offended by that. I don’t know why they call me that. I think that article was written by Russ Tarby, who’s a good friend of mine. At the time I was probably doing Monday mornings with Big Mike and Gomez on Y94 (local Syracuse radio station). So, there was a controversial little thing about who was the funniest fat guy. Steve Corlett was around then on 95X. So, there was a few fat guys around. I guess he called me the funniest fat guy and I didn’t mind that at all. I’m not offended by stuff like that. I’m a comedian. I’ve got to be able to take some pokes, you know. I give enough out.

Q – When did you get into comedy and why? Did someone tell you-----you are really funny!!
A – Originally, let’s say 1975…First of all. I was a funny guy all my life, like the class clown, the big hit of the party. People gather around me at parties for fun, outspoken. Had a lot of laughs. Always had a sense of humor. 1975 I tried an open mic night at a place called Under the Stone in Skaneateles. The old Stone Mill. Bobcat Goldthwait was there. Tom Kenny was there. Barry Crimmins was there. Another local comedian from Cortland was there. I went onstage a couple of times and I realized how difficult it was. You gotta be in control, when you’re on the stage. When you go up there and somebody yells fatty at you, you can’t break. You gotta go up there and be comfortable with yourself. And-----I wasn’t comfortable with myself. I came back in the 80’s and tried again. Again, not comfortable with myself. I tried Wiseguys (club) back in the 80’s. I felt like I’m lookin’ like a freak. All of a sudden I come back in the 90’s, and it was like magic. I just felt comfortable. I came back in 1990. It was my 16 th year. I feel funny. Not only do I feel funny, I’m ready. I feel disciplined. I have the self-control up there. I have the self-respect for myself. I’m confident in myself. And that’s what you need in comedy. Not just being funny. It’s a lot of other things. So now when I hit the stage I feel like I’m King of the Mountain. I don’t feel like anybody can beat me now. That’s the way you gotta feel-----like a fighter. Almost like a fighter in the corner. When the bell goes off it’s your fight. You gotta be confident in yourself, not matter what you do. In comedy it’s very difficult, because you’re all alone up there. It’s not like being a band member in an orchestra. If you blow the wrong note nobody hears it. You’re by yourself (in comedy) and you’re the focal point. So, you really gotta be confident and sure of yourself. You can’t have doubts about yourself when you get up there. So, that’s the whole thing. Comedy is a funny business. I sing too, so I know the difference. Comedy requires energy. You really gotta be on top of things. You really gotta control that crowd ‘cause you can lose ‘em. In comedy, your crowd has got to hear you. In music they just listen. That’s the difference. Comedy, you gotta have their attention. Whatever you say, they gotta hear you. In music, people are talking, having a good time. Eating their lunch. Eating their dinner. Sitting down having a drink. I’m singing. They’re talking. I don’t mind that. In comedy I demand your attention, and then I give you my stuff.

Q – Is your career best served by staying in Syracuse? Would you be better off by being in a bigger city like New York, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles?
A – I couldn’t do it because of my family. I actually got into comedy now too late. If I would’ve gotten into comedy in the 70’s, I’m sure I’m sure I would’ve be up there right now. I have no doubt that I would have been up there with the rest of the guys. That’s when comedy broke, in the late 70’, early 80’s. I know I would’ve done well, but I couldn’t. I had a family at the time. I still have a family. I just couldn’t pick up and leave. I already had a job and place so I couldn’t pick up and leave, like a lot of other comics. They were kind of free wheelin’ it, you know. They could take off and go, but I already had commitments. Back in the 90’s, I was 37. So, I started pretty late.

Q – Rodney Dangerfield started when he was 40.
A – Right. He did. That’s what I had heard. But, I definitely would’ve done better. I never even went to New York. I never tried any of that stuff. I’ve worked at a lot of places, especially along the East Coast. I worked a lot in New Jersey, Philadelphia. I’ve done a lot of stuff down that way. But, I never made an attempt to go into the big city. I’m just too old for that now.

Q – You do your own booking?
A – Yes. I do have a few agents that book for me, but I do my own booking too.

Q – You had this weekly dinner show going at the Spaghetti Warehouse (in Syracuse) didn’t you?
A – For five years I did a weekly dinner show at Spaghetti Warehouse. Then I did a monthly dinner show for another two years. That was because I was getting too busy to do weekly’s anymore. So then I left Spaghetti Warehouse after about 8 years. I went to Tony’s Family Restaurant (on Burnet Ave. in Syracuse) for I’m gonna say 3 years. Right now, I’m booking what I want to book. Somebody calls me for a special booking-----I’ll take it. A little party-----I’ll take it. But, I’m not travelin’ around lookin’ for work. A couple of years ago I decided not to do anymore clubs. First of all, club owners are not what they used to be. There’s only a couple of guys left that are decent. Everybody else is a hawk. They treat you like a slob. They want to put you up in a little room behind the places, a junk room. There’s no respect. They don’t want to pay good. So, I don’t want to do any comedy club work. I dropped into the new level, the corporate level, corporate, private parties. That’s probably where my niche is right now. It’s the best niche. I’ve probably been in that niche I’m gonna say for about 3 years now. They pay better. They treat you better. It’s only a one-time thing, so it’s not a big deal.

Q –You do this tribute to Frank Sinatra. When did that come about-----and why?
A – Sinatra. That’s funny. I started doing some comedy impressions probably about 10 years ago (1996). I did a Louie Armstrong, a Joe Cocker, and ‘Phantom of the Opera’, with the wardrobe. I put the hat and the mask on, the cape. It’s Michael Crawford who did the Phantom. Those were the only three impressions I did. People after shows used to say, you’ve got a beautiful voice. You oughta sing! And all of a sudden I said, you know what? Maybe I should start singing! I thought why not sing Sinatra? I wanted to be one of the first people to come back with the old stuff. So, that’s what I did. I did the kind of a tribute to Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Usually when people hire me, they hire me to sing and do comedy. It’s kind of a package that I now sell. I sing most of the Rat Pack stuff-----Sinatra, Dean Martin stuff. People enjoy it.

Q – You sing to pre-recorded music?
A – Yes. Karaoke. My daughter works for me. She does all my sound, Kimberly. She does all my sound equipment. She’s my roadie. Puts everything together and I just get up onstage and do my thing. Let’s say o get hired for a corporate party, I sing during the cocktail hour or during dinner perhaps. Then after dinner do a half-hour, 45 minutes of comedy. So, they have the option of whether they want the singing or not. People like the singing. It’s nice. It’s comfortable. It’s relaxing. His music (Frank Sinatra) is never gonna die. I always liked his music anyway. I sing some Beatles stuff too. But, I like Sinatra, Neil Diamond, easy kind of listening.

Q – Where do you draw your material from? Daily life?
A – Life. I live my material. If I go on a trip, that’s my material. I go to the store, that’s material. Just livin’ everyday. I don’t do too much political stuff. I just talk about life and how things have changed since I was a kid. The name of my show is called ‘That’s the truth’. I tell everybody that’s the truth. I’m not really politically correct. I call a spade, a spade. I go out there and tell people how it was. That’s the way it goes. I just tell the truth. That’s where I get my humor-----growing up, getting married, living in an Italian-American household, growing up Catholic, parochial school, that type of thing.

Q – What high school did you graduate from?
A – C.B.A.

Q – What do you like about doing stand-up?
A – The one thing I gotta tell you about and I gotta make sure I say this and I tell this to everybody: throughout all the years I’ve done it, I’ve met the most wonderful people in the world. If you watch CNN, Fox and the news everyday you’re pounded by all these creeps and S.O.B.’s that are on this earth, and sometimes you lose faith. I’ve met the most wonderful people, sweet people, especially after 9-11. After 9-11 was a big turning point. It took awhile but all of a sudden after 9-11, people wanted to laugh. They were so sick and tired of seeing those planes hit the building and the dust and the people. It was awful. So after 9-11, there was maybe a couple of months, people said we gotta go out and laugh. If you made people laugh after 9-11, man, you hit their soul. I remember working down in Jersey, big guys hugging me and crying. Just laughing and saying, ‘Thank-you. God brought you here tonight for me’. There’s nothing better than getting a feeling like that, that you made somebody laugh who’s hurting. That’s one of the things comedy has given me. I’ve done o.k. with it. I never went to Hollywood. I never made it to the national level. What I’ve done is touched peoples’ hearts, and I’ll never forget that. I’ve met the greatest people and that’s my whole thing about comedy.

Q – You were in that movie “Shakes the Clown” with Bobcat Goldthwait. What was that experience like?
A – A couple of weeks before Bobcat was making the movie a friend of mine who was out in California, who also knew Bobcat said, Bobcat’s looking for extras. You want to be an extra in the film? I said sure. I thought what the hell I might as well do it. My wife and daughter and I flew out to California. I spent 3 days on the set. I did a couple of scenes with Bobcat, and Tom Kenny and LaWanda Page, from ‘Sanford and Son’. I did a couple of scenes with her and ‘Downtown Julie Brown’. It was pretty funny. You had to be on set at 6:30am and do wardrobe, and get your hair done and make-up and everything. It was pretty cool. It was just fun being around everybody. Having lunch with everybody and hanging around the set. I was never in a movie before. After the movie came out, I think I’m in the movie for 2 seconds. You might see my back in a bar scene. Bobcat and I did a gig here in Syracuse probably a year after his movie. After the gig or before the gig, I went into his dressing room and he said, I am so sorry that I didn’t get more scenes of you in the movie, get you to talk or something. He had problems with finances. Doing the movie, they had problems with editing. They had a mess. That was pretty cool of him to say that. We kind of came up through comedy together. We started the same night together.

Q – Where do you go from here?
A – I have no clue. I don’t know what the future is gonna bring for me. I wanna do more comedy. I wanna do more singing. I don’t know if I have any big adventure for the future. I do wanna make people laugh. I’m trying to continue making people laugh right up until my last breath!!

 

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