Break out the peach iced tea — I’m sitting down with Justin Linville!
Hi Justin! I miss people! If we were able to have a face-to-face interview, where might we sit down to chat?
If you came over for an interview, we’d meet in my small but cozy living room. There are no windows in the living room and we don’t have central air conditioning, so we would do our patented method of opening my bedroom door and my roommate’s bedroom door and blasting the AC in our rooms.
I’d offer you a peach iced tea.
Thank you for the tea! This is indeed cozy. I’m curious: What if we were sitting down in your ideal creative or living space? What might that look like?
In my perfect world, I have a shared office in Queens with a couple of my buddies. There’s big windows and coffee brewing all day. There’s a writers’ room where we have meetings. There’s also a big windowless room where we have video shoots. We spend the day there working on our respective projects. In the evenings, we put on shows in the space or watch movies on a big projector.
In that world, we’d meet in the writers room and you would be offered a peach iced tea upon entry.
I should probably switch to decaf after this. That sounds amazing! I fondly recall performing on your character show “Don’t Be Yourself” before you moved to New York. A lot has changed since then. When you think of ColdTowne Theater, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
First thing that comes to mind is the mural on the side wall. It’s a really beautiful image that really makes me feel like I’ve come to a cool exciting place.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at that cool exciting place?
Because my time at ColdTowne also coincided with my last two years of high school, my ColdTowne memories are coated in a thick layer of nostalgia.
There were Sunday night movies in the theater, hanging out in the parking lot after shows just talking to wonderful, kind, creative folks that embraced me as part of their comedy community. Going to I Luv Video before shows, picking up a lesser-known comedy classic, and listening through the wall to hear the muffled sounds of an improv class ending.
I also got to see the Daily Show writers do improv in 2015 which blew my little mind, and I got to run tech for some really magical improv shows. There’s a Patio Talk / Movie Riot show that is seared in my brain forever where Amy Frances Wright was crouched down pretending to be a newscaster talking on a television set in a storefront window. After a beat of her talking, someone noted that she was not a newscaster but a woman sticking her head through an empty television frame pretending to deliver the news.
Not to be a total improv nerd, but the thing that really stuck with me from my ColdTowne experience was the training. Getting a solid foundation in organic improv taught by improvisers with a true love of the craft is something I feel incredibly grateful for. I couldn’t have had a better introduction to improv than ColdTowne Theater. There are so many lessons that I carry with me every time I perform.
I’ve been in a lot of different creative environments since training at ColdTowne, and I have to say ColdTowne is my favorite.
I agree that the teachers and curriculum are top notch. On that note, let’s take a quick ad break to thank our sponsor, ColdTowne Theater. We teach classes here. Ok, aaaand we’re back! Speaking of nostalgia, I really miss answering machines. Like, an embarrassing amount. Pretend it’s 1995. What is the outgoing message taped on your machine at home?
I’d probably go with the classic: ‘[Pause] Hello? Hey, can you hear me? [Pause] Ah, I’m just messing with you, leave a message after the beep.’
Whoa, you really got me. Haha! Sorry I missed you. Do you have a pre-show ritual? If so, what? Ok, call me back and let me know!
If I’m doing stand-up, I like to spend my day not thinking about the show until the hour before. In the hour before, I like to spend some time going over my set list while listening to music and having a snack. It’s a fastidious kind of artform for me, so I like to be pretty fastidious about my prep.
If I’m doing improv, I like to have a day where I really let myself be silly and let the worries of the day fade away. This should be the goal every day, in my opinion, but it’s helpful to reinforce that on days where I’m doing improv. It’s an art form where you need to be loose and malleable and ready to have fun, so it helps to be in a loose, malleable headspace.
I couldn’t agree more. What comedy projects or experiences are you most proud of or that otherwise stand out to you?
I worked on this podcast last year with my old boss, Chris Gethard. It was a little bit of a challenge initially (starting a creative partnership with your boss of three years presents some unique challenges) but after a while of working on the show, we got to a good place.
I was doing a weekly segment on the show called ‘Planet Partytown’ with my good friend Maya Sharma, where we presented an absurd, interactive comedy bit to Chris and the guests. It was a lot of fun and flexed a lot of creative muscles that I desperately needed to flex. Rekindled my love of making complicated silly stuff with my buddies.
Earwolf housed all the episodes under their ‘Earwolf Presents’ stream for those interested in exploring some silliness. We hit our stride around episode seven.
I’ll definitely check that out! What are you working on now? What’s next for you?
I was on the last season of Crashing on HBO and I was in the first season of What We Do in the Shadows on FX.
In the fall, I shot a small part in a drama called Rushed, which is about fraternity hazing, written by and starring Siobhan Fallon who I met on What We Do in the Shadows. If you Google her, you will see she’s been in literally every film in the world. I was also in a movie called Here Today, which is about an aging comedy writer grappling with dementia. It’s a tiny part, but the film was written by comedy legends Billy Crystal and Alan Zweibel and was directed by and starred Billy.
I got cast as a regular in a comedy pilot right before quarantine that was shooting out in North Carolina. Production was shut down right before it was to be announced that I was cast so I have to keep the details private BUT curious souls can Google …
How mysterious. On that note, let’s take a quick ad break to thank our sponsor, the Google search bar. Ok, aaaand we’re back! I can’t wait for the return of live shows, film sets, and writers’ rooms. How was that last pre-quar experience in North Carolina?
The experience was really incredible. It was collaborative, improvisational, everyone’s voice was valued, and it was really funny. During a time where a lot of the art we’re seeing is ego-driven and maddeningly self-serious, this experience made me really optimistic that we’re going to see a resurgence of comedy that celebrates silliness for silliness’ sake. I hope people get to see it!
Me too! What’s a word of advice you might give to someone interested in getting started in the scene or actively pursuing a career in comedy?
Maybe this is because I’ve spent the last few years in a city with a very competitive comedy scene but, I see a LOT of seriousness in comedy. Not to say people shouldn’t take the craft seriously, but I find it’s very helpful to remind myself that all comedy should be fun.
My favorite comedies are ones where people are doing the thing they think is the funniest. And it takes a lot of hard work to do a good job, but through all that work, don’t ever forget that our job as comedians is to have fun and be silly and not to take ourselves too seriously.
Other general advice in comedy is to be kind, thoughtful, open-minded, willing to learn, and try to stay in touch with what you think is funny. Also, do other stuff that’s not comedy. Hang out in the park for like six hours, get out of town for the weekend, spend an evening trying to draw a bear.
When you’re making comedy, it helps to not spend 24/7 thinking about comedy.
Love that advice! What are 5 things you would recommend if you recommended any random 5 things?
- I know it’s trite to recommend The Office at this point, but the writing is amazing, the performances are amazing — keep watching The Office, folks. Tell your kids!
- New York comedy! I’ve got a lot of funny friends who are making funny stuff and putting it on the internet! Ladies Who Ranch, Simple Town, Nasty by Ian Lockwood, Please Don’t Destroy, Thomas Frances! Check out their stuff and support weird New York comedy!
- Don’t Stop or We’ll Die is a band I’ve rediscovered in the past year. They’re a comedy band whose original members are Paul Rust, Michael Cassidy, and Harris Wittels. They’re very silly and very good. Their song ‘Mommy’ makes me laugh a lot.
- Read comics! Comics are amazing! They keep me sane and keep me from staring at my cursed screen all day! Luke Pearson, Sarah Glidden, Charles Forsman, Lisa Hanawalt, Natasha Allegri, Keiler Roberts, Max de Radigues!
- Buy a tiny instrument and play it whenever you’re bored. Keyboard, ukulele, guitar, express yourself with a little music.
Wonderful! I see a pint-sized oboe in my future. Thank you Justin for your tea and your time. I’ll leave a message on your machine next time I’m headed to New York.
Justin was interviewed by comedian, actor, writer, oboe player, and fellow ColdTowne Theater alumni Stephanie Thoreson
Photo by: Sandy Honig, Design by: Stephanie Thoreson