May 17, 2020
#13 Michael Meehan – Comedy
I went to San Francisco to meet up with my mentor and sober buddy, Kurtis Matthews (who will be the guest in the next episode). I asked Kurtis if he had any suggestions for other sober comics I should reach out to while in the Bay Area. He connected me with his friend and today’s guest- Michael Meehan. Michael is a standup comic, sketch artist, and film-maker based in San Francisco. He’s been on The Late Late Show, The Dennis Miller Show, Last Comic Standing, and many other shows and movies. He spoke with me about coming up in the comedy scene in the 80’s and I am so impressed that he was able to get sober during that time! Back then, cocaine was not only the glamor drug of choice, but also how a lot of comics got paid! We discuss that, his relationship with Robin Williams, breaking down the ego, and Bobcat Goldthwait being one of the early sober comics. I loved his story, and I hope you do too!
- Michael Meehan on Craig Ferguson
- Michael in the San Francisco Chronicle
- The Meehan Brothers
- Punchline Comedy Club
- Hey Monster, Hands Off My City
- Shakes the Clown
- Robin Williams USO tours
- Oprah explains her gratitude journal (which KiKi now does too!)
- KiKi’s outlaw selfie with Bobcat
- KiKi Maroon on Patreon
- KiKi Maroon on Twitter
- KiKi Maroon on Instagram
- Clown, Interrupted on Instagram
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KiKi Maroon: Hi! Welcome to Clown, Interrupted with KiKi Maroon. That’s me! I went to San Francisco to meet up with my mentor and sober buddy- comedian Kurtis Matthews. He’s going to be my guest in the next episode! While I was up there, I asked Kurtis if he had suggestions for other sober comics I should reach out to while I was in the Bay Area. He connected me with his friend and today’s guest, Michael Meehan. Michael is a stand-up comic, sketch artist, and filmmaker based in San Francisco. He’s been on The Late Late Show, The Dennis Miller Show, Last Comic Standing, and many other shows and movies. He talked to me about coming up in the San Francisco comedy scene in the eighties. Honestly, I am so impressed that he was able to get sober during that time. Back then, cocaine was not only the glamour drug of choice, but also how a lot of comics got paid! We discussed that, his relationship with Robin Williams, breaking down the ego, and Bobcat Goldthwait. After the interview, I’ll explain why that’s super important to me. I loved his story and I hope you do too. Here’s me and Michael Meehan.
[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]
KiKi Maroon: How long have you been in comedy?
Michael Meehan: I started in 1984.
KiKi Maroon: So 35 years.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. Once I started doing it, it was like, “Oh, this is pretty cool.” I got some early successes because I was more outrageous, I think, than other open micers.
KiKi Maroon: What do you mean by, “more outrageous”?
Michael Meehan: Much more physical. I’d jump off stage and do things. There was a comedy club, a hole-in-the-wall called the Holy City Zoo. It was Robin Williams’ home club. They had a tiny stage, but they had this pillar on the stage and it had a rope wrapped around it. I climbed the pole and was doing a set 10 feet above the audience.
KiKi Maroon: Did you acknowledge that you were 10 feet above the audience? Or did you try to do your regular set?
Michael Meehan: I would do, “I will now jump off of this height into a bead of sweat on that man’s forehead!” stupid stuff like that. So yeah, I got some success early on, but to me, the main thing was to get good. And so I did all the TV shows, got on Comedy Tonight. Whoopi Goldberg was hosting. I did two episodes of that, which was very cool.
KiKi Maroon: Oh, wow.
Michael Meehan: Yeah, so I got a little buzz. I was kind of like, “Hey, I’m going to make it in show business!” But of course, drugs – well, not drugs – marijuana. Well, marijuana is a drug. And alcohol, they slowed me down along the way. But when I started comedy, it was just like, “Oh, this is great! You get to perform and you get these free drink tickets. This is heaven!”
KiKi Maroon: You get paid in drinks. That makes it really easy.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. And at that time in the eighties, cocaine was rampant. I never got into cocaine because I knew that it was the deep end of the pool and I didn’t want to go into. But people would get paid in coke or do lots of coke. It was a scene that I knew I couldn’t hang with, so I didn’t do that.
KiKi Maroon: That’s honestly surprising, that you didn’t get into it during that time. Because I always think of Sam Kinison and that kind of thing, where that was part of the comedy. And it’s hard if you see that, those successes around you, to not be like, “Well, that’s whatyou do!”
Michael Meehan: Yeah. That’s the funny thing, you see people who abuse drugs and drinks and you’re like, “Oh, well that’s what you do. That’s how you become successful in show business.” It was interesting because here in San Francisco, Kinison got a big foothold here and I would go see him. It was like, “Oh my god, this guy is on fire!” The same with Bobcat Goldthwait – Bob Goldthwait got a big start in San Francisco. And so it’d be funto see, although at the time he was sober. One of the early sober comics was Goldthwait.
KiKi Maroon: Really? I did not know that!
Michael Meehan: He would just drink Tab soda, which was the most horrific like…
KiKi Maroon: That was like Sprite, right?
Michael Meehan: No, it was some sort of brown cola that tasted so horrendous. He would just chug that stuff. His act at the time was just full-on screaming and yelling, but it was so fun to see. Here’s this one guy taking the whole room hostage with comedy. And I was like, “Well, that’s what I want to do!” So that was one of the early…
KiKi Maroon: And he was sober then?
Michael Meehan: And he was sober! Yeah, he would talk about people offering him a drink. He’s like, “ ‘hey, want to do some coke?’ Oh yeah! You’re the guy I want wired in the house! What do you mean you don’t have any more pets?!” Haha then he’d do a swinging motion around his head, like he’s swinging a cat around.
KiKi Maroon: I’m so jealous that you had that. That was part of what I wanted. I’m very attracted to that magnetic, loud, kind of crazy personality that is so much of comedy. But I didn’t see that sober. So I didn’t think that was a possibility. I’m jealous that you saw somebody do comedy in a sober state.
Michael Meehan: Well in hindsight, it was great. San Francisco, at that time, was ground zero for comedy. Even though there were a lot of scenes, like Boston was happening, and some other scenes. But San Francisco really was a phenomenal pond where people were just doing so much crazy, interesting, wacko stuff.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, Kurtis was telling me about you and your brothers. He kept saying y’all were like the Three Stooges.
Michael Meehan: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. We had a group. After I got sober, we got together and started doing the Meehan Brothers. My brother Howard and I would always goof on stuff. And my youngest brother, Chris, had gone to New York to study the Meisner Technique of acting. So he came back from New York and was looking for something. By then my brother Howard and I had started doing a bit of a duet. We would just do some goofs. But it was funny because when I got sober, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to get sober. I’ll give up my comedy career if I have to.”
KiKi Maroon: “Everything’s going to end. And I’ll deal with that.”
Michael Meehan: Yeah. So I was like, “If I can just stay sober, I’ll be okay.” And what happened was- nothing was funny, of course. I tried going up and doing stand-up sober, but I was new to sobriety, so I hadn’t really grasped hold of what life was about without booze. After a while though, it took off. I started to become so much more cognizant of performing sober and I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is great!”
KiKi Maroon: And you said you opened for Robin Williams as well, right? I just want to understand the timeline – the pattern I’m seeing is usually: no success, sobriety, success. So if you had success before, what happened? What was the rock bottom? What led you to decide to quit drinking, if you were already having those successes?
Michael Meehan: Well, my personal life was going to shambles. I was married at the time and had a daughter who was five, and my wife was like, “I can’t take it anymore.” She gave me the boot, and rightly so. During that time, my brother Howard came to me and said, “Hey, let’s do this play called True West by Sam Shepard.” It’s about two brothers. One brother is the responsible brother and the other brother is the alcoholic, crazy brother. I got to play the crazy, alcoholic brother, but it was funny because I had to quit smoking weed and drinking to do the role! To learn the lines and…
KiKi Maroon: To be focused enough to play the alcoholic?! Haha!
Michael Meehan: Yeah! On stage, I would drink those “near beers” or fake beers or whatever. But as soon as it was closing night, I was right back to smoking joints and drinking. And so then, I kind of went on a tear for maybe two months. And then my family, all seven brothers and sisters, and Michael Pritchard, who was a big sober comedian who I knew- he was the biggest sober comedian who I knew- they did an intervention on me.
KiKi Maroon: You had an intervention?! You’re the first person I’ve spoken to who actually had an intervention!
Michael Meehan: Well, it was the best thing that happened to me. In fact, Debi Durst, who is a comedian and is married to Will Durst (political satirist), just told me the other day that she was the one who told. [Phone rings] There’s my landline, it’s probably a robocall telling me that my IRS account is in danger.
KiKi Maroon: Oh, mine is in danger every day.
Michael Meehan: Every day.
KiKi Maroon: My student loans have a lot of problems, too. I actually miss a lot of very important doctors’ calls because I don’t answer the phone ever, because they’re all robo. I’m like, “Oh shit, I was supposed to make an appointment. That was a real phone call.”
Michael Meehan: Then you have to go back through the system and find whoever phoned you. It’s a pain. Modern angst. But yeah, Debi Durst was the one who sort of told Pritchard, “Hey, Meehan’s got a problem. He’s out of control here.” And part of it was that. But part of it was also just acting out of control, which was kind of fun to do. It was like, “Alright, I’m getting divorced. I don’t really have a place to live.” I was sleeping in a van or crashing at a waitress’s house. Anyway, so I went to rehab and it was great because I finally got a vacation from myself.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. When I was going through… one of those phases… I justified it. Because I knew I was in the middle of it. I said, “I’m acting out,” and because I knew I was doing it I thought I was in control of it. I would say, “Well, I’m letting the id take over right now. I deserve this. Life is falling apart around me. So I get to be crazy right now.” And I thought it was so mature that I was making the choice to be crazy, rather than being a victimto it. And that made it “okay”. Spoiler: It was not okay.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. The biggest thing is we delude ourselves that we’re okay.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. So was rehab it? Did you have a couple of setbacks along the way or once you went to rehab were you…?
Michael Meehan: I prayed to have the hold of booze lifted. I really prayed hard. I didn’t have a problem with God. A lot of people do, but I mean, I was always praying for God to get me out of jams anyway. So it was like, “Hey, this is just one more thing. You’ve got to help me.” They say, “If your god doesn’t work, get a new god. Or get a better god. Or get a bigger god.” or whatever, but I just had to make a slight adjustment. “Alright, I’m really praying for you to lift this obsession to drink from me.” And it was lifted during the 28-day program. I can’t say exactly when, but it was gone. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like drinking. They suggested that I go live in a sober living place, get a sponsor, and do the steps. I started to do those suggestions and then, like everybody else, once you start, you realize, “Okay, there might be something here!”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Did you take a break from comedy? Because that tends to be in bars.
Michael Meehan: I kind of did just a little bit, but I started back in. Of course, I wasn’t funny. I felt just raw. I was like, “Oh my god, I can’t do any of my old stuff.” So it took a while, but I kept going up. I kind of sucked for a while, which was fine. But the idea of doing stand-up didn’t disappear. I guess I got perspective and I thought, “Okay, I’ll stay sober. That’s the most important thing. And then if I can still do comedy, I’ll give it a shot again.” And it worked out. But sobriety was number one. But the obsession to make it in show business or comedy at all costs was kind of chucked aside, which was such a relief in a way. It was like, “Okay, I’m just going to go up and try to be funny.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. You have different priorities. I have to tell you, I’m so grateful to hear this, because pretty much everybody I’ve spoken to was like, “No, it was fine. I would go onstage sober before, even when I was an alcoholic.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?!” Because that was most difficult for me. I always went onstage drunk – always, always. So going onstage, that was terrifying to me and changed everything. Everyone I’ve spoken to is like, “No, that part was easy.” So I’m glad that you had that as well.
Michael Meehan: It was so painful. I’m sure the audience was just like, “Oh my god.” But slowly, it came back around. About seven months into sobriety, I did the San Francisco Comedy Competition, which at the time was a decent big deal. ]You go around and you perform every night. I was just like, “Alright, I’m going for it!” I had done it several times before- drinking, failing miserably, and couldn’t figure out why. But this time, I went in with a pure heart, “Okay, I’m just going to pray for the other competitors. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to turn over the results (to god).” All the stuff that the program tells you what to do.
KiKi Maroon: Seven months in! That’s amazing. To already be in that space.
Michael Meehan: Well, the first couple months, of course, were just horrible. But then after a while, I was like, “Alright, I’m going to try this.” But one thing they said in sobriety was, “Go ahead and try new things. Do things differently. See how it is.” They’re talking about things like, “If you go to a meeting and people invite you to coffee, go to coffee with them!” That’s all it is. They’re just going to coffee. So learning how to socialize without alcohol was the deal. And then you start noticing that, “Oh yeah, a lot of people aren’t drinking excessively!” Maybe one or two.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. That’s a huge thing. I thought, “Oh, I’m not going to have any friends.” Then realized, “Oh wait. Most people are not alcoholics.” I just had found them.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. And you do, I mean, you immediately just find those who are like, “Well let’s just take it up a notch!” And you’re like, “Alright, well, these are my people!”
KiKi Maroon: Haha. Did you have to change your comedy? Was it about drinking, or was it just that you weredrinking while you were talking about other stuff? Did the jokes stay with you?
Michael Meehan: Some of the jokes were about that, but most of my comedy was kind of absurd anyway. So it didn’t rely on my persona as a drinker.
KiKi Maroon: Okay. So it was just an internal thing that you had to get over. I had far too many jokes about drinking. And so now I’m like, “Oh! I’ve got to talk about regular things!”
Michael Meehan: Yeah. That’s why it’s difficult, I think, in the beginning. Plus, you’re also talking about drinking before you’re going on stage and I certainly would drink, have a beer or two, before going on. And then after, of course, the party’s on – hanging out.
KiKi Maroon: Oh yeah. My first bombing after stopping drinking – I remember that very clearly. It was at a festival and it hurt so bad. I used to just run away when that would happen. I’d run immediately and grab a shot. But this time, I just had to sit by the side of the stage. I just looked so uncomfortable! One of my friends was like, “Do you want to drink?” And I said, “No….I have to feel my feelings now…” Haha.
Michael Meehan: Isn’t that the craziest though?! To be forced to feel your feelings? And then after a while, you’re like, “Oh. Okay. This is not bad.”
KiKi Maroon: It’s fuel now!“I don’t want to feel this again. What do I need to do to be better?”
Michael Meehan: Right. “Okay, I bombed. I’m going to go home. I’m going to go to sleep and tomorrow is going to be a new day.” So that’s where you sort of put it in perspective. Where it’s not like you’ve got to get obliterated about this failure or perceived failure.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. It feels like the most important thing in the world that night.
So because you are sober, do you have a lot of comics or people coming to ask for your help or your advice doing that?
Michael Meehan: Periodically. It’s funny because one of the comics I used to hang out with, and smoked tons of weed with, lived right next door to the sober living place. I lived there for 18 months and I saw him twicein that 18 months. Whereas before, I’d see him allthe time. We’d be out smoking weed and drinking allthe time. It was so funny. He lived right next door and I saw him exactly twice.
KiKi Maroon: Haha, oh my god.
Michael Meehan: People knew that I didn’t drink. I sponsored a couple of guys that were comedians. But I sponsored guys in A.A., whether they were comics or not. My first sponsor was a cop. He’d come up to the sober living place in his cop car, give me a big hug with his Kevlar vest. And we’d go through The Big Book (basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous) and do the steps. He was such a kind man. And it was like, “Oh, okay, that’s how you do it.” So, I would try to pass on his lesson of, “Hey, just go through the stuff.” In the beginning, of course people are skittish about going through all their crap. It’s so funny because after you stay sober for a while and you hear a couple fifth steps (Step 5: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”), they’re all the same. It doesn’t matter. It’s like, “Yeah, yeah, we all did that. Yeah. Let’s get moving. What’s your part in it? What’s your part? Oh, you’re selfish. Self-centered. Full of fear. Alright. Good. Alright. Move on. Next person.” Haha. It is so funny. But before you do it, you’re so full of fear. After you do it, it’s just like, ‘Oh yeah.”
KiKi Maroon: Haha. Yeah, it’s true. Actually, Andy Huggins (legendary Houston comedian and KiKi’s friend and sober buddy) is the first person who told me “Go to a meeting.” Multiple times, I drove to a place I had looked up online that was having a meeting. I sat in the car, and then… left. But I felt like, “Well, at least I tried.” It was so scary! Like, “I’m just going to walk into this room? Do I have to sign up? What’s it like?” I was terrified so it took a long time. Then once I finally started going to the meetings, even then I would go to one, and then not go for like six months. Then go to another meeting, then not go for months. Kurtis is the person who told me, “You need to go. It’s not a parachute, only for when things are going wrong in your life. It’s active. Continue to go.” I was doing it the hardest way possible, basically.
Michael Meehan: Yeah, that’s good advice. “It’s not just a parachute.” I find being sober and going to meetings, you hear these stories and you’re like, “Oh my goodness!” Creatively it’s so interesting to hear how people dealt with stuff. You hear new stories or someone will say something that’s just so hilariously tragic or something. You’re just like, “Oh my god!” and just scribble it down.
KiKi Maroon: Hahaha yeah. So I actually – accidentally – went to an LGBTQ crystal-meth anonymous meeting, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! Because everybody was so removed, they all had 5, 10, or more years. They just had the funniest stories, they could joke about it and laugh. We were having the best time! And I was like, “I love meth addicts!” Haha!
Michael Meehan: Haha. There’s nothing like a little time past the debauchery.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. It was just really refreshing and sweet to be like, “Oh, we all have the same problems, the same issues. We dealt with it in the same crazy ways. And no matter how different and insane your story is, I get it. I understand.”
Michael Meehan: Yeah. I think crystal meth is just so crazy. Their recovery is such a blessing. Because it’s so destructive. But of course, drinking is equally as destructive. But it is funny to see the various things. A friend of mine told me, “Well, the only difference between a gay fifth step and a straight fifth step is there’s probably a little more sex.” But of course, it’s guys having sex with guys. So of course there’s going to be more sex!
KiKi Maroon: Haha! A performer in Austin who was from here told me “our stories are unique, but the human experience is not unique.“ Actually, wait…everything’s coming together! His name is Bobby Barnaby. He is a circus and burlesque performer who moved to Austin a year ago. He walked me through this book that he had because I was like, “I don’t understand the steps. Is there a book I can get?” I know they have The Big Book, but I wanted worksheets or something. I didn’t know what ‘Work the steps’ meant. The Big Book is just reading. I need things to do. So he showed me a separate workbook that he got. It actually walks you through. You fill everything out and answer these questions. It’s kind of like a companion to having a sponsor and is helpful with the way my brain works. I was like, “Thank you! I need this.” Because I feel like there are fewer performers and artists in Houston I can relate to to find a sponsor.
Michael Meehan: Are there more in Austin?
KiKi Maroon: There’s a lot more in Austin. And I like to talk to people who understand being in the public eye and that kind of stuff, because I just think there’s a different kind of crazy about some of those things. And so I like to connect with people on that stuff.
Michael Meehan: Oh yeah. So it changes. Certainly my comedy has changed. What I did with my brothers was like a three-headed stand-up. We had a lot of goofy stuff. Our show was very clean, but it was super high-energy. My brother Chris was very physical and my brother Howard and I would be very wordy. But we did our take on “Who’s on First,” (Abbott and Costello comedy sketch), but it was called, “Who’s on Crack.” “Who’s on crack, What’s on crank, I Don’t Know’s on smack.” Haha. It was a pretty good parody of that. We also had one of our first bits that we did, it was called, “Walk for Justice”. It was our closer bit. We’d go, “Thanks for coming down to the show. If you have a little time tomorrow, we’re going to be at this great benefit. It’s called Walk for Justice. It’s a walk, and it’s for justice. For who knows, but we could all have more justice.” And then my brother Chris would start walking behind us and then we’d go, “Now, if you have a little time that afternoon, there’s a Run for Peace.” So then Chris would start jogging. Then we just started into Hopscotching for Halitosis, Horseback Riding for Hemorrhoids. And Chris would be going behind us. We’d just be over obsequious, I guess is the word, just falling over each other about how much we were doing to help other people. And meanwhile, Chris is getting worn out in the back. “Skydiving for Psoriasis, come on out to the airfield,” and he’d lay on the stool and pretend he was dropping out of an airplane. And then in the end, it was Kicking Yourself in the Testicles for Tetanus. It was fun. That was our big closer.
KiKi Maroon: Haha. Oh my god! Do you still do skit-type stuff now, or was that specifically with your brothers?
Michael Meehan: Well, those specifically were with my brothers, but I’ll do some sketches. I’ve been working with Johnny Steele (comedian) a little bit. But it was fun to do sketches with my brothers, and I haven’t really found a sketch group to be part of. Every once in a while, we’d collect comics together and do shows. And The Other Cafe in San Francisco really encouraged it. They would put together three or four comedians and give us a week – it was Comedy Theater Week.
KiKi Maroon: That’s amazing!
Michael Meehan: It was a great show because it was a 90-minute show, everybody got 10 minutes of stand-up. So that was 40 minutes of the show that was already written. And then we’d come up with 50 minutes of sketches.
KiKi Maroon: That’s something Bobby Barnaby was saying he misses in Austin and is trying to build there- are more incubation spaces. He was talking about how up here (in San Francisco), he felt like there were so many spaces where you could just try anything and work on different things like that. And in Austin, it’s more like, they’re booking an already completed show. Versus like, “You can come here and work on this stuff.”
Michael Meehan: Yeah, I mean, San Francisco was great, but I don’t know if they have the space anymore. The tech boom has just steamrolled every space that you could hang out and do stuff with.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, Kurtis was telling me that there are only two comedy clubs here, which I was really shocked about.
Michael Meehan: What’s crazy is the two main clubs, The Punch Line and Cobb’s are both owned by Live Nation.
KiKi Maroon: Oh, really?
Michael Meehan: Which is owned by Clear Channel, which is an enormous national media company. But they were considered the underdogs because when Google came in and wanted to buy The Punch Line building, it was threatening to close The Punch Line, which is a premiere room. The Punch Line is so fun to play – low ceilings, great A-room. They got a reprieve through the city and Google backed off…
KiKi Maroon: So Live Nation was the underdog?
Michael Meehan: So Live Nation, which steamrolled all these clubs and bought up all this stuff, they were the underdog! It just goes to show you the monopoly. But part of the offshoot of that though, is that there’s tons of open mics everywhere that are run by comedians. And Kurtis Matthews runs the San Francisco Comedy College (America’s largest stand-up school). That’s a great alternate venue to produce comedy. And there’s a few other places, there’s some improving stuff.
KiKi Maroon: Are there any clubs in Oakland?
Michael Meehan: Oh yeah. There’s tons of clubs over there. In fact, they’ve been going pretty strong in Oakland because there seems to be a little more space. I don’t know about sketch groups. I’m sure there are sketch groups, but I just only know from periodically going over to do stand-up.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I was surprised when he said that. Because I always hear about comedians coming from here, it seems that there is very strong scene in history here. So when he said there were only two clubs, I was really shocked.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. There used to be a lot more, but it’s definitely shaken out. There are just sort of one-nighters here and there, mostly open mics. There’s not any money in it or else you’re booked in the two main clubs. But they’re all booked through the big Live Nation people.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah actually, my shows just moved in March to the House of Blues in Houston and Dallas. So I was like, “What’s he about to say about Live Nation?” To see if I need to cut anything out! Haha They are basically who I’m working for now.
Michael Meehan: Well, that’s good. I mean, if you can get working with them, that’s awesome.
KiKi Maroon: And a lot of fans were not very supportive of the move, but my stance was, “they’ve got a nationwide network. So if we can get the shows into there, there’s the possibility of being able to go to multiple cities…” Because they go very plug-and-play once you’re in. The growth potential is what I went for.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. Well that’s a great move. And I mean, talk about the business of comedy. That’s a great move to plug into that. It was like that at the Improvs too. If you worked one Improv and they liked you, then you could work all of the Improvs. That was a great move to do. If you’re not in the network though, then of course you’re going to feel like you’re left out in the cold. So you have to find some alternate places to play.
KiKi Maroon: Do you do a lot of club work and tour still?
Michael Meehan: I go out a couple of times a month. Certainly not like I used to where I was living in clubs six, seven nights a week. But I always seem to have a day job anyway during my career. Because I was always married with a kid. So even when I was divorced, I still didn’t go way out on the road. I go up and down the West Coast.
KiKi Maroon: So when you were opening for Robin Williams, that was here?
Michael Meehan: Yeah, I mean I worked down in LA a little bit. It wasn’t like I was his regular opener, but I opened a couple shows with him. Kurtis, I think, builds me up too much. But I knew Robin Williams, I got to hang out a lot with Robin Williams, and I know Robin Williams was considered a friend, which was awesome. I mean, before I started comedy, I remember seeing him on the early Mork & Mindy show when I was in college. Everything would stop and everyone would just go watch Mork & Mindy because this guy, Robin Williams, was on and he was phenomenal. Then I started comedy and I got to meet him in my first week in comedy. I went to some parties, he started making fun of me and I was like, “This is it. I’m in the right place! This is great.”
KiKi Maroon: “We’re friends now!” Hahaha So this was a pre- or post-sobriety?
Michael Meehan: This is pre-sobriety. And then I got to actually become decent friends with him in sobriety, which was great. That was through Michael Pritchard and some other sober comedians, because when you’re sober, you start to gravitate towards those other comedians. So that was a fun thing.
KiKi Maroon: I know you’re going to have to get going. So we have a closing question. If you need time to think about it, it’s fine. I will cut things out.
Michael Meehan: I am an Aquarius. I like long walks on the beach.
KiKi Maroon: You are an Aquarius, also?! Kurtis is, and I said, “You’re only the second Aquarius I think I’ve ever met in my life!” So now, you are third.
Michael Meehan: That’s why I get along with Kurtis.
KiKi Maroon: That’s so funny.
Michael Meehan: What’s your sign by the way?
KiKi Maroon: I’m an Aries.
So the final question is, if you could snap your fingers and people around the world instantly believed two things- that is just their reality now- what would they be and why? The only caveat is that one of them has to be selfless and for the good of humanity, the other one, completely selfish and self-serving.
Michael Meehan: These are hard questions, KiKi.
KiKi Maroon: Yes. I know, that is the point.
Michael Meehan: How can you throw this at me? Of course the first one, even when you said that, it was like – people just be kinder and more understanding. That’s what I’d like to see more of, including myself of course. Because I’m usually fairly kind to people, but once they get behind the wheel of a car then I’m not kind or generous.
KiKi Maroon: Haha, it’s easy to forget!
Michael Meehan: It’s like, “You son of a bitch!”
KiKi Maroon: I actually heard something, I don’t know if this is true, that road rage and those kinds of things that you are talking about are because in the car, we’re going faster than we can walk or run. So there’s a subconscious thing saying, “We’re in danger.” So we’re in fight or flight mode the entire time we’re in a car. And that’s why we’re so high-strung and why everything sets us off.
Michael Meehan: That’s very interesting. That is fascinating.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, I thought that made a lot of sense.
Michael Meehan: That makes a lot of sense. I’ve gotten a lot better, by the way. But as they say in sobriety, “If your spiritual condition is good, then nothing’s going to bother you.” You’re going to be able to weather that. So yes, I guess the two-part question is, yes, I’d like people to be kinder and more generous, which we see the opposite effect in the world a lot now from our own leaders. This massive run to the top to try to get as much as you can of whatever it is, resources, money, property. But that’s, of course, cyclical.
And then the other thing is to be completely selfish?
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Everybody instantly believes this thing. And it’s a wonderful, selfish thing for you.
Michael Meehan: Oh my god! There’s so many downsides to that though. I mean, of course the dream of making it on some successful level is always one of those things that drives you. But I feel that my life is a success right now… I mean, I have enough of a reputation without any fame or anything else, so I’m not bothered. I can be anonymous, but I can go up and perform and be outrageous and then I can disappear. So, I mean, I think I have that.
KiKi Maroon: So, fame might lower your quality of life?
Michael Meehan: I’ve changed my whole idea about fame. I don’t need to be famous.
KiKi Maroon: Quality of life will go down substantially.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. Quality of life. Forget fame. That’s no good. And even enormous amounts of money, you still need to hire all these people to take care of it. And they’re always going to steal as much as they can.
KiKi Maroon: Every time.
Michael Meehan: Every time, it doesn’t matter. Haha.
KiKi Maroon: Dane Cook is in the middle of a lawsuit right now because his brother/manager bought a house and stole millions of dollars, right under his nose. To have so much money to not notice that someone bought a house with yours is crazy!
Michael Meehan: I know enough wealthy people that have had to deal with that. That doesn’t seem like… there are more negatives than there are positives about that. Even though we’re spoon-fed this dream of, “you’ve got to be rich and famous.” It’s like, oh my god, it’s such a pain in the ass. And seeing people – Robin Williams is a perfect example of someone who got everything that every stand-up wants. Everybody wanted to get to be fantastic onstage, to get a TV show, then to do movies, and then to live at home and do movies around your house. I mean, he did so many movies in the Bay Area because…
KiKi Maroon: They will come to you.
Michael Meehan: Yeah, they’ll come to you. But in the end, he still couldn’t take it with him. And he was a phenomenally generous person, too. I mean, there’s a case to be made that he’s probably one of the finest Americans this country has produced because he did all these USO shows (entertainment industry shows to boost the morale of US troops).
KiKi Maroon: Yes! He did! Yes.
Michael Meehan: I mean, it wasn’t just at the military base. He would go out to Firebase Taliban and be in a chopper and do a show for 20 people. His personal assistant Rebecca Erwin was saying, it would be her, Kathleen Madigan, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullens’ wife. Because he- Mullens- was in charge of the whole USO in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it would be three girls choppering in with Robin, someplace where they’d just give you a plastic bag to go to the bathroom in and say “Go behind these piles of rocks” Haha.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, but they do it to give the soldiers a little bit of home, which I think is amazing!
Michael Meehan: Yeah. Robin would just go to all these places. And so, I mean, he’s definitely the guy who got it all. But you look at it and you see, even with all that success, he still had to deal with all sorts of stuff. But he left his mark. He was such a generous person. He was very generous with his wealth and his time. That to me is a perfect example of somebody who made it and used it, but he still struggled with drugs and alcohol sometimes. And then Parkinson’s disease took over. He had an aggressive form of Parkinson’s. He saw his whole life as sand in an hourglass, and that was rough.
So, I think the selfish thing (from the final question) would be just being able to pursue the things that interest me, but I don’t need everybody to learn that.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. You can do that now. Haha.
Michael Meehan: I can do that right now!
KiKi Maroon: It sounds like you’re a perfect example of, “live in the program,” because you’re living in gratitude. That the fact that you don’t even have an answer for that question! You’re living in a space of gratitude and I think that’s beautiful.
Michael Meehan: It’s unbelievable because my selfish nature doesn’t want to be grateful. But when I started to become grateful, I realized, “Oh my god, this is the best deal ever!” It’s so funny. Haha.
KiKi Maroon: It’s almost very selfish because you then live a better life! Haha.
Michael Meehan: You’re like, “Oh shit, I get all the cash and prizes if I’m grateful?! If I go help this other newcomer, if I go volunteer my time, if I do some shit over here for some people, and help these poor bastards or whatever?” Oh my god! It’s phenomenal how that works. Because it’s really easy to see once you’re sober, when someone’s ego is out of control.
KiKi Maroon: Ohh yeah. I sometimes feel guilty for seeing that. Like, “Am I just projecting on them?” And I don’t want to do that. I feel guilty for feeling like I see those things in people. Because I don’t want to be judgy or anything. But at the same time, I’m like, “Oh, he needs it. He’s got a lot of ego and issues.” I don’t want to think that about people, but I see it.
Michael Meehan: When you see it, of course, you’re like, “Oh my god, it’s horrible.” You can just pray for him.
KiKi Maroon: I think, because it feels so familiar, it’s something that you just know.
Michael Meehan: Yeah. Oh yeah. The old, “you spot it, you got it,” type of thing.
KiKi Maroon: Oh yeah.
Michael Meehan: Which, of course being performers, you have to have an ego to push yourself up there, even just to create a persona and do that. But having the program as a counterbalance to that is wonderful because you can say, “Okay, well I am a performer right now, but a little later I’m a worker among workers. I’m just another sober alcoholic who needs this program. I’m just this person, I’m this,” you break it down all the way down. “I’m another carbon-based life form that needs oxygen to live. I’m not special, but because of this program, I get to do all these little interesting things and I see things.” And so it is good, it’s a great life.
KiKi Maroon: There is a lot of freedom, I think, in feeling like you’re not special. Not worrying about, “What is everybody thinking?” and that kind of stuff. And I just feel free.
Michael Meehan: That’s a wonderful thought, KiKi. It is. There’s a tremendous freedom in that!
KiKi Maroon: Haha. So y’all hear that? Be good people, even if it’s for completely selfish reasons!
Michael Meehan: Yeah, yeah!
KiKi Maroon: That’s all we ask. Haha.
Michael Meehan: Be unselfish out there, but you’ll be the one who gets the pay-off.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.
Michael Meehan: Well, thanks so much for having me on. Do I need to plug any products or something?
KiKi Maroon: You are welcome to. If you have any projects or anything you want to plug? Socials? Websites?
Michael Meehan: No, I don’t have. I did a movie in sobriety, called, Hey Monster, Hands Off My City!, which we’re going to be showing again at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco in December. And then eventually, it’ll probably be available online again. It was for a while, but it’s not online. It was filled with comedians…
KiKi Maroon: Awesome!
Michael Meehan: …And a bunch of sober people too. I’d just be in a meeting going, “Hmm, that person over there would be perfect for the role of so-and-so!”
KiKi Maroon: Hahaha! You’re casting in meetings?
Michael Meehan: Totally! Yeah. You know how you go to a casting call and you have like 30 seconds to impress somebody?
KiKi Maroon: Yeah!
Michae Meehan: I was sitting at a meeting going, “Oh yeah, Rita over there would make a great cop.”
KiKi Maroon: Hahaha, oh my god!
Michael Meehan: Haha. So Rita ended up in the movie. It was just so funny, like, “Hey, you want to…”
KiKi Maroon: “Use your pain?” That is so funny.
Michael Meehan: Yes, it was like, “Hey, we need a couple of crazy people!” We needed a crowd of people, but it was during the day and nobody’s available during the day. But there were all these people who were…
KiKi Maroon: At the meetings? Haha!
Michael Meehan: Or at the halfway house. It was like, ‘Hey everybody, we’ll give you 20 bucks!” It’s cigarette money. They’re like, “We’re there!”
KiKi Maroon: Oh my god! Haha!
Michael Meehan: So there is a great scene where this guy is with six or eight people who are all cheering for him.
KiKi Maroon: That’s hilarious! Okay. So I’m going to see if I can come up in December for the screening for that alone.
Michael Meehan: But yeah, I mean, it was the total program. It was fun. And so many other people helped me out in so many ways. But the sobriety thing was very funny, to sit in a meeting and see somebody.
KiKi Maroon: That’s hilarious.
Michael Meehan: And some of it didn’t work, either. There was this one girl I met who was in roller derby – she was struggling. She was struggling to get sober, but she was a roller derby. I was like, “Oh my god, wouldn’t that be awesome to have some roller derby people just zip through the scene!” But it never happened. But anyway, the idea was sparked.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, it fills your mind. Use these talents! Actually for one of my first episodes, I spoke with a roller derby girl (Nicole Morgan aka Marceline the Murder Queen).
Michael Meehan: Oh totally, because you deal with pain. I mean, it’s physical. I mean, it’s football.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah and then afterwards, everybody’s just drinking together and stuff. And so, they actually would make little sober shots for her because they still wanted her to feel included.
Michael Meehan: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s funny. That’s funny. Yeah. That’s rugby on wheels kind of…
KiKi Maroon: Haha! That’s a good way of putting it. Well, thank you so much. I will make sure to include everything in the show notes about the movie. I really appreciate you sitting down with me.
Michael Meehan: KiKi, thank you so much for having me. It’s been wonderful.
KiKi Maroon: Thank you. Bye.
Michael Meehan: Best of luck.
[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]
KiKi Maroon: That was Michael Meehan! I love that we ended our conversation on gratitude. Finding gratitude has deeply changed who I am for the better. Now, I make a conscious effort to not focus on what I don’t have or what I “should” have, but instead, being grateful for my accomplishments, my family, my friends, and ultimately, my life. I haven’t countedthe number of times I could have died, but I assure you, my dumb ass did a lot of things while drinking that- had I died-, people probably would’ve just laughed it off as Darwinism. So yeah, I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
One of the things I’m grateful for right now is Michael telling me that Bobcat Goldthwait is sober. I have been a fan of his stand-up for years, but I never really researched him to know that he didn’t drink. This is bananas to me, because okay- As y’all know from the title of the show, I was an alcoholic stripping clown. I was surrounded by a bunch of clowns, showgirls, sideshow freaks, everything. A bunch of crazy shit happened: I flipped a truck, dealt with cops, got sober, and found happiness. Right? Right! So, I knew that Bobcat had played an alcoholic clown in his 1991 movie, Shakes the Clown, but I’d never seen it. I just assumed it was like a, “Hey, hey, we’re a bunch of dirty clowns,” funny, raunchy movie.
After Michael said that Bobcat was sober, I wanted to learn more about him. So I watched Shakes,and… it’s my story! Haha! He’s a fucked-up clown in this fucked-up clown-world, who seems to be a good person, but can’t get his shit together. A bunch of stuff happens, cops get involved, and the ending is him at an A.A. meeting, getting his shit together! It’s an absurd, surreal, ridiculous movie! And I cried! I have felt like a freak for so much of my life. Seeing something that mirrored my, admittedly, bizarre story made me feel like I wasn’t alone. And here’s where it gets even crazier – while I was on probation, I wasn’t allowed to enter any establishment that served alcohol, which meant I wasn’t allowed to perform. I kept doing it because I was an alcoholic, hardheaded mess who wasn’t going to let the man tell me what to do! But my probation officer saw a photo of me performing. So it kind of got a little sticky. Rather than stop, like a reasonable person would, I started wearing a mask every time I was onstage! During that time, Bobcat and I shared a backstage at this music festival in Houston (Houston Whatever Fest, 2014)! So I asked to take a selfie with him because, you know, “Yay, Bobcat!” It is still on my Instagram right now. He’s a normal looking man. And I’m a drunk pinata wearing a Mardi Gras mask, risking jail time for a gig that paid $20 and drink tickets. So, not only did Bobcat tell my story, he was in my story. That is crazy!
So if you want to see that photo, it’s on my Instagram and Twitter @KiKiMaroon. The Instagram for this podcast specifically is @ClownPod, that’s ClownPOD, no spaces. And of course, you can always join me on my Patreon. Patreon is a cool place where you can show your support for the show, sending anywhere between $1 a month or $1,000 a month over to help cover the cost. It’s just a really cool platform that allows me to continue running this show along with my circus, comedy, YouTube, everything else. There’s more info on that in the show notes. Whether you want to call it a donation or a tip, it’s all greatly appreciated. And as always, I want to thank The Last Domino for use of his song, “Last Call” – that is our theme song! You can find that in the show notes as well. And hey, thank you so much for listening! Have a great week.
[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]