Myq Kaplan’s ‘joke brain’ seldom takes a rest
If you follow Myq Kaplan on Facebook or Twitter, it’s likely you’ve read one or a bunch of his new jokes before you’ve had your first cup of coffee. He likes to post a handful of ideas a day, many of them either a play on words (a hallmark of his comic style) or about current events, like these from earlier this month:
“I don’t want to quibble forever but if you ever want to quibble forever it’s called infinitpicking.”
“Life is like the movie “Groundhog Day” except every day is different.
“Also Bill Murray isn’t in it as much.”
Most of the jokes he tweets won’t make it into his act. The exercise helps him to engage his audience, but mostly he does it to keep sharpening what he calls his “joke brain.”
Kaplan, who plays Laugh Boston Thursday through Saturday, defines it as “the part of me that is constantly open to ideas and observations and concepts and experiences that could be processed into comedy material. It’s simply my brain a lot of the time, but more accurately, it’s an aspect of my brain.”
Since Kaplan, 38, started out as an aspiring musician in Boston about 14 years ago, he has kept that brain whirling, and his career evolving. “Before I started doing comedy, I would have said my goal is to be a professional singer-songwriter, and I did everything that I could to do that. And then I discovered comedy, and it shifted.”
He did open mike nights at Club Passim and started performing comedy at the Comedy Studio around the same time. Kaplan became a master of short comedy, one- or two-liners that were both silly and intellectual. “I try to fight ignorance and stereotypes,” he would say, “with karate, like the Asians do.” Another staple from his act a few years back was about his vegetarianism. “People hear that [about me], they assume I’m into other kinds of activism. Like, ‘Oh, you’re a vegetarian. Do you care about the environment? No, I eat the environment.”
While in Boston, Kaplan studied philosophy and psychology at Brandeis University, and he got a master’s degree in applied linguistics at Boston University in 2008. Shortly afterward, he moved to New York City to further his standup career. It paid off. He got some high-profile exposure over the years, doing sets on “Late Show With David Letterman,” “Conan,” and “The Tonight Show” and competing on “Last Comic Standing” and “America’s Got Talent.” He released his first hourlong special, “Small, Dork and Handsome,” in 2014.
To build a headlining set of 45 minutes to an hour out of shorter material, a comedian would have to churn out a lot of material. And Kaplan did that. “It used to be I just wrote thousands of jokes, and then I tried them out, and I had dozens that worked,” he says. He still does that. He carries a portable recorder with him to take down ideas, which he will then write in his notebook every couple of weeks. Those notebooks fill up maybe twice a year, when he will transcribe them into a computer file he calls “All Jokes,” which he now estimates is somewhere over 600 pages long.
Since then, Kaplan’s act has evolved again. He has been grouping shorter ideas into longer chunks and pulling them together into something more cohesive. An album he’s releasing on Feb. 17 called “No Kidding” mines the theme that he doesn’t want to have children. His act isn’t just a series of one-liners anymore.
The set he’s working on for his next special is more conceptual. “The way that the whole hour is structured is kind of ‘Inception’-themed,” he says, referencing the 2010 science fiction movie with the twisting, nesting-doll plot. “I will start a joke at the beginning, and at the very end, I will finish that joke. And in between, there will be different points at which there are different levels where a joke will go into another joke, will go into another joke, and eventually, all the jokes will be finished.”
Political- and social-minded material has long been a part of his act, but Kaplan is working on how to focus that without losing his playfulness. “I was living with a woman at one point,” he says on the Netflix special, “and we didn’t subscribe to your traditional gender roles where like, the man fixes things and the woman cleans things. So we lived in a broken, dirty house. This is America!”
“It was always some silly stuff and some important stuff,” he says. “And I think it’s important to be silly, as well. And it’s important to honor who you are and the things you think are important.”
Kaplan never lost his love of music. In December, he released “Many Mini Musics,” a 42-track album of short songs, ranging from 17 seconds to 2½ minutes. It’s not purely a comedic effort; some of the songs are amusing, some are more contemplative. His motivation for making the album wasn’t to expand his career into music, necessarily. He just had to scratch that specific creative itch. He’s also got at least one idea for a book, collaborating with an artist to illustrate some of his jokes and wordplay, but nothing is set yet.
And his standup will certainly continue to evolve, but he’s in no hurry to force whatever’s coming next. “Perhaps a further step could be a whole hour that is one idea, somehow,” he says. “But also, that’s not urgent. I just want to keep making good comedy, or keep getting better at the comedy that I’m doing.”
At Laugh Boston, Jan. 12-13 at 8 p.m., Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets: $25-$39, 617-725-2844, www.laughboston.com