Brooklyn’s Max Silvestri and Gabe Liedman have appeared on Best Week Ever and Best Day Ever. They host the free comedy show Big Terrific on Wednesday nights at 8:30pm Cameo Gallery (behind The Lovin’ Cup Café) in Williamsburg. Guests have included Zach Galifianakis, Todd Barry, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Schaal, Joe Mande and former Big Terrific host (and Saturday Night Live newcomer) Jenny Slate.
Tell me a little bit about Big Terrific.
Max Silvestri: Big Terrific is a weekly variety show hosted by some combination of me, Gabe and our friend Jenny Slate when she’s available. We just have a very fun, silly sense of humor. Every act we have on the show is someone we love to watch.
What made you choose New York as the place to start up your comedy career?
MS: If I wanted to do comedy, it had to be New York or LA, but I don’t look good in shorts. I like wearing layers, and I hate driving.
Gabe Liedman: I look awesome in shorts.
MS: You really do, but you pull them off in New York, so it’s fine. I mean, people pull them off you. I’m sorry, I misspoke—people pull your shorts off.
You do Big Terrific in Williamsburg. Would you say that there is a Brooklyn-specific brand of humor?
GL: I’ve definitely found that the crowds in Brooklyn—and it could be said generally of wider New York, but especially the shows that I’ve done in Brooklyn, which have been a thousand shows—are way smarter. They get jokes that aren’t normal setup–punch line [style]. I’d say it’s a way more personal interaction. It’s not a typical comedy-club experience.
MS: Yeah, I completely agree. I think the crowds in Brooklyn know about comedy and are coming to see comedy. They’ve seen it, and they know what they like. They’d much rather see someone struggle on stage really honestly with a new or challenging story than someone who’s incredibly polished and uses all the tricks in the tool bag.
How does living in New York inspire your routines?
GL: There’s no shortage of entertaining stuff in New York. You can get material from anything. New York is such a great environment to be young in and form a pretty honest personality of your own. I’ve definitely found that it’s a really accepting city. A lot of my jokes are based on how gay I am, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to write them as honestly in other cities if I was scared of what people were going to think.
MS: I agree with Gabe. And because it’s a city where you’re constantly in trains and in public and surrounded by people, it’s just a constant fountain of inspiration and amazing stuff.
Any particularly hilarious experiences that have popped up in your routines?
GL: One of my favorite stories that I’ve been telling lately is about a time, about 10 years ago, when I worked at Magnolia Bakery. I mistook a celebrity for a panhandler and almost pepper sprayed him. That’s a thing that I think would only really happen in New York.
Homeless-chic is in.
GL: Yeah, exactly. The person was so famous, and, to me, I thought he was coming to steal the cash register.
Do you guys have a favorite place to see comedy in New York or a favorite show that you like to go to?
GL: I really like Whiplash, Monday nights at the UCB [Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre]. I’ve never seen a bad lineup there, and it’s a good vibe. It’s really late at night on Mondays. I always think I’m going to be the only one there, but it’s always packed.
MS: I did that show recently, and it’s just amazing that they get that much energy on a Monday night. It’s young people who are up for it—everyone seems so happy to be there and part of something so cool. That they sit on the floor and pack into the aisles is pretty rad.
GL: I would say our show is even better.
MS: I agree.
Do you guys have day jobs? Or is comedy your full-time gig?
GL: Comedy is my full-time gig, but it ain’t pretty right now. I used to be a sales boy at Barneys for years, and now I’m just kind of freelancing in the comedy world.
MS: I do have a day job.
Are you at liberty to talk about it?
MS: Yes—I make passports for terrorists. No, I work at MoMA.
Say something that’s going to make us laugh right now. Go!
MS: I’ll tell you my favorite joke from when I was a little kid. [Tells dirty joke.]
Something that we can put on our website?
MS: Gabe, do you have anything?
GL: Oh, my God, not even close. Tourists will have a fun time at our show, but our mouths are too dirty, I guess, to quote us.