Interview: Comedian Geoff Tate loves Cheers, Sinbad and Dave Chappelle


Geoff Tate is a Cincinnati-based comedian and he will be performing in Boston on September 21st and Providence on the 22nd (at O’Brien’s Pub and Comedy Connection respectively). He is touring with Emma Arnold, a comedian he says is “not one of those stupid, closed off dude comics. She’s Hilarious. Really, really funny.”

Last week I saw Tate perform twice in the same night, first as a panelist at a taping of Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies (this episode in particular) and again opening for John Hodgman. He was a riot on both occasions.

Warning: There is some swearing below, so you’re been warned, Sensitive Steffan.

You’ll be in Boston on Friday. Do you have a lot of experience with the city?

Oh, I have no experience in Boston. I think I was there one other time when I was in the city and that was to do one of those NACA [National Association for Campus Activities] conventions. You basically go and do 10 minutes of standup in front of entertainment directors from various colleges and then they decide… It sucks. You stand at a booth. It’s like performing at a flea market. But you hang out with comics, and it’s always fun to hang out with comics.

You’ve noted via various media that you’re a big Cheers fan. Did Boston match your expectations based on how it was portrayed on the sitcom?

Well, yeah. I didn’t see a lot of black people. So that kind of fit Cheers. We went to Cheers Saturday night.

What was that like?

You’ve never been? We went to the one it’s based on, where all the exteriors were shot. I didn’t want to see the replica. I’ll do that one when I come back. But this place looks like like it, the outside and stairway and everything. The employees were—boy—not impressed by me.

Yeah, it’s probably not as warm and sweet as it is portrayed on television.

Nah. Nah, man. Two of the people who were working—there were only about 5 people working—didn’t even know it was a television show until they started working there.

They were probably born after it was on TV.

Who cares? Everyone was born after something was on TV. I’ve heard of the Dick Van Dyke Show! I’m only 37, so it’s not like I saw all of Cheers first run.

On stage you mentioned that your father was a Pentecostal preacher and that you were raised in a religious household. Is that true?

Yeah, yeah. You don’t make that up.

It would be like when Brian Dennehy made up having served in Vietnam.

He did? What a dick! I didn’t know that. Or like how George Bush… Never mind.

How did that inform who you’ve become.

To a profound degree. That, the Lemonheads’ first album, finding out about drugs… A lot of things have turned me into this. All of that and standup comedy.

As someone who came from a religious background and eventually found standup comedy, I am curious to know if you were drawn to Sam Kinison [who was a Pentacostal preacher turned comedian].

Yeah, I’d heard about it. It wasn’t influential. This is going to sound terrible, but I never liked Kinison.

I don’t think it sounds terrible at all.

I thought he was just a shouty, angry fuck who got famous because there were just 10 comedians at the time.

Who did stick out to you?

Oh, I remember watching Sinbad’s Afros and Bellbottoms special so many times.

Really? That’s awesome. 

It came out when I was 12 or 13 and he’s up there in his fucking Zubaz and he’s just hilarious. So fast and his storytelling… It was so funny. I saw him in February at a festival I did and he did 2 hours and 10 minutes. It felt like it was no time at all. It was unreal. Backstage, he was the nicest dude. Don’t ever meet your heroes, you know, unless your hero is Sinbad and he will make it worth. your. fucking. while.

I also remember seeing Marc Maron hosting Short Attention Span Theater. And I remember seeing clips of Chappelle on Standup Standup when they would package all those shows on Comedy Central. I was thinking, This guy is insane. Jesus. Watching that dude. Me and my brother went to see Robin Hood: Men in Tights because Chappelle was in it. That’s how bonkers we were for him. We watched Comedy Central every day after school. And then there was Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, and more.

You were great on Doug Loves Movies. You do that show regularly. What is that like?

Thanks, man! It’s like everything in comedy where it gets easier every time you do it. It seems like people like it when I’m show. There aren’t a lot of haters afterward on Twitter or whatever.

Your presence on stage was very warm. I feel like if you were a dick, it could go another way.

Yeah, but I’ve been a dick [on the show] too. I can be a dick when people come onto the show only to complain about every movie they have seen, and I have responded by being a dick. If I have to be on the show with someone like that, I’m going to loose patience. I didn’t get any backlash for shutting them down.

It’s a weird thing because Doug can’t. It’s his show. He gets really famous people to do it, and so if he’s trying to get someone on and they listen and they hear him bagging on someone, they’re not going to do it. When I do it, then they just don’t want to be on with me. I don’t care. I treat it like I’m a listener who won some sort of contest.

I’ve listened to that show forever and now I get to be on it. It’s neat.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.