The splendor of Geoff Tate’s philosophical and stoned comedy

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Imagine if your stoner friend was as funny as he thought he was. Not your stoner friend from college, but the middle-aged guy who’s moved all over the country and already gone through his first divorce. The guy who’s gotten past the first-level stoner thoughts and finally has something interesting to say.

That guy is Geoff Tate and he just recorded his fourth album, People Are What People Make ‘Em via the Blonde Medicine record label.

You might have seen Tate on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, or heard one of his frequent appearances on Doug Loves Movies with Doug Benson. The veteran comic took some time to talk to the Daily Dot, via email, about his new album, love of film, and being a labeled a “pothead.”

Where did the title People are What People Make ‘Em come from?

I was looking at the picture that ended up being the cover [The picture shows Tate with his brother] and I started thinking about all the ways we’re different than those two little kids goofing and all the ways we’re the same. Like, how did we end up like this 35 years later? We still basically hang out all the time and laughing is all we do. I wanted a title that reflected that and the line “people are what people make em” nails it. I heard it in a song. (All my album titles are from songs.)

You have some really great moments interacting with the crowd on this one. What’s your general philosophy when it comes to dealing with people who want to talk to you during a show?

It’s a cliche I guess but it depends on the person and the approach. I used to always get angry. Standup is hard enough to do under ideal circumstances. I would get really pissed off when some drunk goon from the crowd tries to ruin it. Nowadays though I don’t really care. I love finding out why they yelled out. That’s more interesting to me than what they said or when or how. The why is always the funniest to me. If I can get the heckler to tell me why they yelled out, I can do some business with it.

Was your approach to this album time any different than the previous three?

This one was looser. The material was newer. It’s the first time I recorded an album of material I was currently doing. I’ve always generated material faster than albums could be released, but now on Blonde Medicine, with Dominic [Del Bene] at the helm, I can get caught up. The days of 18 months for production are over. I’ll probably have another album ready later this year.

You end the album rather abruptly. Was that planned or did it totally happen in the moment?

In the moment. I’ve closed the previous albums with closers and bows neatly tied and it just doesn’t matter. Sometimes the show just ends. That’s what I wanted here. A more accurate representation of how I do standup.

People know you as a big weed smoker. What are some of the positive and negative aspects of being labeled a “pothead” in the entertainment industry?

I have no idea. I don’t think there’s any downside or upside to being labeled. I mean, at least the industry has taken the time to label me. Better than no label, I suppose. The upside is I like gettin’ high and being funny and that’s somehow my job.

Were you high the first time you did standup?

No way. I didn’t get high before going on until like a year and a half ago. Every time (maybe 10 times) before that was on accident. Like I saw The Hunger Games one afternoon and had a show later that night and psyched myself out that everyone would know I was stoned and I bombed. But recently I realized that everyone assumes I’m stoned all the time already because of my associated acts so I figured why not and it’s been fun. It has made standup more fun sometimes.

You’ve been on, and won, Doug Loves Movies a ton. How do you manage to remember so much movie trivia?

I wasn’t allowed to watch most movies when I was a kid so I got my fix by reading about them. The TV guide that came with the Sunday paper had [a] little synopsis and usually the two main stars of every movie on cable that week. I would read all of that. That’s how I know Ellen Barkin is in Sea of Love. I’ve never seen it. It just sticks in my head somehow. Believe me, I wish I could remember things besides just movie trivia but at least there’s a show for it.

What was the best movie you saw 2017?

Best 2017 movie I saw was Baby Driver or Get Out or The Big Sick or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Sorry I couldn’t narrow it down more. Best movie I saw in 2017 was Close Encounters Of the Third Kind. Favorite movie I didn’t see until 2017 is Streets of Fire.

What was the worst?

3000 Miles to Graceland. I shoulda loved this movie. Both Wyatt Earps dress up like Elvis and rob a casino with a buncha other Elvis-clad dudes. It seems like from the moment that sentence ended, every decision made ruined that movie. It made me angry. I was seriously mad.

You also famously love the show Cheers. What do you think it was about that show that made it so influential?

Honestly, whoever cast the show deserves most of the credit. I mean, Sam Malone was narrowed down to Ted Danson, Fred Dryer, or William Devane. He was supposed to be a football player. Two of those guys could play ex-footballers. One couldn’t. Rather than make the wrong choice they changed the main character and location so Ted Danson could do it. Everyone else though too. Coach was perfect but unfortunately, he passed away. Diane was fantastic but she wouldn’t sign another contract. Either of those circumstances woulda sunk another show but not cheers. It’s Sammy Hagar and Brian Johnson. Every other band folds when the singer leaves or dies. The idea AC/DC could survive Bon Scott’s death woulda been laughed at beforehand, same as replacing Diane.

Did you see Ted Danson in The Good Place? He was fantastic.

The Good Place is amazing. It’s high art. It’s a TV show but calling it a TV show seems insulting somehow. Big Bang Theory is a TV show.

Any big plans for 2018?

I’m gonna maintain my weight and maybe start wearing cowboy hats.

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(Geoff emailed the day after sending me these answers to say he would like to add “punch a Nazi” and “change my stage name to geoffy tate” to his plans for 2018.) 

People Are What People Make ‘Em lands on iTunes Jan. 12.



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