For the past five years, comedians and self-professed comic book lovers Justin Tyler, Pete LePage, and Alex Zalben have been hosting the weekly talk show Comic Book Club live in New York City. Featuring the best comic book creators and comedians chatting about – you guessed it – comic books and the week in geek, the show launches today (Wednesday) on the Nerdist Channel on YouTube (though you could, you know, listen to the podcasts, too). You can also check out the live show in New York City and be part of the audience every Tuesday at 7:30pm at Pianos in the Lower East Side!
To find out more, we sat down with the three hosts of the show to find out what comics made them cry, how they got into doing the show in the first place, and most importantly, which comic they would deep fry if they could. Oh, and by “we sat down,” we mean they sat down together and chatted with each other, because, you know, that’s what they do anyway. Also, the guy writing this paragraph is Alex. Hi!
Alex Zalben: How did you get into comic books? For me, it was my Dad bringing home ALF and Care Bears books, and it was downhill from there.
Justin Tyler: I was born reading an issue of West Coast Avengers. My parents actually started me reading comics: I got an issue of Avengers that was right in the middle of the “Atlantis Attacks” crossover in my stocking one year that I read until it was seriously dog-eared. We would spend summers at this cabin in the woods in upstate New York, and my brother and I would walk 3 miles to the local gas station which had comics. That’s where I read “The Vibranium Vendetta” crossover running through the Marvel summer annuals. That’s when I knew it was over.
Pete LePage: If I would help my Mom shop – i.e., carry groceries, push the cart, stuff like that – I would get a treat afterwards. Mainly candy, but then one day I picked a comic book. It was Captain America #321 for 75 cents, which was more than a candy bar, but also better for me, so Mom went for it. The cover had Captain America shooting an Uzi and I was like, “Whoa, Cap is a bad ass.” I then walked into my first comic book store and saw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. The cover had a rat opening up his hand or paw, whatever, and turtles with weapons were jumping out of it. It blew my mind! I love comics!
AZ: And I love being a turtle, Pete. We’ve been doing this show for five years. How has our working relationship changed over time, and what’s changed with the show?
JT: It’s funny – we started this show as three comedians doing a comedy/variety show about something we were passionate about. In our first year, our audience was all comedy fans, but then something happened after our first year and suddenly we had this huge fanbase of comic book readers. Then suddenly we were covering conventions… and THEN considered by some mildly-insane people to be part of the comic book media. It was crazy. Never did I think our little show would be a five-plus year part of my life that helps to pay the bills.
Our relationships as hosts have changed a lot as well. I can predict the things that are going to come out of your mouths. Especially the vulgar stuff. Plus, Pete and I are Jedi married, as you astute fans know. Pretty soon we’ll have a little Padawan of our own…
PL: What’s nice about doing a show for this long is learning about the people you work with, knowing what they think is funny and how to do a show in a way that is fun for everyone. I think our relationship has evolved with the show in a way of the more we do, the more we know, and that translates into when people watch or listen to the show, it’s entertaining for them too. My favorite thing people say about it is, “I don’t know anything about comics but I had such a great time.”
AZ: We started it as a live show, moved it to an audio podcast/live show and now to video. How has that changed the show and how you approach it as hosts?
JT: We love the energy and audience interaction of a live show, so that is something that we’ll never give up. But the podcast and now video versions have allowed us to reach so many more people. It’s so awesome to hear from fans in Australia and South America. I have a Facebook friend from Norway because of the show; I can never understand his status updates. I was doing a comedy show that toured Alaska and. in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny auditorium, a trio of kids came up to me asked if I was Justin from Comic Book Club. Awesome.
PL: We are comedians and love working in front of a live audience, so I think it really suits the show. As three hosts of a show, we always defer to the person who has read the most of that particular title or subject matter when we are talking pop culture, which lets the other two listen for opportunities, either for bits or for further discussion. We are three VERY different individuals, which makes our approaches to the show interesting in a way that, as an audience member, you can usually side with one of us and relate.
AZ: Do you have a favorite moment or guest from the past five years? I know it’s recent, but having Dan Slott photograph Pete as he found out Michael Bay was changing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into aliens was pretty amazing.
JT: Favorite moment? Interviewing Neil Gaiman at New York Comic-Con one year was pretty amazing. You can see the hearts coming out of my head, Archie-style, as I talk to him. Performing to a crowd of 1,000 fans (mostly of Buffy) was amazing. Watching Bill Hader do his Tauntaun impression live. Lots of great moments.
PL: My favorite moment the show created for me was when we doing a live show at the NYCC. We had MC Chris performing on the show, I looked out into the audience and saw a girl dressed as Slave Leia and a girl dressed as Tomb Raider dancing with Chewbacca and Deadpool. That was pretty amazing… Also Kevin Conroy – the voice of Batman – was a fantastic guest.
AZ: Anyone you’ve desperately wanted to get on the show, but just couldn’t?
JT: Nathan Fillion would be pretty sweet. Watching you fall in love with Joss Whedon live would be pretty cool.
PL: I would love to get Mark Hamill on the show, to mainly talk about his voiceover work on the Joker. I think Joker is such an amazing villain, it would be cool to hear him talk about it.
AZ: If you were one comic book character, who would you be? I think you guys know I’d go for the New Mutants’ Cypher.
JT: Starman, duh. He’s the best. Someday I’ll get one of his tats.
PL: I think I would be the Hulk, because nobody likes me when I am angry.
AZ: Who do OTHER people think you are? I think, sadly, other people probably think I’m Cypher.
JT: Hmmm, I always thought I was Speedball when I was a kid, but I imagine Pete thinks of me more as a Penance.
PL: I hope other people think of me as Wolverine as an old dude with a short memory who is short, but fierce and even though he has been through a bunch of crazy shit, he still does what he thinks is right and in the best interest of others.
AZ: What is the single nerdiest thing you own? I have a huge plush Bane doll from Batman: The Animated Series that I won in a giant claw machine. Et tu, Justin and Pete?
JT: Nerdiest thing? Probably 12,000 short picture books about people fighting crime in spandex. Also, a skintight Flash costume that I made. I exude sexuality.
PL: I made my own Hellboy t-shirt. It is just one panel: “Don’t mess with me lady, I’ve been drinking with skeletons.” Also, between me and my wife we own three lightsabers and a blaster.
AZ: I feel like I’m just running through the regular questions we get on the show right now, but favorite comic of all time? I’m going with Locke & Key or maybe Concrete.
JT: Starman or Bone.
PL: It really depends on the day, but right now it’s Book Hunter and Scott Snyder’s run on Detective Comics, then Batman. What a ride!
AZ: Comic that made you cry? I won’t say I DIDN’T cry when Cypher died…
JT: The double sized conclusion to the Sinestro Corps. War from a couple years back. Kyle Rayner. Tears…
PL: I don’t cry. Okay, fine, it was Alex Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten.
AZ: Our first guest on the video show is Judah Friedlander, who famously deep-fried a comic on 30 Rock. If you absolutely had to, which book in your own collection would you put in the deep-frier? Pete, you’re not allowed to skip this one.
JT: I keep my comics in a vat of lukewarm oil as it is, so I guess I would just need to turn up the heat.
PL: Never damage comics!!!!! Not cool. But if I had to, I would give a certain Spider-Man comic to someone else. Because I couldn’t do it, but I would want to.
AZ: We’re bringing the show live to Pianos and, of course, to the Nerdist Channel. What’s one thing you can’t wait for with the move? Justin, I assume it’s that five dollar happy hour burger?
JT: That is a great burger! It’s going to be fun doing the show for a new audience of people, both on the Nerdist Channel and live. Seeing it through new people’s eyes is always exciting.
PL: I am excited to find out about more about what it will be like! It seems like a really cool place.
AZ: Any final thoughts on the show? Anything you think people should know before they check out the video version on The Nerdist Channel?
PL: We have been crafting this comedy show for five years and comic books brought us together!
JT: You don’t have to be a comic book fanatic to enjoy Comic Book Club. We bring the geekery to you – all you have to do is tune in and laugh.
You can listen to Comic Book Club on the Nerdist right now and come to the live shows every Tuesday at 7:30pm at Pianos in New York. Be sure to tune into the Nerdist Channel every Wednesday for the video version of the show, which debuts today.