20 Questions Tuesday: 180 - Paul Gilmartin

This week, I have the distinct honor of asking 20 questions to comedian Paul Gilmartin. Many people may know him from his insanely long stint as host of “Dinner and a Movie” on TBS.  Some people may know him from his stand-up comedy. He has a biting sense of humor, that he had to keep in a bag, tucked in a corner of a locker in the back of a neighboring building while he was hosting Dinner and a Movie. Many may know him from his guesting on various podcasts and radio shows as his character Rep. Richard Martin. This character is a polarized version of a generic far right congressman out of Ohio.  It causes him much grief via the twitters because many people don’t quite understand the concept of satire.  Some others of you may also know him from his most current on-going project, The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast.  This podcast is a series of very candid conversations with mainly creative types in the entertainment business about mental illness.  It is an amazing podcast and should be required listening for anyone looking to go into the crazy ass entertainment industry.  
This podcast, while amazingly interesting and wonderfully engaging, poses a problem for me asking 20 questions… In many ways, Paul Gilmartin’s life is a pretty much an open book. This will make asking very interesting questions that have not been covered a rather difficult task to be sure.
Paul has graciously given me permission to ask him 20 questions… so let’s get to it. Onto the Questions!
So, you have mentioned on your podcast and other podcasts you have guested on, that you play hockey… Question 1: What position do you play? and why that position?

Hockey.  Awesome.  My favorite subject (other than me), and this is even better because I get to talk about hockey AND me.  Let me ease my pants off…there we go.

I play defense.   Three reasons:  you don’t have to skate as hard as forwards do; you don’t have to be as creative with the puck; you tend to be more of a reactor than an initiator.

Players with crazy-good stickhandling skills tend to be forwards.  With defense, it’s more reading opposing players well and knowing their tendencies, you can be really efficient with your energy and don’t have to be in great shape.   I’m 48, so I’m not going to be able to blow past a 20 year-old, but I’m a little tubby, so if he’s trying to blow past me, I can step in his path and let my tubby do the talking.   In a nutshell, defense is a great position if you’re observant, out of shape, not great at scoring and enjoy collisions.

Great answer.  My room-mate in college for my freshman and sophomore year played hockey as a forward… oddly he played with stand-up comedian Steve Byrne for the club hockey team at Kent State.  Since he played club hockey and not varsity he had to store his equipment in our dorm room…. oh, god the smell.. sweet jeebus, the smell.  Question 2:  Where does your wife allow you to store your, I assume, dank, smelly-ass equipment? (cause seriously, she may not have all the power in the relationship {she might} but I imagine she at least has veto power on where your sweaty, odoriferous, bacteria ridden equipment should be stored) on the other hand…. since you play in the adult league, are you only wearing shins, knees, elbows, and gloves?

I keep my equipment in the garage.  There are few things on the planet that smell worse than hockey equipment, especially gloves.  That’s why NHL guys rub the palm of their gloves in opposing players faces when there is a scrum.   They call it a “facewash”.    I wear full gear, including shoulder pads, which some guys don’t wear, and a cage on my helmet, which isn’t mandatory either.  I’ve seen too many people sustain serious damage to their faces.  Lost teeth, detached corneas, you name it.   In fact one time I accompanied a teammate to the hospital and watched him get 80 stitches in his scalp.  He had taken his helmet off during warmups and a stray puck hit him.   I’m shocked that anybody can play without a cage or a visor and not be worried.

God, I wish I had a garage to put John’s equipment in for those 2 years… Seriously, that would have made all the hockey worth it. Question 3: When and where did you learn to play hockey?  Was it a Chicago thing? Because Illinois is not really a hotbed for hockey, is it?

I learned to play hockey on the frozen ponds in the Chicago winters.   I was never given instruction as a kid, so I just picked up what I could by watching other kids.  Hockey was popular in my neighborhood during the winter, but it was not played by many people during the summer months in ice rinks.   

Chicago is actually a pretty big hockey town.  The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the original 6 NHL teams and have had a couple of heydays in their 80 year existence.  Right now, they are in one and probably as popular with Chicagoans as any of the other sports teams.   Their games have been selling out for a couple seasons running.  Unusual for any American hockey city.   Definitely helped by the fact that they won the Stanley Cup in 2010.  Ending a 49 year drought.

Interesting, if asked I would not have mentioned Chicago, off hand, as a hockey town. In retrospect, it makes sense, but I would have picked Michigan and Minnesota before anywhere in Illinois.  Anyway… I usually ask this as question 11, but it feels really natural here.  I was born in Oklahoma City, OK.  I moved to Montgomery, AL, and then grew up in Birmingham, AL.  I went to undergrad in Kent, OH, and then settled in Columbus, OH.  Question 4:  What is your geographic history?

Chicago, Bloomington Indiana for college, back to Chicago, then to Los Angeles, where I currently reside.

I got my MA in geography, so this answer always intrigues me. So you moved from Indiana directly to LA.  Question 5: If I remember hearing correctly on your podcast, you got your degree in theatre, and you pretty much transitioned directly from Chicago (if you don’t count college time in Bloomington) to the heart of the entertainment industry,  when did you know you wanted to be in the business called “show?”

I moved from Chicago to Bloomington (81-86), graduated, then back to Chicago for seven years (87-94) before moving to LA in 1994.   I knew I wanted to be in show business by the time I was about 10 or 12, and would watch the Tonight Show and think being either Johnny Carson or one of the stand-ups was the coolest thing ever. I didn’t get the nerve to try performing until my senior year of high school by hosting the talent show.   I was pre-med at IU and my roommate talked me into signing up for a campus comedy competition.   I took an acting class to overcome my stage fright, fell in love with acting and stand-up and changed my major my junior year to theatre.

Interesting.  It is amazing how talent shows are kind of the gateway to performance. That being said, I did stand-up for my elementary school talent show in 3rd and 4th grade (or was it 4th and 5th?), and now I work for the state putting points on a map where the state has dug holes in the ground.  I wonder if I had done that for the high school talent show if I would have pursued it more now.

So, on a different tract, Question 6: Correct me if I am wrong, but you have been married for a good long while.  Where did you meet your wife, and how did that courting process work?

Met her when we were both doing standup in 1987 in Chicago.  Kind of a typical dating process. Moved in together in 88. Got married in 95. Still together. Oh, and she began feeling dead inside towards me in 89.

So it was the basic story.  Boy meets girl.  Boy tells girl bad joke. Girl Tells boy better joke. Boy realizes he is out of his league and vows to drag girl down to his level by hoodwinking her into some form of relationship so there is balance in the universe. I’ve heard it a million times before.

So, Question 7: You have a relatively long relationship with your wife and that relationship has survived the equivalent of millennia in the entertainment industry, what aspect of a long term relationship surprises you most? For example, my wife and I have found that, even 14 years in, it is still active and taxing work to maintain a healthy level of communication, worth it, but still work.

I’m not sure if anything surprised me as I didn’t really know what to expect.  But I would say that the cliche is true. Communication is the most important thing, and also knowing how to do it with diplomacy and love, even when I’m angry.  And of course I’m lucky to have someone who genuinely makes me laugh.

When my wife and I got married, she was studying to become a therapist.  Needless to say, communication became a necessity in our relationship.  For much of our early marriage, we even had a formalized times to sit down and talk with each other.  It was amazingly useful in really building a good foundation for our marriage. That being said, the person who genuinely makes you laugh is super important.  Which leads me to one of my mantras: “Funny over nice.”  When there is a choice between being funny and being nice, I usually go with funny.  My wife’s family has another mantra/motto that we constantly referred to is “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.” Question 8: Do you have any mantras?

Mantras.  Hmmmm.  I suppose a few are. Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Sometimes its good to keep your opinion to yourself. You can’t change people, only your reaction to them. If you’re stuck in the past or the future, you miss a lot of good stuff that’s happening right now. Take responsibility seriously but not yourself.

…Oh and never go to Vegas for longer than 48 hours.

All good mantras to hold onto.  Even though I have never been to Vegas, the 48 hour rule is probably the best rule-of-thumb I have heard in a while.
In a similar vein as the mantra question.  When I played soccer and fenced in college there was a ritualizing of how to prepare for a match that bordered on superstition. Question 9: Do you have any rituals for getting yourself prepared for doing stand-up or for doing appearances as your neo-con Representative character?

No rituals.   Just look over any notes or new jokes I want to work in.    Sometimes before I go on as Richard Martin, I talk in his voice while I wait in the wings.   The sound of his voice has a lot to do with how he smiles, and sometimes when I’m improvising answers as him, I forget the smile and lose the voice and it sounds like my voice instead of his.  Oh, and I sacrifice a welfare baby while I listen to smooth jazz.

Firstly, let me say, “smooth jazz?  You are a monster!”  

A few days ago on the Twitters you wrote “Engaging in my favorite Xmas tradition. People ask me how I’m doing, and I lie.” and I glibly replied something to the effect of, “could make it next question n the 20 Q’s Tuesday we’re working through.”  So Question 10:How are you really doing?

I struggle with my depression this time of year. That coupled with the fact that I’m having some problems with my psych meds. I’m having to do something I do quite a bit, which is to consciously tell myself that this is temporary, because it always is.    I know my shrink and I will get the med thing figured out, but in the meantime, there isn’t a lot of vigor for life or natural enjoyment of things. Just waiting it out. Feeling blah. Not horrible, just blah and tired of feeling blah.

Now, we are speaking my internal language (careful all five of you readers, it is about to get real, bitches!). I find that my depression is worse during the October time period more than the holidays. I think this has to do with my allergy to leaf mold coupled with a generic genetic predisposition to depression. It also rears its ugly head more around my birthday in June, but that is because of a particularly traumatic event that occurred on my 19th birthday.  The holiday season tends to be a very joyous time for me because everyone in my family around me tends to be insanely exuberant during this season.  Since you are in SoCal, I cannot imagine it is simply seasonal affective disorder.  Question 11: Is it the holiday season that triggers this level of dysthymia or do you have a different idea as to why the blahs come around in December.

I don’t know why it comes around this time.  Maybe the shortened days.  Maybe the reminder of the feeling that I should be happier around the holidays, and feel kind of broken as a result.  Or maybe residual feelings from my dad hitting an alcoholic bottom in 1992 right around Xmas.   But I remember feeling mixed up about Xmas even before that.

Question 12: So, how big of a liar do you feel Andy Williams was when he wrote the lyric “It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the yeeeeeeear!”?

I think he should be sentenced to variety show jail for perjury.

So, speaking of Christmas songs, my two best friends have been having an argument about Christmas tunes since we were in high school.  Question 13: Bing Crosby or Burl Ives?

Bing Crosby.

That was a quick and easy reply, “Silver and Gold” and “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” don’t sway your position?  My bet is you picked Bing so fast because of the weird duet with David Bowie.  Question 14: back to the mental health stuff… How long have you been doing therapy, how long have you been on meds, and how many meds have you tried so far? People, I think are under the false assumption that they can just take prosac and the depression goes away…

I started therapy around 1990.  I’ve been going on and off since then.  I’ve tried about a dozen different meds and settled on three that usually work.   I’ve been on meds since 2000.

You give, so I give. Since my wife was going to be a therapist, it was mandantory that I go into theray… It helped so I have kept at it as needed. I started therapy with my wife, then girl-friend, as a couple’s counseling thing back in, I think, 1995 (definitely by 1996), and have been doing individual therapy off and on since then. I started anti-depressants I think in 1998 or so, went off for a while and am back on them again.  So far they seem to be working well enough.  I actually have some motivation now.  I think that some people are under the misconception that all therapists are good, and if the therapist they are seeing doesn’t work for them therapy never will work for them. I have seen four counselors total, and of those four two were really good. Question 15: How many counselors/clinicians/therapists have you been through in you 21 past years of therapy?

I’ve seen three different therapists and three different psychiatrists.

Question 16: Did you have a good rapport with all 6 of them or were some of them not quite a good match?  If they were not a good match, how so?

The therapists were good matches.  The first two psychiatrists weren’t helping me ease my depression.  The third did by addressing my alcoholism.  He refused to see me unless I quit drinking.

Ah, we are now into the rote questions at the end of all of my 20 Questions Tuesday interviews. Turn about is fair play, and I feel it is rather unfair to not allow you to ask me anything.  Question 17: With all of the topics we gave covered are there any questions that you want to ask me?

What do you do for a living?

Well I will be a little circumspect about this, just because I do not want my current employers to be able to do a super-simple Internet search and find this particular post.

I work for the geotechnical engineering section for the state Dept. of Transportation. I am the a Geographic Information Management Sciences specialist. I am in charge of all the geographically referenced data within our fine state that the DOT has collected. These collections are primarily done through digging bore-holes. The big project that I am currently working on is about getting all of our historic data (napkin drawings done in the 30’s in some instances) digitized and searchable both spatially and as a typical database. It is akin to watching paint dry.  I listen to probably 30 hrs of podcasts every week. I spend much of my time watching progress bars slowly creep across my screen, whether it is some complex query or instruction for a program to do, or just copying 303 Gb of data from one server to another. As you can tell, I am really quite passionate about it.

Then here we are at Question 18: Anything I should have asked you but I haven’t?

Not that I can think of.

Because this is clearly the best most complete set of questions you have ever dealt with.  To continue the wind up…

Question 19: How can people find you and follow your comings and goings on the interwebs?  Is there a specific place that you would want new people to start with? 

Well the thing I’m most involved in is the podcast, so I would say that site, www.mentalpod.com  I don’t keep up my paulgilmartin.com site but there are clips of my standup if people want that. Same for the site with my satirical character Rep. Richard Martin.  His site is www.askarepublican.com.     And I have three Twitter accounts. One for me @gilmartini  one for the podcast @mentalpod  and one for the character @ohiocongressman.

I can attest that all 3 twitter accounts are fun, and fun in different ways.  If you are on the twitters everyone, give Paul a follow.

The last and final question.  It has been a long and fun ride these past few weeks worth of emails, and I have honestly and thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Question 20: Did you learn anything new about yourself or did you come upon any insights about anything due to these 20 questions?

Can’t say I learned anything new about myself, but I’m a slow learner.   Thanks for taking an interest in me and the podcast though!

Well, I have to say that this has been an unabashed pleasure.  Again I want to thank Paul for taking time to chat with me via the emails.  This is, sadly, not a light undertaking, and to anyone who has done this with me, again I think you for taking the time.  If anyone wants to do a 20 Questions with me, or to ask me questions leave a comment.

To recap:
Paul Gilmartin is a bad ass and I will hear nothing else about him
I am lucky to have the wonderful family I have
Check that
I have worked very hard to have the wonderful family I have
I am lucky to have met each of the parts of my family
Have a safe and happy holiday
I finished the shopping for the holiday last night..
Now I just have to wait for all the stuff to be shipped
It better get here prior to Sunday
All my online orders were done last week
It is Santa vs ______ over at Ten Ton Studios’ Sketch Challenge this week
Come by and take a look
I am drawing mine tonight and I will finish it tomorrow
Have a great weekend everyone