There will be plenty of laughs at Hollywood's Wanderlust Hollywood this Sunday. Advocāte - a cannabis industry event ushering in a new age of advocacy - will feature comedians Joe Bartnick, Sam Tripoli, Joey 'CoCo' Diaz and Todd Glass performing for the country's top pot executives, entrepreneurs and advocates, who will discuss ways of changing the public perception of cannabis and garner more support for the medical marijuana industry. Musical guest MOD SUN will provide the evening's sound track.
Earlier this week, we had a chance to chat, and share a few laughs, with Joe Bartnick, the Pittsburgh native who has been part of California's comedy scene for decades. He's appeared on Live at Gotham as well as Playboy TV and co-hosts the weekly hockey podcast Puck Off. Here's what he had to say about comedy and cannabis.
Civilized: What made you want to get involved in this event?
Joe Bartnick: Other than [comedian and cannabis activist] Ngaio Bealum, I've probably done more pot than anyone in the state of California [laughs]. Because when I was an up-and-coming comic, me and Ngaio really got along and he took me everywhere with him, so I've been on the forefront for a long time. And it's just a great cause. I mean, my favorite thing to do is stand-up comedy. And then to think that I can actually do the art I love and support a cause that I really back. That's why I got involved.
C: How can comedy change perceptions of cannabis?
JB: I think comedy can be used to enlighten people. Comedy and entertainment in general are always the first to push new ideas that middle America might not be comfortable with. Look at the 70s with [Good Times creator] Norman Lear, who pushed everything. Look at Lenny Bruce. And look at George Carlin. I mean, George Carlin probably did a ton for cannabis - even though it wasn't called marijuana advocacy then - just by being him. People said, 'That guy smokes pot, but look how smart he is.'"
C: How does cannabis influence your creative process?
JB: I probably smoked every day for 25 years. It helped me so much as a younger comic - not shaping my life but opening me up to new ideas. Now I just smoke a little bit and it seems like I'm just way more creative. And it helps me relax.
C: How have changes in cannabis culture influenced comedy?
JB: My jokes now are about how I can't handle the weed anymore [laughs]. How it's all too good now. Nowadays there's like thousands of kinds. People sit in the pot stores for an hour like they're buying a new car. I'm literally in there for like a minute. I'm like, 'Hey dude, what's the best stuff?' I've been smoking since I was 15 or 16, but I still forget what's the body one [indica] and what's the head one [sativa]. So I'm like, 'Is that the body one?' And that's it. I don't even have to pay the meter - that's how fast I'm in and out.
C: So legalization has improved the quality and availability of cannabis?
JB: Oh my god, back then you just hoped someone was around. It'd be like, 'Ted, it's all bark this time.' It might be all bark and seeds in the bag. Now, I don't ever see any seeds or bark anymore. It used to be that half the bag would be a twig. I think for most of high school, I had a headache from pretending it was weed. I'd suck so hard on a joint trying to get high. And then someone brought a bag back from Seattle - I think it was called Alaskan Thunderfuck or something - and we were like, 'Oh, this is weed. Oh, now we're high.'"
C: Has comedy also changed over the years?
JB: It seems like there's a lot of comics in favor of censorship. That's how ridiculous political correctness has gotten. I was raised on Norman Lear and everyone who just spoke their minds. I think what's funny is tackling the stuff that people are afraid of. That's when you laugh. Like being a little kid listening to George Carlin records, the stuff you were afraid of, that's what made you laugh. Anyone can talk about rainbows and puppy dogs, but let's talk about stuff that hits a nerve. And that's what I do as a comic. When bad things happen to me, I'm like, 'Well, at least I've got a new five-minute segment.' That's what's funny to me. When everything goes right, it's like, 'What's there to talk about?'"
C: Do you think marijuana hits a nerve?
JB: I don't think there's anything controversial about cannabis anymore - at all. And at a cannabis advocacy event, it'd be really hard to say something that people are against.
C: If cannabis isn't controversial anymore, do you think that the stoner comedy is in danger?
JB: No, the stoner comedy is always going to be there. Because everyone - when they're 15 through 20 - finds out about pot for the first time. And it's all new and funny to them. The same way that everyone found out about AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. That's always going to be there. And comedy itself is never in danger of going away. It's what's funny that's in danger. There's always going to be the safe stuff.
C: So what's in store for people attending this Sunday's conference?
JB: There's going to be four awesome comedians. And we're all different flavors. It's going to be an hour and a half of really great stand-up comics. You're getting basically four headliners and music and a bag of goodies. Can't lose.
Civilized is a media sponsor of the Advocāte fundraising event.