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Ian Fidance's Gigs Are Postponed, But This Interview Isn't

Ian Fidance
Phil Provencio
Ian Fidance

When we interviewed comedian Ian Fidance, he was supposed to be coming to our region to do standup at Vermont Comedy Club in Burlington at the end of March and in May at The Comedy Works in Saratoga Springs. The coronavirus has shut down just about all public gatherings in the Northeast, but we thought some levity was in order even if those gigs aren’t.

Fidance, a frequent voice on SiriusXM, has appeared on television on shows like “This Week At the Comedy Cellar” and “The Last O.G.” with Tracy Morgan.

Do you talk to a lot of Ians?

Um, yeah, actually. The run I'm doing in New England. I'm doing New Hampshire, Boston, Maine, Vermont, Worcester. And I'm going with a  comic from Maine named Ian Stewart. He's going to be opening the shows so it's gonna be funny, two Ians. And also a buddy of mine is Ian Lara who’s a really funny comic in the city. And he's black and I'm white, but we call him white Ian and  me black Ian.

How did you come up with that?

I just kind of forced it.

Did you grow up with a lot of Ians, like, in your elementary school?

No, never. I never really met an Ian until I really moved to New York City. And the Ians I did meet we're always weird, which is funny, because I’m weird. And I think I was the last one to find out that I was the weird one.

Ha, that scans.

But do you ever find that there's a weird pecking order with Ians where you're like, it's such a unique name that you kind of want to own it and be like, there's another one? No, no, no, that's a bad Ian, and I'm the good Ian.

I had a weird experience with it in elementary school. So there, where I thought I was the only one. But then my bus route changed and I met the other in in the school, and at first we were kind of rivals and then became best friends for a while, so we decided we had to have an Ian pact. So you grew up in Delaware, right?

I did. Yeah. Yeah. I grew up in Delaware my whole life, Wilmington.

What was that like?

Um, you know, it was, it was great. It was, you know, suburbs. I grew up behind a shopping center, my neighborhood connected to, you know, like 10 others. There's like one main strip in Wilmington, called Concord Pike. And it runs all the way from the city up until Pennsylvania. And my neighborhood ran parallel from, I'd say, like, maybe a quarter to almost the entire way to Pennsylvania. So Halloween was incredible. I mean, it was a never ending search of just filling a pillowcase up with candy for starting from one end to the other and then having a marathon race to get back to our house.

Do you remember any good costumes?

Yeah, I mean, when I was little, I would just be you know, like a baseball player. But I also had a thing where I would dress up on just on regular days not even Halloween. I loved playing dress up as a kid and I loved makeup. So every day after school I'd put on like, Joker makeup or Cat in Hat makeup. I was like Ninja Turtle. I love the Ghostbusters and I would only answer to like Venkman or Egon, and my parents would have to go to preschool and be like: “Look, he's not going to answer to Ian, ya gotta call him Venkman for the week, I'm sorry, it just is what it is.” And the teachers are like, “That's not happening.”

Were they worried about you?

My parents?


No, I mean, I got to give them a lot of credit. They kind of let me do what I wanted to do and kind of let me be really weird. Which was, you know, great until you get out in society and people are like “Hey buddy, you got to assimilate or it's gonna be tough.”

Which was your favorite Ninja Turtle?

Oh, man. I mean, I feel like everyone's go-to is Michelangelo because he was a party dude. But in hindsight, I think he just had a drug problem. You know, he was always partying and high energy. I think he was you know, doing cocaine. Or just snorting parmesan which is Italian cocaine. And I really liked Donatello, he was a smart one. He was innovative, he kind of, you know was was the guy in the background who was responsible for, you know, kind of all their gadgets and planning.

Yeah, they never thought out that line of the of the theme song: he just “does machines”…

Yeah, I forgot about that, “he does machines.” What a way to, to just kind of disparage all his hard work. Yeah, yeah, Donatello he's a nerd, just leave him go.

How did you start comedy?

I started in 2011 and I have a bit of a wild background. I was actually living in a halfway house for drug and alcohol abuse and my life was really at a standstill. It's kind of tough one. You know, everyone's getting married and having these, you know, grandiose plans for their life and I'm you know, having to do an anxiety coloring book in order to get better, you know, but I was kind of at my wit's end. I was like, you know, why don't you just try comedy? I was always funny. I was like, you know, just go to Philadelphia do an open mic if it doesn't work out, you know, where Home Depot is you can buy a rope, you can get a chair. And luckily, you know, the open mic was fun. And I kept going back and I found some buddies and we would go and have a really good time. And, you know, the, the place we would go to was close to Pat's and Geno’s Steaks. So if we had a good night, we go get a cheesesteak at 1am if we had a bad night, we go get a sad cheesesteak at 1am. So either way, we're eating cheesesteaks, and it was a good time. I enjoyed it. And I kept up with it. And I eventually made the move to New York. And it's a fairy tale story ever since.

Oh, yeah. And I'm getting some sort of like, buzz on your end right now. I don't know.

Oh, okay.

There we go. Yep, there.

Sorry, I'm it's it's tough being on a landline. Like we're in 1992, I'm at the Comedy Cellar at the Olive Tree Cafe.

I'm gonna die on this hill. But I know it does sound so much better.

Yeah, I mean, good for you. You're keeping the landline alive.

I don't know what we're gonna do in public radio, honestly. I mean, we've talked about it. Cell phones just sound worse. And this is like our main thing.

Really? That's so interesting. I can imagine you know, you guys are in... Well, actually, no, I'm on radio almost every day. And when people are calling on a cell phone, it does sound like, you know, they're just yelling in a gymnasium.

Right? Exactly. Exactly. Do you like doing Sirius XM?

I love it. It's the best. I love radio. I love you know, going on the shows and having fun. It's just a great conversation wherever I go. And, you know, enjoying it for so long. You know, you just become friends with these people and it's no longer a job. You're just hanging out with your friends having a good time.

So you don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but what was your life like before you ended up in the halfway house as you mentioned. I mean, what were you doing before and how did you get in that kind of trouble?

I mean, you know, it's it's a tale as old as time, you know, alcohol tastes delicious and the effect it has is even more scrumptious, you know, and so I kind of got addicted to that lifestyle of living in chaos. And it got to the point where everything was so unmanageable. I just had to reach out for help, and luckily, there were a lot of hands to grab on and pull me out. And, you know, it was it was incredibly tough and, and, you know, I bumped my head against the wall for a long time, you know, and I tried to get sober in 2008. And then, you know, you get time and you fall and you get up and you fall, you know, luckily, fortunately, I've been sober since April 2015. And, you know, I have to remember where I was, in order to appreciate where I am. And, you know, it's, it's just some some people can handle it and I can't and I gotta admit that and be okay with it, and realize that my life is infinitely better. without drugs and alcohol, and that's okay, today.

Seems like being a comic, being in the clubs every night, you know, the weird hours, the road, that would make it challenging to stay clean?

Oh, yeah, I mean, but you know, I have to constantly remind myself that the second I put it in my body, my life just unravels. You know, I'm really happy with where I'm at. And I'm really excited to see where I'm going to go, you know, and I just know that that would impede my progress, not only in my career, but also the human. You know, I'm not really a good friend or a good person, I isolate and, so it's, it's just better for me and everyone, for me to be sober and I enjoy it. You know, and I talk to people a lot and, you know, I've found comfort in talking about it because, you know, a lot of people are struggling as well. So it's really nice to be able to kind of turn that negative into a positive and have people really relate to that. But you know, being in the clubs and everything, it's... It's I'm there for work. I'm not there to hang out, you know, so I'm not hanging out in bars just to sit at the bar. And, you know, one of the phrases in the programs is, uh, ”you hang out barbershop too long, you gonna get a haircut”. Yeah. So, I really hang out at bars to just, you know, schmooze. I just kind of go and do my job and leave, which kind of makes my social life boring. But you know.

Do you remember when you did turn to comedy, what your first set was like? Do you remember any of those jokes?

Yeah, I would just imitate guys I lived with in the halfway house. And they loved it. I used to live with an ex-pagan, who was in charge all the meth distribution in Wilmington. And his name was Russell he was a biker and I called him my little Brussel Sprout and I imitated him being this like real tough, you know, prison biker guy who would turn into such a softy when he would pet my dog. So I had one bit about how he was like, “Man, I'll beat the **** out of this guy who owes me money, I swear to God, I’ll just put my foot in his trachea…. Oh little Lucy, you're my little baby girl…” Like wow, and if I ever owe Russ money I better give it to him right away.

So a question I have about comedians, because you're not alone in trying to be out on stage every night you know, multiple sets and running around and trying to get stage time. What do you do with that practice? Are you constantly changing your set? Are you trying things out? How does that work?

I mean, I'm, I'm fortunate I've been doing it you know, it's so funny. I've been doing it nine years and it feels like it's such a long time and then you know, I hang around these guys who just celebrated their like 33rd anniversary of comedy I'm like, wow, I'm just a little puppy. You know, I got a lot of growing to do. So you know, I there are certain places where, you know, you do your showcase that you do all your A Material and I know what that is, but I really have a lot of fun when I kind of have all the jokes in my pocket, so that I can pull out and just kind of find and figure out where it goes. And I really enjoy that, because I'm very scatterbrained. So it's it's tough for me to do the same set every night, which works out my favor, because that's kind of the act and performer I've turned into where, you know, you're not really sure where it goes, and I kind of enjoy that chaos. I don't get any more from booze or just keep it on stage.

I mentioned that we would talk about your “Stolen Valor” gag on social media, which is one of my favorite things to do. For people who haven't seen it. I don't know if I can describe it exactly. But why don't why don't you describe the idea behind “Stolen Valor”?

Well, I've always been fascinated with the idea of “Stolen Valor,” which is regular citizens dressing up as military personnel to get discounts or sympathy. And there are a ton of videos online of actual troops who have come back living their regular life and then they see you know, someone on the street and military regalia, you know, asking for change or at… a Duane Reade asking for a military discount and these guys they videotape themselves screaming “Stolen Valor” at them and they give them these inquiries. They're like “Where'd you serve?”, “ What Sergeant?”,  “What was the name of your Sergeant?”,” Why is your gig line off center?” and to see these people imitating servicemen and unravel is so funny to me. And to see these guys yelling in a mall, and then their wife is like, “Clayton. Come on, stop it, stop it. You're embarrassing me.” He's like “Stolen Valor! Did you die for that uniform?” And it's like, oh my god, these guys need help from the VA. And so I go on the street, and I find people that I think are posers or, you know, like, I'll find someone on the street wearing a referee shirt and yell at them for not working at Foot Locker. Okay. One time on the street, a guy was playing a flute. And I videotaped myself yelling at him for Stolen Valor that he wasn't Lizzo and it actually turned out that he tried to beat someone with his flute and was playing the flute to back off other people from attacking him.

Well, that's the thing about these videos. I mean, most of the time you're in New York City, and there's a lot of witnesses. And usually they're not very long, but usually the person doesn't exactly know what's happening. And then the onlookers don't know what's happening. They don't know whether to look or not.

Yeah, I mean, it's a very strange thing to have someone screaming at a random stranger and I just loved people's reactions. And in one of them I went into a vintage store and screamed Stolen Valor that it wasn't real vintage, they were just taking advantage of trust fund kids in Brooklyn. And then I looked at the cashier and I was like “Stolen Valor! You're not a boat captain!”

Do you? Do you walk around looking for people to do that to? Or is it like, if it happens?

Oh, yes, it’s a sickness, it's definitely broken my brain where I everything I see is Stolen Valor. And I had to kind of take a break from the videos because I got chased out of a store and I was like, “Wow, I got a really kind of plan this ahead and say just whipping out a phone and screaming at people”. But that's kind half the fun of it, to see where it goes. And I did get caught. Because I was, you know, if you rob a bank, you don't drive two blocks to count your money. And I walked out of a place two blocks away I started editing the video and a guy came out and was like, “What the **** is your problem”? I was like, “Oh god, I'm so sorry”.

Has anyone ever done it to you?

Yeah, actually, it's, it's weird. I also kind of stopped it too, because people were coming out to me at shows and they dig it, which is great, but they were Stolen Valor during me. Like I was sitting eating and a group of guys came up to me like “Stolen Valor.” That's not a real mustache. I was like, This is fun. But is this going to be my life?

What do you do during the day when you're a stand-up comedian?

You know, it's, it's the thing of, I've worked a million jobs and I spent, you know, my entire end of teenage years and adult life working where I had to be at a specific place at a specific time. You leave your job at work, you know, you have free time, you know? The regular, you know, I was a carpenter or a waiter, I was running around the city fixing printers all at the same time, pursuing comedy at night. So when you open up your day, it's kind of like, wow, what do I do now? You know, so I'm fortunate where, you know, I'm on the radio, you know, a couple days a week, which is great. And that's, that's a good little job. And then, you know, I do different podcasts, and I work on projects. I act a lot. I just filmed a pilot, you know. I do a lot of work, you know, you're working on your act, I'm helping, I'm actually writing for a thing right now. And so I have to, I have to do a lot of work. And I have a certain amount of jokes I have to produce every day. So it's just tough. You know, do I sit at home and do it or go to a coffee shop or call a friend and I have a routine where I wake up, I walk to the to the deli, I get a paper, I get a coffee, you know, I try to call a friend check in on them. And come home, play with my cat, get my work done and then I go out for my sets, but you know, sometimes I'm more working from you know, 2pm until like, 1am.

Wow, can you tell us anything about the pilot? I mean, are you in that limbo now you're waiting to find out what they're gonna do with it?

Yeah, it's, it's getting pitched to a network and it's a one of those things that, you know, was it was really fun to work on. And, you know, you film all these things. I've filmed pilots before and they just, you know, some of them just go nowhere. And it's a thing where, you know, you kind of learn to never take anything to heart until, you know, you actually see it come to fruition. You know what I mean?

Again, that's Ian Fidance and you can follow him at IanFidance.com. Ian, thank you so much for taking this time. Thanks for finding a landline.

Oh, hey, man, my pleasure. Anytime I can relive the past I'm there for it.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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