Sam Morril Would Rather Be Smart Than Shocking

Sam Morril is pumped about his new special, You’ve Changed, which debuts on Prime Video today. There’s only one problem: Scaling the top of the comedy mountain with a streaming special just means the wry Morril has to prepare more tour material “again and again, til I die.”

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Morril, one of the only comics alive to warm up an audience for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, recently talked to Cracked about his childhood comedy heroes, the importance of trust in stand-up and the art of telling an edgy joke.

“As a really young kid, probably like in kindergarten, I realized I could do armpit farts. Oh my God, I was crushing. No one else could do them. And I was doing slow ones and fast ones. It was definitely an intro to comedy.”

“Remember that song, “I Saw the Sign,” by Ace of Base? There was another version I did, but it was like, ‘I saw your mom / She opened up her thighs / I closed my eyes / It was so scary / It was dark and hairy.’ That was another big hit.”

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“There were these books, Snaps, that were filled with yo mama jokes. I would study them, and in the schoolyard, everyone was like, ‘This guy! You can’t go one-on-one with insults with this guy — he never runs out!’ I should have been studying state capitals, but instead, I just knew a lot of yo mama jokes.” 

“My brother turned me on to a lot of comedy as a kid. He loved this movie called Opportunity Knocks with Dana Carvey, and we watched it probably 20 times. We studied it. We memorized it. We thought it was so great.”

“And then he showed me Billy Madison, and I couldn’t believe it existed. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this was made for me.’ Adam Sandler is so immature and outrageous. Then you grow up, and you watch it as an adult and you love it for different reasons.”

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“One of the first albums that I got really into was Chris Rock's. I couldn’t believe it. It was so thoughtful and intelligent. Even at a young age, I didn’t get all of the jokes, but the ones I did get, I was like, wow.”

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Rodney Dangerfield reminded me of my grandpa. So I love Rodney Dangerfield, too. Back to School remains my comfort movie. (Rodney voice) ‘We’re all gonna get laid!’”

“I drank four beers during my first stand-up set. I was only on stage for like five minutes, so not good. It was an open mic. I had a friend come with me, and he laughed at all my jokes. He was the only one laughing. It was pretty brutal, but I did feel good that I did it. I got it over with.”

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“I would go into Barnes & Noble and just read joke books. And I’d be like, ‘Okay, that's how you write a joke.’ I would study the structure. I could make my friends laugh, but it takes you a while to figure that out on stage. 

“One of my first jokes was, ‘My teacher told me I remind her of a young Hemingway. I was like, ‘Why, because I’m a good writer?’ And she goes, ‘No, you’re an alcoholic who’s going to kill himself.’”

“Some of my jokes stunk, but I had a couple that were like, all right, that’s not bad. But you don’t have any stories as a kid. You haven’t lived life. There’s nothing interesting you’re gonna say.” 

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“I interned on The Colbert Report back in the day. He was crushing at that point. It was cool to see someone that in the zone. It’s a very different type of comedy — he was doing a character. It was also a well-oiled machine of a TV show.”

“It's funny when your friends do something insane because you’re like, I might get a bit here. But the fact that my friend told a miscarriage joke at a yoga class was just insane. It was such a funny and uncomfortable moment. Thank God I have friends who do insanely reckless shit because you just get bits when you hang out with characters, you know.”

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“There’s a reason you tell certain jokes in certain places. I can’t open on an abortion joke. I can’t open on a really dark premise. You have to earn it, just like in a friendship or in life.

“That’s why it’s easier now for me to do stand-up, because the audience that comes out, usually trusts me. But then you’re pushing it even further. Even now, I still need to put a dark joke later in my set no matter what. I call them hard-to-follow jokes.”

“A lot of comics get off on being like, ‘I said it!’ But anyone can say it. You have to say it cleverly. That’s literally the job — to make it funny. There’s an obsession now with being shocking for the sake of being shocking. And sometimes people will show me someone, and they’ll think I’ll find it funny because it’s edgy in their mind. But you know, I like clean comedy. I like good comedy. Dark or light, I don’t give a shit. People get a little too caught up in what is taboo rather than what’s funny.” 

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“Part of the reason I fell in love with the comedy of Chris Rock is because he would push you away in the premise and pull you back in the punch line. It’s like a dance he did with the crowd. He would say something provocative and then prove it to be true. But you can’t just say the provocative thing, you have to pull it off. You have to stick the landing.” 

“When you do an hour of material, it can’t be one thing. If you’re just going for shock, that will run dry pretty quickly. You need levels and you need layers if you’re going to do that. The new special, it’s got a lot of gears.”